Chapter 247: Common Happenings
Not too long ago, Mihazono ruin was filled with Hunters after the ruckus that happened recently. However, at the moment, it had calmed down considerably and returned to its usual state.
With that being said, it was not like it had completely returned back to before that ruckus. The area around the Seranthal building was guarded by soldiers dispatched by Kugamayama city. They were securing a road which connect the Hunter Office and Seranthal building. After that, they placed the Seranthal building under lockdown, controlled by Kugamayama city management.
Akira went to that Mihazono ruin once again with Carol. They were there to do Carol’s Hunter job, which was about collecting data for a map. Akira was accompanying her as her bodyguard. They were spending time talking to each other while exploring the ruin.
“But still, I didn’t expect you would even prepare a large camping car like that just to explore a ruin, are you really that invested in this job?”
For Akira, who always thought of going to the ruin and returning back home on the same day, the idea of preparing a place to sleep nearby was rather foreign to him.
Carol smiled smugly and replied.
“Well, yep, pretty much. Although it’s only for a short time, I’m planning on going to the ruin regularly every day. So, it’s better to have a camping car nearby instead of having to go back and forth from the city every day. The inn in the Hunter Office is not suitable for a beauty like me after all.”
There were many Hunters who went to explore the ruins for many days. In case they were challenging a ruin which would take a huge group of Hunters and a long time to explore, forget a camping car, they would even build temporary housing. Of course, Akira, who always worked alone, never experienced something like that.
Even so, considering the inside of the camping vehicle, it was indeed a bit too excessive.
Akira hummed. “So, that grandiose inside is simply for the sake of appearance, huh? Well, there’s a bath too. You’re really invested in this job.”
“Just how much do you think my body cost? It is worth a lot and everyone evaluates it highly, you know? Don’t you want to have a taste at least once?”
Carol smiled invitingly at Akira. That wonderful body combined with her foxiness had felled many men, but that was not the case for Akira.
“You’re as cold as ever, you know?”
Carol lightly sighed. She then scanned Akira’s body and exasperatedly said.
“You’ve really grown up, you’re taller now and your body is much more pronounced. But even so, you still prefer food over women, huh?”
“Sorry, but that’s the case at the moment.”
Akira lightly smiled and said so, Carol responded with a bitter smile.
“Good grief, this is depressing. Especially when I’m actually doing very well with my side job.”
Akira and Carol kept having such a conversation while they were exploring the ruin. They then noticed another group of Hunters coming in their direction. Their equipment matched the difficulty level of Mihazono ruin and they got close enough to each other to scan the other’s equipment. That was also when the other group drove away to the side of the road as if to avoid Akira and Carol.
Just like that, they passed each other. The Hunters looked at Akira and Carol with concerned looks as they were carrying equipment that did not match the difficulty level of Mihazono ruin. As a matter of fact, their equipment was way too powerful. Some of them looked scared, shocked, or even distrustful and envious of Akira and Carol.
Akira himself also noticed that and felt rather happy knowing that he had really become strong. He then looked at his other teammate, who also had strong equipment as well and was interested in what she had equipped.
Carol noticed Akira’s gaze and teasingly called him out.
“Oh, what is it? Are you interested in me after all?”
“Nope, that’s not it. It’s just that augmented suit, that is one of those powerful augmented suits, right?”
On top of her body-tight inner suit, Carol was using a suit that looked like a simple combination of thin belts and an exposing swimsuit. To top it off, she had an augmented suit that only covered certain parts of her body. That augmented suit had openings on her chest and thighs, which were held together by belts.
That augmented suit including its inner suit were old-world items that only high-ranking Hunters could get. Their performance and sense of design were of the old-world’s. Akira could feel that Carol’s augmented suit gave the same feeling as Melshia’s augmented suit and the augmented suit that Alpha once used.
Carol smiled smugly.
“Yup. I renewed all my equipment including my guns. Your equipment looks pretty powerful too, but I think mine are still better.”
Akira raised his eyebrows.
“Oh? Is that so? I don’t mean to offend you, but you don’t have the money to buy equipment of that calibre, no?”
“Oh my, let me at least tell you this. I’m pretty rich although I look like this, you know? Although, it’s not money from my Hunter job.”
Carol understood that Akira asked that rather rude question with zero bad intention, but even so, she still deliberately made an offended expression. Akira, who saw that, reflected on himself. He realized that it was rather rude of him to say that.
