Nasha followed behind Akira. She was looking at Akiras back while walking through the street of the slum city. Akira did not look back at all as he kept walking forward.
It might be a good chance for her to run away. But Nasha did not harbour such thoughts, she had no wish to do so. Akira knew that she was not following him when they were back in Sheryls base even without looking back. That was why she thought that Akira must know whether or not she was following him at the moment and it might be futile to even try to run away in such a situation.
Nasha had already given up. Because of that, she did not have the will to fight back, she was only following behind Akira without saying anything.
Akira hopped on his vehicle that he parked close by and said.
Nasha obediently climbed to the drivers assistant seat. Akira then drove out from the slum and into the wasteland.
It had been a few minutes since Akira and Nasha left the city. Akira did not say anything, but he looked slightly annoyed as he was driving the vehicle. Looking at him, Nasha got even more confused.
Some Hunters would only kill people in the wasteland, so at first, Nasha thought that Akira might be bringing her out to the wasteland just to kill her. But it already had been a few minutes since they left the city. If Akira was planning to kill her and dump her body in the wasteland, they were already far enough from the city. Eventually, she could not hold back her curiosity.
“Where are we going”
“Well, to Narahagaka city.”
“Youve never heard of it Its a city to the west of Kugamayama city. Although its not as big as Kugamayama city, it still has a wall protecting it. Well, you can think of it as a smaller version of Kugamayama city… Or so I heard. Though I asked you if youve ever heard of it, to be honest, I only came to know about it recently too. So I dont know much about that city either, how about you”
“…Uhh, Ive heard that name before, but nothing more.”
Their conversation ended with that. Nasha got even more confused and stopped the conversation there. Silence returned back between them. With time, Nashas confusion pushed her to ask another question.
“Uhh, what are you planning to do with me once we arrive there”
“Nothing. Ahh, thats not right, Im planning to take you there and leave you in that city.”
“Ill head back straight home after I drop you in that city. You might hate me for leaving you in a place that you know nothing about, but thats just how it is, sorry about that. If I leave you somewhere nearby, I feel like itll only cause trouble later on after all. Or more like, that kind of thing has already happened once before.”
Akira casually pointed at the rucksack that he put in the back of his vehicle.
“And its not like Im going to leave you in an unknown place so that youll starve to death. Ill at least give you some money, a gun, and some clothes. You can take that rucksack with you. But thats all Ill do for you. Then you can do anything you want. So, sorry, but youll have to do everything by yourself after that.”
Nasha opened the rucksack and looked at its contents. It was true that there were some Hunter clothes and a gun inside.
“Even though I did tell you that you can do anything you want, I dont recommend going back to Kugamayama city. Sheryl and her gang also have their reputation to maintain, so Im sure that they wont ignore you if they spot you and I have no plans to tell them to let you go just because I spared you.”
Nasha was surprised. She looked at Akira and at the rucksack alternately. She looked completely flabbergasted.
“Youre going to spare me Why”
“…Well, its fine, isnt it Its just out of a whim.”
Nasha seemed to be thinking hard, she then said with a rather stiff expression.
“Please tell me.”
“Is it really that important”
“Yes, so please tell me.”
“Just think of it as a weird guy making a weird decision.”
“Please tell me.”
Akira looked at Nasha in the eyes and slightly squinted his eyes.
“…If you keep pushing your luck, I might change my mind, you know.”
Nasha replied while looking straight into Akiras eyes.
“…It doesnt matter, please tell me.”
Nasha still asked for an answer although Akira said that he might kill her if she kept pursuing that subject. Akira was a bit surprised by it. But he could feel that it was not something that he could just ignore, so he sighed and said as if he was confessing.
“Its just balancing out the scale.”
Nasha did not expect such an answer at all, she tilted her head in confusion.
“What do you mean by that”
“I killed your best friend. So to balance that out, Ill spare your life.”
Nasha froze, she then said with a shaking voice.
“You killed Alna”
“Yeah, I did.”
Nasha felt a storm of emotion struck her. Her best friend was killed and the person who killed her best friend was pitying her right now. It stirred her emotion even more.
“Are you saying that you feel guilty for killing Alna, but since you had no other choice but to kill her, youll spare me in her place Is that what you mean when you saidits for balancing the scale”
“No. I did kill her because I wanted to and its not like Im sparing you because I feel guilty for it.”
