Akira was standing inside a white space. Every time he got such a dream, he felt that he had seen a similar dream before as well, but he always forgot about it when he woke up, together with everything that happened inside that dream.
Akiras consciousness was still hazy as he saw 2 Alphas talking to each other.
The Alpha near Akira sounded a bit annoyed when she said.
“Couldnt you at least do something about it”
The Alpha further away from Akira casually replied.
“Unlike you, I dont have the proper permission. Thats why I cant do much external interference to guide his action. To be honest, since you have the proper permission, I was hoping that you would have done something about it from your side.”
“Its not that easy on my side, you know.”
“Is that so”
“Yes, it is.”
Both Alphas were staring at each other without saying anything for some time. The closer Alpha then lightly sighed.
“Well, it doesnt really matter now, so, why did you suddenly change your original plan”
“Originally, I was planning to lessen the number of people around the subject in order to increase the effectiveness of my guidance, and when someone around the subject gets fatally wounded, it would affect the psychic of the subject greatly to further push him to prefer to work alone. However, considering how the special characteristic of the subject affects the result, I decided that it was impossible to proceed with the original plan to make the subject less conspicuous and act more separated from the other Hunters. As such, I changed my plan which is basically the opposite of my original plan.”
“Are you sure that will be okay”
“This is basically an experiment, whether it would work or not, this will give good data that will also be useful for you.”
“I see. You can just do anything you want as long as you dont interrupt me. After all, it would be a disaster if we both failed because of that.”
“I cant agree more with you.”
Akiras consciousness started to fade. The world was blanketed in darkness again as his dream came to an end. As Akira was pulled out from that dream with a hazy mind, he saw the silhouette of someone that he might recognize. It might be just his imagination, but he noticed that person was glaring at him.
Akira then opened his eyes, Alpha welcomed him with a smile.
“Good morning, Akira.”
“Yeah, good morning to you too…”
Akira pulled his body up from his bed and looked at Alpha as if there was something that was bothering him. Alpha frowned and asked.
“…No, its nothing, its just that I feel like I saw you in my dream…”
“Oh my, thats an honour.”
“But I feel like there were multiple Alphas…”
Alpha smiled mischievously.
“Oh my, you need more than one of me Should I multiply myself”
Alpha enhanced Akiras vision and produced multiple images of herself inside Akiras room. The overwhelmingly many Alphas inside Akiras vision were all wearing different attires and were smiling at him.
Akiras face turned to an obvious annoyance.
“Stop it, one is more than enough.”
“Is that so Well, either way, I do feel happy if one is enough.”
Akiras vision returned back to normal. He looked obviously unhappy with what Alpha did there, but Alpha just ignored it as she was smiling like usual.
After what happened, Akira completely forgot the thing that was bothering him just now.
3 Hunters were walking in the slum of Kugamayama city. Although their equipment varied from each other, they did not look weird together. They did not look like former Hunters, and they did not look exceptionally strong either. They looked like one of those common Hunters in the eastern district. They were Colbert, Hazawa and Revin. After they grabbed their respective equipment, they headed to the slum city instead of the wasteland.
Revin looked rather confused and asked Colbert a question.
“So, still how long exactly do I need to roam around this area”
“Just calm down. There are steps to take for this kind of thing, you cant just rush it. I only accompanied you here because you asked me, you know Im here to help you handle those pain in the neck negotiations for you. So if things go well, youll have to treat me tonight, you hear me”
Revin seemed a bit overwhelmed by that response.
“Alright alright, I get it already. But can you at least tell me where are we going to or what are we actually looking for If things go well, Ill treat you to anything you want, whether its food, or beer, or girls. But just so you know, I dont have the money to treat you if my request and your plan dont go well. Im sure you at least know that much. So Im really counting on you, okay”
Colbert just laughed.
“Yeah, I know. Even for me, I actually dont want to go to someone that I know is a debt collector. But of course, its a completely different case if the time has come.”
Colberts smile was also saying that there would not be any mercy when the time came. Revins face twitched.
Hazawa who listened to that sounded a bit confused as he threw a question to Revin.
“Wait, isnt it that 400,000 Aurum debt that Katsuragi guy already took over from you So like, Colbert has nothing to do with it anymore, right In the first place, if its only 400,000 Aurum, you should be able to earn that much money in no time, so, you still havent repaid that, huh”
But Revin hesitantly replied.
