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Chapter 191: Mistaken Identity
「Haah? Who the hell are you?」
The interrogator snarled, disgruntled as his tone of voice made no attempts to conceal his disgust. Needless to say, he was rather resentful over having his wondrous moment of torment being disrupted once more, and so directed his ire at the intruders who, quite frankly, should not have been able to enter.
Were he in his normal state of mind, however, the owner of that brawny frame would have realised that he shouldn’t have lashed out so quickly. After all, seeing how the guards standing outside the interrogation chamber had strict instructions from his superiors not to let anyone pass, those who did enter had the necessary authority to overturn such commands.
And such individuals—including the platinum blonde woman and her bearded escort with a lean stature—were not people who the interrogator could afford to offend.
「Miyazaki Ken, General. You’d do well to remember that, boy.」
The moment that the lean man stated his name, the interrogator wasted no time as he instantly stood at attention. Upon realising the blunder he had made, the interrogator’s complexion paled severely, cold sweat pouring down his neck in the face of learning the true identity of the person before him.
The name Miyazaki Ken, to his knowledge, belonged to a military officer who had helped obtain success in countless operations and scrambles in his prime. Due to his outstanding performance spanning several years of long service, he had even been commended by several high-ranking officials, national and international alike. This recognition, along with his long history of accomplishment, made him an increasingly important asset to the country of Japan.
Simply put, he was an individual with a significant amount of influence.
And currently, the interrogator had disrespected said individual, causing him to be on the receiving end of a stink eye that was so intimidating that it looked like the officer’s eyes could kill.
「U-Um, forgive me, sir. W-Why are you-?」
Sakamoto Maria asked, curious as to what reason such an amazing person would grace them with his presence. Being a diligent student of all things righteous, the brown-haired inspector had studied current contributors to society, examining their history in hopes of using them as role models. As such, the moment that his lean build and bearded chin were reflected in her retinas, she instantly recognised who the General was and saluted him even before the interrogator made his outburst.
Yet, even as she displayed the utmost respect towards the veteran, whose stern visage had been grizzled by both the battlefield and time itself, Maria couldn’t make heads or tails of why such a person would be here in the first place.
A mystery that would soon be solved by the individual that he was accompanying.
「I’m here escorting this personage-」
「White. Joanne White. First Lieutenant in Special Services. I’ve been sent by headquarters to inspect operations here.」
The interrogator stammered, eyes bulging out of his skull as he ogled at the gorgeous woman who was flourishing her platinum blonde hair. Even though her eyes were sharp and slanted, a characteristic that seemed contrary to the usual western stereotype, Joanne’s alluring features depicted a beauty quite unlike any other, and her exaggerated measurements complimented such appeal.
Yet, despite the seductive nature of Joanne’s hourglass figure, the interrogator couldn’t bring himself to appreciate the sculptured artwork before him, for his mind was filled with fear. Fear towards the term Special Services, which rang like a gavel to the interrogator as it signalled his—or rather, his compatriots’ guilt.
And the reason for this was, to put it simply, the Special Services were a task force that possessed the authority of the top brass themselves.
The police force in 【Sekai City】 organised themselves into a centralised system, with their headquarters located in the heart of the metropolis’s central district. The force was divided up into branches across the district, with each of the officers reporting to their branch chief. They, in turn, would report to region commanders based at HQ, who would answer directly to an executive team responsible for managing the large network of law enforcers across the city.
Despite being rather orthodox in nature, the system in place was one that worked. It not only established a chain of command but also enabled all of the information collected by the many officers to be collated so that the higher-ups could decide what steps needed to be taken in the future to ensure the safety of 【Sekai City】.
Yet, like all organisations, this one was not without its flaws.
The lengthy chain of command made it cumbersome to have orders enacted upon in a timely manner. Furthermore, due to the sheer size of their group, the police were unable to monitor all of its members, hence why there were suspicions of corruption in several branches here to there.
And so, this was where the Special Services came in.
