Not too long after the incident in Seranthal Building, Shikarbae was enjoying his drink in a pub with his friends, that was when Togami suddenly came with a sturdy-looking case.
Shikarabe frowned and looked obviously annoyed.
“This is not a place for a brat like you.”
Although Shikaraba had a better opinion about Togami after that battle in Mihazono Ruin, it still did not change the fact that he did not exactly like him. The mix of the alcohol in his blood and the fact that Togami was interrupting his drinking made Shiakarabes voice harsher than usual.
But Togami was not affected at all, he looked at Shikarabe with a serious face.
“I heard that you had called Akira to this place for negotiation.”
“Hes fine. It was a negotiation regarding a job as fellow Hunters in the first place, and being a Hunter has nothing to do with age.”
“But Im a Hunter too.”
“Youre just a brat. Do you really think youre a full-blown Hunter now after getting quite a lot of money during that request in Mihazono ruin That only put you in the starting line, you know.”
But even so, Togami still had a sharp and serious look on his face, he did not show any reaction toward that mockery. Seeing that, Shikarabe sobered up a bit and lightly sighed.
“So, what is it Just tell me what you have to say and leave. Im in the middle of drinking here and I have no plans to share it with you.”
“Im here with a request.”
“A request I heard nothing from Drankam though…”
Shikarabe opened his information terminal to check again, and as he expected, there was no message regarding that subject.
“…In the first place, you can just call me instead of coming to me yourself, you know Well, it doesnt really matter right now. So, what is it”
Togami gathered his resolve and said.
“It has nothing to do with Drankam. This is an individual request from me to you, and its not a formal request through the Hunter Office either.”
Togami placed the sturdy-looking case on top of the table and opened its contents to show it to Shikarabe, who still seemed slightly confused. As a Hunter, Shikarabe seemed mildly surprised, but the waitress girls were all stunned. The case was filled with currency notes.
“The reward is 30 million Aurum and its all paid upfront.”
Shikarabes gaze shifted to the case, then to Togami. He understood that Togami was being serious which made him hesitate.
“…Well, Ill at least listen to what this request is about.”
“I want you to train me. At least until you would accept me as a Hunter, and even beyond that if its possible.”
Shikarabe did not expect that at all as he raised his eyebrows.
During that incident in the Seranthal building, Togami had a good look at his real strength, the fact that he was weak, but he accepted it as fact and wished to be stronger. The strength that he was seeking was not the strength from his equipment, but the real strength coming from himself that he could be proud of. After fumbling around for an answer to how he could reach that goal, he finally made a decision.
To be honest, Togami hated Shikarabes guts. But he could not deny that Shikarabe was a strong Hunter, strong enough to rightfully mock him. So his conclusion was to ask Shikarabe to train him.
Togami closed the case.
“Just tell me if you wont do it, Ill try asking someone else.”
Togami did not even try to soften his words, it showed just how serious he was. So Shikarabes face turned serious and he replied.
“This 30 million Aurum, its the whole reward from that request in Mihazono Ruin, right You do know that I can just take the money and report it to the Hunter Office since Im sure you took them out without their approval first, right”
“Then its my fault for offering this to you.”
Togami did not make that offer without much thought, he understood well that he might be throwing the money that he got through hard work down the drain when he decided to make that offer. Shikarabe understood that very well from Togamis answer as he started laughing. He then smiled sharply and looked at Togami with an amused face.
“Very well, but I wont take that reward as you proposed.”
“Sorry but this is all I can offer, so I cant pay you more than this.”
“No, its the opposite.”
Togami frowned and seemed confused, Shikarabe pulled the case and opened it. He then took a bundle and pushed the case back to Togami.
“Ill take only 1 million Aurum first and train you correspondingly to that amount of money. As a Hunter, I always do all of my requests seriously. After all, it would hurt my reputation if I take 30 million Aurum and dont show the result after training you.”
Togami frowned, but Shikarabe then casually continued.
“You might be questioning if Im being serious here, if you want to show that you are serious and that youre not making this offer because youre drunk or something, then show it with your actions. Show your resolve and your talent, show it to me. That youre worthy of being trained, make me take the rest of the reward, that is, if you can.”
Togami firmly received the case that was pushed back to him, it symbolized his lack of worth to be trained. But he swallowed that bitter pill and looked sharply at Shikarabe.
“…Alright, we have a deal then.”
“Indeed we do… Your training starts tomorrow. Ill contact you, so just go back for today.”
Togami then left. Shikarabe kept his eyes on Togami as he left. Once Togami was out of his sight, he once again smiled amusedly and started enjoying his drink with his newly received 1 million Aurum.
“…Hes really changed, huh”
Shikarabe mumbled, so no one could hear him.
