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Having established friendly relations with the neutral clans, Capricorn 1 set out for its next destination.
In order to avoid unnecessary troublesome situations, the Shinshoku clan sent an envoy with a message from Chief Domenicos in advance.
The party was now heading to the territory of one of the central clans among the radicals, the Kaigyaku clan. This was the clan to which Lardus belonged. It was also the largest clan with about 100 members.
Joining the party were Belials of Kugutsu and Jalardos of Shinshoku. Jin could see that the Shinshoku clan actually trusted him a lot, having sent their next-in-line for the position of clan chief with him.
The abode of the Kaigyaku clan was less than 80 kilometers away , and since Capricorn 1 could travel at about 25 km/h, the trip would take about 3 hours.
“Oh, to think something like that actually happened…”
“I bet it won’t be easy for humans to forgive something like that.”
Since there was time along the way, Jin (‘s double) talked about what Lardus had done.
“To unleash deadly bacteria is a bit unforgivable if you ask me.”
Jalardos had a grave look on his face.
“Actually, he… Lardus is my cousin.”
Then he shared an unexpected fact.
Reiko, who had faced Lardus firsthand, asked him to make extra sure she had heard that correctly.
“Yes. His mother, that is, my aunt, is from our clan…”
An unexpected blood relationship had been revealed.
“So… Mr. Jin. If we happen to come across Lardus in the future… What would you do?”
Jalardos frankly said that he spoke of this because if it turned out that Jin couldn’t forgive Lardus, he himself would be in a rather tough position.
“…Well, he has caused a lot of trouble, and some people actually died because of him. It’s not an easy question.”
Jalardos had spoken honestly, so now the real Jin, who was currently controlling the Substitute Doll, also spoke his mind straightforwardly.
“When it comes to human laws, his deeds are undoubtedly punishable by death, but what about demon laws?”
“…The same. If you kill a fellow clansperson, you get the death penalty.”
“Then what if you kill a human?”
Jalardos was at a loss for words. Jin could somehow sympathize with him.
“…Could we assume that Lardus is being manipulated by the ‘Agujas’ as well?”
Unfortunately, Jalardos shook his head.
“I’m afraid that’s unlikely… because he’s had an interest in humans from an early age and had a lot of fun imagining various ways to toy with them.”
Aside from Lardus, there was also the demon Marchosias -whose clan was still unknown-, who had poisoned a marquis of the Shouro Empire, and Androgias of Kyouran, who was killed by the Selfish Siblings.
Negotiations with the radicals were going to be difficult.
＊ ＊ ＊
On the same day, at Hourai Island…
While cleaning up after breakfast, Mine noticed that her daughter Elsa looked different than usual.
Lately, after being done with the chores, she would go to the laboratory’s workshop, but today she went with Mine all the way to the shelves where the dry tableware would be put away. It was as if she didn’t want to go to the workshop.
“Elsa, I can handle the rest myself, you know?”
Mine tried that approach first.
“…Hm. Let me help you all the way through.”
With that said, she finished washing and carried the dry dishes to the shelves.
“Well, with that out of the way, we’re already done.”
To which Elsa quickly replied with:
“…Hm. I’ll help you get the things ready for preparing lunch.”
She would constantly come up with a reason to stay, or rather, to not go anywhere. Mine instinctively knew that something was up.
“Shouldn’t you be helping Jin, dear?”
When she said that, Elsa’s face turned red.
“…Did something happen?”
Mine chuckled and pinched on Elsa’s cheeks.
“Then how come these are this red, huh? Come on, you can talk to me.”
“…He said I… looked cute.”
Mine sighed. Being 17 years old, Elsa was about the age of being married and having children. But she was so naïve…
While thinking that, she also remembered what she would do as a nursing mother to keep undesirable lovers away, before becoming Elsa’s mother.
And on the other hand, she thought about Jin.
There were several women around him. And he was of marriageable age. Moreover, not only was he good-looking, but he was also a very likable fellow.
When it comes to romance, Mine felt that every woman was different. Hanna was still far too young, and Saki felt more like a fellow researcher. Stearleana was getting along quite nicely with Saki’s father Toa, and Vivian wasn’t that familiar with Hourai Island yet so she hadn’t had that much contact with Jin.
“Lithia, was it…?”
Lithia was a young woman who had joined Jin, Elsa, and Hanna at the summer festival in Kaina Village. She was a new aristocrat who had been appointed as feudal head of the neighboring Toka Village. She also was about the same age as Elsa, and from Mine’s point of view, she seemed to be quite fond of Jin as well.
But when it comes to chances to be face-to-face with one another, they were far more common with Elsa. Or rather, Elsa could always be around him.
Mine knew that being always around him didn’t mean that she had a romantic advantage over other young women.
(Well, it’s not like I have that much of a romantic past to be proud of or anything like that.)
Her self-deprecating words were muttered only within her chest. After that, Mine decided to encourage her daughter.
“I know most men tend to compliment young women with empty flattery. But if Jin’s words made you happy, you shouldn’t run away from them.”
A strong sense of regret welled up inside Mine’s chest. Had Elsa been raised as part of the aristocracy, she would’ve made her social debut around the age of 13, and would already be relatively accustomed to rhetoric by this point.
But this wasn’t Elsa’s case. She was regarded as being “sick with an excess of magical power” and was kept away from her social circles so that her relatives could save face.
With great trouble, her cousin Reinhardt had been taking Elsa to the center stage of politics every year, but unlike aristocratic parties, they were somewhat lacking in terms of fostering the search for a partner in life.
“Even so, Jin…”
Now, when it comes to Jin himself…
There were no stories about any previous love life. There were suspicions about him being interested in men instead, but that wasn’t the case either. For a while, he was even thought to be sexually attracted to human-like dolls (like Automata), but now everyone knows Jin wasn’t like that.
“…I wonder if he’s even interested in ever getting married yet.”
Somehow, Mine felt that this was the closest to the truth. She couldn’t feel any lust for women from him. There was no logic to it, it was purely a woman’s intuition.
Then, what should she say to Elsa in order to comfort her?
“You call him ‘Brother Jin’, right? So you two are more like siblings. It’s not uncommon for an older brother to say that his younger sister is cute. You’re worrying too much about it.”
“…You really think so?”
“That’s right. Come on now, go help him out. He needs you.”
With that said, Mine lightly pushes Elsa’s back toward the kitchen’s door.
Elsa took a few doubtful steps, then turned around.
“Thank you, mother.”
Then she trotted out of the kitchen and towards the workshop.
After seeing her off, Mine let out a subtle sigh.
“…It looks like there’s still a long way to go for those two.””
＊ ＊ ＊
“Elsa? What’s wrong?”
Mine was surprised to see Elsa slumping back.
“Did Jin say something again?”
“…No. Brother Jin… is not in the workshop anymore.”
At this time, Jin was in the Control Room, piloting the Substitute Doll.
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