“Are you proposing that I work for you like I used to?”
“I won’t ask you to be an Udjat, no. I’d like to hire Miss Moses as the Distortion Detective!”
The fallen Nest of L Corp. has now likely become a battlefield for numerous Syndicates and Fixers. What can the Distortion Detective do in the midst of such strife fought with cold weapons?
“Aww, Ezra~ It’s so nice to see you enjoy your meal!”
Dias said with a smile in her eyes. Ezra is conscious of Dias’ attention, but she still hastily fills her stomach with the food on the table. What’s more astonishing was the speed at which Vespa consumed his share. It almost looks as if he were inhaling food, rather than dining like one normally would. Perhaps my prediction was incorrect. Maybe there won’t be any food left to go to waste. Leaving the two to their meal, I continued the conversation with Dias.
“Dias. You seemed to be interested in capturing Distortions alive.”
“Mhm! That’s right.”
“Are you trying to fulfill your dreams by using them?”
“Mmm… Half right, half wrong!”
Dias never lies. She won’t tell the full truth, either. That’s the kind of fellow she was. She’s set a clear limit on how much she is willing to share.
“Will we find larger numbers of Distortions to capture in L Corp’s Nest? Or, is there a particular Distortion you’re keeping an eye on in that place?”
“Do you have any idea what’s going on in Nest L right now, sweetheart?”
Dias gives me a poignant stare, pulling her eyebrows together. What an abominable look.
“Lady Dias. May I have the pleasure of explaining this part to her?”
Han Hee-joon butts in.
“Mkay! I’ll leave it to you, Hee-joon. I’m a total klutz at exposition.”
Han Hee-joon looked into my eyes as if to seek my nonverbal agreement before giving the brief.
“L Corp’s Nest is currently under a shroud of fog, it is of unknown origin.”
A shroud of fog… Another resemblance to the Smoke War.
“The situation isn’t quite like the Smoke War. This fog simply hinders any attempts to observe by obstructing vision. Anyone who enters ends up getting lost.”
Still, I imagine quite the bloodshed is going on in the Nest.
“And as you suspect, Syndicates and Fixers are murdering one another in that place.”
“…Because it’s a tempting opportunity to make a fortune.”
“You would be correct.”
“Have the Fingers stuck into the metaphorical pie as well?”
“The Thumb and the Index have made a move.”
The Index of all things. That’s a bugger.
“So, what is the reason you’re sending me into that warzone? I’m not seeing how any of this is relevant to the Distortion.”
Dias glances at me with one eye open, taking a sip of tea.
“There have been an extraordinary number of reports that are thought to be cases of the Distortion in that Nest.”
“Didn’t you just say it’s impossible to observe things in there?”
“The fog merely makes it difficult to navigate your way in the Nest. We do acquire clear reports of what people encounter within the foggy Nest.”
“You want us to capture Distortions alive from there?”
“That is correct, and there is more. We want the Distortion in a more complete form. Let the Distortion progress further, foster it if necessary.”
“Stir people’s minds even more? How far does it have to go?”
“Doctor. Are you familiar with the term: ‘Abnormality’?”
“Abnormality? No. Never heard of it.”
“In that case, I’ll leave it up to your judgement.”
“I’m only a Fixer that resolves Distortions.”
“That makes you the most adequate person for the task of neutralizing them.”
“Fine. What comes next? Tell Ezra to carry the Distortion on her shoulder?”
Startled, Ezra paused her busy hands and shook her head while looking me in the eye.
“Udjat will come to pick it up when you do.”
“How convenient. Are they going to accompany us or something?”
“Do you need the support of Udjat?”
“Nope. I hate traveling in crowds.”
“I figured you’d say so.”
“If one is prone to getting lost within the Nest and surveillance over distance is out of the question, how are they going to find us?”
Dias smiled and gave me a well-packaged box as though she were waiting for me to bring up the issue.
“Here! A gift for my dear Moses!”
“It’s a prosthetic arm.”
“A one-of-a-kind arm, you won’t find anything like it in the City! I spent tons of money on this!”
It’s extremely unusual for Dias to consider any expenditure large. Whatever this thing is, it must be a work of insanity.
