Chapter 249: The Maids of The Old-World Ruin
Since his business with Carol was over, Zelos returned back in his vehicle. Babalod was not with him since Babalod had already been taken away by Viola.
Zelos and Violas negotiation reached a conclusion without much trouble. It was not rare for a negotiator to take care of negotiations between Hunters. After all, if two high ranking Hunter teams broke into a fight, the damage to the area would not be small. Except for the times when their main aim was the destruction of the other team, Hunters tend to use negotiators to handle the negotiations peacefully. Zelos was already used to this, so he just threw his negotiation with Viola to his own teams negotiator.
It was already decided beforehand that Viola would pay for what Babalod had to pay. But since it was taken as a debt from just a small scuffle between Hunters on top of another small scuffle between teammates, Babalod did not get sent for human experimentation.
Furthermore, with Babalod being a high ranking Hunter, at most, he would be forced to go to the ruins until he would be able to pay his debt. Zelos knew that and was fine with it. Although if Babalod got sent for human experimentation, he could not let that slide as the team leader. After all, he would still feel bad to throw someone that he cared for into hell.
With that being said, Zelos looked a bit uncertain as he mumbled.
“…But still, although Im glad that theres nothing to worry about, why did he even do that That guy is a cyborg, so theres no reason he would get addicted to something like that though.”
Many men met ruin because of women and that did not change even for high ranking Hunters. Obviously, they were earning way more money than common Hunters, but due to having to face deadly situations regularly, most of them were awful with money. Many of them were weak to temptations. With the reward of each success being big, the side who did the tempting also refined their techniques.
Even so, it was well known that it was not easy to seduce a cyborg. Many of them could adjust their sensitivity manually. Then to top it off, a cyborgs body was battle-oriented, thus many of them did not even have the device to enjoy such an activity.
Even if they could choose to add such a device, the sensation transmitted from that device would hardly make someone addicted. Because of that, hardly any cyborg gets addicted to body stimulus.
As such, those who aimed to try to seduce cyborgs were often forced to build a pseudo-lover relationship. This was also not easy. It took time and money to investigate ones preference and set up a chance meeting. Those who still chose to do that must have known that their hardwork would be properly rewarded by the end of the day.
Zelos understood that much. This was the reason he was very suspicious of Carol and went there himself to confirm his suspicion.
Zelos thought that the matter with Carol was some kind of attack from another Hunter team. They sent one of their operators to approach a target and stole his teams money, information, and trust.
But after he went to check it himself, it turned out that Babalods problem was related to a Hunter who was working a side job as a prostitute. Babalod told him everything after a light interrogation when his embezzlement of the teams budget was discovered. Afterwards, Babalod agreed to go to Carol to demand the money back. This showed that Babalods relationship with Carol was nothing more than that of a prostitute and a client. It did not seem that it was some kind of elaborate honey trap where Carol completely seduced Babalod.
Although Zelos was relieved that it was not an attack from another Hunter team, he was suspicious of another thing. As the team leader, he knew the members of his team well. That was exactly why he did not expect Babalod to go so far as stealing from the teams budget and leaking secret information just for his favourite prostitute.
[…I still dont get it. Babalod is a cyborg. Although that woman seems to have an enhanced body, it was still just a flesh body, right Even if she has a physique that can be connected to some dangerous VR device, Babalod is not stupid enough to pay her that much money, so what exactly is going on here…]
As he was really confused about what exactly happened, he then remembered what Carol had said.Helping him understand on the bed. That sentence was quite convincing. Zelos could not help but smile wryly imagining what would happen to him if he had taken that offer.
“Well, I dont really know what happened, but at least its obvious that shes a dangerous girl. I have to be careful. Ill at least tell the rest of the team to be careful of her as well.”
His agreement with Viola was sealed with one condition. Information Babalod leaked would not spread to anyone else. Although the formal contract was to be made later through the Hunter office, that oral agreement alone already had binding power. As long as they did not turn Carol and her companion into their teams enemy, there was no need to fear that the secret information would spread. Since there was no need to kill anyone, Zelos thought that this matter had already been resolved.
One of the reasons was because if Carol was really used to having a conflict with high ranking Hunters, then it was to be expected for her to be familiar with solving such conflicts in a peaceful manner. There was no need to worry about her breaking her promise, which would essentially be throwing away the peaceful solution out of the window.
In reality, Carol was not used to having conflicts with high ranking Hunters. The Hunters who lived further to the east were relatively stronger both in terms of might and their power as an organization. Carol knew that the risk of getting into trouble with these people was relatively high, that was why she avoided having them as her customers. She held herself back from taking too much money from them.
