Chapter 251: Troublesome Deal
Carol went to Mihazono ruin with Akira in tow. When they proceeded to go to the room where Carol already had an appointment, Akira was surprised. The inside of the room was relatively empty as if it was opened for occupants to take a rest, and there, Reinas team was waiting for them.
Naturally, he was not the only one surprised. Reina and the others were also surprised when they saw Akira.
Carol was also surprised when she noticed that her customer was someone that they knew, but she just ignored that and proceeded with her job.
“Youre NN8891-san, right”
“That would be me, and you are Cat-san, I presume.”
Akira was looking confusedly at that exchange.
“Alpha, what was that”
“Just fake names for making deals. Basically, they dont want to leak each other information.”
“Ah, I see, so thats what, huh… So, in short, its just that kind of deal, huh”
Although they were all Hunters, they did not show their identity with their Hunter ID, or they did not want to, even worse, there were cases where they could not do so. In such cases, their only choice was to make a backdoor deal. It was at least guaranteed that the content of those deals was something that they did not want the Hunter Office to know about. Akira at least knew that much.
Carol turned to Shiori with her business smile.
“If Im not mistaken, you also asked us to be your guide, but let me confirm this, well be just simple guides. So, we wont help if you get attacked. If the push comes to shove, well just abandon you. Are you okay with that”
“Alright then, lets go.”
After Carol said so, she lifted her feet to go to Reinas team, but Akira suddenly stepped in front of her and stopped her.
Akira stopped the confused Carol with a signal of his hand, he then looked at Reinas team with a sharp gaze.
“Let me confirm this first, 4 people, right”
Shiori and Kanae immediately understood what Akira meant. They quickly repositioned themselves around Reina and scanned their surroundings. Shiori then said.
“Its 3 people.”
Akira frowned and glanced in the direction where there was no one present. Although he did not aim his rifle in that direction, he slightly shifted his stance so that he could jump into action anytime. But suddenly a voice came out.
“Wait for a sec, Im not hostile, Im also here as a customer.”
The young boy deactivated his camouflaging coat. The camouflaging coat that looked like a raincoat turned transparent the moment its optical camouflage got disengaged, showing the person behind it. A shabby looking armour, and 4 rifles that looked like AAH rifles from the outside. The young boy looked like a rookie Hunter who had little to no success. But that ended only as an appearance, it was obvious what calibre he was in judging from his camouflaging coat that Shiori and Kanae could not even see through.
Akira was familiar with that young boy; he was Shirou, who he met back during the inter-city transport mission.
Shirou lightly raised both of his hands to show that he meant no danger.
“Im Gorou, you there. You are Karat-san, right”
Carol slightly tensed up.
“Yes, thats me, but my deal with you shouldnt be now nor here, though”
“Its just to be safe. Im worried that the time and the place from the network might have leaked. I hope you can understand it since Ive even picked this place to meet you.”
With a friendly smile and friendly attitude, Shirou then signaled with his hand.
“So yes, with that being said, can you please give me the data now”
Carol replied back coldly, Shiori tensed up.
“I dont see any reason to trust someone who wont even keep to the meeting time and place that weve agreed on beforehand.”
“But I have no other choice, its for the sake of my safety. How about if I pay you twice.”
“Thats not the problem here.”
“Im telling you. No. Leave for now and come back again at our appointment time and place, or ask the other party to let you join the group until our appointed time.”
Shirous friendly attitude started to mix with desperation and irritation.
“Geez, what a stickler…”
Shirou glanced at Reinas team. Judging from Shioris reaction, it seemed that it was impossible to ask them to be allowed to accompany them. So, he then looked back at Carol.
“100 times then”
Carol wavered. That number was way too big for her to immediately refuse. Not to mention, she was in need of money. After all, she had to pay Akira. She thought for a while before giving her answer.
Shirous mood obviously started to sour.
“…Why Dont you think youre being too greedy asking more than that Ah, is it that youre worried if Im really going to pay In that case, I can pay the full amount right away, is that good enough”
“What exactly is it that you dont like about my offer…”
When Shirou started to tense up, Carols gaze turned sharp.
