Gate – Jietai Kare No Chi Nite, Kaku Tatakeri - Volume 2 - Chapter 17
The train slowly pulled into the subway station under the National Diet Building, on the Marunouchi line.
The combination of the train station's location and the office hours of the government employees meant that they started to head home around this time.
A lot of these workers had secretly watched the National Diet broadcast during their working hours, and they couldn't help but sneak peeks at Lelei, Tuka and Rory, who stood out due to their eye-catching appearances.
In any case, every single look directed at the girls was like a physical stab to Itami.
His JSDF uniform was long gone, replaced by a gray coat given to him by one of Komakado's men, who told him to take the train instead.
In his current outfit, Itami resembled an average salaryman, but anyone would be wondering ’’Who the hell is this guy?’’ if they saw him standing next to these three lovely ladies with their blonde, black and white hair.
It would be hard to say ’’They're my relatives’’ or ’’They're my daughters’’ given their different hair colors. Maybe he could try, ’’They're my girlfriends, you jelly?’’ and given the circumstances that might even work, but Itami was not the sort of person who would dare to say such things.
A kindhearted third party seeing Itami might think that he was part of a criminal organization which kidnapped foreign girls for nefarious purposes. It was a natural conclusion to reach.
It might be possible, but it would also be difficult to pass them off as a group of tourists visiting Japan (with Itami showing them around the country), or with Itami as a producer bringing three idols back to his office. Among these three options, the first and the third would be eliminated first.
If he wanted to improve his disguise, he should make a tour guide's flag and wave it while saying ’’Hihi~ please walk this way~’’, taking them to high class restaurants and hotels, and posing them in front of ads which read, ’’For illustration purposes only’’. That way, at least onlookers would think this was some sort of unethical tour agency.
Itami had been following the plan to board the train in front of him, and in the instant the door opened, he swiftly darted aboard, as though to escape people's eyes. Lelei and Tuka joined him, and then looked around in curiosity.
Rory, on the other hand, looked afraid. It was an expression he had never seen on her before.
A quick glance around the cable showed that Bozes and Piña were looking uneasy as well, while Kuribayashi and Tomita were beside them as their escorts.
Itami raised his hand in greeting, and Tomita nodded to him.
’’We were supposed to take the bus to the hotel, but we were suddenly told to alight at Yotsuya and take the subway over. Time was tight, so things got a bit hairy.’’
’’Well, at least you boarded without a problem, right?’’
Itami looked at Bozes, who was clinging to Tomita's arm.
Although everyone expected Tomita to bear a grudge against Bozes, the way the two of them were attached to each other made him think ,’’Oh, congrats, you two!’’
Tomita wore a jacket and leather boots, and he stood tall, radiating an air of masculinity. In contrast, Bozes was a noblewoman who looked like a piece of intricately-carved gold jewelry, but his visual impact was no less than hers;in fact they even complemented each other. The only flaw in this display was the frightened look on Bozes' face. As a single male, this lack of a romantic atmosphere was the only thing he could be happy about when he saw them.
Piña was not clinging to someone like Bozes, but she stood stock-still beside Kuribayashi, her nerves all wound up. But if there were a loud sound and a power stoppage, she would probably shriek and tightly hug Kuribayashi.
As he thought about this, Itami was tempted to scare her, but he decided not to for fear of making everyone angry.
’’They call this the Marunouchi line, but it feels more like we've gone into a catacomb. At least, it feels just as uncomfortable. Even if everyone says not to worry, what if the ceiling collapses? What if the lights go out? Are we going into the depths of the earth like this? It's kind of scary.’’
They had boarded from Yotsuya Station, so the train was still aboveground. When it plunged into the earth halfway during its journey, it gave Piña a huge shock. She could not calm down no matter how people tried to explain things to her. After all, this might have well been the most shocking experience in Piña's life to date. The train car's lights were bright, but outside the window she could only see the jet black of the underground. It was like taking public response, but Piña had no frame of reference for this at all, and she had no idea where they were headed while underground. Asking her not to worry in these circumstances was an impossible task.
’’Are your ghost houses called 'catacombs''? (This was a new word, so he had to scribble in his phrasebook). Well, between the noise and the ringing in the ears, it's no wonder you'd be scared. But you know, the Marunouchi line is much better now. Used to be, the train lights would cut out while the train was in motion and the whole cabin would go dark.’’
