May 2017 Announcements

Well, what have I been doing over the past month?

What am I doing? What am I doing?

Oh yeah that’s right, I’m doing me.

Reports, reports and more reports…

I swear I have enough reports done to fill up three volumes of translations.

So of course I end up doing the latter half of bokushinu 3.

How did it end up as that?

PS: This looks like a ripoff from the Strangled series prologues.

So, let’s just talk about how I end up doing part of bokushinu 3.

You see, this guy called Frozen has been translating a few series here and there, and recently has a series called majo, so he’s been bugging baftn about bokushinu v3 (Jokingly of course, please understand, we’re a vitriolic bunch)

 

So yeah, probably going to keep murdering this guy until…well…let’s keep murdering.

Anyway, this is the response:

At this point, we have like…I dunno, 80 pages of the volume left?

By the way, this is Frozen’s site: frozensama.blogspot.com . Go spam his site with requests to translate majo =P. Yes, I’m more than petty. I have a vengeance.

Meanwhile, I’m still stuck at 200 more pages left for clockwork v3. As I have mentioned elsewhere on my twitter, I expect both volumes to be done end May.

Maybe it can be a little earlier.

After these two volumes are done, I’ll probably go ahead to start work on v4 Magdala. Currently still editing the first chapter (it’s not my translation, as I said, but I’ll treat it with as much care as I’ll do for mine).

Meanwhile, I have set a few more Bokushinu chapters to be released on Christmas.

I need to get back to 3 min BMG…and Kamimemo, and shogi.

Strangled will be July, about 2 years since I finished the first volume.

Yep, still enough time to do them all, somehow. Though my main objective is still to finish three volumes of Magdala.

 

And meanwhile, as per usual, to pepper in a few words from bokushinu translator baftn:

Recently, I was asked if I can translate the harem novel by Mizuki Nomura, since it’s said that the current translator has no intention of continuing it, and that I translated Hikaru.

Way before that, I was asked if I can do her vampire series.

At this point, I’ll say that Famitsu Bunko light novels seem to be declining in quality, so I will say that I’ll decline the invitation.

Then again, I already know what my last series will be, since 2013.

I swear I’ll change the site name into Ty_ping somehow…

In the meantime, another prospective project, which I have posted elsewhere:

It sounded as though someone fell onto the road.

When I heard that, I stopped my hand from rising upwards, and lifted my head to see the clear blue sky dazzling away. The thick black shadows covered everything between the buildings, and only the sky was blue.

I felt as though I heard something drop.

But I suppose that was a hallucination

Besides, there was nobody around beside me.

I continued to insert the silver coin into the vending machine, and at the next moment, the coin went to the change slot. Sweat soaked my body, and my throat let out a dried voice…that’s strange, why am I so thirsty? I feel like a fish washed ashore. I bent down, picking up the 100 yen coin, only to hear a splat. I turned fback, and found something crimson red laying on the steaming asphalt road, a thoroughly black object giving off a bloody scarlet, like a cat carcass that was knocked down by a car.

Ahh–that’s a uterus.

I confidently thought as I watched that bloody slab of flesh. There was raw meat cooking on the burning road, giving off a foul stench. Seeing this, I felt like drinking some water again.

Someone seems to be watching me. Again, I look up at the sky, and seem to find someone standing at the roof of an abandoned building. However, that person’s hiding under the strong sunlight, and I couldn’t see that person. I want that person to see me, so I continue to wave my arms frantically. That person remained unmoved no matter how I tried to get that attention. I tried calling out, but my parched throat could not let out a voice. Thus, I wanted to use the vending machine, and turned around.

But the 100 Yen…

I love my older sister; nobody loves her more than I do. So, I have to kill her. That is my responsibility. Why do I have to tell you this? That’s because I…

Love her.

 

I shake my head, trying to shake away the voice in my mind. Sweat trickles down my back, my throat’s abnormally parched, and I lift my head to see the white sun boiling on me. I pull my tie out, pull the shirt out from my pants, and hold my suit in my hand. As I continue forward, I can gradually hear buzzing. This area has been gradually becoming abandoned due to improper management; the area was usually devoid of people, and yet crowds flock in to see the commotion, while the policemen and paparazzi have their cars parked on the other side. The uniformed policemen are inside the cordoned area, wriggling about.

What are those people taking photos of with their cellphones?

The moment they hope to take photos of a ‘bloodied organ’, their cameras will explode.

So I cursed, and I continue walking. If you have nothing better to do, why show up at a crime scene? How demented are you? I’m utterly frustrated, and continue onward tentatively, only to see a splash of red appear in my sights.

The girl is holding a red umbrella, dressed as a gothic loli in a laced black dress that looked so surreal. She bites at a piece of chocolate, and her beautiful face is otherworldly. Besides those who showed up to view the commotion, many passersby are giving looks of intrigue.

Ahh, I wish I’m someone else now.

“Did I keep you waiting, Mayu-san?”

“5 minutes and 20 seconds late. It’s rare of you though. Eating chocolate once in a while isn’t a bad thing. Want some?”

The rarity of a beauty–Mayuzumi said, and brought some chocolate to me. She’s probably trying to tease me, since the chocolate has clear bite marks on it. I guess nobody told her to ‘not give half-eaten food to others’, and wonder if she has received morals education in the first place.

“Sorry, I’m not eating it.”

“The convenience store there has chocolate sold in blocks, but no matter how cheap or expensive they are, the satisfaction of eating them is the same. The amount of polyphenol does not matter, so I really don’t understand why people have to argue over that. Chocolate is a poison anyway, and thus able to soothe everyone’s soul.”

Mayuzumi says something really extreme, and takes another bite of chocolate. The dark brown color crumbles between her lips.

“This time, it’s the uterus. Looks like things are developing in an interesting way.”

The chocolate resembles dried blood. My minds starts to conjure a disgusting image, and I shake my head. Right, if it can be described as a human organ…

“Like a placenta? Does it resemble it, or not?”

“…”

“Ahh, or maybe, a fetus? Menstrual blood? Probably not. This is just normal chocolate.”

“…I didn’t say anything. Just eat.”

“Good.”

She licks her lips, and then ask a sslightly belated question,

“Right, why were you late?”

“Erm, Mayu-san, I think you were the one who suddenly decided to change the venue, right? You made me walk dozens of minutes from the station under this hot sun in suit…”

“It’s fine, you don’t have to explain. Do you know why the uterus is dropped this time? Odagiri-kun?”

All I know is that you just want to change the topic.

Right, I swallow my words. I really want to take out a cigarette to smoke, but the problem is that the superior standing in front of me won’t allow me to do so, and legally, I, currently 19 years old, will be breaking the law if I’m to smoke. There’s the police nearby, and thus more incentive for me not to smoke.

“Well, Odagiri-kun, you should cut out on smoking no matter whether there is someone. Tobacco stinks. What is nice about it?”

“Mayu-san, please stop reading the minds of people. Also, I don’t need you to worry about me quitting smoking.”

And it’s your fault that I’m a heavy smoker due to the ridiculous amount of stress.

As usual, I swallow my words, but Mayuzumi smiles.

Her lips curl like a beast.

“Back on point then, Odagiri-kun. The uterus dropped means that the victim is a female, since a man doesn’t have such an organ With that, those words are now believable.”

Hearing that, I sigh. Is it a good thing or a bad thing to be sure of what was said? Mayuzumi places the umbrella on her shoulder, and walks off. Seeing her elegant stride, the passersby give way to her for some strange reason, but not for me.

“Right, how’s your situation?”

“Anyway, it involves a mental problem. She keeps emphasizing on how she wants to personally murder her older sister, and I think it’s best to reject her request and have her visit a psychiatrist.”

“Well, you’re right. Maybe we shall do that. However…Odagiri-kun–”

Mayuzumi suddenly raises the umbrella in her hands, and looks up, which I follow suit. Someone seems to be standing at the roof, but that person’s engulfed in a rainbow-like light, too blurry to be seen. I look away skeptically, and see Mayuzumi standing in front of a vending machine by the road, staring at the change slot in an incredulous manner.

“And one more thing, Odagiri-kun.”

She notices my stare, smiles, and continues on nonchalantly,

“Right now, organs continue to drop.”

The organs from people unknown continue to drop on the ground between these abandoned buildings.

A strange phenomenon that happens irregularly.

I meant the woman who knows the truth behind those strange happenings.

It’s an ‘inexplicable’ story.

Easter Special

Now then, nobody expects this inquisition.

But at this point of time, I suppose I should mix things up a little.

I find it appropriate that I’m translating this during Easter.

Be warned though, this one contains heavy spoilers, and much emotional turmoil.

 


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Are you ready?

Then lets begin.

 

 

 

 

 

The time was 4am. In the dark room, I heard the rain as I awaited this moment.

April 8th, Hikari Yumesaki’s death anniversary. The weather was rainy.

This would be the day Hikari Yumesaki’s personality would show up. At 4.59am, she would take over from me. Thus, there were still fifty nine minutes. This was the remaining time I had.

“Time to head out.”

I put on the watch Hikari Yumesaki gave me, and checked the time.

I passed through the darkness, walked out of the room, and slipped through the corridor quietly.

The rain appeared in my sights, and it was really heavy. It appeared it would not stop for the time being.

I walked down the asphalt road that was flooded. The vinyl umbrella blocked the sky, and made it look a little twisted, probably because of the raindrops.

“I remember it was the raindy day.”

I heard the raindrops, and thought of the journal entry I wrote.

“There’s something I have to apologize to you about, Hikari Yumesaki, I lied.”

I walked down to the crossing where Hikari Yumesaki died.

“I told you the Atelier Journal contained the truth to the revival.”

There’s still an hour left. What would her feelings be when she wakes up?

“I said, that on the four hundred and forty fourth day after the death, the 25th of June this year would be the only day to negotiate with the death god.”

She would probably be fuming. Definitely lamenting.

“444. This might look like something, but I just made it up.”

But it did not matter. No matter how much she hated me.

“The one day to negotiate with the death god is not the 25th of June, but–“

As long as that person, Hikari Yumesaki,

 

“Exactly a year after death–today, April 8th.”

Could continue to live, it did not matter.

 

“By the time you’re reading this entry, on the 8th of April, I might have completed the deal.”

Sorry, Hikari Yumesaki.

“You probably won’t forgive me. There’s no way you will. But.”

I’m really sorry, Hikari Yumesaki.

“I guess it’s impossible for me after all. There’s no way I can live in a world without you.”

I can’t accept a daily life without you.

“So, Hikari Yumesaki, continue living for my sake.”

The water slipped down my face. Raindrops or tears, I could no longer tell.

Sorry everyone, Yukiko, mom, dad, I’m really sorry.

“Forgive…me.”

Choking on my tears, I went forth.

There’s still another two hundred meters to the crossing. The location was at the other side of the corner. It was enough, I don’t have to think much. I’ve decided not to turn back, just head forward. If I missed this day, I’ll be unable to save Hikari Yumesaki. So, on this day–I have to do this.

“Eh–”

But I had to stop.

There was someone holding a black umbrella standing before me in the dark screen of rain, and I gasp.

“Yo.”

That guy waved at me, smiling heartily. Why…

“Kaze…shiro……?”

“So you came by? Sakamoto?”

Kazeshiro was standing before me.

“What are you doing, Sakamoto? It’s still too early to go to school.”

“Why are you here…?”

I paled, and asked. Kazeshiro smiled, and said with rigor,

“TIme to go back, Sakamoto. I’m not letting you meet the death god.”

“How did you know…”

I made a lie on the journal to hide the truth from Hikari Yumesaki. Naturally, I did not tell Kazeshiro, and the hidden location of the Atelier journal was known only to me. I told Hayato to keep it a secret. However,

“–!”

As I thought about it, I realized. No way.

“Have you noticed it now, Sakamoto?”

Kazeshiro looked up at the rainy sky, and let out a deep sigh, saying,

“Hayato Hyuuga. That guy told Hikari Yumesaki everything. Everything about the Atelier journal.”

“Wha…”

“That Hayato Hyuuga probably expected it, that you may have lied. He probably realized that this was unfair to Hikari, so he told her the truth. Hikari then realized why you lied that it was four hundred and forty four days later, and thought of what you wanted to do.”

“Damn it…”

I see, so that’s how it is. Why didn’t I suspect anything?

–I’m the same as you.

I asked Hayato why he was working so hard for Chiaki, and this was his answer. Hayato saw that I was the same as him, wanting to die for his partner. The reason why Hayato did not want me to do this because he chose me to be the friend supporting Chiaki. With this mindset, even an idiot would understand. Hayato would not just watch me die. No matter how I might tell him to keep this secret, it was pointless. At this point, the situation developed as Kazeshiro had said. Hayato and Hikari Yumesaki were on the same side, and in a certain sense, he understood her feelings better than anyone else. That was why he would not pretend to ignore this unfair lie to Hikari Yumesaki.

“Hikari told me. “It looks like Sakamoto wants to die in my stead. He’ll definitely go negotiate with the death god before.4.59am on the 8th of April. If he finds out that I know this, he’ll definitely try to slip through. So make sure you pretend not to notice, and on that day, no matter what, you have to stop him”…”

“…So you show up before me now, Kazeshiro?”

“Yeah. I’ve been in ambush since last evening. And you showed up.”

…Damn it.

I glared at Kazeshiro with much regret. In contrast, he was sneering away, taunting me.

“Sakamoto!”

He called out, loud enough for a certain someone who’s no longer on this world to hear.

“If you want to save Hikari, you’re going to have to beat me! You win if you beat me! You can die all you want then! But if you can’t–”

The smile vanished from Kazeshiro’s face. The hollow eyes were staring right at me, and I could not look straight into them.

“That’s enough already. Continue living happily in the world without Hikari.”

“…Haha.”

For some reason, I started laughing out loud. Ah damn it. I thought it would be a perfect strategy. I never thought I would be seen through so easily. But it did not matter.

“Too bad, Kazeshiro.”

“…What?’

My plan failed. Good job, you guys. But you guys made a mistake. No, you guys are overconfident.

“Kazeshiro…do you think you can beat me?’

“…”

I stared at the enemy, and declared this. Hikari Yumesaki, I don’t know how you managed to bribe Kazeshiro.

“Kazeshiro. You’re not going to beat me.”

I have the advantage in height, physique and arm strength. There’s no way your thin arms are going to beat me, Kazeshiro.

Firmly believing this, I smiled. I’m confident. However,

“Who knows, Sakamoto? Hikari said that I’ll win.”

“…What?”

Kazeshiro didn’t back down, and smiled, laughing,

“Sakamoto. This is…the opposite of back then.”

“Eh–”

For a moment, I did not realize what he was getting at. However, I immediately understood.

“Back then, I wanted vengeance through my death, and Hikari asked you to stop me. Right now, it’s me who was asked by Hikari, and you’re the one who want to die. Look how far you’ve fallen, Akitsuki Sakamoto.”

“–!”

“I remember it was raining back then. Sakamoto, you were like me back then. That’s why–”

Saying that, Kazeshiro glared at me,

“I won’t lose. Back then, you were the same.”

The turbulent rain overpowered Kazeshiro’s voice. The memories of that day appeared in my mind, and everything before my eyes went blank.

Regret and rage were mixed into my blood, running throughout my entire body. The rain poured harder than before–

“Ahhh!!!!!”

The next moment, I ran, threw aside my umbrella, and swung my fist at Kazeshiro. Howeve,r

“Gah!?”

He easily evaded my fist, and landed a clean shot into my abdomen.

“Guh….aaahhh!!”

Despite this, I stood up, trying my best to fight back. I continued charging into the rain. However,

“Ah!”

I couldn’t reach. Not only that, I was easily beaten down,

Several times, I stood up, and several times, I was beaten down. Kazeshiro again dodged my attacks, beating me down, and blood dripped onto the ground along with the rain, probably as I was hurt somewhere. I felt displeased.

“Damn it…damn it…”

I can’t lose. If I lose, and miss out on the day, I won’t be able to save Hikari Yumesaki. There’s no second chance; once I miss this, she’ll never be able to be revived again. However,

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!”

With all of my remaining strength, I stood up, and I saw Kazeshiro’s anguished eyes.

Stop. What are you looking at? What are you pitying?

“Stop pitying…me–!!”

That was the last of my strength. I could not fall correctly.

Kazeshiro swung his fists down on me, depleting my strength. I collapsed onto the concrete, the rain staining my skin.

“Why…why, can’t I win…”

The tears could not stop.

“Let go…Kazeshiro…”

“…”

“Please…I beg of you…!”

Kazeshiro remained silent.

“Let go, Kazeshiro! You miss out on this day, and you won’t be able to save Hikari Yumesaki! I can’t live without her! You’re the same too, right!? You’re fine with Hikari Yumesaki dying just like that!?”

I yelled at Kazeshiro, who stood in the rain. I believed that he would surely understand me.

“Think of what Madam Hinako will think! She just reunited with her daughter…but, they’re going to be separated again! Are you willing to allow such a cruel thing to happen!? Say something!? Are you willing to let her die!?”

I will not allow this to happen.

“Kazeshiro! You don’t want Hikari Yumesaki to die, right!? Or is it fine that she’s dead!? What about you, Kazeshiro!?”

“…Sakamoto.”

“Answer me! Even if Hikari Yumesaki vanishes, you’ll really…”

I could no longer continue my words. That was because, Kazeshiro’s hand was grabbing me by the collar.

But that was not the only reason why I could not say anything;.

“Do…you know what I’m thinking about as I stand here…Sakamoto?”

“–”

At this point, I noticed. Kazeshiro’s–crying too.

“Do you know the feelings Hikari had as she asked me? The feelings I have as I stand here? Please, don’t say anything…stop putting me in misery!”

The tears continued to fall. Anguished tears seeped into the rain.

“Also, Madam Hinako knows about this.”

“Eh–”

Kazeshiro’s words left me speechless again.

“When Hikari went to visit Madam Hinako, she confessed everything; about how she was going to vanish, that you want to die, everything that will happen today, everything, everything, everything–”

Impossible…but, these actions–

“Are for your sake…”

“Eh?”

“Even till the end, Hikari was still scared of meeting Madam Hinako. However, she’s more worried about you feeling guilty for letting her vanish–that you won’t dare to look for Madam Hinako again because of her disappearance–to prevent this from happening, Hikari summoned her courage to meet her. And, she said everything. She prepared herself to see her mother cry, all for the sake of having you meet her mother again.”

“…”

“You’re a blessed man. Hikari thought so much for your sake. I said it a long time ago, but your life is the best of all. That’s why….I can’t let you end your life here.”

“Impossible…”

Despair turned into rain, freezing my body.

“Was I the only one in the dark?”

“…”

“Was I the only one in the dark…”

Kazeshiro did not say anything.

“I came to save Hikari Yumesaki…but I was the only one who didn’t know anything…in the end, I was saved, by Hikari Yumesaki…again…again…”

I could not stop crying. I wanted to save Hikari Yumesaki. However, I was saved by her again.

“Sakamoto.”

Kazeshiro picked up the umbrella, and walked towards me, taking out something from his bag.

“Ah…”

It’s a letter with a pretty color. That’s,

“From Hikari Yumesaki, a letter for you.”

“Letter…”

I received the letter Kazeshiro handed to me, and wanted to open it, but my hands could not exert strength. However, I finickedly moved my fingers, and opened the seal. Appearing before me was,

“To Sakamoto,”

The familiar cute words appeared on the letter.

“If you see this letter, this means you intend to die for my sake. I’m really sorry for pretending not to notice all this while. Don’t blame Kazeshiro. It’s all my decision.”

“Hikari Yumesaki…”

“Sakamoto, I’m really happy by your feelings. Every time, you’ll come to save me. Again and again, I was saved by you. That goes too for Kazeshiro, and for mama. You kept saving me. Without you around, I probably won’t be able to do anything. So I’ve already made up my mind. One day–until the day I’m able to save Sakamoto, I’ll definitely choose to save Sakamoto. I want to be the hero protecting Sakamoto. This is my repayment for not being able to do anything. I want to protect the irreplaceable, most important…you that I love.”

“No…”

No, Hikari Yumesaki. It’s just you who thinks that you didn’t do anything. You’re the one who changed my lonely life. Do you know how much I’ve benefited from you.

“And I said before, that I can’t live in a world without you. That’s because,”

The exceptionally pretty handwriting continued–

“I can’t live on alone in this world anymore. The ones connecting my life to this world are the cold, yet gentle eyes line.”

It was the line that girl once wrote in her student handbook, the line that caused Kazeshiro and I to misunderstand,

“Ehehe! I’m finally able to use this line! I always wanted to use it once before I die. It’s amazing, isn’t it, Sakamoto? Really appropriate to use it here. As to be expected of this Hikari! Praise me! Praise me! Pat my head! And then…”

And then,

“Keep smiling. Don’t cry, Sakamoto. This is my final wish.”

“…!”

The rain got warmer, and my cheeks got hotter. The tears fell, my fists are clenched. Everything–

“Ahhh!!!”

“–Sakamoto!”

I ran. Kazeshiro hurried after me. Just a little more, and I’ll reach the crossing where she died. As long as I get there, reach there. But,

“Ah!”

My legs do not obey me, and tripped me over. The rain pelts on my body mercilessly,

“Ahh…”

As I fell, something fell from my pocket.

The thing that rolled before me gradually got damp.

“Hikari Yumesaki’s…talisman…”

The strings scattered, and the content spilled out. Inside it was a piece of paper that was folded really small. The rain soaked paper contained the words Hikari Yumesaki wrote with her cute handwriting,

“Sakamoto. We’ll be together forever!”

“Together…be together…””

I reached my hand out, yet it was not enough. Just a little more, but yet unable to reach. I could no longer, reach for it, ever.

“Why couldn’t I do it…”

The hands of the watch on my wrist indicated 4.58am. Ten seconds, twenty, thirty. And then,

“Come back.”

A voice rang through the rain.

It was a kind, bubbly voice. The one who picked up the talisman for me was.

“Akitsuki.”

“Madam Hinako…”

Thank you.

I seemed to hear her mutter.

After that, the time reached 4.59am.

 

 

I died, and she revived.

April 2017 Announcements

Well…let’s talk about April.

April, the harbinger of spring, the beginning of a new fiscal year for many, the start of school for many.

For me, April is…

One step closer to the inevitable license.

Speaking of which, there is a project called April, it is…

As I said before, I’m half-expecting Clockwork Planet to be licensed at any given moment, thus my apprehension for trying to complete that one.

If you’re still living under a rock (which you shouldn’t be, unless your house is in the basement, or if you count the ceiling as rock), Clockwork Planet anime is airing on the 17th.

Well, people care more about the manga version than the LN version, so I don’t really have much pressure to keep going. It’s to a point where I’m going to say ‘I’ll release volume 4 when Index season 3 is announced’.

Just to go a little off-tangent on how I came across that series.

I was shopping around, having a look at stuff, and then saw that there were two authors for this novel.

Now, if you know your stuff about LN (most don’t anyway), it’s rare to have two authors for novels, let alone LNs. I recognized one of them as Kamiya, but I was kind of interested in the two authors aspect, how two different viewpoints.

So I started to translate a Chapter.

And then a few days later, Kono Sugoi rankings had it as 13th.

And then the manga got translated.

Whelps.

So yeah, when I say that fans of clockwork are either ‘lolicons, shotacons or masochistic for verbal abuse by RyuZU’, I don’t consider myself a fan. I basically consider myself as doing this as an obligation.Well…

Anyway, after Clockwork v4, I doubt that I’ll get an opportunity to continue, assuming there’s still a volume 5.

So that means I’ll go back to focusing on Magdala…which I have been saying for the last 3 years.

I still have a few projects I’m looking to do, and so…well, I’ll end up with this formula

=IF(A1=”New Series”,”take up”,”Don’t take up)

Meanwhile, a message from baftn:

“How is everyone enjoying spring so far? The weather here has been crazy lately (snow two weeks ago, 70℉ today). I’ve also been exuding metric tons of salt lately because of the horror known as the gatcha, but that’s nothing new (ahahahaha….). What’s that? New Bokushibu chapter when? Who knows! AHAHAHAHA I’m sorry, it’ll come out this month I swear. Well, that’s all I have to say for this month, it’s back into Ping’s torture chamber basement for me! ”

And meanwhile, back in Westeros:

Right, that should be enough breakfast punishment for baftn.

Now that I’m done with announcements, random translation of the month:

 

 

 

 

“–Terrible.”

Marie muttered unhappily, and cut off the trunk of the ‘Cylinder Train’.

The air was humid, and even after loosening the collar, it was still unpleasant. The sweaty blond hair felt disgusting when clinging onto the forehead, and the stench of waste was all the more nauseating.

Through the bottom of her sunglasses, Marie scanned the ‘Platform’.

The floor was sticky due to some unidentifiable dirt, and the walls were covered with wanton graffitis and advertisement posters. The ceiling lights were dim, and the display board with the station’s name wiped out was dangling.

It appeared to be an abandoned station, and did not appear to be managed by anyone, but the ‘platform’ was filled with passengers who had just alighted from the ‘Cylinder Train’ that arrived.

“Absolutely horrible.”

Marie again noted, removing her sunglasses.

Shown from beneath the black sunglasses was a thoroughly peeved face.

“It’s to be expected for such trash of a city to have a trashy smell. Disgusting, absolutely disgusting! Even I’m getting pissed off, damn it–can’t I just burn everything to the ground?”

“Hey hey. That’s the first thing you say, Princess? This is the most popular tourist attraction in the world, you know? Can’t you say some happier thoughts about this?”

