Together with Ripple-Rapple, Meeko was taken to a blond haired man called Belronde, and an overly energetic girl who went by VZ. She wasn’t even restrained, she was quite normally led into the Kantou Agency grounds. The only light came from the entrances of buildings in the distance. Not only her ears, the stillness of this dead landscape echoed in her eyes.
VZ, a black-clad young girl with a miniskirt and mantle smiled.
“You’re beautiful, Ms. Meeko. Since they said you were a demon lord’s vassal, I imagined someone far more rugged.”
“I also couldn’t be more surprised. I never even considered someone so beautiful.”
Conversing with Belronde, VZ grinned broadly under the brim of her feathered cap. Paying no mind to their eyes, Meeko gave her head a slight tilt.
(Demon lord’s vassal…? Me…?)
Just recently… she had already forgotten when, but… she got the feeling someone with a splendid beard told her something similar.
Along the way, she passed by young boys who seemed to be on guard duty. They wore black clothing with stand-up collars, similar to military uniforms. They all had sabers at their hips, hung machine guns from their shoulders, and boasted eyes seething with fury.
Looking over her shoulder to follow them with her eyes, Meeko asked.
“… Who are those children?”
“Combatants of the Kantou Agency.”
VZ looked with her and answered.
“They fight when they’re so young? Aren’t their mothers or fathers opposed to such danger?”
“Don’t have any, I hear. No family. They’re all orphans.”
Oh I see. They don’t have any, so there’s no way to object. When Meeko looked down, Hmmhmm, Ripple-Rapple was nodding.
“Tadaa, here we are.”
Before a building of old construction, VZ spread out her arms. Her feet didn’t stop for a moment. As Meeko entered behind her, the far-too-clean, chemical-ridden scent struck her nose. The windowless hallway was systematically lined with fluorescent lights, far too dazzling for her eyes that had grown used to the dark. Meeko squinted just a bit.
“This Kantou Agency HQ, you see? They say the Japanese army used to use it for top-secret research”
VZ said as she walked down the green corridor. She stopped in front of a single door. Her silky hair trailed as she turned.
“This is about the only place we can kill time in this dreary facility. It might be a little shocking for you as you are now.”
“I see… is that so?”
Meeko looked at the plate labeled ‘specimen room’ as she nodded. Perhaps anyone would be surprised if they saw so many beetles they had never seen before. Pretty butterflies too.
With a snigger, Belronde opened the door.
“Oh, whoah now. You might be better off keeping house here.”
With her shoulders caught by VZ before she could go in, Mn… Ripple-Rapple tilted her head.
“Oh isn’t it fine, VZ? This girl is also a demon, however low ranking she might be.”
After comparing the small girl, and the pleasant-looking Belronde, you may have a point, VZ shrugged. A little excited, Meeko followed behind Belronde into the pitch black room.
And the lights flickered on. In an instant, Meeko understood what had been lined up. The cylindrical containers standing one by one on the shelf, the tan, the red, the pink floating within.
Belronde narrowed his eyes and asked Meeko.
“Do you know what they are?”
“Organs… rather… are they human…. Organs?”
a further portion contained life-size cases. Dozens of them. Whatever they contained was undoubtedly in human form. The white sodden flesh was proof they weren’t alive. No head, no arms, no legs, or no torso. As if to show them off, hands, feet, stomachs, heads… they had been cut open. Far too many of them.
They truly were specimens.
“This is where the results of the Kantou Agency and its predecessor’s research are preserved as samples.”
VZ picked up a cylinder close at hand and showed it off. What was inside was an arm. But it was a little different from a human’s. From the wrist-forward, it was covered in beast-like bristles, the nails similarily sharp and long.
“This is… what is it? A monster?”
“Chimera, artificial demons. The Japanese army called them induit chasseurs, and that’s the theme of this Kantou Agency’s research.”
Belronde explained short and bluntly as if it were only a trifle. VZ returned the cylinder to its original position, her black boots sounding as she started walking.
“It started out with this sort of, synthesizing of monsters and humans. Perhaps it would succeed, and the subject would be sent to the front lines as a test. Perhaps it would fail, and they would become a sample here… I can only assume it went like that. But the era was a little too early for the ultimate culmination of that research, the dragoon.”
Ripple-Rapple stared blankly. Meeko didn’t notice her.
“A dragoon… is it? What’s that?”
“If you remembered, you’d probably be the most knowledgeable one here. The strongest monster… a body synthesized with a dragon. An incomplete craft not even the greatest archmages, demons of old could succeed in… but Zephirum has completed it. With the advancement of human genetic engineering.”
As Belronde scornfully mouthed the words, an expressionless Ripple-Rapple spoke out.
“But this is human experimentation.”
To the girl who gave a proper opinion representative of the human race, Belronde’s finely chiseled features filled with the inorganic smile of a sculpture.
“Why of course it is. The epidemic prevention and water purification department of the Kantou Army who spread their names far and wide with human experimentation… that is its predecessor, and the very reason it is called the ‘Kantou Agency’.”
