After the mock battle, Sheryl invited Akira to visit the base. When Akira arrived there, he looked at the base in surprise.
“Well, what can I say… The base has really improved in the short time I havent visited.”
Since Sheryl kept assimilating the other buildings around the base into it, it had grown considerably in terms of size.
Sheryl smiled smugly beside Akira.
“Its also thanks to you that we can grow this big.”
“I dont remember doing anything in particular though.”
“Thats not true at all. Weve received enough favour just with you supporting us from behind. Of course, there are more things too. So yes, were really blessed to have your help.”
“Is that so Well, its fine if its really so.”
Akira thought of Sheryls words as nothing more than flattery. But Sheryl was only saying what she really felt, it was the truth.
When someone built a house in the eastern district, they would have to make it strong enough to endure monster attacks. Although the level of durability changed for different areas, they were normally relatively cheap buildings. It was all thanks to analyzing and imitating the old-world buildings.
But even so, the buildings in the inner wall were still expensive. In contrast to that, the buildings down in the slum city were dirt cheap. Even if someone built a magnificent building inside the slum city, it would turn into a dilapidated ruin in no time due to the bad public order. Thanks to that, most of the price came from security.
The only reason Sheryls gang was able to rule over such a vast area was because of the support from Akira. No one would dare to cause a ruckus in the base that a Hunter, who could even defeat a powered suit all by himself, was protecting. That information alone was enough to maintain the public order there.
Inside the base, Katsuragi set up a branch of his shop as well as a warehouse, Viola also set up her office there. Both further helped to maintain the public order in that area. And if they went one step further, both only helped Sheryls gang because of their connections to Akira. So in the end, it was all thanks to Akira.
Akira thought that it must be because it had already been some time since he left slum city, that must be why his knowledge about the slum city was not as detailed as before. As such, he was not able to fully grasp just how much he had done for Sheryls gang.
Akira was guided to Sheryls private chamber. He then sat on a chair with Sheryl sitting on the opposite side of the table, sipping the coffee served on the table while talking about all kinds of stuff with her.
Compared to before, Sheryls current room was way wider. It only had a small amount of furniture considering the size of it, but that room gave no feeling that it was located inside the slum city. As a matter of fact, it was a room that gave off a rather high-class feeling, as if it was cut off from a luxurious mansion and brought there.
Sheryl had already changed from her wasteland outfit to something more casual. The translucent and comfortable looking dress gave off a friendly feeling, while still giving off a graceful aura.
The white coffee cup was decorated with a small accessory, even an amateur could feel an air of luxury from it. The decorated spoon accompanying it was also obviously not the same as those common spoons.
The way Sheryl picked up her cup, brought it to her mouth, slurped it, and placed it back in its place, gave off the feeling that she was born from a completely different social stratum.
Akira felt that there was something strange in that room. He thought that Sheryl would climb up on him just like usual, but that did not seem to be the case at all. Although it felt better this way, it still threw him for a loop since he did not expect it at all.
In a sense, it was one of the results of Sheryls training. In order not to make any blunder during the feast, she was taking training to keep her graceful outlook. At first, she looked really unnatural, it was not easy at all, but thanks to her talent, she had gained that graceful aura.
The topics of their conversation moved to the renovation of the base and the new equipment. Now that the base was bigger than ever before, it was easier for the gang members to get their own room. At the moment, those who had individual rooms were limited to the officers, while those who had low positions, just slept here and there, mostly inside unused empty rooms. But even so, it was way safer than sleeping in an alley in the slum city. Thus there were many who wished to join the gang.
“Although the base itself has gotten bigger, most of the rooms are empty, we dont even use them as storage rooms. When we expanded the base, its more to be safe in case we needed extra spaces rather than because we urgently required them. Thats why, if you want, we can get you your own room.”
“No, I dont need it.”
“I see, thats unfortunate.”
Other than Sheryl, up until now, most of the gang members received the same treatment, but that was no longer true. Because of that, people started competing for positions with better treatments. Therefore, Sheryl had to watch over them and make sure that it would cause any problem.
Not only did they get a relic supply route from Viola, they were also receiving relics from Inabe as well. Thus, Sheryls relic shop was doing very well. At the moment, she even allowed people that Viola brought in to manage half of the shop, while she, herself was handling the floor that showcased the expensive relics, and came out to serve the customer though only rarely.
