On the next day, Akira once again had a talk with Kibayashi in the temporarys base cafeteria, and just like usual, he looked pretty annoyed.
“So, dont you think its about time Im done with this request
“Good grief, there are not many Hunters out there who want to end their rank up request themselves, you know”
“Dont know, dont care!”
Kibayashi smiled wryly. He found it amusing that he said his real feelings instead of negotiating with Akira and thinking how amusing it would be if Akira challenged an even fiercer battle than before, but he remembered to do his job to at least try to calm Akira down.
“Ive been telling you this every time we meet, I dont have the right to decide that. But well, at least Ill let the people above know that you dont want to keep doing this request, though I cant really say for sure what they think about it.”
Akira sighed, Kibayashi immensely enjoyed his reaction.
“Now then, just like I said, Im here because theres something I want to talk about with you. Its about the cost of your supply that you keep bringing up as a form of harassment.”
Akiras expression immediately turned stern.
“No, I wont pay for them. If youre telling me to pay even a part of it, you can go ahead and cancel the request.”
“Well, it might be weird for me to say this, but because of that condition, the credit you get from selling relics and hunting monsters are significantly reduced. Youll get more rewards back even if you only pay a small part of it, you know So are you still fine with that”
“Yeah, I still wont pay.”
Akira showed no chance of negotiation for that matter. Seeing that, Kibayashi gave up trying to convince him.
“Alright, got it. Ive at least notified you. Although its because of the contract, the money youre spending on supply is actually a bit too high. So, I just wanted to let you know that theres a way to solve that. To be honest, itll be faster if you just pay a part of it, but if you dont like that idea. So lets do something else instead. First option, you can work under our order for the time being, that would include following the orders of the other commanders from the City Management.”
“What are you going to make me do this time”
“It hasnt been decided yet. Well, Im pretty sure its for something like patrolling, guarding, or securing a part of the ruin. So basically, you can camouflage that exorbitantly high supply cost for one person as the team expense. Like I said, the request itself is basically close to compulsory, so at least you can make this much compromise, no”
“Whats my other option”
“Limiting your activity to only a certain area where no one would complain if you spend that much money for your ammo. To be more precise, it would be the area past the end of the highway, or in another word, the frontline. Although most of the Hunters working there make sure to bring along their powered suit, Im sure its no problem for you since youve won against a powered suit even without using one, right Personally speaking, I recommend you take this option instead of the first one.”
Kibayashi smiled with full expectation, in contrast to that, Akira obviously looked annoyed.
“…Do I have any other options”
“Nothing, if you have any good ideas, feel free to let me know.”
“…Ill take the first one.”
“Roger that. Well then, Ill take care of the administration. Ill let you know once Im done and youll get the next order sent to your information terminal later, so you can just follow that instruction.”
Kibayashi stood up and was about to leave when he glanced at the sighing Akira and smiled.
“You can tell me anytime if you want to change your mind.”
Although Akira sounded as if he just gave that reply without thinking about it at all, that was enough to make Kibayashi leave that place with a big smile.
Seeing how Akira replied back so apathetically there, Alpha could not hide her smile.
“Personally speaking, I also recommend the second option though.”
“For the sake of your growth, its better if you fight strong enemies.”
“…Give me a break.”
Akira thought that he got this request because he fought that black powered suit back in Ezont Familys base. For him, it was nothing but a pure coincidence. So honestly speaking, he wished that the City Management would understand that it was not his actual skill. He did not want people to think that it was because of his real strength when it was actually thanks to Alphas full support.
While at the same time, Akira himself had no wish to take it easy for his training, but on the other hand, he had no plans to be jumping into dangerous places where he might not be able to survive without Alphas support. So he was thinking during this rank up request to just raise his rank high enough to reflect his real strength when he had no support from Alpha. He honestly wanted to avoid doing anything that might disrupt that plan.
Akira did not think of all the hard battles that he had gone through because of pure coincidence, and it was simply because he did not have enough self-awareness.
Akira rode his bike coursing through Kuzusuhara ruin. After a few days, a notice reached his terminal right after he arrived at the forward base. That notice contained an order for him to guard a clinic plus the location of that clinic, and its coordinate was basically deep inside the ruin.
