Sheryl stood in the middle of the main room where she was selling relics with a puzzled face. Akira had already positioned himself by hiding behind the white sheet hanging from the ceiling. They were ready for the customer and it did not take long for those customers to arrive there.
The problem was the report that Tiol, who brought the customers there, gave. Sheryl frowned and said to Tiol.
“8 people Wasnt it supposed to be only 4”
Tiol flinched from Sheryls gaze alone, but he managed to give her an explanation.
“There were only 4 people when they visited the stand. But when I was guiding them here, they met up with another 4 people, they said that those people were their friends. They then seemed to get rather excited and the other 4 asked to come along too, it was hard to refuse them and they seem to carry quite a lot of money, so I ended up bringing them all the way to the back alley… If you want to send them home, please ask Akira to do so. All of them are armed so Im sure they wont listen to me.”
Sheryl made a grim face while thinking of her available choices. Tiol was bedazzled by Sheryl, the dress that Sheryl was wearing to welcome the customer was beautiful enough to bedazzle him.
There was not that many occasion where Sheryl put on that dress. So being able to see her in that form was one of the special perks that Tiol received from his duty.
But Tiol killed his desire to strike a conversation with Sheryl. The reason she was able to have that wonderful high-class dress as well as the reason she maintained her beautiful hair and skin was none other than his love rival, Akira.
[…To be honest, even if I can become Sheryls lover, I dont think I can give her that level of luxury… After all, she got that dress from Akira, and even if she breaks up with him, Im pretty sure the whole gang will be disbanded. Since shes this beautiful, Im sure there are a lot of people out there aiming for her too. I bet one day, a leader from a big gang would get his eyes on her and force her to be his lover or something. Once that happens, I bet I wont get that many chances to meet her anymore.]
At the moment, Tiol had zero chance to win Sheryls heart. But that might not be the case in the future. If the gang grew bigger and bigger to the point that it was big enough to maintain itself without any support, then, the power relationship between Akira and Sheryl might get reversed.
Then, if something happened at that point, for example, lets say Akira fell in love with another girl which caused his relationship with Sheryl to sour, they might break up and Tiol thought Sheryl might start getting interested in another man.
[…For now, I have no other choice but to help the gang to grow big enough so that we wont need Akiras help anymore. And if Akiras relationship with Sheryl gets worse after that, then I should be able to get my chance. And if I help to develop the gang, Sheryl might start to like me… Although, Im sure Im not the only one who thinks so.]
Tiols guess was correct, there were other people in the gang who thought like him. Most of them had no plans to get on Akiras bad side just to get Sheryl, but at the same time, most of them also hoped that they would eventually get some chance.
As Tiol thought about a lot of things in his mind, Sheryl finally reached her conclusion.
“8 people is too many. Just let 4 of them in. Let the first 4 come in then once theyre done, let the last 4, who came along with them, come in after that. If they refuse to do so, then tell them that none of them is allowed to get in. If they still insist on coming in after that, Akira and I will tell them to go back ourselves.”
Even with her ability to serve multiple customers, 8 people were still too many for her and for Akira to keep his eyes on, and thats doubly true when they were armed Hunters.
Lastly, Sheryl smiled worriedly at Tiol and said to him.
“Be careful, theres no need to get reckless.”
“O-okay, I understand.”
Tiol blushed and smiled, he felt relieved. Sheryls mood was considerably worsened when he questioned her relationship with Akira the other day, but judging from that exchange just now, it seemed that its alright now. Tiol seemed a bit happy as he left that room.
Sheryl smiled coldly and whispered.
“…Hes so easy.”
Sheryl thought if Akira caught her with that expression, there was no doubt that Akira would come to hate her. So she quickly returned her usual warm smile to her face.
Not too long after that, 4 people entered the room. Sheryl smiled in relief, it seemed that it did not turn into a fight. She then started serving the customers with her usual friendly smile. It was possible to extract someone elses personality and preference from their attire, equipment, gaze, and expression. Then, that information could be used to adapt on how to approach them.
Those 4 people were scanning the relics lining inside that room, all of them were so well armed that they could go out to the wasteland anytime. They were also carrying bags most of which were empty.
Sheryl felt something was wrong with those guys, but she decided to shelve that for now.
