Alpha suddenly turned towards the direction of the door into the room, Akira noticed that and followed suit, there he saw Carol and Viola coming in.
Other people also noticed Carol and Viola. Both of them scanned the room, talked to each other for a bit and separated off, Carol went to Akira while Viola went to Katsuragi. Carol walked all the way next to Akira and smiled at him.
“I’m happy to see you again! What a coincidence, Akira!”
“You’re right, so, why are you here?”
“I just thought of killing some time talking with you, are you busy right now?”
“Nah, I’m not busy.”
“That’s good to hear.”
Akira was sitting on top of one of the displays originally used for the relics. Carol casually sat next to him.
Carol was wearing a bodysuit for fighting, it had a more tame design compared to the old-world design augmented suit that she wore back in the Mihazono ruin. But even so, it still pronounced her body lines, so for those who were not used to it, she looked rather seductive.
The fastener on her bodysuit was lowered so her cleavage was visible. The other people who were working there could not help but peek at that cleavage, but Carol did not mind them at all.
Akira then warned Carol.
“I don’t mind you sitting there, just make sure not to break the display.”
“Geez, I’m not that heavy!”
“It’s just that I had a fight here so the display might be damaged.”
“I see, I’ll be careful, by the way, my weight is a secret. If you want to know no matter what, I recommend holding me up while I have nothing on my body.”
Carol was smiling teasingly while Akira replied with a wry smile.
“You’re no fun.”
Carol smiled but seemed slightly disappointed.
The room was painted here and there with blood, empty cartridges were also scattered all over the floor complete with scorch marks from the bullets too, it only showed how fierce the fight was. Carol looked one more time around the room, she then smiled as if the scene did not bother her at all and said.
“But still, it seems that you had a pretty hard fight here.”
Akira awkwardly replied.
“It’s not my fault.”
Carol was a bit surprised by Akira’s reaction, she thought that he was someone who was not bothered by something like that. Although she did not mean to blame him at all, her wordings there might have somehow triggered him. So in order to not worsen his mood even more, she tried to defend Akira.
“Well, it’s true that it’s the attackers’ fault and not yours.”
Akira turned his face to Carol and looked slightly weirded out. He then noticed that she misunderstood his words, so he shook his head and said.
“That’s not what I meant, the room was cleaner after the fights. It’s because those people who came with Katsuragi dragged the dead bodies around and spread the blood, and used the sheets to mop the blood in the corridor which made the fight seem gorier than it originally was. That’s why it’s not my fault that the room looks like this. But well, it’s not like I was being careful to keep this room clean when I fought them either.”
“Ohh, I see, these guys are pretty naughty.”
“Yep, it’s just a small stupid trick, but it’s enough to trick some people.”
Akira tilted his head in confusion, he still did not understand what Carol was referring to.
When Carol noticed that, she smiled mischievously and asked Akira.
“Hmm, your face is saying that you don’t understand. If you want to know, I can explain it to you, of course, that is if you don’t mind me adding my guess there.”
“Oh, please do.”
Akira was interested, so he nodded without much thinking.
He was waiting for Carol to start explaining, but she did not say anything, she was only staring at Akira while smiling. Akira, who found that weird, frowned, that was when she said.
“If I ask for an information fee… What would you do?”
“Information is not free, you at least know that much, right?”
“…Well, yeah, I do.”
Akira only replied awkwardly, Carol who saw that enjoyed his reaction.
From others point of view, it might look like Carol was teasing Akira and enjoying his reaction. But Carol tried her best not to show her real intention out on her face as she was observing his reaction closely.
Carol was trying to judge Akira’s personality and his way of thinking from how he reacted to that, whether he took that seriously, or he took that as a joke, or if he just laughed it off, or if he replied back trying to be considerate to her.
If Akira seemed offended or angered or anything similar to that, she would immediately apologize and carefully start her explanation to make sure not to worsen his mood.
