Chapter 256: Dangerous Subject
Akira frowned after he heard the summary of why Reina was here. The thing that she wanted to talk about, going so far as to meet him out in the wasteland, was the unfair deal where he gave Shiori the white card that Olivia had left for him.
“Even if you say so, I did already state that Im completely fine with that deal, havent I”
“Thats true, but the issue is that others dont find it okay. Even for me, after I heard the details of the whole thing, the true worth of this card, I also believe that the deal made was an unfair one. Well, in the end, its nothing more than just my opinion and my opinion might be completely unrelated to this matter.”
“If thats really the case, then its fine, isnt it No need to insist to give that back to me.”
Seeing Akira obviously unhappy with how the conversation was going, Reina made a troubled expression as she continued.
“I am in agreement with you. But the real problem is what Olivia-san thinks about the deal. Im sure you understand it too, back then when she said that she would overlook it. It only means that she has no plans to take back that card by force, right”
“Well, yeah, so”
“Since we already have the means to contact Olivia-san, we dont really need this card anymore, so, it might be better to return it, but…”
As Reina said so, she non-nonchalantly kept her eyes on Akiras reaction. After she saw his reaction, she carefully chose her words as she continued.
“…Im sorry but due to our situation, if possible, we want to return the card. Putting aside the negotiation about how to fix the unfair deal that we had before to later, as a guarantee, we wont return the card until then. Can you please accept this arrangement”
Seeing how Reina was basically begging, Akira pondered over it and realized that it was not a bad arrangement. Thus, he gave a nod and responded favourably.
“I dont see any problem with it. Ive given you the card, so I have no plans on asking it back.”
“Is that so Thank you!”
Akira and Reina lightly smiled and finalized their deal. For Akira, that smile was the representation of his true feeling, but for Reina, she was desperately hiding her anxiety under her smile. The reaction that Akira showed the moment Reina mentioned the possibility of that card returning back to him, was vigilance, and the reaction when he knew that the card would not return back to him, was a relief. It meant that Akira obviously did not want that card to return back to him, and she had already guessed why.
In the world of Hunters, the smallest mistake might lead to death. Reina could feel that as she smiled and continued.
“Well then, in that case, the next thing would be to talk about what to do to fix the unfair deal. I heard from Shiori that you received a weapon for the card, right If youre interested in more equipment, how about we give you more equipment”
Unlike Reina who was trying to be careful, Akira was completely nonchalant as he replied.
“Hmmm, from my point of view, it was something that had already been concluded, so I have no wish to ask for anything more.”
“Im just sharing my own thoughts here, but I think theres nothing wrong with taking what you can take. Though it might be weird for me to say this, the worth of that card has changed since then. Its enough to exchange it with a powerful weapon that the other corporations dont sell, you know Though you might have your own reason, since you can get better equipment, I dont see any reason to hold back, you know”
“Well, thats not the problem here.”
Reina looked slightly confused. It was obvious that she did not understand why Akira was hesitating to take up her offer, which would be nothing but profitable for him.
Akira could see confusion in Reinas expression, so he added more explanation.
“The matter with that card has already been concluded. Even after the deal, I received extra blades from Shiori out of kindness. Just because it brings nothing but profit for me, doesnt mean it is right to question the exchange of value we had back then. It would be nothing more than letting myself be spoiled just because I have the chance. If I decide to ask for something more, this might be the trigger for me to question all the deals I had in the past. I might dig up something that could be judged asunfair and continue to seek reparation. As a Hunter, I should be someone who obeys his contract strictly, I dont think its a good thing to start getting into such a habit.”
“Ohh, I see, so thats the issue, huh Well, a sense of identity is important for a Hunter, after all. Hmm, but still…”
Seeing Reina kept withdrawing and agreeing with him, this time, it was Akira who found it suspicious.
“Anyway, why are you so insistent on this matter Are you really that bothered by the fairness of that deal”
It was obvious that Reina was trying to dodge his question. Akira gave her a look of suspicion. As he expected, any good deal would have strings attached. Reina heaved a deep sigh and then responded as if she had given up.
