Akira returned back to his house first, hopped onto his vehicle and went to Shizukas shop. When he arrived, his mood had mostly returned back to normal. He went into the shop, exchanged some greetings with Shizuka, exited the shop, and then moved his vehicle next to the shops warehouse.
Shizuka opened the shutter and welcomed Akira.
“Once again, thank you very much for coming to my shop. Come, its this way.”
Shizuka guided Akira into the warehouse, they then stopped in front of a mechanical cupboard. Shizuka opened the double door on that cupboard and revealed Akiras new augmented suit inside it. Akira could not help but tooooh when he saw it, Shizuka smiled and said.
“Its a TL-type, 2A model 2N Augmented suit, its seller is Neoptolemos. Its originally not designed to work in tandem with an information-gathering device, but as you requested, I also ordered the optional accompanying information-gathering device.”
It was a thin body suit-type augmented suit, its basic colour was black. It also had a headgear-like device which doubled as a display device, while it had some protrusions on its neck, back and torso. Besides that augmented suit, there was a coat which was also made with the same metallic fabric that made the augmented suit. The coats size was relatively bigger than the augmented suit, it might be made with the consideration that its user would be carrying rifles and magazines under that coat.
“Its size readjustment function is also equipped with a simple automatic self-maintenance feature. Do you want to try it now”
Akira took off his augmented suit and his clothes down to his underwear, and just like last time, Shizuka scanned his body to take his measurements. When she did that, the augmented suits size automatically recalibrated according to his measurements as it started looking more and more like a human body. Akira watched on with curiosity.
“Its automatically recalibrating itself, huh. Thats really convenient.”
“But theres a limit on how much it can recalibrate itself though. With this, it can readjust its size with bodys changes, so I think its perfect for you.”
“Is that so”
Akira seemed to be a bit confused, Shizuka smiled amusedly at him and explained.
“So, you havent noticed it yet, huh Your body has changed a lot since the last time I took your measurement. Youve grown taller and your muscle composition is getting better. I wonder if its because youre in a growth spurt.”
“Well, Ive been earning well, so Ive started eating more without caring much about the taste. That might be the reason.”
Akira said that casually, but Shizuka understood well the hardship that he had gone through so that he could say so. Akira had casually spoken about all kinds of stuff that he had gone through in the middle of their usual daily conversations, which included all the dangers when he almost got killed. Not to mention, the stories that she heard from Elena and Sara too. From there, Shizuka could understand what he had gone through in such a short time.
Akira spoke nonchalantly and indifferently although all of those hardships he had gone through could be interpreted as a curse if he could not face them. Indeed, as long as he could face them, the fact that he could do that could be interpreted as a blessing. It was all a matter of getting used to it or not. The way Akira said it, spoke of just how far he had gone through all kinds of hardship again and again. If Shizuka had to make a guess, that must be because even before Akira had started being a Hunter, he was so used to hopelessness and the feeling of resignation to the point that he got used to facing hardship without him realizing it. As a matter of fact, her intuition was telling her that her guess was correct.
But at the same time, Shizuka also did not think that Akira should stop being a Hunter. Position-wise, feeling-wise, economy-wise, she could not take over that burden from Akira. That was why, in place of that, she could only smile gently at Akira and remind him.
“…They say that a Hunters main asset is his or her body. So make sure to take good care of your body, okay”
Akira was a bit weirded out by that strange sudden change of attitude from Shizuka, but he just frowned and nodded without knowing the reason behind it.
Akira then put on his new augmented suit with Shizukas help and put on the coat which also doubled as protective armour. After that, Akira was rather surprised.
“Its lighter than I thought.”
Akira thought that the augmented suit would weigh him down like a lead armour before it was turned on, just like his previous augmented suit. But he was glad to find out that it was not true. As in matter of fact, it felt even lighter to move in compared to normal clothing. Since the suit readjusted its form to fit perfectly with his body, the weight of the augmented suit was evenly distributed on his body.
Shizuka, who saw a surprised Akira, found it amusing. She then smiled and said.
