When Elenas team was fighting in the first-floor atrium of the Seranthal building, Kurosawa, Katsuya, and the other Hunters outside the Seranthal building were fighting the B18 monsters flowing out from that building.
Although their fight was nowhere easy, they were somehow able to maintain the upper hand.
The B18 monsters were relatively strong monsters. Compared to the usual monsters roaming in the Mihazono ruin, they could be considered as powerful monsters. Even a single B18 monster could wreak havoc, but even so, the stream of B18 monsters coming out from the Seranthal building did not seem to be going to stop anytime soon. Normal Hunters would have died by now.
Kurosawa and his men could handle the fight just fine. They had properly prepared themselves and had taken enough distance from the building while giving up trying to secure the building. Because of that, even if they took it easy, the B18 monsters would not be able to push them back.
Kurosawa and his men maintained that situation where there was basically very low danger to their lives.
Katsuya and his men were also fighting back the B18 monsters while hiding behind the portable walls lent by Kurosawa and his men. But in contrast to Kurosawa and his men who were not hard-pressed fighting the monsters, Katsuya and his men seemed to be having a hard time.
Kurosawa and his men had zero casualties and zero injuries, they had no reason to try to go to the Seranthal building again. But for Katsuya, some of his men were still left inside the building. They might be still alive and it might be too late if he did not try to save them soon.
But of course, Katsuya could not do that at the moment. His negotiation with Kurosawa ended up in failure and it was rather impossible for Katsuya and his men to try to rescue their comrades alone. Katsuya was making a stern but pained face, he was high-strung since he could not rescue his men, and his emotion was starting to spread to his men there.
And then, among all of Katsuyas men, there was one who felt a soul-crushing level of guilt, Lilina.
A lot of Katsuyas men were blaming Lilina. It was because Katsuya told the rest of his men what happened with his negotiation with Kurosawa. It was not like Lilina was at fault there, but the other Hunters who could not rescue their friends were looking for an easy target to direct the blame.
Lilina felt the others gazes at her, she had a stern expression. It was a mix of anger and hatred with a slight trace of fear and guilt.
[…Am I at fault here Am I the only one at fault here!]
And so, Lilina was also trying to look for an easy target from around her to direct the blame, that was when she saw Kurosawa, who seemed to be fighting back the monsters without much trouble.
[Look at that! Hes not having a hard time fighting back the monsters, isnt it! So is there any need for him to barricade himself so much like that! Thats just so stupid!!]
From Lilinas eyes, it seemed that Kurosawa and his men were able to easily fight back the B18 monsters. But her mind that was looking for a target to direct her anger caused her to lower down her evaluation of the B18 monsters rather than noticing that Kurosawa and his men were strong Hunters.
As her irritation peaked and she could no longer hold it back, Lilina let her emotion take over. She immediately jumped out from behind the portable wall to shoot down the B18 monsters preventing her from saving the other Hunters left inside the Seranthal building.
She ignored Katsuya and the other Hunters behind her who shouted at her to stop what she was doing. She repositioned herself to a portable wall that was closer to the Seranthal building and peeked out to aim at a B18 monster.
If Lilina had to make any excuses for why she did that, it could be said that her action there was to push the front line forward. She thought that if someone that they blamed courageously pushed forward, the other Hunters who were holding grudges against her would start fighting more vigorously out of pride and ego. And if that happened, it would definitely help to rescue the Hunters left inside the building. But that was all nothing but Lilinas own opinion.
Lilina was doing pretty well, she had shot down multiple B18 monsters on her own.
The B18 monsters there immediately focused their firepower on the one person who just left the enemys formation. Lilina had no way to evade it. Even the portable wall from Kurosawa was not strong enough to block that much focused firepower. As expected, she was barraged with bullets.
Lilina fell down in the pool of her own blood. It was by pure chance that she did not immediately die. While lying there waiting for her inevitable death, she could see from her blurring vision Katsuya running desperately at her, trying to rescue her.
Lilina then smiled happily, she thought that it should be alright since Katsuya was coming for her. That was her last thought before she took her last breath.
