Editors: MadTix, Foodpenguin
"So, uh… About this situation..."
In my hand was a single key taken from the hotel's reception, and I fell deep in thought.
There were three women and one man. And there was only a single key. How should I have understood the situation?
Shamefully, I was reminded of the tirade given by the mob leader. There were more women than men on Federation-controlled planets. ...What has the world become during my hundred and twenty years of cold sleep? If it's the world that had gone crazy and not me, why did Admiral Luise stay silent like the others? She was sleeping for the same time that I was!
While the elevator made its way up, I stood still like a statue, with only my eyes moving around to evaluate the developing plot.
The girls looked down from our mishap with the protesters; they were blankly staring at the cityscape outside of the elevator. It didn't appear to be a good time to ask about my problem. Not that it would ever be appropriate, anyway.
--Thump... Thump... Thump...
I felt Dawnbringer's-- ...Er, my furious heartbeat.
Huff... Huff... I became extremely nervous. As the elevator went further up, my heart hammered my chest even harder. It was the slowest elevator that I'd ever seen! My heart was going to explode at this rate!
And then the elevator finally stopped.
My blood ran cold as the elevator doors opened. W-was that the right thing to do? Lezirth Dawnbringer, was that the right path for him? A hundred and twenty years after, did the world's sense of morality and justice finally deteriorate like this?
But if the world around me had really changed, then that could only be a step forward, not a step back! Is it not natural for a living being to adapt to the changes in the surrounding world? Yeah, that's all there is to it!
A million thoughts crashed into each other as I took a step into the hallway.
Our belongings were already brought up to our room. A bellboy opened the entrance, and Ensign Meihowa gave him a tip.
It was difficult to face the bellboy. What kind of a man was I in his eyes? The protesters undoubtedly saw me as an awful person, and it was possible that he saw me the same way.
I carefully walked into the room. Hm... The hotel was shaped like a capital 'E', so the scene outside the window was mostly this building's walls. Since the view was terrible, it was clear that the room wasn't this hotel's best. Oh well, though; it was a perfect fit for an Ensign, Sergeant, and two Apprentices.
In the room were two large beds. Was this meant for a single family?
"You take this one, Lezirth. Us three will take the other one." Ensign Meihowa directed me to the window-side bed. She walked over to the wall behind the beds and pulled something down. It was a room divider, which was then unfolded to separate the two beds.
Oh, so I guess now we virtually had our own rooms? Psh! I knew it was too early to get excited.
N-no wait, I was never excited!
...I knew it was too early to get embarrassed. I-I mean, worried! Too early to be worried!
Sob, sob... I'm sorry, I just made up a lie that I wouldn't believe in myself. I actually looked forward to it happening. Yes, I'm a guy, too.
Family rooms had two shower rooms and washrooms, so Ensign Meihowa and Sergeant Aroha went to shower first. Meanwhile, Admiral Luise connected her portable computer's displays to a large projector in the room and began searching for something.
Soon, the mob leader’s ratty face showed up on the screen. Head of Autonomous Planet Manus Solidum, William Mayer-- fading blonde hair receding from his crown, amazingly thick glasses. He was the very image of an eccentric, old professor. He was in his early thirties-- Wait, with that face?! I thought he would be fifty, minimum!
“Is this the punk?!”
It had been quite a long time since the last time Admiral Luise said the word ‘punk’. It was important to note that Admiral Luise would never say such words when calm. Know your enemy, she spoke to herself, as she browsed around to find the main website of Manus Solidum.
...Star *ars opening theme?! A very familiar music played, along with a wordy narration scrolling down on screen. The gist of it was similar to the announcement posted back at the airport lounge’s bulletin board. The Federation is oppressing them, they said. The men of autonomous planets must band together, they said. And then they somehow came to the idiotic conclusion that they must oppress female Replicants and Elcro, Asa hybrids.
The sadder part of the story was that there was a sizable support for their movement. They even pressured the Federation’s government by threatening to join the Alliance should they not listen to their demands. Scary people.
What kind of thought process would lead them to think that it’s a good idea to try and ally with a faction composed primarily of Elcro, Asa, and Replicants? As a group that publicly denounced them? Did they all install warp engines in their heads? How else could their train of thought take such an intergalactic leap?
