In the middle of the night, when the morning was still hours away. Alpha was trying to wake up Akira who was sleeping on the bed of his house.
“Akira, wake up.”
Alphas voice was transferred directly into Akiras head. Although her voice was gentle, it was pretty loud. After all, it was not like she could wake Akira up by shaking him.
Akira was still groggy as he scanned his surroundings. It did not take long for him to notice that it was still in the middle of the night. Although he went to sleep earlier than usual last night, it was still way too early for him to naturally wake up, he still had not gotten enough sleep. Looking at Alpha, he understood that he was not in immediate danger. He then sounded slightly irritated as he asked Alpha.
“…What now Its still night, you know Whats wrong”
“Theres a text message from Elena. I dont mind if you want to ignore it for now since its still in the middle of the night and I dont mind ignoring the other messages coming after this too, but dont blame me since Ive properly woken you up, okay “
Akira tilted his head, confused. He thought that Alpha must have checked the message first before deciding that it was better to wake him up. Or at least, she must have thought that he might get angry if she waited until morning before telling him about that message.
Akira yawned while reaching for his information terminal that he left not too far from him. He was still sleepy as he operated his information terminal.
In short, the subject of Elenas message was a request. There was a big battle going on in Mihazono ruin, so the Hunter Office was issuing requests to assist, support, and to save the Hunters who were on the battlefield. It seemed that Elena and Sara accepted a good deal for that request through the mediator company that they were registered under. The message was basically an invitation for Akira if he wanted to join in that request too.
The body of the message said that Akira was allowed to either move alone or move together with Elena and Sara. Of course, he was free to refuse if he had some other things to do. So if he was interested, he could give them a call.
Akira read that message a few times. He thought about a lot of things as his expression turned stern.
“Alpha, do you think Elena-san and Sara-san are going to Seranthal building”
“I dont know. After all, it seems that the situation in the Mihazono ruin has greatly changed. But, I do think that theres a good chance this huge battle is taking place near the Seranthal building. You still remember that short notice from the Hunter Office yesterday, right So Im sure some of the Hunters headed to the Seranthal building. Then that request might be to help those Hunters who couldnt retreat from the battlefield.”
Akira remembered what happened back then. Indeed, it was true that when he was stuck inside the Seranthal building, he could not make a call outside.
“Can they contact the outside after they went inside that building”
“They might be able to do that now. Either that or that request was issued beforehand to help them retreat in case they dont return back after some time. Basically, its one of those time-based emergency requests. And of course, it might also have nothing to do about that at all.”
Akira did not say anything as he stepped off from his bed and started making preparations to head out.
Alpha at least asked for a confirmation.
“So, youre taking that invitation from Elena and Sara, right”
“Although we had to go through all of those things yesterday”
“…This and that are two different matters.”
Alpha sighed exaggeratedly, but Akira just ignored that as he continued with his preparation.
Akiras reaction was within Alphas range of expectations. It was proof that she had a better understanding of his behavioural pattern. She was happy that all of the information that she had collected to control and manipulate Akira combined together with her computing power was able to give an accurate prediction of his action.
But her prediction also gave one more notable result. Even if she tried to stop him, there was a good chance that Akira would still decide to meet up with Elena and Sara. And even if she refused to give her support, there was still a good chance that he would still go.
Back then, Akira saved Elena and Sara in Kuzusuhara ruin, then not too long after that, Elena and Sara saved Akira when he was attacked by a swarm of monsters when he was together with Katsuragi.
From Alphas opinion, that made them even. But for some reason, from Akiras perspective, he was still carrying 2 debts to Sara and Elena. If Alpha could precisely understand the reason why he decided so, she would be able to more easily manipulate Akira. But for now, she had not even the slightest guess. As long as Akira was still thinking that he had not returned that debt yet, Elena and Sara would still sit on the top of his priority list.
Alpha kept staring at Akira, in the back of her head, she was thinking that she had to do something about it.
Akira put on his augmented suit as he asked Alpha to operate his information terminal.
“Alpha, call Elena-san for me.”
“Sure… Its not getting connected. Shes outside the reachable area.”
“But her message reached me, right”
“Theres no guarantee that the message reached you the moment it was sent, you know. It might have been delayed due to the route that it took or the load on the device. It might be also be coming from how calls are treated differently compared to text messages.”
“It cant be helped then, at least send a message to them that Im accepting their request. It should be possible to at least do that, right”
Akira thought of his message and sent it to Alpha through telepathy. After all, it was faster than saying it out loud.
“Got it, its already sent. Ill also frequently check if I can get a connection with their information terminal too.”
“Im counting on you.”
