Colbert, Revin, and Hazawa were guided to another room, not too long after that, a Kurogin employee came in with a transparent case.
The trump card set that Hazawa just sold was kept inside that case, the case itself looked so secure to the point that the trump card set seemed like an expensive article.
That employee placed that case above the table and started explaining the details of the appraisal to Colbert, Revin and Hazawa.
“So then, please let me explain the details of the appraisal process. We’ve brought the relic in question here to help with the explanation, but please bear in mind that the ownership of this relic is already on us. So please don’t touch the case.”
The employee was sitting face to face against the other three Hunters. Colbert was the one who was the most relaxed among all of them, so he replied to that employee in place of his friends.
“Alright, go ahead.”
Revin was listening very closely so as not to miss even a word from that explanation, while Hazawa was listening out of pure interest.
There were many Hunters who pawned their relics in Kurogin only to complain later. So the people who work for Kurogin were already used to facing those kinds of Hunters. Even if Revin was staring at him, or even glaring at him, that employee was able to keep his calm as he calmly explained.
“We have a lot of indicators that we use to decide the value of a relic. There are 2 big reasons why we value this trump highly. First is that the Engazan convention is close, and secondly, this trump card set is a still-sealed old-world relic. We used these 2 factors to decide the price of this trump card set.”
That employee continued his explanation, Colbert and his friends were listening closely to it without saying anything.
The Engazan city in the Eastern district held a huge-scale gambling event regularly. A lot of people were swayed by the dream of winning the jackpot and decide to join that event to test their luck and skill.
People who dreamt for riches, people who got their dreams granted and became rich in one night, people who failed and lost all of their possessions; Engazan was a city filled with dreams, even if some of them were nightmares.
Colbert suddenly asked a question to that employee.
“Ahh, so basically, they’ll use this trump card set for that gambling event, huh? That’s also the reason why you need a still-sealed set of trump cards, right? But I still don’t see how it’s valued at 1,500,000 Aurum, isn’t that just too high no matter how you think about it?”
That employee nodded and said.
“That’s indeed true if it’s only used for gambling with the corporation-issued currencies. But in Engazan gambling event, there are even important individuals and organizations partaking. In the past, some of them even made 100,000,000 Chrome as bet and the big companies even put their relics as bets too.”
It was common for big companies to fight over old-world relics. But fighting over it using force would warrant them to spend more money on the war than what they could get from the relics they were fighting over, while on the other hand, it was not like they could give up just because of that either. So in that situation, in order to reach a conclusion that both sides could accept, they often fought over the ownership of the relics through gambling.
“But the bigger the bets, the bigger the organization or the people who are partaking in the game, the harder it is to guarantee the fairness of the game. For example, when 5 big companies try to win over the ownership of a certain relic through a game of poker, there is no company in the world that can provide us with the trump card to use in that game. After all, those goliaths are the companies that hold power in the eastern district. It’s fully understandable that they might scrap their hard-earned trust that they’ve built for years just to produce a single special trump card in order to win that gamble. Of course, there’s no end to it if you start questioning other companies, but as long as that possibility is not zero, it’s hard for them to trust each other. That is, of course, if the trump card used in that poker game is only from the current era’s companies.”
Hazawa nodded deeply, it seemed that he was fully convinced by that explanation.
“I see, so that’s why they need a trump card from the old-world, huh. It’s true that even the 5 biggest companies in the eastern district can’t reproduce the same old-world trump card. I see how it’s highly valued now. But then, does that mean this trump card might be used for such gamble?”
“If asked whether it’s possible or not, the answer is yes, it might be used for such a gamble. It’s really something grand if you think about it.”
Hazawa just asked a question that came up in his mind out of imagination, and then that employee replied back with an answer that filled Hazawa’s mind with more imagination.
Although Hazawa was fully convinced by that explanation, that was not the case for Revin.
“Wait for a sec, if it might be used for that kind of gamble, doesn’t that make 1,500,000 Aurum pretty low?”
The employee answered Revin’s question.
“That is indeed true if this trump card is good enough to be used for that level of a gamble. Which in that case, it might even worth a few billion Aurum or maybe a few Chrome.”
“But to ascertain it, we would need more investigations. We need to make sure if it’s really an old-world relic, if it’s really still sealed. We need to check if there’s any problem with the article by comparing it in case someone excavated the same article in the past. Only after that long time-consuming and money-consuming process, and after it has been confirmed that it’s good enough to be used for gamble between big companies and big people, only then, it’ll be used for such a level of gambling. You asked us to do the investigation as fast as possible, as such, we can’t do a full investigation. We’ve appraised the article in a short time per your request, and from that short investigation, we find that it might have the quality to be used in Engazan gambling events. The 1,500,000 Aurum is basically the price of that possibility.”
