Akira was waiting for Carol in the lower district of Kugamayama city.
Right after the reward from the request in Mihazono ruin was transferred to Akira’s bank account, he called Carol, it was about how to divide the reward.
The money that was transferred to Akira’s bank account was the reward portion for his team, and since Carol was working in his team, Akira needed to pay her share of the reward. Money was a sensitive thing after all. In order to avoid having to fight Carol, Akira had to properly discuss with her and pay her.
Akira actually wanted to finish the discussion on how to divide the reward through the call, but Carol wished to meet directly with him. So, they decided on a time and place to meet.
Akira was waiting for Carol in the shopping district near the wall. Most of the areas in the lower district were relatively safe, so people who lived there were mostly peaceful people who could not fight. Of course, there were some guards patrolling the area too, but in order not to arouse any unnecessary ruckus and to give a more peaceful feeling, they were dispatched in civilian attires. Other than those guards, the rest of the people there were peaceful people.
But because of that, Akira gathered a lot of attention there. He was donning an augmented suit and carrying AAH and A2D assault rifles. He was basically a Hunter who could jump into a fight any second. If he was carrying DVTS minigun and A4WM automatic grenade launchers too, the guards would definitely escort him out of the area.
Alpha smiled and said.
“You’re really sticking out, aren’t you?”
“It’s not my fault, it’s Carol’s fault for asking me to meet her in this place.”
Although Akira was gathering a lot of attention, it was only on a level when someone came to a place with an attire not suitable for the location. It was not like the people around him were looking at him scared since he was an armed Hunter, it was simply because they knew that the guards in that area would be able to deal with that level of a Hunter with no problem at all in case if anything happened. They knew that Akira would face real trouble if he started making trouble in that area.
Alpha looked at the people around Akira and compared them to him.
“I don’t really mind it, but if you don’t like sticking out, maybe you should think more carefully about your outlook. It might be a good idea to buy some casual clothes that you won’t use when you have Hunter work.”
“It’s not like I’m planning to go somewhere that needs me to look sleek, and it’s not like I want something like that either, I really don’t need it. It’s true that I’m sticking out here, but I just need to not let it bother me that much. Not to mention, good clothes are expensive, right? So there’s no need to go out of my way to buy them.”
“Well, that’s true. Shiori and Kanae are also always using their maid outfits. If you really are not bothered by it, there’s no need to try to match the people around you.”
Akira looked rather annoyed and said.
“…Do I really look similar to Kanae and Shiori right now?”
“If you’re talking about wearing an outlook that doesn’t match the place, then yes.”
“…I guess I’ll think about buying some casual clothes then.”
Alpha smiled as she saw Akira’s resolve waver.
Carol appeared a bit sooner than the appointment time. When she saw Akira, she waved at him and walked toward him. Carol was wearing a high-class looking dress that gave her a graceful look. It was the exact opposite of the design of her usual augmented suit. It properly hid most of her skin while still letting her beautiful figure be perceivable from the outside, people who were familiar with fashion could easily recognize that she was wearing an expensive dress.
Akira was a bit surprised seeing how Carol was wearing a dress that was the exact opposite of how she dressed when she was out in the old-world ruin. After all, he did not expect Carol to wear a dress like that at all.
While at the same time, Carol was also surprised when she saw Akira’s attire. Although she was smiling, there was a trace of displeasure in her smile. She sighed a bit and said.
“I really didn’t expect you to come in that attire when you’re about to have lunch with a girl, you know?”
Akira decided to just shelve his thoughts for now and casually replied.
“I’m a Hunter, who is here as a Hunter and we’re about to talk about Hunter stuff. So I don’t think I’m doing anything weird here.”
Carol watched Akira’s reaction closely, it did not seem like he was trying to hide his embarrassment.
“Ah, right, if I’m not mistaken, you’re still in the middle of learning how to properly escort a girl, right? It seems that you still have a lot to learn.”
“Did I really say that?”
“You did. I remember it very well even though it was just a silly talk. Now then, shall we go?”
Carol was actually planning to take Akira to a high-class restaurant not too far from where they met up. But it was not a suitable place to eat when you were using an augmented suit.
Although it was not like the restaurant would not accept them, it did not change the fact that Akira would look strange there. As Carol thought so, she also thought that she was glad she did not put in an early reservation, she smiled bitterly while hiding that smile from Akira.
