Editors: MadTix, Foodpenguin
Unbelievably, and especially so for a hotel restaurant, the crab buffet had offered quality food. They hadn’t forced in alcoholic drinks or salty food either, since it was dinnertime anyway.
“Ah… th-this is so good! Can we eat here every day?” Ensign Meihowa’s eyes sparkled as she cried in glee.
Even if it were good food, I wasn’t too sure about having crabs every single night.
Admiral Luise shook her head as she wiped her mouth with a napkin. “It’s delicious, yes, but… it’s embarrassing to have to get help from Lezirth for every bite.”
She was terrible at picking meat out of the crabs, so I had been doing it for her. Sergeant Aroha and Ensign Meihowa followed along as I helped Admiral Luise. I felt as if I had suddenly become a fish cleaner working for some fish factory. But I didn’t mind; I liked seeing everyone having a good time, and preparing crabs was just cakewalk for my superhuman strength. “Don’t mind me. It only makes sense to leave meat-picking to someone who’s actually good at it. Heh heh.”
It was a small price to pay if I could have the girls forget about that last incident, and even better if they could stop being gloomy about it. Still, Sergeant Aroha grumbled to herself as she folded paper cranes.
“Alright, shall we leave?”
We finished our dinner and dived back into the bustling streets. In the casino streets, there were various shows, circuses, and musicals being performed for extremely cheap. In return, the roads to the entrances were lined with slot machines and card tables. We remembered our tragic history with them and simply walked past.
“Hmm? What is that?” Ensign Meihowa pointed at a line of people.
I recognized that it was a waiting line for a bus. “City tour bus. I heard that it went directly to a night market at a Chinatown.”
“Let’s go there!”
It was a very impulsive idea, but we were feeling too great to care. Those Shanghai mitten crabs probably had a lot to do with it. I was personally happy, to be honest; back in my days as the Commander of Dawn Corps, Lezirth Dawnbringer… not that I’d spent my entire life in wars, but there were limits to my ability to travel on my own. I couldn’t ever imagine taking a relaxing vacation at a planet built entirely for vacation trips.
And so, for that very moment, I was very happy that I could spend my time with these girls, laughing like an idiot, even with nothing happening in particular. Though I did end up in a foreign world after a long sleep, I had no special feelings for my previous life.
--I was always a foreigner.
A memory from the past slipped by.
In that second… all the excitement, happiness, all of my feelings died down.
I remembered my duties; the things that I had to live by, but ultimately failed.
--I am not your messiah!
You ask me to save every one of you, but I failed to save myself. My weakness pains me. Why must you pain me further by having hope for me? What do you expect by begging me? And why am I unable to stop trying to fulfill them… Why?!
I felt sick.
“Lezirth, are you okay?” asked Ensign Meihowa with a worried look.
I looked up at her in surprise. “Ah, nothing… I think I ate a little too much.”
“Oh, dear. Want a digestive tablet?”
“It’s not that bad. Thanks anyway. Hey, we’re going to miss the bus! Let’s hurry up.”
And we managed to catch one of the city tour buses. But…
“Whoa!” A tour guide on the bus exclaimed as he saw our faces.
I glanced at his face and realized that he was the mob leader who harassed us in broad daylight a few hours ago. In other words, he was the writer of that weird poster, William Mayer. He must have remembered us, too, though I suppose we were quite the special group in the first place. Not to mention all the weird looks we got from the people here.
“Tsk. It’s the walking symbol of the Federation’s corruption. Having fun, are you?”
“Big words, huh?” Sergeant Aroha crossed her arms and stood in front of him.
“What do you want?”
She pulled out a Federation banknote. “You. You’re a tour guide, right? How about you show us around?”
“Th-this is only my part-time job! I really am a scholar otherwise!” said the man, but he clearly couldn’t resist eyeing the money.
I did not at all enjoy his actions during the day, and I also did not appreciate his rude comment towards me a moment ago, but Sergeant Aroha had gone a little too far. It was just too much to make a fool out of someone for his means of survival.
I interrupted Sergeant Aroha and apologized to him in her behalf. “Sorry. She’s a bit drunk right now and she doesn't know what she’s saying.”
“Wait, I’m not drunk, Lezirth! I’m completely awake now!” shouted Sergeant Aroha, but Ensign Meihowa quickly put a hand over her mouth.