“…Uhh, its 4,000,000 Aurum.”
“…I borrowed 2,000,000 Aurum from the company where Colbert is working.”
Hazawa looked at Revin with both exasperation and amazement. Colbert just smiled wryly. Revin awkwardly looked away as not to make any eye contact. Hazawa then said to Revin.
“What in the world are you doing”
Hazawas question was completely justified, but Revin replied back with a rather harsh tone.
“Even I did not mean it to turn like this, you know!”
Revin then started explaining to Hazawa who did not understand what was going on.
When Katsuragi took over that 400,000 Aurum debt from him, Revin thought that he did check the content of the contract. The content of the contract seemed to be fine, it had a low interest and no deadline stated. Revin thought that there must be some kind of string that was attached to it, but after checking the content closely, he did not find anything like that.
To put it simply, until he finished his payment, Revin just needed to prioritize Katsuragis place when he wanted to buy ammo or medicines as well as when he wanted to sell old-world relics, and it was not compulsory even. As long as he prioritized Katsuragis shop, Katsuragi would put that into consideration for the deadline and the interest rate of his debt. That was basically the content of his contract.
The rest were just common debt agreements intended for Hunters. Things like he would not try to run to another city, or that he would properly go out to the wasteland to earn money and not just stay inside the city, or the ruins that he was allowed to go to look for relics. Basically, these conditions were to make sure that the Hunter would not try to run away from his or her debt.
When Revin made that contract with Katsuragi, he said nicely to Revin that he had no plans to get rich through debt and interest, so he really asked Revin to prioritize coming to his shop until that debt was repaid.
Revin thought that the reason Katsuragi lent him money was simply to promote Katsuragis shop, that was why Revin was fully convinced by that and signed the contract.
The real problem happened when Revin was about to go out to the wasteland again. Katsuragi used the contract to designate a certain ruin for him to gather relics.
But that ruin that Katsuragi designated was a bit outside the capability of Revins equipment. Revin was somehow able to get away using his equipment as an excuse, but then Katsuragi recommended Revin to buy some better equipment.
Katsuragi then even told Revin that it would only cause him trouble if Revin got killed, so he was willing to postpone the payment until later. Katsuragi was somehow able to talk his way to convince Revin. After all, Revin himself always wanted to get better equipment too, so he ended up taking that offer.
So then, Revin bought some new equipment, headed to the ruin, returned back with relics, and sold them to Katsuragi. The money that he made that day all went to repay his debt, but since the new equipment that Revin bought was more expensive than what he had expected, the money that he made that day was not able to make a dent in his debt.
The cycle continued as Revin bought medicines and ammo from Katsuragi, went to the ruin that Katsuragi designated, and sold the relics that he gathered to Katsuragi. His debt to Katsuragi kept increasing each time. The ruins that Katsuragi designated were ruins that the current Revin could not explore without buying better equipment and a lot of ammo, while at the same time, as long as he had the equipment that Katsuragi recommended, it was almost guaranteed that he would be able to return back alive.
Revin basically had no other choice but to buy the equipment that Katsuragi recommended to him. If he ignored the ruin designation from Katsuragi, due to the contract, Katsuragi had the right to refuse to make a compromise on the interest and the deadline of his debt. His equipment might end up getting confiscated and he had to go out to the wasteland unarmed to earn money to repay his debt.
Revin did try to sell the relics that he gathered to another place once. But unfortunately, Katsuragi found out about it and a part of his debt contract was sold to a company. There were many people who preyed on Hunters with debts. The reason why Revins debt contract ended up getting sold to the company where Colbert was working was not out of simple luck, it was because Revin desperately asked Colbert to help him out. But of course, in exchange for that favour, Revin had to carry even more debt.
Revin hung his head low as he said to Hazawa.
“At the moment, Im basically just a machine that buys equipment from Katsuragi and sells all the relics that I gather to that same Katsuragi. It would be really bad if this keeps going on.”
Colbert lightly laughed and said.
“But thanks to that, you get better equipment and become stronger by the day, isnt it Although it did not change the fact that he tricked you, it was not a bad contract, you know Its you were talking about here, even if you have some money, I bet youll just spend it on booze and women. Im not sure that you can save enough money to buy equipments yourself.”
Revin immediately raised his tone and rebutted.
“Like hell I would just let myself continue and get myself drowned in debt!! The contract even limited me to sell my relics only to Katsuragi, you know! I bet he only pays me the minimum amount of money close to the lowest market price!! Thats why I need to do something about this fast!!”