“It might be weird for me to say this, are you sure the people that Viola brought with her are safe”
“We did not find any problems so far. Not only do they help with the relic shop, theyre also helping to teach the gang members how to read and write, and they even help with some administration work as well. So, its true that theyre helping us a lot. They said that they would take responsibility if anything bad happens, thats why I let them do their task. Moreover, its true that we have an easier time on some occasions when we have some adults with us. After all, me included, were all basically kids.”
“I see, well, its fine then if you say so.”
Although Akira did not give much thought to it, Sheryl actually hired Violas men while already considering the potential trouble that it might bring.
Due to the expansion of the gang, Sheryl was no longer able to manage the whole gang on her own. Although she needed more helping hands, unfortunately, no one in the gang had the ability to help her in that matter. After all, half of the gang members were only able to read and write just recently. She would need more time to train someone on how to manage the gang.
At the moment, Sheryl was filling those holes with Violas men. That not only caused her to rely on Violas connection, it also made Violas influence over the gang stronger.
Although they were told to teach some of the officers to do their job, it seemed that it would still take some time until the officers could take over these jobs from them. But as the gang only grew faster and faster, Sheryl was not able to procure enough people to manage the gang and ended up relying on Violas men even further.
Sheryl did question if Viola deliberately pushed the gang to grow fast enough so that she would not be able to manage it any longer, and that she might be planning to take over the gang after that. But Sheryl told herself if that was really the case, then she would use that for her own profit instead and get the growing gang fully under her control.
“Ah, no, its nothing. By the way, about the gang, among all the new facilities that we have now, everyone seems to really like the new bath. Ever since we have gotten more members, they often caused a long waiting line to use the bath, so we made it bigger.”
The base at the moment had three separate baths. One for the boys, one for the girls, and one reserved only for officers. Some of the individual rooms also had a small bath. Akira found something that bothered him when he heard that.
“Bath for officers Do they even need it Dont they have their own bath in their own individual rooms”
“Not all of them have their own bath. Furthermore, those baths are pretty small as well. With the bath for officers being something special.”
“What do you mean by that Is it like its so big”
“No, its hard to explain, but Im sure youll understand it if you try it.”
Sheryl noticed that Akira was interested, so she then smiled invitingly at him and said.
“How about you try taking a dip”
Akira thought for a bit but eventually lost to his curiosity.
The base colour of the officer bath was white, it was in order to give a more spacious and clean impression. The bath itself was large enough to allow several people to extend their legs altogether. Despite the decorations being far from elaborate, all of them gave a luxurious feeling.
But Akira did not find any of that amazing. He seemed a bit disappointed as he proceeded to clean his body before dipping himself in the warm bath. But he immediately noticed something.
“…Wait, theres something different! I can feel it! But I cant really explain it!”
Sheryl, who went in normally as if she was already used to it, then explained to him.
“Were using high-quality water and the filter is on all the time to maintain its quality. Even if someone makes a mistake and gets the soap into the water, the filtration would quickly take care of that as well. Thats basically all there is to it, thats why I cant really explain it with words. But once you experience it, you immediately notice that theres something special, isnt it”
“Yes, it is. I see.”
Akira scooped up a handful of water and looked at it with interest. Seeing him like this, Sheryls face turned red for a bit, and it was not because of the warm water. Seeing his well-built body was too much to handle for the current Sheryl.
As Sheryl unconsciously stared at his body, Akira of course noticed it.
“…Its nothing. I just thought that if you find it that good, you can come here every day to use it, you know”
“…Well, as expected, that would be impossible.”
Sheryl noticed Akira waver a little, so she then made another proposition.
“I heard that its good for your health and helps you recover from fatigue. Being a Hunter is a very tiring job, so even if you cant come every day, you can just visit to take a dip on your way back after you are done with your Hunter job. Im sure itll be beneficial for you. After all, although its a bath reserved only for officers, Im thinking of letting others use it after a tiring day just like todays training.”
Akira wavered even more.
“…In that case, I should get one back in my home…”
“We could get one here because of the size of the base, otherwise, I think its difficult to get one for a normal house. You might be able to get a smaller one, but that might not work as effectively as this bath. Likewise, if you want to get the same level of effect for a smaller bath, it might cost way more money.”
