As Akira was waiting for Elena and Carol together with Sara, he suddenly received a call from Carol. The same also happened to Sara, except that it was from Elena.
Akira opened his information terminal and accepted the call. When he did that, Carols happy voice could be heard coming out from his terminal.
“Akira, just want to let you know that we did pretty well over here, Ill tell you the details of the request later. I did my best to get a deal that you might like, you know.”
Since Akira only reacted rather flatly, Carol once again gave her report again, but this time she put more pressure to make sure that Akira was listening to her.
“…I properly did my job during the negotiation and got a deal that Elena is also satisfied with. If you think that Im lying, you should ask Elena once we group up.”
To be honest, Akira was actually not doubting Carol. He was a bit weirded out by the reaction from Carol as he thanked Carol.
“… Its not like Im doubting you though. Thank you, youre a big help.”
“Youre welcome. Well be waiting in the parking lot near the Hunter Office, can you pick us up together with Sara”
“Alright, well head there soon.”
Akira closed the call and returned back to his vehicle. Sara also got more or less the same report from Elena. Both of them then headed to the Hunter Office to pick up Elena and Carol.
Carol made a conflicted expression as she closed her call with Akira and stared at her information terminal. Judging from that short exchange, she was able to confirm that she scored some points to get closer to Akira. That in itself was well under her expectation and she was happy that she was finally able to make some progress.
But, during that conversation, Akiras reaction was completely different when Carol brought up Elena too. To be more precise, Akira showed more interest in Elenas situation rather than his own situation. Or at least, that was what Carol could catch from that short exchange.
[It seems that Akira really cares for Elena. From what I can gather from Shikarabe, it doesnt sound like Akira has any reason to like Elena that much though… As I thought, I wont be able to know the reason unless I directly ask either Akira or Elena, huh. But I feel like Akira would just try to play innocent if I ask him, either that, or I feel like Akira himself actually has no idea why hes that invested either. Which means…]
Carol glanced at Elena. Personally speaking, she was better at extracting information from guys, but she had no other options in this case. The real problem was whether she had enough time to do that or not. Akira and Sara would arrive there soon and it would be better if she did not bring that up during the operation. And she did not know if she would have the time to ask Elena and Sara after the operation was done.
[…I guess I need to be more useful so that he would invite me again next time, huh. Were going to head to the Seranthal building after this, its a dangerous building that the City Management even decided to gather Hunters who successfully hunted the bounty monster to send to that building. Although this is not out of our own volition, were going to head to such a dangerous place together. Im sure that it would at least get us close even if its only for a bit.]
As Carol thought so, she remembered that she almost got killed the last time she was in that building.
[Well, lets focus on returning back alive for now.]
Being a Hunter meant risking ones life for money. But even so, it was not like those Hunters expected themselves to get killed. If it was possible, they wanted to at least have the right to decide when and where to die. Carol reminded herself of the dangerous place that she was going to head to from now on and pulled herself together.
After they grouped up, they then went to the city district of the Mihazono ruin. Since the Hunter Office had secured the area, they did not get to meet any monsters.
Elena already gave a detailed explanation about the current request right after they grouped up. Their main job this time was to scout the Seranthal building and check the inside of the building before the main squad that still had not fully established yet was dispatched there.
The composition of the team was the same as this morning. Akira, Carol, Elena, Sara, Shikarabe, and Togami. The only difference was that the leader of the team changed from Elena to Shikarabe.
But that was only for formality since it was a request that came from Drankam. On the paper, Shikarabe could not bring Varga and Yamanobe who were also present when they defeated the Tank Tarantula, thus, he was given other personnel to replace Varga and Yamanobe.
So in reality, the leader of that team was still Elena. Shikarabe used his connection with Arabe, an officer in Drankam, to convince Drankams side so that he was allowed to do that.
With this, Elena had the highest say on what the team would do inside Seranthal building. But that did not mean they could not just leave Seranthal building without her consent. As in matter of fact, the other Hunters could freely explore the building and decide to retreat anytime they felt that they were in danger.
Akira looked around his surroundings while driving his vehicle.