“Its an expensive augmented suit after all. Its made of a light and strong but expensive material, it might be so that you still can remove it yourself even after it runs out of energy. Although I was the one who offered you that augmented suit, its still hard to believe that you spent 350 million Aurum for an augmented suit.”
This also meant that Akira had used most of his 400 million Aurum budget to buy goods from her shop. Of course, Shizuka took a part of that as her service fee, but it was nowhere near the profit that the shop which originally sold that augmented suit could get. Shizuka wished that Akira would spend that much money for buying stuff in her shop one day, she could not help but smile bitterly when she thought so.
Akira saw that bitter smile and panicked.
“Ahhh, Im really sorry. I was really at a loss on what to buy, and after thinking about what is the best thing to buy to increase my overall fighting power, I concluded that an augmented suit is the best choice… S-so please wait until the next time I get a lot of money.”
Getting a better augmented suit was the most effective method to increase the effectiveness of Alphas support. After all, Akira did not want to get his bone broken every time he fought. So he decided to prioritize on increasing the basic strength of his body instead of his firepower and ended up investing most of his budget on an augmented suit.
Seeing Akira, Shizuka just smiled and said.
“Dont worry about it. Like I said, a Hunters main asset is their body. Since its a rather expensive augmented suit, it is to be expected, its a high-quality augmented suit. It should be able to greatly reduce the burden on your body from the kickback from using powerful guns. Moreover, from my point of view, I think youre someone who would do reckless things without realizing it. So if you spend your money on firepower, youll get more and more used to fighting more powerful monsters and I feel like youll be doing more reckless things at that point. That augmented suit is designed to put more focus on reducing the burden and protecting its user, it should be able to reduce the number of occasions when you have to act recklessly. Im sure itll reduce your medicine consumption too.”
Shizuka said so with a smug smile, seeing that, Akira flusteredly smiled back. To be honest, it was not like he did reckless stuff because he wanted to, but he could not think of any good excuses to give to Shizuka either.
Akira put his old augmented suit in a box and left it inside the warehouse to be sent for repair. As for how much it would cost, Shizuka said to him that no one could tell until he sent that augmented suit for repair first.
Akira was thinking of keeping his old augmented suit as a spare if the repair did not cost that much. But if buying a new one was cheaper, he was planning to give it away to Sheryl. Even if he only repaired the outlook, it should be enough to give off an extra intimidating look. On the other hand, it could also be completely turned into an information-gathering device too. So, it should still have some uses.
As Akira was moving the metallic mechanical cupboard into his vehicle, Shizuka was gathering rifle modification parts into a cart. Akira decided to buy some modification parts with the rest of the budget that was left after paying for his new augmented suit. He might be able to buy new rifles, but since there was a limit on how many rifles he could carry, it would mean that he had to stop carrying one or more of his current rifles. So instead, he decided to buy modification parts to upgrade the rifles he already had.
Akira was deep in thought looking at the modification parts lined up in front of him. Not too far from him, Shizuka was still lining the rest of the modification parts that she brought there, she then warned Akira.
“Dont worry, you can take your time deciding. You can even try them too, but remember that if you open any sealed goods, youll have to pay for them. Although the parts that are not sealed are second-hand goods, they should be working just fine since Ive checked them myself beforehand. And be careful, Some parts are designed to be used on rifles with certain built-in functions, so they might need some extra parts if you want to install them.”
“Okay, thank you.”
“Ill return back to the shop. If you need anything, just call me. Well then, take your time.”
Shizuka then returned to the shop, Akira started to analyze the modification parts scattered in front of him.
“Well, which one should I pick Most of them are pretty pricey, I feel like Ill go over the budget if I dont choose carefully”
“Lets upgrade your AAH and A2D assault rifles with the assumption that you would use them without an augmented suit. And if you still have some money left, lets use it to buy parts to upgrade your augmented suit. I already have a plan on what kind of upgrade to do, the rest depends on your preference and how much you want to spend.”
“There are just too many types of parts, you know. Though, its better than having too few options.”
“This is also a training, so you can take your time.”
Akira was humming while looking seriously at the various parts in front of him, next to him, Alpha was smiling just like usual.
