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K - Case Files of Blue Volume 2 Chapter 3 Part3

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I’ve finally remembered about this one, hooray!

Case Files of Blue 2 by Miyazawa Tatsuki

Chapter 3 (part 3/3) (volume 2, pages 168-196)


The headquarters brimmed with activity. When Akiyama and Benzai were walking along the hallway, briskly marching ordinary troops pa.s.sed them by. They had been sent to different regions on Benzai’s orders, and now, as the respective situations in them were finding their resolution, the operatives, too, had started to come back one by one.

“…The Coin Toss theory, huh. Its power certainly is fearsome,” murmured Akiyama, and Benzai nodded.
“Not only was it used to scatter all those strains across different regions, but the false charges against you were apprently fabricated via its application, as well.”

Akiyama’s face turned miserable. “But why did they have to choose to falsely accuse me of molesting, of all things? I’m sure there were plenty of other methods if they wanted to put me out of c omission.”

If he absolutely had to be entrapped by the enemy, he would have much preferred to be abandoned on an uninhabited island like Fuse, or sent on a trip through various regions unable to return like Benzai - those kinds of pretexts, in any case. Sure, his innocence had been proven and he was able to come back, but there was no small chance that he would’ve been finished socially had something gone slightly wrong. That’s what he’d become firmly convinced of after hearing about everyone else’s respective situations from Benzai.

“Captain said Kounomura was going to make the truth come to light eventually in any case though, but…”

Akiyama nodded to Benzai’s words. Strangely enough, he could believe it. Kounomura had no wish to make anyone miserable through his actions, Akiyama was sure. And their adversary had definitely made sure to prepare more than a few safety nets to that end.

“Well,” said Benzai calmly, “it’s just probably that he thought that against a guy who is too serious for his own good like you, this kind of ploy would be the most effective, you know?”

Akiyama’s expression turned bitter. Indeed, even if it was no more than a ploy, he had to admit that Kounomura had succeeded with flying colors. His approach had really proven exceptionally effective.

“And there’s another thing.” Benzai gazed at Akiyama’s profile. “As a result of catching the real culprit, the girl who handed you over to the police has come forward saying she wants to apologize to you for mistaking you for a groper. What will you do?”
“…” Akiyama was in thought for a while, before replying: “There is no need. That girl is just another victim. And since I doubted the authenticity of her claim about groping to begin with, I still have a lot to learn, myself. The reason for what had happened was my inept.i.tude, and that girl is not to blame for anything.”

That att.i.tude, manifesting in him being able to declare such a thing without batting an eye, could be seen as truly manly, but at the same time it could also be called bigoted. Either way, it was just like Akiyama. Benzai found himself smiling at that.

Akiyama continued. “Besides, no matter what people said, I knew no one at Scepter 4 doubted my innocence. And that’s more than enough, I’d say, no, Benzai?”
“Yeah. Yeah, you’re right.” Benzai looked away. For some reason, he felt sorry for Akiyama that it was hard to look him in the eye.
“Hm? What’s wrong, Benzai?”

But before Akiyama could press him about it, there came a welcome interruption in the form of the bright voice of an office clerk Yoshino Yayoi who stood in front of the Captain’s office.

“Oh, Akiyamsan! It’s so great that the false charges against you have been dropped! Congratulations!”
“Yes, thank you.” Akiyama smiled.

With that, Akiyama and Benzai accompanied by Yoshino all pushed through the open door to Munakata’s office.

Inside, there already were the members of the special ops squad, including Fushimi, Fuse, Doumyouji, Enomoto and Hidaka, along with some ordinary troops, people from accounting, general affairs, and even Zenjou Gouki from the archive room, which was a rare sight.

The Captain’s normally fairly s.p.a.cious office was now packed with people in blue uniforms. And in the center of that ma.s.s, Munakata Reishi himself was seated. Chin on his joined hands, he was smiling with a composed smile.

When Akiyama and his companions who’d just made it through the door caught his attention, he announced, “…With this, we have more or less everyone essential present. I apologize for my recent absence.” He rose. “Also,” looking at Akiyama, he smiled, “Welcome back, Akiyamkun.”

Akiyama gave his king a sincere bow. “I apologize for causing you trouble, sir.”

