Among the legions of domestic widespread brands owned by teachers who knew their own place in life, the lone shining large-built high-class foreign car was an official Kantou Agency vehicle Makoto and Kikuhito had made off with.
Carrying Ripple-Rapple by the collar, Makoto led Suzuran along as they joined up with the others she had wait in the parking lot behind the school.
With his restraints changed from ropes to handcuffs so as not to stand out, Takase raised a tired face.
“What’s this, Ripple-Rapple? In the end, they got you too?”
“Suzuran was… surprisingly unreliable… a tragedy.”
“Eeeeh!? This is my fault…?”
Putting that aside,
“Director. With these numbers, we’re slightly over capacity…”
Kikuhito said. The slightly probably referred to Ripple-Rapple. Going by calculations grounded in legal precedent, children counted as two thirds a person. Their current total was six while the car seated five.
“But a Daimler Double-Six, I have to say, you’ve got good taste, little girl. With this size, just have Ripple-Rapple sit on someone’s lap, and that’s problem solved.”
“Hmm… by little girl, do you mean me?”
Asked Makoto. Takase lifted his lips into a grin.
“Kukuh, who else do you see? Hmm? A sassy brat who’s yet to learn proper manners is…”
“Kikuhito, he’s going in the trunk.”
“Say what!? Wait, hey! Wai! That was my ba…!”
“T-to think master was… so easily…”
“You’re making me pity my enemy… you’re really something, Makoto.”
“It’s a tragedy…”
“If we pack it tight, we can fit one more☆.”
At Makoto’s finest smile, all parties concerned hurriedly boarded through the door.
“Err… oh, it’s here. I recall we got off on this exit.”
After scrutinizing the map on the car’s navigation, Suzuran pointed from the passenger seat, guiding Kikuhito on the route to Iori’s mansion.
“But you’ve got a good memory, Suzuran. You were only there for a week, weren’t you?”
On Makoto’s query, just what sort of guilt crossed her mind?
“… Well, a… lot happened. Hehe.”
The final ‘hehe’ hung with a peculiar sorrow. At sixteen years old, what sights could this young girl have seen? Makoto had no way of knowing.
“Not that I know if the path is correct.”
“That… I can guarantee.”
Ripple-Rapple said, brimming with confidence.
“Oh really? You’re surprisingly cooperative. Aren’t you Iori’s comrade?”
“Putting us on the same level would be… troubling. The term freeloading… may be… more accurate.”
“Makoto. Let me warn you, the kid’s a demon.”
Shouki looked at Ripple-Rapple, no hesitation in his voice.
Before getting on the expressway, he stopped home to pick up his sword, but… it did seem the hand gripping its hilt was ready for anything. Not that Makoto knew what he’d be capable of in this narrow car interior.
“Is she now?”
Nod, nod, Ripple-Rapple gave two small nods. It was almost as if she was incapable of smiling, but that expressionlessness was cute like a small animal.
“I heard she can use magic.”
“A-and a bat. She also uses a metal bat, Makoto-senpai.”
Suzuran took over from Shouki. She didn’t know about the bat… but using magic was quite an appealing tale for Makoto.
“Hey, hey, how about you quit Iori’s place and come work with me?”
“Always open… to offers. But I’m not cheap. You’ll have to show… appropriate sincerity”
Oh, how high and mighty.
“Then, then… how about being able to eat French chocolate every day? It’s tasty.”
“If you think you can bait me with food… you’re way off. Being grouped with any ordinary kid… very much… a bother.”
She must have given her a bad impression, Ripple-Rapple sullenly turned away.
“C-calm down, Makoto-senpai! What do you intend to do with that fist!? That fist!”
“I-I get how you feel but she’s a child you know? Right?”
“I’m well aware…”
Touching her clenched hand to her mouth, Makoto cleared her throat.
“Then how about, let’s see, I’d be very happy if you could cooperate with me until tomorrow.”
“That much is a cheap buy. I’ll call it a deal with… the Hironaka Phonebook.”
