Not too long after the large-scale expedition incident, Akira called Kibayashi to meet up in a certain restaurant on the first floor of Kugama building. Kibayashi was browsing the menu in a good mood.
“Youre the one who invited me, so youll pay for it this time, right”
“Thats great to hear. By the way, why dont we go to the higher floors”
“I dont have that kind of money. This place is already expensive for me.”
Seeing Akira frowning, Kibayashi smiled bitterly and remarked.
“No one would have expected that coming from a ranking 50 Hunter. Whether its for treating someone else or for treating yourself, a high-ranking Hunter like you needs to use the appropriate corresponding restaurant, you know”
Although there were many deaths after that incident, many of the Hunters did not receive enough to make the job they took worthwhile. It was mainly because most of the Hunters participating in the expedition had their reward decided based on the relics that they brought back. Even for those in the extermination team, their contract did not award payment for the number of monsters that they defeated, but instead, the worth of relics found in the area that they secured. Based on those two criteria, most Hunters did not receive much at all.
Naturally, City Management could not use that excuse to not pay the Hunters. Nonetheless, these Hunters could not really be rewarded considering the fact that most of them were fighting and killing each other. None to mention City Management did not have that funds to spare in the first place. The cost of the powered suit used during the expedition was by no means small. There were many individuals and corporations that bet on the success of the expedition. Despite all of that, aside from Yanagisawas deal with Tsubaki, the expedition ended up in a total failure. Thus, many investors could not reap the reward of their investment. In the worst-case scenario, it might even shake the citys economy. Therefore, City Management was working hard to find a way to stabilize the situation.
In order to do that, City Management offered rewards to the Hunters in the form of rank promotion. Rewards were normally a sum of money plus a Hunter Rank promotion. However, it had now turned purely into Hunter Rank promotion.
Naturally, there were Hunters who insisted on getting paid. To pacify them, City Management paid them based on their Hunter Rank after their promotion using loans. The loans came from selling bonds to several corporations and other cities. Although Kugamayama city was in a financial pinch, since there was a prospect of massive sums of revenue soon, City Management managed to amass more than sufficient funding.
The low-interest loan City Management provided was a huge help for the Hunters who had to pay for treatment, equipment, and repairs. It was just enough to prevent the Hunters from rioting.
With this, Akira received a huge boost in his Hunter Rank. It was thanks to the feat of crushing an entire team of Hunters alone. He also shot down a powered suit that was piloted by someone suspected to be a nationalist. If they considered all his achievement, potential payments and converted it into Hunter Rank, the increase would obviously not be small.
And so, with someone as skilled and as powerful as him, Akiras actions and words came off unbefitting of his position.
“If you want to change it to Shuteriana, youll be the one paying, okay If you dont want to, then you need to be someone that would give me a good enough reason to treat you there first.”
“Geez, thats so stingy. Just so you know, Im actually a big shot, you know”
“So why is this so-called big shot driving a patrol truck in the middle of the wasteland.”
“Thats my hobby.”
In contrast to Kibayashi who was smiling amusedly, Akira looked obviously exasperated.
Once they finished placing their order, the meal came not too long after. It was only once the dishes were on the table that Kibayashi started talking about the main subject.
“So then, what do you want to ask me today After all, you were the one who called me here, it must be a pretty serious subject, right”
“I want to hear the details of the equipment that I ordered back then. Its already been almost 6 months since then. I know that its not that simple, but at least tell me whats the progress right now and estimate how long I can get them.”
“Oh, about that, huh. Its still nowhere close to completion, I cant even give you the time estimation.”
Against Akiras obviously disapproving reaction, Kibayashi frowned and rebuked.
“Just to let you know, its your fault that I put in the order late, you know”
“How did that end up as my fault”
“Its your fault for adding Inabes connections in the middle of it. Thanks to that, the prearranged deal was thrown into the rubbish can. Moreover, since the situation had changed, when we asked you one more time about your order including the ones through Inabes connections, you yourself said to use all the connections available to get the best equipment instead of focusing on speed, remember Its given that only a handful of places sell such exquisitely high-quality equipment. To be precise, everything is from the east end of the eastern district. It is the closest you can get to the front line, where the best of the best equipment is sold. Its really difficult to get your order through them on that side, you know”
Kibayashi was fully expressing his exasperation with his body language as well. Seeing him like that, Akira faltered for a bit.