“I dont mind compromising the place and time with money, but you need to follow the order of things. My dealing with you is after Im done with my current deal. Thats the rule that I put on myself.”
Shirou rubbed his head and once again glanced at Reinas team.
“…Dammit! Alright then! I got it! You just need to be done with your current job first, right”
Shiori made his decision, he glanced at Carol before turning to Shiori.
“Ill help with your thing, so let me borrow that card.”
Shiori immediately raised her guard. She could not afford to hand over the card. But since Shirou, a person that she had met for the first time, spoke as if he knew everything about them. This caused her mind to be filled with suspicion and blocked her ability to think carefully.
But Shirou then continued.
“Im a staff from Saka**a Heavy Industry and Im in the middle of a mission right now. Because of that, Im in a bit of a hurry. Thats why Im willing to lend you a hand.”
For people who had connections to large corporations, Saka**a Heavy Industry was a big name. Claiming to be one of its staff when they were not could be interpreted as a hostile act toward Saka**a Heavy Industry. So, it was highly unlikely for Shirou to be lying. However, if he was really from Saka**a Heavy Industry, then refusing his offer might cause more trouble than it was worth. Shiori hesitated.
“If you need proof that Im telling the truth, well, lets see… Uhh, ask him. You are his acquaintance, right Its more convincing to ask him instead of me trying to convince you, right”
Shirou then pointed at Akira. Shiori looked confusedly at Akira.
Akira also looked equally confused as Shiori, hence he carefully chose his words there.
“Well, we did meet once before. Though I cant really tell you all the details because of my secrecy contract and whatnot. Judging by the place where I met him, theres a good chance that hes telling the truth, though its nothing more than a guess, I have no concrete proof.”
Shiori could at least tell that Akira was not lying and that he was not working with the person named Shirou. She finally made her decision, she left Reina with Kanae as she walked toward Shirou and pulled out her card with a stern look on her face.
“Ill warn you first. Im just lending it to you. Even if youre really someone from Saka**a Heavy Industry, try anything funny and Ill kill you.”
There was a chance that even if she had Carol guide her, she might still not get any results. While on the other hand, she did not think that Shirou was lying either. So, if he was really telling the truth, then it might be a chance that she would never get again. With Chloes appearance, their choices were severely limited at the moment. She might not get another chance next time. Because of all these factors, it was barely enough to push Shiori to make her decision. She exuded immense pressure toward Shirou, which matched her loyalty toward Reina.
But even with that immense pressure, Shirou just replied casually.
“Dont worry, Im in the middle of a secret operation right now. So, I want to lay low as well. I dont want to cause a scene. And Im sure that you also dont want to, right”
Shiori carefully handed over her card, Shirou lightly smiled and received the card. He then handed it back.
Shiori frowned in confusion.
“Whats the meaning of this”
“Its done, youll get a call… Soon.”
The moment Shirou said so, a maid suddenly appeared in the middle of the room. That maid politely greeted everyone in the room.
“I am Olivia from Lion Steel. Thank you for choosing to contact me.”
Akira, Carol, and Reina all tensed up. They all felt troubled. But Shirou was completely calm. Shiori and Kanae immediately readied themselves for a fight while also shocked at the same time.
Shirou then asked Shiori.
“With this, you dont need a guide anymore, right”
Rather than being thankful that her wish was granted, Shiori was instead very suspicious toward the person who easily granted her wish. Her expression turned extremely stern.
“…Indeed. Thank you for your help.”
“In that case, you can go ahead and tell them that you dont need them any longer, I have my deal waiting to be taken care of, you see.”
After Shirou urged her, Shiori turned to Carol. Carol reacted with a slight nod.
“Ah, yeah, it seems I am no longer needed here, alright then.”
“Ill still transfer the full amount, so please dont worry. Thank you very much!”
Shirou then extended his hand toward Carol.
“Ive also transferred you your money, so you have nothing to complain about, right”
Carol confirmed the transfer with her information terminal. Although she was not happy about it, she decided that they had already made a deal and handed over a media drive to Shirou.
Shirou looked at that media drive and happily smiled.