After Akira put on his augmented suit, he grabbed his information terminal and his rifles before heading to his vehicle. He then checked the medicines and ammo reserve left on his vehicle before grabbing extra medicine or ammo that he needed. Since he did not know what he would be facing, Akira decided to bring a lot of extra ammo.
After checking everything, Akira sat on the driver seat and was about to turn on the vehicle, but he suddenly stopped.
Alpha who was sitting on the driver assistants seat looked at Akira with a questioning expression.
“Whats wrong Did you change your mind”
“No, I just thought of something right before heading out.”
Akira then pulled out his information terminal and operated it. Alpha who knew well what he was doing looked slightly surprised. Akira was making a call, it took 10 seconds before the person that he was calling picked up the call.
The sound of the person that he was calling could be heard from Akiras information terminal.
“Its Carol here. I never thought that you would call me this soon. Well, its true Im happy that you did, but its rather rude calling me this early unless its not about my side job, you know So like, its okay to take it that its about that, right”
Carol began with a sweet voice as if she was tempting Akira.
But Akira casually answered.
“Sorry, but its about your main job.”
Carol then mischievously replied back.
“Oh my, is that so In that case then, is it okay if I close the call here”
“Well, I can understand that. Sorry for calling you this early. Later then.”
Akira then ended the call, Alpha who was next to him just smiled amusedly.
Akira then put aside his information terminal and turned on his vehicle. Right when Akira just drove out from the garage, a call from Carol reached his information terminal.
Alpha smiled as she pointed at Akiras information terminal and said.
“Ill do the driving.”
“You sure Ill leave it to you then.”
Akira trusted the driving to Alpha as he let go of the wheel and picked up his information terminal to answer the call.
Carol sounded a bit annoyed.
“…Theres no need to suddenly cut your call like that, you know. Cant you at least try being kinder”
“Im in a hurry here. So I dont have the time to negotiate at all. So basically its about your main job, I take it that youre willing to listen then, right”
“Of course. Since you just ended the call like that, I cant help but get curious. So, what is it”
“Carol, you have knowledge about Mihazono ruin including the Seranthal building, right I want to buy some information from you. If youre willing to sell some, just tell me the price. If youre okay with a bank transfer, Ill immediately transfer the payment to your bank account. But if you prefer cash, I dont have any with me and I dont have the time to get some right now, so Ill be paying you later.”
“Theres no need to worry about that. So, what kind of information are you looking for exactly Your description just now is way too vague.”
“It seems that theres an ongoing big battle in Mihazono ruin and theres a good chance that the Seranthal building is in the centre of that battle. I need any information that might help me fight battles, search around that area, and save people who might be stuck there which includes escape routes or any other things that might also help me survive that place. I know that its still rather vague but I cant make it more detailed than this. Although Im heading to Mihazono ruin right now, its not like I have any particular destination at the moment after all.”
After listening to everything that Akira just said, which did not make much sense, Carol thought for a bit and said.
“Well, even if you tell me so, I have no plans to get into trouble with you. After all, we need to decide a lot of things too, like how am I going to send that information to you, or how accurate it is, or how are we going to decide on the price of the information, right I can sell you the map of Mihazono ruin that I have right now, but it might not be in a format that you can open, Ive also added some notes to that map, and some part of it is even encrypted. In the first place, I never make a copy of any important information like the one that I taught you yesterday except inside my brain.”
Akira was convinced by what Carol said to him. As in matter of fact, now that he thought about it, it was completely understandable. The reason why he did not think about putting that in his explanation was because Alpha and Shizuka always interpreted his vague questions or requests so he did not have to explain everything.
Alpha always stayed beside Akira and understood what he was trying to say, while Shizuka always came up with a good rifle that was close to what he was looking for although he only gave Shizuka a vague description. Akira thought that he might have gotten too used to it, as he reflected on that and felt thankful to Alpha and Shizuka.
Akira had no time to slowly talk about it with Carol, thus he immediately gave up on that idea and said.
“…Youre right. Just forget what I said, sorry to have called you so early. Later then.”
When Akira was about to close the call, Carol suddenly interjected.
“Wait for a sec, are you really going to just end the call Just wait for a bit.”
“Let me get this straight, youre going to Mihazono ruin again, which means you might have to go to a dangerous place. As a matter of fact, theres a good chance that youll have to go to the Seranthal building again, thats why youre looking for any information about Mihazono ruin that would help you survive that place, right”
Carol sounded slightly amused as she made a suggestion.
“In that case then, how about hiring me Lets say, how about 10,000,000 Aurum If you end up having to use information that is worth more than that, we can talk about the price later. So, what do you think I think its a pretty good offer.”
