Chapter 259: Start The Battle
Akira woke up in Carols camping car. He was sleeping with his augmented suit on. This was to make sure that he would be able to react immediately in case something happened while he was doing his job as an escort. It was adjusted to place a minimum burden on his body, thanks to that, he was able to sleep well.
Akira said his usual good morning to Alpha and stretched his body, he then started to do simple stretching to wake his body up. After that, he proceeded to check his equipment before finally waking Carol up.
Carol was sleeping naked under a thin sheet. The sheet fully abandoned its function to hide her skin. Instead, the lightly transparent sheet only added another layer of eroticism. Carol had spent a huge amount of money not only to enhance her physical strength but also to increase her sex appeal. Because of that, her body was extremely lustrous and tempting. Since she was currently not using it to seduce someone, that lustrous beauty only gave off an artistic beauty feeling instead.
“Akira, good morning!”
“Good morning, Carol… Just because the inside of the car doesnt feel that different from home, I dont think its wise to go around like that, you know”
“Its fine, isnt it There is no one else here but you.”
“No no no, its just as you said, Im here right now, no”
Akiras opinion was entirely correct, but Carol instead sighed and said.
“If you really think so, it would be great if you can show some reaction, though. Its because you dont show any reaction at all that confidence in my body has taken a big hit, you know Or is it that you are looking at something that doesnt satisfy you Its fine. You can complain to me.”
“Its not like I have anything to complain about, but isnt it normal to at least put on something more proper”
“If youre talking about whats normal, honestly, I will start with hoping to get a normal reaction out of you. Alright alright, I just need to put something on, right”
Carol only casually said so as she just wanted that subject to be over and done with. She put on the inner for her augmented suit and returned. Although it hid her skin, as usual, the inner was just a tight skin suit, so it was not that different from being naked.
Akira thought to himself [Its true she had put something on… but an inner is more or less the same as being naked…] Since it was something Carol had decided on as his employer, he stopped himself from saying anything more.
They then went to have breakfast. This was when Akira suddenly came up with a question.
“It seems that this escort duty is going to end sometime soon, no”
“Hm Not really, though Why do you think so”
“Well, compared to back then when you first asked me, you now seem far less stressed. So, I thought that the problem has already been solved”
“Ahh, I see. Sorry, but it doesnt seem that its going to end anytime soon. Im planning to keep paying you as my escort forever. That is, as long as you let me and I still have enough money to do so.”
“Is that so Well, its fine with me.”
Akira tilted his head, thinking that it might just be his misunderstanding. However, it was true that Carol had really calmed down compared to before. Carol then smiled at him. It was a calm and tranquil smile.
“Well, its true that Ive mostly calmed down. Thats because even if I get involved in a huge battle like back then, you said that you would help me escape. Youll do that for me, right”
“As I said before, I will at least do my best.”
“Im counting on you when that time comes.”
Carol smiled happily and continued eating her breakfast. Akira thought that Carols change in attitude was strange. However, this was better than having her mood soured or tense, so he did not let it worry him too much.
While they were having their breakfast together, Carol went to ask about Akiras plan.
“By the way, Akira, whats your plan after this escort mission Are you planning to go further to the east to earn more Or are you in the middle of choosing a sponsor”
“Hmm, I havent really decided on anything yet in particular, but… Sponsor”
Akira tilted his head and seemed confused. Seeing that, Carol also expressed bewilderment.
“Eh Usually, Hunters of your rank get sponsor offers from various companies. Im sure youve received invitations to join teams as well. Though, I doubt youll ever accept those. I believe youll be only interested in support contracts or loan offers for solo Hunters. Dont tell me that you didnt get any, right”
Akira pretended to think as he turned toward the person, or the thing() that he had permitted to handle all that kind of stuff.
“Alpha, did I get anything like that”
“Yeah. Something like an offer to invest in you so you can go further to the east. Yesterday, you just received an offer from the Lion Steel company, offering you inclusive general support. Im refusing all offers though. Im pretty sure Ive told you before that Im refusing all the uninteresting offers sent to you using a standard email format, though”
“Oh You did”
Akira then replied to Carol. He was refusing all offers saying that he was not interested in any of them. Which was the truth. Carol could not have noticed that he was leaving such matters completely to Alpha.