Just as everyone was chatting like this, the train horn blew, and the cabin doors shut.
The noise frightened Rory so badly that her body was trembling uncontrollably. She nervously reached a tiny hand out and tightly clutched Itami's hand.
’’What, what's wrong?’’
Was Rory frightened like Piña was? However, there seemed to be a fundamental difference between Piña and Bozes' discomfort, and Rory's abject terror.
’’The, the underground is Hardy's domain...’’
’’Hardy? Is he a friend?’’
’’He's bad news. If we met him here, I'd be snatched away to become his wife. Hardy's been like that since 200 years ago, always, always, always, always...’’
As she said that, Rory squeezed Itami's left hand with her own even more rightly.
Her right hand was holding her canvas-wrapped halberd. Although he was not too sure what she was on about, this god called Hardy (since he lived underground, could he be some sort of demon lord?) seemed to frighten Rory into a child-like state.
’’So why are you hugging me?’’
’’To scare away Hardy. Hardy hates men, so if I had a man nearby, Hardy might stay away.’’
At this moment, Itami was expecting Rory to suddenly protest, ’’Don't, don't get me wrong! I'm just using you as bug repellent! You're just camouflage!’’ If only Rory would say something like that right now, his life would be complete.
Teaching people from the Special Region about the ways and customs of this world seemed like an uphill task, but as a true otaku, he still wanted to hear Rory say those cliched lines. Itami secretly resolved to thoroughly educate her in these matters.
The next stop was Kasumigaseki station, and Komakado boarded with a ’’yo’’ as a greeting.
’’What happened?’’ Itami asked.
’’Turns out we've been followed, and they knew we were leaving from Ichigaya Park. I think they even know we're taking the train. So far, we've got at least two possible suspects for the leaks. We need to take care of those guys following us, or at least, shake them up a little.’’
By ’’taking care’’ of them, he meant finding out who the people following them worked for.
’’And the two people who might have leaked the info?’’
’’We'll leave them be for now. It's all part of the plan.’’
’’Wouldn't catching them be better?’’
’’There's no need for that. We've known they would leak secrets for some time now. Our plan is to have the enemy rely heavily on them before catching them all in one fell swoop. They should be linked to some ideological organization, or maybe they've been honey-trapped and made to work for the enemy. They'll be dealt with sooner or later, but for now we'll keep an eye on them.’’
’’A honey-trap, huh...’’
’’It's called a honey-trap, but it's also a way to enjoy yourself. If they reported that they were honey-trapped to their superiors, we would have prepared some suitable information for them to pass on. So they can enjoy their cash, women, or hobbies to their hearts' content, as long as they keep their superiors informed, they can do whatever they want. And when the enemy gets mad and threatens to reveal the secrets they have, since we're already aware of it, all we need to do is mock them. Of course, it's annoying that not everything goes this way.’’
The enemy would obviously prefer to pick people who would not turn on them. The problem was that Japanese moral values did not emphasise national security, and given that nationalism was treated as a dirty word nowadays, it would seem the enemy could pick and choose who, when and where to strike.
Komakado knew that any country in the world could easily honey-trap Japanese citizens, and he laughed coarsely.
’’Well, we wouldn't have to worry about Mr. Itami being honey-trapped, at least.’’
’’Don't you think so...’’
As Komakado said this, he looked at Rory who was clinging to Itami's left hand, Lelei who was standing on Itami's right, and Tuka behind him, who looked like a US high schooler in her T-shirt and jeans. Komakado had not seen the Diet telecast, so he did not know Rory and Tuka's ages.
’’Well because most countries haven't trained operatives of this age, no, wait...’’
If enemy nations started mass producing Loli operatives, Japan would be in grave danger. ’’No, no, wait. Recently, there have been a lot of call girl agencies recruiting young girls. Maybe we should keep an eye on those...’’ Komakado started thinking seriously as he said that.
’’Call girl agencies?’’
’’Ah, well, these ’’
Komakado made sure the ladies around him could not hear him before whispering to Itami.
These were known to provide female companionship to highly-placed officials who were sensitive to scandals or first-rate businessmen. Of course, the girls they supplied were of the highest quality, dressed from head to toe in branded goods. The actual ’’transaction’’ would take place in a five-star hotel, to create the impression that they were family members going on holiday together so as to avoid the suspicion of bystanders.