Akira was a little bit surprised by that unexpected offer from Carol. But he immediately questioned back without showing any confusion nor hesitation.
“Im driving my vehicle through the Kugamayama city lower district right now, can we meet up in a few minutes”
“Sure, Im also in the lower district right now. As for the preparation… Can you give me 40 minutes”
“Im not going to be your bodyguard this time. Im not expecting you to help in fights either, but Ill still have you at least protect yourself. So dont expect me to cover you like yesterday.”
“Thats fine. Although, I would be really happy if you would protect me. But if something like that happened again, you can just subtract from my reward money. Are you okay with that”
Akira immediately replied.
“I understand, Ill hire you then. Send me where to meet up and make sure that I can reach that place with my vehicle. If you dont have any ride to go to Mihazono ruin, Ill give you a ride.”
“Ill take that offer then. Ill immediately send you where to pick me up after this, later then.”
Carols voice sounded extremely inviting before she closed the call.
Alpha then asked Akira.
“Are you sure its okay to do that before asking for Elena and Saras permission”
“Im hiring Carol myself, so Im sure that itll be okay. But well, if Elena-san and Sara-san are angry because of that, Ill just keep my distance away from them while making sure that I can immediately meet up with them when they ask me to.”
Alpha was wondering if that was even the problem, but she decided not to pursue that question. After all, if this hurts Akiras relationship with Sara and Elena, then it was a rather good turn of event for her.
“I see, well, it doesnt really matter. By the way, Carol has sent you the meet-up place. Ill take the wheel until we reach that place.”
Akira then headed to their meeting place.
Carol was taking a shower inside one of the rooms in a mansion located in the lower district. She had a nanomachine augmented body, not only it enhanced her physical abilities oriented for fighting, but it also enhanced her figure to the point that it would attract the attention of any men. And since she had spent a lot of effort and money on it, as expected, her figure was extremely seductive.
The warm water that she was showering with was not just warm water, it was even mixed with medicines that were adjusted for her body. Those medicines would heal even the smallest wound that she got from her usual lifestyle and left her with flawless glowing skin.
Carol then stepped outside the shower room and stood in front of a wall equipped with blowers which blew a strong wind to remove any water droplets left on her body. After that, she went to another room where she stored all of her clothes.
After she entered that room, Carol put on a bodysuit that stuck tight to her skin prior to putting on an augmented suit on top of it. It was an old-world augmented suit designed for women.
Although it covered all of her skin from her neck down, it had a seductive design comparable to being n.a.k.e.d. After all, the design of her augmented suit left almost nothing to imagine about what was under it.
As she was putting on her armors, fasteners, belts, and any other accessories, she also holstered her huge gun and put on her information-gathering device. She then stuffed ammo into her rucksack and carried it on her back. After she was done putting on everything, she checked her own reflection on a mirror and smiled bewitchingly. The reflection on her mirror showed a girl who could effectively work her way against both monsters and men.
“This will do… Only 10 minutes left, huh. I guess Ill hurry up, I feel like Akira would just leave me behind if Im late even for a bit.”
Carol, who more or less understood a bit of Akiras personality, smiled bitterly.
Akira was waiting for Carol in their meeting place.
The meeting place sent by Carol was located near a relatively small area in the lower district, so in short, it was a place with expensive rent. The safety in that area was maintained by a private security company that regularly patrolled the area, they checked any suspicious person in the area and disposed of them when needed. It did not even matter if that suspicious person was armed to the teeth like a Hunter. It was an area filled with people who had no problem paying for such a service.
One of the guards also asked Akira why he was there. When Akira said that he was waiting for another Hunter, the guard glanced at Akiras vehicle and equipment before leaving him alone.
It reminded Akira how much he had changed as he said to Alpha.
“If I looked like a new Hunter, I bet that guard would have shooed me, huh.”
“Well, that shows just how much youve grown as a Hunter. So lets keep this up, and for that sake, lets make sure to only take actions that would bring you profit.”
Alpha there was actually warning Akira.
“Eh Ah, right, of course.”
Akira sounded as if he was caught off guard for a sec, but immediately returned back to his usual self. He then continued as if he was trying to dodge that subject.
“Im sure its not like Elena-san is offering a request that might cause me loss instead of profit, so dont worry about that.”
“Well, thats fine if you think so. But just in case if you forget about it, youre already in red for hiring Carol for the sake of your safety, you know”
Akira nodded and firmly replied back.
Although he said so, Akira was actually placing profit in a pretty low place in his priority list. Akira unconsciously looked away from Alpha, of course, Alpha noticed that he was not really prioritizing profit this time.
