Chapter 33, Shijima’s Evaluation
Akira immediately shifted to a room with a bath after he returned from Shizuka’s shop. This room was pretty wide compared to his previous room. He put down his stuff in this room and said to Alpha with a serious tone.
“Alpha, I want to make sure of one thing, we’re resting today, right? No, we’re going to take a rest today, I’ll take no complaints.”
Alpha smiled and replied.
“Don’t worry, we’ll take a rest for today.”
“Alright then, I guess I’ll go and take a bath.”
Akira looked happy as he was heading to the bath, but Alpha suddenly stopped him.
“If you want to take a good long bath, you better finish all of your leftover business for the day.”
“Business? Is there still anything I should do?”
“You placed your bike at Sheryl’s place yesterday, remember? Since you didn’t say how long you are going to leave your bike with her, she might misunderstand and think that you’ll take the bike back soon. So I think it’s a good idea if you go there and explain it to her. Not to mention that you still have 500,000 Aurum debt to pay. If you postpone paying that debt, the peaceful situation that we’re having at the moment might crumble. So I think it’s better for you to pay that debt soon.”
Akira, who already decided on taking a bath, hesitated.
“…Can’t it wait for some more time?”
“I won’t force you, but it might cause some problems if you keep postponing it, you know?”
Alpha said it lightly while smiling as if it was nothing to worry about. But Akira got worried instead and decided to do them immediately.
Akira was dragging his feet as he was walking through the slum city. It was because he had filled his bag with more medicine than usual, plus he was carrying 2 AAH assault rifles and 1 CWH anti-material rifle.
The augmented suit, of course, helped him in carrying all of those equipment, but carrying that much stuff made it harder for him to control the augmented suit. Although it would be easy to do that with Alpha’s support, he was training to walk without her support at all. Because of that, Akira was having a hard time walking.
“Walking is hard enough already. Maybe I should’ve left the CWH anti-material rifle behind.”
“No, you shouldn’t. You’ll fight more battles in the future where you’ll need to use that rifle, so you should get used to it from now on. You don’t want to fight those mechanical monsters with AAH rifle again, right?”
Akira remembered all the hardship that he had faced the other day and smiled bitterly.
“You’re right. Well, I went and bought it anyway. So I guess I’ll work hard until I can at least use it proficiently.”
He then continued walking slowly through the slum. An inexperienced Hunter who was having a hard time handling his new equipment, it was a common sight among the Hunters. But even so, most of the people in the slum city would step aside and make a way for Akira. After all, for commoners, picking a fight against someone who is equipped with an augmented suit and carrying a big anti-monster rifle on his back was the same as doing suicide.
In order to avoid getting people’s attention, Akira walked through the slum city’s back alley. But he did not realize that the people around him were actually avoiding him.
When Akira arrived at Sheryl’s place, she looked very delighted and invited him to her private room. She then casually closed the door. As they were the only ones inside her room, she nonchalantly hugged Akira from the front the moment he put his stuff down.
Akira who somehow expected this just let out a sigh and said.
“Can you just get off me for now?”
“It’s fine, isn’t it? Yesterday you left as soon as you arrived, so it’s from yesterday’s portion too.”
“I don’t understand what portion you are talking about, but I’m here because I have something to tell you. So put this off for later, will you?”
“I understand, but I can continue after that, right?”
Sheryl then got off from Akira and stared at him, she looked contented as she got Akira’s promise.
As Akira realized that he might have to keep dealing with this behaviour of Sheryl from now on, he started to look at her as a troublesome girl.
After resetting the mood, Akira took a seat across the table from Sheryl. He reached out for 500,000 Aurum from inside his rucksack before casually placing it on the table.
“This is the rest of the payment for Shijima. So take this money and give it to him.”
Sheryl looked surprised. For her and the other children, it was a huge amount of money. She was worried whether he had to do dangerous stuff in order to get this money, so she could not help but ask Akira.
“Uhmmm, are you alright? They haven’t asked us to pay the rest yet, so I thought there’ll be no problem delaying the payment for later.”
“I got quite a lot of money from yesterday’s work. Compared to the total reward, this is just a small amount, so there’s no need to worry.”
Akira felt a bit strange when he said that so casually.
