Akira was standing in the middle of a white world. His mind was cloudy. But even so, he somehow understood that he was dreaming and it was the same world that he once visited in the past.
He could see Alpha not too far from him. And just like the last time when he was in this world, Alpha did not seem to have noticed him at all.
Alpha was completely expressionless while talking to herself.
“Evaluating the 499th try. Calculating the possibility of the subject stepping into the targeted area… Less than 1 per cent. Calculating the possibility of the subject returning back alive from the unexplored territory… Less than 1 per cent. Unsuitable. Recommending increasing the subject’s fighting capability.”
“Constructing a plan on how to direct the subject. Making sure to take into account the reason why the previous subject broke the contract. Predicting the factors that steered the previous subject’s judgement. If the previous subject’s action was successful, there would be undefined numbers of human well-being affected and rescued, etc… As such, this unit needs to be careful so that the current subject would not even consider taking the same action that the previous subject took.”
“Now, taking into account the character of the current subject. It’s unlikely that the current subject would take the same decision as the previous subject. This is based on the fact that the current subject doesn’t trust other humans, is apathetic toward others, and tends to be egocentric. It’s highly unlikely that the current subject has the same moral values, tolerance, morality and principles as the previous subject.”
“In order not to repeat the same mistake as the 498th try, it’s recommended to keep watch of the current subject’s possible change of attitude.”
Akira’s consciousness waned. The world was once again enveloped in darkness, his dream had ended.
Akira woke up inside a sickroom. He felt like he just saw an important dream, but he could not recall what it was. It only left him with the feeling that he saw a similar dream once before.
The sickroom where he woke up was a room for one, filled with devices to treat a human with an organic body. As Akira tried to sit on the bed he was lying, he saw Alpha.
“Good morning, Akira. Did you sleep well?”
“Morning Alpha. Yeah, I feel like it has been a long time since I slept so well.”
He felt completely refreshed and his body felt better than usual. His injuries were fully healed as he no longer felt any pain. His body was in tip-top shape now.
Akira scanned the whole room. There were no railings on the window and it seemed like the camera installed in the room was not to prevent the patient from running away, but to check the patient’s condition. It was not a bad place at all, but it did not tell anything about his current situation.
“So then, where am I?”
“Kugamayama city’s hospital. They brought you here to get you treated.”
“Is that so?”
There was a big public hospital inside the city that both Kugamayama city and the Hunter Office relied on. It was designed to be able to treat organic human and cyborg, as such, it was naturally expanded into a huge facility. Most of its patients were people who regularly went into battle such as Hunters and soldiers who guarded dangerous places.
This hospital mainly focused on treating injuries than curing diseases. It was so specialised in its treatment that it could heal someone who had lost 4 of their limbs by using an expensive procedure to regenerate them back, or fix people with a modified body or even transplant some of their body parts, or install cyborg body parts with better and more powerful parts, or even revert a cyborg body back into an organic body by regrowing body parts.
Akira had fainted when the defense squad was transporting him. He was suspected to be one of the relic thieves, as such, it would not be strange if he had woke up inside a cell.
“What do they think of me now?”
“I believe that someone would come here to explain that. But don’t worry, they no longer suspect you to be one of the relic thieves. So don’t worry about that part.”
“That’s good to hear.”
Akira stroke his chest in relief.
Although he was in good shape, it was not like he could just go out of the room. So he just spent his time inside that room talking with Alpha. It did not take long before a city staff came in, and it was Kibayashi.
For some reason, Kibayashi looked like he was in a really good mood.
“We meet again. It’s good to see that you’re as reckless as always.”
Akira appeared to be puzzled as he looked at Kibayashi. Kibayashi realized that Akira did not remember him.
“It’s me, Kibayashi. The guy who gave you that bike, remember?”
“Akira, he’s the person who gave you the bike when you decided to accept the SOS request when a swarm of monsters from Kuzusuhara ruin headed to Kugamayama city. He’s the Hunter Office staff from that time.”
Akira vaguely remembered Kibayashi’s face, and after listening to Alpha’s explanation, he recalled immediately.
