Yatsubayashi was charging a crazy amount of money to the Hunters brought to his clinic.
Thanks to the first aid done to his head, that Hunter was able to stay conscious even after he was gravely injured. The expensive treatment cost was enough to make his face go pale though. He did try to bargain, but Yatsubayashi wouldnt budge at all.
“No, no money, no treatment. You need to pay first.”
“C-can you at least cut me some slack for that one”
“Good grief, if youre that healthy, I bet you can get yourself back to the forward base. You can ask your friend to carry you there, Im sure youll get there without dying. But well, with that injury, I bet youll either get a prosthetic or a cyborg replacement though.”
“I want to keep my body the way it is, since you said that your treatment would still enable me to still stay the way I am, I came to you.”
Indeed they could take a regenerative treatment to grow back their lost limbs that would normally need to be replaced with a prosthetic or cyborg body, but that kind of treatment was more expensive than replacing them. Furthermore, there were not many Hunters out there who would become a cyborg out of their own volitions. No matter how strong a cyborg body was, there were still unique advantages to keeping a flesh body, and this Hunter wanted to keep his body.
His friend then jumped in.
“Can you at least do something about it”
“We can get this done right away if youll pay in his place.”
“Dont be crazy, we dont have that much money. Its not like we can use our health insurance too, right”
“Sorry but my clinic is not a corporations clinic, so I dont really accept health insurance. And theres a limit on how much the Hunter Office would be willing to lend you to pay for it too. Not to mention, their lending limit is extremely low for a small individually ran clinic such as mine.”
That guy then sighed and rubbed his head with one of his hands. Although he had no plans to abandon his injured friend, it did not change the fact that he did not have any way to save him either.
Moreover, it was not like he was going to die if they decided to take him back to the clinic in the forward base, though, he would be living with prosthetics and incur debt for that medical treatment. In the first place, this was an injury stemming from the occupational hazard Hunters faced. It could happen again. That thought discouraged them from paying the cost of Yatsubayashis treatment no matter what.
Seeing that, Yatsubayashi hid his real intention as he made a suggestion to those Hunters.
“Well, I can understand that you want to save your friend. And Im a doctor, you see. But if I treat his injury here for free, itll only give me a lot of trouble later down the line. Thats why, I have a suggestion here, instead of paying me with money, how about you pay for the treatment for your friend by helping me with a certain job”
“Job What kind of job are we talking about here”
“Its basically a kind of emergency rescue request, you see. Of course, itll be a secret one though.”
Yatsubayashi started explaining the aforementioned job with a suspicious smile. To put it simply, those Hunters only needed to go to a certain location to rescue a certain Hunter and bring him back to Yatsubayashi. Although it sounded simple, it sounded as if it had a lot of hidden intent behind it.
“Why should this be a secret anyway Moreover, I checked my information terminal and it doesnt seem like theres any SOS request from that location though”
Yatsubayashi smiled at that question.
“Well, thats because that Hunter doesnt want to have a record of this happening left in the Hunter Office, you see. Basically, hes one of those Hunters who do not wish for the Hunter Office to be informed of an SOS rescue request that he had submitted. Other than protecting his reputation, its also to save money. After all, if you needlessly ask for SOS requests, your insurance bill will go up, you see. Thats the same for the treatments in hospitals and clinics too. What Im saying here is that if you treat your injuries in my clinic, I can help you make sure that it wont leave any record in the Hunter Office, the catch is that you cant use your insurance though. Other than that, well, maybe his reputation among his colleagues and gang To put it simply, he wants to say that he didnt get in any trouble, he just randomly met some Hunters in the wasteland and those Hunters arbitrarily helped him without even being asked.”
“I see, so basically youre accepting that kind of request under the table, huh. But still, youre willing to give him free treatment just by saving one Hunter, this is too good to be true, you know”
“Are you kidding me Of course, it wont only be once. Ill have you do that for me multiple times until I judge youve worked enough to pay for the treatment cost.”
The Hunters nodded and looked at Yatsubayashi with a stern gaze. They thought that Yatsubayashi was planning to use them and charge them with more bills every time they returned back with more injury.