Honestly speaking, Alpha actually had no problem with losing money. Her real qualm was with the fact that he decided to take action knowing that it would cause him a loss, it showed just how much Elena and Saras existence affected Akiras course of action.
But of course, if working together with Elena and Sara caused Akira a huge enough loss for him to start keeping his distance away from them, then Alpha would not have anything to complain about.
But Elena invited Akira believing that it would be a profitable request. Having a Hunter that Akira thought he was indebted to offering him a profitable request, in which he would get properly rewarded for it, Akira felt thankful and slightly delighted as it also strengthened Elenas presence in Akiras priority list.
Not too long after that, Carol showed up. When Alpha saw Carol, she thought that Carol might bring some good change to the relationship between Akira and Elena and Sara that she could look forward to.
Carol smiled at Akira and said.
“Sorry, did you wait long”
“Youre 5 minutes early, so its all good.”
Carol smiled bitterly seeing how Akira replied casually as if he was not really waiting for a girl.
“Geez, although youre meeting up with a beautiful girl like me… Can you get a bit more excited and give me a more normal reply”
“Im sorry, Im bad with common sense. Im still working on that one though. Well, just hop on.”
Carol put her rucksack on the back of Akiras vehicle and sat on the driver assistants seat. Akira then immediately turned on his vehicle and stepped on the gas.
Akira and Carol once again headed to Mihazono ruin. Although Akira did try to contact Elena and Sara while he was still within the reception area of Kugamayama city, he could not get any connection at all. Since there was nothing he could do about it, he just sent a text message saying that he hired a Hunter who knew well about Mihazono ruin before driving outside the citys reception area.
Akira was driving his vehicle toward Mihazono ruin at a high speed through the dark wasteland. At that rate, he would be able to reach Mihazono ruin before the sun rose.
On their way, Akira explained the current situation to Carol. After understanding what was going on, Carol looked a bit surprised as she said.
“I get whats going on here, but are you sure youre okay bringing me along”
Akira then replied.
“That would be for Elena-san and Sara-san to decide. If they dont want me to bring along someone that they dont know, well be moving separately. And since I cant get in contact with them, we havent decided on how to divide the reward. I have no plans to make you work more than as a guide, but if youre planning to receive a reward from someone else, you better properly do your work for the reward that youre receiving.”
Carol smiled bitterly since Akiras answer was not exactly answering her question.
[Well, its true that its also important, but… Im actually asking him if its okay for him to bring another girl when hes going to meet up with a girl. Well, I guess its true that being a Hunter has nothing to do with gender. Or is that he thinks its better than bringing another guy with him Either way, Im working for Akira this time, so I guess that has nothing to do with my gender.]
Akira was the one hiring her and bringing her with him, so all the responsibilities lie on him.
As a matter of fact, that gave Carol an excuse to just dump the responsibility to Akira in case anything happened. She smiled confidently as she thought so.
“Its fine, Im actually used to that kind of negotiation after all.”
Carol smiled as if there was nothing to worry about, Akira saw that and thought that it should be fine. So then he moved to his next question.
“But still, after all that happened yesterday, I didnt think you would accept to be my guide. We might have to go to the Seranthal building again, you know”
“I can say the same to you too, right After all, it seemed that you too had a hard time yesterday.”
Akira sounded as if he was trying to evade that question as he said.
“About that… Well, isnt it fine Im planning to meet up with some powerful Hunters today, so I just thought that it should be fine this time.”
Although he was not lying, that was not his main reason. Moreover, it did not seem like Akira was heading to the Mihazono ruin against his will. Carol at least noticed that much. Not to mention, this time, Akira was going to meet up with other female Hunters. It made her want to make a lot of guesses, but judging from how Akira treated her yesterday, she decided to hold back her imagination.
One thing for sure, Akira was someone who did not react that much to seduction. If he was someone with a strong desire, he would not have treated Carol the way he treated her yesterday. Or at least, that was what Carol thought.
“I see. As for me, the reason why I accepted your request to be your guide is because I know I can handle the situation like yesterday as long as I properly prepare my equipment. Yesterday, I only carried equipment designed for stealth and avoided fights. After all, its a ruin that I know well. But I admit I was careless.”
Akira looked at Carol and scanned her equipment. The augmented suit that she was using this time looked better and stronger than the one that she was using yesterday.
“Wouldnt it have been better if you used this augmented suit yesterday too”
“This one has a pretty high consumption rate, you see. If I use it all the time, itll definitely affect my profit. If I know that its a relic that I can just sneakily take out, I would rather carry a lighter set of equipment like yesterday. I know its important to make sure that youre ready for the unexpected like what happened yesterday. But if you use that as a standard every time you go out, it will cause you a loss, then it would be meaningless, right But this time, not only did you say that you would pay me, but you also said that theres a big battle going on in the Mihazono ruin. Thats why Im bringing these equipment set this time just to be safe.”
