Kadol was lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood in the middle of the slum city, he was dying. His wound was fatal, there was no way to save his life. The other three who were Shijimas men were already dead.
“…Why… I always… Got involved… With these… Strong brats…”
If he had not met Akira that day, he might have not been in this situation right now. He replayed the flashbacks of everything that happened that had led him to this ending. His expression was filled with grudge and frustration as he breathed his last breath.
Katsuyas group had an overwhelming victory. None in his group was wounded. After the shooting stopped, the area was so silent that it was even felt strange. Everyone in the area had run away far enough that their scream and curses did not reach that place, either that or they also got killed during that shootout.
Both Katsuya and Yumina, who still had some reservations against killing other people, had a pained look on their faces. Alna was cowering on the ground and shaking in fear. While Airis expression was as flat as usual as she calmly scanned her surroundings.
“Katsuya, I cant confirm what happened to the boy who shot those shots from the alley. Is it better if we go and check on him too”
“In that case, we should leave this place as soon as possible, we caused too much ruckus in this area.”
“Y-Youre right, lets go.”
“We should hurry up, it might be a good idea to never come to this place again.”
Airi readied her rifle and made sure that the area was safe as if she was escorting an important person. When Katsuya and Yumina extended their hands towards Alna to help her get up, she suddenly jumped and hugged Katsuya.
“Alna, can you walk”
Alna did not say anything back, she kept clinging on Katsuya and just nodded. Katsuya started to walk while Alna was still clinging on him. Yumina and Airi frowned, they looked slightly jealous when they saw that, but they kept watching their surroundings while having a conflicted expression plastered on their faces.
Tiol was swaying left and right as he walked through the alley. He was badly wounded and bleeding pretty badly. The blood dripping from his wound painted a red line on the ground. It was by pure luck that he did not get killed when Airi shot back at him. He was barely able to get out from that place alive thanks to the armour that he was using and the fact that he immediately ran away after he made that shot. And to top it off, Airi was only spreading bullets randomly without aiming exactly at him.
Tiol kept on walking through the alley with his fading consciousness, but it did not take long for him to hit his limit as he collapsed into the ground. He did not have the power to push himself back up. Both his consciousness and his life were fading away. In the middle of the terror that he felt from the approaching death due to the bleeding, he could see through his blurry vision someone walking toward him. He then heard a mans voice.
“Hm If Im not mistaken, youre from Sheryls gang, right”
Tiol squeezed out his voice to beg for help.
Tiol knew that man was Yatsubayashi.
“Ahhh, If Im not mistaken, youre that boy, right The one who took those attackers into Sheryls base The guys that I treated were complaining about you. I dont know what happened to you, but youre not looking good at all there.”
“I dont mind fixing you, but just how much do you think that would take Can you really pay for it Or is it that Sheryl will pay for it”
“That doesnt sound like a yes.”
Tiol was filled with hopelessness. Looking at that, Yatsubayashi lightly smiled and amusedly asked him a question.
“In this case, since you cant pay for the treatment fee, it wont be a treatment, but an experiment. I wont force you to take it though”
“I-Ill t-take it.”
Tiol was barely able to squeeze out his answer and immediately fainted after that. Yatsubayashi did not panic at all, he lightly smiled and said.
“We have a deal then.”
Yatsubayashi took out a syringe from within his pocket and injected its content into Tiols neck. The syringe was filled with a glowing green liquid and that liquid was injected into Tiols body.
“Dont worry. I can still save your life. Were both lucky here, dont you think so”
Yatsubayashi was indeed lucky to find Tiol in that situation, but that might not exactly be the case for Tiol, or at least, it was still unclear if he was really lucky or not for meeting Yatsubayashi there.
Sheryl was giving Akira a short report from what he asked her to do. The reason why she was being nervous was because of the contents of the report. It was about Alna and it seemed to be immensely annoying Akira. And to top it off, it was a bad news.
Sheryl was not able to find Alna, and according to Violas report, a fight had happened over Alna that resulted in some dead bodies. Sheryl was giving her report in fear.
“…So then, we dont know where that Alna went.”
Akiras mood was a bit worse than usual. In reality, it was not because he was angry at Sheryl and her gang. But that was enough for Sheryl to think that Akira was disappointed since she was not able to give any good news.
“Im really sorry for not being able to be of any help.”
“Dont worry about that. Like I said before, that girl has a strong Hunter backing her. Its dangerous, so you guys can stop looking for her. In the worst-case scenario, that Hunter might get his eyes on you guys after all. In the first place, I wasnt expecting you to do anything about those Hunters.”
