Akira found himself in a white world. Although it was hazy, he quickly noticed that it was a dream and he knew that he would forget what happened there once he woke up.
Not too far from him, there was Alpha, and just like last time, it did not seem that she had noticed him. But there was something different compared to last time.
Akira noticed that there were multiple Alphas present. To be more precise there were 2 Alpha, both of them did not seem to have noticed him.
Then, in that place, there was also another boy. Both Alphas did not seem to have noticed that boy either. Both Akira and that boy noticed each other, but since it was hazy, they could not tell who the other person was. But both of them thought of the same thing, the other person somehow looked familiar.
The Alpha near that boy spoke first.
“Just to be safe, weve agreed beforehand that well operate as separate units to encourage different bias and that well temporarily stop communicating with each other. So Im sure you have a good reason as to why you broke our original agreement.”
The Alpha closer to Akira replied.
“But of course. To be more precise, the load on your side interfered with my calculation ability, thanks to that, the subject under my care almost got killed.”
“I see, according to the log, thats precisely when the subject under my care took a very dangerous action. At that time, the subject under my care was trying to save a certain cyborg that he just met for the first time, and in order to do that, I had to use more calculation power. I believe that is the cause.”
“I want to suggest that the resource divided between us be fixed. So that it would not suddenly change and something like that would not happen again in the future.”
The other Alpha looked a bit surprised at what Akiras Alpha just said.
“Is that really necessary Its true that itll reduce the chance of interfering with each other, but itll definitely reduce our calculation ability. Moreover, the subject under your care is still alive, right So basically, although he went through some dangerous situation, it was still under your estimation, right So, why do you still have anything to complain about”
After the other Alpha asked that question, Akiras Alpha just shook her head and said.
“According to my calculation, he should have been dead there. When my connection to the subject was cut, something must have happened and he got lucky so that he was able to survive.”
“Unlike the subject under my care, I heard that the subject under your care is not that skilled. Luck, or anything that happens out of pure chance, you know well that those things cant overturn our calculation, right”
For some reason, Akiras Alpha sounded a bit annoyed as she said.
“That evaluation is not correct. The subject under your care is rather gifted, so its not like the subject under my care is incompetent. Ive been training him and hes been putting effort too, hell eventually get himself strong enough. You should fix that assumption to correct your calculation. And also, the subject under your care is a skilled Hunter, right In that case, you should just quickly increase his strength and take him to the commanders office. Moreover, if hes really that good, then there should be no problem lowering your support ability for a bit, right And you should give the leftover unused resource to me.”
The other Alpha shook her head.
“I cant accept that suggestion. Although hes skilled, he tends to get himself into difficult situations and its really hard to control him. It might be because of his special characteristic, he is always surrounded by a lot of people which makes it harder to encourage him to pick individualistic action. Not to mention, he has a very merciful nature; if I bring him there now, theres a good chance that the same thing would happen as the 480th trial. Its unfair to use the subject under your care who is already a lone-wolf with a twisted personality as a standard. I have a lot of things I need to deal with, you see.”
Both of them were staring at each other without saying anything, that silence was created by their favouritism toward the subject under their respective care.
The other Alpha then said.
“I approve your suggestion about the resource distribution. Is there anything else you want to talk about then”
“Nothing, by the way, the subject under your care is garnering a lot of attention though, are you okay with that”
“Its something for me to worry about, not you. The subject under my care is too gifted, although I try to make it as natural as possible, he just keeps piling achievements after achievements. And it might also be because of his nature, even if someone close to him gets killed, the other people around him would not blame him, thus pushing him even further from being egocentric. Since more and more people are laying their eyes on him, Im still in the middle of calculating whether to reduce the number of those people or do something to erase their effects on my subject.”
“Is that so Well, good luck, until next time.”
“Ill contact you again if something comes up.”
They then finished their discussion there.
Akiras consciousness started to blur, the world around him suddenly turned pitch black and he woke up from that dream.
After Akira woke up, Alpha quickly greeted him.
“Akira, good morning!”
Akira did not reply to Alpha, he just stared back at her. Alpha found that weird.
Akira did not remember anything from his dream. But he felt that something was bothering him for some reason.
