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Chapter 189, The Value of Money
Akira woke up inside a hospital room. He pushed his body up from the bed and looked around, once he understood what had happened, he sighed.
Alpha was sitting on the bed beside Akira and smiled at him.
“Morning, Akira. Did you get a good sleep?”
“Yeah… But well, this makes it the second time, huh? I don’t know whether I should be happy that I survived or I should be sad for getting hospitalized again.”
“There’s no reason for you to be sad, so just be honest and be happy about it.”
“Let me confirm it, why can you be so sure?”
“There’s no reason to not be happy since you survived, that is true for both me and you. I’m really glad that you survived that fight.”
Alpha smiled gently. Akira who saw that blushed a bit. But that was only until he heard her next words as she half-jokingly said.
“Moreover, this isn’t your first time having to face something like that, right? It would be a waste of time to question that now, wouldn’t it?”
“…Well, you have a point there… And I really hate the fact that I have to accept it.”
Akira once again laid back on the bed, Alpha only looked at him gently when he did so.
Not too long after that, Kibayashi entered the room.
“Akira, you’re finally awake, how are you feeling?”
“Really? Do you feel anything strange around your arms or legs? Can you move your fingers?”
Akira thought that it was weird for Kibayashi to say that, but he still tried to move his fingers to confirm it, and as expected, he did not feel anything wrong.
“Still nothing, why did you say that? Don’t tell me that you gave me the bare minimum treatment since you didn’t know whether I can pay or not, right?”
“It’s the opposite. You were strapped into an emergency life-support system when I arrived in the forward base. You were in pretty bad shape. Especially your limbs, they were close to being turned into minced meat, you know. Though in the end, we used those super expensive regeneration treatments to get them back, they were basically grown and then sewn to your body. So it won’t be strange if you feel something wrong with them. But you seem to be alright. So yeah, the treatment cost is going to be crazy high.”
The damage on his legs was from that jump while the damage on his arms was from the barrage. Akira remembered vividly that he did do those things. So when he imagined how much the treatment cost was going to be, he started to get nervous.
“…So, how much is it?”
“About that, you see. We need to have a talk. It will be a long one since I need to let you know what had happened and we need to discuss the reward for your request too, so let’s talk while having a meal… Don’t worry, you did very well back there, the treatment cost won’t surpa.s.s your reward money.”
Kibayashi smiled at the fl.u.s.tered Akira.
Akira changed to the clothes available in the room and left the room with Kibayashi. They hopped on a vehicle that came to pick them up and returned back to the Kugama building.
As Akira was about to head to a restaurant on the first floor, Kibayashi stopped him.
“Akira, not that one.”
“No? Then why did you bring me here? Do we have to do some administrative stuff first?”
“Nope, we’re going up.”
Kibayashi pointed up with a smile filled with excitement. Akira found it weird, but the moment he understood what Kibayashi was signalling, his expression changed.
The restaurants on the upper floors of the Kugama building were so great that they changed Akira’s views on food, and this would be the third time he went to that building for a meal.
Akira sat on the seat that he was guided to. He was jovial and excited but at the same time a bit confused while he sat there, Kibayashi ignored it and extended a handshake with a big smile on his face.
“First of all, let me congratulate you. You have become a great Hunter, great enough even for the City Management to treat you to a meal in this restaurant. The first time I saw you, you were stuck with the other Hunters who could not manage to raise their ranks in that truck, and now look at you, you’ve gone up the ranks so quickly in such a short time. It’s really impressive. As someone who has kept his eyes on you through all of those crazy things that you did, I can’t help but give myself a pat on the back for spotting your potential.”
“Eh? Ah, yeah, sure.”
Akira was behaving like a small fry who had never visited such a high-cla.s.s restaurant. But he had the achievements sufficient for the restaurant to let him in. Kibayashi found that discrepancy very interesting as he laughed hard.
“You should get yourself used to this kind of restaurant soon, you know? I like you, so I can tolerate how you are acting, but more often than not, others would take advantage of it. Those types of people often invite well-established Hunters, who can’t handle negotiation, into this kind of high-cla.s.s restaurant and use that opening to poison them. So you should be careful, okay?”
“Even if you say so, I don’t have enough money to visit this kind of restaurant that often, you see.”
