Akira filled his relic rucksack up to the brim, he then once again headed to the Lion Steel Corp branch office on 57th floor. This time, since he was carrying a rucksack filled with relics, it was hard for him to walk through the small hallway with that rucksack on his back.
On his way there, he saw all kinds of things; some of the floors were properly maintained while some of the floors seemed abandoned. Akira seemed to be a bit bothered by those scenes and he asked Alpha.
“Alpha, why aren’t all of them in the same condition?”
“I think it’s because of the cleaning drone, or to be more precise, because it depends on whether the maintenance drone is still active or not.”
“So basically, the floors are decrepit because the maintenance drones in those floors are inactive, huh. But there were some shops that looked clean yet there were no relics inside though. I guess that means the drones won’t go as far as to replenish the relics. But then again, some shops are still filled with relics, so why is that?”
“Those shops might have a self-replenish function.”
“And who would replenish those relics?”
“I bet some drones carry them from a still-active factory somewhere.”
“No no no, if there’s a factory nearby, someone would have discovered it by now, right? It would definitely cause a big ruckus when the companies or the Hunters flood that place…”
“That factory might be located somewhere very far away, even somewhere near the frontline and no one has found it yet. Either that, or it’s located somewhere near but the security is so powerful that they can’t seize that place. There are many possible explanations.”
“Hmmm. If that’s the case, I bet the Hunters would attack those drones on their way here though.”
“They might be guarded by some special escorts. Or they might be using the underground train to carry the relics. Or might even be flying through the sky.”
“Underground train, huh. That sounds plausible. The Hunters would not be able to attack them in the underground tunnel after all.”
Excluding some special transportations, the main transportation used in the Eastern district was all above ground. That’s why Akira naturally thought that they would have used above-ground transportation. After all, even Katsuragi frequented the frontline using his trailer. But those drones should be able to use other types of transportation with the help of the old-world technology, as such, Akira did not further question that possibility.
As Akira was spending time talking with Alpha while climbing the stairs, he was once again greeted by a reinforced door leading to the 26th floor. So just like last time, he went to look for another stair on the 25th floor. But this time, there was something different.
“Akira, be careful. Someone is here.”
Alpha pointed her finger toward the hallway, Akira’s goggle that was showing the information from his information-gathering device also indicated that it detected something over there.
As Akira moved forward carefully, that person finally noticed Akira too. It was not rare to meet another Hunter inside the old-world ruin, but the real problem was whether that Hunter was friendly or not.
If that Hunter decided to steer clear and kept his or her distance, then there was no need to get bothered by that. But as Akira thought so, that Hunter was instead coming toward him.
The 25th floor was a pretty decrepit floor, there were wreckages and rubbles scattered around the place and someone was using those rubbles to hide themselves while approaching Akira. When Akira pointed his rifle at that person, that person suddenly spoke from behind the rubble.
“I have no wish to fight you. My name is Carol, I’m a Hunter. I’m not a monster, so don’t shoot, okay?”
Akira was receiving Alpha’s support at that moment, so he thought that there was no need to be overly cautious since it might cause them to quickly become enemies. So, he slowly lowered his rifle.
Right after Akira said that, a girl who introduced herself as Carol came out from behind a pile of rubble.
She was wearing a bodysuit customised for women. A huge hand-held cannon was dangling on her holster, she was not carrying anything in both of her hands at the moment, not even a knife.
Compared to Akira, who was carrying CWH anti-material rifle and DVTS minigun, Carol was very lightly armed and looked rather careless about her own safety.
Looking at Carol’s behaviour, it could be inferred that she was either so strong that she could be casual or that she was just a careless fool. Akira thought that she was the former. After all, she was inside a building that had given him a hard time just to get in. Akira had no plans to underestimate her, but looking at how she approached him empty-handed, Akira also lowered his guard.
Carol smiled as she walked toward Akira. She then scanned Akira’s equipment from his augmented suit, CWH anti-material rifle, and his whole appearance before returning her gaze back to his face.
“I’ve given my name, so like, can you at least tell me yours?”
