Due to its relatively large size, the top of the APC was rather spacious. But of course, it was way too narrow for a gunfight. Akira, Katsuya, and Tiol saw the other as their enemies and aimed rifles, originally made to fight against monsters, at the other two.
The APC left a trail of destruction as stray bullets flew out from the top of the APC, the explosions and gunshots made by the three of them were enough to lure monsters. Some of the stray bullets would strike against buildings around the area, causing the Hunters who were hiding there to think that they were under attack. Thus as expected, they shot back at the APC. The area that was silent immediately enveloped in a hailstorm of bullets and explosions. It engulfed the whole area in fire. All three of them continued fighting each other, spreading fire and destruction in their wake.
Akira shot out anti-forcefield bullets and homing armour piercing frag grenades with his SSB rifles to get Katsuya and Tiol off his APC. The stray bullets went past their targets and hit the buildings around the APC. The explosions blew away the buildings, raising a cloud of dust, while the bullets were able to easily drill holes through those buildings. Some of them even hit the APC and peeled off its armour tiles.
The APC that was filled with supplies, was Akiras lifeline. But both Tiol and Katsuya did not have the leeway to attack the APC, and Akira himself did not have the leeway to worry about hitting his own APC in that battle.
Katsuya quickly jumped back of the APC to get away from Akiras wild shots. He then grabbed the edge of the APC and stuck to its side. He was holding the APC as a shield in one hand while using the other to spray bullets at those on top of the APC.
Akira pulled his head back to evade Katsuyas shots, he then fell backwards in that posture. Although it seemed that he was going to fall to the ground just like that, Akira used the contact surface of the boots of his augmented suit to stand straight, horizontal to the side of the APC, thus blocking Katsuya from targeting him. While he was in that position, Akira aimed both of his rifles above his head and pulled the trigger, to be more precise, he was aiming at Tiol, who had jumped and was running on a buildings sidewall ever since he evaded Akiras indiscriminate shooting from before.
Akira knew the general location of Tiol from his information-gathering device. Since he had no leeway to take a proper aim at him, he instead focused more on trying to prevent Tiol from joining back. So, he spread grenades everywhere, as if to destroy everything around him.
Bullets rained down onto the building where Tiol was, but Tiol was unfazed, he kept running forward. His monstrous vitality allowed him to take bullets with no problem at all. So, Tiol just kept on chasing the APC while ignoring the incoming bullets. He then aimed his arm, already transformed into a cannon, at Akira.
Both Akira and Tiol exchanged shots. Since both of them were shooting bullets, grenades, and warheads from a difficult position, they were both unable to properly aim at the other.
The warheads hit the APC directly, throwing it off from its track. Akira ran on the side of the APC to evade the incoming warheads, he somehow managed to stay on the side of the APC it rocked violently.
Tiol used that opening to jump from the side of the building. His face was showing a blood-covered smile. Right after that, grenades came crashing onto the sidewall. Although the explosions also devoured Tiol, he could be seen to have soon jumped out from the smoke.
For the sake of knocking their opponent off, to make sure not to let them get away, and to gain the upper hand, all of them tried to get back to the top of the APC as quickly as possible. Akira ran back to the top of the APC, while Katsuya tried to climb back up, and Tiol jumped from the side of another building straight to the top of the APC. If any of them used that chance to shoot someone else, it would create an opening for the third party to shoot him. That understanding allowed the three of them to get back on top of the narrow APC.
A bullet aimed at the head. A kick to throw the opponents off-balance. A twist and turn to evade the incoming blow. Regaining the balance after the exchange. Quickly jumping away from the line of fire. Jumping back to close the distance. Re-aiming the rifle back at their opponent. They threw bullets, kicks, and strikes to destroy the opponents weapons or bodies. Among the flurry of the strikes, they ducked, blocked, and evaded. Even a single mistake would immediately kill any of them as they were locked in a 3-way battle royal.
That was when monsters jumped into the fray as well. A huge beast monster landed on top of the APC and tried to take a huge bite of the three. The machine guns with legs appeared on the side of a few buildings and were shooting bullets in Akiras direction. Even in such a messy situation, Akira, Tiol, and Katsuya kept on trying to kill each other while shooting down the legged machine guns and the monsters that landed on the top of the APC.
Akira kicked one of the beasts that had already lost its head in Tiols direction. Tiol deflected its carcass to one of the nearby buildings in order to destroy the legged machine guns there. Katsuya tried to make use of that opening, but both Akira and Tiol made sure to keep him in check so that he would not be able to make any moves in this situation.
With so many factors suddenly mixed in the battle, every single decision that they make could easily decide whether they live or die. But even so, none of them was knocked off the APC. Although the APC was going pretty fast causing the scenery around them to blur, for the three of them, who were pumped full of adrenaline with heightened senses, it seemed that the scenery around them had stopped.