“Alright then. It seems that the content is what I had expected. Our deal is done then. Im in a hurry right now, so excuse me for leaving right away.”
Shirou pocketed the media drive and left. But Carol suddenly stopped him.
“What is it If its job-related, Im in a hurry right now.”
“What are you”
It was not even a question of who he was. Carols emotion was filled with suspicion toward the thing in front of her that she did not understand at all. She was feeling something that she could not word out. After all, the media drive he took did not have any wireless connection, yet, he managed to read it by just holding onto it
Shirou replied with a friendly smile.
“Well, its better if we dont know each other. There are things that are better left unknown, you know Until next time then.”
Shirou lightly waved his hand and reactivated his camouflaging coat, making him disappear. Leaving only the fading sound of his footsteps.
“Alpha, what is going on here…”
“I dont mind telling you, but make sure to act like you dont know after that, okay”
“Ah, I see, its one of those things, huh In that case, Im fine right now. Ill just ask you again later. Its not something that I really need to know now after all, right”
Alpha was the one who discovered the hiding Shirou. If it was something that was important for him to know, she would have told him at the same time she informed him about Shirous whereabouts. As he had thought, he immediately decided to shelf that matter for the time being.
Since Carol noticed that Akira lowered his guard, she thought that it should be safe for now and relaxed her stance as well. She then lightly sighed and said.
“Akira, although a lot of unexpected things happened just now. Its okay to say that there is currently no problem regarding your job as my bodyguard, right”
“Yeah. There are no monsters nearby and I dont think that Reina would attack us or anything. Meanwhile, Olivia, that maid, is nothing more than a hologram, so I think there wont be any more trouble.”
Carol was caught by surprise, she then checked her information-gathering device, and indeed, just like Serenthal, Olivia was nothing more than a hologram. That also made her notice that she was so shocked to the point where she had lost her ability to even notice that fact.
“So then, Carol. Our job here is done, right”
“Yep, lets head back now.”
“Wait for a second.”
The one who stopped them was Olivia. Akira, who felt that it was nothing but trouble, frowned.
After Olivia finished her introduction to everyone, Shiori immediately approached Olivia, showed her the white card, and bowed gracefully.
“I am Suzuhara Shiori from Lion Steel Eastern District, 3rd ward branch. We contact you since our representative wishes to negotiate with Olivia-sama. May I have some of your time”
Olivia retained a smile on her face, but it was not a friendly smile for a customer.
“Excuse me, maam. The current corporation has no Suzuhara Shiori in its record. And that branch also doesnt exist. Making such a false claim is very dangerous, so please refrain from making such a joke.”
Gradually, Olivias friendly smile vanished.
“And also, that card is not yours. Our company is stipulated to take a harsh action toward the incorrect use of our cards. Including the false claim that you gave just now, do you understand the repercussions of your action”
Olivia was still smiling, but her holographic image was exuding pressure that would knock any normal human unconscious.
Shioris face turned even more stern. But her loyalty to Reina managed to keep her calm as she carefully said.
“Please let me explain. Regarding this card, I received it through a deal that Akira-sama had accepted as well. As such, we did not get this card through any illegal means.”
“I see. Even if that is true, it does not mean that he had also given you the right to use it. But if it is a lie, then this is another unignorable matter… Please wait for a second here.”
Olivia then stopped Akira who was about to leave the room. Akira turned around and walked toward her with an immensely troubled expression, Carol was still next to him.
“Long time no see.”
Akira tilted his head.
“… Carol, you know her”
“Not at all, isnt she your acquaintance”
“Not mine either.”
Judging from his attitude, Olivia could tell that Akira was not lying. Thus, she thought that he was not told about her and was about to ask him about it. But right before that, Alpha suddenly showed up and closed Olivias mouth with her hand.
“Akira doesnt know anything about you, can you please go with that”
Alpha smiled as she said so. But her words there contained a power that was close to an order. This version of Alpha had her voice and image only recognized by Olivia. Thus, from Akiras point of view, Alpha was still floating next to him like usual.