“It’s Akira. So then, why are you talking to me?”
“Well, there’s no particular reason. I’m just here to say hello to another Hunter inside the same building and on the same floor. After all, you don’t want either of us to shoot at each other thinking that the other person is a monster, right?”
“Well, you’re right about that.”
Akira agreed with that opinion and it was the right answer for those who wanted to avoid fighting. He unconsciously lowered his guard further. Carol noticed that and took another step closer to him.
“Well, since we’ve met here, how about we talk for a bit? I want to do some information exchange too after all.”
Carol smiled at Akira as she made that suggestion.
Akira and Carol then did a light introduction to each other. It seemed that Carol was a Hunter who frequented the Mihazono ruin and she had visited this building a couple of times before.
Akira then asked about the hologram girl that he met on the first floor. If Carol had really explored that building for numerous times, she might know something that he did not know.
But Carol just casually said.
“Oh, you’re talking about Seranthal, huh? You can just ignore her. Although she says a lot of things to you, she can’t do anything else than that.”
“Seranthal? Isn’t that the name of this building…?”
“She’s an artificial intelligence in charge of this building. She will warn you to get out of the building, but in the end, she’s just a hologram, so she won’t be able to hurt you at all. The most she could do is just stopping the elevator.”
“Wait, so it’s her fault that I can’t use the elevator?”
“Maybe, yep. Although, honestly, it would be a huge help to explore this building with still-active facilities if we can use that elevator. But since it doesn’t seem that Seranthal would accept any negotiations, that would be impossible. Well, it’s true that from her point of view, we are nothing but robbers, so I guess it can’t be helped.”
Carol then smiled, Akira smiled bitterly back at her.
“You’re right about that. By the way, how did you get in here? The entrance of this building is guarded by those bothersome powerful monsters, so like, you shouldn’t be able to get in here without defeating them first, right?”
Akira thought that there might be another safer route that he could take to avoid fighting those monsters, or it might be just because of his usual bad luck.
Carol made a rather smug expression, she then smiled at Akira as if she was teasing him and said.
“Since you asked me that question, it means that you defeated those monsters, right? You’re pretty good, aren’t you? You’re quite strong, and I do like strong Hunters.”
“Well, thanks. So then, how did you get in here?”
“This building actually has a backdoor, you see. And I used that to get in here, do you want to know?”
Carol smiled mischievously at Akira.
Akira was relieved to know that he did not waste his ammo only because of his bad luck. He then said.
“Yeah, if you would tell me.”
Carol smiled bewitchingly.
“It won’t be free, you know. Let’s see, how about 5,000,000 Aurum? I think it’s pretty cheap for a piece of information that would let you get in here without fighting those powerful monsters, right?”
Akira thought for a bit, it was true that it was a cheap price considering that he would not have to fight those powerful monsters every time he wanted to visit that building.
But Akira might not be visiting that building ever again. After all, the only reason why he came there was for the Lion Steel Corporation’s information terminal and not for gathering relics.
In the first place, if he had trouble getting to that place, it simply meant that he was not ready to go there, that was all there was to it. Thus he refused that offer.
“Thank you for the offer, but no.”
Carol’s smile did not vanish.
“Oh my, you don’t like the price? Or you can’t trust me?”
“At least, I don’t think it’s the amount of money that you would normally pay to a Hunter whom you just met in an old-world ruin.”
“That’s true. But I won’t give you any information unless you pay me. After all, there are people who try to run away after getting information out from me, you see.”
“Yeah, I bet there are people who would do that.”
Every person had a different way of judging the price of a piece of information. And there were a lot of factors that decided whether 2 people could make a deal or not, the trust between each other was one of them.
If that information from Carol could really help Akira getting inside the Seranthal building without fighting the powerful autonomous weapons, 5,000,000 Aurum was actually not a huge sum of money. But there were chances that Carol was lying or the backdoor was too small for him to carry relics out from that building.
Moreover, Akira had no reason to trust Carol nor to make a deal with her.
