Akira was enjoying the bath back in his house. Usually, he would lean back on his bathtub to let his soul melt into the warm water, but that was not the case that day.
In his augmented view, Akira was seeing the information of multiple rifles floating in front of him. He was basically browsing the rifles that he could buy with 1 billion Aurum. Shizuka sent the list of the rifles that she recommended and all the additional data of those rifles was gathered by Alpha through the network based on the list from Shizuka.
Each rifle had an extra explanation beside it containing a small annotation that Shizuka added for each rifle, the ammo type compatible with that rifle, and the price of each rifle written in big characters…
Akira stared at that information and hummed.
“…They are all equally expensive.”
Alpha, just like usual, was also taking a bath together with Akira, then said.
“Thats a given. Considering how many features each rifle has, not to mention that the small market demand preventing corporations from mass producing them. In the first place, when you go for expensive but better rifles, its normal for their cost-performance ratio to get worse.”
“In that case, if I focus more on the cost-performance ratio instead, what kind of rifle can I get”
“The first rifle that comes into mind would be the AAH assault rifle. That rifle is basically mass-produced in the eastern district after all, so its price is incredibly cheap considering its performance. You were able to buy it when you were just a novice Hunter and it has served you very well up until now, no”
“Now that you mention it, thats kinda true. Its indeed a cheap yet very useful rifle. I guess its no surprise there is a big fanbase for that rifle.”
Akira then shook that off from his mind and continued browsing the rifles. But to be honest, all the available options in front of him prevented him from making any meaningful progress. Although the price alone was enough to make him hesitate, Shizuka also added a note listing the summed up prices of the individual rifles that basically had the equal amount of functions of each multi-type rifle that he was browsing.
The reason why Akira was doing that by himself was because Alpha reminded him that being able to choose suitable equipment based on his ability was one of the important skills for a Hunter. But with all the available information flooding his brain, Akira kepthmming‘ without being able to make any decision.
Alpha suddenly stood up, the water droplets that ran down her silky skin only served to enhance her already beautiful body. She then took a few steps and grabbed one of the rifles, or at least the image of it, that was floating in the air. That big gun, which was shown there as a price comparison for the other guns, looked extremely heavy. But since both Alpha and that gun were nothing more than images, mass had nothing to do with both of them.
Alpha, who was standing naked showing off her beautiful body, did not suit the excessively big gun that she was carrying. But she then started taking aiming stances as if to show some examples to Akira.
“For example, what do you think about this gun, Akira”
Just like usual, Akira was not bothered by her naked body. Heck, he was not even tempted to look at her naked body as he was focused on the gun that she was carrying, evaluating it.
“Thats out of the question, of course, I wont choose that gun. Even putting the price aside, I still would not choose that gun. Though it does look powerful, it looks super heavy. I know I have an augmented suit that would help me carry that gun, but still, itll definitely impede my mobility. I feel like it would crush me the moment my augmented suit runs out of energy.”
“If youre worried about the weight, this is actually pretty light, you know. Its made of a high-quality metallic nanomaterial that is durable but light. Moreover, it would automatically expand its force-field the moment it shoots to reduce the kickback. So its weight should not give you any trouble.”
“Ohhh, it even has that kind of feature, huh But that would mean itll consume energy packs on top of its original ammo, right”
“The higher the firepower, the stronger its kickback. So a lot of powerful guns are actually consuming energy packs in order to soften their kickbacks, you know.”
Akira nodded, he looked simply amazed by that gun, but even so, he then still shook his head and said.
“…Even if thats the case, the answer will still be a no. Its too big for me to carry around and I dont think I can take that gun with me through narrow passages in the ruins. Or more like, I want to buy a multi-type gun to reduce the number of rifles that Im carrying, so buying that big gun will defeat the purpose as to why Im looking for a multi-type gun in the first place.”
Alpha smiled, nodded, and then threw that gun away. The gun flew in the air for a few seconds in a beautiful arc before disintegrating.
“Yep, thats basically how you do it. You should start by eliminating the rifles that you obviously wont choose. You cant make any progress if you just keephmming there without making any decision, right”
“Hm, youre right, Ill do that.”
Akira started discarding the options that he obviously would never take just like Alpha suggested him. When he already discarded about 90% of his options, Shizuka suddenly called him. So he asked Alpha to let him pick the call through her.
“Its Shizuka, do you have some time”
“Sure, what is it”
Akira once picked a call from Shizuka when he was in the middle of a tense negotiation with Shijima, so him being inside the bath right now did not stop him from picking up that call.