“With this arm equipped, Udjat will be able to locate you. You can also communicate with me.”
“That means I’ll have to listen to your soddy voice wherever I am.”
Which means that this thing is a shackle. Heavy fetters attached to my ankles that won’t let me escape her notice no matter where I go.
“How many Distortions do you want captured?”
“Until I’m satisfied~!”
I’m holding back my boiling urge to punch that face.
“…Yes. You are to secure Distortions until Lady Dias is satisfied by the amount. And…”
“Do you remember the black box you saw in Tae-young Produce Co.?”
“That box was procured from L Corp’s Nest.”
“You’re telling me to find and bring more of those boxes as well.”
The black box that generated Distortions. Dias collects Distortions. And plans to create them herself. So that’s how it is. With the technology in her hands, she might be able to achieve whatever filthy dream she has.
“And why should I take this job?”
“…Because this might be your chance to atone for your past, doctor.”
I took out my smoking pipe and bit it in my mouth.
“Please remain calm. I’m saying this sincerely.”
I puffed out smoke.
“Doctor Moses. Please refrain from smoking at the dinner table.”
Vespa scowled at me and grouched in a deep voice.
“I don’t mind it? Don’t give him any attention and smoke all you want, Moses, dear~!”
Dias retorted right away.
I internally let out a deep sigh, and put the pipe back in my pocket.
“We’d like you to lend a hand as well, Vespa, sir.”
“Why is that.”
“Because you might be reinstated in the Wing with milady’s help.”
“I’ll regard that silence as a sign of agreement.”
“Okay. Let’s say this whole deal makes sense. Where do you want us to begin?”
“We have multiple candidates: Laundry of Dreams, the Human Thunderbolt, The Library, Yesterday’s Promise, The 8 o’Clock Circus, the Church of Gears, Man-Eating Sandw—”
All ungraceful names. That's how the Association usually designates names for cases.
“I’ll start with the Laundry of Dreams. Its grade?”
An Urban Legend… Should be a good exercise.
“The Library is an Urban Legend as well, what do you think about that one?”
“I don’t get good vibes out of it.”
“I’ll be taking off tomorrow.”
“Whaaat~? But Moses! I wouldn’t mind if you stayed here and played with me for a week or so…”
I left her behind and headed outside.
I enjoy a bit of solitude on the terrace, smoking from my pipe. It’s quite a contrast to the scenery I usually see from my Office. The yard of this mansion seems endless. Beautiful lights illuminate the vast garden.
“Detective… Are you really gonna be alright?”
Ezra came to my side and asked.
“Have you mellowed out, Ezra?”
“…Yeah. I get it, that was the only option you had. But… Promise not to use that pale breath ever again, for real this time! I know what it does… If you use that power, your lifespan gets…”
“Ezra. I know that better than anyone. Of course I value my own life. I made that choice to use it so we could survive.”
“Go to bed now. We’ve got work to do tomorrow.”
“Detective… About the atonement thing Hee-joon seonbae mentioned… Are you really going to do it?”
The morning draws on. I equipped the prosthetic arm Dias gave and prepared myself for the trip. Han Hee-joon is waiting for us at the garden entrance, next to a black van. Vespa and Ezra are loading the boot of the van with various gadgets. I placed my pipe in my mouth.
“Lady Dias departed at dawn for someplace else. She wanted to say her apologies for not giving you a proper farewell.”
I puffed out smoke from the pipe.
“And Miss YuRia. There’s no need to pose as a normal teddy bear in front of me.”
Han Hee-joon quietly spoke to YuRia, who was sitting on my shoulder. The plush doll flinched a little.
“Udjat will set up an outpost near Nest L. You may head into the Nest first.”
“Guess we’ll have to go by car with Ezra as our driver. Maybe I should bring sickness pills.”
“I’ll take the wheel.”
Vespa showed up from behind and walked toward the driver’s seat.
“Are you a good driver?”
“You won’t be disappointed.”
I got in the van with a bitter smile. This pitiful young man has become yet another toy in Dias’ hands.
“Doctor. I will be contacting you later.”
I gestured at him to sod off. Soon afterwards, the van’s engine roared to life as it began to move.
It’s the beginning of another damned journey.
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