429 – It Can Only Be That Fellow
To make the long story short, preparing an environment suitable for Linda’s education went pretty smoothly.
“I feel like I’ll get a hole in my stomach from handling so much money, but…… since it’s your request, Bro, then just leave it to me. I’m going to do my best.”
Heinz seemed pretty happy that I decided to rely on him instead of Hartmut regarding Linda’s matter, so he accepted the responsibility of looking after Linda’s money. He apparently had various contacts within the colony, and they’ll listen to Linda’s requests and take care of her.
“I also told Hartmut to help out, so don’t engage in some strange rivalry with him, alright?”
Hartmut graciously agreed to arrange for Linda to receive higher education if she so wished. Depending on how things turn out, Linda might become quite an incredible young lady in three years.
“I got it, Big Bro. She’s going to become Bro’s woman in the future, so I’ll make sure that no bothersome insects latch on to her.”
“That still isn’t set in stone yet y’know……? In any case, just let Linda do as she pleases.”
I’m totally cool if Linda finds herself a lover within the next three years and decides not to come aboard my ship. It’s Linda’s life, so she doesn’t have to be tied down by me in the slightest. If her feelings still haven’t changed after three years, then I’ll just take her with me. Linda’s too young right now, but in three years, she’ll be the same age as Mimi when she first boarded Krishna. She’ll be considered an adult in the Graccan Empire at age fifteen, so she can decide her path by then.
Or rather, we don’t know what’ll happen to me in three years as well. If I didn’t die, I’d probably still be working as a mercenary.
“Is that so……? Understood. By the way, is it about time?”
“Yeah. We’ll be leaving tomorrow. I suppose the free-spirited mercenary life still suits me the best.”
We don’t have any particular destination in mind this time around. There are currently no pressing issues at the moment after all. My Krishna, Elma’s Antlion, and Mei’s Black Lotus. These three ships still haven’t achieved perfect coordination when hunting space pirates. For the time being, the short-term goal was to improve our skill levels while earning money.
Well, I suppose we couldn’t just wander aimlessly out there, so I think I’ll gather everyone together tonight for a meeting in order to decide our next destination.
Didn’t I say I’d gather everyone for a meeting earlier? That was a lie. No, I suppose it wasn’t. Not exactly.
“Uh–…… So, yeah. Even though I’m not very keen on heading there, it’s been decided that our next destination will be the Creon star system. A round of applause, please.”
Only Kugi, who didn’t really understand what was going on, clapped her hands in response. Kugi sure was cute. Hahaha.
“If that’s what you decided, then I’m simply gonna go along with it, Hiro…… But don’t tell me we’re heading for the front lines or something like that?”
“Of course not. We’ll just be subjugating『space pirates』who are targeting supplies in the rear.”
“Space pirates huh……? Who’s in charge?”
“It’s gonna be that person, as usual.”
“Captain Serena sure keeps getting the short end of the stick…… Ahaha.”
Mimi let out a dry laugh with an almost expressionless face, which was pretty rare for her. Tina had a troubled expression on her face, and Wiska’s was an uneasy one, while Dr. Shouko was grinning in amusement. Mei was expressionless as usual.
As for the reason why we were like this, we’d have to backtrack a bit.
Indeed. It was right after asking Heinz to take care of Linda’s money (Not for free, of course.) and heading back to the Lotus. My portable info terminal’s ringtone suddenly went off.
Come to think of it, if at that time…… No, it would have been useless. Either way, I would have been forced to accept. As mercenaries, we couldn’t make a living without getting in touch with the Mercenary Guild.
“This is Hiro speaking.”
『This is David from the Mercenary Guild’s Reemay Star System branch. Just to confirm, this is truly Captain Hiro speaking, correct?』
“Yeah, the one and only.”
It’s rare for a Mercenary Guild rep to directly engage in a voice call. Whenever they needed to notify us mercs of something, they usually got in contact using a special app.
“It’s rare for you guys to make a voice call. What’s up?”
『We’ve received a nomination request of the highest priority addressed to you, Captain Hiro. We contacted you in order to confirm things as soon as possible.』
“High priority nomination request……? Is the client really trustworthy?”