Akira seemed to be thinking for a bit. Carol kept her eyes on him while waiting for his reaction.
Akira hesitated for a bit but he then said.
“…Well, it’s not like I want to know it that much anyway, so I’m okay not knowing it.”
Carol smiled bitterly.
“I was just joking, you’re a pretty serious guy.”
“…I just don’t like that kind of joke.”
Akira’s reply was rather brusque. Carol understood Akira’s character a bit more, she then smiled and apologetically said.
“I’m sorry, please don’t be angry. But I’m really happy to know that you’re that interested in me. As an apology, I’ll properly explain it to you, so cheer up, okay?”
Akira reluctantly nodded, it must be because he was interested in that subject and he thought that Carol was only teasing him.
Carol was able to infer a lot of things from Akira’s reaction, she then thought to herself.
[Akira doesn’t seem to joke that much, huh, or maybe is it that he doesn’t like to joke around money. Judging from his reaction, it might be both. I need to be extra careful not to make bad jokes when I’m trying to seduce him.]
Carol did not show her thoughts on her face, she was still smiling like usual as she started her explanation.
Katsuragi was trying to sell the attackers regardless of whether they were dead or alive, and he did not care whether they would be dead or alive in the near future. He wanted more than the peace money, so he planned to have them pay for the ‘damages’.
As for the attackers that were still alive, they would be put on a huge debt and made to work for a long time to pay for that debt. But in the eastern district, their contract would be invalid if they were forced to sign the contract at gunpoint. After all, that kind of contract was not allowed by the biggest authority power in the eastern district, the Corporate Government.
The Corporate Government had declared in the past that they would not allow any kinds of activity that might bring harm or disrupt the order and the peace in the eastern district. Regardless of whether they really put that into action or not, it was properly written in the rule. Rather than for the sake of anyone else, it was for their very own sake.
The definition of criminal in the eastern district was simply those who were against the Corporate Government. The Corporate Government would not do much when Hunters kill each other outside the wall, but if merchants or scammers started doing something suspicious, they would not show any mercy. That kind of bias was normal in the eastern district.
So, forcing someone into a debt without a good reason would disrupt the economy, thus, such actions were seen as an act against the Corporate Government of the eastern district.
Because of that, Katsuragi and his men needed to show the attackers that they had enough reason to force the attackers into debt which included the peace money. After all, they could not demand trillion Aurum peace money just because they tried to kill Akira and Sheryl’s men.
And if their reasoning was good enough, they could get help from the Corporate Government to seize the attacker’s properties. They could also ask for help from the Hunter Office that was handling their bank account. They could even sell the bond to the Hunter Office if all of the above things were not enough to pay for the debt.
The reason why Katsuragi and his men were making the room messier than before was simply to give a good reason to get the attackers on that debt contract. They were trying to pull up the debt nominal by taking a record of how bad the damages were.
After listening closely to Carol’s explanation, Akira looked around the room one more time.
“…I see, so in that case, the worse it looks here, the better the profit that they could get, huh.”
“The attempted robbery that caused the current situation, the criminals over there, the peace money, the reimbursement for the damages, and any other excuses that they could use to gain more money. I bet they are trying to squeeze as much money as they can from those attackers, both from the alive ones and the dead ones.”
“But is that really going to work?”
“Maybe. Some of them are really experienced in this kind of thing after all.”
When Carol said that, she pointed her finger at Viola who was talking with Katsuragi and some other people.
“That girl is Viola, and she… well, what can I say… She’s an expert in under-the-table deals like human trafficking and ‘resolving disputes’. I’m here because I was simply following Viola since I’m her bodyguard at the moment, I bet she got the news of this incident from her personal information web. I myself only know it since I heard about the incident from her.”
“Oh, it’s not like she’s one of the people that Katsuragi called to come here?”