Revin nodded deeply.
That employee then moved on to end his explanation.
“Are there any other questions? If not, I will end the explanation here. After we close this session, we will not accept any more questions regarding this subject. In case if you want to inquire again later, you’ll need approval from Viola-sama as well as pay the information fee. So, if there’s no more question, is it okay to end the session here?”
Colbert, Revin and Hazawa looked at each other to confirm what the others were thinking. Since it seemed that none of them had any more questions, the employee thought that it should be okay to end the session, so he then lightly bowed and said.
“Very well then, let me finish my explanation here. Thank you very much for using our service.”
Colbert, Revin and Hazawa left that building. Colbert then said to Hazawa and Revin.
“Alright then, let’s hit the pub.”
Revin was fidgeting there, he then said.
“Sorry, but I have something to do. See you around.”
Revin only said that and quickly left Hazawa and Colbert.
Colbert saw Revin take off and mumbled.
“…That guy… I bet he’s going to the slum again to look for expensive relics…”
Hazawa sighed exasperatedly, he could understand Revin’s feeling as he spoke.
“I bet you’re right. But it’s not like you can easily find that kind of relic again. And even if he does, he doesn’t have the money to buy it nor to get it appraised in Kurogin. I wonder what he’s planning to do about that.”
“No idea. You’ll need extra money to be a member of Kurogin too. And you’ll only get the free monthly quota after bringing enough relics to Kurogin. I’m sure that he’ll call us when he realizes that. Well, let’s just leave him be and go for a drink.”
It was not like they had the duty to tell Revin the problems that he might have to face later, so instead, they chose to enjoy the sudden influx of cash that they got that day and headed to the entertainment district. Revin left on his own volition, and so, Hazawa did not give Revin a treat.
Over the last few days, in order to help Sheryl’s gang, Akira always went to visit her base during the day. Akira basically had two roles there, first of all, was a bodyguard for Sheryl when she was selling relics, and secondly to help the gang to open stands somewhere inside the gang’s territory.
The people who bought Sheryl’s relics were those who had enough economical power to do so, and of course, a fighting power suitable for their economical power. Basically, they were Hunters like Revin and his friends. If they tried to use force to break into Sheryl’s base, it would be hard for the gang to fight them back.
They were basically people who regularly fought monsters out in the wasteland, although the gang had more people and Sheryl could arm her gang with rifles, there was a limit on how far they could fight back. These Hunters might look down on the gang, thinking that the gang posed no threat at all against them, and use their position to threaten back. And of course, if it really ended up in a fight, Sheryl’s gang would have zero chance to win it.
Because of that, when Sheryl was dealing with potential buyers, she asked Akira to hide behind one of the sheets in that room just in case anything bad happened.
Akira was just another small kid like Sheryl. But he was using an augmented suit and carrying heavy weapons that normal people would not be able to carry without an enhanced strength, so people would not just mindlessly pick a fight against him. There were indeed some difficult customers, but when Akira came out, they would obediently withdraw.
The reason why Akira was not showing himself was simply because Sheryl told him to do that. It was to make an impression that even if it seemed that Sheryl was all alone there, a heavily armed Hunter might be hiding somewhere, it was to make that kind of illusion just in case if Akira was not really present. It was an important precaution since it was not like Akira could be there all the time.
The small stands opened by her gang were basically serving as a filter to get suitable customers for the main shop in Sheryl’s base as well as a source of spare money. They were looking for customers who seemed to carry enough money and would not cause harm to Sheryl before telling them about the main shop.
There were also multiple stands, so Akira could not guard all of them all the time. Because of that, when trouble came up, they would contact Sheryl and she would go there with Akira.
Each stand was manned by at least 2 people and one of them would be armed as a guard for the stand. Most who lived inside the gang’s territory knew that Akira was supporting Sheryl’s gang, but not many of them knew Akira’s face. The armed kid was basically standing guard there in place of Akira, which for that one stand that Colbert and his friends visited, that would be Tiol.
The people who came to the stands were not only people from the slum, there were Hunters too. And among them, there were bad Hunters. When Sheryl’s men could not handle them, they had no other choice but to ask for Akira’s help.
Sheryl was also not always dealing with customers and it was not like there were always problems happening in one of the stands. She herself sometimes had her own job to do in her private room, so it was not like she was always with Akira either. Akira basically had nothing to do when Sheryl was doing something in her private room.
Sheryl was working on her desk, she had a lot of jobs to do, distributing jobs for the gang’s members, compiling all the relics for her shop, and many other jobs too.