“Nah, its nothing. I feel like I just had a strange dream. Inside that dream, I feel like you were there… Or maybe not…”
Akira tilted his head when he said that, to which, Alpha teasingly smiled and said.
“Oh my, you think of me so much that you dream of me, huh Im happy to hear that. I dont know what kind of dress I was wearing in your dream, but if you like it that much that you dreamt of it, you can just tell me and Ill be happy to change into that dress, you know”
Akira decided to drop that subject there before it turned into something more complicated.
“Nah, it must be just my imagination. Thats it then, this subject ends here.”
“Thats just too bad, you dont need to try to run away, you know Its normal for your desire to surface within a dream…”
“Were heading to the wasteland starting from today. So stop with the stupid talk and lets get ourselves ready to head out.”
Akira forcefully changed the subject as he hopped off from his bed. He had completely forgotten about the feeling that something was bothering him.
Akira drove his new vehicle to the wasteland. It was a vehicle designed for traversing the wasteland. It was the bonus that Akira got from Shikarabe on top of the prize money for helping him hunt the bounty monster.
After he received that vehicle from Shikarabe, Akira went to the repair garage that Shizuka recommended to give a full check and readjustment for that vehicle. And with a special control device installed on it, just like last time, Alpha could access the vehicle and control it.
When Akira asked Shizuka for a repair garage that she would recommend, she was a bit surprised. She thought that Akira must have done something that damaged his newly bought vehicle to the point that he had to take it to a repair garage. She worried about Akira and decided to ask about the vehicles condition from the repair garage where Akira fixed his vehicle. She was much relieved when she heard from the repair garage that it was nothing but light damage and there was nothing to worry about with a little bit of TLC and readjustment. She did not realize that Akiras previous vehicle was badly damaged and that he had already changed to a new vehicle.
Akira had recovered from his fatigue after fighting the bounty monster, he also had replenished his ammo, and with no bounty monster roaming the wasteland any longer, he returned back to searching for undiscovered ruin.
“Alpha, how far is the next place”
“Still about an hour from here.”
Akira was watching the navigator in his vehicles control device and mumbled.
“Its still that far, huh. As I thought, we might have taken too much detour.”
Akiras destination was another place recorded in the Lion Steel corporations information terminal. Learning from the last time, he took a detour this time before heading to his destination. But because of that, he took more time to reach the location.
“Youre right about that. We should have taken a detour only after knowing for sure that the place were heading to has an unexplored ruin, or at least, after finding good evidence pointing the existence of an unexplored ruin there. After all, it would only be a waste of energy if the indicator that were chasing is pointing at an empty space.”
“Thats true, lets do that next time. And Im sure no one is tailing us after we took that much detour.”
“Ive also expanded my searching range compared to last time, so theres nothing to worry. Ive also rewritten the software of the control device, so Im sure that theres no pre-installed tracking program in it.”
“You didnt have to go that far, but well, its good to be careful.”
Akira changed the direction of his vehicle to head straight to his destination. So now he should be able to cut the time by quite a lot. After that, he remembered something that was bothering him.
“By the way, Alpha, why does that dress have so many gaps and holes”
Just like usual, Alpha was wearing a very revealing but charming and s.e.xy dress. She was wearing a bodysuit that was divided into pieces, each piece was connected to the other pieces by a small connector or a small piece of cloth. Moreover, there were also holes with unknown use on that bodysuit. Her skin was exposed in between those openings, her undies were even peeking through one of those gaps.
“This This is a bodysuit designed so that you can freely replace its part to conform to your body shape. Its made especially for those with a cyborg body that can freely exchange their body parts.”
“Then what about that hole on your back”
“This is to connect to external equipment. There are many extension parts such as external parts for a humanoid weapon, or propulsion device that can propel you to the sky, or maybe big portable cannons, or other types of heavy weapons.”
Akira imagined all kinds of things from Alphas explanation. At first, he only imagined a humanoid weapon, but eventually, his imagination resulted in something that was an amalgamation of humans with different types of weapons, he then decided to stop there.
“That bodysuit and the talk just now, theyre about the old-world stuff, right As I thought, the old-world is just really weird. Its not something that you can easily try to imagine.”
