Chapter 235: Zegelt City
In the morning of the next day, Akira went up to the rooftop. It was not for watching the area, but to have a look at the sunrise.
Powerful gust of turbulent wind was roaring on the rooftop, like usual. But it did not give much trouble to Akira and his augmented suit. But that was not the case for Hikaru, who came up there together with him.
“Dont let me go, okay! Dont ever let me go, alright!”
“I know, I know.”
Akira was holding Hikaru close. Hikaru was also holding Akira close. They looked like a couple from the others point of view. But unlike Akira, who was having an exasperated expression, Hikaru looked scared. So, it was obvious that they were not in that kind of relationship.
“I took you with me because otherwise, I wouldnt be allowed to come here, but, if youre really that scared, isnt it better if you go back inside”
“Its fine, right I want to get the sunlight too, you know!!”
At first, Akira was planning to go to the rooftop alone, but Hikaru, who wanted to keep Akira away from any possible conflict, wanted to keep Akira inside the room as much as possible. However, she did not want to worsen Akiras mood by rejecting his wish to go out.
That was when she put a condition that she would have to accompany him. Saying wanting to get the sunlight was only an excuse to not leave Akira alone, while at the same time, it was also half-true that she wanted to get some fresh air outside. With the transport convoy already entering the secured area near the destination city, there was close to zero danger from fighting, and that gave Hikaru an extra push to have a peek outside.
But once she actually got onto the rooftop, the shaking from the transport vehicle and the strong wind alone were enough to scare her. That was the reason why she was clinging so closely and shamelessly onto Akira. But even so, she did not return back inside, half of it was because of pride while the other half was because of the safety that she felt from Akira holding her tightly with his augmented suit. If one of them was lacking, she would have returned back inside.
Seeing Hikaru acting like that, Akira was a bit weirded out. He questioned why she would go that far just to bathe in sunlight, but after getting to soak in the warmth of the sunlight, he could somewhat understand where she was coming from and decided not to pursue the matter any further.
Eventually, the sun showed itself from under the horizon line, the peeking sun banished the darkness of the night and unveiled the landscape of the desolate wasteland. This scene still attracted the curiosity of the people, even back during the old-world era.
Akira looked over that scene and was glad that he went up to the rooftop. He noticed that Hikaru also stopped getting scared. As if she had completely forgotten that she was on the rooftop. Her shaking ceased and her eyes were fixated on the view unveiled by the morning sunlight. Akira found this change surprising, but he also knew that it was rude to interrupt her. Thus, he just silently held Hikaru in his arms to make sure she would not fall off.
As the sun continued climbing up and finally left the horizon, the beautiful scene showed itself. It was the start of a new day. Hikaru, who was getting drowned by the breath-taking view, finally returned back to reality and noticed that Akira was looking at her with surprise in his eyes. She immediately blushed and spoke.
“T-the view is very nice, isnt it No wonder you wanted to wake up early and go to the rooftop to have a peek at this.”
“D-do you usually look at the rising sun like this Im sure you often go out to the ruins as a Hunter, right”
“No. Not that often. I wont go out so early in the morning to the wasteland just to see the rising sun. I mostly only go to the wasteland during the day, so I guess I only get to watch the sunrise when I have to go out to the wasteland early in the morning.”
“How about you, Hikaru”
“You really enjoyed that view, so I just thought that you must not have that much of a chance to watch the sunrise. But now that I think about it, I guess its impossible to watch the sun rising from the horizon from inside the wall, huh”
“I wont say its impossible, but its extremely difficult. Tall buildings in the middle section like the Kugama building where you can look over the wasteland outside the wall are mostly reserved for individuals in high positions. So, its impossible for someone like me to get a room in those kinds of building, you see.”
“Is that so I guess its not all that easy living inside the wall, huh”
Although Hikaru slowly regained her calm after idly conversing with Akira, she could not just ignore the fact that she was clinging close to a boy around her age.
Her eyes battered around as she was looking for an excuse to change that situation. She quickly found a good excuse. Away in front of the convoy, a huge dome that looked like a hill showed itself.
“Akira, since we already got to see the rising sun, how about we return back Zegelt city is finally visible. Once we enter the city, the rooftop, as well as the inside of the transport vehicle, would be considered as a part of their middle district. It would be problematic if we get caught in some kind of trouble while were out. So, lets get back into your room.”
Hikaru urged Akira to hurry up and they returned back together. She was still clinging close to Akira until they returned back inside the vehicle. Even if she was slowly getting used to the fear of being on the rooftop, she needed some time to fully return back to her usual self.