“Whats more, after Inabe got control over the supply line, he has become a pretty influential person. Thanks to that, many want to use that route as well. Although, I bet most of them are aiming for Yanagisawa instead. So hes having a hard time over there dealing with the adjustment. Ive been really busy, you know. Preparing negotiation materials directly not related to the order to smooth out the deal, getting myself involved in their negotiations, making offers, creating openings. Its not easy, you know”
“Even after getting the equipment that you asked for, we still have to figure out how to transport it here. I had to ask the city transports to bring it over so many times. They finally agreed when they had spare capacity. However, that is only for a single item. Even after they agreed, they are still scouting the networks and figuring out which route to take. That is not to mention the deals that I have to make to other parties involved as well. There are still a lot of things to do”
“Y-yes, of course.”
As Akira was overwhelmed by Kibayashis flurry of explanation that sounded more like an attack, he suddenly thought of something.
“If its about the transport, I can help out by paying to get it sent here in its own separate transport vehicle though. That way, everything should arrive faster.”
“Like hell it would, if you really want to do it, make sure to at least prepare 10 billion Aurum, alright”
“I-Its that expensive”
Akira was utterly surprised. Kibayashi sighed exasperatedly and explained.
“Listen here. The front line is filled with monsters that are normally designated as bounty monsters around here. Now imagine paying the Hunters who spend their time fighting such monsters just to escort your equipment here. It will obviously not be cheap, right Corporations dealing with transportation in between cities have to do a lot of ways to lower the cost. Things like building infrastructure along the safe routes, or carrying multiple cargoes in one go, or getting into long-term contracts with such Hunters. If you want to pay to transport your equipment separately, theres no doubt that itll at least be that expensive.”
Now that Kibayashi explained it, it did make sense for Akira. So Akira just sighed and replied.
“…I see. That does make sense. I have an acquaintance who once transported equipment from the front line, so I must have gotten a wrong impression from there.”
“Well, there are some safe areas too, even in the front line. Moreover, there are people who love to boast about being in the front line. Its impossible to trust them without any proof. You can test them with stories that they wont know unless they actually visited the front line or stuff that can be found only in the front line.”
“Thats true, I cant say for sure that hes not lying, but I got to see something that I heard only exists in the front line. It was a gun called Ragnarok. Elena-san and Sara-san were there too, so Im pretty sure it was really a Ragnarok.”
Kibayashi raised his eyebrows and smiled amusedly.
“Ohhh, in that case, he must really have a safe route to the front line at the very least. So, what happened to him People who bet on the transportation of such stuff usually either end up with a huge profit or a huge loss”
Stories of people who reached for success through one enormous bet was Kibayashis favourite. Even if their bet failed, he would still relish it. However, though he showed his interest, in contrast to that, Akira paused for a bit before replying.
“…I think its neither. It seems that hes working as a normal merchant right now.”
“Ohh, thats unexpected. Hmmm… Can you introduce me to him Dont worry, you can just tell me his contact number. Theres no need to reserve your time to introduce him directly to me.”
“Sure, I dont mind, but hes not a Hunter, you know”
“It doesnt matter, as long as theyre daredevil reckless people, their occupation doesnt matter.”
After Kibayashi received Katsuragis contact from the obviously exasperated Akira, he then returned to the main subject.
“So, the equipment will still take some time to arrive. Well, Im sure its not fun to just listen to my excuses as to why itll still take some time. So, Ill at least let you know this. For the transport, it seems that its going better than I thought, as long as we can get the product, it might reach here sooner than expected. Were in the resupplying season right now, and this time, Kugamayama city is joining the distribution network.”
The Corporate Government had a regular large-scale transportation season. During that time, they took in requests to transport money, cargo, and even people all over the eastern district in order to proactively encourage economic circulation throughout the eastern district.
Due to the support from the Corporate Government, transporting between cities that would have normally cost a large sum, could be done at a small price or even for free. It also helped transport people, who could not travel due to the price, and distribute them to locations that needed them. Thus, stimulating the development of the eastern district.
Of course, there was also another secret reason. It was also useful to transport people from overpopulated cities to the slums of other cities.
Even if the Corporate Government stopped the free food distribution in the slums of certain cities and told them that there was a surplus in the other cities, people with no money nor power would still not move to the other cities. To be precise, they could not afford to go. However, if transport was free, then it was a completely different matter. People from the slums would actively participate in the transport season, believing that they had a better chance of surviving somewhere else. It was a more ethical way to control the population density of the slums in the cities instead of just killing them. Thus, the reason why cities tolerated such a practice.