“Ah, sorry. I just thought that kind of equipment usually has Hunter Rank restrictions placed on them.”
Carol’s expression returned back to normal. Though, it was not like she was actually offended in the first place.
“Ohh, that, huh? Well, it’s true that I can’t buy them, but there are other routes where I can procure them.”
Akira tilted his head in confusion, seeing that, Carol happily explained to him.
The Hunter Rank restriction on powerful equipment was mostly applied by the manufacturers. As long as it was not equipment for the front-line, normally, the Corporate Government would not put any rank restriction on them.
Moreover, it was not like there was an exact ruling on how to decide the equipment’s restriction. In the end, that restriction could be adjusted by the discretion of the manufacturer. For example, when a group of Hunters wanted to buy them, it was up to the manufacturer to decide whether to judge based on the groups’ highest Hunter Rank, or lowest one, or the middle one, or by taking the average.
Of course, most would not be willing to sell a Rank 100 equipment to a Rank 10 Hunter even if they were in the same team. That was why such restrictions were not set in stone and up to their whims. Nonetheless, it served its purpose. It was basically a way to motivate Hunters to reach a higher Hunter Rank and to grow or join a large Hunter team. After all, it was easier for the Hunter Office to manage them when they were in groups.
Carol used that to slip through the restriction rule. Since there were many high-ranking Hunters coming to Kugamayama city lately, she temporarily joined a high ranking team to cheat that Hunter Rank restriction. This was where her side job came in handy.
Carol had already left that team. But just because she was no longer in the team, it was not like they could reclaim the equipment that she bought. There were many teams that broke up because of matters between men and women. So, it was impossible for the manufacturer to manage their products to that extent.
Thanks to this method, Carol was able to get equipment that was way outside her Hunter Rank.
After hearing that explanation, Akira sighed exasperatedly.
“…What can I say… To be honest, it would be great if you could behave a bit more.”
“It’s fine, isn’t it? It’s easier on you too when I’m this well-equipped, no?”
“Well, that’s true, but still…”
It was not like Akira himself was a stickler when it came to rules. Since the mystery of how Carol got her equipment was solved, Akira was no longer interested in it now.
On the other hand, Carol herself had to make a compromise with her principals to be able to get her current set of equipment. To be more exact, she had to make peace with her principle to only sleep with those who paid her with money from dangerous jobs.
Even when one joined a high ranking Hunter team, if the difference in equipment was that big, even the seller would be troubled as well. This also meant that it was no trouble at all if the seller was to completely ignore it. Fortunately, in the case of Carol, she knew someone that she could manipulate. It was those who worked with Sheryl’s gang.
It did not take much work for Carol to make an officer from Kiryou to fall for her. She also did the same to the person written as the buyer in the contract. That man also paid for her equipment, which Carol offered her services in return. Thus, she did not have to go through Hunter Rank checks to obtain her equipment. Even if it came to light later, the seller would only take it as those men getting manipulated by a bad girl. They were already under Carol’s charm. They no longer cared about the risk involved in selling and purchasing expensive equipment for a low-rank Hunter, who otherwise would have failed the Hunter Rank requirements.
However, Carol did not find this to be amusing at all. She considered what might happen to her if her fear turned to reality, and even resorted to this.
Carol and Akira walked carefully inside the ruin while gathering information about the area for map brokers. Akira left his bike behind next to Carol’s camping car.
Carol took the front as they proceeded. She stopped many times while they walked. She would regularly check the information data from the information gathering device that she placed there beforehand before continuing to check the other areas.
“Carol, why do we have to collect the data ourselves? Can’t we just use some kind of long-range data transfer to regularly transfer the data or something?”
“I use that kind of device in some areas. Not all. For those, sometimes, monsters manage to catch its signal. They searched for the location of the terminal and destroyed it. That’s why, including the collection of area data, Hunters mainly use devices that are mostly only for receiving signals. The ones I’m personally collecting from, are set to only send data when they receive a certain encrypted message first. Thanks to that, the monsters can’t find them.”
“Ohhh, I see.”
“Well, information about where terminals get broken is actually quite important to those who are deciding on a safe route to take.”
After the last ruckus in Mihazono ruin, things had started to change. The drones guarding the areas, the distribution of monsters, the patrol routes, all of them were completely changed. That was also the case for the city maintenance drones as well. In the past, they only cleaned up rubbles, but now, they even started to rebuild buildings as well.