“Wait, now that I think about it, weren’t they filming us? What if that gets on television?”
Admiral Luise replied to me as she opened a command console, grinning. “I deleted it before it got broadcasted.”
Television networks used inter-warp communication networks too, but they were likely using low-security civilian channels instead of military-grade ones. Still, she managed to hack their system in such a short time? I stared at Admiral Luise, now with a fearful look. “Ah… y-yeah, that’s a relief.”
Right, something like that has always been trivial for Admiral Luise.
Soon, Meihowa and Aroha exited the shower room. Admiral Luise and I separately showered later, and… wore the same clothes again, apart from our underwear, since we didn’t have anything else to wear. Ugh. I really needed to buy more. Even the clean underwear was military-issued, so… it was quite depressing. Not that the quality was any problem-- the designs consisted of bland patterns of grey, or jungle camo.
“Then we’ll go buy clothes for the two of you, then eat. Let’s go down.”
“Yep. That eight-thousand-credit-buffet that I mentioned turned out to be in this hotel, too. Let’s eat down there first.”
Meihowa, Aroha, Luise and I all had the same plan.
* * *
After waking up from hibernation, the only things that touched my mouth were military rations, emergency foods, and energy gels. Maybe that was the reason -- the cheap, eight thousand credits’ worth of food tasted so, so good. I was mildly annoyed that we had to eat among the busy noise of a dozen slot machines, but it was bearable. I was too satisfied with the food to complain.
“Tasty, but a little salty.” said Admiral Luise, looking just as happy.
Ensign Meihowa soon brought drinks to our table. “Wow… they have nothing but alcohol to drink.”
What a blatant trick. Salty food encourages drinking, and all drinks are alcoholic. Was it safe to understand that as them saying ‘Get drunk and spend all of your money here~!’? That was the only reason why they had food and drinks at such a cheap price, huh? Who did they expect to fool with such obvious intentions?
“Don’t drink too much, alright?” I advised the group as I received a pint of beer from Ensign Meihowa. Sergeant Aroha took a rimmed glass margarita, Ensign Meihowa took a lime garnished fruit punch cocktail, and Admiral Luise took a glass of pineapple punch.
We’ve had some depressing moments on our first day, but the memory quickly faded away after a swig from my pint. The three girls also looked pleasantly surprised at the taste of their drinks after a sip each. I quickly downed the beer, thirsty from having salty food.
They were free, sure, but was it really fine, drinking so heavily when we already knew that this was a trap?
But when I saw the happy smiles on everyone’s faces, I couldn’t help but smile myself. They were beautiful normally, but smiling made them even prettier.
And soon, one empty glass became two, then three, then four, and finally Ensign Meihowa began looking in her wallet. “Alrighty~ then… ju~st a little. Let’s just play one ve~ry quickly, okay?” She slurred, and slowly staggered away.
Sergeant Aroha tried to stop her, but she was equally out of it. “Meihowa, n-no, don’t do it… twenty thousand per day~ over twenty thousand! Twenty thousand! No more than thaaat, okay?”
“Of-of course. We gotta play around an entire month… Hic-... ohh, my…” She covered her mouth in surprise. She was pretty cute then, the way she embarrassedly looked at me with rosy cheeks-- but she was going to get rosier if I kept looking at her. I pretended to not notice her and looked away, and she continued, “We-we can’t waste an entire month while we spend nothing at all! Yeah! Twenty thousand per day! Let’s do it.”
“Mmh, let me play for a short while, then.” Admiral Luise also stood up. Agh, that just made me want to play too!
There were holographic numbers displayed at the top of each slot machine. Okay… That’s the jackpot? Let’s see… The ten-credit slot machine had a payout of eight hundred million credits. Wow, we could spend the most luxurious vacation ever if we could get that money! The other machines were equally shocking; their prizes grew to numbers that Apprentices could never hope to see in their lifetime.
Jackpots are called that because they usually don’t happen, of course, but what was stopping me from getting it today? I remembered that I joked to Ensign Meihowa that I’d buy her that expensive toy if I won a jackpot… Should I buy that for her? Well, if I had that kind of money, a mere toy would mean nothing.