At first, Akira thought that it would be a clinic temporarily erected inside a dilapidated building or something, but the coordinates that he received smacked right in the middle of the road with no building around. Akira thought it was weird and once again checked the coordinates when he noticed it was moving. And so, currently, he was chasing that moving clinic.
Akira had to fight monsters along the way too, but he eventually was able to catch up to it. There was a big white trailer parked on the road close to the frontline. It was a big armoured trailer and its big back door was wide open. Akira stepped off from his bike and peeked inside the trailer, there he saw Yatsubayashi treating some injured Hunters lying on a patient bed.
“If its just a light injury, wait there for a bit. And if its a bad injury, wait there for a bit as well. If its an emergency, I dont mind treating you now, but itll cost you more.”
“Uh, Im actually here as an escort, is this the right place by the way”
Yatsubayashi stopped, his hand was still holding a weird, or more like, suspicious tool as he looked at Akira and made a suspicious smile.
“Its you, huh Welcome to Yatsubayashi clinic, Kuzusuhara ruin branch.”
He finished treating the Hunter in front of him and handed over a cloth soaked in blood to that Hunter.
“Thats it. I dont mind if you want to keep using the bed, but it wont be for free.”
“…Youre going to charge me for that Its fine, isnt it Its not like anyone is using it anyway.”
“No. I would need to move the bed in case of an emergency. So youll have to pay me money even if you just want to lie on that bed.”
Due to his injury, that Hunter could only slowly drag himself off from that bed before he put that bloody cloth back on and left the trailer. After taking a few steps away from that trailer, he put his butt down to take a short rest.
Akira frowned and said to Yatsubayashi.
“Youre not going to take that man back to the forward base”
“Sure, if he wants to and if I accept that request. Of course, it wont be free. Just to warn you though, dont escort him back without my permission. Its not like Im telling you not to do that no matter what, but if you do that, youll have to pay for the cost. So just be careful about that.”
“Why would I have to pay when Im the one escorting him back”
Akira seemed to be extremely confused there, but then Yatsubayashi casually replied.
“Well, thats because youll be doing work outside of guarding this clinic, which is your main job at the moment, you see. Not to mention, you wont be able to guard this clinic while youre escorting that guy back to the forward base. So its a given that you would have to pay, no”
Akira seemed to understand that argument although he also looked exasperated at the same time.
“That sounds to be a huge pain in the neck.”
“Thats just how it is.”
Yatsubayashi only casually said so while cleaning up his medical tools.
Akira was not alone, there were other Hunters who were assigned to guard the clinic too. But since Yatsubayashi actively moved around his clinic to pick up his patients, those escorts usually spread out not too far away from the clinic. Once they entered areas with a lot of monsters where Hunters even sent SOS requests, Akira and the other escorts spread out to clean up the monsters while carrying any injured Hunters back to the mobile clinic.
Akira with his incredible (bad) luck spent his days fighting swarms of monsters and carrying injured Hunters that he saved back to the clinic. Although the injured Hunter was so badly injured to the point that he was barely able to move his finger, he was still fully conscious. Maybe it was because of something that he prepared beforehand to make sure that he would not faint even during an emergency.
That man had a pale face as if all of his blood was sucked out of him, but his pale face was not because he had lost that much blood.
“Whoah!! This bill is too much no matter how you look at it, isnt it! I know that stuff in the wasteland is more expensive than usual, but not this expensive!!”
Yatsubayashi just laughed that off and casually replied.
“That is a wasteland fee plus a ruin fee. Considering how dangerous this place is, its normal to be that expensive, no I wont force you to pay that, but if youre not going to pay it, good luck going back to the forward base on your own.”
That man was only barely able to escape certain death, so he had no energy left to drag himself back to the forward base. But if he splurged his money on treatment there, it would definitely affect his Hunter activity later.
Of course, there was nothing more valuable than ones life, but considering the debt later and what kind of debt hell that he might face, sometimes, death was the better choice. That man knew that fact very well as he was at loss on what to do there, seeing that, Yatsubayashi smiled suspiciously at him and pulled out a container filled with green liquid.