Shizuka was calling Akira regarding the relics that Akira brought to her the other day, basically, about selling the ladys underwear old-world relics. Shizuka did not forget to put emphasis on how she was able to get very good deals thanks to Elena and Saras help.
“So then, I ended up making deals with multiple traders. But some of them are offering 50% more money if you would tell them where you got those relics, so, whats your plan here”
“I see, Im sorry but I cant give any information regarding that. Even if theyre offering to buy the relics for 100 times the price, I still cant tell them that information.”
“I see, alright then.”
Akira sounded a bit apologetic when he said that, so Shizuka also immediately stopped pursuing that subject. But because of that, Akira found it a bit weird.
“Eh Is that really okay Im pretty sure those traders will keep pestering you though…”
“Dont worry, Im a merchant too, you see. So I have to prioritize my own customer.”
Akira smiled faintly.
“Thank you very much. But still, I didnt expect them to offer an extra 50% just for telling them where I got those relics. Is it normal for this kind of information to be expensive”
Akira thought that it was for the case where there were other Hunters who were looking for information where those relics come from, so those traders are offering an extra 50% in place of the information fee for buying that information. But Shizuka replied with something that he did not expect.
“It might be to allow them to sell those relics at a higher price, something like a brand-fee.”
“Yup. Brand-fee, basically they can reel up the price of a high-quality article by putting a brand on that article. After all, depending on the brand, even the same kind of article can have a completely different prices range. If they know where those relics come from, they can investigate which old-world company produced them or which old-world company sold them. And if its from a popular company, more people would want to buy it with a higher price tag.”
Akira was listening closely to Shizukas explanation with full of interest. It was a different aspect of selling relics compared to the explanation that he heard from Katsuragi.
“And to top it off, there are people who sell imitations of this kind of relic, you see. There are many ways Hunters can do that, one of them is to make an imitation using the current eras technology, put it in the ruin, get Hunters tofind them as an old-world relic in that ruin, and then get a normal trading company connected to the perpetrator to buy it and resell it as an old-world relic.”
Akira then thought, no one would be crazy enough to go all the way to the Tsubakihara building to place fake relics, but it would not be strange for someone to do that in Higaraka Residence ruin. And right now, Higaraka residence ruin was flooded with Hunters. Although Akira and Alpha were the triggers of the rumour that caused it, there was also a good chance someone actually intentionally spread that rumour even more.
“But like, it should not take that long for those fake relics to be found out, right After all, the reason why old-world relics are valuable is because theyre created using some amazing technology that we cant replicate yet even now, no”
“That depends on the type of the relic. Of course, it would be difficult to fake high-tech mechanical relics, but thats not exactly the case for fabrics. Not to mention, if the Hunters demand to make the deal on-site, merchants can only make a relatively cheap offer based on a short inspection, so a fake relic with a good appearance should be enough to trick those merchants. In the first place, its not an easy thing to decide the value of relics even for those specialists. So if they know where those relics come from, they can easily decide whether those relics are fake or not without the need of inspecting those relics first. After all, relic inspections are not free, you know.”
Akira smiled bitterly thinking that there might be some Hunters who brought back fake relics from the Higaraka residence ruin.
“What can I say… It seems that selling relic is not that simple, huh”
“Yup, thats why people tend to get suspicious when they make deals regarding relics. Im sure there would be people who will get suspicious of you too. So when that happens, just keep calm and handle it calmly, okay”
“Okay, Ill be careful.”
“Well, we ended up talking longer than I planned, so yep, later then.”
Akira dipped back to his bathtub and lightly sighed.
“…There are a lot of things that I still dont know out there, huh. Alpha, to be honest, did I ever bring back fake relics”
“Not really, although, it depends on how you define fake relics.”
“For example, lets say that someone from the old-world era made a fake article, will it make that article a fake relic according to this era or not Or is it solely decided based on whether its made during the old-world era Which in that case the fake article from the old-world era would be a not-fake relic in this era. So yep, its not that simple.”
“I see, youre right about that. It really is not that simple, huh.”
Akira kept thinking about the definition of fake relics while enjoying the bath, but it did not take that long before that thought dissipated into the warm water too.
Inside a slightly high-class clothing store located in the Kugamayama lower district, Kashua, the manager of the store where Sheryl once shopped in the past, lightly sighed.
