Tiol came at Akira with even greater ferocity. Although Akira stopped shooting and the area suddenly fell into total silence, the thought that it might have been a trap did not even cross Tiols mind. Straight-forward, fool-hardy and fiercely, Tiol charged straight toward Akira, crushing any obstacles along his way.
Akira waited in a rather large room. The ceiling in that room was cut into pieces and the resulting rubble pile was gathered in the center of the room. Akira had that pile behind him as he stood with the blade in his right hand and the SSB rifle in his left hand. He gathered all his focus to end the battle here.
The moment Tiol jumped into the room, he quickly fixed his gaze on Akira, who was hiding behind the pile of rubble. He used all the rifles he had to release a barrage of bullets. Moreover, Tiol did not just stop there. He still kept on running toward Akira without ceasing his barrage.
Tiols firepower was over what the old-world ceiling and the wall could withstand. However, the pile of rubble served as a thicker version of the old-world walls. Even with his firepower, it was difficult for Tiol to decimate that rubble in a short time. Though, it means that the rubble could survive for long either. If Akira made a mistake in his calculation, he would have to face the brunt of Tiols barrage.
The bullets and warheads stripped off the multi-layered walls of rubble piece by piece, the thick rubble slowly grew thinner. The barrage eventually reached deep inside the rubble and it would not be that long before they reached Akira. Akiras information gathering device and intuition kept informing him of the current situation with minute precision. In order to lure Tiol as close as possible, Akira compressed his time perception and slowed down the flow of time. As time began to come to a crawl, he crushed the fear creeping into him.
Tiol was already considerably close. The reason why Tiol did not even try to take a detour around the rubble was simply because his emotions were rampaging. Besides, the rubble was already close to being destroyed. There was no need to take a detour.
As the situation slowly reached the turning point, Akira quickly jumped into action.
Akira gathered his focus, compressed his time perception even more, to its utmost limit, and used his willpower to distort reality. While at the same time, he used the full might of his augmented suit to kick the rubble in front of him. The pile of rubble, on the brink of collapse, was blown to pieces. The rubble went flying toward Tiol and Akira ran through it, towards Tiol.
Akiras focus was completely immersed in his battle against Tiol, He used the full power of his mind to wrestle and control reality. The color of the space between him and Tiol started to distort. Meanwhile, the space outside that area lost all its colours. As the flying rubbles exited the area between him and Tiol, they were moving towards a white space. They slowly vanished as if they were disintegrated.
As the world ran at such a frustratingly slow pace, Akira used the debris in front of him as a shield while closing his distance to Tiol. The non-stop barrage from Tiol destroyed the debris piece by piece, and the momentum that was imparted from the bullets pushed the debris back.
Right at the next moment, Akira sliced the debris in front of him using the blade in his right hand, releasing a glowing wave of light with the power to cut anything in its tracks. Although the wave hit Tiols army of arms, it was not enough to completely cut them off.
Akira did not think that one slash just now had hurt Tiol. But at least, it completed its intended goal. With that attack, Tiols arms were thrown into disarray. The aim of those rifles were thrown off. The goal of that slash was to open up a path towards Tiol, a path not in his line of fire.
Akira turned on the stick contact function to strengthen his foothold, preventing himself from losing balance as he used the full power of his enhanced physical strength to place an enormous force on his leg. This force was enough to even crush the floor beneath him. By Newtons third law, Akiras body accelerated straight ahead. He used the opening he forcefully made and quickly executed a powerful leap. Finally managing to close the distance between the two of them.
Akira and Tiols eyes met. Both their pupils reflected their utmost desire to kill the other. Although the killing intent radiating from their eyes would have frozen any normal people, both sides did not falter at all. Even so, they reacted differently to the events that were unfolding, which became the factor that decided the victor and the loser.
Tiols rage was enhanced and he allowed it to dictate his course of action. Tiol reacted with pure emotion as he sent his arms toward Akira like a madman. All those hands tried to ferociously reach for Akira. It was as if they were crazed animals. Because of that, they crashed into each other, which dulled their movement.
Up until this point, everything was as Akira had planned. He put all his concentration to increase the sharpness of his movement, increasing his agility to its utmost possible state.
