“Two hundred eighty… million credits?”
A sum he had never laid eyes on to that point. Even including the sudden rise in transport costs and the bonus they got from delivering to danger zones, the profits one could expect from a single transport were generally in the low millions. The price of the Plum was just short of 40 million.
“8 million for the WIND subjugation… adding on the confidentiality bonus, 80 million… and 200 million for handing over the children. That settles it. Those kids were definitely related to the government or army. Not that I have any intent to pry into it.”
“Hm, a wise decision, Maar-dono. I don’t recommend any further investigation.”
A reply instantly came from the transmitter. “That ain’t just a recommendation,” Tarou gave a bitter smile.
“I’m sure I need not explain any further, but as regulations go, I seek verbal confirmation. By no means will you disclose this chain of events, and no further questions will be recognized. This contract is to take immediate effect, and from its contents, you are to report all damages as part of the occupational hazard of delivery. If you are to infringe upon this contract, the penalty is uncertain, but it will likely involve the drafting of a high-priority assassination plan. Did you get all of that?”
“Yeah, fine. But you know, is there anyone out there with a hard enough heart to say no after hearing that much?”
“Fufu, you’re an interesting man. Sure enough, no one’d ever be able to refuse after… no, I guess there’s one.”
On that unexpected response, “There is?” Tarou’s ears perked up.
“That man called the Phantom’s thrust a no at us before. He had quite some pluck standing against the empire. You’ve got a former military man on that small ship over there, right? Try asking him about it. Well then, the contract’s been tied.”
Alongside the severing of the line, the systems were freed one after the next.
“The stargate is operational. You’re free to do whatever you want after the jump. I do hope we never have to meet again. For both of our sakes.”
Dyeing blue, his vision began to shake.
“That’s my line!!”
A sensation similar to falling unconscious. After screaming out his last words, Tarou found he had already been transported to an unfamiliar space.
“… Now then, let’s go home.”
After confirming the Stardust a step behind, Tarou gave a worn out murmur. He heard two voices of approval.
… Docking complete. Welcome to Delta Station…
Under the instruction of that fixed announcement, the Plum finished docking at its designated bridge. Those who saw the ship’s wreckage sent inquisitive eyes, their looks inquiring as to what had transpired.
“Welcome back, president. But you’re sure made a mess of yourself… Even brats in their rebellious phase return home in better shape than that.”
One of the employees who went out to the station gate to greet them looked over the Plum with an expression of true amazement.
“I’d appreciate if you don’t ask what happened. Us men you see, we’ve all got a secret or two to keep for ourselves.”
“Yeah, yeah, how hardboiled. We’ve been put under confidentiality so we can’t say anything, but don’t worry. All three of us are fine, and we didn’t suffer any financial loss.”
“Just like that!!?”
After the three of them dropped by the office, they gave some adequate greetings before holing up in their rooms. Speaking to distance, they had gone a length too long to feel real, but to Tarou who could use his jump drive as part of a Corp, his journey hadn’t even lasted two days. The agitation of battle still remained, and upon returning to the station, he had decided to take it easy. But…
“… I’m bored.”
Tarou grumbled. From the difference in civilization and thought, he didn’t know where he was supposed to laugh at the future comedy program. As a majority of his living was done on the ship, there was barely anything in the apartment he’d rented near the office.
“To be blunt, we don’t need this place… should I cancel my contract?”
A few months had gone by since he first started living on the station, but even now, it was rare for him to ever go out alone. It was true he boasted a natural shut-in nature, but it was largely because he couldn’t determine wat was dangerous and what was safe. It wasn’t only once or twice that he found himself a step away from becoming a slab of meet after unintentionally treading on the high-speed vehicle lane.
“In the first place, it’s way to drab. This station. All the movement’s done by high-speed vehicles without any windows, and all shopping’s mail order these days. There’s no color in this damn place.”
Picturing those egg-shaped high-speed vehicles in his head, Tarou’s mind turned to the shop Allan and Maar had brought him out to. As free space and natural vegetation was considered a luxury, the cost of spending a moment in that small park-like space was no different than that of a professional spirit-healing massage joint that alleviated stiffness in various places. Even now, he could remember his shock upon learning that fact.
“If you’ve got to choose between park and massage, you’d normally go for the massage, right… m-maybe I should have a go myself.”
Tarou raised his body. He began shining the sterilizing ultra-violet light over his body. After exposing himself just as long as instructed in the manual, he’d have to bathe himself in the shower that forcefully shut itself off after five minutes. Truthfully, he wanted to take a bath, but water was a valuable commodity on the station.
“O-okay, this old man’s going for it… ah, should I make a reservation first? I’ll try googling… oh wait, would you still say google in this era? Searching, searching… ah, the neuralnet’s still down. Maybe the star system’s network will work out.”
“Yes, the solar system net is still active. By the way, are you going out somewhere?”
“Yep, I’m going off to the massage… wait, what?”
