After the situation suddenly worsened, Elena finally decided to pull out sooner than she planned. She had a grim face as she said to Shikarabe.
“Shikarabe! We need to withdraw now!!”
Shikarabe immediately replied with a firm answer without asking any question to Elena. It was because he understood they were not in a situation where she could leisurely answer his question.
Shikarabe then shouted to the other Hunters inside the building.
“Were leaving soon!! If you dont get into the APC now, well leave you behind!! So hurry up!”
Shikarabe picked up a guy who was lying on the ground, he was the guy that Shikarabe threw not too long ago. Since no one carried him, he was left there lying on the ground until now. Shikarabe just thought that it would leave a bad aftertaste if he just left that guy there since he was the one who knocked that guy unconscious.
After Shikarabe gave off that sudden announcement, a Hunter said in a panic.
“Wait for a second!! We still have some relics inside…”
Shikarabe just ignored that Hunter and went back to the APC, he then threw the guy that he was carrying inside and quickly got on the driver seat.
The Hunters who stood there carrying relics looked sadly at their relics before leaving it behind and running into the APC. It was because they understood well that Shikarabe was serious when he said he would leave them behind.
The back door of the APC started closing even before all the Hunters in that place were able to get inside, and when Shikarabe immediately started the engine, the remaining Hunters started running toward the APC in a frenzy.
Shikarabe suddenly accelerated the APC. It blazed as fast as it could out of the building site under the barrage of bullets coming from above. The entrance to the building site was half-filled with wreckages of dead monsters. But he just smashed his way through using the momentum of his APC.
Elena, Sara, Akira, and Carol followed behind Shikarabe. Numerous monsters flooded out from the building such that the surrounding area was filled with them, some of them even started chasing Akira. But Akira was way faster than them, and by shooting down the monsters that were leading the pack chasing for Akira, they were turned into obstacles that slowed the monsters behind them even more. Thus it was an easy thing for Akira to get away from those monsters.
After they opened up some distance from that building site, Alpha smiled at Akira and said.
“It should be fine now, you did well back there.”
Akira sighed in relief. It seemed that he was able to escape from the dangerous situation for now as he went back to the driver seat and relaxed for a bit.
“Say, Alpha. Is that building also filled with monsters just like the Seranthal building from yesterday”
“I cant exactly grasp the situation inside that building. But looking at what happened just now, I think thats highly possible.”
“I wonder where all of those monsters came from.”
“I can come up with a lot of theories, but well, I think theres a warehouse somewhere nearby filled with those monsters and they were suddenly dispatched at the same time, and also factories nearby also suddenly started producing those monsters at a high rate. After all, most of those mechanical monsters were all the same type.”
“Then why did something like that suddenly happen”
“No idea. As a matter of fact, if you know the reason why, you can sell that information for 10,000,000,000 Aurum. If youre interested, we can try to investigate later, you know”
Alpha was smiling confidently at Akira when she made that suggestion. But he instead made a displeased face and replied.
“Thats a wise decision.”
Carol, who saw Akira relaxed back, also lowered her guard. She then returned to the drivers assistant seat and said to Akira while smiling at him.
“That was pretty dangerous. Theyre just simply too many of them.”
“Its still better than yesterday. This time we could run away using a vehicle after all.”
“Well, youre right about that. As expected, even I too dont want to get through the same thing as yesterday again.”
Akira and the rest of the team were driving through the Mihazono ruin, they were in a situation where they had enough leeway to chit chat. None of them were injured during the rescue and they were able to rescue the Hunters inside that building. They just needed to return back to the Hunter Office now. It seemed that they did well in that rescue operation. They just blazed through the road while crushing the leftover wreckages of dead monsters scattered around under their wheels.
In the middle of their way back to the Hunter Office, Akira checked his information terminal that he put in his vehicle. It was showing that he received an emergency SOS request sent through a local connection.
Elena had told him beforehand to just ignore those emergency requests, after all, they had to prioritize finishing the contract that they had taken first and make sure that they would get the reward before thinking about the other requests. That was all there was to it. Even if those Hunters who sent the emergency SOS request were barricading themselves somewhere near, Akira could not afford to stop every single time to save them, he had no responsibility to do something like that nor he had the leeway to do so.
But it was not like they completely ignored those requests, Elena at least forwarded that SOS emergency request to the Hunter Office. If those Hunters were lucky, someone would accept that request. Although it was a completely different problem whether anyone would take that request which had no guarantee of getting paid with the promised reward, even the person who sent that request might as well already be dead by now.
That was why Akira did not even think of checking the details of those emergency SOS requests. It just aroused his interest for a bit, that was all there was to it.