In her office, Mizuha was at loss on what to do. The reason why she was so troubled was because of Katsuyas request, he asked Mizuha to provide protection for Alna.
At first, she heard that Katsuya was simply trying to save a girl who was falsely accused of pickpocketing. Up to that point, Katsuya was only being nice and everything, and it was fine. But now she came to know that the Hunter, whom that girl stole from, was looking for her and trying to kill her, then there was also a fight against an unknown organization that was also looking for that girl to the point that some people got killed. Now that it had come to this, it was no longer that simple anymore.
Mizuha then asked an acquaintance of hers to gather more information just to be safe. And from there, she knew that Alna was indeed a pickpocket, the Hunter that was looking for her was someone who even participated in hunting a bounty monster, and it was true that a certain organization was trying to capture her.
Normally, Mizuha would have refused to give that kind of protection to someone of Alnas status. There was no need to even think about it. But since it was a request from Katsuya, it could not be helped. She could not afford to sour her relationship with the person that was allowing her to maintain her influence and power.
At the moment, Mizuha hid Alna in one of the camping cars parked in one of the parking lots owned by Drankam that were scattered in various places in the wasteland. It was at least able to satisfy Katsuya for now and bought her some time. With Alna staying inside one of Drankams facilities, outsiders would not be able to freely come after her, but at the same time, she could also not afford to let Alna, who was an outsider, stay in Drankam facilities for too long. She might be able to do something about it if Katsuya accomplished something that would give her more influence. So, she decided to stall for time hoping that something like that would happen.
To be honest, Mizuha did not really care about Alna, as a matter of fact, she was a bother. As someone from the inner wall, there was nothing she could gain except scorn if she associated with a pickpocket from the slum. Whether she sent Alna to work as a Hunter or as a helper in the office, depending on how people looked at it, it might seem like she was providing Katsuyas lover with a shelter using Drankams money. If the news got out, the critiques from both inside and outside the gang would be severe. And if the opposing faction got their hands on this information, they would definitely use it as ammunition. Now that she thought about it, it was nothing but a hassle.
Mizuha seemed extremely annoyed as she said to herself as if giving an excuse.
“…I guess theres no other way out, huh”
She took her information terminal and made a call. Her call immediately connected and a womans voice came out from her information terminal.
“Oh, it has been quite a while. If Im not mistaken, last time you said to me that you have nothing to do with a bad girl like me. So Im really happy that you called first.”
In contrast to the happy voice, Mizuha sounded pretty annoyed.
“Lets stop with the silly talk, is this line secure”
Since Mizuha asked if they were talking through a secure line, there was no mistaking it that she was planning to make a request that she could not afford to get out in public. The other person that Mizuha called understood that well as she casually replied.
“Yep, its no problem from this side.”
“In that case, I have something I want to ask you. Since I even came to ask for your help, I hope you can understand the gravity of the matter while listening to my explanation.”
“Of course. So, what do you want me to do Do you want me to spread information that shes already dead Or should I prepare for a fake corpse too Honestly speaking, its much easier if spreading the information that she has gone missing is enough, but in that case, they might still try to look for her. So that would be a no, right”
Mizuha was surprised, but she did not say anything. The reply that she got there was exactly what she was about to ask. She was able to somehow maintain her calm as she said.
“…I havent said anything yet.”
“You want to keep your hands clean while you want to remove that Alna girl who is clinging on that Katsuya boy as naturally as possible as not to anger him and not to cause any trouble to the gang, right Honestly speaking, thats not something you would normally ask from an information broker like me. But well, its not like were strangers anyway, so I can give you some help and introduce you to some people I know.”
Mizuha was so surprised that the subject that she was about to bring up was indeed that. She then somehow barely regained her calm and tried to probe how much her talking opponent knew about what she was going to ask with a stern expression.
“As expected of you, how much do you already know”
“Thats a secret. Having an honest informant is good and all, but the question is whether that informants skill can balance his or her honesty… Although, in this case, it might be the opposite though.”