“If youre going to take that request, Ill get him treated right away. I wont do something as cowardly as postponing his treatment until you work enough for me. So, what do you think Am I nice or what Well, I wont force you though, so its still up to you.”
Putting it from a different point of view, it also meant that Yatsubyashi gave no space for negotiation, and the wounded Hunter also started begging his friend. So in the end, the other Hunter clicked his tongue and took that offer.
Elena and her reconnaissance team proceeded deeper into the ruin. Their main job was to harvest the information gathered by the small information-gathering device spread beforehand inside that ruin while retrieving and replacing those small information-gathering devices owned by the City Management. The accessibility of the site with a vehicle, the number of monsters in that area, and the number of rubble and their material found around the area, all of this information was enough to judge if a site was worth exploring or not.
The members of the reconnaissance team were free to search the inside of a building. They were even allowed to gather relics. Even if it might disturb their main duty of scouting the ruin, the relics that they gathered could also be used to judge if that part of the ruin was worth securing or not, not to mention the information that they brought back, also took note of the difficulty and the danger of that building. As such, no one stopped them from doing so.
Elena scanned her surroundings while driving her vehicle slowly. Sara stood ready next to Elena, guarding her, but she was also eyeing the buildings that seemed to be containing expensive relics.
“Elena, can we just like, you know, go and take a peek”
“No. We will only take a route that this scouting vehicle can go through, so we wont be searching the inside of any buildings. Didnt we agree on that right from the start”
“I know, but still…”
“I can understand your feelings, but no. Theres a good chance something will attack this vehicle when were away searching the inside of a building. We have almost close to no information about this area, so I cant really guarantee the safety of this vehicle when were gone. Or more like, were exactly here in order to gather that information, no”
Hunters who tend to work alone or in a small group often left their vehicles behind when they searched the inside of a building. But of course, no one could guarantee that their vehicles would be still in one piece when they returned. Elena and Sara had more than enough experience with losing their vehicles in such a manner.
Of course, they could just get more Hunters with them and have some of them guard the vehicle when they were gone. But with more headcounts, each of their shares would also reduce. There was also the possibility of the Hunters guarding the vehicle running away abandoning the Hunters inside the building when monsters attacked them. So it did not change the fact that it would still be a gamble in the end.
The only thing that the Hunters could do was to increase their winning chance with all kinds of methods that they could find. Getting stronger, working with a team, deepening their trust with the other team members, emphasizing the loss in case someone betrayed them. If they did not do that, they would end up as one of those lost Hunters with broken dreams who could not return back from the wasteland.
But Sara seemed to be not fully convinced by it, seeing which Elena gave another reason to convince her.
“If we get ourselves into trouble and send out an SOS request, Akira might come to answer that request, you know. That would really erase our dignity and his trust in us as his senior Hunters, you know. Although, Im not even sure that we still have those two things even right now.”
Sara frowned and sighed.
“Alright. I still want to stay as the senior Hunter that he can rely on, after all. Ill hold myself back.”
Sara suddenly turned obedient, seeing that, Elena could only smile bitterly.
“Honestly, I really hope you would be this obedient when your best friend warns you though.”
“Thats that, you know. Its like were one soul, so hearing you warn me like that is like giving myself a little scolding. So its much more likely for me to just ignore it, you see. Just like how its more likely for me to get selfish when Im alone.”
“Is that so In that case, then Ill be doing that too when Im pondering about something.”
Elena and Sara lightly smiled at each other before returning back to watching their surroundings.
Not too long after that, Elena, who was keeping her eyes on her sensor, suddenly stopped her vehicle and tilted her head.
“Elena, whats wrong”
“Its nothing in particular. Its just that when I checked the data, I found something interesting. The sensor caught multiple signals of something that looked human.”
“They might be other Hunters exploring this area, no”
“Possibly, yes. Its just that theres something bothering me.”
Some of the signals were possibly from the monsters. Judging from their positions and the signal that the fact that they seemed to be coming from something with a humanoid shape, Elena could not shake off her bad feeling. After all, if some of those signals were from monsters and some others were from Hunters, they were close enough to notice each other.