Alpha noticed that, she then said to Akira.
“If it bothers you, I can just erase those notices.”
“Youre right, please erase them.”
After he said that, the notices on his information terminal immediately vanished. Alpha erased them.
Akira then tried to come up with another subject as if he was trying to forget something that was bothering him.
“But well, there are still so many of those requests left, huh”
“Im sure its because most of the Hunters thought that it would be safer if they barricaded themselves inside a building, I bet thats why a lot of them decided to do that. I think thats indeed a good option in case they cant return back on their own. I bet some of the Hunters who decided to barricade themselves inside the Seranthal building from yesterday are still alive even right now.”
“Well, even if thats true, its impossible to get out from there in that situation, you know.”
“As I said, its indeed a good choice only if they have given up returning back on their own.”
“…Ahh, if the situation inside the building gets better later, I guess they still have some hope, huh.”
Akira had no idea in what situation those monsters would leave the Seranthal building. They might have already left the building since Akira left yesterday, but they might be still there even now.
Since Akira had no plans to go there and check it himself, he just decided to forget about it.
Elena and her team were able to return back to the Hunter Office without encountering any trouble. Although they encountered some monsters on their way back, they were only in small packs, so they could handle those monsters just fine. It was either because they killed most of the monsters in that route when they were heading out to save the Hunters, or it was simply because those monsters were in the middle of fighting another group of Hunters, that was why there were only small packs of monsters.
Elena and her team parked their vehicles in front of the Hunter Offices parking lot. Akira, Carol, Elena, and Sara stood in front of the backdoor of Shikarabes APC. The door itself was still closed.
Akira thought that the door would immediately open, but it did not seem that it would open anytime soon. Right when he thought that it was rather strange, an armed group approached them. The guy who was taking command of that squad compared the data in his information terminal with the data in Elenas information terminal. After that, he asked Elena.
“You guys are the Hunters who took the C32 area rescue request, right Are the rescued Hunters inside that vehicle”
“Yep, can I just leave the rest to you then”
“Of course, just leave the rest to us.”
“Shikarabe, open the door.”
After she said that, the back door of the APC slowly opened up.
As the rescued Hunters looked around, they realized that they were back in the Hunter Office, all of them looked really relieved. But in contrast to that, some of those Hunters were making a grim face while hanging their heads low. They looked really desperate as if they were driven to the corner.
The squad commander then stood in front of the opened door and said to the Hunters inside the APC.
“Were from Alhain insurance company. Well escort you to an emergency clinic to check if any of you need any treatment. I hope that all of you will cooperate and follow our orders. If any of you having trouble moving on your own, please let us know.”
Those Hunters then slowly boarded off the APC one by one following the instruction from the people from Alhain insurance company. Some of them could walk on their own, some of them could only walk with the help of others, some of them could not walk and had to be carried with a stretcher.
Among all of those walking Hunters, one of them looked extremely pale and worried. He was breathing roughly and his hand that was holding his gun was slightly shaking. He was keeping his distance from the other people around him, especially from the people from Alhain insurance company.
Another Hunter in front of him asked a staff nearby.
“Uhh, excuse me, I want to contact my friend but I cant seem to get any connection from here, can you help me”
“It depends on the situation of your friend. If its only a problem caused by the connection line, you might be able to call your friend inside the temporary clinic. You can use Alhain insurance companys communication line there after all.”
That staff shifted his focus from that nervous Hunter to another Hunter who asked him that question. When that nervous Hunter noticed it, he made his resolve and suddenly started running.
But when he started running, another Alhain soldier who was standing guard in his blindside immediately held him down. That soldier locked his movements by pushing him down on the ground. He looked like he was in pain on the ground as his weapons were taken away from him. The other guards came and cuffed both of his hands and legs, thus rendering him harmless.
The other Hunters in that area looked at that guy being secured by Alhains soldiers. One of the Alhain soldiers then turned to the other Hunters, smiled, and said.
“Please stop trying anything that might cause misunderstanding. Dont try to leave without our permission until you finish all the administration work with us. I hope all of you will cooperate.”
Akira was watching when that incident happened, he looked pretty surprised by it. But the other Hunters looked completely normal as if they expected something like that to happen. It clearly showed the difference in their experiences as Hunters.
It did not take long for Shikarabe and Elena to hand over all the Hunters that they rescued to Alhain insurance company.
Elena was negotiating with someone from Alhain insurance company when Shikarabe called Akira to come in from inside the APC.
“Akira, come and help me check if any of them left anything behind.”