In essence, they were a task force completely at the disposal of the executive team, who were capable of wielding the same authority as an executive in order to perform their duties. And, more often than not, their duties involved weeding out the bad eggs and removing them from the organisation.
Thus, why the interrogator had a justifiable right to be so fearful upon hearing Joanne White’s position.
「Indeed. I have been sent by headquarters to inspect operations here.」
The woman eyed the interrogator with a sharp look, causing his whole body to shudder as his heart leapt into his throat. Yet, Joanne’s gaze did not linger there for very long, as her gaze swept across the entire room as though taking in the state of the current affairs.
And, while it felt like her eyes sparkled slightly upon looking at the boy collapsed on the floor, none present were given an opportunity to give it any deep thought as the platinum blonde’s gaze finally locked itself upon the brown-haired inspector.
「You over there.」
A high-pitched stammer escaped Maria’s lips, likely due to the fact that she was on edge. And, while not certain as to whether her excitement was incited by admiration she felt for the general or the intimidation she felt from Ms Special Services, the officer still dutifully saluted the woman, her back ramrod straight in a show of respect.
「I have read your reports regarding the 〔Gun〕 case thoroughly. I assure you that headquarters has recognised your efforts, and have a vested interest in the conclusion of this matter.」
「T-Thank you Ma’am.」
Having heard the compliment(?) she received from Joanne, the brown-haired woman felt her tension ease up as her lips twisted upwards into a slight smile. Although she diligently accomplished her duties (even laborious ones such as report writing) without expecting anything in return for it, the fact that she had been recognised caused a slight warmth to fill her chest.
That being said, Joanne did not engage in conversation with the proud inspector just to offer praise, as she turned towards the youth lying on the ground while raising a brow in scepticism.
「However……it is hard to believe that the prime suspect is but a lone teenager.」
Indeed. From a common-sense perspective, it was difficult to believe that the young man wriggling on the floor was someone capable of committing murder. Drawing parallels between him and the infamous 〔Gun〕, while not entirely impossible, was quite the stretch to make without sufficient evidence. Especially so, considering that the youth was just a normal high school student.
–or at least, that’s what he seemed to be on the surface.
「That is where you’re mistaken, Ms White. Several of my comrades have fought together with him in various wars overseas. They say he was a valuable asset on the battlefield.」
Miyazaki Ken interjected, his words of commendation to the former soldier clearing away the misconception others had about the boy being powerless. Unnecessary recognition which caused Junichi’s eye to twitch ever so slightly as he maintained his silence.
Needless to say, he had somewhat expected his past relationship with the military to be uncovered the moment that the general walked through the door. After all, he, too, had heard of the accomplished individual from some people he had fought alongside with, so it wasn’t hard to assume that Ken had done the exact same about him.
Rather, it was because he had heard so much about the officer that he couldn’t help but be wary of his presence whenever he interacted with his daughter, Miyazaki Sora. After all, there was no telling what may happen to him if he stood out too much in front of the athlete and garnering the interest of such a seasoned professional.
His wariness aside, however, Junichi was deeply troubled as to why Miyazaki Ken had made an appearance here. After all, no matter what reasons he may have had for being here, the general’s presence was more than an inconvenience to the dark-haired youth.
An inconvenience that was already tipping the scales of his fate towards ‘guilty’. –or at least, that’s what Junichi initially believed.
「…is that so? Do you believe that he may have gone rogue?」
「That is hard to say. I have heard that he was mistreated by central, hence why he is estranged from the force. If he were to be misrepresented again, then we may risk making an enemy out of a rather troublesome foe.」
Joanne nodded to herself after having heard a description of the boy’s circumstances with the military. It was likely that she was deliberating on how to treat the dark-haired youth after learning this new information. The fact that the general was alluding his exploits proved that Junichi did not possess little achievements, which in turn insinuated that his abilities were up to par with such praise.
At the same time, however, Ken’s summary of the young man’s current relationship with the law told her that she needed to tread carefully. One wrong move could further antagonise this skilled individual, which would needlessly bring about an even greater threat to society.