Munakata dismissed him with a wave of his hand. “No need. You are not to blame. The blame is mostly on myself, for letting myself to be led astray with Kounomurshi’s illusions.”

He strode forward to stand in front of his table and cast an eye around to take in all the present.

“That, however, is no longer an issue. Ladies and gentlemen,” joining his hands behind his back, Munakata declared, “from this moment onward, Scepter 4 will work towards arresting Kounomurshi. We’re going to teach that good sir who has been amusing himself with games entirely unbecoming of his age and status a lesson. No objection, I trust?”

Noises of approval filled the room. Among the agreeing faces, there was one that didn’t look enthusiastic about it in the slightest, and that was Fushimi’s, who then raised his hand.

“…So, Captain, I take it you’ve figured out where Kounomura is hiding right now?”
“No, I have not yet,” Munakata confessed flatly. “But,” he continued, “in another 24 hours I will because I have extracted enough source information from the routes you had brought me.”
‘Oh, that,’ Fushimi nodded, seemingly satisfied, but the rest could only feel perplexion at that reply.

Munakata beamed. “First, let me explain certain things. To trap us, Kounomurshi used a strain who could read people’s minds and through him, thoroughly a.n.a.lyzed our psychology. Isn’t that right, Fushimi-kun?”
“Yes.” In contrast to his usual fed-up face, Fushimi’s report that followed was exhaustively accurate. “Marumoto Keiji, 21, an aspiring photographer and a strain with the ability to read minds through the lens of his camera. Although my efforts to that end are temporarily suspended at the moment, I’m pursuing him - that sickening s.h.i.t-eating a.s.swipe!” he must have recalled something unpleasant because he slammed the fist of one hand on the palm of his other with a resounding bang.

Munakata, utterly unperturbed by Fushimi’s outburst, thanked him for the information. “Thank you, Fushimi-kun. A strain capable of reading minds. Although lacking an immediate offensive ability, he proves quite a ha.s.sle when antagonized.”
Fushimi clicked his tongue especially loudly at that and turned away.

“Fushimi-san looks royally p.i.s.sed off, no?”
“Did something happen between him and that strain, I wonder?” Enomoto and Fuse whispered between themselves, but when Fushimi glared daggers at them, they held their tongues.

Meanwhile, Munakata continued. “That Marumoto character is not the only such opponent. Kounomurshi had employed even more astonishing means to acc.u.mulate the psychological data on us and cause malfunctions in our headquarters’ systems. I a.s.sume you have already heard about it. He had dispatched a strain with a perception manipulation ability to infiltrate us and had him masquerade as Gotou-kun.”

A turmoil rose among the present. Someone who they thought was their collegue was, in fact, a brazen impostor. They couldn’t hide how shocking it still felt.

“Captain.” Fuse raised his hand. “If that’s the case, then where was the real Gotou all this time? Is he okay?” The last sentence sounded tinged with worry.
Munakata slowly shifted his gaze from Fuse to Hidaka. “Hidakkun. As I recall, you are currently in change of that man’s interrogation, are you not? Does he know anything about Gotou-kun?”
“Uh, well…” Being the focus of everyone’s attention made Hidaka feel a little uncomfortable, but he braved on, “Yes, he speculates that Gotou might be held prisoner in the same facility as Lieutenant Awashima. He also stated that measures had been taken to ensure Gotou’s safety.”

Fuse nodded. “Well, yeah, considering how they’ve been going about it until now, it must be true. It was the same when I was stranded on that deserted island, too… But still… That freak was among us for quite a long time now, yes? Yet we all were none the wiser… d.a.m.n!” His voice dripped with self-condemnation and frustration.

Munakata’s next utterance was put in no uncertain terms. “That is exactly what is so terrifying about strains with perception manipulation abilities. They influence and confuse the brain directly. If you know about the existence of such a strain around you, you might have a chance to break the illusion, but when you don’t, you lack any means to resist from the start.”
“Umm, may I add something, sir?” Hidaka spoke up after raising his hand. “It’s something else that guy said. Apparently, he’d avoided running into you as best as he could because there was a high chance you’d discover his ident.i.ty. Supposing he still had to see you, it was only allowed after the situation was under Kounomura’s tight control, as per his plan.”
“I see.” Munakata stroked his chin. “How prudent of him.”
“Also, as to why Gotou was chosen as the target for the switch on Kounomura’s orders. According to Kounomura’s comprehensive a.n.a.lysis of the special ops squad, among all the members Gotou was the one most likely to notice tiny changes, that’s why it was him that guy’d switched with.”
“Hmph, reasonable judgement.” Hidaka’s words made Munakata smile.
Many of the troops gathered there nodded in agreement.

