With this and that, a whole day had gone by.
While a lot had transpired, the most Suzuran could do was confirm yesterday’s events weren’t a dream. This wasn’t her apartment. What she had just woken up on was a slightly-creaky wooden bed. White plaster walls. Outside the window, a dense, lush forest glimmered with the early spring dew…
“Today is… orientation, was it?”
In her still-somewhat hazy head, she searched out her clothing.
They were gone.
In exchange for her high school sailor suit she had been wearing just the day before, a full set of clothes down to the shoes had been assembled. The paper stuck on clarified it was a ‘Uniform Size: M’.
She decided to change for the time being, as meanwhile, various questions passed through her head.
Why did that girl hit Iori?
Why was the woman floating?
What was an evil organization… among others.
“Yes? Come in.”
When she was done changing, Suzuran replied to a knock at the door. The one who entered was Meeko, the lady who’d been floating yesterday.
Long hair bundled with a lavender ribbon, and a gentle smile like a swaying flower. On her beautiful face with no signs of makeup, along with a modest air, was the sort of cherubic innocence of a young girl.
“Oh, how cute. I see you’ve already changed. How’s the size?”
Narrowing her eyes with a calm tone, Meeko surveyed Suzuran’s body.
“Well, it fits like a glove… wait, why am I in a maid uniform too!?”
With another look, she finally noticed.
“Is this thing the company uniform…”
“It’s Lord Iori personal preference…”
Meeko’s eyes that had been so warm turned down just a little in sorrow. But that was only a brief instant. With leisurely movements, she touched a hand to her cheek, smiled, and looked at Suzuran.
“But Ms. Suzuran, you look wonderful in it.”
“Aaaaaaah, noooooo, well, not as good as you…”
Suzuran humbled herself with upturned eyes.
Miiko was slender and tall. The ankles visible from the hem of her skirt, the narrow waist accentuated by the apron tie, and while she was slender… the well-roundedness of her chest was quite evident even over her apron.
“Breakfast has been prepared in the dining hall. Won’t you join me?”
Upon leaving the room, Suzuran timidly followed behind Meeko.
From the way she walked, her back was perfectly straight, her footsteps quiet, her hands folded in front of the apron… Feeling like she had seen her own way of plodding forward swinging her arms from a third-person perspective, Suzuran even began to hold a guilty conscience.
“I still have yet to hear the specifics, but… I heard you went through hell yesterday.”
“Ah… no… well…”
It was far more than that, but as saying it from her side would be like inflicting self-harm, Suzuran struggled to reply. Her expression clouded over.
“As I thought. I’m sorry…”
“Not at all! I get the feeling it’s nothing for you to apologize about!”
“But… I’m sure you’re going to have a lot more hell to come…”
Really? She was too scared of the reply to ask.
“Alright, this is your new comrade Agawa Suzuran. Introduce yourself.”
“My name is Agawa Suzuran… it’s a pleasure to work with you.”
They were in the school-classroom-esque room she had been in yesterday.
Clap, clap, clap. The only one smiling and applauding was Meeko by the blackboard.
“Yes, now little Suzuran, take your seat.”
Urged on by Iori, who was in the same businessman suit as before, Suzuran sat down. To her right, Saho spaced out with a lethargic look on her face. To her left, the far-too-short Ripple-Rapple’s face was covered up mouth-down by the desk.
“Ahem, well then. Orientation time… in short, you’ll have to hammer some things into your head. Take it to heart.”
Suzuran was the only one to reply. Ripple-Rapple flapped her feet that didn’t reach, while Saho spaced out with her one open eye. Her gaze was fixed somewhere that wasn’t Iori.
“However. If I’m one-sidedly speaking, it won’t penetrate your skull. Suzuran, do you have any questions about our company? Ask away.”
“Yes… umm… what is an evil organization?”
“Your body will teach you.”
She got the feeling that wasn’t an answer.
“… Then are you conquering the world?”
Iori hit the button on the desk. This time, with a whoosk, a great volume of water came down upon her.
“Are you an idiot? If that was possible, I’d have done it long ago.”
(So he’s at least trying…)
“Well let’s see, to get into the nitty-gritty…”
He was about to go on when he looked at Ripple-Rapple. Seeing the young girl shake her head, he closed his eyes for a moment.
“No, you don’t have the qualifications to know yet.”
Suzuran replied as she took a sidelong glance at Ripple-Rapple. Noticing that, she looked back. What? She lightly tilted his head as if to say. No, nothing, Suzuran shook her own and turned back to the front.
“Any other questions? Suzuran?”
“Hmm, well… what is this situation that’ll let me earn two billion yen?”