Zegetl city was fully enclosed in a dome. It had a wall that surrounded it just like Kugamayama city, but that wall extended further up and formed a semi-sphere on top of the city. The dome was made of a completely clear and transparent material. Thus, light from the outside could pass through it without any distortion at all. Thanks to that, the inside of the dome still felt liberating although it was completely encased. Even the tallest building inside the dome was still far from touching the dome, which help give it an impression of an open space.
Hikaru took a small self-driving vehicle and headed to Zegelt city. She was alone, Akira stayed behind in his room, inside the transport vehicle.
The transport vehicle was to resupply in that city and head back to Kugamayama city the next day. In short, the Hunters had one free day inside the city. Most Hunters used their free time to explore the city to kill time, but Akira was still confined inside his room, as per usual.
Although Akira had the permission to step into the middle district, that permission was only for Kugamayama city, moreover, it was a temporary one. As such, it was not okay for Akira to go to the middle district of Zegelt city with his current permission. Although Hikaru could most likely find a way to solve that issue, Hikaru did not want to increase the possibility of Akira bumping into trouble. Thus, she used it as an excuse to keep Akira inside his room.
But Akira did not just accept it that easily. He asked Hikaru if she could do something about it. Hikaru did not want to sour his mood and she still wanted him to stay in his room. As such, they were looking for a place to compromise.
Akira mentioned that he wanted to take a look at what kind of vehicles the Hunters in this city were using since it was not that often he could visit a city in the east.
Thus, it concluded with Akira not going out of his room, and in exchange, she would go to the vehicle shop in his place.
Zegelt city was located in the eastern part of the eastern district, although it was also still far away from the front line. As one of the general area management divisions staff, Hikaru sometimes had to talk with people from this city. It was all done online and she herself barely ever went to the city. When she had to go visit another city, most of the time, it would be a city somewhere to the west of Kugamayama city. She had not visited that many eastern cities such as the Zegelt city.
As she was looking around the city, which was completely different from Kugamayama city with great interest, Akiras voice could be heard from the comm. He was even more interested in the sights than her. Back when Akira was on the rooftop of the transport vehicle, Hikaru used his view to look at the situation on the rooftop. So, this time, the roles were reversed. Akira was now looking at the scene using Hikarus view. The image of the surrounding area was sent to Akira using a glasses-type device that Hikaru was using, and that image was enough to attract Akiras interest.
When she heard his compliments for this city, Hikaru felt slightly irritated. After all, Akira did not sound that interested back in the middle district of Kugamayama city.
“Akira, do you now see these kinds of things often”
“Hmm, rather than rare, I guess the better way to put it is that it just catches my interest, I guess”
“Is that so To be honest, I dont think its that much different from the middle district of Kugamayama city though.”
“Hmm Well, I guess thats the case since youre living in the inner wall, huh But look over there. Unlike Kugamayama city, there are many air bike and self-driving cars buzzing around, right”
“Thats just because this city is encased in a dome, thats why people are allowed to use flying vehicles. There are some facilities inside the Kugamayama district with a huge open space as well. Over there, people are allowed to ride similar things inside those facilities.”
“I wonder if its really okay for so many of them to fly around like that. Wont they sometimes collide with each other”
“Most of them are either fully auto-piloted or at least semi auto-piloted. Theyre obeying the instructions sent out by the city. So as long as nothing goes terribly wrong, they wont collide with each other. The auto-driving vehicles that we used back in the middle district of Kugamayama city worked using a similar system, you know”
“As I thought. The thing that left the biggest impression on me is the dome. That thing is continuously expending energy to fuel a powerful forcefield armour right Well, those huge insects are flying around in the area so I guess theyll at least do this much to protect this city.”
“Even Kugamayama city has-”
Hikaru suddenly stopped herself from saying any further. But a moment later, Akira guessed what Hiarku was about to say.
“What Kugamayama city also has that kind of dome”
Hikaru paused for a bit before answering his question.
“…We have something similar installed in case of an emergency. But its only used during an emergency since the energy consumption is negligible. Thats why we hardly use it.”
“I see. Thats pretty impressive.”
Hearing Akira was honestly impressed by that, Hikaru smiled, satisfied and thought.
[…It should be okay, there are already a few people who know about it. It should not be an issue telling someone with a high ranking like Akira… It should not violate the information secrecy…]
Although she thought so, she still added a warning to her words.