The road leading to Seranthal building was cleaned of rubbles and wreckages so the main squad that would be sent later could quickly reach Seranthal building. He could see humanoid robots moving heavy rubbles and wreckages off the road. It was a scene that would make people who had an interest in robots to watch them cleaning the road for a while. But, Akira had no interest in such a thing at all.
Akira made a rather stern face when he suddenly said.
“…So, this is why we didnt encounter any monsters this morning when we went to that empty building, huh”
The main road heading to Seranthal building was protected by walls so that monsters would not block the road. Those walls were tall and looked pretty durable, there were also some tanks and humanoid soldiers stationed around those walls as well as armed soldiers.
Carol who was sitting next to Akira expressed his agreement with what he just said.
“It seems that since most of the monsters in Mihazono ruin gathered around the Seranthal building, there are not that many monsters roaming in the other locations, huh. And it seems that a fierce battle is also still in progress around that building even now, I can understand why the City Management decided to dispatch Hunters who had the experience of hunting bounty monster.”
Most of the tanks present were shooting at monsters. The warheads released by those tanks accurately hit the monsters, exploded, and turned those monsters into a new pile of wreckage.
While the humanoid weapons were pushing the medium-sized monsters back using their huge weapons that they were carrying, countless bullets rained down on those monsters and shredded them to pieces.
As for the armed soldiers, they were using the wall to shield themselves from the monsters while shooting back at those monsters focusing more on the small monsters that were hiding behind the wreckages and rubbles.
Akira looked at the ongoing battle around him and frowned, he then mumbled.
“…Are we really going to be okay”
Akira skipped most of the details in his question there, but Carol immediately answered that question while looking relaxed.
“I think that itll be alright. Looking at the current situation, Im sure that the defence line will still hold while were scouting the inside of Seranthal building and Im sure that this road wont be filled with monsters on our way back from that building. Although the squad dispatched by the City Management was hard-pressed to secure the road to the Seranthal building, once the supply route is also secured, they should be able to hold out just fine for the time being.”
The equipment used by the squad securing the road to Seranthal building were mostly transported from the Hunter Office parking lot through the road leading to Seranthal building that they just secured. As long as this route was secured, the Hunter Office should be able to sustain its upper hand for the time being.
“Not to mention, theyre also planning to send the main squad later, so Im sure theyll keep this road secured. So as long as nothing really bad happens, Im sure theyll be able to secure this road while we scout the Seranthal building.”
As Akira looked at the squad guarding the main road, he thought that they indeed looked exceptionally powerful. He then mumbled.
“Isnt it faster if they just send in these people rather than waiting for a squad of Hunters”
Carol smiled bitterly as she looked at Akira who found such a thing to be weird.
“Well, Im sure that one of the reasons is because they cant bring along their tanks and humanoid weapons inside that building. But more than that, Im sure that its a matter of cost.”
“Yep. The real problem would be the cost, its basically cheaper to just hire us, Hunters. Its only my guess but I think that squad is a part of the city defence squad. So Im sure some of them are from the inner wall. Those people from the inner wall should have gone through a certain level of education before they went through extra training and were sent to the outside of the inner wall. Basically, they already spent a lot of money from the day they were born. So if the City Management sends them to somewhere as dangerous as Seranthal building and gets them killed, it would inflict a huge economic loss for the city. Not to mention, if they have families, then the City Management needs to pay for the annuity. And if they have insurance, the city should pay for that too. I cant even imagine how much money the city would lose if the city opts to send those people.”
Seeing how Carol said that while lightly smiling, Akira sighed and said.
“So basically thats because its way cheaper to send us, huh. And the rewards that they have to pay for us which is a pretty big sum of money from our point of view is relatively small compared to the amount of money that the City Management might lose if they send the city defence squad.”
“Yep, basically thats the gist of it. If I have to add anything, that might be also the reason why they dont pay that much attention to Seranthal building until now. There are many ghost stories in Mihazono ruin that are related to Seranthal building, then there are many Hunters who lost their lives in this ruin which I bet is also because of Seranthal building. This ruin might turn safer if they just destroy that building, but they dont do that since it means that theyll lose all the old-world relics inside that building. Its understandable that they have no plans to kill the goose that might give them golden egg, and even if that goose becomes a monster that kills everyone around it, as long as it keeps producing golden eggs, its highly unlikely that they would kill it.”