Akira was sitting on the sofa while working on his information terminal, he was just silently operating his terminal without saying anything, or at least, that was how it looked from Sheryl’s point of view. He sometimes made a confused face as he was focused only on his information terminal.
Sheryl glanced at Akira and threw a question.
“Akira, what are you doing there? It seems that you’re so focused on it.”
“Ahh, it’s just game…”
“Is that so? Is that game really that fun?”
“It is… Well, at least, I think it’s an interesting game.”
Sheryl thought that there was something strange about how Akira worded it out.
She then made some guesses from what she could see.
There were many games that could be played on an information terminal. The theme was also various. Some of them were games that you could not really tell a girl. Since Akira was a boy, Sheryl thought that it was understandable for him to be interested in that kind of game and she could not help but get suspicious of him.
She wondered if it was the right choice to ask Akira. If it was really that kind of game, it might help her understand Akira’s preference. It might give her a good reference to get him interested in her. So she decided to casually ask Akira.
“What kind of game is that?”
“Hm? It’s a relic hunting game. You basically control a Hunter character to safely carry old-world relics back home.”
After hearing Akira’s answer, Sheryl realized how wrong her guess was which made her blush and fidget around, she tried to smile to hide her embarrassment.
Someone suddenly knocked on the door. Sheryl’s face returned back to normal, and then she raised her voice a little to hide what just happened there.
Erio opened the door.
“Sorry, there’s a problem in one of the stands. So if Akira-san can come with me for a bit…”
If something happened, they did not have any other choice but to ask for Akira’s help. Sheryl herself knew that very well. But it would be bad if they asked for Akira’s help for every little thing. As the boss of the gang, Sheryl wanted to make sure that her men did not have the wrong impression of Akira.
Sheryl then said to Erio.
“Can you not do something about it? You and some of your men have rifles with you, right?”
“That would be impossible. Just because we have some weapons that don’t mean that we’re as strong as Akira-san. It’s not like we call for Akira-san for every little thing, it’s exactly because we can’t handle the situation ourselves that we ask for Akira-san’s help.”
Judging from the way Erio reacted, Sheryl knew that he was not lying.
Sheryl thought that she needed to keep Akira’s impression as someone who was reliable but his help was not cheap. After all, in reality, her gang did not pay anything to Akira, they were just simply taking advantage of his kindness.
It would not be a problem if her gang members felt thankful and indebted to Akira’s help when they realized it. But in reality, some of her gang members would look down on him instead.
In the end, the gang did not pay anything to Akira. So since Akira’s help was something that they could get any time without paying anything, it would affect their impression of Akira sooner or later even if they only asked for Akira’s help for trivial things. After all, humans could get used to anything, both for the better and for the worse.
Although it was something in the past, Sheryl thought that it was a good thing when Sebla tried to kill Akira. Sebla was one of her gang members, in Higaraka Residence Ruin, he looked down on Akira and betrayed the gang. He then went against Akira and Akira killed him without showing any hesitation. What happened back there served as a good example to remind the rest of her gang members.
It should be able to hold back Sheryl’s men from looking down at Akira or getting too used to Akira’s kindness. But that effect would not last forever.
So for the sake of Akira, of herself, and for her gang, Sheryl had to keep Akira’s image in the gang.
Sheryl then said to Akira and Erio.
“It can’t be helped then. Akira, I’m sorry to bother you again, but can you help me?”
Akira put his information terminal on the table and picked up his equipment.
He picked up his rifles that he left on the corner of the room. His AAH assault rifle, A2D assault rifle, CWH anti-material rifle, DVTS minigun, and A4WM automatic grenade launcher. With all of those rifles on him, he really stuck out like a sore thumb within the slum city. Akira did not have the imposing aura of a strong person, that was why giving that impression through his equipment was quicker and safer.
Even before Akira had the idea to scare his opponent with his equipment, he already killed 4 thugs and 2 former Hunters. If they were still alive now, they would have told anyone that it was a bad idea to cause a ruckus in Sheryl’s gang’s territory.
In order to send Akira off, Sheryl stood up and walked towards him. There she glanced at Akira’s information terminal that he left on the table.
After Akira finished his preparation, he noticed Sheryl was looking at his information terminal. He then remembered that Sheryl asked him about what kind of game he was playing, so he casually said to Sheryl.
“If you’re interested, you can go ahead and try it.”
“Eh? Ah, yes, thank you.”
Sheryl actually was not that interested in the game, but since Akira said so, she replied with gratitude.
After Akira left the room, Sheryl returned back to her desk. From there, she could see Akira’s information terminal lying on the table.
Sheryl thought that Akira might ask about her impression of the game later, so she decided to try the game.