It was obvious to Carol too that Akira had no plans to accept that offer. She kept her smile up as she said to him.
“But I guess that applies to me too, huh. I can understand that you’re hesitating to pay me money. So, in order to deepen our trust for each other, how about we make another deal before talking about buying that information again?”
“Another deal? If it’s about relics, I’m gathering them myself, so I won’t buy any from you. I’ve also properly explored the other floors, so I won’t buy any information about hidden rooms too.”
Carol smiled bewitchingly.
“That’s not it, I did say that it’s to deepen our trust, right?
She then grabbed her bodysuit’s fastener, which ran from under her neck down to her stomach, and lowered it down while smiling at Akira.
“I’m selling myself, what do you think? This must be some kind of fate to meet here, so I’ll only ask a cheap price.”
Akira could see Carol’s skin through a small opening in her bodysuit that wrapped her whole body, She was showing her skin to Akira while smiling at him, trying to seduce him.
Akira was a bit surprised by that sudden unexpected turn of events, but that was all. He did not get embarrassed nor flustered. He just casually refused Carol’s offer.
“No thanks. That aside, it won’t be strange to find a monster somewhere near, you know? Are you really okay in the head?”
“If that’s what you’re worried about, it’s alright. There won’t be any monsters here normally. Either it’s because this place is outside the mechanical monsters’ patrol area or that they already abandoned this building, as for the biological monsters, the mechanical monsters out there guarding this place would kill them before they can get in here. There’s no way I would do something like this in the first place if that’s not the case, you know.”
“Even if you say so, we’re still in the middle of an old-world ruin. There might be another Hunter around.”
Carol, who already unfastened the fastener on her bodysuit all the way down, sat on a table near her and tried to seduce Akira.
“There are people who get more excited about doing it in places like this. I myself don’t really mind, but if you’re bothered by it, we can go to a small room somewhere. Moreover, if we become comfortable with each other, it might help me loosen my mouth, you know. And if you’re seriously thinking of actually buying that information, I might give you a taste for free.”
Since Carol kept putting out better and better offers, Akira actually started to get suspicious of her.
“You seem to be pretty motivated doing this. If my intention is to deceive you and not buy that information, you would lose quite a lot, you know?”
“I did tell you, remember? I like strong Hunters. So I’ll at least do this much to invite a Hunter who can defeat those powerful monsters outside all by himself.”
“Why do you assume I did that alone? I might have done that with the help of other Hunters.”
“That’s just my guess. It’s highly unlikely for you to explore this ruin that you don’t know much all alone. If you came here with someone else, although it might not be as strong as those monsters guarding outside, you should’ve been exploring this ruin with the assumption that there are powerful monsters inside this building, right? But even so, you’re here alone, that’s why I assume that you’ve defeated those monsters outside alone too, was I mistaken? Is it that you actually came here with a team of 10 Hunters or so and the leader told you to go ahead and explore this building, that’s why you’re here although you don’t want to be? If that’s the case, then it won’t be free. After all, that would mean that you’re not a strong Hunter. So, what is your answer?”
Carol was smiling while waiting for Akira’s answer. Akira thought that it would be pointless trying to lie.
“No, I came here alone.”
“I knew it. I have confidence in my deduction skill, you see. So, if you’re still bothered by me offering myself for free, you don’t need to worry about that. Once you have a taste, I’m sure you’ll be back for more. And don’t worry, I’ll help you squeeze out a lot of things from you for a long time.”
Carol smiled seductively when she said that.
Akira more or less understood her reasoning, but for some reason, there was something that was still bothering him. So he turned to Alpha.
“Alpha, what do you think?”
Alpha was surprised.
“What do you mean by that? Akira, are you seriously thinking of taking her offer?”
According to Alpha’s calculation, Akira would definitely refuse. But since he said something that sounded as if he would accept it, Alpha immediately put up her guard.
But in reality, Akira’s reaction there was still under Alpha’s prediction.
“That’s not what I meant. You did say before that you can tell if someone is lying, right? So I’m just asking that from your point of view, do you think that she’s lying? For example, is she actually planning to bring me somewhere and kill me or something?”