A voice of comfort could be heard from behind, and Marie turned around.

Right in front of her eyes was Vermouth, giving a cold sneer.

His appearance was that of a smoking hot blonde babe of an automata–but the voice was that of a frivolous man. It was a strange existence of the expression, voice and gender being completely disoriented.

With much impatience, Marie said,

“More like a garbage dump, right? You can say it’s a cockroach nest.”

“–Maybe, but don’t forget. To the world outside, we’re pests living in the toilet–large ones too.”

Vermouth said as he curled his smile.

Then he inhaled the air as though he was tasting the smoke, and exhaled.

“–Phew~ this sewer-like air…feels nostalgic here, doesn’t it?”

“More importantly.”

Naoto Miura interrupted.

It seemed his ears were hurt by the ‘Cylinder Train’, for his face winced in pain.

“Can someone please tell me where are we already?”

“Anyway…you can change out of that disgusting outfit now.”

Marie narrowed her eyes, and coldly stated so.

Naoto was wearing a local traditional dress made of layers of colorful cloths–a female outfit that could cover the curves of a body.

Naoto, who had a petite body and some adolescence in his voice, clearly looked like a girl.

Of course, that outfit was not his fetish–

“Listen up. You were the one who said my appearance was revealed, and I’m now wanted as an international terrorist–and also!!”

Naoto opened the paper he was holding with one hand, and shoved it before Marie.

“There’s a report that we kicked up a fuss with the Thai navy port. So like I said, you’re the one who told me to disguise myself and avoid attention, right?”

Naoto laid out a little English Tabloid.

Right in front of Marie’s eyes was a photo of the Thai Navy docked at a port, and an eyecatching headline.

 

“Second Epsilon (Y) hijacked a boat! Thai Navy Port Devastated!”

 

It was a report on the ‘Second Epsilon’, terrorists currently on the run–who had devastated the Thai navy base, fought off the local military and police, and terrorized the Thai people.

Marie slapped away the Tabloid that was pressed at her nose, and growled,

“I told you to disguise yourself–not dress yourself up as a girl!”

“Master Naoto, you do not have to mind the suggestions of the lowly peasants.”

Interrupting with a refreshing chirp was the automata RyuZU.

She went forth to shield Naoto,

“Master Marie, it appears that you have an inferiority complex to Master Naoto with regards to the score of your appearance, to a point where it goes beyond gender, but it is understandable. Throwing a tantrum to escape from your inferiority complex is the final privilege of the vulgar, foolish ones. Before your final rights are taken away from you, please do not–“

“You’re the one who got him to crossdress, okay! Half of those words can be directed at you, you piece of scrap metal!”

“–I say, Milady.”

Interrupting was Halter, the cyborg.

This hulking figure bent down to get off the train and sighed, saying,

“That’s enough already. Do you guys really want to be chatting on the ‘Platform’?”

“Before you ask me, how about you ask that flawed automata who started a ruckus without a second thought? Do you want me to tell you how many times I took insults over the past two weeks?”

“Oh my. Are you trying to boast that you can count to more than ten? You may, you know? You can boast all you want–“

“Sixteen times!! Your! Fault! For causing so much trouble!”

Marie raised her voice, and glared at RyuZU.

It had been two weeks back since they were discovered in the Indian Ocean by the Thai Navy and fought back into the Navy port at Grid Phuket.

They chose to take the land route after that, and though they tried their best to maintain a low profile, and moved about quietly and discreetly, they were pursued by the police, military, and even the paparazzi.

Whenever a gun–or any suspicious item–was pointed at Naoto, as befitting of her nature as an automata, RyuZU would eliminate all malice, killing intents, or hostilities.

And so–this ended up being the case.

Whenever they attracted some attention, there would be commotion.

Whenever there was commotion, their pursuers would figure out where they were.

And whenever they tried to evade their pursuers, they would continue to change destinations, and wander around.

They went from Chumphon to Bangkok, then Pataya, made a detour to Cambodia, returned to Thailand through Ubon Ratchathani, north to Khon Kaen, and Nong Khai.

They went through practically all the main cities of this country, went through the Laos border, and had finally arrived at this nameless station.

During this long escapade, they were discovered sixteen times.

If they would have been able to evade their pursuers, their journey through local transportation would have been no more than three days, yet they had spent five times that duration.

And as for the reason–

“Isn’t it because you’re always being so obvious?”

“…But Milady. Unfortunately, it is difficult for us to be moving around discreetly, isn’t it?”

Halter coaxed, and Marie remained silent.

Though Marie was completely left fuming, she had to admit that Halter’s words were reasonable in this context.

Halter and Vermouth had no issues, and neither did Marie and Naoto, the latter in crossdress. They would not be spotted easily if they disguised as foreigners.

The issue however was about RyuZU. Her alluring appearance and radiant, glittering silver hair would surely garner much attention.

Furthermore–

“Papa? Where, is this place?”

“Ohh, AnchoR, sorry~ that annoying shitty old hag–ah, I just said something bad for a kid’s education–that blond landmine of a girl wouldn’t speak, so papa can’t answer you.”

Naoto tenderly answered the automata with the appearance of an adolescent girl, AnchoR.

Her adorable appearance consisted of black irises flickering uneasily, round, tender cheeks, and pink lips. Coupling that with insufficient repair, she was swaying around.

Her appearance at this point garnered a desire of anyone around her to protect her.

As Halter had said, it was a little difficult for this group to move around discreetly–

“Those guys there! Stop giving AnchoR weird thoughts!”

“Mama, where is this place?”

AnchoR tilted her head in confusion, and the latter rid herself of her displeased look, beaming as she answered,

“Grid Chiang Mai, AnchoR.”

“That’s right, but Missy, you’re the only one still using this place.”

Vermouth interjected with a grin on his face.

Those words left Marie displeased as she pouted and argued back.

“International law-wise, this is Chiang Mai.”

“Even though Thailand used to have such a place, they don’t use this name in official documents. Right now, they seem to be calling it something more official.”

Hearing this, Naoto asked in surprise,

“…? What is the common name?”

“‘Paradise’.”

Vermouth answered, and Naoto looked around with more skepticism.

“..You’re referring to this torn down place of a station?”

“There’s nothing that’s not sold here, and nothing money can’t buy. Arms, weapons, automata, illegal parts, drugs–and even humans or human rights. It’s a haven for criminals, terrorists, armed forces, and radicals. Later on, someone called this place–“

With a smirk, Vermouth revealed the answer,

“The premier crime capital of the world–Grid Shangri-La.”

 

Chiang Mai–the city of Thailand that used to be second only to the capital in size.

This place used to be an inland city a thousand 1000 years ago, but when this planet was reworked remodified into the Clockwork Planet, it gained sea access due to the reallocation of the grids, and had developed into a port.

But when Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Bangladesh gathered together to form a treaty between the five grids, Chiang Mai opposed it, and declared independence.

The apparent purpose was to reject the five grids from interfering with international trade, and was a pursuit of free trade.

But the truth was this: multiple illegal organizations and armed forces wanted to seize upon the instability of the government and create a massive black market.

And what they ended up creating was the capital of immorality, where all criminal acts were permitted.

In other words–

“–I don’t know who named this place Grid Shangri-La. That’s the fictitious paradise those of the later ages created, paradise for all the evil men in the world. How ironic.”

Marie sarcastically shrugged as they exited the nameless station, and departed from the Thapae Gate–the city gate made of red bricks, and went off to the hotel.

Surrounded by the gates that were stated in fables to never ever be closed, the Market of Shangri-La was buzzing away.

And in the midst of the lingering heat, the pedestrians went to and fro.

There were people of various ethnic groups and genders, and cyborgs and automata not commonly seen in an ordinary city could be seen everywhere.

The surroundings were filled with bright parasols, awnings, advertisement posters, and many link wires.

And while visibility remained poor on the roads, the samlors, tuk-tuks, and songthaews skilfully weaved through. There was no segregation between the roads and the pedestrian sidewalks, and thus not surprising that accidents would occur, yet nobody minded.

“–So, well basically, this is an illegal city without the product of civilization that is law, a place that trafficks humans, drugs, smuggles weapons, illegal modifications, and even includes forbidden automata.”

“Hey hey, have you forgotten the biggest selling point here? I don’t know whether you don’t want to mention it, so I’ll say it, Missy.”

Vermouth interrupted,

“This is the place that has everything from live body operations to modifications. Over here, gender and age can be treated. Pay money, and a wrinkled old man can become Cinderella overnight. The nearby stalls are all selling fresh organs for such operations.”

“…You’re joking right?”

Naoto looked repulsed as he said this, and Marie sighed, saying,

“Everything illegal, immoral you can think of in your mind–can all be found in all the gift shops here.”

“Hahaha! There’s only two things you can’t buy here.”

Vermouth closed an eye, saying,

“Kindness and conscience. Just so happens that these two things are really expensive and precious. If you can get them in, you might be able to sell them for a good price, you know?”

“Great idea–if there’s a demand for it in the first place.”

“I got a simple question…is that fine?”

Naoto was skeptical as to what purpose the police, ‘military’, and the ISS existed, and Marie scowled,

“Of course not…the ISS and the security management committee did think of all forms of measures except for military intervention. Any world summit organized will have mention of this city, and it’s considered one of the world’s crises.”

“But you guys are the biggest issue right now, right?”

Marie ignored Vermouth’s random interjection, and continued,

“But they haven’t done anything to the people here–no they can’t.”

“…Why?”

Marie seemed reluctant in wanting to admit, and lazily raised a finger, answering,

“One, the Core Tower and clock towers–they are all thoroughly maintained here, more so than the five countries in the treaty.”

“Eh…isn’t this a lawless place?”

“This is a lawless place, no government, numerous mafias and armed forces are fighting for territories in this city instead…right now…the Core Tower and the twelve clock works are maintained by the strongest trio of organizations.”

“…How do criminal organizations get that much technological prowess?”

“Technicians and researchers like such an environment–where everything, no matter how illegal it is, is allowed, and they gather here in large numbers.”

On this Clockwork Planet, the biggest duty for a ‘country’ was to protect the city’s functions.

If they neglected to maintain the Core Tower, it would result in a world crisis. To maintain the safety of the world, all stable countries or human rights could be compromised–that would be the true feelings of the international community at large.

And thus, any organization that was deemed by the international community to be a legitimate government would have to receive aid from the organizations under the ISS or the Meister Guild if they were deemed to lack the management capabilities. If they refused, they would be invaded through military might, and forced to accept management.

“It doesn’t just apply to human talent alone. No matter the economic and trade sanctions the ISS implement on them, this city remains unaffected as it relies on money laundering and black market deals. The borders of the five countries under the treaty have lots of openings.”

“Not only that. If they dare to invade forcefully, they’ll get the thugs here revolting, and who knows how much damage to the Core Tower and the surrounding countries will be inflicted–the enterprises and minor countries using this place as a hotbed for money laundering use this logic to apply pressure back on them.”

“So you mean…”

“Savvy? Anything you can get, means that the importers, sellers, and buyers are present.”

Vermouth closed an eye and smirked, while Naoto could not help but look up at the sky.

And then, he buried his face into his palms, sighing hard,

“Politics are really beyond comprehension…”

“Opinions may vary, but I don’t hate this city. An idiotic question from the intellectuals, after having studied until the very end, on ‘why can’t we kill’ can be easily answered here.”

Vermouth cackled sarcastically.

“This city has no police, lawyers, and nobody will be negotiating slowly. There’s nothing unforgivable in this city, so the rules are simple–overdo it, and you get killed All the troublesome parts can be omitted with bullets. It seems ironic, but it’s because it’s a lawless place that in a certain sense, a strict security can be maintained here. I prefer a country where even killing is not a crime compared to a country in which it only needs capable lawyers.”

“So basically, it’s a place for degenerate barbarians.”

Marie spitefully concluded.

“Decadent! Evil! Compromising! Hypocritical! Liars! I feel like this is a city where every shitty thing I hate about this place is stuff here into a pot. Argh, I hate this place. I feel like I’ll be stained by this stench. Don’t you think this city should just be erased? I had enough of this. How about we ignore the management ability stuff and just sink this city to clean things up?”

“Milady, I know you’re kidding, but sinking a city based on your own intents is definitely an immoral thing.”

Halter reluctantly lowered his head as he muttered, and Vermouth nodded away.

“Right right. You have to know that there’s supply only when there’s demand. Well, saying that you want to eliminate anything you don’t understand, that you don’t like really does sound like something a radical terrorist will do.”

“Shut up! There’s a limit to everything!”

A peeved Marie clicked her tongue in annoyance.

However, the smile suddenly vanished from Vermouth’s face.

“…Listen Missy. I’ll honestly advise you this. I’ll give you some money, and you can spend the night with a male prostitute you like. Do some drugs, get high, and cry as you piss everywhere, and you’ll understand through your vagina that humans are just a kind of beast, you know?”

“Continue with this really cold joke, and I’m going to split you up into screws and sell you away.”

Marie continued with a chilling warning.

But Vermouth continued to give a serious look, and sighed, saying,

“Get this clear. If I was kidding, I would have said that I’m willing to be your partner. I never did, so I hope that you’ll consider how serious I am.”

“If you were joking, that was crude. If you’re serious, that’s really crude.”

“I really have been thinking about this for a while, but you have too much of a cleanliness streak. Normally, the ladies are more acceptable to dirty talk than men, you know? You being so overly resistant to it means…”

“…What?”

“A resisting reaction–right? How about I introduce you to a shop my female colleague called Strega was addicted to? Relax, even a cold-hearted virgin is guaranteed to become a pro after being fucked cleanly–“

“I’ll be kind to remind you again, Vermouth.”

Marie slowly cut him off, and gave a genial smile,

“–Shut up. Or I’ll kill you.”

Vermouth could sniff out real killing intent from those words–and that did not seem to be all, he then gave up as he raised his hands.

Marie snorted, and looked away from Vermouth,

Then, he turned to RyuZU, asking,

“Speaking of which, you hardly showed any reaction.”

“–Yes? Humans like you who are comparable to ants, though this comparison will get protests from the ants, though they are smart enough to put on clothes, or not, your inner hearts will never change. I do firmly believe that those with primitive self-awareness and who stay true to themselves are a lot stronger than those foolish, inapt people who assume themselves to be cultured, so I am neither displeased nor impressed by this–as long as Master Naoto does not awaken to such primate evils.”

“Eh? Me? What did you say I’ll have for the masses of proteins and noise?”

“Relax, brat. This city can satisfy such desires too. The premier sex dolls in the world are equipped with outstanding techniques no living human can actually do. Are you interested?”

“Eh!?”

Naoto froze.

Obviously he had a moment of some imagination, and shook his head flusteredly,

“–No-no need for that. It’s a little…erm, I should say that I-I’m underaged.”

“Relax, in this city, being underaged is nothing. You can climb out between your mama’s legs and go straight to a brothel, you know?”

“No, but…”

“–Master Naoto?”

“Hiii!”

RyuZU spoke with a terrifyingly chilling voice, and Naoto gasped, his back frozen in fear.

“I-I don’t have such thoughts! Not! At! All! I don’t have any thoughts of ‘since you said it, I wanna try’ or any interests in such dangerous things!”

“Really? I thought so.”

Saying that, RyuZU embraced Naoto from behind.

The white silky hands of hers were caressing Naoto’s cheeks like a snake ensnaring its prey.

“–Speaking of which, Master Naoto, being young and healthy is one of your few good points, but I do have to solemnly advise you that, as the apex of the few intelligent beings on this planet, easily being influenced by adolescent impulses is a self-destructive act. If you really cannot control your own heart, I do suggest some form of external treatment to crush the cause–what do you think?”

RyuZU said, making an action before Naoto that indicated she wanted to crush a certain something as she grabbed it.

“Hii, I don’t think there’s a need for that!”

“I suppose? –You hope not to have it, right?”

RyuZU again affirmed, and slowly let go of Naoto.

Then, she shot a spiteful glare at Vermouth,

“This is also directed to that piece of scrap metal too. If you continue to tempt Master Naoto with such racy words, I shall deem you an item unfit to keep and eliminate you. Be warned.”

“Okay okay, it’s my fault. Forgive me.”

Vermouth raised his hands up, and apologized.

“Sp-speaking of which…is that fine?”

Naoto said, trying to change the topic.

“That–you mean the guys who were watching us for quite a while?”

Marie said, and stealthily scanned the surroundings.

One, two, three–the passer-by from before, the chauffeur who drove slowly towards them, the stall attendants selling juice. If one paid any attention, it was obvious that some people were clearly paying attention to this place.

Even Marie, who was not a trained professional, noticed so many people. If it was from the perspective of a professional well adept with this form of work, one had to wonder how many eyes there were…

RyuZU shot an icy expression, saying,

“If they do annoy your ears, shall I eliminate them?”

“Leave them.”

The one stopping them was Halter.

He probably had noticed the surveillance from all directions, but remained calm and nonchalant, walking on as he said,

“It’s to be expected that they would have surveillance on the ones who sank Grid Tokyo. We don’t have to kick up a fuss for no reason.”

Naoto tilted his head in wonder, asking,

“In that case, we should have disguised ourselves, right?”

“No, there’s no need. The organizations here aren’t dumb. They won’t give the ‘military’ and police of the surrounding countries any excuse to intrude this Shangri-La.”

Halter’s words left Vermouth nodding in agreement,

“Right right. We just need to play nice, and everyone will act like they don’t know anything, and nobody wants to suffer and ruin this camaraderie just to arrest us.”

“But if we start any unnecessary scuffle–selling us out to the neighboring countries can be considered a fine outcome.”

Halter sighed as he said this, and Marie asked skeptically,

“…There are people who dare to do anything to us?”

Those with their sources would have noticed–they had two2 Initial-Y series, and technicians capable of dominating an entire town–did they really want to poke at such a fighting ability?

But Halter and Vermouth looked at each other, and shrugged.

“Hey hey hey, Missy, you really don’t know anything about the world.”

“I don’t really want to say this, but Milady, you’ve been getting a little cocky recently, haven’t you?”

With the surrounding stereo denying her, Marie was clearly furious.

“What? The criminal organizations here are that terrifying?”

Vermouth did not answer, and in turn, turned to RyuZU to ask,

“I got a question Miss automata. How many Initial-Y series can you beat?”

“If you are asking if I can beat them–my answer is, ‘all’ of them.”

RyuZU answered heartily.

“To go to the extreme, even if my opponent is AnchoR, as long as I strike first with ‘Mute Scream’, none of them can do anything.”

“I see. So what happens if you can’t? If you fight head on, how many of them can’t you beat?”

“…Capabilities-wise, none of my little sisters can surpass me, but,”

RyuZU stated beforehand, and continued,

“–I will say ‘all’ of them. Amongst the Initial-Y series, I am humbly the weakest of them all.”

This was the issue with ‘Mute Scream’.

Once RyuZU got into Dual Time, even the strongest of them all, AnchoR could not do anything.

Before AnchoR could get into her ‘Bloody Murder’, RyuZU just needed to sever everything in the still world. When that happened, even if she was completely on guard, she could not do anything.

But if it was a frontal attack, as RyuZU said–she was the weakest of the Initial Y series.

Vermouth nodded, and with a grin, looked at Marie.

“–That’s what she said. Worst case scenario, if another of the Initial-Y ends up being brainwashed like this pipsqueak and attacks again, do you think you can let down your guard?”

“…You mean ‘Ω’s clutches might reach us here?”

“Is there a reason not to assume the case?”

“That’s one way to put it.”

Halter noted sharply.

“If they really wanted to eliminate us, stuff like military force and skills don’t matter–they have a lot of means.”

His tone was calm, not appearing to be intimidating or awe-inspiring. It was the the tone of a teacher genially reminding some inattentive students.

Those words alone had enough irrefutable gravity.

Seeing how the mood had soured, Naoto sighed, and said,

“Anyway–this place sounds dangerous. Is it really safe?”

“Relax–” Halter said, and carried the luggage on his back again.

“We just need to be good customers, and they won’t do anything. However, there’ll be strict surveillance, and those under them might try something hard–well, they aren’t that trigger-happy, and won’t kick up a fuss just because we deal with those crazy fools who are sent out as bait.”

“Most importantly, we’re one of them…there’s a whole bunch of actual terrorists here. At this point, they won’t mind a few more. Also–“

Vermouth paused, and continued,

“They’re strangely professional enough–to have workshops in their hotels.”

 

Pandora’s Inn could be considered a relatively fine hotel.

At the very least, the building was beautiful enough to be somewhat outstanding in the streets of Shangri-La.

It was no match for the five-star hotels of the advanced countries, but certainly passable for a city hotel owned by criminals.

They entered, and the first floor was the restaurant, and the reception counter that was shared.

“I want a room with a workshop in it–best if it’s next to the emergency staircase.”

Halter noted, and the young, Asian receptionist led them to their room.

The room fit their demand, right next to the emergency staircase, with a workshop attached. It was exceptionally wide, the furbishing completely.

“How about it, Milady, any problems?”

“Good enough.”

In response to Halter’s voice, Marie, having checked on the workshop equipment, briefly replied.

The machinery and work facilities were considered old, but they were all the latest models of the previous generation. Any better, and they would have to either head to a university research lab, or the research lab of a science research center.

Halter nodded, giving the receptionist the hotel lodging fees and a handsome tip, before shooing her out out.

 

The receptionist looked gleeful as she left, and Marie complained,

“–So? Halter? Mind explaining?”

“Explain what?”

Upon hearing the calm response from Halter, Marie glared up,

“Do I have to say it?”

“No idea.”

“Okay, then I’ll tell you. Get this straight.”

She inhaled,

“WHY! AM! I! LIVING! IN! THE! SAME! ROOM! AS! NAOTO——!!!????”

Marie’s growl echoed through the air of the room.

And beside her, RyuZU too spoke with a heinous look.

“It is utterly regrettable that I have to agree with this Master Marie, but I will have you explain. However, no matter how much you do explain this, I will simply determine it as a suicidal action and a waste of effort.”

Halter took on the icy glares from both the blond girl and the silver hair automata, and sighed,

“Well…”

Picking his words wisely, he opened the window of the room.

Humid winds blew in from the outside. That alone caused the stagnant air in the room to feel a lot better. Halter looked down at the polluted streets of Grid Shangri-La, and said,

“First–Milady, you wish to live together with AnchoR, right?”

Marie nodded.

“Yes, right. Of course. I have to repair her.”

“And Naoto definitely wants to be in the same room as RyuZU and AnchoR.”

“Of course.”

“Certainly.”

Naoto and RyuZU nodded, and Halter nodded back in agreement, responding,

“AnchoR can’t leave a certain distance from Naoto–and she said, I want papa and mama to be together.”

AnchoR nodded firmly.”

“We can live in this hotel for a long time, here’s a room with a workshop, and there’s only one of these at every level–so, any other ideas?”

“Yeah, of course there is. We can just ignore Naoto’s nonsense and have me live in the same room as AnchoR, right?”

“Yes, certainly there is a way. We can quickly ignore Master Marie’s sleep talk and fulfill Master Naoto’s request.”

“–And if I refuse?”

“I’ll kill you, you know?”

“Perhaps I should dissect you?”

“…I see. Now, I know this is shocking, but I don’t want to die yet.”

Saying that, Halter turned around. He pointed his chin at Vermouth, who was in a corner of the room, grinning away, saying,

“Just to say that I have no choice here, but I’m living next door with this kid. You can move over here if you’re jealous.”

“Hey hey hey, whatcha mean, boss~ Trying to woo me out? My body now can fit your request–“

“Kid, if you don’t want to be slaughtered, then shut up.”

Vermouth’s cheeky words caused Halter to hiss back.

On the other hand, Marie pouted unhappily,

“But…there’s only one bed in this room, you now?”

It was a fact. This was supposed to be a room for two, but while though the room was large, the living quarters was crammed, probably because of the workshop–or the two-person bed that was enlarged for no reason.

Halter shrugged, saying,

“No point trying to protest to me. There’s no other room. What else can we do?”

“What do you want me to do?”

“You’re no longer kids. You can discuss on where you want to sleep by yourself now. Remember to act civilized.”

Once he was done, Halter left the room with Vermouth.

 

Marie was left behind, and vengefully glared at the door, but she finally gave up, sighing as she lowered her shoulders.

“…Well, never mind.”

Even if she did continue with her childish complaints, the number of beds would not increase.

Most importantly, she was physically and mentally worn out.

She had Halter and RyuZU guarding her, but during the time they escaped everywhere, she never did manage to sleep well.

At this point, the room seemed decent, and once she put down her dusty luggage and saw the soft bed, her urge to sleep like a dropped sack of dirt overwhelmed her.

“Ahh goodness…! I’m taking a shower first. I just feel really tired. Once I’m done, I’m going to sleep.”

Naoto blinked, and said in surprise,

“–Eh? Now? It’s not even noon. Well, I’m tired too though.”

“Anyway, it’s more convenient to wait till night before we move.”

Naoto looked surprised, and Marie raised a finger, saying,

“Need me to guess what you’re thinking–they explained a lot, but this city does seem peaceful. Right?”

“Well…at the very least, it doesn’t look too different from the previous cities we’ve been to.”

The humidity and heat within, the dusty streets, and the bright, vibrant crowds.

If those were the only factors considered, it did seem that there was not too much of a difference from the Southeast Asian cities they had passed by.

But at this moment.

 

–Gunshots rang.

 

Even without Naoto ‘s superpowerful hearing, it was obvious that it was a sharp gunshot.

“What the…hey, that was?”

