The sounds of the cannon outside the building had already ceased by the time Akira finally calmed down after what had happened. Looking at Akira who had regained his composure and since the sound outside had stopped, Alpha decided it was time to continue their exploration of the ruin.
“It seems that the situation outside has calmed down, so how about we continue exploring the ruin? But be sure to follow my instructions this time, okay?”
Akira nodded with a serious face and said.
“Yeah, I promise that I’ll follow all your instructions properly.”
“Alright then, let’s go.”
As Alpha showed a satisfied smile, she started walking outside. Akira followed behind her with a serious face.
They exited the building and went to the location where they had encountered the enormous monster. They passed through the destroyed building and climbed a mountain of rubble before they finally left the remaining ruins from the previous battle. Then they continued going deeper into the ruin.
Akira knew that he had no chance of winning against that monster using his cheap handgun. Even if he was equipped with specialized weapons to fight the monster, he knew that he still wouldn’t be able to win against that monster. Not to mention that such a monster was roaming around the area while going invisible. Whether it’s for the better or for the worse, going through such an experience heavily affected Akira. His face naturally turned tense, but he just shrugged the fear that was creeping into him. He believed that everything would be alright as long as he kept following Alpha’s instructions while moving forward carefully.
Alpha looked satisfied at how Akira was behaving. She put extra effort so that Akira wouldn’t encounter any monsters that were roaming around that ruin.
After going deeper for a bit, they finally arrived in a district that could no longer be regarded as a part of the ruin’s outskirts. Alpha pointed her finger to a particular ruined building among many others in the area.
“Akira, we’ll be able to gather our relics there.”
Akira curiously looked at the ruin that Alpha pointed. Since he had risked his life to come this far, it was only natural for him to expect some results. But Akira saw nothing except the same old ruin that he had seen on his way there. Or at least, it did not look like a building that he would expect to see after coming this far.
“If it is okay, may I ask you why you picked this place?”
After he blurted out his question, he was a bit nervous since he realized that the answer to his question might cause him to doubt Alpha. But then Alpha answered his question with a smile filled with confidence.
“Of course it’s okay. I’ll explain it to you as you gather the relics inside.”
After seeing how Alpha answered it with such a confident smile, Akira knew that he can expect some good results. As such, he entered the building with a good mood.
The building that Alpha selected was a former commercial facility from the old world. As he kept walking inside, Akira could see the remnants of the riches that had existed in this place. He found a door near a destroyed cupboard. As he peeked in, he could see remnants of destroyed mechanical monsters scattered above the bloodstained floor. Beside a big bone from a dead biological monster, he could see skeletal remains of a human with their complete equipment. This was a place that once was filled with all kinds of goods, but now, it is filled with testaments of how many hunters had come there looking for relics and how these hunters fought against the monsters.
Most of the buildings from the old world era were strong buildings. But even so, there were holes in the walls and burn marks on the ceilings. It showed the intensity of the fight that happened in these buildings. Hunters with weapons strong enough to cause that kind of damage fought against monsters with the same powerful weapons here; all for the sake of claiming the relics from the old world.
The dead corpses that scattered around inside were the best proof to understand the value the relics in this place. It is also the solemn remains of the hunters who have paid the price of their greed for relics.
“By the way, as for the reason I picked this place, it’s because of its level of safety. Most of the mechanical monsters were originally a part of the security system. Although some of them are running wild because their control device was destroyed, their main duty as a part of the security system is to exterminate any invader. As such, the biological monster is also one of its extermination targets. So in short, there’s little chance for you to encounter a biological monster in the area protected by these mechanical monsters.”
“But wouldn’t that mean there’s a good chance I’ll get attacked by these mechanical monsters instead?”