According to Alpha, even 12,000,000 Aurum was just a spare change. Thus 500,000 Aurum was, even more, a spare change to that. So, Akira felt that the money in front of him right now was not a big amount.
Akira realized that the boy inside him who was shaken at the sight of 12,000,000 Aurum had disappeared completely. But whether it was a sign of growth or a sign that his sense of money had dulled, or whether it was a good or a bad thing, Akira did not know for sure.
Sheryl smiled while still looking surprised.
“I understand, I’ll give it to Shijima.”
“And also, about the bike, since the inn that I’m staying has no parking spot, I can’t bring my bike over there. So like, for the time being, is it okay for me to leave the bike here?”
“You can leave it here anytime you want. We’ll keep it safe for you no matter how long it is. Not to mention that if it makes you come to this place more often, it’ll help with the security of this place too.”
“Is that so? Well, thanks.”
Sheryl looked very happy from the outside, but inside, she was thinking a lot of things. The last time she met Akira in his room, it was a small and cheap room, and now, Akira even called 500,000 Aurum a small amount. But even so, he was staying in an inn where he could not bring his bike with him. Sheryl tried to deeply analyze Akira’s words.
“That’s all I have to tell you today. Do you have anything you need to report to me?”
The moment Akira said that Sheryl just shelved all of her questions for now.
“I have nothing to report for now. Will that be all?”
Sheryl made an alluring smile to Akira, Akira who saw that was taken aback and did not know how to react. As he was still at loss on what to do, Sheryl already changed her seat beside Akira as she snuggled to him and circled her arms around him. She looked like she was having the time of her life as she said.
“…That’s quite a hard cloth.”
“It’s an augmented suit after all. So it’s normal that it’s harder than a usual cloth.”
“I see… Won’t you take it off?”
“It’s fine, isn’t it? It’s not like you’ll lose anything anyway.”
“No, I will, if I take the augmented suit off, my physical ability will decrease.”
“But at this rate, we will have to stay like this longer, you know?”
“Because this cloth will reduce my satisfaction.”
Akira frowned looking annoyed and a bit troubled, on the other hand, Sheryl locked her gaze at him while smiling brightly. There was an unusual awkward mood between them as both of them were staring at each other’s eyes. But then Akira broke his gaze first.
Akira let out a big sigh and took off the upper part of his augmented suit. Sheryl looked happier than before as she was still clinging on him. Her face was filled with all kinds of expression like bliss, peace, happiness, pleasure… It made a mess on her beautiful face. She even let out a strange sound from time to time.
Sheryl felt like something within her was getting satisfied.
Akira thought that it was not like he was losing anything, or more like, he actually just did not care, not to mention that it seemed Sheryl would let him go if he just let her be for a while. Thus he just shut up and let her clung on him. But then he noticed that Alpha was smiling teasingly at him, so his face immediately frowned a bit.
“It’s nothing. I don’t know why though, but it seems that she really likes you. As I thought, you’re interested in this kind of thing too, aren’t you?”
“Why does it even come to that…?”
Akira then let out a sigh.
“Sheryl. You should stop soon. I’m still tired from yesterday so I’m planning to relax and take a good long bath for today, you know?”
“If it’s a bath, we also have one here, you know? Do you want to try the bath here?”
“Eh? You have a bath here?”
“Yes, it’s quite a wide bath so I think you can really enjoy taking a dip.”
“Although this building looks abandoned, it even has a bath, huh? But even if you have the facility, how about the bill for the hot water? Are you sure they haven’t stopped the hot water?”
“From what I heard, in order to prevent the residents of the slum city from causing a riot because of water shortage, and their own concerns that the slum city might become a source of disease and spread to the lower district, the city management decided to keep supplying the slum with water. You didn’t know about this?”
“I too know about this since I used to clean my body with water even when I was living in the back alley of the slum city. But I didn’t know that they also provided the slum city with hot water though, ahhh, so that’s why you can make hot coffee, huh?”
(p4553r: Can’t they just boil water to make hot coffee?)
The data of the landowners in the slum city was never clear. Thus there was no clear address where the city should send their bills for the water usage. But even so, the manager of the city kept supplying the slum with water to avoid any dissent, not to mention that they could also estimate the number of the residents in the slum city and their jobs from the water usage.