“To be perfectly honest, rather than insisting on you to take the offer, its more because we want to get on Olivia-sans good side.”
Akira raised his eyebrows, so Reina then explained to him.
Olivia was not pleased with the deal. Although there might be many reasons as to why, when they thought about the biggest reason, they realized that they had treated the card, which provided a means to contact Olivia, cheaply.
That was why they thought by treating it as a highly valuable item and giving a suitable compensation to its original owner, Akira, then Olivia would admit the ownership change.
After Reina said so, she made an even more troubled expression as she continued.
“But then, its difficult to correctly identify how much Aurum that the card is worth, right And if we use money instead, theres a worry that Olivia might instead feel insulted that we only price that card that much. Thats why, instead of giving you money, were thinking of giving you equipment instead. Equipment that is not to be sold outside the company normally would never be given to an outsider, but by doing so in exchange for the card, we can use it to show Olivia just how highly we evaluate the card, you see.”
“Ahh, I see, so thats whats going on.”
Akira nodded as if he was convinced by her reason. As he had expected, Reinas offer had a secret scheme behind it, but fortunately, it was not something that might cause him trouble.
“Yep, so thats the gist of it. Thats why it would be great if you can accept it. If you wont accept money or equipment, you can also ask us to do something. If nothing really interests you, saying that were really indebted to you would be enough.”
Seeing how Reina was so generous in her offer, Akira was certain that she would even let him know secret information if he had asked her. He made a rather conflicted expression and hummed.
“In that case, I wont force you to do this, but theres one thing that I would request as repayment for that huge debt.”
“Sure, what is it Though I cant say that well do anything for you, you can at least ask us.”
“Dont be hostile towards me.”
Reina could not hide her surprise.
“…Uhh, will that really be enough for you”
Although she was surprised, Reina asked a question in a rather casual tone. Akira made a clear response. His gaze to Reina turned sharp and his tone turned strong.
“That is, if you properly keep your words. Though, from the way you say it, I feel like you see it as something trivial. That you have no issues with breaking your promises.”
Reina winced back from Akiras response. Unfortunately, that only served to deepen Akiras distrust.
“As I said before, I wont force you. Thats basically what I ask of you. But if you have no plans to properly keep your words, then dont give me cheap promises and just tell me no.”
Reina was overwhelmed by Akiras pressure. But she then straightened her posture and seriously looked him in the eye.
“I cant give you any promises to not be hostile, but I can promise you that we wont get in your way. Enough to make the deal regarding this card a fair one. I promise you in my name, Reina Rilart Lorents.”
In all honesty, Akira had no idea how much that promise was worth, but judging from how surprised Shiori and Kanae were, he at least understood that it must have been a pretty big deal.
“Alright, that would be fine then. Thanks.”
Akira threw a smile at Reina. She did the same in return. Now that Reinas group had promised not to be hostile, Akira unconsciously lowered his guard. Reina, who felt the atmosphere relax, also lowered her shoulders. Shiori and Kanae, who were extremely tense up until now, also returned to their usual calm demeanour. Though that showed that they were not being extra tense due to hidden stalkers as Reina had claimed. However, Akira did not really care much at this point, so everything worked out.
Reina lightly sighed, her state of mind had changed from one focused on negotiation to a more relaxed one for casual conversation.
“Now that our important negotiation has concluded, we can leave in case youre busy. Though, if you still have some time, theres actually something else that I want to ask you. It has nothing to do with what we just discussed, so, are you okay with that”
“That would depend on my employer…”
Akira said so and turned to Carol, she lightly smiled and said.
“Its okay. Its not like we have a deadline for gathering the data for the map. I did say its okay to prioritize your things too, right”
Akiras gaze turned back to Reina.
“Well, I know that this will not be short, but Ill try not to make it too long.”
“Alright, so then, its actually about Katsuya.”