There was a fight over Alna, getting Sheryl and her gang involved in this matter might be dangerous. As Akira thought so, he said that in consideration for Sheryls gang.
But Sheryl interpreted Akiras words as if he was saying that he did expect right from the start that Sheryls gang would not be able to be any of use.
“Well do our best to be useful to you next time.”
Akira smiled wryly.
“Next time, huh. Honestly speaking, I dont want to get my wallet picked again though.”
Akira interpreted Sheryls words in a bad meaning and went on to admonish himself, Sheryls face went pale as she flusteredly said.
“I-Im really sorry, that wasnt what I meant…”
“Hm Ahh, its just that I interpreted that in the wrong way. Sorry, Ill be relying on you again if something comes up.”
Akira realized that his mood was worse than he had thought. He then took some deep breaths and told himself that it was his own mistake and that he should not cause more trouble than he should as he forced himself to calm down.
A notice suddenly reached Akiras information terminal. When he checked its content, his mood immediately brightened.
“Sheryl, I have something to do, so Ill take my leave for today. Just call me if anything comes up.”
“Okay… Uhmmm, is it okay to ask what is this something that you need to do”
Sheryl tried to act casual when she asked that question, but since it was able to fix Akiras mood in one go, her curiosity and insecurity were leaking out.
Akira did not notice Sheryl was looking at him as if she was clinging to him, he just lightly replied to her.
“My orders just arrived, so Im just going to pick them up.”
He then took a short pause before he said apologetically.
“Ahh, by the way, Im sorry, I might not be able to come here that often after this. I need to return back to my Hunter job after all.”
“…I see, thats really unfortunate, but it cant be helped. I would be really happy if you can come when youre free.”
“Well, compared to before, I might come here more often though.”
Sheryl forced herself to smile while Akira just casually said so. The difference in their feeling toward each other was in full view there.
Sheryl accompanied Akira all the way to the bases entrance before returning back to her private room. Now that shes alone in her room, she looked slightly desperate and sad at the same time, but then she shook her head and said to herself.
“…No, letting myself get depressed wont fix my situation. I need to calm down and think about my next plan. I dont want Akira to abandon me after all, right”
Sheryl was able to get a peek at Akiras cliques not too long ago, and because of that, she lost her calm. Akira was acquainted with many girls, and most of those girls were beautiful. So Sheryl could not help but to get suspicious.
Carols attire and attitude were both tailored to seduce the opposite sex. And it seemed that Akira enjoyed talking to her. Then she also heard from Erio and the other children that Akira was visited by some high-class-looking girls in the middle of their training. The two maids and the girl who visited Akira seemed to be more than just acquaintances.
And the person that cheered Akira up in one go was probably also a girl. She remembered that Wataba said something right before Akira shot him dead and it was supposed to be about a girl who worked in a weapon shop.
Unfortunately enough, Akiras interest in the opposite sex was extremely low, or at least that was what Sheryl had always thought. But thanks to that, she also thought that she could take her time to build up trust. But the girls that kept appearing next to Akira erased that thought.
Sheryl started to think that it might be simply because she did not have enough charm. Her men would be surprised if they heard that, but she started to doubt herself there.
Sheryl tried to keep her calm while thinking of what to do from here and on, unfortunately, she could not come up with any good idea. Right when she was stuck in her thought, someone suddenly knocked on the door. It somehow immensely irritated her as she shouted at the door.
“Didnt I tell you to save it for later unless its something important!”
Erio who was on the other side of the door flinched.
“Someone by the name of Colbert came, he said its something about that pickpocket, should I tell him to leave”
Sheryl calmly took a deep breath. Although Akira told her that it was okay not to get involved any longer, it was not something that she could just ignore.
“…Take him to the guest room, Ill be there in a few minutes.”
Sheryl realized just how much she had lost her calm listening to Erio who stepped away quickly. She then brought her hand to her chest and took a few deep breaths to calm down.
Colbert and Sheryl were sitting facing each other in the guest room. Sheryl had Erio and Alicia behind her while some of her men were also standing by in the room.
Erio and the other children seemed nervous. It was not only because Sheryl seemed to be in a bad mood earlier, even Colbert also seemed to be in a bad mood too.
Sheryl looked suspiciously at Colbert and said.
“I heard that its about that pickpocket, so, why exactly did you come to this place”
“Actually, the one who has some business with you is not me.”
“What do you mean by that…”
Colbert took out his information terminal and put it in front of confused Sheryl. Violas voice then came out from that information terminal.
“Its me, Im sorry that I have to speak with you like this.”
Sheryl did not have a good impression of Viola, so she frowned when she heard Violas voice.