Akira somehow managed to keep up with the intense fight with the help of his time perception compression. The panging pain in his head caused a growing haziness to flood his mind. It was obvious that his brain could not take this burden any longer.
While at the same time, a strange feeling spread through his body as if it was being crushed and reformed. It was the sensation which came from the continuous cycle of the injuries being continuously healed, thanks to the medicines that he had used beforehand. Normally, the painkilling effects from the medicines would allow him to ignore the excruciating pain. However, he would still be able to feel enough so as not to cause any harmful effects during a fight. That feeling of discomfort came from this.
The moment the medicine lost its painkilling effect, the pain would immediately eliminate Akiras mind and shut down his body.
Akira more or less knew how much time he had left, judging from how numbed pain felt and his abundant experience from all the battles that he had gone through. All those experiences were indicating to him that he was at his limit soon.
[These guys are strong!! Can I really keep up until I kill them!… No, I have no other choice but to do it! I just need to kill them fast, before my body shuts down first! Even a second faster will be good enough! I have to commit myself more! Ill kill them before Im dead first!]
The fear of death caused Akira to frown, but then a mocking smile overwrote his fear. He then ignored the burden, increased his time compression, strengthened his reality-bending willpower, and pushed his body to move even faster.
The stalemate between the three of them started to change as Akira committed himself further into the fight. The tide of the battle started to turn toward Akiras favor. Tiol, who understood that, felt joy instead of fear.
[I can tell, you know!! Youre getting desperate, right Youre pushing yourself past your limit, right That just means youre that cornered right now!!]
Akira was also desperate when he fought against the giant Tiol. But at that time, Akira seemed to still have some leeway. That came from the fact that Akira trusted Alphas support, even in the worst-case scenario, he believed that Alpha would do something about it. Moreover, if the opponent was too strong, then Alpha would have done something right from the start.
But this time, Akira did not give out such a feeling at all. He was simply trying his best, with each step, bringing him closer to deaths door just to win the battle. Tiol could obviously feel that Akria was being cornered.
[This is not like the last time! I can kill him this time! I finally have the chance to kill him! I just need to push just a little bit more! Go to hell!!]
Tiol wished for more power. His wish stemmed from his desire to kill Akira. But because of that, his consciousness started to show bias and leaned more toward the system instead of that of a human.
The current body was not Tiols real body. His real body was the giant which Akira had destroyed the other day. After the city management took a small sample of his body, they burnt it so other monsters would be unable to feed on that corpse. Therefore, his original body no longer existed.
The body that Tiol was using right now, was something based on the surviving terminal that Yatsubayashi had modified according to the deal that he had with Tsubaki. Originally, Tsubaki was planning to control this modified body together with some other units. But then, she found a much better automaton body to use. So, she no longer needed those units. After that, Tsubaki installed Tiols personality into one of them and ordered him to spread chaos amongst the city defence squad.
Tsubaki, who resurrected Tiol, demanded Tiol to properly give her results this time. If he was able to do that, Tsubaki promised him that she would ask Yatsubayashi to provide him with a proper body. If not, then he would be thrown into a dumpster and be incinerated. Of course, Tiol had no choice but to accept her conditions. While at the same time, Tsubaki also told him this body was the only thing that had Tiols data at the moment. So if that body was destroyed, Tiol would be dead for real this time.
After the expedition started, Tiol met Katsuyas team by pure coincidence, it was not like Tiol deliberately went after Katsuyas team. At that time, he only recognized Katsuya as nothing more than one of the common Hunters. But the reason why he was clearly aiming to kill Katsuya, was simply because he heard Katsuya mentioning,I will turn this expedition into a success in order to win Sheryls heart.
As if it was a prank from the god, Tiol then met Akira by coincidence as well. Moreover, he successfully caused Katsuya to mistake Akira as one of his allies. At that time, he thought it might be a good idea to make them fight against each other, and he succeeded.
At the moment luck was siding him. Tiol, who thought so, became extremely excited. The thought of killing Akira and Katsuya and then winning Sheryls heart now felt within his reach. The excitement threw his logic off the window as he sold a part of himself for more power.
With Akira and Tiol fully committing themselves towards that battle. Katsuya, who was the last person to do that, also got riled up in response to the other two.
[T-these guys are strong!! Dammit! I didnt expect that I would fight against these people like them when Im not in my best shape!!]
Even in this situation, Katsuyas distorted common sense was only able to recognize it as a slightly bad situation. Since up till now, he was able to fight against monsters with relative ease, he was not able to correctly recognize the severity of the situation. But that small difference caused a huge gap during that intense battle against Tiol and Akira.