Indeed, it rang true. Gotou Ren was a strange guy, to be sure, but he also had a certain keenness and discerning sensitivity about him. A sort of intuitive something that went beyond Akiyama’s dependability or Fushimi’s brilliant brains.

“Still, we’ve got to give credit where it’s due for the job well done. To think that someone would actually succeed in impersonating a member of the special ops squad right in the middle of Scepter 4… Naturally, it was only possible due to the extensive research on us done beforehand, but the person who managed to pull off something as nigh impossible as this must be quite capable in his own right regardless.”
“That’s true. It seems he’s a former police officer himself. That said, there are a few things he turned out to be surprisingly careless about.”

Having said all that, Hidaka suddenly remembered himself and fell silent. He had noticed he had touched upon a mildly offensive topic, but was left no route to backpedal and just pretend nothing had happened. All the gazes were focused on him now, and what’s more, Munakata himself looked highly interested, even leaning forward a little.

“Erm, well, to explain… you see, we manage something called "Archive E” jointly…“

Enomoto squeezed his head between the hands he put on his cheeks, his face silently but eloquently begging Hidaka to stop, though it really couldn’t be helped. After all, it had to do with the case in question. They had a duty to provide all the information they could.

"He apparently misunderstood, thinking "Archive E” is some sort of treasure-chest of cla.s.sified doc.u.ments, so he raided the storage site to steal it.“

In the end, having learned that that abbreviation stood for something as trivial as "erotic”, he flew into rage and disposed of it right in the back yard. That was the cause behind the mysterious disappearance of the erotic book archive that everyone pitched in to collect.

Now that the truth was out in the open, it really was quite silly. For that reason, half of those who happened to be present to hear it wore fed-up expressions on their faces, while the other half snickered despite themselves. In particular, Yoshino Yayoi’s half-lidded coldly-looking eyes bore into Hidaka. Who, in turn, was so ashamed he wished for a hole to crawl into. The other members with a connection to “Archive E” were no better, all looking quite uncomfortable, too.

“Hidakkun.” Munakata suddenly called out to his subordinate with a serious face.
“Y-yes, sir?” Hidaka was stiff as a board.
“Show me that archive of yours some time.” Raising his thumb up, Munakata showed his pearly white in a grin.
“Certainly, sir! Any time!” responded Hidaka eagerly. What a blessing it was to have an understanding superior.

It took Zenjou casually clearing his throat to put the discussion that went off on a tangent, back on track.

Munakata resumed his explanation. “In short, thanks to the spy in question and the aspiring photographer in the person of Marumoto-kun, intelligence on us was gathered and our activities disrupted, while Kounomurshi a.n.a.lyzed our actions, set traps and nearly paralyzed our work. It’s said the world is big, but I suspect this personage might be the only one on the whole globe who could manage a feat of this magnitude.” He nodded to himself. “However, like I said a minute ago, now it’s our turn. The day after tomorrow we’re going to raid the place where this good sir is hiding and apprehend him. And then lecture him with all sternness not to do anything like this ever again.”

Under the bombardment of everyone’s gazes, Munakata added: “Well, in truth, finding the legal basis for punishing Kounomurshi presents a slight problem. However, judging from that good sir’s personality, I believe defeating him at his own game should prove enough to dissuade him from interfering with us ever again. With that in mind, I would like you to get ready, ladies and gentlemen.”
“Captain, sir, may I ask a question?” It was Enomoto who timidly raised his hand. “We’ve been searching high and low all this time, trying to locate Kounomura. Despite that, we couldn’t find a single clue to his whereabouts. So my question is, how are you going to pin it down, sir?”
“Oh, it’s easy.” Munakata declared nonchalantly. “We shall simply do what he did and apply the Coin Toss theory, too.”

That caused a buzz of agitation to run through the crowd. Fushimi folded his arms and shut his eyes.