“Well, I can understand your predicament. Better the treatment, higher the cost. But wait! If you take this medicine that I made, you can get the same healing power with one-tenth the price, you know!! So, do you want to try it”
The Hunter glanced at the glowing green liquid and frowned. But the 90% less cost would really reduce the effect of treating his injury there on his money, which in turn would reduce its effect on his future activity as a Hunter. Although it was not a formal one, Yatsubayashi was trusted enough by the City Management to be asked to work in the forward base, so there was no way he was a fake doctor. The Hunter eventually came to a decision.
“…Ill pay everything, so Ill take the usual treatment.”
Yatsubayashi looked disappointed.
“…If youre willing to take my medicine, Ill escort you back to the temporary base for free, you know”
“Just give me the normal treatment.”
Yatsubayashi lightly clicked his tongue and started treating that Hunters injury. He then lightly said to Akira.
“Good grief, these guys are no fun. You did use my medicine and had no trouble at all, right It was alright, right”
“Dont ask me.”
“You too, huh Its such a waste to refuse using such an effective healing medicine that I worked really hard to make just because of some superstition, you know. Geez, this world is really no fun at all.”
Seeing Yatsubayashi begrudging talk while still attending to his patients, Akira thought that he could understand some of Yatsubayashis feelings, but at the same time, he could also understand the feeling of the Hunters who hesitated to put that glowing green liquid into their bodies. So Akira decided not to say anything there.
The location of Yatsubayashis mobile clinic was fully trackable from the information terminal lent by the temporary base. Because of that, Hunters who were badly injured that they would not be saved if they went all the way back to the forward bases clinic would often opt to go to Yatsubayashis clinic. Other than that, sometimes, some Hunters who were fighting strong monsters also came to that clinic for help to fight those monsters. Either way, these Hunters would also bring along the monsters chasing them when they headed to the clinic. It was Akira and the other escorts job to take care of those monsters.
As long as there were some Hunters looking to be treated in that clinic and as long that it seemed there would be more patients coming, the moving clinic tended to stay in one place. The sound of Hunters and Yatsubayashi arguing could be heard coming from inside the trailer.
Akira found that weird as he said.
“Alpha, weve been staying here for some time now, what do you think is happening”
“This area is already pretty close to the frontline. With stronger monsters prowling this area, I bet there are more injured Hunters around here, so they might think that theres no need to move the trailer away for the time being.”
“If thats the case, we couldve come and camped in this place right from the beginning, right”
“Even if you tell me so, theres nothing that I can do about it. If youre still worried, you can just ask Yatsubayashi instead.”
Akira thought that Alpha had a point there. But he was not that bothered that he would go to ask Yatsubayashi, so he just continued watching the surroundings instead. When the day started getting dark, Akira went to talk to Yatsubayashi and got permission to end his job.
Back home, Akira was enjoying the warm bath while thinking about all the monsters he fought that day.
“What can I say… They gave me this option since Im spending too much money on supplies, but now that I think about it, putting me there will only make me spend more money on supplies, right Is this really alright”
Compared to before, Akira spent way more supplies that day. Since Yatsubayashi often drove his trailer straight to dangerous areas, Akira had more encounters with monsters compared to when he was free to move on his own discretion.
Alpha was sitting on the lip of the bath with her legs crossed, she moved the tip of her leg around as if to play with the warm bathwater.
“I think its not something for you to worry about. The clinic only moves based on the instruction from the City Management after all. Moreover, that might be nothing but an excuse.”
“Yep, an excuse to send you to more dangerous areas. The complaints from the upper echelons about you spending too much money on supplies might be true, although it might not be that big of a trouble, it was enough as an excuse. The two options that Kibayashi gave you, he might have given you those options just because he wanted to get you as close as possible to the frontline. The clinic only moved around the areas pretty close to the frontline and the battles going on there are pretty much as dangerous as the battles that youve gone through lately. So he might be just using that as an excuse to send you as close as possible to the frontline, hoping to see you doing some reckless stuff.“
“If thats the case, then he really got me good this time…”
Alpha suddenly moved around her crossed legs, Akiras eyes were drawn to that movement by pure reflex. She then stood up on the border of the bath while Akira was still looking up at her.