Shiori almost choked on her drink, but she somehow managed to hold it in. The reason was none other than Reina, who just brought up a subject that was extremely sensitive. Kanae was more or less also as surprised as Shiori.
Even Akira did not expect her to ask something like this. Though, he did not seem to be on guard by the subject either. It was simply because the people in front of him promised not to be hostile toward him and that promise seemed to be trustworthy enough.
Reina started talking nostalgically about Katsuya to Akira. About her first impression the first time they met. At first, she was rather hostile toward him. But after knowing Katsuya was always trying his hardest to save and protect his friends, she accepted him to some extent. How he became rather popular among members of the opposite gender since the ones that he saved were mostly female. She also mentioned how her feelings toward him grew the more often they worked together. She talked about all kinds of things to help herself come to terms with Katsuyas death.
And then, after she thought about how she was in the past and how she was now, Reina sighed.
“…Well, Katsuya was really popular because of that. But, now that I think about it, I now know that everyone who was relying on him back then was nothing more than taking advantage of his kindness. They pushed all the difficult decisions and every negative bit about being a Hunter onto him. In exchange for that, they sang praises of him. Everyone was content with that situation, including me. Katsuya also allowed it to continue, which only made the situation worse over time.”
Reina was telling her story while looking rather frustrated, Akira just listened without saying anything.
“I did leave his side at one point, but that was because I wanted to be able to stand on an equal footing with him. Basically, it was just out of my selfishness. Even if I could not get there, I felt like I have already caused a lot of trouble for him. So, at the very least, I wanted to get stronger. At least enough to stay beside him and support him as a fellow teammate without relying on him too much. That way, things might have changed. Though it is way too late to think about that now.”
Reina stopped, lightly smiled, and then continued.
“Ah, I didnt mean it as the result would have been reversed. I just thought that if there was someone to stop him sooner, the misunderstanding would have not escalated that far. Its not like I have any grudge against you or anything like that.”
Akira took those words as they were and nodded. However, Shioris shoulder moved forward a bit and she frowned, as if she suddenly had a stomach ache. Meanwhile, Kanae had a rather awkward wry smile on her face. Both of them, including Carol, understood how dangerous a topic this was.
“By the way, to be fully honest, its not like I am fully over it. About you killing Katsuya.”
This time, Shiori choked and Kanae was completely surprised.
Akira was also taken by surprise when Reina said that out loud. But he did not show any animosity or hostility. She then continued.
“But again, that does not mean that I want to pick a fight with you. I heard that your fight with Katsuya was out of a misunderstanding. Im sure that he wouldnt want anyone to avenge his death. Moreover, I dont want to die and I dont want to get Kanae or Shiori killed too. Youre really strong, after all. It might not be the right thing to say, but it just isnt worth it to fight against you.”
Carol was surprised by Reinas words. After all, it could also be interpreted that they would attack Akira if he was weak enough.
But Akira did not react to that, as a matter of fact, he took that impression positively. For him, it was completely understandable for someone to come at him for vengeance since he had killed someone that they loved. To him, saying that would not be worth the risk now was a compliment.
Reina then continued.
“Thats why, to make sure that I wont waver, please stay strong. Make sure that the risk of picking a fight with you is never worth it. Dont show me any unnecessary openings. I was planning to ask this of you one day, but with our deal just now, it is unnecessary, huh Well, it is too good a timing.”
Seeing Reina smile as she concluded her monologue, Akira also smiled and replied.
“It was a good thing for me too, that you wont pick a fight with me.”
“Is that so Ah, were you thinking that Ill be coming for your life one day to avenge Katsuya”
“Pretty much, yeah. Just because we both signed a peace treaty mediated by the Hunter Office, there will still be some who would go ahead and do it, you know”
In reality, Akira was vigilant since he expected that someone would come to try and take revenge on him. Shiori once again choked since he casually admitted it. Meanwhile, Kanae gave a wry stiff smile. However, Reina did not seem to be bothered at all as she lightly smiled and replied.