“…Shouldnt you be able to give me a call or something”
“Thats because Im a rather paranoid person. Its because of my job, you see. And it would be stupid to demand you to have a special secure line just for my sake. So then, its actually an important subject though, if there are people around you whom you dont want to listen to this conversation, can you tell them to leave the room first”
“It depends on what are we going to talk about.”
“It would be too late if I tell you now. I hope you can understand how much trouble this subject is from the fact that Im speaking to you like this.”
Sheryl thought for a bit before she sent a glance to the other children in the room, signalling them to leave. Colbert who saw the other people leaving the place then said to Viola.
“Viola, Ill leave too.”
“Oh Im okay with you listening though.”
“You didnt say dont leave either.”
Colbert stood up and was about to leave following the other people in the room, but before he left, he warned Sheryl.
“Be careful, that girl is one crafty witch. She can casually bring up something herself just to make her negotiation opponent refuse it, and thats also true for the opposite case.”
“Oh my, thats pretty cruel of you considering that youre working for me.”
“I dont want to be responsible for tricking Akiras lover without even realizing it. I have nothing to do with this, okay”
Colbert then left the room after he said that to both Viola and Sheryl.
Sheryl looked intensely at the information terminal and carefully said.
“So then, what is it”
“To put it short, its about to reconcile with you. In order to do that, I have a good news for you.”
“Yup. I was originally planning to capture that pickpocket and bring her to Akira to make up for my mistake, you see. But unfortunately, it ended up in a failure. And since I cant think of anything that I can offer to Akira, I thought that at least I can do something for his lover. Its also my way of apologizing to Akira, so theres no need to worry. I wont do anything funny since itll only worsen Akiras mood.”
That was enough of a reason for Sheryl to accept that explanation which also caused her to lower her guard.
“Very well, lets hear it.”
Viola could notice that subtle change in Sheryls tone as she happily continued her explanation.
After Akira left Sheryls base, he immediately headed to Shizukas shop. He looked quite happy as he was filled with expectation.
“I can finally return back to my Hunter job, huh. Alpha, what should we do after this Are we going to look for undiscovered ruin again using that information we still have from the Lion Steel corporations information terminal I dont mind doing that, but I think it might be a good idea to go to Kuzusuhara ruin again, you know”
Alpha casually replied.
“If you want to do that, then sure, but can you at least tell me your reason”
“Well, theres this knife that I found in Kuzusuhara ruin before, right That one that I used to cut the wall after I destroyed its safety device. I just think that it might be a good idea to keep one of those things as a trump card in case of emergency, and it should not be that difficult for me to look for that relic in Kuzusuhara ruin after I get my new equipments, right”
Alpha smiled inquisitively at him and brought her face close to his.
“Is that all”
Akira winced back a bit.
“Even if you say so… Well, its just simply that I dont have much relics left and I want to get more relics to sell… Uhhh, is it a bad thing to go to Kuzusuhara ruin right now”
Alphas smile returned to her usual one as she jokingly said to Akira.
“Nope, there shouldnt be any problem. Its just that I want to warn you in case you are getting ahead of yourself since you are getting new equipments. I thought that you wanted to go back to Kuzusuhara ruin in order to fight those monsters that you ran away from before, and the autonomous weapons that you had to fight after ignoring my instruction just to wash clean the stain in your record.”
Akira smiled bitterly. He was about to get killed back then by a huge camouflaged monster since he ignored Alphas instruction. He remembered that the cannon of that monster was able to easily demolish buildings around him as he was running away from that monster.
“Alright alright, Im sorry about that. I wont do something like that again.”
“Now that I think about it, that was a good chance for you to change your way of thinking.”
“Im sorry, okay I did follow all of your instructions since then, right So just drop it already, will you”
Akira had already moved on from that incident to the point that he could just laugh it off when he reminisced about it. He did regret his action there, but he did not let it weigh him down. So Alpha just smiled and let that slide too.
And when Akira thought that he had grown since that time, a question suddenly came up in his mind.
“Well, its true that Ive gotten stronger since then, but like, can you tell me about your request in more detail Ah, but if telling me will only discourage me, then Im okay with not knowing it.”
“Unfortunately enough, I cant tell you anything. Its a bit complicated from my side too, like those limiters and TOS.”
Akira thought that he had become quite strong since then and believed that it would not be strange if he was strong enough to go to the particular ruin that Alpha wanted him to go to. But it seemed that was not the case. He seemed to be a bit down there, seeing that, Alpha made a suggestion to him instead.
“But well, its true that youve grown stronger. So I guess its fine telling you about relatively safe places for your current strength, huh. Once you can defeat that huge monster and those autonomous weapons on your own, Ill at least consider starting the subjugation of the ruin that I want you to explore for real.”
