Editor: Thor’s Stone
Many Underground Forces like Metal Iris didn’t have private bases.
Most of the time, they get stationed at a specific block of a Fortress Area reserved for their use.
There were also simple housing complexes and commercial facilities for their use as well.
And right now, Metal Iris, which was currently staying at the D411 Defense Dome, was busy preparing for a big commission.
The content of the request was to support an infiltration mission into a Stones-controlled enemy Fortress Area.
The proposed reward was exceptional.
Usually, they didn’t accept any suspicious-sounding requests, but this time around, the client was very special.
It was an official request from Okeanos sent through the Mercenary Association.
Jenny discussed it with her members first just in case, and in the end, everyone approved of accepting the request. The advanced payment alone was more than enough to purchase brand new combat machines for them.
Although it was described as a joint operation with another team, the other team in question was pretty unusual as well. The team had the highest trust rating assigned by the Mercenary Association and it was also said that as long as you wholeheartedly opposed the Stones, they would never betray your trust. It wasn’t just any regular Underground Force.
Blue was busy working like the rest of the members but was summoned by Jenny to the command room within the Force’s hangar carrier.
「Sorry for calling you out here while you’re busy.」
「It’s fine. I don’t mind.」
「It’s been really frantic recently after all. In many aspects.」
「It looks like things have begun moving again.」
The two of them were referring to a particular event. That event was an inter-company technology development auction organized by Okeanos.
A part of weapons technology that’s currently unavailable to Development Engineers was recently disclosed, and an auction for the priority rights to the technology was going to be held.
There were also special conditions attached. Those were the formation of a dedicated supply unit and a proposal to establish Underground Forces that specialize in supply-run missions.
Many Underground Forces and companies were quite excited about said proposals.
People active in the frontlines were keenly aware of how important it was to improve the supply situation. Former soldiers among the transferees were also quite surprised about said proposals.
The various companies were pretty eager to collect as much information as possible in order to monopolize the proposed new industry.
The most notable point about the technology that will be provided this time around was that the company that wins the bid was allowed to transfer and grant it to other parties of their choice as well.
Such a proposal has never been made before, and it was evident that the one who proposed it was a human.
Currently, information on the tech provider was unavailable. Various Fortress Areas of each major power have many spies around the world who specialize in sniffing out such classified info, but there haven’t been any reports of any concrete info being uncovered as of yet.
Under such a frantic state of affairs, a request to recapture an enemy-controlled Fortress Area was sent out, and it was directly from Okeanos. A request being directly issued by Okeanos was unprecedented.
「But why did they choose us?」
There were many larger major Underground Forces. Although Metal Iris can be considered as a major Underground Force as well, its overall strength just barely reached the minimum threshold of Rank A.
Even though their fame shot up by quite a bit after their exploits at the C212 Defense Dome battle, the scale of a Force’s manpower and equipment should also be considered while selecting one to cooperate with. And on that front, they were still admittedly lacking.
「A request issued directly by Okeanos huh. –Hey, it’s gotta be that great sword kid, right?」
Jenny found it quite amusing to see the normally calm and collected Nereid girl’s flustered reactions. Her reactions when it comes to stuff regarding Kou were especially good.
Jenny grinned teasingly.
「Right. Kou-kun. His name doesn’t come up, but I’m positive it’s him.」
「H-Hold on. Okeanos? Why would Kou be related to Okeanos? You said this was an anonymous request, right.」
Okeanos oversaw the production of the Nereids. In other words, it was practically their creator. As such, there were many among them who still held strong feelings for their ‘parent’.
It was currently the greatest active Super AI that manages the entire world.
A human who left them just a month ago and didn’t seem to know much of the word’s common sense had apparently managed to interface with Okeanos. ‘Is an EX-rank Development Engineer really that amazing?’ Blue questioned inwardly.
「Cause there’s a bit in the request document that says “I really like the Metal Iris jacket.”, and the rest of the document is also worded very politely.」
Jenny couldn’t help but laugh in amusement. Even if he didn’t exactly reveal his identity, the message could never be more obvious.