Alpha lightly smiled at Akira who was looking at her with a rather suspicious gaze. She then jumped, made a beautiful arc, pulled a full spin in the air, and plunged into the warm bath as if her body immediately melted into the water.
Alpha then popped out from the water as if she just popped out from a deep pool before moving next to Akira. Akira watched that sequence of action with slight amazement, but he was more exasperated than amazed.
“What was that This is a bath, not a pool, and its not that deep.”
“I just feel that lately, you are showing less interest in my body. I just thought of showing my beautiful body to you in a different way. So, how was that”
”Geez, youre as indifferent as ever although youre in front of this beautiful body. Youve really gotten used to this luxury, huh.”
Alpha smiled amusedly at Akira who looked even more exasperated than before. But behind her mind, she thought that it was still too early.
When she jumped into the bath in her swimsuit, Akira unconsciously moved his body as if to evade an incoming attack. And when he did that, there was actually another reason as to why he moved his body away.
Back in the forward base, Yatsubayashi had parked his clinic in the parking lot as he was looking through the data that he got inside his clinic.
That data contained all kinds of information used by the City Management to check how far they had secured the area for the sake of building the safe route into the ruin. It included things like the countless information terminals spread inside the ruin by the City Management, the data from the information terminals lent to the Hunters, and data from radars in vehicles.
Yastubayashi was given permission to analyze that data using the help of his connections. Even if the device to broadcast the information all the way back to the slum city was broken, with his skill, although it was difficult, it was not impossible to search for the particular wave signal produced by the nanomachines inside a certain body. With that, Yatsubayashi continued keeping a close look at the damage caused by the humanoid monster that was getting famous lately.
The reason why Yatsubayashi opened his mobile clinic was in order to search for Tiol without raising any suspicion. He only charged the Hunters a lot of money for his treatment and proactively answered SOS requests simply to avoid looking suspicious.
After Yatsubayashi finished analyzing the data, he then said with a sharp gaze.
“…I bet hes preparing himself behind the frontline… Which means, maybe over here”
The map of the ruin on his display also showed Tiols track as well as a big line. The line was drawn over one of the crossroads used in the main highway as if to create a blockade.
The line was basically the frontline and the area behind that line was an unknown world from the City Managements point of view, and Tsubakis building lay deep behind that line.
That day also Akira was instructed to escort Yatsubayashis clinic. He rode his bike into the ruin while checking the location of the mobile clinic. That was when he noticed something.
“Hes going pretty deep today. Basically just right after a turn on that crossroad, huh.”
Alpha smiled rather provocatively as she pointed her finger forward.
“If you keep going forward, youll be passing the front line, you know. Do you want to take a detour and look around”
“If you hate escorting the clinic that much, it might be a good idea to instead work around the frontline. After all, its not like this chance when you can use as much ammo as you want without worrying about the cost would last forever. So this might be a good chance to have a peek at the situation in the frontline.”
“No. I heard that Hunters would bring their powered suit with them there, so its not a place for someone like me to take a detour and look around. Not to mention, I promised Shizuka-san not to do anything reckless.”
“Is that so Well, I wont force you.”
Alpha smiled like usual to Akira, betraying the fact that she just said something as preposterous as suggesting taking a detour in the land of death to him.
Akira lightly sighed.
[Im sure she wants to tell me to stop fighting the small fries and go for the bigger fish so that I can become stronger as soon as possible. Now that I remember, she also said something along the line that this is a good chance to check my current strength… I guess Im still way too weak to be considered strong enough for Alpha, huh. She did say that shell consider it if I can defeat that big mechanical monster on my own.]
Akira had no wish of wasting his time either. But with that being said, he had no wish to train until his limbs fell off either. That was why he had no plans to go charging headfirst into dangerous places that might get him killed in order to gain experience. Although it might be the fastest method to become stronger, he did not want to fight monsters that Hunters would normally fight using powered suits. Of course, he would do the best he could in order to do that request from Alpha, but that did not mean he would do anything for that sake either.
Akira had a conflicted feeling as he smiled wryly and took a turn at the next crossroad.
He did not realize it, there was another reason why Alpha recommended him to go to the frontline even after including his bad luck into consideration.
But then, the fact that Alpha did not stop him from going to that clinic even if she had to force him, showed that she was still looking down on his bad luck.