Hearing her opponent talking in a good mood there, it really reminded Mizuha that the person she was talking to was just the worst. That woman was basically working by manipulating information in order to manipulate people for her own benefit. Those who she manipulated only realized that after the matter had finished, and that was if they were lucky. Those who did not get lucky enough died before they could realize that they were being used.
Mizuha frowned while staring at her information terminal. She was the one who made that call. But even so, she questioned whether she did that because out of her own will or because she was already being manipulated.
Since Mizuha did not say anything, the other person continued.
“So then, what should I do Should I stop here I dont really mind if thats what you want. No matter what reason you have, doing bad things will always leave you with a guilty feeling.”
“I havent said anything yet.”
“Hmm, youre right, Im just speaking on my own, right Just send the reward through the usual bank account, Ill decide how far I should go depending on how much money you transfer to me. Later then.”
The call ended. Mizuha just sat there with a stern face, thinking for about 5 minutes. She then finished the administration needed to transfer money to a certain bank account.
Akira was still trying the modifications for his rifles. No matter which parts he chose, all of them increased the power of his rifles. If he had the leeway, he wanted to modify his rifles to the point they did not resemble their original forms at all. But of course, that was impossible with his limited budget.
“…Maybe I should add another 10 million Aurum”
If he wanted to, he could add more money into his budget. That leeway started to make him seriously consider increasing his budget. Since it seemed that Akira would really do that at this rate if he was left alone, Alpha warned him.
“I wont stop you, but dont keep repeating yourself. The better equipment that you get, the bigger its maintenance cost would be. Or at least, your augmented suits energy consumption has already increased with that new augmented suit. Not to mention, we still dont know how much the cost for fixing your old augmented suit is. Its important to make sure that you have enough reserves to rise up again in case if something were to happen and you lose all of your equipments.”
“I-I know. And also, it would be okay as long as I try not to get in a situation where I might lose all of my equipment, right”
“Honestly, I think the moment you know that you might lose all of your equipments would mean that youre already in a situation where you cant avoid it though.”
Akira recalled through his memories, there were too many occasions where that situation applied to him. When he imagined himself back doing Hunter work with nothing but his AAH assault rifle, he immediately said with a serious expression.
“…For now, lets build a rifle with the original budget first and decide after that.”
“Yup, you should do that.”
Even with the help from Shizuka in order to get better deals, Akiras last equipment set cost 80 Million Aurum in total. So he decided not to increase his budget just to be safe in case he got himself in a situation where he would lose all of his equipment.
Shizuka then returned back to the warehouse.
“Akira, how is it going”
“Ah, Im sorry, Im not done yet. Should I hurry up”
“Its okay, I dont mind you staying here until I close the shop. Just take your time.”
“Thank you very much!”
Akira then noticed Sara and Elena behind Shizuka, so he greeted them.
“Elena-san, Sara-san, uhhh… Im sorry for what happened. I was in a bit of a hurry.”
Elena smiled lightly at him to let him know that she was not bothered by that. Although, in reality, she did that deliberately, but Akira was not able to see through her smile.
“Dont worry, I just called you there since it would be a bad idea to cause a ruckus over there. Even a small quarrel between Hunters could be scary to normal people after all. Well, since were armed to teeth for fighting monsters, thats totally understandable though. In the worst-case scenario, the private security company guarding the area might mark you too. If that happens, you wont even be able to enter that area anymore. So be careful.”
“I understand, thank you very much for worrying about me.”
As Akira earnestly thanked Elena and Sara, they smiled lightly at him. But Elena and Saras expression immediately turned stern. Sara then looked at Elena, who made a serious look as she hesitated for a bit before she made her resolve and asked.
“Akira, is it okay if I ask you something”
“…After what happened back then, we asked Katsuya what happened between the two of you. Is it true that youre trying to kill Katsuyas friend”
Akiras hands stopped, his face also turned serious.
“Its true that Im hunting a pickpocket who stole my money. I didnt know if that pickpocket is his friend.”
“Katsuya said that its your misunderstanding though, is that true”
“Theres no mistaking it, although, I cant give you anything if you want me to show you a proof to convince you.”