They entered another restaurant together, sat on a table for 4 facing each other, and scanned the menu for what to order. Carol looked at Akira who was looking at the menu with a serious face and thought that it was cute. She then thought about how to start the discussion there, or more like, how to use this chance to get Akira fixated on her.
After they placed their orders, they chatted for a bit before the meals arrived. That was when Carol started talking about the reward.
“Well, the foods are here, so let’s start talking about the main reason why we’re here.”
“About the reward, right?”
“Yep. Let’s just omit the bargaining part and go to the main problem. Akira, how much are you planning to pay me?”
Carol smiled confidently and waited for Akira’s reply.
Akira seemed troubled, he instead asked Carol a question.
“How much do you think I should pay you?”
Carol replied confidently with her smile.
“Oh my, you do know that I omitted the bargaining part for your sake, right? Or is it that you prefer it the other way? I don’t mind accepting your challenge, but just so you know, I’m not an easy opponent.”
Akira hesitated as he said.
“Uhh, that’s not the problem here, to be honest, it’s more like I don’t know the right reward for Hunters, you see. That’s why I’m asking you, you’re familiar with this kind of thing, right?”
Even for Akira, he knew that it was a bad thing to reveal that he was bad with negotiation. While on the other hand, Akira understood that he did not have the knowledge to even pretend that he knew. So he was sure that Carol who was familiar with that kind of thing would see through him in no time even if he tried.
But from the other point of view, it could be said that Akira took his chance for something bigger. He knew what he did not know, so he was prepared to lose money in order to gain that knowledge.
Carol looked at Akira for a while, she then thought for a bit before starting to talk while carefully observing his reaction.
“As someone who is more experienced in negotiation about rewards, I’ll at least say this to you, your move now was a bad move. Even if you don’t know the right number, as long as both of us did not agree on a certain number beforehand, you ought to firmly state the number that you have in mind, it doesn’t matter even if it was a bad bluff or even if you ask for an unreasonable huge amount of money. Since you’re the one with the money here, you should’ve used that position to come out stronger against your opponent. After all, if the negotiation breaks down, the one who will not get paid is me. And if you do that to me, I would be really troubled. So if you do that, I might decide to make a compromise to avoid any trouble later. Of course, with the less money you pay me, you will get a bigger portion of the reward.”
Akira listened to Carol’s explanation closely, he agreed with what Carol said.
“Hmm, you’re right about that. So then, how much do you want me to pay you?”
Although that reply did not make Carol’s smile waver from the outside, she actually felt troubled inside. It did not seem that Akira would try to bargain at all no matter how much Carol might ask. Even after she told him that he had the upper hand there, Akira did not seem trying to use it at all.
[To be honest, I’m not really interested in my portion of reward though. I was actually planning to accept a small amount of reward and get him indebted to me instead…]
Carol thought for a bit, she then decided to just say something to check Akira’s reaction.
“The amount of reward that I want, huh. To be honest, I don’t want to sell my skill cheaply and I have the confidence that I can convince other people to pay me a big reward. That’s why I usually start the negotiation with relatively high reward money. Hypothetically speaking, if I tell you to give me all the reward, will you do that? You did tell me that you have no knowledge about how to negotiate for your reward, so what will you do if I’m using my skill to convince you to give me all the reward? To be honest, I’m pretty sure that I can do that.”
Carol smiled confidently.
But then Akira just casually replied.
“Well, in that case, it can’t be helped, I’ll just give you all the reward.”
Carol’s smile finally wavered.
It was not like Akira was willing to give all the reward because he was in a situation where he had no other choice but to do that. He was willing to do that simply because he had listened to Carol’s explanation with his distorted sense of money.
Akira went to Mihazono ruin while bringing Carol with him in order to help Elena and Sara. Right from the start, his goal was not money.
Moreover, Akira was the one who hired Carol, so as the one who hired her, he unconsciously wanted to pay Carol the right amount of reward. Akira thought that Carol was a stronger Hunter than him and he roped her to a dangerous place for his own reason, so it was understandable that he had to pay a big amount of reward for her.