Katsuya, who saw Lilina get shot, left his post as the commander and jumped out to help her. He destroyed the B18 monsters on his way as he desperately tried to reach Lilina, but when he reached her, she was already dead.
Katsuya looked at Lilina. To him, Lilinas gaze was as if she was blaming Katsuya, why he did not come to save her.
Katsuya then closed his eyes. He remembered his conversation with Sheryl and reminded himself that he had decided to stop creating ghosts out of his dead comrades. When he opened his eyes, this time, he saw Lilinas smile, she seemed to be happy that Katsuya had rushed to her.
But that did not change the fact that he failed to save his friends again. He let the creeping anger inside him take over his body, his expression turned stern as he shouted at his communication device to give an order to his men.
“Everyone! Get back!!”
Katsuya then abandoned his position as the leader of his team, he abandoned his duty, stood up, and started shooting at the B18 monsters around him.
In a blank white space, someone smiled.
Kurosawa was flabbergasted as he saw Katsuya fighting the monsters. It was really out of his expectation.
Katsuya was fighting multiple B18 monsters at the same time, and the one pushing back was Katsuya. He was shooting down the B18 monsters around him one by one, maybe he was able to do that because of the powerful rifle that he was using.
He was moving without a shred of hesitation, it was as if he knew exactly where the enemies were, how they were moving, where they were aiming, and where their weak points were. Although most of the B18 monsters there already changed their targets to Katsuya, he was still able to maintain the upper hand.
It was as if he was a Hunter who was extremely powerful that it was strange for him to be here. Such thoughts entered onlookers minds as he lay waste on the B18 swarm.
Kurosawa could not help but mumble.
“So strong. I see now, its no surprise that he got to take the command, huh. Wait, no, but still…”
His words could be interpreted as both amazement and exasperation.
Kurosawa looked around. His men were also amazed by Katsuyas action. Some of Katsuya men were even cheering him on.
It was not like Kurosawa had any kind of hatred or grudge toward Katsuya, but he felt some kind of feeling that was not exactly a compliment either. But for now, he decided to put that aside, he had to give an order to his men in this situation.
“Everyone, provide him with support!! Push the line forward slowly!!”
One of Kurosawas men looked at Kurosawa and said.
“Are we going to help him”
“Hes taking the decoy role even though no one asked for it. This is a perfect chance, we can take it easy in this case. And although I told you to push the line, of course, safety is number one… Stop anyone who wants to join him, theres no need to accompany him in doing something that reckless.”
“Ooh, I see. Roger that!”
Kurosawas men started to make their moves. Kurosawa watched his men pushing forward. It seemed that his worry was proven untrue, so he sighed in relief before continuing to shout commands.
Kurosawa and his men slowly but surely pushed the front line forward. The number of B18 monsters around the Seranthal building was obviously decreasing.
And when he finished most of the B18 monsters in the area, a flash of blinding light came out from the buildings entrance. It was when Shiori cut down the huge monster.
Kurosawa looked towards the Seranthal buildings entrance and noticed Elenas team come running out from inside.
“So thats the reconnaissance team, huh. They defeated that huge monster. Thats pretty impressive.”
With this, there should be no problem getting inside the Seranthal building again. Kurosawa immediately ordered his men to move out.
Elenas team that just came out from the inside of the building was so surprised when they saw the situation outside, but even so, they did not stop running. Elena was running in the front, leading the team while checking for enemies with her information-gathering device. They kept their guards up while running through a huge field filled with B18 wreckages.
Unlike the inside of the building, Elenas information-gathering device was working well. So in order to not get ambushed like last time, Elena carefully checked the surrounding area for any signals. And when she found a signal, she immediately warned the other members of her team.
“A signal from the right, keep your eyes out for any enemies.”
Akira immediately turned his focus toward the position that Elena sent where that signal came from. There were dead Hunters there, all of them were using augmented suits. Akira had a bad feeling about what would happen.
“Again, huh. Alpha, can you tell if they can still move”
“No idea. One thing for sure, those Hunters just died recently and their augmented suits still have enough energy to move. So possibility wise, its not zero.”