Those men were browsing the relics displayed in that room, but somehow, they did not seem that interested. One of them kept checking the exits and doors in that room, and another one seemed to be keeping his eyes on the sheets hanging from the ceiling.
Then Sheryl could feel from their expression a slight nervousness, it was like a calm before the storm. Something was going to happen, something really really bad. But she tried her best not to let that out in her face.
One of them walked to Sheryl with a big smile.
Sheryl had her usual graceful smile as she welcomed them.
“Welcome to our shop.”
The smile of the man who was walking toward Sheryl grew bigger, it was not because she was smiling at him, it was because his plan was going really well.
Alpha suddenly gave Akira an instruction.
“Akira, get ready for a fight.”
Although Akira was a bit surprised by that sudden order, he quickly swapped to battle state. At the same time, the man who was walking toward Sheryl slightly lowered his guard, Sheryl trusted her calculation and immediately started running toward Akiras direction as fast as she could and dashed through the white sheets hanging from the ceiling.
That man was shocked and could not react for a while, but he immediately got a grip of himself, aimed his rifle with a grim face, and spread bullets haphazardly towards Sheryls direction without showing any hesitation.
Bullets pierced right through the first sheet, but lost most of its momentum and could not penetrate the second sheet. The accumulated momentum tore the sheet from the ceiling, it danced gracefully, pulled down by the gravity, bullets that had lost their momentum fell down and rolled over on the ground.
That man twitched and shouted.
“Anti-bullet sheet! Theyre not just simple interior sheets!”
Originally, they were planning to take Sheryl hostage and take their time robbing the relics. But he was caught off guard and Sheryl was able to run away from him, which meant that Sheryl was able to quickly guess why they were here. So he immediately changed their plan from capturing Sheryl to killing her.
“Get the relics!! Tell the guys outside to meet up with us!!”
That guy shouted and gave an order to his men.
Akira caught Sheryl who dashed right to his direction with his right hand and hugged her close, he raised the CWH anti-material rifle on his left hand and pulled the trigger. There was no need to hit his target, his main aim was only to let them know that he was there. After that, he immediately brought Sheryl further into a door that was leading outside. It was an emergency exit prepared beforehand and the sheets were there to hide that emergency exit.
The man heard the gunshot coming from behind the sheet and turned in that direction in response. The anti-bullet sheet deflected the bullet from its original track and landed away from the man.
“As I thought, they have escorts hiding behind the sheets!!”
That man kicked a display covered by the anti-bullet sheet down and hid behind it to make sure that he would not get hit by the enemys bullets.
“The escort is behind the sheets!! Make sure to equip your defensive suits!!”
While he said that, that man pulled out a full-face helmet from his bag and put it on. They did not put that helmet at first so that Sheryl and his men lowered their guard, but now their situation had changed and they had to put them on.
Akira ran quickly while still carrying Sheryl, he was able to do that thanks to the augmented strength from his augmented suit. He made sure to run as fast as possible while not injuring Sheryl. Once he arrived in front of the door, he quickly opened it, pushed Sheryl out, and immediately shut the door.
Sheryl was dumbfounded when the door in front of her was closed with such force, she thought that Akira would run away together with her. Although she stood frozen for a few seconds, she immediately returned back to herself and started to move. The rest of the gang still did not know what just happened.
A gunshot echoed through the base, most of the gang members stopped what they were doing the moment they heard that gunshot. Sheryl shouted as hard as she could.
“Its a shoot-out!!!”
With Akira protecting the gang, they thought that no one would dare to attack the base, but that day, their assumption was proven wrong.
At first, Akira evacuated Sheryl to a safe place, out from that room and away from the 4 men shooting from inside the room. With this, Sheryls safety was pretty much guaranteed, so he quickly moved to his next order of business, shooting back at those 4 men.
Akira lightly frowned.
“But still, I always thought that Ill eventually open up a shop in the slum city big enough to warrant some robbers, but this is way faster than I thought.”
Alpha smiled and replied.
“Youre just unlucky.”
“I cant agree more, as I thought, I already ran out of luck, huh”
“But since they attacked when youre here, I guess it means that Sheryl is really lucky. Thanks to that, she didnt get killed this time.”
Akira smiled wryly.