In the slum city, a one-sided negotiation where someone pointing his rifle at other people demanding everything that person had was a normal occurrence. Akira really did not want to be the one robbed, but he also did not want to be the one who did the robbing. Back then when he was the one on the other side, he wanted to at least be given a chance to negotiate, so he just wanted to remind himself that he was no longer in that situation any longer and there was no need for him to join the other side.
But with that being said, Akira did not know the right amount of money to pay Carol.
Of course, the suitable amount of money would differ from one person to another. Hunters risked their lives when they went out to the wasteland. And of course, they did not think that their own life was equal to the life of the other. That was why when it came to negotiation about reward, it tended to end up with a fight. It was not rare for Hunters to fight and kill each other right after they finished a job together.
Akira himself understood that very well. That was why he decided to ask someone who was knowledgeable about that thing. Which in this case, that would be Carol.
Carol realized that she had stopped smiling, but she immediately returned her face back to a smile. She was pretending as if it did not surprise her at all while checking on Akira. It did not seem that Akira said that because he had some kind of ulterior motive. He was only being honest.
[He got me good there. I was actually planning to start with a high price and then lowering it bit by bit during the negotiation while making sure that he would feel indebted to me, and then I should be able to use that to get closer to him, but in this case, if I ask for a big portion and he accepts it, he might use that as an excuse to cut his ties with me. This is not easy…]
One thing that Carol got wrong there was that Akira would not just give all the reward without fighting back if she really asked for all the reward. What he meant back then was that he was willing to give all the reward if she could give him a good reason to do so.
To be more precise, Akira was planning to fight back until the end. And if Carol was able to convince him after that, if she could make him agree that it was a suitable reward for her, then he would properly pay her that much. After all, that was the right thing to do if he agreed with that.
And to add one more detail to that, Akira actually underestimated his words because Alpha did not say anything. Alpha was always so noisy reminding Akira of anything, that was why he was sure Alpha would say something if he did something bad.
But the reason why Alpha did not say anything was because in case if Akira lost a lot of money there, she would use that as an excuse to encourage him to stop associating with other people. So after a lot of considerations, Alpha decided to just keep silent there.
After a lot of thinking, Carol decided to take the safe route. She at least needed to make sure that she did not leave any bad impression on Akira.
[…To be honest, I don’t want to do this, but… I guess I’ll have to imitate what Elena and Sara would do in this situation.]
Carol had decided on her plan and restarted the negotiation.
“It seems that you’ve worked with Elena and Sara multiple times before, right? When you did that, how did you distribute the reward? Who decided on how to divide the reward and what indicator was used?”
“Hm? Elena-san would be the one deciding and I guess we just divided the reward normally just like usual.”
To be honest, Carol wanted to know what was ‘just like usual’ for Akira. But since he only gave her that much information, she decided to make a suggestion based on how Elena divided the reward with Akira in the last request.
“In that case, then let’s divide the reward 50-50 and not talk about whether it’s the right number considering how much we fought back in Mihazono ruin, right? After all, it’s not like we have a prior agreement on how to divide the reward anyway. This way, we can divide the reward without causing more trouble or leaving any side displeased. When it comes to a suitable amount of reward, nothing is better than the amount of reward that both parties agree to. And since I want to get along with you in the future, let’s just divide it 50-50 between us, what do you think?”
Akira stopped eating, took out his information terminal, and finalized the transfer to Carol’s bank account.
“There, I’ve transferred it, can you check it?”
Carol also took out her information terminal and checked her bank account.
“Yep, I’ve received it. With this, the request from you is officially finished without any hitch. Thank you. Did I satisfy your expectation? I do want to hear the opinion of my employer, you know.”
Carol was smiling mischievously at Akira when she said that.
Akira was a bit bothered by that, but he decided to reply back honestly.
“Yeah, you did well. I do feel glad that I brought you with me. Thank you.”
Akira lightly bowed, Carol then replied in a good mood.
“You’re welcome. I’ll be looking forward to working with you again.”
Looking at how Akira reacted, Carol thought that at least she did not fail, it might even be okay to say that she succeeded. And then when she saw him enjoying his delicious-looking meal, she was able to confirm that it was the right choice picking a restaurant as a place to discuss with Akira.
[If we do the negotiation in a restaurant, he would not leave until he finishes his meal. But if we’ve done this in a cafe, I bet he would have left the moment we finished the negotiation.]