“I pulled a few strings and borrowed a super computer that’s currently in the process of a.n.a.lyzing Kounomurshi’s activity. We are lucky that he is a celebrity. There is a veritable mountain of data on him in newspapers and magazines that could serve as clues, and there are also an archive of our contacts with him to date. With all of that as the base, we will have an answer in 24 hours.”

Most of the present stood there in blank amazement.

“Excuse me, sir,” said Benzai. “This is something I’ve asked before, but it still bothers me. Captain, when exactly did you have an opportunity to familiarize yourself with that theory in detail? I would think the particulars are top secret business information for the Coin Toss company…”

Munakata shook his head slightly. “As a matter of fact, that theory is so complex that even experts in life science mathematics and chaos theory find it difficult to comprehend, so it is out of question for a layman like myself to achieve an understanding of it. Only…” he paused, “I have commissioned an experimental program that applies it solely in the field of pinning down a person’s whereabouts.”
“Commissioned? Whom, sir?” Akiyama tilted his head to the side a little.
“America. At present, the FBI is researching and developing an a.n.a.lytical program applying the Coin Toss theory that’s limited strictly to criminal investigation. For that reason, technically it’s not the same "Coin Toss” as Kounomurshi used.“
"Oh!” Akiyama exclaimed before he could check himself and whirled to Fushimi.

Fushimi stood there with an unruffled air and firmly shut eyes.

“That’s right,” Munakata said. “It was one of the gifts that Fushimi-kun brought back from his business trip, short though it was.”
Fushimi opened his eyes and let out a sigh. “You gotta take into account that I had to supply them with all sorts of intelligence in return, so it’s not really a gift. Besides, the case in point aside, this theory ain’t really ready for practical application yet.”
“What do you mean by that, Fushimi-san?”

It was Munakata who answered Akiyama’s question in Fushimi’s place. “To start off, terrible cost-effectiveness is the most glaring issue. Obviously, there exist very few supercomputers that could perform such an a.n.a.lysis, nevermind that running it takes a whole day and costs 10 million yen. What’s more, trouble pertaining to collecting enough data for such an a.n.a.lysis to even become possible is nothing to make light of. With the above in mind, the tried and tested approach of simply a.s.sembling enough man power to handle the task is a better and faster alternative. This time it’s a viable option only because we’re dealing with a personage as unique as Kounomurshi, and because the expenses allotted to us in order to catch him are almost unrestricted.”
“I see,” Akiyama nodded deeply.

But Benzai posed yet another question. “But you did manage to catch Tamada, didn’t you, sir?”
“As the officer who was in pursuit of him, I a.s.sume you already know it, but by nature, he’s an anarchist and an aspiring artist. You may not tell it at a glance, but he has revealed quite a bit of information about himself through his blog, publications in fanzines, poetry anthologies and such. Furthermore, he had received psychological counseling several times during the reign of the previous Blue King. There are not many criminals with a track record like that though, wouldn’t you say?”
“No, I suppose not,” Benzai replied thoughtfully.

Speaking of, said Tamada, perhaps having embraced Munakata’s mysterious aura, swore to turn over a new leaf after serving his prison time. Apparently, once he got out, in order to get employment at Scepter 4, he was intent on sitting for their exam.

“So in short, we’re finally gonna do battle with them, right?” Doumyouji chimed in loudly. The reason why he’d kept silent until then was due the lack of sleep he’d been suffering from lately. “Alright! Can’t wait!”

For some time now, he’d been forced to do work that contributed greatly toward building his frustrations. And now, at last, his moment to shine was coming.

“But is it really okay?” Akiyama wondered worriedly. “The opponents have a task force consisting of a fair number of strains, no doubt. And one of them in particular, that man named Nakamura Gouki, is apparently skilled enough for even Lieutenant to have a hard time in a fight against him. Naturally, if you make your appearance, Captain, we’re not likely to have much unforeseen trouble to worry about, but in case it does come down to, say, street fighting, some collateral damage might be unavoidable.”
“Oh, that shouldn’t be an issue,” Munakata denied resolutely. “I’m quite positive Kounomurshi only surrounded himself with strains that could be deemed combat-ready troops, like Nakamura Gouki.”
“Huh?” came the collective noise of puzzlement. Even Fushimi frowned his brows, dubious.
“What do you mean, Captain?” asked Akiyama playing the crowd’s representative.
“Well,” Munakata started, “allow me to ask you a question in return. Akiyamkun. What makes you think Kounomurshi has a strain task force at his disposal?”
“Uh, well…” Akiyama momentarily stopped to think. “Seeing as they took over our duties, even if it was only temporary, they must have a number of people to—”
“That was only deception.” Not waiting for Akiyama to finish, Munakata interrupted him. “We fell under a certain preconception. Since we are well aware that the job we do on a regular basis is by no means easy, we tend to think that in order for someone else to accomplish it, they’d have to have about the same number of equally skilled people. But as it turns out, that is not necessarily true.”