“Most of the mechanical monsters are following a strict patrolling routine, so they only go to a certain place at a certain time. That’s why it’s unlikely for you to encounter them if you have the knowledge of their routine. While on the other hand, the biological monsters tend to move their nest depending on their condition or roam around on a whim which makes it hard to predict their location. So, as long as you’re with me, going to buildings with more mechanical monsters will be relatively safer compared to a place filled with biological monsters.”
For Akira who didn’t even know the back alley of the slum, he listened to Alpha while showing a genuine interest.
“I see. So you can do that too, huh. How can you recognize their routine?”
“There’re a lot of ways to do that. But it would take years for you to completely understand all the details, so I’ll skip the explanation for it.”
And then Alpha gave a mischievous smile as if she was invincible.
“But even so, do you still want to hear about it? I did say that I would answer all of your questions after all. So well, I don’t mind telling you.”
“Ah, nope. No thanks.”
Akira took what she said as a joke. He thought that she had no intention of explaining it to him from the start. Moreover, he had a feeling that he would have to listen to a long explanation if he replied back by saying ‘yes’, and so he winced a bit as he let the subject slide. Seeing that, Alpha smiled because Akira reacted the way she thought he would.
“Is that so? Well, do tell me if you have a change of mind. That aside, there’s one more reason as to why I picked this place, and that is because of the relics in this place.”
“The relics in this place? Are the relics left here that expensive?”
“Well, the value of the relics is indeed important, but it’s more important whether you can bring them back home or not. Even if there’s a relic that can fetch you a lot of money, what do you think you could do if it weighs 10 tons? After all, even if it’s a light relic that you could carry with one arm, it would be hard to bring it back home in case you encounter monsters.”
“Well, that’s true.”
“So, it must be something that’s possible for you to carry safely back home and can fetch quite a lot of money. I picked this place after I included all of these factors into consideration.”
Akira was fully convinced that it was worth risking his life to come to this place after listening to Alpha’s explanation. But from there, he thought of something else.
“…Wait for a sec. Does that mean that the area I was exploring yesterday had no valuable relics?”
“That area was already fully depleted. It’s a place where even a kid like you could explore, so if it still had a lot of valuable relics, then it should be flooded with hunters right now. But that wasn’t the case, right?”
“…You’re right, that does make sense.”
As Akira thought all his risk that he took yesterday were for nothing, he was finally hit with tiredness.
“I always thought that I would be able to find relics in the ruin as long as I work hard. But… It seems that I was too naive. So it was pointless, huh?”
Looking at how dejected Akira was, Alpha gave off a smile to him as if she was trying to cheer him up.
“But thanks to that, you were able to meet me. So I think it was worth risking your life going to that ruin yesterday, you know? You’ll see from here on just how lucky you are to be able to meet me. So you can look forward to it, okay?”
Akira laughed as if he cheered up for a bit.
“You’re right, I’ll be looking forward to it.”
“Just leave it to me.”
Alpha showed him a smile full of confidence as she replied back.
There were quite a lot of cheap relics in the outskirts of the ruin that he was in. Normal hunters usually wouldn’t even bat an eyelash for such cheap relics, but those relics were valuable enough for a kid from the slum like Akira. As such, Akira didn’t need to work hard to search for the relics. Alpha knew this as well, that’s why she had guided him into that ruin.
There are a lot of people other than the hunters who visit the ruins. For example, companies usually spend a lot of money to send soldiers into the ruins. These people would sometimes help each other and sometimes kill each other as they search for relics. They will stop only when both sides think that the relics aren’t worth the bloodshed.
When they finally decided that the ruin isn’t worth all the fighting, they would leave the place by themselves. First of all, the companies would pull back their soldiers. Since these soldiers cost a lot of money, it’s only reasonable that they have abnormally good equipments and skills. But because of that, every death of soldiers bleeds money. Thus, the companies would quickly call their soldiers back unless it was a rare and priceless relic like the production equipment from the old world that the current technology can not hope to replicate. After all, if it’s just the common relics, they can buy it from the Hunters. For big organizations loaded with money, like these companies, they would solve anything with money as long as it’s possible.
