The voice of Kurilta, filled with anger, drew the attention of the refugees towards the lieutenant Imocia.
"Why can't Carl enter?"
"We have determined that his presence would be detrimental to Ark. I apologize, but he cannot enter Ark."
Well, that's just great...
His ominous premonition seemed to be coming true.
"Is there no other way?"
Imocia's expression remained stoic, but a shadow seemed to cross her face.
In other words, the decision to deny entry was not her own.
'Could it be Colonel Banol?'
If that was the case, then there was no point in causing unnecessary trouble here. It would be foolish to argue with someone who was simply following orders from higher up.
Humans with the ability to sense ether can be divided into three categories.
The first are those like herself, born with a natural talent for ether sensitivity.
The second are those who become ether soldiers through special surgery.
And finally, the third are the demons who take on human form.
In fact, during the fall of the Black Line, which was the frontline of Ark's battle, the grade 2 Mythical creatures, Doppelgänger, played a crucial role.
From Ark's perspective, having someone with ether sensitivity who was not born as an Ark native was cause for suspicion.
"Is that alright?"
Imocia seemed quite surprised that she had accepted the decision so easily.
It wasn't really surprising.
After all, if even the great city of Chronos had fallen, then it was like being told to go die if he couldn't enter Ark.
'Well, there's nothing I can do about it anyway.'
The worry that I had was now a reality.
Coming to the Red-17 gate, where there was at least the lieutenant Imocia, was something I considered lucky.
"However, there is one condition."
"A condition? What kind of condition are you talking about?"
"I want to make a trade."
The face of the Imocia, who had been expressionless until a moment ago, gradually showed various expressions.
The expression that was now revealed was one of doubt.
"I want to purchase military supplies from Ark."
"Ark's military supplies are strictly prohibited from being exported. I'm sorry."
The prohibition on the external export of materials is the same for all armies.
Of course, whether that is actually enforced is another story.
"I won't ask for a lot of materials. Just enough for me to go out and survive."
"That's impossible. If it's non-military supplies, we are willing to provide some support."
"Well, then there's nothing I can do. I'll just have to take that too."
"What are you talking about?"
"Is there anything else that I brought?"
Only then did the Imocia realize what I was referring to, and his eyes widened.
"Are you talking about the corpse of the Skull Hound?"
The 8th-grade monster, the Skull Hound's corpse, had significant value as it was used for research, processing, and various other purposes within Ark.
Furthermore, if it was caught so cleanly, it was even more valuable.
"I caught the Skull Hound. Therefore, I hold the ownership. Isn't that right?"
As I looked around at the refugees, including Kurilta, as if seeking their agreement, they nodded their heads.
"That's right!""That monster belongs to the sword!"
"If it wasn't for the sword, we would have all died!"
Among them, the most enthusiastic response came from Kurilta.
"A reliable guy."
Of course, if Lieutenant Imocia wanted to, he could just kill me and all the refugees and take the corpse of the Skull Hound. However, no matter how valuable the Skull Hound's corpse is, it cannot compare to the value of ten healthy soldiers who could potentially become soldiers of Ark in the future.
From the beginning, there was no room for concepts such as "unfairness" or "coercion" in this deal.
"What do you need?"
I only waited for that question.
"···What I need is an Ark-15 automatic conversion rifle with a 36x conversion scope, HE2050 pistols and standard ammunition, flare, armor-piercing, flechette, incendiary, B-type shotgun, special net bullets, and 10 or more level 2 anesthetic bullets each. Also, I need Smell inhibitor type 7 machetes and standard-sized field shovels. Level 2 or higher protective gear. An emergency medical kit with 55 types of painkillers and a sleeping bag, an AC-type full military suit with a CC-type tent, and a two-month supply of multivitamin bars. Oh, and please make them chocolate-flavored."
Lieutenant Imocia's expression was dumbfounded.
In his heart, he wanted to receive not the Ark-15 automatic conversion rifle, which is basic equipment for Ark, but weapons like the Zero-999 tactical nuclear launcher or the Noah-01 matter disintegrator, but those were items that were absolutely prohibited from being taken out of Ark.
"Those are items that Lieutenant Imocia cannot easily access in the first place."
Therefore, I demanded as much as I could by compromising as much as possible to fill the value of the Skull Hound's corpse in my opinion.
That was enough to satisfy Lieutenant Imocia's ability to pay and also enough for me to understand.
"Is there something on my face?"
After a long time of being absent-minded, Lieutenant Imocia finally spoke.
"Are you from Ark by any chance?"
It was a question about how he knew so much about Ark's military equipment.
Anyway, even if I said I was from Ark here, there was no way that anyone with the status of Carl Marcus existed in Ark, so I casually answered.
"The reputation of Ark's military equipment extends far to Chronos."
Arms trade corruption was not just someone else's story in Ark. Rather, in a world like this, those who take care of their own interests tend to prosper.Though it was a rather convenient excuse for me, Imocia, the lieutenant of the Imocia army, seemed to wear a complicated expression before nodding in agreement.
"....Very well. I will accept your request."
"You have made a wise decision."