While at the same time, it also worked as a way to transport Hunters who started to run out of work in the cities they were in. They could go to a better place with more Hunter jobs before they turn into thugs and bandits out of desperation. After all, penniless but armed Hunters would not be able to live elsewhere other than the slums.
Moreover, plans for constructing new cities or a base way past the front line would be often done during this season. After all, they needed to transport a lot of resources to execute such a plan.
With all of these reasons intertwined, trucks and other transport vehicles filled the wasteland during this season. Of course, it greatly roused the monsters. However, with the monetary support from the Corporate Government, each transport vehicle was guarded with enough escorts. It was a good opportunity to show the power of the Corporate Government as well as to thin out the monsters roaming the wasteland. Due to this large-scale movement, the eastern district was able to build infrastructure to travel through the wasteland.
Akira tried to remember when was the last transport season, but considering that he could not even tell what was the date back when he was in the slums, he could not really identify when was the last transport season.
“The transport season, huh. I feel like its been quite a while since the last season.”
“The transport season itself is always done at least once per year, but it has indeed been quite a while since the last time Kugamayama city joined in on it. Although each city is recommended to join, its still up to each City Managements discretion to join or not. Basically, we have no say in such a decision, but well, its kind of easy to guess the reason why Kugamayama city decided to join this season.”
“Oh, what reason is that”
Kibayashi pulled back his head and raised his eyebrows. He then gave a bitter smile as he stated the reason.
“Its for replenishing Hunters.”
Kugamayama city had several ruins around it and each ruin offered different levels of challenge. Some of them were completely explore-able even to new Hunters while some even required veteran Hunters with proper preparation.
Moreover, the regular patrol request made by City Management was basically training for newer Hunters to get themselves ready to face real ruins. At the same time, it also helped these amateur Hunters to earn enough money to get by. This way, they would not be forced into robbery and other crimes.
Working together like this encourages the Hunters to form teams. Thus, effectively reducing the number of Hunters who challenged the ruins alone only to end up dead. Although it had many downsides, the benefits were also equally as many if not more.
Due to this, Kugamayama city was a relatively good city for Hunters to chase after success. This was the reason why Hunters from nearby cities were attracted to here. Many Hunters stayed in this city for a long time to polish their skills before heading out east for more profitable ventures.
With such a background, Kugamayama city had become well known even among the Corporate Government as the city of Hunters. But unfortunately, that title was obsolete.
“Well, with a lot of things happening, we lost quite a lot of Hunters after all. Even if we talk only about the incidents connected to ruins, there were 3 in Kuzusuhara ruin and 1 in Mihazono residence ruin. Basically, there were 4 major incidents recently and each incident took many lives. There was that huge battle in the slums the other day as well. This is on top of all the common deaths from the Hunters as well. Thats why it would be bad for City Management unless we manage to bring in more Hunters from the other cities”
“…Is it really that bad”
“It definitely is. Ah, right, you are used to working alone so it doesnt affect you much, huh Well, some people might indeed think we didnt lose that much if we only look at the total percentage of fallen Hunters. But the effect is clearly palpable. There are quite a lot of Hunters who take a short hiatus or even decide to outright completely stop working after losing their partner, you know. There was a short time when we had a crisis. There were a considerable number of relics brought to the exchange centres and the number of Hunters who signed up for the patrol request skyrocketed. Oh, wait, this is a secret, okay After all, everything I just said is insider information.”
“We were able to regain some of our spirit and managed to gather quite a number of Hunters thanks to news of Yanagisawas successful deal with the ruins A.I. It would have been really bad if that did not happen. I bet Kugamayama city would have been forced into a recession if it was not for that.”
Although Kibayashi said so in his usual casual joking manner, he was telling the truth. The city was indeed on the brink of an economic crisis. But thats exactly why Yanagisawas recent achievement gave him immense power and influence.
But Kibayashi suddenly gasped as if he just noticed something.
“Wait, now that I think about it, you were also involved in all of those incidents, right”
Akira inadvertently looked away.
“…Well, I restarted my Hunter activity around that time after all.”