“I’m pretty sure she came here uninvited, and they know well that Viola is powerful enough so that they could not just shoo her off. I don’t know what they’re talking about, but I’m pretty sure it’s nothing good. I know it’s strange for me to say this since I’m her bodyguard, but she’s a bad girl. It might be better if you keep your distance from her, you know? And that’s doubly true since you’re bad with negotiation.”
Carol was talking while giggling as if she was joking with Akira. But Akira understood that she was being serious there.
“Well, if you say so, I’ll be careful with her.”
“Yup, you should do that.”
Carol smiled satisfied seeing Akira nod firmly.
She was indeed being honest when she warned Akira. One of the reasons why she said that to him was to make sure that Viola would not mess with him.
Carol was in the middle of trying to seduce Akira, so it would be troublesome for her if Viola tried to mess with him.
The discussion was still going on between Katsuragi, Tomejima, Sheryl and Viola. They had different expressions as they were talking to each other.
Tomejima looked like he knew he was talking to a difficult opponent as he desperately refused to back down.
“…No! You came so suddenly and now, you want to buy all the attackers? That’s just too suspicious!!”
Viola smiled at Tomejima, there was a trace of confidence and intimidation in her smile that was adorning her beautiful face.
“Oh my, I only said that I can increase the profit by 50%, you know. I’m just giving a better offer here, it’s so rude of you to call me suspicious.”
“You bought that debt bond for 60% of the face value back then, like hell I’ll let you take this one away from me too.”
“That value was the price that both parties agreed to, right? If you really want it that much, I don’t mind selling it to you with a discount, you know?”
Tomejima reeled back. He was talking about the debt bond for Kadol who tried to kill Akira. In order to avoid getting targeted by Akira, he sold that troublesome bond to Viola. Now that Akira just defeated 8 armed Hunters alone, that bond had become more troublesome than before.
Viola smiled and said to Katsuragi.
“So, what do you think? If you sell them to me, it’ll bring you more profit, yes?”
Katsuragi sounded slightly hesitant as he said.
“Even if you tell me so, I have my connection that I need to keep. I was the one who asked Tomejima to come with me. So as a merchant, I can’t just turn my back on him now.”
Tomejima confirmed that he got a vote of confidence from Katsuragi, so he raised his voice and said.
“That’s it!! That’s right!!”
“But still, 50% more profit, huh…”
Katsuragi mumbled as if to contradict what he just said before, Tomejima who heard that could not help but exclaim.
Viola understood that both Tomejima and Katsuragi were not easy opponents to negotiate against, so she shifted her focus to Sheryl and asked for her approval.
“What about you? I want to hear your opinion as both the owner of this shop and the leader of the gang here. As the head of the gang, which one do you think will bring more profit? And I’m not talking about just monetary profit here, you know?”
Katsuragi and Tomejima turned to Sheryl too. Although Sheryl was listening to their conversation, she was looking in a completely different direction.
Sheryl kept her gaze in one single direction, she was staring at Akira who was talking with Carol. Seeing how Akira seemed to be having a good time talking with another girl whom she knew nothing about, Sheryl could not help but feel something welling up inside her as she tried her best to hold it down.
Sheryl understood that if she obeyed that feeling, she would be taking a step closer toward her own destruction. Insecurity, jealousy, displeasure, fear, sorrow, sadness, these kinds of things would disrupt her ability to make a sound decision. If she ended up making bad decisions because of that, it might become a reason for Akira to abandon her. She kept reminding herself of that possibility as she kept doing her best to maintain her calm.
Katsuragi noticed that Sheryl was looking at Akira.
“Ohh, I see, it might be a good idea to ask for Akira’s opinion too, right?”
Sheryl tried to keep her calm as she replied.
“…No, I believe Akira has left this matter to Katsuragi-san. Even if we ask him, he will just annoyedly tell us to do whatever we want with them. I will also follow whatever Katsuragi-san decides. As for the talk about profit, I think the best decision here is to follow whatever Katsuragi-san and Akira decide.”
Now that Katsuragi was given the right to take the final decision, it made him even unsure of what to do there.
