Chapter 270: An Unexpected Request
Latis and Pamela immediately understood that Sugadome was not joking. He was serious when he said that Chloe needed to die. Thus, both quickly readied their stance to protect their master. But they were too late. The moment they felt the compulsion to protect, Hammerz who was just standing next to Sugadome a moment ago, already had his hand on their faces.
Hammerz was holding back. It was to warn them. He would kill them if they tried to make any suspicious moves. If he had any desire to kill, they would already be dead by now. Thus, Pamela and Latis knew better than to try anything in this situation.
Chloe exasperatedly sighed. Not only was it to help her calm down, but it was also to fake bravado in front of Sugadome.
“Sugadome-sama, I dont think its wise for an officer from Saka**a Heavy Industry to spill blood inside the inner wall.”
Those who were living inside the inner wall, even the worse out of the bunch, all had at least some level of decency. Something common sense to all of them was the matter of taking lives. It was an action only meant for outside the inner wall. Even if those within the inner wall had no worries when it came to monsters, killing each other would mean that there was no difference between inside and outside the inner wall. Thus, if such acts were committed inside, there was no meaning for them to live inside the inner wall. This common sense was one of the main pillars that maintained civil order within the inner wall.
Chloe was implying that this was not something that an officer from the 5 biggest corporations should do. They serve as an example. Thus, she was trying to use that to stop Sugadome.
However, Sugadome did not show any reaction to her words.
“I can understand why you would say that.”
“T-then, in that case…”
“But personally speaking, as a part of Saka**a Heavy Industry, I also take pride in actively contributing to the safety of the eastern district as a whole. I understand the danger of that card in your possession. Unfortunately, Im not that irresponsible. I cant allow someone who would dare say something as preposterous as giving such a dangerous object to the Nationalists to go. Even with my contract with City Management. Even considering the fact that youre someone from the Lorentz house. Its not enough of a reason not to dispose of you.”
Even after he said that, Sugadome was still as expressionless as usual. It was as if disposing of her was just one of his common duties. He was only executing his duty. Nothing more. Chloe understood that much.
“After I dispose of you, I will report to Lion Steel. I had just cleaned up a Nationalist supporter inside the Lion Steel company. I have no plans to hide it. If you have any last words, you can go ahead and make your calls. Im lenient enough to at least wait for you to finish delivering your will.”
Chloes smile already vanished from her face. Behind her stern expression, she was desperately trying to find a way out. She understood that pleading for her life was useless. She had to make a good logical argument to change Sugadomes mind. She was using everything her brain could conjure up. It was to the point where she could feel the time slow down.
However, she could not come up with anything decent. After a short pause, Sugadome then spoke. It was as if to tell Chloe that she had run out of time.
“I see. So, you have no last will to leave behind, huh Now then…”
Chloe scowled in fear, Latis and Pamela also thought that this was their end.
“…I will allow you to retract your statement and correct this misunderstanding. If you do so, I will regard that statement as nothing but an atrocious bluff, which stemmed from your foolishness. That you were not trying to support the Nationalists.”
Chloe did not expect things to end like this. She quickly recovered and took his offer.
“I only meant it as the worst-case scenario. It was a possibility, which only meant to emphasize the value of the card. I have no wish to let it fall into Nationalists hands. I take what I said back and apologize for making such a remark.”
Once again, silence filled the room. Chloe knitted her eyebrows, thinking her statement was not good enough.
After that short silence, Sugadome spoke up without the slightest change in his tone.
Chloe inadvertently sighed with relief. She was panting, caused by the lingering anxiety after that whole ordeal. Hammerz also let Latis and Pamela go. They straightened their posture but seemed rather lethargic. Hammerz then casually returned to Sugadomes side.
“Both you and I are as strong as common people. But at the same time, we both have the authority to command those with powerful fighting capabilities. It only takes one word for us to kill someone. That is exactly why we must be careful with what we say.”
“…Thank you for the advice.”
Chloe, who managed to calm her breathing, replied.
“Now then. I guess I should let you know this to avoid any misunderstanding. It seems like you actually believe that I dont understand the full worth of that card. But, let me tell you this. That is not true at all. I understand the value of that card extremely well. Its just that I dont see any need to get a second card by making a deal with Lion Steel.”
