267 – I’m Not Gonna Fall for the Same Trick Twice
Editor: Thor’s Stone
“In the first place, it’s not like you’d be paying me out of your own pocket, right, Commander Serena?”
I resisted the urge to flat-out ask her if she wanted to haggle down the price by giving me those flirtatious looks. She had her sword within reach after all. I might lose my head if I made any careless comments.
“Hiro, The military’s budget, or rather, our fleet’s, isn’t unlimited.”
“Okay, I get that. But you see, if I agreed to get hired by you for cheap, the other Platinum-rankers might take issue with me.”
I replied to Commander Serena, who was making a serious face, with an equally serious tone. If I agreed to get hired by the Military, or rather, Commander Serena for a trifling amount, and it results in the pay for Platinum ranked mercenaries getting reduced, I would probably get all of the blame and be hated in the mercenary circle as a result. The Military was also part of the Government after all. Since unwritten rules were prevalent in these kinds of organizations, I better avoid setting a bad precedent, or I might get burned.
“In the first place, if you came here at the behest of the Imperial Government, don’t you have more than enough funds on hand?”
When the first pirate attack took place, an emergency request was issued by the Star System Garrison, which was composed mainly of people from the Rose Clan, and in response to that, Commander Serena’s Independent Mobile Anti-pirate Fleet was dispatched. Although the Refill system was an autonomous region, it firmly remains as part of the Graccan empire. Since an Imperial territory suffered a brazen attack by space pirates, there’s no way the Empire would stay quiet because it involved their honor as a galactic power. That’s why Commander Serena and her fleet were sent here, so she probably has quite a bit of budget funded by the Imperial Government as well.
“……You were so gullib– ahem, innocent when I first met you, but you’ve become such a boor before I knew it.”
“Were you about to say ‘gullible’?”
“I didn’t say anything of the sort.”
Although she replied with a straight face, she definitely almost blurted that word out, didn’t she? I didn’t mishear that at all.
Well, it’s true that I was basically led by the nose by Commander Serena when we participated in the conflict with the Vereverem Federation back in the Termaine system. I was cajoled by the beautiful female Military Officer until I was basically wrapped around her finger, and that was that! I was made to participate without any say in the matter. I ain’t gonna fall for the same trick twice.
“Look, it’s not like I’m not gonna participate this time. I’m just saying you need to pay me proper compensation.”
“I see. Alright then. How about this much?”
The amount offered wasn’t 300,000 Enels per day just like what Earl Dareinwald gave us, but the usual 200,000 Enels per day for Platinum rankers. In addition to the daily payout, we also get the usual kill rewards and guild bounties. Not a bad deal.
“I have one more condition, but it’s not about raising the price.”
“Let’s hear it then.”
Commander Serena nodded and urged me to continue.
“I want to upgrade Black Lotus’s equipment. If possible, I’d like to obtain some military-grade equipment and weapon systems from you guys. I’ll pay for them, of course.”
“Ah, I see. That’s your gunship, or rather, your mothership, right? It would help us out as well if that ship’s firepower is improved.”
Yep, it’s our mothership. It does have a wee bit more firepower than your average mothership, but it’s still a mothership nonetheless.
“I think I told you about this next one before, but we were in the middle of an operation then so I couldn’t elaborate much on it. Y’see, I want a lightweight power armor of my own.”
“Understood. Let us include that in our deal this time then. Since it’s a request from a Gold Star recipient, you can rest assured that we’ll do our best to satisfy you.”
“Thanks. So I suppose you’ll notify me once the schedule is decided?”
“Yes, I will contact you once our action plan is finalized, so please be ready to sortie at any time. I don’t think it would take that much time to finalize everything.”
However, our opponent this time is the Red Flag pirate organization, which had eluded the pursuit of Imperial Forces for many years. I don’t think they’d go down that easily. I wonder if Commander Serena has a special strategy in mind.
“And so, it’s been decided that we’ll be participating in the Red Flag subjugation operation.”
When I returned to Black Lotus, I immediately told everyone that we would be participating in the pirate mop-up operation, and everyone was cool with it.
“You acted like you didn’t like it one bit, Boss, but you agreed in the end huh.”
“It’s because this is a good opportunity for us. It would definitely go smoother if we left the acquisition of military-grade weapons and equipment to Commander Serena, and if we earn enough in the subjugation operation, we’d be basically getting them for free. Since we’d be earning a daily payout coupled with the kill and bounty rewards, it would be a shame not to participate.”
“But it’s true that you were throwing a fit before, right?”
“……I just lose my cool a bit whenever something that involves Commander Serena comes up. That’s all.”
