Elenas team was waiting for Shikarabes team to return back in a hall near the stairs. They already cleaned the room from any monsters and they were in the middle of barricading the other hallways by piling the dead B18 monsters.
Elena, Carol, and Sara were able to casually kick around the dead B18 wreckages that were pretty heavy. It was thanks to Saras nanomachine enhanced body, Elenas augmented suit, and both for Carols case.
Due to her side job, Carol enhanced her body with nanomachine so that she could fight even when she had nothing on her. Moreover, it was also to enhance the beauty of her body to help her seduce men. Because of that, she spent a lot of money to enhance her body with nanomachine, then to top it off, she was also using an augmented suit.
Although Carol looked seductive with her already beautiful body wrapped in a sexy augmented suit, as if it was to belie her outer appearance, she was powerful enough to easily send the B18 monster flying with her kick. It was thanks to the amalgamation of the old-world technology that was close to magic.
If not for her seductive outer appearance, it was easy to notice her superhuman strength. And for those who were not knowledgeable about how much such a modification would cost, they would be surprised when they hear the price tag. Most people got their attention diverted by her beautiful and charming outer appearance and did not think about the technical side of things.
After they finished securing the hall, they then took a short break and lightly sighed. They had defeated the other monsters that came to the room, barricaded the entrance to the other hallways, and pushed aside the wreckages that were left inside that room.
Elena scanned the area around the hall with her information-gathering device and checked the hallway that Shikarabes team was pushing through. But she could not see any signal coming from that direction.
Judging from the physical strength of Shikarabes team, the strength of the monsters, and the distance to the room, if Shikarabes team pulled back, she should be able to see them soon. Elena had no idea whether Shikarabes team was having a hard time or they were doing well.
Seeing Elena, who was looking in the direction where Shikarabes team went with a worried expression, Sara smiled at her and tried to calm her down.
“Dont worry, theyll be back in no time. Im sure that you also thought so when you let them go, right”
“…If youre saying that I thought the danger was acceptable, then the answer is yes. Since Im sure Shikarabe has no plans to die here, so Im sure that he wont make a mistake if he decides to retreat.”
Balancing risk and profit was the main job of the Hunters. The moment Elena or Akira or any other Hunters stepped into the wasteland, they would be putting their life as a gambling chip. As such, it was important to make sure that they would get profit worth risking their lives.
Elena already evaluated the risk and decided that it was worth the risk. Although it was not like she had absolute confidence in her decision, she also did not unnecessarily doubt it either. She trusted that the decision she made was correct.
But when she said that it would be fine, it would just be her telling that to herself. And if she said that she was worried, it would only cause her to doubt her own decision. Thus, she tried not to say anything to herself.
But to Sara, it seemed that Elena was trying to be strong, which was a rare thing to do for her. Sara found it rather amusing as she smiled.
Elena tried to hide her embarrassment as she sent an intense gaze at Sara and jabbed.
“Nah, its nothing. Like I said. Itll be fine. Its true that its rather worrying, but I dont think Shikarabe would go as far as to sacrifice his life to save the rescue targets. Im sure hell make the right decision when things get dangerous. Moreover, Akira is strong enough to even make Shikarabe invite him to hunt a bounty monster, as for that Togami, since Shikarabe allowed him to come, Im sure that hes not that weak either. Itll be fine, dont worry.”
Sara might have guessed what Elena was thinking, so she used the words that Elena was avoiding.
Elena felt like Sara just read her mind, she replied back rather clumsily trying to hide her blushed face.
Carol approached Sara and Elena, she threw a smile at them and said.
“It seems that we can get a short break here. It would be great if Shikarabes team can return back while we have the leeway.”
Carol turned her face and looked at the hallway leading to the room where their rescue targets were as she said that. It did not seem like any monsters were going to come out from that direction. They wanted to believe that it was because Shikarabes team was still pushing forward while killing the monsters on their way.