After the soldiers have left the ruins, the hunters will pull back but only after weighing the consequences of their decision. They will compare the threat from the monsters against the reward that they can get from the relics. They will decide to go back after calculating that they will still get quite a lot of profit from selling the relics already in their possession.
Then finally, both the skilled common people and the unskilled common people will withdraw from the ruin. The skilled people are those who use their skill to barely stay alive and fight back the monsters as they gather relics. While the unskilled people are those who get baited by their own greed and run into their death. Thanks to both of these people, the number of relics left in the ruin will decrease as the number of dead bodies pile up. They’ll leave the ruin only when the number of dead bodies outweighs the value of the relics that they can find. Only after these people withdraw will the ruins be finally left alone.
Today, Akira had stepped into that lonely ruin that was more desolate than usual due to the huge number of monsters roaming around that place. Normally, he wouldn’t even be able to reach that place. For a place that had been left behind by Hunters with full equipment since they thought that it wasn’t worth their risk, it still contained quite a lot of expensive relics.
But Akira had no idea of the value of these relics. He just kept stuffing things that Alpha pointed into his paper bag. Even the paper bag that he was carrying was something that he found inside the ruin since the bag that he brought from the slum tore open due to the weight of the relics.
After he finished collecting all the relics in the area, Akira looked rather worried. The grocery paper bag was rather thin and didn’t look durable.
“…It’s not like it will rip before we reach the city, right?”
“Don’t worry. That paper bag is from the old world. In other words, it’s also a relic from the old world. It’s stronger than it looks, so it will be fine.”
“I see. The old world technology is really something.”
After that, Akira peeked into the bag. It was filled with relics carefully chosen by Alpha. These relics were small objects that even a small kid could carry around. There were a lot of objects that Akira didn’t know about. A fine knife with its sheath, some unknown mechanical parts, some boxes that Alpha said were filled with medicines, something that looked like a bandage, an object that resembles a wristwatch, and so many other things. There was still some space left in the bag and it wasn’t too heavy.
“…Shouldn’t we take back some more relics?”
Since he had come that far, he wanted to carry as many relics as possible. But Alpha responded to his naive question by shaking her head and making a serious face.
“No. This is already the limit of how much relics you can take. It is the maximum weight limit with which you can move freely on your way back home. I’ll try my best to be careful on our way back, but in case if you encounter a monster, then you would be run away while carrying this paper bag. Thus if it’s too heavy, then you won’t be able to run away and end up getting killed. Even if you have the choice of just ditching the relics behind, it’s better if it’s not too heavy so it won’t consume a lot of your stamina. So don’t be greedy, okay?”
Akira did value his life, and more than that, he had decided to obey Alpha’s instruction as much as possible. So, although it’s rather frustrating, he nodded and gave up his naive thinking.
“…I understand. So then, just how much will all these relics fetch me?”
“To be honest, I don’t know. After all, the price of relics changes with demand. And also, it’s not like you’ll sell everything. Leave the knife behind for yourself and it might be a good idea to not sell the medicines too. After all, it would be bad if you get hurt and don’t have the means to treat yourself. Just think of them as some kind of insurance.”
“Then that means that I have even less to sell now…”
“Those are necessary things, so just bear with it.”
And so, it was decided that he would only sell half of all the relics that he had. Although he was rather displeased, he knew that it was the best that he could do at that time and quickly got over it.
“Well then, let’s go back to the city. Our way back home won’t be easy, so let’s be careful, okay?”
“If you step into an area protected by those monsters while carrying these relics, then your movement will be slowed down. If the previous situation occurred again, then this time you’ll surely turn into minced meat. So you really need to be careful.”
As Alpha gave off a meaningful smile, Akira winced a bit.
“Well, let’s go then.”
Once again, Akira nervously followed Alpha while she was giggling cheerfully.