Carol’s guess was most probably correct. As long as she did not have anything interesting to talk about, Akira would just leave when his business with her was done. Unlike all the other customers that she had met up until now, Akira had no romantic feeling toward her at all.
Akira and Carol continued talking to each other while enjoying their meal. Akira was talking without thinking much about what he was saying, in contrast to that, behind her smile, Carol kept thinking about what kind of subject she could bring up that might interest Akira.
Carol talked about all kinds of things with Akira, she was paying close attention to how Akira reacted to different topics. They were mostly talking about Hunter stuff while touching ordinary daily stuff from time to time.
Akira was listening closely to a certain subject that he was super interested in, it was about how to sell old-world relics.
“Ohh, so sometimes you can even sell them with that price, huh. That’s amazing.”
“Yup. And with that rumour about a certain relic that you can buy with a few hundred thousand Aurum and can be sold for a few million Aurum circulating around, it seems that some Hunters and merchants were looking for the shop that sold that certain relic.”
“A toy old-world relic, huh… I wonder what kind of relic is that.”
“I wasn’t able to investigate much about that rumour, but it seems that it was sold to Kurogin. Kurogin paid a lot of money to buy that relic and that relic was previously bought for cheap from another shop. So judging from that information alone, although it’s a toy, it’s not a mechanical toy. I think it’s some kind of a toy with artistic value and it was brought to Kurogin still in a good shape, and there might be some collectors out there who are looking for that kind of old-world relic. After all, there are many people out there with certain hobbies who would pay a lot of money for something like that.”
Carol was talking with Akira about a certain relic deal that jumped into her information network. It was about a certain Hunter who scored a very good deal in the lower district of Kugamayama city. It was not a rare occurrence, but since Akira was also a Hunter, he might be interested in that kind of talk. That was why Carol decided to prepare some information about selling relics before she went to meet Akira.
Although it was not a rare thing, it was enough to get Akira’s interest. Carol smiled satisfied seeing that Akira showed an interest in that subject.
After listening to Carol’s story about reselling relics and the businesses around that subject, a question popped inside Akira’s head.
“Do those companies that specialize in buying and selling relics get that much profit?”
“That would depend on the skill of the owner. I heard that you can get quite a lot of profit if you have the necessary connection and money.”
“…Is that the case even if you open such a store in the slums? And even if it’s a secret shop?”
Carol was surprised by what she heard.
“Oh, are you interested in that? Hmmm, if you ask me, with your skill, it’s better if you keep working as a Hunter instead of opening a shop like that, you know?”
There were many people in the eastern district who worked as Hunters only in order to get the capital to start a business. It was indeed true that being a Hunter was a dangerous job, but it was a good way to raise a lot of money in a short time. Not to mention, if they left as high ranking Hunters, it would be easier for them to gather money for their business. And if their business went bankrupt, they could use their rank to borrow some money to restart their Hunter activities again.
Because of Carol’s personal reason, and because of her distorted way of thinking, she wanted Akira to keep working as a Hunter instead of changing occupation to a businessman. After all, she wanted the money that she received from the other people who were using her service to be the money they got from risking their lives, not the money they got from running a business. She did not lie when she said that she rather had Akira continue working as a Hunter, but half of the reason that she said there was a lie.
Akira himself did not think that he had any talent in running a business, so he just shook his head and said.
“Nah, it’s not about me, it’s about someone that I know in the slum city who started running that kind of business just recently and I’m guarding that place right now. It seems that she spent quite a lot of money on the interior of that shop, so I was just wondering if you can get profit from opening that kind of shop in the middle of the slum.”
“Ohh, I see. I heard that you’ve been living in the slum before, have you ever heard that kind of rumour when you were living there?”
“Of course I did, but I’ve never gotten involved in it.”
“I see. In that case, I can teach you a lot of things. After all, I’m pretty knowledgeable about that kind of thing, you know?”
Carol smiled confidently and started talking in a good mood.
There were multiple shops inside Kugamayama city that handled buying and selling relics. Their scales and their specialization also varied greatly. There were many kinds of shops even in the slum city, and most of those shops in the slum were doing secret business.
Opening a shop in the slum was not exactly an illegal thing. But it was also true that a lot of shops that were doing questionable business from the Hunter Office’s point of view often had under-the-table deals to make sure they did not get rousted out.