“Ah, I remember it now. If I’m not mistaken, you’re the Hunter Office staff who was driving the truck, right? And from that SOS request too…”
Kibayashi nodded happily.
“That’s right, so you remember me now, huh? I was there as a Hunter Office staff, but today, I’m here as City staff. It’s good to see you, Akira.”
Kibayashi extended his hand, expecting a handshake. When Akira grabbed his hand, Kibayashi excitedly shook it up and down. It seemed that Kibayashi was really in a good mood.
“Now then, to be honest, I have a lot of things that I want to ask. But work comes first, I’m here today to make a deal with you.”
“Yep. But before we do that, I want to explain to you about your current situation. I’m sure you want to know why you are here or if the city still suspects you as one of the relic thieves, right?”
“Yeah, please do.”
Kibayashi nodded firmly in response to Akira’s words.
He then handed a pile of papers to Akira. Those were documents explaining his current situation.
“All the details are written in it. I’ll read it for you, you are free to stop and ask me if you find anything confusing.”
Kibayashi then started giving explanations to Akira, he also had a copy of the same documents in his hand.
After the defense squad captured Nelia and Akira, they handed them over to the medical squad in the underground exploration HQ to receive emergency treatment. They were then transported to Kugamayama city as suspects.
It did not take long for them to deduce that Nelia was one of the relic thieves. After all, she quickly confessed and told them everything about the other relic thieves.
Nelia was very cooperative during the questioning. She honestly told the City Management about the details of her plan, the number and identity of the people who were working with her, the amount of the relics that they hid and where they hid them, and where they hid their truck. She told everything that might be of help even when not asked about that information. Of course, Nelia gave all those information in exchange for a lighter sentence.
Akira found such a change of attitude really strange from the girl who he had a deathmatch with.
“Nelia, was it again? Was she really being that cooperative?”
“Yeah. I heard that she was very cooperative. Even though she only did that to reduce her sentence, it’s strange that she was so cooperative. Even the person responsible for questioning her found it strange and asked her.”
“And what did she say?”
“She said that she’s someone who doesn’t let herself get stuck in the past.”
Akira’s expression showed a mix of admiration and dismay.
“That girl really holds to her value… Or more like, she doesn’t take much time to move on… So there are people like her out there, huh.”
“But thanks to that, the investigation went really well and the suspicion on you was quickly cleared up. Normally, we would have done a stricter investigation, you know. Maybe because the person who was assigned for her investigation was the best one there is, they got it done like this.”
“But even if that’s true, I don’t feel thankful to that Nelia at all. She was so close to killing me, you know… So, what happened to her after that? From your story, it sounded like she got a big pardon in her sentence. Did she escape the death sentence? It’s not like you just set her free, right?”
“Of course not. But it at least saved her from severe punishment. She was sent for forced labour under the City Management. She was given a cyborg body with the City Management’s authority set above her own authority plus an explosive planted in her head. So forget her right of life and death, she doesn’t even have the right over her own body. She’ll be sent to explore dangerous ruins or fight dangerous monsters. I bet the city would use her as an expendable pawn until she serves her punishment period or pays back her debt to the city. Depending on how hard she works, she might be set free in the future, that’s unless if she doesn’t die first of course.”
After listening to what would happen to Nelia, Akira was rather relieved. But he still somehow felt uneasy.
Although she deserved that, Akira somehow felt unsatisfied. Even though someone as strong as Nelia was denied authority over her own body and sent to do forced labour, he still felt that she was let off easily.
Kibayashi noticed that Akira still looked a bit unsatisfied.
“Ohh, I see, you wanted to kill her yourself, huh? Since her cyborg body is owned by the City Management now, don’t even think of killing her, okay? In the worst-case scenario, all of her debt will be shifted to you if you do that, you know? If you want to kill her yourself, do that after she finishes her sentence.”
“It’s okay. I have no plans for picking a fight with the city.”
“It’s good to hear that. There are people who do that from time to time, you know. Well, it’s not like I don’t understand their feelings though.”
Kibayashi continued his explanation.
