It was a bug. A ladybug to be precise, and it was about 1cm big, but it was void of all presence of life.
In fact, it was also void of mana (photons).
“Don’t tell me!?”
Neither a living being, nor a corpse, nor a machine powered by photons, yet Shinichi immediately realized what it was, and Takeshi nodded.
“That’s right. This is a true Earth-tech insect-type reconnaissance drone. Nothing like that shoddy product made by some struggling company you found in Nara Park. This is the latest model.”
He had been too naive. The insect-shaped drone he had found was able to miniaturize its power and camera components by relying on magic. Though the smallest they could make it was the size of a grasshopper, the fact remained that a corporation of that level had managed to create such a device. That should have been enough to prompt Shinichi to consider the cutting-edge technology involved in the tech.
“Well, this is something only someone on my level can make, though, so there aren’t many who can make it. Unfortunately for you, Shinichi, I didn’t even make this.”
“It’s a rare reunion for us, so I didn’t want some second-rate stalker peeping in on us, you see.”
“Stalker? Natsumi Shirota!?”
As for the people who wanted to watch Shinichi and relied only on Earth-based technology, then the only who could even produce the necessary tech was Natsumi Shirota.
It was an answer drawn only from circumstantial evidence, but Takeshi nonetheless smiled as though to say that he was correct and crushed the insect drone.
“As expected, you got tailed. You suck at hiding as usual. She’s a mad scientist with nothing to go for her but her brain, but at least she’s got a keen eye on who to watch out for. Unfortunately for her, we don’t need her in our
The last words were muttered in a whisper, but they were still loud enough for Shinichi to hear. They were both renowned scientists from Earth, so they must have been acquainted. Regardless, Shinichi was too shocked too focus on that right now.
“I didn’t notice at all.”
Shinichi had always been vigilant, believing that he was under constant surveillance. He was wary not only of human eyes but also of the surveillance cameras commonly found in the streets and stores, small reconnaissance devices, and even the shikis of exorcists, but one thing he hadn’t considered were eyes this small created solely with Earth technology.
“I don’t know exactly what you’re relying on to make your judgments, but most people would probably presume you’re using something that relies on photons. Everyone knows that drifters have developed their sensory abilities, after all.”
“So people who want to observe me will rely on Earth-made products that don’t utilize photons? Even if Earth did manage to raise their technology, I can’t believe they managed to make something like this already.”
“Looks like life in the world you ended up in must have been too intense, huh. After that, there was school life, and then you had to play the role of the world police, so I guess it can’t be helped, but you should try not to underestimate Earth too much.”
“…I didn’t think I’d be on the receiving end of those words.”
Those weren’t the kind of words you’d hear an Earthling say to another Earthling, but there were no better words to describe Shinichi’s weakness than that.
He had not prioritized the technology and knowledge of this world, but just as Takeshi says, that was likely because he couldn’t afford to do so.
“However, there’s no need to worry just yet. It looks like this was put together hastily. I’d say it’s more of an experiment to see if it can avoid your detection. You can trust my instincts on that as a fellow technician of the same caliber.”
Takeshi brushed away the remnants on his fingers and flashed a confident smile. While the subject matter might be beyond Shinichi’s expertise to judge accurately, given Takeshi’s abilities and character, there was no reason to doubt him.
Shinichi’s vigilance towards Natsumi had intensified as a result of this revelation, but there was a more pressing matter at hand.
“So you’re telling me that you’ve prepared something that uses Earth tech?”
“Wireless, electric signals, infrared, anything you can think of, maybe that’s about it? But you know, aside from those, there are mechanisms to control devices from a distance, and there’s also the option of using primitive timed devices. Surprisingly, these things often go undetected by the sensors of the latest equipment.”
“I’d been keeping an eye on your movements to some extent… When did you set all that up?”
“I moved as soon as you told me the date, and there are plenty of ways to hire undercover agents using old-fashioned communication methods. Heh, come to think of it, I hadn’t written a letter since primary school.”
“So you won thanks to Earth tech and analogue? I see you’re as good at exploiting blind spots as ever. Really, I should have been the first to notice that.’
An Earth-made device. The first thing that came mind was some kind of electrical device. Just by focusing on that, Shinichi could pick up on the presence of devices that he failed to find in his initial investigation. But odds were, this wasn’t all that Takeshi had prepared.
“You’re too respectful of the dead… You should have at least checked the urns too.”
Takeshi laughed. He was just like a mischievous kid that successfully pulled off a prank, but Shinichi was shocked by his reprehensible acts.
──This guy so easily does things I wouldn’t do unless absolutely necessary!
“And also in Sapporo and Kushiro.”
Calmly, matter-of-factly, yet with a smile on his face, Takeshi began naming places. Just that was enough for Shinichi to understand what he meant, and his face turned pale. If the image that had just come to mind was correct, then it was already checkmate.
“As you guessed, I’ve set up various things in crowded places. If I don’t return… it’ll be a scene straight from hell.”
“Damn you, Takeshi!”
Despite Shinichi condemning Takeshi for involving unrelated people, Takeshi’s smile only deepened.
“Hehe, you probably know already, but none of those are the sort that your ability can find. Some of them might even be jokes with really long fuses, you know?”
Resistance was futile. With not only the people at this location but also those in the three cities as hostages, Shinichi couldn’t harm Takeshi here. However, this meant that there was one thing he had to confirm.
“…And what proof do I have that you’ll get rid of all of those if I let you go!?”
“I swear it.”
“On my mother’s name and the memories of those days, I swear it.”
To an outsider, it might seem like a mere verbal promise with were merely intangible entities at stake; however, for those who understood the value of those things, such an oath held great significance.
“…Be sure to uphold that oath, or there won’t be any stopping me.”
Shinichi hung his head, and when he raised it back up, he glared at Takeshi icily and said that solemnly.
In response, Takeshi just laughed fearlessly.
“I know. I’ll keep my promise and maintain some restraint. If I were to piss you off too much, it would be over in an instant.”
Then it wouldn’t be interesting, Takeshi said, but Shinichi just glared at him.
That was a kind of haggling that wouldn’t work on anyone but on these two.
It was also Shinichi’s bottom line, who had no choice but to allow Takeshi to escape here.
Were someone else to be sacrificed, Shinichi would end Takeshi’s game no matter the cost.
That was what he meant by not stopping.
“Youko, let him go.”
“As you will.”
Perhaps because the stakes had been set, or perhaps because there was nothing more that could be done, Shinichi let out an exhausted breath and commanded his servant to let Ein go.
He too had been listening in on the conversation, and without bothering to fight, he immediately went to his master.
As though Takeshi had been waiting for that, he offered a perfunctory but polite gesture, then he turned his back.
“Oh, yeah. Right now, it’s just me and that woman, so it’s still fine, but watch out above, and… Watch out for the snake too.”
Takeshi bid him goodbye with those words like a parting gift of sort, then he left.