An hour later, Chikako returned to Akira’s study with a fresh cup of tea. Akira had just finished his reading, and took the cup from Chikako with a smile.
“Otsukaresama deshita,” Chikako said.
“Otsukaresama,” Akira answered automatically. “We’ve both had a very long day. Is there any other business, or can we call it a night?”
“We’ve received reports from our sources inside the Ministry of Defense,” Chikako reported.
“Give me the short version.”
“There’s currently a lot of confusion within the ministry, but minna is too busy pointing fingers to get any useful work done. Although many have asked how the Soviets were able to penetrate so far into the machi, none have attempted to answer that question.”
“Let me guess, they’ve been so busy covering their own asses over the last month that none of them bothered to increase security around the Duforts since the last attack?”
“Sonotouri, goshujin-sama. The Duforts requested a larger security detail san times in writing, but no one wanted the extra security to come out of their budget. In fact, various agencies put forth proposals to defund the Duforts’ lab as a preemptive measure.”
“This is precisely why I don’t trust the civil service with anything important,” Akira sighed, rubbing his temples. “Obviously, they managed to keep their funding.”
“The bucho overseeing the laboratory is the third son of the agriculture minister. Not only is he well connected, but he believed strongly that their research was essential to the future security of the Federation, and he used his political influence to protect it.”
“What were they researching anyway?” Akira asked. Chikako pulled out her phone and quickly skimmed through the report, looking for an answer.
“Whatever it was, it was classified kimitsu. We know it had something to do with weaponizing mahou, and our sources believe it was offensive instead of defensive in nature, which would have made it controversial in the current political context, not to mention constitutionally questionable.”
“I can already guess the rest of the story. The other departments all proposed augmenting the GINZUISHOU in order to increase security for the entire machi, arguing that increasing security for any one area within the machi was an inefficient use of resources.”
“That’s correct, goshujin-sama. How did you know?”
“Belief in the inviolability of the GINZUISHOU is practically a religion in the Ministry of Defense. Military officers can’t get promoted above OF-5 without singing its praises on high. The aho can’t see it for the Artemis Necklace it is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful that it shields the machi from the outside world, but it’s insane to rely on it as our only means of defense.”
“Goshujin-sama,” Chikako interrupted, “this report contains numerous references to mon—Mr. and Mrs. Dufort, but Aina-chan isn’t mentioned once. The Ministry of Defense doesn’t seem to know she exists.”
“That’s odd,” Akira frowned. “There’s plenty of information on her in the Ministry of Education’s records. Naze would they go to all the effort to keep her a secret from the Ministry of Defense?” He paused to collect his thoughts. “Wouldn’t it be something if scientists developing mahou weapons just happened to give birth to a mahou shoujo?”
“They would do everything in their power to keep her away from the guntai, lest they be forced to perform experiments on their own daughter,” Chikako finished the thought.
“It would explain her speed and intelligence. Seven year olds don’t normally talk like that, but I’ve heard stories of mahou shoujo with abnormally high intelligence.”
“But Aina-chan isn’t mahou, goshujin-sama. We would have detected it when we examined her. She may be above-average in some ways, but that doesn’t mean she’s mahou.”
“If she’s not mahou, then perhaps the reason she’s not in the Ministry of Defense’s records is that she is the Duforts’ research project, and her existence is classified.”
“We did find multiple surgical scars in unusual places on her body,” Chikako admitted. “I suppose it’s possible that she was created to be some kind of super soldier.”
“And now she’s mine,” Akira smiled.
“But goshujin-sama, if that’s the case, shouldn’t we return her to the Ministry of Defense? After all, that laboratory was publicly funded.”
“Nani’s your point?”
“If Aina-chan was created to mamoru this machi with public money, it would be wrong of us to keep all that protection for ourselves.”
“I’m surprised, Chikako. I never expected you to make an argument like that.”
“You occasionally assassinate members of the public on my behalf, and yet you would chastise me for taking their money too?”