“In that case, I can bring you requests that would allow you to use a high-cla.s.s restaurant as the negotiation site. Though it would be nothing but high-level and dangerous requests, since it’s you we’re talking here, so I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”
Akira’s expression soured a bit.
“No thanks. I bet it’s something that would send me to hospital again.”
“You don’t understand. If it’s a request dangerous enough to get you hospitalized again, you’ll get a huge reward if you can finish it…”
“Yeah yeah, make sure that it won’t get me hospitalized first.”
As Kibayashi boasted about himself on how he would be able to bring such high-level requests to Akira, Akira only listened to him with a seriously annoyed face. Once they calmed down at some point, Akira opened the menu as if to cut short that subject there. Kibayashi who saw that only smiled amusedly and opened the menu too.
Once they had placed their orders and were waiting for the food, Kibayashi started explaining to Akira what had happened after he fainted.
When Akira arrived at the forward base half-dead, he was immediately put into the life support system just like the other severely wounded Hunters.
Among all the other severely wounded Hunters that were not treated seriously, Akira received better treatment which guaranteed his survivability. Nelia did something to make sure that Akira would be treated as if he was working under Yanagisawa.
The battle between monster swarms and the city’s defence squad was still ongoing around Kugamayama city after Akira fainted. Although the size of the swarm was smaller than before, there were huge monsters and even flying monsters mixed in that swarm, thus they were relatively more dangerous than before. Average Hunters could not handle them and they would only slow other Hunters down as such only high ranking Hunters were offered high rewards and sent to repel that swarm.
When the City Management was considering sending out its trump card, the swarm suddenly broke down. Monsters that were originally heading straight to the city suddenly changed their directions. As some of them started rampaging, destroying anything around them, some of them retreated and vanished into the wasteland. While more than half of the swarm returned back to the ruin.
It was because they were forcefully manipulated by Tiol to go against the system. And with Tiol gone, the control returned back to the system. Although some of the monsters that had grown past the system’s control did not return back, those that returned back to the system’s side returned to their patrol area. For those that had their patrol area information destroyed, they just followed the broken order from the system to wander aimlessly, while some of them received the order to patrol a different area.
The city’s defence squad pushed back the swarm just like that until they met the squads from the forward base, and that signified the end of the battle against the swarm. Now that the route between the city and the forward base was secured, those who were severely wounded in the forward base were transported back to the city. Akira was identified as a Hunter who would not have a problem with paying for the treatment cost, so just like last time he was hospitalized, they went ahead and gave him an expensive treatment without asking him first. After his wounds were healed, they cleaned the nanomachines leftover inside his body, and now, he was back all healthy and ready to go again.
Although Akira did not understand everything, he more or less understood the big idea of what Kibayashi was saying, and of course, that would mean he did not understand what Kibayashi was unclear about.
“What happened to those large monsters after that? Did you kill them all?”
“No, some of them are still left. The city’s defence squad also returned back to their post once the swarm retreated after all. I’m sure there are still some of those large monsters roaming in and around the ruin. Although they’re not regarded as bounty monsters yet, they’re strong enough that the City Management is considering putting a bounty on them. So any Hunters who get to kill any of those are offered a special reward. Although they’re big and strong, as long as they don’t form a swarm, they’re not that hard to kill after all. It’s the perfect target for those Hunters who want to get their name out there. So other than those that have returned back to the ruin, I bet most of the monsters roaming in the wasteland are already being hunted down.”
Kibayashi smiled happily and warned Akira.
“Though I won’t exactly prevent you, I recommend you not to join the hunt. You already got yourself a pretty highly prized target under your belt, so let lower rank Hunters have them instead. It’s one of those ‘good manners’ as a high-ranking Hunter.”
“…Manners, huh. Well, I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Yup, you better do it.”
The ordered meal finally arrived at the table. Akira did not know which one to pick, so he had ended up ordering the recommended menu. When that meal arrived in front of him, it changed Akira’s solemn expression to a smile. And when he scooped that up to his mouth, he could not fight back the taste that spread around his tongue and his smile widened.
Akira could not stop chowing down the food in front of him as if he was completely defeated by the taste of the meal. Kibayashi who watched it thought that Akira really needed to get himself used to coming to a high-cla.s.s restaurant.
After they finished the meal and Akira could finally focus on the discussion, Kibayashi started talking about the main reason why they came there.