Nasha raised her voice. She looked at Akira with hatred and vengeance, but Akira was not surprised at all, as a matter of fact, he was completely calm. But that only served to stir her emotion even further.
With her emotions brimming, Nasha looked away from Akira for a split second, that was when her eyes wandered to the gun inside the rucksack. She immediately reached for that gun and released the safety trigger while glaring at Akira.
But even so, Akira did not show any reaction at all.
“I killed your best friend, so I wont tell you not to hate me. But dont think that Ill just let you kill me. If you want to give it a try although you know the outcome, then be my guest.”
Akira pointed out the power gap between him and Nasha and stopped her. But his next sentence changed that.
“…And also, although it might be weird for me to say this, do you think that Alna wants you to go that far to avenge her death”
Nashas anger welled up again. She was on the verge of pointing the gun in her hand at Akira as she screamed as hard as she could at him.
“You… You know nothing about Alna!!!”
“Yeah, thats why Im asking you since you must really know her well. Youre her best friend, right”
Akira looked straight at Nasha, who was staring dagger at him, he was seriously asking Nasha a question there. Nasha was taken aback to the point that it erased all of her anger. She was baffled and was shaking while making a very confused face. Akira looked straight at Nasha without saying anything.
Nasha imagined Alnas figure from all the memories that they had together. That Alna in her mind threw a sad smile at her and said something to her.
Nasha stopped shaking, she then pointed the gun in her hand at Akira with a pained face.
A gunshot echoed through the wasteland, the bullet went and vanished into the distance. Akira had slightly shifted Nashas hand right before she pulled the trigger.
Nasha lightly smiled, she somehow looked relieved. But even after that, Akira still did not do anything to her while having a flat expression. The smile vanished from Nashas face. She looked slightly confused and said with a pained voice.
“…Kill me already… Just kill me!! I shot at you, you know! Are you still going to spare me!”
Akira did not say anything as he shook his head.
“Sorry, but Im already strong enough to know whether my life is in danger or not. If you want to kill yourself, you can do it on your own. And if you fail even after that, Ill at least warn you not to do that again.”
Nasha fell on her knee. In the end, she could not save her best friend and she could not die in the same fashion as her best friend died, all kinds of feelings were mixed inside her heart as she started screaming and crying as if to vent her anger and sadness.
A few minutes later, they were still midway to Narahagaka city. Nasha had cried herself out to the point that she was too tired to keep crying. After venting all of her emotion through her tears and crying her eyes out, she finally calmed down and just sat there silently on the drivers assistant seat.
Nasha once again looked at Akira and mumbled with a small voice.
“…Whats with that balancing the scale”
“Before I answer that, I want to confirm something first. That Alna, your best friend, was she the kind of girl who would tell you to avenge her death, although its hopelessly impossible”
Nasha shook her head.
“…No, its something that I did out of my own volition. Im sure that she would tell me to just forget it. She might even get angry at me if she knew that I tried.”
“I see, she must have been a kind girl.”
“…Yes, she was.”
They then continued talking calmly.
“…About balancing the scale, huh Well, its basically just about testing luck.”
“Yeah, for some reason, it seems that I have very bad luck, you see. Thanks to that, Ive gone through a lot in the past.”
Basically, it was as if Akira was taking a gamble. He then continued.
“Its about that time when I killed Alna. There was someone really strong protecting her and he is also a kind person. Although he has no debt nor has been offered a reward for it, he gave his best to protect Alna. Since he even went that far, he and the girl he was protecting might as well be good people, but even so, I still killed Alna… If I kill a good person, it feels like itll bring some bad karma on me later. That might be the reason why I have very bad luck. As a matter of fact, I did encounter something really troublesome right after I killed her. I would have been able to evade it if I had given up on killing her. So, well, I guess I just reaped what I sow there.”
Nasha was really happy to hear that someone did that much to protect her best friend. But at the same time, it also made her feel sad knowing that Alna had done something so that someone would still want to kill her despite having someone like Katsuya protecting her.
“…Then why didnt you spare her just like how you did to me”
Akira felt that Nasha was not blaming him, she simply just wanted to know, so he answered her question honestly.
