Shizuka was waiting at her shop just like usual when she spotted Akira. As she was about to call him, she stopped when she realized that he was acting weird.
Akira looked a bit scared as he carefully entered the shop, he looked around as if he was searching for someone. After he confirmed that the person he was looking for was not there, he sighed in relief but with a rather conflicted face.
Shizuka smiled and welcomed him, Akira twitched and awkwardly smiled back. Shizuka found it weird, but for now, she was relieved to see his smile. Akira no longer gave off that tense mood which he exuded when he was talking to Elena and Sara last time.
Even after Akira came to the counter, he seemed to be wanting to say something but hesitating to do so. Shizuka was curious about that, but for now, she decided to just smile and gave her usual business-like service.
“So, what do you need today? Though I feel like it’s rather too soon for you to come here for ammo, after all, it hasn’t been that long since the last time you came. Ah, or is it that you’re here just for a chit-chat? If that’s the case, I don’t mind at all, you know.”
“Ah, no, uhh, I’m here for ammo.”
“Is that so? I thought you bought enough ammo the last time you came here for your new equipment. Did you go on a monster curbing request to get yourself familiar with your new augmented suit or something and used a lot of your ammo there?”
“Eh, ah, well, uhhh, things happened, you see.”
“Is that so? Then, is the usual okay?”
“No, uhh, I might need other things too…”
Akira sounded a little bit scared as he placed his order. Shizuka was listening to him calmly, but inside, she was actually pretty surprised. She did not think that he would need a new repair cartridge for his augmented suit, a replacement for the anti-forcefield armour-piercing bullet that he bought as a lucky charm, and bullets plus energy cartridge enough for a normal battle this quickly.
Shizuka slightly frowned and said.
“I’m sorry but I can’t give you the repair cartridge right away. That thing is pretty expensive after all, so I don’t have that ready in my shop. But if you need it immediately, I’ll place an express order for that…”
Akira shook his head flusteredly.
“Ah, it’s fine! I don’t need it that badly. I just thought that I need to buy some while I have the money and the chance while I still remember it.”
“Okay then. In that case, I’ll put a normal order for the repair cartridge. You can get the rest just fine. You’re buying quite a lot this time, so if you’re here with your vehicle, can you bring it to the back of the shop?”
Shizuka smiled and said so, to which Akira flusteredly replied.
“Ah, uhmm, uhh… Alright.”
Akira slightly slumped as if he had given up and went out to bring his vehicle to the back of the shop.
Akira was loading ammo and other stuff into his vehicle. Shizuka who was looking at him then casually asked him.
“Say, Akira, that vehicle is a rental vehicle, right? How about the one that you got from me? Did you send it for repair or something?”
Akira stopped, he avoided looking straight at Shizuka as he replied.
“No, actually, uhhh… I’m sorry, I no longer can use that one…”
“What do you mean by that…?”
“Uhhh, things happened.”
Akira was not lying, the vehicle that he bought from Shizuka was no longer available for him to use. But that already happened a few battles ago, to be more precise, that vehicle was broken when Akira fought that bounty monster. He was thinking of buying a similar vehicle sometime soon or buying a better one so he could use that as an excuse to replace the vehicle that he received from Shizuka, but before that happened, even his new vehicle got wrecked right afterwards, taking away all the ammo and medicine that he had in that vehicle with it. That was why he was buying new supplies today.
Judging from Akira’s reaction, Shizuka thought that he looked like a small boy who was scared of telling the truth. And when she made a guess as to the reason why, she said to Akira as if to calm him down.
“Say Akira, about last time. Do you hate Elena and Sara now after what happened? If that’s the case, I won’t force you to reconcile with them, but I hope you would understand Elena and Sara did not do that because of any ill-will. They were just worried about you, though you might not like it.”
Akira thought that he would get scolded for losing his vehicle. That was why he was slightly surprised when Shizuka brought that up, he then flusteredly shook his head and said.
“Not at all. To be honest, I’m actually a bit worried that Sara-san and Elena-san hate me now since I thought I did something rather rude when they only tried to stop me since they’re worried about me. And it’s as they said, it really was not worth the trouble… I might have really gotten a bit too emotional back then. I know I can be a bit stubborn sometimes, though it may be too late to say that now…”
Akira looked a bit down and seemed to feel bad for what he did. Shizuka who saw that smiled at him to cheer him up.
“I don’t know what happened for you to lose your vehicle, but I’m glad that you’re fine. Are you injured?”
“Ah, not at all, I’m alright.”
“Then that’s all that matters. Make sure to take care of your body. I’ll at least tell Elena and Sara that you’re not that bothered by last time too. You did look a bit scared coming in after all, so I bet you feel awkward coming to my shop now.”