The game that Akira was playing was a game of a Hunter hunting old-world relics. The player controlled a Hunter in a simplified top-down view of a ruin to look for relics.
Sheryl saw a chibi form of a Hunter on the display of that information terminal, she noticed that it looked like Akira. Even the name displayed on that Hunter character was ‘Akira’ and its equipment were similar to Akira’s.
[…The character really looks like Akira, even the name is Akira too. Well, Akira was the one playing this game, after all, I bet he set it so that it looks like him.]
Since Sheryl did not get any instruction on how to play the game, she decided to just give it a try for now. The character that looked like Akira inside the game moved around, encountered a monster, and immediately got killed.
Sheryl tried the game a few more rounds and eventually more or less understood the rules of the game.
“…Alright then, now that I know how to play this game and understand the rules of this game, I can get to play it for real now.”
The game was basically a top-down simulation game where the player controlled a Hunter inside an old-world ruin. The main goal was for the character to look for relics, gather expensive relics, and return back alive.
Sheryl renewed her resolve and restarted the game. But again, although she understood how to control the character and the rules of the game, her character immediately got killed again.
Sheryl then frowned.
[Isn’t this game a little too hard? Or is it like this level of difficulty is normal?]
The time in the game stopped when Sheryl did not move the character. Thanks to that, she could take her time thinking of her next move. But even so, the Hunter that she controlled quickly got killed again attacked by either monsters or the other Hunters.
Since it was only a game, the character that looked like Akira could try again as many times as Sheryl wanted. But of course, in reality, you got only one chance.
[Thank goodness this is only a game… Or at least that’s what I want to say, but this thing is still ticking me off.]
If Akira got killed, Sheryl and her gang would lose their support and the gang might as well get disbanded. Although it was only in the game, for ‘Akira’ to not be able to return back alive even after multiple tries made her upset.
Sheryl got a little obstinate since it felt like the game was saying that the Hunter supporting her gang was so weak.
[I can understand now why Akira got so invested in this game… I’ll definitely clear this game.]
Sheryl then used all of her skill and brainpower to try clearing that game.
Erio guided Akira to the stand where there was trouble. On their way there, Akira asked Alpha a question about the game that he was playing until just now.
“Alpha, as I thought, isn’t the difficulty of that game too high?”
But Alpha just smiled and refuted his claim.
“Oh my, but its difficulty level is already lowered compared to the original, you know? If I convert your skill, your ability to shoot, and your equipment to numbers, that’s basically the status that you’ll get. Not to mention, you have all the time to think about your next move and your movements will not be affected by your mental condition, from that point of view, the character in the game is relatively better than the real you.”
“Well, that’s true, but still…”
Akira understood Alpha’s reasoning, but it did not erase his displeasure.
Alpha smiled at Akira and tried to cheer him up.
“You’re the one who said that you want to know your skill from another point of view, remember? So, just accept the result and focus more on getting better. Although it’s a simplified game of real ruin exploration, it’s still good training for you to see the overall situation when you’re in a ruin. So just focus on working hard.”
“I know, it’s just that it’s not that fun when I keep getting myself killed without making any progress.”
Akira then sighed.
The game that he was playing had a character based on him and a stage that was made based on a real ruin. Although it had other modifications too, it was still pretty much close to a real situation. It looked like just a game from the outside, but it actually was an advanced simulation.
The character inside the game was based on him and he was the one controlling it, so it was more or less Akira himself.
The biggest difference between that character and the real Akira was that the real Akira had Alpha’s support. The Akira in the simulation was exploring the dangerous ruin with the current Akira’s real ability.
The simulator was showing how the real Akira would perform including the price that he must pay when he made a mistake or one wrong step, which was basically death, just like many other Hunters who met their ends inside the dangerous old-world ruin.
Akira was still not able to finish even a stage of that game. Alpha already explained to him that she reduced the difficulty of that game so that he should be able to clear it. So basically, the real Akira was pulling the Akira in the game down.
Akira sounded a bit dejected as he said.
“As I thought, I’m still really weak. Even back then in the Seranthal building, Shiori and Carol got suspicious of me just from seeing my movements when I lost your support. So I guess it must have been obvious.”
But then Alpha tried to cheer him up.
“Of course you can’t become strong after just one night. Don’t worry. You’re at least stronger compared to the past you. It’s just that there’s always a bigger fish, so likewise, there’s always more dangerous ruins out there. But don’t worry, one day, you’ll be able to grow strong enough. After all, I’m the one training you.”
Alpha was smiling confidently as she said that.
Akira saw that smile and lightly smiled back, erasing the dark feeling welling inside him.
“You’re right, I’ll be counting on you.”
“Just leave it to me.”
Alpha smiled satisfied seeing that Akira completely cheered up.