Akira was having a chat with Alpha on their way back to the inn from Shizuka’s shop. Without making any noticeable change in their conversation, Alpha casually said to Akira.
“Akira, someone is following us.”
Since Akira just got attacked the other day, he was clearly irritated now. But his face turned puzzled in the next moment.
“Wait, it’s not like he’s planning to attack me in this place, right?”
The safety of a city depended on the power of the organization responsible for maintaining security there. The security of the area outside and inside of the wall was maintained by private security companies and they solved most problems that might disturb the safety using force.
Although the inn was located near the slum city, this area should be pretty safe. Causing trouble, just like the one that happened to Akira the other day, would mean making enemies with all the people who were reaping benefit from the safety of the place. Safety was an expensive good in the eastern district, as such, people in the area were strict against those who might disturb their safety.
One should carefully choose the place and time to cause a ruckus. Causing a problem here was a completely different matter compared to causing a problem in the slum city. Remembering that he was attacked not too long ago, Akira thought that the one stalking him was planning to attack him too. But even so, he also thought no one was fool enough to cause a ruckus here since it was just simply unthinkable.
As Akira tensed up and became more cautious of his surroundings, Alpha said to him.
“Don’t worry, it doesn’t seem like she’s planning to attack you. She isn’t even armed. She’s just following you. Looking at it, rather than simply stalking you, it seems that she wants to talk with you but is hesitating right now. Akira, you should approach her yourself.”
Akira turned back and searched for the person stalking him. The aforementioned person was clearly marked in Akira’s vision by Alpha’s support, thus he was able to immediately find that person. Akira’s vision zoomed right to the small girl who was flustered since the person that she was stalking suddenly turned back and stared at her. It was Sheryl.
After taking a glance at that girl, Akira judged that she posed no danger. And since he did not feel right if he just dashed and left the girl, he lowered his guard and approached her instead.
While on the other hand, Sheryl was getting more and more nervous as Akira approached her. She desperately tried her best to keep calm although she really wanted to run away as soon as possible from this place.
[…Calm down! This just means that he saved me the trouble of calling at him first! Just think like that! I can’t just turn back now that I’ve come this far!]
Although Sibea was one of those fallen Hunters, he had the ability to manage a small gang. But the boy approaching Sheryl was able to kill them all, moreover, he fought back without any hesitation although he was surrounded by enemies.
It would not be strange if Akira realized that she was one of the people that tried to kill him and decided to kill her immediately without letting her say anything since he was not able to do that last time. Sheryl thought that Akira would not even hesitate to kill her, so she clasped her hand hard in fear.
Sheryl was betting on the chance that Akira would not remember her.
Akira stood beside Sheryl. Sheryl tried to smile, but she ended up making a weird smile since she was so nervous and scared of Akira.
“What business do you have with me?”
Sheryl was more nervous than before. With Akira standing right beside her, she was able to clearly see Akira’s equipment. The AAH assault rifle that caused that tragedy the other day was a rifle for fighting monsters with firepower that could not even be compared to the handgun designed for fighting people. If Akira used that gun to shoot at her, there would be no mistaking that she would be blown to smithereens. She could not help but remember what happened on that shootout and imagined herself ending up as one of those corpses. As such, she could not talk properly.
“I-I-I just want to talk…”
“Talk? About what?”
Akira was puzzled.
Sheryl was so scared that she could not talk at all. But even so, she tried her best to calm down and continue the conversation as not to worsen Akira’s mood.
But before she could do that, Alpha talked to Akira.
“Akira, let me tell you something. She was one of the people that attacked you the other day, you know. She was one of those people who surrounded you. Although, she immediately ran away the moment you started shooting.”
“Is that so? So what does this girl have to talk to me?”
“No idea. I don’t know that far.”
Akira had lowered his guard even more since Sheryl looked genuinely scared. But after Alpha said that, Akira put his guard back up. Moreover, although it was only for a bit, Akira showed hostility and antagonism toward Sheryl as it could be seen from his face and voice.
“So what does a girl that tried to kill me the other day want to talk with me?”
Sheryl’s mind became blank the moment she heard that. Her brain just could not follow what just happened as her vision started to blur. She started to tremble so hard that it would not be strange if she fainted right there. As she was filled with fear, she imagined what would Akira do next. Would he pull out his gun, point it at her, pull the trigger without any hesitation, then blow her head and scatter her flesh around that area? As that image ran through her mind, she was trembling even more.
She was feeling like puking out of fear and nervousness, but there was nothing inside her stomach except her stomach juice.
