Akira was training Erio and the other children again that day.
They did the training session about 2-3 times per week depending on Akiras schedule. They would take a break if Akira was tired, or busy, or not in the mood, or just simply if he did not want to do it. While on the other hand, if Akira wanted to do it, they would do it all day. It was Sheryls idea to treat Akira like that.
Sheryl was planning to eventually reopen the relic shop and it was obvious that she would be opening the shop even if Akira was not around. Once Akira started doing his Hunter job again, he would not be able to frequent the base as much as he does now.
Because of that, Sheryl needed her gang to be able to protect itself when she reopened the shop. She could get all the equipment that she needed from Katsuragi, but that was not the case for the human resource. She needed people who could fight properly.
The training was voluntary. But in order to encourage people to take it, Sheryl would always happily praise those who took it. Because of that, the number of people joining the training kept increasing. At the moment, there were already more people who wanted to join the training than the number of available equipment.
During the training, they would take turns doing mock battles, while those who could not join the mock battle because of the limited equipment would take a rest. Thanks to that, they were able to keep training for a longer time and they no longer had to stop the training because they were too tired.
But that did not change the fact that all of them returned dead tired back to the base. The power difference between them and Akira was simply overwhelmingly hopeless. Although they tried their best and squeezed all of their power, they still got totally annihilated by Akira. It was a rather intense training for Erio and the other children. It really surprised and reminded them of Akiras strength as they were desperately struggling to get stronger.
Akira was having a hard time in his training too. He had Alpha criticizing him while he was fighting against the group that Alpha was commanding. The training ground was already filled with images of his corpses.
In order to make up for their fighting power, the bullets from the training rifles were assumed to have enough firepower to break through Akiras augmented suit. Because of that, most of the images of his corpses were very gory. His current goal was to make his death count drop to zero during the training. If he was able to achieve that, it would mean that his fighting skill has been considerably increased to the point that he had no problem fighting amateurs without Alphas support.
Akira moved quickly from one cover to another. He was able to see through enemies attacks and evaded them, and before they could hide behind a cover, he quickly aimed his rifle at one of them and released a few shots. Once he got a confirmation from the system that his shots hit, he quickly ran at that boy, stopped for a bit and warned that boy that he just got shot.
“Make sure to lay down when youve confirmed that you got shot. Your friends can make a guess of where I am from their already dead friends and its a part of the training too. If you keep standing even after you get shot, others will mistake this area as a safe area and youll be sabotaging their training, you know”
The boy whom Akira just warned flusteredly laid down on the ground, he then glanced upward and saw Akira leaving him. He mumbled while still looking completely surprised.
“…He can even tell if his shot hit or not from that distance, huh.”
It was true that the goggles would be dyed in red when they got shot, but that was only the goggles of the one who got shot. There was no notice sent to the other people when someone got shot. But even so, Akira came to that boy and said to him as if Akira was 100% sure. In reality, that boy had indeed received a notice that he got shot, so it really surprised him.
Not too long after that, a notice showed up in that boys goggles saying that the mock battle was finished. That boy made a stern face and mumbled.
“Everyone is down already, huh. Isnt that a bit too fast That Akira is just too strong. And the boss told us to get strong enough to fill in his shoes, huh… Thats just absurd… Well, its boss order, so its not like I have any other choice though.”
That boy smiled wryly as he pushed himself back up. It seemed that Sheryls praises still had some effect on their fighting spirit even in that place.
After Akira did a few rounds, he noticed something was bothering him.
“Alpha, it might be just my imagination, but dont you think that Ive been winning a lot lately Ive been winning for a few consecutive rounds now…”
“Its not just your imagination, youre really getting better.”
“But its not like I suddenly got better in this, right”
“Its true that your fighting skill has been slowly but surely getting better, but it doesnt make you super strong all of a sudden. So the reason for your consecutive wins, in this case, would be because they are lacking in their fighting skill.”
“Lacking in their fighting skill But theyve been training just like me, right So I bet it should not have that much of an effect on my winning rate. Well, if the reason is because they are tired, I can understand that. But theyve been taking a rest in turns now, so it should be better than before. Alpha, have you been pulling your punches on me”
“Nope, as a matter of fact, Ive been giving them more effective commands than before.”
Akira tilted his head, he looked genuinely confused.