As such, they would have started fighting by now. There were many types of monsters that ignored Hunters who had even stepped into their territories. While on the other hand, most of the Hunters would rather avoid having to fight all the monsters that they encountered. There were many reasons for them not to fight each other.
But Elena remembered a certain rumour, specifically, about a humanoid monster that prowled the Kuzusuhara Ruin. Her sharp intuition was telling her that this was it although she did not have enough evidence that supported it.
Elena thought for a bit before she stepped on the gas. But she made sure to change her direction, away from it.
“Sara, well be changing our scouting area. It might lower our area coverage and the information accuracy that we can get, which in turn might lower our reward later. Sorry but please just let this one go.”
“Dont worry about it. Ill leave making that kind of decision to you. So lets just continue this safely.”
Sara lightly smiled, she seemed to be not bothered at all by that. Seeing how Sara fully trusted her, Elenas stern face slightly softened.
A certain Hunter named Sonoda grumbled as he strolled in the middle of the ruin.
“Another dud, huh”
Sonoda was one of the Hunters forced to work for Yatsubayashi to help the treatment fee for his Hunter friend. He came to the location where there should be someone who needed help but did not want to send an SOS request. But when he arrived, that person was nowhere to be found and there was not even a since remnant of a fight, and this had happened multiple times now.
Sonoda called Yatsubayashi using his information terminal to complain, but Yatsubayashi just replied casually.
“Its not a proper SOS request to the Hunter Office after all. Its also not clear whos the issuer of that request, heck, not even I know. So, it could be just that there are some people who played a prank on you. Well, Ill at least put in some words with those that informed me of that request, so I hope you would work the best as you can for your part. Dont worry, even if you dont get to find anything, Ill still count your work. Ill send you the next location.”
After Sonoda ended the call, he received the location of his next target. He clicked and put his information terminal back into his pocket.
“Good grief, these guys are sending us to the deeper part of the ruin like its nothing! Alright guys!! To the next one!!”
“Alright… Hm Wait, it seems that theres someone over there.”
“Oh, the target ran over there, huh Lets get him.”
Sonoda led his group to the location where that signal came from. It came from the first floor of a building not too far from them. They moved slowly and carefully into that building and spotted a young boy standing in a dark hole in the wall not too far from the door.
“Is that the guy Hey, are you alright Wherere the monsters Did you run away to this place And are you alone”
That young boy reacted to Sonoda, but it was not in the form of words for communication.
“The current area is under a lockdown. Due to the emergency situation protocol, the security system is allowed to kill any intruders. Please give your identification information…”
Sonoda immediately raised his rifle and barraged that young boy, pushing him all the way to the wall from the shockwave. Sonodas teammates immediately jumped in to support him. The young boy lost his head and all of his limbs were torn apart.
Sonoda quickly told them to retreat.
“Were running away!! Lets go!!”
“W-whoa, I only shot to help you since you started shooting first though, was that alright”
“You didnt notice it yet! That young boy is not the rescue target!! Its the one that attacked the rescue target!! Retreat now!!”
Sonoda and his friends quickly left that building when another sound came from the dark hole behind them.
“…Unable to identify. Immediately changing to restraining protocol…“
“Get in the vehicle!! Were retreating back to the clinic! Something bad is coming, I know it!”
Sonoda retreated back as fast as he could while barking orders to his team.
The limbs that were torn off from the young boy were scattered on the ground. His arms from elbow down were completely turned into rifles. It was not like a rifle fixed on a prosthetic arm, it was more like rifles that were growing out from those arms. Its body seemed like it was layered with armour in a glance, but it was not armour, it was countless layers of metallic scale.
Another young boy emerged from the darkness. He took the gun lying on the ground, the leftover limb of the other young boy and started chasing after Sonoda and his men.
While around the same time, Akira was bored guarding the clinic when a notice reached his information terminal. The coordinate written in that notice was around in the direction where the reconnaissance team went.
Akira thought for a bit before he hopped on his bike and paced it.