In short, Carol took a big gamble to cross this bridge. It was a dangerous, damaged bridge hanging on top of a deep ravine. Carol knew that. But even so, she still decided to cross that bridge. She believed that it was better than having to walk through a minefield. After all, it was much safer to carefully cross through a precarious bridge instead of having to tread through the land with hidden mines that would blow her up.
Although the land itself might have no mines buried under it, it might just be her unwarranted fear making her believe that there were mines. Nonetheless, she still could not choose to walk through it.
Today, Akira was working as Carols bodyguard again as they were collecting information to make a map of the Mihazono ruin. In the middle of their exploration, he saw Carol regularly doing something that he did not understand. He simply thought that she must be working on the map or something.
Just like last time, Carol suddenly stopped and looked in the direction where there was nothing, she then smiled at Akira, waved at him, and pointed at the ground.
“Akira, try standing here for a bit.”
Akira did as he was told and nothing in particular happened. But Carol casually but carefully observed his reaction.
Seeing that Akira was a bit confused, Carol stopped and pointed to the front.
“Can you try to look over there Theres a monster hiding over there with optical camouflage, can you see it”
Akira frowned and looked in the direction she was pointing at. He used his information terminal to search for movement there and adjusted the focused direction and the sensitivity of his information-gathering device. If it was some common optical camouflage, this would be enough to detect such a monster, but strangely enough, he did not find anything.
“Alpha, is she telling the truth”
Alpha smiled and replied.
“Yeah. Although its a difficult one to detect. Do you want me to give you my support”
“Yes, please. Ah, can you start with tweaking the setting of the information-gathering device”
If it was a monster with optical camouflage that was obviously undetectable using Akiras information-gathering device, it would be difficult to explain how he could detect that monster with Alphas support. But that was not the case if it was something that could be explained by adjusting the setting of his information-gathering device. Since Akira was also using that chance to train himself, he decided to be careful about that as well.
Alpha hijacked Akiras information-gathering device. By adjusting the setting under the assumption that they knew there was a monster there, they were able to detect it. Finally, he could see a multi-legged tank that almost fully blocked the road. Its legs were disguised as trees thanks to its optical camouflage, so Hunters would not notice it even if they bumped into one of those tree-looking legs.
“…I can see it now. Carol, thats pretty impressive for you to be able to find it. Even my relatively powerful information-gathering device needs more time to be able to detect it. I bet its impossible to notice that monster there unless you know that its there beforehand.”
“This is thanks to all the information that weve been diligently collecting, making regular updates for the map. The map made using this kind of information would fetch quite a lot of money, you know Maps from common map brokers have no record about that monster.”
“I see. So, its thanks to our hard work going in and out of this ruin so many times, huh”
There were invisible monsters in the ruin. Hunters who were saved thanks to the map that they bought from Carol would purchase from her again next time. Akira at least understood that much.
“But still, with it hiding there, wont it attack someone when someone gets close to that monster”
“Its basically just like an invisible static object. So as long as we dont pick a fight with it, it normally wont attack us. I bet its some kind of additional security monster in case a huge ruckus like the one in Kuzusuhara ruin occurs.”
Carols smile then deepened.
“But well, it seems there are people who do not believe my map and could not detect monsters over there with their information-gathering device, so they decided to try to bump into it. Well, at least, the log indicates that the monster attacked back and killed all of them. I bet this will turn into another ghost story if more and more people get killed the same way.”
“You have a point; it wont be strange for ghost stories to come up because of this.”
The hidden multi-legged tank monsters were posted inside the ruin; they would not attack unless certain conditions were satisfied. When more unfortunate Hunters, who satisfy said condition get killed by the monster, it would add to the number of Hunters who got killed by an unknown threat. It would not be strange for this to develop into another ghost story. As Akira thought so, he glanced at Alpha.
Alpha was smiling like usual there.
“Is there anything wrong”
“Nope, not at all. I just thought that it wont catch me off-guard as long as I have you”
“But of course. Just leave it to me.”
Alpha replied, full of confidence.
[There is a story of the beguiling ghost in Kuzusuhara ruin. But I am still alive, at least, that is the case for now.] Akira thought.
Carol then continued.
“Talking about new ghost stories. Do you know that theres a rumour around here that might develop into another ghost story”
“Nope, never heard of it, what kind of rumour is it”
“It seems that you sometimes can find maids inside this ruin. But when you try to call them or approach them, they will vanish.”
“…Are you sure that they are not just Hunters in maid outfits who do not wish to get into contact with anyone”
Akira knew 2 maid acquaintances. Although he had no idea if they had anything to do with that rumour, Akira did not believe that such a rumour would really turn into another ghost story. However, Carols smile deepened as she added another detail.