Naoto flusteredly looked outside the window, and Marie nonchalantly told him,

“Just a firework.”

“That’s impossible!? That was a gunshot just now, wasn’t it?”

“In this city, gunshots are just like fireworks. Don’t worry if you hear any gunshots out there, tell me if you hear any explosions instead.”

“No, Marie. Why are you still able to remain so calm…?”

“Fuu…I’ll be kind enough to tell you something, Naoto.”

Saying that, Marie sighed.

Her eyes wavered in the air, her emerald eyes showing the scenery afar.

“–Basically, while there are exceptions like Japan, the places the Meister Guild deploy to can be classified into two types.”

She sighed.

“The poor areas that are unable to maintain the city’s functions alone–or warring areas that nobody maintains. Try being in a warzone, working for two to three days straight without sleep? Like it’s possible to worry about a few gunshots anymore.”

However, there aren’t as many corrupted places as this city here–Marie concluded.

She threw her luggage aside, removed her summer coat, and placed it on the hangar.

She removed her tie, and was about to undo the buttons of her shirt, only to warn Naoto,

“Just to remind you, if you dare to look here, I’ll kill you.”

“Are you an idiot? You can hope that there’ll be people looking at you. Of course I won’t be looking. Most importantly, I have RyuZU–”

“Please, do relax.”

RyuZU nodded with an absolutely frosty look.

“If Master Naoto is about to turn his head around, I shall quickly turn his head back to the proper position.”

“Eh?”

Upon hearing RyuZU’s reaction, Naoto was left speechless, shocked by this, and Marie in turn tilted her head in confusion, asking,

“It’s rare of you to be like this, RyuZU. What winds blew by today?”

“No–certainly, I cannot allow a filthy thing like a naked body filled with the deficiencies and regret of yours to sully Master Naoto’s eyes, Master Marie.”

“Oh, I see.”

Marie’s temples were bulging in frustration.

And on the other hand, Naoto was jumping–

“–Alright, some jealousy! You see AnchoR!? That’s the face of a wife being wary of her husband meeting a mistress–!!”

“…So sister can show such an expression after all…”

AnchoR muttered slightly.

The cold expression from the little sister left RyuZU frowning,

“Master Naoto, I hope you do not have too much misunderstanding about this, for this isn’t that kind of vulgar feeling, but a consciousness of danger befitting of something assisting the master–”

“Oh oh, I see, I see. I get it~!”

“…What exactly is this? The simulation of actions has been resulting in errors of unknown causes. If I have to barely express it in words, it is that I simply feel ‘frustrated’.”

Naoto grinned away, clearly showing his delight, and this ruined RyuZU’s mood even further.

–These guys are going to be idiots forever. Marie muttered.

She removed her shirt, undid the buckle of her culotte pants, and said,

“AnchoR? You’ll be infected with idiocy if you keep looking at them. Come here and shower with mama. Mama will help you out.”

“Ah, yes.”

At that moment, Naoto suddenly turned his head around.

“Wait, Marie! Don’t strip AnchoR without my approval!”

Right in front of him was AnchoR, whose arms were raised as she was halfway through with removing her clothes–and Marie, who was only wearing her underwear, showing the tender skin of a girl.

“–Waaaahhh!? Don’t look here!”

“Master Naoto.”

“Ah–no, wait, RyuZU, that was–gulps.”

RyuZU’s hands clamped Naoto’s face, pulling it back.

And a thoroughly redfaced Marie swung a roundhouse kick at the back of his head.

 

Marie and AnchoR were already done with their shower by the time Naoto woke up again.

He rubbed the aching neck and back of the head, and was about to enter, but RyuZU simply followed in.

She then said,

“Please have a seat, and remove your clothes.”

Naoto did not resist. He obediently sat by the edge of the bathtub, and removed his female clothing–the clothes used for his disguise, revealing his upper body.

His body beneath the clothes was covered in bandages. The entire back, starting from the right shoulder to the right upper arm, was covered in protective gauze, and wrapped with medicinal tape and bandages.

RyuZU carefully removed those bandages one by one.

–Below them were severe burn wounds.

They were scars of melted skin and burnt flesh. The back was a dark red slab, gut-wrenching to anyone who saw it. It was the injury Naoto had suffered when he carried RyuZU around in Akihabara.

Medicinal nanomachines were already injected to prevent pus from developing and boost the healing, but…

RyuZU remained silent, putting her finger on the burn on his back.

Below the treated skin formed by the nanomachines, the internal bits still remained corroded. Logically, touching it slightly would be painful, itchy, and unbearable, but Naoto never grunted in the slightest.

–This wound would never heal.

At the very least, there was no way it could regrow to its original appearance unless a skin graft or artificial skin was used.

Having made contact with an ‘object’ giving off enough heat to melt materials, he was lucky that he did not die, and it was almost a miracle that he was not crippled.

Naoto solemnly spoke,

“No need to worry.”

“…I cannot agree to that.”

“It isn’t your fault, RyuZU, I wanted to do it. So–“

“No.”

RyuZU grabbed Naoto’s head roughly, and stuffed it into the basin.

Woah!?She ignored Naoto’s scream, and switched the shower on. She added shampoo to the warm water, and rubbed Naoto’s hair,

“Hey, RyuZU–”

“To be honest, you do stink.”

“Huh?”

“The burn is one thing, but my style will be affected if my master is to reek of sewage.”

“You’re kidding, I smell like the sewers?”

Naoto was stunned speechless, his body limp.

Using that opportunity, RyuZU wiped Naoto’s body with a clean towel that was soaked in hot water. While she was thorough in disinfecting him, her actions were delicate and tender.

Then, she applied antiseptic cream onto the wounds, applied new gauze, and applied tape and bandages to its original position.

“–Done? Do I smell like the sewers now?”

Naoto, who endured the pain within him, asked, and RyuZU nodded.

“Yes. While the sewage stench is a different matter, the stench that is so ingrained upon you is a lost cause, Master Naoto. I suppose I have already done the bare minimum in doing so.”

“Really? Then, switch over. RyuZU. Strip.”

…Oh? RyuZU tilted her head skeptically, and after a moment, nodded.

“I do earnestly feel embarrassed for not noticing. Master Naoto, you weren’t able to relieve your primitive impulses, and seeing how much you accumulated, with only the two of us together, and we don’t have to worry about AnchoR’s eyes–is that how it is?”

“No.”

Naoto simply replied, and had RyuZU turn her back on him before she removed her clothes that were made of gear fibers, bringing out a flat can from the bathtub.

There were the words ‘Repair Kit (Cream Type)’ written on it in English.

It was an item that repaired artificial skin.

The artificial skin used by hi-spec automata was made of shape-memory polymers that would automatically repair damage, to a certain extent. If there was too much damage however, the insufficient nanogears would have to be replaced.

“Yaa, finally able to repair RyuZU’s artificial skin. This hotel’s really great to have such a quality product in an attached workshop. As to be expected of the place Uncle Halter chose.”

Naoto snorted away, opening the lid of the repair kit.

He dug out the creamy white repair cream, and applied it to the skin before him.

–Ever since she awoke in Kyoto, I had her do all sorts of crazy things for no reason. I got Marie to help repair every time, but the little flaws on her artificial skin get really obvious when observed in places with enough light.

I should have her be careful with this, or rather, I need to–so Naoto thought.

He drew a circle with his finger, and spread the repair cream gently and carefully. There was no need to exert excessive pressure. Once the cream was fully spread, he simply needed to rub it in with his palms to boost the absorption.

The creamy white repair kit became transparent and seeped in, showing elastic, beautiful skin, and it was done. The absolute touch and quality that was no inferior to humans–

“Master Naoto, do kindly explain this impudence.”

RyuZU suddenly spoke with displeasure, and Naoto was stunned.

“Eh? What do you mean?”

“It is wonderful that it made you happy, but to show no reaction when you had me strip is a little–no, rather perplexing. It is impossible for my build to have any flaws, so I have to wonder if you are impotent–in the male functions?”

RyuZU’s words caused Naoto to widened his eyes, yelling,

“You’re mistaken!!”

“But the signs do indicate this…you call me your bride, but have never vented your vulgar feelings upon me. Did I hear that I can get anything in this city? I suppose I need to consider not only how to repair the burns, but also the male functions–“

“Wait, Miss RyuZU! You know how much I have had to endure here…!?”

 

–They’re noisy.

Marie grumbled in her heart, clicking her tongue loudly.

She could clearly hear the ruckus from the bathroom. Even without Naoto’s hearing, Marie could understand the meaning behind those words.

The wife complained that the husband never did anything despite having her strip, while the husband was worried about the child–AnchoR.

Personally, Marie had no interest in talks about love or lover’s squabbles–or perhaps it should be said that she never paid any heed to them, but even she was thinking,

You two can keep this up for the rest of your life–best to a place I don’t know of.

AnchoR, tired of hearing the tongue clicking, looked a little uneasy as she lifted her eyes.

“–Mama?”

“Ahh! Don’t worry about it. Alright, just stay still, okay?”

Marie frantically showed a smile, and focused on her work.

Right before her–on the work desk, a stark naked AnchoR was lying on it.

What Marie was doing was the same as Naoto in the bathroom–repairing the artificial skin.

However, the difference between them was that unlike RyuZU’s case, it was not something that could be settled simply by applying repair cream. It was more akin to a graft, a swap of artificial skin.

The artificial skin of an automata had two functions.

To encase, and paint.

To be honest, the paint part was not exactly necessary–but if she said so, Naoto would have gone berserk. Applying paint on the artificial skin however was basically a matter of aesthetics.

And a more radical statement would be that, if that was the case, it might not be a necessity.

The problem however was the external functions.

Automatas and cyborg had complicated movements within them, so naturally, the moveable parts–the hands and feet, head and waist, the joints, would certainly be exposed.

To avoid them from being exposed, the only option would be to add armor to the movable parts, which would drastically limit the movement range–and obstruct natural movement.

But if they were left exposed, it meant that dust or sand or other miniscule bits might have a chance to seep in. For the moments that required the use of nanosized parts, these bits would be enough to cause malfunction.

Thus, there was a need for protection, with–a sturdy yet elastic artificial skin.

As the artificial skin was an important part, Marie had no intention of opposing Naoto while he was earnest in wanting to repair RyuZU and AnchoR’s skin–though his motivations were somewhat off.

AnchoR especially was already at a stage where she could barely move after being pieced together. Marie definitely did not hope for her to malfunction again,

However–

Looking down at AnchoR, who was lying on the desk, Marie sighed.

The number of materials that could handle the specifications of automata of AnchoR and RyuZU’s level–were rather limited.

The quality of such skin materials was not something that could be easily bought at a typical sales, was expensive and rare, and required specialized knowledge in handling.

–However, there was such stuff equipped in this rented workshop.

In other words, there were people with demand for such stuff–the backalley technicians who had to deal with illegal hi-spec cyborgs or automata would be the main customers here.

It was infuriating, but it was to be expected of the crime city.

…But, in that case.

Marie quietly muttered.

They might be able to find the necessary parts required in this city.

Not only the artificial skin, every single part that could withstand the specifications of the Initial-Y series were rare, hard to obtain.

And parts for the child-sized ones like AnchoR were in turn much harder to obtain.

It was already difficult to shrink automata or cyborgs.

For they were already shrank down to ‘human size’. To replicate such a complicated construct through the use of clockwork technology was such an onerous matter.

Thus, to create a child-sized automata or cyborg, some power output or capabilities would have to be sacrificed.

Normally speaking, there was no need to create one of child size, but the reasons and necessity–

“For disguise work, or that he’s just an unabashed pervert–anyway, he’s a criminal either way.”

“Mama…?”

“It’s nothing. Just talking to myself.”

 

Naoto and RyuZU, Marie and AnchoR were done with what they had set out to do, and were about to go to sleep–but another squabble occurred.

Marie was standing in the middle of the room.

Naoto was facing her, seated at the sofa several meters in front of her.

Marie pointed at the only large bed in the room–

“They say that males and females sleep separately at age seven, right? We have this bed after all.”

She said with much seriousness.

But Naoto spoke with an absolutely frosty look in his eyes,

“I say, I don’t know what you’re being wary of…no, I can guess what you’re trying to say, but I don’t know why you’re so concerned about me.”

The girl in her teenage years was to share the bed with a boy of similar age–this was understandable.

And logically thinking, that should have been the case.

However, the problem was that Naoto himself had no interest in humans with physical flesh, and declared himself to be RyuZU’s husband. In other words, he was already married.

Furthermore–and this was a possibility so unlikely to be obtained even if the universe was turned upside down, if Naoto was to really try to violate Marie, surely it was known that RyuZU would stop him with violence nobody else on this world could accomplish.

No, considering that Marie had the combat ability to easily KO a trained soldier, it might be Naoto whose life was in danger instead–!!

RyuZU narrowed her eyes ferociously, saying,

“…Master Marie? It is the female’s instinct to mate with the outstanding males and produce the superior genes, so it is to be expected that you are concerned with the most outstanding individual on this world–Master Naoto in this case…however, may you please know your place? If not, I will have to propose a most basic method, and that is–that the dead does not need a bed, no?”

“Get this clear…I swear to God and my dead mother that I never ever have thought of this guy as someone of the opposite gender, and never will I from now on. Even if the universe turns upside down, that will be impossible.”

“Then there’s no problems, right? I don’t have any interest in meat slabs that have no clockwork movements inside them either.”

Naoto shrugged, saying that, and Marie told him with a serious look,

“Get this clear, Naoto, this is what I really think of you–is that you’re really disgusting. That’s all, you understand?”

“Seriously…do you think I won’t be hurt by anything you say?”

“You pervert, you treat people as slabs of meat. It’s a pity, so it’s to be expected that I call you that, right?”

Both of them glared at each other, and sighed in unison. Putting a hand on his forehead, Naoto said,

“…Well whatever. I only agreed to it begrudgingly because of AnchoR, but thinking about it, it’s primitive to be sleeping with a slab of meat, so much that I’m wondering if my sanity is intact.”

RyuZU let out a cheerful smile.

“Then it seems to be settled. Good. Master Naoto, please sleep on the bed. Meat slabs do not require any beds, I suppose, so I presume we can simply look for a place to hang them”

“So what you’re saying is that automatas need the bed…?”

“..Puah, AnchoR wants to sleep…”

“Ahh, it’s okay AnchoR~ come here, come here♪”

A tired looking AnchoR was pulled by Marie by the hand, looking flustered.

And on the other hand, RyuZU sat down at an end of the sofa, patting her thighs, saying,

“Master Naoto, let us have a change of plans. It is impossible to sleep on the bed used by a slab of meat like that unless it is disinfected and decontaminated. Thus, you may use my thighs as a makeshift–”

“What makeshift? This upgrades the room to a honeymoon suite!”

Naoto laid down on the long sofa without hesitation, his head resting on RyuZU’s thighs.

“–But you’re okay with that, RyuZU?”

“Automatas don’t need sleep, and do not fatigue, so certainly, it is fine.”

RyuZU paused, and continued,

“…if not for the recalibration in repairing AnchoR’s limbs that resulted in a burden on the artificial intelligence, AnchoR would not require optimization (sleep)…”

“Yuu…”

AnchoR, tucked between Naoto and Marie, rubbed her eyes, and looked back and forth between the duo, asking,

“Both of you…can’t, sleep together…?”

“…E-even if it’s your request, AnchoR, please spare mama here, okay?”

“Sorry. You’ve got to know that humans have some troublesome potency functions.”

“…Then, can I sleep, here…?”

Saying that, AnchoR laid down on the carpet between the bed and sofa.

Naoto and Marie did not want AnchoR to sleep on the floor, but the latter seemed to have her own insistence, and was unwilling to get up. Once she laid down, she was sleeping away, and everyone else chose to switch off the lights and go to sleep instead.

 

“…”

Despite getting what she wanted, Marie still could not get to sleep.

It was not because she was bothered by the noises outside the hotel. The place was safe, the bedding of top quality. The pillow was soft, the bed sheet was clean, and there was nothing to nitpick. Most importantly, her body was worn out, her brain numb from deep within, and her thought processing ability dropped.

The bed was wonderful, but…it was too vast. The bed was too large.

Marie herself was petite, but the bed was so large that even though she stretched her limbs everywhere, there was still space.

The actual specification name of this bed was Extreme Ultra King Size, and it might sound like a joke, but Marie would not know about this.

–Why do we need such a large bed? This is a two persons room, right? Feels like it can easily fit three, four people.

Marie sensed that she was about to come to an unpleasant conclusion, and stopped thinking.

However, compared to the sudden herky-jerkys in a corner of the cargo train as she slept with her legs cupped together, the overly spacious place should be as good as it gets…yet she could not calm down.

Even after stretching her body out, the feeling of being unable to touch anything else was really unnerving, and Marie sensed an empty loneliness in the middle of the universe.

…She rolled on the bed, poking her head out from the edge of the bed.

Marie on the bed, AnchoR on the floor, Naoto and RyuZU on the sofa.

In her impression, AnchoR’s position should be between Naoto and Marie…

“…”

But for some reason, AnchoR was latching onto Naoto’s hand that was dangling from the sofa.

…What’s that? Isn’t that strange?

AnchoR should be right between us, but she’s not in the middle? Am I the only one left behind? I was left behind?

Marie climbed out of the bed, poking her head out, saying,

“E-Erm, RyuZU?”

“–Is there something? I do need to watch over Master Naoto’s sleeping face from evening to morning, and you wish to ask of something that obstructs my exalted mission?”

RyuZU sat on the sofa, gently stroking Naoto’s head that was on her thighs, answering as she maintained a gentle smile. However, her stare did not shift in the slightest.

“Shut up and die, you party pooper.” Marie seemed to hear the subconscious voice from RyuZU.

That frivolous attitude further increased the loneliness Marie felt.

“Erm…sorry, it’s my fault, so…I-I’ll just sleep at the edge of the bed…I’ll just sleep there, so can you please let AnchoR sleep in the middle–anyway, you’re too despicable, Naoto!!”

Right when Marie exclaimed this with some tears in her eyes, AnchoR, who should be sleeping, instantly jumped up, and brought the towel along as she jumped onto the bed.

Then, she slept on the middle of the bed, right beside Marie, fawning,

“Erm, mama, papa…can you sleep together?”

Nobody opposed this final resolution, and Marie was finally able to sleep.

 

At night, Naoto and Marie naturally woke up.

They tidied up, went down to the first level, and found the atmosphere of the hotel restaurant to be way different from the day, like a bar.

Under the dim lighting, the smoke from the cigarettes and the stinging scents filled the place, and the lively greetings of the waiters echoed throughout.

All remnants of sophisticatry vanished, the savage looking men and the prostitutes with rich makeup occupied the restaurant seats, creating a lively ruckus.

And amongst them, they found Halter and Vermouth at the large table next to the staircase.

“Yo, slept a little there?”

Halter raised a beer jockey and asked, while Naoto looked lost, asking,

“Well, more or less…I say, the atmosphere here is different from how it is in the day, huh?”

Marie sat down, and answered,

“Didn’t I say that they’d show their true selves at night? This is how they’re really like.”

“If you want to, the smoking hot big sister sitting there can come drink with you.”

Vermouth said with a grin.

He pointed his chin at a prostitue seated by the table at the entrance.

“Stuff some money into her cleavage, and if the price satisfies her, you can go to the room upstairs and bang her–such a wonderful paradise, isn’t it?”

“It’s hell.”

Marie maintained a stoic, mask-like look, and spat those words.

Once the two non-cyborgs were seated, a hulking, muscular waiter came to take their orders.

“Your orders?”

“Khanom Chin and Sai Ua. No wine. What about you, Naoto?”

Marie ordered without hesitation, and Naoto, looking at the unfamiliar names of the dishes, was seeming at a loss.”

“I don’t really understand the menu…mind ordering something that isn’t too spicy?”

“Then Rat na? Thai-style stir-fried noodles.”

“That then.”

Once he was done with the orders, the waiter returned to the kitchen.

Marie carelessly looked at the waiter leaving, and said,

“…Back on point, is it possible to get the intel we need?”

“Of course. So, I want to ask, bitch, you got enough money for us to have a shot?”

Marie turned around, and found an unfamiliar man seated beside Halter.

It was a plain looking middle-aged man wearing a polo shirt and jeans.

Such a forgettable looking man, Marie thought.

They were seated so close to each other, yet his appearance never seemed to leave any impression. If the man was to get up and leave, she might end up forgetting his appearance within five5 minutes.

It was likely that he deliberately made sure not to show any sense of presence–probably an information broker.

Marie nodded, and added on,

“Yeah–but not a cent for you to have your drinks.”

Vermouth groaned.

“Hey, spare me already. You’ve got to understand that I was just a lowly employee, and currently unemployed? The last place I stayed at was a black-hearted enterprise that doesn’t even provide retrenchment benefits. At least spare me some wine–and a new body, you shitty slave.”

“You definitely do have one or two secret stashes–no? A trash that can’t manage his own finances might as well go die.”

“How about I tell you something shocking, you bitch? I’m already dead!”

“Then how about I spill out some intel too. You know what? The bitch you’re referring to is also dead. What a coincidence, so coincidental, it’s disgusting.”

Marie spat back angrily, and smiled.

Then, she suddenly turned to ask Naoto,

“Just to ask, though I’m hoping for anything at all–how much money do you have?”

Naoto looked displeased, saying,

“…Of course I’m penniless. My account in Japan should still have the money RyuZU obtained through some amazing means.”

“But your account should be frozen. Of course–“

And,

“No, do relax, Master Naoto. Before we left Kyoto, all the savings were already deposited into the Geneva Bank in Switzerland.”

“Huh!?”

RyuZU’s nonchalant revelation of the fact stunned Marie so much, she was choking,

“Huh…? Erm, under whose name…?”

“Of course, it’s under Master Naoto’s name. Is there a problem?”

“No, isn’t the account frozen?”

“Do relax, Master Naoto. The Geneva Bank is an international bank that respects eternal neutrality and privacy. The slogan used is ‘with an account, even a terrorist is a customer all the same’–“

“W-wait a sec. If you want to save money inside the Geneva bank, the account maintenance fees areis large enough to build a mansion!? How much did you save!?”

Marie frantically asked, and RyuZU told her with a displeased look,

“Master Marie, are you insisting that you have the privilege to know of the amount Master Naoto has? Did you actually believe AnchoR’s foolish words and intend to live as his wife–“

“Not at all!!”

Marie shouted, and seemed worn out as she sighed, shaking her head, saying,

“…Well, I’m too lazy to argue. Just tell me how many zeroes there are.”

RyuZU did not answer, and instead, glanced aside at Naoto.

The latter seemed worn out too as he nodded, saying,

“Eh…I don’t really want to know, but at least explain this.”

“Understood.”

Saying that, RyuZU opened her hands wide.

She was not showing any intention to surrender, and instead, raised 10 fingers.

–At least a billion. Marie felt giddy, and affirmed again,

“In what currency?”

“Yes? Of course, in key currency.”

“…So how much is that in Yen?”

Naoto muttered blankly, and with a deep sigh, Marie answered,

“Looking at current rates…at least 120 billion.”

Wew. Halter whistled, and chuckled.

“That’s a large sum there, Naoto. You’re able to buy two hundreds of the latest heavy armor automata, you know?”

“No no no, boss, looking at the market here, you can buy double of that. Pooahh, let’s be friends, okay? I hope you’ll finance me somewhat?”

Vermouth did a disgusting, bewitching action.

“…RyuZU, mind explaining the source–of that sum of money?”

Marie seemed to be thoroughly shaken, and she was a little speechless, asking so.

But RyuZU merely answered frivolously,

“Even if you do ask of the source, there is nothing much to say. Capitalism is simply a game of multiplying money, after all. Before we left Kyoto, I already knew that there would be a commotion in Tokyo, so I sold all the funds and leverages, so this amount of profit is to be expected, right?”

Marie was about to nod in understanding, but found that she could not agree with it.

“No no no, a terrorist earned a large sum of money by starting a terrorist attack…you’re basically match-pumping this!”

“I do not understand. I was not the one who caused the Japanese market to crash, and I suppose that is not considered insider dealings, no?”

–That’s not the problem here!

Marie buried her face into her hands, groaning, but soon recovered.

“…Eh, whatever. It’s not even a tenth of that, but I have a secret account too, so for the time being, I don’t have to worry about funding my activities.”

Those words caused Naoto to narrow his eyes and retort,

“Aren’t you the same yourself?”

“What are you saying? It’s the duty of a large enterprise to build a secret account and cheque book.”

“Better go apologize to the kind taxpayers.”

“I’m not laundering any money, just selling my shares before the losses. It’s to be expected so that I can finance my actions–Halter too probably has something like this.”

“Hey hey, I only have some money for my wine.”

Halter, who was named, merely showed a smirk as he said this.

Marie snorted,

“Some pricey wine you have there…so, what about you.”

“Oi oi, what do you expected of a little ex-spy here? I’m different from you rich shitty slaves, a lowly peasant on the corporate staircase, you know?”

“Halter?”

“Looks like the Odemas are really kind with their dealings, ex-spy.”

Halter grinned as he toyed with the portable terminal in his hand.

Vermouth saw the terminal show his secret account, and could not help but exclaim,

“Hey boss! This is an invasion of privacy!”

“Let me see…oh, I see, quite a sum you have here. Looks like you can buy a cyborg body for yourself at any given moment.”