“I really hope they will return back safely soon. Right”
Carol said so as if she was asking if Sara and Elena also felt the same. From the way she sounded and the expression that she had, it seemed that Carol was simply worried about Shikarabes team.
Sara replied back casually.
“Itll be fine, theyll be back in no time.”
As for Elena, she seemed to be somehow suspicious of Carol, but she agreed with Carol.
“Youre right, I too hope theyll be back safely soon.”
Carol smiled as she confirmed that both Sara and Elena agreed with her. But then she said something that might cause a worry.
“Well, 2 of the 3 Hunters in Shikarabes team are young boys after all. I guess its understandable to be worried. I did see Akiras skill from up close and I know how strong he is, but for that Togami, I cant say Im not worried. What do you think”
Elena was the one who answered Carols question.
“He at least has good equipment on him. As for his ability, well, Shikarabe allowed him to join, so Im sure hes not that bad.”
Carol nodded in agreement with that evaluation.
“Thats true. I also dont think hes that bad either, but I do think that Akira is still stronger than him.”
Elena and Sara nodded in agreement with what Carol said. After Carol confirmed that, she then frowned and said.
“…But, if we look at them from a glance without any prior information beforehand, I think Akira looks to be the weakest one, doesnt it”
Sara was a bit surprised.
“Is that so”
“Yep. That is if we only judge solely based on their outer appearance. Not to mention, his equipment seems to be the worst among them too… I actually can guess the ability of most Hunters just from seeing them and my guesses never missed that much until now… Or at least, thats what I thought. Akira is the first one who I was wrong about. Honestly speaking, I find that really strange. After all, Ive never gotten my guess wrong by this much until now. It really made me lose my confidence.”
If she had not met Akira in the Seranthal building and fled together from that building, Carol would not have had the chance to see Akiras real ability. If she had met Akira carrying the same equipment in Kugamayama city, she would have thought he was just one of those common Hunters in the eastern district, and she would not be that intrigued by him.
Carol then asked a question to Sara and Elena.
“Hypothetically speaking, lets say if you meet Akira without any prior knowledge about him, do you think youll be able to recognize his real ability”
Elena and Sara thought for a bit, looked at each other, and then started trying to analyze that question again. Sara was thinking about how to answer Carols question, while Elena was trying to probe why Carol asked that question, both of them there were thinking about 2 different things.
Sara smiled bitterly and answered first.
“I dont think I would be able to do that. Its true that Akira seems weak from a glance, and he sometimes seems nervous when exploring the ruins. If you ask me whether I can recognize his skill without any prior knowledge, I would say that itll be very unlikely.”
As for Elena, she answered back with a common answer as if she was trying to give a neutral reply.
“Even if you said to do that from a glance, you can actually pretty much guess the ability of a Hunter from their outer look, body composition, how old he or she looks, and the quality and number of equipment he or she is carrying. So, lets say if I meet Akira in the relatively safe residential area of Kugamayama city while hes on his casual clothing, I would say that its impossible to see through his real ability in that situation.”
Carol was listening closely to both of their answers. She then smiled as if she was satisfied.
“So, even Sara and Elena cant do that too, huh Well, I guess were lucky to have met someone who hides his real ability like Akira in a situation where we can actually see his real ability, right Yep, as I thought, we should hold it dearly.”
Sara smiled and said.
“Well, now that you mention it, were indeed lucky.”
Elenas expression somewhat softened as she said.
“You can say that again. So lets do our best to properly do our job so that Akira wont cut his connection with us.”
Carol smiled and nodded showing that she agreed too.
As she was about to continue chatting in a good mood, suddenly, one of the piles of wreckages that they set up to barricade the room moved. The monsters that were on the other side of the pile were trying to either dismantle the barricade or push the pile off.
Carol, who noticed it, slightly frowned as she clicked her tongue. She then immediately ran to that particular hallway with her gun ready in her hand and an obviously annoyed face. She stood in front of the pile and stuck her gun into that pile.