After my apology, the man scoffed and eyed to the side. “... Hmph.”
“I really am sorry. None of us meant to offend you. Please forgive us.”
“Uh, well, whatever. ...A-anyway, are you all new to Critik?”
“I suppose so.”
“People only speak Chinese at the night market, you know? I’ll guide you around for only five thousand credits per person. I can speak Chinese, Tamil, Tibetan, Hindi, and more. I also got a doctorate. ...I can tell you about all the fun places around the town, too, but it doesn’t look like you’re going to need any of it.”
And yet he held a little flag that said that the tour price was twenty-five hundred. Trying to rip us off with double the price, huh?
I assumed that he was merely accepting our apology in his own way, which didn’t make me feel bad. He was chock full of misaimed pride; he had a doctorate and yet he had to make do with his job as a nightly tour guide, working for way less than Federation wages. So, even his twisted way of accepting our apology was understandable.
Well, both Admiral Luise and I could speak fluent Chinese, but I decided to hire him as our guide anyway. A man like him was too much of a hassle to keep as our enemy.
I nodded. “Deal.”
“Er, alright. Then you people are my customers now.” He picked up the little flag and stood up. “Here, follow me. I’ll show you how to get around the place without being ripped off.”
Soon, the bus arrived at the Chinatown night market, about two kilometers away from the casino hotel area. Around the entrance were young ladies in cheongsam, throwing colourful confetti around, and dancers with large masks that resembled lions. They did the traditional lion dance as they walked up and down ladders with dazzling fireworks and noisy crowds as their backdrop. ...How can they do that without any daylight and their blinding masks?
… Must be tough having to work for all these tourists.
Though, it was probably weird that I felt sorry for them at all, considering how my job as a frontline soldier is the bluest of all the blue-collar jobs. I suppose they would feel even sorrier for me if they knew that I was a soldier, let alone a lowly apprentice.
We stepped out of the bus and passed through a doorway of decorative lights. The streets were brightly lit, and the market sold a huge variety of things.
William Mayer held his flag up and began doing his duties as our tour guide. “And this is Critik Chinatown, the Bazaar. Anyone can take up a spot and start selling things at the front of the plaza. Down the road, you got the registered shops. All the antiques and old art are down the southeastern road, and the food stalls are at the northeastern part.”
As expected, the area around the plaza was full of people selling various trinkets from square mats. There were plastic dolls made out of scrunched up cola bottles, and some others sold secondhand shoes that clearly had faked brands. Right beside them was a vendor selling a mountain of very old magazines.
“Oh.” Sergeant Aroha suddenly stopped in place as if she ran into something.
“Uh… excuse me, this magazine… how much is it?” Sergeant Aroha asked the magazine merchant, pointing at one of the magazines.
“Ten thousand! Ten thousand credit!” The merchant replied in the Federation common language with a slight accent.
“Hmm…” Sergeant Aroha pondered, picking up the magazine.
Developed areas like Federation planets and independent planets had fully networked exchange of information, but developing planets usually lacked the energy sources to maintain a large enough network. So, printed materials like these remained in use up to this date.
William Mayer walked up to her arrogantly. “Huh, you’re a strange woman. Not surprising for an Asa, I guess. Want me to haggle with him?”
Sergeant Aroha frowned. “Do you always talk like that to customers?”
“Heh, what’s the problem? I’ll try to get the price lower. That fine with you?”
He and the merchant became engaged in a loud discussion in Hindi. Wait, I thought he was Chinese! Soon, he was able to cut the price down to fifteen hundred credits.
“That’s good enough.” said Aroha, paying the merchant.
Mayer appeared irritated at her decision. “Hmph. If you gave me more time, I could have cut the price down even more for sure. I swear, all of you Federation tourists throw money around like it’s nothing. And somehow give less tip at the same time.”
He really doesn’t care about his quality of service! I could understand why, though. He didn’t seem to get the respect that he deserves as a scholar. He’s holding demonstrations by day, and he works a tour guide by night for the exact same people that he was denouncing in his demonstrations. ...Anyone would feel terrible in his shoes.
I feared that Sergeant Aroha would end up insulting him again… but she was staring blankly at the magazine in her hands.