Just like he said, Shikarabe did seriously train Togami. Thanks to that, Togami had to go through gruelling training.
Shooting until fainting to only be woken up and continue the training. The harder the training went, the longer it felt for Togami.
Not only did Shikarabe train him in practical skills, but he also taught Togami about common monsters around Kugamayama city, including the area where they usually roamed, their movement patterns, and their weak points regardless if they were biological or mechanical monsters. Then to top it off, Shikarabe also taught him an effective method to kill each of them.
Togami was also often brought to an area that was way too dangerous for his skill and was sent to fight to the death against those powerful monsters. He fought those monsters desperately and somehow managed to stay alive although he had no winning chance in the first place with his current equipment and skill.
The information of that battle was recorded and then he would look back at that battle record through a non-transparent goggle together with Shikarabe, of course, Shikarabe would be pointing out Togamis mistakes while doing so. The majority of his opinions were shot down, and when he asked for advice, Shikarabe would point out his wrong moves.
Both his practical and theoretical training was extremely hard. Even when he coughed out blood, he would swallow that blood together with medicines to make sure that his body would keep up. He had spent a lot of money on those medicines and he was burning through them pretty quickly, adding more salt to his injury.
Shikarabe kept telling Togami that he was welcome to stop anytime. So Togami had to squeeze his willpower to fight back against that temptation.
While Togami was going through that gruelling training from Shikarabe, Shikarabe suddenly told him to go with Reina. Although Togami was surprised by that, he then grouped up with Reina as he was told and went out to do Hunter work with her.
Since then, he started working with Reina, who more or less had the same fighting prowess as him. They sometimes barked orders to each other, followed each others instructions, complained about each others actions, and gave advice to each other. They were working with each other while regularly swapping the leaders seat. Thanks to that, Togami did not have to go through Shikarabes gruelling training anymore and he had the chance to compare his skill with Reinas.
Even during the time Togami was working with Reina, Shikarabe still tracked his battle record and gave his evaluation to Togami. Right when Shikaraba did not have much to criticize anymore, he gave Togami the information about that old-world automaton and told him to handle that information. He made sure to tell Togami to think carefully about the meaning of handling that information before making any decision.
This had happened after Shikarabe received 29 million Aurum from him.
Togami returned his focus toward Akira, who was driving the APC. After all the gruelling training, he was more or less able to accurately predict someone elses skill. But as expected, Akira was still as mysterious as usual.
[…One thing is for sure, he has gotten better equipment. But putting that aside, I feel like hes stronger than before… Wait, its not like I know how strong he exactly was. It might be that he simply looks stronger now since I can more or less predict someone elses skills now, or is it because I simply cant accurately predict his skill I really dont understand…]
Togami frowned, he was wondering if he was closer now or if the gap between him and Akira was bigger now. Akira noticed him and asked.
“Uh, its nothing. By the way, Im the leader at the moment. I wont tell you to obey me or anything and Im open to any complaints or critiques, but if it wont cause the team any trouble, it would be helpful if you would follow my commands.”
Now that they were on the same team, they had to work together. So Akira thought that it was understandable that it would cause the team trouble if he acted too independently, so he agreed with Togamis opinion.
Togami frowned even more due to Akiras response. As the team leader, he had the duty to command Akira too. If he could lead Akira and make the exploration a success, he was sure that he would be able to accept himself and be confident that he had grown stronger.
Togami steeled his resolve to go beyond his past self.
As the team approached the ruin, they started to see greeneries around them. The ruin was practically blanketed in moss including its floor and the walls of the abandoned buildings inside it. They could see a semi-spherical body completely blanketed in green colour.
Togami then said.
“Were closing in on the Lida commercial district of the ruin. Reina, prepare the enhanced information-gathering device. If you can get it to receive the signal, search for the dome. Ah, is it better if I go back to that side”
“Its fine either way, or is it that you cant scan the signal from there I know that you dont have the equipment, but if Akira has one, it would be great if he helps out too.”
“Akira, can you do that”
“Even if you ask me so, its not like I know what youre talking about without telling me first.”
“Ahh, right, sorry, well…”
In order to clear up the lack of shared information there, Togami started explaining, including his own personal interpretation.
The Lida commercial district ruin was a huge gathering of old-world commercial facilities. The semi-spherical objects scattered there were the commercial facilities. Although it looked like a ball of plants now, they were filled with products and items.
The information that Togami had hinted at an automaton warehouse located inside that ruin, but unfortunately, it did not share any more details than that. Or to be more precise, the rest of the information was indecipherable for the current human race.
Even common information about location, name, coordinate, and map from the old-world era was not something that was easily decipherable for the current eras technology. Not to mention, the whole ruin had already been claimed by nature, even if they knew the exact location, it might be unrecognizable now.