If these organizations were actually run by some country's intelligence organs, they would have people record the indecencies which their targets would perform with their partner. After that, they would threaten their target with exposure of these deeds to the media, and nowadays they might even just upload the relevant images or video to the Internet and wait for it to go viral.
Perhaps their targets might still be able to explain it away as a simple love affair if their partners were adult women, but if they were caught engaging in lewd acts with an underage girl, there would be no way out of it. Therefore, anyone blackmailed like this would go along obediently for fear of being socially and financially ruined.
’’No way, where would they get little girls like that?’’
’’Some dictatorships can manage that.’’'
They could select attractive young girls from their population, brainwash them into obedience and then send them out. People could do anything if they received the right training, just like the way suicide bombers could fearlessly blow themselves up, or how child soldiers could unflinchingly gun down their fellow man. All these things were simple enough to achieve in a country which laughed at the concept of human rights. History also told of women like Da Ji, Bao Si, Xi Shi and Diao Chan, all of whom were beautiful maidens, and weapons that brought powerful nations to ruin.
Itami watched quietly as Komakado whipped out his phone and sent an SMS to all his active officers conducting searches. He could not send the message right now because they were underground, but he could finish typing it up and send it once they reached the surface again.
’’It's a bit ahead of schedule, but we'll be heading to Hakone now.’’
Komakado told Itami of their travel plans as he typed on his phone. However, Rory interrupted him. She was sweating profusely and her skin was as pale as death.
’’Hey~ could we get out of here right now, please?’’
’’What's wrong, are you carsick?’’
’’I don't know, I just feel really uncomfortable, and I can't calm down.’’
’’We'll be getting off two stops later. Can you hang on a bit more?’’
Rory's fingertips sank forcefully into Itami's arm as she looked straight at Itami, a sincere, earnest expression on her face. She looked miserable.
Just at this moment, the train reached Ginza Station.
Although he should have been in a lot of pain from the way she was pinching him, strangely enough, he felt no pain at all. Itami covered Rory's powerless hand with his own, and looked to Komakado.
Komakado did not seem to understand what the gesture meant, so Itami continued looking around. Lelei locked eyes with him and her expressionless face seemed to convey her approval, and Tuka shrugged to show that she wanted to get off the train.
Tomita and Kuribayashi were Itami's subordinates, so they agreed. Piña and Bozes were not particularly fond of the subway, so they did not show any hint of resistance.
The station was flooded with office workers heading home and shoppers who were done for the day. And then a brief window opened the instant when the passengers on the train had finished alighting, but just before the incoming passengers came aboard
’’Mr. Komakado, we're going to get off the train here.’’
’’Coming through~’’ Itami said as he led his group off the train like a father minding his family. Because he was selfishly going against the flow of traffic, all the incoming passenger shot dirty looks at him. However, once they saw Piña and Bozes, that resentment evaporated. The feeling Japanese had about ’’not being able to read the atmosphere’’ only applied to their fellow countrymen. When they saw people from another culture, all they could do was say, ’’It can't be helped’’ and try to be more understanding.
’’Hey, wait, what are you guys trying to do?’’
Left on the train, Komakado tried to catch up with Itami. Since he was Japanese, the crowd was only too happy to press him back and into the train, so he looked like a swimmer flailing desperately through choppy water before he finally managed to squeeze out of the train.
’’This is good too, right? Besides, we're only one stop away.’’
Ginza Station was right in front of Tokyo Station, and they would only need to walk a little further to reach it. However, as Itami and his gang crossed the ticket stand, they heard that the train on the Marunouchi line which was to say, the one they had just gotten off had been halted halfway between Ginza and Tokyo Station by a line fault.
Rory sighed in relief, glad to be outside of the underground train station and back under Ginza's night sky. She stretched her arms out and exhaled deeply. Although the air here was filthy, to Rory it was still better than being under the earth. She was happy to be out of Hardy's clutches. Piña and Bozes also seemed relieved and overjoyed to finally be above the ground once more.
Everyone looked around at night-time Ginza. Unlike in the day, there were lights everywhere, and in readiness for the fierce mercantile competition of Christmas, the shops everywhere sported a huge variety of illuminated decorations, turning the night into a sea of multicolored light.
Kuribayashi and Tomita had already realized the abnormality in the train stoppage, and as they realised the machinations at work, they scanned their surroundings with wary eyes.