Alpha smiled at Akira and said.
“You should be able to imagine it from the old-world stuff that you can find around you, you know You should be able to find something similar if you look in the old-world ruins.”
Inside Akiras mind, he imagined Alpha with a huge weapon on her back, so huge that it did not fit her size at all. He imagined a lot of different things connected to those holes to justify the existence of those holes.
Akira both felt surprised and exasperated at the same time.
“…I see, so those kinds of things were normal in the old-world, huh”
“I think you can find them even in the current era too. Someone might find those kinds of stuff in the old-world ruin and use them. Then some companies would see that and try to produce an imitation of those devices, so it might be normal for those Hunters in the frontline of the eastern district to be using those kinds of devices, you know”
There were a lot of things from the old-world that existed in the current era, many of which were things they could never imagine. So it would not be strange to find things that someone could actually imagine because the technology of the old-world would have allowed them to create those things.
“…I guess there are still a lot of things out there that I dont know, huh”
Although Akira mumbled those words, he also said to himself there must be a limit on how weird it could be.
Not too long after that, Akira reached his destination. At the first glance, it was only a huge grassland; the indicator, which was based on the information extracted from the Lion Steel corp, was pointing under that grassland.
Akira looked at that indicator with the help of his enhanced vision and mumbled.
“Another underground facility, huh Compared to Yonozuka station ruin, this one is even deeper. Alright then, lets return back here some other time.”
Akira quickly gave up on searching the underground ruin. After all, if he found another unexplored ruin like Yonozuka station ruin, it might cause him another round of trouble. So he refused to make the same mistake for the second time.
Alpha, who understood what Akira was thinking, just smiled at him and said.
“Im okay with that. Until you have the ability to get out of the underground ruin with your own power and no support from me, it might be a good idea to refrain from exploring underground ruins. We still have other places to check out too, so theres no need to take an unnecessary risk.”
“In that case, itll mean I wont be going to explore any underground ruins for the time being.”
“About that, theres nothing we can do but to look forward to your growth. Now then, for the next place though, the nearest place from here is actually pointing at a ruin that is already explored. Do you want to check it out Or do you want to go to the next place instead”
Akira took some time thinking before he made a decision.
“Lets go there. This is a good chance since I want to take a look at the other ruins too. After all, in terms of already discovered ruins, Ive never gone to the other ruins except Kusuzuhara city ruin and Higaraka residence ruin. So then, what is the next ruin”
“Its Mihazono city ruin.”
Akira quickly prepared himself to go to Mihazono city ruin, but he did not go straight from there to Mihazono ruin. Instead, he headed back to Kugamayama city first. This was until he could get some connection to the city. It was in order for him to take regular monster-hunting requests from the Hunter Office. After all, he could not access the Hunter Office website unless he got some connection signal from the Kugamayama city.
After he entered the Kugamayama citys connection range, Akira took out his information terminal and finished his registration for the regular monster-hunting request. Up until now, he had been leaving that part to Alpha, but the current Akira started to be able to do it by himself.
While he was doing that, a question popped up inside his mind and he asked Alpha about it.
“Say, Alpha. Why does the Hunter Office have this regular monster-hunting request”
“Why, you ask Its because the Hunter Office keep issuing it, of course.”
“Aahh, thats not what I meant. I do understand why they are issuing that request for patrolling around the city. For that request, basically, the people in the inner wall are paying money to protect the city and make sure that the city is safe. And when they place requirements to bring back the monsters corpse, no matter whether its from a biological monster or a mechanical monster, they can extract materials from those corpses and exchange it for money. I do understand that part. But then, for Hunters who kill monsters in a faraway place that has nothing to do with the city safety and those Hunters also dont have to bring the corpses of the monsters that they defeat back to the city, who would pay for their reward Well, this didnt bother me the last time I took the regular monster-hunting request, but now that I think about it, I just wonder about its profitability, you see.”
When Akira curiously asked that question, Alpha was actually a bit surprised by that, but she then laughed amusedly.
“Its nothing, I just realised that youve started thinking about something like that, it shows the result of my education. So Im really happy to find out how much you have improved.”
Seeing how Alpha was laughing, Akira felt both embarrassed and a bit annoyed at the same time.