After he said so, Sugadome pulled out a white card. It was identical to the one that Chloe had. Chloe, Pamela, and Latis were shocked speechless. While still in a state of shock, there was a tint of doubt in Chloes expression. It was slowly filled with confusion and bewilderment.
[…Is that real If it is, how did he get that card Then, is it fake But if it is, why would he prepare one No. Even if its real, there should be no drawback in having one more. So, why would he refuse my offer…]
“I can understand you doubting the authenticity of this card. After all, its not something that can be easily obtained.”
“O-of course, I dont doubt its authenticity…”
“I will show you proof then… But before that, theres someone that I want you to meet. Wait here for a bit.”
As Chloe was wondering who this person was that Sugadome wanted her to meet. Sugadome picked up his information terminal and made a call. A moment later, someone who she had met in the augmented reality room suddenly appeared. It was Shirou.
“Good grief! Calling me out of the blue after making me wait. Im busy, you know So, what is it now… Gehk!”
The moment Shirou noticed Hammerz, he could not hide his shock. Meanwhile, Hammerz was smiling ominously at him. Shirou let out a dry chuckle as if he was trying to let the matter with Hammerz slide. Sugadome then spoke to Shirou.
“Shirou. I bet youre already acquainted with her. I know that you caused her trouble a few days ago. So, go ahead and give her your apology.”
“You seriously called me just for that Ah, no, I am sorry.”
Shirou was obviously displeased with this. However, since Sugadome was staring sharply at him, he flusteredly apologized.
“…Eh Ah, please dont worry about it…”
Chloe was equally flustered as she accepted his apology. Both Shirou and Chloe looked at each other. It was obvious that both of them did not understand why Sugadome was making them do this. Afterwards, Sugadome put his card on the table and said.
“Lets get back to the main topic. I will show you proof that this card is not fake.”
Right at the next moment, Olivia appeared next to Shirou. Sugadome used the device on the table to access the card and contacted Olivia.
“Olivia of Lion Steel, at your service. Thank you for contacting us and choosing our service.”
Olivia bowed politely at Sugadome and glanced at Chloe. Chloe, who was given a final warning the previous time they had met, flinched back. She obeyed Olivias warning and decided to not contact her again. However, she was not certain if this was considered a violation of Olivias warning. There were no clues at all.
But Sugadome then stated.
“She is my guest, please dont mind her.”
Olivia stared at Chloes group for a few seconds before turning back to Sugadome. Chloe sighed in relief, believing they were saved.
Sugadome smiled at Olivia, who was smiling back at him. He then passed the card over to Hammerz.
“Nice to meet you. I am Sugadome. Im hoping to discuss a certain job if I may.”
Olivias gaze shifted to Hammerz. Hammerz nodded, which signalled her to proceed. However, Olivias gaze then shifted to Shirou. Shirou shook his head as if to say that it was not him who called her this time. Only after she checked did her gaze return to Sugadome. She smiled politely at him.
“Thank you. Thats great to hear. Lets get into the details then. Ah, but before that…”
Sugadome looked at Chloe.
“Im sorry but this is where you leave.”
Chloes face stiffened for a split second. It was obvious that she did not appreciate being shooed away right after Sugadome called Shirou. She was finally about to get into the meaty details of her negotiation with Sugadome, but alas, it was not like she could refuse.
“…Of course. Please do excuse us then.”
She politely bowed to Sugadome and left the room with Latis and Pamela in tow.
The guide, who accompanied Chloes group to Sugadomes room, once again guided them out of the territory under Saka**a Heavy Industry. While travelling, Chloe kept thinking back on what just happened in Sugadomes room.
[…There must be some kind of motive behind calling Olivia in front of us. I just cant figure out what it is… Is it simply a means of informing Lion Steel That Saka**a Heavy Industry already has the means to contact Olivia-sama Is that really it Is that really something that important I feel like there is something more to it…]
Even after placing assumptions on top of assumptions. Guesses on top of guesses, she still could not figure out an answer. It was obvious from her face that she was being tormented by it. There was even a tint of desperation as well.