“Do you have any idea how and why”
“I can make multiple guesses. Someone might be somehow controlling them, or maybe the software in their augmented suits was modified to move on their own. But as long as you dont get caught in a surprise attack, you should have no problem defeating them. Due to the various limitations on their signal speed, local storage size, and other limitations, they should not be able to do any complex movements. After all, you were able to defeat them all alone before, right”
The moving augmented suits that Akira fought inside the Seranthal building were not that dangerous. It was just that he was caught by surprise. If those dead Hunters were as strong as him with Alphas support, he would have been dead by now.
Since Akira did not have those limitations, he thought that it was because he could connect to the old-world domain. Although he still had some questions and doubts about it, he decided to save that for later.
But that was when Akiras bad luck came up again. As the result of a complicated chain of events and Akiras bad luck, one of the Hunters who was using a modified augmented suit stood up. As if it had received an order to simply stand up and shoot any nearby enemies, it immediately aimed its rifle toward the nearest Hunter, and that nearest Hunter was Akira.
Akira calmly pulled up his CWH anti-material rifle, aimed it at the augmented suits control device clearly indicated with the help from Alpha, and pulled the trigger.
Bullet flew and opened a huge hole in that dead Hunter as well as destroying the control device of the augmented suit. That dead Hunter then fell down to the ground and completely stopped moving.
Katsuya, who saw that by pure coincidence shouted.
That dead Hunter was Lilina.
Katsuya ran toward Akira. For Katsuya, who did not know what was going on, it seemed as if Akira just finished Lilina who was actually still alive.
Akira was about to shift his aim to Katsuya by pure reflex, but Alpha stopped him through his augmented suit.
Akira frowned and asked.
Alpha replied with a serious face.
“Calm down, we cant afford to cause a needless fight in this situation.”
Akira kept staring at Alpha. It seemed that it was not enough to fully convince him, so Alpha continued.
“Ill properly give you support next time, so just calm down for now.”
Akira hesitatingly lowered his rifle.
Shikarabe gave a signal with his hand to Elena and the other Hunters to go ahead, and then he stood next to Akira.
Shiori also recommended them to hurry up, so the rest of the Hunters went ahead and left Akira and Shikarabe behind. After all, they were finally able to escape the building, so Shiori thought that it would be very unfavourable to get involved in another troublesome fight right now.
Katsuya ran all the way to Akira and stood in front of him. He was slightly shaking while glaring at Akira. It was even weird that they did not start shooting at each other yet.
Shikarabe then asked Katsuya.
“You were running to us, so I bet you want something from us, right So, what is it If its nothing, then get lost.”
Katsuyas glare shifted to Shikarabe.
“…Why did you shoot her!”
“Someone is somehow controlling the augmented suits of the dead Hunters, so we had to neutralize them. Thats all there is to it.”
“…She might be still alive, you know!”
“No, shes dead. I bet its exactly because shes already dead that the security of her augmented suit got disengaged which allowed someone else to control it. We were also attacked by similar means back in the building too. I bet some of the monsters that came out from the Seranthal building modified her augmented suit or something.”
“Do you really think that Ill just shut up and accept that explanation”
Katsuya did not accept Shikarabes explanation as he kept glaring at Shikarabe.
To that, Shikarabe looked back at Katsuya with hostility.
“I see, in that case, it means that shes still alive, her augmented suit was not hacked. But even so, she aimed at us. So, basically, one of your men intentionally aimed her rifle at us, right”
Shikarabe took a fighting stance. Although it was not like he was aiming his rifle at Katsuya, he was ready to start fighting anytime anyone made a suspicious move.
Katsuya reeled back.
“T-thats not what I meant…”
Shikarabe was still glaring at him.
“So then, whats your explanation Go on.”
Katsuya could not answer back.
Akira and Shikarabe just stood there against Katsuya in silence. No one said anything. That was when Kurosawa, Yumina, and Airi approached them, they quickly noticed the tense mood and frowned since they did not know what was going on except for the fact that they were on the brink of fighting each other.
They just finished fighting the monsters, so, Kurosawa thought that it was unwise to fight against other Hunters in this situation.
Kurosawa lightly sighed and said to Katsuya.
“I have no idea whats going on here, but are you sure you dont want to use this chance to rescue your men trapped inside that building Ill tell you this, my men will stand by near the entrance to secure the area first, we have no plans to help you in looking for survivors.”