I started by turning twenty thousand credits into a stack of chips.
“Lezirth is playing too?” asked Sergeant Aroha, already holding a set of chips.
I shrugged. “I’m only going to spend twenty thousand credits.”
“Fufu. Don’t forget about me when you win the jackpot, okay? Ah, how about marrying right here if you do? I hear marrying here can take less than an hour.”
“Psh. Don’t you be the one to forget me, Sergeant.” I stuck my tongue out as a retort to her silly remark, and submerged myself into the sea of slot machines.
Hmm… what now? The cheapest slot machines to start, I guess? I started by playing with the ten-credit slot machines.
Th-that was lucky! I was maybe playing for ten minutes tops, and my starting twenty thousand credits bloated up to twenty four thousand. I earned four thousand! I used a ten-credit machine to earn four thousand, so I would have earned four hundred thousand at a thousand credit machine! And the ten thousand one would have given me four million! Ugh, what a waste!
And the jackpot for that machine? Twenty giga credits! Twenty billion! B-but wait, wouldn’t my starting funds run out in seconds if things don’t go too well? Then, I should move up to thousand first..
Soon, I got away from the machine with none of my starting chips.
That was to be expected. I may have underestimated the casino.
Well, what about the others?
I walked around the casino and quickly found Ensign Meihowa. She seemed to have lost all of her funds like I did; she was staring at the hologram television installed in the middle of the casino, taking sips from her cocktail. Some men tried to get close to her and flirt with her, but she refused to give them any attention.
When I approached her, she drunkenly giggled after noticing me. “Ah, it’s Lezirth. Heeh heh heh.”
Yep, she was drunk. She acted very differently than usual. The men around her got up and left angrily when they saw her smiling at me.
“What are you doing here? Did yours go well at all?”
“Uhhm, no… I losht it all, heh…”
She mumbled with a drunken slur and pretended to hit her head with her fist. If she were to gesture like that out of context, I might have mocked her for trying too hard to be cute, but she was drunk at the moment… and cute.
“I lost everything too. It doesn’t take too long to lose twenty thousand, huh.”
Ensign Meihowa laughed in a silly ah-ha-ha and gently patted my back. “Me too, me too… but that’s okay! Let’s just say that was payment for the buffet and the drinks! Considering how much we ate and drink, this is a fine trade.”
Truthfully, if we were to eat and drink that much, we would have easily lost a couple hundred thousand credits. With that thought, I felt that we did indeed get our money’s worth.
“Right? Hey, this is pretty tasty.”
“Don’t drink too much. What about the others?”
I looked toward my side.
Sergeant Aroha sat crooked with a gloomy face, pulling on the lever of a slot machine. In front of her was a huge mound of empty margarita glasses. Most importantly, that slot machine was the ten thousand credits one!
Meihowa and I immediately broke out of our drunken stupor. We ran behind Aroha and pulled her away. “What are you doing, Aroha?!”
“Ah… Meihowa, Lez-...irth…”
Aroha had the most depressing expression.
...Wait, seriously? She was kidding, right?!
“...How much did you spend?”
“About three million credits, maybe?”
Colours drained from our faces.
She hadn’t spent our entire vacation fund yet, but all that on the first day?! We were supposed to use it for at least a month! Still, I had to keep calm and feel sorry for Aroha. The victim is always the most distressed one in a tragedy, after all.
“Th-that’s alright. We’ll scrape together whatever we have left for you, so let’s stop here.”
Aroha’s usual grin was nowhere to found. She looked more like an empty husk of her former self. Whew… what a scary place, this casino! I should have known that this place was a source of all evils!
“Wait a minute! Where’s Luise?!”
“Oh-oh no! I can’t find her!”
I left Aroha with Meihowa and began looking around for Admiral Luise. But only an endless line of slot machines came into my sight. She had no ordinary appearance, so I should have been able to notice her right away. Maybe she was kidnapped? Mugged? Even though the casino had psionic suppressors, Admiral Luise could beat an ordinary human being without any effort. But what if there really was a secret organization that’s trying to remove us, and now they’ve come to kidnap her?!
Suddenly, a loud cheer came from somewhere and stopped my panic attack.
Huh, what was that? I turned around, and there was a huge crowd surrounding a card table.