「Just what in the world is that person……?」
「The one who provided the new tech should probably be him as well. The timing matches up.」
「EX-rank, is it?」
It was a secret only shared between the two ladies.
EX-rank Development Engineer. It was an unprecedented rank that was unheard of. Until now, that is.
「How should I put this, I wonder? A case of doing good to others benefitting oneself in the end? No, it’s a bit different huh.」
「It just feels like we’re always at the receiving end of that guy’s goodwill though.」
They did provide him with emergency repairs, but those repairs were needed due to him cooperating with them in the first place.
Without Kou’s help, they doubted if they could pull off eliminating the Enyo as successfully as they did, or perhaps they couldn’t pull it off at all.
「Yeah. Looks like we have to do our job properly this time around and produce great results.」
「But does that mean it’s not that dangerous a mission?」
「Oh, it is. But we don’t have to worry about being suddenly betrayed by the client. And we’re also getting paid a lot of money in advance. Did that kid manage to dig up a mountain of treasure or something?」
「Maybe he managed to uncover an ancient abandoned Fortress Area.」
「Oh, that’s actually possible.」
If one was a Development Engineer, one would be capable of reactivating an untouched unmanned facility. They felt their conjecture was very possible.
The Kou they met before was like a wandering refugee.
Therefore, the likelihood of their conjecture being correct was high because there really weren’t a lot of other possible explanations for the young man’s suddenly astonishing windfall.
「It seems only one Silhouette from the other team will be participating, so it’s probably that machine. He’s apparently gonna serve as their representative as a pretense.」
「A pretense huh.」
「It looks like he does realize how delicate his current position is.」
It would be quite worrisome if he was too defenseless, but it seems the young man was aware of the risks he’s facing.
「Our target is the X463 Fortress Area. It’s one of the very first places the Stones captured. In other words, there has to be something important or valuable hidden away there.」
「So there’s a possibility he knows exactly what secrets are hidden within the capture target?」
「It’s possible, I guess? Though I think…… he probably isn’t aware after all.」
「How can you be so sure?」
「The military strength of the enemy forces and the places closest to the human-controlled territory. I’ve already looked those up. But our capture target didn’t come up in my search using those criteria. If we’re to capture this place, then the reason should be written out on the request form.」
Blue also agreed with Jenny’s assumption. There were many unknowns regarding the request’s capture target. The enemy defenses were also very solid, so it was a mystery why they chose such a place as a capture target.
「We’ll probably fight not only Murders but also humans who’ve been assigned to defend that place. Does Kou understand what he’s going to face once we’re there?」
「I don’t know. But it should be tough for most transferees, especially those who came from Japan.」
「If that’s the case, then I guess we’ll have to properly support him. To be aware your client isn’t used to fighting yet but still not take any measures is a disgrace for any mercenary.」
「That, I understand.」
「By doing that, we can increase our value by a lot.」
「Are we gonna sell ourselves off or something?」
「If the other party’s willing to purchase us, then why not? Then I wouldn’t have to wrack my brains on how to scrape up funds all the time.」
After saying so, Jenny laughed heartily. Being a mercenary was a tough and life-threatening profession. And since there’s a constant need for weapons and equipment, the necessary expenses are quite considerable as well.
「I don’t really mind if we sold the Force off anyway.」
Blue displayed a rare smile. She likely thought that it wasn’t so bad a deal.
「……But what’ll we do if he says he only wants you, Blue……?」
「Just do your best to bargain for a higher transfer fee then.」
The usually stoic girl actually cracked a joke.
「Oh boy. I feel like it actually might happen.」
Since there was actually a chance for her joke to turn into reality, Jenny couldn’t bring herself to laugh anymore.
There were, of course, many instances of mercenaries transferring to other outfits. Most would prefer a place where the grass is greener after all.
「I’ll consider it if he promises to enter you into his family registry, Blue.」
「What the heck are you saying, you idiot?!」
Jenny smiled gloatingly due to her successful revenge as Blue’s face turned bright red from embarrassment.
 TL Notes: Entering one’s partner into one’s family registry or koseki implies marriage in Japan. The pair may not have had a formal ceremony yet, but once this is done, they are already legally married.