That other day when a Hunter with enough money requested a refit for an old-world dress, effectively throwing its value as an old-world relic, came to her shop, her little sister who was talented in refitting dresses completed that request with amazing results. Thus, there was no surprise that Kashua was expecting that story to spread around and lure in other customers with at least that much money as that particular Hunter. So in order to prepare her store for it, she decided to order some high-quality goods. But unfortunately, that type of said customers never appeared.
Although it did not exactly put her book in red, the high-quality articles stuffed back in the warehouse were putting some pressure on her. Fortunately, Kashua could get someone to buy them bit by bit thanks to her talent as a seller, but it would take some time before she could sell all of them.
Kashua then mumbled.
“What a blunder…”
Sheryl and Akira praised the refitted dress that much, so although Kashua did not get more customers after that, she could at least expect Akira and Sheryl to come there again sooner or later. Or at least, that was what she had thought, but unfortunately, that was not the case too. Kashua was in the middle of lamenting her current situation that could not be further off from her expectation.
Suddenly, someone entered the store. The bell fixed on the stores door rang to let her know that she got some customers. Kashua immediately changed her expression back to her usual sellers smile and headed to the door to welcome her customers.
They were several young boys and girls led by a lady. The lady did not seem to have any trouble with her dress, while the young boys were donning suits that looked like augmented suits. But the young girls were using rather shabby dresses, or at least, that was the case from Kashuas point of view.
Looking at that, Kashua was not sure whether to ask them to leave or not, but the moment she noticed some familiar faces among those young girls and boys, she could not help but raise her eyebrows. She then immediately replaced her surprised face with a big smile as she welcomed them.
“Welcome! Welcome! Thank you very much for visiting our store!!”
They were Akira and Sheryls gang.
Starting from Sheryl, Alicia, and the other officers, the girls from Sheryls gang started to look around the store. A few of them were looking really nervous, the rest, excited. After all, it was a rather high-class store that some children from the slum would normally never be able to visit. They had their eyes sparkle with excitement from the dresses lined up inside the store that they never even dreamt of using. The only girl who was taking it calmly was Sheryl.
While not too far from them, Akira was sitting together with the other boys from the gang on the tables provided inside that store. Viola, who was looking around the store with the other girls until now came to that table and sat next to Akira.
“Well, this place is pretty good for a store in the lower district. I didnt expect you to know a store like this.”
“Its not like Im that knowledgeable about the stores around this place, I just picked this store since it had some good reviews when I was browsing through the network.”
“Oh my, and that was enough of a reason for you to request refitting an old-world dress that even cost you 1,500,000 Aurum in this store Ive never thought youre someone who would splurge your money like that.”
“That money is the money that I earned, so its up to me how I use that money.”
“Geez, its not like Im criticizing you or anything, I just thought that was unexpected of you.”
Viola was actually prodding Akira for a reaction to guess if he actually was just simply that lax regarding money or he did that because he was that invested in Sheryl.
But Viola was not able to get any meaningful information from there. Of course, she could never have guessed Akira only did that in order to check his own fashion sense.
That was when Kashua approached Akira with her sellers smile. She was working hard recommending dresses to the girls until just now. But she decided to go to Akira since those girls, who did not have enough money to buy any of those dresses, always came up with excuses to refuse her offer. Since Kashua thought that it would be meaningless to keep pushing in that direction, she recommended the girls to explore the store on their own and shifted her focus to the people who seemed to have the capital to spend.
“Akira-sama. Is there any kind of dress that you want to get for your companions Well be happy to comply with any of your requests.”
“Uhhh, even if you ask me that…”
Alpha smiled bitterly and interjected.
“Akira, Im pretty sure she means to know how much you are planning to spend today. It seems that she misunderstanding that youll be paying this time too.”
“Ohhh, I see.”
Akira then glanced at Viola.
“You might want to ask that question to Viola instead, Im just here as an escort today.”
Viola turned at Kashua and lightly replied.
“Ill leave it to you. For now, just go ahead and recommend them dresses that you think will suit them the best based on your fashion sense.”
Kashuas smile, which was saying she hoped to get a more concrete answer, stiffened.
“Certainly, but still…”
“Dont worry, though it might be rather rude for me to say this, I dont think you have any goods that might make me worry about my budget, you see.”
Kashuas smile twitched in reaction to Violas rather rude remark. But Violas next sentence completely overwrote it.
“If youre still worried unless I give you a number, well, just come to me again if the total cost seems to be going above 100 million Aurum.”
“O-one hundred million Aurum”
Kashua was barely able to hold back her shock, Akira then exasperatedly said.
