After receiving the survey request back in the temporary forward base, Elena and Sara went to the expedition ground using the supply route. But once they arrived, they did not go any further. They started by checking the area starting from there. They were already inside the jamming area. So even if they could gather some information from there, they could not send it back to the base. They would have to return back outside the jamming area first before sending the data. In the end, thinking that it was too troublesome, they only searched the area around the already established supply route.
While Elena was in the middle of watching the information gathering device installed on her vehicle, Sara was responsible for watching the surroundings. At first, there did not seem to be anything strange around the area. There was no sign of a large expedition taking place here. It was so silent that it made them doubtful if there really was an ongoing expedition here.
“Except for the jamming, there is nothing strange here, Elena, how is it on your side”
Elena stopped operating the terminal and shook her head. But his face did not show any sign of relief.
“Nothing at all. I just cant get any connection no matter what. Leaving aside the main squad, I cant even contact the reinforcement squads. The reinforcement squads should have known about the jamming, so they should be using stronger communication devices and shouldnt be that far. Thats why I thought I should be able to at least contact them, but Im not getting any replies at all. I cant even get static noise…“
Sara understood the severity of the situation from her best friend and frowned.
“This is already far away from the original request, which is just to check what is going on. Elena, we can basically get the reward already. We just need to check the last place that was indicated from the powered suits recording. So, what do you think”
“To be honest, I dont like that idea at all. The jamming is already bad enough, but we did not encounter anyone on our way here, right Its only to be expected that the main squad would send someone to try to contact the forward base and that person would have used the supply route. But strangely enough, we didnt encounter anyone here…”
“Those powered suits can fly, after all, they might have flown straight to the base without going through the supply route, you know.”
“Of course, that is also possible, but… Still…”
Being too careful might mean throwing away all they had done so far down the drain. Although Elena thought so, she could not shake off the bad feeling that she had. But on the other hand, if they just returned back from there, it would also mean that they wasted their time coming here. While Elena was still at loss on what to do, she expanded the radar to its maximum range. Since they had finished scanning the area with the standard information gathering device, Elena used all its available calculative power to search for enemies.
As she thought of going deeper into the ruin, in case she still did not get any signals, the radar picked something up.
“Sara. Get ready. Theres 1, no, 2 signals coming this way. The one behind seems to be moving pretty fast.”
Sara was carrying a gun that was as large as a tanks cannon and another smaller one, which was still pretty large. Both of them were designed to be used with a powered suit. Their first priority was to get away in case it got dangerous, that was why they decided to focus more on firepower even if it meant that they could not keep using these weapons for long.
The nearer signal was approaching from behind a towering pile of rubble. Common sense was telling them that nothing could get over that pile. Despite that, the signal went charging straight toward that pile without slowing down at all.
“Elena, can you try checking their identification code in case they have those terminals lent specifically for this expedition”
“I cant. It might be because of the jamming or it could be that they dont have it. Either way, be careful, Ill try to open up some distance.”
Elena turned the vehicle to get away from that signal. There was a chance that it was a monster and it would be bad if they got ambushed. Sara also understood that as she readied herself for a fight. But the signal only came closer and closer.
Sara turned his gun toward that direction to welcome the enemy right when that signal jumped over the pile of rubble and showed itself in front of them. When Sara was close to pulling the trigger, she quickly realized who it was and inadvertently shouted.
Akira ended up jumping higher than he expected when he went over the rubble on his bike, causing his face to pull inward. But he somehow managed to land after that jump. Thanks to the advanced balancer and the control device on his bike, plus Akira using his augmented suit to prevent his bike from rolling over, he somehow was able to land without falling over. But even so, he still had a severe frown on his face.
“T-that was close.”
Unlike Akira who had his hands full trying to calm himself down, Nelia was smiling, amused.
“You do like pulling crazy stunts, dont you”
“Its not like Im doing this because I like it”
“Theres that joke again. You wont be able to trick me after pulling all of those stunts.”
“Im being serious here.”
Akira finally calmed his breathing as he slowed down his bike. Meanwhile, Elena moved her vehicle to run side-by-side with Akira and smiled wryly at him.