With Marie making jabs at Vermouth, the latter retorted,

“Get this clear. I’m a pitiful laborer who can be sacked at any given moment, you know? What’s wrong with earning some petty cash? I worked so hard to save up some private money, and will you die if you spare some mercy? You really don’t trust me, huh…”

“Like we’re going to trust you. You can earn quite a lot by informing the authorities of our whereabouts!”

“Woah, this little bitch here! I helped you out so much, and this is how you treat me? Hey boss, this shitty brat doesn’t seem to know what is comradeship here.”

“Oh? So is this money earned from denying that, or some subjob, you punk?”

Saying that, Halter pointed at a corner of the terminal.

Vermouth groaned.

“Looks like you earned quite a bit of pocket change over the last two weeks huh? 8 total transactions from the Suvarnabhumi–I remember that’s the company the Thai ‘military’ used as a disguise, no?”

“Eh? That means–“

“……Oh, now that explains a lot.”

Marie smiled at Vermouth.

“The Thai ‘military’ gave you eight8 transactions while we were’re escaping our pursuers? What kind of part-time work did you do? I’m very curious about that.”

Unlike her expression and smile, her eyes were absolutely stone cold.

Vermouth’s expression was that of a little hoodlum whose act was up, and he sighed hard, saying,

“–Spare me already. Our whereabouts are going to be revealed for sure, so I might as well reveal where we are and earn quite a bit, and it’ll be easier to predict their actions. Didn’t I help fight against the enemy? This is a win-win situation, right?”

“Huh? What kind of win-win is this when you keep all the money to yourself? At least you should split some with us to show some sincerity, right?”

Marie haughtily argued back, and Vermouth clicked his tongue,

“Tch…okay. You’re so petty despite you being so rich–how much of the share?”

“Nine9 to one1.”

“Huh? What? That’s enough for you?”

“Right, nine9 for me and one1 for you–I’m being kind here, right?”

“Are you the devil!?”

Vermouth glared as he growled back.

“…? Hey, papa, what are you talking about?”

AnchoR seemed unable to comprehend the conversation at hand, and blankly asked.,

Naoto in turn shook his head consciously, comforting AnchoR, and said,

“We’re just talking about how there’s a lot of people earning money through illegal ways~ you’re a good kid, AnchoR. Can’t do that at all, okay?”

“You don’t have a job, let alone earn proper money! Stop being so haughty when you’re a good-for-nothing leeching off your wife, okay!?”

“A normal 16-year-old kid can only do part-time jobs! Who’s the one who made sure that I couldn’t even do that!?”

“Huh!? Stop crying down there already.”

–There was buzzing.

While the deplorable, vile words were being exchanged, Halter sighed, and said,

“…Sorry to bother you.”

He apologized, and took out a stack of notes from the pocket of his suit, handing it over to the man at the next table.

But once the man received it and did a brief count, he wrapped half of the notes in a paper bag, and returned it to Halter.

“This should be enough.”

“Hm? …Isn’t that too cheap?”

Halter asked with a frown.

He opened the paper bag, and found the intel Halter requested. Though Halter did pay way beyond the market rate, but half of that was too little.”

In the face of Halter’s skeptical look, the man calmly answered,

 

“I still couldn’t believe until I witnessed it with my own eyes…I never expected these brats to be–that Second Epsilon.”

 

There was silence in the room.

The buzzing drunk customers, the prostitutes that were hawking, and the fierce looking waiters.

All of them kept quiet, staring at their table intently.

–Was I too optimistic here?

Halter quietly groaned as he reached his hand from the handgun at his waist.

He did not think this place was safe enough to let his guard down, but he’d never expected the enemy to strike at this moment. Did he misjudge how wary this city might be…

Marie and Naoto scowled, tensing up.

What could they do?

It was easy for them to leave the scene, but only for a moment. Since the enemy’s clutches were reaching out faster than he thought, the emergency escape point he prepared just in case might not be safe…

In this tense atmosphere, the man merely stood up silently, not holding any weapons.

He looked around at every person at the table, and reached his hand out–

“–I shall charge a cheaper fee for the intel. Instead, may we shake hands?”

“…”

Huh?

“And if possible–is it fine for us to have a commemorative photo?”

The man said bashfully with a smile.

 

Not only did he shake hands enthusiastically and take commemorative photos, he even requested autographs.

The information broker left with a grin…and with everyone else in the restaurant still looking at them, Marie picked up the Sai ua with the fork, muttering,

“…Anyway.”

“Yeah?”

“I get the feeling that I shouldn’t ask, but who was that?”

“You should follow your instincts, Milady–better not to know now. He’s someone who might beat you to death immediately.”

“I just feel…nom nom…that I saw him somewhere before, but I’m not sure…”

Marie put the food into her mouth as she tilted her head.

That middle-aged man seemed to be someone in a the movie that would be forgotten after a scene, and gave up on his professionalism to showcase his desire–Marie had felt that something was amiss ever since he showed his true colors.

She felt that she was close to the answer, and yet not getting there, something felt off, like food traces stuck between the teeth.

“–Need me to guess?”

Vermouth smirked, and interrupted,

“Six6 years ago, there was the news about the mastermind behind the assassination of the president of Palam reported as dead…right?”

Marie’s expression changed at that instant.

She glared at Vermouth with a ferocious look,

“–Wait a second. That incident caused an economic crisis in China, America, and many other countries, you know? How many people do you think were hanged because of that?”

“Milady.”

Halter calmly stated.

“There’s a lot of people that are playing dead right now–there’s one here, for example.”

“This–“

“Nobody else realized that you’re the Princess of a certain company of the 5 Enterprises–there’s a rule of thumb to all that, so don’t think too much about it.”

Once Vermouth said that, Marie felt dejected.

“So what now, I’m not only treated as someone like that guy, and also a comrade–nothing else can be considered a bigger humiliation, right?”

“But this is what you wanted things to turn out, right? Just got to act all the the way now. Right, the worst terrorist in the world.”

Marie wanted to refute Vermouth’s cheeky comments, but remained silent.

He was absolutely right–at this point, she was a terrorist.

She kicked away all semblance of logic to satisfy herself. If there was something different from her to the man who had triggered that incident in the past, it would be the motives, for the sake of money, insistence, ideals…or for personal interest.

Right, there was nothing different at all.

In the end, she did it all for her own sake. At the very least, looking at this aspect, Marie had no right to criticize him–

“I know, I’ll endure this…though I really don’t like this.”

“Relax. You guys are famous and popular–but we aren’t the only terrorists in town. Need me to introduce a few of them to you? I can go from West to East and get all my colleagues for a reunion.”

“No need for that.”

Marie poked at the Sai ua with the fork, saying that.

“Now then, time to explain the situation in this city. Listen up as you eat.”

Halter changed the topic.

“As you know, this city is filled with countless criminal organizations and radicals, and there’s no government. However, those lawless people have their own way of life and order–so it ends up with three organizations managing such people.”

“Ends up?”

Marie gave a puzzled look, and Halter nodded back,

“Of course, they’re all people from various stuff here and there, but after countless wars, splinters and mergers, the original groups vanished.”

“There’s no one here who’ll try to boost the reputation of the organization, and there’s no language about no access. The main customers here are the rich from around the world that did guilty things. Everyone just called them with various names.”

Vermouth raised the fingers to count, informing them,

 

“They’re–the ‘market’, ‘restaurant’, and ‘arsenal’.”

 

“In order, they are the money dealers who broker trades and information, the pimps who deals with drugs and human trafficking, and finally, the martial branch that controls weapons, armaments, and clockwork technology–easy to understand?”

Hearing Halter’s brief explanation, Naoto tilted his head, asking,

“…Well, the market is one thing, but won’t it be troublesome if you mix up the restaurant and the arsenal?”

“No way. There’s no warehouse the ‘arsenal’ won’t handle, and no hotel the ‘restaurant’ won’t handle.”

Vermouth snarked,

“So? You can guess without us saying, that the three organizations don’t get along with each other. Of course, isn’t it? Any organization will want to do business. To deal with money here, you need bodyguards, and bodyguards in turn in weapons, and of courses, you need the meals, hump the ladies, and use the drugs.”

“So, basically put, all the territories overlap.” Halter said.

“That’s why each organization finds each other to be an eyesore, but they appear to be getting along, which is a strange part to this city…anyway, you don’t have to remember anything other than the ‘arsenal’.”

Naoto tilted his head.

“Because tomorrow, there might be another organization taking over, so there’s no time to remember them all.”

Once Halter answered, Vermouth chimed in,

“Boss mentioned that the three organizations originally weren’t such an organization. The number of upstart groups is in triple digits, with foreign aid and even terrorist organizations involved in such mud-like internal struggles, so it ends up with some people taking the top position for the time being. One single misstep, or a slip of the mouth, and it’ll be a change of heads in five5 minutes. Except for the ‘arsenal’ here.”

“The ‘arsenal’ is the only organization here that hasn’t changed hands for six6 years–this is an unprecedented feat.”

Halter solemnly noted,

“Their boss is Kyu Taiyu, the actual ruler of this city. He has control over the weapons, armament, cyborgs, automatas, and spare parts, and even has a batch of Meisters occupying the Core Tower.”

“Also to note, he integrated the Core Tower into his territory, and through diplomatic means, thoroughly erased any excuse for the ISS to interfere with this city. Isn’t that amazing? Living for six6 years proves his actual accomplishments and means. The second place here is about eight8 months or so, so he has the record by a large distance.”

Even with incomplete information, they could understand that this was something doable through abnormal talent.

Marie inadvertently gasped, and asked,

“…Who is that guy?”

“I don’t know. Personally, I’m not interested.”

Halter shrugged.

“No well, strictly put, someone might want to know, but in this city, digging up someone else’s past is going to ensure that you won’t live for long. Are you going to risk your life finding out if the boss of the ‘arsenal’ once worked part-time at a pizzeria?”

“…Well, you’re right.”

“Simply put, just remember that he’s very powerful. As long as we don’t do anything silly, he’s probably not someone who’s going to think of some stupid idea.”

As he said that, Halter took out a notebook from his pocket.

He wrote something, tore the page out, and handed it over to Marie,

“As for what you requested of me, you can find it at that address. You can go over once you’re done with dinner.”

“…? You’re not coming along, Halter?”

“I need to go elsewhere for some ‘immigration check’s’. Relax, if anything doesn’t go wrong, you’ll be safer. You have RyuZU around.”

“Understood–then what about you?”

Marie gave Vermouth a spiteful look while the latter was nonchalantly trying to leave.

Vermouth showed a sneer, saying,

“What? You want to come along too? Bitch, I know you’re lonely–“

“I’m asking what is the bastard who sold us out planning to do by running off alone, you shithead?”

“Hey hey, calling a baldy a baldy isn’t an insult. As for what a shithead wants to do, you wanna know?”

Vermouth gleefully responded, and Halter snapped back,

“–Kid, you think I’ll let you wander around in this city alone? You’re coming with me.”

“Haha! Sorry boss, I’m the type who wants to chill out at some sex shop.”

“I don’t want to hear your tastes.”

Halter coldly stated, and Vermouth suddenly changed expression–or to be precise, he did not, merely showing a taunting smirk.

However, the intent behind that expression showed a decisive change.

“–Listen boss. I really respect your abilities as a mercenary, and I dare say that I’m a huge fan of yours.”

Vermouth snapped a finger, and said,

 

“But for everything, there are things we are good and bad at.”

 

Voice came from everywhere.

All the customers in the shop said the same thing.

“…!?”

Shock, wariness, awareness–in a short moment, Marie and Naoto, RyuZU, AnchoR, and even Halter hads a little slip in their consciousness.

And Vermouth did not let this opportunity slip.

By the time they had recovered, Vermouth was already gone–without any voice, breath, or trace.

“–That guy!”

Marie widened her eyes and stood up, but it was too late.

The customers in the shop continued with their original buzz, as though they did not try to cover Vermouth’s escape at all.

Looking at this, everything seemed surreal to Marie, and she remained rooted.

This indicated that all those present were hired by Vermouth, and assisted in his escape.

…When did he arrange for that? He was watched by Halter since they had arrived at the hotel…so it was before they entered the city?

“That bastard.”

Halter muttered, and grounded his teeth.

“So you mean that you’re a match for me in hide and seek? Punk–you got guts.”

 

At night, in Grid Shangri-La.

The place was more packed than it was during the day. The vibrant stalls were opened. The neon gears dazzled.

The sun had set, yet the temperature did not drop, and a stench, probably food or something else, lingered. Marie held AnchoR by the hand as they walked through the place.

And right behind them were Naoto and RyuZU.

At some moments, some people would stop and give them strange looks, probably because they had recognized their appearances, or that they were just that eyecatching, but at the very least, there appeared to be no signs of them attacking.

…But we can’t let our guard down.

Marie sighed, muttering this to herself.

There were three reasons as to why they had coame to this Grid Shangri-La–

One, to obtain parts to repair AnchoR.

They could not repair AnchoR completely, and the parts capable of maintaining AnchoR’s abnormal capabilities–the maximum output, were not easily obtainable.

Though her parts were of RyuZU’s level, a lot of molecular designer materials, only obtainable from an International Research Planet or equivalent, would be required.

They did some repairs, which was better than none, but at this point, AnchoR’s body abilities might be inferior to a real child, let alone combat ability.

The auto-gyro and shock removers were wrecked, and the exoskeletal frame was severely tilted. Despite these, AnchoR’s heart, the spring installation that was the heart of an automata, remained.

To give an anecdote, it was akin to a high horsepower engine of a fighter jet used on a child’s tricycle.

At this point, AnchoR had difficulty walking straight. She had to be repaired to a point where she was able to walk without assistance, or she might end up scrapped before she reached France.

Second, without going through the smuggling routes unique to this crime city, they would not be able to enter the European Circle without crossing through several major countries, including the Chinese Federation, India, and the United Arabic Countries.

Even with RyuZU, it was impossible for them to bring through a massive, proper ‘military’ armada while making their way through the Eurasian Continent, and very unrealistic.

They did not hope to start a war. Leaving aside Marie and Naoto–even Halter, who had lost his original cyborg body, would be unable to withstand the barrage, and it would simply be a battle of attrition.

And as for the third reason–

 

“Where exactly are we going to?”

Naoto asked impatiently, and Marie answered,

“We’re going to order a main frame for AnchoR.”

That part would be the equivalent of a human’s spine and skullcap.

They contained the automata main cylinder that was more important than a heart (spring), the neural wires that were finer than spider threads, and connected to other various important parts–it could be deemed as the base support for an automata or a cyborg.

During the prior battle, AnchoR’s parts were wrecked–to be precise, twisted.

“Those are the only parts that we can’t use premade products for.”

AnchoR’s design was too unique, and while it was to be expected that the haute couture lacked interchangeability, trying to find a main frame of her size that could withstand the burden of the parts, given her massive output, while maintaining the reaction speed, was a fine line from insanity.

It would be easier to maintain the original capability of a heavy race car while downscaling it to the size of a mini car.

Naoto pondered,

“Can’t we make it ourselves instead?”

“That’ll be difficult.”

Marie said, and shrugged,

“First off, the main frame isn’t working, so basically, we can’t use your ears to find out–are you about to explain the precise design?”

“Well… I can’t explain the design for each individual part.”

“So you’re saying that you’ll know if it’s assembled? But if we keep connecting suitable main frames to get AnchoR moving, it’ll only increase the burden.”

Unlike the installation of the hands and feet, the main frame was not to be interchanged easily. Regular maintenance aside, even in a full overhaul after several years, the frame would not be switched out.

As long as the main frame was damaged, typically, it would mean the automata would be scrapped.

But, Naoto frowned.

“That’s not a part you or I can make, Marie? Who are you going to request this from?”

“…Yeah. It’s not something an ordinary technician can make.”

But, if there was one who could make it.

“Johnny Artigiano.”

Marie stated the name of that clockwork technician.

“In terms of designing the main frame, he’s an overclocker who might be more famous than the five Enterprises.”

“–Overclocker?”

“A technician who’s able to adeptly assemble automata parts of various specifications together.”

Hearing Marie’s answer, Naoto tilted his head in confusion, asking,

“…Is it that difficult?”

“Of course. Automata parts without uniform specifications are not to be easily interchanged. It’s like trying to graft the wings of a bird onto a human’s back and trying to get a human to fly, probably something that ridiculous.”

The output was different. The strength was different. The specifications were different. Simply put, the natures were different.

Assembling parts of various specifications together to operate normally was such a difficult, delicate job, as Marie firmly emphasized.

Because of that, clockwork technicians who were trained formally would not go out of their way to do this.

It would be faster for them to redesign everything from scratch than to piece together parts that did not match.

But in this city–there was a massive demand for this work.

There were illegally modified weapons or counterfeits, which the manufacturers would not want to be detected, and also modified goods assembled with parts of various specifications–a top notch overclocker would be required to get them moving.

“I know a bit of this, but I can’t compare to a top notch overclocker. Leaving aside that he’s able to create capabilities far beyond normal specifications, it’ll be an understatement to say that he’s godlike.”

Naoto widened his eyes, and Marie answered.

She then raised her index finger, saying,

“People call him–the ‘Maestro Finito’. No matter how unique the parts are, he’s able to design the most suitable main frame for them, and create products that surpasses the original product… and he doesn’t care about anything else. He’s a widely recognized weirdo.”

“…Such an amazing technician lives here?”

Marie nodded.

“I don’t know what kind of person he is either, but I have heard he refused several offers from the five enterprises and the companies all over the world, and opened an independent workshop in this Grid Shangri-La.”

“Heeeh…!”

“Well, in fact, I guess the rumors are just adding to the fire, right?”

Hearing Marie’s words, Naoto was befuddled, and asked,

“Huh? And I thought he’s a pretty cool guy.”

“Logically, it is impossible. The purpose of perfecting the parts is for haute couture, so how does one adjust randomly assembled parts for it to surpass the original?”

Marie gave a wry smile.

“But even if the details are unclear, his skills are the real deal. Only the ‘anything’ part is just a false advert, but he’s definitely the premier main frame designer in the world. I guess he’s able to create things better than those in the market or what we can do.”

The gang went from the market, north through the Chang Puak Gate.

They left the connected markets lininged by the sides of the moat and the fountains, and the scenery changed drastically. The eyecatching adverts and the radiant lights vanished, and the passers-by along the way became sparse in numbers. West from this place would be the red-light district managed by the ‘restaurant’, but even the buzz from there seemed so distant.

This place was a residential area made of disposed materials of blocks and parts. The civilian atmosphere here was not because of customers who came to do business here, but rather, the caused by the residents who actually lived in this area.

The city itself was lacking in security, but this place in itself was the most perilous–

But Marie stepped inside without any hesitation.

She held AnchoR firmly by the hand, her other hand holding a map as she walked through the darkness, where the streetlightsstreet lights were too dim.

And after a while, a two- storey tall old building entered their sights.

Inside the grey, plain apartments was the independent workshop of that clockwork technician.

“…So this is the place that clockwork technician lives in?”

“Looks like it–but it doesn’t look like he’s a normal person.”

There’s a reason why Naoto would be muttering this, Marie thought.

First off, this building was worn down.

And most importantly, there was no display board despite it being called a workshop. The corridor before the entrance was swept cleanly, but there were lots of cracks along the wall, and it looked as though the place would crumble apart. Most of the surrounding buildings were old and dirty, but this place in particular was very bad.

It would not be strange to say that it was a building that has existed since a thousand years ago. Looking at the atmosphere of this building, this explanation would make more sense.

However, this was definitely the place according to the address Halter wrote.

Marie cautiously knocked on the door ion the corridor (as she was worried about destroying the building).

After waiting a while, she wondered if she should knock again, but the door opened.

“Yes–may I know who you are?”

It was a clear, robotic synthesized voice.

Following that, a bisque doll revealed the sturdy looking face, and appearing was a maid automata wearing what could be called a retro-classical apron and dress.

Leaving aside RyuZU or AnchoR, this was clearly an old-styled automata, rather than the modern trending automata that were human like.

Marie stared at the blue eyes that were clearly made of glass, and gave her name,

“I’m Marie. This kid here is AnchoR.”

“…Ah, I’m Naoto.”

“This is RyuZU.”

“Yes–thank you for your courtesy. My apologies for the late introduction. I am Nono Figlia, the automata in charge of receiving the guests to this workshop.”

She–Nono bowed gracefully.

Marie widened her eyes, shocked by her overly fluid motions, and asked,

“This is Johnny Artigiano’s workshop, right?”

“Sì–dear guests, you do have a job to request to the Maestro, no?”

“Yeah, we need to ask him to do something no matter what. Is it possible for us to talk with him directly?”

“Certainly–please, this way.”

With Nono welcoming her in, Marie entered the workshop, and was left flabbergasted.

Unlike the shabby exterior, it was clear that the room was thoroughly maintained.

The room, reeking of mechanical oil, was relatively large, but it was basically buried by all kinds of old tools that were carefully used over a long time. The walls filled with work shelves had countless of parts and materials, a large number of of documents and books.

While the place did not appear to have been tidied, in fact, it was speckless.

It appeared the workshop had soundproofing installed, and no noise could be heard from the outside at all. In contrast, the entire room was filled with countless number of ticking sounds from the gears.

Yet the atmosphere was tranquil enough for one to hear a pin drop.

In the innermost position of this strange place, at the one lighted area in the dim room.

An old man was arching his back as he sat at the work chair.

–For some reason.

Marie thought of a wizard in a fairy tale.

Her mind conjured the image of a lone sage isolated from society in a broken house, silently training on his wisdom, giving words of advice to young people who came to challenge arduous trials.

…The rumors might be true after all, Marie thought.

At the very least, the workshop and that back caused Marie to sense an extraordinary vibe from a clockwork technician who had arrived at a certain realm.

While the figure continued to work silently, Marie softly called out,

“Sorry–are you Johnny Artigiano?”

There was no answer.

“Sorry for disturbing you so late at night, but there is a job we wish to request you to do. It’s likely you’re the only one able to do it–is it alright to hear us out?”

The old man twitched.

And then, he slowly lifted his head.

The quiet amber eyes looked at the guests–he cupped his hands behind his ear.

He said,

“……Whatcha say?”

 

…This is useless.

Seeing the reaction of the old man, Marie was about to instantly right on the spot, and spoke out loud,

“Erm, signore–“

“Come on, Baa, you just had dinner, didn’t you? Have you gone senile?”

“Who’s Baa!? You’re the senile one here, right?”

Marie lashed out without thinking, and Naoto grabbed her by the shoulder, coaxing her.

“Hey Marie. He’s an old man. Don’t get so agitated talking to him.”

“Yo-you’re right. How could I possibly lose myself…”

While Marie huffed and puffed, pacing her breathing, the old man tilted his head,

“…Marie? Ohh, the pretty queen Marie Antoinette?”

“Ah? No, what are you…anyway, Marie Antoinette’s someone from one to two thousand years ago.”

“Yep, that’s right. She’s big breasted…oh sorry! Wrong identity!”

“Where are you looking at!?”

Marie immediately cupped her chest as she lashed out again.

The old man looked up at the ceiling in a downhearted manner, and sighed,

“Yes, Adelina, I really miss that folk song. Maybe next time, I’ll have some Limoncello as I face the the sea breeze of the Amalfi.”

“Who’s that!?”

Marie shrieked, and Nono replied,

“Sì, Miss Adelina is the granddaughter to the Maestro.”

“As I said! I’m not your wife, your granddaughter or Queen Antoinette! I’m a guest!?”

Marie shrieked. From behind, RyuZU muttered,

“Leaving aside how Master Marie’s chest is as barren as the treasury during the French Revolution, it seems that she wants to entrust this old neurotic entity with the extremely important parts of AnchoR…to be honest, she is the asinine one, isn’t she?”

“I’m really regretting making this trip…!”

Marie muttered, as though coughing out blood. At this moment.

“Oh…that is the Initial-Y series.”

The old man said with a smile.

“As far as I can see, you are asking this old man here to remake the main frame of that pipsqueak there, no?”

“Wha–“

Marie widened her eyes, and was at a loss of words.

“Why, that’s nothing to be surprised by. Even when I’m in a semi-hermit state, I do at least read the newspapers.”

The old man–Johnny– grinned like a kid whose prank succeeded.

“Second Upsilon, is it? I heard you have two Initial-Y series, and seeing how you came all the way here to this rural workshop, one with a twisted skeletal frame…anyone else could have guessed what was going on.”

Yes, he was right. Everything he had said made sense, except for one this.

–The twisted main frame.

The man was able to deduce that it was twisted, not a wrecked or faulty connection, without checking on the parts which would have required him to open the frame. That was the one contention.

Marie shivered, and at the same time, she was certain.

This old man’s skills were the real deal.

But–

“…Erm, you aren’t senile?”

“Of course not. Don’t look at me in this situation. I do treasure my health here, you know? I go through medical checkups every week and the doctor’s never said that I’m senile–right, Nono?”

“Si–the Maestro may have some aging chronic illnesses, but there are no signs of any intellectual, memory, or bearings defects.”

“Then what was that about?”

“Well, you know, the ones who often came by to visit are often those mafia brutes who are always scowling. Just a little teasing out of fun.”

–This shitty old man.

Marie felt her veins twitching, and barely managed to swallow her rage.

“We-well, it’s fine. As long as you’re sane, it’s easy to talk. I did say that I got work to request of you.”

“Yes, so let’s get straight to the point–I refuse. Please return back.”

He immediately answered.

It was a straightforward reaction, and Marie was left flabbergasted for quite a while.

Then, she blinked her eyes, and asked,

“…Erm, mind stating the reason?”

“I’m fully booked right now. No time on the schedule.”