She held a sports magazine that had an unfamiliar mixed martial arts fighter striking a pose in the cover.
“...Really, I didn’t think I’d find a treasure here. Heh heh, it was a good idea to come here.” Her eyes welled up in tears as she spoke to herself. A second later, she had her bright smile back on her face like nothing had happened. “Right! Let’s go and see if we can find more good stuff!”
We walked around the night market and came across all sorts of strange items. Mayer explained most of them for us, explaining which one’s fake, which one’s real but gutted out the insides, and how to avoid being ripped off like a dumb tourist. He wasn’t a bad guide.
Admiral Luise and Ensign Meihowa seemed to have understood my sentiment towards the guy, despite his obnoxious choice of words. And Sergeant Aroha was no longer a problem since her vocabulary was reduced to “Huh, what?” and “Uh… okay!” since she got the magazine.
We spent our time in the market like that, until Admiral Luise froze her footsteps in front of a showroom surrounded with old neon signs.
“What is it?”
“Lezirth! Come here, quickly!”
I ran to where Admiral Luise shouted. And then, I stopped in place just as she did.
“Rabbitte the Rabbit?!”
Admiral Luise and I screamed at the same time. In the showroom of one of the antique shops stood a humanoid rabbit with human arms and legs, leaning on a coffee machine. Beside it was an old M8-inspired ground combat knife with a red blade. That blade, extending about sixty centimeters long, was definitely Colorado!
Wait! Why was that there? No way, that must be a fake! Hahaha!
I glanced at Admiral Luise for confirmation. She was nodding with a very solemn look on her face, biting her lips.
… Eh? Then that’s… the real deal? No way! Why are our greatest tools being shown in some random antique shop in a tour destination?
“Ah, I see your got the eyes for valuable things. But that looks like a well-made fake.” William Mayer followed us and grumbled loudly. “That rabbit robot is ‘Rabbitte the Rabbit’, a robotic computer made by Admiral Luise Maynard, the pilot of Tetragrammaton and the creator of the Federation’s tactical systems. And that old looking sword is actually the one in a billion, they call-- the perfect sword made from a billion attempts, a sword named ‘Colorado’ that was the favourite of an old war hero named Lezirth Dawnbringer. Or, so the owner says, which is why the price tag is just as crazy.”
Like he had said, the prices were horrendous. Colorado itself was five hundred million credits, and Rabbitte was a billion.
Admiral Luise was strangely content about it. “Heh heh, Rabbitte is worth a billion credits? Maybe a little too low for what it’s worth.”
“Uh, no, this isn’t the time to be happy about it. ...Mmh, but why is Colorado so much cheaper than Rabbitte?”
“Colorado’s just a military weapon.”
“B-but it’s the one in a billion, the priceless treasure of eternity… you can always remake Rabbitte, right? Colorado, though, you’d have to ask around legendary artificers to make another.”
“Erk… did you really go there, Lezirth?” Admiral Luise pouted, hurt from my remark that Colorado should worth more than Rabbitte.
Ensign Meihowa sighed from beside. “Combine them both and they’re a billion and a half. Shouldn’t that be the bigger issue here? And how can there possibly be the original Rabbitte or Colorado in a place like this?”
Mayer began laughing half-heartedly when he noticed our interest in those two items. “You think they’re real? Hey, seriously, you’re going to buy them? Unfortunately for you two, this shop doesn’t open at night. Want me to call the owner over? He’s a very persistent guy, though. Everyone already tells him that they’re clearly fake, but he still claims that they’re the real Rabbitte and Colorado. Even if I manage to drop the price to ten percent, it’s still a hundred fifty million, so to even think about making a purchase for a possible fake…”
Mayer paused his long chatter after taking a look at our faces.
“Eh? You serious? This is real?”
Ensign Meihowa looked just as shocked at our expressions.
“If this shop won’t open at night, I suppose we’ll have to come back here later.”
Mayer came back to his senses from Admiral Luise’s comment. “H-hey, lady, are you seriously buying this thing? How are you planning to pay for this?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I’ll try to haggle with the owner and try to fit the price to your plan. In return, pay me ten percent of it as commission.” Mayer pulled out a bottle of water and emptied it in an instant. He seemed to be agitated by the scale of money involved in the deal.
Admiral Luise understood his intentions and told her plan. “My current budget is… about twenty-five million.”