Although Katsuya had gone through numerous dangerous encounters and was able to get through all of them by doing something reckless, what he was trying now was different. The domain close to death should already be familiar to him, but for some reason, this time, he felt a different kind of presence of death. As he knitted his brows, he thought about this unfamiliar presence of death.
[Ive been moving slower ever since the jamming happened, why is that! Is it because the support system is affected by that jamming! But even without the support system, it should still function as a normal augmented suit, right! What the heck is going on!]
Katsuya ended up unconsciously looking for the reasons he was having difficulty. This divided his attention, which caused him to slow down even more. But that was enough to cause a fatal opening in that battle. Akira and Tiol did not let that chance slide as both of them simultaneously aimed their rifles at Katsuya.
But this was where Akiras slightly late response spared Katsuyas life. If Akira had committed to the battle a few seconds sooner and stepped closer to the death door to sharpen his senses, Katsuya would have died there.
Inside the compressed time perception, Akira aimed his rifle at Katsuya while fixing his gaze at him. He then realized that Katsuya noticed him and took a defensive stance instead of jumping out of the way. A barrage of anti-forcefield armour rounds at close-range would be able to easily break through that level of defence.
Akira knew that Katsuya would understand that as well, so right at the next moment, Akira jumped away following his instinct.
A split second later, a storm of bullets enveloped the top of the APC. Akira was barely able to evade it while Tiol, who was not able to evade, took the barrage head-on and was thrown flying before landing on the ground. He rolled over a few times, before being run over by the vehicles chasing after Akiras APC from behind.
That attack just now came from Katsuyas team. After Akiras APC broke through their formation, they immediately turned around and started chasing the APC. Then the moment they felt that Katsuya was in danger, they immediately took action to provide supporting fire to him. Both the ones that were peeking out from the vehicles as well as the ones driving the vehicles were all moving in a quick organized manner, without exchanging any information in between them. Moreover, they sprayed the bullets in such a fashion that it covered the whole top, except for where Katsuya was standing.
Of course, Katsuya also got hit by some of the bullets, but he was unscathed. Akira then thought, while hiding himself around the edge of the rooftop.
[Low powered bullets, huh Did they use that only to provide suppressing fire No, thats not right, if all of them were low powered bullets, it should have been impossible to send Tiol flying like that. I bet theyre only using that type of bullet around the area where they might hit Katsuya and used different bullets elsewhere.]
Akiras guess was mostly correct, but the implication of his guess was something that was really worrying for him.
[The jamming is still in effect. So how were they able to execute that without speaking to each other That level of teamwork is not normal, you know]
Katsuya jumped backwards to join up with the rest of his team. Akira did try to shoot Katsuya down when he was up in the air, but the suppression fire from his team made that difficult.
[As I thought, their timing is just too good! Is it because of that coordination support system! Is that thing still working even in this situation!]
But Akira quickly realized that he was about to pursue something unimportant right now. So, he immediately stopped his thoughts there. With both Katsuya and Tiol off the APC now, Akira went back to the back door of the APC.
“Nelia! Theyre gaining on us! Can we run away from them!”
“Ill try my best, but to be honest, I think our chance of running away is small. This APC is already in very bad shape and theres not much ammo left in the machine gun. While on the other hand, they are using faster and smaller vehicles with greater mobility. Not to mention, they seem hell-bent on killing a certain someone who is on this APC right now. As I thought, we wont be able to get away from them.”
The APC was already close to its limit. Although Akira used a lot of expensive armour tiles to protect it, it had already lost more than half of them. After all those intense fights, the APC was already badly damaged. It was only thanks to Nelias skill that it was still barely able to somehow avoid the enemys attacks.
Since it was originally a transport vehicle to be used in the wasteland, it had a powerful engine. However, its capability was vastly different compared to the vehicles made for battles. With Katsuyas teams vehicles being specialized for combat in terms of specs, Akiras APC had no chance of winning.
There was also a big difference in their remaining ammo. Moreover, he still had to keep using the machine gun to clear up the monsters blocking the APC. So, they were still using what little they had left.
Katsuyas team would catch up with them at this rate. There was a good chance of death. Although Akira said so, Nelia replied back with an amused smile. She was not joking, nor was she exaggerating, she was simply enjoying the situation.
Akira knitted his eyebrows. He understood why Nelia was acting like that, but at the same time, he could not just completely ignore it nor just enjoy the situation like Nelia.
“For now, Ill try my best to slow them down.”
Endless explosions could be heard from behind. But even so, Nelia smiled and did not seem to be bothered at all. Akira could feel a strange feeling of reliability from that reply as he hurried up to finish his preparation. He immediately replenished his ammo and energy packs and did not forget to take extra medicines as well. In the middle of that, Akira spotted something inside the APC and stopped. It was his bike.
Katsuya landed on one of the moving vehicles from his team. Despite the jamming, they were able to communicate with each other since they were within close-range communication. The moment Katsuya got into communication range, he was welcomed with a scolding.