To be honest, the Hunter Office did not like the shops that sold relics since they allowed Hunters to gather relics with money instead of from the old-world ruin. Hunters could buy relics from such shops and then sell those relics to the Hunter Office’s exchange centre. This fact would definitely raise a question in the trustability of the Hunter ranking.
The Hunter ranking was an indicator of the strength of a Hunter, and that strength was basically based on Hunter’s ability to gather relics from dangerous ruin. The reason why the Hunter Office gave special treatment for the high ranking Hunters was to support the Hunters who had the skill to reach that ranking.
Hunter Office gave special treatment to high-ranking Hunters. Many cities in the eastern district only allowed Hunters of a certain ranking or higher to get permission to go inside the inner wall. Moreover, there were several secret information about old-world ruins available for high ranking Hunters only. The companies also tended to offer their new equipment cheaply for high-ranking Hunters which doubled as a promotion for those companies.
Because of that, some Hunters chose to buy relics with their money and took them to the Hunter Office in order to get a higher ranking than their actual skills. There were Hunters who gathered money from trading relics and then used that money to buy relics to bring to the Hunter Office in order to raise their Hunter Ranks.
Although it was a rather rare thing, sometimes there were also Hunters who did not want to raise their Hunter Rank for a certain reason, these Hunters would sell their relics to the exchange centre and shops that did not have any connections with the Hunter Office.
This practice could be interpreted as buying and selling Hunter Rank. Thus, those shops with good reputations tend to limit the relic trading with the Hunters or do a full identity check in order to prevent the Hunter Office from blacklisting their businesses.
But then, if they asked those Hunters who used that method to raise their Ranks where they got those relics, most of them would reply that they got their relics in the slum.
While on the other hand, some companies that were running their business in a relatively unsafe area tend to hire former Hunters to bolster their fighting power. The higher the ranking of the Hunters they hired, the better their fighting power were and the more protection they offered. Those companies sometimes paid those Hunters not with money, but with relics. As for the Hunters’ side, some of them decided that it was better to get paid with relics rather than with money, so sometimes they made being paid with relics as one of the requirements to employ them. But in the end, the relics that the companies used to pay those Hunters were mostly bought from the slum.
Merchants in the slum were able to gain an unthinkable amount of money considering where they were conducting their business because of those under-the-table dealings.
Akira was listening closely to Carol’s explanation.
Carol was smiling happily seeing that Akira was interested in her explanation. At the same time, she also thought about the reason behind that interest.
[Akira hailed from the slum. If I have to make a guess, I bet he got lucky, found an expensive relic, and used the money that he got from there to become a Hunter. And then he grew so fast as a Hunter which would explain his lack of knowledge. So basically, Akira grew as a Hunter so fast that he did not have the chance to learn basic knowledge as a Hunter. Which means that he’s a very talented person. No wonder Shikarabe got cautious of him… I bet the reason why he’s showing so much interest in my explanation is simply because he’s hungry for knowledge. I wonder if it’s a backlash from living so long in the slum where he couldn’t get much information… As for the reason why he shows almost no interest in the opposite sex… I guess he was so desperate just to survive that his mental development is not at that stage yet, huh?]
Although it was not exactly wrong, her guess was not exactly right either. From her experience seducing a lot of people, Carol was able to see through a small part of Akira’s personality.
Carol tried to look casual as she asked Akira a question.
“By the way, Akira, do you have any worry at the moment?”
“Yep. I’m more experienced than you in all kinds of things. So if you have any worries, I might be able to give you some advice.”
Carol was smiling at Akira as if she was hiding something behind her smile.
“By the way, I have a particular worry lately. It’s about a certain Hunter who prefers food over women, he hardly shows any reaction no matter what I do to seduce him, do you have any idea what I should do?”
Akira understood that Carol was teasing him, so he smiled back mischievously and said.
“Nah, I don’t have any good idea at all. I guess your only choice is to wait until he grows a little older. Either that, or just give up on him and aim for someone else.”
“That’s no solution at all, you know. So then, what about you Akira? Don’t worry, you can share anything, I’ll at least give you some advice regardless if it’s useful or not.”
Carol was smiling teasingly as if she was planning to get payback at Akira when she said that.
Akira thought for a bit before replying.
“…Worry, huh. Let’s see… If I have to say anything, I’ll say my lack of strength and money, huh… Wait, is that included as a worry in the first place?”