Akira started to seriously consider it, but suddenly, one of the walls turned bright and it was connected to a call from one of the gang members. In order to allow officers to give commands from the bath, one of the walls was equipped with an information terminal.
“Boss, Viola said that she wants to meet you.”
Sheryl pouted and said.
“Im in the bath right now. If its nothing important, tell her to keep it for later.”
Sheryl quickly closed the call after she said that, but it did not take long for another call to come in.
“Boss, she said that its important and shes heading there now.”
“Eh But Akira is also here, you know Tell her that and stop her.”
“Uhh, shes already left and is heading there…”
After that, Viola and Carol came in wearing the outfit suitable for taking bath. Akira was a bit surprised and Sheryl obviously looked displeased. Viola then smiled at Sheryl and Carol at Akira.
Sheryl, who was not happy that her quality time with Akira was interrupted, could not hide her sullen expression as she sent a sharp stare at Viola who was taking a dip in front of her.
“So then, what is it”
“You went to take a look at the coordination support augmented suit today, right Im here to ask you about it.”
“Is it really that important”
“It is. Although, do excuse me for omitting the reason why it is important. It might take a few days of explanations to fully explain why it is important, you see. If you still want to know, I can tell you some other day. Im doing my best here to bring more profits for the gang, you know So it would be great if you can help me out. But then again, its not like I can force you to.”
Viola was smiling confidently, but that amused smile was giving a rather ominous aura. If she brought upprofits for the gang, Sheryl could not refuse. So Sheryl just sighed and told Viola what she wanted to know.
While on the other side, Akira looked exasperatedly at Carol.
“Normally people wont just waltz in like that, you know”
“Sheryl is here too, so its fine, isnt it Moreover, its not like we showed you anything unsightly.”
Although it was for different purposes, Viola and Carol were using their bodies for their goals. For Viola, it was about smoothening the negotiation, while for Carol, it was for the sake of pulling in the opposite sex. Hence, both of them had a relatively good style that did not give any sense of discomfort.
But Akira did not show any interest in their naked bodies as he lightly sighed and completely lost interest in them. Seeing that, Carol smiled bitterly while also looking rather amused.
“Geez, youre really cold.”
“I have no wish to get friendly with the people who interrupt my bath time.”
“Were not interrupting though. As a matter of fact, I can help you wash your body, you know After all, people usually miss some spots when they just do it haphazardly, it will be a good massage as well, you know”
“No thanks, just dont interrupt me.”
Akira only said so and returned his attention to the warm water. The new sensation coming from the bath gradually made his expression relax.
“You seem to be really enjoying it, do you like it that much”
“Yep, it feels different than the bath back home.”
“I see. Although you look like youre earning well, it seems that youve only been using a cheap bath, huh.”
Akira shifted his gaze back to Carol and slightly tilted his head.
“Yeah yeah, sorry about that. So what kind of bath do you have”
“Me Lets see…”
Carol started talking about the bathing equipment she was using in her house. It was a rather big bath for one person. Just like the water used in the gangs base, it was also using high-quality water. In order to help her dry herself after the bath, there was also a wind drying device. She told him about all kinds of equipment the bath in her house used.
The water was not only good quality water but it was also adjusted for Carols enhanced body. The nanomachine for the maintenance and healing was mixed into the water. Even though the water was not clear, it had an obvious noticeable effect on health and beauty.
Akira was surprised to hear her explanation.
“You mix medicines too Thats definitely not going to be cheap.”
“Well, I cant deny it. But its well under my budget. The main asset for a Hunter is his or her body. Even you are extremely invested in rifles and augmented suits, right Its the same as that. The body is the main asset that cant be replaced. So, I dont see anything strange with spending money to keep it in tip-top shape at all times. Well, although, its true that its also for my side job as well, so Im using more expensive stuff than a normal Hunter would usually use. This body actually takes more money than you imagine to maintain, you know”
Carol smiled proudly and pointed at her own body. Akira was baited by that finger and looked at her body and he ended up staring at her for a few seconds. But even so, he did not show even the slightest sign of interest at all. His stare was much closer to a stare that he would give for high quality and expensive rifle or augmented suit.
Carol, of course, noticed that and sighed.