“I see, so why then”
“Since theyre starting to get used to fighting, Ive been reducing my support to them other than the instructions. They lose their ability to see through the walls and covers if they get too far from you, or sometimes I stop showing them the bullet trajectory line. So other than my instructions, their fighting power is getting closer and closer to their real fighting power. And thats why the difference between you and their fighting skill is getting more apparent.”
Although Akira accepted that explanation as to why he had been winning a lot lately, he also felt a bit sad hearing it. It was training, so it would be meaningless if he was just overwhelmingly annihilating the other side. It might be still training for him to keep his guard up even when fighting weak opponents, but he thought that he did not have the time to be taking that kind of training.
“Can you return them back to their original state”
“If I continue giving them those kinds of support, their fighting skill would rely heavily on my support. Once their equipment and my supports start getting in the way of the training, I would need to limit their usage. In the worst-case scenario, they might get even less useful than complete amateurs outside the training session. So considering the long term benefit, I need to lower my support and thats the reason why they cant even hold a proper fight against you right now.”
Akira smiled bitterly.
“That does hurt since Ive been relying on your support.”
But Alpha smiled smugly and said.
“Its fine for you since Im always around. Not to mention that youve been doing training like this where you dont rely on my support at all. In the first place, you almost got killed several times in the wasteland even with my support. So I honestly dont think you have the leeway to say that, you know You can say something like that way later after you get even better at fighting.”
“Thats true. I need to get stronger first. But seriously, what are we going to do about this It wont be much of a training for me if I keep one-sidedly beating them up.”
If this situation continued, Akira did not think that he might lose at all. He already had several overwhelming victories. So if they kept at it just like that, it would not be much of a training both for both the parties.
Alpha seemed to be thinking for a bit before she smiled amusedly and said.
“It cant be helped then, in that case, how about we put some handicap on you.”
Akiras vision suddenly changed. He could no longer see too far ahead and the sound around him was moderately damped, the sensitivity of his information terminal also significantly dropped.
Akira looked a bit surprised.
“Alpha, is this… The effect from the colourless mist”
“Yes. Im trying to imitate the effect when youre in the middle of a colourless mist. Its just an imitation, so dont worry, its not like youre really inside a colourless mist.”
Akira seemed relieved, it was just simply a handicap to reduce his winning chance and it was not like he was really inside a colourless mist. He then smiled bitterly and scanned his surroundings, he checked all the places that he had already checked in turns.
“Well then, lets get back on your training and give it your best. This way, your winning chance should be reduced, and if it doesnt change much, Ill increase the thickness of the colourless mist until it reduces your winning chance… Though, it seems that I dont need to do that.”
Right at the next moment, Akiras goggles were dyed in red. He got shot.
Alpha smiled and pointed his finger to Akiras side. Akira followed the direction that Alpha was pointing at and saw a boy who shot him just now standing there looking completely surprised. That boy did not expect to be able to hit Akira with his shot.
Akira sighed and looked down on the ground, that shot just now increased the number of the corpse images in that place by one. He smiled bitterly at the image of his dead corpse lying by his feet.
After that, thanks to his handicap, Akiras winning rate was indeed lowered.
Akira and the other children would group up after 10 rounds for a quick Q&A session, and if there was no question, they would immediately move on to the next round. But that was not the case this time.
“Uhmm, I feel like your movements have gotten worse suddenly, did something happen”
Akira answered carefully to make sure that he did not offend anyone there.
“Ive been winning a lot lately so I did a little adjustment, theres no need to worry about it.”
All the children thought of the same thing, they were questioning what kind of adjustment was Akira talking about. But since Akira told them not to worry about it, they could not ask that question to him. Not to mention, Akira himself did not look that happy since he had been losing a lot lately. It would be not wise to ask that question to Akira right now, so they just kept their mouth shut.
They then continued the training. The other children who were taking a rest near the wreckages not too far from them were watching the ongoing mock battle, that was when one of them mumbled.
“But still, I wonder just how much stamina Akira-san has. He looks just fine when were already dead tired like this.”
Another boy there answered that question.
“I bet its because of his augmented suit. It must be nice, I want one too. Boss said that shes taking care of the equipment with Katsuragi-sans help. I wonder if shell buy us some.”
