Chapter 258: A Shady Object
Shirou was working in his secret base with a solemn expression. Though if someone was looking at him, he would seem to be doing nothing. Just silently sitting in his seat. However, he was currently controlling a remote terminal through the old-world connection.
He was analyzing the data that he received from Carol in Mihazono ruin, collecting information to elude Yanagisawa and Hammerz, collecting real Chrome. Basically, there were a lot of things that he had to do.
“…Dammit! The rate for this one here is way too high. And this one! It has a low rate but it requires the information buyer to give his details…. I bet theyve been doing something in the black market… Are they seriously going this far!”
The old-world currency, Chrome, was a difficult currency to handle. Chrome used by common people and second-rate Hunters was not actually real old-world Chrome. Most of the time, they were a substitute for real Chrome, a fiat currency that the Corporate Government has guaranteed.
Even if a Hunter found the highly valuable Chrome in a ruin, it was not easy to spend it. Most of the time, they were bound to a certain user through old-world technology. In other words, they were bound to their original, legitimate owner. As such, when someone else tries to use it to strike a deal with an old-world being, it was often rejected as illegitimate Chrome. In the worst-case scenario, they might even get killed when they tried to use that Chrome.
Therefore, real Chrome was one that was freely used in the current eras eastern district to make deals with old-world beings.
The main distributor of the real Chrome was the 5 biggest corporations, of course, they got those Chrome from making deals with old-world beings. They also did something similar to money laundering in order to overwrite the ownership of the Chrome found in old-world ruins. Some could easily be overwritten by submitting a report that its original owner had expired. Some had their ownership transferred automatically to the old-world caretaker AI, which then large corporations could obtain by selling goods to that AI. These large corporations were doing all kinds of things to gather real Chrome.
Even if they had real Chrome, there were only a limited number of individuals who could use them to buy old-world articles. After all, they had no way to connect to the old-world domain. That was why, most of the time, those who found real Chrome would exchange it with the Corporate Government for old-world articles. Behind the scenes, one of the corporate governments agents would be used as a proxy to purchase said old-world articles in place of the one who found the Chrome. Of course, the moment it got transferred into the corporate governments account, it would be turned into fiat and normally never be allowed to exchange back for real Chrome.
There were only a certain number of people who could strike a deal with the old-world beings. The real Chrome and the fiat Chrome had no difference except to these people. In short, for Shirou, the difference between real Chrome and fiat Chrome was huge.
The 15 million Chrome that he had prepared for his escape actually had strings attached. They were Chrome that he had been gathering secretly bit by bit. His original plan was to use it to make a deal with a high ranking Hunter.
Of course, Shirous escape was against the will of Saka**a Heavy Industry. So, it was to be expected that those who helped him would also be picking a fight with Saka**a Heavy Industry. As such, Shirous only option was to find a Hunter who could stand their ground against Saka**a Heavy Industry. Otherwise, a Hunter who had connections to one of the other 5 largest corporations in the eastern district.
In order to make a deal with such Hunters, he could not use Aurum and had no other choice but to use Chrome. It would be better if it was real Chrome. After all, Hunters who had the option to move out to another area in the scenario where they got kicked out from the Aurum financial area by Saka**a Heavy Industry, would normally have connections to the old-world.
However, he ended up using all 15 million Chrome to pay Olivia. With this, he had no more money to employ a front-line Hunter and had lost his greatest opportunity to accomplish his goal. He did try to find a way to get real Chrome using back routes, but unfortunately, it was as if all of them were traps awaiting him. As such, he had no other choice but to rethink his original plan.
“…I cant just give up. I dont think Ill ever get this opportunity ever again! Theres no way I would just give it up like this…”
Shirou had both of his hands on the back of his head, as he stared at the floor while having a hard time with what to do next. He suddenly raised his head. The automatic warning program that he had set up in case someone was trying to look for him got triggered. He then checked the content of the warning and tilted his head in confusion.
“…Why are these people looking for me Dammit, what do I do now”
Shirou was uncertain if he should give them a warning to make them withdraw, or just ignore it in case it was actually a trap. He then switched off the automatic program and did the investigation himself. Considering that Yanagisawa had found him through the old-world domain before, he had to put in extra effort in his investigation. Because of that, he had to give it more attention, which was a rather scarce resource for him at the moment.
After Reinas group left Chloe, they once again headed back to the city. As Shiori was driving the vehicle, she would intermittently send glances at Reina as if she wanted to say something. But because she was having a hard time choosing her words, she ended up saying nothing.
She could not bring herself to ask Reina if it was okay. It was thanks to Reina giving up the card that they were able to leave safely. If asked whether it was a good thing or not, it was without a doubt a good thing. But she could not just wrap everything that happened as something positive and end it there.