“…Well, not that many people know about that, but its not like were keeping it a secret either. Some might focus more on the potential danger that might occur since City Management took the effort to install such a thing, So, instead of feeling calmer with that device installed, they might panic instead. So, just keep this a secret, okay”
Hikaru was relieved hearing that answer and changed the topic to something unrelated to forcefield devices.
The Hunters in Zegelt city were high ranking Hunters, thus, the shops here were catered specifically to those Hunters. The vehicle shop that Hikaru visited was a large shop that refused any Hunters below Rank 50. Even so, the Hunters in that area did not have any problem with that rule. This rule worked well for both sides, the shop would not have to deal with Hunters who were only there to browse. At the same time, Hunters who did not have the skill or the fund to buy expensive vehicles were not allowed to enter. Naturally, this rule did not apply to those who came into the shop with someone that met the conditions.
Hikaru, who entered the shop as Akiras proxy, was able to get into it thanks to Akiras Hunter Rank. There was also the fact that she was a city official. When the autonomous vehicle stopped in front of the shop, a staff member welcomed Hikaru and guided her in.
The shop was so big and wide that it looked more like an exhibition hall. Inside it, there were tanks, wasteland bikes, and even powered suits lined up. The staff gave Hikaru a guide through these products while giving a short explanation of each product to Hikaru. He had been informed beforehand that the real customer, Akira, was listening in and watching through the glass that Hikaru was using. Since Hikaru came here as Akiras proxy, that staff gave Hikaru the same treatment he would for the customer visiting the store. After the staff took down what Akira was looking for, he started to think about how to deal with Akira.
“Hikaru-sama, regarding the bike that Akira-sama is looking for, does he already have a certain budget in his mind”
“Wait for a second… I see, alright. He said that he would decide after seeing how much he would need to pay for it. So, he wishes to get your recommendation first if possible.”
“Very well. In that case, Ill give a quick overview of our lineup in order while asking what the features that Akira-sama is looking for.”
The staff smiled politely but in the back of his mind, he was wondering whether Akira just wanted to keep his budget a secret or he actually did not have enough money to buy anything.
After introducing several bikes, Akira started asking detailed questions regarding the bikes through Hikaru. Thus, the staff stood in front of a white bike and said.
“In that case, how about this one here The Sylphid A3. Both of its wheels are using forcefield armour, which allows it to race through the air. To be more specific, its not flying, the forcefield armour can be used to create a footing under the wheels, so it can literally race through the air. Because of that, its not as expensive as the ones with a flying device installed. Furthermore, it doesnt consume as much energy as well. Although, its true that its harder to control in the air compared to the ones with a flying device installed, considering that it can race in the air and on the ground, it is very versatile. The ability to race in the air can also bring about unique benefits, especially when mastered.”
The staff patted the surface of the bike before continuing.
“The chassis is protected by a powerful but energy-hungry forcefield armour. It is also possible to expand its forcefield outward. This is optional but, you can also purchase an extended arm to go with it. With the extended arm, it can handle anti-personnel weapons to weapons meant for tanks. From what I understand, I believe this is what Akira-sama is looking for. Personally speaking, I recommend using the extended arm to hold rifles instead of holding them on your own while driving the bike. Other than that, we have other options as well. Here are the specs.”
The staff sent a document regarding the product to Akira through Hikaru, he then waited for the response while pondering.
[Hunters with no funds usually opt out of the recommended option for the cheaper ones. Well, hes a Hunter who can enter this place, so I guess I should just treat him as someone whos only here to browse. I should just pin my hopes on him coming again next time…]
As the staff was waiting with a low expectation, Hikaru finally asked him about the customization that Akira was hoping for and how much it would cost. That staff raised his eyebrows when he read through the customization list. No starter weapon, only taking an extended arm for anti-personnel weapons, these two customizations did lower the price, but besides that, Akira asked for a better sensor and energy tank. Thus, in the end, the price actually went up instead of down.
“…With all of these customizations and the wish to send the product over as soon as possible, I have to add in the delivery fee as well… Rounding the price up, it will be around 3 billion Aurum.”
Hikaru gasped and could not help but to word out the surprisingly high price, seeing that reaction, the staff smiled wryly and thought.
[That reaction only for 3 billion, huh You wont get far in this city like that, you know But well, if Im going to judge based on that reaction, I guess this city official from Kugamayama city is an amateur. Well, It cant be helped, now then, I wonder how about the Hunter]
Hikaru went to ask Akira while the staff was making a more detailed approximation of the total price. Hikaru once again looked surprised and returned to the staff.
“Uhm, hell take the offer.”