Johnny shrugged, and said,

“If you’re willing to wait, I can–but it’ll take five years.”

“I can’t be waiting for that long!?”

Marie shouted, and nearly lashed out as she barely managed to rein in her emotions. She kept pacing her breathing and emotions, and courteously requested formally,

“I know that it will be troublesome for you if I jump the queue, but we can’t possibly wait that long. I’ll pay the amount accordingly, so please give me some leeway, okay?”

But the old man chuckled, and told her,

“Hah, you’re making things difficult for me, young lady.”

“…”

“You said that you know this will trouble me, but you don’t know at all. What Where do you think this place is? A rural workshop that deals with the underworld. Those people will eat people up if they get even a nook. Deliver it a single second late, and the whole workshop might get blown up, let alone late penalty payment.”

“This…”

Seeing how stupefied Marie was, the old man gave her a cold glance, and said,

“The thing here is, don’t you find it crude to throw money around and force people to work? Didn’t the school tell you what social sciences are?”

Marie could not respond.

“I-in that case, is it possible for me to be an assistant? I’ll shorten your current waiting time, so please use the spare time to deal with my order. How is that?”

Marie put her hand before her chest, and at that moment–

This time, the old man clearly snorted.

“Sorry, but the work of this old man here doesn’t need the help of an amateur little lady.”

“Ama–teur!?”

Marie was stunned, unable to let out a voice.

For a moment, she could not understand what she was labelled as. No other technician had said anything so unruly to her.

She recovered, and furiously lashed out,

“P-pardon me, but I am not as I appear–“

“I know. You’re the thoroughbred daughter of the Breguets, right?”

“! You know who I am–!”

“Just heard some rumors.”

The old man noted wryly. Marie’s voice was quivering due to the humiliation.

“Y-you know who I am, that I’m a Meister–and you call me an amateur?”

“That’s what I’m getting at. So what?”

Marie clenched her fists in anger, quivering as she remained rooted to the spot.

The old man said that Marie was an amateur.

He knew that she was the daughter of the Breguets, a Meister, once a squad leader of the ‘Meister Guild’. He knew everything–yet he called Marie an amateur.

…Marie never used these facts to boast about herself, certainly not. But–

“This old man here doesn’t care if you’re a Meister or the daughter of the Breguets, you’re no different from an amateur. Is getting rid of your diapers faster than everyone else something to be proud of?”

The old man rested his head on his arm, his elbow on the table, and snickered.

“So, since you think of yourself as a pro, what you mean is that, as a real clockwork technician working on the frontlines, you have better things to do than to look for this semi-hermit to cry now, right?”

–Snap.

Marie heard a certain something breaking. That might have been the nerves in her temples, or her temperamental limit, or perhaps just a hallucination.

But in any case, she was already at her limit. With no room to endure, she yelled,

“Then pardon me for being rude, and sorry for the intrusion! Please enjoy your last years in this shitty place until you die, farewell!”

Marie turned around, and glared at Naoto,

“Let’s go back, Naoto! It’s a waste of time to stay around here. We’ll think of something else.”

It was impossible for them to create a complete main frame, whether it was due to the facilities, or time.

Looking at how twisted it was, it would be impossible to calibrate over and over again until AnchoR would barely be at the point to be scrapped.

–At the very least, it’s more constructive than asking this annoying old man to make something he’s not willing to do.

But right when Marie was about to walk away, Naoto shook his head, and told her,

“Sorry Marie. Bring AnchoR back first.”

Marie widened their eyes.

…It was too surprising. Unexpectedly, Naoto had entrusted AnchoR to Marie, that he was willing to do that just to stay behind.

“I–have some other things to ask this old man.”

It was unexpected that Naoto would actually say such lines. Marie was thoroughly surprised.

This is a waste of time–Marie was about to repeat this, but kept quiet.

She had never thought that she understood Naoto Miura.

But she thoroughly understood that it was pointless to doubt his judgement and instincts.

And if Naoto had said that with such a serious look, that meant that there was something Marie did not understand…that should be the case.

Marie clicked her tongue.

What she was most frustrated by was that she did not understand what exactly that was–

“–Ah I see. Then enjoy your time with that senile old man! I guess I’ll be done repairing AnchoR before you come back, so get ready to howl all you want!”

 

Marie took AnchoR with her as she left the workshop with frenetic footsteps.

Naoto looked back, and saw the old man shrug, sigh, and mutter,

“Goodness, this little lady’s so noisy.”

But unlike his spiteful tongue, the old man showed a little smile on his face.

“–Master Naoto, I am not agreeing with Master Marie’s view, but I do feel it is a waste of time to remain here. What do you intend to do? I do believe that you will not be showing your all-loving nature on an old man.”

“I want to watch this old man work.”

“Sorry kid. If you want to spend your time, just go back, will ya? As you can see, I’m a poor one, and I don’t have the time to spend on a third-rate apprentice in his diapers like you.”

“–Oh?”

RyuZU spoke with a frosty tone.

“Have my hearing senses malfunctioned? Or is that a verbal impediment you have? No, I suppose it is Parkinson’s’ at work? Such insolence to someone who you cannot look up to–“

“RyuZU, stop.”

Naoto raised a hand, and cut off RyuZU.

On the other hand, the old man continued in a genial tone,

“So what’s wrong about calling someone a third-rate? It’s just a matter of fact–but I suppose you have the self-awareness.”

“…Master Naoto, do you mind explaining? What is the proper reason as to why this old man is being condescending towards you–to be specific, please give me a reason to reposition my brain to its normal position without having to administer shock to the cranium.”

“But there’s no need to explain. Like this old man said, I’m a third rate apprentice.”

Naoto continued with a wry look,

“But you’re quite the cheeky one, old man.”

“…Oh?”

“You never said that you ‘couldn’t do it’. You knew that AnchoR’s one of the Initial-Y series.”

Yes. He never said that.

Even when the unit was at a state where it was to be scrapped, and yet was still far surpassed modern clockwork engineering, this old man never showed any fear or doubt.

No, even then, the expression this old man showed when he said that AnchoR’s main frame was twisted.

–There was no way Naoto could have missed that,

His face was clearly saying,

 

–Is this ‘all there is’ to ‘Y’s masterpieces?

 

With reluctance, RyuZU said,

“Perhaps he is just an overconfident senile old man?”

“Is there any ordinary senile old man able to build such a thing?”

Saying that, Naoto looked over at Nono.

“It might look like an old automata on the outside, but anyone who underestimates it is an idiot with no eye for that. Anyone looking at it closely will find that its maintenance is impeccable, and the technology used isn’t normal.”

“As I said, this old man here didn’t spend my time idling around. Won’t bother with any idiots who can’t tell what’s good and bad.”

Naoto nodded in agreement, and continued,

“That’s what Marie had figured out up to till this point. She sensed that you’re a really amazing technician, so she wanted to ask you for help, old man. However, it doesn’t look like she figured out Nono’s construct.”

He looked up and down, scanning Nono, which appeared to be a simple old-styled automata, from head to toe, and gulped.

“To say that this is an old generation automata–well, that’s not it. This is a piece of art not even a bunch of ordinary automata gathered together can match…you’ve got to be kidding? How’s it possible to build such a machine?”

RyuZU asked with skepticism,

“Master Naoto, I cannot determine. Is this really such an outstanding machine?”

“Yep.” Naoto nodded,

“The parts used are just parts bought from in the market, with some adjustments, and the quality of the materials is a notch below RyuZU’s and AnchoR’s–but it’s extraordinary.”

Naoto paused.

“Specs wise–she’s no inferior to you if we’re talking about basic mobility, RyuZU.”

RyuZU was speechless.

 

“Kakaka–“

 

The old man snickered.

–That alone caused the atmosphere in the workshop to change drastically. The ordinary old workshop seemed to have become a mysterious, eerie demonic lair. Present here was not an ordinary old clockwork technician, but a terrifying monster that had reached a certain realm.

With a little sneer, the old man chirped,

“I see, so you are the rumored second coming of ‘Y’? Rumors aren’t reliable, or so I thought, but it doesn’t appear to be all foolish.”

The old man seemed to have become someone else entirely, and even RyuZU was shocked, unable to say anything.

But Naoto twisted his lips, and hissed,

“So you’ve finally showed your true nature.”

The old man never answered, and reached his hand for the mug on the work desk.

He leisurely took a sip to quench his throat, and continued,

“I’ll admit that you’re a first-rate spectator. However, it does seem that you have misunderstood yourself to be a first-rate critic, or is it simply me?”

“Even if I’m just an ordinary spectator, I can tell that it’s a good piece.”

“–I see. You don’t seem to have any pride over that.”

The old man lowered his eyebrows, and nodded. The atmosphere seemed to have eased.

RyuZU then glared sharply at the automata standing nearby, saying,

“Nono Figlia.”

“Yes–what is it?”

“Please pardon my insolence.”

Saying that, black scythes raced out in a flash.

RyuZU swung her skirt elegantly, extending the two pairs of black scythes from the mechanical limbs under her dress. That would have been a fatal hit for even military-grade heavy armor automata.

But–Nono Figlia easily parried away the strikes

She drew savage looking daggers from beneath the hem of her maid costume, though it was unknown where she stored them, and easily knocked aside the scythes that were attacking from the flanks. At the same time, she lowered her body towards the floor, and closed in the beautiful silver haired automata at blinding speed. (TN Snark: Is that Sakuya? That’s Sakuya Izayoi, right?)

A crisp sound rang, and sparks flew while the blades clashed.

The duo clashed at beyond bullet speed, slashing, stabbing, and parrying from the front and the blind spots.

Neither side would budge as they continued their skirmish, as this melee carried on, both sides attacking and defending.

“RyuZU!”

Naoto recovered, and called out.

Upon hearing this lecturing tone from Naoto, the old man chuckled,

“You may come back, Nono.”

“Si.”

Nono reverted back from her intensive battle maneuvers, and kept her daggers as ordered.

She reverted back to standby, her body not showing any obvious damages–once he saw this, Naoto heaved a sigh of relief, and said,

“RyuZu, that was rude of you! Apologize properly now.”

Naoto chided, and RyuZU sheathed her black blades as she obediently lowered her head in apology.

“My apologies for this, pardon my insolence. I do suppose this one’s basic specifications are a match for me. I do suppose it will be a little tricky to vivisect it.”

“I’ll apologize too. Sorry.”

…Once he heard that apology that did not sound like one, Naoto too lowered his head in apology.

But the old man gave a thin smile, shaking his head.

“Don’t mind. This really is a rather interesting sideshow after all. For me, I don’t mind if this battle continues. It’s really interesting how far this test work of mine is able to match against the Initial-Y series.”

–…?

“Test…erm, eh?”

“A test work.”

The old man repeated.

“She’s a warm up work I made after I went through recuperation. This ninth daughter (Nono Figlia)–is just a simple serial number.”

“…! This joke’s way too scary…”

This time, Naoto looked at Johnny with much fear and respect.

“Now then–” The old man looked at Naoto right in the eyes, and asked,

“Boy, may you introduce yourself?”

“Naoto–Naoto Miura, Maestro.”

“This old man here is Johnny Artigiano. The deadline’s almost up, and I got no time to play with you. If you want to watch me work, then do so as much as you want before you leave.”

“Thanks maestro. I’ll be watching then.”

Naoto straightened his back, showing Johnny his utmost respect.

 

By passing through the Suan Dok Gate–the west side of the Market, one would enter the ‘restaurant’s territory’.

It might appear to be a vibrant red light district, a capital indulging in the delight of alcohol, women, and drugs. The surroundings were a mess, and there were some crude looking light fixtures, with drunks all over the road.

The shops on both sides of the road were either bars, brothels, or both.

Good thing I didn’t bring Marie along, Halter grimaced to himself.

“It’s going to be unbearable when she starts screaming at every shop she sees.”

Maybe not screaming, but lashing out.

As he walked on, Halter rolled up the sleeves of his suit, loosened his tie, and undid the front button of his vest. Just doing this allowed the bald man to merge into this road, hidden amongst the drunks.

He then quickly darted into a dim alley, one nobody would notice if they did not pay attention.

The atmosphere immediately changed.

The laughter of the drunks and the shrill voices of the ladies were as loud as ever, yet they seemed a little distant.

Most customers on the road seemed to not notice this alley, and even if they did, they probably did not care.

Halter continued on without saying anything.

–There were people locked in cages.

Unlike the roads, there were no billboards, no adverts before the shops, and there was the word ‘humans’ laid out brazenly–on the other side of the metal cage were men and women, young and old shackled by the collar, looking listless as they gave the look of death.

But Halter knew that they were the ones who were relatively fine.

Even if they were ‘materials’ to be outfitted with certain ‘modifications’…they were still in human form, for the time being.

In this red light district that might appear to be dilapidated to the normal world, this would be the place more filthy, decadent, and malicious. Human trafficking, modifications, live operations…it was an area much more wretched than the dealings of the ‘restaurant’, running rampant in this place.

Halter restrained the disgust and displeasure he had of such dealings on the surface, and went further in.

After walking for a while, he stopped.

There was a thick, slightly dirty door that was about to fall off.

Halter stealthily placed his right hand on the handgun by his waist, and nudged the door open. Right behind the door was some darkness and deep moaning.

The presence of a bar.

The inside of the shop was unexpectedly spacious, but there was poor visibility, and the walls were charred black. Despite the location, there were quite a fair few customers.

They were of all races, ages, and gender. There were customers who came along, and those who came in groups. Unlike the bars on the road, there were no drunks causing a ruckus, but this did not seem to be some official bar for people to savour wine quietly.

Truth be told, it was a unique atmosphere–the usual customers appraising the new ones.

Halter entered the shop, and the stares were directed at him.

However, he did not mind, darted through a familiar customer, and sat down.

The middle-aged bartender with a clear scar on his face coldly asked,

“Your order?”

“Some Macallan. Year 88 if possible.”

“We don’t have such a fake sounding wine.”

falter noted wryly, and said,

“…Really? There has to be a bottle lying somewhere in the cellar, right?”

Without changing his expression, the bartender looked away from Halter.

He polished the glass, and pointed with his chin,

“The cellar’s behind that door. Go look for it yourself.”

“I’ll do that then. S‘cuse me.”

Halter got up immediately, and walked towards the door beside the counter. He nudged the old door aside, and behind it was a dark, curvy flight of stairs leading down.

At the end of the stairs, there was another flight of stairs.

There was another bar within, so messy that the bar upstairs would be a posh bar of a five star hotel in comparison.

…N-no. This place could not be considered a bar.

Halter walked in, and immediately had a whiff of pink smoke fragrance.

It was not cigarette smoke. It was likely that it was a low-grade drug, which if one was to inhale it, one would never be able to live again without it.

There were no tables and chairs inside the room that was crammed with filthy sofas and mattresses, with signs of things flipped everywhere. There were also wine bottles, glasses, needles, food scraps, and tattered clothes.

Amongst them, the men and women, half-naked, were locked in embraces, lying around as though they were dead. Some did appear to be corpses too.

Some too were doing the deed on the spot, tugging at each other, laughing, crawling around on bodies of flesh and mattresses.

A dazed looking woman sat up, pouring the bottle of wine onto her head, down to her body, and the men crawling by the side crawled over like ghosts, gathering around the woman…

Unfortunately, due to the superior medical and cyborg technology, they would not die–or rather, they could not. These people could not lose their precious customers, and would revive them with their smiles.

To amass money to pay for the medical fees, and to pursue that blissfulness they could not live without, they sold off their lives, and their bodies.

This would be the fate of the ‘goods’ displayed upstairs, the ones who would die off psychologically before their bodies did.

–No, one would have to ask, which ones were the customers, and which ones were the goods?

All those present were purely consumers, producers, and slaves.

Or simply–goods.

Good thing I didn’t bring Marie along. Halter thought.

If that girl with a clean streak was to see such a thing, there would be no guarantee that she would not report to the ISS, or impulsively burn the place down.

But if it was that brat (Vermouth) instead, he might enjoy the place–

Deep within this dilapidated, depraved room–

In what seemed to be the corner of the guest room, isolated by a stunningly beautiful window, there was a sofa made of quality leather, and there was a man showing the uppity of a king.

It was a young, black man with a balloon-like afro. He was holding a practically naked woman, looking at Halter through the gold sunglasses.

He raised his voice, and chirped in a sharp voice,

“–Hey, welcome! You’re Mr. Oberon?”

“Yeah. You’re the middleman?”

Halter answered, and the man rubbed the woman’s cleavage with his left hand, laughing heartily.

“–The name’s Rogi. Come, have a seat. Let’s get along now, huh? It’s this kind of place, but there’s a whole collection of women and ‘cocktail’ (Drug). You like busty blondes? Brunettes?” (TN Snark: None of these are Marie. Check.)

“I don’t need the women and ‘cocktail’ (drugs). How about this? Just give me some quality wine.”

Halter answered, and the man–Rogi looked bored.

With a pout, he said,

“What a pity. I prepared all kinds of good things just to provide the best service. You just want some normal wine and dishes?”

“Not ordinary wine. Quality wine.”

Halter corrected, and Rogi tilted his head in surprise,

“Aren’t you a full cyborg? Is alcohol alone able to satisfy you?”

“There’s no value in human life when we can’t get drunk, right?” (TN Snark: Grand Blue logic)

–In fact, it was rare to find full cyborgs able to drink.

Leaving aside the taste receptors, even the brain had to be dealt with.

To install a natural biological action of getting drunk upon alcohol intake, there would be a need to install something that was not needed.

Thus, typical full cyborgs would use a unique ‘cocktail’ (drug) made from nanogears as a form of addiction, but–

“The main thing is, that kind of ‘cocktail’ (drug) isn’t effective on me. To compensate, I requested for them to make me a body that’s able to taste alcohol.”

Halter then added,

“Also–my current master is really strict about discipline, stricter than Mrs. Grundy. She’s going to raise hell all over if I’m to go back with the smell of women.”

“I see. Well, no other choice then. I’ll give you some good wine then–hey.”

Saying that, Rogi opened up his left hand.

The woman in his clutches got up, half-naked.

“–Yes~”

She had a sweet sounding tone.

Her skin was tanned golden malt, and she was wearing some smoking hot underwear. Pretty face, her waist-length long hair was a dazzling silver, and her eyes were a moist purple.

Her bust and ass were bloated, and her waist was marvellously slender. She had the body of a model, and she was a beauty one could not help but leap towards.

…However–Halter thought,

Her skin color, hair color and eye colors were probably not natural. Like the underwear she was wearing, her alluring appearance was probably specially designed to ensnare men.

The woman shook her ass as she vanished into the shop, and soon after, returned with a silver cart. The cart contained ice, wine bottles, glasses, cocktail stirrers, and tools for cocktail.

Once she arrived beside Halter, she bowed deeply, and dispensed with the courtesy.

“Here to serve~”

“…Oh, you’re going to concoct one for me, big sis?”

“I’m the cocktail connoisseur here after all~”

The woman said with a bashful smile.

“The customers here prefer ‘cocktail’ (drugs) to wine…so I never had a chance to show up. It’s been a while since someone ordered wine, so now it’s time for me to show off~”

“Hah! Sherry, you prefer to be jammed in, right?”

Rogi diverted the topic in a lewd manner, and the woman–Sherry, puffed her cheeks in a huff.

“Of course not. I like both~”

“That’s what you said.”

“Really, quiet down now–now then, what will you like to order~?”

“Let’s see…”

Halter leaned onto the sofa, looking up as he thought of what to choose. He wanted a drink, but to be honest, he could not think of what to say.

“Anything that’s good will do…oh yeah, give me your recommended, big sis.”

“Mine~?”

“Yes. Anything to recommend?”

Halter asked, and Sherry put her fingers on her temples, rubbing them.

“Hmm~” She let out a bothered sound, and then lifted her face, asking,

“Dear guest, is the name Oberon your real name?”

Halter noted wryly,

“Impossible. Others call me that. It’s like a nickname.”

“I guessed so~.”

She inadvertently giggled, saying,

“Actually, I do have a cocktail named based on that legend~ what do you think~?”

“Right, I’m fine with that.”

Halter nodded, and Sherry hummed cheerfully as she started mixing the wines.

Various kinds of wine and fruit juices were added to the vodka base, followed by some drips of rose liquor, some egg white, and the mixture was stirred carefully.

Sherry was shaking the shaker while practically naked, and her ample cleavage was shaking furiously on the other side of the cart

Finally, Sherry poured the cocktail into the champagne glass, and served it to Halter. (TN Snark: Served with a screwdriver)

“Please enjoy~–it’s the ‘Fairy Lady’.”

“…Such a cute wine.”

Halter rubbed his bald head, quietly groaning.

Filled in the glasses was a vibrant colored cocktail of pink and orange color. It looked sweet, and appeared to be something tailored for women’s tastes.

“I guess you’ll like it~ this is a wine I hope men will taste~”

“Oh, even though it tastes like this?”

“Do you know who this ‘Fairy Lady’ refers to?”

“Titania, right? The Fairy Queen in the play, Oberon’s wife.”

“Yes, your wife.”

Sherry licked her lips, and gave a lewd smile.

“Impish, haughty, disobedient, but very passionate. As you are Oberon, you will have to punish her~” (TN Snark : At this point, I think you’re more Freyja than Titania…)

“So I have to drink this?”

“Conquer her~”

Sherry twitched her body with much perverse lust, and Halter, finally getting bemused by this, twitched his shoulders.

“Sure sure sure, I’ll drink this wholeheartedly.”

It was pointless to back down. The one who had asked for her recommendation was him.

After a sip, Halter widened his eyes.

It was sweet–extremely so, yet it was so spicy. It felt refreshing due to the sour tang, but one might have been breathing fire and turned drunk if not for the egg white. It seemed there was a spice used to prick the flavour.

It was a potent one, and not only was it a flavour directed for ladies’ preferences, even men would have been knocked out. (TN Snark: So the kind that gets vaporized immediately if spilled?)

“This wine’s…really amazing?”

“Isn’t it~? Titania’s the pretty wife, and is a queen who’s feisty, noble, and no inferior to King Oberon~”

“I see. So it’s this powerful, huh…”

It tasted sweet, and had a nice flavour, but any weak men would have been overwhelmed by this alcohol.

“Want me to make another glass for you~?’

“Oh, sure, one more will do. Geez, never thought I would be able to have such a drink.”

“Ehehe, this is my original brew~”

With a cheerful smile, Sherry made a second glass.

Rogi, who remained silent all this while, teased her,

“Sherry, I didn’t know that you would read Shakespeare?”

“Can’t I~? It’s a cocktail connoisseur’s job to gather topics to talk about, you know~?”

“I thought you would just read some ero-books, not be such an intellectual.”

“I do read ero-books too~”

Sherry pouted.

And as she threw a fit at this gaudy conversation, she said,

“Well, dear customer, have you read it? That ‘Midsummer’s Night Dream’.”

“…Nope?”

Halter tilted his head, and asked,

“Now that you said it, I never read it, but I know the gist of it.”

“Too bad. That one’s very interesting~”

Sherry said as she served a second glass.

“King Oberon had a quarrel with his wife, the sprite Puck applied a love drug on Titania and the humans, and in the end, everyone went crazy making love and amends, so that’s how the story goes~” (TN Snark: I see Tsubaki is still playing his Skyrim ero-mod…)

“…Is it that kind of story?”

“That’s how it ends~”

Halter showed his skepticism, and Sherry concluded, continuing as she basically sang,

“‘Come, sprites, humans, bend over, be as lively as mating mongrels, and sing with me. Make passionate love as we go with the singing~.’”

“No way, hey, wait.”

“And then Titania begged, ‘Please take the lead❤~’”

“…That’s some erotic parody movie, right?”

Halter gave a skeptical look, and Sherry laughed out loud. She poured the excess cocktail into a new glass, and gulped it down.

“~Fuah~!”

Sherry went numb, seemingly unable to endure the thrill, and could not help but laugh.

“That’s how Oberon is as a king~ a fairy who’s high up, pompous, and ordering his subordinates, causing such a huge mess on the stage, lots of troubles, lots of chaos, and lots of laughter! But…”

She paused.

“–In the end, he’ll bring happiness to everyone, and reunite everyone. That’s the kind of king he is~”

Sherry muttered in her drunken state, lowering her eyes.

The area around her eyes were already red, and it appeared she was about to fall over, drunk.

“Right right, I get it.”

Halter gave a wry smile, and tilted his glass.

He enjoyed the spiciness that entered his throat, and shrugged his shoulders, saying,

“But I’ve been thinking for a while that this title of Oberon doesn’t suit me at all.”

“That’s not true~”

Sherry pouted, saying,

“It’s because you ordered wine, dear customer, that I’m happy~ really happy~…hic, uhehehe…”

Upon seeing Sherry break down into unintelligible blubbering, Rogi hissed at her,

“Hey, Sherry! You can’t get drunk and leave the important customer waiting!”

“Hiii!!”

Sherry, who got scolded, instinctively shrank back.

She shivered, her hands cupping her shoulders, her speech slurred as she muttered,

“Uu, sorriiiieeee~ ahhh, but~ ittsss wonderful~…wonderful, isn’t it~”

Sherry tried to stand up, but she failed. Her consciousness was blurred, her purple eyes looking demure as she looked up to Halter, begging,

“Happiness…strange, are you happy~? Want to do it? Want to have sex? Want to press the switch to happiness~?”

Her eyes and actions were no longer filled with any rationality.

Her heart and consciousness were halfway into dreamland.

“…Thanks big sis. Nice brew.”