’’What does the enemy gain by doing this?’’
Itami's questions made Komakado's eyes narrow into a line.
’’They're probably trying to prove something. They might also be trying to probe our strength, which means this is a recon in force.’’
’’They’’ had already tried isolating and following the microbus, on the hunch that there might be otherworldly visitors aboard.
’’They’’ had even gone so far as to engineer an incident to force a train stoppage.
Although none of them had been put in danger so far, this string of incidents had everyone on their guard. Could it be that ’’they’’ just wanted to let Itami's side know and fear their power? In other words, this was a warning along the lines of ’’Mark my words, you will not escape the palm of my hand’’.
However, all their schemes had failed so far;the microbus surveillance was foiled by Komakado's plan, while they had evaded the train stoppage because of Rory and sheer luck.
’’The enemy must be worried because they've got two strikes against them. One more and they're out, so there's a high chance they'll take direct action this time.’’
The fact remained that very few people knew that they had changed from the bus to the train, so Komakado was still trying to track down leaks even though his mind was whirling with confusion. Who on earth had revealed that information? He kept looking over his shoulder as a result.
’’When you say direct action, what do you mean?’’
’’Well, for example ’’
Just as Komakado began to speak, Rory was attacked. A man who looked like some sort of punk tried to snatch away the wrapped-up halberd she was carrying.
’’Grabbing an item and forcing a chase in order to lure people into a trap is a traditional method, but what the hell is that guy doing!’’
However, in the instant that the punk grabbed Rory's halberd, it squashed him to the ground and left him unable to move. Itami and the others knew what was inside, and they had knowing looks on their faces as they looked on the poor punk in pity. However, Komakado knew nothing, and all he could do was find it strange that a punk could be pinned under something a little girl was carrying so easily.
Komakado reached out to grab the canvas-wrapped package, and in that moment, a loud cracking sound came from his waist, like a tree branch being broken.
It was an acute lumbar muscle sprain... in other words, he threw out his back. Worse, he might have given himself a lumbar disc hernia. Intense pain coursed through his torso, and Komakado could not help but collapse to both knees, and then fall to the ground on all fours.
’’It's so damn heavy, is it a barbell or something?!’’
Komakado collapsed on the ground. People around them were flocking around to see what the excitement was all about, and the distant sirens of an ambulance carried over the commotion. At the same time, some people who had watched the National Diet telecast, and they whipped out their phones to take pictures of Rory, Tuka and Lelei.
There was no way the enemy could act covertly with so many eyes on their intended targets.
And so, the third attack by the unseen enemy was foiled by the sacrifice of Komakado's body.
Because the bills had not been paid, the cell phone line had been cut.
So was the gas.
Phone calls kept coming in, demanding payment of the water bill. Things were getting worse.
Pension and health insurance payments? Yep, they were due.
However, without the computer everything would be over, so the power bill had to be paid, along with the Internet fiber charges. In exchange, there was no money to buy food.
Cereal and soya bean milk from the 99 yen store cost 208 yen for 2 meals (1 meal = 104 yen).
After that, the 99 yen store again once more yielded a bounty of vegetables and rice. This was dinner, which cost 208 yen.
Thank you, 99 yen store, our Japan is such a prosperous country.
Since yesterday, all three meals had been cereal and soya milk, a diet without any variation. However, this meant that the day's meals would only cost 312 yen, so no matter what, this discomfort had to be endured.
’’I need to hang on until the winter doujin markets. Hang in there!’’
The pen moved over the tablet. Ten more pages, and it would be complete.
But more money would be needed to hold on until X-day. Debts had to be paid, bills had to be cleared, and the new year had to be celebrated. A warm meal would be nice.
’’Although I can't do anything but endure this for now, this'll kill me if this goes on. I only see cornflakes in my dreams now. 100 yen today is more useful than 10000 yen tomorrow. Why did I only realize this truth now~’’
The empty fridge had been unplugged for fear of running up the electricity bill further. All lights except the bare minimum had been switched off. Heating? What was that, could you eat it? Thicker clothes would have to do, coupled with the warmth from the computer's fan.
The LCD display of the computer's monitor was the only source of light in the house.
’’Can someone lend me money~’’ She'd sent out the email, but all her friends from doujin circles were hardly better off than her. Everyone was rushing like mad to get their work done before the printer's deadline, and they were racking their brains on how to get money. As a result, all the replies she had received were cold rejections.