“You cant even tell us anything”
“Yes, that pickpocket stole my wallet, emptied it, and threw it away. So I have no physical evidence. There were no witnesses either. So if you dont believe me, its not like I can do anything about it.”
“So both sides dont have any proof, huh…”
Elena frowned. To be honest, she believed Katsuyas side more. It was simply because Katsuya said so with confidence and desperation, she felt that Katsuya would not go that far if he was lying.
In contrast to that, Akira seemed uninterested. Depending on how Elena looked at it, it even sounded like Akira simply said that because he was asked. To top it off, it even seemed that he did not even try to convince anyone there. It was even obvious to the people there that Akira had completely given up trying to convince anyone since he figured that no one would believe him anyway.
After hearing what Akira said, Elena thought of convincing him that it was only a misunderstanding to make him stop. But since it was not like she was there when that happened, she could not tell who was in the right; Katsuya or Akira. But it did not even matter, after all, she only thought that it was not worth getting into a fight with Katsuya just because of a few hundred thousand Aurum.
But seeing from Akiras reaction there, it seemed that making Akira back off by pointing out the possibility that it was just a misunderstanding would be difficult. As she thought so, she started to think of another solution.
This time, Sara was the one who asked a question to Akira. She sounded a little hesitant when she asked him.
“Uhmm, Akira, why do you want to kill that pickpocket”
“Its not like Im going to chase her to the end of the world. But if I can find her with a little bit of effort, Ill kill her. Of course, if I find her in front of the Hunter Office, I would let her go since it would be too much trouble. But if its in the middle of the wasteland, Ill definitely kill her. And if I see her somewhere else, well, it depends on the location.”
Akira answered back casually. But that was exactly the reason why Sara knew that he was being serious. Sara and Elena both knew how he felt nothing about killing others. Although they did not know exactly how willing Akira was in killing people who were related to that pickpocket, people who got in his way, and people who got involved in that incident, they knew well that Akira would not hesitate that much when it came to killing them.
Akira frowned and showed an expression that he had almost never shown to Elena and Sara.
“Elena-san, Sara-san. I have no wish to tell you to believe me, I wont tell you to take my side either. So, can both of you please stay away from this matter”
Elena had a worried look on her face as she frowned and said.
“No, I cant do that when I know that two of my friends might try to kill each other because of something like that.”
She could not take Akiras side and demand Katsuya and his group to hand over Alna. At the same time, she also could not take Katsuyas side and pressure Akira to back off. Not to mention, it would be super difficult to convince Katsuya to handover that pickpocket when they knew that Akira would kill her. As Elena thought so, she made a suggestion to probe the situation further.
“If Im not mistaken, the main problem is that pickpocket stole 100,000 Aurum from you, right It would feel wrong if I just gave you 100,000 Aurum to take its place. So lets see, ah, thats right! Since this matter left a bad aftertaste, so in order to clear up that bad aftertaste, how about I treat you to something around 200,000 Aurum So lets calm down, okay I know a pretty good restaurant, you know”
Akiras face stiffened and slightly turned emotionless.
“…No, that in itself still feels wrong. So Ill have to refuse.”
“Oh, so its still a no even if its my invite, huh. Thats just too bad. Honestly, I have some confidence in myself, but I still got rejected, huh. It feels pretty disheartening. In that case…”
Elena was trying to act coy to reduce the tension in the air while she was smiling and thinking what to do next. But Akira suddenly said with a rather stern tone.
Akiras expression returned back to normal after a few seconds.
“If Elena-san and Sara-san want me to stop no matter what, then I will stop hunting for that pickpocket.”
Sara was surprised, she found it weird that suddenly Akira sounded like he would obediently follow what she and Elena said.
“Are you sure”
“Yes, both of you have helped me so much until now, so I can at least do that much.”
Elena and Sara looked at each other. Although it still felt a bit forced, it was still better since Akira seemed to be willing to go as far as to fight Katsuya just to kill that pickpocket, which, in the worst-case scenario, might cause a full-blown fight between him and the whole Drankam gang. Both Sara and Elena agreed on the same conclusion there.
“In that case…”
Elena was about to say that she wanted Akira to stop no matter what, but Shizuka suddenly interjected rather forcefully.
