Zalmos powered suits control device was shot, so he was only able to spiral down into the ground. But Zalmo somehow managed not to crash by controlling the output of the engine. Although he now could not do any high-speed air maneuver, he was still able to fly.
Zalmo landed the powered suit on top of a tall building and glanced toward the building where Akira ran into. It looked to be relatively tall and strong. He knew that it would be difficult to take down that building with only his powered suit. Meanwhile, if he were to throw everything he had at it, he would still have a chance.
However, his face turned stern as he shook his head.
“…Calm down. Dont get too emotional! Im not a machine. Emotion is important in order to understand the righteousness of the great cause. But it would be meaningless if I let my emotions take over me. That would only mean regressing back to an animal! The great cause exists only for humanity, machines and animals cannot understand the great cause. So just calm down…”
Zalmo whispered to himself as if he was hypnotizing himself, but it was enough to help him calm down. He reassessed the situation with cold logic and thought of what to do next.
[…But still, what the heck with that boy Was he only running away from me in order to find an opening Or was it by pure coincidence Its true that he might have a chance to turn the table by doing so, but isnt that just too reckless. Did he become desperate, thinking that he had no chance to run away Or was it all calculated Just what is it]
Common sense was telling him that he should have won by now. But his opponent did not work with the realm of common sense. As a matter of fact, in that fight where Akira should have zero chance of winning, he managed to stage multiple offensives that almost turned the table on him. Zalmo was once again reminded that his opponent was someone who was extremely hard to deal with. It would be best to kill Akira while he had the chance. After all, no matter what they were called: the nigh improbable, the exceptions; the things that overturned impossibility, a miracle. Akiras chances of victory were not zero.
Zalmo felt that Akira was someone who could pull off such miracles. Although he did not have any proof for that, it was all his pure intuition. But he understood that sometimes intuition could be sharper than pure logic.
An exception that could easily turn the impossible into possible. Regardless of hostiles or allies, an existence brimming with trouble. In terms of planning, it was best to erase him out of existence. So, Zalmo thought that it was important to remove a variable like him for the sake of turning the great cause into reality.
[I should still have plenty of opportunities to kill him. This guy will only grow stronger. When the great cause takes control of the eastern district, theres no doubt this guy will be an obstacle and it will be difficult to kill him at that point. Hes already this strong right now. I have to kill him when hes still just small, otherwise, it would be too late!]
Zalmo coldly fueled his killing intent and moved his powered suit to the building where Akira ran into. He turned up his radar to scan the inside of the building. With this, he would quickly know if Akira was still inside or not. While he was doing so, he was also thinking of his next move, but his radar suddenly showed new signals approaching his location.
Zalmo focused his attention toward that signal and made a troubled expression.
[If Im not mistaken, that one is Tiol. Hes inside the building while carrying someone… And the signals chasing them would be Katsuya and his team… They told me not to hurt both Tiol and Katsuya, I guess this means that I cant just destroy the building…]
Tiol went inside the building. Katsuya and his team stopped their vehicle nearby and followed suit. After that, the radar showed that a fight broke inside the building.
[I guess Ill just watch for the time being, they didnt tell me to help them and both of them are hostile to Akira. It would be fine if they managed to kill him. At least, they should be able to shave off some of his energy, then I can just make my move after that.]
Zalmo thought so and changed the setting of his radar to observe the situation inside that building.
After Tiol fell from the top of the APC, he was run over by Katsuyas teams vehicles. His head was crushed, his limbs were scattered, he was turned into a mere incorrigible lump of meat soaked in green liquid.
That was when a greedy crocodile appeared and approached him. When that monster was about to close its mouth to take a chomp at Tiol, its head was suddenly chomped off instead.
There was a line in Tiols arm that reached until his shoulder. It opened up and turned into a vicious mouth filled with sharp teeth. That mouth then latched onto the greedy crocodile, took a bite off its head, and swallowed it. Tiol then continued his meal as if he was the greedy one.
The greedy crocodile flailed haphazardly, all of the guns growing out of its body were shooting out uncontrollably. But that did not faze Tiol at all, he just continued eating the greedy crocodile as if nothing happened. His mouth grew bigger with every bite, increasing its capacity with each bite. It would not take that long for Tiol to completely consume the crocodiles head and eventually kill it.
