He woke up to a soft, warm feeling against his nape. It did not beat a good pillow, but it felt at least better than the hard, cold soil.
It took a while for his vision to clear up again, but soon enough he realized he was staring straight into someone else’s face. Suzuka’s, more precisely. It was upside down, too, and partly obstructing its sight around her chin he also noticed the bulging form of her shirt. More precisely, two bulging shapes pushing it forward.
“Y-Youre awake!? Are you alright, master!?”
He looked further around. It seemed they hadn’t moved places. His head had been lying flat atop the girl’s lap. How considerate.
“How do you feel? Say something, already.” she asked.
“Huh. Your boobs look bigger from down here.”
Her cheeks went bright red right away, they almost looked like lightbulbs, and he noticed her arms seemed to tense up for a moment. Was she considering whether to punch him out or not? Well, it wasn’t like she could do anything about it anyway.
“... Really…?” she sighed. “You just woke up, and that’s the first thing that comes to mind? Dumbass.”
“Sorry. But I mean, you kinda totally walked into that one…”
“Hmph. I guess next time, I’ll just leave you there, sprawled on the floor!” she pouted with a grunt.
Gathering his returned strength, he pushed himself back up to a sitting position, glancing at the redheaded girl, who was still kneeling right behind him. His injuries were gone. The shot wounds had all closed up. Plus, it seemed his legs were good to walk once again. He quickly managed to get to his feet without any complications. Suzuka rose up after him as well.
He stretched his back out. It was over. His body had completely regenerated by now. The exhaustion was gone.
Opening his status menu, he noticed his level had gone up to 12.
“So, getting into scuffles with people increases your level, too?”
“... If you do it in a vehicle, sure.”
Suzuka’s own bar, displayed under his, showed she was now at level 29.
His credits were up to 113,900, now.
(That guy I liquidated was worth 40,000 credits? How morbid.)
Well, that was it for changes in the system as far as he was aware. The incomplete liquid spear was still available to select in his inventory, along with all the countless separate pieces to rebuild its different components. For the time being, though, he’d rather keep it unequipped. If any one of those old people back in Kataki were to see him just walk around wearing that thing, they’d probably devolve into hysterics.
With all that in order, he supposed he should be ready to move. At least, physically speaking.
(No. Wait a minute… Aren’t I forgetting something?)
“How long was I out?”
“J-Just eight minutes or so…” she grumbled, still upset by his dopey remark.
Though it bothered him a bit, she wouldn’t meet his eyes no matter what, keeping her head turned a full ninety as she spoke. It got so bad at, at one point, that she would turn it to the opposite side accordingly if he tried to move to negate it.
(Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation like this since 3rd grade. Well, whatever…)
“In any case, did the mobs come back?”
“Of course not. I told you before, we got them running with their tails between their legs. It’ll be a while before they report to their big boss and come back for more. Don’t think they’ll just give up here, though… They always come back. Especially now that you have one of their weapons. We’ve ticked them off.”
“I see.” he nodded, pointing his thumb to the motorcycle. “I guess the best for now would be to move on.”
“Yeah.” she agreed, finally looking at him.
She moved over to mount the motorcycle.
However, before she could place one finger on it, she was stopped in place.
“One other thing, first.” he said, gripping her shoulder tightly with one hand.
“Isn’t there something you have to tell me, Suzuka?”
He could see her visibly taking a hard swallow. She knew what he wanted.
“... I’m thankful… That you’d help me, master… I created this mess in the first place…” she blushed.
“Well, sure, that too. But that is not the point. You know it’s not.”
“Fine.” she sighed. “What do you wish to know?”
“For starters, what am I dealing with here? You told me how you got involved with them, you told me what kind of influence they have around here… But you didn’t tell me who the hell they are!! Names. Locations. How do they live? How do their ranks work? Who is their leader, even? And why is everyone so damn scared of him!? What did he even do? Was it really that bad you’re too scared to say his proper wheel-name instead of constantly talking about him, and he all the time?”
“It’s… complicated…” she stammered some more, once again unable to face him. “With all due respect, you’re still somewhat of a newcomer, master. I’m… I’m not sure you would understand…”
Suzuka’s voice trembled. All of a sudden, it was as though she had something stuck in her throat, preventing her from just spitting out the answers her master needed.
She remained silent for a moment. Her shoulders jerked slightly. Whatever it was she was trying to spit out, it certainly wasn’t a simple matter for her.
“... By the time I arrived here, they had already been in charge of the land for a long time. Although they’re mostly lax in their control of the region, if you catch their eye, you can never get away. His mobs are relentless. Nothing you can do about it. They based themselves around most major cities in eastern bounds. I made the mistake of becoming their enemy once in the past, and now they won’t give up ‘till they capture me. Their leader, the eastern lord… No person can slight him and go unpunished.”
“So it is…” he nodded. “And this regional lord. The Godfather, as you call him. Who is he?”
The girl went silent again. Her lips quivered uncontrollably. She looked as though she might shatter to pieces, right there.
The sight was enough to freak him out. He had never seen Suzuka like this. Not like this. Whatever memory he had brought her back to, it had her petrified. Her bulging eyes, turned downward, would have betrayed it all, even if she tried to hide it from her words. Whoever this mysterious enemy was, he was certain he was one of a kind.
Still, he had to know. Even if it bothered her to talk about it, she had to tell him what they would possibly have to face in the future.
“Who is he, Suzuka? What did he do that was so horrible?”
“He… has done things you would never believe. He is the one who’s name we don’t speak of. Ever. He has acquired countless monickers over time, some even use his wheel-name regularly. Most people do not know him by any of those terms, however. He is known, best of all, by his real name. Just the mention of if is enough to make most residents of the Cyberway, even outside of the east, lose their minds. It has spread like wildfire, along with his many deeds, of which no one shall speak of, either. He is a savage few can equal.”
“Okay… I can see that. But why? I mean, even if he’s rich, or something, he’s still just some guy! Hasn’t anyone tried to just take him down before?”
“... You cannot…?”
“Listen to me, master. He… He is a monster. Nobody ever escapes him. He rules each of his underlings with an iron fist, and has no trouble disposing of anyone who gets in his way. His power is unrivaled. No one has ever been able to defeat him, be it on the road or otherwise. While the mob stays out of people’s lives for the most part, getting on their bad side is nothing short of a nightmare. I have seen countless people fall to his greed, his… his ire… time and time again… once he sets his eyes on you, you have nowhere to go. He finds you, and inevitably, he eliminates you. Not even his own forces are safe from him. The moment you cease being useful… You’re done for. He is rivaled only by the other three regional lords, who are just as deranged as he is. He has no sense of morals, he takes no prisoners, and it is said just mentioning him directly is prone to bring upon the speaker the most horrible of fortunes. To challenge him is to commit suicide, purely and simply.”
Still, Haruto was not satisfied. He had to know. He had to know who it was that terrified so many people.
“What is his name? The one that terrifies people so much.”
“His real name. What is he called?”
She couldn’t finish, nearly breaking into a sob.
“Suzuka. I need to know.”
Frustrated, the boy couldn’t help but shake her back and forth with both hands.
Even he was scared now, seeing how she acted just talking about this topic. Still, he needed to know. Something like this would not deter him.
“His name… His name is…!”
“Come on… Tell me. Please.”
Taking a deep breath, the girl was able to subdue her dread for a single moment. And out came the words that would haunt the boy’s mind for the rest of the day.
“His name… is Tony Pizza.”