“Oh, Akira. What a coincidence meeting you here.”
“Elena-san Sara-san too Why are you here I heard that both of you didnt participate in the expedition…”
“Were not participating directly, were just reserves in case of an emergency. Since we cant get in contact with the expedition team at all, we were asked to come down here to check up on the situation. How about you Are you on your way back from the ruin”
“Ah, yeah, thats about right.”
“Is it okay if we ask what happened”
“Well, where should I start To be honest, I dont really understand it myself, you see…”
Judging from what they could see, Elena at least knew that Akira was unharmed as she smiled in relief.
“For now, Ill escort you back to base since you must have some important information regarding the situation. We can talk about the rest after that, are you okay with that”
“Alright, Ill be counting on you then.”
The three of them looked around and judged that the area was safe. But that did not stay for long. Elena pointed behind Akira and mentioned something strange.
“We have to tell the other guy as well. I cant contact him because of the jamming, is it okay to just wait here Or is it that you have a way to contact him”
Akira looked behind, toward where Elena was pointing. His relieved expression immediately turned solemn. A certain familiar powered suit was following him through the air. It was the other signal on Elenas radar and it was heading straight at them.
Elena and Sara thought that the powered suit was someone from the main expedition unit that was returning back to the base with Akira. But Akira and Nelia did not think that was the case.
“It might be as you think, its not exactly going in the direction of the temporary base.”
It was Zalmo chasing them, and his target was obvious. At this rate, Elena and Sara would be roped in the coming battle while they were still far away from the closest defensive point installed along the supply route. Although they had stopped extending the supply route, they were still working on improving the supply route. Thus, there was almost no cover along this part of the supply route. It was the perfect place to launch an attack from the sky. Akira made his decision in that instant, he pulled Nelia off from his bike and threw her into Elenas vehicle.
“Elena-san! Please take her back to base!”
When Elena was still flusteredly trying to catch Nelia, Akira quickly made a U-turn and accelerated his bike toward the pile of rubble where he came from.
Elena quickly called to stop him, but Akira did not even spare a glance back as he climbed the rubble before vanishing behind it.
The powered suit blazing through the sky was holding a huge cannon as one of its weapons. It then released a warhead big enough to fill its muzzle toward that pile of rubble. Once the payload made contact, it produced an enormous explosion. The roar of the explosion echoed through the area as the ground violently shook. The explosion even sent some of the rubble flying toward Elena and Sara.
Elena made sharp turns to avoid the falling rubble, while some of those that she was not able to evade were kicked aside by Sara.
When the powered suit noticed Elena and Sara, it hesitated and stopped for a split second. Akira did not let that opening slide as he showered that powered suit with homing grenades. Of course, the powered suit did not just ignore that, it immediately went for Akira while ignoring Elena and Sara.
Elena and Sara were still in a state of confusion and could not react accordingly. Nelia was caught in surprise, she did not expect Akira would do that at all. But for now, she put that aside and made a suggestion to Elena.
“I dont know exactly who you are but can you please hurry up and go back to the temporary base”
Elena looked at Nelia with a slightly stern look.
“Who are you Akiras friend What is going on Why is a powered suit dispatched by the city attacking Akira”
“Is answering those questions worth stopping in this place”
“It depends on the answers, Ill judge based on your answers.”
Elana and Sara sent sharp gazes toward Nelia, but Nelia was unfettered as she replied back casually.
“Either way, we have no means to group up with Akira, you know Hes way too fast on his bike after all.”
That sentence was enough to push Elena to make her decision. Of course, she hated the idea of leaving Akira behind. But since it was not like they could do anything to help him in that situation, they could only pick the second-best choice that they had. Which meant, rather than going after Akira in their vehicle, it was to get out from the jamming area and report what was going on back to base.
“…Sara! Were leaving!”
Sara had a grim expression plastered on her face as she took in Elenas hard decision.
“…Alright!! Lets hurry up!”
As Elena pushed down the gas pedal and turned the vehicle back to the supply route, Nelia suddenly opened her mouth.
“Im sure you have radar installed too, can you turn its power to the max and set it to detect even camouflaged enemies around the area”
Elena sent a doubtful look at Nelia, after all, dialing up the radar output to that level meant that monsters might be able to trace back their position.