“Sure, what should I do if I find something”
“If its a relic or a piece of equipment, just leave it outside the APC. If its a body or limbs, gather them all inside a corpse bag and put them outside. You can find the empty corpse bag under the seat.”
Akira frowned. He did not expect that limbs or torso would be included in the list of things that he might find.
“Thanks, Im counting on you.”
Akira used his information-gathering device to help him scan the inside of the APC. He found 2 rifles left under the seat. Fortunately enough, no one forgot to bring their limbs or torsos out with them.
It only took a while for them to finish searching the inside of the APC. That was when the commander of the squad from Alhain insurance company said to Elena.
“Thanks for the hard work. If its okay with you, would you take another request from us Actually, we lost contact with the Hunters who took the rescue request to area C47. Since youve finished the rescue request to area C32 from us, were willing to give you an extra bonus for the reward if youre willing to take this request.”
“Just leave it in the request list for me, Ill think about it.”
“I see. Well, if you end up taking it, well be counting on you.”
After that, the squad commander left with the rest of his squad.
Elena and his team moved their vehicles to another place first as not to block the way to the Hunter Office before they grouped up again to discuss what to do next.
“First thing first, lets take a 1-hour break to replenish our supplies. So make sure to use this time to properly replenish your ammo and other expendables. And also, can you guys tell me your impression about the last request that we just took Although its kind of weird for me to say it myself since Im the one who decided to pick that request, that last one was harder than I thought it would be. Thats why Im thinking of picking an easier one for the next request.”
Akira agreed with Elenas opinion as he said.
“Its true that the last request was pretty dangerous, so I think that is a good idea.”
Shikarabe made a stern face and said.
“We did decide to withdraw sooner than we planned. I believe that, including me, we underestimated the difficulty of that request. So I think its a good idea to take an easier request, it doesnt matter even though it means that we would get less reward out of it.”
Sara frowned and seemed slightly worried as she said.
“Judging from the number of mechanical monsters that were flooding out from the inside of that building, it means that we really need to think about the escape route in case if our rescue targets barricaded themselves deep inside a building. Honestly speaking, I dont want to fight that many monsters in a closed space.”
Carol smiled bitterly.
“And in case if its a bigger building, it might be better to just forget the idea of going inside that building right from the start. I dont want those monsters chasing me inside such a building after all.”
Elena believed that all of the Hunters gathered here were relatively successful Hunters, and some of them hated the idea of taking a request with low reward. But looking at how they reacted to her idea, it seemed there should be no problem prioritizing safety for now.
“Got it then, so for the next request, Ill decide on an easier one.”
Akira glanced at Carol, she was using a rather expensive augmented suit that regularly used a lot of power. If they kept taking cheap requests, she might end up facing a deficit. So he thought that Carol might not like that idea.
But that did not seem to be the case at all, thus he decided to stop worrying about it.
Carol noticed that Akira was checking on her. It was true that she had no complaint taking easier requests with relatively small rewards and she had no reason to fake that. Carols attention was all focused on Akira, so she had no interest at all about the small reward.
Akira was putting the armour plating in one of the supply depots. It was a manual job, a pretty boring and bothersome work. But if he was careless, he would have to pay for it with his life. He knew that very well, thus he spent extra effort focusing on putting on those armour tiles.
Akira lost more armour plating than he expected. When he found a part of his vehicle clearly exposed, his expression turned grim.
“I lost quite a lot of armour plating this time.”
Alpha casually replied.
“Its no surprise after taking on those attacks. If you dont want to take them bare, head-on, make sure to properly install all the armour plating.”
“Youre right. I did buy a pretty expensive type of plating this time, so it should at least be pretty durable. I dont regret it, its an important expense.”
Dealing with armour plating was a tricky business. Of course, the more expensive it was, the more durable the plating would be. But if Akira wanted to get even better plating, the cost-value ratio would drop fast. This time, he bought expensive armour plating that Alpha recommended. It was the second most expensive armour plating in that supply depot. The price gap between that armour plating and the most expensive armour plating in that supply depot was huge.
Carol was also there helping Akira putting on the armour plating. She then asked Akira a question.
“Akira, whats your plan after this”
“I still havent thought about it at the moment. But Im planning to just take it easy until the break time is over.”
“Is that so In that case…”
“Ah, now that I think about it, I guess Ill do some workout.”
Carol actually was about to invite Akira to a meal or something, but she was cutoff midway with that sudden statement from him. She could not help but express her surprise.
“Ill be done with the armour plating soon, so how about you, Carol”
“…Ill be done soon too.”
Carol still had her surprised face when she said that.
After they finished putting on all the armour plating, Akira really started working out. Carol just stood there watching him with a flabbergasted face. He seemed a little bit in pain as he slowly stretched his body. Carol then asked Akira a question.