“Oh, that. Let’s see… are you read up on fantasy?”
Suzuran gleaned through her memory. The first thing the word brought to mind was sword and magic.
“… In games, perhaps.”
“That’s fine. Games, books, doesn’t matter. Now know that those miraculous tales that surmount the laws of physics exist in reality. A world governed by the might of mana.”
Iori showed his back again to face the blackboard. He drew a horizontal line as if to indicate the ground.
“The place you’ve lived up to now is here. Meaning standard society. Now assassins and spies live down here. What the movies might call the criminal underworld—”
Iori tapped the chalk even further down than that.
“—And the place you have to survive is here. Meaning, away from any sense of your world, the demon-eat-demon world of darkness.”
“Meeko’s floating is something from the world of darkness. As someone who will have to survive there, you’ll need a certain level of common sense. Flip a switch, the lights turn on. Turn the faucet, water comes out. Step on the accelerator, the car goes forward… and similarly, Meeko floats. You could just well put it the other way and say we don’t float.”
Peering at the troubled face of Meeko, who looked no different from any normal woman,
“No… but… what…?”
The teachers’desk button went down. The falling golden washbasin inflicted a direct hit on her head. Right after, it rebounded and took down Ripple-Rapple as well.
To the side of her teary eyes, a blank look on Ripple-Rapple. Right after, pulled from who-knows-where, the metal bat she lobbed hit Iori right in the forehead.
“Gyaaaah! W… what are you doing!”
“I’m the one hurting, fool!”
This time, Ripple-Rapple offhandedly tossed the washbasin aside. It hit Iori’s forehead square-on.
“Backtalk, not good.”
“… My apologies.”
Just what was the hierarchy here?
The girl stiffly nodded at Iori’s reflection and apology.
“Forgiven for, now. Just take, care.”
(How should I put it… she’s really something.)
As for who seemed the most pitiable, it would have to be the one holding her mouth with both hands, nervously looking around: Meeko.
“Ehem… we went off track but… survive, and you’ll bear witness to it time and again. It is those very concepts that allow us to stand superior on the surface world. Same goes for them.”
Seeing Iori write down, ‘Sacred Assembly’, Suzuran raised her voice in an ah.
She had seen them manipulating those supernatural forces they called miracles on television before. Meaning that magic-like… no, it seems it really was magic… power’s identity was something magical in itself.
“Even that preposterous group of swindlers can rule over the public eye. Meaning, it’s an ample situation for you to earn two billion.”
“I see… and, err. For a while now, you’ve kept bringing up surviving… am I going to die?”
“Everything with life dies eventually… that probability is just abnormally high in the world you’re going.”
A dry smile naturally visited Suzuran’s lips.
“They say you can’t stick a price on life, but in this world, it’s all too easy to get the conversion rate. Remember that.”
(… So there’s a market value…)
“But the one who decides the actual value is you yourself. The price of two billion yen, that’s what you declared when you denied death. All I did was believe in you. And what’s left for you is to prove it.”
“I see… yes… so… does this company have any relation to the sacred assembly?”
“None whatsoever. For now at least.”
It was right after that a flashy ringtone broke the room’s stillness. Iori pulled a cellphone out from his bosom.
“Yeah, it’s me. Yeah… I see, got it. I’ll be there right away.”
After hanging up, Iori looked at Suzuran and smiled.
“On to the next step of orientation. This time, you’ll be experiencing this company’s work first-hand. It’s your induction.”
After Iori and Suzuran, and Saho had left.
“… Ripple-Rapple. You shouldn’t throw things at people.”
At Meeko who touched a hand to her hip and made an angry face, Ripple-Rapple shook her head.
“It was legitimate self-defense. Karmic retribution.”
“That’s, well… but that doesn’t mean it’s alright to get back at him.”
“Inev… itable. He should take circumstance into, greater consideration…”
Leaving those words, Ripple-Rapple pretended to cry as she fled from the room.
“A-aah. Wait, that’s not what I was trying to…”
Fooled by crocodile tears, Meeko gave chase. That’s all there was to it.
It was far quieter than the day before. Riding in the overblown high-class car with black windows, Suzuran arrived at a certain pier.
While she could see ships in the distance, this area, in particular, didn’t seem too popular. Even further away, her eyes picked up the faint blue light.
It had to be across city center. Just what did everyone think when they looked up at that?
“You’re getting used to driving.”
Came Iori’s relaxed attitude from the back seat. Saho embraced her sword beside him.
“Yeah… well… I wonder.”
At the very least, the tires weren’t crying out anymore. She had learned to control herself on the gas and breaks.
“By the way, what job do we have here…?”
“Securing funding. You see that corporate storehouse over there?”