It would suck if I went to meet up with the client who placed the nomination request only to be told『Sorry for deceiving you.』or something like that. My main targets are space pirates though, so there’s a low chance of the client, who’s capable of placing a high-priority nomination request, holding a grudge against me.
『Well…… You can say they are the most trustworthy client in the empire.』
In order for a client to submit a nomination request, a certain level of trustworthiness was required. How to earn that trust? Simply put, it’s by having a good track record in dealings with the Mercenary Guild…… In other words, never failing to make payments upon completion of requests, ensuring the validity of requests and not imposing unreasonable stuff upon the dispatched mercenaries, the client being relatively high up in the social ladder, and so on. The Mercenary Guild would make a decision based on a wide variety of criteria.
“Is it the Imperial Space Force?”
When it comes to clients within the empire that the Mercenary Guild places complete trust in, the first one that came to mind was the Imperial Space Force. In the first place, it was the Imperial Space Force that paid the bounties placed on the heads of space pirates, and they also often made major requests whenever they needed to subjugate space pirate bases. So, most would think both parties were pretty tight.
『That’s only half correct.』
“Oi, I’m in no mood to play riddles with you–”
『The one at the very top of the empire.』
『I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.』
The one on top? The very top? Then it could only be that f*cking emperor! That bastard! Just what kind of godforsaken place was he planning on sending me to!?
『The meeting point is the Creon star system. It’s a star system close to the front lines of the conflict zone between the empire and the Vereverem Federation. There, you will directly join up with the imperial fleet arranged by the client at the Space Force’s supply depot. You will work together with them to eliminate the ‘space pirates’ threatening the empire’s supply lines.』
I looked at the hologram projected by the portable terminal and inwardly sighed. As expected, the imperial fleet I was gonna be joining up with was Captain Serena’s Independent Anti-Pirate Fleet. I already had a hunch when they said the opponents would be space pirates, but to think I was spot on. It seemed that we really were fated in some way.
“I haven’t said I’m gonna take on the request though??”
『If any special circumstances prevent you from heading out right away, we will take them into account. Otherwise, we will have you accept this request. This is a high-reward request with special circumstances. I believe it’s not a bad deal for you, Captain Hiro.』
“Well, that’s true. But……”
My heart wavered whenever I looked at the conditions attached to the request. All ammunition expenses and supplies will be covered by the other party. On top of that, there’s a fixed reward of 10 million Enels in addition to the rewards for downing enemy ships, and you were basically free to capture and salvage downed ships as well. And if there was something of interest to the other party among the spoils, they’d pay for it directly with Enels. If the request period exceeds 30 days, a reward of 300,000 Enels per day would be added as well. The mission was dealing with ‘space pirates’ who were targeting imperial supply lines, and it was basically not front-line duty. Depending on the situation, there’s a possibility of being caught in a front-line firefight, but this was par for the course when operating within a conflict zone.
“Haa…… I suppose I’ll accept for now. Either way, I was planning on leaving our current location by tomorrow. But remember this. Above all else, I love the free-spirited wandering life of a mercenary. I’ll concede this time, but if you force me into these sorts of situations often, I might just consider running away.”
『Thank you very much. I will inform the other party of your sentiments.』
After that, Guild employee David dropped the call.
As long as we were operating within the empire, it was risky to turn down a request made by His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor himself. It won’t exactly make me enemies with the Guild, but it would lead to me incurring a huge debt. And it’ll lead to even more risk. In other words, the moment that f*cking emperor reared his meddlesome head, everything was already decided.
Well, it’s not like I don’t have any considerations, but I’m not some anti-establishment anarchist either. Rather, it was my principle to stick to long-term stable profits. Anyway, I’d probably get wrapped up in some sort of trouble one way or another even if I decided to ignore this request and ran away. If that’s the case, then it’s better to have the other party owe us a favor while making a bit of profit at low risk.
“So, we’re gonna have to hunt down so-called ‘space pirates’ near the front lines next huh……? This is making me all teary-eyed.”
I looked up to the ceiling of the Reemay Prime colony and couldn’t help but lament. I’m sure those so-called ‘space pirates’ were rocking combat ships from the Vereverem Federation or its allies, loaded with military-grade equipment, and had unusually high levels of skill. At least they’d be worth a lot if we captured them, hahaha…… Haa.