“We dont know for sure if Elena and Sara are there, theres no need to go there yourself, no”
“Accepting SOS requests is also one of my duties, right Though its true that its a little bit further away from the clinic.”
Alpha frowned even more. Akira thought that it was a bit surprising as he said.
“…Well, I do know that since its an SOS request, theres a good chance that Ill find a troublesome swarm of monsters, and I admit that I do really want to help them if Elana-san or Sara-san are the ones that got into trouble. But at least let me do this much, alright There are not that many monsters around, so I should be able to get my rank up faster instead of just guarding the clinic, right”
“Just dont get too deep into the ruin, alright”
“Hm Yeah, sure.”
Akira thought that it was weird since, in order to get stronger and to gather as many experiences as he could, it was better if he was actively taking SOS requests and that Alpha would have preferred it. But since it seemed that it might sour her mood if he said anything there, he just kept his mouth shut and paced his bike faster.
Akira drove his bike to its max speed. He was fully relying on Alphas support without holding back. After all, he felt that he would slow down if he tried controlling the bike on his own and he had no plans to arrive late. Due to Alphas advanced driving skill, the bike could sway nimbly left and right evading the rubbles scattered on the ground without losing much of its momentum.
Not too long after Akira went out, he detected some signals from monsters. He quickly shifted his focus to the source of that signal, with the help of Alphas support, he could clearly see a group of monsters, but from that distance, they looked like small dots. The moment he noticed the monster swarm, Akira frowned. It was a swarm of weapon dogs blocking his way forward.
“So those were the reasons for that rescue request, huh. I would rather run than chagrin right at it.”
“Want to withdraw then”
As Akira was thinking about what to do from there, he could see a vehicle suddenly jumped out, running away as fast as it could. The backside of that vehicle was half open and there were people there desperately trying to fight back the incoming monsters, Akira could at least tell that much.
Right after it jumped out, that vehicle immediately turned and drove right toward Akira. The sharp turn almost threw the whole vehicle into the air, but it was able to regain its balance thanks to the advanced driving skill of its driver while still shooting the monsters behind it and keeping its speed.
“That must be the rescue target then. Thank goodness, it seems that theres no need for me to jump into that swarm.”
“Well then, lets pick him up and head back“. By the way, how reckless are you willing to go today
Alpha was smiling challengingly at Akira, but he only replied with a bitter smile and said.
“Not more than whats needed.”
Akiras hand that was grabbing the steer suddenly dialed up the power bar and violently accelerated the bike, just right on time before warheads rained down right where he was a few seconds ago. The explosions sent shockwaves and left craters on the ground.
Under the raining warheads, Akira aimed his SSB multi-weapon at the weapon dogs blocking his way and started shooting, ignoring the amount of money that he spent just for that barrage. The missile pods fixed into his A4WM automatic grenade launcher were also joining that barrage.
The bullet storm swallowed the frontline of the incoming weapon dog swarm. Although the distance between them dampened some of the bullets momentum, they still tore through the weapon dogs bodies. Their big bodies with a cannon perched on them quickly turned into huge chunks of obstacle, but the bullets also tore through them and ate through the swarms defense.
The backside of the swarm was hammered by the mini-missiles. Thanks to the guiding system from Alpha, they struck accurately at the weapon dogs cannons, igniting the black powder inside their body and resulting in a big explosion. Thus shredding those weapon dogs into small pieces.
As the vehicle filled with Hunters went past Akira, he immediately pulled the brake, made a U-turn, and once again pulled down the accelerator. The special function of the bike that helped its wheel to stick on the vertical wall prevented it from flying off. The powerful inertia assaulted Akiras body, but he was able to endure it with the help of his augmented suit. Even as he was driving off, Akira kept on shooting at the weapon dogs, using the recoil to accelerate his bike even faster.
As Akira was trying to catch up with the vehicle in front of him, he received a short-distance call from his information terminal. It was a call from Sonada who was waving at him from the backside of the vehicle in front of Akira.
“Youre the Hunter who came to my rescue, right Thanks for the help.”