Erio, who was also there, shook his head and said.
“Nah, I doubt that would happen. I heard that its really expensive. So at least, Im sure its impossible to buy one for everyone, moreover…”
Erio remembered when Akira saved his life back in the wasteland. At that time, Akira was able to shoot while carrying a heavy rucksack filled with relics even though he was not using an augmented suit. Akira was able to fight even when he was carrying something that heavy, so Erio thought that it was not simply because of his augmented suit. But when he was about to say that, Erio also remembered that Akira told him not to say anything unnecessary.
The other children found it weird that Erio stopped midway.
“…Moreover, even if she buys us several augmented suits, it would be still far away from Akira-sans advanced augmented suit. After all, an augmented suit like that would cost a lot.”
“Youre right about that. But we should still be able to get a decent augmented suit if its only one, right… Ahhh, but in that case, youll be the one using it, huh. Youre the boss bodyguard after all. It must be nice, Im really jealous.”
That boy looked enviously at Erio.
“For someone who tried to punch Akira, youre doing pretty well. You and Alicia are even assigned as the officers in the gang after all.”
Erios face twitched.
“Stop it! Dont remind me of that. Just so you know, I really regret doing something that stupid.”
“Talking about doing something stupid… That would be Tiol, huh. Not only did he question Boss relationship with Akira and got the boss angry at him, he even brought in those robbers the other day. Now that I think about it, I feel like I dont see him around lately… Did he run away somewhere”
“No, Alicia is still assigning him jobs, so he should be still in the gang.”
“I feel like its really only a matter of time though. If he doesnt run away, as long as he doesnt do anything big to make up for it, those mistakes would still weigh him down. For example… Thats right, maybe like capturing that pickpocket.”
Erio thought for a bit before shaking his head.
“Nah, that wont happen. Akira-san did say that the pickpocket has a Hunter stronger than him covering for her, remember So, if he does that, in the worst-case scenario, that Hunter might be coming for him this time. Just think what would happen if that Hunter came to our base. So Im sure it would only anger the boss if he does that. Thats exactly why the boss also said that if we spot that pickpocket, we just need to report it later and theres no need to do anything more than that, remember”
“Now that you mention it, you have a point there. That guy really has nowhere to go, huh.”
The mock battle ended while they were having a silly talk. Erio stood up, looked at the other children who were resting there, and said to them.
“Alright then! Its our turn next! Lets go!!”
The tired children looked at Erio who still sounded energetic although he should also be more or less as tired as them.
“You sound pretty energetic, why are you that motivated”
“I have to get stronger for Alicias sake. I have no time to be lazing around.”
“This guy just went and said it with a straight face. So this is the power of people with a lover, huh. Good grief!”
“Humph, you can go ahead and say anything you want.”
Erio lightly laughed. The other children also laughed at that and some of them half-jokingly said.
“Good grief! Ahhh! I want a girlfriend too. I want someone like our boss. Just like Akira-sans girlfriend.”
“You wont get someone like our boss unless youre as strong as Akira-san, you know”
“Geez, that would be impossible.”
They were joking with each other while taking turns doing mock battles. They continued the training after that, sometimes they got totally annihilated by Akira and sometimes they were barely able to win some rounds.
Tiol was lurking in the slum city with a stern face. He was trying to hide, but anyone could spot him just fine with little effort. He was so nervous to the point that he was obviously looking suspicious.
[…Dammit!! Shes not here either! Is the information saying that shes around here really true I bet its just another random information with almost zero accuracy.]
Tiol was looking around the slum city focused on the area near Alnas secret hideout since he was told that there was a good chance he could find her around that area. But he just could not find her at all.
[Should I ask her again But Im sure itll only worsen her mood if I ask her too many times. That information is my lifeline so shell still help me. But at this rate, if this continues and I still cant find that pickpocket…]
Tiol looked obviously unsure what to do and that confusion slowed down his decision-making skill, that was when he spotted the person he was looking for.
[…There she is!!]
Tiol tried to act as naturally as possible as he hid behind a cover before he took another look at that person to make sure that he did not get the wrong person. The person he was looking for was with Katsuya and his group.
Katsuya, Yumina, Airi and Alna were walking through the slum city.