She pulled the trigger while her gun was still pushed into that pile, aiming at the monsters on the other side of that pile. The muzzle-flash flashed the inside of the pile as flashes passed through the small opening among the wreckages. The powerful piercing bullet easily pierced through the pile and hit the monsters on the other side.
Carol kept her finger on the trigger as if she was venting her irritation. The piercing bullets easily shot down the monsters on the other side of the pile and turned them into extra obstacles, preventing other monsters from coming from that hallway.
Carol whispered, it was obvious that she was angry since she got interrupted back there.
“…Good grief, right when I have the chance to gather more info. Cant these monsters be a little more considerate!”
From that short exchange, Carol confirmed that Elena and Sara also could not accurately guess Akiras real skill. Carol at least expected it until that point.
Her real qualm was about Elena and Sara, who did not find it strange how big the gap between how strong Akira looked and how strong he really was. That was the big difference between both of them and Carol.
If Carol had to make a guess, it might be Sara was not bothered by something like that in the first place, but that should not be the case for Elena. She should at least find it strange, question it, and at least make some guesses about it.
But judging from their expression and the tone of their voice when they spoke, Carol did not feel any trace of anything like that from both Sara and Elena.
So in short, Sara and Elena should have the answer to that question, or at least, they should have a good guess to explain the reason why such a huge gap was created. Once Carol confirmed it and understood it, she had successfully completed half of her reason why she talked with both Sara and Elena back there.
But the moment she wanted to make the move to accomplish the other half of her aim, the monsters just came barging in and interrupted her.
[Well, I guess Ill just leave it as that, its a good thing that now I know Elena and Sara know the reason behind Akiras real strength… Wait, no, dammit! As I thought, its really bothering me!]
Since Carol knew about it now, she could not help but be bothered by it. She then put all her irritation in her bullets and vented it toward the monsters that interrupted her.
Togami was barely able to follow Shikarabe and Akira.
They were pushing through the hallway against the monsters that filled it, aiming for the room where their rescue targets were. Other than only being able to slowly proceed because of the number of monsters there, they did not encounter any other trouble.
But, the number and the strength of the monsters were already above what Togami could handle. Akira and Shikarabe forced their way forward relying on their firepower, as for Togami, he was barely able to follow them while picking the monsters that the other two had missed since both of them prioritized more on pushing forward as fast as they could.
It did not seem that Shikarabe had any plans to slow down just to let Togami catch up. Akira also did not seem to be willing to get left behind to help Togami fight against the swarm of B18 monsters. Although both of them had no plans to leave Togami behind, if Togami could not catch up with them and if he could not follow them unless they helped him, then there was no helping it. Thats what both Akira and Shikarabe thought about that situation.
If they slowed down there, it meant that they would have to face more monsters. It would endanger them as well as Elenas team that was waiting for them back in the hall near the stairs. So, in order to reach their goal as soon as possible, they prioritized more on pushing forward rather than waiting for Togami.
Not to mention, Togami was the one who forced his way to join Shikarabes team. So Akira thought that Togami would not want them to lower the speed nor to assist him. And even if Togami wished for that unconsciously, both Shikarabe and Akira had no plans to comply at all.
Togami became desperate and pushed forward. He did all he could as not to get left behind by the other two. After all, even he knew well that getting left behind in that situation simply meant death.
Togami glanced at Shikarabe and Akira who were fighting the monsters in front of him. They were using the layout of the hallway and the wreckage of the B18 monsters that they defeated to hide, they also kicked the dead monsters and used them as a shield against the incoming bullets as they did not show any hesitation at all in fighting the monsters in front of them. They sometimes showed themselves in the line of fire of the enemies, but they were able to shoot the enemies down way faster before they got shot as they kept their upper hand in that situation.
Togami watched how the Hunters who were better than him were moving around, it was as if they were showing the difference in their skills. Togami was making a dejected face. His desperate face was mixed with pain, envy, jealousy, regret, and disappointment in himself.
