388 – S-san from the Imperial Capital
Editor: Thor’s Stone
After tidying up, we had a light brunch and spent a leisurely time inside our room. When it was time for our appointment with the mystery party, we all headed down to the hotel lounge. However–
One corner of the hotel lounge was enveloped in a heavy atmosphere. Three people were sitting there while being guarded by guys who were probably from Kouga Service. The reason why I knew that the guards were from Kouga Service is because they were wearing uniforms with the company logo and name clearly emblazoned on them.
“It looks like they have already arrived, My Lord.”
“They’re quite early…… Are they that impatient to meet us?”
“I wonder– Hm? That person looks kind of familiar……?”
Mimi tilted her head to the side in wonder after she saw our guests (Was it really proper to call people who directed killing intent at me guests?) who have already made themselves comfortable. One of the three people was looking at Mimi as well. She was an older woman who looked like a pretty seasoned and skilled mercenary.
“Do you know each other, Mimi?”
“Hmm, I wonder…… Maybe it’s just my imagination.”
Mimi replied with her head still tilted to the side. It seemed like she was trying hard to recall if she had already met the woman before, but couldn’t.
“We’ll find out when we talk to her anyway.”
When I held the pensive-looking Mimi’s hand and walked toward our guests, the madam who was sitting with her legs crossed suddenly glared at me.
There’s no doubt about it. It was this woman. This old hag was the one who bared killing intent at me from a crazy long distance. She had brown hair similar to Mimi’s that was framed with a visor shaped like triangular cat’s eye glasses. She was wearing a fairly weathered mercenary outfit and had a laser gun strapped to her waist. And she also had a big sword that was leaning against the sofa. Its blade was slightly curved. A cutlass?
“What are you gawking over there for? Hurry up and sit down already.”
I gave the old hag a sloppy-looking salute and sat down opposite her. Mimi sat on my right and Elma sat on my left. Mei and Kugi stood behind us. Kugi, who was standing behind me, placed her mouth close to my ear and whispered.
“My Lord, almost no mental waves are flowing out of those three people. There is a good chance that they are wearing equipment that blocks the emission of mental waves as a countermeasure to us.”
I gave Kugi a short response as I watched the mechanic sisters and Dr. Shouko sit on the sofa to the left. I then turned my gaze toward the damn hag in front of me.
“Thank you for graciously accepting my invitation. My name is Captain Hiro.”
“I know. We investigated you thoroughly after all. So much that I’m already tired of seeing your damn face.”
“I’m sorry for making you go through all the trouble then. I would have answered any question you had if you just asked directly though. By the way, can you tell us your name, madam? From the looks of it, we should be working in the same industry.”
After hearing my words, the old hag displayed an annoyed expression and clicked her tongue. She was acting overly aggressive. Or was she always in a bad mood like this?
“The heck is with that ‘madam’ bit? Stop calling me something that makes ones behind itch.”
“Okay. So, it looks like you already know me well, so how about introducing yourselves too? I’m not asking you to spill everything about yourselves. Just tell me why the heck you targeted us.”
“Only if you answer my questions first.”
“Oi, oi, ain’t that kinda shameless of you……? Oh well. I’m an understanding guy. Alright, shoot.”
It would be fine once we find out what their actual purpose was and prevent them from targeting us, err, me. I’ll just make some concessions here.
“Who the heck are you, exactly?”
“That’s kinda difficult to answer you know……? You already investigated me, right? I’m a Platinum-rank mercenary working for the Mercenary Guild, and was lucky enough to be granted the Gold Star or something like that. Then I became an honorary viscount of this empire.”
“I don’t care about such superficial info. Give me something more concrete. Where were you born, how were you raised, how did you get that ship of yours, and how did you appear in the Termaine system? I wanna hear all about those.”
I couldn’t help but fall silent when I heard the question the old hag threw at me. Well, this is a pickle. This old hag sure knows how to throw some critical questions.
“I can’t answer those questions. Everyone has a thing or two in their pasts that they would like to keep secret from others, right? Or rather, I don’t actually know much about the answers to some of those questions myself.”
“What the heck do you mean by that?”
“First, I don’t even know how exactly I got to the Termaine system. When I woke up, I was already inside my ship Krishna’s cockpit, with its power generator down. I fought off some pirates that tried to rob me, salvaged data from their ships, and learned the coordinates of Termaine Prime from that data. I was immediately interrogated by the military when I got to Termaine Prime, and after I got back to my ship, I shut myself inside it for a few days in order to gather info because I had absolutely no damn clue about where I was. I then decided to work as a mercenary after that. Fortunately, I still more or less remembered how to pilot my ship.”
“When I first met him in Termaine Prime, Hiro was in quite a precarious state because he was absolutely clueless about a lot of things. I can testify that this definitely was the case. Well, his common sense is still dodgy even now though.”
Elma supplemented my story and shrugged her shoulders. The sharp-eyed old hag seems to be mulling over the truthfulness of our statements with furrowed brows.
“That’s a pretty unbelievable story. In other words, someone from who-knows-where who had a very suspicious background was actually promoted to Platinum-rank? Since when did this empire become so tolerant of people like you?”
“I have no idea about that. Maybe some higher-ups had some plans in mind that I wasn’t aware of, or maybe I was just lucky. Whatever the case, I’m able to work as a mercenary in this empire without any problems. By the way, why are you so interested in that sort of stuff anyway? I really don’t get what’s your agenda here.”