Huh? A three-note chord played through the car. Only Kikuhito remained faithful to his duties, keeping up his driving.
“What’s that… what sort of item?”
Hah, good grief, Ripple-Rapple shook her head as if to say.
“… If you don’t know… that’s fine. I was an Idiot… for hoping…”
Three high schoolers found themselves ticked off by her abject resignation.
“By the way… Meeko would follow… for the chocolate.”
“Oh, she’s a demon, Makoto-senpai. Meeko’s really, really strong! And she’s kind! Also, Saho’s strong too!”
“Yeah, those two are strong… put them together, and I wouldn’t dream of winning.”
“Hmm… I see.”
Shouki’s eyes were serious. Which meant if Takase called upon those people, it would make for the greatest of tribulations. She’d best make a plan while she had the chance. Right, if she could skillfully add them to her war potential…
“By the way, Makoto, you mentioned tomorrow… is something happening?”
Turning to Shouki who had asked, Makoto gripped her hand to her chest.
“Wow☆ Hasebe, you want to here? You want to here, do you? If you hear, you won’t be able to turn back, but you still want to hear?”
“No, I’m fine! Don’t say it! Nothing good ever comes out of that smile!”
As Makoto made merry and Shouki was thrown into disarray,
“Tsk… what is it…?”
Kikuhito took his foot off the accelerator. Behind them, a panda-colored car spun its red lantern, and just as it had taken its position… a high-class black car zoomed passed, protruding a light of the same color, cutting in front with the deftness of a spider.
The disguised police car in front lit its brake lights to bring them to a stop, while a normal cop car behind directed oncoming traffic.
“Waaah! It’s public welfare!? Oh god, no!!”
For some reason, Suzuran fell into a panic… they were certainly in a precarious position. In the first place, this was the right lane… the passing lane. Normally, wouldn’t they have them stop in the service area, the left shoulder? Not even any siren or warning on the speaker?
“… Kikuhito. Keep the engine running.”
Once they came to the stop, a traffic officer in a light blue uniform stepped down from the unmarked police car and jogged over to them. The situation looked bleak.
Kikuhito lowered the window to receive him.
“Did something happen.”
“Yes, we received a report a moment ago. Would it be possible to check the trunk of this car…”
The officer raised his face at the suspicious sound.
Makoro cursed her own folly. She had snatched Takase’s gun, but his cell phone had completely slipped her mind. The handcuffs didn’t go as far as to restrict his finger movements.
“Stop this car at once, and open the trunk!”
Kikuhito’s response to Makoto’s cry was to floor the accelerator. The engine that had been so quiet up to then let out a violent roar as it went as far as to leave tire marks to the side of the patrol car. Directly behind them, the sharp and shrill sirens started shrieking.
“H-h-hey! Makoto!? You sure this is alright!?”
“Oh, why of course it is. I mean, we have the Sacred Assembly’s brave hero with us ☆.”
Shouki turned pale.
A scandal for the Hero, the symbol of light would be a scandal for the whole organization. And the Sacred Assembly’s authority lightly surpassed the authority of an average nation. They would surely use their full might to erase a matter on this level.
“Thank the heavens… it wasn’t me…”
Ignoring Suzuran who for some reason was moved to tears, as if relieved to the depths of her heart, Shouki spoke in a panic.
“Hold it, Makoto! I don’t mean to go as far as making an enemy of the police just to…!”
“Hmm, then how do you plan to explain that dangerous bladed object you’re carrying? If you want, I can stop the car right here, right now.”
The speedometer had hit two hundred, yet the unmarked car was still in hot pursuit. If they were caught, they wouldn’t get off with a lecture or a ticket.
So this was why Makoto had him carry his own sword instead of putting it in the trunk. Once Shouki, the one most fixated on justice was shut up, the rest were quite obedient.
“In the first place, Hasebe, you overlooked Iori Takase’s unlawful confinement. That’s already a crime. And… the matters of the third world won’t get through to the standard police officer.”
Makoto imparted the truth as-is.
