After Akira ran inside the building, he started first by checking all his equipment. He pulled out energy packs and ammos from inside a small-sized rucksack and replenished his rifles, augmented suit, and defensive coat.
As he was about to put a new magazine into his rifle, he noticed that the SSB rifle he used to release a point-blank barrage at Zalmo was no longer usable. He stared at it and sighed. He thought of discarding it but chose to keep it since carrying it around still provided some level of intimidation.
After he was done, he peeked inside the rucksack. He no longer had that much ammo left. He had left most of his reserve ammo back in the APC. The reserves were to the point that he had once thought he had overdone it, but remembering that now, he could not help but smile bitterly.
“I guess the end is close, huh…. What should I do…”
Akira glanced outside the building, staring at the traces of his earlier exchange with Zalmo.
[…There are no shots being fired and the place isnt shaking. It seems that for now, he has no wish to destroy the whole building. Did he withdraw Although I was not able to destroy him, that should at least deal significant damage to his suit. It wouldnt be strange if he had decided to withdraw for now. Or is it that hes waiting to ambush me the moment I exit this building I no longer have my APC nor my bike, I can only walk now. He just needs to find me and shoot me from afar to kill me. Is he searching for me by scanning the building from the outside]
After a lot of thinking, Akira decided to barricade himself inside the building. It was already impossible for him to head back to the temporary forward base all by himself. If Elena and Sara were able to safely reach the base and inform them what happened, city management might send some help later. In that case, he could just wait until the reinforcement arrives. There was also his connection with Alpha, which might return if he waited long enough. Akira placed some of his hope in that possibility as he completely believed that there was no way he could return back alive on his own.
And when he found a small room which was perfect to barricade himself in, he then decided to take a small nap. He knew fully well that it was suicidal to do so, but he still closed his eyes. He took a small dose of medicine and relaxed his mind. He told himself, [just take a shallow nap. I need to recover from my fatigue as much as possible. I just need to make sure not to go into a deep slumber.]
Both his brain and body were severely exhausted. He would not be able to keep going on unless he took a nap even if it was only for a bit. If he lost his consciousness there, he was confident that he would not be able to wake up.
[Back then in alleys of the slums, I might get killed every time I went to sleep. But I am still alive even now. Its not simply because of luck. Its because I always wake up whenever something happens. Thats why Ive survived. I need to remember the me from back then… I know… I can do it…]
Akira did not even bother praying that he would wake up. Rather than rely on luck, he dug through his past and placed his bet on still being able to emulate his past self as he let himself drift off to sleep.
Inside a pure white room, Alpha frowned and said.
“Nope, I dont have any connection, how about you”
Another Alpha shook her head.
“Same here. I even tried to take a detour but it still doesnt work. Unlike you, my subject even has a local network. If only one of the nodes gets out from the area, I should be able to use a close-range connection to avoid the jamming, but as expected, its too far to do that from Kugamayama city. Either that or my connection has been closed.”
“She has really done it now.”
One Alpha seemed extremely vexed, while the other only felt it as inconvenient.
“What is the chance of yours returning back alive”
“Pretty low. Although, to be honest, since I cant get any information regarding the corresponding region, its nothing more than my guess. But without my support, the possibility of survival is unrealistically minuscule, how about yours”
“Mine is working in a team. As long as they decide to quickly withdraw and not to conserve their resources, theres a good chance that he would return back alive. But of course, the damage to the whole teams fighting power will be pretty severe. It would be impossible to bring him to the commanders room after this mess. Considering the damage in the unit, there will be a need to significantly readjust the plan.”
“That should be at least better than having to restart from zero like me though. In my case, I would need to start by looking for a candidate, you know Good grief, and when I got the specialized connection working well too, its now all gone to the drain.”
The other Alpha raised her eyebrows in surprise.
“By any chance, does that mean you have some kind of attachment to your subject”
“I was just getting very irritated since everything just went to waste although it was going well up until now. Is it really that strange”
The vexed Alpha did not give a straightforward reply there. The other Alpha noticed that too, but she did not point it out.
“I didnt expect a mere AI manager like her to have the flexibility to use a hole in the regulations like that. It was a mistake looking down on her, believing that she would be satisfied by looking after only that uninhabited city. I should keep this in mind for my next trial.”
“…Thats a good point. For now, lets keep looking for a way to get past the jamming.”
Both Alphas showed just how different they handled their respective subjects as they started to try to contact their subjects again.