I dug through the crowd. On the other side and behind the card table was a short-haired girl, sitting on a gigantic pile of chips.
Seeing her, I became frightened. Could she have used her psionic powers to cheat her game? Admiral Luise was powerful enough to bypass the effect of psionic suppressors, but that could not stop her from getting detected. And the casino’s network should be mostly localized, so it wasn’t likely that she was able to hack their system.
“Uh-...” Meihowa and Aroha caught up to me and joined my surprise. Admiral Luise kept herself busy by stacking her chips into towers, and winked at us when we approached her.
“What is it, Sergeant Aroha? Why the long face?”
“Oh, about that…”
When I explained our situation to her, she grabbed a tower of cookies-and-cream-coloured chips and spread them on a chip counting panel. She then shoved it towards Aroha. “Get those cashed in. After you make up for Aroha’s losses, you three can split them equally.”
Aroha took a single chip from the pile with shaky hands and brought it closer to me. The chip’s label read ‘100K’.
...Uh, so, each chip is a hundred thousand credits? At a glance, I counted about a hundred chips, so there was at least ten million.
Aroha and Meihowa shivered all the way to the casino cashier.
We weren’t all going to get arrested right there, right? There won’t be a certain sergeant and an ensign getting arrested today, right? And we won’t be sent away along with them?
A bunch of horrifying thoughts crossed my mind, but Aroha and Meihowa soon returned safely, smiling their happiest smiles yet, hopping back to us in joy. If they haven’t gone insane after losing all of their chips for cheating, they were probably happy about cashing in all of those chips.
“Hmm… alright, how about a little break? I should go shopping for new clothes. Fufu.” Admiral Luise acted like she was the queen of the world, stretching her arms like she had done nothing. That was okay; for that moment, she really was the queen of the world. When the crowd around her cheered in awe, she grabbed a handful of hundred credit chips and threw them in the air. The crowd cheered even louder and piled around the flying chips.
Hundred credits. I imagined it would just be a hassle to bother picking them up, but I had forgotten that there was a big difference between the Federation planets’ economy and theirs. A hundred may have meant a lot more to them than us.
She looked like a real, professional gambler. A pair of sunglasses and a huge lit cigar in her mouth and the scene was perfect. While the onlookers busily mobbed around the fallen chips, I scraped the chips off of the table in front of Luise. Seriously, how much was that?
“Maybe I should give up being a soldier and become a professional gambler!” Admiral Luise contemplated, and… that really did sound like a great idea.
* * *
Cashing in every chip totalled to about twenty million credits. That was after making up for Aroha’s losses. An apprentice’s weekly pay before tax deduction was about four hundred thousand credits, so there was no further explanation needed.
She earned that in less than an hour! And she hadn’t used her powers to cheat. She combined math, bluffing, and mind games together for a flawless victory of her wits.
The cashier smiled brightly and asked if she wanted to store the money in the casino’s vault. Admiral Luise shook her head. Once the money got transferred over to her account, she held the tips of her skirt and curtseyed, and returned to us.
It was difficult to look directly at her.
“Fufufu. Praise your new queen!” Admiral Luise grinned. Her boastful attitude did not fit her childlike visage too well, but for that moment, a strong desire to praise and serve welled up from within.
“Oh, praised be the great Admiral Luise Maynard!”
“We are not worthy! Grovel, grovel!”
“Grovel, grovel MK-II.”
We praised her together. Sergeant Aroha, especially, talked like she was conversing with the living form of Ksitigarbha. That was understandable, considering how she was sent to the afterlife and then back.
“Ahem, Lezirth~! My shoulders feel stiff from lifting those playing cards! Massage them immediately!”
“Yes, my lady!” I immediately jumped up to give her a massage, but her smooth shoulders and her beautiful neck distracted me.
It was difficult to look directly at her.
Kiss kiss, sigh sigh, were all I could think when I looked at her neck. No, wait! I will never succumb to such dirty thoughts! Instead, I will think of huff huff, slap slap…? Okay, no, that’s much worse than before. I should stick with my previous plan. ...Wait, what was I thinking about? It was going to get extremely awkward if I suddenly didn’t give her a massage!
