Black Maria’s Zeroth Squad headquarters.
It was a place where the boss Richelieu oversaw the first up to the seventh squads, and thus did not belong to any of those.
For that reason, the places used as her hideout was called so out of convenience.
“So you’re here. Do take a seat”
The capital was dotted with them, and she would change positions once a week.
Once Shizuru entered the lovely coffee lounge that was one of those places, the waiting Richelieu told him.
“… Is it just you Shizu? Where’s Cassie?”
“Having a fight with Lady in the slums”
“And that happened because?”
Richelieu asked indiferrently. Shizuru hesitated to say.
But since the conversation couldn’t continue unless he answered, he finally took a deep breath and explained.
“Yesterday, when I closed up the clinic and went on my way back to the hideout, I happened to come across Cassie drunk”
Even though she had been told to hold back, she was totteringly drunk.
Incidentally, even though Casca had earn the grudges of many, nobody messes with her though she was drunk.
She acts outrageously as naturally as wearing clothes and walking, but she was still holding back in her own way.
Once she had gotten drunk, her distinctions come off and she became that much stronger.
Which means, if anyone carelessly did anything, their lives were forfeit.
“Since I was worried whether she could get back o the base on her own, I thought I should take her. I then thought I should take a bit of rest so I brought her to a nearby inn.
“I see, I get the gist of it. It doesn’t really matter to the report whether or not Cassie is here, so go on”
It was rather harsh to talk about an executive staff like that, but that’s really how it is.
As he was initially told to, Shizuru took a seat and handed the written report to Richelieu.
The page was dotted with braille. One person in every squad had to learn it so that Richelieu could read.
As for the third squad, since the captain Casca couldn’t even read or write normally, the sub-leader Shizuru wrote it.
Richelieu swiftly ran her fingertip over the paper, reading the report.
Within a minute, she had finished reading it all and then she burned it up with the fire of lamp on the table.
“Seventeen commissions this month, starting with Eamond the jeweler. Not bad”
“It’s good that we’re getting a lot of business … haah”
Richelieu’s disinterested way of treating murder as just business made Shizuru unintentionally sigh.
“But you aside, I do think there’s a problem with sundries like dealing with the bodies afterwards. We can do more jobs now that we’re splitting them between seven squads, but we might have to think about things like that once we do”
“It would help if we have something like special squads for information gathering and post-processing. Things like gathering intel about the target is now being left to each squad”
“I see. Alright, I’ll put it to consideration”
Tap tap, Richelieu tapped the table with her fingertips twice in rhythm.
It’s a bad habit of hers whenever she changes the topic.
“How is Ludmila doing? Ah, you don’t need to answer. I can roughly tell from your heartbeat”
Because she was blind, Richelieu’s sense of hearing far surpassed a normal human’s.
If she wanted to, she could walk in heavy traffic without running into anyone without needing a cane, and she could hear a pin drop from one kilometer away. She even had the ability to discern someone’s state of mind through their heartbeats and breathing.
“Still doesn’t want to accept her assignment? And it looks like she’s not getting along with the rest of the team, is she?”
“… sort of. You know how Cassie is, so even though they quarelled here and there it doesn’t drag out. As for the other two … I mean three, well, there’s not much”
“Do something about it as soon as possible. Any discord between team members is going to affect your success rate”
It’s too late to do anything about Lady and Casca always getting into a fight, but they always show good coordination when it comes to work.
In other words, they could make the distiction between business and private, so all was well.
But not all people were the type who could make that distinction right away.
On that point, Ludmila was the kind who couldn’t make the distinction well.
“It’s normally the captain’s job, but I just can’t expect Cassie to have the consideration. You’re the man for this”
“… I see”
Honestly, Shizuru wanted to refuse.
But Richelieu never takes back whatever decision that already came out of her mouth.
That’s because she had complete confidence in herself, and made the decision after putting all things into consideration.
It was a decision made by herself, who she trusted above all else, after careful thinking, so nobody could overturn it.
Shizuru had gotten all too familiar with it over the seven years.
“For now, I think it would be good for the whole third squad to do a job together. According to the report, you have only had missions that could somewhat be dispatched individually since I sent you Ludmila”
Richelieu would always burn down the reports every time, but she remembered all of it.
Everything she read, from the time she started Black Maria ten years ago.
“… yes. Even though intelligence gathering was done mostly by Lady and myself, the last time we conducted an assassination with the whole team was before Ludmila joined”
“Alright, let’s get you guys a job then”
As soon as she said so, Richeliou took out a piece of paper. She then rapidly tapped a tool with a rounded tip on it, making a tak tak tak tak tak tak sound.
After several seconds of tapping, she handed the paper with the words in braille to Shizuru.
While having a bad premonition, Shizuru read the words.
His face stiffened as if expecting what he just read.
“This is …”
“An invitation to a welcoming party. Ludmila joined us at a bad time so it’s a little bit late in coming”
The location was the slums of the capital’s east ward.
The target, was a notorious criminal syndicate that was involved in numerous crimes.
“You were complaining that the slums have gotten noisy weren’t you? This’ll calm things down”
It was a request for a large job, targeting over a hundred people.