Akira was making a conflicted face as he sighed.
“… Well, its true that Hunters only risk their lives going to wasteland if only they know that its worth it.”
Akira understood that reasoning and even agreed with a part of it. If the Corporate Government decided to destroy that building, there would be opposition coming from the people who were getting profits from that place. But even so, there was also a part of it that Akira could not help but to feel bothered with, and that showed in his face.
Carol giggled and said.
“If you dont like how they treat you as if your life is worthless, you should work hard to increase the value of your life.”
“To be more precise, what do you think I should do”
“You can just keep on making more money. This is the eastern district, and we are Hunters. If you are alive, you can make so much money, to the point that the Corporate Government would not want to lose someone like you, and if you become strong enough to be able to make that much money, the Corporate Government would be more careful dealing with you, both for the better or for the worse.”
Akira smiled bitterly.
“I still have a long way to go, huh.”
“Thats just how it goes, especially for us, Hunters. Since we work by risking our life, so risking our lives alone is not enough to make others respect us. We need to keep showing results and obtain enough money worth risking our lives. And of course, the more money that we gather, the higher the value of our lives.”
Akira understood what Carol was saying. He also agreed with what she said. But he could not just laugh it off like Carol.
“Seriously, that sounds really rough.”
Alpha smiled and said.
“Dont worry, itll be fine. You have my support and around the time you complete my request, youll be strong enough that the Corporate Government wont be able to treat your life as worthless. Basically, you just need to get strong enough and everything will be solved. So just leave it to me.”
“…Youre right about that, Ill be counting on you.”
Although Akira felt that what Alpha said there was not exactly about the same subject that he was talking about, he still calmly replied with that.
The squad around the Seranthal building formed an encirclement with the Seranthal building in the centre. They erected some kind of line of defence to make sure that no monsters would be able to get inside that encirclement as well as to make sure that the monsters coming out from the inside of that building would not escape the encirclement.
As Elena and her team approached one of those squads, a soldier waved at them and signalled them to stop. And when they did, that soldier approached the front-most vehicle.
The front-most vehicle was Shikarabes. This time Shikarabe did not come with his APC, instead, he was driving another wasteland vehicle just like Akira and Sara. A huge Drankam mark was painted on the side of Shikarabes vehicle.
Shikarabe then said to that soldier.
“Were the reconnaissance team sent to Seranthal building, let us pass.”
“They already told us about your team. Im sorry but can you proceed by legs This defensive wall takes a lot of time to set up, close, and open. You can park your vehicles over there.”
After listening to that soldiers explanation, Shikarabe made a stern face. The defensive wall installed in that place was not the same as the defensive wall that his team went through this morning. It was a stronger defensive wall that did not even have an opening for a vehicle to go through.
“Is this area that dangerous that you guys have no other choice but to use this defensive wall”
“No idea. But after the Seranthal building is secured, we were told to use that building as the second base in this ruin. So you guys can think of this defensive wall as the defensive wall for that second base.”
“With so many of you guys around, isnt it faster if you guys go ahead and at least secure the first floor of that building”
That soldier obviously looked slightly annoyed as he said.
“Give us a break, will you Even if its an order from the people from above, I have no plans to go to a place where the City Management even opted to dispatch Hunters who successfully killed a bounty monster in the past, you know. Thats your job in the first place, isnt it So dont just throw that on us.”
Those soldiers were actually dispatched by private military contractors in Kugamayama city, they were not a part of the citys defence squad, and they were not Hunters like Akira and Shikarabe, who regularly hunted for relics in the wasteland. They were basically people who specialize only in guarding bases and similar facilities.
And those people looked at Hunters with fear and awe.
Their impression of the Hunters was not wrong. But in order to attain such an impression on the Hunters, they had to get enough education, which meant that they must have lived their lives in safety up until now and had spent a lot of money for that education. Some people who could not afford such a luxury would turn into Hunters, then slowly get used to the dangers that they faced every day and distorted their sense of danger, which in turn would give them an excuse to face even more danger.