“Is that so Although being a Hunter is very profitable, the cost of the medicines and ammo is not cheap, so its difficult to get out of debt once you get yourself into one. So, I dont think its a bad idea to have special connections to take care of that problem though. Im sure you would always go to a ruin well equipped. However, if something happens and you lose all your stuff, it is a great idea to have a backup plan, right”
“Well, thats true, but nothing like that ever happened up until now. Moreover, when I get a sponsor, Ill have to consider their wishes as well, right”
“Since theyll be paying for you and its not a charity, that part is given, no”
“I dont like that kind of thing.”
Seeing Akira make a displeased expression, as though he abhors the idea, Carol just giggled. She then paused for a bit before she said.
“In that case, how about forming a team with me Even if you lose all your equipment and have no money to buy a new one, as long as youre on the same team as me, it wont be a problem, you know And if youre too injured to search ruins, I can get some money from my side-job for you to get your injuries treated or to buy new equipment. Im sure you can already guess how much Im earning from my side job, right”
Carol lightly made that offer as a Hunter, to which Akira responded with a rather troubled expression.
“…Hmmm, honestly speaking, even if we do form a team, I dont think it would be right to do that.”
“Once were in the same team, were together both for the good and for the bad. So, I dont really mind. Well, I wont ask you to give your answer now. So, just at least keep it in one corner of your mind.”
Carol stopped pursuing the subject. Akira also did not think too much about it. Although, it did leave a mark on his mind.
That was when a call from Viola reached Carol. After Carol picked it up and listened to what Viola had to say, she sent a rather doubtful look at Akira.
“Akira, I just got some strange information from Viola… It seems that Lion Steel is looking for you. Do you have any guess as to why that might be”
“Really… Wait, Lion Steel Isnt the company where Reinas group came from”
“Now that you mention it, yeah. So, Viola is asking if its okay to sell information about your location to the information brokers looking for you.”
“Wait a sec, since when did information about my location become something that needs to be paid for”
“No idea, its not like I have an answer to that. Ah, Viola also said that she can investigate it and is open to talk about the price if you want.”
“…I dont really understand whats going on, but just tell her not to sell my information for now. And I wont ask for that as well. I dont have the money to spend on something like that at the moment.”
Carol conveyed that to Viola and then closed the call. After that, she quickly called Viola again through her terminal, while making sure that it would not make a sound.
“Its me, about that investigation. Is it okay if Im the one asking you to do that”
Carol believed that when Akira considered Violas offer, he refused because he thought of negotiating with her as too much trouble. Naturally, Carols judgment was on point. Akira weighed both information he might receive and the pain of the negotiation, easily concluding that the latter was more of a pain.
So, Carol thought she could buy that information in Akiras place and convey it to him. Especially if it was going to be something troublesome. If the potential trouble was something that might cause Akira to stop being her escort, then it was going to be horrendous for her as well.
Viola understood at least that much and replied.
“Sure, but just because were friends, there wont be any special discount, you know”
“I know. But well, if its possible, it would be great if you can prioritize it considering that were friends.”
“In that case, Ill give you this as a special gift. We can talk about the price later after you check the content. Im actually in the cafeteria inside the Hunter Office branch near Mihazono ruin right now. Come here to pick it up directly.”
“Oh Youve done your investigation already Youre as sly as ever, but is there any need for me to go there You can just send it to me, no”
In contrast to Carols confused voice, Viola replied with an amused tone.
“Im sorry, but its not something that I can send over except through a secret line. Just think of it as fortunate that I didnt even ask you to come to the middle of a ruin. So, this thing wont be cheap, you know Do you want to withdraw now”
“Nope. Ill buy it. Im heading over there right now, so just wait for me.”
“Alright, Ill be waiting then.”
After she closed the call, Carol then told Akira. She just remembered she had to go meet someone at a Hunter Office branch after this. Akira was not suspicious at all and normally went to prepare his equipment.
