Sheryl was busy with her work inside her room. She was making a rather scary face while working on her desk. She was being way too focused on her job as if she was trying to avert her attention from something else.
She was in such a bad mood for the last few days. Because of that, her underlings were being very careful not to worsen her mood.
Everyone in her gang knew the reason why Sheryl was in such a bad mood. It was nothing other than Akira who had not visited the base for the last few days. Although it was a simple reason, it was also a serious one at the same time.
Sheryls gang was able to exist because of Akiras support. Although they were armed, they only had anti-human weapons such as handguns. And it was not like any of its members was familiar to fighting. Unlike Shijimas gang, Sheryls gang did not have the ability to secure its position on its own.
The only reason why they could stay relatively safe in the slum city was because the other gangs were being wary of Akira. The incident between Shijima and Akira had already spread among the gangs in the slum city.
As long as they had Akira behind them, no one would risk their own life needlessly by picking a fight against Sheryls gang. Because of that, her gangs safety was guaranteed in the middle of such a violent place.
But Akira had not been visiting Sheryls base lately. So it was to be expected for her to be that worried and all the children under Sheryls gang understood it. But there was a subtle difference between Sheryls thoughts and her underlings understanding of the situation.
Sheryl was alone inside her room, so there was no need for her to keep up her appearance to fool the other children. But even so, she was intentionally making a scary face. Rather than to fool others, it was in order to fool herself.
Sheryl was desperately trying to suppress her panic, anxiety and terror that was welling up inside her. She was putting a lid on those feelings by making an irritated expression.
Up until now, she was able to fool her underlings. Everyone thought that she was only in a bad mood. But its effect on herself was running close to its limit.
The reason why Sheryl was in such a panic, the reason why she was so worried, the reason why she was trembling in fear were all caused by one simple reason. It was because she could not contact Akira.
Since he had not been visiting her place lately, Sheryl tried to contact Akira using her information terminal. But her call did not get through at all, it was not just simply because she could not establish a connection to Akiras information terminal, but it was because the target terminal was not found. That was what her information terminal was saying every time she tried to make a call.
Akira did say to Sheryl once in the past that if she could not contact his information terminal, then she should assume that he was dead. And that was exactly what she was facing right now.
Sheryl actually depended on Akira on a deeper level. Her psyche was anchored at the fact that Akira was willing to help her. To support her spirit as she maintained her position and acted as the boss of her gang, she relied on Akiras words when he said that he would help her.
She noticed the ominous sound inside her which signalled a crack on the anchor that supported her spirit. She would instantly scream and cry the moment that anchor fully broke.
The calm side of Sheryl was counting the number of days before her core broke down as if it had nothing to do with her. At best, it would be a few weeks, and at worst, it would just be a few days. If anything bad happened, it might even be a few hours. As the voice inside her head was silently counting down that number, Sheryl could feel her spirit being shaved bit by bit.
Sheryl kept trying to distract herself as much as possible from what was actually in front of her. That was why her eyes were making such a scary gaze. But she would not last much longer.
Erio suddenly entered her room without knocking at the door.
Sheryl turned to Erio, she looked terrifying as she glared at him.
“Didnt I tell you to knock first before entering my room”
Erio was scared by that silent pressure from Sheryl as he answered.
“I-Im sorry. Ill be careful next time.”
“So then, why are you here”
“Akira-san is here. Should I just bring him to this room”
The intense pressure that Sheryl was oozing out completely vanished in an instant when she heard what Erio just said.
Akira who was brought to Sheryls room was sitting on a sofa, his expression saying that he was really uncomfortable. It was because Sheryl was sitting on his lap.
Sheryl looked delighted as she circled her arm around Akiras neck. He knew that something like this would happen and he thought that he should get used to it soon, that was why he let Sheryl do as she wanted.
Sheryl looked completely relaxed as if she was in heaven.
“Im happy to get to see you. Im sure that youre busy, but if its possible, I hope you would come here more often. So, were you too busy Is it okay if I ask you what happened”
“Well, I almost got killed.”
Akira answered back with a low voice as if he was whispering. Because of that, for some reason, Sheryl caught it as a bad joke.