“It would be great if thats all there is to it. But they can vanish, you know Some say that they are the guides that got fixed when the drones were repairing the ruin, which meant that they should be just holographic images. It would be easy to confirm it if you use an information-gathering device to scan them. But it turns out that that was not the case. They gave signals as if they were real physical objects according to the information-gathering devices. However, they can still suddenly vanish.”
“Is that so Well. Even if thats true, I still dont see how that would turn into a ghost story.”
“Moreover, it seems that there are people who really, really want to know the real identity of those maids and went to look for them, but they vanished mysteriously. Among them, there were some high ranking Hunters as well. Those who came from further to the east, or so I heard.”
Hunters who vanished inside the ruin were mostly regarded as dead because of their lack of skill compared to the difficulty of the ruin. However, since those high-ranking Hunters were way too strong to get killed in the Mihazono ruin, it meant that there was something extremely dangerous inside the ruin. If Hunters kept vanishing the same way and rumours that vaguely connected to them kept spreading, it was only a matter of time before it turned into another ghost story.
“I see. That kind of story indeed might turn into a ghost story.”
“If it does turn into a ghost story, then just like the beguiling ghost of Kuzusuhara ruin, I wonder if it will be named as the beguiling maids.”
Akira who found that weirdly funny laughed.
“Well,wont that sound a bit too safe for such a dangerous story”
“Thats just how ghost stories work, you know”
“That might be the case, but still…”
“In that case, what would you name it”
“Me, huh Lets see…”
Akira and Carol spent their time with such silly banter while they explored the ruin.
Reina, Shiori, and Kanae were searching the city blocks of the Mihazono ruin. Of course, it was for a Hunter job, but this time, it was a little bit different compared to their usual Hunter job.
Just like usual, Kanae and Shiori were donning their maid outfits that day. But it was not their usual maid outfits, they were advanced battle suits that Shiori had procured beforehand.
Although they still kept their maid design, some parts of the suits were obviously modified to prioritize fighting capability to the point that it was obvious they were battle suits up-close. Though, they looked like normal maid outfits from afar. Their new fighting capability had greatly improved to the point where they could hold a candle when compared to the equipment from around Zegelt city.
They were also better armed with other equipment as well, just like their modified maid outfit. Which meant that they were way too well equipped considering the difficulty level of Mihazono ruin.
And for today, Reina also wore similar equipment as Shiori and Kanae.
Shiori did not like the idea of making Reina use the same equipment as them. No matter how powerful their fighting capability, regardless of the design, in the end, they were maid outfits meant for servants. However, since her negotiation to get a different outfit for Reina failed and Reina herself was fine with wearing it, all three wore the same armor.
Shiori seemed worried as she suggested to Reina.
“Milady, as I thought, it might be better to put something on top of it.”
Even just a cover would greatly change the feel. It could hide the fact that Reina was using a servants outfit. That was the meaning behind Shioris words. However, Reina lightly shook her head and stated.
“Im fine with this. This thing is not designed to be put under something else, so it might even lower its fighting capability, right”
“That might indeed be the case, but if its just these monsters around the area, we should be able to handle it just fine. There is no need for Milady to be concerned.”
“But that doesnt mean that theres any need for me to risk lowering my fighting capability, right Im fine like this.”
“Very well, my apologies…”
Shiori reluctantly backed off. Seeing that, Kanae tried to cheer her up with a smile.
“Well, its only for this time. Milady will return to her usual equipment once were done with this mission. So just be patient until then.”
Shiori sighed and decided to put said issue aside for now.
Reina understood Shioris feelings and could not really blame her. But even so, it did not change her decision to use the current equipment even if it was against Shioris wishes.
Reina was extremely disheartened when she found out about Katsuyas death. But more than that, she was surprised. Reina herself had gone through so many dangerous situations where she almost died, she knew well just how dangerous being a Hunter was.
But even so, somewhere in her heart, she always believed that Katsuya would not die. And now, that Katsuya was dead.
The wasteland, being a Hunter. These two things combined were so dangerous that even someone like Katsuya got killed. Reina was reminded of this after hearing about Katsuyas death. Because of that, every aspect of her which looked down on the dangers of the wasteland got completely blown away.
Once again, Reina was reminded that going to the wasteland and working as a Hunter was a frightening endeavor. However, she did not let that break her. She also did not hesitate. Now that she recognized them as scary, she could properly prepare herself to get through them. She had the talent to at least accomplish that much.
Reinas talent was polished even more by Katsuyas death. She was sad when he died, but the sadness that made her disheartened also made her more insensitive to death. This would help her through it the next time, marking her growth as a Hunter.
Because of this development, Reina did not make any fuss regarding her equipment.
“So then, Shiori, how is the progress of the request”
Shiori gracefully lowered her head.