Reina guessed what Shiori was thinking and smiled.
“No matter what happens, we were the ones who created the route to contact Olivia-sama and I believe that is enough to allow me to return back to the main family, right So, lets not get too greedy. Having too big of an achievement out of the blue would only cause me more trouble, no Exactly like what happened just now.”
“That indeed is true, but…”
“All three of us are fine. Thats good enough, dont you think so”
Since Reina had said so, Shiori had no other choice but to get over it.
Kanae, who had already fully returned to her usual attitude, lightly smiled and said.
“But wouldnt the best option back there be not to meet Chloe-sama Milady, I think that was a mistake. I did tell Milady that it wouldnt be anything good, right”
Shiori turned to Kanae and was about to scold her, but before that, Reina casually replied.
“Its fine. It was a good chance too.”
“…A good chance”
“I didnt expect her to go that far for the card. Though, I did expect her to threaten me.”
Shiori frowned and interjected with a troubled expression.
“So Milady was planning on giving her the card away right from the start. In that case, why did Milady take on such an attitude…”
“That is to satisfy Olivia-sama. If I gave it away without much resistance, she might think that I dont value that card, right Thats why, although I was planning to give it away, I had to hold onto it as long as I could.”
Kanae smiled wryly.
“M-Milady, that was a bit too close to the limit for my taste, though.”
“I was originally planning to hold it just a little bit before giving it up, but thanks to you, I was able to hold it until the very limit. Well, I wont deny that it was dangerous. But Im glad that result-wise Im certain we were able to show how highly we value that card.”
Shiori sighed in exasperation.
“M-Milady, it would have been great if you had discussed it with us beforehand.”
“My bad. But you did do the same thing too, no Thats why make sure to discuss it with me next time.”
Shiori smiled wryly, seeing that, Kanae smiled amusedly and asked the final question in her mind.
“So then, Milady, why did you decide to just give away the card Although Im sure that Chloe-sama wont be happy with it, personally speaking, I believe that it was better to not give that card away back there.”
Shiori also had the same question and agreed with Kanaes opinion. She glanced at Reina, asking the same question with her glance.
Reina was not sure how to answer that question. She wanted to respond with an argument she had accepted in her mind, but she was sure that would not convince Kanae and Shiori. Though, at this point, she knew that it would be pointless to lie. So, she decided to answer truthfully.
“Hmmm. Its mostly out of intuition, so I cant really explain it. I had a feeling that it was better if I distanced myself away from that card as soon as possible. But again, considering a connection to Olivia-sama, it was not like I can just give it away without a good reason. After all, she might interpret it as us mocking the value of that card, right So, with that in mind, it was a good opportunity, you see. And, if its about why I dont want to keep that card…”
Reina paused, she smiled wryly while looking troubled.
“It might be weird to say this, but even someone like Akira doesnt want to keep that card, remember So, dont you think its better not to keep it”
With that reasoning, Shiori and Kanae made a conflicted expression similar to Reina. If used correctly, it was an extremely tempting card that might bring about huge profits, but at this point, to them, it also looked like an extremely dangerous object as well. They could not just throw it away. Even if they managed to get it away from them, it felt like it would somehow return back like a cursed object.
“Leaving aside whether that worry is necessary or not, it all depends on Chloe-sama from this point on. Ah, this is getting really interesting.”
Kanae smiled with excitement as she wondered if her masters worry was going to come to fruition or not.
Chloe returned back to the facility and went to the basement with the card in her hand. It was the basement of a mansion where Akira met a Lion Steels holographic AI. At the moment, that room had already been transformed into a lab. The old-world terminals there had already been restored and the location which triggered the Lion Steel AI had been properly marked.
Chloe could not connect to the old-world domain. But she could use an augmented reality device that would help her connect to the old-world domain and communicate with the Lion Steel company. If she used the card, she would even be able to summon Olivia.
Even Chloe found herself nervous in this situation. Olivia was not only a mere old-world being to them, she was not only the same type of AI as the head of the current Lion Steel, Alicia, she was also someone Alicia had to negotiate with. If Chloe somehow soured her mood, she would no longer have a place anymore in the main corporation. On the other hand, if she somehow managed to get on Olivias good side and be a special negotiator to connect with Olivia, she might be someone that would even catch Alices eyes. It was a reasonable gamble to take.
She controlled her breathing to calm her down and made her resolve. She then held up the card. The call went through to Lion Steel and bounced to Olivia. The next moment, Olivia appeared in Chloes vision.