“Is it okay if I ask you why would you be working out right now”
“I heard that increasing the flexibility of my joints and my muscles is good for my health and it can help strengthen my body. Actually, I have a pretty stiff body, you see. And also, this works as my augmented suit training too.”
Carol actually was not asking about the benefit of working out, she was asking why Akira started working out right now. Or at least, according to her experience, there was no guy that would actually start working out during a break time together with her. She then thought that it might be just out of whim and decided not to ask any further.
Moreover, it did seem that Akira decided to do that really out of whim. Not to mention, talented individuals usually had a different way of thinking compared to common people and Akira might be one of those.
Well, it was not like it caused her any trouble and she felt that she would not be able to get along with Akira if she let things like that bother her. Thus, Carol decided to just ignore it.
There were a lot of occasions where Akira had to shoot his rifle from a weird position in order to be able to get out of dangerous situations. He often had to injure his own body to continue fighting, sometimes he had to twist his body past the rotation limit of his joints, sometimes he had to keep on shooting while tearing his own muscle with each shot, sometimes he had to hold back the strong kickback that caused micro-cracks in his bones. He would use medicines to keep his body functioning in those situations while he kept on fighting.
In order to minimize those types of injuries, Akira had to increase his bodys strength and flexibility. Although he did that out of whim, it was indeed something that would be useful for him in the future.
If Carol asked more detail about that, she might be able to understand why Akira did that. But since she started to identify him as a boy with a weird personality, she lost her chance to know more about him.
If that quirkiness was able to hide Alphas existence, if that would cause people to ignore his weird actions, then it might be a good thing both for Akira and Alpha.
Carol decided to just forget about it as she said to Akira who was stretching his body.
“My body is actually pretty flexible, you know. Want to see”
Akira stopped stretching and turned to her. After Carol confirmed that Akira was looking at her, she smiled confidently as she raised her right leg while still standing. She kept raising her right leg until both of her legs almost formed a straight line while keeping her balance standing on one leg.
Carol knew very well how to show off her beautiful body to seduce someone. And the augmented suit that she was using had a design that invited gazes from the member of the opposite sex. Carol, who was standing on one leg with her right arm intertwined with her right leg, looked so beautiful and bewitching.
Akira, who was watching Carol, looked a bit surprised and praised.
“Oooh!! Thats amazing!!”
Akira was simply amazed by Carols ability to stay in that position, he knew that he could not do something like that. Unfortunately enough, unlike what Carol wanted, he was not getting amazed by the beauty of her body. But even so, Akira was still amazed by her body, so she decided to just accept that compliment.
Carol returned back on her right leg and said.
“Thank you, its pretty amazing, isnt it”
“How exactly did you get your body that flexible”
“Well, I think you have no other choice but to regularly stretch your body every day. Although, in my case, it might be also because of my nanomachine enhanced body.”
“Is that so But now that I think about it, if someone else tries to put on your augmented suit with your data still left in it, Im sure it would cause a big disaster.”
Akira remembered about his conversation with Shikarabe the other day and frowned. Carol was interested in that remark, so she inquired about that subject further.
“Oh, what do you mean by that”
“Well, Shikarabe told me once that if I put on an augmented suit that still contains another persons data, it might cause my body to twist in a strange way that it would tear my muscle.”
Akira then told Carol what Shikarabe told him in the past. Carol seemed to be listening closely to his story and agreed with what Shikarabe had told him. She then added to that information.
“Thats not the worst-case scenario yet. There are a lot of cyborgs who also use augmented suits, right Those cyborgs have joints that are way more flexible than normal humans. So if the past user of a certain augmented suit is one of those cyborgs and a normal person uses that augmented suit and tries to move, his limbs might make 180 degrees turn and it would break his body. In the worst-case scenario, it might completely tear his body to pieces.”
Akira imagined something like that happening to him. The image of his body turned 180 degrees and just laid there in the middle of the old-world ruin unable to move was pretty scary.
“T-that would be horrible.”
Akira could not help but voice out his impression, Carol smiled lightly at that him and said.
“Well, basically, if you dont want something like that to happen, you better only get all of your equipment, not only your augmented suit, from shops that you really trust. And be extra careful so you dont get any weird equipment from the black market.”
Akira then thought.
[I buy my equipment from Shizuka-sans shop, so it should be alright. Although I buy my medicines from Katsuragi, Im sure he wont sell me any dangerous drug since he knows what Ill do to him if he does that. It should be alright… Right]
“Well, I think theres no need for me to worry about it.”