Akira was dumbfounded looking at the girl in front of him who was trembling and sweating like crazy. She completely went pale like someone who was just given a death sentence, she was in no condition to talk as she started crying profusely. As such, Akira’s hostility and antagonism immediately vanished and replaced with bewilderment.
Alpha then teased Akira who was panicking.
“W-was that my fault?”
“No idea. I don’t know what’s exactly going on here. Although this sounds cruel, I don’t care what’s going on with the people that tried to kill you. But we have to think about the people around you though, right?”
It was as Alpha said. No matter what the truth was, it looked like Akira was bullying Sheryl here. If there was someone with a good heart, they would immediately step up to save Sheryl from Akira. And if the people who were maintaining security in that area misunderstood what was happening there, Akira would definitely get roped into something troublesome. Akira panicked and tried his best to calm Sheryl down when he realized this.
“Uhh, well, just calm down for now. I’m not planning to do anything to you, and it’s not like you plan to do anything bad to me, right? So let’s calm down and have a talk, okay? You have something you want to talk to me, right? So take a breath slowly and calm down, alright?”
But Akira’s effort was futile, Sheryl just kept crying without saying anything.
[…Why did this happen to me?]
Akira cursed his fate in secret.
Akira was somehow able to bring Sheryl back to his room with him. He did not just run away and leave her behind because he was interested in what she wanted to talk about with him. After all, she was trying to talk to him despite the fact that she was so scared.
Sheryl did not fight back when Akira dragged her by her hand. Although she was still trembling hard even after arriving in the room, she looked a little bit calmer than before. She already stopped crying, but her tears left a mess on her face.
At least now Akira did not see Sheryl as an enemy. If he had, he would have taken care of her in a much more calm and cold manner. He would have shot her without hesitation even if she begged for her life.
But the girl who was not his enemy was trembling badly beside him, not to mention that she was trembling out of fear of him, it was a situation that was outside of Akira’s social ability. As such, Akira could only awkwardly make a suggestion to Sheryl hoping that it would make the mood better.
“W-well, how about you go take a bath? It would help you calm down.”
Sheryl made a small nod and went to the bath. The suggestion that Akira made while looking confused could actually be motivated by malice or other ulterior motives, but Sheryl did not have the leeway to notice it. And even if Akira actually tried to do something to her, it was not like she could fight back anyway.
After Sheryl disappeared behind the bathroom. Akira let out a big sigh as if he was trying to push out all his tiredness.
“Alpha, what do you think about this?”
“I can come up with some hypothesis, but it’s faster if you ask her directly. That aside, today’s training will be cancelled. Just calm down and have a talk with her once she finished her bath, okay?”
And so Akira decided to calm himself down while waiting for Sheryl to finish her bath.
Sheryl just let the water take over her body since her mind was still blank. She thought that she was dead meat the moment her very first step of his gamble was turned into a disaster, but she started to calm down. As she enjoyed her bath, all of her tiredness, fear, nervousness and other unnecessary feelings melted into the warm bathwater. It was quite a while since the last time she took a bath, so it really calmed her down.
[…Although it was a failure, I’m still alive at the moment… But I don’t know if it’s because I’m lucky or not. No, let’s think of it as luck. It was because of my pitiful state that he did not decide to kill me on sight. And about him bringing me to his room… Well, it’s not unexpected. I don’t like that idea but let’s use it… I can only hope that it’ll work though.]
She had resolved herself beforehand. But once she stepped in, she realized that she was lacking resolve. So, she could not help but show her pitiful state to Akira.
But after she was able to take a rest, her brain started working again and she realized that it was thanks to the pitiful state that she showed, that Akira lowered his guard and did not kill her. It was the reason why she was still alive now. Moreover, it would have the opposite result if she pretended poorly back there. So she wrapped everything that happened to her as good luck.
She had to immediately tell Akira about her request once she finished her bath. But no one knew if he would accept her request or not. So she thought that she had to increase the chance of him accepting it with whatever she had.
Sheryl looked at the reflection of herself on the water surface. She had a beautiful girly body that would entice any men. The only downside of it was the small plumps on her chest that couldn’t grow any bigger.
Sheryl understood that she had a good figure. If she offered it for negotiation, it would definitely possess high value. Although Akira did not show any interest when he was looking at her as she walked to the bath, she thought that it was entirely possible for him to change his mind.
