Translator: Le Umbono
「Matoba. Got him, I see.」
It was none other than Chief Roth.
It was still dark out. A single car had stopped on the hill overlooking the shrine, remaining motionless as its passenger got out.
As he brought Zelada up to his feet, Matoba asked with a puzzled expression on his face.
「We’re still establishing control over the main temple. And the international terrorist, Abu Kalim, has also been apprehended by the authorities. He was the one who ordered the purchase of the bombs.」
「That’s great to hear and all. But why are you here, Chief?」
Coming over to stand beside him, Chief Roth took out a revolver from under his suit pocket.
Saying that, he casually aimed his gun at Tilarna’s chest and opened fire. In the gray of the morning, the sound of the gunshot echoed throughout the hillside. Without even being able to utter a sound, Tilarna bent over backward, resting her body on the shrine entrance, motionless.
「Let go of him.」
The end of his gun was pointed directly at Matoba’s chest.
Matoba had no idea what just happened.
His boss of three years, a man whom he respected, whom he worked together with, had suddenly turned his gun on him, ordering him to release the man responsible for Rick’s death. He was serious. Definitely not a 『zombie』or anything of the sort. Police Inspector Jack Roth had most certainly shot Tilarna, pointed his weapon at Matoba, and told him to let go of Zelada all out of his own will.
「I repeat. Let go of him.」
He let go of Zelada’s hand, confusion wracking every single part of his body. The black magician left Matoba’s side, waddling over towards Chief Roth. Without the slightest hint of hesitation, Roth kept his gun on Matoba⸻for he knew the true extent of Matoba’s power.
「You saved me, Roth-sama.」
Zelada’s fingertips glowed blue. In a white puff of smoke, the nylon tape restraining his wrists went up in flames.
(Son of a bitch……)
He did not know what form of magic he used. And yet the spectacle before him demonstrated that Zelada could have escaped anytime he wished.
「Hurry up and leave. Can you drive?」
「Certainly, if I have my staff with me.」
「Then, use my car.」
「As you wish……hehe.」
With a bow of his head, he ascended the slope of the hill, Spirit Bomb and staff in hand. As he did so, he stopped for but a moment, turning his head back.
「Ah, yes. Matoba-sama, correct?」
「How fine you have become, indeed. I could hardly recognize you from the time we met in the Dhaksini Wetlands.」
The instant he heard those words, the doubts Matoba had held in his mind ⸺ the feelings he had kept bottled up to this point came flooding out.
Just as I thought, it was him!
「So it was you. My squad, you were the one⸺」
「Well, then. Farewell.」
Reflexively turning to pursue him, he was suddenly halted by a sharp voice.
「Don’t move, Matoba. Let go of your gun.」
「Let go of it. Now.」
He had no choice but to obey. Matoba slowly lowered his gun to the ground.
「Kick it over here.」
Again, he did as he commanded.
「……What is the meaning of this?」
Staring at the figure of Zelada making his way to the sedan on the road, Matoba demanded.
「H-he…… Rick, the fairy. And he…… Just what the fuck are you doing!?」
As he said that, Matoba suddenly realized.
「You leaked the intel, didn’t you? To that fucker? And Albares, the progress of the investigation…… Was that your doing too!?」
No expression whatsoever. Roth replied gloomily.
「I was the one who told Zelada. I caused the delay in between the assault on Albares’ room, and the assassin who appeared in that time. I recommended the director that inexperienced Semani knight be attached to you as a burden on your investigation. I notified Zelada of your presence at the temple, which gave him ample time to start the fire and make his escape. With the Spirit Bomb in tow, of course. All of it was my doing.」
That was right. The crystal clear oversight over Elbajhi’s movements, and that disturbance in the temple at the end. It was all just a little bit too convenient for his liking. It was possible that Elbajhi himself was unaware of this. The fact that his humble servant had ties to the police. Elbajhi was used. Zelada led him around by the nose, instigating the production of the Spirit Bomb out of mere narcotics, thereby seeing the project to completion.
Most likely, he had been colluding with Roth throughout the entire process.
「Why? Why did you do it?」
「We had a common interest.」
Roth answered as such. His voice sounded terribly exhausted.