Shouki flapped his mouth like a goldfish gasping for oxygen, at the end, hanging his head, mortified to his core.
“And so, I’m counting on you to clean up the mess☆.”
“So it’s me…”
He truly was regretting it, far too late.
“… Well, of course…”
By tomorrow, the police may be powerless…
After thinking to herself, Makoto looked ahead to shake off those thoughts.
The depths of the mountain. When it was supposed to be midday, the light filtering through the leaves was scarce, they had to be considerably deep into a forest. The mansion stood where human settlements were already a distant afterthought.
The barrier Shouki initially had his apprehensions about was breached all too easily thanks to the presence of its master, Takase. The party got out of the car…
“Director, I’ll stay here.”
Kikuhito along didn’t move from the drivers’ seat.
“And why’s that? You won’t go with me?”
“I’ll keep watch on the car. The only ones among us capable of combat are me and that hero.”
“Ah… you’re right. You do have a point.”
She had completely forgotten, but even if she did obtain something here, it was pointless if they didn’t make it back to HQ. If Takase’s comrades came around later and destroyed the car or something, that would be putting the cart before the hose.
Then if she was bringing someone with her, the stronger hero was better. Makoto didn’t evaluate the strength of the agency too highly.
“Then have fun keeping house.”
After seeing off the others disappear inside from the car, Kikuhito opened the dash and took out a radio microphone.
“… This is E1.”
“… I see. So you’ve arrived at the Iori House.”
‘The hero and demon lord candidate accompanied us.’
“No problem. You just have to act as instructed.”
‘… I need to confirm. Is Iori Takase really…’
“As instructed. That’s all.”
Belronde spat out, without any mind to squabble.
“Losing your nerve?”
‘No… I just heard a word that bothered me. Not that it has anything to do with your case.’
“Then there’s no need to mention it.”
‘You’re right. That’s an ll for the report.’
The transmission over, a stillness ruled the room. The lack of a single window made it dark in the middle of the day. The steel shelves that locked together to cover every wall surface contained the data and battle record on each agent of the Kantou Agency, a storage of countless files.
“Humans are such foolish lifeforms…”
Belronde took one file in hand, his white teeth bared in ridicule.
A lifeform that held no power from the moment it was born piled up numbers and columns to form its strength. Even if that took an entire lifetime, the next generation would inherit it, and so a depressingly long stream of months and years go by… yet even now, they couldn’t even dream of reaching the power a demon naturally possessed.
In the end, that technology was passed into none other than a demon’s hands. He couldn’t help but laugh at the face. Dragoon. With this, even if humans were to sacrifice their very humanity, they’d be no match for demons.
“How goes it, Belronde?”
A woman with long hair dressed wrongly as the wonderman Zorro abruptly revealed herself before Belronde’s eyes. A mantle and a wide-brimmed feathered cap, the long boots and black outfit were fine… it was the miniskirt that showed off her white glistening thighs that was all wrong.
“Now here’s the question. Who could I be? One, a demon of Zephirum who wishes for chaos and darkness in the world. Two, a demon of Zephirum who’s plotting to revive the scary, scaaary Demon Lord. Three…”
“You jest. I say you’re VZ (TL: Vee Zetta).”
“You’re no fun at all.”
A pleasant tone that didn’t sound sulky in the slightest, and cat-like mischievous eyes.
“I’ve been thinking about it from last night, how I’m going to introduce myself. But it’s not my turn yet, so I could at least practice with you. Think it’ll be a hit?”
Taking Belronde’s loathsome smile into consideration, VZ shrugged her shoulders.
“The demon lord candidate’s joining in. Is that of any concern?”
“Oh, no worries. More importantly, you’d better succeed with the coup. This is the real field test of your dragoon research. If it succeeds, then starting today, you’ll be a top-ranking executive of Zephirum!”
To Belronde, that demon who indeed belonged to the strongest category of ‘Outsider’… one of Zephirum’s top-ranking executives energetically laughed. While holding out a suspicious certificate, a platinum card.