But then, depending on the situation, the city could stop or limit the water supply anytime. The free water supply was adjusted with reputation and profit in mind to prevent the slum from growing any bigger than it should or even to cull the population in the slum city.
“Since there are not that many buildings in the slum that have a bath facility, this base is pretty famous, you know. Sibea and his friends took this building by force and made it their base before we inherited the place from them. If it was not because of your support, we would have been kicked out from this building by now. That’s why, since it’s thanks to you, you can use the bath here anytime you want. I’ll tell the children to prepare the bath if you want to get in, so, how about it?”
“Nope, I’ll go back to my room and take a bath there.”
“I’ll also help you wash your body, you know?”
“…I did rent that room because of the bath, so I’ll be taking a bath there. Not to mention that I want to relax in my own room too.”
“Is that so? That’s such a shame.”
To be honest, Sheryl was really planning to get into the bath together with Akira. But she noticed a small shift in his behaviour which triggered her wariness, thus she stopped pressuring him. Akira refused her offer simply because he could not trust her completely. After all, he could not get into the bath in his augmented suit or while carrying his rifles. Even right now, the reason why he could take off the upper part of his augmented suit was only because he was sure that he could handle if a fight suddenly broke out here. Sheryl understood this, that was why she backed off.
[…He still can’t fully trust me, huh?]
Although Sheryl understood that it was only to be expected, she was still a bit frustrated as she tightened her arms around Akira.
Suddenly someone knocked on the door of her room. Sheryl looked annoyed and answered the knock.
Erio flinched when he heard Sheryl’s annoyance in her voice. He then answered Sheryl’s question while still looking scared.
“Boss. Shijima has come here with his men. He said that he wants to meet you.”
“…I see, I’ll go and meet him.”
Sheryl thought that she had to properly do her job as the Boss in order to win Akira’s trust. So she reluctantly separated from Akira.
Although it was hard to call it a meeting room, it at least had a table and some chairs. Inside the room, Sheryl, Akira and Shijima were sitting together. The two bodyguards behind Shijima were fully armed and looked serious but relaxed at the same time. While Erio and Alicia who were behind Sheryl looked very nervous.
A small kid from Sheryl’s gang came in and placed the coffee on the table before quickly retreating out of the room thinking that his job was finished. Erio and Alicia felt betrayed as they were glaring at that kid.
Sheryl smiled at Shijima and said.
“I’m sorry that we can’t bring out any snacks, after all, we don’t have the resource to do so.”
“So then, what business do you have with us?”
“What? It’s nothing serious, just paying a visit. After all, we could not find a chance to really sit down and talk after that incident.”
“Is that so? As you can see, Akira is okay.”
“It’s all good that you’re doing fine.”
Sheryl was trying to look dignified in front of Shijima. Both of them were smiling at each other and their smiles were saying that both of them understood why the other party was here.
On the other hand, Akira still did not notice the real reason why they were here as he made a puzzled look.
“Alpha, what’s with this conversation?”
“It seems that Shijima came to visit Sheryl by himself to check how you are doing. After all, there were a lot of dead Hunters after the big battle yesterday. I bet he thought that you were killed in that battle. If Sheryl was in a panic right now, it could be inferred that you were killed yesterday, which would mean that she had lost her only support. That’s why she just said that you’re doing fine. And I think that’s the reason why Shijima replied back as he did after confirming that you’re really alright.”
Akira understood the situation a bit after he heard Alpha’s explanation.
“That’s really sly, or more like, isn’t that just too much work?”
“It’s one of the responsibilities of a gang’s Boss.”
Sheryl placed the 500,000 Aurum that she received from Akira not too long ago on the table.
“This is the rest of the money.”
“Very well then, this means that the previous incident is resolved now. I wish we can get along in the future.”
“I hope so too.”
Shijima was observing Akira and Sheryl while talking to them.
Shijima took a good look at Akira. Most of the Hunters who could not move up the rank could not equip themselves with augmented suits due to their economic situation. But even so, Akira was already using an augmented suit, and he even was carrying a big-sized gun that only people with an augmented suit could use effectively. Shijima assessed the total worth of Akira’s complete equipment and approximated his ability to earn money, and thus he became warier of Akira.