Something like that was common even in the dangerous areas outside the city and since they were in the middle of ruin, it would be an easy thing to just throw the corpse somewhere. If that was the case, then Akira would need to carefully watch his back when he left that place.
“Ahhh, so that’s what you meant.”
Alpha was relieved now that she understood why Akira asked that question. Akira was still as distorted and paranoid as usual to the point that he was suspecting an unknown girl, who was inviting him, was actually planning to kill him.
Alpha’s face turned to her usually calm face.
“I’ll put this out first, I do that by watching the slight change in people’s faces, so it’s not like I can really read their minds. It’s true that she seems to be scheming something. She said that she’s offering herself to you for free because she wants to get you addicted to her and leech off your money though.”
Akira took a look at Carol again. Carol was a young girl with a good body and beautiful face, then to top it off, she was smiling with confidence to seduce him. Looking from his point of view, it was understandable to find former Hunters who got addicted to her and spent all of their money on her.
“Whatever it is, it won’t be much trouble as long as I don’t take her offer.”
Akira once again refused Carol’s offer.
“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to refuse.”
Carol looked obviously surprised. It was rare for someone to refuse her offer after she went that far.
“Geez, you’re no fun. Or is it that you actually hate something like this? Although you’re not adult yet, you’re not that young to be so innocent, right?”
“I’m at an age where I still prefer food over women. Moreover, a lot of things happened to me in the ruins and I’ve been living a rather cowardly life until now. That’s why I have no plans to let go of my rifles or to take off my augmented suit here.”
Carol immediately gave up seducing Akira, she understood that there were Hunters out there who got hurt so badly in the ruins that it made them paranoid to the point they would never let go of their rifles. It was extremely dangerous to force those Hunters to let go of their rifles.
“Is that so? That’s just too bad. We Hunters can die anytime and since you’re my type, I just thought to give you a good time, that’s all.”
Carol was being honest when she said that, but the things that she could not say out loud were kept inside her heart as she smiled bitterly at Akira. She then pulled back the fastener on her bodysuit all the way up while looking at Akira, it did not seem that he showed any regret at all.
[…If it’s a boy of his age, it should be easy to bait him using his desire but… Is it that he’s actually younger than he looks?]
Carol looked at Akira with curiosity. But she could not see that someone with a more voluptuous body and in a sexier suit was standing next to that Akira.
It was rather vague whether Akira refused because of the anti-honeytrap training from Alpha, or it was because of his originally distorted personality.
Akira then decided to leave Carol and head to his original objective, the 57th floor.
“I need to get back exploring the building, later then.”
“Is that so? I’ll be staying around here for the time being, so if you change your mind, just look for me. I’ll be waiting for you.”
Carol just said that and lightly waved at Akira.
After Akira left Carol, he went back to searching a staircase on the 25th floor. Now that he remembered it, he should have asked Carol if she knew where he could find the staircase on the 25th floor, but he decided not to turn back to look for her. After all, it would be a hassle if she misunderstood and thought that he had changed his mind.
It did not take long before Akira found a stair, but it only went up until the 30th floor. The door to the 31st floor was shut close.
“Again, huh? What a pain in the neck.”
“It can’t be helped. Let’s look for another stair.”
Akira then started exploring the 30th floor. He did not spot any monsters at all. Carol might have said the truth when she told Akira that there was no monster inside that building. Akira lowered his guard as he was exploring that floor.
Alpha suddenly told Akira with a stern face.
“Akira, move over there and stop.”
Alpha was pointing at a location not too far from him. He glanced at Alpha’s expression and moved forward carefully to the location that she was pointing at.
“Alpha, is it more enemies? According to Carol, there shouldn’t be any monsters inside…”
“It’s not monsters, but don’t lower your guard.”
Akira followed Alpha’s instruction, he kept his guard up as he moved carefully. He did not feel any abnormality, he did not see anything strange, and there was nothing detected in his information-gathering device. But he did not lower his guard, he thought that there must be something that caused Alpha to tell him to be careful.