When Akira arrived and looked around the situation around the clinic, he could not hide his surprise. The clinic was surrounded by more Hunters than usual, and these Hunters were not injured. But with that being said, they were just too many of them if they were the clinics escorts.
Among those Hunters, Akira caught some familiar faces. When he noticed Elena and Sara, Elena and Sara also noticed him and smiled while lightly waving at him.
Akira was a bit surprised when he heard from Elena that those Hunters were basically the reconnaissance team sent to scout the area.
“I always thought that building the secure route only means to simply secure the area deeper and deeper to the ruin, but it seems its not that simple, huh”
“Its not exactly wrong. But the reason why the City Management builds the secure route and maintains the highway to the ruin is all for the sake of harvesting relics located in the deeper part of the ruin. Thats why when they want to expand it further in, theyll have to send a reconnaissance team first to give a quick check of the area ahead. Not to mention, many Hunters wont even go to a location where they have no information at all, thats why its also for the sake of encouraging those Hunters. And if we find out there are good relics to get, even when its in a dangerous area, the City Management might consider increasing the budget to secure that area. That way the Hunters who usually work further to the east might come to help to secure the area too.”
But of course, the Hunters sent as the reconnaissance team would have to explore that area without any prior information about it. Sara had her armour bulging out because of that preparation to explore such a dangerous place, she made sure to refill his nanomachine stock up to the full capacity. She showed off the size of her chest that she was so proud of to Akira while smiling at him. It was not that hard for a girl to know where the other person was focused on.
“I thought that youre here for the reconnaissance request too, but that doesnt seem to be the case, huh. But since youre already here, how about joining the reconnaissance team The scouting itself is Elenas main job, so Im here as her escort today. If you want to come too, youll be also escorting Elena. Were planning to explore the area carefully and well immediately retreat back if things get dangerous, so I think its a rather safe request and we can get quite a lot of money from it.”
But Akira apologetically replied.
“…Im sorry. Im happy that you invited me, but Im here as an escort for the clinic. So I cant take your offer.”
“Oh If Im not mistaken, you said that youre basically free to do what you want for that request, right”
“From a discussion with a guy called Kibayashi, it seems that Ive been spending too much money on supplies, so I have to do this so that the City Management would allow me to keep using that much money. Then from there, I got assigned to escort the clinic.”
“Is that so Thats really unfortunate. Well, I guess even though its for getting your rank up, its not like they can spare you an unlimited amount of money, huh.”
Sara said so with a disappointed face. But then Elena made a suggestion.
“…I feel like they might let you change to the reconnaissance team with a little negotiation though, but of course, not right away. So I guess we have no other choice but to give up that idea this time. Well have a briefing first about the area that we need to explore, so we need to go soon. Good luck to you, Akira.”
“Yes, ah, feel free to contact me if anything happens during the exploration. Its also my job as the escort for the clinic to get out and pick up SOS request after all.”
“I see, Ill be counting on you when that happens.”
“Akira, see you later then.”
Akira lightly waved and saw Elena and Sara off.
Although Alpha was smiling like usual, there was something else running in the back of her mind. Personally speaking, she did not want anything else that might affect Akiras course of action anywhere around him, and that was doubly true when he was in such a dangerous place.
“Akira, just to warn you not to go out on your own just to check on them, okay”
“Hm Of course.”
“…Youre pretty obedient this time.”
“I have no plans to abandon the request that I accepted first. I did refuse their invitation because of the same reason, remember”
“Yep, and thats great to hear.”
Alpha smiled happily since she identified that as Akiras honest opinion about that matter. But at the same time, she also knew there was no telling how far he would go to stay by his decision. If he had always kept all his promises, Alpha would not be this doubtful of him.
After that, Akira focused on guarding the clinic, but this time there was not that much for him to do. Thanks to the reconnaissance team that took out the monsters ahead of them, there were not that many monsters left near the clinic. Because of that, even when he patrolled around the clinic on his bike while keeping his eyes on the sensor, he did not find any signals from monsters.
Akira continued guarding the clinic while feeling slightly worried. If things continued like this, he felt like Alpha would recommend him to work near the frontline again, either that or she would push him harder for his next training.-