“Its great that we are able to avoid a misunderstanding. Well then, Akira, we should take our leave now. Thank you for listening to my story. So, as thanks, let me give you one warning.”
“Warning What is it”
Reinas face turned slightly serious.
“Its not just us who think that its not worth the risk. There were quite a lot of survivors from Katsuyas old team. There are those who refuse to sign the peace treaty and got kicked out of Drankam, and Im sure there are those who are not fully happy with the peace treaty although they signed it. I believe the reason why they still havent made their moves is simply because they know that its impossible for them to kill you even by pure accident. So, if they wish to attack you, there must be a chance for them to succeed. Basically, if they think that they have the chance to kill you, even if it means that itll kill them as well, they might just attempt it. Thats why Im telling you to be careful.”
After saying that, Reinas expression relaxed.
“Well, with that being said, as expected, Im sure they are not that stupid. At least not foolish enough to think they might have a chance to go against a high-ranking Hunter who is strong enough to get an inter-city transport-escort request and have returned back from escorting an inter-city transport from further east. So Im sure that it should be fine. Alright then. Thats all. We should take our leave.”
Reina raised from her seat, Shiori and Kanae quickly started cleaning up the table and the seats. Akira also stood up. It did not take long for Shiori and Kanae to be done. After that, Shiori faced Akira with a serious expression and bowed.
“Akira-sama, I believe that any explanation is unnecessary at this point. So at least let me say this, my deepest apologies.”
Akira seemed a bit surprised, but his expression quickly relaxed.
“Dont worry about it. I thought that it was a fair deal right from the start. Although those who know the real worth of the card might perceive it to be unfair, its all because of my lack of knowledge. So, its basically my fault, not yours.”
“Thank you very much. Regarding this matter, I also wish for you to not be hostile with us.”
“I would be grateful if you do so too.”
Shiori bowed deeply, then she raised her head and smiled. Reina and Kanae also smiled and said their goodbyes.
“Well then, if fate has it, lets work together again next time.”
“Akira-boy, until we meet again.”
Reinas group returned to their vehicle and left, Akira saw them off thinking that it was great it did not turn into anything troublesome and was relieved by it.
On their way back to the city, Reina, Shiori, and Kanae all let out a sigh of relief. Especially Shiori heaved a huge sigh of relief.
“…Milady. I would say that Milday has gone a bit too far, bringing up Katsuya. Had Akira-sama reacted negatively, it would have been horrendous, you know”
Reina, who was not as tense as before, just smiled bitterly and said.
“I do think that it was rather dangerous. But it was fine, right”
“Result-wise, indeed that was the case. But that is not something wise to do without much thought.”
Seeing Shioris face that turned slightly pale from fatigue, Reina felt a bit sorry for what she did.
“Although Akira did say that, its not like I brought that up without much thought, you know”
Kanae found that surprising, but she then smiled amusedly and asked.
“Is that so In that case, it would be great if you let me know why did you say that to Akira-boy Its for the sake of seeing how much Milady has grown from the past, where you often spoke without much consideration.”
Reina smiled bitterly after Kanae pointed out her past bad habit. She started explaining why she said that to Akira.
After seeing how Akira reacted once she mentioned the chance of that card returning to him, Reina was almost certain that Akira was an old-world connector. So, she decided to continue their conversation while trying to hide that from Akira.
The fact that Akira asked them not to be hostile towards him was a good thing for Reina as well. Although she was caught off guard by that demand, she was somehow able to get over it. After that, she tried to measure how much he believed that they had no wish to be hostile to him. Likewise, how hostile he was towards them.
Judging from the results, she thought that it was her only chance to bring up matters related to Katsuya. At that time, the situation was set so that no matter what she said, Akira would not be hostile. If she delayed any further, that insurance would slowly fade away. If her doubt grew, and she ended up bringing up Katsuya at another time, it would be even more dangerous. But back then, even if her feelings toward Katsuya had resurfaced, she could remind herself that her main objective was to make Olivia happy. Thus, she would be able to hold herself back.