Shizuka smiled bitterly as she said so, Akira replied back also with a bitter smile.
“I’m sorry and thank you.”
“Don’t mention it, I’ll make sure to let them know. Don’t worry, it’s not like they are angry at you. So it’ll be fine.”
Akira looked obviously relieved there. Seeing that, Shizuka happily smiled and said.
“But still, I’m really glad that your friendship with Elena and Sara didn’t break up. If you guys are on bad terms, it would be awkward for both of you to come to this shop and it would hurt my revenue.”
Shizuka smiled when she said that, so Akira smiled back at her.
After Akira loaded all his new ammo and other supplies into his vehicle, he then went straight back home. Shizuka saw him off with a smile, when Akira was no longer in her view, her smile slightly turned cloudy.
“Wasn’t worth the trouble, huh…”
Shizuka noticed that Akira had killed Alna.
Akira sounded a bit regretful when he said that it was not worth the trouble. Shizuka bet that it must be the reason why Akira lost his vehicle and came there today to buy supplies. Elena and Sara did try to stop him and Shizuka herself also had told him to put a serious thought about it first, but even so, he still went and killed that pickpocket. Judging from his reaction last time, Shizuka thought that it was unlikely for them to find a peaceful solution to that matter. This time, he had regained his calm to the point that he could say he might have gotten a bit stubborn back then. Which made it likely that he had regained his calm after killing that pickpocket.
If that was really the case, that would explain why Akira looked a bit scared when he entered the shop. He ignored the warnings from the people close to him and went to kill that pickpocket, so it must be awkward for him to meet them now. Or at least, that was what Shizuka’s intuition was telling her.
From that guess, Shizuka then thought. Although she did not feel any sympathy for the pickpocket that Akira killed, she felt sad for Akira, who killed that pickpocket. Akira had become strong enough to buy 400 million Aurum equipment, and even after acquiring that much power, the possible danger and loss from killing that pickpocket could not stop him from doing so.
Power would normally provide leeway and tolerance. But the power that Akira had gained was not enough to provide him with enough leeway and tolerance to let matters with pickpocket go. Akira’s mind was still stuck as if he was still living in the slum.
Shizuka felt sad when she thought how much strength Akira needed to be able to just laugh it off when something like that happened, and how many times he had been reminded of his weakness to the point that he unconsciously craved for more power.
“…I guess, for now, I need to let Sara and Elena know as soon as possible, huh.”
Moping would not change anything. In order to move on from that matter for her own sake as well as Elena’s and Sara’s, Shizuka decided that she should let Sara and Elena know with a smile that their last conversation with Akira was nothing to worry about. Shizuka thought so as she went back to her shop with a light smile.
Yatsubayashi had both an experiment room and a treatment room in his clinic. He treated people who came to his clinic either in the experiment room or in the other room depending on how much money those people could pay him. And since his clinic was in the slum, most of the people who came there got sent to the experiment room.
There was also another room in his clinic, it was a special room where people could not just casually come in. It was a room neither for experiment nor for treatment. Inside that big room, there were all kinds of mysterious devices lined up. In the middle of that room, there was a bed, and Tiol was sitting on that bed.
Tiol was only looking forward with an empty stare as if he was daydreaming. Although his hand and legs were secured with some thick steel, he did not seem to be bothered by that at all. He was just sitting there with an absent mind.
There was no window in that room. The walls were sound-proof, so no sound could come in, and since Tiol was only sitting there in silence, the room was incredibly silent. In that isolated room, Tiol suddenly looked at the door. That was when the door opened and Yatsubayashi came in.
“I’m here with your food.”
When Yatsubayashi came inside that room with the food, Tiol had already returned back to looking forward with an empty look.
Yatsubayashi sat in front of Tiol and used the metallic fork to feed Tiol. When he did that, Tiol opened his mouth and chomped the food down, together with the metallic fork.
Yatsubayashi looked at the fork that had lost its head and mumbled.
“I guess this means that it’s another failure, huh.”
When Yatsubayashi extended the fork that had lost its head back to Tiol, he started to eat that fork too. After that, he also ate the food that Yatsubayashi brought in as well as the metallic plate that he had used to carry that food. Yatsubayashi carefully held the plate so as not to get his hand eaten too and quickly pulled his hand back when Tiol finished the plate too.
Once he was done eating, Tiol stared at Yatsubayashi. Though he was properly looking at Yatsubayashi, there was no emotion in his gaze, it was as if he was simply looking at something near him. Even when Yatsubayashi wiped Tiol’s mouth, Tiol showed no reaction at all.