“Those monsters On my own Without your support”
“Yep, without my support at all.”
“No no no, isnt that too high of a hurdle. Wasnt it impossible for me to defeat those monsters even with your support”
“Well, you would need at least that much power, you see. I hope you now can understand why I didnt tell you the details of my request back then.”
“Yeah, I understand it clearly now. Geez, I still have a long way to go, huh”
Indeed if Alpha told Akira about it back then, he would have dismissed it right away thinking that it would be an impossible thing. But when he thought about it, he once again realized how much he had grown since he now believed that it was not completely impossible.
“But still, I at least got a good gist of how far my goal is, huh.”
Akiras face was not filled with mockery, instead, it was filled with confidence and excitement. Looking at that, Alpha smiled and cheered for him.
“It seemed that completing my request has been shifted from utterly impossible to extremely difficult. Once its changed into a risky exploration, Ill tell you the location of the ruin. Well only start exploring the ruin for real once you have a good chance to come back alive.”
“I see. Ill also give my best without getting too reckless. Ill be in your care until then.”
“Of course, just leave it to me. Ill be in your care too.”
Akira smiled faintly at Alpha while she smiled confidently at him, expressing their trust in each other. But Akiras expression immediately turned sour when he saw Katsuya in front of him.
It was rare for Katsuya to be moving alone that day, and when they noticed each other, their faces turned stern. Their inner feelings were expressed right on their faces.
Akira only looked at Katsuya as a troublesome guy with a mix of irritation, but that was all there was to it. Akiras hatred was solely directed at Alna who stole his wallet and got away. Compared to that, Akiras hostility toward Katsuya was close to nonexistent. As a matter of fact, it was small enough to the point that Akira could keep his calm thinking that Katsuya was also a victim who got tricked by Alna.
“Akira, calm down, okay Although I wont tell you not to fight him and Ill even give you my support this time, you should be able to get an easier and safer victory once you get your new equipments. So I hope that you would not throw away the better winning chance. Not to mention that its a bad place for a fight too. This isnt the place where you can freely fight without any repercussion like in the slum city.”
“I know. In the first place, its not like I have any grudge against him anyway.”
Akira leaned to one side of the road as if he deliberately took a detour to avoid Katsuya and kept walking past Katsuya. That action was also showing that he had no wish to cause a commotion with Katsuya there.
But Katsuya ignored that gesture. When Akira was about to pass him, he walked straight in front of Akira and stopped him with a stern face.
Katsuyas face was clearly expressing hostility against Akira, his voice also contained the intimidation and the commanding power of a Hunter.
Now that Akiras way forward was blocked by Katsuya, he looked at Katsuya annoyedly and said.
“Stop messing with Alna! To think that you would even pay some people to bring her to you, do you really think Ill back off just because you did that”
“Pay people What do you mean”
“Stop playing dumb. I know that you offered 20,000,000 Aurum for surrendering Alna, whats the big idea here, huh”
“Seriously though, what are you even talking about”
Akira seemed to be honestly confused, so Katsuya who thought that it was all Akiras fault started to question his own guess.
“…Back in the slum city, about 4 or 5 people who looked like Hunters came to me and told me that theyll give me 20,000,000 Aurum if I surrender Alna. That wasnt your doing Werent you the one who told them to look for Alna”
“Its true that I asked some people that I know to tell me if they spot Alna somewhere, but like hell I would pay them 20,000,000 Aurum for finding her. I never promised them money. In the first place, who in their right mind would pay 20,000,000 Aurum just for a pickpocket”
Katsuya reeled back from Akiras logical argument. Akira sighed, stepped aside, and walked past Katsuya. When he did that, Katsuya immediately returned back to himself, turned around, and yelled at Akira again.
“…Wait!! Im not done yet!”
“What now You have no more business with me, right I dont know whats going on, but one thing for sure, its your misunderstanding. I have nothing to do with whatever youre facing.”
Akira did think that it might be Viola and Shijimas gang. But he then thought that it was absurd for them to offer 20,000,000 Aurum for something like that and ruled out the possibility. So he was sure that it was Katsuyas misunderstanding.
Katsuya then shouted.
“That might have nothing to do with you, but that doesnt change the fact that youre targeting her!!”
“Yeah, so what”
“Just keep your hands off her. If you do anything to her, I wont forgive you.”
“I see, got it.”
Akira casually replied as if it was nothing. Katsuya was doubtful of that answer, so he asked Akira one more time.
“So, you wont do anything to mess with her anymore, huh”
Akira then replied with the exact same casual tone as before.