“Is that so? If that’s the case, then what should I do now…”
Viola suddenly said as if she decided to give up.
“It can’t be helped then. I’ll let Tomejima take those who are still alive and I’ll take those who are dead. How about that? It’s not like Tomejima could get them to sign on a debt bond anyway, right? Well, he might be able to if he tries, but I believe his real skill is not in that matter. I don’t think it’s a bad offer though, so?”
Katsuragi turned to Tomejima, who did not seem to be fully happy with that offer, but he gently nodded.
Viola who caught that smiled and said.
“We have a deal then!”
“…Humph! The only way to get profit from dead people is only to seize their properties, so it’s not like it can give you that much profit, right? Are you sure you can get 50% more profit with that?”
Tomejima sounded as if he said that out of spite, Viola just smiled confidently at him and replied.
“Well, there are many ways other than that one. But they are my trade secret. Later I’ll give a report to Katsuragi-san outlining how I plan to do that together with the money minus the handling fee.”
Katsuragi, Tomejima and Sheryl looked at Viola with different expressions. Although each of them imagined different things, all of them equally thought that it was nothing good.
They finally finished their business. All the attackers, dead or alive, were carried away ignoring their freedom. Those who were still alive were given minimum equipment as Tomejima’s men took them away, while the dead ones were stuffed into body bags and carried away by Viola’s men. Sheryl’s men were gathering the bloodied sheets, it seemed that it would take a lot of work to clean up the bloodied room.
While Katsuragi and his men had left the place, Viola stayed behind and came to Akira.
Viola looked at Akira with interest as she said to him.
“We meet again.”
Akira replied casually.
Carol was surprised to hear that short exchange.
“Oh? Both of you know each other?”
Akira quickly explained to Carol before she misunderstood something.
“I met her once when Shikarabe hired me for a job, that was also when I met Tomejima. It’s not like we know each other, it’s just that we have met before, and that was just once.”
Carol replied back swiftly with that short reply. She believed Akira’s words. She did not let that just slide and use that information to make all kinds of guesses. Even Akira was able to notice that.
Carol showed that reaction only by knowing that Akira had met Viola before in the past although it was only for once. With that, Akira put Viola on the list of people that were not his enemy but he needed to be careful with.
Carol then stood up and smiled at Akira.
“Well, since Viola is done here, I’ll leave too. Akira, see you again next time.”
Viola then casually asked Carol a question.
“It seemed that you were having a good time talking with him, what were you talking about?”
“Well, a lot of stuff. Ahh, by the way, I did tell Akira about you too, I told him that you’re a bad girl.”
“Oh my, that’s so rude.”
Viola smiled mischievously at Akira.
“I don’t know what Carol told you, but just so you know, she’s more or less as bad as me. There are many men who got ruined because of her, so you better be careful of her.”
“Sure, I will.”
Carol, who heard that, faintly smiled and intervened.
“Geez, how can you say that? Well, at least, it seems that Akira was able to quickly see how bad you are. Well then, see you again.”
Carol only said that before she left the building together with Viola.
That was when Alpha smiled at Akira and said to him.
“So basically, both of them are bad girls, huh.”
“Yup, that would be the right conclusion. Well, I did kill 5 people without feeling anything much though, so I guess I’m not that good of a person either, right?”
Akira sounded as if he was admonishing himself, but Alpha just smiled like usual as she replied.
“I don’t think that’s true.”
“…Is that so?”
Akira awkwardly replied back as if he was trying to hide his embarrassment.
After that, he returned to Sheryl’s private room together with Sheryl since she asked him to.
Even after they returned, Sheryl did not change back to her usual clothing. She seemed to be a little bit bummed out as she was only standing there not too far from the door.
Akira found that a little weird, but since he was tired, he decided to just ignore that for now. He put down his stuff, sat on the sofa, and let out a big sigh. He then noticed Sheryl came in front of him.
She slowly climbed on Akira and sat on his lap, she then coiled her arms around him and hugged him from the front just like in the past. But there was something different this time.