“My apologies. Unfortunately, were not making any progress. This is not a good situation. But this does not mean that all our hard work is in vain. I know that Milady might find it vexing that I cannot tell Milady the details, so please be-”
“Ah, yeah, its fine. Im not bothered by that at all. Im sure youre already doing your best. But still, since theres no progress, that just shows how hard this request is, huh So, lets not rush ourselves and do this bit by bit.”
After she casually brushed the matter aside, she then smiled gently at Shiori.
“Dont worry, considering that its a request from home, Im already well over such a thing.”
“…Thank you very much.”
Shiori lowered her head apologetically.
Reina had no knowledge about the details of her current job. To be more precise, she knows almost nothing about what was going on. The way she got that request was also abnormal, basically, Shiori sent a request to Drankam and Drankam assigned that request to Shiori. Thus, right now, Reina was formally working under Shiori.
Since this request came from Reinas home and included some secret information, Shiori was not allowed to tell Reina, who was living separately from her home, the details of the request. Shiori apologetically explained everything to Reina beforehand. Although Reina did not really want to accept a request coming from her home, since it was a good chance to boost her career as a Hunter, she thought that it would be stupid to refuse that request just because of her personal feelings. As a matter of fact, she thought that she should take this request as good news, that was why she was completely fine with things being hidden.
With the situation in mind, Reina then had Kanae come along too simply as extra fighting personnel. As Shiori was the one leading the team, Reina was basically only accompanying her going around the ruin without knowing what they were doing. They just followed the orders that came up from the white card. Going to different places, a room of a building somewhere on the roadside, or on top of a pile of rubble. After doing that a few times, she then lightly sighed and moved on to the next location. They were basically stuck in that loop.
Shiori once again sighed and put back the white card in her dress. Kanae lightly threw a question at Shiori.
“Yes, its either the matter of the location or recognition failure or that were doing this completely wrong in the first place… Either way, I dont know why it is not working at all.”
“We only have a handful of places to check next though. If its not about the location, then theres no meaning in checking all of them. So, whats the plan now We can try to break through to the Seranthal building once we have no other places to check though. Im sure we will be just fine with our current equipment. And if that doesnt work as well, then it means were doing this wrong. So, we can just return back for now after that and…”
Shiori shook her head with a stern look on her face.
“No. I dont know the reason why, but that place is guarded by soldiers from Kugamayama city. I heard that someone by the name of Yanagisawa took full control of the area. I heard that theyre using the same security level that they use in Kuzusuhara ruin.”
“So, its that strict huh In that case, it will be also impossible to try to sneak in while making a ruckus somewhere else.”
“Of course, we might be able to go to the 57th floor if we can get the citys permission. But in order to do that, secret information will definitely leak out during the negotiation. Theres no doubt that theyll not stay silent about it… Thats why going to the Seranthal building is our last choice. As long as we dont have enough reason, we wont go there.”
“I see. Well, in the end, its your decision, so Ill leave it to you, but at this rate, well run out of options soon, you know How about taking a break for now”
Shiori understood why Kanae said so. She knew that the next few days would only be filled with more failures. This was an opportunity after she obtained that white card, so she had no plan to let this opportunity slide.
“…If its a matter of location, I have another guess. Before we end our search for today, I want to check that first.”
Shioris stern expression turned back to normal, she turned toward Reina and smiled at her as if there was no problem at all.
“Milady, lets go to the next location.”
“Okay. Lets go. Ah, by the way, Ive told you this a few times before, but Im basically working for you this time, so you can be more casual with me.”
“No, that would be inappropriate for me”
“Is that so Well, I guess Ill just leave it like that considering its my employers decision.”
Reina chuckled and jokingly said so.
In the middle of moving to the next location, Reina whispered to Kanae.
“Say, Kanae, is Shiori alright”
“It depends on your definition of alright.”
“Ill leave the definition to you. I dont know whats going on so I cant really decide myself whether its okay or not. After all, Im not allowed to know anything about it, right But still, I can tell that Shiori is pushing herself and maybe it is for my sake. Thats why, although it might be weird for me to say this, I hope you can help lessen her burden.”
“I think its fine if Milady tells Ane-san that yourself, you know”
“Whether I tell her to not push herself too hard or not, or even if I dont say anything, she will still push herself too hard. Thats why Im saying this to you, so, please.”
Kanae raised her eyebrows.
“I never thought Milady is the type to say something like that.”
“…What do you think of me as”
Kanae chuckled amusedly.
“To be honest, I only thought of Milady as a spoiled brat the first time I met you. Ah, but that doesnt mean I still think so right now, okay”
Reina smiled bitterly.
“Ill be careful so as not to go back to being just a spoiled brat.”
Kanae laughed as if to tease Reina.
“Thats a good resolve.”
“Well, thanks for the compliment.”
The master and the servant continued to talk in a strangely friendly manner while they traversed the ruin.-