In a sense, it was a statement that utterly denied the very essence of Scepter 4’s work. And it was no wonder that those who’d heard it couldn’t help being doubtful in its wake. Even Zenjou stared at Munakata in astonishment, like he was seeing him for the first time.

Munakata waved his hand cheerfully. “Oh no, please don’t get the wrong idea. I did not mean to disparage our work, I a.s.sure you. What I’m saying is the issue to consider is the underhandedness of some of those on the side of justice.”

For the majority of the present, those words didn’t hit home, but the expressions of Fushimi and Zenjou changed to reflect their understanding, the same as if they’d have said “Oh” or “I see”.

Munakata went on. “What in our job is of the utmost importance, in your opinion? Let’s see…” Without warning, he pointed at Doumyouji. “What do you think, Doumyouji-kun?”
“Erm, the most important part of our job, huh?” Doumyouji looked troubled. “Aw, shucks. Hmm, what might it be? Maybe upholding justice?”
“And what is necessary for that end? On what do we spend the bigger part of our time and effort?”
“We, uh, maintain public order, catch bad guys… and ummm, sow the good, I guess?”

At that vague answer, those around couldn’t help wry smiles raising on their lips along with a warm feeling in their chests, while Munakata shook his head in no uncertain way. “No, that’s not it. Unfortunately, you are wrong.” In reply to the baffled looks on his subordinates’ faces, Munakata elaborated. “The hardest part of our work, requiring the most effort, is to deal with each and every thing in a law-abiding way. This is what unfailingly presents a challenge to us.”

Akiyama’s mouth formed an “Ah” when he heard that. “…I see. That’s what it’s about,” he was heard muttering under his breath.

Munakata continued his explanation. “In other words, if we were to set out to catch wrongdoers, foregoing the formalities and simply doing what it takes to get the job done, like Superman or Batman, there wouldn’t a need for a large scale organization like ours to start with. Coordinating with the police, finding a working balance with the court, negotiating with local residents - it is on those tasks that we spend most of our time, wouldn’t you say?”

Doumyouji was still making a face that said he didn’t get it.

“When Superman or Batman handle a case, they don’t bother going to the courthouse to complete the official procedure, neither do they work on a loan to the police. They don’t have to obtain a formal approval from anyone or calculate their exact expenses and fulfill corresponding paperwork. You never see them drawing up reports that have to be submitted to the superior or filing doc.u.ments pertaining to an investigation, do you?”

With Munakata’s elaboration, Doumyouji’s face brightened. Seeing as he always endured h.e.l.lish suffering when it came to his paperwork, to him, that explained everything.

“If I were to put it as bluntly as I can,” Munakata added, “simply catching criminals by using illegal means like Kounomurshi did, such as hacking security cameras or obtaining intelligence through spies, is not really a job especially difficult to do. And that is why I said what I did earlier: from our perspective, the heroes of justice are quite underhanded.”
“But, in that case,” Fuse sounded very frustrated, “wouldn’t guys like them always have an edge on us when it comes to accomplishing something? Making us who earnestly jump through the hoops look like fools?”

Munakata didn’t wait for him to finish, talking over him. “We have the greater cause to defend. They don’t. That’s the difference, Fuse-kun.” His tone was soft, but at the heart of it was steel-like strength. “And that is precisely why I always say whenever the occasions arises that "our cause is pure”. Isn’t that right, Fuse-kun?“
Fuse was in thought for some time. "Indeed. That’s right. We and them have different goals. Now I see,” he murmured soon after as if letting the thought sink in deeply into his being.