Chloe took a deep breath and bowed.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, I am Chloe from Lion Steels eastern district third branch. Due to the order from Alice-sama to proceed with the preparation for the negotiation, I have decided to contact you. We will be in your care.”
After she finished her polite introduction and raised her head, Chloe winced back. Olivia looked rather displeased at her. Since Chloe could not afford to worsen Olivias mood, she immediately reviewed what she did. But even after she did that, she could not find anything that might offend Olivia. She tried to get her anxiety in control as she continued.
“We apologize deeply for calling you while you are busy. Would it be better if I reschedule this meeting”
“Thats pretty brave of you considering you summoned me here with a stolen card.”
Chloe shuddered at that unexpected response.
“S-stolen card I can reassure you that it is not…”
The relics that the Hunters carried out from old-world ruins were basically stolen goods. Even if it was a relic that was left inside a dilapidated warehouse, or if it was an already decayed relic abandoned there for who knows how long. Even if it was a relic that was left there for eternity, either way, they were taken without the permission of their original owners. If the security measure in that area was still active, which in the current era, was in the form of monsters, it would attempt to chase away these robbers. In some cases, even kill the robbers.
But there were relics that were not considered stolen goods. They included those that were freely given away. There were also those that had lost their ownership based on the laws of that time. Chloe thought that card was one of those relics, or that for Olivia, the ownership of that card did not matter. The one that really mattered to her was the person who held that card. After all, if that was not the case, Reinas group that had contacted Olivia, and even allowed Alice to set up negotiations with her, would not be alive by now. That was why she was basically willing to use violence to get this card from Reina.
However, Olivia looked at Chloe with frosty eyes as she said.
“That card is not yours. Unlawful ownership of our issued card warrants a clean-up procedure from our company. I believe that I have said this to the previous person who held that card.”
Chloe understood that she was in a horrendous situation, she tried to make a guess based on Olivias words and tried to find a way to solve the misunderstanding. It was very unlikely that Reinas group got that card on their own. If they were able to do that, they would have already returned to the main house. Thus, her thoughts wandered, and she tried to make a guess. It was with the assumption that Reinas group did not get that card themselves.
“Ever since Shiori from our company had made contact with Olivia-sama, we believed that this card has been obtained through legitimate means. Moreover, it was an article that we obtained in the middle of one of our missions. As such, even if its owned by another company or individual, it should not be treated as a borrowed object nor a stolen object. Were really sorry if this does not satisfy you, but, we had no ill-will calling Olivia-sama here through what you deem as an illegitimate means.”
Unfortunately, Olivia quickly denied Chloes assumption.
“In the first place, Shiori is not the rightful owner of that card. It is just that its original owner gave his word that he had given that card. As such, although originally it would never be accepted, we had let it slide by treating that card as a borrowed article. It is unacceptable to be lending our card again to a third party. You have no permission to use that card. As such, from now on, were treating that card as a stolen object.”
Olivias attitude did not soften at all. Chloe was growing increasingly panicked.
“P-please wait for a bit! If the original owner of the card has given it to Reina and Shiori, that would not make it a borrowed object! I didnt get it from Shori, but from Reina-”
“The owner of that card is neither Reina, nor Shiori, nor Kanae from your company. In the first place, the owner is not affiliated with your company.”
“Eh-! Thats impossible!”
Chloe tried to reanalyze the situation with calm and rational thought, but it was just impossible from her point of view.
“There is no way that is true! Even if Reina asked an old-world connector, who is the original owner of this card to help them contact Olivia-sama and somehow managed to get them to hand over the card, there are no records regarding such a deal! There were no records of the card being handed over. Whether it is money or object, everything should have been strictly recorded.”
“Regarding the worth of the card, I have confirmed that both sides accepted the deal between them. In the first place, the person who contacted me was not the owner of that card.”
Additional information only confused Chloe even more.
“Only old-world connectors can use this card! If the owner of this card is not an old-world connector, then who the hell used this card to contact you!”
“That would be me.”
Suddenly, an uninvited third party joined their conversation. Chloe was extremely surprised by that. Shirou suddenly appeared inside Chloes enhanced vision.
The others who were helping Chloe with her AR device, also saw the same thing and started to make a ruckus. The area around Chloe suddenly became noisy.
“Whats going on here! Did someone just infiltrate this place!”
“No way! Its the direct line to Lion Steel through the old-world domain, you know! Theres no way anyone ca-”
Shirou then exasperatedly mocked.
“How naive! Even if youre using the old-world domain connection, as long as its a terminal or an ARR device made in this era, its not impossible to hack my way in, you know Its horrendous if you dont properly maintain the security of your systems.”
Inside Chloes view, Olivia turned to Shirou and smiled at him.