“Is that so If youre worried about something, I can introduce you to shops that I recommend, but it seems that I dont need to do that, huh…”
“Yeah. Its alright.”
Akira returned back to stretching his body. He was stretching his body following Alpha who was in front of him. Alpha sat down on the ground and spread her legs, she was leaning forward to the point that her breast touched the ground while looking at him. Akira seemed to be in pain as he was trying his best to do that too, but his body was not flexible enough and he was barely able to do it properly.
Alpha then smiled at Akira.
“Want me to help you”
Akira sounded displeased when he said that. He knew that he would be able to stretch his body even more if Alpha controlled his augmented suit. But he got a bit scared after listening to Carols explanation just now.
“Dont worry, the augmented suit that youre using right now is designed so that it cant make 180 degrees twist.”
“Do you really think it would make me feel safe by telling me that Ill do the stretching myself.”
Akira did trust Alpha, but this and that were two different things. So he kept stretching with his own ability which also served as a training for operating his augmented suit on his own.
He properly differentiated and felt the movement of his limbs under the augmented suit and the movements of his augmented suit as he tried to match both of those movements. In order to minimize the damage to his limbs while increasing the efficiency of his powerful augmented suit, he tried his best to match the movements of his body with his augmented suit to get the best performance. Even stretching his body like that was already a difficult thing for Akira. There was nothing that he could do to fix it except training.
Akira kept on working out until Elena and Sara came as their break time was about to end.
After Elena and Sara arrived, they were just having a chat with each other while waiting for Shikarabe. As for Akira, he was asking questions to Elena about the detail of the request that they took last time, about why the people from Alhain insurance company were waiting for them when they returned, the guy who was trying to run away back then, and the other things that piqued his interest.
Elena then offered an explanation to Akira based on her guess. The Cocolens guy who they had to save back there was someone who was contracted with Alhain insurance company. According to that contract, if they lost contact with him after a certain period of time, or if he sent a rescue request, the company would dispatch a squad to escort him to safety.
After they arrived at the location based on the information obtained from Alhains investigation, Elena first tried to look for Cocolens location based on his information terminal. Fortunately enough, she was able to make a call with that guy. But after she asked him some questions to check the situation over there, she found something weird.
The information that Elena obtained beforehand said that there should be only 8 people, but there were more than a dozen survivors and more than 20 dead Hunters. It was not strange since he might group up with the other Hunters before they barricaded themselves inside that building, but the problem was that he did not say anything about that during his call with her.
And then after Elena asked that person some more questions, she started to get suspicious if he was not the real Cocolens and started to make guesses as to why he would lie there.
If she was being optimistic, that guy might be under immense stress, and with the real Cocolens not around, he thought that the rescue team would not come unless he assumed that name. Thus, he ended up doing that in panic. If that was all there was to it, then it was not a big problem at all. Elena could just simply rescue them and normally escort them back to the Hunter Office.
But if she was being pessimistic, it might have been a perilous situation for Elena and her team. Cocolens and his team might have been killed, not by the monsters, but by the other Hunters who then took their equipment. Which in that case, it would mean the Hunters who barricaded themselves inside that building were the ones who killed Cocolens team and they were trying to call for help using Cocolens name. They might have been planning to attack Elena and her team and take their vehicles to escape from that building. Although it was only a guess, it would be really bad if that was the case.
Although she had to be extremely careful there, she did not have the leeway to wait for confirmation first. There were too many of them to transport in one go, but they might riot if she told them that only half of them would be escorted back to the Hunter Office first. Thus she pushed dealing with the aftermath including the confirmation to Alhain insurance company.
“Normally, we would ask them to show their Hunter IDs, but I decided not to do that in order not to provoke them too much. Our request is basically saving Hunters who cant return back on their own. So we have no obligation to do anything more than that, that was why I left the aftermath to Alhain insurance company and they also gave us their approval.”
Akira nodded and said.
“So its not that simple, huh. Its not like we can just go out there and save those Hunters.”
“Yep, thats correct. Theres no guarantee that the Hunters were going to rescue are good Hunters. Moreover, most people tend to make bad decisions when theyre pushed to the corner like offering a big reward that they cant pay when they send out an emergency SOS request. And when they have to pay more than what they have in hand, theyll end up drowning in debt. People like that sometimes immediately try to run away the moment they are escorted to a safe place, and when that happens, in the worst-case scenario a shootout will occur between them and the people who rescued them. Thats why you too need to be careful out there okay, Akira”
“I understand, Ill be careful.”
Akira nodded firmly and deeply. Elena was happy to see that since it seemed that, as a senior Hunter, she was able to teach something useful to Akira, who was a junior Hunter.-