Yatsubayashi frowned and looked rather disappointed.
“Well, this is another failure for sure. I was sure that it would be a success though. His wounds are perfectly healed and it doesn’t seem like there are any bad physical side effects. But I guess the drug affected his brain, huh? I guess it means I should recalculate everything starting from its effect on the brain. Or is it that I didn’t fully clear the nanomachines that it’s now affecting him? I have no answer at all, I guess I’ll keep observing him for now.”
Yatsubayashi sighed. He then stood up and went towards the door. Before he reached for the door’s handle, he looked back at Tiol.
“Tiol-kun, you were the one who told me that you don’t mind participating in my experiment as long as I healed you. I did my best there, so don’t blame me, okay? See you tomorrow then.”
Yatsubayashi only said so and left the room with a smile. The patient beds in his clinic were filled with patients after all the ruckus yesterday. He could not just ignore them for the sake of collecting money for his own experiment, so he was busy that day. Because of that, he could not spend his time observing Tiol.
Tiol was once again left alone inside the room. The room had returned to the previous silence, Tiol once again was only looking forward with an empty gaze without saying anything. He suddenly looked at the cuffs on his hands, opened his mouth wide, and bit off those cuffs.
Tomejima was ripping his hairs out, of course figuratively, in his office in the lower district. That was when Colbert came in, Tomejima immediately looked at him and said.
“How was it?!”
Colbert looked at Tomejima’s desperate face and lightly shook his head.
“I did some investigation, but nothing comes out. I couldn’t find them nor reach them. They might as well be already dead.”
“Dammit, again, huh!!
Tomejima hung his head down again, there was slight desperation mixed in his extremely distressed face.
“Calm down, is it really that bad?”
“It’s already 10 people, you know? We basically lost 10 credits worth of people!! Just how much money do you think we’re losing right now?!”
Colbert received a job from Tomejima to collect some debts. His targets were Hunters and some ex-Hunters. Since people like them tend to cause trouble, Tomejima asked Colbert, who was also a Hunter, to collect their debts.
But those people went missing now. Although to be more precise, Tomejima and Colbert had a good guess of where they went to. They most probably got killed in that battle between the Ezont family and Haurias the other day. Their bodies might as well be mixed in one of those countless dead bodies scattered in Ezont Family’s base.
Colbert lightly summed all the debts that those people had and frowned.
“Their debts don’t even reach 1 billion though. You don’t usually take in this kind of credits, you know.”
“I really need money right now, no matter how small it is…”
“Hmm? I don’t remember your company was in such a bad situation though.”
Tomejima’s face twitched.
“…I placed some bet in that battle, you know.”
“Well, that’s rather unfortunate then.”
Colbert understood the reason why Tomejima looked pretty down as he smiled wryly at him.
Ezont Family and Haurias squeezed a lot of money from the businesses under their leadership to fuel their fight, they also took a big loan from credit companies like Tomejima’s company promising that they would return that money with interest once they won their fight. They also promised other benefits once they took full control of the lower district after crushing the other side. That was how they half-threatened those companies to lend them money.
Indeed it would bring those companies a lot of money if either Ezont Family or Haurias won the conflict between them. But with both sides almost equally strong, it was hard to predict which one would win. Not to mention, if they did not lend their money to the group that would win later, it would cause those companies a lot of trouble down the road, so they had no other choice but to place their bets in one of them. That was the kind of betting that they were doing.
Because of that, some of the companies refused to place their bet. They chose to lend a small amount of money to both sides, although they would lose some of their money when the fight ended, they could at least keep a good relationship with whichever side won that fight. Many companies took this approach, and Tomejima was one of them.
Some of the people who decided to put their money on both sides had some connections with Viola. They were told by Viola to keep lending money to both sides to make sure that the conflict would turn into a large-scale battle. Thanks to that, both Haurias and Ezont Family were able to put out a lot of powered suits during that battle. As Viola predicted, with that much money put in to fuel that battle, it indeed turned into a large-scale battle.
Because of that, both gangs sustained heavy losses to the point that they might as well be already over. So, those who put their money on both sides lost a lot of money from that result. It could be said that they were also victims of Viola’s doing.
Colbert lightly cheered Tomejima up.
“Alright alright, it would also cause me trouble if your company goes bankrupt. I’ll go and look for them again. But don’t expect too much, okay? If we’re lucky, we might at least find their dead bodies.”
“Yeah, I’ll be counting on you. And also, take anything that you can.”
“Just to let you know though, it won’t be free, alright?”
“It depends on your result.”
Tomejima still had his head down as he lightly waved at Colbert. Colbert smiled wryly and left the room.
