022 – Elma
After doing quite a bit of shopping, we finally decided to go back to the ship to have an early dinner. It seems Elma hasn’t eaten properly for the last few days.
“What? Doesn’t tonight’s dinner suit your taste? This is a special dinner made from high-quality food cartridges and artificial meat, y’know.”
“That’s not it~! Why is this place so……!?”
Elma suddenly stood up from her seat, making it rattle.
“Why is a mercenary ship like this one so freaking luxurious!?” Elma exclaimed as she pointed her finger at the newly refurbished, sparkling clean dining room. Uh, even if you ask that…
“Y’see, I think a comfortable living environment is very important. Delicious meals, clean rooms, clean and comfortable beds, and other such things have a positive impact, both physically and mentally, on the people who spend their time living in such a space.”
“I understand the logic… I understand, but…! This just looks like the inside of an ultra-luxurious passenger space cruiser!”
“It was money well spent. That was a truly satisfying shopping experience. You did great for looking up such a nice place, Mimi.”
Elma bit her lip in frustration, which got distorted into a strange shape, due to failing to get her meaning across.
“Other people have their own circumstances. This is ours. Get used to it.”
“Kuh… I understand.”
Elma was still reeling from having her image of mercenaries completely upended and kept muttering from time to time, but she at least began to eat. I also went ahead and brought chef Tetsujin’s specially made dinner to my mouth.
Meals using ordinary food cartridges were plenty tasty already, but these high-quality ones were a class of their own. The artificial meat steak was also a lot tastier than usual. It’s the same meat like the ones we cooked using the previous auto-cooker before it was replaced. But why is the taste of this particular steak so different? All hail the power of Chef Tetsujin!
“It’s delicious, right?”
“…It’s delicious to the point that made me think all other food I’ve eaten before utterly pales in comparison.”
“I really get you.”
“I understand that feeling too.”
Mimi and I deeply agreed with Elma’s comment and nodded approvingly. Chef Tetsujin is just that impressive. It’s scary how effortlessly he’s conquering our collective palates. For example, the taste of the artificial meat is enhanced by two or three levels; the exquisite meaty flavor cooked with just the right heat and timing, and the fragrant aroma of spices was all spot-on. It was a dish overflowing with such fine craftsmanship. This was the quality of the meals Chef Tetsujin cooks. We spent the rest of the time making small talk and proceeded to take turns having a bath after our meal.
“Please teach Elma how to use the bathroom facilities. Or rather, wouldn’t it be fine if you guys just entered together?”
“I guess you’re right. Shall we then?”
“How to use the facilities…? Well, I guess I don’t mind.”
Elma tilted her head curiously but ended up agreeing, so I left her to Mimi, and entered the bath first. Ah, this full-body automated massage is darn amazing! It did seem to use up a lot of hot water, but because the bathroom makes use of an advanced water purification technology, the actual water consumption was practically nill. There’s also the added benefit of not having to worry about running out of water, even on long voyages. After I finished bathing, I went out and headed back to the dining room just wearing a plain t-shirt and half-pants. I found Elma and Mimi whispering among themselves.
“Yo, I’m done, you guys.”
Elma, who was busy having some sort of hush-hush girl-talk with Mimi, got startled and cried out with a weird voice, which ended up surprising me as well. Just what is with her all of a sudden? Is she trying to imitate a sparrow’s cry or something?
“W- Well now, you finished quite quickly, didn’t you!?”
“Not really. It’s how long I usually take… Hey, you okay? Your face is pale.”
“I- I- I’m quite f- fine, thank you! I’m completely okay!”
I turned towards Mimi with a questioning gaze but just got an ambiguous-looking smile in return. What? What’s going on? There was a growing sense of uneasiness building up inside me. I think there was a big misunderstanding going on around here. I somehow strongly felt that way.
“Hiro-sama, I’ll go ahead and enter the bath with Elma-san, okay?”
“Go right ahead.”