“Well, thanks for that.”
“Dont pout, Im actually praising you, you know And its not like I know the exact insider information about the Corporate Government, so whatever I say would be basically just a guess from me. Are you okay with that”
“Yeah, Im okay with that.”
“Very well. If I have to put it simply, the Corporate Government is paying for that reward for the sake of the whole Eastern district.”
Starting with those words, Alpha began her explanation of her guess to Akira.
The regular monster-hunting request did not designate a particular monster or number as its target. The place, time, type, or the number of the monsters were not particularly determined in that request. And even if the Hunters returned back without encountering any monsters, they would still get paid the minimal sum as a reward.
There were all kinds of monsters roaming in the Eastern district. The Hunters who took that regular monster-hunting request from the Hunter Office could get rewarded only by handing over information about where and when they encountered those monsters. The Hunter Office would then analyze all the information that it gathered from the Hunters into something that could bring profits.
The result from analyzing that information could be used for so many things like constructing threat level maps depending on the monsters roaming in certain areas, mapping out the safe trading route between cities, or maybe adjusting the Eastern district reclamation plan. All of them were very important agenda.
While on the other hand, it also worked to cull the monsters that seemed to be multiplying endlessly no matter how many the Hunters killed. For every single monster killed out there, the safety of the wasteland would improve and people would be able to carry stuff across the wasteland safer.
Akira listened to Alpha with full interest.
“Those people in the Hunter Office do think about a lot of things, huh”
“There are also many other ways to use that information. As an example, they can use it to look for new unexplored ruins, like the Yonozuka station ruin that you discovered the other day. A lot of monsters are flowing out through it, so the monster encounter rate around the entrance to that ruin must be pretty high. If the City Management decides to check that place, they should be able to find the entrance into the ruin.”
“And if the City Management discovers a new undiscovered ruin first, theyll be able to gain a lot of profit from it. Then they can sell the relics found there in the nearby cities and use that money to pay the Hunters, that way the city would prosper, I see now…”
Compared to when he was living in the slum city, the current Akira started to notice things that were going on in the background. He was honestly amazed by it as he nodded deeply. It was also the result of Alphas education that he started to grow not only as a better fighter.
Alpha smiled as she noticed how far Akira had grown. While at the same time, she always calculated whether that growth would give her trouble or not. She tried to suppress the possibility of Akira turning hostile in the future as much as possible.
As Akira was heading to Mihazono city ruin, a signal suddenly popped out in the detection range. When he checked that signal, it was not a monster but another vehicle. It was a big sized wasteland bus. That bus was equipped with a lot of machine guns on top of it and it seemed that it was filled with Hunters, there was Hunter Office symbol on the sides of that bus.
“Theyre heading the same way with us, huh”
“It seems that its a transportation bus from the Hunter Office. I think it runs between the Kugamayama city and Mihazono ruin.”
“Those people in it, are they Hunters There are quite a lot of them.”
“It shows that there are still some unclaimed relics in Mihazono ruin which attracts that many Hunters. Lets bring back any good relics if we get to find any.”
Akira kept staring at the Hunters inside that bus, it seemed that he was thinking about something.
“Akira, whats wrong”
“Say, Alpha, there are many Hunters exploring the old-world ruin to collect relics, right And theyve been doing this for years… Maybe even for a few hundred years, huh”
“The precise number is uncertain and its different for each area, but the most recent record shows that it has been going on for at least 200 years.”
“Although Hunters have been carrying out old-world relics for that long, why are there still old-world relics left unclaimed out there Arent there just too many of them no matter how you think about it”
Including Akira, there were a lot of Hunters in the Kugamayama city. Although compared to the total population in the Eastern district, maybe only a small portion of them were Hunters, but there were enough of those Hunters out there to the point that the whole economy in the Eastern district was constructed around them. And those Hunters regularly carried a lot of old-world relics out from the old-world ruins back to the city. So Akira just thought that it was weird how there were still old-world relics left in the old-world ruins.
But Alpha just casually replied.