Alna was using a Hunter coat with a hood to cover herself so that Akira would not find her. That Hunter coat was originally Drankams coat, Katsuya lent it to her. She looked apologetic as she glanced at Katsuyas back from behind the coats hood.
“Thank you very much for accompanying me, but are you sure youre okay with this Im sure youre busy with your own stuff too, so…”
They were heading to Alnas hideout. Alna had multiple hideouts spread across the slum city. She had left some of her own belongings and a small amount of money in her hideouts. That day, they were retrieving Alnas belongings in one of her hideouts.
Katsuya showed his kind side as he smiled and said.
“Dont worry about it. Its too dangerous to let you go alone, moreover, I have something to do in the slum city too.”
“As I thought, you actually have something else to do…”
“Its fine. Although I said its something that I need to do, its just an easy job to look for a certain relic shop rumoured to be somewhere in the slum city. It also doubles as a break from my usual Hunter jobs. Basically, I just need to walk around and look for that shop, so theres nothing to worry. Not to mention, you might be able to meet your friend, right”
“Yes, but its not like we had promised to see each other, so it would be a pure coincidence if we do meet her. But if we meet her, Ill tell her that I got some help from Katsuya-san, Im sure thatll lessen her worry. Shes been worrying about me up to the very end after all. So if its possible, I want to let her know that Im okay.”
“I see, she must be a kind person.”
“Yes, Im really proud to be able to call her my friend… And I always only bring her trouble.”
Alna sounded sad and had a look as if she was admonishing herself when she said that. So Katsuya smiled at her and tried to cheer her up.
“In that case, you need to make sure to return that favour one day. Dont worry, itll be fine. And about that Akira who is chasing you, well, it might take some time, but Ill do something about it.”
Alna stared happily at Katsuya with teary eyes, Katsuya just blushed and smiled back at her.
Yumina and Airi sighed simultaneously. They were thinking the exact same thing, Katsuya did it again.
Katsuya tended to accept the request coming from girls and help them. Because of that, the number of girls who fell in love with him just kept increasing. More often than not, Yumina and Airi had to help him solve those problems. And since both of them were in love with Katsuya, it was not like they could say no when he asked them. They would always just give up and exasperatedly help Katsuya.
Both Yumina and Airi noticed their sighing and looked at each other. Both of them understood what the other person was thinking about and smiled bitterly at each other.
Tiol took out his information terminal and made a call.
“…Yes, thats correct. I found Alna, well, it is most likely her.”
The one that he was calling replied with a rather confused voice.
“Most likely Make sure to confirm it first, will you”
“Dont be crazy. Shes hiding her face under a coat. And if I go there and try to confirm it in front of her, theres no mistaking it that the other guys would notice me too. Those guys, I heard from Akira that theyre stronger than him, you know So theres no way I can do anything against those guys. Not to mention, they went into Alnas hideout too. But her appearance fits the description you gave, so that should be her.”
“Geez, it cant be helped then. Just keep following Alna like that. We already set the information terminal, which we gave you, to continuously broadcast its location to us. So dont mess with that setting, okay”
“Okay… By the way, if I have the chance, is it okay if I just go and kill that Alna.”
Tiol thought if he killed Alna and reported it back to Sheryl and Akira, it might compensate for his mistake in bringing those robbers to the base.
“Sure, Im okay with that, but wont that be impossible for you”
Viola sounded more like she was mocking him than challenging him, Tiol then clicked his tongue and cut the call there.
After Katsuya and his group finished retrieving Alnas belongings, they then roamed around the slum city, looking for that particular relic shop just like they originally planned. A certain rumour was spreading in the slum city about a particular relic shop that was selling relics that could be sold at a high price in another place, that rumour had also reached Hunters inside Drankam.
Lately, Katsuyas group had been doing jobs that were far away and were not gathering old-world relics themselves. They had been mostly doing escorts for inter-city transports or guarding certain facilities. Those jobs were more for the sake of building trust with the people that were employing them, and they were pretty effective in order to increase their Hunter Rank too. Guarding inter-city transport was a relatively easy job if they were strong enough since they were able to check the danger beforehand. But there were many occasions where those transports were carrying important cargos. So they could not employ just any Hunters since those Hunters might rob the cargos instead.