“I guess it’s time to talk about the reward then. First of all, the rank boost. This will affect the rest of your reward, so think carefully before you decide. Your Hunter Rank can basically go up somewhere between 42 and 50. Of course, the more you put your reward on your Hunter Rank, the less money that you get. So, how far do you want to go?”
Before Akira could say 42, Kibayashi frowned and continued.
“Or so I want to say, but I’m sure you would immediately say 42, right? I know well you’re just that kind of guy. That’s why I will explain to you the importance of Hunter Rank, make sure to listen well… Let’s see, if I am to give a concrete example… Let’s talk about the anti-forcefield ammo. How much did it cost when you bought it for the first time?”
“5 million Aurum per bullet.”
“If you get Hunter Rank 50, you can buy it for 500 Aurum per bullet.”
Akira was about to blow out all the food inside his mouth, but since it would be such a waste, he was able to somehow hold it in. He then managed to swallow it while making a weird pose to hold back his surprise. After that, he took one deep breath to calm himself down and looked back at Kibayashi.
“A-are you being serious here?”
“Yes, let me explain. There are many factors that decide the cost of such a bullet, this includes the power distribution and the city’s safety. I know it’s hard to accept, but that’s just how the world works, so you better know this kind of thing. Well, it’s still a biased opinion from my point of view, but still, make sure to listen well, alright?”
Kibayashi started explaining slowly as if to calm Akira down after that surprising revelation.
The price of ammo in the eastern district was decided solely by the government, so it’s based on how much profit the Corporate Government could earn. The reason why people could easily buy ammo in the slum city and why that ammo was sold at such a cheap price was all because they were designed to maintain profit for the Corporate Government.
There were many reasons as to why cheap bullets were sold in slum city. That way people in the slum city would be able to fight back the monsters coming from the wasteland, thus protecting the inner part of the city. And after they got used to fighting monsters, they would eventually become Hunters whom the City Management could hire as cheap soldiers. Of course, there were many reasons other than this.
There was one thing common among all the cheap ammunition sold in the slum city, none of them worked against the forcefield armour of the city’s defence squad. Even a barrage from those bullets would not leave a scratch against their forcefield armour. That way, the city’s defence squad could easily destroy the slum city and its people without any resistance.
So those bullets that could be used to fight back the city’s defence squad were priced highly depending on their effectiveness. Even more so for anti-forcefield armour.
But if the government set the price of a single bullet that high so that the people of the slum city would never be able to buy it, it would also prevent the Hunters from getting the ammo that they needed. But once those Hunters had enough money to buy them, albeit only a little, the people that the City Management did not wish to obtain these bullets, would be able to procure them.
In order to solve this problem, the Corporate Government issued a discount for high ranking Hunters. After all, the stronger a Hunter, the more he or she would fight powerful monsters. But of course, they could not just give the bullets away for free, although the discount also depended on the type of the bullet, high ranking Hunters could buy them almost for free.
This policy was enforced also in order to increase the value of Hunter Rank, rather than increasing the price of the bullet to an unreasonably high price, this would also encourage Hunters to aim for a higher Hunter Rank.
Of course, those Hunters who tend to go against the City Management would be stuck in the low rank which also served as a way for the Hunter Office to control the Hunters. It was their way to tell the Hunters not to go against the City Management if they wanted to get a higher rank and cheap bullets.
Back then, when Akira placed his order for anti-forcefield bullets via Shizuka’s shop, of course, this discount was already applied to that order. The reason why he did not notice it was simply because he was not the one paying so he did not bother to check the total price.
After considering the danger of these bullets when they fall to the wrong hands, and the problem that it might cause for both the City Management and the Hunter Office if one of those Hunters used that bullet to kill a city guard, they decided to sell anti-forcefield armour for 5 million Aurum per bullet. Akira understood that reasoning but he still felt conflicted about it. Although he could follow the logic, that did not mean he could accept it, and it was obvious from his face.
“I see that you find it really displeasing, but as I said, that’s just how the world works. It’s important to know when to give up, you know? If you don’t like it, your only choice is to get your own territory and sell that kind of bullets cheaply inside your territory. Well, there’s also some rumours saying that if you’re a low ranking Hunter buying expensive bullets, the Hunter Office would note your name and introduce you to high-level requests though.”