“Nah, Ill kill her if I find her.”
Katsuya was so surprised his face was tinted with the colour of anger.
“…Do you think that Im joking here”
Akiras expression suddenly turned serious, he sent a sharp gaze filled with hostility toward Katsuya.
“I was only answering your question. Or more like, right back at you, are you being serious here You wont forgive me Do you really think I need your permission to kill the pickpocket who stole the money that I gathered by risking my life Or does it mean that youll kill me if I dont stop In that case, I get it, I dont want to die after all.”
Katsuya was suspicious since Akira said something that sounded as if he just obediently accepted Katsuyas demand. But Akiras next words completely wiped off his suspicion.
“Thats why youll have to die too.”
Both of them looked at each other with hostility, the only reason why they did not pull out their rifles yet was simply because both of them knew it was not a good idea to fight there.
“Last time, I backed off because the difference in our fighting power was too large. But dont expect me to back off again next time.”
Alpha exasperatedly warned Akira.
“Akira, stop provoking him, okay”
“Im just answering his questions. I dont want him to misunderstand, after all. I know its bad to fight here, and I have no plans to fight him here. So lets just slowly step away like last time.”
Seeing Akira slowly stepping away, Katsuya mocked him.
“Humph, youre nothing but talk. In the end, youre still going to run away, huh”
“Its not like I have any reasons to kill you right here right now after all. If you want it so much, you can go ahead and point your rifle at me, that would make things way simpler and I would be happy to oblige.”
Although both of them were just young boys, both of them were properly armed as Hunters. People around the area started putting some distance from them. In contrast to that, people who were there from the private security company and were stationed there to stand guard in the area started checking what was going on. If either Katsuya or Akira reached for their rifles, it would be their own fault if the guards there shot them dead.
If Katsuya raised his rifle, Akira would be able to say that it was out of self-defense. The guards would then focus on apprehending Katsuya instead. And this time Alpha would also give her support. Even if he got caught off-guard, Akira should still be able to fight back. Akiras intention was fully conveyed in his gaze and Katsuya fully understood it as he clicked his tongue.
The guards in the area started to slowly but surely approach Katsuya and Akira to check if it was only a quarrel between Hunters or that they needed to defuse the situation with force. That was when 2 Hunters approached Akira and Katsuya, those two Hunters were Sara and Elena.
Elena raised her voice as if she was scolding them.
“Akira, Katsuya, what do you think youre doing in this place”
When Katsuya and Akira heard Elenas voice, the tension between them suddenly died down as both of them lowered their guard and looked in Elenas direction with a troubled face.
Akira was not sure what to do there, so Alpha made a suggestion to him.
“Akira, lets use this chance when hes focused on Elena to withdraw from this place.”
Akira hesitated to leave that place without giving his side of explanation of what was going on to Elena and Sara. But Alpha then said to him with a serious face.
“Are you going to get them involved in case if something happened in this place”
The fastest and most effective method to make sure not to cause a commotion there was for Akira to get away from that place. He himself knew that much. Although he hated the idea of leaving that place as if he was running away, for him, it was thousands of times better than getting Sara and Elena involved. As he finally reached his decision, he lightly bowed to Elena and Sara and said.
“Im sorry, but I have an urgent business to take care of.”
Elena was taken aback, but when she tried to stop him, Akira quickly left the place. Sara also did not expect that from Akira as she looked obviously surprised. While Katsuya only glared at him as Akira walked away.
Elena and Sara were actually there to see what was going on since they spotted two Hunters whom they were familiar with confronting each other. If they caused a ruckus there, it would definitely cause them a lot of trouble later. Both of them were Hunters, if they fought there, it would definitely cause big damage to the area and the common people around them. If it was something that they could stop, Elena and Sara were thinking of stopping them, but now, one of them had run away.
Since it was not like they could do anything about Akira who was leaving the place, they decided to ask what was going on to the one that was still present. Sara then casually asked Katsuya.
“It seemed like you were having a fight there, what happened”
Sara smiled gently. There was no trace of reprimanding in her voice, it seemed that she was genuinely curious. She deliberately did so to calm down Katsuya as well as to express her wish that it was not anything big.
But although Katsuya was able to calm down to some extent, he then answered with anger.
“I was stopping that guy from killing my friend.”
Elena and Sara frowned and looked at each other. It was a bigger issue than Elena had thought. Elena then made a stern face and spoke to Katsuya as if she was having a serious discussion with him.
“Can you tell us the details”
Katsuya nodded and explained what happened to Elena and Sara, of course, his explanation was biased and mostly mixed with his personal guesses. Elena and Saras expression obviously turned cloudy when they heard his explanation.-