[In the end, I could not give the card away to Saka**a Heavy Industry. It didnt go well at all… This will not help my situation at all…]
As she was deep in thought while walking, the guide suddenly said to her.
“Chloe-sama, this is as far as I can go.”
“Eh Ah, right. Thank you very much!”
The meeting place with Udajima was still a bit further ahead. Although it was not that far and she could go by herself, normally, the guide would have accompanied her all the way. The fact that they were being left in the middle of the road was rather weird for her. However, since the guide was a staff member of Saka**a Heavy Industry, Chloe still had to make sure she did not say anything rude. Thus, she gave a smile and thanked the guide.
But the guide then did not immediately leave and left a message to her.
“I have a message from Sugadome-sama.”
Chloe gave a nod. She was curious since they met just a moment ago.
“What might this message be”
“Its up to Chloe-sama. If Chloe-sama wishes to make this incident bigger, it would be best for Chloe-samas sake that she does not rope Saka**a Heavy Industry into this. It is also not recommended to cause trouble in Kuzusuhara ruin as well. Were sure that Chloe-sama will clean up after this incident comes to an end. However, in the case where it becomes too much to handle alone, please do contact us. That is all.”
Chloe, who picked up Sugadomes intention behind the message, was frozen from shock. Latis and Pamela flusteredly tried to call for her but she did not react.
“Chloe-sama. Do tell me if you have a message for Sugadome-sama.”
“……………. Please tell him. Thank you for your warning.”
“Certainly. Well then, please allow me to excuse myself.”
The guide then bowed and left calmly.
The shock was unbelievable. Watching the guide leave, being left with those she trusted, she suddenly felt a tinge of relief. This minor difference caused her to stumble back. Of course, Pamela and Latis quickly caught her before she collapsed.
“…He knew… He knew everything… The reason why he called Olivia-sama in front of me is just to prove it… But thats just…”
The reason why Sugadome did not accept the card was because he did not want to get Saka**a Heavy Industry involved in her issues. The reason why he called Olivia in front of her was to confirm whether Olivia was still going to tolerate the trouble that Chloe was causing. The moment she noticed his intentions, her shock intensified, which slowly turned into fear.
Afterwards, Chloe wobbled left and right as she walked to the meeting place, where Udajima was going to regroup with her. Seeing her utterly exhausted, Udajima worriedly asked.
“You dont seem well, what happened”
“…We just had a negotiation with an officer from Saka**a Heavy Industry. Its to be expected that I would be tired afterwards.”
“I see. In that case, you should head back to your room and rest. I can ask you what happened later.”
“Sorry but Ill do just that.”
Afterwards, Chloe looked at Udajima. Her eyebrows rose as if she had just come up with something. As expected, Udajima noticed something was up.
“No… Nothing. My apologies, but I will return to my detention room. If there are no emergencies, I want to take my time resting.”
Chloe then went ahead of Udajima and returned back to her detention room. On her way to her room, Chloes face turned sterner.
[I should have been suspicious the moment a mere desperate City Management staff member was able to arrange a meeting with an officer from Saka**a Heavy Industry. What a blunder. I thought the request would get rejected but it unexpectedly got accepted without much resistance. I got blinded by happiness since it got through. And I thought too highly of myself and my connections. Even with the branch manager of Lion Steel Company Eastern District Third Ward branch. I really still have a long way to go, huh…]
Initially, Chloe thought that negotiations with Sugadome ended up as a huge failure due to severe blunders on her part. But it was not like she had any other choice in that situation. This means that she had to find another way. She used this experience and sought another solution. Using what she had learnt, she noticed something.
[Sugadome was able to accurately see through my intentions. He still left me a message. It basically states that hes fine so long as I do not drag Saka**a Heavy Industry in this mess. This can even be interpreted as approval from Saka**a Heavy Industry. Olivia-sama also did not kill me back then. It could be interpreted as Olivia-sama still tolerating the current situation. This should be good enough proof to say that Im just following Alice-samas order… Considering that I was able to receive this confirmation, I think it is fine to say that it was not a complete failure. The branch manager should listen to me now…]
Withdrawing from the ongoing gambit and losing her bet, only led to her demise. Therefore, the only choice available was to win. Chloe reminded herself. [I have not lost yet. This is not the end.]