“That might be true, Sheryl has good luck after all.”
“Yup, then lets try to take advantage of that luck and clean up this mess as soon as possible.”
“Youre right, lets do that.”
Akira had no idea if it was him being unlucky, or it was Sheryl being lucky, or maybe it was even both. In order to make sure that the people who attacked the base that day were unlucky, to push his bad luck to those people, Akira fired himself up to shoot back.
Alpha then asked Akira what he wanted to do with those people.
“So then, Akira, whats your plan with them The fastest solution would be to kill them. That way, theres no need for you to hold back.”
Alpha was still smiling when she said such a heartless sentence. She did not show any hesitation in killing them, she had her usual smile while asking for Akiras confirmation to end the life of those people.
Akira replied back with a calm expression.
“I dont mind killing all of them, but if its possible, I want to paralyze them so I can ask them why they attacked us.”
“You do know that youre being impossible, right”
“Thats why Im only saying that if its possible. I dont want to die anyway, the longer we dilly-dally, the more dangerous this might become. We just need to try but theres no need to be reckless. If its impossible to hold back and not to kill them even with your support, then Ill just follow your instruction to kill them.”
Akira somehow sounded as if he was doubting the value of Alphas support, but Alpha smiled smugly and replied.
“Dont be stupid. Itll be alright as long as you have my support. Its just that if you wont take the easiest way, then youll have to put more effort yourself. So I just want to confirm that. If youre okay with that, then I dont mind either.”
“Alright then, lets go.”
Akira smiled and ran back into the room. The conversation between Akira and Alpha happened through telepathy. Even if it was something they would need a few minutes to talk about, if it was through telepathy, they could finish that in split seconds. Moreover, when Akira switched to his battle state, he unconsciously activated his time compression. Thanks to that, Akira and Alpha could communicate almost instantly. A feat impossible if done verbally.
This was also a form of training for Akira to quickly process information inside his brain. After all, being in the middle of a fight needed him to process a huge amount of information. In the middle of that dangerous situation where stopping to think even for one second meant certain death, Akira needed to continuously identify all the dangers around him. It included filtering what information was important and what was not, he had to process all the information effectively before the enemy could get him first.
If Akira could not process all of the information fast enough, he would be testing his luck, whether he would get unlucky and die, or he would get lucky and live. At the moment, Alpha was compensating for his bad luck, but that was not enough to guarantee his safety.
But even so, the luck that brought that meeting between Akira and Alpha was the very thing that allowed him to survive until now.
Akira swapped his CWH anti-material rifle with his AAH assault rifle and quickly headed back to meet the enemies. The 4 men inside that room were shooting in random directions. The sheets were not invincible, they eventually ripped and danced in the air as they fell down, thus blocking their field of visions even more.
They hid behind the displays while shooting around randomly. Akira suddenly appeared in their field of vision, he was hiding behind an anti-bullet sheet and had come as close as possible to those 4 men. He jumped out from that cover to get even closer.
One of the 4 men was surprised by that sudden move, but he still somehow managed to shoot at Akira. But Akira was able to shoot at him faster, Akira already had his AAH assault rifle fixed at him. A bullet flew from the rifles muzzle and hit that mans head, body, arm, and rifle.
But that man was mostly uninjured. Akiras normal bullet could not pierce the full-face helmet that man was using. It did not even leave a mark on that man, and since he was gripping his rifle strongly with the help of his augmented suit, he also did not lose his rifle. Akiras shots were only able to surprise him, nothing more.
That man smiled as he noticed that Akira did not have enough firepower to kill him. He then tried to aim his rifle at Akira, but Akira shot his arm and rifle again, thus making him miss his shots.
The shockwave from Akiras bullets threw that man off balance, it also prevented that man from fixing his aim at Akira. When that man realized that, Akira was already standing in front of him.
Akiras right leg was already off the floor, the next moment, he drove a painful kick enhanced with his augmented suit on that mans head. The helmet could not fully dampen the shockwave as it propagated to that mans head and knocked him unconscious in one blow.
That kick sent that man straight up, but he did not crush into the ceiling thanks to Akira who caught his leg before his face drove into the ceiling. Akira then pulled him back to the ground and quickly shifted his left hand from the leg to that mans collar.