“You’re trying to pay for a billion and five hundred million with only a twenty-five million budget? Aren’t you asking for too much?”
“Isn’t your wit supposed to pull us through? If you manage to lower the price that much, I’ll be paying you two point five million credits. And if you can lower the price even further, I will give you half of the extra cut you make.”
“So, if you lower the price to five million, I add ten million on top of the promised two and a half million. Here, I’ll give you the room number of our hotel. No… wait…”
“You can have my mail address.”
I gave him my personal mail address. Mayer gulped as he looked at it. “I’ll haggle and tell you how it goes tomorrow. B-but I can’t promise that I’ll get it lower than two and a half!”
We left the night market after Mayer’s last words and returned to our hotel with the city tour bus.
* * *
We returned to our room after a quick detour to buy some drinks and snacks.
Admiral Luise momentarily left to do some research on Rabbitte and Colorado, leaving me with Ensign Meihowa and Sergeant Aroha in the room. Sergeant Aroha was absentmindedly reading the same pages in the magazine over and over again. And those pages were… an interview with the MMA fighter on the cover?
“Who is that? That guy on the cover?”
“Oh, it’s my dad.”
“Why, are you surprised? You thought we grow from each other like mushrooms?”
“N-no, it’s not that.”
I looked at the cover of her magazine again. In the picture was a muscular, young man, giving a thumbs-up with a belt on his shoulders that recognized him as the champion fighter of universe-wide, low-gravity mixed martial arts fighting.
That man is Sergeant Aroha’s father?
“So, he used to be a really popular low-gravity fighter. You do know what low-gravity fighting is, right?”
As the war with the Letix waged on, standard forms of combat that originated on terran planets had become meaningless. To prepare for close quarters combat in space and space-like environments, new forms of martial arts were developed. Even my personal Dawnbringer Technique was developed during that space-wide trend.
But the official Federation-use method of close quarters combat was the ‘low-gravity mixed martial arts’, based on new studies that focused on environments with little to no gravity.
Regardless, I made it mandatory for members of the Dawn Corps to learn the Dawnbringer Technique. But it doesn’t look like that technique survived to this day…
“But, at the time… we were in the middle of a war, so my dad had no choice but to join the military under the conscription law. Then he was captured as a prisoner of war by the Asa, and you know what happened next.”
Amazoness legend. As the story goes, there exists a kingdom of women where men only live to continue the bloodlines. I knew little of the Asa, but as long as people call them the ‘Amazoness’ I had a good idea what might have happened to Sergeant Aroha’s father.
“I-I only know the gist of it from hearing rumours. But I don’t exactly know anything. The first alien race I contacted with was the Elcro, and the Asa contact happened after I slept, remember?”
Ensign Meihowa began explaining for me. “Mm-hmm. The Asa is split into five castes: Harakal, Sedanu, Omere, Umea, Lokir-- and the men are outside of these castes, and they must prove their worth on their own. They must accomplish something great in order to prove that they have superior genes than others, so that they are allowed to leave an offspring with the higher castes.”
“Is that how it works?” I asked Sergeant Aroha for her confirmation.
She nodded. “Yep. But my dad, before getting pulled away for military, he was already lawfully married with a woman from the Pereiras. They already had my sister, Flora, by that time.”
That was why Flora was a normal human. Their father was the same, but their mothers weren’t.
“And when my dad became a prisoner, he had relations with the Asa and had many children, including me. I’m pretty sure there are more of my sisters somewhere out there.”
I… I didn’t know what to say to that. It was a complex, uncomfortable story.
“Fortunately, the Federation rescued my dad and brought me along, but his mental state was already broken. You see, he came to really love my biological mother, that is, an Asa woman. And when a bunch of Federation soldiers, as my dad watched on, went rat-tat-tat-tat--...” She held up two fingers and pretended to make cartoonish gun noises. And yet in her happy, toying eyes, I could sense a hint of pain. “Right in front of me, even…”
Death by plasma rifle was a horrifying, gruesome sight. Superheated plasma acts like a sticky substance, so it sticks to the human skin, burning it and digging deep into the bones underneath. If she had to witness her mother’s death as a little girl, with a plasma rifle no less, that must have left an indescribable trauma on her.
“And what about your father now?”