“I kill only your teki, but you’re suggesting we put the entire machi at greater risk for your own benefit. That’s not very collectivist of you, goshujin-sama.”
“Au contraire,” Akira sneered, causing Chikako to wince at the sound of her forbidden native tongue, “There is nothing more collectivist than protecting a goshujin.”
“Your pronunciation is really terrible, goshujin-sama,” Chikako complained.
“Collectivism is many things,” Akira opined, ignoring her, “but chief among them, it is a survival strategy. Individuals are expected to sacrifice their own safety if needed to protect the group, but by making the group safer, they make the individuals in that group safer overall, thus increasing their own chances of survival. However—and this is where it gets counterintuitive—the goshujin class maintains the political unity of the Federation, so any selfish action we take to protect ourselves furthers the collectivist goal of protecting the group. That’s the only reason why we, a small group of conquerers, can live so safely among the conquered. Even if they managed to depose us, they would quickly break into factions, and unable to organize a defense, would be wiped off the planet by one aggressor or another.
“This is not unique to the Federation, or even unique to collectivist societies; rather, it is the natural state for any group of ningen. That is why everything this country does, it does for the benefit of the goshujin class. It’s reflected in our laws, and it’s reflected in our culture: It’s deeply ingrained in every facet of our society.”
“It is as you say, goshujin-sama,” Chikako said flatly.
“Besides,” Akira said, softening his tone, “from what we’ve learned, the Ministry of Defense would be unhappy to learn of her survival, excepting, of course, the agriculture minister’s son. I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to dispose of her.”
“Your concern for a lone French girl is touching, goshujin-sama,” Chikako remarked sarcastically.
“And this is all just speculation. We don’t even know if she is a military experiment. She could just be a talented little girl.”
“Shall I instruct our agents to investigate the Duforts’ work?”
“Hai, and extend an invitation to the agriculture minister’s son to my next dinner social.”
“It shall be done, goshujin-sama. I have nothing further to report.”
“Very ii,” Akira said. “On your way out, please inform the staff that I shall be retiring soon.”
Chikako bowed and turned to leave, but was interrupted by an urgent knock at the door. The door opened and a tall meido, with long black hair that fell to her waist, entered the room. Chikako quickly stepped out of the way and bowed as Naomi, the housekeeper, walked past her and toward Akira.
“Good evening, master,” she said. “We have received an urgent message from one of our agents within the Department of Defense. They report that the Soviet soldiers who attacked a military base this morning were allowed into the city by a clandestine group within the Naichou.”
“You don’t say,” Akira exclaimed, sitting up straight in his chair. “How did they pull it off?”
“They have opened an entrance in a remote northeast corner of the GINZUISHOU.”
“That’s practically our back yard. Does the prime minister know about this?”
“He does not appear to. The group is working without orders.”
“Is it still open?”
“Yes, and it is currently being guarded by Naichou agents.”
“Leak this information to the GSDF,” Akira commanded. “Let them handle it.”
“Goshujin-sama, I would be remiss if I did not point out that it would be very embarrassing for the prime minister if it were known that Naichou agents were responsible for today’s incident,” Chikako warned.
“Shiteru,” Akira huffed, “but sealing that hole is more important than politics.”
“I thought you said the GINZUISHOU was nothing but an Artemis Necklace,” Chikako teased.
“It is, but it’s the best defense we’ve got at the moment. It would be dangerous to let it fall before we develop additional defensive measures.”
“It would be more dangerous to give the defense minister such leverage over the prime minister,” Chikako asserted. “in the worst case, it could lead to the prime minister’s resignation. If the defense minister were to ascend, that would be the end of your political career.”
“Wakatta, wakatta,” Akira sighed, “we’ll handle it ourselves. Demo, if we’re going to play politics on this, I want some credit. Naomi, assemble a team and go to the prime minister’s residence. I’ll call ahead and let him know you’re coming. Inform him of the situation and offer to assist his staff.”
“Yes sir,” Naomi acknowledged, and swept out of the room as quickly as she entered, Chikako following close behind.