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.
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:
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.
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?”
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.
“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?”
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.”
“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.”
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…”
“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?”
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?”
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?”
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?”
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?”
Upon hearing the calm response from Halter, Marie glared up,
“Do I have to say it?”
“Okay, then I’ll tell you. Get this straight.”
“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,
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?”
“Yes, right. Of course. I have to repair her.”
“And Naoto definitely wants to be in the same room as RyuZU and AnchoR.”
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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!”
“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–“
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,
“To be honest, you do stink.”
“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?”
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,
“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…!?”
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.
“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,
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.”
“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)…”
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,
“–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?”
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.
“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.”
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.”
“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–“
“No, do relax, Master Naoto. Before we left Kyoto, all the savings were already deposited into the Geneva Bank in Switzerland.”
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.”
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.
“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?”
“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.
“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?”
“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,
“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?”
Halter calmly stated.
“There’s a lot of people that are playing dead right now–there’s one here, for example.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
“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.
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?
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.
“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.
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.”
“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?”
“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.”
“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.
…This is useless.
Seeing the reaction of the old man, Marie was about to instantly right on the spot, and spoke out loud,
“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.”
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?”
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.
“…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.”
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.”
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?”
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.”
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–“
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.”
“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.”
“Specs wise–she’s no inferior to you if we’re talking about basic mobility, RyuZU.”
RyuZU was speechless.
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,
“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.
Naoto recovered, and called out.
Upon hearing this lecturing tone from Naoto, the old man chuckled,
“You may come back, Nono.”
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.”
“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,
“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.
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.
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.
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~?”
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.”
“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?”
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~”
And as she threw a fit at this gaudy conversation, she said,
“Well, dear customer, have you read it? That ‘Midsummer’s Night Dream’.”
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.
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…”
“–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!”
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?”
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.”
“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.
“You’re not the middleman, right?”
Halter hissed at Rogi, who widened his eyes in shock, gasping,
“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.
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,
“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.
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.
“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–“
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.
“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.
“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.
“–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.”
“Right–now, second question. Is there a need to kill all the 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.”
…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.”
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?”
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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–”
“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.”
“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.
“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.
“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’
But soon after–
“…So, no other suggestions?”
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!”
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!”
“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!”
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…”
“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–