Translator: Le Umbono
Harmony and conformity are but the senseless drivel of idealists ⸺ that was what he said.
He could not bring himself to deny it. These dull emotions hung heavily upon Matoba’s heart. When he first met her, had he not discriminated against Tilarna himself?
Moreover, he understood the sense of crisis Roth held.
Poisoned by the evils of consumer culture, how could they ever hope to prevail against the Semani?
Setting aside the question of total war, what if they were given fairer circumstances ⸺ subject to the same conditions, the same rules? To compete with them as members of the same society? No matter the field of work, they would most likely be unable to equal the Semani in terms of prowess. Whether as a businessman, an actor or a singer, or perhaps even as a scientist. Of course, the police were included in this equation as well.
The same philosophy held true in ages past. Those in positions of power would always discriminate against those belonging to a different race or social class. Such was their way of life. Living under the fear that they might lose their place of superiority someday. It was not a matter of good or evil, but rather a natural response to their continued self-preservation.
Back when he was still living in Japan as a middle-school student, his mother had been experiencing problems with her PC. This led her to call the manufacturer for customer support. After a few words with the operator on the other end, she handed it over to Matoba, saying『I don’t really get it. Kei, could you go talk to him for me?』. As it turned out, their operator was Chinese. For that particular brand of PCs, the manufacturing company had outsourced its support to an ancillary firm located in China. In perfectly fluent Japanese, the Chinese operator politely determined the cause of the error, explaining the solution in a manner such that even the most illiterate of persons would understand. Compared to his fussy Japanese counterparts, this operator was much more diligent in carrying out his work. Even so, Matoba’s mother ⸺ a good woman, by all accounts ⸺ still complained, grumbling『My, for us to resort to foreigners.』.
It was at that time, Matoba first understood. The fact that his people may lose their place of superiority. Hearing the sincere voice of that Chinese operator had given rise to a vague anxiety within him, in spite of the economic superiority his country held at the time. Whether it be the crimes he saw on TV, the anti-Japanese demonstrations, or the violent riots, nothing could compare to the terror that came from that kind, earnest voice.
And the same could be said for the Semani.
Sure, they may still be stuck in the Middle Ages now, but their people are fervent scholars, brimming with vitality and endless ambition. Tilarna was one such person. To them, their concept of pleasure could not even begin to compare to the vices of the human race. During his time as a detective, he had always had an inkling of that somewhere deep in his heart.
The role of the police had always been left in the hands of the Earthlings.
He completely understood Roth’s explanation. Having gone to war with these folks before, Matoba knew that all too well.
「You’re still violating the law.」
Looking down upon Roth’s lifeless body, he murmured.
He had been carrying an impossible, futile desire upon his shoulders. In spite of his duty to protect the citizens, he had betrayed that responsibility to follow up on his convictions to the very end. There was still plenty that he could have learned from him, thought Matoba.
Yet, the end result was this.
This heavy burden, do you really understand what you’ve pushed onto me, old man?
It was still early in the morning. The night had been ever so silent. For whatever reason, that irritated him.
How many seconds had he spent just standing there? Before he knew it, Tilarna had called out to him with a sigh.
「No time to be moping around like this, I guess.」
Resolutely picking up his gun from the ground, Matoba began running.
His grief would come after. There were still stones left unturned.
For him ⸺ no, for the two of them.
「We’re going after him. Zelada’s planning to detonate the bomb as soon as he reaches the city.」
Spotting a patrol car on the palace grounds, they subsequently borrowed it, rushing towards the city. The previous driver had been left to tend to Roth. The police were also on high alert for the location of the Chief’s car.
They had already wasted enough time. Though they were swerving past the meandering roads of the hillside, it was much too late to catch up to Zelada’s ride. They had no idea where he was bringing the Spirit Bomb.
「Kei! D-do you have a clue as to his whereabouts?」
Her eyes spinning from the rough driving, Tilarna asked.
「Kinda. If what Roth said was true, he’s not gonna be using the bomb on Central.」
He recalled the conversation he had with Roth the day of the funeral.
Given his approval of Zelada’s terror operation, it certainly would not be aimed at either the Central District or Downtown. There would be no point in that. After all, public order in these places was still as bad as ever. For there to be a significant impact on society, a different place ⸺ where people lived their lives free of crime ⸺ would have to be targeted.
「For example, Queen’s Valley.」
The luxury residential area. Detonating the bomb there would doubtless bring about a greater effect. It would be a newsworthy affair, prime to make it onto global news.
Still, that would only apply if Zelada thought the same as Roth.
Shortly thereafter, a police report came in saying that Zelada had been spotted by a security camera nearby Queen’s Valley.
Matoba jumped on the throttle.