“… And Saho is a induit chasseur embedded with pure mana. In place of a dragon’s constitution, see. A capacity test. A majority of the Kantou Agency’s combatants are generally E-Types like Saho. Nothing more than preparations for the dragoon… that’s what it said in my father’s blueprints.”
“But something as terrible as human experimentation, how could…!”
Suzuran’s shaking voice couldn’t carry on. Makoto picked up her intent and answered.
“Why could the Kantou Agency, as a governmental body, continue operating unbeknownst to anyone… that is because its members are all orphans without any relatives. The agency picks up humans among them that have the aptitude. In order to completely erase them from society, they even have them throw away their names.”
It must have been because she was an orphan herself. She cried out in an unbearable mishmash of anger and sorrow. Even so, Makoto went on.
“And, This country raised you. So you must serve it. That’s what they’re taught. Everyone things so at first. They accept it… but once they get to the age they start looking at the world and thinking, next the concept of death starts flickering in their minds. Those that escape are deemed demons on the spot and hunted down…”
“That’s too terrible!”
“You’re right. I think so too. But the geezers that make up the steering committee don’t have the courage to stop it. The agency’s strength is directly tied to their profit, and on top of that… there’s the pressure from the survivors from the war. If a combatant escapes and causes an incident, they don’t have the resolve to take responsibility. so when the time came that I had any real power, I planned on putting an end to it, but…”
With her arms crossed, Makoto hung her head.
Shouki wrung out his voice through his grit teeth.
“But before that, this Belronde bloke made use of your agents’ resentment…! And here we are…! I get that part, but…!”
“What is it, Hasebe?”
“The hero is strong, this is delightful, sir yes sir.”
Saho’s lowered katana let off sparks against Shouki’s sword.
“How about you stop this girl already!? She keeps saying it’s fun and aiming at my vitals with every strike!!”
The reason Saho started fighting Shouki without any orders was likely because she’d once fought him before. She had always been a kid who delighted in fighting and in killing. When she knew Shouki had enough strength to entertain her, Saho needed to get a taste. And the one who was supposed to stop her, E0 was nowhere to be found.
It was likely something along those lines.
Scattering a cold and greasy sweat, Shouki fended off each blow. Hard pressed as he was, the fact he was able to see through the swordsmanship of a cheerful Saho was a testament to the mighty blade Hasebe House bloodline. As expected of the preordained hero.
Makoto was utterly impressed.
On Makoto’s voice, Saho came to a sudden and complete stop.
“… If it isn’t Makoto, sir. It has been a while, sir.”
“Yes, it has been a while. I’m glad you look well.”
Right. In the end, the current E1 Kikuhito failed to sniff out the existence of his predecessor Saho. No, he didn’t even seem to think E0 was still alive. In that regard, she had somehow managed to play it off, but.
(The problem is Iori Takase… E0.)
Heavily panting, Shouki’s face was a ghastly pale, his shoulders rising with each breath. Saho peeped at him with the restlessness of a maiden’s first love, her katana held tight.
Would these two be enough…?
Certainly, if they focused on a single point, and aimed for Belronde alone, the Coup d’etat could be prevented. But the anger of the agents that had reached boiling point under his leadership wouldn’t be contained.
A new lead was necessary. And that role… regrettably, Makoto knew she wasn’t yet fit for it.
(I’m powerless… I know that.)
No, playing the tragic heroin didn’t suit her. The time was approaching. Four and a half hours left. She’d do whatever she could.
That was all that was on her mind when she came this far. She could never forgive herself if all her actions turned up meaningless.
“No good. No good at all.”
The dim file-ridden resource room. Her bottom planted on a steel desk, VZ turned her palms and face up in abject resignation.
“Humans are so cruel, so terrible, we showed her all the evidence, yet Ms. Meeko didn’t show any signs of waking up.”
“Why don’t we try taking measures from our side?”
VZ’s head shook at Belronde’s suggestion.
“If we did that, and she started thinking we were her enemy, that would be even worse…”
She clapped her hands.
“Was the Iori House head killed?”
“Who can say? Kikuhito did say he was incapacitated, so perhaps…”
“Eh? Isn’t that also no good…?”
VZ’s feathered cap tilted forward, crestfallen.
“… I wanted to put her to good use as Zephirum’s strength, Ms. Meeko. But if all routes are hopelessly blocked off, what can we do? Should we open the ‘path?”
“Then… as a sacrifice?”
“Right, right. The coup d’etat will have Tokyo in a huuuge panic. They’ll see the news, so, so very scary. The humans will all be in a panic. Then if we use the immeasurable magic of a Myriad series to suck away their insecure energy, put it all together, then boom.”
She said as she moved her hands to illustrate the suck and the boom.
“… But it still feels like a waste. Do you think Ms. Meeko could become Zephirum’s friend?”
“Shall we wait? There’s still some time to go before my promise with the little girl. There’s little worth in listening to a human, but… if the Iori House head is still alive, he might appear with her.”
“Right, right, you have a point. Promises are important.”
VZ lightly jumped down from the steel desk as if she weighed nothing at all. Pulling her feathered hat deep down as it fluttered in the air, VZ smiled.
(You haven’t… fallen to the sediment yet, have you Mippletelt……)