Even when Tiol was lying on the ground, the green liquid inside him was still continuously repairing his body. When more of his body had regenerated, a source of food arrived, just in time to help him regenerate his missing limbs. Thanks to that, Tiol was able to quickly heal his body.
When he had finished eating the greedy crocodile, his body regrew from a lump of meat into something more humanoid. Tiol then pushed himself up. The scaly metallic parts of the greedy crocodile had turned into something that looked like a powered suit enveloping his body. His arm that had now turned into a mouth finally closed its jaw and slowly returned back to being a normal arm.
Even after he had regained his body, Tiol was still in a daze.
“…Uhhh, what I was doing again…”
He tilted his head and thought for a while, he then started muttering something with a rather apathetic expression.
“Ahh, thats right. I have to kill that guy! Where is that guy again”
He then looked around as if he was still confused. There was no one else but him in the area, he could only see rubble and wreckage wherever he looked around. There was no sign of any other living being. But Tiol suddenly stopped looking around and focused his gaze in a particular direction.
“There he is.”
Tiol immediately started running toward his target. His gaze was fixed on Katsuya. However, Katsuya was far away, behind numerous obstacles. It should have been impossible for Tiol to spot him from where he was. Even if he was using a powerful information-gathering device, it would still be difficult to spot Katsuya due to the distance between them. But even so, Tiol was still able to charge straight at Katsuya, without a shred of hesitation.
Tiol had stepped in too deep and there was no way back for him now.
When Katsuya lost Akira, his team regrouped inside one of the abandoned buildings and barricaded themselves there. They took shifts to rest while maintaining a certain level of readiness so they could react the moment something happened. The team was working in perfect sync with no opening at all.
At this moment, Katsuya was thinking about what to do next. He understood that the original plan for the large scale expedition was already completely ruined. But that did not mean he could just return back empty-handed.
As a squad under Drankam, they could not simply retreat just because something unexpected happened. Furthermore, he still had that promise to fulfill. He thought, [It might be impossible to fully understand what is going on, but we should at least bring back some valuable information with us.]
If it was the past Katsuya, he would have immediately made his decision. He would have put his life on the line to let the rest of his team withdraw. He would not mind the danger and would perform reckless actions without a single second of hesitation.
Although his actions would look reckless and thoughtless, the act of risking his own life for the sake of protecting his comrades caused them to feel admiration, gratitude, and a sense of affection toward Katsuya. It made them wish to stay beside him as if they were drawn by a figure of a shining hero.
The reason why Katsuya did not decide to withdraw yet, was because the synchronized information processing caused them to feel an unusually high level of unity within the team. Therefore, Katsuya had been unconsciously manipulating the rest of the team. He was causing them to have the same thought as him. So, just like him, they too believe that the current situation did not pose much danger to them.
Katsuya did not notice that his low self-reflective valuing of his own life would drag the rest of his team into more danger. Moreover, there was no one around him who found it strange or questioned him. Everyone around Katsuya had been completely consumed by his local network.
Katsuyas team suddenly noticed an enemy. Katsuya who knew that without even needing anyone contacting him, immediately sprung into action. He quickly left the building and helped the rest of the team that was already engaging with that monster. They did not hold back anything as they kept spewing warheads and bullets toward that enemy.
The opponent was a monster that seemed to be a half-assimilated powered suit dispatched by city management. Its form was distorted beyond recognition. It was like an amalgamation of several powered suits with their heads and limbs torn off. A lump of multiple torsos stitched together with random arms and legs sticking out. Although it was obvious that it was made by assimilating powered suits, it did not even look close to a human. Its hand was gripping a huge cannon, which originally belonged to one of the powered suits.
The monster aimed its weapon at Katsuyas team and started shooting. Due to its haphazard shooting, some of the warheads landed nearby or even hit its own arms. But it completely ignored that fact and just kept on shooting enough warheads to plummet everything around him to smithereens.
But even so, Katsuya and his team fought back valiantly without showing any fear. They hid behind covers and peeked out from behind windows, some were shooting from behind their vehicles and used all the resources that they had without trying to conserve any ammo, they did that considering the amalgamation of powered suits should have a powerful forcefield protecting it.