From another point of view, it was not wrong to say that the Hunters were the gathering of those people with a broken sense of danger. Moreover, from those soldiers point of view, the Hunters who went to hunt the bounty monsters out of their own volitions were the craziest among the crazy. So, from their point of view, Akira, Shikarabe, Elena, Sara, and the rest of the Hunters there were basically the craziest among the crazy Hunters. And strictly speaking, they were not wrong to think that way.
Shikarabe explained the situation to the other Hunters, they then decided to walk toward Seranthal building.
After they finished their preparation and walked past through a small opening on the encirclement net, one of the soldiers who saw them off said to another soldier.
“…Theyre bringing two boys with them though, but all of them are the Hunters who successfully killed a bounty monster, right”
“I bet theyre from Drankam. Im sure you heard about it too right that theres a young boy who is exceptionally skilled in that gang, I heard that boy had successfully hunted a bounty monster. So one of them might be that boy.”
“Ahh, now that you mention it, I did hear about that too. I guess that must be the one with that expensive-looking equipment, but then who is the other boy”
“No idea. It doesnt really matter anyway. That aside, I really want to go back to the city. Why in the world did we get dispatched to this place”
“I heard that some big-shot from the City Management is scheduled to visit the Seranthal building for negotiation or something. So were here basically to make sure that its safe, and thats why theyre doing anything that they can to secure that building and to even make that building a second base if its possible.”
“Are they seriously thinking of doing something like that in this situation”
“Yep, theyre thinking of doing something like that even in this situation. So in order to make sure that their plan would go smoothly and that big-shot wont get killed, they send more soldiers than they normally would, and were basically a part of that operation.”
“I dont know how great that Mr big-shot is, but hes a real pain in the neck. The ruin is more dangerous than usual at the moment, that guy should have postponed his plan or something.”
“If Im not mistaken, hes the head of the long-term strategic department, Yanagisawa, was it again Well, judging from our situation, hes basically that great of a guy so the Corporate Government cant say no to him.”
“Good grief, I really hope those people in the upper echelons can understand our suffering in the field.”
They then continued complaining about the guy who was the main reason why they were dispatched there while kept on the watch.
After passing through the encirclement net, Elenas team carefully approached the Seranthal building. There were wreckages of dead monsters and corpses of the dead Hunters scattered around the area that they had walked through. Once they reached the buildings entrance and confirmed that no monsters were spawning out from the entrance, they finally stepped their feet inside of the Seranthal building.
The first floor of the Seranthal building was basically a big atrium hall with some receptionist desks. Akira looked around the hall and tilted his head. The inside of the hall was unnaturally clean. Although there were some bullet holes in the ceilings and walls as well as some rubbles scattered inside the hall, there were neither dead monsters nor dead Hunters.
While they were exploring the inside of the building, Alpha suddenly said to Akira.
“Akira, Im sorry but I need to leave you for a bit.”
“Dont worry, Ill be back right away. I dont detect any monsters around either, so theres nothing to worry about.”
After she said that, Alphas image immediately vanished from Akiras views.
There was no response when Akira called for her. Akira could also feel that his augmented suit suddenly felt heavier and the reading coming from his information-gathering device also slightly worsened. Those two proved that he had lost Alphas support.
Akira could feel nervousness creeping up inside him.
[…Calm down. She said that there are no monsters around and shell be back soon. Itll be alright, just calm down.]
Akira tried to slowly take a deep breath to calm himself down. The current Akira had the ability to analyze his current situation in order to calm down his nerves.
The other Hunters noticed that slight change, but since they already heard that Akira almost got killed the last time he went to Seranthal building, they thought that he got nervous since he had to visit Seranthal building again.
Elena then gave an order to her team.
“According to what I heard from Akira and Carol, the sensitivity of our information-gathering device might decrease down as we go deeper into the building. So make sure to keep your eyes on your information-gathering device, check if the reading starts getting worse, make sure that its still connected to my information-gathering device. Since I also heard that even the local connection might also get affected, you might lose connection with the other information-gathering device if the signal gets pretty bad. And lastly, check that you can still see the map of Seranthal building and the location of the other Hunters in your information-gathering device.”