Munakata gazed at Fuse warmly for a while, then stated, “Everything was but an illusion cast by the schemer extraordinaire Kounomurshi. Having only a small number of allies makes it easy for him to transfer hideouts, while also minimizing the risk of an information leak. As an added bonus, it certainly helped confuse us and lead us astray. Meanwhile, the actual work was done by Nakamura Gouki and but a few of our adevrsary’s most trusted confidants, I a.s.sume.”
“But Captain,” Hidaka voiced, “the strains that’ve been captured all attest it was multiple people that did it?”
Munakata’s answer was immediate. “And what is the ability of the person you are presently in charge of questioning?”
After a moment of vacant silence, Hidaka’s eyes went wide. “I see!”

Munakata nodded. “That’s right. He made the number of captors appear more than it actually was - every time when a crime committing strain was seized, at that. As a result it looked like there was a whole multi-person force moving at the scene. Let me reiterate: what they were doing looked the same as our work only on the surface, and that is the sole reason why it was even possible. Everything was no more than an illusion created with figurative smoke and mirrors.”

For a while, everyone present seemed to be absorbed in his or her own pensive thoughts on the issue.

Watching them with a smile, Munakata commented. “Eventually, we will pin down where our adversaries are hiding. And every false image they have shown us will also come to light.” When he continued it was with glee that almost gave one the creeps. “It’s finally time to put our opponents in checkmate. Kounomurshi is already as good as stark-naked before us.”

It was then that Zenjou, who kept his silence until now, raised his only hand. “There is one thing that bothers me though.”
“What might it be, Zenjou-san?” Munakata inquired, unperturbed as ever even at something as uncommon as Zenjou speaking up.
“At present, we still have several missing people, starting with Awashima Seri, who have yet to come back. And I think we can’t disregard the possibility of them being used as hostages come the worst case scenario.”

His words made Munakata fall silent for a while - for the first time today. But then, the Blue King declared: “…I believe Awashimkun and the others will be back with us soon enough, each having overcome their respective obstacles.”

Zenjou’s eyes narrowed sharply. “All according to your plan, that included, then?”
Munakata shook his head slowly. “No, it is not,” he said pensively. “If I had to find a word for it,” he smiled, “it would probably be 'faith’.”

About 2 days before Scepter 4’s meeting took place, Gotou Ren, whose place the impostor had taken to infiltrate Scepter 4, was on the sea more than 600km away from j.a.pan. Next to him, a bullet ricocheted with a metallic ching.

“[email protected]#$%^&*(!”

Next, yells in a language he couldn’t quite determine could be heard. Which, in turn, was followed by demands to surrender in some broken j.a.panese with English mixed in.

“Anata no, okasan, naitemasu.” //T/N: equivalent to something like “Ur mama cry”
Gotou sighted, muttering in a light tone, “My, my, what a pickle.”

English wasn’t his forte. Due to the fact, he bet on body language as his chosen means to make his resistance apparent.

He stuck his head out a little from the catwalk. “Hey. Me, go back, j.a.pan. Don’t jama shinaide!” //T/N: “Don’t stand in my way”

With that, he hoisted one middle finger up high in the air. A moment later, he got a response.

“FU*K!” It was accompanied by the sweeping fire from a machine gun.

Gotou panicked, getting on all fours and crawling to hide behind an iron pole. There, he grumbled again in a voice, still lacking any urgency, seemingly oblivious to what unmistakably was a provocation on his part, “My, my, that’s why quick tempered foreigners are such a pain.”

Presently, he was aboard an enormous ship, the Nefert.i.ti. The overall length of it was 175 meters, with the width being 25 meters. The total displacement tonnage measured at 8900 tons. The highest speed it could achieve clocked at 23 knots, with its crew counting 130 members. It was an imposing military transport vessel capable of transporting 2 helicopters, 30 large trucks and 25 tanks.

Its owner was a private military company called 'SPT’ - a multinational enterprise that, among other fields, also engaged in paramilitary activities regulated by a treaty signed in Toronto by 24 countries. A so called Mars-Mercury agreement was enacted between the USA and the EU and designed to keep j.a.pan’s economic growth in check. To counter that, in the last 20 years or so, international laws had been developed allowing active operation for a number of private paramilitary companies, with j.a.pan playing a central role.