Akira was convinced by that explanation as he nodded.
“I see, its true that its important to watch out for that kind of expense.”
Akira looked closely at Carols equipment, to be more precise, he was looking at her augmented suit. But of course, her beautiful figure also got into his views when he did that.
When Carol saw Akira looking closely at her, she changed her pose as if she was showing her body to him. She then smiled seductively as she was watching carefully for any reaction from Akira.
“If youre interested in my body, feel free to ask about my side job and I can give you a good taste of it.”
Akira was at loss for a moment since he did not understand the meaning behind Carols words, but it did not take long for him to finally realize it. He then asked her a question.
“…Hmmm Ah, no, thats not what I meant. I just thought of something when I saw that augmented suit, is that augmented suit from the old-world”
Carols mood turned sour since it seemed that Akira was actually not interested in her body at all.
“Nope, its not. Why do you think it is”
“I just thought that it has a similar design to an old-world battle suit that I once saw in the past. But I guess Im mistaken, huh”
“Well, its true that the designer of this augmented suit used an old-world design as a base. This kind of image is important in business after all.”
“Ohh, I see.”
Akira answered back casually. But there was something in that short exchange that caught Carols interest, so she then asked Akira a question.
“By the way, Akira, old-world battle suit can cost way more than a common tank, you know. So where exactly did you get to see one”
Akira was caught off guard. As far as he could remember, it was from the old-world battle suit that he saw Alpha using multiple times in the past. But of course, he could not say that to Carol.
“….I dont really remember. Maybe its somewhere in the network.”
“But it sounded as if you saw a real one and not only from an image though”
“Thats just your imagination.”
“Is that so”
Akira thought that he was able to successfully trick Carol, but of course, Carol knew better than that.
[…Im 100% sure he actually saw a real one. Not to mention that hes that powerful although hes still so young, this boy is a really mysterious boy. I guess Ill try asking the Hunters that were going to meet later.]
Carol then returned her pose and looked at the wasteland that was still shrouded in darkness. Although she only met Akira yesterday, his skills, power, experience, and that conversation just now, made her curious. There was no doubt in her mind that Akira was an intriguing boy. But of course, if she just normally asked him about that, Akira would not tell her anything.
[Im sure I can get him to tell me a lot of things on top of a bed, but unfortunately enough, hes not interested at all.]
Carol slightly smiled when she thought about it.
Alpha then warned Akira.
“Akira, if you think that you were able to evade that question, youre sadly mistaken, okay”
“W-well, its true that its not like Ive ever seen a real one though. So that excuse should be just fine.”
“Its true that she would not know about my existence from that answer and I think she wont be able to infer that you can connect to the old-world domain from it too. But I can guarantee you that it piqued her interests on you even more. So be sure to be careful not to say anything careless to Carol.”
Alpha smiled satisfied when she got that straight answer from Akira.
“Leaving that aside, Akira, if youre interested in old-world battle suits, I can put it on as many times as you want. Maybe something like this”
As she said that, Alphas appearance changed into an old-world battle suit.
The battle suit that Alpha used, was made of a thin material that stuck really close to her skin and thus pronouncing her body line. There were some strange openings on that battle suit where Alphas skin could peek out. Some parts of that augmented suit had a strange-looking material that looked like it was made of metal or rubber. A type of glowing material was mixed into its fabric which made it look as if Alpha was surrounded by a wall of light.
The battle suit seemed like it was not designed for functionality in the first place. Moreover, unless the one wearing it was already used to old-world design, they would need extra courage to even just put that battle suit on. But even so, it was obvious that it was far more advanced than the current battle suit. After all, it was an old-world battle suit.
Alpha was smiling seductively in that battle suit, which made her look even more charming than being n.a.k.e.d. Moreover, her beautiful face and charming figure were the results of reconstructing Akiras preference. Although it was true that Akira had already gotten used to all kinds of attires that Alpha would use, it was all only under certain situations like when they were in the middle of a fight or a training session. In those situations, Akira had built up a level of resistance to the point that he was able to ignore it. But on the other hand, it also meant that unless he was in those particular situations, Akira would still show some level of reaction.
Akira looked away from Alpha who was on the opposite side of where Carol was sitting. His face turned stiff to hide his embarrassment as he returned his eyes to the front. He sounded irritated as he said.
“…Can you at least do that later”
“Sure, its for later then.”
Alpha was smiling mischievously watching how Akira reacted to her attire.