I earnestly massaged her shoulders, looking away from her body. Admiral Luise giggled and continued her arrogant act, and soon stopped.
“Alright~ shall we go shopping soon? I really need something else to wear. Follow me, everyone! I had a few lucky streaks today, so I’ll celebrate it with gifts for all of you!”
Such heartwarming words! We followed her out with pure admiration radiating from our eyes. Sergeant Aroha and Ensign Meihowa looked particularly ecstatic as they pranced toward the brand name shops by the big fountain. Those shops may have thrown the two ladies into depression at one point, but they say that the sun shines even on mouse holes. They were in very high spirits for once.
…But after a while, I suddenly noticed; where was Admiral Luise? I turned around to find her moving to the opposite side, a huge discount store that mostly sold cheap necessities.
“...Hey, hold up.” I quickly approached and pulled back Aroha and Meihowa. I had grabbed Aroha by the tip of her shirt, but for Meihowa, it was one of her wings.
“Kyaa-!” Ensign Meihowa turned around and angrily glared at me, crossing her arms to hide her chest (Chest? Why not her wings?).
“Ah, I’m sorry. But Admiral Luise went that way…”
“Oh… Why’s Lu-Luise going over there?”
“She’s being cheap after all that?”
Meihowa and Aroha flashed a dejected look. But when Admiral Luise spun around and scoffed at them, their expressions quickly disappeared. Aroha, especially, was in no position to be complaining to her about anything. No one had any courage or right to complain to our one and only saviour (?!). We quietly followed her.
The two girls looked unwilling to begin, but their walking posture returned to a joyous prance. They looked like some muppets from a morning cartoon for kids. Now was a good time to apply a CG effect that would make flowers bloom from their footsteps.
Discount shop or not, who’s going to refuse free stuff? It could be fun!
* * *
Though nothing like the brand name shops or luxurious malls, discount stores offered their own unique feeling of abundance. A huge variety of items lined the shelves, waiting for a buyer. I felt like I’d become rich from seeing them.
There we bought some things needed for our travels, and some sets of clothes. Admiral Luise and I especially lacked things to wear, so we took our time buying more. We were worried that we would end up with too much to carry around, but it turned out that there was an automated delivery system that brought them directly to our hotel room.
“Ah… it was scary, but it was also fun.” Sergeant Aroha sighed in relief, drinking coffee. We were taking another short break at a café near the entrance of the shopping mall.
“You should really take a moment to reflect, Aroha.” Meihowa criticised, but she was smiling instead of being angry. I was just as happy after being given free money and new clothes.
“Heh… we’re still on our first day of our vacation, right?”
“Kuh, O-oh no, I can’t stop laughing!”
It really was only our first day, and many fun things had happened already. I couldn’t wait for the days to come. What could we do with the money? Heliskiing? Ah, I’m already excited over thinking about things we could do
“Ahem! All is due to my generous act of charity, Lezirth! Continue massaging my shoulders!” Admiral Luise shrugged exaggeratedly and turned her back against me. She looked so cute acting high and mighty with the face of a child… And the mood of the moment made her look just that much cuter.
“Yes ma’am!” I approached her and began working on her shoulders. Aroha and Meihowa worked on each of her feet in the meantime, and it really looked as if she were a queen… or that we were operating a massage parlour.
“Now, shall we go have some Shanghai mitten crabs?” And Ensign Meihowa was still thinking about the crabs.
“We’ll get fat. Give us some time to digest and then we’ll go.” Compared to toothpaste-mint ice cream or crab-flavoured energy gel, real crab meat was far more of an acceptable food. Yet, I was still full at the moment, partially because of the huge buffet from before, and then some alcohol shortly after that.
“Then, can we return to the hotel instead? There’s probably a fitness club in it. Let’s get some exercise and sweat away everything we ate today, and we’ll spend time there until dinner.”
“No, wait, I want to unwrap the things we bought and think about what to wear.”
And so we all left the café.
I could hear a few people whispering about us outside of the café. They seemed to be tourists, too, judging by the ragged doll-hat that was probably from an amusement park nearby.
“Whoa, look at that! It’s an Elcro! And an Asa, too…”
“Kya, aliens! What’s going on? They have to be part-timers in costumes!”