To Sheryl, Akiras survival was crucial. Thus, she could not just ignore such a statement even if it was only a joke. Both for the well-being of her gang and her psychical health, it would be problematic if he died.
Sheryl looked worried as she hesitantly asked Akira.
“…Uhmmm, if it was a joke, Ive heard about it before too. Im sorry but its not funny. So please dont say such a thing even as a joke.”
Sheryls expression was half intentional. She deliberately adjusted her expression to suit her voice.
From doing her usual everyday business, she had trained her ability to control the impression that she would give to other people. If she did that to the other children in her gang, her beauty would amplify its effect and cause that person to be ridden with guilt for saying such a bad joke while also giving the sense of happiness from having such a beautiful girl worry about him or her.
But what she said now was also her real feeling. Her voice and her expressions were nothing but high-quality tools to help her convey her message.
But then Akira answered back calmly.
“Im not lying and its not a joke. I really almost got killed back then and this time too.”
Sheryl understood from the way he said it that Akira was serious. His voice did not sound as if he was exaggerating or boasting over a lie.
She was so panicked now that she understood Akira really almost got killed twice and her mask immediately crumbled down.
Sheryl moved her hands from Akiras back to his shoulders as she pushed herself away so she could sit face to face with him.
“A-are you alright”
“Just like you can see, Im super healthy right now. I dont feel any pain and Im not wounded at all.”
Sheryl sighed out of relief. She understood that Akira did not say that just to look strong.
She then returned back to hugging Akira.
“…Please dont make me worry like that.”
Most of the people would have hugged Sheryl back and told her something to reassure her in this situation. But someone as twisted as Akira just answered back calmly as if it was nothing at all.
“That would be impossible. Facing danger is our occupational hazard as a Hunter.”
It was obvious from her face that Sheryl did not like Akiras answer, she then worriedly said to Akira.
“Thats true… But still…”
Looking at how Sheryl looked to be in so much pain, Akira tried to think of the reason behind it. But as expected, since he had a twisted personality, he could only come up with twisted answers.
Akira thought that the reason why Sheryl was fawning over him was for the sake of maintaining her gang. And he could accept that reason. After all, he, who had spent his life in the slum city, knew well just how scary living in the slum city could be, thus he could understand why Sheryl would be so desperate.
Although Sheryl only did it because Akira pushed that job to her, she was also maintaining her position as the head of her gang with his support. That was why Akira thought that it was not strange for her to be so desperate in trying to stay on his good side.
That also meant once Sheryls gang acquired enough influence to support itself, it would not need Akiras support any longer and Sheryl would lose any reason to keep her relationship with him. At that point, they might as well leave him alone. That was what Akira thought.
Sheryls expression turned more worried as she said to Akira with a shaky voice.
“…Im trying my best to strengthen the gang. I understand very well that were always relying on you. But please stop talking about your death.”
From how Sheryl was acting, her painful voice, and her arm that tightened around him, Akira at least understood that he should not say what he had said back then. But he did not understand just how many times he had made that mistake up until now.
Akira did not know what he should say and stayed quiet. Sheryl also did not say anything while still hugging Akira.
Since the time when Sheryl begged at Akira while crying and he answered her pleas, since the time when she was looking for someone to lean onto and Akira gave her a place, since the day when her spirit was broken by the truth of her situation and was constructed back up by the sense of security that Akira provided, although she seemed to be doing the same thing on the surface, the reason behind her actions were completely changed compared to before.
The reason why she worked so hard developing her gang was so that she could hand over the gang once it was properly developed to Akira in order to return the favour.
Sheryl had offered her body to Akira once, but he rejected that offer.
She was a very beautiful girl according to the standard in that place. For a slum city girl, she grew up very healthy and her attire was neat and beautiful, her overall appearance was even better than most of the people in the lower district of the Kugamayama city. Since she was living in a relatively blessed condition when she was under Sibeas protection, the beauty that she acquired was not tainted by the living situation in the slum city.
But when Sheryl told Akira that he could do anything he wanted with her extremely beautiful body, Akira completely rejected her offer saying that she would not be able to help him out in case they fought against monsters, not even as a diversion. As such, Sheryl understood that she could not use her body to repay Akiras kindness nor to maintain her good relationship with him.