After that, it did not take long to capture the rest of the relic thieves. The transport truck was also confiscated by the city and the city recovered all the stolen relics. Although few of them escaped with some of the stolen relics, thanks to Nelia’s confession, the city had precise information about who they were. It was only a matter of time before the City Management captured them.
But there was still no information about Kain. The city did investigate the information about him that they received from Nelia, but they only ended up finding out that it was fabricated information. They even inspected and analyzed the powered suit left behind in the battle site, but there was no personal information that could be extracted from that powered suit. They only knew that this Kain was someone brought in by the mastermind of that operation, Yajima.
When Akira fainted, the city also investigated him and it was quickly proven that Akira had nothing to do with the relic thieves. So then he was sent to get treated until he woke up just a while back.
Kibayashi then finished his explanation about the relic thieves and what happened to them after they were apprehended by the city’s Defense Squad.
“…And that will conclude my explanation about the relic thieves. Do you have any questions?”
Akira thought for a bit, he did not have any questions at the moment.
“Alpha, do you have any questions that you want to ask?”
Just to be safe, Akira also asked Alpha, but it seemed that she too did not have any questions either. Akira was about to say that he did not have any questions, but something suddenly came up in his mind.
“You guys also inspected Kain’s powered suit, right? Did you guys find a self-destruction device inside it?”
“Self-destruction device…? Wait for a sec.”
Kibayashi checked his information terminal and scanned through the documents about the investigation’s result. He then checked the details about Kain’s powered suit.
“No, we didn’t find anything like that.”
After Kibayashi said that, Akira frowned. He realized that Nelia was lying back then. Alpha smiled bitterly and said.
“She did get us good, didn’t she Akira?”
“…Well, I still somehow won that fight, so I guess it doesn’t really matter now.”
Akira’s words and expression contradicted each other. Nelia lied to him and he got completely tricked. She was a good trickster, that was all there was to it. Akira thought so while making a disgruntled expression.
Kibayashi thought that it was rather weird, but he then continued.
“Well, at least, according to the result of the investigation done by the city’s Defense Squad, we didn’t find anything that looked like a self-destruction device inside that powered suit. Why did you ask that question by the way?”
“…Well, since it was charging right at me ignoring any damage to its body, I thought that it was set to self-destruct, you see.”
“I’m sure it was sent only as a diversion to buy more time. With such a big thing charging at you, you’ll have no other choice but to deal with it, right?”
“I see. I guess that’s all the questions I have.”
“Well then, I’ll get to the real reason why I’m here. Look at the last page of that document.”
Akira turned the document in his hand to the last page. As soon as he glanced at the page, he was wide-eyed, his jaw dropped. It was a bill addressed to him.
After he was moved to the hospital, Akira received a lot of treatments. That bill listed all the detailed expenses for those treatments. Moreover, it also included his 1 week stay in the hospital since he had fainted.
The Yarata Scorpion’s nest extermination request lasted for 7 days. So the bill also included the remaining 4 days’ cancellation fine.
Putting it all together, it totalled 60,000,000 Aurum. Half of it was from Akira’s treatment. It was a number that was more than enough to make his face pale.
Akira was about to faint but somehow stayed awake. If it was not for his tip-top shape, he would have immediately fainted right there.
Looking at Akira’s reaction, Kibayashi laughed lightly.
“That’s the bill amount you have to pay right now. You might have some complaints about that amount, but let me tell you this beforehand, it’s pointless to complain about it to the hospital. The cost of the treatment does make sense. During an emergency where the patient has lost consciousness, the type of treatment and its cost are both decided by the hospital. Well, it’s basically just a preventive measure against a case where the hospital can’t give the patient any treatment just because they can’t confirm if the patient wants to take that treatment or not since the patient has already passed out.”
Akira replied in a panic.
“B-but just because of that, it’s not like I can pay this much money, you know…?!!”
Kibayashi did expect that Akira would be shocked like this. He then tried to calm Akira down.