I let both of them go while still feeling that weird sense of unease. Hm? Elma seems strangely jittery for some reason…? And Mimi seems kind of lonely…? I don’t get it.
Well, I won’t get anywhere mulling about things I don’t get anyway. It’s a waste of brain cells. I’m not particularly trying to toss it to the backburner y’know. This is what’s called the efficient use of thinking power. And so, I stopped thinking about Elma’s unusual behavior and decided on considering my future plans in my room.
Today’s event nearly drained my wallet, so I’ll have to earn some more money as soon as possible. To prepare for the possibility of our ship getting severely damaged, I need to make at least 10 million Enel.
I ended up looking at the mercenary request notices on my terminal. It isn’t like there wasn’t any job worth good money, but almost all of them are cargo transport requests. They mainly entail transporting goods produced from Termaine Prime to other star systems through a series of relatively dangerous space routes and sectors. Depending on the amount and value of the goods, you’ll get one to three million Enel in compensation. If you can transport goods efficiently, you’d make quite the killing.
But unfortunately, Krishna’s cargo bay isn’t large enough to hold a lot of items. Carrying a small number of goods to different star systems would make one enough to cover for the fuel and maintenance costs. But with Krishna’s limited loading capacity, making cargo transport our main source of income would be quite inefficient.
“Guess it’s bounty hunting after all.”
The main base of the large-scale pirate fleet operating in this system was successfully destroyed some days ago, but pirates, by nature, are not monolithic. There are those small-scale outlier groups not affiliated with large fleets that try not to be too conspicuous in their activities. They only go active whenever a large-scale pirate subjugation ends. This is because the overall alert level of the star system military would inevitably turn lax after a successful subjugation operation ends.
“Let’s aim for the asteroid belt area then.”
The resource-rich asteroid belt area is frequented by both private mining ships and pirates aiming for said ships. I’m gonna earn some bounty money tomorrow by hunting down those pirates.
Once I decided on my course of action, I proceeded to search for an ideal hunting point. I’m sure the pirates wouldn’t dare to operate in the areas close to the territories of the Vereverem Federation. The situation would be similar in the sectors near the Termaine Prime colony, where the military’s main base is located.
The military was currently busy sorting out and recovering the usable debris and damaged, inactive ships in the vicinity of the former pirate base, so the security was pretty tight, with practically no gaps which can be exploited to worm in on the area.
“So my only options are this area, that area and this one too…”
I selected spots where the pirates are more likely to appear. Next, I needed to pinpoint the areas frequented by private mining vessels. Even if the area was a favorite pirate hang-out, there would be no point if there weren’t any mining vessels to prey upon. If there was no prey available, even pirates would get fed up.
However, honestly speaking, the exact coordinates of places classified as popular mining points or “resource-rich areas” are tightly guarded by the private mining firms. That’s only natural though. Those are their main sources of profit after all.
“Hmm, this is kinda more troublesome than I expected.”
I opened the Termaine System star map in order to glean more info, but it wasn’t that easy to locate possible mining spots. It can’t be helped then. I’ll just have to try again tomorrow.
The moment I decided to end my research, the door to my room suddenly opened.
“Huh? What’s up? Or rather, couldn’t you have knocked first before coming in……”
The one who opened the door and entered my room was Elma. She was wearing strangely rough, thin-looking clothes. More importantly, I don’t think she’s even wearing underwear! After noticing my heated gaze, Elma’s face turned red from embarrassment and crossed her arms over her modest-looking chest, seemingly trying to hide them.
“I- I’ve come……”
Uh, I didn’t particularly call for you, y’know. I inclined my head in puzzlement, making Elma’s face even redder as she glared daggers at me. Naw, naw, I don’t get this at all man. Why’d she suddenly enter my room without any warning and started glaring angrily at me?