“Its good that youre alright. To be honest, I was thinking of retreating when I spotted that weapon dog swarm. Its a good timing that you pulled yourself out from that.”
“That was a close call. With that many cannons, if it was not because of you taking away some of the heat, they would have wiped us out. And here I thought we have really run out of luck when those weird things attacked us, but I guess we still have some luck left, huh.”
“Weird things Do you mean you didnt send out that SOS request because of that weapon dog swarm”
“Yeah, it was because of those…”
Akira noticed something weird on the side of the vehicle.
“Hey, someone is latching on the side of your vehicle Didnt you get enough time to take everyone inside”
Sonada peeked out from the backside of his vehicle and pulled out his gun at thatsomeone‘ latching beside the vehicle without showing any hesitation. The barrage peeled that small boy off from the vehicle as he tumbled on the ground. Akira who saw that could not help but to raise his eyebrows.
“Wha-! why did you do that!!”
“That thing is not friendly!! Its an enemy!! We sent that SOS request because we got attacked by those things!! I bet they are one of those humanoid robots posted to guard the ruin or something…”
Suddenly a small boy with a face similar to Tiol landed on that vehicle with a bang, violently rocking the vehicle and leaving a big dent on its armour.
“Warning. Detecting resistance, arresting targets…”
The small boy stopped his formal warning midway and his expressionless face twitched. Hostility replaced his face and he immediately jumped off that vehicle and lunged straight at Akira.
Although Akira was surprised by that sudden turn of event, he did not miss a beat as he aimed his rifle at that young boy and shot him down. But that did not stop him, the young boy immediately rose back up and started chasing Akira.
Akira could not help but be surprised to see the young boy chasing him. Although that bullet was powerful enough to rip through the weapon dogs, it was not enough to pierce through that young boy.
“Is it one of those dolls that I fought with the other day I didnt expect to find them outside a building.”
“Akira, leave the guessing for later and focus on the fight. Its not done yet, more of them are coming.”
Akira aimed his SSB multi-weapon up with a stern face, there were multiple of those young boy dolls jumping at him from the buildings to his left and right. Some of them had 4 normal limbs, some of them carried rifles, while some of them had their whole arms turned into guns. Some of those dolls had open bodies, exposing the mechanical parts inside them, some of them even had 3 arms attached to their bodies.
Akira compressed his time perception and shot down the enemies in front of him in turns following Alphas instruction. But that did not end all of them, although some of them plummeted straight to the ground and turned into scrap, and some of them were thrown off and crashed to the building near them and stopped moving. But of course, there were also those with stronger bodies which rose up again after getting shot down before they started chasing him.
Sonadas vehicle was powerful enough to drive through the bad ground, but even so, the small wreckage spread here and there prevented them from going too fast. Not to mention, if they made a small blunder and managed to get the vehicle to roll over, it would spell the end for them. So they drove even slower than usual, slower than the dolls chasing after them with their super-human strength.
Although they were fighting back the dolls chasing them, the distance between them was slowly narrowing, and their number was not getting smaller at all.
The young boy dolls jumping out the buildings left and right straight at Akira also had their guns and cannons aimed at him. Alpha controlled the bike to keep making evasive manoeuvres to get away from their aims. Due to the continuously moving bike and the bad ground, Akira had to maintain his compressed time perception while aiming his SSB multi-weapon at those dolls. He followed the instructions shown in his augmented vision, displaying the order of the enemies that he had to shoot down. The bullets that he was using should be able to easily turn normal monsters into minced meat.
The flying powerful bullets ripped the dolls into pieces, spreading their flesh and mechanical parts into the air. But the ones with strong bodies would only slam to the ground after their momentum was killed by the bullet just to rise up again.
The backside of Akiras vehicle released a pack of mini-missiles. Some of them hit the dolls that were still in the air, while some of the missiles went straight at the dolls chasing Akira. The explosions from those missiles sent a violent gust of wind right at Akira, but he planted his body firmly with the help of his augmented suit so as not to get blown away from that shockwave.
Akira then noticed something troublesome and frowned.