“Calm down. The hospital won’t charge you that amount if they don’t think that you can pay it. It’s not like they’re running a charity after all, and even a charity would not run without money. So they’ll make you pay a lot of money whenever they have the chance. Which in this case, to be more precise, it would be subtracted from your reward.”
“Yep, your reward. Like I said before, I’m here to make a deal with you.”
Kibayashi smiled when he said that.
“To cut the chase, if you accept our offer, not only can you pay for that bill, you can even go back home with an extra 100,000,000 Aurum. So what do you think? Doesn’t that sound enticing?”
Akira was thunderstruck, when he thought that he would be carrying a 60,000,000 Aurum debt, he was then told that he might even go back home with 100,000,000 Aurum surplus money. He was so dumbfounded that he was lost for words.
“Akira, get back to your senses.”
Akira immediately snapped back to his senses when Alpha called for him. Looking at that, Kibayashi smiled bitterly.
“Now that you’ve returned back to this world, can I continue?”
“Ah, yeah, sure. So what’s your demand?”
“Our demand is simple. We want you to sell your battle record in the black market. To be more precise, we want you to change it to this: you were just monitoring the underground defensive point when a swarm of Yarata scorpions attacked you, you then got injured and were sent to the hospital. You’ll be bound by confidentiality, so you can’t tell anyone about this. If someone asks you what happened, just tell them that you got assigned to watch the defensive point or you can’t say anything due to the confidentiality of the request. It’ll also get reflected in your record in the Hunter Office’s webpage. There might be a chance that the record which you sold to be listed under another Hunter’s battle record, in which case, you can’t claim that as your battle record, okay?”
After saying that, Kibayashi waited for Akira’s reply. Akira was actually waiting for Kibayashi to continue his explanation, but since Kibayashi went silent, Akira quickly asked him.
“…Is that all?”
When Akira asked that, Kibayashi tried hard to hold back his laughter. Akira looked puzzled since he did not think that he said anything funny. Kibayashi somehow held back his laughter, he then answered back while locking his gaze at Akira.
“Yep!! That’s all!! You’ll just have to sell your battle record which says you overpowered 3 relic thieves alone!! The record says that you even defeated them when 2 of them were equipped with powered suits!! I’m really glad that you are always so reckless!! For someone like you, losing this record is nothing big at all, right? A normal Hunter would get super angry if they lose this kind of record, you know?”
Although Hunter Rank can be used to judge the ability of a Hunter, the same thing could also be done using battle records. Records like defeating a strong monster or bringing back an expensive relic and so on. With records like these, Hunters could boast regardless of their Hunter Rank.
Records of fighting against battle oriented cyborgs or a powered suit would boost Hunter’s value. If it was only winning a battle against a strong monster, anyone would be able to get that record by working in dangerous areas where powerful biological monsters roamed. In contrast to that, winning a fight against another human with powerful fighting skills and equipment was an extremely rare record.
Fighting a monster and fighting a human demanded completely different combat skills. A battle record against someone powerful would really entice requesters who are looking for people with that skill set. Not to mention, both the city and the Hunter Office guaranteed the accuracy of such battle record, thus it was a highly valued commodity.
So in short, the City Management demanded such an important thing from Akira. Even though Akira did not know the real worth of that battle record, the fact that he was thinking very lightly of his own battle record made Kibayashi really delighted.
Akira looked puzzled as he looked back at Kibayashi.
“To be honest, I don’t see how that thing is worth 100,000,000 Aurum, no, adding the 60,000,000 Aurum, that would be 160,000,000 Aurum. I don’t see how my record is worth that much. If you’re serious about this, can you tell me how you even came up with such a value?”
Akira sounded doubtful. He thought that there must be some kind of string attached to this deal.
Akira could not refuse the deal. If he did, he would have to find another way to pay his 60,000,000 Aurum debt. Although he might be able to pay most of his debt from the reward of the underground exploration request, there was no guarantee that it would be able to fully pay back the debt.
He actually understood that the huge medical bill was some kind of a ploy so that he could not refuse this offer. But it was not like he had any means to fight back.
So he was confident that Kibayashi should not be able to easily answer his question. But unexpectedly, Kibayashi swiftly answered back.