After Akira escorted Carol to the Hunter Office branch of Mihazono ruin, he waited for her to return back, from outside the Hunter Office. Akira was waiting outside because Carol asked him to do so. It was just to be safe in case Akira got suspicious. After all, she was purchasing information that Akira refused to buy from Viola.
Although they were in the middle of the wasteland, considering that Carol had mostly calmed down and it was inside the Hunter Office where no one would want to cause trouble, he believed that it would be fine to let Carol go alone. Though he was her bodyguard right now.
As he was chatting with Alpha to kill time, Alpha suddenly warned him.
“Akira, just to be safe, get ready for a fight.”
“Whats going on Did you discover something that might turn into another large-scale battle”
“Its not that serious, but it seems that there are people forming an encirclement around this area.”
Akira then turned his attention toward where Alpha was indicating. There, while he scanned the area, he saw a group of maids and butlers. The same ones he saw back in the cafeteria.
“I bet theyre here just to make sure that this place is safe. That weird rich girl with inappropriate equipment for the wasteland back then is coming here, right”
“That might be the case. But its just to be safe.”
Akira just ignored that group and continued waiting for Carol. In the middle of that, more and more maids and butlers came to the area. Although the Hunters in the area, including Akira, found it weird, they did not seem to be bothered by it at all. If there was anything that bothered Akira, it was that some of them seemed awfully cautious toward him.
Of course, Akira did notice them. However, he thought that it must be because of his equipment. It was way too powerful for the standard equipment for this ruin. All the maids and the butlers were fully armed, but since Akira knew Kanae and Shiori, who were similar to those maids and butlers, it did not strike him as strange.
Eventually, Chloe came with Latis and Pamela. When Akira saw them coming from the wasteland, he thought that they would head to the Hunter Office. So as not to get in their way, Akira re-positioned himself to the side, where they would pass by him.
But even after they entered the Hunter Office branch area, instead of getting into the build, they headed toward him. Akira frowned and tilted his head. Chloe approached Akira with her servants behind her and stopped in front of him as if they were having a stand-off.
“You are Akira, right”
Chloe seemed to be exhausted, however, she still sent an intense glare at him. It was because she spent all night yesterday without sleeping to investigate matters related to Olivia. Although her sleepiness and exhaustion had been taken care of by expensive medicines, the fatigue from the stress remained. After all, the situation that she was in had not changed. The more she tried to compensate for that with willpower, unfortunately, the worse her stern stare got.
“Im sure youve received multiple call requests from Lion Steel. Why did you ignore all of them”
“What are you talking about”
“Just answer me!”
Akira retracted his head back; it was obvious that he was a bit weirded out by Chloes sudden emotional flare. That was when Latis and Pamela quickly intervened, Pamela tried to calm Chloe down while pulling her back. Meanwhile, Latis took her place to talk to Akira.
“A pleasure to meet you, I am Latis, one of Chloe-samas butlers. I apologize for my masters rude remark just now.”
“Ah, sure, okay.”
“We are from Lion Steel company. We have been trying to make an appointment with Akira-sama ever since yesterday. But, we just couldnt reach you. Although we do think that it is rude for us to do this, since weve received information that you would be here, we came here to meet you. Would it be okay if we ask for some of your time right now”
“Well, if its only for a bit, then sure…”
“Thank you very much!”
Latis bowed and withdrew. Chloe, who was taking a deep breath to calm herself down, once again stepped forward in front of Akira. She then showed the white card to Akira.
“Do you have any recollection of this card Or more like, this card is originally yours, right”
“No, thats not mine.”
“Stop playing a fool with me!!”
Chloe once again raised her voice, and once again, Latis and Pamela quickly intervened. However, this time, it was Pamela who stepped in front of Akira.
“It is a pleasure to meet you. I am Pamela. Just like Latis, I am also working to serve Chloe-sama.”
“…Well, okay, sure.”
“According to the information that our company has received, the current owner of this card is Akira-sama. Do you have any recollection of this If its ownership has already shifted to someone else, it would be a great help if Akira-sama could inform us who it might be.”
“If you guys are from Lion Steel, you know Shiori, right”
“Its hers. Or more like, you got that card from Shiori, right Why didnt you even know about it”
Akira started to look utterly confused. But Pamela replied casually without missing a beat.