“Any particular reason why I should do that”
“Its worth the risk to make sure that no cloaked enemies are near us. Akira and I went through a lot in that area, you see. I wont tell you to believe me, but remember that Akira might have left me with both of you to give advice.”
Elena was at loss for a moment, but she then changed the radars setting as instructed. After she checked the result, she finally understood. The radar picked multiple cloaked flying monsters in the sky, above the road that they had passed. Even Nelia, who glanced at that screen, could not help but frown.
“So, they let us past but not to go back, huh What a pain in the neck.”
The squads who were sent back to contact the temporary base were all intercepted by those monsters. Although their number was reduced from the fight against the powered suits that were on their way back, there were still some of them left. Since they were spread over a wide area, there were not that many on the route back to base. Nonetheless, they were made to intercept the powered suits that could fly so, they were still a considerable threat to Elenas group.
“…Sara, were breaking through them, okay”
Elena looked worriedly at Sara, Sara then replied with a smile.
“Im leaving the decision making to you, so dont worry and lets get going.”
Elena replied that smile with another smile as she readied herself. But her smile immediately turned cloudy after that.
“But still, I wonder if we have enough firepower. Sara, how many do you think you can take out”
“Ill give my best, but I cant give you an exact number without checking how strong they are first.”
It was difficult to fight those flying monsters only with their currently available weapons. Right when Elena was thinking about what to do, Nelia suddenly interjected.
“In that case, I can help drive the vehicle.”
Seeing Elena being uncertain to take up that offer, Nelia smiled and continued.
“Akira also left the driving to me, you know”
“…Alright then, can you use a common terminal Or do you use a wireless connection”
“The jamming is pretty bad after all, so can you connect me to the terminal”
“…Good grief, just what in the world happened”
Elena was a bit bothered by how Nelia was so casual with Akira, but that was not the time for that. Elena pulled out a terminal from the vehicles control device and connected it to Nelia. With that, Nelia immediately took control of the vehicle.
“Wait for a sec, you can immediately control the vehicle just by connecting to the terminal We didnt even put in any adjustment, you know”
“Ill do the adjustments myself.”
Elena was surprised at how fast Nelia took control of the vehicle. It was as if she hacked straight into the control device, but at this point in time, it was beneficial to them. She left the driving fully to Nelia as she took another large gun and stood next to Sara.
“It was a good thing that we prioritized firepower this time. But to be honest, it would have been great if we didnt have to use them.”
Seeing Elena smile wryly next to her, Sara replied with a rather uppity tone.
“Being a Hunter is a dangerous job, it was a good thing that we are properly prepared to face danger.”
“Well, I guess Ill leave it at that for now.”
Elena made a thin smile as she pulled herself together.
Nelia gave a warning first before accelerating the vehicle.
“Were charging in, in 3, 2, 1, zero.”
Instead of sounding nervous, her voice was strangely detached. Elena and Sara took the initiative first as they released shots toward the invisible flying monsters. The explosions produced from the warheads were no less splendid. The anti force field rounds that they used pierced through the monsters hard armour and they fell down one by one, crashing to the ground. Nelia also helped shoot them down by using the machine gun fixed onto the vehicle. The countless bullets striped the monsters of their camouflaging veil as they fell. Once they crashed into the ground, they made loud bangs.
The remaining monsters still up in the air did not just ignore that attack and immediately shot back. The rain of bullets drilled holes on the ground but Nelia was able to skillfully drive the vehicle away from the danger.
Although they were not that far away from the nearest defensive point, it was a considerable distance to brave this assault. As bullets and warheads were exchanged between the sky and the ground, Elena and Sara made full use of their talent and skill to destroy any that stood in their path.
Akira desperately blazed through the ruin. There was a limit on how much firepower that the bike could take so, there was no chance to defeat that powered suit.
On the other hand, it has better mobility than the APC, so Akira used that advantage to get into small roads or go through buildings where he was protected from the flying powered suit.
Right now, he was somehow able to get a small break as he was running the bike through the small hallway of a building that he broke into. He turned the optical camouflage of his coat on and lowered the power output of his bike in order to slip away from the opponents watch. But of course, he could not keep that up for long.