For the Hunters, they could search for such a location by intercepting old-world signals and check for the particular signature in their received signal. Augmented reality was not a rare thing in the old-world, because of that, as long as Hunters had the equipment to receive that signal, they would be able to see the augmented reality.
Even right now, the Lida commercial district was filled with augmented reality. Reina had the equipment to intercept and display such signals. Though all the green spherical objects looked the same with the naked eyes, they had different aspects through the augmented reality display.
Reinas equipment was high-class equipment that could receive all types of signals. It shined the most when it was used in the middle of the Lida commercial district, which was filled with signals. Togami wanted to go closer to that ruin to check the performance of his information-gathering device, but Shiori stopped him.
As Akira said that he did not have such a device, Togami transferred from Akiras APC back to Reinas vehicle. Alpha who was floating in front of Akira vanished and reappeared on the driver assistants seat that was empty.
“I can, though Are you sure youre okay saying that you cant”
“I dont have the equipment for that, so it would be weird to say that I can. Ah, and also, theres no need to append that information into my view, they might get suspicious if I start reacting to things that I can see only with your support.”
“You have a point there, the only augmented reality that you need is me after all.”
Alpha smiled smugly, but Akira just ignored her.
“By the way, it seems that Reina is equipped with a pretty powerful device, wont she be able to see you too”
“At the moment, my signal is adjusted to be exclusive to you, so itll be fine. Although, back in Kuzusuhara ruin, I used to use the public wavelength so anyone with the right device would have been able to see me. Remember back then when you had to fight 2 Hunters in the Kuzusuhara ruin One of them was able to see me, right”
“Now that you mention it, youre right… Is it a common device among Hunters Just now, Togami casually asked me as if he assumed that I had such a device though, not to mention that there was someone who had that device before too.”
“He did not seem to be surprised when you said that you dont, so I think its normal not to have it.”
“Hmm, makes sense.”
Akira did not seem to be fully convinced, but the old-world signal was not only found in Kuzusuhara ruin, even Kugamayama city was also enveloped in old-world signals. It was not rare for illegal businesses in Slum City to only show innocent signboards and advertise their illegal businesses with augmented reality on top of that signboard. It was convenient to be able to transfer information that could only be received by certain people.
If a Hunter came to the ruin with a device that could retrieve such signals, he or she would be able to see some kind of information board floating. It might become a big hint that would lead to finding a new undiscovered ruin. Even if it was in an already explored ruin, it might help Hunters to find unexplored locations. It was a good method to find unexplored locations buried under the rubble.
But even so, it was not a common device among Hunters. After all, it was not an important piece of equipment compared to rifles, augmented suits, and information terminals or information-gathering devices.
Moreover, it was not like all ruins had augmented reality. And even if it had and it led to relics, other Hunters would have collected those relics first. The information broadcasted through that signal was based on the situation when that signal was first broadcasted, thanks to that, most of that information was misleading and outdated information.
In the worst-case scenario, using such a device might alert the monsters and other security measures. Or the information might flood the display and lower Hunters visibility. Or display enemies that did not exist in the first place. It might even give the wrong map information and send the Hunters to their doom. Relying too much on such a device might actually be a dangerous thing.
But of course, if it was used correctly, it would boost their earnings. On the other hand, since it might alert more monsters, it would also increase the monster encounter rate, and in order to avoid that, better equipment was developed which of course, cost more money. Thus, the problem became either investing in rifles or in this device. Although not everyone in the eastern district fully understood this matter, the majority of Hunters agreed to invest more in rifles.
Akira and the others went deeper into Lida commercial district ruin. For Akira, the objects around him looked similar, the green colour that they shared did not help him at all. He drove through the green covered tall buildings while crushing the greenery blanketing the floor of the ruin.
Akira then noticed a long object that was covered in plants. After taking a closer look, he realized that it was an armoured bus that was covered with plants.
“Its from someone who came here first, huh. Well, judging from this bus, it must be from quite a long time ago. So they might have come here because of a different reason than us.”
“Thats not necessarily true. I went and checked the inside of the bus and it doesnt seem that it has been here for that long, so it might be recently used.”
“…But its completely covered by plants though”
“It must be because the plants in this ruin grow abnormally fast. Although Im sure it should be okay to leave your things in this place for a while, it would be bad to do that for a few days. The plants would grow on the body of the vehicle and around the wheels. When that happens, you wont be able to move your vehicle anymore. The people who came in that bus might have planned to stay in this ruin for a few days to explore the ruin since its rather big.”
“But it means that we cant stay for too long in this ruin, right Why is there no information about that spreading around”
“Not everyone shares information that they know. There might also be some people who believe that their vehicles will be fine. Well, this is nothing more than a guess though, but the owner of that bus might have died inside the ruin, giving plenty enough time for the ruin to claim that bus.”