“I hold information about you in great importance. But I agree that this is just beating around the bush. I’ll ask you straight then.”
“What’s your purpose in approaching Mimi? Did you get paid to do so? Who was it that paid you? If you dare to tell some lame-sounding lies, I’ll make sure to blow your head clean off even if it’s the last thing I do.”
The old hag declared something outrageous in a scary tone. She seemed to be greatly interested in Mimi and my relationship. Mimi and I turned toward each other.
“……What the heck are you staring at her for? Answer my questions!”
“Well, uh…… no one really asked me to get close to her or anything like that. As for my purpose…… Mimi and I actually met completely by chance. And as for why I helped her, well, I can only answer that I couldn’t just abandon her back then…… And, well, Mimi’s quite cute too.”
“Ehehe, it’s like it was destiny!”
Mimi displayed a bright smile as she hugged my arm. Umu. How wonderful. I would probably respond similarly if I ever found myself faced with such a situation again. But even so, good job, ‘me’ from back then.
“Answer me seriously.”
“But I really am serious…… A cute girl like Mimi was getting dragged into a back alley by some evil-looking thugs, so it would only make sense to come to her rescue even if I had to push myself a bit. As a man, I felt obligated to do so. Any other decent guy would probably do so as well.”
“Regardless of whether or not they could really pull it off, I do agree.”
The man who was together with the old hag nodded in response after keeping quiet for most of the conversation thus far.
“See? I admit that I sorta had ulterior motives, but they were within the bounds of common sense. It was 30% righteous indignation, 30% me not wanting to get a bad taste in my mouth if I abandoned Mimi, and 40% ulterior motives.”
“You’re kidding, right? Your ulterior motives should be 50 or 60%, ain’t they?”
“Uh, yeah. Maybe. But still think righteous indignation and not wanting to wake up badly played a big part in my decision to help back then.”
When I glanced at Elma after saying that, she awkwardly averted her gaze. I still wasn’t close to Elma back then, and she was treating me as a mercenary and not as Hiro, so she simply advised me to not stick my neck into such things. Well, it can’t be helped because we were all practically strangers to one another back then, but Elma should be feeling quite awkward about trying to advise me to basically abandon Mimi to her fate back then.
“……In other words, there was no one who put you up to it or any other shady reason, and it was just a coincidence that you met Mimi and had her board your ship?”
“Basically, yeah. I had no clue about what it exactly meant to have a woman board a man’s ship back then. I had Mimi board my ship after I rescued her from those thugs, and my jaw dropped when I found out about it later on.”
“……Ehehe. It’s kind of nostalgic.”
Mimi’s cheeks blushed slightly in embarrassment. This is quite a sensitive topic.
“Or rather, why do you keep asking about Mimi? What are you to her anyway?”
“……What do you think?”
Don’t answer my question with a question, dammit! I swallowed those words and started to think. She was a middle-aged woman who was likely a mercenary, and she even has a cutlass or something resembling one, so she should be fairly well-versed in imperial swordsmanship. The man and woman sitting next to her were both relatively young, but they also exuded auras befitting mercenaries.
She seems to personally know Mimi, and she was a female mercenary — I can only think of one possibility. Eh? Seriously? Ain’t she a bit too young-looking? Uh, but if she really was a member of the imperial royal family, then there’s a high possibility of her being given the highest grade of physical enhancements and anti-aging treatments since she was young, and if she was anything like the rumors about her, then she should be quite loaded with cash as well. She should be able to easily afford those sorts of surgeries using the latest technology. In that case, the possibility of her being who I think she is even if she only looks like a slightly middle-aged woman was pretty high.
“I’m a little hesitant to say the name I’m thinking of out loud. Could you be S-san who’s famous as the heroine of action-adventure dramas that are very popular throughout the empire?”
“Why do you think so?”
“I went to the imperial capital when I received the Gold Star. I faced a lot of troublesome stuff back then. The famous S-san’s brother apparently took a great interest in me. And the trigger for that was apparently Mimi.”
“I actually suspected that you getting close to her was that person’s plot.”
“That definitely ain’t the case. If possible, I don’t wanna get too involved with that person. That’s why I don’t wanna approach the imperial capital if there’s no particular reason to…… Oh, I see. So that’s it. That’s why you could only choose to set up a surveillance net here.”
This was the answer to what Dr. Shouko suggested yesterday when she told us to reverse our thinking. Basically, the reason for not approaching the capital was the same as mine.
The surveillance net didn’t specifically target the Alein system. Rather, they could only put it up in the Alein system. In other words, this woman didn’t want His Imperial Majesty the emperor to find her after stepping inside imperial territory.
“That’s how it is. There’s no shortage of jobs here, and we’re able to get in touch with cutting-edge tech even though it’s a relatively remote corner of the empire. It wasn’t a bad place to wait things out.”
After saying so, the old hag took off her visor and turned her gaze toward Mimi. Now that I’ve gotten a good look at her, she does resemble Mimi in some aspects of her appearance. No, it’s the opposite huh? Mimi actually resembled her instead.
“It’s been ten years since we last met face-to-face, Mimi. I’m Serestia. Your grandmother.”
After saying so, the corners of Grandma Serestia’s mouth, who unleashed such killing intent at me previously, lifted up and formed a grin. Man. This sure is one heck of a grandma.
 Previously tl’d as Celestia. Japanese Katakana strikes again.