“Got divorced with my current mother and holed up in a mental hospital. On top of that, during the raid on Asa city and the rescue mission, he had taken a bullet to protect me, an Asa. He isn’t…” She held up the magazine. “He isn’t proud and strong like this, and he doesn’t smile anymore. So… so I bought the magazine, because this was amazing to me. Hmm, there should be a lot of pictures of him before this time, right? Plenty of interviews, and even more information on him over the network, probably. Why did I buy this old magazine? I’m an idiot, sometimes.”
Sergeant Aroha’s shoulders quivered as she talked. Ensign Meihowa gently hugged her.
...I had been expecting that there would be a complicated story behind her family history, but I never thought it would be like this.
I felt my mind get tangled up, so I cracked open a can of beer and gulped it down. Then I passed the other cans to her and Ensign Meihowa. They silently accepted the cans. Just this morning, Sergeant Aroha had been gambling drunk all day, but she drank that beer like she had been rescued from a middle of a desert. I thought I’d stop her, but… nah, it would do well for her to be drunk instead.
“You lived a pretty tough life.”
“Well, it can’t be worse than Vice Admiral Lezirth Dawnbrin… *Burp* …aw.” Sergeant Aroha cast her eyes away, embarrassed that she burped mid-sentence.
I chortled and shook my head. “No need to be embarrassed. And, um… even if my life’s been going wrong, none of it really feels real to me. So then, about Flora Pereira’s mother, so your sister’s mother is…”
“She’s legally my stepmother. When my dad brought me out, they weren’t immediately divorced so she inducted me into the Pereira family. I mean, she had plenty of reasons to dislike me, but she has a good enough personality to not hate me for them. But she’s very overbearing.” explained Sergeant Aroha, finishing her can of beer in exactly two gulps. And then she opened a new can.
“Aren’t you drinking too much?” worried Ensign Meihowa.
Sergeant Aroha grinned. “Beer’s just a drink. I’m strong with alcohol, Ensign.”
“No one ever says that and doesn’t get drunk after.” But Ensign Meihowa was drinking beer herself. I suppose she couldn’t avoid drinking, considering the mood.
“I meant to say-- you two are very friendly to each other.”
“W-well, our situations are pretty similar.” Ensign Meihowa blushed.
Sergeant Aroha reached at her for a hug, and began rubbing her face into her chest. “Aanh, Ensign Meihowa… I love you, please marry me!”
“S-stop it! Aroha!”
“Hmm? Did your breasts get bigger?”
“N-no! What are you saying?!”
“How can you say no for sure? Alright, let’s measure it!”
“D-don’t you dare!”
Oh no. Aroha became drunk after all.
Ensign Meihowa quickly hid behind me, away from Sergeant Aroha. I laughed at the two.
“Ugh, beer is way too filling. Lezirth, go buy some tequila.”
“Sergeant Aroha, you can’t send me on an errand like that.”
“‘Sergeant Aroha’? What is that~? We’re on a vacation! Call me ‘Aroha~’, or even ‘Darling~’ or ‘Honey~’ is fine by me!”
Everyone! We have a hopeless drunkard here!
And before I could respond, soft arms wrapped around my neck from behind.
Ensign Meihowa smelled of alcohol herself, looking at me with unfocused eyes.
...W-wait, what is this lady doing?! She wouldn’t do this normally! Ah, then again, she did drink a lot during the day! Did she finally break past the point of drunkenness by adding a couple more cans of beer to them?
“Colorado’s that good? To pay five hundred million for it? Even twenty five million for Rabbitte and Colorado combined sounds like a waste to me.”
“Yeah! Twenty five million means Luise is pouring all of the money that she won today! I-I mean, sure, she won all of that in the first place, so I can’t tell her what to do with it, b-but it’s not like I’m sad about it!”
Aroha seemed to have been wondering about Colorado and Rabbitte too.
“Yes, yes? What about it?”
I stopped talking to face away from Meihowa for a moment.
Whoa! H-her face is too close! Those rosy cheeks are so cute, I’d lose myself if I faced her directly!
When I eyed her again, Ensign Meihowa was continuing to stare at me shamelessly. Her drooping ears made her look like a doe.
A-alright, let’s calm down.
“A-anyway, it’s definitely worth that price.”