“Youve gone through all of those incidents and came back alive, no wonder youre doing great as a Hunter, as I thought, I can identify an exceptional Hunter when I see one”
In contrast to Kibayashi, who was laughing cheerfully, Akira only gave an awkward bitter smile. Although Akira thought that those incidents were not really his fault, his face still stiffened when Kibayashi brought them up.
They then had a short idle talk afterwards before Kibayashi asked Akiras plan from here on out.
“By the way, you got promoted to Rank 50. Are you planning to go to the other cities”
“No, I dont have that kind of plan at all.”
“Thats great to hear. It seems that Ill still be able to enjoy more of your crazy stories for a bit longer.”
Akira knitted his eyebrows.
“Is there any connection between my Hunter Rank and going to the other cities”
“Well, its just a rather common thing for the Hunters around Rank 40 to leave Kugamayama city and go to the other cities. And its also very common that theyll leave right before they reach Rank 50. Because of this, people basically recognize Kugamayama city as a city for Hunters below Rank 50.”
“Oh I didnt know there is that kind of upper limit.”
Seeing Akira so surprised, Kibayashi added to his explanation.
“Oh, please dont misunderstand. Its not like the Hunter Office sets an upper limit for the Hunters to stay in this city. Its basically just a matter of risk and reward. Convenience, and supply and demand. Since most of the Hunters leave the city before they reach Rank 50, as expected, no shop suitable for Hunters of Rank 50 and above can be found in this city. So, there is the trouble that they would have to go through for their equipment. Its also hard to find suitable party members as well. And to top it off, there are not many ruins around that match their skills. Because of that, its extremely difficult to raise their Rank even higher if they stay in this city. So for those Hunters who are aiming for Rank 50 and above, this city is only suitable for them at most till Rank 50.”
Akira was listening closely to Kibayashis explanation. After he gave a nod indicating that he could understand that reasoning, he then tilted his head.
“I see… Wait, you just said that there are not that many ruins that match their skill, right In that case, how about the inner part of Kuzusuhara ruin They can just go there, right”
Kibayashi could not hold back his smile in response to that naive question.
“If you think so, youre more than welcome to try.”
“… Is it that bad”
“Were talking about the area past the supply line that City Management built by splurging a huge amount of money here, you know We are only able to slowly push deeper only after dispatching powered suits. A Rank 50 Hunter would die in no time. Those Rank 60 or 70 Hunters might have a chance if they go with their own powered suit. However, there isnt a shop or a place for them to get their equipment properly maintained around here. Of course, City Management itself does have a place for that, but its usually fully utilized by the city defence squad. So, they dont have the spare time nor capacity for Hunters. Ah, by the way, just to warn you. Although people were using powered suits during that incident in the slums, its unwise to think of them as the same kind of power suit Im talking about here, okay What Im talking about are proper powered suits, properly maintained and piloted by real, skilled Hunters.”
“I see, that does make sense.”
That argument was enough to fully convince Akira. But as if they were exchanging positions, this time, it was Kibayashi who suddenly went deep in thought.
“…But well, the situation might change from now on. Not only has Yanagisawa restarted pushing the supply line deeper into Kuzusuhara ruin, it seems that hes also gathering high-ranking Hunters to explore the inner part of Kuzusuhara ruin. Other plans that involve large funding to construct infrastructure inside the ruin are also in progress. Some of the Hunters who had gone east are returning back. Dont you notice any of this”
“…Now that you mention it, I feel like Ive been seeing more and more Hunters with outfits that look like swimsuits under their coats. Are you talking about those people”
“Judging from their fashion sense, theres no mistaking it. Those are the Hunters who used to live in the eastern front line. Akira, be careful. As I said before, Kugamayama city is participating in the transport season which means that there will be an influx of Hunters. This includes those Hunters that Ive just mentioned. Some of these Hunters will need some time to adapt to the common sense of this city. They might act meek just because Hunters who can destroy a vehicle with their bare hands are considered weak from where they come from. If you get in a fight with any of them, you might get yourself killed.”
“Alright, Ill be careful.”
In response to Kibayashi who gave that warning in his uncharacteristically serious tone, Akira could feel the danger in his words and gave a firm reply.
On the next day, this time, it was Kibayashi who called Akira to come to a meeting. As Akira was waiting for Kibayashi on the first floor of the Kugama building, just before it was time for the meeting, a girl appeared from the inner wall.