Halter calmly noted,

“I’m satisfied. You’re a good kid, so just take a nap like that.”

 

“Goodness, she knows how bad she is at holding her liquor, and I told her not to drink at work…sorry about that.”

“Don’t mind. It’s about time to start talking business.”

Halter let the drunk Sherry sleep by his side, and turned to face Rogi again.”

He kept tilting his glass to drink, and stated with a calm tone,

“First off–I will have to thank you for helping to handling the immigration to the hotel check-in. That’s what I should be saying, right?”

“Don’t glare at me.”

Rogi raised his hands in an exaggerated manner,

“I did receive twice the usual fees, but it’s still a discount for having to hide big shots like you guys, you know?”

“…I guess so.”

Halter did not pursue the matter further, and nodded back.

It was a miracle by itself that someone would agree to house major global fugitives, with huge bounties on them, and actually arrange for their transportations and lodging.

“So? Anything else you want to get?’

“Yeah. This. Sorry to trouble you.”

Halter put down his glass, and took out a slip of paper from his suit.

Rogi had a look, and for an instant, gave a perturbed look.

“Hmmm…two military-grade full body cyborgs is still okay, but Galvorn alloy plates and all the len glass control cylinder types? These aren’t obtained that easily…” (TN Snark: Galvorn? This ain’t LOTR…)

Listed on the slip was the automata parts Marie requested.

Most of the small parts could be obtained in the markets, but it would hard to obtain the rare materials and the latest technology without the intervention of a middleman–

Through his sunglasses, Halter stared at Rogi, and said,

“It’s your job to gather all the materials, right? I wouldn’t have to come here to ask you if I could just get them at the market.”

“You’re right, but I do have my troubles.”

Rogi sighed, and pointed his finger at the slip.

“This S200 Ether nerve wire in particular doesn’t come alone, you know?”

“It’s hard to get single units, but the Spanish assault automata El Primero should be using this wire. Get one and tear out the spare parts.”

“…That’ll be more expensive, you know?”

Rogi said, and indicated an astronomical jaw-dropping figure.

Half of the secret account Halter had would be used to finance this activity. Considering the rarity of the items, surely he seized the opportunity to add on to the price–but Halter agreed.

The items listed were hard to obtain, and yet were imperative parts to repair AnchoR, parts that could not be substituted.

It was impossible to obtain them in any ordinary city, and cheers would be had if one could splurge money just to obtain them.

However, Halter did not forget to remind,

“Doesn’t matter. We’ll go with your stated price. Just make sure you get them all once you get the money, okay? If you dare mix in any crude fakes–”

He was oozing with killing intent as he warned, and Rogi shrivelled as he saw that.

“O-of course. We’re talking about trust in this business.”

“Let’s hope so.”

“Hm…is that all?”

“Yes. I heard that my client wants to find the rest of the little things in the market. We don’t have to report that part to you, right?”

Strictly speaking, it was impossible to get all the necessary items in this order, for Naoto was unable to explain them.

“Of course. That part is under the ‘market’ control. They won’t refuse.”

Rogi heaved a sigh of relief, and tapped at the wired terminal by his side.

He then adjusted his gold sunglasses, and nodded.

“Thank you for your patronage. I have notified the agents. The goods shall be delivered to your hotel the next day.”

“How do I make payment?”

“Another agent will collect it. Please pay in cash.”

This was how the system of the city worked.

The ones in charge ordering, importing, delivering, and collecting money–

Were all handled by different organizations, and everything about who bought what was kept a secret to avoid contact.

Those that said what was needed. Those that delivered. Those that picked up the lost goods. Those that earned money.

Those that just so happened to drop the slip. Those that just so happened to pick it up. Those that just so happened to find the things. Those that just so happened to drop the money.

Just this chain of coincidences alone would be enough to establish a deal.

That was the form of impression that formed the basis of deals in this city.

However–it was all merely a facade.

Once he was sure everything was settled, Halter finished his drink.

“–I’ll be going then. Thanks for your services.”

Halter got up.

And at that moment…

“Ah, hold on, will ya?”

“–What?”

Halter had never expected to be called, and frowned in doubt.

Rogi seemed to have something to request as he rubbed his hands, seemingly observing Halter’s expression as he asked,

“Well, since you bought so much, those pockets of yours must have shrank, right?”

“…Even so, what has that got to do with you?”

“It’s nothing. Just thinking that you guys might have some interest to earn some buck.”

“–Hey.”

“To be honest, our boss has a job to request of you guys–.”

The atmosphere froze immediately.

Some switch immediately clicked in Halter’s heart. He immediately drew the gun from his waist, and pointed the barrel at Rogi’s afro head.

“Hey, wait–”

“You’re not the middleman, right?”

Halter hissed at Rogi, who widened his eyes in shock, gasping,

“Ah-ah…?”

“At the very least, I dare say that you’re not the one I interacted with in the beginning. Hijacked the deal? Or did you kill him and impersonate him?”

“P-please wait, it-it’s a misunderstanding!!”

“I see. So you were bribed? Well, whatever–”

Halter pointed his handgun at the other party, tch clicking his tongue in regret.

An icy sense of danger tingled up his spine. Shit, damn it, Vainney Halter. There’s a limit as to how much you can let your brain rust. You’re the one who got cocky!

I wanna beat myself up for letting myself relax in this sort of city.

If it was a trade, there were no problems. It was just a movement of money and goods.

But if he accepted the request–they would surely get into trouble!

The biggest issue was that things would not be settled even if he killed Rogi. It was a stalemate.

–What do I do?

–What should I do?

Halter was feeling jittery. He could not respond immediately, and remained silent, rooted to the spot.

And then.

Gunshots rang.

 

There were deafening gunshots from upstairs, outside the door Halter came in from.

Following that were screams, shrieks of people before they were killed.

Rogi exclaimed in surprise,

“Wh-what’s going on?”

“They’re here to clean up the mess, you idiot.”

Tch, Halter clicked his tongue as he cursed out, gritting his teeth.

…They’re too fast!

No, maybe we’re too slow–

The next moment, scattered gunshots could be heard, and the only door was blown aside,

“Hiii! Wh-what’s going on!?”

Sherry, who was completely drunk just a while back, hurriedly got up.

At the same time, cyborg soldiers dressed in black armor burst in through the entrance with the blown doors. They were holding large calibre machine guns, and quickly sprayed the floor without warning.

–In mere seconds,

In this short moment, the scenery in the room changed drastically.

Feathers burst out of the porated sofas and mattresses, fluttering like snow. Beneath them, the men and women that were entwined, like the living dead, became actual dead–they were garrotted into minced meat by bullets, soaked in blood.

“Ahh, ahh, ahh…”

Sherry barely managed to avoid the hail of bullets as she was by Halter’s side, and she shivered in fear, trembling,

The full bodied cyborgs aimed their guns at Halter in a neat, rigid fashion,

“Hii, aahhh…s-save…”

“Sis, if you don’t want to die, stay there and pray.”

Halter quietly advised.

At this moment–footsteps echoed.

It seemed someone was slowly walking down the stairs.

“Tragic–absolutely tragic…” (TN Snark: Our ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ has become ‘Requiem of a Dream’)

Finally, there appeared a man who was dressed in a stunningly fabulous manner.

He was a tall, lanky Asian. His bleached hair was dyed a crimson red, leveled as a flattop. He was dressed in a double suit, and was of unknown age. He appeared to be a middle-aged man, and yet appeared to be a young chap.

It was obvious that he was someone from the mafia–not the type to kill off everyone, but was giving off a presence more dangerous than the full-bodied cyborgs around him.

“Kru-Kru Thaiyut…!”

Rogi’s voice was trembling as he said the man’s name.

The man–Kru Thaiyut covered his nose with a silk handkerchief, leisurely approaching.

“Ahh, how tragic it is…really a pity, Rogi…”

“P-please wait a moment. Mr Kru!”

Rogi stumbled to his feet, and he stumbled and rolled over to Kru, forgetting that Halter and the full-body cyborgs had their guns aimed at him,

“Please, I can explain! It’s a misunderstanding! It’s a ridiculous misunderstanding!”

“Yes, how ridiculous it is, don’t you think…?”

In the face of Rogi’s anguished scream, Kru gave a genial smile.

“We had an agreement not to interfere with them when we allowed them to enter this city…or was it my ailing memory? Was I mistaken, Rogi?”

“N-not at all. That was…”

“Now, is it not ridiculous of you to actually break that agreement? How tragic that is…just like that, you tried to latch on to them, and broke our balance…right?”

Kru fired a gun without warning.

It was unknown when he had drawn the handgun, as he casually shot Rogi in the knees.

Rogi screamed, rolling about in agony. Sherry’s cry of shock overlapped his.

“Ack-ahhhhhhh—!?”

“I say, Rogi…can you recall the rule here, the one rule, the absolutely simple rule now? Try recalling? Hm?”

Kru said with serenity.

As he tenderly stamped his foot onto Rogi’s face, while the latter was collapsed onto the floor–

“Are you ready? Ready to go? Hm, listen up, okay?”

Kru paused, and then–

“–If you don’t abide by the promise! I’ll kill you! That’s all! Can’t you remember these three lines!? You numbskull!!? Huh!?”

Kru discarded his genial smile, and stomped on Rogi in a rhythmic manner.

He continued lashing out at a bloodied Rogi as he threw a fit like a child, raising his leg and stomping on the latter in a maniacal manner.

“Hey! Are! You! Listening!? At! Least! Answer! You! Piece! Of Shit! Useless! Monkeys! Like! You! Who! Only! Know! How! To! Shit! Should! At! Least! Think! For! Us! People! Who! Were! Toyed! By! You! Say!? Something!? Huh!? Say!? Something!? Huh!? Say!? Something!!!?”

He continued to stomp without any mercy, without holding back.

The skull cracked several times, and Rogi, who was trampled between the hard floor and the boot, no longer made any sounds, his body twitching whenever he was stomped.

“S-stop! Please, save him!!”

Sherry finally could not take it anymore, as she broke down in tears, wailing,

“Mr. Rogi’s already dead–“

“Shut up!”

Kru immediately turned around and fired.

The .45 caliber bullet pierced through Sherry’s skullcap. Red blood immediately splattered as she collapsed on the spot like a puppet with its strings snapped.

She died.

“Do I need–a reminder for something I already know!? Am I more brainless than this shitbag!? Ah~ahh, I dirtied my shoes…goodness, hey!”

Kru took out a handkerchief, and called for a full-bodied cyborg beside him.

“Yes.”

“Clean up this shit–erm, what’s the name? Whatever, doesn’t matter. Spread the order, bring the family and friends of this shithead to my house. Don’t kill them? Serve them well, and I’ll personally massacre them–now then.”

Kru leisure changed his attitude, and gave Halter a hearty smile, nodding in respect.

“Sorry to alarm you…hey, clean up the trash. It stinks.”

“Yes, on it!”

The cyborgs received their orders, laid out the cadaver bags, and stuffed the nearby corpses in.

Kru kept his gun, walked a whole round, arrived in front of Halter, and callously sat on the sofa.

He beamed,

“–Now then, allow me to give my formal greetings. Sorry that this city’s really noisy. I’m Kru Thaiyut, the one in charge of the ‘arsenal’…welcome to Grid Shangri-La, thank you for your visit” (TN Snark: You lasted as long as Wenger huh?)

“…”

Halter let out a deep sigh.

Till this point, Halter silently watched all of Kru’s savageries. With a stoic, icy look, he saw them all.

He said down on the sofa he was on just minutes ago, and said,

“May I ask two questions?”

“Sure? Shoot ahead!”

“Now then–pointing your guns at the head of a customers is your way of greeting them and myself, I assume?”

Kru widened his eyes.

He looked stunned, as though there was darkness before his eyes, and quickly drew out his gun to fire.

The cyborg shooters that were aiming their machine guns at Halter collapsed without a sound.

–It was such a tragicomedy. People died like a joke just because of some miniscule reason.

Kru put his handgun onto the table, and sounded anguished as he said,

“Pardon my rudeness…my earnest apologies. I did order them to be polite…but it seems there are some monkeys who can’t understand human language, and slipped in, which I thoroughly regret. There are too many beasts dressed as humans in this city, so I do seek your understanding.”

Halter nodded.

“Right–now, second question. Is there a need to kill all the customers?”

“Customers?”

Kru was stunned, and tilted his head in an exaggerated manner.

“Are there such things around? All I see are worthless shitbags…have you thought of them as customers?”

“Ahh, I get it. Then I’ll change my question…why did you shoot this woman?”

Woman, Kru repeated.

He looked down at the corpse by his feet condescendingly, and asked,

“What about this bitch? Ah, you had fun with her? Still hard? Sorry about that. If you want, I’ll get you a shithole similar to you.”

“This big sis made a brew I like, fine skill at that.”

“Ohh…sorry about that.”

“Also, it seemed the cocktail was self-made by that bis sis. I haven’t gotten down to asking her how to make it. It’s such a fine wine, but I won’t get to drink it again–what will you compensate with?”

“Oh my goodness!? How is that possible! This is the greatest tragedy of the century! The first time I felt such remorse in my life!! I can’t start tearing up!”

Kru stood up in shock, and cupped his head. He wept as he picke up the handgun on the table, and fired repeatedly–at Sherry’s corpse.

Whenever the bullets hit, her brown body jolted, blood splattered.

“You! It’s all your fault! Look~you made Mr Oberon unhappy! How are you going to compensate–!? Ah!? Ahhhh–! Say something…you’re dead!? Oh, how’s that possible!?”
*click click* Kru tried firing the now emptied gun, and finally let out a sigh.

He then tossed aside the handgun with its ammunition depleted, and sat on the sofa again.

“Phew, a lot better~–now then, let’s talk business.”

The man’s rage quickly turned to delight, and Halter watched on with a stoci look.

For just a moment, he was sure,

–This guy’s a nutjob.

 

“I take that you understand the situation now?”

“All I know is that middleman (Rogi) is an idiot who can’t read the mood.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Idiots do idiotic things, and the normal people suffer. Well, that was troublesome–really.”

Kru said with some disgust.

“We didn’t know who you guys were. You just dropped by to sightsee in Shangri-La, drop money, pick up some trash, and leave. Just so happened that there’s a lapse in the borders and no amazing organizations like an immigration authority. So it’s the Second Upsilon!? Ahh, we treated such major sinners to a meal! Good thing there hasn’t been any serious disaster. We really have to thank God here!–no problems if this is all.”

Halter nodded.

…In fact, there was an issue.

Well, there was; at the very least, he could pretend that there was not.

But at this point,

“We know your identities. We’ll sell what you want, so can you help us out–this is bad for you, isn’t it? Ahh, of course it is. That shitbag…did that! So arrogantly! And then his brain just splattered and dirtied my shoes!”

Kru immediately stamped as he raised his voice in agitation.

“I had enough of those idiots filled with shit in the head…those that get involved–or assist Second Upsilon. Given the current international affairs, there’s no way they won’t add any additional sanctions no matter how strong our back armor is.”

“There’s still the question of whether we can deny that.”

Halter sighed, and continued,

“They’ll send in the ISS scouts, the alliance fleet will seal off the seas–or in the worst case scenario, they might send in land forces purge.”

“Really wonderful to finally be able to talk to someone normal…I have to deal with these monkeys who don’t know that much every day. Can you pity me here?”

“Isn’t it your job to use those idiots and squeeze them dry?”

“But it’s easy to get frustrated…we got quick-shooting virgins in the three organizations jumping on, so now, we can’t shake off the fact that we ‘helped you’. I got most of the intel, and it’s only a matter of time before our dear neighbors find out–now, back to the main point.”

Kru raised two fingers before Halter.

“We got two options.”

“…”

“One, hand you over to prove our innocence. Two, flat out admit that we interacted with you, and actually get you to work…what do you think?”

“I guess there’s one more, right?”

Halter showed a sharp glint in his eyes, saying,

“Choose the former–and try to wipe us out when we counterattack, I suppose?”

“Oohh, wonderful! Please do so!”

Kru nodded gleefully, saying,

“Actually, that’ll be the one method I’ll be most grateful for, you know? Any funny stuff you pull, like trying to rob us or kill us, and we’ll be made out as victims. Leaving aside the Thai ‘military’, you’re able to oppress Japan’s Capital Defense Forces. How can little snakes like us do anything to you? But you refused–you wouldn’t. Right?”

“…”

“Thus, I have no choice but to choose the latter. To hide you and give you full support–to be honest, no matter how much money is offered, we can’t mitigate the risk…so we’ll hope for you guys to make a grand performance–that’s all.”

Halter did not answer.

The steely, ice-like expression was carefully observing Kru’s reactions.

Was he saying a lie? Or the truth? How much of it was the truth? Weighing risk and reward. Benefit and losses. Optimizing the balance between taking action and differences–

“I’ll repeat again that I have no choice about this. For this city, the best script possible would be for your people to get what you want to scram immediately. Understood?”

“…I guess so.”

Halter admitted.

At the very least, Halter understood that the man was not lying at this point.

“…Personally, I don’t like deals that are high risk high reward…if possible, I didn’t hope for you people to enter this city, you know? I already knew this would happen. As expected, this was within your expectations, right?”

“I was hoping that the famous general of the ‘arsenal’ would be able to handle this.”

“Please, enough with the jokes. If I can watch over everyone carefully without letting anything through and lead our monkeys, I’ll be calling myself God. First off, how about worshipping me?”

“All right. That’s how it is.”

Halter sighed, and shook his right hand arrogantly.

“Like you, we made an equal level of mistake, and drew the short straw. There’s a lot of things I don’t like, but that’s how the world is. No point grumbling about it.”

“Yeah, good that we have a common agreement!”

“Want a toast? This is stupid.”

Halter shrugged, and said,

“Get to the main point. Basically–you want us to do something, right?”

“I want full control of this Grid Shangri-La.”

Kru immediately said.

“I hope you’ll modify the Core Tower to be easily controlled, just like what you did in Tokyo or Kyoto, and then leave the controls to me–simple, right?”

“Rather than whether it’s simple or not, that’s quite a huge thing you’re asking of us.”

Halter lowered his tone cautiously, and Kru smiled,

“Are you disappointed? Thinking that I’m a crude man?”

“Not really. I just don’t get it. If you get such a thing, the surrounding countries can’t possible leave it alone, and they might use an excuse of armed intervention. I don’t think you don’t understand this, right?”

“Of course that’s likely to happen, so it’s undoubtedly high risk.”

And even with that, you want full control of this city?”

“Yes–I want it, very.”

Kru nodded earnestly, and Halter narrowed his eyes.

“So, what do you plan to do after getting control of this city? Invade the neighboring Grids?”

“Huh? Invade?”

Kru was stunned, and refuted,

“What foolishness. Invade, for what purpose? Hm? Start a war? Eh?”

“You don’t look like you’re a pacifist.”

“How rude. I am thoroughly opposed to war–but I’ll sell arms to those who want war.”

Kru let out a chuckle, his lips twisted.

“Learn from history. It’s easier to earn money by selling jeans to laborers than it is to be a gold miner. To drive slaves, give them sugar; to drive on women, lie; to drive the public, sell dreams–this is the basic principle of trading, isn’t it?”

“That’s the logic of a con artist.”

“Merchants are con artists, the difference being whether they respect the benefits others get.”

Kru heartily refuted, and shrugged,

“What I seek is profit and self-preservation. I shall avoid war and conflicts. Once I gain control of the Core Tower, I will paralyze the city’s functions from time to time, and pretend that it was done by the alliance of other businesses. With that, the monkeys, being monkeys will try to crush each other because of their pride, appearances, and hatred. I shall watch them fight, and sell arms to them, so I planned…you understand, don’t you?”

“…So you plan to run conflicts between organizations. Managed violence will bring about safety and security, and bring more profits to this city. That’s what you’re getting at, right?”

“This isn’t a bad idea, isn’t it? So please assist; what you just need to do is to maintain the Core Tower and run Shangri-La suitably. We’ll purge the pests, and bring stability to this city that was an arsenal, expand our manufacturing scale–yip yap~! Not a bad idea, if I may say so!”

“…”

“Ahh, I know what you’re going to say now? This is a farcical way to say this–well, this is trueeee. But you said there are other methods, didn’t you? If you refuse, it’s not too late to do so. I’m not trying to harm you…you may trample over this city as much as you want to, and loot whatever you want. Just don’t kill me, and I’ll gain much more benfit.”

Halter snorted, and muttered,

“Simply put, you just want to save yourself, right?”

“Huh? What are you saying now–of course, isn’t it!?”

Kru jolted from his seat, yelling,

“The one thing I treasure most is my life! Everyone else are just monkeys who don’t know their place, and I don’t give a damn as to whether a hundred or a thousand of them die as long as I get to live. It’s easier for me when they die–I don’t mind declaring this loudly to everyone, you know? Want me to demonstrate?’

“Allow me to refuse.”

Halter sighed, and continued,

“I understand your logic. I got things to say about that, but I have to admit that you aren’t lying. I can agree that it’s a compromise we can work on.”

“That shall be for the best. Do we have an accord?”

“No. There are still issues.”

“Where?”

“I dare say that my boss–Marie, and Naoto aren’t going to like this compromise.”

Kru raised an eyebrow,

“Why? Isn’t this the best solution to minimize casualties on both sides to the minimum?” (TN Snark: They have plot armor, you’ll be the one suffering casualties man…)

“Because they’re kids.”

Halter shrugged,

“One’s a kid with a clean streak, and the other is a geek of a brat. I guess you can imagine what their reactions will be like if I say–‘something will happen, so help this big baddie uncle. It’ll cause thousands of baddies to kill each other, but it’s not your fault, and thousands more will be saved’.”

Right–there was no way they would agree to that.

Both of them were enemies against the world, based on the childish logic that ‘if I want to do something, go all the way’. No way they could compromise and negotiate in ‘I’ll just suck it up and have minimal casualties’.

“…I see. Because they’re kids.”

Kru said,

“But this isn’t something that can be allowed to be ruined because of some kids hissy fit. What do you think? I have a suggestion, mind getting one of them to me?”

“–What kind of sleep talk is that?”

Halter narrowed his eyes, answering, and Kru said with a serious look,

“I have no time for sleep talk. It’s simple, let’s do the very primitive, education method of ‘listen up if you don’t want to get beaten’ and get them to do something…ahh, relax. I have no intention of harming them. I do promise that I’ll treat them well, and once the job’s done, I’ll let them go immediately—I swear.”

“…On what basis am I supposed to believe that?”

“!? What else? If I dare kill any one of you, I’ll be the one killed next! Of course I’ll only kill things weaker than me, you know?”

Kru widened his eyes as much as possible, exclaiming,

He reached out his arms that were shivering too much, continuing in a pitiful voice,

“Now too. Look at how much my arms are shaking before you, Mr Oberon…I can’t stop shaking. To be honest, I was terrified to see those shitbags aiming their guns at you. If they had triggered you accidentally, how are they supposed to compensate if I got killed? Goodness…”

His actions and lines were practically ripped off an act. Everything seemed suspicious.

But Halter sniffed out the truth in that–it was baseless, and to be said, was just instinct, but…

He quickly got down to putting on his thinking cap, and said cautiously,

“…I see. Assuming that I do take a hundred steps back, let things go as you wish, and bring one of Naoto or Marie here–”

He paused,

“Have you forgotten about the Initial-Y series? You take Marie, and no matter where you hide her in this city, Naoto’s able to find her. If you get Naoto, the outcome’s going to be much worse. The two angry Initial-Y units are going to level this city while looking for him.”

That was an advice with some mix of sincerity, but Kru shrugged in an exaggerated manner, and mocked,

“This is unexpected–too unexpected. Young Oberon, you think you can bluff me! One of the two units is severely damaged now–so please correct that part first, alright?”

“Even so, is there a change in the situation? If it’s just to crush you, Unit 01 (RyuZU) should be more than enough.”

Kru smiled, and answered,

“Yes, of course. But you don’t have to worry.”

“–What!?”

“Two days and thirteen hours later, there’ll be a guest wanting to meet them…it’s just a messenger from an old acquaintance. I’ll just use that opportunity.”

At that instant, the loudest alarm bells started ringing inside Halter’s heart.

He accurately grasped what Kru was getting at.

“–You had contact with ‘Ω’, didn’t you?”

It was likely that there was no one other than another of the Initial-Y series that could take on a fighting force like RyuZU and still say ‘no problem’.

And Halter could imagine–that the only opponent who had such a ridiculous automata and activate it was ‘Ω’, still fresh in his mind.

However–

“Hmm! Too bad–that’s wrong. I thought he would make a good client. For real, you know? But! He doesn’t seem to have a keen eye on the finances, resources and manpower flowing through this Grid Shangri-La. It’s a real pity, but well, that’s that.”

…That did not seem to be a lie either…

Halter folded his arms, and muttered,

“–You say you don’t want to be enemies, and have no intention of hurting us, right? What you’re saying doesn’t involve that Miss Automata, am I to understand that?”

“Haahaha!! No no no! Shall I get this straight!?”

Kru laughed out loud, the corroded looking black eyes giving a dangerous glint.

“Personally, I don’t think you’ll lose to just ‘Ω’ alone…I’ll just restrain Unit 01 for the time being, use that time to get young Naoto or Marie to finish the job, and mission accomplished. You can go wherever you want to after that! I’ll even pay for your travel expenses? Shall I send you some aroma oils as gifts!?”

 

And somewhere else–east of the Bengal Coast, at the southern seas of Myanmar.

An old cargo ship was headed towards Grid Shangri-La.