Sheryl was sitting in one of the rooms in her gang, Viola was sitting in front of her. Although she was smiling, Sheryl looked slightly annoyed since she had no good impression of the person in front of her. Viola was slightly amused by it as she just smiled back and ignored it.
“It’s good to know that you’re doing well, so how’s your wound?”
“I already got it treated, so it’s no problem at all.”
“I see. Well then, we’ll be in your care from now on.”
“Likewise, I’ll also be in your care, boss.”
Just like she had promised Akira, Viola came there to help out Sheryl’s gang. Although she was basically taking command of the gang, she decided to work under Sheryl. That was why she called Sheryl boss.
Although it was only on the surface, with this, Sheryl had both Akira who was a dangerous and volatile person and Viola who was a very bad person under her thumb. Such a rumour had already spread around which caused all the gangs around Sheryl’s gang to focus on her gang. But of course, Viola was the one who spread that rumour.
Sheryl looked at Viola with a stern gaze.
“Let me warn you here though, Akira asked me to keep my eyes on you. He even told me that I’m allowed to kill you if I want to. And even if it’s impossible for me, he told me to give him a reason to kill you and he would do it himself. So make sure not to try anything funny.”
Sheryl stated clearly that she could easily decide Viola’s life or death, she also did that for the sake of venting her anger at Viola. If Viola looked a bit flustered after that, it would help Sheryl feel better. But that did not happen.
“You can just drop the honorific. We’re going to work together for a long time after all, so just forget the honorifics.”
Viola smiled casually and said so. She then pushed a book-like object towards Sheryl.
“What is this?”
“My job is to help this gang. So this is where I start. It’s a list of your current resources and debts.”
Sheryl confusedly took the book and started reading it.
“I could have sent you the data that you can read with an information terminal, but I thought that you might get a better grasp of it if it’s given in the form of papers like this. And don’t worry, I’ll also send you the data later.”
As Sheryl started to read and understand the contents of that book, her face started turning pale.
“You might think that’s pretty bad, but that’s already based on a pretty naive calculation, you know? After all, there’s no interest and no deadline to pay it back. If you show it to one of those credit companies out there, I’m sure they’ll laugh at you.”
The book contained a detailed list of reward money that Sheryl’s gang should pay Akira for supporting her gang, guarding her shop, training Erio and the other children, saving Sheryl, and there were still a lot more favours that the gang had received from Akira. It showed how much Sheryl’s gang owed Akira in simple terms of money. If they were to interpret it in a bad way, it could be said that the gang was in deep debt to Akira.
“I know that people used to say there’s nothing more expensive than free stuff, but unfortunately, a lot of people out there misunderstand how much they owe other people because of that. So I translated that to money to remind you how much you owe Akira. I’m sure there are a lot of people in the gang who don’t fully understand this, ah, but of course, that’s not the case for you, right? I’m talking about other children here.”
Sheryl did her best to show a calm face as she mumbled the total number with a slightly trembling voice.
“… 3 billion and 800 million Aurum, huh?”
The biggest debt came from when Akira rescued Sheryl the other day. It cost Sheryl 1 billion Aurum. Sheryl did not have enough information there to decide whether that number was properly calculated or not.
“If you have any doubt, you can go ahead and tell me. I’ll immediately clarify it.”
Viola smiled casually, in contrast to that, Sheryl was barely able to smile back while glaring at her. Even if she found some records not properly calculated, telling Viola to lower the number also meant placing less value on Akira. Sheryl could not afford to do that and she understood well that Viola also knew the same when she provoked her.
“Ahh, by the way, I’ve sent that data to Akira. I’ll also send the new data to him if we want to make any revision, so don’t worry about that.”
Sheryl looked surprised for a split second. But her welling up anger caused her face to stiffen. Her hand clasped into a fist as she gritted her teeth.
Although Sheryl said that she had the say whether Viola would live or not, with that exchange just now, it was all meaningless. Viola was there to help Sheryl’s gang because of the deal that she had with Akira. Her job there was to help Akira get more benefits from all the investments that he put on Sheryl’s gang.
So basically, in order for Sheryl to be able to kill Viola, she had to come up with a reason that exceeded the profit that Viola was giving Akira. If she asked Akira to kill Viola, it could even be interpreted as asking him to just throw away 3.8 billion Aurum down the drain. Sheryl did not want to even imagine how Akira would react if she said that.
Sheryl smiled coldly. She could not hide her anger, so her expression was calm and cold.
Sheryl noticed the change in herself due to her anger. Her anger that was blazing as if it was about to explode was replaced with extremely cold rage.