But Olivia could not see the Alpha which Akira could see. Because of that, she thought that Alpha had cut its ties with Akira and was planning to ask Akira about that as well. But with that message from Alpha just now, there was no need to do that anymore.
Alpha released her hand from Olivias mouth and returned back. She floated back to where Akira recognized where she was and assimilated their perception of her.
Akira could not see what had happened, but he could see that Olivia suddenly stopped when she was about to say something. There was a pause, and then a light sigh. Of course, he found it a bit weird.
Olivia regained her composure and smiled.
“Forgive me. In that case, nice to meet you. I am Olivia of Lion Steel. Its a pleasure to be your acquaintance.”
“Uhhh, alright, Im Akira.”
“I thought that you knew about me, but it seems that it is not the case here. So it would be difficult to try to continue this discussion with that assumption. As such, allow me to explain the situation. Back when you were found unconscious near Lida commercial district, I left a card that was meant to be yours. But at the moment, that card is in the possession of someone by the name of Shiori who claimed to be from the same corporation. She said that you had agreed to give her that card, do you have any recollection of this If not, then I shall treat her as a robber.”
“Akira-sama. It is about this card…”
Shiori was trying to butt in into their conversation, but Olivia sent a glance telling her to shut up.
Depending on Akiras answer, Shioris position could be very dangerous. Shiori and Kanae already knew that, even Reina who did not know anything could feel that was indeed the case. The air around Reinas team turned tense.
Akira frowned and hummed, his face saying that he was searching through his memories.
“Ahh, its the card from that time, huh. I did give it to Shiori. So, its not a mistake that she has it right now.”
Shiori sighed in relief, But Olivia then continued.
“Very well. I was told that the card was given through a deal, but it did not mean that the negotiation was conducted in an honest manner. Theres suspicion that you were tricked.”
“Tricked I dont think I was tricked in any form though”
“In the case when both sides did not know the worth of their negotiation, she might have tricked you by exchanging it with something that is far below the real worth of the item that you trade in that negotiation. In that case, our corporation will also handle the aftermath. If I may, what did you get in exchange for that card”
Shioris face immediately turned pale. Kanae casually moved to cover Reina behind her. From there, Reina understood that the negotiation had suddenly turned bad. All three of them immediately tensed up.
Akira thought for a bit before replying.
“The details of the negotiation are only between me and Shiori, so theres no reason why I have to tell you that. But I do think that I got enough in exchange for that card. To put it simply, I was saved by that.”
“Yes. Just to let you know, its not like I gave it to her because she threatened to kill me if I didnt. What Im saying is that thanks to what I received from our negotiation, my life was spared the other day. I do put a lot of worth in my own life after all. Thats why, even if its something cheap from someone elses point of view, personally speaking, I do think that it was a good deal. So I have no plans to complain about it at all.”
To be honest, Akira simply wanted to immediately relieve himself of an object that might only bring him more trouble. Since he knew that depending on his answer, that object might return to him, he ended up exaggerating.
But with that answer, Olivia could not pursue the said matter any further. After all, questioning that any further was equal to taking Akiras life lightly.
“Very well. Personally speaking, we prefer if you did not hand over the card to someone else. But since it was something that was related to your survival, we shall consider it as you lending that card to her and overlook this matter.”
Shiori inadvertently heaved a huge sigh and almost fainted there, but Kanae and Reina caught her.
Olivia once again turned to Shiori.
“We will overlook your possession of that card. But there is still the matter of your false claim of being from the same company as us. I demand an explanation.”
Shiori was still trying to recover her calm as she nodded.
“I understood the situation. Instead of me, theres someone that will be much more suitable to answer your question, please wait a moment.”
Shiori then pulled out a sphere-like device and lightly threw it on the floor. The device expanded on the floor and fixed its position before projecting a hologram on top of it.
Due to its portability, it had limited functionality. That hologram was half transparent and its resolution was relatively low compared to Olivia, who was also a holographic image. But it was enough to let them know who that image was.
It was an image of a girl in a maid uniform, just like Olivia. Her arms and legs were not projected by the hologram, so it looked like she was floating. That girl smiled politely at Olivia and introduced herself.