“Thank you for the patronage. Now then, well immediately start the customization once we finish discussing the details of the payment. As for the negotiation regarding the details of the payment, would it be okay to continue the discussion with Hikaru-sama as the proxy for Akira-sama”
“Ah, no, he said that hes going to pay it in full right away.”
The staff retracted his head and raised his eyebrows.
“Pay in full in one go right away Did I get it correct Of course, were more than happy to accept payment like that, but is Akira-sama really okay with that”
Hunters could die anytime, so installments and loans were not available for them. One-time payment was the only thing that was available to them and that was indeed how most Hunters paid for their stuff. However, that was only for most. This did not apply to high ranking Hunters. High ranking Hunters were expected to stay alive for long, so installment plans were available to them.
The fact that large corporations, strict with money, recognized their skill and judged that they would live long enough to fully pay their dues, was a testament to the trust these high ranking Hunters had as well as their skill. Thanks to that, some high ranking Hunters opted to use payment methods that were similar to that of a loan. There were even Hunters who got angry if the shop did not offer that method of payment.
That being said, paying 3 billion Aurum in one go was something that was difficult to do unless the Hunter had more than enough funds in their account. Hunters would always set aside emergency funds. So, before finalizing any purchase, they must make sure that their account would not be emptied out.
Based on that common sense, Akiras decision surprised the staff. Although, he did not show it on his face thanks to the training he had.
The staff asked for confirmation, so Hikaru conveyed that to Akira.
“Akira, are you sure Its 3 billion Aurum, you know Not 30 or 300 million… No, I was also already informed how much you earn from your recent rewards, but this and that are two different things, you know… Are you really sure Alright then, just to remind you that you fully agree to this okay No backing out okay Yes, yes, thats right. Okay then.”
Now that Hikaru received his seal of approval, the rest was up to her. So, she pulled herself together and became solemn.
“Yes, its not a mistake. Ill take care of the paperwork in Akiras stead from here on out. Lets proceed with the payment.”
The staff also changed his attitude and proceeded to process the paperwork. The process went through quickly and without any trouble, Once the 3 billion Aurum was taken out from Akiras account, they quickly began working on the customization.
“Well work on the customization right away so that we can send you the bike as soon as possible. Please wait for a bit while we finish the customization. Meanwhile, I would need to inquire on how would Akira-sama like to receive the bike Is it okay to just give it to Hikaru-sama”
“Ahh, about that, I actually want to discuss that matter.”
Hikaru requested the staff to send some escorts together with the bike while it was carried to the transport vehicle. The staff understood what Hikaru was implying when she made this request. Basically, Hikaru wanted to be spared from the responsibility of sending that bike to Akira as much as possible. After all, it was a 3 billion Aurum bike. If something was to happen, a simple apology would not be enough to solve it. On the other hand, it was a request made after making the 3 billion Aurum was paid, so doing that much was included as an after-service for the shop.
“Very well. We shall send escorts together with the bike until we can hand the bike over to Akira-sama.”
“Thank you very much!”
“Likewise. This must be some kind of fate. We look forward to your visit in the future.”
Seeing Hikaru obviously sigh in relief, the staff smiled wryly.
After that, the staff asked Hikaru for the details of Akiras equipment. He was using the adjustment for the general extension arm to fit Akiras equipment as an excuse. Moreover, he also pulled up information about Akira based on his Hunter code that the shop received when processing the purchase.
Although they could not inquire about Hunter-specific data from the Hunter office, they were still able to use that code to investigate Akiras purchase history. After all, a high ranking Hunter was still a potential customer. Of course, companies did not give away all the information about their customers. They would want to keep their customers vital data private to make sure they had a monopoly over their customer. Outside of that, companies would share as much information they could. Thus, those in the business shared a lot among themselves.
[His equipment is basically from TOSON and Kiryou, huh Does he have some kind of contract with those two companies It seems that he opted to buy equipment solely manufactured by these two. Well, purchasing from another manufacturer might violate the contract. So, there might really be a contract. But since he is buying his bike from us, it might be a good idea to let the higher-ups know that TOSON or Kiryous contract does not include vehicles, huh…]
Without Akira knowing it, his information started to spread. Although, it was a completely different matter whether the people who received that information could make good use of it or not.
“Now then, Hikaru-sama. It will still take some time until the preparations are done. If I may, I would be more than happy to introduce other options as well.”
A Hunter who was interested in such a unique product might be interested in the other unique products. That was why the staff started recommending other products to Akira, which was half out of business while the other half was out of pure curiosity. And as expected, Akira was indeed interested and ended up buying a few things. Thus, the staff remembered Akira, his name and mentally noted him down as an interesting customer.