She did not like the idea, but she had no choice but to give it if it was asked. After all, that was the only thing that she had other than her cloth at that moment and she should increase its value as much as possible. Sheryl had decided to use everything that she could use to protect her life. So she diligently cleaned up her body and her hair, she did all she could to polish her appearance.
When Sheryl finished her bath and headed back to the room, it was right when Akira just finished heating up some frozen food and was about to eat. Right at that moment, Sheryl’s stomach grumbled loudly, showing that she was hungrier than she would admit.
Akira then turned to Sheryl and their eyes meet each other. After a short silence, Akira decided to give the food that he was about to eat to Sheryl and went to reheat another frozen food.
The silence continued as Akira was reheating his frozen food. Sheryl just stood there waiting for Akira without helping him or saying anything.
When Akira finished warming up his meal, he took a seat in front of Sheryl. He looked at how Sheryl was doing. And once he confirmed that she had calmed down, Akira looked relieved as he thought that it was possible to talk with her in her present condition. So he said to Sheryl.
“Uhh, we can talk while we eat you kn-“
Sheryl’s stomach suddenly grumbled again and there was an awkward silence between them.
“Well, let’s talk once we finish eating.”
And so Sheryl and Akira started eating their food.
Once they filled their stomach to the point that it would not disturb their talk, Akira decided to start a conversation with Sheryl.
“Uhh, first of all, my name is Akira.”
“My name is Sheryl and please just call me Sheryl. Akira-san, thank you very much for the bath and the meal. And also, I’m really sorry to have troubled you.”
(Athena13: She meant to tell Akira to call her without any honorific.)
Sheryl gracefully bowed to Akira. But Akira just ignored it and said.
“Just call me Akira. We’re both just children after all… So then, what do you want to talk to me?”
Akira made a serious face, so Sheryl also made her resolve and answered back with a serious face.
“I’ll be honest here. Actually, we want Akira to be our boss.”
Akira did not expect this at all, so he made a very puzzled look. Looking at that, Sheryl was becoming more nervous as she continued with her explanation.
There were a lot of people in the slum city who formed gangs in order to survive the hard environment of the slum city. A safe place to sleep and food that you can get regularly helps to overcome the money problem. And there are many other things that one could get from working together with other people. Normally, all of these benefits outweigh the disadvantages of living in a group, even if you are just an underling in a group. The fact that you would be able to help each other out would make your hardest days way easier compared to if you were all by yourself.
Not to mention that the number was power in the slum city. If a gang was doing well, there would be a lot of people wanting to join in to acquire protection and other benefits. And if that gang continued to grow big enough to affect the safety of the area around it, the people who sat on the top of that gang would be able to enjoy a good life. As such, there would be more people seeking to join the gang chasing after a comfortable life and making the gang grow bigger and bigger.
There were cases where the person who stood on top of such a gang was someone who was not from the slum city. Some of them were working as the gang leader in secret while having another job, some were people who wanted to do illegal work in safe areas, some were people with particular circumstances. These were the kind of people who created a gang wanting to get power and a lot of money.
It was also equally common for gangs to be led by Hunters or fallen Hunters. Their ability to fight monsters could be used in the slum city too. If an experienced Hunter joined a gang and that news went out to the public, that alone would be enough to increase the safety of the members of that gang. And if it was someone with connection with an Exchange Centre, even if you sell scrape metals or any other things that you found around the slum city, it would be less likely for them to think of you as someone from the slum city and try to take advantage from you. As such, these kinds of people were allowed to have a high position in the gang even if they had a personality problem.
There were a lot of reasons why these Hunters joined a gang in the slum city. Some of them gave up working in the wasteland and decided to chase for success in the gang. Some of them were doing that for gathering people to use as expendable pawns to reach success in the wasteland. Some of them were only looking for a secret place to store their goods and money. Some of them wanted to leave a legacy by creating a huge successful gang. And there were a lot of other reasons that drove hunters to get involved with the gangs in the slum city.
Sheryl explained to Akira all the benefits that Akira could get from being a boss and told Akira that Sibea’s position as the gang leader was vacant. Sibea’s gang was not constructed by leadership, it was a gang made with violence. As such, it would be easy for Akira who killed Sibea to be its leader. Not to mention that Akira was already famous for destroying Sibea’s gang as revenge for trying to kill him. There would not be any problem and there were a lot of benefits to reap, that was what Sheryl said to Akira as she eagerly explained everything to Akira.
But Akira made a gesture saying he was not interested at all.
“I get what you’re trying to say, but it sounds like it’s a pain in the ass. I’m not interested. I’m sorry but I already have my hands full with taking care of myself, so just go and ask someone else.”