“You would even spend that much money only for clothes, huh”
Kashua did not even have the leeway to feel offended by that rude remark from Akira. After all, from the way he said it, it sounded as if Viola actually had enough money to pay that much amount of money.
“Oh my, I didnt expect that to come from someone who spent 350 million Aurum on his suit.”
“This one is an augmented suit. Its not like one of those common clothing, you know”
“You spent that money for something that you want, similar to me this time, so its the same. Just like how you use that to help you earn money from the old-world ruin, well use these dresses to earn money through making business deals. And just like how its difficult to explore a ruin without the suitable equipment, its hard to get a good business deal without the proper dress.”
Akira frowned and smiled wryly. Though he understood that argument, he actually did not want to admit it, and that was shown on his face.
“Hmmm, when you put it like that, thats true, but still…”
“Moreover, its not like its a one-use thing, and I dont think that it will go anywhere near 100 million Aurum either. Not to mention, if I buy the dresses plus the accessories in a bulk, I can get a cheaper deal for every piece of dress and accessory compared to when I buy them individually. And personally speaking, I dont think its weird to spend that much money on appearance.”
“Is that so”
Akira only said so and stopped pursuing that subject further, to be more precise, he just dropped that subject there. Although it might be cheaper than buying the dresses and the accessories one by one, it did not change the fact that the total price was still huge and that Viola would be spending another big bulk of her money on Sheryls gang. After all, Akira knew very well Viola was not someone who would spend her money meaninglessly.
Kashua was even more shocked hearing that exchange where Viola and Akira were casually talking about using hundreds of millions of Aurum. Viola who noticed that threw a rather provoking smile at Kashua.
“So there you have it, you dont have to worry about our budget. But of course, if you can make me worry about the budget, then youre more than welcomed to do that. Well, to be honest, when I heard that you did a really good job refitting a certain dress, I had my expectation up. Thats why I prepared that much budget beforehand, you see.”
To put it another way, Viola was basically saying that she had lost that expectation from Kashuas store. Hearing that, Kashua tried her best to prevent her face from twitching and gave Viola a hearty smile.
“Although I dont know if the goods in this store might satisfy you or not, Ill give my best to answer your expectation. And if youre interested in the dress that we refitted, please, by all means, consider refitting one of your dresses in our store. We have an employee whom I can recommend and Im sure that shell be able to answer your expectations. So please wait here for a bit.”
Kashua lightly bowed and left Akira and Viola. She then went to the backroom and finally removed her sellers smile.
“Celene!! Time to work! Get yourself ready, quickly!!”
A lazy voice replied from inside the room.
“Onee-chan, its too soon for a shift change, isnt it”
“Just change to something that you can present in front of customers! We have some refitting jobs for you to do!”
“If its about refitting the clothes that you bought last time, just get the measurement data for the clients and Ill do the refitting later. You can handle that much right, Onee-chan Or is it that the client is asking for a rushed request”
Celene sighed as she stepped out from inside the room. But the moment she saw how her sister looked very lively there, Celene could not help but to get weirded out by that.
“Uhhh, did something happen”
“Damn right! Like hell I would let her look down on my store!! Celene, get out there and take the refitting orders! The client said that theres no need to worry about the budget, she even said that she has a 100 million Aurum budget! This is a good time for you to show your skill that you always refuse to sell cheaply!! So get out there and show them what you are made of!!”
“1-100 million Aurum…”
“Ill be pulling out my reserved stock too!! Theres no need to worry about the budget if its my store, she said. Like hell I would let that slide!! Ill definitely get her to worry about her budget!!”
Celene was a little overwhelmed by her sister who just could not calm down. But since it was a chance for her to put out all her skill without worrying about money, she immediately started to prepare herself to get out on the floor.
Kashua who reacted very well to that light provocation from Viola started to get to work. And as Viola schemed, Kashua was giving her best service that normally a first-time customer would never get.
Kashua introduced Celene to Viola before taking a refitting order for Sheryl and Alicia. After that, they decided on the specifics and the details of that order as well as choosing the material to be used before Kashua asked them to come to the workshop to get their measurement.
Alicia nervously glanced at Erio as if to hope that he would accompany her. Erio noticed that and asked for their permission to accompany Alicia. Seeing that, Alicia smiled happily while slightly blushing.