That difference allowed Akira to take the first strike. He ducked and waved through the ravenous arms as he got even closer to Tiol, into the reach of melee weapons. He then thrust the SSB rifle on his left hand as hard as he could to the base of Tiols multiple arms.
Tiols newly grown arms still mostly consisted of raw flesh. It was without the protection of forcefield armour. Akira forced his rifle deep into that weak point, allowing the tip of his SSB rifle to reach Tiols innards. The rifle was loaded with the rest of Akiras remaining homing grenades.
Akira thought of a way to kill Tiol in his current state. While at the same time, he also had to keep in mind that he needed to conserve some ammo for the upcoming fight as well. Using anti-forcefield ammos from afar did not seem to have much effect on Tiol. Even if Akira used that special ammunition to release a point-blank barrage, it would not do much. After all, Tiol had forcefield armour that was as strong as those of a powered suits. Thus, Akria could not pin his hope on such action. As a matter of fact, said action would not be enough to defeat Zalmo in his powered suit.
Of course, he could use his blade when he was close, but Akira did not think that slicing Tiol in two would be enough to kill him. Tiols body had changed so much in such a short span of time since Akira last saw him, and judging from the fact that he had the vitality and regenerative ability to brave a barrage without any fear, it was not strange for Akira to think that Tiol was a monster with immense vitality.
Moreover, if Tiol was really that giant monster that Akira killed the other day, he should have been dead after Akira blew his head off. There was also the fact that Tiol could easily reconnect the arms that Akira had cut off from him. So Akira did not think that slicing Tiol would be enough to kill him. However, Akira believed that he might be able to kill Tiol if he sliced him into small enough pieces. Unfortunately, during the course of swinging his blade, Akira was certain that Tiol would shoot back at him. At the end of that, Akira would be the first to die.
Against an opponent with such powerful regenerative ability, Akira needed to find a method to thoroughly kill him. At least, rendered him unable to attack back. He had to do it with one strike while also saving as much ammo as possible. If he failed, he would be dead. Akira racked his brain and found an answer. He made his resolve, executed his plan, and won the gamble.
Akira pulled down the trigger of his SSB rifle, which he had set to automatic beforehand. The rifle quickly emptied its magazine and unloaded all the homing grenades inside Tiols body. The grenades then exploded a moment later.
Tiols consciousness suddenly returned.
The explosions coming from inside his body blew his body into pieces.
In his last moment, Tiol remembered the person that he loved instead of his own name, and with that, his life had come to an end.
Akiras body was also thrown off together with pieces from Tiols body. Although most of the force from the explosion was absorbed by Tiols body, it still violently threw Akiras body away as well. His body was smacked to the floor. He then bounced and rolled until he hit the wall. Somehow, Akira managed to stay awake while going through all that.
Akiras head was assaulted by pain as he scanned his surroundings. Tiols leftovers were scattered all over the place, so Akira thought that should have been enough to kill Tiol for good.
“If that guy is still alive even after this, then theres really nothing that can kill him… Just stay dead you bastard. If youre going to rise up again and come at me, at least do it some other time.”
Akira had already disengaged his time perception compression and his reality-bending mind-power. As his senses returned to normal, he felt a strange sensation from his left arm. When he looked at his left arm, it was no longer there.
Although he increased his forcefield armour output to the maximum before he executed that attack, as expected, it was not enough to protect his left arm that was holding the rifle at the time. But the fact that he did not sustain any other major injury showed just how powerful his forcefield armour was.
The huge dose of medicine that Akira took immediately went to heal his lost arm. The bleeding immediately stopped. The pain immediately subsided and the exposed part was slowly covered in a strange liquid that came from the medicine.
“These expensive medicines are really worth the money…. Though, its not good enough to fully regrow my lost arm…”
There exist medicines that could heal lost limbs. Compared to that, it could be said that the medicine that Akira used were still considered cheap. As Akira thought so, he lightly chuckled and thought.
Alphas support was gone and that was it. Akira said so to himself as he pushed that subject out of his mind and moved on to his next course of action.
Akira finally noticed that he had let go of his blade when he was blown away as he flusteredly searched around him. When he spotted his blade lying not too far from him, he let go a sigh of relief as he pushed himself up, walked to his blade, and picked it up.
That was when Akira suddenly stopped and looked to the side with a grim face, Katsuya was standing there.