“Shh, they might hear us! Hm, they look too real to be costumes.”
It was a couple, quietly whispering to themselves while peering at us.
The Federation was at war, primarily against the Elcro and the Asa, so it was understandable for people to be curious about Sergeant Aroha and Ensign Meihowa, whose races were apparent from their looks.
But we weren’t monkeys at a zoo.
“What a great world! There are aliens on this planet!”
“Stop staring at them! You’re just checking out the cute girls, aren’t you?” The woman yelled and poked the man in his sides. The couple left, arguing with each other.
“Ha ha ha. Don’t mind them, we get that a lot.” Sergeant Aroha guffawed.
Ensign Meihowa shrugged. “It’s a little too late to get mad about little things like that. Let’s just return to the hotel.”
We made our way back to the hotel, our mood having taken a small hit.
* * *
As expected, everything that we had purchased at the stores was brought to our room. The mound of boxes and packagings reminded me of presents beneath a Christmas tree. My annoyance from a moment ago quickly disappeared when I took a look at all of this new swag. “When did Santa come by? Oh, but I might be a little too old to be getting Christmas presents from him!”
Ensign Meihowa didn’t seem too pleased with my joke. “That’s no good, Lezirth. It’s not even Christmas yet, and you’re not too old for… for…” But she soon began unwrapping a box for herself with a great, big smile on her face. Inside the box was a civilian-use electric bike. Compared to the military’s, it was extremely light-- at only five kilograms or so-- made with carbon nanotube. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t cheap at all, but Admiral Luise had earned too much to care for such details. “Mmph… can I really take this?”
“You already bought it, you know.”
Ensign Meihowa smiled, gently caressing her shiny new bike. “Nngh… th-that’s obvious, but… thanks, I’ll put it to good use.”
Sergeant Aroha had purchased various cosmetics, makeup kits, and health foods, in addition to new clothes, swimsuits, and sunglasses. Combined, they were much more expensive than what I had purchased, but they still amounted to less than Ensign Meihowa’s bike.
Admiral Luise bought, other than new clothes, a bunch of new software. She booted them up on her computer and began talking about her new tech. “I see that they’ve added a new library of instructions for their language. Who would have ever thought that ‘Alpha C++ Blender’ would live to see its twentieth major release? There were no improvements in the world of hardware, but it looks like the software side is still going very strong.”
Quantum computers could theoretically improve infinitely with additional qubits. However, for conventional computers, reducing the size to lessen circuitry delays was an important but limiting consideration. Unfortunately, before Admiral Luise and I were put into cold sleep-- that is, a hundred and twenty years ago-- conventional computing had already reached its physical limit. That was only a part of the bigger problem; kinetics, electrical engineering, material science, many fields of research had been stunted. They were all already pushed to the boundaries of the physical realm.
“Lezirth. Are you really fine with just that, Lezirth? I have a lot of credits remaining.”
“Oh, I’m fine with these.” All I had for myself was some clothes, underwear, and a hat and a pair of sunglasses to cover myself from the sun. In total, they added up to one-tenth of Meihowa’s luxury bike… but I didn’t want anything in particular, either.
We were going to be fighting a war after the vacation, anyway.
After having unboxed everything, Aroha and Meihowa had begun arranging the clothes in the hotel’s closet.
Suddenly, a ringtone echoed in the room.
Sergeant Aroha shrugged, pulled out her portable computer and answered the call. “Yes, Aroha here.”
“Hey, Aroha? Did you get there safely? I heard you were on vacation with friends.”
I could hear the voice of a young woman. Her voice was remarkably clear and easily understandable-- probably an announcer of some kind.
Sergeant Aroha slumped over as soon as she heard the woman’s voice and saw her face on the screen. “Hey, big sis. What’s happening?”
“Nothing, really; Mom set up a blind date for you… can you spare some time during your vacation? If you’re too busy to travel from your end, I’ll tell the guy to fly over to you instead. There should be a lot of places to meet on that planet anyway.”
“Uh, no thanks? You haven’t married either, so why am I the one to be set up like this? I’m still too young for my family to be forcing me to marry up!”
Admiral Luise, Ensign Meihowa, and I remained quiet. We didn’t want to bother her phone call, but our silence made it easier for us to overhear their conversation.
