Chapter 28

May 21st, U.C. 0164, 3:40 PM

Daiki Osborne, the student council vice-president, and Juro Dylan, his lackey, turned heads as they strolled brazenly down Horikoshi Gakuen’s hallways. It was partly due to the large sack Juro was carrying on his back, but it was mostly because the two of them were covered head to toe in liquid, flowing GINZUISHOU.

“Time’s up, you kuso pleb,” Daiki announced as he threw open the door to the student council meeting room. “I’ve had enough of doing your grunt work. We’re trading places.”

“How very kind of you to offer, Daiki-sama,” came Aina’s voice in response. Juro followed Daiki into the room to find the meido its sole occupant. “I’ve always wanted to be a goshujin, but I’m afraid you’d make a poor meido.”

Nani the fuck are you doing here?” Daiki demanded. Scions of other goshujin families might have been nervous to encounter Aina unexpectedly, but the Osbournes were on good terms with Mitsuo.

“The seitokaichou was worried that you were going to do something dangerous, so she asked me to intervene, as much for your safety as hers. Demo, I can see you don’t need my protection. That’s an impressive trick with the GINZUISHOU.”

“Not nearly as impressive as this,” Daiki boasted, gesturing to the large sack Juro was carrying. Juro stepped forward and placed the sack down on the conference table and opened it to reveal what appeared to be a small nuclear warhead.

“Is that real?” Aina immediately demanded.

“I wouldn’t bluff about something like this,” Daiki replied.

Doko did you get a baka thing like that?” Aina asked, genuinely shocked at the turn of events.

“I’ve got powerful ‘Murican friends,” Daiki bragged. “They even implanted the detonator at the base of my skull. If anything happens to me, DON!”

Iie,” Aina shook her head. “You didn’t get this from the ‘Murican government.”

“Nani difference does it make?” Daiki shot back. “I’m in control here.”

Hai, you are,” Aina admitted.

Aina said this despite knowing that it was unlikely that Daiki was capable of detonating the warhead. Whoever had given it to him held the real detonator. It was a small, tactical warhead, with a yield of a few kilotons at most. It could take out a small chunk of the city, and with the GINZUISHOU still stubbornly preventing the invention of radiation scrubbers, it would render much of the city uninhabitable. But if that had been their intention, they would have detonated the bomb already. The school was close enough to the center of the city to ensure the damage would be bad. It was likely intended for a specific target.

Of course, if assassination were their only goal, they wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of procuring a nuclear warhead, or even a regular explosive that looked like one. Their secondary goal was to terrorize and damage the city. If it appeared that their primary goal was going to fail, they probably wouldn’t hesitate to settle for the secondary goal. Aina knew her best bet was to make it appear that they could still accomplish their primary goal, keep the warhead stationary and hope the intended target didn’t approach it. She still needed to come up with a way to safely dispose of it, but for now, she would play along.

Ii,” Daiki grinned. “Now that we’ve established that, go fetch that upstart kaichou for me.”

Kashikomarimashita, Daiki-sama,” Aina said. “I shall find her for you. It may take some time, so please stay here and relax. Perhaps cover that thing up so that it doesn’t scare people.”

“Juro, go with her,” Daiki ordered. “Make sure she doesn’t warn anyone.”

“How am I supposed to prevent her from doing anything?” Juro protested.

“I’ll call you every go minutes,” Daiki said. “And don’t even think about imitating him,” he warned Aina. “We have a code.”

3:52 PM

“Leader, are you angry?” Juro asked as he and Aina walked down the sidewalk.

I’m not your leader! I was never even a member of Teki-bu, Aina wanted to scream at him, but now was not the time. “I’m not angry,” she lied, “but I am worried. Bringing a nuclear explosive into the machi is a serious crime. Not even a goshujin can get away with that, and Daiki-sama knows it. Nani on Chikyuu would possess him to do such a thing?”

“His old man’s been coming down on him real hard,” Juro said. “A couple weeks ago, he threatened to pass over Daiki and make his ototou the heir.”

Sou ka,” Aina said. “Nani did Daiki-sama do to deserve that?”

“Nothing,” Juro insisted. “I mean, he’s made some mistakes, but dare hasn’t? His otou-san’s just upset at the political situation. He fears the influence of the goshujin is going to diminish if they don’t do something radical to take back power. Daiki’s just doing what his old man asked of him.”

“I doubt even he would do something this radical,” Aina said.

Juro shrugged in response. He was about to say something more when his phone buzzed. He answered the call and shouted into the phone, “WHASSUP?”

From the phone’s speaker, Aina could hear a returned “WHASSUP?”