“In my opinion, its better if you think carefully first before saying anything.”
Shizuka jumped into their conversation abruptly, so everyone redirected their attention to her. She confirmed that everyone present was looking in her direction before she continued.
“Akira, I understand that you have your reason to kill that pickpocket, but its not like you have to kill that pickpocket right away, right And its not like youll get killed unless you kill her first. So if you can afford to wait, I want you to use that time to think carefully about it. Theres no need to rush yourself to make a decision.”
Shizuka said so while looking straight at Akira with a serious expression. Akira thought for a bit before he mumbled.
“Think carefully about it, huh…”
Shizuka then continued as if she was reminding Akira.
“Yes. Making you believe that it would be too late unless you decide now without giving you the time to think about it is how some people usually trick other people. As long as you have the leeway, use it to think carefully. Those people who sayI didnt expect that this would happen are those who usually had the chance to take another option if they had thought about it more carefully. Just think about it, if they had considered all of their options and made their resolve before picking a decision, they would not have said something like that.”
Akira frowned as if he was thinking hard. Shizukas voice changed to a gentle one.
“In the end, Sara, Elena and I are all outsiders in this matter. We dont know exactly what happened and what the situation was. That is a fact. But its exactly because were outsiders that we can offer a third-party opinion in this matter. Its not like were saying that your decision is wrong. But, were worried that youre forcing your decision just because you have decided so when you were filled with emotion although that decision is no longer worth the trouble now. From our point of view, it seems that our friend is going to do something that isnt worth the trouble because of the decision that he made based on emotion. Thats why we just thought that its better if you calm down for a bit. They say that an empty stomach can cause your mood to worsen. So if filling your stomach can calm you down and make you change your decision, then it might be a better idea to do so. Thats why Elena invited you for a meal.”
Akira looked at Elena and immediately asked.
“Is that so”
Elena and Sara froze. During all their previous meetings with him, it was obvious from Akiras gaze, expression, and voice that he thought dearly of both of them. They had saved each other in the past, they had worked together as Hunters too, it could be said that they were close to each other.
But Akiras expression right now showed no trace of friendliness. He was looking at both of them as if they were only strangers to him, like people who he did not know that might pose danger to him. His gaze was saying that he was trying to make sure if they were enemies or not while he was waiting for their answer.
Sara was deeply shocked that the person who she thought was close to her would look at her like that. Elena was equally shocked too, but since she was used to handling negotiations, she was able to maintain her usual expression from the outside. She then tried to make a friendly expression as she agreed to what Shizuka said.
“Thats right. If you get into a fight with someone from Drankam, it might cause the whole gang to fight you if you get unlucky. Especially when Katsuya is valued highly in Drankam to the point that they are treating him as an officer. I even heard that some officers in the gang are also actively supporting him. Im sure you have your reason, but from the others point of view, it looks like youre willing to turn an organization that even has connections with the City Management against you just because of one pickpocket. So it does not seem to be worth the trouble no matter how we look at it. After all, in the worst-case scenario, it might even mean turning the whole city against you. Not to mention, it seems both of you got too emotional back there. So I just thought that it might be a good idea if you could calm down and think about it one more time. Im sorry if I said something that offended you although Im just an outsider.”
“…No, its fine.”
Akiras expression still seemed rather stiff. The mood there also felt rather awkward.
Shizuka suddenly said in a bright voice as if to exorcise that awkward mood.
“By the way, Akira, are you still in the middle of picking parts Since Elena is here, how about you ask for her opinion If youre going to pick parts to work with your information terminal, Im sure that her opinion would be valuable. Not to mention, if Im not mistaken, Saras equipment is also modified equipment. So you can ask her opinion too.”
Akira hesitated as he asked both Sara and Elena in a rather formal fashion.
“Is it okay”
Elena smiled and nodded.
“Of course, right, Sara”
“Eh Yeah, sure. We have nothing to do after this anyway, so you can ask us anything.”
Sara also nodded and smiled.
“Thank you very much.”
Akira bowed without showing his smile to Elena and Sara.-