“Thats right… Ill win this! Whatever it takes!”
Chloe smiled. She removed the shackle that held her back and reinterpreted the current situation. What could be exchanged for more chips in her wager
After Chloes group left Sugadomes room, Shirou confusedly looked at Sugadome and asked.
“So, did you call me here just to make me apologise to that girl If so, can I leave now Im busy, you know.”
“No. If you leave now, I will declare that you have run away from Saka**a.”
“What is it then Can we just get to it, already”
“Lets get onto the main subject then.”
Sugadome smiled at Olivia.
“Olivia-san, is it possible to ask you to be his bodyguard”
Shirou was caught by surprise. Sugadome then explained with a serious gaze.
“Last time, you said you dont want to have someone guard you. But it should be fine if its her, no As a matter of fact, you even paid her to be your bodyguard before. So, I wont take no as an answer.”
Shirou obviously started to panic.
“Uh, well, that is… Like, you know, I dont have the money to pay for her.”
“Dont worry about that. I will pay for her. So then, Olivia-san, may I trouble you with such a request”
“If the escort target approves, I shall take care of it right away.”
“That sounds reassuring. So there you have it, Shirou-kun. Give Olivia-san your approval.”
Shirous face turned pale as he firmly shut his mouth.
“Just to let you know, regardless of the status of your task, if you dont return back in one month, I will assume that you plan to seek refuge in another company. We will dispatch men to arrest you. However, if youre accompanied by an escort at that point, I will let it slide.”
After Sugadome clearly stated the deadline, Shirous face became even paler.
“If you have an escort with you, you dont have to do your regular reports anymore. You can just give me your full report after one month. I will also stop Hammerz from looking for you. There should be no problem as long as Olivia-san is your bodyguard. I will even consider extending the deadline as well. You can go sightseeing to your hearts content before returning back to your main mission. At least for the remaining month.”
Hammerzs face twitched. It was obvious that he did not find this to be pleasant. But seeing Shirou still tense, even after receiving such a good offer, he found it to be strange.
Shirou did not say anything in return. After a short silence, Sugadomes gaze turned sharp.
“This is a warning. If you dont give me your answer, I will see it as betrayal toward Saka**a Heavy Industry. So, what is your answer”
Shirou was cornered. However, he then made his resolve and slowly opened his mouth, squeezing out words from his throat.
Shirous pale face, distorted from his trembling, had the corner of his lips faintly go up.
Hammerzs shocked expression showed just how unthinkable Shirous answer was.
Sugdome stared at him. Shirou was frozen as if he was awaiting his death sentence. His eyes still locked onto Sugadome.
That short sentence from Sugadome sent a shiver to Shirous spine and made Hammerz take a step back.
Sugadome then lowered his shoulders. It was to expel the tense mood. He apologetically bowed to Olivia.
“Olivia-san, my deepest apologies. Since the escort target has refused, I know it is very rude of me being the one who asked for you, please allow me to save this for another time.”
“Certainly. Feel free to contact us next time. We, from Lion Steel, will wait for your next request.”
Olivia smiled and spoke. It was as if she did not mind this at all. She then gracefully bowed before vanishing.
After Olivia vanished, the friendly smile also vanished from Sugadomes face. He spoke up.
“You can leave now, and dont forget your regular report.”
Shirou awkwardly bowed and ended the call.
Hammerz still looked confused. He was not sure if he should ask Sugadome what that was all about. After hesitating, he finally decided to at least try asking. However, before he could say anything, Sugadome suddenly ordered him.
“Let me change your mission. You are to still look for Shirou-kun, but before you move in to arrest him, when you find him, make sure to contact me first. If you cant reach me, be extra careful to not kill him by accident. Thats all. You can now leave.”
Judging from Sugadomes mood, Hammerz knew that it was not a good idea to ask him right now, Therefore, Hammerz simply gave a slight bow and left the room without saying anything.
Sugadome, who was left alone in his room, stayed there for a while thinking of his future plan.
After he closed the call, Shirou, who was in his hideout, began breathing roughly. His face was white as a sheet of paper.
“…Ah crap. This is bad. This is really bad!”