With all these changes in the ruin, its map, which was formerly free, had become highly valuable. Of course, the better the accuracy of the map, the more expensive it became. In order to decide whether a map was worth its price, people often asked how the map brokers gathered the information about the patrol time and the area. A good map broker would be able to answer that easily.
Akira listened closely to that explanation with great interest.
“So, we’re exploring the ruin in order to get better accuracy for the map, huh? Being a map broker is not easy.”
“It’s just one of the many methods to make maps. There are also people who opt to buy information from Hunters who return back from the ruin and use that information to construct a map. There are also cases where they force someone indebted to them to explore the ruin while carrying inadequate equipment. They would be equipped with an information-gathering device, of course, but they are not expected to return back alive.”
The fact that a certain Hunter with a certain skill level did not return alive could also be valuable information to map out the dangerous area of a ruin. Depending on the debt, these people might get sent to locations where there was not enough information regarding that area.
“So that’s one of the things that would happen to people deep in debt, huh?”
“Although it sounds cruel, depending on their luck and skill, they can repay their debt that way, you know? Many Hunters die meaninglessly inside the ruin after all, so I think it’s one of the better choices.”
Although it was rare, there were Hunters who awakened their talents because of such a cruel fate. These Hunters would sign a contract with some company in exchange for offsetting most of their debt. After all, the eastern district always needed more skilled Hunters. As long as they had the skills, Hunters could always find a way to get back up. Though, many of them die before they have that chance. Also, skilled Hunters would not get drowned in debt in the first place.
Carol had a long history with Viola, so she knew way more than Akira regarding what would happen to those in debt.
The Corporate Government wished people in the eastern district would do honest businesses. This included respecting their basic human rights. However, there was room on how to interpret what was entailed as human rights. After all, in order to push the development of the eastern district, there were many occasions where they had to infringe on human rights.
This included human experimentation. The level of this infringement depended on how much debt one had, the less the debt, the more their human rights were properly respected. One of the prime examples of that was the free food distributed to the slums. If the debt only amounted to a few hundred Aurum, they would only be forced to consume food coming from suspicious sources.
But the opposite was also true, the bigger the debt, the more the danger they had to face. For example, the common drugs sold in the eastern district were only sold to the public after they were tested on people first. More often than not, the stronger the drug, the stronger the side effect was. The nanomachines inside the medicine might worsen a wound instead of healing it. In the worst-case scenario, they might face a fate worse than death.
As the debt got higher, it eventually scaled closer to life-threatening situations. When the debt reached a number that was unreasonably high, they would be forced to undergo hopeless experiments to repay their debt. They would be forced to take substances that would treat them no better than expendable pawns. Although there was no public example of something like that, it was common sense in the eastern district. That common sense had already spread widely and many in the eastern district would rather choose to die instead of getting into debt.
Akria could not help but frown after hearing some examples from Carol. But he then remembered the people who attacked Sheryl’s base in the past. To pay for the compensation, they were forced into debt and were sold. At that time, some of them said that they rather chose death.
When that happened, Akira obliged and granted their wish. And after hearing Carol’s story, he wondered if it was true. They did find a better fate by dying there.
Carol’s camping car was even equipped with a bath. Akira, who spent the night there as Carol’s bodyguard, borrowed the bath after they were done with their Hunter job for the day.
For a bath inside a moving vehicle, it was a relatively big bath. Although it was only enough for one person, it was large enough for someone to extend their legs inside of it. Or more like, leaving the size aside, it was even a better bath than the one Akira had back at home. To be more precise, the warm water there was mixed with extra stuff. Akira remembered that Carol once said Akira was only using a cheap bath and he could understand that difference now as he was enjoying his bath.
Alpha was sitting on the mouth of the bath with only the part under her knees dipped inside the warm water. At first, she was also dipping inside with Akira, but Akira said that it was too cramped and told her to move away.
“Akira, I want to confirm this. How long are you planning to guard Carol?”
“Hm? It is either until she’s fine without me or until my new equipment arrives.”
“I see, that’s fine then.”
“Oh? You’re fine with that? And here I thought you would tell me to stop since I can’t train while guarding Carol.”
However Alpha teasingly replied.
“If it’s about that, there’s no need for you to worry.”
“…Is guarding Carol really that bad?”