After hearing Airis report, Katsuya frowned with worry. The possibility that there was another hostile entity roaming the building other than Akira and Tiol was too serious of a problem to him.
“Airi, sorry, its not like Im doubting you, but are you sure There was no sign of any other hostile forces when we were chasing both of them, you know.”
“Its true that its just a guess. But its true that the bodies and their equipment are all gone. If its only the weapons, it might be because the other guys took them, but there is no need to take the bodies too, right”
“I see… You have a point.”
Katsuyas expression turned cloudy as he sighed. With this, it would be difficult to save those who were still savable, and there was still the matter of how to deal with Akira as well.
Seeing Katsuya who was at a loss, Yumina voiced her opinion with a pained expression.
“Katsuya, it might be shameless of me to say this since Im the only one spared, but Ill say it straight, lets just leave them alone. We can just let them duke it out as we retreat from here.”
“Are you saying that we should accept his offer”
Katsuya took that opinion as a suggestion to run away and that did not sit well with him. But Yumina then shook her head and said with a pained expression.
“I dont care about that deal, I just dont want to let anyone else die… In the first place, you could have cut your losses had you just abandoned me. Thats why this is also my fault. But he saved me and now Im nothing more than dead weight. You can go ahead and admonish me as much as you like but listen to me.”
Katsuya could not say anything back. Normally, it was his duty to make such a difficult decision, but he could not make it.
It was true that he wanted to save Yumina. However, it was not the case that he was blinded by his emotions. He was not forced to save Yumina at the cost of his friends lives. In fact, the thought of getting his other friends killed never crossed his mind.
But Yuminas harsh words gave him a wake-up call. Katsuya was shocked and hesitated because of a feeling that he did not fully understand was welling in him. Seeing that, Yumina thought that she just needed one more push to make him decide to retreat. So she brought up the safety of everyone and Katsuya himself in particular to give that last push.
“You want to save them, you dont want to abandon them. When you couldnt do that, when you couldnt make it, you believe you should at least avenge them. Thats how it has been up till now. But, that vengeance, is it something that you should do no matter what even if it means that youll get more of your friends killed”
Yumina was implying that they should give up here and retreat. That thought reached deep into Katsuyas heart and brought a change of heart that Yumina did not expect.
Katsuya did not reply to Yuminas call at all, his expression turned pale as if all colour was drowned from his face.
Katsuya was at his core, a good person. He was nice enough to extend his hand even when a stranger that he had met for the first time asked for his help. Moreover, he had the talent and ability to save a lot of people. That was the case in the past.
That kind of person then formed a party to work as a Hunter. That kind of predisposition and his talent had more opportunities to stick out as he did his best trying to save the members of his team. Because of that, many of his friends were saved and grateful to him. Those that he saved, due to the feeling that Katsuya had been broadcasting unconsciously, also felt the wish to save others and that brought about a huge change in their hearts.
There were many who liked Katsuya. That feeling was conveyed as it was straight to Katsuya, which inflated Katsuyas wish to save everyone even more.
But it was not like all of them were unconditionally thankful to Katsuya. There were also people who were jealous, envious, covetous of Katsuyas skill and talent. Naturally, those feelings were also transferred to Katsuya as well. If the ones being saved were being awful, then the one who did the saving would feel unmotivated. That caused Katsuya to unconsciously prioritize who he saved. And once there was a bias, it only grew larger with time.
Soon, those that had started from positive feelings like gratefulness towards him, started to change. They started to think Katsuya would save them again next time, he would turn the table when the situation got dicey, he would lead the team to the victory. Being a Hunter meant that they might die anytime, but in order to get away from the fear of getting killed, in order to reach for splendid results, they pin their hopes on Katsuya, they leaned on him. They hoped that he would bring the fate that they longed for to them. That expectation, wish, and feelings were directed and sent to Katsuya.
Katsuya himself answered that expectation although unconsciously. After all, he was just that talented. It caused others to admire and applaud him even more, while also making them expect even more from him.
They wanted him to save even more people, to help even a slum city child when they asked for his help. He wanted other powerful people to recognize his strength. For his strength to be acknowledged even when faced with a situation where he was often mocked as a young Hunter. He wanted to perform so amazingly that it would help those who mock him recognize his skill. He wanted other Hunters, organizations and companies to seek him.
