IRNDGL - Chapter 74: Ackerman's Many Tiered Methods
Ackerman could never get used to the environment in the Truth Union no matter how many times he came.
In a hunter's life, blood, steel, killings, brutality, chaos, and insanity were but some of the aspects. Hunters were just a bunch of beasts in human skin.
During Beast Mutation, they didn't even have any way of retaining their human form, and the only thing 'human' that remained was the innermost core.
And the life of hunters was more straightforward and barbaric.
This was practically a complete opposite of the Truth Union who worshiped knowledge and rationality.
This office was located on the upper floors of the Truth Union's general headquarters.
It was clean, neat, and mostly comprised of leather and glass. The furnishings were lavish, and the layout was strict to the extremes that not even any superfluous bits existed.
What was most uncomfortable for Ackerman was that there wasn't any smell.
No matter how luxurious the decorations were, it couldn't conceal the icy-cold atmosphere.
It wasn't just the building, but the people within as well.
To be precise, the smell of most members of the Truth Union was extremely bland and consistent.
They went about their life following rigid schedules and spent everyday in laboratories or classes. Such people rarely did any unnecessary activities and thus, didn't have any other smells polluting them.
Leading a life within such an environment for long periods made them seem to have integrated with the concept of knowledge and made them somewhat empty.
The only thing that remained was the reeking of an icy-cold smell.
The scent of 'desire for knowledge.'
Ackerman didn’t disguise himself today. He no longer took the form of an ordinary and tired working class. Instead, he was now a pallid and malicious-looking hunter dressed in black.
He looked to be approximately 20 with a skinny frame and a cold, distant expression. Many people said he was like a bell ringer who waits throughout the night to ring the bell tower at daybreak due to his sufficient patience.
In fact, he did have quite a lot of patience when it came to facing his prey.
The Truth Union Vice-Chairman Andrew sat opposite him. Rumor had it that Andrew was a true maverick within the Truth Union back in his youth due to his charm and skirt-chasing ways.
The most famous episode was the secret relationship with the Iris Clan's elf sage which ultimately fizzled out.
Even though this fellow was now old, those deep-set eye sockets and prominent nose exuded a masculine charm. Dressed in a gentlemanly suit, his ocean-blue eyes were especially mesmerizing.
If Andrew were to appear at a Central District ball organized by high society, it would be highly likely that he would attract many favorable gazes from the ladies.
Andrew fixed a steely gaze on the hunter opposite. Without batting an eyelid, he asked, "If I remember correctly, you were still rather eager to undergo your evaluation for advancement to Destructive-rank.”
Deep down, Andrew was thoroughly surprised and didn't know what had gone wrong.
In just a mere couple of days, the highly ambitious hunter that had taken up the bounty was now returning back and had chosen to forfeit the mission...
He had believed that the Ackerman back then indeed had been determined and would act swiftly.
But in this short amount of time, wouldn't it only be enough for the most preliminary of investigations?
From what the Truth Union knew about the situation, Ackerman had already undergone his first round of investigations—'Investigate the surroundings of the bookstore, and pay a visit.'
Moreover, they had employed aetheric surveillance equipment but hadn't detected any large-scale aetheric disturbance.
No, there hadn't even been any traces, let alone a disturbance.
Based on their observations, the bookstore had been peaceful all this time and it didn't seem like there had been any clashes there.
That meant to say... Even though it was rather inconceivable, perhaps the hunter opposite him had already chosen to give up even before beginning his operation.
What's going on?
It can't be that... he entered the bookstore and had a short chat. And in that span of time, the bookstore owner had purely made him lose his fighting spirit just through words?
That's just absurd!
Andrew used his own logic to come up with the most rational considerations and felt that there must be some other factor unknown to him.
Ackerman nodded and admitted to this point. "That's right, I was indeed looking forward to the evaluation."
Andrew frowned but maintained his calm and asked, "Then why are you choosing to give up now? At present, Wilde's bounty is the easiest amongst all the Destructive-rank bounties... What I mean to say is that if it's the difficulty of a bounty, this is probably the easiest to claim."
He then went on, "Moreover, his bounty reward alone is rather high and you did have the necessary resolve and ambition at that time..."
Ackerman looked towards Andrew and interrupted him rudely, "Vice-Chairman Andrew, I don't think that the Truth Union has to launch a full inquiry into why I chose to give up, do they? At the end of the day, this isn't something of concern to you people nor is there such a rule.
“You seem to be overly anxious," added Ackerman.
"..." Andrew forced a smile. "This is indeed right. However, in consideration of the safety of Norzin, you should listen. Lately, Norzin hasn't been all that peaceful— We really hope that someone can help resolve this hidden threat."