“Yep, only rumours. There’s no rule nor formal evaluation about it, the efficiency itself is questionable. There is no guarantee on the result as well. Rumours just like this, including information saying that it’s also used as a method to find a hidden gem or powerful Hunters disguising as a low-ranking Hunter like you. It’s all just rumours.”
It was a good way to raise the Hunters’ expectations without promising concrete results, but at the same time, it was enough to suppress complaints from the Hunters. Akira understood that but there was still something that he found weird.
“But still, selling 500 Aurum bullets for 5 million Aurum, huh? Won’t there be high ranking Hunters trying to make a profit out of this?”
“That depends on the Hunters. If you’re sharing it with some of your Hunter friends, then it’s fine, but if you blatantly resell it for profit, it’ll be seen as treason toward the Corporate Government and you’ll get a bounty on your head. Though it depends on the case, it’s basically the same as picking a fight with the Corporate Government after all. It won’t end well for you, so if you don’t want to pick a fight with the Corporate Government, just don’t do it.”
Kibayashi said so in a casual manner, but his tone indicated that he was being serious. Akira told himself to make sure to never do that.
“That should be enough explanation for now, your other rewards depend on how far you are going to boost your Hunter Rank after all. So, before you make your decision, I have another thing that I need to talk about with you. It’s about buying your track record again… Or at least something similar to that subject came to me.”
“Do you mean that you want to erase the last request from my Hunter track record again?”
“Not that far, you worked with a black powered suit on your last day, right? It’s a small adjustment just for that day. Basically, we need to discuss how you are going to let me change it and how much money you want for it.”
Kibayashi pulled out his information terminal and showed the detailed doc.u.ment to Akira. By the end of that long character-dense doc.u.ment, there was a contract page.
“I don’t mind if you want to take a close look at it, but I will still give you a short general explanation. Basically, if you sign this contract, your track record would say that you did help the black powered suit but you didn’t do anything significant. Including the money to make sure that you keep this confidential, we’re willing to pay you 1 billion Aurum. So, yes or no?”
Akira took the information terminal and scrolled through the contract. Although it looked like he did not read anything and just skipped the points written in that contract, Alpha was actually properly reading the contract. She then confirmed its content and let Akira know about it.
Akira hummed. Kibayashi raised his eyebrows, he did not expect Akira would hesitate.
“And here I thought you don’t care about your Hunter track record, or is it that 1 billion Aurum is not enough? Well, I don’t know the detail, but it seems that you’ve defeated something big and almost got killed yourself doing that. So I can understand if you don’t want to erase that from your track record.”
“That’s not the problem, the problem is the 1 billion Aurum.”
“Is it not enough?”
“No, it’s too big that I don’t understand why it’s worth that much. So I just can’t help but get suspicious…”
If the value was unnaturally high, that means there must be something troublesome behind it, that was why Akira was hesitating. If the compensation was too little, Akira might feel offended by it but that would be the end of it. But to be honest, he just wanted to get paid a suitable amount of money. Unfortunately, he had no information that could help him decide its worth, thus he could not even tell if 1 billion Aurum was actually too big or too small.
“…What do you think? Do you think this 1 billion Aurum is a suitable compensation?”
Kibayashi paused a bit from that question.
“Suitable compensation, huh? It’s something that both parties should agree on. After all, there’s no concrete way to decide this price, you see. To be honest, I don’t know either. But I don’t think that compensation is something that you need to be worried about. There’s some level of confidentiality around this information, so I didn’t get the full story either. It’s mostly my guess, but I think it’s an offer made to be on your good side. Do you want to know the reason why I think so?”
Unfortunately, Akira did not have enough knowledge to understand Kibayashi’s reasoning. But he was genuinely interested in that subject, so he replied back without showing any hesitation.
Kibayashi made sure to let Akira know that in the end, it was nothing more than a personal guess. So it was not like it could be used as concrete proof.
“That black powered suit might be a new model and someone is trying to use the last battle to promote it.”
Kibayashi’s guess was that a certain weapon manufacturer released one of its new models into slum city in order to collect combat data disguising it as an accident. The unit then showed notable results performing against other powered suits in the midst of the battle in which multiple powered suits were involved.