But looking from the other peoples point of view, Togami was actually doing pretty well. His sharpened concentration reached the end of his 4 limbs as he moved them around quickly, showing the skill that he had polished through daily training. Seeing how the other Hunters who were better than him were moving around, he quickly imitated them and boosted his skill even more.
Togami was using every single ounce of his power there, his movement was already above his usual limit. As he was working together with the other Hunters who were better than him and trying desperately to catch up with them, plus from the daily training that he had gone through, his talent started to bloom there.
Togami himself noticed that he was moving better than he expected. When he realized that, he could feel compliments for his growth starting to echo in the back of his mind.
But that was not enough. It was far away from enough for him to have the same pride in himself that he once had.
Togami could see how Shikarabe, who had better equipment than him, was moving very well suitable for someone who was using those powerful equipment. While on the other hand, there was also Akira, who although was using worse equipment than him, was able to perform really well. Even with his high-quality equipment on, Togami was barely able to catch up. This all meant that he was truly lacking in skills. This single fact prevented Togami from feeling satisfied with his current skill level.
Right at that time, suddenly a B18 monster flew to his right. Togami immediately froze up the moment he saw that monster. His reaction was late, as he tried to aim his rifle at that monster as fast as he could, but that monster had already fixed its aim at him first.
The logical side of Togami shrieked that he would not make it on time, he prepared himself to welcome death.
But suddenly, that monster crashed down in a single shot.
Togami was taken aback and turned in the direction where that shot came from. He could see a CWH anti-material rifles muzzle pointed in his direction, it was Akira. Akira had noticed that monster ahead of time, he immediately turned back, readied his CWH anti-material rifle, and sniped that monster before it could shoot at Togami.
Akira then just casually turned around again and continued fighting the monsters in front of him as if he did something that was nothing unusual. But behind him, Togami was watching Akiras back with teary eyes as if he was about to cry.
Togami himself was not sure to whom he said that to and why he said that, he then picked himself up and continued forward.
Akira was pushing his way forward aiming for the room that was not that far ahead of him. He used his CWH anti-material rifle to fight the B18 monsters. The special ammo that he used could easily break the forcefield armour, pierce the monsters body all the way to the other end, and then hit the other monster behind it.
The monster that got its control device destroyed in one shot turned into big wreckage, Akira then used his augmented suit to kick it to the deeper part of the hallway and crashed it into the other monsters. He was also using the wreckage to shield himself from the monsters in front of him as he kept pushing forward.
In reality, Akiras augmented suit was not designed for CQC. But thanks to Alphas support, the augmented suit would harden only the moment his kick connected. Furthermore, Alpha was also doing other small adjustments like transmitting the shock from the kick to Akiras whole body to reduce the burden on his leg. But of course, there was a limit to how far that could continue.
The moment Akira kicked a monster, suddenly a strange sound came out from his leg. But rather than pain, Akira could feel something else that was equally bad and twitched.
“It just made acrack sound though!! It did! Didnt it!”
Alpha smiled casually at Akira and replied.
“Dont worry, your leg is not broken.”
“That doesnt mean that everything is fine as long as its not broken, you know!”
“Itll heal up in no time. Arent you glad that you bought that expensive medicine”
“Thats not the problem here!!”
Akira swallowed another pill of the medicines that he already had in his mouth when he said that. It seemed that he had gotten so used to it to the point that he was using the 2,000,000 Aurum per box medicine without any hesitation.
The medicine that he had taken beforehand quickly fixed the source of that strange sound, his bone, together with the muscle that got torn up from the kicking. And before the effect of the last medicine that he took had worn off, Akira swallowed another pill to make sure that any injury in his body would immediately get healed.
The current situation was actually way above what Akira could handle. So in order to be able to face that situation, Alpha was controlling Akiras body through his augmented suit and moving his body around pretty violently.
His muscle was torn when he suddenly accelerated, his bone cracked when he suddenly stopped. In order to avoid enemies shots while shooting back at them, Akira had to shoot from positions where he could not properly take in the kickback from his rifle, so in order to do that, he relied on the power of his augmented suit and put his body in even more burden. And when he kicked the wreckage on the floor, the impact was transmitted to his leg as if he was dragging it on the floor.