“…I couldnt, its a matter of my personality. Even if you ask me why I couldnt do that, I dont think I can come up with anything that might convince you.”
“It doesnt matter how strong they are, people will die when they get unlucky. Thats what I believe. The reason why Im sparing you is simply because I think it might improve my bad luck, even if its only by a bit. So basically, I am doing this for my own sake. Although I said its for balancing the scale, I dont think this is anywhere near enough to accomplish it. But its still better than nothing. Thats all the reason I have, I dont do this because of any other profound reasons or anything.”
It was an absurd reasoning. It might be true that Alna was killed because she was unlucky and Nasha was spared because she was lucky, but Nasha still felt something did not feel right.
“…Was there really no other way for Alna Was killing her the only choice you had”
“As I said, its a matter of my personality, so its not like I can do anything about it.”
“No, that isnt what I meant. I mean like, if something else, no matter how small it is, if there was anything that could have been done to save her life.”
“…Hmmm, lets see then…”
Akira tried to think of all kinds of scenarios where Alna might have been saved.
If only Alna did not aim for Akira that day, or Akira did not lower his guard, or Alna was not able to steal Akiras wallet, or if Alna did not meet Katsuya, or Katsuya did not protect her that time, or if Katsuya did not push Akira back and triggered the domino effect which led to Alnas death, if that failure did not spread out as a rumour that discredited Akira, if only that rumour did not cause the robbers to attack Sheryls base, or that Alna did not get kidnapped by Ezont family, or if Katsuya came sooner to save Alna.
Akira put out all the scenarios where Alna might be saved. After listening to everything, Nasha had a sad smile as she said.
“So, even with all of those possible scenarios, Alna still got killed, huh… That would mean shes really unlucky… Do you know that Alna is a really good pickpocket”
“Shes really talented in stealing wallets. Because of that, all kinds of people tried to get their hands on her to make her steal for them. Alna was having it hard too. But, theres nothing commendable about stealing others money, right… She might have gotten that bad luck because of all the bad things that she had done up until now… If only I had stopped her sooner, she might have got luckier, and she wouldnt need to die…”
Nasha felt so frustrated by her inability to help, although she had already cried her eyes out, she started to tear up again.
Akira did not say if that was true or not, he just kept quiet.
Akira and Nasha reached Narahagaka city right around evening. He dropped Nasha in front of the Hunter Office near the city wall.
Nasha had already changed to the clothes that Akira gave her. It was rather shabby-looking Hunter clothing. It was a suitable cloth for someone who would visit that Hunter Office. It was rather good clothing for someone from the slum. Compared to her previous clothes, people would ridicule her less with that attire.
“So then, well, it might be weird to hear this from me, but be well.”
“Yes, Akira-san. You too.”
After they exchanged a rather formal-sounding good-byes, Nasha looked at Akira with a serious face and said.
“I… I think I hate you. You killed Alna, I might carry this grudge until I die.”
Just like Alna, who did all she did because of reasons, Akira also had his reasons for doing what he did. If a Hunter had a bad rumour spread which lowered his or her reputation, it might turn fatal for that Hunter. That was why Nasha understood that there were things that a Hunter like Akira could not back off from.
Although Nasha did not do it intentionally, she also helped spread such horrendous rumours about Akira. Not only did she use the money that Alna stole from Akira to join Sheryls gang, she also leaked the information about Akira to Alna to help Alna escape. Normally, it would not be strange if Akira wanted to kill her, but he still spared her life.
“But even so, thank you very much for sparing me.”
Nasha did shoot Akira, cried her eyes out, and talked all kinds of things with him. One good thing about it was that she was able to move on from her best friends death. Although it was not like all of her grudges were gone, at least it was enough to help her to stand back on her feet. She bowed deeply at Akira as thanks.
Akira did not expect to be thanked, so he was really surprised. After that, he looked slightly sad as he smiled and said to Nasha.
“Youre also a nice person, huh.”
“Is that so I did try to shoot you, you know”
“Even nice people sometimes have to do extreme things too. But even so, thats not enough as a reason to let someone steal my wallet or kill me. Thats all theres to it.”
“Is that the reason why you killed Alna”
“Yes, half of it.”