“Say, Alpha. Its just my feeling though, but like, arent those dolls focusing on me Or more like, theyre only attacking me, right”
“If you want to leave one of them alive in order to confirm that, then you dont have my permission.”
“Like hell I would do that!”
“If you have no plans to just abandon those people behind, then just take this positively, at least they wont be attacking those Hunters while youre around, right”
“You have a point there.”
Akira then banished that thought and any other unneeded things inside his mind to the void.
Another batch of mini-missiles was launched from the backside of the bike. They drew a huge arc on the sky and went for the dolls chasing from behind. The dolls with guns immediately tried to shoot some of the missiles, causing several explosions in the air.
But even after that, the rest of the mini-missiles were able to reach them and blow them away. Akira looked slightly relieved watching those explosions, but his face immediately tensed up again. Those mini-missiles were not enough to stop those dolls from chasing him.
“That did cut their number down, but there are still quite a lot of them left.”
“Akira, bad news here, that was the last batch of mini-missiles.”
“And here I thought I carried quite a lot of them. It starts to scare me to think how much I spent in this fight alone.”
Akira took his DVTS minigun off from his bike and replaced it with the automatic reloading system for the missiles since it has no mini-missiles left to load. The ammo expense from that battle was nothing to laugh at.
Akira aimed his SSB multi-weapon and started shooting again. The SSB multi-weapon was spouting out powerful bullets as if it was a minigun. Once he emptied his rifle, he loaded another magazine and started shooting again. He told himself that he did not care if Kibayashi complained about the expense later on as he kept burning through his ammo reserve.
But even so, the incoming dolls did not seem to be letting off at all and his ammo reserve was getting smaller and smaller. Akira could not help but start feeling nervous. Right in the midst of it, Alpha said something that he could not ignore.
“We at least got out of the most dangerous part now. Ill need to go for a bit, so do your best yourself for the time being, okay Ill give the bikes control back to you.”
As the bike suddenly swayed, Akira flusteredly took control of the bike back.
“Wait for a sec, you need to go now!”
“I just need to take care of a small business. Ill be back in a minute or two.”
“Small business! Right now In this situation!”
In contrast to the panicking Akira, Alpha just smiled and pointed her finger.
“Dont worry, like I said before, we already got out of the most dangerous part.”
Alpha immediately vanished right after that. Akira quickly shifted his gaze forward and saw Yastsubayashis mobile clinic coming right in his direction. He could also see the Hunters guarding the clinic standing by near it as well as the Hunters that were a part of the expedition team.
The mobile clinic was originally an APC, so it had rifles and other weapons equipped. Those weapons immediately started shooting, half of the other Hunters around that clinic also started reacting. After Akira went past the clinic, he spotted Elena and Sara, so he turned his bike toward them.
Elena noticed Akira and threw a smile at him.
“Akira, it seems that youre having a hard time there. Are you alright”
“Ah, uh, yeah, Im okay.”
Sara then worriedly said to Akira.
“This Hunter by the name of Sonada keeps broadcasting SOS requests, so you came to rescue him, huh Are you alright Did you get any injury If youre tired, you can take a rest in the back.”
“Ah, no, Im fine. Although Im a little tired, I still can move.”
“I see, dont push yourself too hard. Since were around this time, it would be a waste not to rely on us when you have the chance.”
Sara said so and smiled gently at Akira, who blushed and seemed to be flustered.
“In that case, I dont have much ammo left, so is it okay if I stay close to you”
Elena smiled and said.
“Of course. It has been quite a while since the last time we fought together. If you want to use my information terminal too, come closer and Ill do the adjustment.”
Akira smiled happily as he said so. After he finished his readjustment, he then fought the dolls together with Elena and Sara.
The other Hunters that were guarding the clinic and the Hunters from the expedition team knew well of the danger that they were going to face, thus they came well prepared with a lot of ammo. Of course, the bullets that they had prepared were suitable for the danger of the requests that they had accepted that day.
After that, they took their time cleaning up the dolls chasing Akira and Sonada as well as the weapon dog swarm that came not too long after those dolls.-