Akira looked suspiciously at that girl who was walking toward him. She was donning a City Management staffs uniform and looked rather mature, compared to the current Akira, who had gone through a growth spurt and fixed his physical condition lately, that girl seemed to be around Akiras age. Basically, she was a tad bit too young to be called a full-grown adult but a little bit too old to be called a little girl as well. In short, she was rather too young to be from City Management, which was filled with adults.
The girl smiled nervously at Akira and gracefully bowed.
“Akira-san, correct Im Hikaru, Im working from the same bureau as Kibayashi. Nice to meet you.”
“Eh, ah, right, uhhh, where is Kibayashi”
“Ill be responsible for you for today. Well then, shall we go somewhere else to discuss the main matter for today”
“Whoah, wait, wait.”
Akira took out his information terminal and called Kibayashi.
“Its me, what is it”
“Dont give me that crap. Where are you now If you have someone else to come because some sudden business came up, at least leave me a message, will you”
Akira then proceeded to explain the situation to Kibayashi. Of course, he was planning to give Kibayashi an earful at the start, but his plan changed after Kibayashi replied with something that he did not expect.
“So basically, someone else came to the meeting place right on our agreed-upon scheduled time and she gave my name, right Let me tell you that it was a good move to contact me first instead of just going with her without saying anything.”
“What do you mean”
“Im saying that she might be trying to trick you.”
Akira shot a sharp gaze to Hikaru. Although Hikaru did not understand why he did that, it still sent a shiver to her spine.
“Whoah, dont get me wrong though. Im just saying it as a possibility. Hikaru is indeed someone I know. I can at least guarantee that. But I wont guarantee anything past that point.”
Akira frowned even more.
“What kind of game are you playing here Ill just leave if you wont properly tell me whats going on.”
“That in itself is also an option for you. Kicking the deal down the drain because theres no one that you can trust during the negotiation, without receiving any explanation regarding the matter. That is indeed a good move. Although, I wont say thats the correct move in all cases.”
Akira sighed. Kibayashi, who could hear that sigh from the other side, smiled amusedly.
“As I warned you in the past, being a Hunter who is only good at fighting but not at negotiating will bring you into a lot of trouble. So just use this chance as practice. Let me remind you again, I can only guarantee you that shes someone that I know. You do the rest yourself to confirm her identity, her position, her goals, if shes someone that you can trust or not and if shes someone capable or not. Of course, you can ask me later to try to check your answers, but you should do it yourself first. Later then.”
Kibayashi ended the call. Alpha smiled at the troubled Akira.
“So, whats the plan Are we going to just leave”
“…Well, this is also a kind of training, so Ill at least hear what she has to say.”
Akiras gaze returned to Hikaru. Although there was no trace of suspicion in that gaze, Hikaru could not help but get nervous.
Akira then decided to bring Hikaru to one of the restaurants on the first floor. Hikaru, who was sitting face to face with Akira, politely lowered her head.
“Ive confirmed this matter with Kiabayshi beforehand, but I apologize if I made a mistake.”
“Ah, dont worry. Well, its true that I havent heard about this before, but I dont think its your fault, Hikaru-san.”
“Thank you very much. Also, theres no need for honorifics, you can just call me Hikaru and please just talk with me casually. Its in order to build trust which is important during negotiations. Being polite and rigid instead of prioritizing the flow of information might cause distrust and miscommunication, which would defeat the main purpose of negotiating. So please, just talk to me casually… Well, although, I do think that Kibayashis attitude is way too casual.”
Hikaru smiled wryly which Akira replied with a light smile.
“Alright then, in that case, you can just call me Akira and you can talk to me casually as well.”
Hikaru looked a bit troubled, in reality, she was actually really troubled. But after a short pause, she decided to take up the offer.
“Alright. Now then, casually, right It seems that you havent heard anything from Kibayashi, so, well, where should I start…”
Hikaru was watching Akira closely to make sure that she did not sour his mood while she kept her casual attitude on the outside.
“In that case, is it okay if I ask you some questions first Im sorry that it might sound a bit too offensive.”
“Of course. You can ask me anything. But just to let you know, Ill just say that its a secret if you ask me about my three sizes or if I have a boyfriend.”
“Well, its not about that. Hmmm, yeah, lets start with, are you really from City Management”
“Oh, thats a bit surprising. The answer is of course a yes. Im indeed a staff member from City Management. To be more precise, Im from the general division, in fact, Im the youngest one in that division.”