But in contrast to their expectation, the monster was easily shot down. This was due to the fact that all the forcefield armours were not in their perfect state. The defensive might of these suits relied on a forcefield. However, when the energy supply is rerouted or damaged, such a feature would no longer be usable. It rendered them almost useless for defense. And with the opponents body unprotected by a forcefield, made it easy to shoot down. Which also means that Katsuya and his team were basically wasting expensive rounds. It took only a short time for all the bullets to riddle the monster into mush.
Although she was happy that it was not as hard as she had anticipated, Yumina thought that it was strange that the enemy was this weak.
“That was easy. Was it already badly wounded after fighting someone else…”
The answer to her question immediately showed itself. It was Tiol. That monster was something that Tiol created using powered suits that he found on his way there. Tiol deliberately sent it ahead as a decoy. Katsuyas team had showered it with warheads and the explosions caused chaos, which temporarily lowered the accuracy of their information-gathering devices. Tiol used that opportunity to grab and kidnap some of Katsuyas men.
Yumina immediately reacted to attack Tiol. But it was already too late, Tiol was already too close, He quickly aimed at Yumina with his left arm, which had turned into a cannon and released a shot.
The explosion and the momentum blew Yumina away. But Tiol then kept running toward Yumina and quickly grabbed him before withdrawing from the area.
Katsuya, who knew what just happened without even sparing a glance, immediately shouted.
Tiol glanced at Katsuya while still running away. But, that was all that he did before vanishing into the distance.
Katsuya was shocked, an opponent that he thought he had killed suddenly appeared and kidnapped one of his companions.
“Were chasing after that monster!”
Katsuya went to chase after Tiol, and the rest of his team immediately followed suit.
When Tiol made that shot, he had adjusted his firepower to make sure that he would not kill Yumina. So, Yumina was still alive. But since she could not move, she was unable to fight back. She was only able to leave her fate to destiny. Tiol was running extremely fast thanks to his inhuman physical capability. While he ran, he haphazardly flailed her around. It was only thanks to luck that Yumina was still alive. Though, it was unfortunately for her to be the one that Tiol picked to kidnap.
It was difficult for Yumina to even say anything in that situation, so she just sent a glare toward Tiol. That was when she heard him mutter.
“…Uhhh, was this good enough… Ah, right, I need to get them to fight each other next, huh.”
“W-what are you talking about…!”
Tiol kept on muttering without paying any attention to Yumina while running. Yumina thought that there was something ominous about him, as she grimaced from the pain with a tint of confusion.
Elena, Sara, and Nelia forced their way through the encirclement. The area around them was already littered with mechanical monsters equipped with camouflaging technology. Due to the intense exchange, some of the flying monsters had their camouflaging layers stripped off. They looked like a group of ghosts fighting against Elenas team.
Elenas team focused more on firepower instead of quantity. But even so, they did not hesitate to use everything in their arsenal. Thanks to that, their reserve ammo was running dangerously low. Saras face started to get cloudy because of that, but she quickly replaced it with a bitter smile instead.
“Good grief. If not for them paying for all this ammo, we would have gone bankrupt again, you know! Elena! How is it Does it seem that were going to make it”
“The defensive point is just ahead! No need to hold back, just keep on shooting! Nelia, is it Can you go faster”
“Im already going as fast as I can, ah! Just a question though, do you have confidence in your aim”
“Yes, more or less.”
“Then shoot over there.”
Nelia used her only arm that she had left to point at something. Elena followed where her finger was pointing at and saw the defensive point a bit away from them. Elena immediately understood what Nelia was thinking and frowned.
“You can just say that it was a stray bullet or that youd misfired.”
Elena hesitated for a bit, but she then aimed his gun at the defensive point. She properly took aim at the wall, made her resolve, and pulled the trigger. The bullet stayed true to its nature as it flew straight and struck the wall. Right at that moment, alarms blared, alerting everyone in the defensive point that there was an enemy attack.
No matter what the reason, deliberately shooting at an ally posed a huge problem. But still, it was worth it. The defensive point immediately noticed Elenas team and the monsters that they were fighting. The people in the defensive point immediately readied themselves to join the battle. Tanks flowed out from behind the fortification, followed by a barrage from powered suits. The storm of warheads and bullets washed around Elenas team, eradicating the swarm of monsters.