He was pressed for time after Sugadome declared a clear deadline for him. However, there was also something else that made him panic.
“Dont tell me that he found out…”
Shirou intensely shook his head left and right. It was as if he was forcefully trying to shake away his worries.
“…No. If he had known, he would have sent someone to arrest me right away. Im sure that offer was nothing more than for the sake of my safety. His reaction was simply one towards a brat with too much pride. Im sure hes simply thinking of some kind of punishment for me. One fit for a stupid brat who had just wasted the kindness of his superior. Im sure he has not found out yet…”
Shirou knew that his guess was mixed with his own prayers. However, it was the only conclusion he could draw. Anything else would cause him to lose hope.
“…Lets hurry up. I cant afford to do it the safe way anymore.”
In the worst-case scenario, he might end up having to fight against Saka**a Heavy Industry. However, he was not in a situation where he could afford to be careful with his choices. Thus, he made his resolve and decided to take the barely safe route.
Sugadome, who was left alone in his room, finally made his decision.
“He even refused such a good offer. I think we can be certain that it is indeed that case. Or at least, the possibility should be enough as a reason to prepare ourselves.”
After he made his decision, he reviewed the situation again. He made sure that he still reached the same conclusion before giving a nod.
Sightseeing. Sightseeing location. Ruins. Ruin exploration. Since it did not come up in the ruin data on the web, there was a good chance that it was an unexplored ruin. A ruin that could not be discovered through normal means. The reason why he refused to have anyone accompany him, was to prevent information leaks. It must be something that Shirou did not want Saka**a Heavy Industry to know about no matter what. Even if it meant he had to refuse having such a reassuring bodyguard like Olivia-san escorting him. There must be something that caused Shirou to go that far.
After Sugadome made his conclusion and finished re-examining it, he then called the main HQ of Saka**a Heavy Industry.
“Yes… Yes, that is correct. Just to be safe, I guess… This is just insurance. Theres no need to prioritize it, but it would be great to have it ready as soon as possible… Indeed. Depending on how this develops, I might have to request reinforcements… No, it depends on how the situation develops. I hope we can have someone sent to do an investigation. If the result shows that what we are doing is nothing but unnecessary, then we can just divert the soldiers to Kuzusuhara ruin.”
After discussing the finer details with the HQ staff, Sugadome then stated with a dire tone.
“Yes, I formally request for anti-rebuild personnel. That is all from me.”
He then closed the call and heaved a huge sigh.
“I hope that its nothing more than just a bad guess.”
His serious expression reflected the severity of the situation. It was something that he could not show to his men.
As Akira was spending his days as a bounty target, he suddenly got a call. It was reaching him via an encrypted line using his Hunter code. Akira was surprised when he checked the identity of the caller. Since Kibayashi warned him to not just toss aside any negotiation opportunities that came his way, he picked up the call. Well, he was also curious about receiving a call from such an unexpected caller.
The call concluded with both participants deciding on somewhere to meet up.
Akira was originally planning to go alone on his bike, but when he told Carol about that call, she wanted to tag along too.
“It might be a trap, so it would be safer for you to stay here though”
“Nope. As a bodyguard, you should not leave your escort target, you know Moreover, I can help you if something bad happens.”
Seeing Carol smile as she casually spoke, it felt as if her proclamation was the natural thing to do. Akira gave a soft smile and replied.
“Is that so Well, in that case, well be going as soon as were done with the preparations.”
Akira seemed to be in a good mood as he and Carol made their preparation.
At a certain place, in the middle of the wasteland, a man in a formal suit stepped off of a vehicle. He was waiting for Akira to arrive. Next to him was a girl in a maid uniform and a man in a butler suit. They stood, ready for anything.
The man in the formal suit frowned and checked his wristwatch.
“He should be here soon though…”
It was unacceptable to be late. Considering that Akira was the one who proposed the meeting to be held in the middle of the dangerous wasteland. It would not be strange if either party left and abandoned the meeting.
However, Akira was a bounty target. There was a good chance that he was fighting Hunters, who were after him. It was also only natural for him to be suspicious if it was some kind of trap. Therefore, leaving now would be a rather rash decision.