“It at least won’t let your skills get rusty and I am not saying this because Carol is bad herself. Rather, she isn’t the source of the problem. Didn’t you say it yourself before? You often become the source of a problem or get roped into one. So that at the very least won’t let your skills get rusty.”
Akira just laughed bitterly and did not deny that at all.
While Akira was in the bath, Carol was working on constructing a map from the information that they collected that day using a terminal fixed to the camping car. At the same time, she was also browsing the net. After seeing the result, she sighed.
[Still no change, huh? It’s not like I can keep having Akira protect me like this forever. With that being said, it’s not like I can move around recklessly either, I need to be patient.]
Carol concluded that it was best for her to keep laying low and not cause any trouble for the time being while hoping that the situation would change soon.
That was when Akira returned from the bath. Carol quickly replaced the troubled look on her face with her usual smile and went to the bath. This was for the sake of keeping at least one of them, Akira or Carol, ready for a fight anytime. So, she waited until Akira finished putting on his augmented suit before starting to take off her own augmented suit.
Although there was no changing room inside the camping car, there was a curtained partition. But even so, Carol did not use it and started undressing in front of him. Akira finally showed a reaction when he saw Carol’s beautiful body that she had spent billions of Aurum to maintain. Unfortunately, his reaction was more of exasperation. Seeing that, she thought he was the same as always and smiled bitterly while she went to the bath.
While dipping inside the especially adjusted warm water, Carol probed her body as if to give it a full-body check. Although it looked like she was casually probing her body, her grip strength was way over what a normal human could do. It was even stronger than the power of an augmented suit.
Equipment was not the only thing that she got by compromising her principles. In order to strengthen her enhanced body, she somehow managed to acquire nanomachines distributed near the frontline. Although her outer appearance still stayed the same. An original alluring body designed to lure men, the nanomachine coursing inside it was of a completely different level. If she wished to, she could obtain a temporary superhuman body in exchange for nanomachine consumption.
In the past, she carefully washed her body for her side job. This time, she did the same but doubled for training to get used to her now powerfully enhanced body. She carefully moved her body not to practice how to entice men but to minimize the usage of her nanomachine, which was useful for fighting.
When she finished bathing and returned back, Akira was no longer inside the room. As she was puzzled as to what was going on, a call from Viola suddenly reached her. Since the notification indicated that it was an urgent call, she decided to pick it up while still buck naked. Although, she did find the timing of the call and Akira’s disappearance to be equally strange,
“Viola, what’s wrong?”
“Carol. You’ve been doing great with your side job, right? It seems that the team led by someone named Zelos mentioned that one of his men even used the team’s budget for you. That man you sunk your claws in is named Babalod.”
“Ahh, him, huh? And here I thought that he was being extremely generous to me. So, he even went as far as to use the team’s budget, huh? To think that he would go even that far… His luck with women is really awful. So, what then?”
“When the rest of the team discovered it, he said that he was manipulated by you. And now the whole team is looking for you.”
Carol heaved a huge sigh.
“I see, so, what’s the situation?”
“It seems that they have already discovered your current location from an information broker. If you’re planning to negotiate with them, I don’t mind taking it over for you though.”
“Let me think about it first. Thanks. I’ll call you again.”
Carol closed the call, she then shouted as she put on her augmented suit.
“Akira~! Where are you~?”
A reply came from the terminal connected to the vehicle.
“Outside, it seems that some people are heading in this direction. So I’m standing by, ready outside.”
Carol was a bit surprised, and she went to check the vehicle’s radar. Although it was still outside the radius where it would send in an alert, there was indeed a signal headed in their direction. Judging from its speed, it seemed to be a vehicle that did not seem to be headed for the ruins. Although it was coming from the direction of the wasteland, if it was aiming for the ruin, it would have gone to the Hunter Office’s direction instead, not Carol’s camping car, which was parked rather far away from the Hunter Office.
Carol lightly smiled as she felt a level of reassurance on how decisive and quickly Akira responded. She proceeded to put on her augmented suit and picked up her equipment before going outside as well. She did not seem to be scared at all. Although, she did think that it was a pain in the neck. Her opponent this time was a team of high-rank Hunters. But even so, that was not a rare occurrence considering her side job. So, she told herself that she could deal with it just like usual to calm herself down.
Based on the situation, she even thought of taking care of it all by herself without Akira. After all, it was not like she employed Akira to do something like this.