Akira was somehow able to come back to the outskirts of the ruins. It’s still a part of the wasteland so it’s pretty much a dangerous place. But compared to the deeper parts of the ruins that was filled with monsters, it was way safer here since he did not come across any monster here. His nervousness vanished after getting out of the ruins. Knowing that he was not completely safe yet, all the tiredness suddenly hit him and he let out a big sigh.
Looking at him sighing, Alpha smiled and said.
“We can rest for a bit if you’re tired, you know? I’ll watch over our surroundings, so you can rest easy.”
“I see, but I want to get back to the city as soon as possible, so let’s continue for a bit longer.”
“Alright then, how about we have a chat while walking back home?”
Even if she said so Akira, a kid who grew up in the back alley of the slum, didn’t have much to talk about. In the end, Alpha would talk while Akira simply responded to her.
“By the way, did you know that Kugamayama City was actually built for exploring this Kuzusuhara ruin?”
“Ohh, I see. You do know a lot of things.”
“I might look like this but I actually know a lot of things, you know. Although, it’s all about the eastern region. I know nothing about the center and the western region.”
“The western region, huh… I don’t know much about it. But I heard that it’s the territory of the demons.”
“I don’t know much either. I have only heard rumors about that place, like the technology in that place doesn’t advance at all or like mages exist in that place.”
“As for the central region. What do they call it again? ‘Nation State’? I heard that there is a lot of stuff happening there.”
“If I have to give a rough explanation, The Central United Nations, or in short, The United Nations – All the nations united under that government is considered as a part of the central region and their government system is called as the Nation States. All the area east of the central region is called as the eastern region. The Corporatocracy of the Eastern Region refers to all the regions under the Corporate Government. Finally, all the area west from the central region is called as the western region. It’s a place filled with rumors that I don’t guarantee are true or not. Rumors like there’s no gun there or magic exists in that place or a species known as elf lives there. Since it’s a place filled with mysteries, there are a lot of people wanting to explore that area. Akira, do you have some interest in that too?”
“Nope, rather than that, I’m more interested in learning the common sense of the eastern region. After all, I can’t read letters yet.”
“I understand. Besides reading and writing, I’ll be adding common sense lecture to your special training. So just leave it to me.”
“I-I see, thanks.”
Since Alpha gave him an extensive offer, he felt a bit of gratefulness mixed with fear. After all, the sentence ‘there’s no free lunch’ had already rooted deep inside him. Alpha just showed Akira a gentle smile. All that she’s willing to do were also for her own sake.
Once he arrived at the Kugamayama City, Akira immediately headed to the Exchange Centre of the Hunter Office. There were several Exchange Centres inside and outside the city. Depending on the place where you exchange your relic, the value of that relic might change. The Exchange Centres inside the wall mostly serve the First-Class Hunters. Thus those places are always filled with valuable relics. The competition between companies for such relics drives the price higher and higher.
Akira went to an Exchange Centre located in the lower district close to the slum. Most of the people who come here are new Hunters and people from the slum. It has the worst rate of all the Exchange Centres. People used to come here bringing things that can’t even be categorized as cheap relics. As time passed, the place that only bought relics turned into a shop that would buy almost everything. It became an important place for the people of the slum as it was one of their only sources of income.
Once he entered that place, he took out the relics that were reserved to be sold from the paper bag and put them on a tray. Then he took the tray and lined up in front of a counter. As Alpha told him, he didn’t sell the knife and the medicine box.
The attendant of the counter was a young man by the name of Nojima. When he saw Akira’s appearance, he knew that Akira was only a kid from the slum. So he was about to serve him like when he served any other kid from the slum. But once he saw the relics on the tray, his conduct changed suddenly. After all, they were not things that you could get in the slum.
“Show me your Hunter ID if you have one.”