[…I thought that he was just a normal boy, but he got all of this equipment in such a short time, huh? I guess I should give myself credit for not antagonizing him back then or maybe I should despise myself for not killing him back then before he could get all of his current equipment… Well, either way, I guess it’s useless to think about that now.]
Shijima then looked at Sheryl. She looked calm as she was smiling at him, she looked like a completely different person compared to the last time he met her. The little girl who was trembling and looked so nervous when she visited his base together with Akira had completely vanished. Even when she put the 500,000 Aurum on the table, she looked completely calm. This accompanied with that fact that it was a big amount that would normally warrant some raised eyebrows when shown in front of the residents of the slum city. And she was also very calm even after seeing his fully armed men. It would be much more understandable and much more normal to be very nervous just like Alicia and Erio. But in contrast to them, Sheryl’s smile did not even waver.
[…Why is she this calm? Is it because she understands that Akira who’s supporting her is actually a skilled Hunter? It’s understandable that I can’t mess with her gang, but that doesn’t explain her calm reaction towards such an amount of money. The two kids behind her are nervous in this situation and shocked when they saw the money. So why in the world can she be this calm? There’s no way someone could change that fast, seriously though, what’s going on with her?]
Shijima then reassessed Sheryl’s gang considering the future prospect of her gang, its power, the region under its control and the new information that he just discovered about Akira and Sheryl. After he finished all the calculations inside his head, he looked at Sheryl with a smile that he would never use to someone under him. He had recognized Sheryl as someone that he needed to seriously negotiate with for the future of his gang.
“Well now, I want to talk about our future. We might be able to come to some deals that bring profit to both gangs. This might take some time though, are both of you okay with that? Since I’m the one who is suddenly asking for negotiation here, if my timing is bad, feel free to say no.”
Sheryl noticed that Shijima suddenly changed how he was treating her. If he did not look down on her, it meant that he might come full force at her to crush her instead. But even after knowing that, her smile did not waver at all.
“It’s alright, we can do that now.”
“Then, about the area under your management which is also the real cause of the last incident…”
Suddenly Akira interjected.
“Ah, can I say something before we start? Do I really need to be here for this negotiation? It seems that this will take quite a long time, and to be honest, I want to go back home now…”
Everyone in the room immediately shifted their gaze towards Akira who just said something that was really out of the blue, it was as if he could not read the mood inside the room at all.
Sheryl kept smiling at Akira without showing even a shred of surprise or panic.
“You’re right. We don’t know how long this will take and I’m sure no one would want to be forced to attend a long negotiation. Please don’t worry about me, you can go ahead and leave.”
Then Shijima also replied back to Akira with a serious face.
“Well, considering the topic that we’re going to talk about, this is a discussion between two gang bosses. It would be great if everyone unrelated leaves this room.”
Erio and Alicia stared at Akira’s back hoping that he would not leave. But unfortunately, Akira could not pick their cue since they were standing behind him.
“I see. Well then, I’ll go back home. Sheryl, just tell me in case anything happens.”
“I’m really sorry to have bothered you. Please feel free to come over here again anytime.”
Akira then exited the room as Sheryl sent him off with a smile. But, on the other hand, Erio and Alicia got more nervous now that the main fighting power that protected them had left the room.
Sheryl noticed that as she said to Erio and Alicia without turning back.
“Don’t worry, everything will be fine even without Akira here. And it’s not like we’re talking to a fool like the last time.”
Shijima also joined in to reassure Erio and Alicia which also doubled as a warning to his own bodyguards.
“We won’t do anything that might offend you. You guys did pay that 1,000,000 Aurum to resolve that incident peacefully, after all. So even if the negotiation turns sour, we won’t cause any ruckus here.”
After being told that, Erio and Alicia finally calmed down. But looking from the other perspective, it only made them calm down a bit.
Although Erio and Alicia wished that the negotiation would not take too much time, it did take quite a long time to finish.
Akira already returned back to his room and got inside the bath. He dipped his whole body in the warm cozy water up to his neck. He looked relaxed as he enjoyed the warm water and let it take over his whole body. It felt like all of his tiredness was melting into the warm water.
Akira’s consciousness got completely taken over by the warm water, it was only a matter of time before he would not even be able to answer simple questions. But before that happened, Alpha asked him.
“Akira. I’m sorry to bother you while you’re enjoying your bath. But there’s something that I want to talk about with you, is that okay?”