“Well well well, isnt this Shirou-sama Thank you very much for using our service last time. Are you here for another request today”
Shirou looked at Olivia just like how Chloe was looking at Olivia, with a deeply troubled look.
“I really want to, but unfortunately, I cant afford it at the moment. Sorry, but maybe next time.”
“Of course. Well be waiting for you. Well then, what kind of business do you have today”
“Sorry but my business this time is actually with her.”
Shirou glanced at Chloe and pointed at her, he then said with a serious expression.
“It seems that you guys are looking for me. What game are you trying to play here Trying to look for a Saka**a Heavy Industrys officer Are you trying to pick a fight with Saka**a Heavy Industry”
“S-Saka**a Heavy Industry What do you mean!”
Chloe only got more and more confused with the flood of new information. Unfortunately, all of them only worsen her situation, making her panic even more.
Seeing Chloes reaction, Shirou understood his mistake and clicked his tongue. He finally understood that in order to avoid trouble with Saka**a Heavy Industry, Shiori did not report what had happened to the upper echelons. Meanwhile, Chloe was only asking about him because she wanted to know the person who was with Olivia. It was not because she was looking for the old-world connector who had escaped from Saka**a Heavy Industry.
Although he regretted his unnecessary action, at least he understood that this information would not reach Hammerz. So, he changed his tone and warned Chloe so as to change the subject.
“I see. So, you dont even know whats going on, huh Well, it doesnt matter. Its better for you not to know. But dont try to look for me. If you keep doing that, Ill interpret it as a challenge to Saka**a. Ill do you a favour and not report this to Sak**a this time. Im in the middle of a secret mission from Saka**a, so theyll have to deal with you if get to know too much.”
As Shirou was about to leave, Chloe, who managed to at least process a little bit of the current situation and noticed an issue, flusteredly tried to stop him.
“Is this card yours! Since you helped Reina and the others, does that mean they have something to do with that secret mission of yours!”
Shirou paused. He did think that saying yes would likely satisfy them enough to stop them from snooping around for more information about him. However, he also felt like it would cause more trouble if Olivia took his lie seriously, so he decided to deny it.
“No. I only helped them because of something else. It seems that back then, they were looking for a special location where even a non-old-world connector could connect to the old-world domain. And since I couldnt wait for them to do that, I just helped them to do it in their place. That was all. If Im not mistaken, the real owner of that card is a Hunter by the name of Akira, right”
Shirou turned to Olivia and Olivia silently nodded in response.
“Indeed, that card is no one elses but his.”
“There you have it. You didnt even know that although you tried to use that card, huh”
Shirou was further emphasising an exasperated attitude so as to shift Chloes attention to someone else so that she would no longer snoop for more information about him.
“Im basically warning you. So yeah, dont look for me again.”
Shirou then vanished from Chloes vision.
“Considering the complexity of the situation and that youre working under Alice, I will let this incident slide. But I will take extreme measures next time. That will be all for me today.”
Olivia also vanished from Chloes vision.
Chloe, who was left standing there alone after everyone left, fell over from mental fatigue. Latis and the other servants who were there, flustered, helped her up.
“Milady! Are you alright!”
Latis then carried Chloe to the nearest sofa. Although she had no power left to stand back up, seeing how her servants looked at her, worriedly, she pushed her half-body up and pulled herself together. She could not afford to keep looking that pathetic in front of them. Thus, she shouted her order at them.
“Investigate this Hunter, Akira! Immediately!”
Seeing her men start to scramble to get to work, Chloe gritted her teeth. It was a huge failure. But this was not the end, she told that to herself and pushed all pessimism off her mind.
After that, their investigation regarding the original owner of the card did not deliver much result. Chloe did try calling Reina to ask about it, but Reina just kept ignoring her call. Because of that, she sent the same question to the upper echelons of the faction that she was in. It later went to the upper echelons of the faction that Reina was in. This question went one round before finally reaching Reina. However, Reinas answer to that was a simple and short message –I am not obligated to answer that question.
Since it was sent through the upper echelons of the company, it had the same level as an order from the corporation. Reinas response was essentially permitted by the upper echelons of the company. This meant that there was nothing more Chloe could do to get information about Akira from Reina.
Had she received that card from Reina through a deal that both sides had agreed upon, Chloe might be able to gain some information from Reina. However, Chloe lost to her greed and ended up taking the card from Reina with force. Right now, she was faced with the repercussions of that mistake.
As such, to get out of this predicament, clinging on to the chance of that wonderful future, Chloe had to take her chance on a gamble. An even wider crossroad, a huge gamble where losing meant greater losses and winning meant better rewards.
Though, I wonder if it will also haunt Reina.-