After shouting out his feelings, Revin returned to himself, he then put both of his hands on his head and sighed. No matter how much he complained, the current situation would not change. He needed to do something about it.
Hazawa told himself to never be someone like Revin as he turned to Colbert.
“So then, Colbert, why are we here Weve been wandering aimlessly around this area, its not like youre planning to rob a shop, right If thats the case, Ill take my leave here, you know.”
“Well, just be patient and wait for a bit. Its not like Ive been spending my time without going outside the city for nothing. Im pretty sure my plan is not that bad.”
Colbert had a trauma when he was about to get killed by a monster out in the wasteland, that was why he was taking a side job from money lending companies so that he did not have to go out to the wasteland. He must be pretty knowledgeable on how to earn money as a Hunter without going out too much to the wasteland.
After wandering in the slum city for a bit more, they finally arrived at their destination. It was a part of the slum city that was under Sheryls gang territory.
A young boy from Sheryls gang had opened a street stand here. It was not a rare thing for slum city residents to pick up random things that seemed to be sellable and open a street stand to sell them. Colbert was actually looking for that street stall. Colbert, Revin and Hazawa then approached that stand and browsed the goods there.
The young boy who was waiting at the stand looked at them and tried to offer the goods he was selling.
“Come come!! We have old-world relics here!!”
Revin scanned those goods and said.
“…The heck You call these things old-world relics I dont know where you got them, but arent they just junks So stop with lies, will you”
That young boy pouted.
“Im not lying!! We carried them back from an old-world ruin ourselves!!”
“Huh Which ruin Go ahead and tell me the name of the ruin if you really carried them back from an old-world ruin yourself.”
That boy flinched and could not say anything back. Revin smirked mockingly at that boy.
That young boy then asked another young boy who was waiting in the stand with him.
“…Hey, what was the name of that ruin again”
Unlike the boy who was responsible for serving the customers, the other boy had a rifle that seemed to be properly maintained. He seemed to be the one responsible for guarding the stall. That boy then replied.
“If Im not mistaken, it was Higaraka Residence Ruin.”
The boy responsible for serving the customers then proudly said to Colbert and his friends.
“See there! Its really from a ruin!! The Higaraka Residence Ruin!!”
But then Revin smiled mockingly and said.
“Higaraka Residence Ruin is already exhausted of any valuable relics not too long ago, Hunters already stopped going to that ruin for gathering relics. So any relics left there are just cheap relics, they are basically junks.”
The young boy pouted again.
“But theyre still old-world relics, you know! Relics are relics!!… If you dont plan to buy anything, then you can just go somewhere else!!”
That young boy then remembered that it was not a good idea to be too harsh on Hunters, which might cause them to get angry, so he tried to calm himself down.
Colbert saw that and tried to calm Revin.
“Whoah there, just calm down. Lets properly examine these relics first. We might find something valuable, you know”
They then took a close look at the goods displayed there. But in the end, all of them were cheap relics. None of them interested Colbert and his friends. So Colbert asked that young boy.
“They really are nothing but cheap relics though. Are you hiding the expensive relics somewhere”
“…Were not selling those kinds of relics here. After all, someone might steal them if we put them here. And even if we have them, we have no plans to sell them to anyone but good customers. Like hell well show them to someone who only came here to mock us.”
Colbert locked his gaze at that young boy, who felt a bit pressured and shrunk back.
After confirming that young boys reaction, Colbert smiled at him and said.
“How much is the total if I want to buy all the relics here”
That young boy seemed confused as he looked at Colbert and the relics in his stand. He then looked at the other boy, so the other boy answered Colberts question in his place.
“Its about 8,000 Aurum.”
Colbert handed over 10,000 Aurum to the boy in front of him, that boy got even more confused than before as he received the money. Colbert then said with a confident smile.
“You can keep the change. So there, Im a good customer now, yes”
That boy got so flustered, so the other boy who saw that just sighed and said to Colbert.
“Alright, come over here. But before that, make sure you take the relics that you just bought, okay I dont care if you want to throw them away, but dont do that here. No good customers throw away the goods that they just bought in the same shop where they bought them.”
Colbert lightly laughed.
“Roger that, ah, before that, what is your name”
Tiol answered back with a rather prickly tone.