Sheryl did not know why Akira helped her. She did not consider the possibility that Akira did it since he thought that doing a good deed might help him fight against his bad luck. After all, she could not imagine him believing in such a baseless thing. She thought that he only did it out of a whim due to his kindness.
At the moment, she had nothing of value that she could use to repay Akiras kindness. But even so, he was still helping her out, thus piling the favour that she wished to repay one day.
Sheryl thought that if she did not expand the gangs influence and somehow earned some profits that she could give back to Akira, and if she did not make him think that he was glad he helped her out, Akira might one day just abandon her.
In truth, Akira was not that eager to abandon Sheryl as much as she thought. While at the same time, she was also not eager to cut her relationship with him as much as he thought. But both of them thought that eventually the other person would end their relationship and that misunderstanding caused her to cling onto Akira even more.
Sheryl thought that she had to do something about the strange silence after that small exchange. So she came up with another subject to talk about.
“Uhmm, I tried to contact you, but I couldnt get any connection at all.”
“Aahhh, right, the information terminal that I was using was destroyed. I came here today to tell you the contact number for my new information terminal.”
Akira lifted her aside and pulled out a small information terminal. Sheryl also went and picked up her information terminal that was on her desk.
She then sat beside Akira and operated her terminal to exchange their contact number. After completing the task, she put her information terminal on the table near her and was about to return back to sitting on Akiras lap facing him.
Akira thought that Sheryl had finished hugging him, thus he stopped her.
“Wait, are you going to continue doing that”
“Yes. Since weve exchanged contact numbers, its okay if I continue hugging you, right”
“Since you already got off once, shouldnt that be enough”
“No, I became so worried when I heard that you almost got killed. So I wont let go until I completely recover from my stress. Its already tiring enough managing the gang, thats why Ill need to keep hugging you for longer than usual.”
“But like, you have your own job to take care of, right”
“Im going by priority. While Im recovering from my mental stress by clinging onto you, itll also show the other gang members that were getting along well. So this is a very important thing for the sake of maintaining the gang and retaining the gangs position among the other gangs in the slum city.”
“No one is looking though, so isnt it pointless doing something like that here”
“Should I call someone then”
Akira also understood well that it was important to show the others of their good relationship in order to maintain Sheryls position in the gang. But he was not that brazen as to show off to others as he was being hugged by a girl.
As long as he and Sheryl were alone in her private room, others would at least make their own guesses as to what they were doing inside. Akira at least tolerated that much.
Sheryl once again sat on Akiras lap while hugging him. People would definitely misunderstand if they saw them now.
Sometime later, Erio entered the room after knocking.
Sheryl turned to Erio while still hugging Akira.
“…Erio, its true that I did say to knock first before entering the room, but you cant enter the room until the person inside gives you permission, you know”
Erio looked scared as he answered back.
“So, why are you here”
Sheryl gazed at Erio, as though saying that it would cost him a lot if he had no good reason for interrupting her.
Erio looked frightened under Sheryls gaze as he answered back.
“Katsuragi-san is here. He said he has something to discuss with you. I made him wait in the reception room for now… Should I… tell him that youre busy right now”
Although he was not as important as Akira, Katsuragi was also an important person for the well-being of the gang. After all, most of the income of the gang came from Katsuragi. Thus they could not afford to be rude to him.
“…Tell him that Ill immediately meet him.”
Sheryl suppressed her desire to keep clinging on Akira as she replied.
Katsuragi was sitting on the sofa inside the reception room. On the other side of the table, Akira and Sheryl were sitting on another sofa with Erio and Alicia standing behind them.
Erio and Alicia were sorts of officers within the gang since their main duty was to organize the members of the gang. Every time Sheryl had a meeting with people outside the gang like Shijima or Katsuragi, Erio and Alicia were always there to attend the meeting too. Eventually, both of them would be given the duty of resolving problems both outside and inside the gang, but for now, standing behind Sheryl was hard enough of a job for both of them.
At the moment, the meeting was attended by the boss and the officers of Sheryls gang and the 2 crucial people for their gang. But Akira was only there to accompany Sheryl, while Erio and Alicia had no right to say anything in the meeting.