As a sign of the agreement, we shook hands. Imocia hesitated before glancing away.
"The items you requested will be ready within thirty minutes."
"Very good. That's a relief."
"....Are you truly okay with this?"
"What do you mean?"
"From now on, you must live outside of Ark. Do you not understand the significance of this?"
"Well, what can I do? It's not like I have a choice."
It was already a done deal. There was no point in making a fuss about it.
"Come to think of it...he's surprisingly calm."
Whether it was due to his "supernatural mental strength", one of Carl Marcus's unique traits, I couldn't say for sure. But he was surprisingly level-headed about the situation, even though he knew more about the outside of Ark than anyone else.
"Cal Marcus, you are...quite resilient."
"I suppose so."
"I truly regret that things have turned out this way."
Imocia seemed genuinely saddened by the turn of events.
Whether it was because he was disappointed that I couldn't join the Ark army or because he felt sorry for my imminent death, I couldn't say for sure.
And...before thirty minutes had even passed, all the requested items were ready.
Imocia dutifully fulfilled all my requests.
Moreover, for the protective gear, I had requested Level 2 or higher, but Imocia provided me with Level 3 gear that was even better than what I had asked for."This must be quite a burden," thought Imocia, showing her consideration as a lieutenant.
Furthermore, each of them had requested 10 ammunition, but the magazines only had 20 bullets each.
"I don't think I'm mistaken... Is this also Imocia's consideration?"
One should humbly accept what is given.
Above all, in the world of The Defense where demons and monsters roamed, ammunition was a valuable commodity with its worth as currency, so it didn't bother me.
Even if I had to live outside of Arc for the time being, there were plenty of ways to interact with Arc.
"And the target of my interactions doesn't necessarily have to be Arc."
From this point on, all cities outside of Arc had been destroyed, but some humans persevered outside the city.
One of the most representative groups was the Sandstorm group, who were a decent trading partner outside of Arc.
"Although there is a bit of a premium attached."
In return, they handled rare items that couldn't be found in Arc, so it wasn't a bad deal.
Lost in various thoughts, as I put on my protective gear and military attire, a commotion arose among the refugees.
"I'll go with you!"
It was Kurilta.
"Carl! I can't let you go alone. I'll go with you!"
What should I say about this...
I was grateful, but honestly, it was a bit overwhelming.
"Kurilta, just stay here. That would help me more."
"Carl! I'll follow you!"
"That's for my sake. I need to know someone in Arc too."
Whether it was one or two people, it was the same if we were going to live outside of Arc.
No, if the number of people increased, the consumption of resources would also increase proportionally, which could be more disadvantageous.
On the other hand, if we decided to live outside, having connections within Arc would be a great asset."Considering Kurilta's actions and trust towards me so far, it is certain that he will be of help to me in the future."
For that reason, Kurilta must stay within Ark, even if it means resorting to force.
Despite my blatant explanation, Kurilta seemed to interpret it differently as he pulled me into his arms with his ignorant muscles.
However, seeing as I could still breathe, it was clear that, as expected, my body was not ordinary.
"I will find a way, brother. I will find a way, no matter what."
"If you do, I will be grateful."
Of course, for Kurilta to be in a position to overturn the decision of a general, he would need to exert a great deal of effort.
"I, Kurilta, son of the steel axe Kurrild, swear! I will find a way to bring you into Ark!"
Kurilta's oath resounded throughout the area.
In this world, noise was considered a taboo act since it was one of the triggers for waves, but no one stopped Kurilta this time.
"Same to you, Lieutenant Imocia."
"Did I mention my name?"
"I heard the soldiers talking about you."
"Is that so?"
"Well then, I'll be on my way."
With my farewell to Lieutenant Imocia, I set off on my journey.
Nightfall was approaching.
Considering that I would have to live outside of Ark from now on, I needed to move quickly before it was too late.
"Shall we go?"
The moment I turned around,
A voice whispered in my ear."Just kill them all."
As he spoke, poltergeist phenomena occurred around me, causing the sand and gravel on the ground to shake.
It seemed that the judgment of Colonel Banol, who saw me as a danger to Ark, was accurate.
Ignoring the voices around me, I stepped out of Ark's entrance.
From now on, I had to live as a stranger in this defense game world.
There was so much to do.
* * *
Watching the back of departing Carl Marcus, Lieutenant Imocia felt an unknown emotion stirring within.
He wouldn't last long either.
Imocia knew very well of those who were refused entry to Ark due to the possibility of posing a threat.
And he remembered all their names.
Hatz, Drakel, Tonraka, Siboper, Taina Phon, Endra, Razine, Carl Marcus...
As those who had crossed the front line and reached Ark, they were all exceptional individuals.
Imocia had never seen their bodies.
But sometimes, when he went on reconnaissance, he found torn clothing or items they had worn.
It was all devoured by beasts that could swallow anything, including flesh.
Imocia thought that he would become one of them this time as well.
But at the same time, he hoped.
Perhaps he had put more supplies into Carl Marcus's army than required.
"What is it..."
Imocia raised his head.
The sunset seemed unusually red.
The End of <the Deal>