So for Akira, fighting in that situation was the same as crushing his body bit by bit. The medicine that he took beforehand would then immediately heal any injuries, and only by that, was he able to sustain himself in that situation.
Akira kept on complaining to Alpha through telepathy while fighting the monsters there, then Alpha would respond back while smiling as usual. That silly talk that he was having there helped him to keep his calm in the middle of that battle filled with flying bullets from both directions. It served as a support to Akiras mental state.
As long as Alpha was smiling like usual, it meant that his life was not in danger. No matter how many times bullets passed close to his face, no matter how many monsters that he was facing, as long as Alpha was smiling like usual, Akira was sure that he still had the upper hand.
Even if that was only his misconception, that kind of good misconception was something that he needed in that situation. He did not need any pessimistic opinion that might disturb his calmness. Akira somehow was already over such a thing as he continued fighting without showing any hesitation and even having a confident smile plastered on his face.
Looking at that Akira, Alpha somehow smiled in satisfaction.
Akira suddenly asked Alpha a question.
“Weve gone quite far though! How far away is that room from here!”
“Its not that far ahead, just a little more.”
Alpha pointed his finger toward a huge pile of dead monsters not too far from him.
“Whats up with that pile”
“The entrance to that room is basically behind that pile of wreckage. I bet the people who barricaded themselves inside that room killed the monsters that were trying to enter that room and eventually created that pile.”
Akiras face twitched, he seemed a bit disturbed.
“Do we really have no other choice but to remove that while fighting the monsters”
“If I have to add more, I would say that you would need to secure the entrance while checking the inside of the room too. Otherwise, youll get trapped inside that room.”
“Good grief, what a pain in the butt. Is there anything we can do to remove that pile in one go…”
The moment Akira said that, the pile in front of that entrance was suddenly blown away.
Reina, Shiori, and Kanae stood in front of the entrance of the room where they barricaded themselves.
Although they were in the middle of barricading themselves inside that room, Kanae noticed fighting was going on outside and decided that it was their chance to escape. They immediately finished all of their preparation, and now they were ready to go out.
There was a good chance the monsters that they were running from were still roaming outside the room, and there was no mistaking it that those monsters were in the middle of a fight against something else.
The most important thing was not the fact that the monsters were fighting against something else, but that they were in the middle of a fight. If they had to make an optimistic guess, they might be fighting against a squad sent to rescue them.
But there was no guarantee that those Hunters could reach that room. Moreover, they might be just completely different Hunters fighting against the monsters for a completely different reason.
Their best chance there was to use the chaos happening outside to slip away and make a run. Both Shiori and Kanae thought so, they knew that they might not get another chance.
Kanae was smiling casually and turned to Reina.
“Milady, are you ready”
Reina looked slightly nervous.
“Im okay. We can go anytime.”
They were about to plunge themselves into a place that was filled with monsters. It was understandable for Reina to feel nervous. Reina repeatedly took deep breaths to calm herself, she could feel her heart was thumping so hard to the point that it was so deafening for her.
Shiori then gently said to Reina to help her calm down.
“Milady, no matter what happens, Kanae and I will protect you, so please dont be worried.”
Reina looked at Shiori and smiled.
“I know, Ill be counting on you.”
“Just leave it to us.”
Shiori smiled back confidently at Reina.
Shiori had set up portable walls to barricade the entrance to that room, and there was a pile of dead monsters on the other side of that wall. Kanae carefully approached that portable wall while getting herself ready.
She then squeezed her fist and pulled it back.
“Well then, here we go, 3, 2, 1…”
Kanae was smiling from ear to ear, she was excited to join in on the fight. Reina had a serious look on her face as she resolved herself and gripped her rifle tightly. While Shiori also had a serious look, which showed her devotion toward Reina.
Kanae then blew away the portable wall and the pile behind it with a single powerful punch from her right fist.-