“Honestly speaking, I hope its the latter. I dont want to lose my APC just because I parked it in this ruin for a short time.”
“But still, its nothing strange for an old-world plant to be abnormally aggressive, isnt it Lets take this positively and hope that it at least doesnt come at you with weapons.“
Alpha smiled teasingly, but Akira only smiled wryly at her. After all, it would not be strange to encounter a walking plant with weapons which were not that rare in the eastern district, this kind of plant was commonly recognized as a monster. The old-world technology never stopped messing up common sense in the eastern district even now.
When Akira and the others went deeper to explore the ruin, Reina noticed a signal that they were looking for. She then followed that signal to guide the rest of the team to the facility that they were looking for. When they arrived, they found a tall building with its wall covered in plants and there was a Hunters vehicle parked not too far. They then parked their vehicles a bit further away from that vehicle and readied their equipment.
Akira lightly scanned the building.
“Reina, is this the place”
“Probably. Although you might not be able to see it, well, I wouldnt be able to see it too without my special device, but theres a big signboard floating on top of this building that is even visible from afar. It says… The Dunmall Lida East B Hall… Probably.”
“Youre not sure”
Reina pouted and replied curtly.
“The decoding software cant fully decode the information. Not to mention, a part of its display is also broken. But even so, I did my best to look for this place, so keep your complaints to yourself. Its not my fault even if its not the right building.”
Akira apologized instantly and Reina immediately calmed down.
“Uhh, yes… So, its just that please dont get angry if I got this wrong.”
“Dont worry, I know well that we dont have detailed information about the building that were looking for. Or more like, its a normal occurrence during a ruin exploration, right”
Akira replied casually, Reina sighed in relief after knowing that he was not offended.
[Fuuh, thank goodness. I was about to shout as if I was talking to Togami. I have to get my act together. It would be bad if I do that to Akira… Wait, no, its not like I should not do that to Akira, I should not do that to anyone… Its just that when I did that to Togami, he would just shout back at me without getting angry, I guess thats why I got used to it, huh I wonder if Im too used to dealing with him.]
Shiori could somehow understand what was going on in Reinas mind.
“I know, Ill be more careful.”
“Theres a good chance that we might encounter other Hunters. In case these Hunters have found the automaton first, they would be more wary than usual. So please, be careful, Milady.”
“Yes, I understand.”
Reina smiled bitterly and took that advice to heart.
After they discussed their roles and formation, they then proceeded into the building. As Reina traced the buildings green wall, she discovered that the original entrance to that building was completely blocked by plants. There were some traces that the Hunters who came there before them forced their way through it. So Akira used that opening to get into the building.
The inside of that building was basically a large open room, there were signs of various businesses visible from the entrance. While at the same time, it was also obvious from the entrance that plants had crept into the inner part of the building too. The floor was covered in grass as if it was a grass field.
Akira was surprised to see that as he mumbled.
“This isnt an inner garden or something, right”
“The dirt on the floor must be from the monsters corpses after being broken down by the plants. There are also pieces of the flooring mixed in after the roots penetrated through them.”
After listening to Alphas explanation, Akira scraped the floor that he was standing on and found the original buildings floor under it. Although the dirt layer was relatively shallow, it was still a substantial amount of dirt.
“So, there are ruins like this too, huh. I feel like the relics inside this ruin would have been turned into dirt too. I wonder if automaton can really survive in this situation.”
“That would depend on the container used to store them. So lets put our hope in the power of the old-world containers.”
“Now that you mention it, it does sound that they will be just fine.”
Akira knew well just how abnormal old-world technology could be, so he regained some hope to get some old-world relics.
They moved together carefully, moving deeper. Reina used her device to look for where the automaton might be while the other two maintained a safe distance between them while watching their surroundings.
As Akira changed the setting of his information-gathering device to maximize its effectivity inside the building, he had some problems and frowned.
“…I just cant get a good setting. The objects around me are blocking the information-gathering device. Though Im pretty sure that its not like they are creating colourless mist… Whats going on here”
“Should I do it”
Once Alpha readjusted the setting, the sensitivity was obviously better but not as good as Akira was expecting.
“…Is that it It can work with my augmented suit now, but cant it be a bit better”
“Im sure its because of the obstacles around you, they might have some kind of nanomachine that has the same effect as jamming smoke.”
“That would mean it would affect us as much as the monsters, huh. There are not that many open spaces, if we were to encounter some monsters, its most likely to be close combat. Putting that into consideration, even if this place is filled with old-world relics, I bet not many Hunters would come to this place.”
“That might be exactly why there is still some of that expensive old-world automaton left here.”
“That does make sense.”
And so, Akiras expectation toward that rumour went up a little.-