“At the moment, the owner of this card in our company is Chloe-sama. After that, we did try to contact Olivia-sama, but then Olivia-sama told us that the legitimate owner of the card is Akira-sama. It was only lent to Shiori. Do you have any recollection of this matter”
“Ah, right, she did say something along those lines now that you mention it… But still, I already told her. I gave that card to Shiori. So, I dont think that card is still mine. Thats why, even if you say that youre returning it, I cant accept that card. If you really want to talk about returning it or whatnot, go discuss it with Shiori first.”
“Please dont worry, we are not here to return the card.”
“Then what is it”
Pamela stepped back, Chloe, who had calmed down with the help from Latis, once again stepped in front of Akira.
“I want you to lend this card to me just like you lent it to Shiori.”
Akira frowned, for him, it was a rather weird request to him.
“You want me to lend it Didnt you get that from borrowing it from Shiori”
“…Yes, we did. But thats as far as it goes between us. But it seems that as far as Olivia-sama is concerned, the owner of this card is still you. Thats why Im asking you instead.”
“You just need to tell Olivia that you got that card from Shiori, no”
Akiras light-hearted answer only worsened Chloes mood. If that was enough, she would not have to go through all of this. However, she somehow managed to hold herself back from screaming in Akiras face. Though, in order to do that, her face turned even darker. She then took a deep breath and said with an awkward smile.
“…Its not that simple for us, you see. Thats why we want approval from its former owner. You can just say that youre lending it to me and that will be enough. Giving it to me or selling it to me will also be fine. Of course, I will give you something in return. Ill buy it at any price you ask. We can also give you support for your Hunter job. We can even dispatch people to help you too. Theyll be as strong as those high-ranking Hunters. So, go ahead. You can make any demand in exchange for this card.”
The offer was too good to be true, so Akira could not help but to get suspicious instead.
Chloe finally could not hold back her emotion.
“As I said before, that card is no longer mine. Its not right to lend or sell something that is not mine to begin with, thats all there is to it.”
“Im here, telling you that this card is yours!!”
“And Im telling you. That matter has already been concluded with my deal with Reina! You got that card from Reina and that is the end of it!”
Akira noticed that he was getting angry for some reason. But since he did not know the reason why, he ended up letting his emotion come out through his voice. So, Alpha gently tried to calm him down.
“Akira, calm down.”
“…Ah, right, sorry.”
Akira took a deep breath to help him calm down. It was something that he often did in the past. So, it was able to immediately calm him down.
If Alpha told him to just accept the card, it would have solved the issue. However, she could not afford to do so. She felt that saying that would be touching a part of Akira that he was sensitive about. Considering that he was so close to cutting ties with Elena and Sara the moment they did something like that, Alpha believed it to be a bad idea. It would be akin to walking through a minefield.
In reality, Alpha was overthinking it. If she had just told him to accept the card and give it to Chloe, he would have simply obeyed. However, Alpha, who did not know what Akira discussed with Tsubaki inside Kuzuhara ruin, believed that he would not obediently follow her advice.
The only thing that Akira was waiting for before heading off to accomplish Alphas request was the equipment that he had ordered through the help of Saka**a Heavy Industry. It would be a bad move to worsen their relationship before he accomplished her goal. Because of that, Alpha believed that she could only tell Akira to calm down.
Chloe was forced into a difficult position. If news about her failure with Olivia spread through the main house, she would lose her place. Although she was currently able to come up with an excuse for her faction, it was only a matter of time before it hit its limit. There was a need for her to do something to gain ownership of this card. Otherwise, she would eventually get kicked out of the inner wall.
Her plan was first to negotiate with Akira. To ask him to lend her the card and from there, manage a way to actually get the ownership of this card.
However, she could not get in contact with him. Even after trying to send an overwhelmingly enticing offer through the Hunter Office, she only got refusal replies that seemed to be from a template message. It was something unthinkable when it came to dealing with a Hunter. This unexpected turn of events that she would have never imagined, eventually forced her to bring some of her men and directly head out to meet him.