The cargo placed on the spacious deck had labels of malt or clothes. However, looking at the patrolling guards, it was obvious the contents were not as indicated.

The guards were not wearing uniforms; it was obvious that they were illegals. They were wielding old assault rifles, and even some were equipped with machine guns or rockets.

Such defensive firepower was certainly overkill for a normal freight transportation.

In fact, they were smuggling weapons, armaments, or drugs–actually, if that had been the case, it would have been considered normal goods for Grid Shangri-La.

It was extremely likely that they were shipping living humans–or even human organs.

In fact–not even the ones in charge of shipping knew what they were transporting.

Even if their curiosity was piqued, they probably would not want to know what was inside. It would not be unexpected of them to be neutralized on the spot if they were to accidentally learn of the contents.

Such was this line of work.

Thus, even if there were screams, weeping, or strange smells coming from the cargo, they, in charge of keeping watch, ignored them all.

–Logically, that should have been the case, however–

“Erm, bro…what’s with that noisy container?”

“You don’t have to know.”

The tall, skinny older man coldly replied the question raised by the plump young man.

His eyes were blazing like a hungry wolf, staring at the not so peaceful sea surface.

“But bro–”

“You don’t have to know anything you don’t need–to be honest, I don’t know either, and it’s obvious that it’s something troublesome; nothing good comes out of knowing this. Just ignore it.”

Hearing the aloof answer from the older man, the younger one looked over tentatively to the back.

Right before him was a black box with the label ‘machine parts’ on it.

And what he was curious about–was the voice of a young girl that had been coming out for it.

“Oho–it has been a while, my sisters who have been bounded by the old Covenant. Today is the day to prove who is the most outstanding of all the Initial-Ys–!! …mm–doesn’t sound right…ah, better to just say my name first…I guess? I’ll be humiliated if I show up so awesomely and they ask me who I am…”

The younger man turned his head around, and froze, muttering,

“…I say, bro. That was–”

“Never heard it. Didn’t hear anything there. Just forget about it–you don’t want to die, right?”

“But bro, I don’t want to hear, but it’s just introducing itself for me to hear. If I’m going to die once I hear it, that doesn’t make sense, right?”

“Shut up! Just endure and ignore it!”

The man called the older brother covered his eyes and lashed out.

Actually, he too could hear the nonsense from behind, and he too understood that it was critical information…

However, his guard position was fixed, and he could not move about easily. If he dared to stray away from his position, there was no guarantee that he wouldn’t be shot. Despite this, he would be revealing too much if he requested to swap positions because the ‘cargo’ was yapping away.

Big brother, little brother–the two thugs were shivering, realizing how unreasonable the world was, but the girl muttering in the cargo behind them remained amped up.

“For doom the bell tolls! Kneel and hear my name! Thy name Tenpu, noble, elegant lady of darkness, the greatest masterpiece of the Initial-Y series–…um~ sounds good, but it feels like it’s still missing something. Why’s that?”

It sounded as though the girl was troubled, and the younger man hushed back,

“…Erm, I’m guessing if it’s because you’re being too theatrical?”

“—Ahh!? L-like I need you to care! I’m seeking dignity! This is a very important practice! Don’t interrupt me, you swine!”

“Ah! Yes, sorry…”

With the girl lashing at him with a shrill voice, the little brother cringed back.

He turned back, and found the older man, the bro glaring at him, ’stop with the unnecessary stuff’

…And, silence.

But soon after–

“…So, no other suggestions?”

“Eh?”

The younger brother blurted out,

And the girl impatiently prompted,

“I’m asking you what else I can do! This lady here’s merciful enough to hear your view, so answer, you slow doofus!”

“Eh, eh…”

The younger man twitched, being all flustered. He looked up to the brother for help, but the latter had his ears covered, insisting that he stay out.

Would anyone even–with bitterness in his saliva, the younger man said,

“Ah–…erm, instead of some weird opening, maybe you should beat them up good before talking?”

“Huh!? But that’s not considered introducing myself!”

“No, just beat them up first, and everything else sounds cool later.”

“I-is that so…how brutish that notion is. I have thought that much, but I shall not consider because of how vulgar it is!”

“…Really?”

“But this might be an easier way to deal with my antiquated older sister! Rejoice. It has come to this, but I shall be merciful enough to use this!”

“Ah, okay…”

I’ve got involved with some troublesome stuff… The younger man lowered his head.

The girl seemed to have acutely realized this, and lashed out from within the container.

“Hey! What’s with that reaction! Did you just sigh!? A swine like you dare to–ugh, it hurts!? What’s this, an attack!? Ah, curses! There’s a hole in the packaging…”

“Bro…”

“Didn’t hear anything didn’t hear anything didn’t hear anything didn’t hear anything!!!”

The older man’s scream echoed on the gloomy deck.

Once they got to shore, these two thugs were to encounter a certain tragic fate…they knew very well this would happen, yet they were at a loss of what to do–

March 2017 Announcements

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Please leave your message after this tone.

*BEEP*

February 2017 Announcements

It’s a little early, but Chinese New Year festivities mean that I don’t have much time.

Happy New year, time to pull the ears.

Don’t let Ul-chan see this.

Looking back at the past month, it has been pretty boring. I mean, I haven’t been doing a lot of random stuff at the moment, because I was focused on clearing out some stuff. (and spending a lot more time reading new series so that I can horde the karma on knowledge of newer series.)

What stuff were cleared? Oh, Magdala 3 and Kamimemo 7 are done. For those asking me where Kamimemo is, it’s on BT only, silly.

Again, my plan is to fill up the pokedex of Magdala till volume 6. The completion of the Kamimemo series can be considered a sidequest. *Time to the get the Ultima Sword*

Bokushinu is still…somehow alive (then again, we’re talking about reviving). I know baftn is translating volume 3 with huge embarrassment right now over the dialogue that is already sexual harassment…I’m not sure he’s gonna last the climax of this volume though.

Either way, I do expect to finish the Kamimemo series by August this year (which means it will be completed next year instead). On Baka-Tsuki, I am the supervisor for a few series (I’m the second default supervisor when Oni isn’t around, which is…since 2013), but honestly, the one way I want to supervise a series…is to get down to business and do the translation myself. Either I go completely hands off, or I go in 110%. Hey, I got other series to handle too.

And thus, I have one focus right now…

The Clockwork Planet.

I was banking on whether the series would be licensed last December, especially since the anime was announced to be aired this April. After I learned that it will not be licensed (yet), I’m expecting the series to be licensed in March…

So, time to continue my escape from the Chateau d’lf, until I get caught.

And finish Clockwork Planet 4 by the end of February.

…Of course, given that it’s me, this means I’ll end up completing it in February 2027.

Again, looking at the site in general, I’m still looking to revamp it, mostly because I (still) want to add some new series to the site. And yes, I’m still looking to have a horror series on the site.

I have spoken to a few guys in particular, but unless I do a barter trade by offering to pick up one series in exchange for it, I doubt anyone will be willing to redesign an entire website for me.

Now, speaking of what nonsensical stuff I want to talk about this time…

Switching between different series.

I know a lot of readers would rather I continue to focus on a single series (looking at the Clockwork Planet fans who have been bugging for volume 4 before I finished volume 3 last May.), but honestly, looking at myself in general, I take different series to take my mind off focusing on one series and narrowing my vision. Sometimes, when you keep working on the same series ala Hikaru, you’re going to be very melodramatic. This also gets me off my comfort zone of having preferences for certain genres, and

Personally, I do like to do slower series like Magdala. Boring, slow-paced, and I get influenced to translate at the same speed. If you ask me, I’ll say that I work faster in action series and comedy, but I don’t really get to trust the process and get comfortable with translating as I do with a slower series.

Of course, the main reason why I take so many series here is because I have what people call a ‘shopaholic’ symptom. I see anything interesting, I’ll take it. Of course, this means that I have a lot of backlog, but surprisingly, very few of the series are harem related, probably because I rather leave such works to other translators (and that I’m still twice shy over my girl losing in Hikaru). Hey, it’s because of this tendency that you get a lot more than just one series here (Bokushinu, wink wink, Clockwork, wink wink)

With all the series I have, I really have to refresh my memory on certain terminologies from time to time. And thus:

I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.
I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru.

Sometimes, I do wonder if I should do a few pages with the terms listed…

…Nah, too much hassle.

Anyway, translation of the month?

I shall not type Hikari as Hikaru. (Courtesy of baftn)

 

Chapter 1 Today I’m in Charge of Writing a Letter, and You Became the Editor

The holiday season is here, and with it came a slightly chilly October.

“If you promise me that you won’t get angry, then I’ll tell you the truth.”

“Where did this come from?”

When I got out of bed and flipped open the diary, this sentence was written at the top.

An ominous feeling made its way into my mind.

“You have to solemnly swear, that no matter what you hear, you won’t get angry.”

“Alright, alright, I get it. What kind of trouble did you get into this time?”

It was probably just another stupid mishap of hers anyways.

“You swear you won’t get angry?”

“I swear I won’t get angry.”

“Are you sure? Are you sure?”

“Yes, yes.”

“If you do get angry, then I’ll have to bring to light that [Hatsune Miku Striped Panties] search history on your computer.”

“If you dare bring that to light, then I’ll definitely get angry.”

Why would this idiot know about that? Please just get to the point already.

“I think it was Monday? Kasumi-chan asked you, ‘Let’s go out on our day off.’ Sorry, I forgot to tell you.”

“Wait, is that all?”

My fellow classmate, Kasumi-chan.

She was a young maiden who possessed large-breasts, talked with a lisp, and had her hair braided into pigtails. It looks like I have arranged a date with her.

“And then, since I have a very important promise that I must take care of on Sunday, I told her, ‘Then let’s meet up in front of the train station at 11 on Saturday!’”

Saturday. Isn’t that today?

So that’s what happened. Was she just worried because she didn’t tell me, and made an arrangement without my permission?

“But then, this is the important part.”

“Huh?”

This kind of trivial thing wasn’t that important——I thought in that moment, but what came next was the important part.

“On Wednesday after school, I was enjoying a sundae at Cafe Moonleaf, and then Misaki said, ‘I want to go buy some clothes for my little brother on our day off, and I hope that you’ll come with me.’”

“Oh”

Misaki.

An underclassman who worked at the coffee shop named “Cafe Moonleaf”. She was a two-faced witch, who would use her extraordinarily beautiful legs to take advantage of men. It would appear that she also invited me to go out?

“So then, what about it?”

A question mark appeared in my thoughts, but I continued reading the journal entry.

“I told her that I would be busy on Sunday, but at that time I had forgotten that I’ve already arranged a date with Kasumi-chan… and then I told her… ‘Let’s meet up in front of the train station at 11 on Saturday!’”

“………Huh?”

Ah, that previous momentary feeling of an ominous premonition, was coming back with full force.

“In other words, at 11’o clock on Saturday, an extremely exciting and thrilling scene will happen in front of the train station——Kasumi-chan and Misaki will both be waiting there for Sakamoto-san at the same time. And so, now then, um…”

“………”

“Uhm, as such…”

………

“Good luck with that❤”

“STOP MESSING AROUND WITH MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

I forcefully slammed the desk with both of my hands, and yelled towards the ceiling. This situation was completely distressing!

“Hikari Yumesaki, look at what you’ve done now.”

I directed my complaint towards yesterday’s me, and after letting out a huge sigh, I looked towards the window, gazing at the azure-blue sky, while also recalling another certain thought.

It must’ve been been half a year already.

On a certain rainy day in the beginning of April, the young girl named Hikari Yumesaki died in front of me.

For some coincident reason, I was there at the scene, and I encountered a mysterious figure wearing a long, black robe who offered, “Why don’t you share half of your lifespan with her?” I agreed to those conditions, and Hikari Yumesaki, who should’ve been dead, was revived.

As a result, Hikari Yumesaki would take control of my body every other day, and would use this miraculous method to live. And so, we would rely on the exchange diary to communicate with each other.

However, the problem is…

“But don’t you worry, all you have to do is tell them, ‘My heart is big enough to take in both Kasumi-chan’s large breasts and Misaki’s thighs!’, and then you’ll have a happy ending. I managed to think of such a good excuse for you, I’m so amazing aren’t I?”

“What do you mean you’re amazing!? What kind of two-timing, double sexual harassment phrase is that!?”

I continued raging towards the diary, and let out a painful groan. This idiot was still saying stupid things as usual.

Continuing on to the next page, she was still looking for excuses, “But the truth is, you’re actually really happy, right?”, and even included a group of illustrations after this sentence of me, with an evil grin, in bed embracing a completely naked Kasumi-chan and Misaki in my arms, and I couldn’t help but lightly click my tongue. You purposely scheduled an overlap in the times!

…Although I didn’t feel like there was anything to say, honestly speaking, this much was still within the range of my expectations, and for me, it had already become a common occurrence. However, this way of life has recently encountered a new problem. This was because…

“Sakamoto, I’m really sorry. But you won’t get angry, right? There shouldn’t be any reason for you to get angry anyways.”

“Hm…”

The entry emitted an ominous premonition, and I braced myself as I continued reading.

“Because Sakamoto is always such a tough guy, but for Hikari-chan… Kyaa! Kyaa! So you wanted to pet my head and hug me! Sakamoto is such a closet pervert!”

“Ugh… This idiot…”

Seeing those words, I could only tightly bite my lips, without being able to say anything. The reason was simple, it was just as she wrote, because of some unfortunate accident, the incredibly top secret that I like… like… like Hikari Yumesaki was exposed. Afterwards, that idiot would use this piece of information to tease me every single day.

“What should I do~ Should I be his girlfriend~ But the thing is, if he wants to be my boyfriend, then he’ll have to know that I don’t like people who get angry over these kinds of small things~ Who knows what Sakamoto’s response will be~ (glances over)”

“Dammit, stop getting so full of yourself.”

There were three choices below, “Forgive/Not Forgive/Tsundere”——What does the last one even mean——Dammit, give this idiot an inch and she’ll take a mile. I better steel my heart and scold her a bit. Steel my heart… steel my heart…

“………”

After racking my brain for a while, I circled the word “Forgive”, and this action unsurprisingly made me feel dejected. It wasn’t like I was afraid of her hating me. It wasn’t like that… Dammit.

“I’m always being dragged around on a leash by her.”

As such, I continued reading the ending of this incredibly long entry.

“I know for sure that Sakamoto will forgive me, so I’ll say good night for today! Don’t just mope around and yearn for me, but make sure to do your best for the day!”

Looking at that last line, I couldn’t help but retort, “It’s… It’s not like I’m yearning for you or anything.” and after playing the tsundere, I firmly closed the notebook. Aaahhh, I’m always being lead around in circles by her. Love is blind, just who came up with this phrase in the first place?

Ugh, even though at the end of the day I have to clean up for Hikari Yumesaki’s mess, the feelings of joy in my heart were also noticed by her.

“Sigh.”

I set the notebook down, and looked around the room.

My uniform was hanging from the clothes rack, my manga were arranged in the bookcase, the candy that was originally scattered around on the floor, everything was perfectly arranged nice and clean. It looks like she has slightly realized the the fact that she was a girl. So she has a cute side too after all.

However——

“My entire life span huh…”

——Are you willing to give up the rest of your life span to let her revive?

I suddenly recalled what had happened one morning a couple of days ago. I didn’t know what these words meant, but it probably had something to do with the problem that we were struggling with.

The problem of Hikari Yumesaki’s time——being reduced by thirty minutes.

After quite some time had passed, for the moment it hadn’t continued being reduced from thirty minutes, but who knows if it would still be like this in the future. Although Hikari Yumesaki pretended to not care, she was probably feeling afraid. Because of this, maybe I should tell her about the phone call from the black-clothed person…

“I can’t say it.”

Because the opposing side had been too vague and ambiguous, making it feel as clear as mud, and adding to the fact that it wasn’t any nice information, I decided to try to avoid causing any commotions.

And so in the end, I still have yet to tell Hikari Yumesaki, nor find any solutions. “Just what kind of solution would work,” in the end, each time I could only reach this conclusion.

“…Let’s just eat breakfast first.”

I may have been sweeping things under the rug. I also couldn’t help but feel disgusted with myself.

Our life of two souls sharing one body may appear peaceful, but there was trouble hiding in the shadows. I remained frustrated with this fact, but Hikari Yumesaki couldn’t possibly feel at place because of this. On this autumn day, I will obviously be drawn in another troublesome and more dangerous situation.

And so, two days later such a situation quickly occurred.

“I lost my memories.”

“You spent a passionate night with your girlfriend until you lost your memories? Now this is why you’re a delinquent.”

“I lost my memories…”

“Also, why are you not calling me Miss? Now this is why you’re a delinquent.”

“I lost… my memories…”

“Goodness me, why must you be born with such a terrifying face? Now this is——”

“Memories… sob… sob…”

“Ah, Akitsuki, what’s wrong? I’ll pay close attention to what you have to say, so don’t cry anymore.” (T/N: Try going back to Volume 1, Chapter 1…)

Sunday had gone by, and during the lunch break on the Monday after, I came to the nurse’s office, and I was crying manly tears in front of the school nurse, Higumo. The reason was because of the overlapping dates incident. Afterwards, I tried asking both of them to cancel the dates.

“I went to the beauty salon. It’s definitely not because I’m about to go out with Senpai by the way.”

First I received this text from Misaki, and immediately after came Kasumi-chan.

“I’m really looking forward to our date. I can play until whenever, even until tomorrow morning…”

Getting this kind of text, how am I supposed to ask, “Can we move the date to a later time?” Furthermore, I didn’t want to pass up theses chances for a date with a girl with big breasts and a girl with beautiful thighs, as any virgin male would hesitate when faced with a moment to act without restraint.

And so in the end, I took a risk, and thought up a battle plan to stall time.

“Sorry, since I have something to do afterwards, let’s just end at 4:00. I’ll make it up to you next time.”

Anyhow, first I’ll send this text to Misaki, and then for Kasumi-chan.

“Sorry, since I have something to do beforehand, let’s meet up at 5:00, so I can stay with you until it gets really late.”

After sending the texts, I would meet up with Misaki in front of the train station, ride the train into town, eat lunch together, and pick out clothes for her younger brother. Eventually the time became 4:00, and so we would return to the front of the train station and say goodbye, and then I would meet up with Kasumi-chan at 5:00——It was supposed to be a beautifully perfect plan.

I had terribly underestimated her. Kasumi-chan was a very innocent and kind-hearted girl.

I had clearly changed the meetup time to 5:00, but the true and steady Kasumi-chan unexpectedly came one hour early to the meeting place. As such, my plan was an utter failure, and so when I returned to the front of the train station with Misaki at 4:00, we bumped into Kasumi-chan and I was caught red-handed.

“Eh? Didn’t you say that you would be busy in the afternoon beforehand, so you changed the meeting time to 5:00…?”

Kasumi said, and when Misaki heard this, she had a similar response.

“Eh? Didn’t you say that you would be busy later this evening, so you could only stay until 4:00…?”

As Misaki said this, my face grew more and more pale.

Countless seconds of silence went by, and it felt like it lasted an eternity.

“ “Oh.” ”

The two maidens spoke in unison, and then they each tightly grabbed onto my arms, one on the left and one on the right. Both of them wore a cold smile, and as they walked they would add in a “Heheheh” and a “Huhuhu”, dragging me into a karaoke room. Then at the same time, both of them raised their legs——

“Sakamoto, hold onto the microphone♪”

“There’s a song that I want to sing for you, Senpai♪”

“Eh? …Wha… What song?”

“ “Scream❤” ”

And with those words, I immediately suffered two ferocious kicks directly below my hips, while also losing conscious. When I woke up, I discovered that I barely had any clothes on.

This pain apparently continued onto the next day, for written in this morning’s entry was, “Sakamoto, your balls are screaming out, what happened? Don’t tell me that you spent all night with Kasumi-chan…” and I could only tearfully retort back into the diary, “It was the complete opposite, okay!? You idiot!” Dammit.

I held back all of the pain that I’ve suffered to this day, which still hasn’t decreased, and ran back into the nurse’s office like before. It’s because if I had stayed in the classroom, Kasumi would keep showing me a scary look in her eyes.

“You boys have it rough too huh, but a crying Akitsuki is also quite cute. Hey, can I hug you?”

“What the hell are you talking about…”

After I responded, Higumo looked like she was ready to rush forward and comfort me, so I inspected Higumo’s appearance.

She had a tall, slender body figure, her black hair tied up into a ponytail, her well-rounded breasts bursting at the seams, and the thighs below her mini-skirt dazzlingly blinding. Anyone would rate it as a perfect body figure. If only her personality was more decent, then there would be nothing else to nitpick. It truly was a waste. What’s more, she wears a scarf all year round, not taking it off even during summer vacation, which really surprised me.

These pointless thoughts cluttered my mind.

“Now that I think about it, Akitsuki, how has your condition been lately?”

“Huh, my condition?”

“Didn’t you come crying to me in the spring about having multiple personalities? I’m asking about how your condition since then.”

Higumo held onto her mug, talking as she walked towards the nearby coffee machine. Oh, that did seem to have happened.

I remembered back when Hikari Yumesaki had just entered my body, I was completely terrified by how I would lose my memories every other day. It looks like Higumo is still worried about that.

“You don’t have to worry about it anymore, I haven’t been losing my memory since then.”

“Is that so…alright then. I can finally be at ease.”

I casually brushed it aside, and Higumo easily accepted it.

It was because of this topic that I remembered another thing.

“Oh right, there was something that I wanted to consult with you.”

With her back turned towards me, Higumo turned her head towards me as she poured her coffee and responded with a “Hm?”, and so I asked a question that I have always been meaning to ask. Although it wasn’t anything important, I still had to ask about it.

“When I was struggling with my multiple personalities problem, you told me about that one case right?”

“Yes, that’s right. What about it?”

“‘When the alternate personality gradually appears more frequently than the original, the body may get taken over by the alternate personality.’——that’s what you said, right?”

“……Mhm.”

Higumo became quiet. Eh? What is it? Is there something wrong?

“Afterwards, I became more interested in multiple personality disorder, but I couldn’t find this kind of case anywhere. Do you remember when this case happened?”

This question didn’t really have any significant meaning behind it, and I only brought it up because I was reminded of our previous conversation while we were talking. That’s all it was supposed to be.

………

But I didn’t know why Higumo was so stiff in place.

“Sensei? Hello——”

“Eh? Oh, sorry. Uhm, you were asking…about that case?”

Higumo awkwardly moved about, turning around as she held onto her mug, with an embarrassed smile on her face.

“Uhm, sorry. I actually got it from an article talking about ‘Very Similar Rumors’. I don’t really have any reliable sources, so I can’t really give you an appropriate answer.”

“Oh, so it was just an urban legend huh?”

As I faced towards Higumo and responded, I let out a sigh, while also showing a dumbfounded expression. I had already thought that it would be this way. At that time, I was thrown around in chaos so I had blindly accepted it, but after I thought about it, it must’ve been some made-up rumor.

“I’m sorry about that. Did you take it to heart?”

“No. It’s just that when I thought about this, I felt like asking is all.”

Higumo was more apologetic and ashamed than I thought she would be, but just when I was about to return with a smile——

“Ah, the bell rang.”

The warning bell for the end of the lunch break rang at this moment. It’s time to continue suffering Kasumi-chan’s silent contempt…

“Akitsuki.”

I held onto that thought, and while dragging my heavy footsteps, prepared to leave the nurse’s room.

“Good luck.”

“Huh?”

Higumo spoke with a sweet, soothing voice. What does she mean?

“Ah, it’s nothing. Now that I think about it, why don’t you cut your hair?”

“If you take off your scarf, then I’ll think about it.”

“Ah, what a shame. Be sure to come again next time.”

“I’m not coming back any time soon,” and as I threw down those words, I closed the door and walked away. I better mentally prepare myself to get down on my knees.

I contemplated these things as I stride down the cold, empty hallway.

Five “I will never do it again”s.

Eight “I will be more careful next time”s.

Eleven “It was all my fault”s.

Nineteen “I’m sorry”s.

One “No matter what it is, I’ll obey”.

One “A virgin can dream too! He can make mistakes too (said with tears)!”

All of those things said above were lines that when a guy who has reached a dead end, who was willing to risk everything, thought up in an attempt to apologize. In the end, having successfully pacified Kasumi-chan after much effort, I employed similar appeasement tactics against Misaki, and finally obtained her forgiveness. Anyhow, by the time I got home, I was completely exhausted. Ah, I’m so tired.

After resting for a while, I gathered up my strength, and put the paper and envelope that I had bought from the stationary store on my way home on my desk. This was because of what was written in today’s diary entry.

“Your penpal, Miyamoto, has sent a letter you know. Sorry but I sneaked a peek!”

“Miyamoto huh.”

Harumi Miyamoto, the girl who wears a headband, was the one who, by a stroke of luck, saved me from drowning when we were little. We’ve been friend ever since, and after we separated, we became penpals. After entering high school, this was the second time I’ve gotten a letter from her, and I didn’t know how she was doing lately.

I had some feelings of nostalgia as I began to read the letter that was clamped into the notebook.

“Mr. Autumn Moon, how are you? The air has been quite cool and pleasant lately.

I feel like the people around me are beginning to worry about their college entrance exams.

Has Mr. Autumn Moon decided upon his future aspirations yet? I really hope you will tell me.

Please remember to return a letter. And also, I still remember about that promise you know.”

“Promise huh.”

Once I finished reading the letter, I shifted my attention back towards Hikari Yumesaki’s notebook.