“Well now, what can I do in this situation…”
Akira looked extremely exasperated as he rubbed his head. He did not think that he had any chance to run away from the powered suit. Speed-wise, the powered suit was faster than the bike. Although he was able to somehow sneak away from the powered suit right now, it was only a matter of time before his bike ran out of energy first. Akira basically had his hands tied. It was checkmate.
For now, he focused on calming down his breathing, taking medicine bit by bit, all the while making sure to regain as much strength as possible, both physically and mentally. He had used his brain a bit too much during his fight with Katsuya earlier. Because of that, it would not be strange for him to suddenly faint anytime.
The medicine that he took contained a drug to make sure that he would not lose consciousness in the middle of a fight. There was a good chance that he would drop unconscious the moment that drug ran out of its effect, only to wake up a few days later. Akira somehow knew so, that was why he was making sure that the drugs effects would not run out. But of course, it was also a matter of time that the drug would lose its effect, it was one of the reasons why he was in checkmate.
After only a moments respite, the building started to shake. It was on the verge of collapsing, but thanks to its old-world durable build, it did not crumble immediately. Although, the collapse itself was an impending certainty.
Akira clicked his tongue and started his bike before pushing the accelerator. He then charged straight at a part of the wall that he had marked beforehand, destroying it as he jumped out of the building and skillfully landed on the ground. The moment the wheels hugged the ground, he quickly accelerated the bike.
The crumbled building released a smokescreen, and from that smokescreen, Zalmo appeared. It was Zalmo who destroyed the building. When he lost sight of Akira and could not find him anywhere, Zalmo thought that Akira must be hiding inside the buildings nearby. Thus, he went on to indiscriminately destroy the buildings in the area in an attempt to smoke Akira out.
Zalmo quickly detected Akira, who had just come out from the building with his powerful radar. Since Akira acted as he had expected, Zalmo inadvertently smiled as he stood up from his seat and shouted.
“There you are!! Just give it up and die already!!”
The abnormally big missile pods released a series of missiles. Each of them danced in the air before seeking Akira from different angles.
Akira was still on his bike as he aimed his SSB rifle upward before releasing homing grenades. All of them were set to low speed, high homing capability in order to shoot down all the incoming missiles.
But they somehow lacked enough firepower to destroy the missiles. The force-field protected missiles forced their way through the grenades. But of course, the explosion was able to veer the missiles off their original path as they landed and exploded near Akira, causing the buildings around him to crumble down and throwing rubble up into the air.
Akira slipped through the raining rubble on his bike, he had done this before in the past. Although, this time, he had no drive support from Alpha to aid him. He continued to blaze through the road before any falling rubble could close off his way forward.
The Zalmo did not just stand idly there, it proceeded to aim its cannon at Akira. Akira who noticed that, aimed his SSB rifle back and released a barrage of anti force field bullets.
As the bullets momentum were turned into flashes of light, Zalmo started shooting at Akira, relying on the powered suits powerful force field armour as he ignored the incoming bullets.
The moment Akira realized that his bullets did not faze Zalmo at all, he immediately stopped shooting and shifted to focus more on evading the incoming warheads. He looked around and jumped straight into one of the buildings with his bike.
A moment later after Akira jumped into a building, a warhead followed suit and crashed into the exact same building, turning the wall into a pile of rubble and consuming the building in a fiery explosion. As a result, it left an old-world building, half-destroyed.
Akira felt a gust of wind from behind due to the shock wave as he accelerated his bike. He jumped out from the other side of the building. Although the explosion was able to partially destroy a durable old-world building, it only shaved a fraction of his coats durability. The moment he landed on the ground, he scanned his surroundings for cover while changing the energy packs in his coat. He did this without stopping, accelerating his bike even faster.
“Dammit! Using powerful expensive bullets like that! Just how many does he have! To think he can even pull out a powered suit like that! A mere robber from the slum should not have this many assets! Just what can he get from killing me What is it that is worth that much money I just dont know! How is this profitable for him Whats his goal It surely isnt worth all the expenses!!”