“It’s because of ‘that’…”
Elma sighed and passed me, who was sitting in front of my desk, and proceeded to sit on my bed. It was a bed large enough to accommodate Mimi and me when we go to sleep. Err… her wearing that type of thin clothing and sitting on my bed… I think it’s not good to lead me on with those kinds of suggestive actions y’know.
“I said, make love to me, you dolt!”
I couldn’t help but let out a sharp retort to Elma’s impassioned declaration as she sat on my bed.
“Didn’t you say you want me? Didn’t you pay that 3 million Enel because of me? In other words, it’s like that, you idiot!”
I thought back to the things I said, Elma’s reactions and Mimi’s sad expression. I see. So that’s how it is. I did say that I wanted Elma. I went and said it. But what I meant was for her to act as Mimi’s tutor and support me, right? Ah, maybe she misunderstood what I meant by ‘support’?
I see, if that’s the case, then I kinda get why Elma had such thoughts. And even if it was just a misunderstanding on her part, Elma still went ahead and accepted this situation. Hm. I once again gazed at the trembling figure of Elma sitting on top of my bed. She had a really well-featured visage and thin, pretty silver hair. The soft bulges pushing up on her thin one-piece were on the smaller side, but it’s not like there was none to appreciate. Her body was wonderfully slender and her skin was white and smooth-looking. She was definitely a real beauty. It seems that her misunderstanding led to a direction completely different from what I originally intended, but it’s not like me to refuse such an enticing offer.
And I think it’ll be rude to the other party instead if I went and held back even though she’s already gone to such lengths and permitted such a development.
“I understand. I’ll try my best not to make you regret this.”
“––! B- Be gentle, okay……?”
“I’ll do my best,” I declared as I gently patted the head of Elma, who currently had an expression akin to a frightened child, and pushed her lithe body down on the bed.
“Brute. Sex fiend.”
“I’m safe since I had your consent.”
Elma clenched her dainty fists and started hitting my chest with them. Hahaha, this girl…
“That wasn’t the proper way of making love…”
“That’s not true. I was really happy y’know. It was the best.”
I wasn’t some saint anyway. I’ll go all the way if I can.
“Just think of it as the little rabbit that willingly fell into a trap and got eaten by the big, bad wolf… Ow, ow…! That seriously hurts y’know. Don’t pinch it so much.”
Elma, who puffed up her cheeks in a cute pout, pinched the sensitive spots on my naked chest. That really hurts y’know.
“I think it’s only proper to lead you through all the ins and outs, right?”
“I think a sincere person would properly say it first before proceeding to do those kinds of things.”
“I don’t really think it’s proper for a person to say those things openly and embarrass their partner though.”
“You just have an excuse for everything, don’t you? What a bad mouth.”
Right after saying that, Elma proceeded to seal my lips with her own.
Seriously, stop biting my lips when you kiss me, girl. It kinda hurts, okay.
“Well we already did it, so there’s no use complaining about it. Though I can’t really help but worry about it a bit.”
“I was really happy, thought it felt really amazing and was very satisfied though.”
I locked gazes with Elma once more. Elma turned away with her face all red.
“……It didn’t feel bad, okay. You were gentle like you promised.”
“What’s so ‘great’ about it huh?”
“Ow, ow, ow, ow!”
She pinched my flank hard this time. Damn, that smarts!
“I’ll really give it to you if bully me too much.”
“……Go ahead and try then.”
“Okay. You’re on, lady.”
So she’s been provoking me since a while ago to invite me for a second round huh? Okay then. Let’s properly answer her expectations.
I left the still-tired Elma on the bed the next morning, got a bath and managed to find Mimi sitting in front of the table in the dining room. She wasn’t doing anything in particular, but just silently sat there.
This silence was really unbearable. Mimi’s expression was kinda dark and lacked its usual liveliness. Was it ‘that’ perhaps? Is her ‘don’t throw me away’ phobia having a relapse?
I forcibly made the confused Mimi stand up from her seat and proceeded to lead her to the newly refurbished bathroom. Communication and skinship are important after all.