Elenas team immediately gained the upper hand. But even so, Elena heaved a huge sigh and scratched her head. Sara smiled wryly at him while Nelia gave an honest smile and said.
“Its fine. If they find out, you can just tell them it was because I told you to do so. Im sure itll somehow help you.”
“That better be the truth, alright Wait, will you be alright if I do that though Just what kind of special rights do you have that would keep you safe”
“I have a superior who is used to handling these kinds of things. Though, I really cant tell you the details.”
Elena was sending Nelia a doubtful look, but judging from how Nelia reacted to her stare, Elena decided to push that worry aside for now.
With those from the defensive point pushing the monsters back, Elenas team could quickly reach the defensive point. The gate opened up and they went straight inside. The leader of the defensive point came together with a number of guards.
“Youre Hunters who came back from the expedition, right There are a few things that I want to ask.”
Elena was still trying to pick her words when Nelia suddenly jumped in.
“If its possible, we want to explain the situation to the forward base, can you get any connection from here”
“No. We are hit by the jamming too.”
“You should at least have a wired connection from here, right Cant you use that”
“Thats an emergency line. We cant let an outsider use it. Even if its a Hunter who was sent to investigate the situation. So tell me, whats going on and then well judge whether its important enough to pass it along.”
“Im working under Yanagisawa. If youre worried about my identity, you can go ahead and check my ID number. Sorry but Im in a hurry here. Either give us the line or open the road, and make it quick.”
The guy then curiously checked Nelias identification code. He immediately frowned as he used his information terminal. He soon gave Nelia the right to use the wired line and told his men to stand down.
But one of his men found it vexing as he whispered to the leader.
“Is it okay not to arrest them Although it is an emergency, theres a chance that they would attack us instead, you know. Even if we dont go as far as to arrest them, it might be a good idea to at least interrogate them here first…”
The leader only shook his head, it was obvious that he also did not find the situation amusing at all.
“No. Our job is to just report the situation to the higher-ups. As to the decision to raise a complaint, we can just leave it to them. If we do something that might interrupt Yanagisawas job, well be the ones to get burned. So just keep your hands off of them.”
It was obvious that the leader was displeased, that was why his men decided not to pursue the subject any further. Seeing that, Elena and Sara found it rather surprising.
After Nelia finished sending the data over to the forward base, she then continued heading to the forward base together with Elena and Sara.
The higher-ups in the forward base were even more confused after they received data from Nelia. All the dispatched powered suits have been destroyed, there was an old-world automaton that was way stronger than anything that City Management could throw at it. The ensuing chaos between the Hunters due to the powerful jamming, the flying monsters with camouflaging capability that were surrounding the expedition area. All of these were outside of their expectation, creating confusion between the commanding officers.
In the midst of the confusion, the command line had basically been paralyzed. Inabe felt that the trophy that was in his reach had suddenly vanished into the thin air. But he immediately regained his composure, reassessed the situation, and smiled wryly as he thought.
[So this is it, huh… But, I still have things to do…]
Inabes expression immediately turned resolute as he ordered.
“Call the city defense squad and ask them for reinforcement!! Also, send all the Hunters that weve been keeping in reserve!! Quickly!!”
Everyone in the room looked at Inabe. Some of the men who could not recover from the confusion inadvertently rebuked.
“Y-You dont have the right to do that!! Youre going way out of line!!”
“In the first place, this happened because of your plan!! How are you going to take responsibility for this mess!”
Inabe gave out a thick intimidating aura that silenced any dissent from the officers.
“You can do that as much as you want later! With that many monsters heading here, we have to act now! Otherwise, the battle will reach the city! If you have any complaints about my rights and authorities, then you should send that piece of data to those who have said rights as soon as possible!! Now, get a move on!!”
Inabes stern reply calmed the room. But then, that silence was immediately shattered. Although it was only temporary, the line of commands, that had been recovered to some extent, immediately started to move. Shouts of orders started to echo from each of their respective stations.
Inabe lightly sighed, the person next to Inabe smiled bitterly and said to him.
“Good work there.”