Iori turned to the side.
A number of inactive warehouses as if they’d fallen into decline. Among them, only one had a station wagon parked next to it. Indeed, there were quite a few high-class cars with black bodies and windows that seemed out of place here. Two men in sunglasses stood in front of the warehouse’s back door, turned towards them.
“… Umm. Master. Wouldn’t those happen to be… the sort of people who visited my house…”
“Same sorta trash.”
“I see… and?”
“At present, the sale of sugar candy is being conducted in there.”
“Exceedingly valuable sugar candy. Just one piece, on a high estimate, could go for millions.”
“Hmm… must be tasty.”
“Kukuh, indeed, Suzuran. One taste and you can fly through the sky… well, it’s that sorta thing, but it’s pearls to these swine.”
I see, I see. Meeko floated thanks to the world of darkness… meaning this had to be an item from that same world. Of course, why would these low-class people have such a fairytale item? Or so, Suzuran’s thoughts failed to reach that point.
“This time, there’s likely around fifty million moving around.”
“Now go get it.”
“Umm… the money or the candy?”
“Isn’t that… kinda bad…?”
“What company are you in?”
An evil organization.
“But… I get the feeling I won’t get off unscathed…”
“An evil organization need not fear the likes of these street thugs. You’re dealing with mere humans. Charge straight in.”
She was already reminiscing to the days when she was just a normal high school girl.
Iori bared his canines in a grin.
“What’s wrong? A slight percentage of that money you need to earn is on the move. Or are you going to retire in your induction? In that case, this car is going straight to the police station. A normal copper shouldn’t know the likes of your face, you won’t be treated too roughly. If you want to die, I’ve got a hand grenade in the dash. Whichever case, I’m going to enjoy my two billion yen.”
Both of them seemed quite undesirable.
Rather, it was right time that Suzuran was getting irritated at the man’s arrogant attitude. She didn’t want to entertain him. Even less so when lives and livelihoods were on the line.
But Yakuza were still scary, so she timidly tried asking.
“… Can I take Saho along… or something…”
“I don’t mind if you take her, but that wouldn’t be an induction.”
“… I know right.”
“Yeah. It’d just be a tragedy.”
Contrary to her departing words, Suzuran took three steps forward before two steps back, and on the third step, she knew she was still scared and took a peek into the car… where Iori was jovially flashing the hand grenade.
Advancing is death.
Returning is death.
Perceiving that choiceless truth. Suzuran trudged forward. She faithfully exchanged a few words with the Yakuza on watch… and being dragged in rather than charging in, the girl in the maid uniform disappeared.
— A few minutes later.
Suzuran scampered out of the warehouse with the grand sound of an explosion. Fwoom, fwoom, she could hear objects passing by her at high speed. Even so, in her left hand a suitcase, a duralumin case in her right, the mission was complete.
She lobbed them into the passenger seat of the car where Iori awaited before scrambling in herself. Her entire body trembling, she cried out.
“They’re drugs! You’re drugs! It’s all drugs! Mr. Kim from the continent was dealing with the young boss of some—!”
“Don’t worry, just step on it. Or die.”
She had left the engine on, so Suzuran stepped on it. With the same force as yesterday, her molars clattering.
“T-tttthe window!? The door’s going ping, ping!”
“Kukuh, this Lincoln’s got the same bulletproof explosionproof measures as the president’s personal ride. Don’t worry about those peashooters.”
“Iiiiiii… is that good!?”
“Pop a tire, drive over a landmine, it’ll still run. Though I doubt we’re equipped to meet a missile.”
Suzuran’s chaotic mind was already occupied with picking up all the metallic pings.
“They’re chasing, they’re chasing!”
“There’s no problem if they catch up.”
“Huh? Didn’t you say something about dying…”
“Yeah, they sure will.”
Suzuran floored the accelerator.
In the back seat, Saho with her katana peeked restlessly at Iori.
“D… did we shake them off?”
“Apart from the police.”
In place of the gunshots, she finally noticed the sound of sirens. Seeing her own tensions dissolve, she fearfully realized she was registering them as the standard background music of a drive.
“Ummm… by the way… I was kinda shot but… I’m not bleeding…”
“Good. You’re in luck.”
“I see… no, I mean why? My arms and back went thwack.”
They didn’t hurt as much as rocks. To borrow Iori’s words, it really was like being shot with a peashooter.
“That dress is imbued with a magic coating.”
“You can be shot or cut with a lowly street thug’s weapons and it won’t tear. That’s what I meant when I said it lets us stand superior in this world.”
“Wow, that’s amazing! … Wait, err. What about my face and legs…”
“That’s why you’re in luck.”
“I’m so done!”