“What if I ask you for proof”
Hikarus smile immediately turned troubled. But behind that brave front, she was actually squeezing her brain for an answer.
Akira was dealing with Hikaru as a training partner. The reason why he could ask such a rude question was simply because he thought of this meeting as training. But Hikaru did not know that at all. Because of that, she took that question as a form of distrust and suspicion from Akira.
“Will it be enough if I say that Kibayashi was the one who told me to come here”
“Its because that Kibayashi only testified that he knows you and nothing more, so I have to do the rest myself and try to identify you.”
Hikarus smile stiffened, she spat a curse in her mind.
[That bastard… So basically this is another test or something That damn sly old-man.]
Hikarus job that day was to negotiate with Akira and make him accept the deal. It was a kind of test so that Kibayashi could recognize her skill.
Negotiating with a high-ranking Hunter was an important job for City Managements staff. Whether it was about gathering relics or participating in the protection of infrastructure, both depended deeply on the result of the negotiation. Of course, negotiation would go smoother the more the negotiator had the trust of those high-ranking Hunters.
Kibayashi himself gained his position of power by identifying competent Hunters, giving them a chance to shoot for success, and maintaining relations with those who had survived their gambit. Although most of those successful Hunters had left Kugamayama city to head east, they were still in a contract with him to send invaluable relics or return back to the city in case Kugamayama city was in danger. As such, he had quite the grip on the city even right now. The reason why he could move freely was because not that many people could challenge him due to his connection with those Hunters.
Naturally, Kibayashi was a busy person. He could not afford to deal with every single Hunter by himself. That was why he often had someone under him take over the negotiation in his stead. These negotiators then formed a connection with these Hunters as well and gained influence and power the same way Kibayashi did.
Hikaru was recognized as a competent staff even though she was the youngest in her current division. She was proud of that fact as well. So, she thought that it would be no trouble for her when she asked for some Kibayashis work. However, against her expectation, Kibayashi casually rejected that idea saying that she would not be able to handle it.
After that, fueled by her ambition and to take revenge on Kibayashi, she took it personally and went around to lay the groundwork. In the end, she managed to force Kibayashi to give her a task with a certain condition attached.
Nonetheless, it had to be said that being able to force Kibayashi like this was a testament to how talented she was. Though, that was also the root of the situation that she was facing right now.
Hikaru was trying to find out what Kibayashis real plan was by looking closely at Akiras reaction.
[So basically hes telling me that Im not ready for this job if I cant even convince my negotiation opponent about my identity, huh Fine then, Ill do it then!]
Hikaru pulled her information terminal on the table and placed her ID card on top of it. The information terminal then showed her full information as a staff member from City Management.
“This is an identification document used by City Managements staff to show their identity. It also contains staff information controlled by City Management. This uniform is only designated for official staff, anyone else who uses this will get a severe punishment. Will this be enough”
Hikaru was satisfied with Akiras reaction, seeing him nod as if he was fully convinced. However, Akira thought that since it was a good chance to train himself in case someone was trying to deliberately trick him, he decided to question her further.
“What if I say that you can fake that document and no one would get suspicious if you use that uniform with confidence”
“Thats a totally valid question, well. In that case, we can go to the Hunter Office together where I can prove my identity.”
Akira nodded again, but he did not stop there.
“What if I say that youre working with someone inside the Hunter Office
“Eeeh… I think thats going a bit too far. Its impossibly difficult to do that, you know”
“Well, if its about an isolated Hunter Office with not that many visitors, I dont think its that difficult to do that though”
Akira then told Hikaru what happened back then when he registered as a Hunter for the first time. Since Hikaru was not that familiar with the situation outside the wall, she was pretty surprised to hear his story.
“…I see, so theres a problem with the quality of the Hunter Offices staff outside the wall, huh But were talking about the past here, right Ah, but then again, if were talking about how far someone would go to trick a Rank 50 Hunter, I cant really say that its not possible, hmm…”
Hikaru already noticed that Akira was not trying to harass her by asking her these difficult questions, that was why she answered rather casually.
“I heard that a lot of good Hunters tend to prefer to get the evidence themselves. So how about you, Akira What will you do in order to convince yourself”
Hikaru thought that if Akira only had half-baked methods to do that, she would use it to corner Akira instead as she leaned forward as if to peer into him and unravel his thoughts.