She then politely bowed to Viola.
“I know I’m lacking in a lot of aspects in terms of managing a gang. But I’ll give my best, I’ll be in your care.”
Sheryl smiled coldly there, she made her resolve that she would learn everything so that she would no longer need Viola.
“Of course, let’s both give our best together from here and on.”
Viola smiled ominously. It was as if she was saying that Sheryl would not be able to do that, and that was conveyed just fine to Sheryl.
Sheryl and Viola continued talking in that room, not too far from that room, Carol was talking with the other children while waiting for Viola. Carol had the beauty that would attract people, a figure that pronounced her beauty even more, and an augmented suit that was obviously designed to attract the member of the opposite sex. With all of these 3 factors together, she was attracting a lot of attention in the gang.
Carol smiled invitingly to the young boys there who were more or less of the same age as Akira and confirmed that Akira indeed was a special case. She was collecting information about Akira there and noticed that most of the young boys would focus on the cleavage visible from the big opening of her augmented suit, she then thought that it would have been great if Akira was that simple too.
Since Carol had a beauty that could only be found in mature women, no other girls in the gang could match her. Thanks to that, it really attracted the attention of the boys inside the gang. Even Erio could not fight back the gravity of Carol’s rack forever as his gaze wandered to Carol’s chest, but the moment he noticed that Alicia was looking at him, he could not help but to get flustered as he tried his best to apologize to Alicia.
Carol was using the boys in Sheryl’s gang to confirm her seducing ability, she then noticed Colbert coming into the room where she was.
Colbert also immediately noticed Carol and frowned.
“Geez, that’s rather cold of you to look at me like that.”
“You don’t even know about your bad reputation, huh?”
“Bad reputation? Just so you know, a lot of my customers give me a good review, alright?”
“I know that you often get along with that Viola and that in itself is enough to be bad news. I won’t say anything bad to you or anything. But just to warn you, you should refrain from messing with this gang, it’ll only win you a straight ticket to the after-life, you know.”
“Oh my, I won’t do something like that, right?”
Between Colbert’s warning and Carol’s seduction, most of the boys there took Carol’s side. Carol smiled and Colbert sighed in exasperation.
“So then, Colbert, why are you here?”
“I have a small request to ask of Sheryl’s gang… Well, basically it has something to do with Viola.”
Colbert knew that Akira was behind Sheryl’s gang. Although he did not want to get involved with Akira if it could be helped, he still came there to ask Sheryl’s gang to do a job for him. It was simply because Viola told him to do so.
Although Colbert was wary of Viola, he could not afford to just cut his ties with her. Carol understood that was just how bad her friend was as she smiled amusedly.
Akira was riding his bike through the wasteland. He was heading to Kuzusuhara ruin. He finally restarted his Hunter activity after he finished all of his preparations.
The bike was not a rental bike. Although Kuzusuhara ruin was not an undiscovered ruin, it would be dangerous for him to go there with a rental bike since it would leave a record of his route in the rental bike.
Akira bought that bike since Alpha suggested him to. It was a pretty big bike designed for Hunters. It had two arms attached to its back that were connected to the bike’s control device. Akira equipped those arms with his DVTS minigun and A4WM automatic grenade launcher. Its body armour was made of the same force field armour as his coat and it was controlled by the bike’s control device too. Just like usual, Alpha had full control of that control device.
Akira happily rode his new bike while pacing it through the wasteland, but a question suddenly came up in his mind.
“Alpha, though it might be way too late for me to ask this, was it really important for me to spend that much money on this bike?”
“Yup. So stop questioning it already, okay? There are many places in the inner part of Kuzusuhara ruin where you can’t take your vehicle, you know. So it’s better to go there by bike although it’s indeed a rather expensive bike for your current budget.”
Akira exhausted almost all of his money to buy that bike. He even had to use his emergency savings for that too. Thanks to that, forget his augmented suit repair cartridge, he might not even be able to pay his next month’s rent. He did hesitate at first, but since Alpha said that it would be dangerous to go with his vehicle, he ended up buying that bike.
“The last time I had this little money was at that time when I went to look for relics to be able to pay for the next day’s room rent, huh? I need to make sure to go back home with relics this time. It’ll be alright, right?”
Akira glanced at Alpha who was floating next to the running bike. She smiled confidently and said.
“Of course, just leave it to me.”
Akira lightly smiled. At the moment, he had no other option but to trust that confident smile from Alpha.
“Alright, well, I did say that I would trust you with that matter anyway.”
“Yup, that’s right!”
Akira and Alpha lightly smiled at each other as Akira went straight to Kuzusuhara ruin.