「Where could he be in this Queen’s Valley?」
「Don’t know. Bomb’s radius should be pretty big, right?」
「That is most likely.」
「If we’re talking about nuclear bombs here on Earth, their explosions would be maximized by detonation at a certain altitude above ground. That’s because things like buildings and terrain wouldn’t be able to act as cover against these explosions. D’ya think the Spirit Bomb’d have the same limitations?」
「What exactly do you mean?」
「Let’s say you’re trying to light up your room. It’d be better to install the light higher up rather than down below, right? The same logic applies in this case.」
Sinking into the passenger seat, Tilarna began contemplating in silence.
「……Indeed, the flow of rahtena can be obstructed by matter. For instance, the presence of a large boulder or dense steel is said to weaken the power of rahtena. Perhaps the same could be said for that bomb. As you mentioned earlier, detonating it precisely at a certain altitude would be ideal.」
「If that’s the case, then over there’d be best.」
Turning the wheel, Matoba muttered.
「Forrest Tower. One of San Teresa’s staple tourist attractions.」
They were still quite a ways away from Queen’s Valley, and yet the structure had already come into view. An enormous, white tower rising above the gray of morning. Located in the northwest of Queen’s Valley, it was a massive condominium-cum-shopping mall.
「Lots of brand stores and high-end restaurants aimed at the filthy rich. Upper floors contain penthouse apartments. A single room’d set you back tens of thousands of dollars. Nothing to do with a commoner like me. Would be pretty funny if Zelada got stopped at the entrance.」
Seeing Tilarna glare at him, Matoba just shrugged his shoulders.
「Hey, it’s just a joke.」
They entered Queen’s Valley, cutting across the quiet residential area. Despite the squeak of tires and the intense revving of the engine, Tilarna did not particularly raise any complaints.
「Were you acquainted with this Zelada follow?」
After remaining silent for a while, Matoba said.
「Who knows. He’s just another suspect to me.」
Not even five minutes had elapsed when they reached Forrest Tower. Given the time, obviously none of the stores were open. Matoba had contacted the tower’s security center over the phone, yet they reported nothing out of the ordinary. He made a ruckus outside the employee entrance, hoping to attract the attention of the guards, but to no avail.
『Please wait while we check on the premises. They are most likely just taking a nap⸺』
「No, don’t bother. I’m closer anyways.」
Rudely interrupting the sluggish response of the security center, Matoba got out of his car and passed through the employee entrance.
The two security officers guarding the place were dead.
Anguish was plastered on their dying faces. Their eyes bulged as if they were about to fall off; they had torn out their own throats up to their chests, dying in the process.
「Did they……drown? Shit.」
Cursing, he surveyed the guardpost.
「There is no mistaking it.」
Her small nose sniffing about, Tilarna replied.
「Such a sinister branii1. They were most likely killed by his mildi2.」
Matoba inspected the guardpost’s console. About twenty or so monitors displayed the feeds broadcasted from the surrounding security cameras. Unfortunately, there was no sign of Zelada. He checked the elevators next. One was moving. A service elevator heading straight to the top floor of the building.
「He’s headed to the roof. Let’s go.」
The two of them left the guardpost, rushing towards another service elevator. It was an elevator with a direct link to the showroom located on the highest floor, most likely used to carry the goods for sale.
「As I thought, he can control people even without the drug, can’t he?」
「I said it earlier, did I not? That man is dangerous.」
Even now, no Earthling could truly comprehend the danger posed by a Semanian mildita3. Over here, you’d normally call someone like that a ‘medicine man’.
The Native Americans’ medicine man ⸺ a figure long worshipped for their claim to magic. Through the power of their concoctions and tricks, many came to think of them as sorcerers or illusionists within the tribe.
Matoba knew that was not truly the case. At the time, they had simply manipulated the laws of physics in order to reproduce the phenomena that they claimed was indeed magic. Still, plenty a mystery still lingered around these men to this day.
「Do you know all the tricks up his sleeve?」
「I too do not have a full grasp of the particulars. However, I do believe that he has yet to show us his full power.」
「Even that scene with the rope?」
「Although he had merely torn them to escape, he most likely had the confidence to kill the both of us anytime if he so wished. As for the reason he obeyed your orders, he was probably just taking a wait-and-see approach.」
「Well, that’s probably the case. Goddamnit.」
He slammed his fist against the elevator wall. On top of the fact that Zelada effortlessly broke through his nylon tape restraints, Matoba could not deny the truth behind Tilarna’s words.
This was not looking good.
It would be suicide to embark on the field of battle without first getting information on the enemy’s tactics. That did not change regardless of whether you were on Earth or in the Semani world.
TL Note: Farbanian for ‘scent/odor’.
TL Note: Farbanian for ‘magic/skill/technique’.
TL Note: Farbanian for ‘magician’.