Of course, as she was evaluating this, a certain brown-haired inspector was staring at the man on the ground, wide-eyed as she had been shaken to the core. Having never expected the boy to have been in the military, nor expecting that her role model would make mention of him in such a positive light, she was forced to reevaluate her unstable image of the dark-haired youth once more.
And, faced with the fact that the boy was once a soldier with achievements who had been wronged by central—the command centre of the military—caused Maria’s guilt about Junichi’s arrest to intensify even more.
The guilt began to consume her, so much to the point that she almost began to question whether or not he was truly guilty herself. Yet, she quickly shook these doubts from her mind, for they had secured evidence that designated Saito Junichi as the mercenary of blood and iron.
Yes. Proof that Joanne White had a distinct interest in verifying.
「In that case, may I ask what evidence you have to support your claims that this individual is involved in the 〔Gun〕 case?」
「T-That is—I believe I have mentioned it in my report. In the recent Cannibal incidents, we managed to capture a photo of his identity.」
「If I may-」
「Y-Yes, certainly ma’am.」
In response to Joanne’s command, Maria quickly walked towards the woman with platinum blonde hair, pulling out a copy of the incriminating photograph from her inner coat pocket before submitting it as evidence to the newly appointed judge. Within the frame, an obsidian-clad figure could be seen standing over a heap of debris, and the contours of his face were clearly exposed to the moonlight.
The superb detail in the crisp, High Definition photograph was even able to depict the ominous set of twin jewels with mismatched colours in all of their bone-chilling glory. The right eye glowed softly with a subtle emerald, while the crimson left eye burst through the night as it threatened to pierce its target through the 2D plane of the photo.
A trait that was far too unique for Joanne to miss.
「Hmm……a very unique set of eyes. And the face matches almost exactly.」
The platinum blonde muttered, her gaze wandering back and forth between the youth in the picture and the young man on the ground as she compared them. From what she could see, there was very little discernible difference between the two, to the point where them being the one and the same individual was already a foregone conclusion.
Yet, just because many might be willing to declare such with complete confidence doesn’t mean that all will share this same opinion.
And of course, Miyazaki Ken was one of the aforementioned doubters.
「If I may. There’s something about this picture that doesn’t seem to be quite right.」
「Is that so? Well then, shall we have a closer inspection?」
Joanne suggested, reacting to the general’s observation with a neutral tone as she gestured to the interrogator with her chin. In response, the hapless brawny man could do nought but obey, lifting the youth off of the floor and planting his waist on the chair where he initially sat on at the start of this interrogation.
After which, the woman made another gesture with her eyes, dismissing the interrogator as she closed in on the boy. And, having been allowed to return to his previous station, the man wasted no time getting out of Joanne’s way as the platinum blonde lifted Junichi’s chin with her slender fingers, thoroughly examining his visage with a critical gaze.
Of course, she paid no heed to the fact that her fingernails, long and manicured, were lightly scratching the young man’s chin. After all, with her face so close that their noses almost touched, it was clear that her focus was all spent on analysing Junichi’s visage.
And the first thing that piqued her interest seconds after this analysis started was the boy’s eyes. Or rather, the colour of his irises.
「I see. A nice set of emerald eyes, yes.」
The woman murmured, her beautiful face intrusively taking up the entirety of Junichi’s field of view. As a result of how much she dominated his sights, the boy was incapable of looking away from her visage, and so simply used this opportunity to get a better look at the woman who had caused such a disruption to the scene.
Gorgeous pale skin that seemed to glow with sublime radiance. Features sculpted in perfect symmetry. What lay before him was a woman with the characteristics that formed the very definition of alluring, the shade of her platinum blonde further reinforcing the stereotype of a foreign beauty. The only exception to this was her eyes, which, while undoubtedly attractive, were rather narrow when compared to the traditional western traits.
—and for some reason, the right eye of this woman was behaving quite strangely.