Alpha’s face turned serious. Akira understood that it meant he was in a dangerous situation.
“…As I thought, the accuracy of your information-gathering device is bad, and it keeps falling down even right now. Is this from the colourless mist?”
Akira frowned the moment he heard something from Alpha that he could not just let slip.
“Alpha, is it the colourless mist?”
“The accuracy of your information-gathering device has been falling for a while now. I thought that it’s to be expected to have some disruptions due to the building’s structure or the relics inside this building, that’s why I’ve been ignoring it. But it’s already falling so bad that such an explanation won’t work anymore. If it’s really just because of where you’re standing, there should be some change after you move to a different place, but that didn’t work. That’s why it must be because of something else and I guess that’s because of the colourless mist. The colourless mist must have suddenly gotten thicker, that’s the only guess that I can come up with.”
Although Akira still looked stern, he asked a question to Alpha as if he was trying to calm himself down.
“Something like that is completely expected to happen inside an old-world ruin. Moreover, it’s not like it’s fatal, right?”
“At the moment, yes. But it’ll be really bad if the accuracy keeps on falling like this.”
“There’s nothing we can do about it, let’s just move on carefully.”
Akira calmly replied with that.
Alpha, who once saw how Akira got so flustered when he knew that the colourless mist around him was suddenly getting thick, just smiled and said to him.
“Oh my, you’re pretty calm, aren’t you? I thought that it might cause you to panic if I delay it for too long, that’s why I decided to tell you sooner than usual, but it seems that it was not needed, huh?”
“It’s not like the situation will get better if I panic here, you know. I just need to move carefully so I won’t get killed. Thank you for telling me sooner than usual, thanks to that, I can handle the situation much calmer.”
“I see, that’s good to hear. You’ve really grown stronger, I’m really happy to see that.”
For some reason, Alpha sounded like she was actually teasing Akira, so he just replied back casually to her. But in reality, Alpha knew that he forced himself to reply casually to hide his embarrassment.
When Akira was on the 10th floor, there were other Hunters gathered near the Seranthal building.
Akira’s battle with autonomous weapons was a rather big fight. Because of that, most of the Hunters in the Mihazono ruin noticed that fight.
When Hunters defeated the powerful monsters guarding the Seranthal building, there were basically 2 types of Hunters who entered that building.
The first type was those Hunters who worked together to defeat the powerful autonomous weapons, they would send some Hunters from their team into the Seranthal building after their battle. While that small group of Hunters was gathering relics inside the building, the rest of the Hunters would stand guard on the building’s entrance to prevent any other Hunters from entering.
It was in order to avoid having to fight against other Hunters over the relics as well as to prevent other Hunters from leeching off their hard work of defeating the guardian monsters. After all, there were many Hunters who were thinking of taking some relics out from the Seranthal building without helping to defeat the powerful monsters guarding that place.
Ammo expense, medical expense, wage cost, it basically took a lot of money to defeat those powerful autonomous weapons. So in order to end up with a profit after the battle, they could not afford to let other Hunters leeching off relics from them.
Those Hunters who could defeat the powerful autonomous weapons were basically strong Hunters, so if they guarded the entrance to the Seranthal building, the other Hunters could not get in. And when they left that building, the powerful monsters would be back guarding that building again in no time.
While the second type of Hunters who would get into that building showed themselves when there was a small opening left by those Hunters who were guarding the building. At the exact moment when the small group of Hunters that was previously sent to scavenge the building returned back to the entrance, these second type of Hunters would focus their firepower to open a hole in the security net to let their own group of Hunters slip through. It was the preferred way of sending Hunters into that building for those groups which were confident in their concentrated firepower.
Whichever it was, it was difficult to send Hunters into the building except for the original group who defeated the powerful monsters guarding it. But if someone successfully did that, they would be able to get back rewards worth of all that hard work.
There were also Hunters who tried to negotiate with the Hunters guarding the entrance. There were also Hunters who used the smallest opening that they could find to charge head-on. While on the other hand, there were also Hunters who sneaked around to carry the wreckages of the autonomous weapons in secret.