Akira could see the map of the Seranthal building displayed on his goggles as well as the scan result of his surroundings. It was the data that he received from Elena. They already set their information-gathering device to be able to exchange information with each other before they left the Hunter Office branch.
Akira then glanced at Carol, Carol was not using any equipment to display extra information. Akira found that weird, he then threw a question to Carol while pointing at his own goggle.
“Carol, are you sure youre okay with not using anything”
Carol smiled full of confidence and replied.
“My body is actually an enhanced body, so basically both of my eyes are also modified eyes. Thats why I dont need to use such a thing.”
“Is that so”
Akira stared deeply into one of Carols eyes. Carol smiled proudly while staring back at Akira.
“…It looks like normal eye though”
“Well, thats because its made of a certain nanomaterial that imitates biological tissue. So, what do you think Its pretty amazing, isnt it”
“Like I said, it looks like just normal eye.”
“Dont you think that it has a different glisten or something”
“…Now that you mention it, there might be some… No, Im not really sure though Hmmm.”
Akira made a longhmm. From the other point of view, it looked like Akira and Carol were staring deeply at each other.
“Akira, are you done with the checks”
“Ah, right, sorry. Im not done yet.”
Akira flusteredly answered back, he then remembered that Sara also had an enhanced body just like Carol. And he noticed that she was also not using goggles, just like Carol.
Like with Carol, Akira also asked the same question to Sara while pointing at his goggles.
“Sara-san, do you also dont need to use goggles It seems that Carol has both of her eyes modified.”
“Eh… Ah, about that, huh Elena and I are actually using this.”
As Sara finally understood Akiras question, she then pointed at a hair ornament-like object that she was using. Akira who saw that tilted his head in confusion. Sara then smiled and explained.
“This is basically a mini display device. Its projecting stereoscopic hologram images just a few millimetres in front of my eyes.”
Akira looked even more confused than before.
“Is it really okay to put that in Sara-sans hair It looks really unstable though Wont it cause the image to move a lot and hard to see”
“Its fine. The image itself doesnt sway at all so its very easy to read the information projected in that image. And when its blocking my view, I can just simply move it outside my view too. Its really convenient since I can control it with my sight.”
“What kind of technology do they use to make such a thing”
“No idea. To be honest, I dont know anything at all about the technology. But the manual says that its based on some kind of old-world technology. So Im sure the researchers are doing their best to answer that exact same question.”
Akiras expression changed from confusion to confirmation. To be more precise, he actually gave up pursuing that question any further. The old-world technology, that one sentence had the power to solve such a question in one go.
There were also other people who asked the same question as Akira and that was totally understandable. Even after the exceptionally talented people of the eastern district were brought up to spend their time studying such a thing, they still did not have enough knowledge to fully understand the mechanism behind it. That was what it meant to be an old-world technology.
The moment Akira heard the word hologram, it reminded him about the holographic girl that he saw the last time he came there. He once again scanned the whole hall, but he still did not spot that hologram.
“…Shes not here.”
Sara tilted her head and asked Akira.
“Its just that I remembered something when you mentioned the word hologram.”
Carol immediately realized what Akira was talking about and scanned the area too.
“Youre right, shes not here.”
Elena finally realized that Akira was looking for the A.I that managed that building. From the information that she gathered, a certain hologram would welcome anyone who entered that building. But she did not see anything like that at the moment.
“Seranthal, the A.I managing this building, huh I was actually thinking that we might be able to gather some information from her about the current situation of the ruin. But it seems that we cant do that, huh. Akira, dont just stand there looking for that A.I, are you done with your checks yet”
“J-Just a little bit more.”
Akira flusteredly returned his gaze back to this information terminal. Since Alpha was no longer around, he had no other choice but to do the adjustment manually. After testing a few settings, he understood well that it only worsened the reading, so he gave up and returned the setting back.
Shikarabe was still adjusting his information-gathering device when he suddenly asked Elena a question.