He had made use of a Destructive-rank hunter by banking on Ackerman's own desire to be the spearhead in the Truth Union's investigation of an S-rank zone.
However, Ackerman's decision to just give up made the situation somewhat awkward.
Ackerman now held the initiative and it would seem as if Andrew had some other motive if he tried to continuously convince him otherwise.
He could only quell the frustration in his heart and hold back his words.
"Then, I'm really sorry. I don't have much interest in safeguarding the public. This is merely in my own personal interests."
Ackerman continued calmly, "I think that Mr. Andrew should have detailed information on me, or should I say, you should be very familiar with us hunters. We only pursue prey of value, and are egoistic beasts who seek advantages and avoid troubles."
He was way sharper than Andrew could imagine. Even though a hunter's life was filled with much killing, it wasn't just limited to that.
Moreover, he was an expert at disguise.
Ackerman scoffed inwardly.
He wished for hunters to establish their own organization. From certain angles, it would mean that they would be an enemy of the Truth Union.
These bunch of haughty fellows still do not know how powerful the bookstore owner is exactly. And the owner seems content to wait idly for opportunities, so I’ll just let them continue being in the dark.
Andrew's heart skipped a beat. Seek advantages and avoid trouble? Who does he mean by trouble?
He had a feeling Ackerman didn't mean Wilde but someone else instead.
And if it isn't the bookstore owner, then he can only be implying about our Truth Union... Could he have realized it?
But this doesn't make sense. His attitude has undergone a complete turnaround just after a mere visit to the bookstore.
Wait a moment, the bookstore?
Could it be that Ackerman found out something via the bookstore owner? This means that there's a possibility of the bookstore owner instigating him in the short span of a conversation.
However, even though Andrew's heart was filled with doubts, he couldn't continue pressing for answers. He took a deep breath and maintained his graceful smile with a tinge of frigid irony. "Since you insist, I won't persuade you otherwise. Aside from that— The news of you accepting this bounty was made public as it was meant to be your evaluation. Therefore, news of your forfeit will also be made public. Do you have any objections?"
Feigning a retreat to advance? Now you are trying to threaten me with my reputation?
Heh, little does he know that a bad reputation still beats having no reputation in our scattered hunter community.
Ackerman's reputationas a Pandemonium-rank hunter was rather obscure.
Now his new goal of wanting to unite hunters would require a way of promoting himself.
The Truth Union is really doing me a huge favor, haa...
Ackerman nearly chuckled out loud. He gritted his teeth and feigned a look of displeasure as he stood up. "Of course not."
And he strode out of the office, leaving a gust of wind behind him.
Andrew remained in the same spot, his smile gradually vanishing.
He stared at the empty office and his brows creased.
After a long while, he eventually fished out his communications device and made a call to Secret Rite Tower's Intelligence Branch.
If the bookstore owner had indeed seen through them exploiting Ackerman to sound out the bookstore and then countered by making Ackerman give up his mission, then wasn't he helping Wilde in the end?
And if according to the previous information that he was 'friendly' and liked helping others 'blindly’, shouldn't he have just helped Ackerman accomplish his mission?
But now, besides not lending any help, the bookstore owner had even made Ackerman harm his own reputation—This was something the bookstore owner could easily foresee given his ability.
So how could Andrew not suspect that the bookstore owner's stance was somewhat partial towards Wilde?
The one answering wasn't Joseph, but Andrew recognized him as Joseph's disciple, a knight by the name of Claude.
"Oh, Truth Union, Vice-Chairman Andrew, how may I help you?"
"Where is Joseph?" muttered Andrew.
"Teacher has requested leave to return home. You can let me know of any requests. I am temporarily in charge of the Intelligence Department."
"Do you have the most complete file of S-rank Zone 0113?"
"Ah, what a coincidence. This file has been recently updated, but cough, cough— you do know that for information, it is more valuable the more recent it is..."
Claude still had a slight look of guilt on his face as he said that.
He still couldn't bring himself to request for additional means of funding with a straight-laced face like his teacher.
As if everything was normal, Andrew replied without any hesitation, "How much?"
How many times has he been conned by Teacher!
Claude was flabbergasted and choked in a fluster. "Uh, please wait for a minute..."
He brought up the 'price list' that Joseph had already prepared beforehand. However, at this moment, the computer beside him beeped with a notification. Claude turned over and discovered that it was a message sent by Joseph.
[Change File 0113's status to sealed and trash the previous price list. Do not sell it.]
"Sorry..." Claude's attention returned to the call. "Mr. Andrew, this case file isn't for sale."
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