And this was what Kounomura Zen'ichi resorted to when booking the vessel in question and its crew for the period of 1 month as a private individual. The mission he gave the crew was to reliably keep Gotou Ren away from j.a.pan. He’d certainly gone out of his way to arrange for a military ship just to keep Gotou under house arrest and strict supervision, and then, to be doubly sure, even make said ship put a considerable amount of distance between itself and the mainland j.a.pan. All of which exhaustively proved the utter importance Kounomura attached to Gotou Ren’s custody as one of the keys for the success of his plan.

Incidentally, said Gotou Ren was currently on the run from the armed guard units after having broken out of the prison designed exclusively for him by escaping through a door 1 meter thick and locked with an electromagnetic lock that required multiple pa.s.swords and a fingerprint of the supervisor to open.

At first, his jailers were quite amicable, but after Gotou punched their platoon leader’s lights out, blew up sewer pipes, made three or so of them take a plunge into a septic tank, and two more wallow in wheat flour, their rage had reached the boiling point. Calmly carrying out such acts with a disinterested air about him was what it meant to be Gotou Ren.

The way he went about his breakout was also unusual. For about 2 weeks, he did nothing at all. He seemed perfectly content to just sleep, play smart phone games on the phone supplied to him as a present or paint pictures in isolation, making even his jailers question themselves with concern if he’d even understood his current situation. Still, they had directions from Kounomura to let him spend his time as pleasantly as possible under the circ.u.mstances.

Only, Gotou wasn’t doing all of the above without a reason. Those drowsy eyes of his kept meticulously watching and observing. And, having found a blind spot, a momentary opening in his guards’ defenses, he attacked it and freed himself. And right now, he wasn’t just randomly angering his guards. He used their reactions to deduce where on this ship were the most crucial areas.
In the process of running around from his pursuers, he’d arrived at the ship’s vast hold.

“Huh?” With his pursuers closing in on him from behind, Gotou leisurely inclined his head. “This is strange. I thought this should be the engine room or something equally important.” He ran while compiling a map of the ship in his head, but it seemed he went wrong somewhere. “Mn, I still have a lot to improve on, I guess.”

Not sounding especially regretful, Gotou approached a strange cube placed isolatedly in the middle of the hold. He found himself oddly curious about it.

“…I wonder what is this?”

It was then…

“Haaaah!”

…that a tremendously loud scream had issued from inside the construct, making Gotou instinctively take a step back. He had a feeling he might have heard that voice somewhere before.

“HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!”

This time the war cry managed to pack even more fierceness; cracks, one after another, started running across the surface of the cube as a result, and then…

“Phew, finally it breaks.”

…Awashima slipped out of it, twisting her body to fit in through a slender crack. For some reason, she was dressed in a scarlet dress.

“…”
“…”
For a while, Awashima and Gotou simply stared at one another.

“Why are here, Gotou?!” Awashima broke the silence first.
“…I could ask you the same, ma'am. No, actually, I’m more interested in asking you why you’re decked out like that. Lieutenant, are you getting ready for a wedding or what?”
“D-Don’t be absurd! It’s just this was the only piece of clothing provided to me.”

Both of them looked mightily confused, but the moment their ears caught the sound of Gotou’s pursuers’ footsteps from the pa.s.sage he’d taken to get here, the two donned composed faces.

Gotou briefly outlined his circ.u.mstances to Awashima. In short, having taken him prisoner, the chances were the ship was now a long ways off from j.a.pan. Awashima was quick to get a grasp on the situation, and even quicker to make a decision.

“Understood,” she said as if it was the most trivial thing in the world. “Let’s commandeer this ship.”

That took even Gotou by slight surprise. “…We’d be up against more than 50 armed soldiers though?”
“Oh?” Awashima smiled charmingly, working on rolling up the sleeves and shortening the hem of her dress to make it easy to move in. “Does that really count as 'many’? You and I are both the Blue King’s clansmen, don’t forget.”
“I see.” Gotou had found his resolve. Smiling without a trace of tension, he added, “Seems like an appropriate number in that case.”
“True.” Awashima fixed her gaze on the entrance from which the soldiers were likely to appear. “We’ve got to go back to the Captain’s side as quickly as possible, and to that end, every second counts. I have no doubt he’s waiting for our return even as we speak.”

Gotou nodded in agreement, cracking his fingers.

It was 4 hours later that the ship made a sharp U-turn and started heading back to the far away j.a.pan it had previously departed from.

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