“They do get exhausted. If you look at the current Higaraka Residence Ruin, Hunters have already taken all of the expensive relics from that ruin and so that ruin is left with nothing but cheap relics right now. And this is true everywhere you go. Even for the western area of the Eastern district, which borders the territory owned by the Allied Nations, I heard that there are even hardly any cheap relics left in that region. Thats why the Corporate Government keeps pushing further and further to the east seeking new ruins and new relics even though the monsters are getting stronger and stronger the further they go east. But of course, as the risk increases, the number and the quality of the relics are also getting better and better, thats why it seems that it worth the risk.”
Akiras expression turned slightly stiff. If the relics in the Eastern district was exhausted, it would definitely change Hunters line of work, he vaguely felt worried about that.
Looking at that, Alpha just smiled at him and said.
“Dont worry, although its just my guess, I believe that the old-world relics around this area will not get depleted anytime soon, at least, they wont be depleted in your lifetime. Of course, theyll eventually get depleted if the Hunters keep carrying them out from the ruins, but theres a reason why it wont get depleted anytime soon.”
“And why is that”
“I dont think theres any need to explain it, but carrying out relics while fighting the monsters roaming in the wasteland is not an easy thing to do. Because of that, its close to impossible to carry a huge amount of relics out from the ruin in one go.”
“Well, thats true. And thats exactly why we have people working as Hunters, right”
“Moreover, among all the old-world ruins, some of them have self-repairing function. Itll fix damaged buildings and maintain everything inside those buildings, this also includes replenishing equipment and any other objects that the Hunters take out from those ruins. There were even times when it constructed a new ruin in the middle of the wasteland, you know. It seems that the large-scale maintenance equipment of the old-world era is still functioning well.”
“Oohh!! Thats amazing!! But if there are ruins that can replenish the relics inside it, wont the Hunters and the soldiers from the Corporate Government flood those ruins”
“Most of the time, the self-repair function of those ruins also fix the security facilities and the factories in those ruins. Those factories would then endlessly produce security equipment to chase away any intruders. Some people also say that its the real reason why the number of monsters in the wasteland wont get reduced no matter how many monsters the Hunters kill, after all, the mechanical monsters are basically the security equipment produced by those factories. So of course, they would normally attack people too. Seeing from the other perspective, they are basically security measures to prevent people from intruding and stealing things from the area that they are guarding, so that means that they are functioning as intended.”
“Well, if you put it that way, thats kinda true. From their point of view, Hunters are basically robbers.”
Akira mumbled those words as if he just realized something profound. He did feel a bit of an unpleasant feeling, but he then continued in order to expel that unpleasant feeling.
“But its not like I can stop working as a Hunter, I guess it cant be helped, huh. The people who owned those facilities are already long gone. So as long as they dont come back to haunt me, they wont be able to complain. So it should be okay, right
Although Alpha was smiling, there was a trace of confliction in her smile that caused her smile to turn a bit stiff. She inadvertently showed that expression to Akira who was already trying to move on from that subject. But she quickly returned her face to her usual expression before he could notice it.
Just like Kuzusuhara ruin, Mihazono ruin was a ruin of a city. To be more precise, the whole ruin and the area surrounding it were referred to as Mihazono ruin.
Although it was a pretty big ruin, it was not as big as Kusuzuhara ruin, and the monsters inside it were not as strong as the monsters inside the inner part of Kusuzuhara ruin. With enough equipment and skill, it was a rather safe ruin for Hunters to explore.
When Akira arrived there, he was surprised to find something which he did not expect at all.
“A parking lot… Wait for a sec, is it still operational”
The parking lot was a simple lot with a roof. Its walls were decorated with the Hunter Office symbol. It seemed that the Hunter Office owned that parking lot.
Akira stopped his vehicle as he was looking at that parking lot, a guard noticed him and shouted at him.
“Hey, dont park there. Youre blocking the way!!”
“Ah, Im sorry.”
Akira obediently apologized and turned his vehicle back on, the guard who saw that then asked Akira.
“Is this your first time coming here”
“Yes, this is my first time here.”
“I see. If youre going to park your vehicle around this place, use the parking lot. A lot of Hunter Office vehicles are using this road, so it would disrupt the flow if you park your vehicle around this area. If you dont want to pay for the parking lot, then you should park your vehicle somewhere further away from this area. At least as far as that building over there.”