One of Sheryls underlings came and placed 3 portions of meal on the table before quickly leaving the room. Erio and Alicia, who were not used to being in the room, looked enviously at that kid who just left.
Sheryl was smiling brightly as she said to Katsuragi.
“To be honest, I hope that you would contact me first before visiting us so that we can welcome you without making you wait. After all, its not like Im always in the gangs base. Aahh, is it that you told one of my underlings beforehand If thats the case, I apologize for our mistake.”
Katsuragi smiled in return as he said.
“Nah, its just that I had a business to take care near this area, so I decided to pay a visit. Sorry that I came without notice.”
“Please dont be. So then, is there anything you need of me”
Katsuragi glanced at Akira before answering back.
“Its just that I havent seen Akiras face lately. So I was planning to ask you if you know where he is. But since hes here, I guess theres no need to do that anymore.”
Judging from how her underlings were behaving, Katsuragi thought that Akira might have cut his connection with Sheryl. The reason why he came without notice was to see Sheryls reaction.
To Katsuragi, there was still no worth partnering with Sheryls gang if it was not because of its connection with Akira. If Akira was dead or had cut his connection with Sheryls gang, Katsuragi had no wish to continue working with her gang.
If Katsuragi told her beforehand that he would come visiting, it would give Sheryl time to come up with a plan to hide the fact that she could not contact Akira in case if Akira did abandon her. Sheryl would also warn her underlings to hide that fact too. So in order to prevent her from doing something like that, Katsuragi deliberately came to her base without notice.
Sheryl knew very well that was the reason Katsuragi visited out of the blue. The reason why Katsuragi did not say anything about it was not because he was being careful. But it was because he knew Sheryl would be able to easily guess it from his action.
Both Sheryl and Katsuragi understood why they were there. But since it was already solved, there was no need to intentionally reveal it. The only person who did not try to read deeper into Katsuragis words was Akira.
Since his business with Sheryl was finished, Katsuragi turned to Akira.
“So then, Akira. Hows your ruin exploration going Are you collecting relics to sell at my place Or are you still working on the temporary HQ construction request”
“Im done with that request and I have no plans to continue taking it.”
“Thats good to hear, so youre back to exploring ruins then, right”
“Thats the plan. But at the moment, Im planning to take a break until I get my new equipment which will take about 2 weeks from today. Ill then go back to exploring ruins for about a week before selling my relics to you. So just wait for a bit more.”
Katsuragi looked displeased.
“New equipment Wait there, you shouldve bought them from me then. You do know what Im selling, right”
But Akira immediately refused that offer.
“Im sorry, I have a regular shop where I get my equipment.”
Katsuragi looked even more displeased now. Sheryl who was beside Akira interjected, trying to give Akira a hint.
“…Uhmmm, Akira. Katsuragi-san is saying that now youre not selling relics to him or buying equipment from him, is there any meaning in your partnership Even if both of you had faced deathly situation together, theres a limit on how far he can tolerate this.”
Although Akira thought that Sheryl was indeed correct, he had no plans in buying equipment outside Shizukas shop. But if he did not buy anything, or at least contributed to Katsuragis profit, he would not be able to abate Katsuragis displeasure. Thus Akira tried mentioning something that he might buy from Katsuragi.
“I see, in that case, sell me some medicines.”
“Its pointless if youre only buying cheap stuff…”
Katsuragi said it in a fashion which was obviously showing his displeasure that Akira only bought such cheap things from him. But Akiras next words quickly cleared his displeasure.
“Im planning to spend 10,000,000 Aurum.”
Katsuragi could not help but express his surprise the moment he heard how much Akira was planning to spend.
Akira continued with a serious face.
“I dont want cheap medicines that barely has any effect at all. Im looking for medicines that can even heal broken bones in no time like those powerful old-world relic medicines. You used to sell stuff in the frontline, right So I bet you have at least that kind of medicine in your stock, right”
Katsuragi quickly turned to business mode as he asked Akira.
“How are you going to pay for it”
“If youre okay with it, Ill do a bank transfer. So, do you have the medicines”
“I have 2,000,000 Aurum per box medicine. Since I have them in my trailer, I just need to go grab it and you can have it today.”
“Give me 5 boxes then.”