“Then whats the other half”
“The other half is that I didnt have the leeway to spare her life because of my personality, how cowardly I am, and how weak I am. If only I had been strong enough, well, I might have let it slide with a kick… Bye then.”
Akira was about to leave, but Nasha suddenly stopped him.
“Before you go, can I ask you to convey a message for Sheryl-san Im really sorry for betraying her trust, after all, I dont think Ill ever meet her again.”
“Alright, Ill let her know.”
“Thank you very much.”
Nasha saw Akira off until he completely vanished from her views, after that, she started walking away firmly.
Sheryl was in her private room when a call reached her.
“…I see, so you left Nasha in Narahagaka city, huh…”
“Yeah, sorry for doing that without consulting with you first. Im sure we could have found a better alternative if I did. So, sorry about that.”
“Please dont be. If Akira is okay with it, then I have no complaint about it either. So please dont worry about it.”
Sheryl was not lying when she said that, she was relieved. She was actually waiting nervously until Akira called her.
She had no idea what kind of deal Akira made with Nasha, but judging from the call, it seemed that they were able to find a peaceful solution. It even sounded as if Akira had a good impression of Nasha. Judging from there, it did not seem that Sheryl and her gang were in any danger at all. Sheryl was thankful to Nasha for that.
“And theres a message from Nasha. Shes sorry for betraying your trust. So there, I already told you. Though it might be weird for me to say this, theres no need to hold a grudge against her any longer, okay”
“Yes, if you said so, then I have no problem with it.”
Sheryl replied back firmly, Akira was a little bit weirded out by that.
“A-alright then. Well, you can do whatever you want to handle the rest after this. If it might cause trouble in the gang, you can just say that I killed Nasha and dumped her body in the wasteland. I dont know anything about that kind of thing, so that part would be fully up to you. If anything comes up, just give me a call, and also, Ill visit the base again sometime soon. Later then.”
“Ill be waiting for you. Ah, can I ask one thing How did you know that Nasha is Alnas close friend”
“Hm Not too long before you gave me that call, Viola called me first and told me all kinds of things.”
Sheryl gasped, Akira could clearly hear that, he smiled bitterly on the other side of the call and said.
“She even told me to rethink how to deal with your gang if you tried to hide this matter from me even after all I had said. But it seems that I dont need to worry about that, huh”
“Right, later then.”
Akira ended the call. Sheryl was about to scream but she was barely able to hold herself back.
During the last incident, Sheryl had seen so many instances where Akira showed how ruthless and merciless he could be, how he always shot first and asked questions later. But after he spared Nasha, Sheryl could see a glimpse of Akiras kindness, and she was really happy about it.
Sheryl was so happy up until the point where Violas name came up.
It all made sense now how calm Akira was when she told him about Nasha during that call. Akira already knew everything even before she had called him. And since she did contact him about that afterwards, Akira did not have any reason to be angry now.
[…That was dangerous!! Is that what Viola meant when she said about taking the initiative! But didnt she say that she wont say anything to Akira if I choose to tell him myself! Good grief, just how evil is that woman!]
Sheryl took a deep breath to calm herself down. She then summoned Erio and Alicia, and she decided to tell Alicia and Erio about Nasha. After all, they looked really worried, so Sheryl thought it might be a good idea to let them know and to make them not overly scared of Akira. She also told herself to make sure that Erio and Alicia knew how bad Viola was.
Akira was still on the way back to Kugamayama city. The sun had already set and the city was still far away. Since he was using a rental vehicle, he took a big detour evading areas with a good chance of encountering monsters.
After he called Sheryl, Akira noticed Alpha was staring at him.
“I thought Ive been together with you for quite a long time now, but your way of thinking is still a big mystery to me. Are you sure youre okay with that”
“Is there anything bad with sparing her Well, its true that she might change her mind later and decide to kill me. But when that happens, I can just kill her.”
To be more precise, Akira wanted to know if he was still that weak to the point that he should have killed Nasha instead of sparing her, and although he did it mostly unconsciously, he did think that it should be alright since Nasha was a nice person.
“Thats not what I meant. You let Viola live and even took Nasha all the way to Narahagaka city, so like, you could have spared Alna too, no That way you would not have needed to fight that black powered suit and get into all of those troubles, right So Im just wondering how you made all of these decisions.”