Sheryl also sent a similar glance at Akira. But Akira only glanced back at her, looking a bit confused, and barely made any reactions at all. So in his place, Viola showed a reaction by holding back her laughter. Before Sheryl left with Celene while looking slightly disappointed, she did not forget to send a glare at Viola.
Viola lightly laughed and turned to Akira.
“I know Carol said this once before, but Akira, you really need to learn how to treat a girl right. If Im not mistaken, youre in the middle of learning that, no”
“Oh, shut up!”
Viola smiled at that thorny reply from Akira, but in the back of her mind, she was thinking about a lot of things regarding his reply.
Viola realized that it might be interesting to see how Akira would react if she brought up Shizuka or Elena or Sara, but before she could say anything, she kept the lid closed on that curiosity. Back then when she messed with Sheryl, she ended up with a hole in her chest. So if she actually mentioned Shizuka, Sara, or Elena here, this time she might not even leave as much as a piece of herself behind. Viola at least understood that much.
In order to keep her curiosity contained, Viola kept telling herself that even if she really wanted to test it, she would need to set up a better situation first to do that.
While Viola was in the midst of her thoughts, Kashua approached Viola and placed a box that looked like a jewellery box on top of the table. She then said with full confidence to Viola.
“Although this is something that we would only offer to loyal customers, since you have given us the chance to offer you our best service, Ive come with this special piece of goods that might suit your fancy. So please, by all means, have a look.”
Kashua opened the box and showed female undergarments inside it. Viola who saw that looked slightly surprised and hummed in amazement which Kashua found very satisfying.
“So, how about this piece of clothing article”
“Not bad at all.”
“Thank you very much.”
Besides Viola and Kashua who were smiling at each other, Akira curiously glanced at that underwear and Kashua noticed that.
“Oh, is there anything wrong”
“Ah, its nothing, I just thought that it looks really expensive.”
“Its indeed an expensive piece of clothing, but I can guarantee its quality. Its an old-world relic that would normally be sold only inside the wall. Its very rare to find this kind of article outside the inner wall. Our store was able to procure it only by using our special route.”
“Ahh, I see. Its a very valuable piece of relic, huh”
“But of course, after all, its valuable enough for the people inside the wall to compete for it.”
Kashua felt a bit offended since it sounded as if Akira was questioning the quality of her product. For someone who had spent hundreds of millions of Aurum for his equipment, Akira should have the ability to judge the quality of a relic. Kashua could not accept if he looked down at her prized possession, but it seemed that it was an unneeded worry from her side as she patted her chest in relief. She then continued by ardently explaining her prized goods.
Akira only lent his ear to that explanation as his brain did not register anything while he glanced at that female undergarment.
“Alpha, about that…”
“Yup, thats one of the relics that you brought to Shizukas shop.”
“Judging from the material and the identification code that cant be checked with naked eyes, it doesnt seem to be a fake relic.”
“… I see.”
To be honest, Akira only glanced at it since he thought that the relics he brought back from the ruin seemed to have actually gotten sold somewhere. But after listening to Alphas explanation, he was a bit surprised and a little bit scared on how Alpha could even tell that much.
The only reason that it caught Akiras interest was simply because he felt like he saw it somewhere before. But then Alpha seemed to be able to inspect that piece of relic down to the things that could not be seen with naked eyes. Although Akira himself did not understand why there was any need to know that far.
Akira understood that Alpha knew a lot of things about himself, but he never thought badly of it. Or at least, he did not let that bother him until that time when Tsubaki said those words to him back in the Tsubakihara building.
The manager of Tsubakihara building, another similar existence as Alpha which he could recognize, warned him about something that Alpha was doing to him.
[…But well, I guess its too late to worry about that right now.]
Akira said so to himself and just forgot about it. After all, everything that he had received from Alpha up until now, including the support and all the help from her, was enough to outweigh that worry.
Viola noticed that slight change from Akira and tried to probe him.
“Akira, whats wrong Though I think its normal for you to get interested in this kind of thing, you should be careful or you would look suspicious, you know”
But Akira replied casually.
“Well, Im a Hunter after all. It doesnt matter whether its a female undergarments or anything. As long as its an old-world relic, its only normal for me to be interested, no”
“Thats true, but I heard that you just gave one to Sheryl the other day though.”
“Oh shut it! It doesnt really matter, does it Its my relic and Im free to do what I want with it.”
“But of course.”
Viola said so and smiled amusedly since Akira looked away as if to avoid answering that question. But from there, Kashua at least noticed that her prized goods had some kind of connection with Akira, of course, she could not recognize anything further than that.-