“By the way, how did you get this map of the interior of Seranthal building This isnt the data from Drankam, right Did you get it yourself before coming here”
Carol immediately interjected and answered Shikarabes question.
“That map is actually from me.”
Shikarabe looked a bit surprised.
“…Are you sure youre okay with that If its originally from you, it means that its from one of that information protected with a named license, so that you cant share it freely, right Dont tell me that youre planning to take everyones share of reward for yourself using this.”
Carol replied with an expression saying that she was offended by that remark.
“Oh my, thats so rude of you to say that although I gave that data for free for the sake of everyones safety. Dont you think so too, Akira”
Akira was surprised when Carol suddenly roped him into that conversation.
“Eh Ahh, well, its true that its great to have this map. Thanks.”
Shikarabe was still looking at Carol with a distrusting gaze as he said.
“My bad, I didnt grow up in an environment where I can just trust free things given out of “pure kindness”. Moreover, I know just how precious the map of Seranthal building is and its not something that you can call cheap. Since when did you turn into a kind person”
Akira also grew up in such an environment. So when Shikarabe pointed that out, he started to get suspicious too.
Carol noticed that slight change, so she immediately tried to explain her reasons to Shikarabe.
“Geez, thats so rude of you. Ill do at least that much to help someone who helped me to get out from a deadly situation in the past as well as his trusted friends too, you know. Well, if I really need to say something to convince you, its basically a map from when the ruin was still in a normal state. Not to mention, the old-world ruin often changes so suddenly in such a short time span. And even if the interior of the Seranthal building has not changed that much, it would not be strange that the interior of the building is changed after all the battles between the Hunters and the monsters that happened inside this building, you know. Thats why the price of that map from before the state in the ruin changed should have significantly lowered by now. Moreover, once the main squad that will come after us secures this building, Im sure that theyll release the latest version of the map. And when that happens, the value of this map will be lowered even more. Thats why I decided to just share it for free, do you understand it now”
Carol was not speaking to Shikarabe in order to convince him, even Shikarabe knew that much. While on the other hand, Shikarabe also understood from there that no matter what she was scheming, Carol would not cause any trouble during that request.
Shikarabe basically had no interest as long as it would not cause any trouble for him. Thus, he signalled to Carol that he had no plans to pursue that question any further.
“… I see, I get it now, sorry for suspecting you.”
“Its fine as long as you get it now.”
Shikarabe and Carol then smiled at each other as if they were talking through telepathy with each other and ended their conversation there.
The reason why Carol shared the map data was not only to make sure of her own safety, it was also for selling a favour to Elena and Sara as well as to win Akiras trust. Thus, she could not afford to have Shikarabe messing up her scheme. That was why she said that to Shikarabe.
Carol then glanced at Akira, and as she planned, Akira did not seem to be suspicious of her any longer.
Elena then said to everyone, especially to Shikarabe.
“If you guys are done with the preparation, should we go now And also, hold yourself from causing any unnecessary fight.”
“Sorry about that. Im ready here, lets go.”
Elena then looked at the other Hunters, Akira lightly nodded and signalled that he was ready too.
Akira renewed his resolve and tensed up his whole body. With Alpha still not around, he had no other choice but to rely on his own skill to follow Elena and the other veteran Hunters. He reminded himself to do his best as not to slow down the other Hunters.
“Im back, were you missing me”
Akiras resolve was immediately wasted. Alpha appeared back in his view as she smiled mischievously at him.
If Akira had to be honest, he would have to answer Alphas question with a yes. So in order to avoid that, he instead asked Alpha a question.
“Where were you gone”
“Its nothing big, just a small thing that I needed to do. Its nothing to worry about.”
“If its really not that important, dont do that again. Where do you think Im right now”
“Thats not what I meant when I said that. It was at least something that demanded me to leave you for a while just to do it. I dont mind telling you the detail, but in order to do that, I need to tell you all the applied conditions which will take about 30 hours of oral explanations, then I need to make sure that you understand it, then Ill still need your permission after that. So, do you still want to know”
Alpha smiled amusedly after getting the reaction that she already predicted from Akira.-