When Akira woke up, he immediately scanned his surroundings using the muzzle of his rifle by pure reflex. After checking that there were no hostile forces nearby, he finally sighed in relief.
“…Alright. Im still alive…”
Although he lowered his concentration in order to rest his mind, he also kept the minimum level necessary so as to not get ambushed. That exquisite balance of concentration was what helped him survive in slum city. It was vital to help him stay alive with his malnourished body through such a harsh life. Thanks to that, although it was also a part thanks to the medicine that he took beforehand, he was able to recover a large chunk of his stamina with his nap. His strained mind had also mostly recovered. At the very least, he had recovered from the fatigue caused by executing that reckless point blank barrage against Zalmo.
But as expected, Akira did not have the courage to take another nap. Moreover, he was certain that there was a reason as to why he woke up. He woke up his whole body, which was connected to his augmented suit and gathered his focus toward reading from his sensitivity maxed information gathering device. As soon as he did that, he could see something behind the noise in the signals and looked down with a grim face.
“Theyre fighting Thats quite a lot of them. Did another Hunter run to this building Is he fighting against the monsters inside right now”
Akiras frown suddenly turned grimmer.
“Theyre heading this way! Dammit!”
They might not be hostile. But Akira did not think they were friendly either. It only took a split second for Akira to make his decision as he put up his guard and moved away from that signal. However, he was not just simply running away, he was looking for an advantageous position if he needed to cross bullets with them.
However, he noticed something and knitted his eyebrows.
[Its not just a coincidence!! Theyre actually chasing after me!]
If he kept running, it was only a matter of time before he reached the top floor and had nowhere else to run. Naturally, he still had the choice of leaving the building or going up to the roof, but that was not a good idea considering Zalmo might attack him. This meant that he only had one option left, Akira stopped running and immediately readied himself to encounter the enemies.
He took his position near a door as he aimed his rifle deep into the hallway, waiting for the first signal to show itself. Considering that those signals might not be hostile and they might be Hunters who were running away from monsters, looking for help, Akira told himself not to start shooting the moment he saw something. However, that would mean that it might slow down his reaction. Thus, he prepared his stance to take evasive maneuvers in case it was necessary.
What came next was not surprising to Akira at all. He was fully expecting that his hope would be betrayed; for the signal to be hostile instead of friendly. This allowed him to jump into the room next to him the moment he saw that they were indeed hostile. A moment later, a hail of bullets passed through where Akira was just a moment ago from deep inside the hallway. The moment those bullets hit something, they immediately exploded into fiery balls that were way too powerful to be used in an enclosed space. The shock wave caused total chaos in the area as a powerful gust of wind blew through the hallways.
Akira inadvertently shouted as he aimed his rifle toward the door that was significantly widened from the explosion.
Through the smoke, Tiol suddenly jumped out with Yumina in his hand while going straight to another door into the room.
This time Akira did not hesitate at all. He traced Tiols movement with his SSB rifle and released a barrage of anti-forcefield bullets. Akira sprayed his bullets over a wider area to suppress Tiols movement.
The bullets that did not hit Tiol though and went ahead to hit the wall. Rather than chipping away the wall, the bullets went straight, piercing through the walls. Instead of evading the bullets, Tiol focused more on forcing his way through the bullet storm. After a few seconds of showering bullets, Tiol forced his way to another door in that room.
Akira could not help but to raise his eyebrows in surprise.
[The hell! That was not enough to kill that guy! Forcefield armour would have to be as strong as those powered suits to be able to withstand those bullets, you know!]
Akira knew that the answer to his question was included in that question itself. Tiol had found a wrecked powered suit and devoured it. Thus assimilating some of its power for himself. Of course, it was impossible to keep up that level of defensive output all the time, but it was still possible to do it for a short span of time.
[But still, he even used his body to protect the person he was carrying, just what is he planning]
Before he could make any guesses, the answer showed itself. It was Katsuya and his team, who were chasing after Tiol.
The girls who just arrived there immediately stood on the other side of the holes-riddled wall and started shooting. Akira reacted by quickly using his SSB rifle to shoot back at them.
The girls with the impeccable teamwork against Akira with his super-human strength. The exchange happened only for a few seconds. Although both of them did the same thing, the damages on both sides were completely different.
The main factor which decided the victor was their equipment. The total cost of both sides equipment was equal, but unlike Akira who was alone, the same amount of funds was distributed between so many people. This meant that each girl only had a limited amount of resources for their equipment. Even with the bulk discount included, the difference in quality of their equipment was obvious.