The other 3 men in that room were so surprised that Akira knocked one of their friends so quickly, but that did not stop them from shooting at Akira. The moment Akira noticed the other men aiming at him, he immediately used the man that he was grabbing as his shield and made other men there hesitate.
Akira used that short opening to quickly close his distance. The other 3 men immediately dispersed to surround Akira from the front, left, and right. The men on Akiras left and right could not shoot at Akira since they might shoot their friends.
But that was not the case for the man in front of Akira, either because he was in panic seeing Akira moving toward him, or because he had consciously made that decision, he ignored the man that Akira was using as a shield and started shooting at Akiras direction. Bullets riddled the augmented suit and the full helmet of the man that Akira was using as his shield. The momentum shocked that body hard and the shockwave was transmitted all the way to Akira, the only reason that did not blow Akira back was because he was bracing against it with his augmented suit.
At the same time, Akira shot the man on his right. The man on Akiras right was not as well-armed as the man that he was using as a shield. The close range AAH bullet barrage knocked that man back before he fell down to the ground.
Akira then shifted his aim to the man in front of him and pulled the trigger. The man in front of him fell down to the ground while still pulling the trigger on his rifle.
Akira quickly shifted his focus toward the last man there. When Akira was about to pull the trigger, Akira saw what that man was doing and stopped. That man had both of his hands up with his rifle.
Akira thought for a bit before curtly saying.
Akira let go of the man he was grabbing and delivered a kick to the last man there. It was a single kick that was enough to knock that man unconscious as he fell down like a puppet cut off from its threads.
After confirming that all the enemies there were either unconscious or dead, Akira let out a sigh.
“Thats 4 down, how many more was it again”
Alpha smiled and calmly answered that question.
“Theres 4 more left, dont drop your guard yet.”
“I know, should I take the initiative here”
“Dont worry, theyre coming here themselves, so lets wait here to welcome them.”
Alpha suddenly stopped smiling, Akira who noticed that immediately heightened his senses.
“Akira, you need to swap your rifle.”
And with that, Akira changed his equipment.
The other 4 men were left waiting outside since Sheryl did not want to have them all inside at the same time. They were waiting next to the back entrance of Sheryls base. One of them, Zalmo, received a call from their friends and swiftly replied.
“…Alright then, well head there now.”
Zalmo closed the call and sent a glance at the other 3 men. The other 3 men only replied with a nod and put on their helmet that they did not use from the beginning in order to lower Sheryls mens guard.
Of course, Sheryl could not afford to let her guest wait outside without anyone to accompany them. The young boy, whom Sheryl stationed there to accompany them as well as to stand guard there, noticed that change and was about to ask those men a question.
That young boy was about to ask what was wrong, but before he could finish it, Zalmo pulled out his rifle in one fluid move, aimed it at that young boy, and pulled the trigger.
The bullet ripped through that boys torso. The armour that boy was using was nothing more but fake armour, it had no defensive power against a real bullet. The bullet also destroyed the boys important communication device, he then fell down and died.
Zalmo did not show any feeling even after he killed someone, his expression did not change at all as he gave an order to the other 3 men.
Zalmo kicked the door open and stormed into the base. Since they already knew beforehand the room that they were aiming for, they went through the base straight for that room. Just to be safe, they released some shots to the places where someone might be hiding on their way there. Bullets flew around inside the base, destroying walls and furniture.
Bullets flew right at Zalmo and his men from deep inside the base, although those bullets hit them, they did not have any effect on Zalmo and his men. The people who shot those bullets noticed that. Those men then aimed their rifles in the direction where those bullets came and released a barrage of shots. With that, the resistance from Sheryls men stopped.
The scream of Sheryls men could be heard echoing inside the base. But for Zalmo and his men, it was nothing but meaningless noise.
Zalmo and his men arrived in front of the door of the room that they were aiming for without much trouble. Zalmo sent a glance to his men, telling them to break in, but right before they did that, a barrage of bullets pierced the wall and the door and rained on them.
On the other side of that door, Akira had A2D and AAH assault rifles on both of his hands aimed at the door. Thanks to his enhanced vision from Alphas support, he was able to completely see what Zalmo and his men were doing. Akira used the power of his augmented suit to help him hold both of his rifles at the same time as he kept shooting at the door.