Katsuya looked at Kurosawa, Airi, and Yumina, and then his gaze returned back to Akira and Shikarabe. He somehow made a frustrated look before he turned and ran into the Seranthal building. Yumina and Airi immediately followed behind him.
Kurosawa looked exasperatedly at Katsuya as he left that place. He then turned to Shikarabe, lightly smiled at him, and said.
“Yo there, Shikarabe, long time no see.”
“Kurosawa, dont tell me that youre the leader of the Hunters outside the Seranthal building.”
“Yep, but only half of them, I lead the Hunter group unaffiliated with Drankam. I dont know what happened, but theyre not under my lead, so I wont accept any complaints about them. Well, putting that aside, as the leader of the next team that will go there, can you give me any information that you have to share”
Shikarabe sighed as if he was relieved, he then calmly replied.
“Sure. Akira, Ill stay here. Tell that to Elena and the other Hunters too. As for Shiori… Well, I guess it doesnt really matter, huh. Just return back to the Kugamayama city ahead and follow Elenas order from there. Tell Togami to do his job properly as an escort.”
Akira lightly nodded and went to catch up with Elena.
Kurosawa kept watching Akira who was leaving that place as he said to Shikarabe.
“So thats the Akira that you told me, huh. Is he as strong as that Katsuya”
“No idea, he might as well be.”
“I see, there are so many strong young Hunters lately that its rather scary… Well, leaving that aside, its rare to see you picking a fight with someone that quickly.”
Shikarabe frowned again.
“Is that so I think that was normal though.”
“No no no, the usual you would not take a fighting stance so quickly… Well, I guess that doesnt really matter now, huh. So, what happened inside that building”
“…Well, all kind of things.”
Kurosawa smiled wryly.
“I have no idea what happened, but that must have been rough for you too, huh.”
“Yeah, you can say that again.”
Shikarabe sounded really tired when he said that.
Elena and the other Hunters were waiting for Akira near where they parked their vehicles. After they grouped up with Akira and listened to his explanation, they headed back to Kugamayama city. Shiori, Reina, and Kanae were in Shikarabes vehicle with Togami driving.
When they left Mihazono ruin, they finally lowered their tension. Although they were still in the middle of the wasteland, it was much safer than Mihazono ruin.
Akira was resting in the drivers assistant seat, he asked Carol to drive in place of him. Both his body and mind were already at the limit. He wanted to get back to his home as soon as possible, take a good bath, and sleep like a dead log on his bed.
Carol glanced at Akira and smiled bitterly. It seemed that it would be useless trying to seduce Akira in that situation, she also refrained from striking a conversation to let him take a rest. As for Carol, she still had enough energy, after all, her body was enhanced with nanomachines.
Akira completely lowered his guard as he was resting his body and mind. After a short break, he regained his physical and psychical strength, and it gave him the leeway to start thinking about something else. He then remembered all that happened inside the Seranthal building.
“…Alpha. As I thought, it still bugs me though. Where were you when you left me And what were you doing”
“Oh my, that would need you to listen to a 30 minutes long explanation of the ToS though, are you sure you want to know”
Akiras face twitched.
“No, I dont think I can stand that. But still, like, can you at least give me something Or is it something that you cant tell at all without that ToS”
Alpha frowned, she seemed a bit troubled.
“Well, lets see. If I have to take out the only things that I can tell you, I was trying to fix the source that lowered the sensitivity of information-gathering devices inside the Seranthal building.”
Akira was a bit surprised, he sounded dissatisfied with her answer as he asked.
“…Was that something so important that you have to temporarily take off your support”
“There are many factors to consider when you decide on your priority. If I was able to do that, youll have an easier time fighting the monsters and youll have a better chance to escape that building in one piece. Especially for Elena, who focuses more on detecting enemies and looking for their weak points in order to have the upper hand in a fight. Sara will also receive some benefits from that too. So basically, I decided that after thinking about the whole team too, you see. Of course, its also because I believed that you should be able to handle the situation just fine by yourself.”
“I see, well, youre not wrong there.”