Akira then handed over his Hunter ID to take care of the payment. Katsuragi received the ID, held it on his Hunter ID reader terminal and completed the payment process.
Katsuragi was doubting if the terminal would show the usual payment completion notice. But once he confirmed that the payment was indeed completed, he smiled.
For the people who were doing business with Hunters, having a connection with a Hunter who was earning a healthy amount of money was something that was more important than selling their goods. Katsuragi glanced at Sheryl as he thought.
[He just gave 10,000,000 Aurum like it was nothing. This is wonderful. Even if he only did that just to show off in front of Sheryl, hes still contributing to my revenue. Ill be counting on you to keep this up, okay]
Katsuragi stood up and was about to go fetch the medicines for which Akira just paid.
“Alright then, Ill go grab the goods, just wait for a bit. You have no plans of going anywhere, right”
As Katsuragi was about to leave the room, he turned back to Akira and threw a question at him.
“…Well, you just gave me that much money so easily. But what will you do if I just run away with your money or bring you bad goods instead”
Akira swiftly but calmly answered Katsuragis question.
“If you run away with my money, Ill just chase you down and kill you. And if you bring me bad goods, Ill just cut my connection with you.”
“I see. It seems that well get along very well in the future.”
Katsuragi smiled in satisfaction after hearing Akiras answer, he then left the room.
Erio and Alicia were dumbfounded as they saw a 10,000,000 Aurum deal was done right in front of their eyes. For Erio and the other children, they could rarely get 1,000 Aurum even after spending their whole day collecting wreckages and selling them to Katsuragi. Moreover, the gangs cut would be subtracted before the balance was divided equally among all the children that did the work. So in the end, every single child would get less than that. They felt conflicted as they watched Akira finish that deal, which involved a huge amount of money that was outside their reach, like it was nothing.
Erio and Alicia knew that Akira was also a child from the slum. Their age and the environment where they grew up were not that much different, but now, Akira was standing in front of them as if he came from an entirely different place. Although it gave them a hope that they might get as successful as Akira if they got lucky, at the same time, it also made them feel unfair at how Akira could be so successful despite the fact that they were about the same age and were living in the same place.
Although from the outside Sheryl looked completely calm, she was actually pretty shocked inside. It was because Akira was actually earning way lot more money than she imagined.
Being able to pay 10,000,000 Aurum so easily showed that Akira was on a different level compared to those average Hunters. And that would mean Sheryl was using such a great Hunter for her benefit although she had nothing that she could give to pay him back.
Sheryl thought that if she could not somehow give something back to Akira, he might eventually abandon her gang. But since Akira was a good Hunter, then it would mean that she should give him something of worth for such a good Hunter.
But she could not imagine what could be of worth for someone who could regularly earn at least 10,000,000 Aurum.
Not too long after that, Katsuragi came back with the medicines.
“Sorry for the wait, this is the 200,000 Aurum per box medicine.”
As Katsuragi said that, he put some boxes of medicine on top of the table. All of them were small enough to carry with one hand, they also did not look heavy.
Akira frowned as he looked at those medicine boxes.
“…I bought 5 boxes, right”
There were only four boxes on the table, one box was missing.
“When I went to check my stock, it turned out that I only had 4 boxes left. So thats it.”
After saying that, Katsuragi took out another 3 boxes and put them on the table.
“As my apology, Ill give you 3 boxes of this 1,000,000 Aurum per box medicine. So in total, you get 11,000,000 Aurum worth of goods for just 10,000,000 Aurum. Are you good with that”
“…Well, I dont really mind, so Ill accept it.”
“Im sorry about this.”
Akira had no qualms with getting more goods with what he paid. As for Katsuragi, although he ended up with less profit, he was willing to tolerate it.
But more than that, as a businessman, he wanted to make up for his blunder of not being able to provide what his customer requested although he had already accepted the payment. After all, it was not a problem that he could fix just by returning the money that he had received.
Now that he had already cleared up that problem, Katsuragi immediately moved on to the next order of business.
“By the way, Im planning to restock that medicine soon, I can order more of that medicine if you want me to. So, what do you think”
“Ill come to your trailer to buy them when I have the money. If I have the money but you dont have the stock, shouldnt you try to get some stock from a different store As for the money, I cant really say for sure whether I can get them or not, after all, thats what it means to be a Hunter. But as for your stock, its yours to take care to begin with, after all, thats what it means to be a merchant, right”
“I cant deny that. Very well, Ill put my hopes up and wait for you. Just contact me when you have the money.”