As the guy in a formal suit started pondering over how long he should wait past the meeting time, he noticed a bike heading in his direction. He sighed in relief, believing it to be Akira. However, he immediately noticed that the person on that bike was female and there was no one else on the bike.
The bike stopped next to that guy and Carol stepped off.
“Are you the one asking for Akira”
“Yes, where is he Are you here to lead the way to another meeting place If thats indeed the case, it would be great if you had come a little sooner.”
It was not rare to actively change the meeting place in order to avoid ambushes. The guy in the suit knew that. However, considering the time required to travel to a new location, it made him feel disgruntled.
But that was when Akira suddenly spoke up.
“No. Here is fine.”
Akira suddenly appeared behind Carol. He was using his camouflaging defensive coat to hide his presence.
Depending on the capability of the camouflaging device, a decent enough information-gathering device would be able to see through it. Naturally, the mans group were using powerful information-gathering devices to continuously watch their surroundings. Normally, they should have no problems detecting Akira.
Even so, depending on the camouflaging device, it was still quite a difficult task to completely erase ones presence. Comparatively, it was much easier to fake the presence of others. Thanks to Alphas support, Akira managed to hide his presence by blending it in with Carol.
Because of that, the other party were caught with their pants down when Akira suddenly appeared. Especially the maid and the butler. Since they were acting as bodyguards, they were obviously more shocked. Compared to them, the guy in the formal suit was just minutely shocked.
“Im glad that you reached this place on time. As I have informed you in the previous call. I am the head of Lion Steel Eastern District Fourth Ward Branch, Fulip Kobet Lorentz. Im looking forward to todays discussion.”
Leaving aside the stark contrast in the length of their introductions, they immediately went onto the main topic.
“Now then. Please allow me to explain our stance on the current situation. We of Lion Steel Eastern District Fourth Ward have no wish to antagonize you. So, I hope you can keep this in mind as we continue this discussion.”
Akira frowned and retraced his head sideways.
“Im pretty sure Lion Steel is the one that placed a bounty on my head though”
“First of all, let me straighten up this misunderstanding. The one who placed that bounty on you is the third ward branch, not us of the fourth ward branch. Your enemy is only Lion Steel Eastern District Third Ward Branch. Not the whole Lion Steel company. This is a very important point.”
Lion Steel is formed of individual branches working together under the main HQ. However, each branch dealt with the area under them as if they were from different companies. Some of them worked peacefully with each other, while others got along like water and oil. There were even cases where they got embroiled in conflict over the territory borders between different branches.
Of course, it was a whole different case if Akira was picking a fight with the Lion Steel Eastern District as a whole. As long as that was not the case, his fight was only limited to a regional conflict. In order not to unnecessarily cause more conflict, it was important to understand this point well. Akira seemed rather surprised. Nonetheless, he showed deep interest in the topic as he listened to their explanation.
“If I may add, you might think that youre already in a hostile relationship with the third branch, but that might not necessarily be the case, at least, not yet. Its a fact that they placed a bounty on you. But the one who did that was Chloe. She just used the name of the third branch. So, the third branch itself did not act under the direct order from the branch manager. This is just something that Ive gathered. It also seems that even the third branch sees Chloes actions as problematic. They are considering her punishment.”
This time, Akira was completely flabbergasted.
“Is that so”
“Yes. But, based on my investigation, it doesnt seem like punishment has been delivered yet. So, I bet theyre still discussing punishing her or not.
As Fulip confirmed, Akira had lowered his initial wariness, which stemmed from the fact that they were from the Lion Steel company. Fulip noticed this and decided that it was a good time to move on to the next subject.
“Now that I hope you fully understand our position, that we are not your enemies, I wish to move on to the main subject. Will that be okay with you”
“Sure, go ahead.”
It was not like Akira believed everything that Fulip had said. However, it was not like he had reasons to completely distrust him either. Fulip understood Akiras stance from his reaction and continued.
“Very well then. There is one thing that I want to ask of you. Is it possible to request you to kill Chloe Levelant Lorentz Of course, we will reward you for this job.”
Ever since Akira was told during the call through the vehicles secret line that they wanted to meet up directly to discuss a highly important subject, he already had some guesses of what it might be. However, as expected, this request was something completely out of the left field.-