It seemed that Akira finally accepted Alphas explanation, Alpha then continued.
“Although, like I said before, if you had wanted to just abandon everyone else and prioritize on escaping that building yourself, then I would have stayed with you back there. So, do you prefer that”
“No… As I thought, I couldnt do something like that in that situation…”
Alphas face changed to a serious expression.
“Akira. This is a good chance so Ill tell you this. If you dont want to get other Hunters in trouble when you lose my support, you should refrain from working with other Hunters. Ive warned you before too that I might lose connection with you inside an old-world ruin. Elena and the other Hunters must be thinking that your usual performance is the one when you have my support. In case if you suddenly cant live up to their expectation, it might lead to a fatal mistake. So if you dont want something like that to happen, you should refuse their invitation from the beginning.”
Akira seemed conflicted, a lot of feelings were mixed inside his head.
Alpha then continued with a gentle voice.
“Well, I wont tell you to force yourself, this is not compulsory. In the end, youre the one to decide. But, at least keep this in mind, okay Im sure you know this all too well, no one can tell what might happen inside an old-world ruin.”
“Well, of course, if youre strong enough that basically theres almost no effect even if you lose my support, then you wouldnt need to worry about that.”
Akira smiled bitterly, he then decided to move on and said.
“Thats true. I need to get stronger in order to do that request from you too.”
“Yup, Ill be counting on you.”
Alpha smiled back when she said that, but behind that smile, she was thinking about something else.
During this request, Alpha actually kept less secret than usual from Akira so that Carol would be able to easily poke around for information from him. And if it was possible, Alpha wanted to use that reason so that Akira would be more careful around Carol and somehow put some distance from Elena and the other Hunters too.
But unfortunately, Carol never tried to poke in too far. So if Alpha tried to warn Akira using that reason, it might be counter-effective and Akira might get suspicious of Alpha instead.
No one could tell how much it would affect Akira, so she just hoped that Akira would put some thought into it as she planned for the future.
Soon, they were able to return safely to Kugamayama city.
After they stepped off from their vehicles, they grouped up again. Elena was exhausted as she spoke.
“Well, good work out there everyone. A lot of things happened back there. And with this, this party is dissolved. Im also thinking of stopping any plans to go to Mihazono ruin after this… To be more precise, I want to take care of the negotiations ahead, well, I still have some negotiations left to do after all. Akira, can I borrow Carol again”
“Sure, I dont mind. Carol, Im sorry but can you help Elena-san again”
Carol happily replied.
“Of course. Ill return back with a huge reward, so you can rely on me.”
“Ill be counting on you then.”
Seeing Akira smiling at her when he said that, Carol smiled back at him.
Elena then said to everyone.
“Ill send the details of the reward to everyone later. And if you have anything to say, you can talk to me first. So then, thats it, thanks for the hard work.”
After Akira said his goodbyes to the other Hunters, he stretched out his body, returned back to his vehicle, and headed to his house.
Togami and Reina had a conflicted face as they saw Akira off. Although they were looking at Akira with different feelings, both of them had the same reason, it was because both of them wanted to be stronger.
During this request, Togami was able to reassess his strength, and the result was that he was weak. He was able to confirm it, and this time, there was no doubt about it. Although he got temporarily dejected back inside the Seranthal building, he was able to reflect on what happened during the day while he was escorting Reina and on their way back to the city. He finally made a firm base for him to start.
He knew that he was weak. From here and on, he just needed to become stronger. Togami said to himself, made his resolve, and started walking forward firmly.
While on the other hand, Reina was doubting herself. After she was able to return safely from a dangerous situation and the tension in her was released, she ended up remembering the horrible situation that she was in, and got even more dejected.
After Reina left Katsuyas team, after she left that safe place, she devoted her time to work as a Hunter despite the fact that she still had to have Shiori and Kanae escort her. But still, she was able to regain some of her confidence as a Hunter.
But all of the confidence that she worked really hard to gather was destroyed in an instant. It felt as if all her hard work was nothing but in vain, what happened today was telling her that and got her even more dejected.
Seeing how Togami moved on forward firmly, it felt like Reina was being left behind.
Reina had no idea what to do so that she could get stronger.-