“You better remember to return her letter! Hikari-chan here will personally help you edit this time, just be sure to clamp the letter into the notebook after you finish writing it. I’ll need to check whether this virgin wrote anything unpleasant!”

“Why don’t you just mind your own damn business.”

I knit my eyebrows, and cursed at that self-conceited entry. Although, it looked like everything was fine, with a playfully mischievous journal entry just like always in the past. The problem was what came next.

“Now that I think about it, if I’m taking care of Sakamoto’s daily life like this, then I’m basically like a newly-wed wife! Sakamoto, look at you, you can’t hide that smile on your face~☆”

“Dammit… She’s always using that against me.”

It looks like Hikari Yumesaki still wasn’t tired of using my secret crush on her.

Following it were things like, “What should I do~ Should I be his girlfriend~” or “I can’t feel like any dependability at all from Sakamoto~” and other kinds of self-conceited stuff. Sakamoto here is completely fed up with it. There was even an illustration of a newly-wed wife included on the side. A Hikari Yumesaki wearing an apron was showing off a flirtatious look saying, “Do you want a bath first? Or maybe dinner? Or perhaps brush your hair?”. That last part, what do you mean by brushing my hair!?

“Although, Hikari Yumesaki as a wife huh.”

I couldn’t help but blush at these provocatively suggesting words, while also beginning to imagine it in my head.

I didn’t know what a newly-married life would be like with that idiot. I’ll probably just get fed up with her. However, ignoring that side of Hikari Yumesaki, she was honestly just a girl who was afraid of being alone. At night, I might be able to catch a glimpse of her tender and affectionate side. For example, after she takes a bath with a bathrobe draped over her body——

——Sakamoto, I probably won’t be able to call you a virgin after today…

——Eh? Why?

——Because Hikari-chan is going to take away your virginity.

(※At this moment, the bathrobe needs to flutter down. It’s very important!)

——H-Hikari Yumesaki!

——Sakamoto, let’s warm up a bit…

“H-Hikari Yumesaki, we can’t! We’re still kids, it’s too early for us to do this kind of thing!”

But, but! If you really want to, then right now we can give birth to a son, two daughters, and become a happy family… Wait! Three children! Turning that around, the least would be——AAAaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!

Following my burst of excitement, I laid down on the ground, and rubbed the floor for around 10 minutes. My little sister entered the room and interrupted, “Brother, can I borrow some white glue… Oh… I see that I’ve disturbed you. I didn’t think that you would be in the middle of lying on the floor. Make sure to be careful so you don’t get white glue all over the floor…” Even though I’ve been subjected to such words, I didn’t care at all. Ahhh, marriage huh… What a beautiful thought…

——After wasting a huge amount of time, I finally recovered. With the piece of paper in front of me, I began to write.

“Uh, what should I write about.”

At first, I was going to write something short and simple, but taking Hikari Yumesaki into consideration.

“Any girl would find this kind of letter boring! This is why you’re still a virgin!”

She would definitely nitpick about it like this. But even so, even if I were to spice it up…

“It’s pretty obvious that you’re just pretending to be cool. This is why you’re still a virgin!”

I guess no matter what, I’ll still get chastised by her in the end.

“Whatever, I’ll just try to look nice.”

And so, I spent thirty minutes of effort trying to look nice.

“Dear Miss Harumi,

Long time no see, and thank you for sending me a letter, I was very happy to have received your letter.

College huh. Although I haven’t spent much time thinking about this question, it’s probably about time to face it.

If it’s possible, I hope that I can attend the same university as you, so we can share a happy college experience together.

However, before that, I’ll need to work hard to make it happen, haha LOL.

But if it’s for you, I’ll feel more motivated to work hard. Yes, I’ll try my best.

Well then, I’ll just stop here for now. See you next time.”

“This should do for now.”

Surely even Hikari Yumesaki, who understood other girls’ hearts, would approve of this letter. Yep, I did a good job.

After feeling a sense of satisfaction, I included, “I’m done, so I’ll leave it to you to edit.” and finally closed the notebook.

“Alright, let’s do some homework.”

And like that, I quickly and easily pushed this issue to the back of my mind, and returned to my normal life as a high school student.

…However, it turns out that I made a mistake at that moment.

Two days later, a heavy curtain would be drawn open on an unimaginable image of tragedy.

“Eh?”

Two days later on Wednesday, the image could be seen with a naked eye.

“My room is a mess.”

I said as I looked around my bedroom.

My uniform was thrown on the ground, my manga was disordered, instant ramen was left unfinished, and the TV wasn’t turned off. My room, which was only recently cleaned up, was quickly returned back into its memorable state.

“Why did this happen?”

In order to check the diary, I got out of bed, and flipped open the notebook. And then——

“Wha… what is this…?”

A shiver ran through my spine.

The letter that I wrote two days ago was clamped inside the notebook.

No, it “was” the letter that I wrote——that was the correct way to put it.

That letter was unrelentlessly marked over by a red pen, and I could clearly feel the marker’s annoyance.

“‘Miss Harumi’, why would you refer to her as that? Are you messing around?

‘So we can spend a happy college life together’ well isn’t that subtle.

‘Ha ha, LOL’ What is that supposed to mean? Are you trying to make her angry?

‘For you’… so even you can say those words huh.

What does this even…”

She left behind these kinds of comments. What? Why are you so mad at me?

“She’s just as vague as usual.”

If it was some other guy friend (other than Kazeshiro) they would definitely scold her——what the crap are you doing? Although this time, I’ll just take a step back, since that idiot’s impulsiveness isn’t exactly a rare occassion.

As such, I stuffed both the notebook and the letter into my backpack, and headed towards school. It didn’t matter if it was during class, during break, or after school, I would always be racking my brain on how to fix the letter, and the next thing I knew, it was already 11 o’clock at night.

“Dear Harumi,

Long time no see, and thank you for sending me a letter, I was very happy to have received your letter.

College huh. Although I haven’t spent much time thinking about this question, it’s probably about time to face it.

If it’s possible, I hope that I can attend the same university as you, so we can share a happy college experience that only belongs to you and me.

However, before that, I’ll need to work hard to make it happen, haha LMAO.

But I want to be with you, Harumi, so I’ll feel more motivated to work hard. Yes, I’ll try my best.

Well then, I’ll just stop here for now. See you next time.”

“I finished! It has to be perfect now!”

I completely revised the parts that Hikari Yumesaki marked for me. I think the reason why Hikari Yumesaki was angry is probably because I wasn’t being sincere enough. She’s always getting mad and saying, “I can’t feel any love coming from Sakamoto’s entries!” anyway.

I stuck the revised letter in between the notebook pages, and thought that would be the end of it. Surely with this Hikari Yumesaki’s mood will take a turn for the better.

…I carried this hope with me.

But it looks like I stepped on one of her landmines. Two days later, things took a turn for the worse.

“Whaaa…”

The following Friday, after I woke up, what entered my eyesight was still my mess of a room, and when I read the journal, I couldn’t help but let out a cry.

“That’s not what I meant! Sakamoto is an idiot! You dense male! This is why you’re still a virgin!”

“Sigh, why is she still angry…?”

She continued complaining.

“So you would go this far to play with Hikari-chan’s feeling… I can’t believe it! I was so excited too! I’ve been tricked! Hmph!”

She left behind these words full of indignation.

“Why is she so mad…”

Although I felt an ache of pain in my heart, thinking anymore about it was no use. I patted clean my uniform that was thrown onto the ground, and put it on. Sigh, this situation has become quite troublesome, but I couldn’t think of any way to resolve it.

In the end, I used “I’ll think about it later” as my excuse and pushed the issue aside.

…I couldn’t tell at that time just what kind of disastrous event would occur.

“Where is it… Where can it be… Sob…”

The time was 10 o’clock at night, the location was the changing room next to the bath. In order to not be seen by my little sister who was taking a bath, I was secretly looking through the panties that she had taken off with tears trickling from my eyes. Why? It’s obviously because of Hikari Yumesaki. That idiot was so angry, that when I got to school this morning, her revenge was already unfolding.

The homework notebook that I was supposed to turn in had 18+ BDSM illustrations drawn on it, and this wasn’t even the worse part. My desk was crammed full of moe manga, my gym shoes were decorated with Pr*tty Cure drawings, and there were even BL doujins that had textbook covers slipped over them.

“Sakamoto, please read aloud page 83 from the textbook.”

“Yes. ‘Yukio , we can’t! Two guys holding each other in such a tight embrace…’ ‘Akiboshi, no one will see us. Come, bring your delicate skin into my savanna…’ ——What the hell is this!?”

This kind of massacre occurred.

Once I returned home, the troubles still weren’t over. My mom had received a package sent from “me”. “What could it be?” I carried that thought as I watched from the side, and it turns out that there was a t-shirt inside with “Brother❤Sister Incest is Wincest” printed on it, and you can’t help but wonder where they even sell those at. There was even a letter included, which read, “My dearest mother, please forgive this forbidden love.” My mother turned ghastly pale, and a panic-stricken Yukiko stuttered, “Wha… What does this mean… Are you trying to tell me something…? Could it be that you want to declare our forbidden love to mom and dad!” and it costed me a lot of effort to settle and reassure those two.

As for why I’m now hiding in the changing room and playing with the panties that my little sister just took off, it’s because I was about to face an unprecedented crisis.

When I had just turned on my computer, there was a document on the desktop whose title read, “Time of Missile Launch: 00:00” and so I opened up it to inspect it…

“I’ve already set up an automatic email that will send shotacon BL to Kaoru Kinoshita. If you want to delete it, then you’ll have to figure out the password. I’ve secretly written the password on your little sister’s underwear.”

…and saw this utterly retarded advance notice for a crime.

Oi oi… I opened up my email box, and there really was an email. Using the automatic sending function, it was an email that would be sent to Kinoshita. But the most important part was…

“How long are you going to wait before you ambush me? I’m really looking forward to it. Hurry up and seize me already.”

…what was written.

“This is bad… This is bad…”

Seeing those disastrous words, a shiver suddenly ran through my spine, and even though I tried to delete the email, but then I discovered that because I lacked admin privileges, I couldn’t delete it without the password, which destroyed my spirit.

And so, since I didn’t have any other choice, I could only scrutinize Yukiko’s underwear.

Yukiko was in the living room watching TV, so I took advantage of this opportunity to sneak into her room and go through her wardrobe… but I couldn’t find anything.

My only option was to dump out all of the clothes in basket and look through them, but I was still unsuccessful. Because of it, I came to the conclusion that, “Maybe it’s written on today’s panties.” and so I returned to the living room. Yukiko, who was wearing a mini-skirt, sat on the sofa hugging her knees in an improper manner. I plopped down in front of her, and cautiously sneaked looks at her panties.

Where is it… Where is it written…!

——But I couldn’t focus on sneaking looks at her panties for long.

My dad who was reading the newspaper on the side increased his coughing speed, like he was trying to say something, and Yukiko was blushing as she pressed down her skirt, so I just gave up (although now that I think about it, my dad was technically witnessing an unbelievable scene of his son trying his best to sneak glances at his daughter’s panties).

“It looks like I’ll have to switch my target to Yukiko’s freshly worn panties.”

No one can blame me for coming to this conclusion, right? That’s why in the end, I was taking advantage of Yukiko being in the bathroom and sneaking around in the changing room.

“Just where is it written…”

After a series of events, now——

I flipped over Yukiko’s freshly worn panties, raised it high into the air, and brought my face closer to it, but I still couldn’t find any words. Dammit, Yukiko’s panties was the only connection to all of this!

However, only my mind was still calm and collected.

“Maybe the underwear wasn’t her panties, but her bra…”

Upon realizing that, I grabbed ahold of the small-sized bra. Where, where is it——Oh, I found it! Written on the inside of the bra was a small line of letters! This is great! Alright, now I have to quickly write it down——Kathunk——If I don’t quickly write it down, Yukiko will……eh? Kathunk?

“Sigh, the shampoo’s all gone, I really need to remember to replenish——”

“——————————!”

In that instance, a moment of silence fell upon us. Although it may be little bit too late, right now allow me to introduce my little sister, Yukiko.

Having just entered middle school this spring, Yukiko was nothing like me. She had a small, delicate figure, and that sour look on her face was probably a plus for some people.

Okay, what is Yukiko actually seeing right now.

She was obviously completely naked from having taken a bath, and water was dripping down her smooth, glossy skin, fully showing just how delicate and supple her skin was.

Her two legs which extended down from her small, cute buttocks seemed to have forgotten how to walk, as I only saw her remain frozen in place. The small towel in her hands and the steam covered up her most important parts, but that was her only saving grace, for the person reflected in the large pupils of her eyes was her dearest older brother.

In my left hand was her panties, and in my right hand was her bra.

Because I was extremely nervous, I let out a laugh, and in an act of desperation, I brought my face closer and looked at her——

“Yukiko, this is a misunderstanding. I have a reason for this that I can’t discuss.”

“~~~~~~~~~!”

“Listen, I just need to inspect your panties real quick.”

“~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~!”

“It’s true! I have some difficulties that I can’t say and I need your freshly worn panties!”

“~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~!”

“Yukiko! I have some difficulties that I can’t say but I must need your freshly worn panties——”

“You hideously perverted virgin of a brother, hurry up and get out—————————————!”

“Aahhh————————————————!”

With an incredibly violent tackle to my stomach, I flew out of the changing room and completely fell down onto the floor. This is a misunderstanding… I only wanted to inspect your panties for a bit… Although I lost any valuable dignity I had as an older brother, I finally found the password. I was saved.

And so after I returned to my room, I entered the password “I_Am_A_Virgin” (What kind of stupid password is this…) and finally deleted that email without a hitch. Sigh, I’m so tired.

“Not good, that idiot Hikari Yumesaki is really mad.”

I thought back over what happened today, and grew worried. Dammit, what should I do?

Maybe I could follow Hikari Yumesaki’s advice in fixing the letter. However, seeing how angry she is this time, I don’t think this would be enough. But even so, casually apologizing would only make her angrier.

“…I really have no idea on what to do.”

I tsked with a bitter expression on my face, and flipped open the notebook. Even though I really didn’t want to write these words if possible, I couldn’t take anymore of it.

“Please don’t be angry anymore. Making you angry is only causing me pain. You know how I feel about you, right? I’m begging you to please tell me why you’re mad. The one thing that I never want to feel is being hated by you, my beloved.”

“………”

Although I wrote those words myself, looking at them still made me blush red in embarrassment. Eh? Do I really have to do this?

All things considered, Hikari Yumesaki has a kind and sweet personality, so if I write this honestly, she’ll probably forgive me. But the thing is… Ugh~

After racking my brain for a while, I ended up erasing the ending “my beloved” part. This action would probably cause her to ridicule me as a virgin again, but it was really embarrassing. My cheeks were still burning red.

“Please don’t be angry anymore.”

I carried this plea in my heart, and got into bed to sleep and end this day.

Two days later, seeing my room and tidied up and cleaned, I couldn’t help but let out an “oooo” in amazement, and then opened up the notebook. What entered my sight was a tiny handwriting that lacked any self-confidence.

“………It’s because the letter you wrote for Miyamoto sounded like you were writing to a girl you liked.”

“………”

Uh… What does this mean?

Although I didn’t expected that letter would make her feel this way, what did this have to do with her being angry?

“Eh————”

As I pondered that, I continued reading the next line.

Once I saw those words, I couldn’t speak for a moment.

“I don’t know why, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

“………”

Eh? Uh… Does this mean that…

I immediately felt a smile grow on my face. Could it be that Hikari Yumesaki had a bad taste in her mouth because I was being friendly towards Miyamoto? In other words——

“………”

Crap, my smile won’t stop growing.

“Heheh…… Heheheh.”

I even let out a disgusting laugh.

I don’t know why but my mood became a lot better, and I threw myself onto my bed. And then, while holding onto Hikari Yumesaki’s hug pillow, I laughed like an evil overlord for no less than ten minutes. My little sister entered the room at some point, “Brother, I’m sorry for ignoring you for all of yesterday………. Oh…. I see that I’ve disturbed you. I didn’t think that you would be in the middle of humping your hug pillow… I’m sorry for getting angry at you over my insignificant panties…” and even though I’ve been subjected to such words, I didn’t care at all. I was at the height of the moment. Banzai!

“What, she was only mad because of this?”

I smiled as I bowed my head and apologized to yesterday’s me. Hikari Yumesaki, I’m really sorry.

Once I finished apologizing, I sat back into my chair, and laid back as far as I could.

I gazed up into the sky outside my window, and immersed myself into the dawn’s light blue sky. Aahhhh, I feel so happy.

It must’ve been because I felt completely relaxed, but I suddenly spoke:

“…It’s already been half a year, huh.”

It’s already been half a year ever since my strange encounter with Hikari Yumesaki. At the same time, I remembered something else related to this.

One morning——I received a strange phone call, and words the person in the black robes said at that time.

“………My entire life span.”

Hikari Yumesaki’s time was reduced by thirty minutes, along with the meaning behind the black-robed figure’s words.

Not only did this lend to what they meant, but it also hinted at what was to come, which the current me had no clue on. However…

“I really do hate not being able to do anything and just waiting like this.”

I definitely don’t want to lose Hikari Yumesaki like this. Furthermore——

“I’ve already made a promise with Miss Hinako.”

On the night of the fall equinox, under the light of the full moon, I made a vow to Hikari Yumesaki’s mother, Miss Hinako.

I will definitely let Hikari Yumesaki revive, and definitely let her come see you.

“…….Alright.”

For some unknown reason, I felt strength course through my body.

Afterwards, I kept searching for a clue that would help allow Hikari Yumesaki to revive, but I couldn’t find anything at all. But even so, I still shouldn’t think about giving up. I definitely can’t give up.

No matter what I must do, I must allow Hikari Yumesaki to revive.

“We’ll definitely go see Ms. Hinako together.”

There’ll definitely be some solution, a solution that will allow Hikari Yumesaki to be saved.

That’s right, I carried this impossible hope with me——

And clenched my fist at the sun rising above the cloudy sky.

>
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CHINESE NEW YEAR DOUBLE SPOILER SPECIAL!

 

 

“–Terrible.”

Marie muttered unhappily, and cut off the trunk of the ‘Cylinder Train’.

The air was humid, and even after loosening the collar, it was still unpleasant. The sweaty blond hair felt disgusting when clinging onto the forehead, and the stench of waste was all the more nauseating.

Through the bottom of her sunglasses, Marie scanned the ‘Platform’.

The floor was sticky due to some unidentifiable dirt, and the walls were covered with wanton graffitis and advertisement posters on the wall. The ceiling lights were dim, and the display board with the station name wiped out was dangling.

It appeared to be an abandoned station, and did not appear to be managed by anyone, but the ‘platform’ was filled with passengers who just alighted from the ‘Cylinder Train’ that arrived.

“Absolutely horrible.”

Marie again noted, removing her sunglasses.

Shown from beneath the black sunglasses was a thoroughly peeved face.

“It’s to be expected for a trash of a city to have a trashy smell. Disgusting, absolutely disgusting! Even I’m getting pissed off, damn it–can’t I just burn everything to the ground?”

“Hey hey. That’s the first thing you say, Princess? This is the most popular tourist attraction in the world, you know? Can’t you say some happier thoughts about this?”

A voice of comfort could be heard from behind, and Marie turned around.

Right in front of her eyes was Vermouth, giving a cold sneer.

His appearance was that of a smoking hot blonde babe of an automata–but the voice was that of a frivolous man. It was a strange existence of the expression, voice and gender being completely disoriented.

With much impatience, Marie said,

“Tourist attraction? More like a garbage dump, right? You can say it’s a cockroach nest.”

“–Maybe, but don’t forget. To the world outside, we’re pests living in the toilet–large ones too.”

Vermouth said as he curled his smile.

And he inhaled the air as though he was tasting the smoke, and exhaled.

“–Phew~this sewer-like air…feels nostalgic here, doesn’t it?”

“More importantly.”

Naoto Miura interrupted.

It seemed his ears were hurt by the ‘Cylinder Train’, for his face winced in pain.

“Can someone please tell me where are we already?”

“Anyway…you can change out of that disgusting outfit now.”

Marie narrowed her eyes, and coldly stated.

Naoto was wearing a local traditional dress made of layers of colorful cloths–a female outfit that could cover the curves of a body.

Naoto, who had a petite body and some adolescence in his voice, clearly looked like a girl.

Of course, that outfit was not his fetish–

“Listen up. You were the one who said my appearance was revealed, and I’m now wanted as an international terrorist–and also!!”

Naoto opened the paper he was holding with one hand, and shoved it before Marie.

“There’s a report that we kicked up a fuss with the Thai navy port. So I said, you’re the one who told me to disguise myself and avoid attention, right?”

Naoto laid out a little English Tabloid.

Right in front of Marie’s eyes was a photo of the Thai Navy docked at a port, and an eyecatching headline.

 

“Second Epsilon (Y) hijacked a boat! Thai Navy Port Devastated!”

 

It was a report on the ‘Second Epsilon’, terrorists currently on the run–who devastated the Thai navy base, fought off the local military and police, and terrorized the Thai people.

Marie slapped away the Tabloid that was pressed at her nose, and growled,

“I told you to disguise yourself–not dress yourself up as a girl!”

“Master Naoto, you do not have to mind the suggestions of the lowly peasants.”

Interrupting with a refreshing chirp was the automata RyuZU.

She went forth to shield Naoto,

“Master Marie, it appeared that you have an inferiority complex to Master Naoto with regards to the score of your appearance, to a point where it goes beyond gender, but it is understandable. Throwing a tantrum to escape from your inferiority complex is the final privilege of the vulgar, foolish ones. Before your final rights are taken away from you, please do not–”

“You’re the one who got him to crossdress, okay! Half of those words can be directed at you, you piece of scrap metal!”

“–I say, Milady.”

Interrupting was Halter, the cyborg.

This hulking figure bent down to get off the train, and sighed, saying,

“That’s enough already. Do you guys really want to be chatting on the ‘Platform’?”

“Before you ask me, how about you ask that flawed automata who started any ruckus without a second thought? Do you want me to tell you how many times I took insults over the past 2 weeks?”

“Oh my. Are you trying to boast that you can count to more than ten? You may, you know? You can boast all you want–”

“16 times!! Your! Fault! For causing so much trouble!”

Marie raised her voice, and glared at RyuZU.

It had been 2 weeks back since they were discovered in the Indian Ocean by the Thai Navy and fought back into the Navy port at Grid Phuket.

They chose to take the land route after that, and though they tried their best to maintain a low profile, and moved about quietly and discreetly, they were pursued by the police, military, and even the paparazzi.

Whenever a gun–or any suspicious item was pointed at Naoto, as befitting of her nature as an automata, RyuZU would eliminate all malice, killing intents or hostilities.

And so–this ended up being the case.

Whenever they attracted some attention, there would be commotion.

Whenever there was commotion, the pursuers would figure out where they were.

And whenever they tried to evade their pursuers, they would continue to change destinations, and wander around.

They went from Chumphon to Bangkok, Pataya, made a detour to Cambodia, returned to Thailand through Ubon Ratchathani, north to Khon Kaen, and Nong Khai.

They went through practically all the main cities of this country, went through the Laos border, and finally arrived at this nameless station.

During this long escapade, they were discovered 16 times.

If they were able to evade from their pursuers, their journey through local transportation would be no more than 3 days, yet they spent 5 times the duration.

And as for the reason–

“Isn’t it because you’re always being so obvious?”

“…But Milady. Unfortunately, it is difficult for us to be moving around discreetly, isn’t it?”

Halter coaxed, and Marie remained silent.

Even if Marie was completely left fuming, she had to admit that Halter’s words were reasonable in this context.

Halter and Vermouth had no issues, and so did Marie and Naoto, the latter in crossdress. They would not be spotted easily if they disguised as foreigners.

The probably however was RyuZU. Her alluring appearance, and radiant, glittering silver hair would surely garner much attention.

Furthermore–

“Papa? Where, is this place?”

“Ohh, AnchoR, sorry~ that annoying shitty old hag–ah, I just said something bad for a kid’s education–that blond landmine of a girl wouldn’t speak, so papa can’t answer you.”

Naoto tenderly answered the automata with the appearance of an adolescent girl, AnchoR.

Her adorable appearance consisted of black irises were flickering uneasily, the round cheeks tender, and the pink lips. Coupling that with insufficient repair, and she was swaying around.

Her appearance at this point garnered a desire of anyone around her to protect her.

As Halter said, it was a little difficult for this group to move around discreetly–

“Those guys there! Stop giving AnchoR weird thoughts!”

“Mama, where is this place?”

AnchoR tilted her head in confusion, and the latter rid herself of her displeased look, beaming as she answered,

“Grid Chiang Mai, AnchoR.”

“That’s right, but Missy, you’re the only one still using this place.”

Vermouth interjected with a grin on his face.

Those words left Marie displeased as she pouted and argued back.

“International law-wise, this is Chiang Mai.”

“Even though Thailand used to have such a place, they don’t use this name in official documents. Right now, they seem to be calling it something more official.”

Hearing this, Naoto asked in surprise,

“…? What is the common name?”

“‘Paradise’.”

Vermouth answered, and Naoto looked around with more skepticism.

“..You’re referring to this torn down place of a station?”

“There’s nothing that’s not sold here, and nothing money can’t buy. Arms, weapons, automata, illegal parts, drugs–and even humans or human rights. It’s a haven for criminals, terrorists, armed forces, and radicals. Later one, someone called this place–”

With a smirk, Vermouth revealed the answer,

“The premier crime capital of the world–Grid Shangri-La.”