“In that case…”
If someone was suspicious of others just for the sake of suspecting them, then there would be no end to it. They would always find a reason to suspect the other party. The real question would be at what point they would no longer be suspicious of each other. Akira understood that very well, that was why his thought leaned toward what kind of compromise he could take in case he indeed got tricked.
Seeing that, Alpha smiled smugly at him and asked.
“How about asking me”
“That was my first thought, but if I do that and the other party asks me for proof, I can only say that its from my intuition. So I dont think thats the correct answer in this kind of situation. But if I cant do that myself, then my only choice is to ask someone else who can tell…”
Akira smiled wryly and finally answered Hikarus question.
“I guess Ill ask someone who can do that for me.”
“I see, then, how about you try that now”
Hikaru opened her palm forward toward Akira as if she was challenging him to do just that. He thought to himself that he might have gone too far questioning her as he decided to actually try that in order to at least satisfy Hikaru as well. Excluding Kibayashi, there were two candidates that he thought to call. So he opened up his information terminal to call one of those two candidates. The call immediately connected and picked up.
“Its you, huh. Thats rather rare for you to call me. What is it”
“Someone is claiming to be from City Management in front of me right now. If you know a method to quickly discern if shes telling the truth or not, can you tell me”
“…You called me just for that”
It was Inabe, the other candidate that Akira thought of was Viola.
But after hearing that exasperated reply followed by a sigh, Akira thought that it might have been a bad choice calling Inabe. But Inabe did not close the call although he sounded really annoyed.
“Wait for a sec then… This one will work, huh… Alright, Ive temporarily connected your information terminal and the identification machine over here. Now put her ID card on top of your information terminal.”
Akira asked Hikaru to do it and the result immediately came out.
“The result is out. Sakuyama Hikaru from the general affair, thats her. Is that good enough”
“Is it okay if I ask you how you confirmed it”
“Its based on secret technology, I can only tell you that its a technology used in order to prevent people from falsifying their Hunter ID.”
“I see, thats good enough for me. Thanks!”
“You owe me one, alright So Ill have you return this favour now. Lets see, go visit Sheryl to cheer her up, and tell her that I helped you.”
“Also, face the information terminal at her.”
Akira did just as he was asked, the information terminal display quickly switched to Inabes face that was glaring daggers at Hikaru.
“I dont know who you are, but stop giving me trouble.”
Hikaru knew Inabe very well. Although she was surprised, she did not miss a beat to apologize.
“I-I am really sorry!!”
But before Hikaru started apologizing, Inabe already closed the call. What was left behind was an awkward silence.
Akira was the first one to break the silence as he was awkwardly said.
“I-Its fine, dont worry about it.”
Hikaru tried her best to don a friendly smile, but as expected, it was impossible.
After finishing her business with Akira, Hikaru stayed behind in the restaurant, eating a parfait. Akira already left the place, so she did not have any reason to put up appearances anymore. She took her sugary replenishment with a tired face and sighed. It was difficult to tell if it was because of the sweets or because of how exhausted she was.
“…Im beat… But, it at least went well… Right”
She was saying that to herself as if to tell herself that although there were unexpected hurdles, her original goal has been achieved. The reason why she had a question mark in the end, was because the incident with Inabe was outside her expectation. Thus, she was not sure if she was able to handle everything perfectly.
[He must have thought that I was trying to do something bad there… But it was good that Akira was taking the offer positively after that. But still, I didnt expect Akira to have direct contact with someone like Inabe. That Kibayashi! to think that he gave me such a Hunter to handle, is he planning to ridicule me if I wasnt able to deal with him well enough If thats really the case, Ill make him regret it!]
Akira was a Rank 50 Hunter who had direct contact with a City Management officer. If Hikaru was able to gain his trust and take him away from Kibayashi, it would greatly boost her position. It might serve as a stepping stone for her to soar higher.
[Ill definitely handle this well.]
Hikaru carried another spoonful of parfait to her mouth as she got herself pumped up, the burning spirit and the sweets caused her to show a smile that was suitable for a girl of her age.
But that excited Hikaru to forget about one thing. Kibayashi loved reckless people and he enjoyed the end of those people, regardless of whether it was death or success.
Kibayashi gave Hikaru a chance to gamble, and now, he was looking forward to the results.
Please thank Athena-sama for this and p4553r-sama.-