The immaculate office was furnished with the finest implements which reminded one of the lobby of a five-star hotel.
A man sat in the middle of the room.
His name was Kanzaki Tooru.
He was dressed in an eccentric combination of a suit and a white coat, but still looked surprisingly presentable perhaps in part due to his good looks. In particular, his shoulder-length flax-colored hair stood out.
However, what was most striking was not his crisp suit nor his aloof posture; it was his eyes which had lost their glimmer. But, it wasn’t the kind resultant from despair or resignation. They were the disillusioned eyes of someone who had seen the truth of the world.
Even so, the tall man with a dignified aura was currently wailing loudly in the middle of the room in an unsightly manner.
Multiple holographic windows hovered before him.
They all displayed a girl with reddish-brown hair.
The photographs varied across several time periods, from when she was just a few months old till when she was in the height of her teens. There were two aspects common to all of them. One was that she wore a white coat no matter her age. The other was that her gaze became colder as she matured, until she eventually did not even bothered to look into the camera.
A knock came from the door.
The man erased all the holographic windows at nearly the same time as when his secretary opened the door.
The young secretary dressed in an inappropriately short tight skirt gave a sigh as she shut the door.
He straightened his posture just as she came in, flashing a breezy smile as if nothing had happened.
“What is it? Though I must say, you look fantastic today, Elze! Especially that tight skirt, it becomes you! You don’t usually dress up, what’s the occasion?”
The secretary called Elze glared hard at her superior, her cheeks twitching and brows frowning.
“Who’s the scumbag who said yesterday that it was director’s order and made me wear what he specified in exchange for giving me a bonus? Surely you haven’t forgotten about what amounts to sexual, power and moral harassment, have you?”
Kanzaki froze for a moment, then smiled even more brightly that it appeared repulsive.
“Oh, right right! Of course, I remember!”
“That’s what those who forgot always say. Anyway, I can usually put up with most things so long as I get paid, but this really takes the cake, director. It’s because of that egocentricity that your daughter ran away from home, you know.”
“S-She didn’t run away… She just left for a bit, haha…”
His expression froze as his eyebrows twitched bizarrely.
Elze snorted in his just deserts and operated the office’s projection system with practised motion.
Following which numerous holographic windows popped up.
“That aside, I have an urgent report for you. In a way, it concerns your daughter as well.”
As they both had neural gates implanted in their brains, it was possible for them to share virtual windows with one another, but using holographic windows this way was more handy for sharing information across the rank.
Especially for key persons holding certain posts like Kanzaki, the organization was trying to do away with direct linking through neural gate from a security standpoint.
“Just earlier, we received contact from Headquarters demanding the delivery of the perfected Arcadia within two weeks.”
When he heard those words, Kanzaki scrunched his face as if he just swallowed something bitter and clutched his head.
“This is bad, really bad… Why at this time. We still haven’t recovered the frozen data from Saiga Lab. …What’s the current progress on the project?”
“If we include the data from Saiga Lab, it would be 98.8%. Without it, 32.4%.”
“How long would it take if we were to resample the portion of the frozen data?”
“For a rough estimate, two years at least.”
His dry laughter echoed in the office.
“…Assuming the successful recovery of the frozen data, the remaining 1.2% is expected to be completed in 13 days.”
“…So we can still make it if we manage to recover it, huh.”
In a change of outlook, Kanzaki looked up to face Elze.
“Select a platoon with low anti-personnel scores but high anti-drone scores and send them for the recovery mission. That way, we can minimize delays to the Arcadia conversion project.”
“B-But that would lead to a drastic drop in the defense capability of the Elmea Army. To be specific, I highly doubt the remaining troops would be able stop Lethal Blue without them. If that occurs, the rest of the project could be negatively impacted.”
“…Ah, I see. The platoon with the lowest anti-personnel score must be Ichinose’s then. That boy always does things half-heartedly.”
Kanzaki heaved a heavy sigh, but shortly after his lips curled into a cruel smile.
“In that case, we’ll just have both sides enter the fray. Surely, we’ll be able to overwhelm the defense system of Saiga Lab this way.”
“Huh!? Do you realize what are you saying! If you do that, the whole war front needs to be redrawn! You probably have no idea what a mess that is going to be, do you!?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll at least be the one to give the briefing to the higher-ups.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about—”
“I have full trust in you, Elze. That’s why I’ll leave all the reassignment and reallocation of troops in your hand. If we succeed, your bonus for this year will be quintupled.”
A voice unlike her usual leaked from her lips.
“However, if the recovery mission fails—to say our appraisal would drop would be the least of it.”
“As usual, you always just leave the most troublesome job to your subordinates like that. To be exact, to me.”
“That’s what makes the job worth doing, no?”
Elze clenched her fists hard and stood rooted.
Her eyes opened wide as she ran her brain at full capacity, trying to balance the benefits against the drawbacks on a scale.
And the answer she came up with showed itself in the form of a holographic window in front of Kanzaki.
On it was a “contract” documenting Kanzaki’s words.
“—Quintuple bonus. Bring it on.”
“I’ll be expecting good news.”
Kanzaki signed his electronic signature on the document, then Elze turned around and left.
Left alone in his office, Kanzaki turned his chair around to face the opposite side.
Installed in the wall was a giant glass window.
“—Just a bit more until paradise is complete.”
Beyond it lay a dreary garden filled with wilted flowers.