Sheryl desperately said that word as Akira tried to cut their conversation short, but she had no idea what to say next. After all, it was clear that Akira had no interest in it at all. She could not come up with anything more enticing than what she had explained to Akira. If she kept talking about that, it would only worsen Akira’s mood.
It would be really bad if Sheryl annoyed Akira here. Akira had already known that she was one of the people who attacked him, so he was only letting her alive at the moment. So if she annoyed Akira here, it would not be strange if Akira changed his mind and just killed her.
Sheryl who was afraid of making Akira angry finally decided to use the option that she was saving. She really did not want to do it if it can be helped. She used her last option in order to entice Akira and fix his mood.
“…If you accept my request, you may do anything you want to me.”
Akira stared at Sheryl body, from her chest to her hip then to her arm.
It was as if Akira was assessing the value of Sheryl’s body. To be honest, Sheryl was not comfortable with it, but she had resolved herself and this was well under the range of her resolve. She even felt thankful to her alluring figure since it saved her from getting killed. That was what Sheryl thought and what she kept telling herself.
After he finished scanning her, Akira’s gaze shifted back to Sheryl’s eyes. He then replied back with a tone saying that he was not interested.
“Even if you told me so. You don’t look that strong. I do feel bad for saying this but it doesn’t even seem like you’re going to be useful as a decoy or as an underling. You’ll just slow me down if I take you with me. I’m sorry to say this although you think that bringing someone like you to the wasteland might help. I understand that’s why you tried to offer yourself for pleading your life…”
Sheryl was a little bit puzzled after hearing that answer. She was dumbfounded as she understood why Akira misunderstood her offer. Akira did not look at her body as the body of a member of the opposite gender. When Akira scanned her body, Akira was actually only judging her strength and her ability to fight. And he judged that she would be useless to him. As Sheryl noticed that, she was surprised at Akira’s unexpected reaction.
Alpha smiled bitterly as she spoke to Akira.
“Akira. Sheryl didn’t mean it that way, you know?”
“What was she talking about then?”
“Well, she’s talking about that, you know. That gender-related thing”
“…Ohhh, so that was it, huh? In that case, I really don’t need it then.”
Alpha looked surprised when Akira did not change his answer even after he understood what Sheryl was talking about.
“Are you sure? She’s quite a cute girl, you know. She’ll definitely grow up to a beautiful woman. Although she won’t be as beautiful as me, she won’t be as beautiful as me, she won’t be as beautiful as me!”
“I can understand your point if you repeat it twice, so there’s no need to repeat it thrice. If you’re talking about a woman who would remove her cloth and push herself on me, I had more than enough.”
Alpha smiled invincibly at Akira as if she was unbeatable.
“So in short, all my efforts of training you against honey trap were not all for vain, yep!”
Akira’s face was saying as if he said something that he should not. And so he immediately tried to change the subject.
“Yeah, you’re right. Not to mention that I don’t want her to get a grip on any of my weakness.”
“I think you both would reap some benefits though. Akira, although you’re just a child, you’re quite a romanticist, huh. Or maybe it’s exactly because you’re just a child?”
Alpha smiled mischievously at Akira who looked a bit annoyed. Her expression then returned to normal and said to Akira.
“Akira. Back to the subject, putting aside whether you’ll do anything to Sheryl or not, how about you go and help her?”
“You said this before, right? That your luck for the day might get better by helping others. You always get attacked both by people and monsters no matter whether you’re in the ruins or in the city. Not to mention that you’re in this condition right now. As I thought, you used all of your life worth of luck for meeting me. That’s why, you might want to help that beautiful young girl that unfortunately ended up in the slum city. After all, you might be able to fix your luck by doing that. So this is a good chance for you, right?”
Akira was hesitating. It was true that he did say that. It was when he decided to save Elena and Sara or to be more precise, it was when he decided to kill all the guys who attacked Elena and Sara. He remembered that he did say that random excuse since Alpha was not interested in helping those girls at that time.
Akira was not sure whether Alpha said that because she was still holding a grudge against him for that time, or was that a roundabout way of Alpha warning him so that he would never ask Alpha to do that again. As such, Akira’s face stiffened.
While at the same time, Akira was at loss for words after Alpha clearly pointed out his bad luck. After all, he knew well that he indeed had a lot of bad luck. But even so, it was not like that was enough as a reason to help her.
“…Well, but still. Helping, looking over her… It’s not on the same scale as when I helped Sara and Elena, right? And it isn’t like you were actually against it at that time too, right?”