Once the door was shredded to pieces, Akira finally stopped. He could see Zalmo and his on the other side of the door, it seemed that they took the barrage pretty much head-on.
One of them was blown all the way to the other side of the wall. The bullets from Akiras barrage pierced through his augmented suit and created holes on that mans body, the blood-splatter from those holes dyed the wall red. When Akira stopped shooting, the force keeping that man on that wall was finally gone and that man fell to the ground. The blood flowing out from that man created a pool around his body.
The other 3 were still standing after Akira finished the barrage, but only one of them was still conscious, Zalmo. He looked at Akira and somehow smiled amusedly.
“Those were armour piercing bullets, right Its not the type of bullet that you would use to fight other people, you know Look at the result here, there are things that are okay and there are things that are not okay to do even when it comes to killing other people, you know Or is it that you already dont have any sense of humanity left Youre so awful.”
Akira followed Alphas instruction to exchange the normal magazine for armour piercing magazine. It was a type of bullet designed to fight mechanical monsters, not fellow humans.
But Akira just looked back coldly at Zalmo and said.
“I dont want to hear that from someone who used their friends as a shield.”
Among all the 3 people standing in front of Akira, Zalmo was the only one who was still alive. When Akira released that barrage, Zalmo grabbed the other two people next to him and pulled them to shield him. Their augmented suit and flesh were enough to protect him from Akiras bullets. The bullets shred the other two men beyond recognition, but in exchange for that, Zalmo was uninjured.
Zalmo replied with a smirk.
“No no no, this is one of those important sacrifices thingy. If both of them did not shield me, all of us would have died by now. So it was an unavoidable sacrifice to escape the worst possibility. Its better to have one person alive rather than having zero people alive, right Do you get that now”
The other two that Zalmo used as his shields were riddled with bullets, their augmented suits, helmets, and bodies, were shredded beyond recognition. Their limbs that were somehow still dangling by a few strands of muscles swayed left and right before eventually falling to the ground. Zalmo who noticed that just threw both of them to the ground. Their shredded bodies fell over and splashed the pool of blood below them.
Zalmo spotted the other 4 men that went in ahead already lying on the ground.
“So you defeated the other 4 alone, huh Thats pretty amazing, not to mention that all of them seem to be still alive. Thats pretty merciful of you. I really hope you would have been that merciful to us too, you know. So why wouldnt you be that kind to us”
Akira replied with a grim face.
“Its because even what happened just now was not enough to kill all of you. I dont have any leeway to hold back against someone that strong.”
“Ohh, so its basically my fault for being too strong and I got them roped in my situation, huh. Thats really regrettable, I feel really bad for them.”
It was obvious that Zalmo was lying. He was trying to act unperturbed by what just happened as he assessed his situation.
[…All the men that went in first are alive, theyre not bleeding, there are some spots in their augmented suit indicating that they got shot, some of them have their helmets bent… CQC, huh. Theres a good chance that theyre knocked unconscious with gunshots too… So why did he use armour piercing ammo instead of normal ammo against us Is it because he noticed that normal bullet has almost no effect on the men that we sent in ahead so he changed to ammo with better firepower]
Zalmo tried to remember what Akira said to him and tried to match them with Akiras expression when he said that.
[No, thats not right. He noticed that he could defeat the men that we sent in ahead only with CQC and normal bullets, thats why he spared them. But our hard armour is too durable for his normal ammo, thats why he decided to change ammo… But why did he make that decision Did he interrogate one of them before we came here No, There was not much time gap between when they went in first until we arrived here, so thats just impossible. Did the info about our surprise attack somehow get leaked out No, thats not right too. If thats really the case, they would have made more preparations to fight us back and that doesnt seem to be the case here… I really have no idea, this boy is really strange.]
Zalmo still looked relaxed while carefully watching for Akiras movements. To Zalmo, Akira did not seem that strong, but it was true that he had already defeated 7 of his men, all alone by himself. But even so, that was not enough of a reason for Zalmo to get alerted, after all, it was not a hard thing to do.
Akira noticed that Zalmo did not show any emotion at all even after seeing all of his men down. It made Akira be much more careful of Zalmo. Both of them faced each other, ready to fight.-