“Nice to meet you. I am Alice, a representative from Lion Steel Main Eastern District branch.”
“…Ahh, I see.”
Although Olivia now understood what was going on, her expression was tinted with displeasure.
Both Olivia and Alice were general-purpose AI affiliated with Lion Steel. At the moment, they were inside automatons located in a facility deep inside the old-world ruin.
Olivias body was of a powerful automaton, and it was in its perfect state. But Alices body was relatively weak and not in its perfect state. Because of that, Alice had lost some of her functions. Her already weakened communication device could not pierce through the colourless mist, making it impossible to maintain contact with Lion Steel for its regular communication.
The general-purpose AI of Lion Steel were equipped with an emergency measure to maintain the functionality of the business during trouble. After all, the inability to adapt during an emergency might cause the business to come to a complete halt. Thus, during an
emergency, they were given more freedom from their usual positions within the
That program was also installed onto Alice. And then, due to the colourless mist jamming, the connection to the main corporation, which should have been retained, was completely cut off for an extended period of time. Alices drones misinterpret the situation. They thought that the facility had been destroyed and the continuation of the business to be impossible. Thus, they activated the emergency routine that was installed inside Alice.
Alice, who had gained more freedom than usual, made a deal with the Hunters who discovered her and became their temporary master. She then followed the emergency measure program to rebuild the corporation in the current era, and that was how the new generation Lion Steel company came to be.
The business went well. In exchange for giving the Corporate Government old-world technology and knowledge she possessed, she was given enormous assets which she used to build the new Lion Steel company into a large enterprise in such a short time.
Eventually, Alice reached the stage where she placed effort into repairing herself. And now that she had regained some of her communication ability, she discovered that the old-world Lion Steel had survived. Normally, her emergency measure program would have stopped, and she should have rejoined the old-world Lion Steel.
However, Alice refused. The regular communication also served as an identity check, and since Alice had not done that for a long time, her AI was placed in a rather low position in the corporations hierarchy. Of course, Alice did not like it.
Instead, Alice made a plan to assimilate the new Lion Steel with the old-world Lion Steel. If she succeeded, at the very least, the current Lion Steel would be placed under her leadership as a branch company from the main old-world Lion Steel. Alices aim was to use that as leverage in order to capture a higher position in the corporation.
The emergency measure program gave more freedom to the general-purpose AI in order to make sure that they could even rebuild the corporation when it was needed. That freedom was even enough to contend with the corporations rules and regulations.
Alices aim was either to gather the other general-purpose AIs with lower rights than her or to make friends with the high ranking AI such as Olivia. That way, she would be able to turn her dream into reality. In order to do that, Alice was gathering old-world automata. She ordered and rewarded the current companys staff who were out in the wasteland greatly if they could bring back something that was related to the old-world Lion Steel. Especially if it was related to old-world automata or the methods to establish contact with the old-world Lion Steel.
Shiori had received Alices order and was given the information to help her accomplish that. Thanks to the information she received, she realized that the white card gave her a way to directly contact Olivia. So, she used that card to strike a deal.
What Reinas team was looking for in Mihazono ruin was the method to use that card to contact Olivia, which would open a place for negotiation with Alice.
There were methods to connect to the old-world domain even if someone was not a high-sensitive old-world connector like Akira. Even a low-sensitive old-world connector, which could hardly be considered an old-world connector, still had their ways. Shiori thought that if she could find an old-world augmented information device, then she might be able to use that device together with the card in order to connect to the old-world domain.
She was originally planning to employ Carol as a guide to bring her to places where she was likely to find one of those devices. Rumour has it that Carol was a skilled cartographer and knew that place extremely well. They said that it was because Carol knew the location of old-world devices that displayed the information and the map of their surroundings and that she was simply selling the data extracted from those devices on the net. Though, with the help of Shirou, there was no longer any need to ask for Carols help.
If they were able to find a way for Alice to talk to Olivia, Alice might reconsider Reinas position. To accomplish this, Shiori was ready to even be resented by Reina. Nonetheless, with all the coincidences on top of coincidences, Shiori had finally succeeded.-