Her relationship with her parents was in a shambles, so turning to them for money was not an option. If this kept up, would she need to dumpster dive or sell her body?
As she thought about that, she looked at the reflection of herself in the window glass.
Her skin was rough and uncared for, while her hair was unkempt and dirty. Her glasses were as dirty as a milk bottle bottom and she had panda eyes. Lit by the monitor, she looked like a walking corpse against the background of the dark room. Nobody would be interested in paying for her skinny limbs, her stringy muscles and her flabby belly, even if she wanted to sell herself.
As she thought that, she sighed deeply.
’’What kind of men would want to pay money to embrace a 29 year old hag like this~’’
An email from a friend appeared on her PC.
’’Didn't you divorce Youji? That was you being stupid, however bad things might have been, at least you would have been guaranteed clothes, food and a place to stay.’’
’’Ah, it doesn't matter if I realise it now, I was just stupid back then. Argh, I fail as a human being~’’
She recalled how she had gotten married to her sempai in the first place. That had been because she had been annoyed by her parents nagging her to get married.
Her financial situation had been just as dire back then. She had been drawn to her sempai because his civil servant position guaranteed a steady income for him.
She had known him since middle school, so she was very clear that her sempai was a good-hearted man, and she understood her sempai's family situation.
It had happened on the Christmas when she was 25, on the spur of the moment.
I threw myself at him because I was hungry and wanted something to eat.
’’Well, that's fine,’’ he said, and then sempai brought me to a nearby restaurant and treated me to roasted chicken and other stuff.
At that time, I realised the power of having a stable income. The roasted chicken and onions I had then were indescribably delicious.
’’Sempai, please feed me. In turn, I'll marry you.’’
And that was how I confessed to him while I was drunk. I knew sempai was not the sort of person who would reject me, but he did not reply to me right away like I thought he would. He looked at me, and I had no idea what I was thinking, and after an uncomfortable silence, he replied, ’’Yes’’.
I think sempai saw through me even then. Rather than being ’’married’’, I wanted to be ’’fed’’. Our married life could not have gone well from the beginning.
Even though sempai knew what I was thinking, he still gently said ’’Yes’’ to me. Because that was the kind of person sempai was.
In the end, I still wrote the e-mail for help to that caring sempai.
Normally speaking, asking that sort of thing of my ex-husband would be very strange. After all, sempai did not leave me because he disliked me, but because I took marriage too lightly. It was not his fault in any way, I just wanted to return our relationship to how it was before we got married. What did sempai think of me when I asked him to put his chop on the divorce forms?
I thought and thought and thought about whether or not to send that e-mail.
’’I don't have water, food or gas!’’
The decision over whether or not to send that email had been like debating a nuclear launch.
’’I'm a really selfish woman.’’
After that, she had not eaten anything. Her last meal had been yesterday, and she had grimly held on until now.
Her head was aching fit to burst, and her eyelids were heavy for want of sleep. Even so, she still tried to cheer herself up, clenching her fists and muttering, ’’Just one more page’’ in a small voice.
The time was 2335 in the lower right corner of the 27’’ TFT screen.
It was then that someone opened the house door.
It was a familiar sound, that of a key sliding into a keyhole
After that, the sound of the door being pushed open, accompanied by cold air from the outside.
’’Risa, you are still awake. If you are up, why're the lights out? I thought you were asleep. You must be cold like this, why don't you turn on the heater?’’
That familiar voice belonged to her sempai, Itami Youji.
In the end, I still called him by that name, and after that I muttered, ’’Food’’. What a heartless woman I am...
To Risa, the scene before her was an earth-shaking revelation.
’’Sem-sempai, you brought other women back?’’
Coming to her house with women in tow and saying, ’’Sorry, but we need to spend the night here, god, I'm tired,’’ before barging in was hardly something she thought Itami would do.
Seemingly oblivious to Risa's dumbfounded stares, he said, ’’Hey, come on in,’’ and beckoned the ladies outside to enter.
On closer inspection, they were foreigners.
The thing was, these foreigners were exactly the type which excited her.
’’Uwah! A black Gothic Lolita, an elf girl, a silver-haired girl, a redhead princess and a beautiful drill-hair ojou! There's even a big-boobed chibi, is there some kind of national cosplay event?’’