He guided Colbert and his friends through the slum city. In the middle of that, Colbert asked Tiol a question.
“By the way, why did you say that back there”
Tiol thought for a bit before answering.
“I know that you didnt buy those relics because you wanted them, right I just thought that you would just throw them away since you dont need them and that would be troublesome for us if you do that again and again. Moreover, we were the ones who offered them to you, so if we looked at you with an unpleasant look although you properly paid, and took the relics that you bought and threw here, wont that make you angry”
“Now that you mention it, thats true. Did you think of that yourself”
“No, it was Boss order.”
“I see. But if you just ignore that order and keep the relics that we throw away for yourself, you might get some money out of it, right Im sure thats not a small amount of money to you, right”
Tiols face turned stern.
“I dont want to disobey Boss order and get myself kicked out from the gang. So stop spouting nonsense.”
“Oh, sorry about that.”
While walking behind Tiol, Colbert then thought.
[It seems that the boss has a good grip on the gang, his position in the gang is rather strong.]
Colbert smiled daringly, he was able to confirm the situation in Tiols gang.
They walked past through slum citys alleys and stopped near the back door of a relatively big building.
Tiol knocked on the back door of that building and called someone from the inside to open the door since he brought customers with him.
After Tiol went in first, he then invited Colbert and his friends to get in too. Colbert immediately went into that building, but Hazawa and Revin looked at each other and were hesitating from going in.
The old-world ruins were of course dangerous places, but the inside of an unknown building smacked in the middle of the slum city was also a dangerous place in a different meaning. Inside, they might have to fight other people instead of monsters. Monsters were indeed dangerous, but humans were dangerous enough on their own.
Colbert, who went inside first, called Revin and Hazawa.
“What are you waiting for Come in. Ive paid the entrance fees, so dont get cold feet here. Leaving Hazawa aside, Revin, what are you planning to do with your debt if you just return back without doing anything here”
Revin, who was reminded of his debt, made his resolve and went inside that building too, Hazawa then followed behind him.
Tiol guided Colbert and his friends into that building. When they arrived in a relatively big hall, they could see tables and shelves covered in white sheets, and relics were displayed on them. There were small papers near those relics with prices written on them. The walls of that room were also covered with white sheets as well as the ceilings, the room was basically covered in white.
Sheryl was standing in the middle of that room, she was wearing the dress that she received from Akira and got refitted later. Although it greatly reduced its value as an old-world relic, that dress was refitted especially for Sheryl and it boosted Sheryls beauty a few folds.
Even some who did not know much about fashion could easily recognize that it was an expensive dress and Sheryl looked perfect in it, which was rare for anyone in the slum city. No one would question it if Sheryl introduced herself as someone from the inner wall. Revin and Hazawa were so surprised when they saw that young girl who was exuding a sense of high class.
Sheryl then stepped forward gracefully and welcomed them.
“Welcome, and thank you for visiting us.”
Colbert and his friends were charmed by Sheryls smile which increased her beauty even more.
Although Colbert did not notice, Sheryl was not alone, Akira was there too. He was hiding behind the white sheet that was hanging down from the ceiling. Sheryl was the one who asked Akira to watch as a guard.
Akira was keeping his eyes on Sheryl, who was welcoming the customers and Colbert and his friends who were charmed by her. Although Colbert was still able to more or less maintain his calmness, that was not the case for Hazawa and Revin.
As Sheryl proceeded to interact with them, Revin and Hazawa became more and more attracted to her. Akira was a bit scared by that as he kept on observing the situation.
Akira remembered what happened back then in Higaraka residence ruin and asked Alpha a question.
“If Im not mistaken, something similar also happened back in Higaraka Residence ruin, right”
“Indeed. It was a Hunter by the name of Diel.”
“Right. He somehow got attracted to Sheryl and started blurting out information without realizing it, and he did not stop until Sheryl stopped him first.”
“Shes making full use of her ability to steer the conversation and give other kinds of signals with her expressions and body language. The way she speaks and the way she behaves are all calculated, I believe that shes also checking how her conversing partner reacts to her and adapts to that. Sheryl is a beautiful girl and she is wearing a dress that elevates her image even more, although shes doing this because its her business, Im sure its not like she has any bad intentions. Shes definitely slowly but surely drawing people in.”
After listening to that explanation, Akira then asked further.