“That’s because I’m not a soldier like you. Mom and I still disagree with your choice to become a soldier. She probably thinks that you might give up on the military when you marry.”
“Yeah, I don’t like being controlled in that way. If she wants me to quit my job, then tell me to quit my job directly. What the hell is this crap about finding a guy?”
Their conversation revealed some unexpected facts. Sergeant Aroha must have had some complicated family problems behind her reasoning to become a soldier. I had never asked her about it in consideration of her special status as a half-Asa.
She must have belonged to a powerful family.
Then again, Sergeant Aroha’s big sister was the kind of person who was capable of renting a casino hotel suite for an entire month through credit card rewards alone. Even if casino hotels exist mostly to trap customers into playing at their casino, a month’s worth of room and food had to cost a significant amount.
If a director of a corporation is able to rack up a huge number of points for a frequent flyer program, that means that the director holds control over great many parts of the business.
She had a clear-cut voice that made me think that she received training to become an announcer. She was stern yet mannered, and obviously prideful of herself. And hearing her made me realize how curious I was of Sergeant Aroha.
“Anyway, you should at least meet him. He’s not that bad of a guy. He’s a little old, but he graduated from Harvard with a master’s in law, along with MBA.”
“No. I’m on vacation. And when the vacation’s over, I’m going back to the front lines. Why would a Harvard graduate want to marry a military woman who could die at any moment? And I’m an Asa! If you really think he’s such a great guy, why don’t you meet him yourself?”
“I’m fine. I have a lot to do here. And Aroha, don’t you realize how attractive you are to guys out there?”
“Of course I’d be attractive; I have the Pereira blood. Why else would that be? Did he say that he wants to burn his lust with an Asa’s fire?”
“Then, are you going to run around the battlefield like a monkey instead? You’ve already been in a life-threatening situation once already… you’re going to die at this rate! Do you realize what people would say to your mother or I if you were to die?”
“That the family’s shame was lawfully murdered? Something like that, right?”
“...” The sister fell silent.
I sighed. I thought that Sergeant Aroha may have been pushing her too much, but I couldn’t say anything. It was her problem to solve, and I had no say in it.
“...I’m not telling you to marry here and now, so at least meet him. Who knows? Maybe you’ll feel better about it after meeting him. Both Mom and I are begging you to do it, so please, at least spare an hour for us.”
“But I’m here with my boyfriend right now! Look!” Sergeant Aroha pointed her computer’s camera towards me.
I was taken back in surprise. The face that appeared in the screen was that of a fine example of an office lady, with neatly combed black hair. She looked… hm, maybe Mestizo? Latin-American?
She inspected me from head to toe. She sighed. “Hello. I’m Flora. Aroha’s big sister.”
“Oh, uh, I, um…”
In panic, I glanced at Aroha, Meihowa, and Admiral Luise. Ensign Meihowa and Admiral Luise were both panicking like me, but Sergeant Aroha was gesturing at me to go with the flow.
“Ah, hello. My name is Lezirth. N-nice to meet you.” I greeted her.
I explained myself to her; without lying, of course. I was indeed Lezirth, and I was undeniably going to spend a month with Sergeant Aroha, together in a single room. Though with a divider between us that made it less ‘living together’ and more ‘sharing a room’.
“Hm. Mister Lezirth, I’d like to ask a question directly to you…”
“What are you going to ask him?” Sergeant Aroha got in the way by turning the camera around to face her once again.
“Can I not ask a question to your boyfriend? I’d like to ask if he thinks he’s in a serious relationship, or if he’s just here with you for your vacation…”
“Ah, whatever! You’ll have your nephew or niece in ten months! That’s fine, right?”
“What? Aroha! Wh-... wait!” The big sister yelled in surprise, but Sergeant Aroha quickly ended the call and disabled the phone feature on her computer.
“... … …”
I had no words.
“Uh.” Sergeant Aroha squeaked.
“Eheheh… who’s whose boyfriend now?” Admiral Luise muttered to herself, smiling the evilest smile.
Sergeant Aroha laughed, and charged into Admiral Luise for a big hug. “Sob, sob! My family’s being too cruel to me! Please comfort me, Luise!”