「That man holds a deep hatred for the civilizations of this world. He seeks to separate our cultures through the cracks in our society. The simplest way to create the circumstances he so desires was to commit acts of terrorism here in San Teresa. Currently, he is headed towards the city, intent on detonating that so-called bomb of his on the populace.」
「And weren’t you supposed to stop stuff like that from happening!? What the hell happened to that?」
「I wonder. You were the one who pointed out the problems with our budget and esprit de corps, were you not? That one day it’ll ‘get out of control’? By subjecting this city to such a crisis, we would let the whole world know to rethink the policies they have put in place. The Spirit Bomb is the ideal method of achieving that goal. We do not wish to destroy societal infrastructure out of a juvenile prank. Instead, we simply plan on sowing fear in the hearts of the people. After all, we are perfectly capable of controlling the extent of the damage inflicted.」
「Is that really something a policeman should say?」
「I am a policeman. But before that, I am first and foremost an 『Earthling』.」
Out of the corner of his eye, Zelada could be seen entering the sedan. Tossing the bomb into a seat, he closed the door before driving off into the distance. Matoba was eager to pursue him, however, he still had a gun pointed right at his chest. There was no sign of anyone around them. From the main temple, this place could not be seen in the least; it was hidden under cover of the ridge. He was utterly helpless to do anything.
「My thinking is fundamentally the same as Zelada’s. Our two worlds should be forever separated.」
「What are you saying now? Many have already adapted to life on Earth.」
「Harmony and conformity are but the senseless drivel of idealists. Our peoples will never be able to understand one another. This mess of a city is a perfect example of that. Even compared to refugees from the third world, managing their lot has been nothing but a hassle. People coming from this 『Fourth World』, so to speak, are considered much more valuable. They are brimming with the vitality that we Earthlings once possessed in the distant past. Hence their propensity for violence. …..For the time being, things are still fine. But at this rate, their kind will dominate our society before too long. And this invasion will not happen abruptly. It will occur without anyone realizing it happening ⸺ that’s right, we Earthlings ourselves will remain blissfully unaware of its progress.」
The culmination of such a future did vaguely occur to Matoba before. In his experience working on the force in San Teresa, he had seen the friction between the Semanians and Earthlings with his own eyes. It had become almost second-nature to him. Rather than dubbing Roth’s view pessimistic, it would be more apt to consider it a pragmatic outlook on current affairs.
「…..Fair enough. If that’s so, what are you planning on doing?」
Matoba said. Up until now, he had been on the receiving end of their conversation. He could not just leave it at that.
「Kei Matoba. I thought you would understand the reasons behind my actions. That is why I have told this to you.」
「You telling me to join your cause? To get involved in all of this?」
「We’ve known each other a long time. Surely you’d know how I’d respond?」
Without uttering a single word, Matoba mouthed his answer.
「As I recall, you would always hide a revolver in your ankle. Try it, if you’d like.」
Strapped to Matoba’s right ankle was the backup pistol he had hidden beforehand. If he were to reach out for his gun as he was kneeling now, aiming it at Roth ⸺ he would most likely be able to fire three shots at most. Roth was a good shot. They were four meters away from one another, more or less. It was not a distance that could be evaded.
Still, he had no choice but to do it. If he could just somehow avoid a life-threatening injury⸺.
At that time, having laid motionless by the shrine entrance, Tilarna suddenly got up. She was alive. For an instant, Roth took his eyes off of Matoba.
He moved on reflex.
Bending over, he extended his hand towards his ankle, ripping the safety tape off the holster, and grabbing his revolver. Roth was already pointing his gun at him; he would not make it.
Roth opened fire. A sharp pain ran through his shoulder. Still alive. He aimed his revolver at Roth. Bang! It hit right in the center of his chest.
Staggered, Roth dropped his weapon, falling face-up on the ground.
The moment of truth over, Matoba was drenched in sweat. Roth had merely grazed his right shoulder. It was hard to imagine him missing at that distance. The reason for that was, of course, Tilarna. She had found a rock lying around, throwing it at Roth’s arm.
At Matoba’s words, Tilarna sluggishly stood up, holding her longsword over her head. On a part of the sword, the crushed remains of a bullet remained behind. She had deflected it with her sword.
「I’m amazed you got through that in one piece.」
「Myself as well.」
Tilarna said, pale-faced.
「It must be the divine blessing of the Goddess Ghizenya. After he shot me in both the chest and head, I must have blacked out for some time…… I must apologize.」
「No. You saved me.」
He walked over to the collapsed Roth.
「A shame, Roth.」
「I thought of you as a father. Really, I did.」
Roth replied. Blood was frothing from the end of his mouth.
With one last murmur, Jack Roth stopped breathing