Risa thought that she had memorized the event schedules, but apart from the upcoming winter doujin market, there should not be any others. Itami looked guardedly out of the window in response to Risa's doubtful questions, and then he turned back to apologize and explain why they had barged into her house in the middle of the night and disturbed her.
Or at least, he planned to explain, but when he turned and saw Risa hugging Rory and going, ’’So cuuuuute~’’ nobody would have been able to resist facepalming themselves.
’’Actually, the hotel we were about to stay in caught fire, so I need to take shelter here for a while.’’
Risa began looking through the recent news on the net.
In the end, she found a headline about a fire in Ichigaya Park. The cause was apparently arson.
After that, the line fault on the Marunouchi line.
And then, the pictures from the National Diet meeting, which was the first time Risa had seen them. It was only when she saw their pictures on the news that she realised that these girls were from another world.
With a click, it seemed that Rory Mercury's ’’Are you an idiot?’’ had already been turned into a banner. A following had already built up around the girl from another world who overturned the logic that long-lived people were old. The tweets on the media sites were reflecting messages of this nature.
And then there were the pictures of the beautiful elf and the silver-haired girl.
Videos of the questioning had already been uploaded to video streaming sites on the Net, and the comments and views for them were at a frighteningly high number.
Was the black Goth Loli in the video the same Goth Loli in her room?
She was dressed in a jet-black Gothic Lolita costume heavily decorated with ribbons. Her black hair was covered by a thin black veil, and then there was the mysterious piece of luggage she was holding on to that was taller than she was. And then, there was the fact that despite looking like a young girl, she spoke and acted like a mature woman. Someone else like her would be pretty hard to find.
Conclusion: they were the same.
Then, she compared the elf in the pictures to the blonde-haired woman in her room now.
Her hair coursed down to her waist like a golden waterfall, and her ears, as long and slender as rice-stalks, traced a beautiful curve as they peeked out from between the strands of her hair. Her eyes were as blue as sapphires. She was still wearing the suit that she had on during the Diet question and answer session. Although she had changed her pants for a pair of figure-hugging jeans, the unique characteristics of her body were still easily spotted.
Conclusion: they were the same.
Once again, she looked at the silver-haired girl in the video, and then at the girl in her room.
Depending on the light, her bobcut hair could be seen as either white or silver. Her skin seemed paler than most dolls, and her body was slim and petite and clad in something that looked like a Native American poncho or robe, though it was the slimness of her neck that drew Risa's eye. Her prim and proper face seemed to bear a constant blank expression, yet it wasn't a dispassionate mask that repulsed people. There were clear signs that she was a living person there. If pushed, she would describe her as a girl who had a detached look on her face.
Conclusion: They were the same.
After taking a close look at the news headlines and reading the summaries of the Diet interviews, Risa suddenly clapped her hands as a great revelation dawned on her.
’’So... these girls aren't cosplayers, but the real deal. Huhuhuhuhuhehehehehefufufufufufufu~’’
As they watched this woman with murky glasses laugh by herself, Tuka decided to represent the entire room by asking, ’’Who, who is this?’’
Just by looking at Risa, one could tell she had long since abandoned the look a woman should have, and after seeing the mountain of empty boxes and piled-up books, one would wonder how she had managed to live until now. And all the spare room in the house was filled with intricate dolls, which looked weird no matter how one viewed it.
Rory trembled and asked, ’’Is there a Hardy here too?’’ before taking shelter behind Itami's back. She looked like she was on the verge of tears.
Who's this? Sensing that question coming from everyone, Itami decided to answer.
’’This is my ex-wife.’’
’’The Lieutenant actually got married? I can't believe someone actually existed who would marry a man like this! But then again, now that I look at her, they're a perfect match for each other!’’ The big-boobed shortstacked Kuribayashi seemed to be saying what everyone had on their mind.
After a long absence, Risa's house was filled with light again.
The air-conditioner woke from its long sleep and began producing warmth and warm air. After Itami had transferred her some emergency funds, Risa did not have to worry about her bills any more, and could pamper herself a little.
Speaking of which, Itami had immediately curled up in a corner to sleep after finding a place to lay his head down. For the guests from the other side of the ’’Gate’’, camping outside during travel was only expected, while Piña and Bozes were experienced in the life of a travelling soldier, so they were not offended or disturbed by the arrangements.. Besides, there were ample towels and blankets for everyone to use, and there was a roof to keep out the wind and the rain, so these conditions were not bad at all. In addition, the room was filled with all sorts of entertainment to ward off boredom.