“Why? Aren’t bayonets all the same?”
“Mm… but you’ve seen Dawnbringer’s Sacred Sword, right?”
“That last Kishin technique you used in the fight with Diablo?”
“Yes. It’s where the blade is quantised. Then what happened to the Alter Armour blade?”
“It melted and disappeared.”
“Right. But when Colorado is quantised and reversed, it doesn’t disappear, but it forms the whole blade again.”
“It’s the only weapon to withstand the ‘Sacred Sword of Justice’ and revert back to its original form, so of course it’s valuable. I don’t know what kind of methods were used to create it, and I definitely don’t know how that works, but all I know is that entire blade forms a single molecular pattern instead of it being shaped.”
“Okay, so it is an amazing sword. Then, what about Rabbitte?”
“That thing is a computer made with Letix tissue, and it has an AI mounted on it. Admiral Luise also holds it dear.”
“Hm, is that so? Enough to spend twenty five million on it? But the problem is going to be that one-point-five billion price tag. It’s going to come down to whether or not that strange guide succeeds in haggling for it.”
Ensign Meihowa sipped her can of beer, then held the can upside down on top of her mouth. Somehow, she went from short sips to finishing an entire can. She crushed the empty can. “Ugh, I’m full. Beer is just needlessly filling.”
“Right? Tequila and lemon and lime would be great.” Sergeant Aroha smiled.
Ensign Meihowa added, “Rum and whiskey would be perfect for me. Mix it with mint liqueur for a cocktail.”
I know where this is headed… I have to go get them, right?!
“Hey, aren’t you all drinking a bit too much? You should control yourselves…”
But Sergeant Aroha suddenly made a very saddened expression. “Oh, my poor little daddy. He used to be able to smile like that, and now he’s stuck in a mental hospital… sob, sob.”
“Hey, you’re not even crying right now.”
Using her troubled past as a weapon? Aroha, you scary woman!
“Sob, sob… my mom, too…” And Ensign Meihowa joined in.
“...Don’t plagiarize her, Meihowa.”
“Hmph. Adviser Lezirth. That’s not cool at all.”
Why is that adviser thing being mentioned again?!
“Okay, fine. I’ll be right back.”
I stood and walked towards the hotel windows. I opened them, but as I expected, they wouldn’t open further to prevent people from jumping out. Aroha and Meihowa looked surprised at what I was doing.
The windows would not open and the glass was reinforced. A normal person would need to go through significant effort to break them and drop through it, but for me, I had a way to get past it without breaking anything.
I looked intently towards the bottom of the window, and I could see the shocked expressions on Ensign Meihowa and Sergeant Aroha.
“Wh-what are you doing, Lezirth?!”
“H-hey, stop! Wake up! You’re not thinking of jumping out, are you?”
They realized that I was thinking up jumping down, and they quickly tried to talk me out of it.
“It’s faster than taking an elevator, so, I’ll be back.”
“No, wait! This is a casino city, so there’s a psychic canceler everywh…”
But I ignored their warnings and phase-shifted through the window, dropping straight down. As they had said, the area was filled with inhibitors-- a lot more than Ibis-2 starport.
That wasn’t a big problem for me.
I gently landed on the pool area at the base of the hotel. From there, I went to the convenience store nearby for tequila, whiskey, rum, various liqueur, and some fruits. Then I climbed back up the outer walls of the hotel and shifted back through the windows
Meihowa and Aroha were still stunned, staring in my direction.
“Didn’t you want me to go buy these? I suppose it was a good idea to send me. It’s totally faster than waiting for the elevator--”
“Oouuhh… I… I was so scared! I thought you were drunk and not thinking straight…”
“Phase shifting is a lot more difficult than jumping from the seventeenth floor, you know? Do you really think I’d drop to my death after getting through the windows?”
Surviving a drop from the seventeenth floor was guaranteed at the moment that I phase-shifted through the windows. Well, using psionic powers causes a little radiation, but it mostly consisted of alpha particles and so the human skin protected against that.
“How could we know? We’re not psionics. Anyway, did the convenience store sell fruits, too?”
“Yep. We’re not the only ones thinking of making cocktail, apparently. Okay, time to show off what I can do!”
I began making very thin slices out of a lemon.
Then, after I passed the cocktail glasses around…
I lost consciousness.