Some code, Aina thought.

“Hold on, I’ll ask her,” Juro said. He then turned to Aina and asked, “How long is this going to take? Do you know doko she is?”

“I have a good idea,” Aina said loud enough for the phone to pick up her voice, “and I have some hito checking other places she might be. I haven’t told them anything.”

“Did you get that?” Juro confirmed. “OK, cool. Talk to you in go.”

As soon as he ended the call, Aina blew the GINZUISHOU from Juro’s body with her spiritual energy, snatched the phone from his hand, pocketed it, grabbed him around the waist, and lifted him over her head, belly up. “Juro-sama, trust me,” she ordered as she ran down the sidewalk as fast as she could. “I’m doing this for your protection, and for Daiki-sama’s.” With a powerful leap, she ascended to the top of a nearby apartment complex and ran across the rooftops towards the central spire. She continued this way for a couple minutes, until it became obvious that she wouldn’t make it before Daiki’s next check-in. Normally, she would be confident that she could reach the central spire within five minutes, but Juro’s struggling was slowing her down. Reluctantly, she dropped down to the ground.

“Juro-sama, can you swim?” she asked.

“Put me down!” he yelled in response.

“Can you swim?” Aina repeated the question firmly.

“I’m the best fuckin’ swimmer you ever—”

That was enough for Aina. She tossed Juro into the Seine and deftly hopped over the river. She pulled the glove off her good hand as soon as she landed and rushed for the spire, managing to reach it just as Juro’s phone buzzed.

When the GINZUISHOU broke through the floor, it knocked Daiki aside and enveloped the nuclear warhead. It had erupted with such speed and force that it overshot, piercing through the ceiling, before pulling back sharply into the ground. When the warhead detonated a moment later, the GINZUISHOU contained the explosion, but the ground shook violently, collapsing the building on top of Daiki.

4:03 PM

The students and teachers were still evacuating the school when Aina arrived. From the outside, Aina could see the section of the building which had collapsed. Donning a protective mask, she immediately began clearing the debris. A few minutes later, some free meido arrived on the scene, followed shortly after by police first responders. They dug carefully, and half an hour later, they had dug three people out of the rubble, two of them unconscious, but all three of them alive. Finally, they reached Daiki. The liquid GINZUISHOU around him had protected him from the weight of the building falling on top of him, but he had been pinned down, waiting for rescue.

“The fuck did you do?” He asked accusingly as he stood. He walked over to Aina and pulled himself up to his full height, glaring at her menacingly.

“I saved your unworthy ass,” Aina shot back. “The fuck did I do? Iie, the fuck did you do? You bring in some shady-looking tactical nuke from some ‘Murican terrorist group—”

“They’re a militia,”  Daiki interrupted. “It’s part of their constitution—”

“They detonated the warhead,” Aina told him. “You never had any control over it. If the GINZUISHOU hadn’t destroyed half the building to contain it, you’d be dead.”

“Nuh-uh,” Daiki said. “I had this to protect me.” He slammed his fist against his chest, making a hollow thudding noise as the GINZUISHOU impacted with itself.

“That would have saved you from the heat and the radiation,” Aina admitted, “but not the force of the explosion. You would have been thrown into the air and killed when you impacted with the GINZUISHOU above. Besides, nani about everyone else? It would have destroyed the gakkou, killing minna in the area. You’re lucky only san others were injured.

Sore ga doushita?” Daiki shot back. “They’re all plebs anyway.”

“Aina-sama,” one of the meido behind her said, “did I hear that right? This shounen brought a nuclear bomb here? He’s responsible for all this?”

“Sore ga doushita?” Daiki repeated defiantly.

“My imouto attends this gakkou,” the meido growled. “If she was hurt because of your stupidity…” the meido attempted to grab Daiki by the collar, but her hands glanced off the GINZUISHOU.

Matte,” Aina interjected, moving between Daiki and the meido.

“Don’t tell me you’re going to mamoru this dipshit,” the meido shouted at Aina. “Do you plan to side with the goshujin no matter what they do? They’re only going to get more desperate as their grip on power deteriorates. If we don’t send them a strong message, it’ll be worse next time.”

“He’ll get his,” Aina asserted, “but I need information from him first.”

“Fuck that,” Daiki said. “You can’t do shit to me while I’m wearing this.” His voice wavered as he spoke. He had just realized, for the first time, the gravity of his situation. Whoever had given him the warhead had also installed a neural implant in his spine, a neural implant which did not actually control the bomb’s detonation. It was possible that its purpose was to kill him, so he couldn’t reveal any information. It might already be injecting poison into him, but he felt that his best chance of survival was to get away from anyone who might interrogate him. Maybe they wouldn’t kill him if they didn’t have a reason to.