Tarou slowly turned around at the voice that came from behind. Therein was the form of Maar and Koume looking at him with innocent eyes.
“There was something I wanted to talk about, but if you’re busy it can wait. By the way, I don’t really mind if you turn this way, but you’ll just embarrass yourself with that sm–”
“Lalala, I can’t hear anything, I can’t hear anything!!”
Still naked, Tarou touched his hands to his ears. Her shoulders cramped up, Maar pulled out a set of underwear from the closet. After handing Tarou some vibrant undergarments, she leaned back into a large sofa in the center of the room.
“Why does she know where I keep my underwear, Koume-san?”
Turning away his lower half, Tarou turned only his torso towards Koume. She tilted her head.
“Unknown, Mister Teirow. But I understand Miss Maar’s intent. She likely wishes to hide away something unsightly. Specifically speaking, your sma–”
“Lalala!! Whoever made you really was messed up!!”
After Tarou equipped his underwear, he sat on the spot with a slightly reddened face. He got the feeling he heard a, “I feel sick,” line from Maar, but he decided to ignore it.
“Maar-tan, I think it’s over for you if you lose a maiden’s bashfulness.”
“I agree wholeheartedly, but are you talking about me? There’s a difference between looking and showing.”
“I can’t even argue with that!!… Anyways, let’s put that aside. Did you need something? I’m bored as can be, so… ah, let me get you some tea.”
Tarou wondered why he was speaking so politely as he handled one of the few devices he knew how to use. To put it simply, he poured enough cups of water into an electric pot.
“Oh, that’s a nice smell. So you drink tea… I do apologize for saying it, but that’s a surprise. What maker’s it from?”
Maar took the ceramic cup, narrowing her eyes at the smell. Koume gazed at her own cup with intrigue, pretending to take in the scent like Maar. She didn’t require the slightest amount of fluid intake, but leaving her emptyhanded would be like leaving her out, or so Tarou thought.
“The maker… I don’t really know. The old man from our last delivery… no, old man is rude. Our last client, that president said it was a local specialty and offered it. I think it was Baku Station?”
On Tarou’s words, Maar’s cup-holding hand came to a stop.
“Baku greens… you mean this is real tea? It’s not synthetic?”
On the eyes glaring at him, “Y-yeah,” Tarou stuttered.
“Hah… whatever. Be careful out there. You don’t want them thinking you’ve come into a fortune. I’m pretty sure this costs close to 200crd a cup.”
Nodding at Maar’s identification, Tarou carried out the general calculations in his head. As the value of goods was much different than the earth he knew, he couldn’t do simple ratios… metal and industrial goods were shockingly cheap… but in everyday life, 1 credit was generally one dollar. In what daily necessities it could provide, he considered it somewhere around 100 yen.
“… I see, so it’s twenty thousand yen a cup… now that you’ve made me conscious of it, you know. I can’t even taste it anymore. By the way, what did you want to talk about?”
“It does feels like a bit of a waste to drink Baku tea leaves… umm, right. About that money from before. I was wondering if you thought over how you were going to use it.”
“Oh, the 300 million in question? What I’ll do with it? I was thinking to buy a ship for the company or something.”
Is that it? Tarou said it lightly. Maar sent him a conflicted expression, “But,” she continued on.
“It’s not like all of it was company income. A portion of it should be treated as your own earnings, right?”
On Maar’s words, Tarou shook his head.
“Honestly, I can live just fine on my president wages, so gettin’ some extra pocket money doesn’t really excite me. On earth, I would honestly pray to god for enough money to play around the rest of my life, but I guess people change in changin’ times. Right now, I think I’d get the most fun from watchin’ the company grow.”
Tarou looked out into the distance as he made a smile. While it’s true the words contained some modesty, they were also Tarou’s honest-to-goodness feelings. In whatever form it may be, he felt a wondrous sense of fulfillment when he was useful to others. Maar seemed somewhat impressed.
“Hmm… well that’s fine. So what are you going to do? Even if you say ship, there are various kinds. Are you getting another warship?”
On Maar’s query, Tarou stuck up his thumb.
“Rightio. I think I’ll buy a cruiser this time.”
A silence passed through that not-so-narrow room. Maar seemed to want to say something as she opened and closed her mouth, but she eventually breathed a sigh of resignation.
“I see. Well, since it’s you, I’m sure you have something in mind, so that’s fine. If it’s a cruiser, I think it’ll take around 200 million… hey, Teirow. I have a proposal on how to use the remaining hundred million.”
Sticking up her index finger, Maar drew her face closer. Somewhat nervous, Tarou sent a level reply of, “What?”
“Do you want to try getting into commerce? Not just transporting goods, actually buying and selling them. We… no, it’s more you, but we do have some expert knowledge here. I don’t think there’s anything lost in making use of it.”
On Maar’s indirect phrasing, Tarou wondered what was up. Eventually hitting on what she wanted to say, he returned a satisfied nod.
“I see. Munitions, eh?”