Sheryl was Akira’s fake lover, she used that position to hug Akira in the past. That time, Sheryl was smiling, she looked delighted spending her time together with her lover although it was in name only.
But this time, Sheryl’s expression looked a bit dark, she seemed to be feeling cornered.
Sheryl rested her head on Akira’s shoulder and squeezed on him. It was not a hug to draw in someone that she loved, it was more of a hug to cling to someone.
Although Akira was not skilled enough to read what Sheryl was feeling inside, he at least knew that Sheryl was not her usual self, in the bad meaning. So Akira awkwardly spoke to her.
“…I’m sorry. I think I’m still shocked, the fact that I almost got shot back then finally hit me after I calmed down. So please let me stay like this for a while… If you don’t like it, I’ll step away.”
Even in the eastern district where the public order was bad, even for the slum city resident where fighting was common, people would still get shocked when they were about to get shot and killed. So it was not right to compare common people with those Hunters who were used to that kind of thing. Akira reminded himself of that fact and accepted Sheryl’s excuse without questioning it much.
“Ahh, I see. Well, you can keep doing that until you calm down.”
Sheryl’s voice was darker than before as she tightened her hug.
She was not lying, it was true that she was still scared after she was about to get killed, but that was not the only reason. She was more scared of Akira suddenly abandoning her.
Sheryl knew very well that Akira was not a kind person and it was not like he loved her either. Akira was not interested in her body, he also did not expect to get some profit from Sheryl’s gang, he was not a part of the gang either. The only reason, excuse, motivation for Akira to help her out was nothing more but something as vague as a whim.
Sheryl saw Akira talking with Carol. Even to her, Carol was a beautiful girl who was wearing such a seductive outfit. From her point of view, it seemed like Carol was trying to seduce Akira.
It was only to be expected for Akira to be in contact with all kinds of people other than Sheryl and her men. Sheryl was evading that common sense until now.
Someone might one day seduce Akira and become his lover, that day might be as soon as tomorrow. If that happened, Akira might as well stop supporting Sheryl. Seeing Carol talking to Akira, trying to seduce him, seeing a beautiful skilled female Hunter doing that, it really gave her a kick of reality. It reminded her of the possibility that she had been avoiding recognizing until now.
If only Akira was interested in Sheryl, regardless whether it was her body, her heart, her position, her money, her skill, anything, it might give her a sense of security. If Akira asked anything out of her, she would happily give everything to him.
But unfortunately, Akira was not interested in Sheryl at all.
Sheryl was feeling insecure whether the current situation would still hold until her plan came to fruition, i.e. until Akira had another reason to support her other than just a whim. And in order to run away from that insecurity, Sheryl was clinging to Akira.
Not too long after that, Sheryl’s men came to give their reports. She was a bit annoyed that she got interrupted. The children who came to give their report winced back as they gave her the report of the current situation including the treatment of the wounded gang members.
“…So then, the guy from the clinic told us to tell the boss to come to the clinic. It seems that he has something to talk about, like about the fee and other stuff too.”
“You did tell him about me and Katsuragi-san, right?”
“We did. But we carried a lot of wounded people there and some of them are badly wounded. So I guess there’s something he wants to talk about regarding that. So please, don’t let them kick the wounded out after they got treated just enough for them to stay alive. Those guys will have to work after this to stay alive, so please do something about it.”
“…Alright, I’ll go now. I’ll do something about it.”
Those boys thanked Sheryl and bowed deeply to her before leaving the room.
Akira was also planning to have his body checked up soon anyway. So he thought that it might be a good idea to get his body checked up in a small clinic first before getting a full check-up in a hospital.
“A clinic, huh? Can I come too?”
Sheryl was a bit surprised, but she immediately replied happily.
“Of course! I was actually planning to ask you to accompany me.”
“Alright then, let’s go.”
Akira then headed to the clinic together with Sheryl.