Katsuya as the team leader, Airi and Yumina as the second-in-command. All of them had better equipment due to their position and experience in battle. The three of them were pretty strong in battle as well. But the rest of the team only received standard equipment. As expected, compared to Akira who splurged 1 billion Aurum for his equipment, the difference in their performance and quality was not small.
Akira only received light injuries. Moreover, he also jumped out of the firing lines as he shot back at them. The bullets that still hit him were only able to shave some of the energy from the energy pack powering Akiras defensive coat.
In contrast to that, all the girls caught up in the exchange were dead. The anti-forcefield bullets, which were even able to destroy a powered suit easily, pierced through the girls forcefield armour like slicing butter. Those bullets were even able to drill holes through the resilient old-world walls, so the fragile human body did not pose as much resistance against them. Some of the girls even had their heads blown off, some had their bodies and limbs torn. Body parts that were torn off and freely flying in the air were met by more bullets and were shredded to even smaller pieces. The blood and flesh immediately painted the walls red as the destroyed equipment rolled over the pool of blood, which was made up of their original body.
Akira inadvertently frowned.
[Dammit! That was an overkill! I ended up wasting powerful bullets on them when I didnt have much left!!]
Akira was lamenting at the fact that he had gotten closer to having no bullets left. When that happens, he would have to fight with his blade. Naturally, that was his main concern and he did not show any worry nor remorse to the horrific scene in front of him.
Akira then noticed people coming from the hallway and the other directions as well, he immediately understood why Tiol was protecting the Hunter that he was carrying. Once he understood, Akira quickly started chasing after Tiol.
[So basically, these guys might stop chasing him if that Hunter gets killed, right! Thats so diligent of him!]
Akiras guess was correct. Moreover, despite knowing Akiras exact location, Tiol was running around instead of going straight at him. He was keeping a distance from Katsuyas team while trying to bait Katsuyas team into surrounding Akira.
The girls started to encircle Akira. Although the jamming prevented them from contacting each other, they were able to share thoughts through the local network, thus allowing them to maintain their teamwork even when they were spread apart. As if fueled by Katsuyas hatred, who knew that some of his team members were killed, the other girls immediately aimed their rifles into the room and started shooting.
Even when they were encircling the room and filled the room with a storm of bullets, none of their members got hit. They actually fired so much that it would not be strange if some of them hit their own team members. But with their combined teamwork and the high accuracy information-gathering devices that they were using, none of them hit each other.
The room was completely enveloped in a storm of bullets leaving no place to take cover.
But Akira was able to somehow manage to get away from the storm. It was an excellent decision on his part when he decided to chase after Tiol the moment he noticed that there were more enemies coming. He then set the forcefield armour of his coat to maximum output.
After he escaped the room, Akira kept on running while shooting homing grenades behind him. Although those grenades were not to be used in a closed space, judging from the damage caused by Tiols cannons, the building should be able to withstand the explosions. So, it should work to temporarily stop the opponents from chasing after him as well.
The homing grenades sacrificed speed for its homing capability. It changed course on turns before randomly spreading around. Of course, the girls tried to shoot those down, but some of the grenades survived and exploded. The explosions then triggered the other grenades to explode as well, thus swallowing the girls inside the hellscape of fire and blood.
Akira felt some shaking and wind blowing from behind, he felt that he might have been too naive and the explosion might engulf him as well. But he pushed that thought to the back of his mind as he kept chasing after Tiol.
Katsuya, who arrived a moment later, could not stop himself from trembling. The crumbling down ceiling came crashing down on the girls. While some of them were blown from the explosion and collided hard into the walls before they started dropping down dead as well. Compared to that, the barrage from the anti-forcefield bullets mostly caused light wounds since some did not get hit directly. Thus, most of them were still alive even after facing that barrage. The damage from the explosions was on the whole other level compared to that.
Katsuyas scream echoed as he immediately went chasing after Akira. The other girls quickly followed behind Katsuya. It did not matter how bad the situation was, as long as it did not break Katsuyas spirit, his team would still be up for more battles.
Sounds of feet kicking the floor reverberated through the building, Tiol who was still on the run, Akira who was chasing after Tiol, and finally, Katsuya and his team were chasing Akira.