“Oh my, I think you got quite a lot of money from the last request and I also think that you’re already pretty strong, is it still not enough?”
“Even if you say so, I need to buy ammo, I want to get better equipment, and I want to eat good food. I feel like it won’t be enough no matter how much money I have. While for my strength, since I had trouble fighting the monsters back in the Mihazono ruin, that alone means that I’m not strong enough yet. Well, I have no other choice but to work hard as a Hunter and there’s no easy solution to that, I at least know that much.”
To be more precise, Akira was relying too much on the easy and effective solution called Alpha’s support. As long as Akira knew that, the rest was for him to work hard.
Carol smiled confidently and said.
“In that case, I did invite you to work together with me back then in the Mihazono ruin, right? If you work with me, I’m sure you can get a better look at my fighting skill and negotiation skill, so, what do you think? If you work with me, I think I can teach you many things, you know. I think it’s faster than gathering the experience by yourself, yes?”
Unlike last time, Akira did not reply instantly this time, but in the end, he gave the same answer as last time.
“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to refuse.”
Carol was a bit surprised by that, she sounded so disappointed as she said.
“Oh my, I thought I’ve done well trying to get you to recognize my skill, but I guess it wasn’t good enough, huh?”
Akira hesitated as he replied.
“No, that’s not the problem here. Like I said back then, I don’t plan much and can be pretty random, I don’t think I have the suitable personality to work together with someone else…”
“I’m the one who’s asking you to work with me, you know. So I at least will adapt to your schedule. And if we can’t work well together even after that, we can just stop working together. So, is it still a no?”
“Even if you say so, it’s still a no, sorry.”
Akira thought that he made the mood bad there, but unexpectedly, Carol smiled and said.
“I see. Well, it can’t be helped then. It’s true that working together with the other Hunter whom you can’t really work together with often ends up with trouble. Not to mention, you might come to hate me too, so I’ll stop bugging you about that. But if you ever want to work together with me even if it’s only for a short time, I’m open anytime, okay? I know that you sometimes go to the ruin with Elena and Sara, right? You can invite me too the next time you do that and I’ll be more than happy to come along.”
Akira thought for a bit before replying.
“You’re right, well, I’ll call you again if the chance comes up.”
Carol smiled happily.
“I see, I’ll be looking forward to it then.”
Akira smiled back and gave that short reply.
Akira and Carol were talking about a lot of things even after they finished their meals and had ordered refills for their after-meal coffee multiple times. When Akira realized that he had spent way more time than he originally planned, he said his goodbye to Carol and left the restaurant.
After Akira left, Carol was still inside the restaurant for some time. She was smiling wryly and mumbled.
“Hmmm. Akira’s reaction there was not bad, but I wasn’t able to make any appointment when to meet next either. I guess I relied too much on my seduction skill lately that my speechcraft skill has gotten dull.”
Carol was not always using her body to seduce her customer, she sometimes used other skills too. One of them was to get friendly with her customer which included bringing subjects about some common interests, talking about each other’s worries, asking about each other’s opinions, listening closely to what her talking partner was asking and giving an answer that the other was expecting, and eventually getting so close to the point that the other person became reliant on her. Seducing was just one of the methods that she could use to reach that goal.
Carol sometimes also used that to lead her partner to a better state. She encouraged them to be more positive about their lives, to be more confident, to cheer them up, to get them to enjoy their lives more and support them. It could be said that those were the services that they got from paying the money they earned from risking their lives to Carol.
At the same time, all of those encouragements sometimes caused them to get ahead of themselves and made them challenge dangerous old-world ruins that were out of their league, but Carol was okay about that. There were many different ways for people to use their lives. So Carol had no wish to stop them from doing so. Although, she might try to stop them if she knew that it would be counter-effective.
“Seeing how he reacted, I don’t think Akira would accept my invitation if I invite him to go to the wasteland randomly, and it’s unlikely for him to invite me. What should I do…?”
Carol was thinking about what she could do next to seduce Akira, that was when a call reached her information terminal. Carol checked the caller and accepted the call.
“Viola, I’m outside right now. If it’s something sensitive, call me again later.”
“Don’t worry, it’s just that I have a small question for you, it’s nothing serious.”
Carol could feel that Viola was planning something bad behind her uppity voice.