[I wonder if I should take the initiative and pay him instead… Hmmm, I have a feeling that he would refuse that as well though… Hes really earnest when it comes to requests, maybe I can use that instead]
Seeing Akira show almost no interest, she might have no other choice but to take a more active approach to capture him. As she was busy thinking about how she would do that, Akiras focus already returned back to the warm bath as he started questioning if the bath in his house was really that cheap.
After finishing their business, Carol and Viola left the bath. Akira did think of enjoying the bath for a little bit longer, but for some reason, he was not into that idea and left not too long after Viola and Carol left. Seeing him leave, Sheryl disappointedly followed suit.
After the training, Tabata and his men took a short rest in the hall of the gangs base. At the moment, the gang had allocated that hall for Tabata and his mens use as their workspace. The inside of the room was filled with all kinds of equipment, everyone there was busy communicating and working on their respective task.
They were testing the coordination support system in the slum city as a security system for the base. This way, amateurs who could not even write or read were able to actively contribute in securing the base. It was a test to check the performance of the support system, how far it could turn them into a functional defensive squad.
As Tabata was still lamenting what had happened back in the wasteland, a colleague in the same position as him, came to him.
“Well, I heard it didnt go that well, but you cant afford to stay down like this. Isnt this a normal thing since its a test Although, you need to properly reflect on how emotional you got back there.”
Tabata lightly sighed and frowned.
“I really have no words to refute you, but if I may make an excuse…”
“Are you going to say that its because the opponent was way too strong I heard that hes a strong Hunter, but you cant use that as an excuse, you know”
“Thats not it, I know that I cant use that as an excuse. The one thing that troubles me the most was that we were too confident. According to the past results, it should be able to defeat him. That was why I was so confident.”
“The past result, huh But like, isnt this the first test with that augmented suit”
“Thats true for the augmented suit. But weve done other tests too for the system. We did lend them to Drankam too. And unlike that time, this was a stable version, not an experimental one. It was a test including various equipment with Drankam, the result from back then was really positive.”
Tabata started getting excited again, but then he looked troubled.
“The performance was way better compared to the products from other companies. When they started using our system, that young ace Hunter from Drankam who had not been doing well lately, recovered from his slump. They even thanked us afterwards. It also left an extremely positive track record from when we used it during the incident in Kuzusuhara ruin. One of the reviews said that they worked together as a team better than ever before. Analysis from the logs also confirmed their claim. The results were all great…”
But the result from the latest test completely changed everything. It made all the past results look like an illusion. Tabata drooped. Seeing Tabata like this, his friend could not help but smile wryly and tried to cheer him up.
“Well, although they are more or less the same age, you cant really compare a rising star and the main Hunter that Drankam is pushing with a bunch of children from the slum city. Its true that the main goal of our product is to make the gap as small as possible, but theres a limit on how far it can go. Cheer up. We obtained a good set of data, and although I dont know the exact story, the guy who got his arm broken also said that he would still help out with the test, right Its not all that bad, we just need to continue slowly and carefully.”
Tabata regained some of his composure thanks to it.
“…Youre right, I guess I got too excited after getting a good result from our test runs with Drankam. I should forget about that result and check the system one more time. I have to add the adjustment from the data when that incident occurred.”
“Yep, you should do that. But still, well, I didnt expect you to use someone elses setting for the augmented suit. You do know well that its a taboo to do that, right A lot of accidents happened because of that in the past, so make sure to be careful about it.”
“I thought that it would work since their builds were not that different, you know. But well, yeah, Ill be more careful.”
The biggest reason why Erio got injured was because the augmented suit was set using someone elses data, so it tried to execute something that Erio could not do. Right after they finished talking about it, Carol and Viola approached them.
“Good afternoon. There are a few things that I want to ask about the augmented suit, is it okay”
As usual, Viola was smiling, amusedly.
After Akira returned back home, he decided to get in the bath for some reason. But this time, he felt that something was lacking. He then frowned and mumbled.
“…This is no longer good enough for me, huh”
Alpha lightly smiled.
“I dont think its a bad thing, you know.”
“Well, even if you say so…”
It was not like he could visit Sheryls base every day to take a dip there. While on the other hand, he did not want to upgrade the bath in his house just to be disappointed later. But getting guaranteed good bathing equipment might cost him a lot of money.
It was very rare for Akira to be troubled about something that had nothing to do with being a Hunter or Alphas request.-