Akira smiled bitterly, he also looked slightly annoyed.
“Sorry about that. I didnt think that it would cause this much trouble… Though its already too late, now I can understand why Elena-san and Sara-san warned me. No, thats not right, I dont think even Elena-san and Sara-san knew that it would cause this much trouble.”
To Akira, Alna was the evidence of his weakness. He feared that he would return back to the slum if he kept making the same failure. The reason why he wanted to kill Alna no matter what was also because he wanted to wash himself clean of that fear. And with Alna dead now, his state of mind returned back to normal.
“I feel bad for being rude to Elena-san and Sara-san although they were only worrying about me.”
Akira sighed, he sounded slightly sad. Saras and Elenas warning was correct and he ignored that. He felt like he should apologize to them.
Alpha smiled and tried to cheer him up.
“If you feel bad about it, then you should be more careful next time. That way you would not worry other people too much. Of course, that includes me too.”
Akira returned Alphas smile with a bitter smile.
“By the way, whats your plan with Katsuya”
“Katsuya Whats about him”
“You did fight each other back then. If you want to be more careful to avoid any possible extra trouble, it might be a good idea to just forget about him even if you actually dont want to.”
Akira nodded in agreement but his face immediately changed as if to say that he actually did not care.
“I see, so thats what you meant, huh Rather than forgetting about him, I actually dont care about him in the first place though. After all, the only reason I fought him was simply because he was blocking me from killing Alna, its not like I have a grudge against him that I want to kill him or anything like that. So it depends on what he is going to do. Personally speaking, I dont really care about him.”
After he said that, Akiras face turned serious.
“But if he comes at me for revenge, then I have no other choice. Ill kill him too.”
Alpha smiled as if to lighten the heavy mood oozing from Akira.
“I see, in that case, just to be safe as well as to prevent him from trying to do that, you need to become stronger. If you are strong enough, Im sure he wont even try to come at you. So lets get better equipments for the sake of that.”
Akira lightly smiled, the heavy mood that was oozing from him right until now had completely vanished.
“I already spent 400 million Aurum for my equipments and its still not enough huh”
“At least, one thing for sure, its not enough to accomplish my request. I still need you to work hard for that one too.”
“Roger that, it seems that I still have a long way to go.”
Akira lightly smiled as he kept on driving through the dark night. He had become strong enough to get out from the slum and traverse the wasteland. But that was still not enough, Akira could not even imagine just how strong he needed to be.
Yanagisawa was staring at an empty space. There was no one there, but from Yanagisawas point of view, he could see many faces of Hunters through the augmented reality display that he was using.
Yanagisawa focused on one person. When he did that, detailed information of that Hunter came up in the information terminal on his hand.
“Are you the one”
Yanagisawa mumbled so as he thought of all the factors that supported his guess, he then considered all the factors that denied it. After doing all the calculations and summing up the result, he then said.
“…That would be a no.”
The information about that Hunter vanished and was replaced with the information of another Hunter.
“Is it you then”
He did just like last time and concluded.
“…That would also be a no.”
Yanagisawa kept doing so for a few times through information about different Hunters of all ages and genders, cyborgs and non-cyborgs.
“Are you the one then”
Just like last time, information of a certain Hunter was displayed on his information terminal, this time it was Akira.
[A young Hunter from the slum, huh. Lets assume that he can connect to the old-world domain, then lets assume he met one of them when he went to Kuzusuhara ruin and made a contract with them. Due to that contract, he got help to find relics, then he used the money that he got from selling those relics to buy equipment, and eventually, they invited him to that place. The beguiling ghost, its a rumour that I spread to help people find them. He has become so strong as a Hunter so fast which might as well be thanks to that contract with them. Everything makes sense here.]
Compared to the other Hunters up until now, Yanagisawa came up with a lot of factors to affirm his guess there. But his expression then turned slightly more serious than usual and continued.