First, there was that operation where we simply had to capture a pirate base, but we ended up getting involved in a border dispute with a neighboring country afterward. Commander Serena noticed my skills during that time and that led to her promotion, and the creation of the Independent Mobile Pirate-hunting Fleet soon after. Then, I was just supposed to play a minor role as a delivery guy but got involved in a decisive battle with crystal lifeforms instead. And because of that, I got promoted in mercenary rank, slapped with an award, and made to come to the Imperial Capital. Then, the mess in the Imperial Capital happened…… I think there’s a definite pattern where I’d get involved in trouble as long as Commander Serena was involved in it as well.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have agreed after all……? But if we run away now, my reputation and trustworthiness would take a huge hit.”
“Yeah. I suppose it’s already too late to escape at this point.”
“I should have predicted this and chose to run away the first chance I got.”
“It would be impossible to anticipate that much you know……”
In other words, this was another example of fate playing around with me huh. I’m not really into metaphysical stuff and whatnot, but ever since coming into this world, there are many instances that felt like they were prearranged. Or was it just me being a bit too paranoid?
“Anyway, that’s how it is, so make preparations for an immediate sortie, everyone.”
As I watched everyone busy themselves, I gave instructions to Mei as well.
“Please create a draft plan for improving the Black Lotus. I’d like to say money isn’t an issue, but…… let’s make the maximum budget 20 million.”
“Yes, I think that amount would be more than enough.”
A 20 million Enel budget would ensure that we’d at least be able to replace the armor and laser cannons with military-grade ones.
“Ah, Hiro-sama, will we also take up a job as a supply ship this time?”
“It’s a pass this time. We can expect a lot of loot since we’ll be going up against a large pirate organization.”
Mimi, who remained in the dining hall while fiddling with her tablet terminal, replied cheerfully and resumed working.
Now then, what should I do……? Oh, I can’t take the Sacred Tree seed with me, so I suppose I better make the needed arrangements. Well, I guess I can just hand it over to a person with suitable authority in Refill Prime.
That’s what I thought. But–
“I’m sorry, but we’d like you to keep it until it sprouts……”
“But if I did that, I’d end up carrying it away when I leave the star system.”
“Please, anything but that……”
“No, even if you say so, I’ll be participating in the subjugation operation against the Red Flag pirates you know? The Thetan autonomous government doesn’t have the authority to prevent me from participating, right?”
“That’s true, but……”
The Theta Autonomous Government representative stationed on Refill Prime kept talking in an evasive manner as sweat poured down from his forehead. Even if it was called an autonomous state, it was, in truth, governed by a parliamentary system made up of the three major Clans. Furthermore, most of the people living in the Refill Prime colony were part of the Rose Clan; basically, the most technologically receptive faction among the elves that acted as the race’s innovators. But apart from the Rose Clan, none of the other elves liked the idea of leaving their home system.
“To those shut-ins, the Sacred Tree seed acts as their mental and spiritual support after all……”
The Government representative, who was a member of the Rose Clan, replied while displaying an expression akin to that of a guy swallowing a bitter pill. Judging from his reaction, I suppose even he thinks this current situation was just a load of nonsense.
“I already said this before to the ones down below. I’m very willing to just leave that thing to the elves.”
What I referred to when I said ‘down below’ was the surface of Refill IV, or Planet Theta. I’m sure the people living on the surface would find the term unamusing, to say the least, but I don’t have to care about their feelings right now anyway.
“I’m well aware of that, of course. This is just us being willful. You really don’t have to take our views on the matter into account. It’s just……”
“We would really prefer it if you didn’t leave the seed in our hands at this timing. The tension between the three major Clans has been on a steady rise due to the things that happened recently. If you left the Sacred Tree seed in our hands at this timing, it might become a spark that lights up an even greater conflict between the Clans.”
“In other words?”
“If possible, please just take it with you. And you can bring it back to us once it sprouts.”
“Eh…… But wouldn’t the Grado and Minfa Clans raise a fuss if I did like you said?”
Honestly, I didn’t really want to earn any further animosity from those folks.
“We are prepared to shoulder the blame on the matter, so please don’t worry.”
After saying so, the Government representative gave a dry laugh. Well, in the worst case, I can just leave it somewhere in Refill Prime later, I guess. It would be a bit troublesome to come back to Refill Prime after the operation, but I suppose I could provide at least that much extra service.
“I understand. You elves did do your best to entertain us, so I suppose I can do that much for you in return.”
“We are much obliged.”
The representative gave me a deep bow. For him, or rather, for the Rose Clan, this situation was nothing but a bad draw. Anyway, as I said, the elves did provide delicious food for us and pretty nice inns as our accommodations, so I guess I can give them this much in return, at least.