“I don’t mind telling you, but it is confidential information. That’s why I can’t explain it to you unless you accept my offer first. So, is it okay if we do that after you accept my offer?”
“Okay then, put your sign over here.”
Kibayashi handed over a pen and a paper to Akira. Akira tried to read what was written in the paper, but it was filled with lots of hard-to-read small-sized words that Akira quickly decided to give up.
But Alpha read through it in his place and summarised the information to Akira.
“It’s alright. There’s nothing dangerous written in this paper. If I were to summarize its content, it’s saying that you might turn the whole city into your enemy if you were to tell other people about the confidential information.”
After hearing Alpha, Akira felt relieved as he signed his name on the paper and handed it back to Kibayashi. Kibayashi received the paper while smiling.
“Nice!! With this, our deal is sealed!! And my job is done!! Ah, right, about that explanation, can you wait for a bit? I need to tell the City Management that we now have a deal. We’re in a hurry, you see.”
Kibayashi pulled out his information terminal and contacted the City Management. Shortly after that, another staff member came to the room. That staff then took the documents that were in Kibayashi’s and Akira’s hands, including the paper that Akira just signed. The staff checked those documents before putting them inside his bag.
Kibayashi then continued.
“With this, my evaluation will also soar. You can go ahead and ask me anything, in that way I can at least give you something in return, right? Although I look like this, I am actually someone important. I even have enough authority to give you a bike as front payment. No one can just give out a city’s property as a reward unless they have high authority, don’t you agree?”
“Alright, just give me a proper explanation first.”
“Ah, that 160,000,000 Aurum, right? It’s not weird that you think it’s too good to be true. It’s normal to think that there must be some kind of string attached behind that offer. Well, to put it simply, it is a bribe to keep your mouth sealed.”
Kibayashi continued his explanation.
The incident about the relic thieves had come to a closure. Fortunately enough, it did not incur much loss to the city. But this whole incident was caused by the mistakes and the lack of vigilance of the City Management. It was because they did not quickly excavate the relics from the underground city, they let the relic thieves roam around the underground for too long, and they failed to anticipate the possibility of relic theft. Most of the reasons why that incident happened stemmed from City Management’s negligence.
It was now impossible to hide that incident, not only were some Hunters killed, the city even sent out its defense squad. With that being said, it did not mean that they could just let it spread to the public. But then a Hunter encountered one of those relic thieves by pure coincidence and killed him, that Hunter then went to the surface, got ambushed by another pair of relic thieves, and drove them back. The city did not want that incident to end like that since it would bring the City Management to shame.
Although it happened because of the incompetence of the City Management, luckily enough, it somehow got resolved. Now the City Management would have to give the report explaining the incident to the others including the people living in the city who were paying a lot of money for the defense squad’s expense, the people from the other City Management that they were regularly in contact with, and more importantly, the upper echelons of the Corporate Government. Thus this incident might hurt Kugamayama City Management’s authority.
Kugamayama City Management tried to come up with various plans to resolve the problem. According to their investigation and interrogation regarding the incident, they quickly found out that the main players in that relics thieving incident mistook Akira as an agent from the city. And so the people who were looking for a solution turned their focus onto that revelation.
So rather than some nameless Hunter taking out those relic thieves by pure coincidence, if the story was splintered into something better, something like the city somehow got hold of the information about those relic thieves, so the City Management decided to send an agent in disguise as a Hunter, then as expected, that agent encountered the relic thieves and took them out. If that was what happened, then the City Management would get a good evaluation instead.
Fortunately enough, City Management immediately noticed that it would not take much effort to fabricate such a story. In short, they only needed to convince Akira who took that request himself. Another good thing was that he was not affiliated with any gangs. So the City Management only needed to make a deal with Akira and then they could take care of the rest.
As an assurance for the deal to go smoothly, Akira was given an expensive treatment. The hospital did not hesitate when giving Akira such an expensive treatment since the City Management gave its guarantee. As a result, Akira was handed that 60,000,000 Aurum bill.
Silavin: Wow. My boy got played hard. These guys…