Meanwhile, she also knew that she would have to bring that subject up sooner or later. Not only was it to help her get over Katsuyas death, but it would also help prevent misunderstanding in case Akira thought that she came at him to avenge Katsuya.
Akira also grew even stronger than before. Reina believed that Akira was currently thinking that it was not worth the trouble to weed out all trouble. However, one day, he might start believing otherwise: that it was only a matter of time before their power level was reversed and it was safer to kill Reinas group before that happened. So, there was a need to talk it out.
To bring out that matter and clear up any possible misunderstandings, she would need to have a good excuse and a safe setting. Fortunately, that was a very good opportunity to do that.
On the other hand, there was also a need to make sure that Akira trusted her promise. In the case Akira later noticed that she knew he was an old-world connector, she could use her promise as insurance as well to prevent any unnecessary worries. With that, she thought that it worked out pretty well.
As for the last warning, not only did it give an extra reason as to why they would not attack Akira, but it also gave Akira a reason to focus his attention elsewhere. It was a fact there were others who were still aiming for him, so it should be fine since it was not like she was lying.
After listening to Reinas explanation, Kanae seemed astonished as she complimented Reina.
“Milady, youve really thought it through.”
Reina smiled bitterly. As she knew herself best when it came to her past bad habit, she could not help but interpret that compliment as both positive and negative.
“Anyway, it did go pretty well, right”
“Indeed, though it was not completely safe. So, its like just as Ane-san said, we can say that it is fine only because the result turned out alright, no”
It was rare for Kanae to scold Reina like that. Reina lightly smiled and then replied with a rather serious tone.
“I did consider my words when I spoke.”
“That doesnt seem to be the case to me though.”
“Hmmm, I cant really explain it, but for some reason, I can feel things that I shouldnt say, which would cause a fight back there. I wonder if its also the result of me being a Hunter for quite a long time.”
“I-Is that so”
Whether it was against a person, or an organization, or even a monster, there were always fatal choices. Some could identify such dangerous lines through careful analysis, while some could do so by pure intuition. Kanae was the latter. But she believed that Reina was not the latter type. Even if Reina was, Kanae could not have imagined Reina as someone who would try to step dangerously close to that line.
Shiori let out a big sigh.
“…Milady, first of all, you did well during the negotiation with Akira-sama. But, if Milady could really feel such a line, I really recommend keeping a safe distance from it.”
“I know. But sometimes you have to take dangerous options to survive, right It is obviously true for the Hunters, it is also true for the officers in large corporations too, right It would be bad if they cant make the right decision. Even in the main house, although some family members lost their positions in the family, some of them are doing quite well as Hunters and are trying to get back into the power struggle inside the family, right Now that I think about it, they might be thinking of training themselves as Hunters and using the skills that they have learned in the corporate world. After all, wouldnt it be difficult for them to know what is dangerous if they keep living in the safety of the inner wall Ojii-sama might have the same line of thinking too since he was once a Hunter. What do you think, Shiori”
“T-that might as well be the case…”
Shiori thought that Reinas argument did make sense. But she did not want Reina to dive into that line of thinking. That was why she only gave a rather vague answer. Immediately, Shiori tried to change the subject.
“A-anyway, with this, our matter with Akira-sama at least came to a close. The next matter would be in regards to Olivia-sama. Lets think about what to do with that matter once we return back to the city. We need to discuss with the factions as well…”
That was when Shiori noticed a message from Chloe. When she checked the content, she could not help but frown.
“Milady, Ive received a message from Chloe-sama saying that she wishes to meet with Milady sometime soon. What should we do about this”
“Well, its not like we can do anything about it. We dont have the choice of saying no to her. She will try to gather information regarding that matter with Alice-sama sooner or later. So, is she coming over here”
“No, she wants us to come to meet her, as for the location…”
Reina frowned when she heard the location. She then thought for a bit before she made her decision.
“…I see. Well, lets just go there right now.”
Shiori then changed the direction of the vehicle, which was originally headed back to Kugamayama city.-