If Akira told Katsuragi to put in more orders, Katsuragi might use that as an excuse to make him buy his leftover goods. But Akira was somehow able to avoid making such a mistake. Deep inside, Katsuragi clicked his tongue, but he was giving his businessmans smile on the outside.
Katsuragi decided to move on and brought up another subject.
“Ahh, by the way, youre planning to return back to exploring the ruins, right Other than old-world relics, I actually buy and sell other things too. Things like information about relics location or the maps of the ruins that you cant normally find circulating in public. If you still have nowhere to sell them, you can bring them to me. You can even use me as a proxy to sell them. Of course, Ill take some commission out of it for taking care of all the troubles for you. But itll be easier than selling them yourself, right”
“Even if I want to sell the data about the inner parts of the ruins, what should I do about the data format”
“I know someone who specializes in analyzing the data collected by information-gathering devices. As long as its not a special information-gathering device, it should be okay. With this, you would not be coming back without any result even if you dont find any relics after exploring the ruins. Well, even if you bring back information of an area that has already freely circulated in the network, you can still get a small amount of money for bringing in a bit more detailed information of that area.”
“Alright, Ill do that when I feel like it. But still, I see that youre handling all kinds of goods.”
“To be successful under the Corporate Government, I need more than just money, you know. But of course, I still need money too, so I accept investment from time to time.”
“Im sorry but I dont have that much money to spare.”
After that, Katsuragi exchanged his number with Akira and left the building.
Akira stuffed his newly bought medicines into his rucksack. But as he reached for the last 1,000,000 Aurum per box medicine and was about to put it inside his rucksack, he suddenly stopped.
He thought for a while before passing that medicine to Sheryl. She caught the medicine box, which flew at her in a parabola, with her both hands.
Akira then said to Sheryl.
“You can have that, just use it when you need it.”
“T-thank you very much.”
Sheryl tried her best to return a smile at Akira, but she couldnt show her natural smile and looked rather stiff. Even someone who hardly knew her could tell that she was pushing herself to smile. At least, it was not a smile that she usually gave Akira.
Akira noticed that there was something strange with Sheryls expression. He at least understood that he had done something wrong, but he could not tell what and where he went wrong.
“Alpha, did I do something wrong again I just thought that these children might get injured during their job in the slum city, thats why I gave her that medicine… “
Alpha seemed to be thinking before answering back.
“I dont think you did anything wrong. But well, people see you and Sheryl as a couple, or maybe lovers They might find it strange that you gave her something so-not-cute like that medicine box. Moreover, if you give a present from a discount, then it means that your love is also discounted. Basically, if you give a 10 per cent discount object as a present, then it means that your love and gratitude are also 10 per cent less or something like that Nah, I guess Im just reading too far into it.”
“I didnt think that far when I gave her that medicine though. But well, I guess its true that I wouldnt have given her that medicine if I hadnt got it as a bonus.”
“Well, as an object to show off to others that shes your lover, if someone asks you which one works better between accessories like a necklace or a ring and a box of medicine, I guess you know the obvious answer. After all, its not like she can use a box of medicine as proof to other people.”
“…Ahh, right, that was the case, huh. Well, I did say that Ill help her, I guess Ill give her something which she can use for such purpose later.”
Akira and Alpha were talking to each other although they were somehow not talking about exactly the same thing. And of course, they did not even touch the subject about why Sheryl was making such an awkward expression.
While looking at the medicine box that she held with both of her hands, Sheryl thought that now she had received even more favour which she should payback. Although she already had enough problems thinking about how to repay Akira, she now had that hurdle raised up.
Sheryl was in a panic now.
Silavin: This girl is calculative in a good way I suppose. The ship sailing for them is kind of hard but if Akira were to actually have more time than to focus on survival, I wonder if it would work out.
All the girls in this novel are all pretty independant with various skill sets after all. And all of them who associate with Akira could be considered as beauties as well. Each are a catch on its own so, it is really hard to say who he would be most interested in.