After that, Hikaru stayed inside the shop until the bike was ready. In order to kill time, she continued her conversation with Akira this morning. After telling Akira that she was not allowed to leak particular information regarding the city, she then told Akira to feel free to call her again if something came up and closed the call. However, it did not take long for Akira to call her.
“Akira, is there something wrong”
“The interphone is ringing, is it okay if I pick it up”
Hikaru, who was waiting calmly, immediately replied. It was obvious from her voice that she was flustered.
“No! Dont pick it up! Ill pick up the call! I can connect from here, so dont pick it up, okay”
“A-Alright, Ill leave it to you then.”
Akira bitterly smiled and was a bit overwhelmed by Hikarus attitude. Since he understood that Hikaru did not want him to meet anyone, he believed that it was best to ask her so he could just leave the rest to her.
Hikaru immediately stopped doing whatever she was doing and connected her information terminal to Akiras rooms interphone in a hurry. Akira had no acquaintances inside that transport vehicle and if it was from the escort team, then she should have received a notification beforehand. Thus, no matter who it was, as she felt the presence of trouble, she checked the interphone camera, and the visitor was Melshia.
[Its her Why is she visiting Akira]
Hikaru thought that it was weird and sent a data request to the escort team regarding Melshia.
Melshia hummed in front of Akiras room.
[No answer, huh The record says that hes not outside the transport vehicle though. Is he not in the room, right now Hmmm, what should I do…]
While she was in the middle of thinking about what to do next, she suddenly received a call from Hikaru. When she picked it up, Hikarus image appeared in her augmented vision.
“Nice to meet you, Im the operator for the Hunter in this room, my name is Hikaru.”
“Ahhh, youre the operator from back then, right Nice to meet you, I am Melshia. I heard that the men under me were saved thanks to you, so I came to give my gratitude.”
“I see. Thank you very much, I shall convey that gratitude.”
“Hm I can convey it myself, you know Hes inside, right You wont open the door”
“Ah, please dont worry about it.”
“…To be honest, I think its only right for me to give my thanks directly to him.”
“Im really sorry, Due to certain circumstances, it is impossible to meet him directly at the moment, I hope you can understand.”
In contrast to Melshia, who was acting casually, Hikaru politely bowed her head. After that, there was silence as they were staring at each other. It seemed that neither of them were going to break the silence.
Melshias smile deepened and she decided to take the first move.
“…I dont really like doing this, but you do know my Hunter Rank, right”
Melshias Hunter Rank was 75. In short, she was someone that was to be given exceptions. Although Hikaru was indeed a talented young staff member, she was still an amateur in the grand scheme of things. So Melshia was basically out of Hikarus league.
“Yes. But this Hunter is under contract with the general area management division of Kugamayama city and hes in the middle of his job. So, Im afraid it is not right to interrupt. This is even for someone as highly regarded as Melshia-sama.”
Hikaru knew all of that and still refused Melshia. Hikaru did not want to let Melshia meet Akira considering the possible trouble if they got into a fight. Thus, even if it meant that Melshia, a Rank 75 Hunter, would have a bad impression on her, that did not change her stance.
Hikaru refused Melshia with a smile that was filled with anxiety. Melshia was a bit surprised by that, but she then lowered her shoulders and said.
“I see, if thats the case, then it cant be helped, alright then, Im sorry for saying something unpleasant. Please let him know that Im thankful to him for saving my men.”
“Thank you for your understanding, Ill definitely convey that message to him.”
Hikaru politely bowed and vanished from Melshias vision, after that, Melshia left the place and called Tatsukawa.
“Its me, hows the situation over there”
“Nothing in particular. We did tell the escort team to wait until you return.”
“Roger that. Im heading back now.”
“Alright, so, how is he”
“I couldnt meet him.”
Tatsukawa was a bit surprised that Melshia casually replied in such a manner.
“…Oh thats pretty rare for you to obediently retreat like this, is there a problem”
“Ill tell you the details later, Ill see you soon.”
Melshia cut the call and teasingly smiled.
After Melshia cut the call, Hikaru heaved a big sigh.
“Why would a Rank 75 Hunter even come to meet him… This is not normal, you know… I guess his gift to attract unexpected things is one of the reasons why Kibayashi really likes him, huh… Seriously! Give me a break already!”
After spending her time lamenting how hard it was to handle a high ranking Hunter, Hikaru pulled herself together. She called Akira and conveyed Melshias gratitude. After that, she pulled out excuses to satisfy Akira, who was curious why someone would come to meet him just to convey something like that.-