Up till this point, there had already been numerous instances where others would look down at him and try to kill him. It also meant that they saw Akiras life as cheap, easily disposable with a single shot of a cheap bullet. But this was not the case this time. The opponent was even willing to bring out an expensive powered suit to hunt him down. Something much more expensive than any anti-personnel round. Zalmo did not pull any punches in his effort to kill Akira.
It reminded Akira that his life was no longer that cheap, that he was no longer just a mere boy from the slum. Although Akira knew this, he did not feel happy at all.
Akira could not help but think that it would be better if others still looked down on him. Right then, he realized that he was being meek, which made his expression become stern. A deliberate smile then rose as he overwrote such thoughts.
Someone was willing to spend all of this money in order to hunt him down but Akira just mockingly laughed at that absurd fact.
“Heh! Thats not even close to enough to kill me, you know!”
[It is not worth the effort!] The one who made this mistake was not him, but his opponent. In order to cement that fact, Akira pushed the accelerator all the way down as he made a 180 degrees turn. Once the bike was in position, the tires strong grip tore into the ground as it unleashed its full power, pushing the bike forward with explosive acceleration.
Zalmo started to get irritated. But half of that irritation was just a brave front to trick himself against the creeping fear of facing off against a mysterious powerful opponent. He had even changed the equipment on his powered suit in order to kill Akira for sure this time. But Akira was still alive and that caused Zalmo to start feeling nervous.
His new equipment focused more on firepower, enough to even take out a large-sized armoured vehicle. So even if he missed, the shock wave would have been strong enough to throw the vehicle off the ground. This should give him plenty of time to send the finishing blow. Because of that, he also brought warheads that would compensate for accuracy with raw firepower.
But right now, Akira was still running away from him using a small bike. Zalmos current equipment did not have the capability to finish Akira off. Akira could make sharp turns and take cover in between small alleys, causing Zalmo to have a hard time trying to shoot him down with the rest of the building around him.
Zalmo found it weird that Akira changed to his bike as if to counter against his new equipment.
“…Calm down! He cant run away from me. I still have the upper hand.”
Zalmo mumbled as if he was talking to himself and released another batch of missiles. Although he was chasing after Akira, the boy was still somehow able to keep a certain distance from him. Naturally, this was Zalmos doing. On one hand, he could keep Akira within the effective range of his weapons. On the other hand, it was also because Zalmo unconsciously did not want to get any closer to him.
Both the firepower and the weight of his equipment were immense. Thanks to that, the energy consumption was equally as immense. If he had enough energy reserve, he would have been able to stay in the air, but just to be safe, Zalmo increased the frequency of landing in order to conserve his energy.
After making a U-turn, Akira was charging straight at Zalmo. His eyes were fixed on the powered suit. It continued to shoot at him, launching missiles that would land between them. Most of the missiles drew an arc in the sky before pointing towards Akira. The rest would keep their elevation in the sky and fly straight at Akira when he came closer.
If Akira kept accelerating his bike forward, at this rate, he would crash into the missiles coming straight at him. The explosion would definitely kill him but his smile only grew wider in the face of this and he forced his bike to move even faster. He was already going too fast to make any sharp turns. So, he could not evade the missiles. Each second ticked as the missiles moved closer.
Akira quickly aimed his SSB rifle forward and shot a couple of grenades, but the target was not the missiles. The grenades landed between him and the missiles, throwing rubble up into the air. It filled the area with smoke, and created a small storm, thus throwing the colourless mist into disarray.
The missiles immediately exploded before reaching him. Those homing missiles were made to explode when it got into a fixed range from its target, instructed by the information-gathering device installed in each missile. Normally, the powered suit could set it to detonate manually, but due to the jamming, Zalmo did not use it.
The grenades that Akira used this time were mixed with a jamming effect. It was albeit powerful and only lasted for a short time. But that small duration was enough for some missiles to miscalculate its distance from its original target and explode. A huge chunk of debris flew past Akira and he could feel the wind prickling his skin. He willingly stepped into a zone where even the slightest mistake could end him, but even so, Akira continued on with an excited expression.