Akira was still in a daze as he turned his gaze at Alpha.
Alpha was also inside the bath just like the last time. The warm water caused her rosy alluring skin to look even more enticing. Her perfectly proportional limbs would sway together with her reflection in the warm water because of the wave on the water surface, it was as if it was playing with the reflection on the hot water surface to hide some parts of her body. Sweat and hot water droplets would form and slide down her beautiful skin before getting sucked into the valley between her glorious chest. It was an image of an extremely beautiful girl produced through an immensely advanced and complicated calculation.
But Akira showed a very small interest in all this. It was because he was already used to it and not to mention that Akira was completely absorbed in enjoying his bath.
Akira felt that he sooooo did not want to talk about anything annoying at the moment.
“…Is it about tomorrow’s request?”
“Yep. To be more precise, it’s about getting yourself ready to take that request.”
“Getting myself ready, huh? Do I have to do anything else other than doing it carefully and with vigilance just like usual?”
Alpha made a serious face as she warned Akira.
“You have a lot of preparations to make. From now on, you need to be very careful, try to think that even the slightest injury will kill you. Not to mention that we already used most of the medicines that we got from the ruins, so we don’t have many left. Thus it would be difficult to do a crazy stunt like last time. So you really need to be careful, okay?”
Akira realised the seriousness of the situation from the way Alpha warned him. He then asked her.
“Is the medicine that we bought from Shizuka-san not good enough?”
“Their healing ability is completely different. Remember that you broke your leg yesterday? With your usual medicine, you can completely heal in 5 minutes, but with the medicine that you bought yesterday, it will even take 2 hours, you know.”
Akira was obviously surprised.
“…Their healing abilities are on a completely different scale, huh? In that case, I should just buy the same healing medicine as the one that I usually use, right?”
“That will be extremely difficult. Even if you can find a place to buy it, it’ll at least cost 1,000,000 Aurum per box, you know?”
Akira was blown away by this new information.
“I was chucking something that expensive all this time?!!”
“Although it saved you so many times, it was indeed very expensive medicine.”
Akira understood the gravity of the situation. If he kept getting himself injured like usual, he would have to spend a lot of money on the medicines that would greatly affect his daily lives. There was a limit on how much he could use the augmented suit to help him move with broken bones, and in the worst-case scenario, he might even get killed.
“Ah, that’s right, we can go to the ruins to gather more of those medicines, right? I think there should still be more of those medicines scattered in the ruins.”
Akira looked proud as he thought that he came up with a very good idea, but he quickly returned back to his usual self as Alpha shook her head and shot his suggestion down.
“Because of the big battle from yesterday, I believe that the distribution of the monsters in the ruins has changed greatly. The monsters that you would normally find deeper in the ruins might have come out to the outskirts of the ruins. If the current you go to the ruins now, you might end up dead even with my support.”
“…So it won’t work, huh? Alright then, I’ll try to be cautious.”
“That’s good. I’ll also give my best support too.”
Akira tried to get into his serious mood, but the warm bath was too strong to fight against. And so he could not help but let out a long moan.
Akira’s eyes met Alpha’s.
“…I can’t help it, you know.”
“Well, it’s your way of doing things carelessly and getting hurt, after all. I’ll force you to walk even if both of your legs are broken, you know. So you should be extra careful that you don’t have to go through something like that.”
“That sounds very painful. So I’ll definitely be extra careful.”
This time Akira was able to answer back seriously.
After Shijima finished his negotiation with Sheryl, he went back to his private room in his base.
The result of the negotiation was that half of Sheryl’s territory that her gang could not manage would be passed over to Shijima’s gang. As an exchange, Shijima would transfer 1,000,000 Aurum to Sheryl’s gang, and so their cooperative relation had been set.
[…The result is not that bad, not to mention that I got more territory now, but…]
Shijima’s face was filled with an unknown uneasiness.
[…As I thought, Sheryl’s change is something to worry about. It’s more worrying than Akira. Where exactly did she get that courage and confidence from? Is she getting ahead of herself thinking that she is completely capable of controlling Akira now…? But I don’t think that’s the only reason.]
Shijima thought that Sheryl might have come to realize something annoying and he just could not shake off his worry.
Silavin: It’s called Wifu Powerup. XD