“Argh! Stop that, please! Let me go!”
Admiral Luise struggled to get out of Aroha’s grasp. She was cute.
But I was still scared.
Sergeant Aroha’s mom, and her big sister, they both sounded like they were extremely powerful people, and Sergeant Aroha openly announced that I was her boyfriend, complete with the showing of my face. She was obviously trying to avoid having to continue her tiring debate, but… I somehow had the feeling that her decision was going to bite us back in the future.
“Aroha, I understand how you felt, but isn’t it a little too rude to do that without Lezirth’s consent? It’s unlikely that your sister is going to tell your mother about it, but she definitely will investigate Lezirth on her own.”
“Huh, she looked like a normal office lady to me. Can she really do that?”
Ensign Meihowa’s expression became much more serious in response. “Wait, are you saying that because you don’t know about the Pereira family? Ah, of course, you wouldn’t know about it.”
“Wh-what is it?”
“The Pereira family is, um… was it about eighty-three years ago?”
“Right. They own Kedric Trading Company, which was established eighty-six years ago. They got into military productions and saw a lot of money from it. They’ve had hot-blooded women in the family succeeding as owners throughout its history.”
Whoa, now. So she really did belong to a powerful family! But why was she just half-Asa? I became confused with Ensign Meihowa’s explanation.
“Then… Sergeant Aroha’s sister will be checking me out?”
“That’s right. A director of a trade company is safely comparable to a spy. Not only will your personal information be leaked to her, they might actually find out that you’re Lezirth Dawnbringer himself.”
“That’s not good.”
“Oh, you! We’ll just have to make what I said no longer a lie! What’s the issue?”
I felt my face grow hot. Sergeant Aroha’s face was also bright red; that alcohol from before hadn’t fully left her, I hoped. Her words from before-- ‘You’ll have your nephew or niece in ten months!’ --echoed in my head. If she wanted to make that statement not a lie anymore, then, uh, that would mean, um…
“Wait a second! What do you mean ‘what’s the issue’?! That’s a terribly big issue!!” Ensign Meihowa yelled.
Admiral Luise grinned dreadfully, glaring at Sergeant Aroha and I. “Fufu… very funny. Great joke. Hahaha. Ahahahahahaha-!”
...Okay, she knew it was a joke, but, what was that?!
Nngh. I felt my life twist and turn into a knot. But delving into this issue any further was just going to be extra bother with no reward
I immediately made a suggestion.
“Shanghai mitten crab.”
“Shanghai mitten crab. Now.”
“...” Ensign Meihowa jumped up into a standing stance. “...I-It’s not because I really like crabs or anything!”
...Whoa, is that what Pencolt meant when he explained ‘tsundere’? But Ensign Meihowa, what are you being tsundere for? Was it for a crab?
A scenario played out in my head…
There stood a legendary tree, known to give happy endings to love confessions made underneath it.
Meihowa, in her school uniform, ran underneath the tree, gasping for breath lost from a sprint.
And there, a Shanghai mitten crab waited for her.
Meihowa: Phew… I-I’m sorry, Mittencrab. I hope I didn’t make you wait.
(He had a few choices for his dialogue. He
must be the protagonist.) No, I got here just now, too. Was that letter
Meihowa: I-I didn’t write that letter because I like you in particular! I just thought it was a little sad graduating like this, a-and…
Meihowa prattled to herself, shifting her legs around in her school uniform. ‘Heh, what a cute girl!’ Shanghai Mittencrab thought, looking at her bumbling about. He lifted his soft, well-roasted pincer and revealed its fragrant insides. A sweet, rich smell penetrated Meihowa’s nose.
Meihowa: Ah… s-so, what’s your answer?
Mittencrab: I’m… of course, it’s a yes.
Meihowa: R-really? I-I’m so happy!
…What the hell am I thinking about?!
“I think all that venting made me hungry again. Alright, I think I can eat now.”
Admiral Luise agreed to go to have some crabs. Sergeant Aroha nodded, too.
Phew, that went well. I successfully defused the bomb. It felt like my bluffing feat helped me gain an extra level.
Lezirth Dawnbringer! Level up!
Lezirth gained a new ability: Misdirection!