Without pause, Joanne’s right eyelid would continue to open and shut, almost like something had gotten caught in her eyes. Yet, the fact that the woman’s face displayed no discomfort whatsoever as she performed this peculiar wink made the dark-haired youth start assessing this action quite differently.
First of all, this constant winking was clearly intended for Junichi’s eyes only. The fact that the woman’s face was so close to his was proof, as it not only forced the boy to see it but also prevented others from noticing this act as well. This, accompanied by the sight of her licking her lips, caused a sudden realisation to dawn upon the youth.
This woman was, without a doubt, Roxanne Leblanc. The 2nd of the mercenary sisters who was a master of disguise, seduction, and treachery.
The more he thought about it, the more Junichi’s assumption became solidified in his mind. Although he was not entirely sure of how she had performed a stunt as insane as infiltrating the law, the dark-haired boy wasn’t so dense as to believe that she wasn’t capable of pulling it off.
Furthermore, the youth recalled that he had entrusted the seductress with the task of making preparations, just in case things went south. The possibility of this Charade being a part of those preparations was not completely zero.
Regardless of the minute details, however, the truth was that Joanne—or rather, Roxanne was now before him.
Which begs the question: what was she trying to do?
Reading between the lines, the boy assumed that her twitching right eye was a signal for him to do something with his. And, after recalling the context of the current state of affairs, the boy quickly understood what the platinum blonde was trying to achieve.
And so, as his inner self began to smirk ominously, he activated his switch.
The switch that would declare his innocence.
「Look here. In the picture, 〔Gun〕 has a red left eye and a green right eye. However, this young man here has the colours the other way around.」
The Joanne-disguised Roxanne widened her eyes, inhaling sharply in a deliberate act of astonishment that cleanly cut through the stale air of the interrogation room. Despite the contrived nature of it, however, this gasp did not seem at all artificial, drawing everyone’s attention to the fact that she had just uncovered.
Indeed. This was what the platinum blonde woman wanted. By pointing out this inconsistency, she had instantly called into the question the credibility of the photograph. Furthermore, considering it was the only piece of proof that linked the dark-haired boy to the perpetrator of blood and iron, this contradiction was a rather fatal flaw in the police’s case to pin Junichi as the culprit.
Yet, the contradiction of this photograph did not just affect the case’s conclusion. After all, this implied that the police had arrested and tortured the youth upon the basis of flawed evidence. A bitter pill to swallow, especially with how they were trying to force a confession so that they could convict an innocent man.
A fact that Maria was not willing to accept.
「Impossible, is it?」
It was not the platinum blonde woman but Miyazaki Ken himself who responded to the brown-haired inspector’s outburst with a raised brow. Reflected in his inquisitive gaze was Maria’s figure, shaken and distraught as her breathing had grown more erratic.
But then again, it couldn’t be helped. After all, the only reason why she was willing to condone the terrible acts that were inflicted upon the dark-haired youth was because she truly believed his guilt. She truly believed that she was in the right.
And yet, all of a sudden, it was no longer certain whether the side she stood on was truly that of justice. It was only natural that she began to resist such a notion with all her being. Humans with strong identities reacted in this manner when their beliefs were in jeopardy, so Maria’s sudden rejection was but a normal human reaction.
But alas, even if it was normal for her to respond in such a way did not mean that she was in the right. All in all, the brown-haired inspector’s arguments were fuelled purely by emotion—by the fear of having lost her way.
And emotional arguments were hard-pressed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against logical reasoning.
「Rather, my daughter also attends the same school as this boy. And she said to me that she fought someone who looked exactly like this boy there only moments prior.」
「N-No way! That—that can’t be!?」
Maria once again found herself lashing out, completely oblivious to the disrespect she was showing to her role model as she desperately tried to protect her justice. Yet, from afar, she looked quite pitiful, clinging onto the last dregs of hope she had that her actions were not wrong.
But that was indeed the reality of it.
And, as though directly trying to disprove the words she uttered, reality came crashing down unto her.
–or more specifically, it did.
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