It needed trust, it was good for their track record, and it was easy to make sure that they could safely complete that request. Katsuya found that kind of job really pleasant. But being a Hunter was synonymous with exploring old-world ruin and gathering old-world relics. Although he still had to go to the old-world ruin because of the request that was assigned by the gang, it was only helping the forward base in Kuzusuhara ruin, so it had nothing to do with gathering relics.
Basically, he didnt get that much chance to work with old-world relics lately, so in order to make up for that, he thought of looking for the rumoured relic shop. He then went to ask others to help him and it turned out into a pseudo-date.
“By the way, Alna, do you have any guess where that shop might be Youve been living around this area until now, right”
“Im sorry, I did know there was that kind of shop in the slum city, but I dont know where it might be. Old-world relics are expensive after all, so its not a place for me who doesnt have money. Of course, its a different story if you can find someone who has some relation with the people who manage territory. Moreover, most of them dont accept first-time customers, I heard that youll need someone to introduce you to the place before you can get in. So I think it would be meaningless even if you know the location of that shop.”
“…I thought that I will be able to find it if I just walk around the slum city, but it seems that its not that easy, huh. I wonder what should we do so we can get accepted into that shop.”
Seeing Katsuya unsure about what to do next, Alna desperately searched through her memory for something, anything that might help him no matter what it was. It might be because she was rather desperate that she then said without much thinking.
“I heard that sometimes you can get recommended to that kind of shop from another shop if you have a good relationship with that shop and pay some money. And that shop doesnt have to be a big shop, it might be just a mere stand… So you can try being a good customer in some certain establishments… Or so I heard…”
Alnas voice was getting smaller and smaller before eventually vanishing. Because of that, Katsuya could not completely catch what she just said.
“Eh What shop”
Alna blushed and said.
“…Uhmm, brothels. Most of the brothels in the slum city receive support from the gang overseeing the territories where they are doing their business and its not rare for them to introduce their customers to relic shops… Since their customers are often Hunters who return back from gathering relics, they also often get paid with relics… So using that connection… B-but it has nothing to do with you, right”
Katsuya blushed and flusteredly replied.
Yumina smiled menacingly at Katsuya and said to him.
“If you say you do, Ill deliver you a good punch, you know.”
Yumina was being serious, so Katsuya flusteredly said.
“Of course!! I have nothing to do with that!! Mizuha-san also warns me not to go to that kind of place, you know!!”
“Does that mean… That youve gone there before Mizuha-san warned you”
“N-No, I didnt mean it that way…”
Katsuya was wincing back from Yuminas intimidating aura, Airi suddenly interjected with a stern face.
“No, Airi, its a misunderstanding…”
“Were being followed.”
Katsuyas face immediately returned to its seriousness.
“At least for the last 30 minutes.”
Yumina also had a serious look as she asked Airi.
“Are you sure youre not mistaking it”
“I highly doubt anyone would be going in the same direction as us for 30 minutes unless theyre tailing us.”
Katsuya, Airi and Yumina immediately raised their guards.
The one who was following them was Tiol. Airi actually noticed him long back, but she was letting it slide for some time to make sure he was really tailing them. But Tiol thought that it was simply because they had not noticed him yet.
They then slowly approached Tiol while covering Alna. Tiol finally realized that they noticed him, but it was too late, Katsuya was already close to him.
Tiol was completely scared in front of the people who were way above him both in skill and equipment. He could not muster the courage to run away and stood frozen right where he was.
Katsuya exuded an intimidating aura while staring at that Tiol.
“What is it Why are you tailing us”
“W-what are you talking about”
Tiol looked completely scared as he tried to dodge the question, Katsuya put some more pressure as he lightly threatened Tiol.
“Sorry but I already gathered some information beforehand. If you wont tell me anything unless I hurt you first, I dont mind doing that, you know”
Tiol immediately confessed.
“A-alright! Ill tell you everything!! I was asked to follow you!! Im really sorry! Please just let me go!”
“T-there, that man over there.”
Tiol pointed behind Katsuya as he said that. In truth, he was actually just pointing in a random direction to divert their attention. He was planning to run away the moment they looked away.
Katsuyas group looked back to confirm it. Tiol was about to use that chance to slip away, but he suddenly stopped. There were four men standing in the direction he pointed and all of them were looking in his direction.
Those 4 people were Kadol and three other men from Shijimas gang.-