Then, it would fight the city’s defence squad sent to suppress it and deliberately lose but not before showing its capabilities. From there, the company could make a public apology for it while using it as a negotiation material to get the City Management to buy it for the city’s defence squad. The data taken from a battle nearby the inner wall was very effective material for negotiating against those inside the inner wall.
But there was an accident in that plan. A certain Hunter actually defeated that black powered suit. So the manufacturer immediately retrieved it back and before any bad rumour went out in public, they changed and renewed the unit and sent it out again for the original reason.
This time the plan went well, the black powered suit was able to kill many humongous monsters and demonstrated its capability. Moreover, it then encountered a powerful monster strong enough to change the contour of the ruin and defeated that monster. This achievement would be the perfect material to promote that new unit.
But again, there was a small accident with the plan. During that fight, the new unit was working together with the same Hunter who defeated that exact unit last time. Then to top it off, it was actually that Hunter who executed the big monster. If this track record went out in public, it would look like the new unit was only able to do what it did because of that Hunter. While at the same time, they did not want to completely discard the involvement of the new unit in this battle record either.
In this case, if they said that the Hunter did not contribute much during the fight and just ran around and obstructed the fight, then it would be a great battle record for the new unit. Personal opinion of how much someone contributed during a fight was a subjective thing based on the person giving that opinion. But if they were able to skew that opinion toward the new unit, it would really help promote the new unit.
“If that result caused the new unit to be deployed in this city and the other cities, it would move around a huge amount of money. I believe that they think this 1 billion Aurum is just a small amount of money compared to the profit that they could get but it should be enough to satisfy the involved Hunter.”
Akira listened to Kibayashi’s explanation with great interest. He then noticed something else and slightly frowned.
“Say, don’t tell me the reason why I got stuck with that request to increase my Hunter Rank is…”
“Exactly, it would be embarra.s.sing if the Hunter who defeated that new unit is just a low-ranking Hunter. It would definitely hurt the reputation of that new unit. But, if that Hunter is actually a strong Hunter disguising as a low-ranking Hunter, then they still could still save some face. That’s why they wanted you to raise your Hunter Rank as fast as possible. It’s all their doing… Or at least, there’s a good chance that it’s the case, again, in the end, it’s nothing but a guess, okay? As I said, it’s just a guess.”
Kibayashi threw a smile that was hiding something. Akira sighed. All in all, someone did something and he was roped into trouble because of that.
Akira quickly agreed to the contract, but Kibayashi delayed the signing of the contract to hear from Akira the details of that battle. After all, he would not be able to ask Akira about that battle after the contract was signed.
Although Akira signed the contract, he still thought that 1 billion Aurum was a little bit too much. But after seeing Kibayashi laughing his heart out after listening to the story, Akira started to half-believe that it might indeed be worth that much, as the other half of him honestly did not care about it anymore and stopped thinking about it.
In order to ask his question, Kibayashi tried to calm himself down from laughing.
“By the way, why did you stay behind to help that powered suit? I can understand that you missed your chance after you lost your decoy, but I don’t think that’s enough as an excuse, you know?”
“I might have been in a mood to do it back then.”
“Just in a mood, huh? Is that all the reason why you stayed behind? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good reason! Yup, it’s the perfect reason! Those Hunters who only think in terms of loss and profit won’t do something that crazy after all.”
Judging from Akira’s exasperated reaction, Kibayashi was sure that Akira had another reason and it was not like he was trying to hide that reason either. Probably Akira himself was not really sure why he did that, or why he decided to step deeper into a dangerous situation. Kibayashi found that very interesting as he could not hold back his laughter and started to laugh again.
If the reason that Akira himself did not understand well was put into words, it would be sympathy, pride and hatred. It was the sympathy to his ally even if it was an ally for a single day, that was his line of thinking of how he differentiated between allies and enemies. The pride and self-dignity to follow through his job to its very end. And the hatred toward himself for allowing himself to work with a relic thief for the sake of his job.
That vague amalgamation of feelings that Akira could not understand almost got him killed as well as allowed him to survive. But this abnormal way of thinking that he himself did not fully understand shifted his action further and further away from Alpha’s guidance.
Kibayashi finally calmed down from laughing hard and started discussing the rest of the reward. It took some time until they reached a deal that both parties agreed on.
Silavin: So, if Akira’s bullets at that time were already discounted… How G.o.dd.a.m.n cheap is the Hunter Office? Or just how much did he actually buy?