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Chapter 2 - The Offer

The girl strode into the bar and closed the door without turning a rege. There was no hesitation in her manner; clearly, her arrival was not happenstance. Her face was determined, but her confident entrance couldn't erase the lingering innocence of youth--even the best liar wouldn't try and claim she was more than eighteen. Dark brown eyes and hair suggested she was Eastern, but her nose and features made it hard to be sure.

The girl slowly walked forward.

With each step, her cute little knees peeked out from under the trim cut of her skirt. Her outfit was a design without any sense of decoration. It seemed her taste lay more along the lines of utility than style.

Maybe because of that, the Eastern symbol necklace on her chest couldn't help but look equally unremarkable. ...The lack of volume in that area probably had something to do with that as well. It would still be some time before she really 'bloomed,' so to speak.

An appearance bearing the signs of East and West both, and simple, unembellished clothes... The girl might have been the spirit of the Eastern Quarter made flesh.

She caught the eye of one of the punks hanging about almost instantly.

'Heh. Hey, little girly,' he slurred. 'Wanna have some fun with me?'

As he spoke, he grabbed the girl's wrist with one greasy hand.

It happened in an instant.

Her arm flew up, dislodging the punk's grip. Now freed, her hand disappeared deep into her skirt and then slid out with a mass of gleaming black iron.

She pressed it to the space between his eyes. He stared at the object for a moment before collapsing to his knees in fear.

It was an orbal gun of cunning make--a high-caliber Verne Company model. If she'd shot that firearm, the punk would have lost his head instead of his bladder. Needless to say, it was not your average self-defense weapon.

'It's the latest model,' she purred. 'Want to see what it can do?'

She was cool and calm, the barrel of the gun never wavering. Were she to fire, her aim would be perfect.

Overwhelmed by the girl, gun, or perhaps both, the punk couldn't move a muscle. Everyone else in the bar remained frozen as well. All eyes were on the girl.

'*hic* ...Hey, miss. Hate to ask, but could ya let him off with that?'

Maybe the speaker couldn't stand it anymore or maybe it was disturbing his drink, but the husky, sensual voice broke through the silence.

It was Jack.

Still planted firmly in his chair, breath smelling of liquor, he continued.

'I'm sure he's very sorry, and he's learned his lesson.'

As if in answer to it, the punk started nodding his head vigorously.

'I've come here to gamble,' the girl replied abruptly. She slowly lowered the gun in her left hand, her expression continuing to remain cool and detached.

'Sounds good. C'mon over here. Gimme everythin' you got.'

Jack's words had an immediate impact, not on the girl but on the gathered goons and hoods. They all shared a glance, each and every one of them, with the dirtiest grin you could imagine.

第2回 誘い

少女は店内に踏み込み、後ろ手に扉を閉める。どうやら店を間違えたワケではないらしい。

まだあどけなさの残る表情……どれだけサバを読んでも18がいい所だ。実際は15、6だろうか。暗褐色の瞳と髪の毛からして東方系だろうが、鼻筋の通った顔立ちを見るとそうも言いきれない。

少女はゆっくりと歩き始めた。一足ごとに、かわいらしいひざがスカートの裾から顔を覗かせる。至って飾り気のないデザイン……見た目よりも動きやすさがきっと彼女のお好みなのだろう。

そのせいか、胸元を飾る東方風の首飾りも素っ気ない細工の物に見えてくる。……ボリュームに欠けるのも1つの原因だろう。それ相応の色気を身に着けるにはまだまだ時間がかかりそうだ。

東西両方の特徴を備えた容姿に飾り気のない質素な衣服――少女はまるで、この東方人街そのもののようだ。

1人のチンピラがすぐ少女に目をつける。「へへ、お嬢ちゃん。……俺とイイことしねえか?」チンピラはそう言うなり、脂ぎった手で少女の手首をつかんだ。

――瞬間。少女の手がチンピラの腕を振り解く。自由になったそれがスカートの奥へ消え、黒光りする鉄の塊と共に滑り出てくる。

鼻先に突きつけられた物を見てチンピラは腰砕けに床へと座り込んだ。

共和国ヴェルヌ社製の導力銃。小型ながら大口径を誇る火器でもし火を吹けばチンピラの頭は消し飛ぶだろう。……少女が護身用に持つ代物ではない。

「最新型よ、試してみる?」こういった状況に慣れているのか、少女はいたって冷静だ。構えた導力銃の銃口も微動だにしない。そんな少女に圧倒されたのか、チンピラはピクリとも動けなかった。

酒場の空気が凍りつく。周囲の視線はみな少女に釘付けだ。

「ヒィック……嬢ちゃん。それくらいで勘弁してやってもらえねえかな。」この状況に堪えかねたのか、不意に誰かが言葉を発した。しわがれていて、どこか色気を感じさせる声。――ジャックだ。

彼は椅子に腰掛けたまま、酒臭い息を吐き、後を続けた。「コイツも十分反省してるはずさ。」彼はそう言ってチンピラに視線を送る。それに応えるようにチンピラは激しくうなずいて見せた。

「私、ギャンブルをしに来たの。」少女はぶっきらぼうにそう告げると、左手の導力銃をそっと下ろした。その表情は相変わらず冷たいままだ。

「……いいぜ、こっちに来な。俺が相手してやるよ。」

ジャックの言葉に反応したのは少女ではなく、ゴロツキどもの方だった。互いに顔を見合わせつつ、みなその顔にいやらしい笑みを浮かべた。

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