Even after she was able to directly meet him, it did not help her situation at all. Instead, it only worsened her already awful mood.
“What exactly do you not like about our offer… We are from Lion Steel, you know Our scale is different compared to those of small-sized companies! Were big enough to have branches in each of the financial areas of the 5 biggest corporations. When we say that we wish to support a Hunter, that Hunter would normally want to call us back, you know! So, what exactly is it that you dont like about it That you would even ignore our offer, huh!”
“I dont care about those kinds of things. Its also none of your business.”
From the common sense of Hunters, what Chloe said was absolutely correct. Since it was sent via the Hunter Office, it was unlikely to be a fraudulent offer. It was only natural for Hunters to happily accept it. That was why Chloe was utterly frustrated.
Her mood only got worse with time. Akira himself also started to get frustrated, so Alpha once again tried to calm him down.
“Akira, calm down. Getting too emotional will only worsen her reaction.”
“…yeah, I know.”
Akira took another deep breath to calm himself down. Considering that it would be foolish to keep that up until Carol returned, he decided to make a compromise.
“…I get it already; Ill lend it to you.”
“Really! Ah, no, I guess thats only to be expected. Very well then, tell me what you want in exchange for it.”
“I dont need your money nor your support, I dont need anything. Just make sure to never bring this kind of thing to me again. You got it”
“Okay, you can have my words.”
Although Chloe did not fully understand what Akira was talking about, she put that aside for now and sighed in relief as her expression relaxed. But that only lasted until Akira said his next statement.
“And also, Ill run it through Reina just to be safe. Personally speaking, I consider the card as theirs. So at least let me do that much.”
Akira already had his terminal dialling for Shiori. He was already telling her what happened in front of the flustered Chloe. After he heard Shioris answer, Akira frowned and sent a sharp gaze toward Chloe.
“Shiori said that you took the card from them while threatening their lives. Care to explain”
At that moment, Akiras eyes had changed. He was now looking at Chloe as a con artist, someone who was trying to trick him.
Chloe did not say anything back.
“What excuse do you have If you cant explain it to me, then just leave.”
Even so, Chloe did not say anything. Akira slowly readied his stance for a fight. Suddenly Chloe smiled and said.
“Im sorry for taking the roundabout way.”
Chloe understood that it was already impossible to properly negotiate with Akira. She did not have the leeway to spend her time making another secret deal. If she tried something like that, the other factions would remove her and take that card away from her before trying to contact Akira again, just like she had done. With her options and time strictly limited, she did not hesitate in taking the only option that she had left. The one thing that she did once before and succeeded without trouble.
The more she was cornered, the stronger her reaction would be, and once it was decided, there would be no longer any need to hesitate. Chloe lightly signalled with her hand. With that, all of her men readied for a fight. After that, she then ordered Akira.
“Give me the card!”
Akira finally understood the reason why he was so strangely annoyed. Glances with a shred of mockery. That attitude, as if to say that it was normal for her to get everything she wanted. Finally, her last action. It was something that he had experienced countless times before when he was still living in the back alley of the slums.
After everything he had achieved up until now, Akira had pride that he was no longer the same as he was before. However, what Chloe did, caused his pride to crack and rage was leaking out of it. Akira obeyed his emotions and promptly replied.
Akira was leaking out immense pressure. Just like what had happened with Kanae yesterday, Latis and Pamela readied for a fight.
But Chloe, who had lost all restraint, did not wince back at all. Instead, she smiled deeply and threatened Akira.
“Do you really think that it will only end with you Didnt I tell you that Lion Steel is a big company Our reach is far and wide, you know”
Akira was about to return to his past self, but he reminded himself of everything that he had achieved since then. While reminding himself that he was no longer the same as his past self, he somehow managed to speak to Chloe.
“…That sounds like youre threatening me with the lives of the people I know. If thats not the case, correct me before its too late.”
But even so, Chloe only smiled and replied.
“Ill leave that interpretation to you.”
Akira made an expression. One which he had not shown for a while. It was an expression that only his past self showed as he replied. With those words, everyone there with rifles in hand immediately started shooting, with the objective to kill their opponent.
And so, the battle had begun.-