Aina, of course, had surmised this already, but seeing as Daiki was still alive, she suspected that the implant had either malfunctioned or was never designed to kill him in the first place. After all, why waste the money on something so expensive when the nuclear explosion would doubtlessly kill him anyway? She had briefly entertained the idea that it might be loaded with explosives, a backup assassination device, but it was too small to kill anyone except Daiki. Whatever the case, he was doomed anyway. He wouldn’t escape the death penalty for his crime, and if the implant really did kill him, it would make it harder to track down the group that had furnished the bomb, but he wasn’t the only source of information. Still, she thought it would be best to get the implant removed as quickly as possible, and she didn’t have the skills to do that.

“You shouldn’t rely too much on the GINZUISHOU,” Aina advised him. She turned towards him and made a show of blowing air on his chest, and the GINZUISHOU around him turned into a mist and floated away. Daiki tried to run, but his legs shook with fear and he fell face-forward into the rubble. Turning back to the meido, she advised, “let the keisatsu handle it. They have jurisdiction here.”

“They’ll just release him,” the meido protested.

“He won’t escape his punishment,” Aina assured her, “but how severe that punishment will be depends on his willingness to cooperate,” she said loudly enough for Daiki to hear. She then leaned closer to the meido and whispered in her ear, “The goshujin can’t protect him, but they’ll be angry nonetheless. Let the keisatsu take the heat. The free meido don’t need it.”

9:00 PM

“He’s in interrogation room B,” the secretary informed Koharu. “They’re waiting for you.”

With a curt nod to the secretary, Koharu walked briskly towards the interrogation rooms, Emi following close behind.

“I don’t mind you tagging along to learn,” Koharu told Emi, “but if you’re going to complain about the morality of my methods, you might as well leave now.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Emi said. “I’m an officer, not a philosopher. Mahou should be used to benefit shakai.”

Koharu walked in silence for a minute before venturing, “If you don’t mind some personal advice, you shouldn’t make absolutist statements like that around Aina-san.”

“She wouldn’t approve of your methods?” Emi asked. “Demo, it that were true, naze would she turn the suspect over to us?”

Koharu briefly considered informing Emi that it was because Aina wanted the police to bear the political consequences of Daiki’s punishment, but decided against it. Ultimately, the interrogation, and the political baggage that came with it, were the police department’s duty, and she didn’t want to appear like she was trying to sabotage Emi’s budding relationship with Aina. Doing so would only cause Emi to cling more tightly to the relationship, and Koharu was hoping that it would collapse on its own.

“Iie, she has no issue with using hypnotism to extract information, especially from a suspect she knows to be guilty,” Koharu explained. “She just as a strong, albeit screwed up, sense of ethics.”

Hontou?” Emi asked. “Seemed to me like she was always ready to do what was necessary.”

“She is,” Koharu admitted. “She doesn’t let her ethics get in the way of things she must absolutely do, but she allows them to bind her in all other situations. It’s a good thing too, otherwise she would have taken over the machi by now.”

“You’re exaggerating,” Emi scoffed.

“You should have seen her in her younger days,” said Koharu. “After she killed the traitor Naomi, it wasn’t long before she took over the Wright estate. Sure, the Wrights still owned the title to the property, and she always had housekeepers above her, but they all served at her pleasure.”

“Nani do you mean?” Emi asked.

“Only that she enjoyed more freedoms than other meido,” Koharu answered, “but she never used her privilege to seat herself at the top of the hierarchy. The common belief is that she didn’t want to take on more bothersome responsibilities, but I believe her ethical code wouldn’t allow her. No one could challenge her in combat, and without anyone to challenge her in social stature…”

“Absolute power corrupts absolutely?” Emi finished.

“Something like that,” Koharu agreed, opening the door to the interrogation room.

Daiki sat in a chair, his arms and legs restrained, a blank expression on his face. He had cuts and bruises on his arms and head. The official report would claim that he got them when the school collapsed on him, but Koharu knew that wasn’t the case. The officer standing guard over him had a smug look on his face.

“He’s all yours, keibu” the guard reported. He saluted and walked slowly towards the door.

“Matte,” Koharu ordered, grabbing the guard by his arm. She pulled him around and scrutinized his face. She could feel only a faint magical presence from him, but the illusion was too perfect. Even knowing it was an illusion, she couldn’t see through it, which meant it could only be hiding a specific person.

Ohisashiburi, Élisabeth-san,” Koharu said, releasing the arm. “Naze are you in my interrogation room?”