“By the way, just to be safe, does she do that to me too Am I already charmed by Sheryl or something”
From the outside, Akiras action might be interpreted as such. He voluntarily became a supporter of Sheryls gang and he paid a lot of money for her dress. So Akira doubted if he was already charmed by Sheryl and always tried to keep her mood without even noticing it.
Alpha just smiled and replied.
“Dont worry. Its true that youve done a lot for Sheryl, but most of the time its out of your whim or because of your own interest. Or at least, to me, its not like youre trying hard to make Sheryl happy or anything like that.”
To be more precise, it was the opposite, Sheryl was the one trying hard to keep Akira in a good mood. The difference in Sheryl and Akiras social skills, as well as Akiras chronic anti-social tendency, caused Sheryls advances to mostly end in vain.
Akira sounded relieved as he said.
But then Alpha suddenly smiled bewitchingly.
“By the way, just to let you know, Im also doing my best to entice you here too, you know Thats why, if you want me to do anything, just tell me anytime, okay I can freely change my attire and body, if image only is enough for you, I can basically entertain you as much as you want.”
Akira looked away from Alphas gaze as if he was trying to hide his embarrassment.
Colbert and his friends were browsing the relics displayed in that room. Unlike the relics displayed in the street stall, the relics in that white room were indeed expensive relics. Colbert looked at the price written in the price tag and thought, according to his experience, they were priced a little bit higher than the usual market price.
Colbert then mumbled loudly as if he was letting Sheryl hear it.
“…Theyre not that bad, but the price is just a bit too high.”
Sheryls smile did not waver at all as she replied.
“As I explained before, theyre just the initial price, Im completely open for any bargain. Although, please direct all the bargain you want to make only to me.”
“I see, so youre one of those people who write the price that you personally want to sell, huh. Well, but its okay, I have nothing to complain for now.”
The relics displayed there were actually relics that Sheryl received from another place, they were entrusted to her. The selling method was close to an auction, if the customer did not want to buy the relic with the written price, then he or she could just offer his or her own price. And if the supplier accepted that, then the deal would be made, and if it was not accepted, then the relics would still be left with their original price. So the customers could only either wait until the price was lowered or give up buying that particular relic.
In reality, Sheryl was just acting as if she had a lot of suppliers when her real suppliers were actually just Akira and Katsuragi, both of them just left their relics to Sheryl and let her do whatever she wanted to do to sell them.
The relics were basically composed of the relics that Akira did not sell to Katsuragi and some relics that she borrowed from Katsuragi to improve the look of the place. The price written on their price tags were basically the same price that Katsuragi would put if he sold them in his shop.
Although some of the relics were borrowed from Katsuragi, Katsuragi himself would still get some profit if someone bought them at the written price. While for Akira, he did not want to get involved in deciding the price at all.
The better the price that Sheryl could get, the more money she would receive and the more money she could repay to Akira. Thus, Sheryl was trying her best to increase the prices of the relics that she was selling.
The reason why Sheryl was doing an auction-like sale was simply because she did not know the market price of the relics. Although she did some research visiting some places, she was still a complete beginner in deciding the price. So she thought that if she made it like an auction, the price would eventually gravitate to the right price.
Colbert then asked Sheryl as if he was trying to investigate something.
“But still, as I thought, theyre more expensive than the usual market price. Wont it be like no one would buy them at this price”
Sheryl replied casually with her usual smile.
“That might as well be true. The suppliers might have no wish to sell them in the first place. They might have left it in this place as a temporary warehouse since the people who left them in our care cant exactly keep them or sell them in a legitimate exchange centre. For example, those people with a huge debt who are closely monitored by their lenders and are in the middle of looking for another place to sell their relics. So if the relics are sold at that price, it would be a good thing for them, and if the relics dont sell at all, then it would be fine for them too, and if someone actually tries to bargain with the price, it might give them good data to bring up for their negotiation with the normal exchange centres.”
Sheryl locked her gaze at Colbert while smiling and tried to probe for his reaction.
Colbert felt like Sheryl was peering directly into his inner heart, but he was able to somehow maintain his calm.
Sheryl was still smiling as she continued.
“I dont understand the intention of the suppliers, but it doesnt change my job to sell the goods that they left in my care as expensive as possible. If I try to lower the price, we would have to pay for the difference ourselves. Since thats the situation that Im in, I cant give you a discount even if you try to ask me, you know”
“Thats really unfortunate.”
Colbert smiled wryly as he replied back half-jokingly.-