Even in the middle of that chase, most exchanges happened between Katsuyas team and Akira. Tiol himself was not trying to finish either of them off. Thus, Tiol only occasionally shot back at them to suppress their movement. His main focus was only to keep on running.
Akira found it weird.
[Why is that guy not fighting back Is he only baiting Katsuyas team to keep on fighting against me No, if thats really the case, he would have run away after Katsuyas team started fighting against me… So why]
Akiras line of thinking was cut short by a barrage of bullets from Katsuyas team, so he immediately shelved that question and started shooting back.
[I guess its meaningless to think about that for now, huh! Dammit! These guys just wont leave me alone! They wont give up as long as their friend is still alive, huh! Goddammit! These guys are too damn loyal!]
In the middle of the fight, a few grenades came flying toward Akira, who quickly noticed them and shot them down. The explosions set off smoke which quickly filled the area and lowered the sensitivity of the information-gathering devices.
[Jamming smokes, huh! I bet they already had their information-gathering devices adjusted to cancel the effect from this jamming smoke! Which means that they would still be able to detect me!]
Akira quickly unsheathed his blade and cut open a nearby wall. The glowing blade cut out a square block of the wall in a blink of an eye. He then pushed the wall and ran straight in, in order to escape the jamming smokes effect.
But on the other side of the wall, a group of girls had been lying in wait for him. They opened fire the moment Akira showed himself. The bullets could shred the wall that he was using as a cover into pieces. The moment he lost his cover, he would have to face those bullets with his body.
But Akira already expected them. As time was compressed into a slow crawl, as the wall that he just cut was about to fall, he kicked it and sent it flying towards those girls and jumping forward. He used the wall that he had sent flying as a shield as he quickly closed the distance between them. The moment they were inside his range, Akira quickly swung his blade to cut the wall in front of him as well as the girls behind it.
The wall crashed into the girls, sending the bodies that were cut horizontally into two flying as they spread entrails and organs all over the place.
But even so, that did not kill them right away. If they could receive immediate treatment, it would still be considered as only heavy injuries. Although the girls that were still flying in the air were cut clean into two, they still had the opportunity to aim their rifles at Akira before they lost consciousness. Without the support of their lower half, they could not take a proper stance for shooting, but even so, they were still able to point their muzzles at him.
As the room was filled with flying bullets, Akira did his best to evade them while trying to get away from that place. After he opened some distance from Katsuyas team, Akira smiled bitterly and mumbled.
“I knew they would be there. My horrendous intuition was correct. For some reason, Ive been really good when it comes to sensing something bad…”
The ability to sense something bad allowed him to survive the alley of slum city. This intuition only accurately predicted the ominous. Ever since he received Alphas support, that part of him had been growing dull. But the ability to accurately predict and evade the deadly bullets with a hair-breadth margin, the skill to detect dangers, standing right in front of the death door once again sharpened his intuition to its original state.
Moreover, his ability to sense danger was also maintained by mock battles that he had with Erio and the other children. The coordination support system that they used during their mock battles were based on the data from Katsuyas team. Because of that, their movement was similar to Katsuyas team.
Of course, there were still differences including the battleground that they were using. But even so, the habits and the tendencies were properly conserved. Their skill was slowly getting better from the multiple mock battles and since Erio was willing to push his body to its utmost limit, their collective movement was even more similar to Katsuyas team. Akira, who has always been facing that whole group all by himself, already learned how to deal with the Katsuyas team.
By observing the opponents movements and teamwork, Akira was able to predict their line of thought and maneuvers. This unexplainable feeling that he had as if he knew what was going on was registered in Akiras mind as intuition.
Even after that, Akira and Katsuyas team had small clashes. Normally, the difference in their fighting strength was so big that it would have been hopeless. However, inside a building like the one they were in, it was easy to break the group into smaller ones, allowing Akira to deal with them one by one. Furthermore, the mock battles that Akira had were similar to training, especially against Katsuyas team. It could be said that Akira was fully used to fighting against Katsuyas team. Those facts closed the gap between them and slightly tilted the battle in Akiras favour.
The girls fell one by one, their number was slowly but surely reduced. Eventually, it had become difficult for the team to protect the leader, Katsuya, and it had become difficult to keep on chasing Akira. Akira also noticed that the pressure from the other side was getting weaker, so he quickly spread homing grenades to stop Katsuyas team on their tracks before quickly breaking through the encirclement. Although he could hear echoes of Katsuyas scream from behind, it did not bother Akira at all.-