Lelei swiftly claimed the spot next to where Itami was sleeping. For some reason, something seemed to be bothering her. Beside her was Tuka. Rory was also sleeping beside Itami, but on the opposite side of Lelei. By the way, Bozes and Piña were sleeping with Tomita and Kuribayashi.
’’H~m. I roughly get the situation, but I don't want to be caught up in dangerous stuff~’’
Risa was muttering to her monitor in between mouthfuls of the bento Itami had bought her from a local convenience store. At times, she would grab her stylus and tablet, apparently to make final changes to her doujin manuscript. It looked like she was going to pull an all-nighter.
’’It's true, chief. Like your ex-wife said, we shouldn't get innocent civilians involved in this.’’
Tomita had woken up a while back, and he was looking warily out of the window as he spoke.
’’Also, was it all right for us to come here after ditching Mr. Komakado?’’
The moment Itami heard that the hotel he was supposed to stay in had caught fire, he immediately decided to abandon the injured Komakado groaning from his stretcher in favor of taking everyone and running. Although Komakado had his subordinates to take care of him, it was still pretty heartless on Itami's part.
’’But still, I have the feeling that weird things will happen when he's with us. Don't you think Komakado's pretty weird?’’
’’Are you implying Komakado is the leak?’’
’’No, no, I don't mean that. I'm just saying, maybe he's one of the reasons for the leak.’’
’’You mean, he's being followed or watched?’’
’’Maybe. Doesn't matter what exactly it is. However, ever since we ditched Komakado, nobody's been tailing us. I'm not too sure why, but Komakado's probably the reason we've had all this trouble so far.’’
’’Still, what exactly do those people following you want?’’
In response to Risa's question, Itami purposely pretended he didn't hear it and replied, ’’Come, time to sleep, time to sleep’’, before rolling himself up in his blanket. However, before he could go to sleep, he realised that Lelei had encircled his waist with her arms.
Although the area to his side was a mess, he felt very uncomfortable. If someone peeled of the blanket and saw this, he would be in a lot of trouble, involving some very hard-to-explain misunderstandings. Therefore, he could not lie still despite enjoying the comforts of the blanket.
’’What are we doing tomorrow?’’
’’Nothing. Treat it as a vacation. I want to go relax, so if you want to see something, buy something, or enjoy the hot springs, go ahead and use it to reward yourself for your hard work.’’
’’But what if the opposition is waiting for us at the hotel we booked, like today?’’
’’Well, we've already booked the rooms, so if we don't go, we're wasting it. If there's a trap, we should boldly step into it like a moth to a flame.’’
’’But we can go find another place now, right?’’
’’It'll be fine, why are you so worried? Compared to that, waking up at 4 AM is far worse.’’
By rights, Itami and Tomita should be taking turns on watch. It was 0120 now, and Tomita was arranged to sleep at 0400. After Itami closed his eyes, he drifted off to sleep soon enough.
’’So, Miss Risa, you really were Lieutenant Itami's wife.’’
’’His ex-wife, Now we're just friends.’’
Risa answered Tomita's question without looking at him, her eyes glued to her PC monitor.
’’But can you really go back to being friends after a divorce?’’
’’I don't know about the other people, but to me, it was better being his friend after we got divorced. I couldn't settle myself down just after I got married, and acting like a model housewife got really tiring after a while.
Tomita looked at the stacks of doujinshis piled throughout the room, as well as the sheer number of ball-joint dolls which filled every available space, nodding as he muttered, ’’Ah, yes, that's right’’ in a somewhat uncaring voice. He did not want to say something that might demean the other party, nor did he want to lie, and thus chose this neutral option.
Tomita picked up one of the books from the pile and flipped it open. His face instantly froze.
’’Ahh, you probably shouldn't look through those, they might not be good for your eyes. Or did my warning come too late?’’
As he put down the lovingly illustrated 18+ BL manga he had just picked up, Tomita's face looked like he had just stepped on a landmine. He followed that up by carefully closing the book, with all the seriousness of a man reburying a mine, and placing it back into the mountain of its fellows.
TFT: Thin Film Transistor. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thin-film_transistor