[But, although hes strong, hes far away from being strong enough to go to that place. So its doubtful if they would make a contract with someone as weak as him. But lets assume here that they did. Its strange that he almost got killed these many times. That emergency request from Katsuragi. That encounter with the relic thieves. That time when his vehicle was eaten by that bounty monster. Then that battle in Seranthal building as well as the battle that happened yesterday. It wont be strange for him to get killed on any of those occasions. If hes in contract with them, they would have done something to make sure that the people that theyre in contract with would stay alive by keeping them from getting in those dangerous situations. So he wouldnt meet this many dangerous occasions. In conclusion, he doesnt seem to be the one… If I have to say, its more like hes one of those gifted people who then got his talent bloom when hes still young then got lucky enough to find old-world relics and reach success as a Hunter. Its a rare case, but not impossible.]
Yanagisawa listed all the factors that denied his guess and finally made his conclusion.
“…Then that would be a no too, I guess”
Yanagisawa thought that he still needed more materials to decide. So for now, he kept Akiras name on the candidate list. The list had already been filled with so many names. Yanagisawa then moved on to the next Hunter.
“Are you the one then”
Yanagisawa looked closely at the information displayed in front of him. It was about Katsuya.
[A Hunter from Drankam. The gang has always been thinking of him highly, but lately, his performance has been increasing significantly. In the past, his name had even come up in the reports to the City Management, but now some of the people in the City Management even recognize his strength. Judging from the numbers, it can even be said that its as if hes a completely different person. If hes someone who can connect to the old-world domain and get in a contract with them, that would explain the sudden increase in his performance.]
After listing all the factors that approved his guess, just like before, Yanagisawa started listing all the factors that denied his guess.
[But he only got this strong after that battle in Mihazono ruin. No, is it when he was fighting in that battle near the Seranthal building Either way, its not when he was in Kuzusuhara ruin. None of them should be in Mihazono ruin. Or at least, theres no past record of finding them in ruins other than Kuzusuhara ruin. Although putting my trust on the record without much evidence is a bad thing, I cannot just ignore it either. Moreover, hes still far from being strong enough to go to that place. If I have to say, it sounds more like something happened in that battle near the Seranthal building that triggered his growth, its not a rare thing for Hunters to be pulled out of their slumps because of some kind of trigger.]
When Yanagisawa was about to make his decision, something piqued his interest.
“…Seranthal building, huh And this date… I was there too when he came to the Seranthal building. But at that time, my appointment reservation was deleted. They usually only stay in Kuzusuhara ruin though, so did they come to the Seranthal building temporarily to erase my appointment reservation If thats the case, then this boy might… No, wait, its not right to force my guess like this. If I force it here, itll affect all my decisions later. In the first place, its all under the assumption that he can connect to the old-world. Its just an assumption, its okay to use it for checking all the possibilities, but its wrong to put my bet on an assumption.”
When Yanagisawa was about to continue, he received a call from someone. He stopped there, checked the call, and frowned when he found that it was not from someone that he could just ignore. So he took a deep breath and smiled just like usual before accepting the call.
“…Uhh, its still Nergo, right Or have you changed your name again”
“Ive given my name for the great cause, so its not something that I can do lightly numerous times.”
“I see. So, youre still Nergo right now, huh What is it then”
Yanagisawa sounded pretty casual, but in contrast to that, Nergo replied back with a rather serious tone.
“Do you know anything about a young Hunter in Drankam by the name of Katsuya”
Yanagisawa glanced at Katsuyas information and faked ignorance.
“Katsuya Hmmm, ahh, uhhh, its that guy, right That young Hunter from Drankam who has been doing pretty well lately, right I heard that he even caused Drankam to break into factions. Its that one, right”
“Yeah. Theres something that I need to confirm about Katsuya to my other brothers. Or more like, I need their permission.”
“Permission For what”
“I want to secure him.”
Yanagisawa was surprised, he did not expect that from Nergo at all. But he replied with a light joke.
“Ahh, well, of course, Ill help you out, but Im still a part of the City Management staff, you see. If you ask me if its okay to kidnap one of our Hunters, I have no other choice but to say no. Or more like, in the first place, why would you bring that up to me”
“We want to maintain a good relationship with you.”
“What do you mean”
“Theres a possibility that Katsuya might be someone that were looking for. I know youre looking for one too, right Someone who could connect to the old-world domain from the Kuzusuhara ruin.”
Yanagisawas smile vanished. Nergo did not notice it at all as he casually stated.
“Katsuya can connect to the old-world domain.”
Yanagisawas smile returned back. But this time, it was not a fake smile, he was really jovial after hearing that statement.-