“Thanks. You too… Well, you should also think carefully about how are you going to act here. This is how far my status can take me.”
“There are things that you wont know unless you reach the end first. Moreover, this is not the time to think about it, Ill think about it later if I really have to.”
Seeing how the person next to him seemed to be content with his current situation, Inabe also smiled lightly at him. After that, another question came up in his mind.
“By the way, where is Yanagisawa I dont see him anywhere.”
“I dont see him either. Or more like, Im pretty sure no one has seen him today.”
“That guy is one of the commanders. He should be staying here. Good grief, just where the heck is he in this situation”
As an officer from City Management, Inabe felt a level of loyalty toward the city. Although he did all kinds of things, both at the front and behind the scene in order to be victorious in the power struggle and reach a higher position, he did all of that for the sake of the citys development.
But that was not the case for Yanagisawa. Although Yanagisawa was a highly competent person, he thought of City Management as nothing but a stepping stone in order for him to reach his own goals. Thus, Inabe saw him as a dangerous person. One of the reasons why Inabe was trying so hard to climb up the ladder, was simply to protect the city so that Yanagisawa would not crush it when stepping over it.
[Seriously… To think I wished for that guy to be here for a second. Haa… I subconsciously bet that he could solve these issues in no time… I guess Ive become senile…]
Inabe could not completely shut out the conflicting feeling inside his chest as a bitter smile found its way to his face.
After she reached the forward base, Nelia immediately went to fix and replace some of her body parts. Since she was originally dispatched in a powered suit, some of her current bodys specifications were lower than usual. So, this time, she went and exchanged for battle oriented body parts. Since the connectors were all standardized, it did not take long to finish the replacement.
“One good thing about using a standardized cyborg body is how easy it is to replace the broken parts. Everything works perfectly.”
Nelia said as she moved her limbs to check the condition of her new body. The technician who heard her comment could not hide his surprise.
“They work perfectly Are you sure Those parts are the type that are controlled directly through the brain, right Although standardized connectors are set to reduce the awkwardness from a new control module, it is impossible to fully erase that feeling. That awkwardness might even affect your fighting capability, you know”
“Its fine, Ill do the adjustments myself.”
“I-is that so”
Although they were battle oriented body parts, they were still generalized body parts. It was as if Nelia replaced everything under her neck with someone elses body. Normally, a complete adjustment was necessary to match her unique settings. Those who were not used to their new bodies often ended up being unable to move for some time. Thus, the technician could not help but feel amazed. Especially since Nelia was able to do all the adjustments by herself, to the point that she was already battle-ready.
“Im pretty sure I had placed an order for more equipment though, are they here yet”
“Theres no one here who has enough privilege to transport those equipment here. Those guys in the warehouse wont just let us have them if its only us. We also cant bring you the extra powered suit you requested. Even if you bring out Yanagisawas name, we cant just dispatch it without a formal order. Each one of them has been preassigned for the reinforcements after all. Though, you can go ahead and negotiate with the higher-ups if you insist on having them.”
“Is that so I just need to go there then, right”
Nelia put on a bodysuit over her naked cyborg body while thinking of how to group up with her friends.
As for Elena and Sara, after they parted with Nelia, they parked their vehicle in the parking lot and took a rest. They at least had finished resupplying and had done simple maintenance before taking a break.
They were worried about Akira but were still hesitant. They wondered if they should go deeper into the ruins once again. After all, they were only barely able to get out of that dangerous place after using everything that they had without holding back. It was obvious that the difficulty of that place was already out of their league. In the worst-case scenario, even if they went to help Akira, they might end up dragging him down instead.
Akira himself did tell them to head back ahead of him. They were still uncertain whether to just wait in the forward base or to join the reinforcement. But then again, forcing themselves to go might only serve to slow Akira down. Their conflicting emotions were in full view as they looked at each other. They somehow understood what the other was thinking just by looking at the others expression and this prevented both of them from making a decision.
That was when a call from Nelia reached them. Elena frowned and picked it up.
“Its me. Are you free right now”
“…Nelia-san, was it Do you need anything”
“Im thinking of going to help Akira, will you come with me That is if you girls are free.”
Elena and Sara looked at each other. They did not expect Nelia to make such a suggestion.-