“I went against it since it was related to your safety. Moreover, it’s not like I’m telling you to take care of everything and I’m not saying that you should take responsibility for her whole life either. You just need to give her a little push, just a little help, just giving her a little bit of good luck, just that. If she ended up meeting bad luck even after you help her, it’s not like it would be on you. You don’t need to worry about it. While on the other hand, if her condition gets better because of your little help, you can even expect some kind of return as her saviour. And if it’s too much work for you, you can just go ahead and cut her off too. It’s something that simple.”
Akira’s expression changed as he heard that answer that he did not expect. Something that he thought as too much pain in the ass sounded so simple to him now. The image that he had of helping Sheryl changed to a much smaller scale both for the better and for the worse. It also strengthened Akira’s hope, or more like wish, that this would make his luck better.
Akira mumbled that word as if it was something meaningful to him. After all, whether it was bad luck or good luck. Both were indeed meaningful words to him.
To other people, Akira talking telepathically with Alpha looked like a silent suspicious boy who changed his face from one to another. But Sheryl did not have the leeway to think about that.
It did not work even after she offered her own body. So she could not come up with anything else that she could add to her offer. And she felt like it was meaningless even if she cried and begged. She was on her wit’s end now. As she started to think if she should prostrate in front of Akira, she accidentally heard what Akira mumbled.
She tried to think the meaning behind that mumble as she thought it might help her get out from her predicament, but she just could not understand anything. Then in front of Sheryl who was so confused and nervous, Akira took out a coin. It was one of the 3 100 Aurum coins that Akira earned from his first job as a Hunter.
Akira flipped that coin as it flew and spun in the air before it fell down naturally. Sheryl could not help but follow that coin until Akira caught it with both of his hands.
“Head or tail, pick one.”
Sheryl looked shocked as she stared at Akira and Akira just stared back at her.
She thought that Akira would decide on helping her depending on whether she could correctly guess which side of the coin came up. She was at a loss whether she should be happy since it might give her a chance although she was rejected once, or she should feel sad instead since he planned to decide it using such a manner.
She was at a loss whether she should pick head or tail, but it would not help her no matter how hard she thought. So she just prayed and decided on an answer.
Sheryl made up her mind and answered back.
Akira peeked at the coin in a manner so that Sheryl could not see the coin. Sheryl’s face tensed up, Akira then closed his hands and put the coin inside his pocket.
“I’ll help you but with some strings attached. I won’t be the leader of your gang. But I’ll help you to some extent. After that, you should work hard and try to help yourself, in other words, I’m telling you to be the leader of your own gang. I don’t mind if you want to be the leader of another gang too. After all, the one that I’m helping is you as an individual and not your gang. So even if you become the boss of any other gang, I still won’t help your gang. If you can accept this rule, then I’ll help you. So what is your answer?”
Of course, there was no way Sheryl would not accept it. She happily bowed to Akira and said.
“I understand, I’ll be in your care, thank you very much.”
With this, she acquired Akira as her shield. But on the other hand, she had to be the gang’s boss now. She did not know whether it was a good thing. Akira did not even tell her the result of the coin flip or whether her guess was correct or not. Sheryl was simply filled with worries and so she nervously asked Akira.
“I don’t mind you asking me questions, but if I tell you not to ask me something, then never ever ask me that question again.”
The reason why Akira gave Sheryl that warning was so that Sheryl who saw his expression change from one to another while looking at nothing would not ask about what he was doing or where he got the medicine that he carried. And Sheryl did not want to worsen Akira’s mood, so she only replied back with a nod.
“So then, what is it?”
“Uhh… Did I get it correct?”
Akira immediately answered back with those words right away.
“Don’t ask me that.”
But something stuck on Sheryl’s heart, she did not know whether she won the gamble or she lost the gamble.
Even for Akira who knew the result of the coin toss, he did not know whether it was a good result or not. After all, the result would only show itself in the future.
All that Akira said to Alpha were actually only excuses. He did not even think for a bit that it would help his luck. But those were not excuses that he made to help Sheryl.
Akira was ruthless when it came to killing people, but his moral base was still unclear to Alpha. To understand the principles that Akira abided to, she pushed Akira to offer his help to Sheryl and so Akira would make more contact with Sheryl. It was a perfect setting to observe Akira as how far he would go to help someone who tried to kill him once in the past.
It was all for the sake of Alpha’s objective, that was all there was to it.
Silavin: I wonder if it is possible that Alpha’s objective would make Akira a better person.