Akira took out his Hunter ID that looked like a scrap of paper. Nojima took the ID and operated the terminal in front of him, then he returned Akira’s Hunter ID together with 3 coins. After that, he picked up the tray together with the relics on it and put it on a shelf behind him.
Akira stood there and stared at the three coins. 1 coin is worth 100 Aurum, so it’s 300 Aurum in total. Aurum is the currency issued by Sakashita Heavy Industry, one of the 5 big companies in the Corporate Government. The circulation of Aurum is strictly under the control of its sole issuer, The Sakashita Heavy Industry, thus it was mostly used in the economical areas under its influence. Kugamayama city is one of those areas.
The worth of 300 Aurum differs from person to person. For people who live in the lower district of Kugamayama City, it’s enough to buy a cheap meal. While for the people of the upper district, it’s just a spare change that isn’t even enough to buy a cup of water.
To earn this money, Akira had to endure attacks from a huge monster which almost got him killed, but luckily survived thanks to the support from Alpha. He had to go to a place that he normally wouldn’t be able to reach, to bring some relics. Recollecting his experience, he stood there with the money that he got on his hand after all the hardship that he went through by risking his own life. It was only 3 coins, only 300 Aurum.
Akira’s face was reddened with anger as his eyes met Nojima’s eyes. Nojima knew from the start that was exactly how Akira would react. As Akira was about to complain, Nojima gave an explanation to him as if he was reminding him.
“I know you have a lot of things that you want to say. But for an unknown Rank 1 Hunter with no past achievement, it’s already been decided that the first commission will be 300 Aurum only. The inspection of the goods will be finished by tomorrow or maybe even take longer. You should feel thankful for getting paid 300 Aurum for turning in goods that we don’t even know. They might even be just trash, you know. Once the inspection finishes, I’ll give you the rest of the money the next time you come here. But if it’s worth even less than 300 Aurum, then we’ll have you to pay us instead. If you’re confident that you just sold us expensive goods, then come again next time to sell something else. The ID confirmation will be done through your Hunter ID, so if you lose it, then you can forget about your money and our trust. That’s all, any question?”
After listening to Nojima’s explanation, Akira understood the situation and was somehow able to accept some part of it. But his face still looked hostile since he couldn’t accept the whole situation, at the same time he knew that it’s meaningless to protest.
“…I just have to come here again tomorrow, right?”
“That’s only if the inspection has finished by tomorrow. The more expensive a relic is, the more time it will take to inspect it. And even if we’ve finished the inspection, it’s still meaningless if you don’t bring any goods, so bring something to sell with you. I’ll only give you the leftover money after you handover some goods to us.”
Although Nojima was very strict to him, he somehow felt that Nojima was being considerate to him.
It’s not really rare for a small kid like Akira, aiming to be a Hunter, to come to the Exchange Centre after somehow obtaining some relics. Nojima had seen these kinds of children a few times before. But only a very small amount of them would come there again for the second time, it was either because they gave up being a Hunter or got killed. And the number of kids who would still come back after their first 10 days was even lesser.
“…I don’t know just how many crazy things that you must have done to get those relics. But if you aim to live as a Hunter, you’ll have to do those crazy things on a daily basis. If you get your heart broken by just this much, then you should stop, otherwise, you would die.”
Akira replied back with a serious look.
“No way. If it’s just risking my life then it’s no different compared to life in the slum. I’ll rise to success, I definitely will.”
Someone with a strong resolve will obtain strength, and in turn, this strength will draw out that person’s full potential. Nojima smiled a bit as he could clearly feel the resolve from Akira’s words.
“Is that so? Well, just be careful out there.”
Nojima cheered up as he thought that the boy in front of him was going to be fine.
Silavin: Nojima seems like a nice chap. I was expecting the guy to try and scam Akira out of his stuff. But who knows? Maybe he did in the past and after numerous kids have died, he learnt to be more sympathetic.
BTW, Proofreading request for this novel has been closed. Thank you for those that have showed interested.