Although it was rare, there were Hunters who exhausted their resources to defeat the powerful autonomous weapons and headed back home right after that. The reason was unclear, it might be just out of a whim, or they might be just venting their stress on those monsters, or it might be just those Hunters testing the new weapons developed by some corporations.
But all of those reasons were of no importance to the other Hunters. The most important thing was that the other Hunters would have a good chance to enter that Seranthal building after someone defeated the guardian monsters. The other Hunters in Mihazono ruin hoped that would be the case when they noticed that big battle between Akira and the mechanical monsters. That was why a lot of Hunters came to the Seranthal building to check.
One of the scout Hunters who was sent ahead checked the front entrance of the Seranthal building. He then confirmed the wreckages of the autonomous weapons and checked if there were any other Hunters guarding that place. After he finished, he contacted his other friends with a big smile.
“It’s me!! Tell the others too, quickly!! The monsters guarding the Seranthal building are dead! And there’s no Hunter guarding the entrance! We can get the relics from the building or carry the wreckage, either way, it’ll bring us a lot of money!! …Ah, and also! Come here, quickly!! Before the other Hunters come here first!! I saw some of the other Hunters scouting this place too!! Hurry up!”
Just like him, there were other Hunters calling their friends to hurry over. That place was quickly filled with Hunters in no time. Some of them were carrying the wreckages of the dead autonomous weapons that Akira defeated while some of them went inside the building hunting for relics. In short, all the Hunters in that place were busy.
When some of those Hunters just went ahead to explore the building, there were some who just waited on the first floor for their other friends to arrive. Seranthal, the holographic girl, kept giving warning to those Hunters.
“…Dear customer. The building is closed at the moment, so we can’t allow anyone without the proper authorization to enter. So please leave the building… Warning. The facility is guarded by security allowed to kill in case of illegal intruders. So please leave this place…”
For those Hunters who already knew about Seranthal building and that holographic girl, they just ignored that warning.
But there were Hunters who could not ignore her. One of those Hunters was waiting on the first floor for his friends to arrive, but since his friends were taking too long, he started to get more and more irritated. Although at first, he was ignoring Seranthal, the repeated warning from her drove that Hunter mad and he eventually blew.
“Good grief!! Just shut up!!”
“Warning, the building is…”
He then pointed his rifle at Seranthal. Although he knew well there was no meaning in doing that to a hologram, he still pulled the trigger. He was basically that irritated.
The bullet flew through that hologram and hit the wall behind her. Fortunately enough, there was nobody there, so no one got hurt.
But releasing a shot in that place was a serious matter. The other Hunters around him immediately pointed their rifles at him, he panicked and raised both of his hands.
“I-I’m sorry! She’s just so noisy that I couldn’t hold it back! That was all!! I’m sorry, okay!”
“…You’re a dead man the next time you do that.”
The other Hunters looked at him full of killing intent. Of course, he wanted to avoid any needless conflict too. It was a rare chance to be able to get into that building, so he had no plans to waste an opportunity to strike it rich without much struggle. Thanks to that, he was barely able to get out alive from that situation. If that shot had hit someone, he would have been dead by now.
“O-Okay, I understand. I’m sorry.”
He just kept on apologizing. The other Hunters around him then clicked their tongue and lowered their rifles. He finally could let out a sigh of relief.
Because of that incident, no one was paying any attention to Seranthal’s warning. Even when Seranthal changed her warning, no one there noticed it.
“Confirmed multiple intruders. Confirmed the intruders trying to kill the employees and staff of the building. Confirmed the destruction of the building. Changing to protocol D. Die you scum!”
After Seranthal said something that was unthinkable to be said to a customer, she quickly vanished. Not too long after she vanished, some Hunters in that area noticed that Seranthal had gone. But no one was bothered by that at all.
Silavin: Wow! Seriously? The author is really good at playing out a realistic situation. But like… when can my boy Akira finally get a break?