A missile that had lost its homing function flew beside Akira and struck nearby wreckage. The explosion blew off a gust of wind behind him as he continued to push down the accelerator even harder. The rest of the missiles somehow managed to regain their homing function and chased after Akira from behind.
Zalmo was shocked to find Akira, who was running away from him all this time, suddenly coming straight at him. That alone was enough to momentarily stop him for a split second. On top of that, he was even more shocked when Akira still remained alive after heading straight at the missiles. At that moment, it was as if he was shockingly trying to kill himself. Yet, he came out fine. Shock after shock slowed down Zalmo even more. It came to a point where Zalmo was now at loss. He wondered if he should try and shoot Akira down with his weapons or jump to the sky. Although he only hesitated for a few seconds, that opening was more than enough for Akira, who was coming at him with no hesitation at all, quickly closing the distance between them.
That was when Zalmo finally decided to use the full power of the powered suit to jump up. Pushing its heavy body and weaponry up into the sky. He went past a tall building, all the way up until he reached a height that the naked eyes could no longer see from the ground. Zalmo now felt a sense of safety thanks to the distance between him and Akira. Thanks to that, he was able to regain some of his composure as he used the cameras on his powered suit to look for Akira. Right when he caught Akira in his views, Zalmo could not hide his surprise. Akira was chasing him, flying into the sky on his bike with countless missiles chasing after him.
Akira maintained the acceleration of his bike as he used a hill like wreckage to spring his bike up before landing on a wall of a nearby building. He used it to scale up into the sky. At the end of the wall, once his bike had left its footing, he simply allowed the momentum to carry his bike straight to where Zalmo was.
In that split second, Zalmo realised that Akiras goal was to crash his own missiles at him. So, he quickly took evasive maneuvers.
“Dont look down on me!!”
The powered suit danced in the air, evading the bike and somehow, also evading the missiles. The bike that had no other choice but to be carried by momentum, straight into the air, could not evade the missiles behind. So, they struck the bike and exploded, enveloping it in a huge storm of blazing fire, shredding the bike into bits.
Zalmos powered suit was blown away by the shock wave as it rag dolled in the air. He somehow regained his balance and looked toward the source of the explosion. The smoke leftover in the air indicated just how big the explosion was. So, Zalmos face was filled with satisfaction.
“I did it!! Hes finally dead!!”
Zalmo was certain of his victory and had lowered his guard. Thanks to that, the unfolding scene in front of him shocked him even more. His satisfied face stiffened in a blink of an eye. He could see clearly from the camera on his powered suit that Akira was aiming straight at him.
The moment the bike flew past Zalmo, Akira had jumped off it. With the help of his augmented suit, he then grabbed one part of the powered suit with one hand and stuck the sole of his feet onto the same powered suit to make sure that he would not be shaken off.
Akiras other free hand was tightly gripping his SSB rifle, placing the muzzle into the powered suit. Once in place, he finally pulled the trigger. Countless anti-forcefield bullets were spewed out from the rifle. He had already set beforehand to maximize its firing rate. The sheer force from a point-blank barrage caused the area to be enveloped in a blinding light.
Zalmo, who was panicking, flew haphazardly in the sky in an attempt to shake Akira off. As the powered suit flew through clouds, Akira desperately held on while still holding down on the trigger of his SSB rifle. The powered suit flailed around, trying to grab Akira but he somehow managed to keep evading. He would jump around the powered suit, all the while injecting more bullets into it.
In a situation where both his legs did not have good footing and had only one hand to stabilize his position, he could not really aim properly. However, that did not stop him from emptying the anti-forcefield armour magazine. Those bullets pierced through the powered suits defenses, causing Zalmo to continuously flail out of control before crashing into a nearby building.
Akira somehow managed to jump off the powered suit and into the building before it crashed. He stuck himself to the wall as he watched the powered suit fall down. However, the powered suit managed to regain its balance before touching the ground. Although it was flying unstably, wobbling left and right, it was obvious that Zalmo was still alive.
Akiras face twitched with utmost disgust.
“Even after all that, I am still not able to kill him… Just how durable is that thing”
Akira thought that it would be better to move. So he then sighed, unsheathed his blade, and sliced through the wall to enter the building.-