“Katsuya!! What the heck were you thinking Jumping out all by yourself like that again! Ill deck you if you dont stop doing that, okay!”
“I-Im sorry, alright It just happened.”
“Just happened Thats not something that you should do out of a whim, you know!”
Airis calm voice followed afterwards.
“Katsuya. I know that you would do that since you were able to save some people in the past by doing so. But were a team right now. Its better to move as a team instead of moving alone.”
“…Youre right, that was a close call as well, thanks for the help.”
Katsuya regained his calm after talking with Yumina and Airi. But even so, he was still relatively excited.
“Alright then! Lets go!!”
The team increased the intensity of its attack with that command from Katsuya. The bullet storm consumed Akiras APC while grenades and warheads were raining down on him.
Normally, Yumina would have recommended the team to withdraw. She indeed also wanted to avenge her dead comrades. She did not believe that it was worth the risk of pursuing a goal if it meant staying in an area where no long-range communication was working. She normally would have prioritized the safety of the team and convinced them to retreat even if she had to do it forcefully.
Normally, Airi would have been suspicious of the situation. There was no evidence showing that Akira was on Tiols side. As long as there was no evidence, there was no need to add more enemies into the mix unnecessarily. Akira was too strong to handle. A moment of doubt when against him would result in death. Even if Akira was really working with Tiol, the current Katsuya would not have a high chance of victory even if he worked together with the team. At the very least, she would have notified Katsuya of this if she was in her normal state of mind.
But both Yumina and Airi did not think about it at all. The impression sent from Katsuya had overwhelmed their rational judgment so much that they simply believed that the course of events so far as normal. In exchange for their level of teamwork, their individuality had been suppressed. Even though it was a decision made by majority votes, Katsuyas line of thinking basically always vetoed as the final decision.
After multiple long intense battles, Akiras APC finally gave out. The moment the forcefield armour on the tire ran out of energy, the whole APC immediately rolled over on the ground violently. The impact caused its already hole-riddled body to bend greatly. It was then dragged by its momentum and crashed into a building before finally stopping.
Katsuyas team surrounded the APC and emptied their magazines on it. The bullets pierced through the APCs armour and made a mess of its inside. There was no response when they were done. After making sure that the enemy had been rendered unable to fight, they blew the back door to secure the inside, that was when they found something that they did not expect at all.
“…Hes not here! How!”
The only thing left inside the APC was the dead girls who Tiol threw inside that APC.
Akira had a grim face as he rode his bike on the sidewall of a building.
“Goddammit… What a huge loss!”
A few relic rucksacks were dangling from the bike. Nelia was inside of one of those rucksacks. She had her head and her arm peeking out the rucksack as she smiled amusedly and commented.
“Well, nothing is more expensive than life. Arent you glad that youre still alive right now”
“And I have to pay in money in exchange for that, you know”
Akira judged that it was impossible to get away with his APC. Thus, he decided to abandon his expensive APC. He then brought as many supplies as possible with him before trying to escape with Nelia on his bike.
Nelia was able to conceal the moment the bike leapt outside the APC thanks to her advanced driving skill. Moreover, the explosions that surrounded them threw off the accuracy of the information gathering device in that area. They used that chance to get away from the APC before setting the APC to just drive about randomly.
Although the APC was already almost empty, there were still some supplies left inside it. Of course, Akira lost all those supplies the moment he lost his APC. He knew that his life was much more valuable than that, but even so, he still regretted losing his APC and supplies. It was obvious from his frustrated expression.
“So then, why are we doing this right now”
“We need to take a route where normal vehicles cant follow us. Otherwise, they will only chase us again.”
Nelia then replied casually.
“I see, you have a good point there.”
Nelia had no reason to argue with Akiras reasoning there. She also thought that it was strange how Akira would come up with the idea of driving through the sidewall of the buildings. Nelia found it amusing that Akira replied as if it was common sense to do that.
“But still, stuffing me in a rucksack like this, you really dont know how to treat a girl, do you”
“Just shut up and get back in! I wont stop to pick you up if you fall, you know!”
The bikes control device was modified by Alpha to increase its performance, thanks to that, Akira was able to drive horizontally on the sidewall of the building even when he was not that good at driving. The tires of the bike were properly stuck on the wall as Akira drove. It was as though he was normally driving on the ground.
But as expected, he could not control the bike as well as he was on the ground. His face made a strange expression as gravity pulled him not down but to his side due to his position. Therefore, he drove desperately to maintain the bike.
“Yeah yeah, Im just a dead weight at the moment so Ill just do as you say.”
Akira left the area in order to get away from more battles through the route that vehicles would not be able to go through. Though, even a normal bike would not be able to go through that route as well.-