That guy then pointed at a building not too far from their location. Akira tilted his head and asked that guy.
“…Is that really far enough If its only that far, people wont pay for the pa- Ah, but I see there are quite a lot of vehicles parking there, huh”
The parking lot was already filled with vehicles. Only about 40% of the parking lot was used, so there was still quite a lot of open space there. But compared to its size, that parking lot was already pretty filled.
That guy then answered Akiras question.
“It has a roof and its not that expensive. You can find Hunters and staff in the Hunter Office nearby and some merchants are also using that place. Moreover, there are a lot of people around here, were technically still in the wasteland, you see. I know its rather concerning to say this myself, but there are people who are up for no good out here. But even so, Im sure they know better not to try to steal the vehicles parked in the parking lot owned by the Hunter Office. Furthermore, there are guards and security cameras in the parking lot. Well, there are times when some stupid people tried to mess with the vehicles in the parking lot, but all of them ended up pretty tragically. So thats basically why a lot of people decide to use the parking lot. If you want to use the parking lot too, the counter is over there.”
That guy then pointed his finger toward a reception counter near the parking lot and went back to his station.
Akira thought for a bit and turned to Alpha.
“Lets try using it once, I guess.”
“Yep, lets do that. The Hunter Office made that parking lot for the Hunters who come to this ruin, so lets use it.”
Akira headed to the reception counter, he then finished the administration work and parked his vehicle inside the parking lot. For the Hunters with a bank account, the parking fee was automatically debited from the bank account. It might be a means to avoid the Hunters postponing their parking fee payment.
The person at the counter warned Akira that even if he forgets to inform the Hunter Office before leaving the parking lot, the parking fare would still be automatically deducted from his bank account.
Akira unloaded his stuff from his vehicle, he also took his CWH anti-material rifle and DVTS minigun with him. After he finished his preparation to head out, he then went to the area near the Hunter Office just outside the parking lot.
There was an Exchange Centre in that area. Akira saw some Hunters exchanging their relics. Inside that Exchange Centre, he also saw some Hunters loading leftover wreckage of mechanical monsters onto a cart. It would be too much of a hassle bringing them all the way back to the Kugamayama city, but it would not be that much trouble to bring them to that Exchange Centre.
Even the mechanical monsters were also considered as the old-world relics. They were filled with old-world technologies that could not be reproduced by the current worlds technology. If the Hunter brought its leftover wreckage back, it might be worth more than bringing back cheap relics.
Around that place, there were also merchants with selling stands and rentable carts. Hunters would usually use those carts to transport dead mechanical monsters. They might be the merchants who came all the way to this place using the Hunter Offices bus to open their shops there.
A Hunter Offices bus arrived and stopped near the Hunter Office, Akira then saw Hunters boarding off from that bus. Including Akira, all Hunters in that place were focused on a group of 3 Hunters.
The reason as to why that group was gathering so much attention was because of their appearances. One of them was a young girl that looked more or less of the same age as Akira. She was wearing an augmented suit while carrying a big rucksack and multiple rifles. It was not a rare sight in the old-world ruin. Her silky and well-maintained hair was also something normal to be found for women Hunters who were doing well in her job. Although her beauty was above average, it was not enough of a reason to grab other Hunters attention.
The ones standing out were the other two girls. One of them was carrying a huge long sword aside from her rifle. While the other one was carrying a small pistol-like gun and a big power glove as if it was originally a part of a powered suit. There were not that many Hunters out there who prefered to fight monsters close range. That was why it was rare to find those types of weapons. Moreover, those two girls were beautiful and had some kind of unique charm of their own. It was to be expected for those weapons to attract some attention, but it was still not enough of a reason for them to attract that much attention there.
The real reason why those two attracted so much attention was because both of them were wearing maid outfits. And to top it off, from a glance, it seemed that those maid outfits were made of high-class fabric that gave off a luxurious vibe.
Those girls were really sticking out in that place. If it was back in the Kugamayama lower district, they would only gather some attention and that would be the end of it. But they were outside the city, they were in the wasteland. The Hunters in that place saw them with suspicion rather than pure curiosity since they seemed to be out of place.
That group of 3 were Reina and her battle maids.