Katsuya had affected a lot of people with his ability as someone who was connected to the old-world domain. But at the same time, many had expectations and wishes for him, which affected him even more than he affected them.
He wanted to exceed the expectations of those people who recognized his skill. That wish, that silent wish of his was difficult for him to admit since he never put it into words. Thus, it started to pile up on him.
And then, there were people on the battlefield that Katsuya could not save. Those who could not do anything except stare at the inevitable death creeping in. They all had a single loud and strong wish in their hearts. The wish to be saved. In contrast, there was also blame as to why he would not save them. Both thoughts were transmitted to Katsuya. It manifested as guilt inside him, which pushed him to get even stronger.
Both the dead and the survivors placed their expectations on Katsuya and those expectations further polished him. Because of that, Katsuya grew stronger with time. Just as he kept polishing himself to fulfil the ever-growing expectation, he had also become distorted.
With the local network up, the effect grew with the scale. On the other hand, with more and more people under his lead, there were also more casualties. As for Katsuya, the fact that they recognised themselves as being the same being, acting as one entity, was a saving grace for him. After all, if the situation was bad enough to mentally hurt him, it also allowed him to share that pain.
But just now, Yuminas words caused Katsuyas perception and belief to waver. Up until now, he recognized both himself and the rest of the team as one entity, but now, he differentiated it as him and the rest of his important team members. Right at that moment, his perception was completely crushed and he noticed something. His wish to save his friends even if it meant risking his own life caused him to drag his friends to a battlefield which resulted in even more casualties.
The voices of the dead once again resurfaced. They were begging to be saved, they were blaming him for not saving them, telling him to avenge them.
Katsuya was able to suppress them after discussing it with Sheryl. But at the moment when he was rejected by Sheryl, he did not have the means to repel these voices again.
Seeing Katsuya like that, Yumina completely forgot their current situation as she asked him.
“Katsuya! whats wrong”
It immediately pulled Katsuya back to reality. His expression was filled with painful determination.
“…Yumina, Airi, both of you take the command and order everyone to retreat.”
“How about you”
“…Ill buy you some time. It would be bad if that hostile entity attacks us while were in the middle of preparing to retreat.”
Airi grabbed Katsuyas arm. Yumina looked at Katsuya with a pained expression as she shook her head.
Katsuya smiled wryly. After that, his face was filled with determination as he shouted.
“Were retreating! Everyone, get moving!! Ill leave the command to Yumina and Airi! Immediately retreat once you finish all preparation! Theres no need to carry those who are not here right now!! Quickly!!”
Katsuya only said that before he shrugged Airis hand and ran into the distance. Everyone was confused by that sudden order from Katsuya. It indicated something serious was about to happen. However, because Katsuya was completely determined when he gave that order, although they were still confused, they started to prepare for a retreat.
The preparation was done in a hurry. Yumina and Airi were busy giving orders as the vice-captains. But in the middle of that, they could not help but to worry about Katsuya. Moreover, with Katsuya recognizing that they were no longer a single entity, the feeling of having to obey his order unconditionally was lessened.
Furthermore, Yumina and Airi were both against Katsuyas wish to let everyone get away except himself.
Airi was the first one to make her decision.
“…Yumina, can I leave the lead to you here”
Yumina wanted to let Airi go and save Katsuya, but at the same time, she did not want to let Airi go just to get killed. Her conflicting feeling was fully reflected on her face and it took her some time before she could give a reply.
“…I wont let you go unless your only goal is to bring back Katsuya.”
Airi desire to not lie to Yumina caused her to pause for a bit before she gave her reply.
“…Ill do my best.”
The difference between Yumina and Airi if they caught up with Katsuya was that one would only be a dead weight while the other would not. Airi immediately went to chase after Katsuya while Yumina stayed behind.
Yumina exasperatedly hung her head.
Airi made her resolve and started running.
And that was when the road of the two girls who had always stayed beside Katsuya, forked.
Katsuya was at the top of his local network. The local network was built such that it was not the one who stood on top of the local network that had a great effect on the whole network. Those who were close to Katsuya also had a great effect on the rest of the network. Unfortunately, with the effect of Katsuya being greatly diminished in this situation, the ones who practically led the network were Yumina and Airi.
Those who were influenced by Yumina stayed behind while those who were influenced by Airi went to follow Airi.-