When Akira was talking with Carol on the 25th floor, a small change started to happen around the Seranthal building. Or to be more precise, a change had already started and the Hunters in that area had noticed it.
Some of the Hunters there chose to carry the leftover wreckages of the dead autonomous weapons. Rather than risking having to fight the other Hunters over the relics inside that building, these Hunters chose to harvest the leftover wreckages of the autonomous weapons that Akira had defeated.
They had no idea who defeated those monsters, but since that person just left them there, they assumed these wreckages must be trash for said person. Those Hunters thought that person must have ignored those wreckages aiming for the relics inside the Seranthal building.
Those Hunters were guarding their prized loots while waiting for the arrival of the truck to carry the wreckages. They kept checking their information-gathering device and killed any small fry mechanical monsters that approached them. They were planning to carry those wreckages, so they could not let other mechanical monsters consume their prized find.
At first, they looked relaxed, but their expression suddenly changed, a look of astonishment flashed on their faces. There were quite a lot of mechanical monsters heading their way, and the number just kept increasing endlessly.
One of them then said.
“Hey, something is strange, don’t you think? Why are so many of them coming here?”
“I heard that those powerful monsters guarding the Seranthal building will always be back not too long after you kill them. So the mechanical monsters might be swarming here to gather the wreckages to rebuild these guardian monsters. I guess, if we take into consideration the size of the guardian monsters, it’s to be expected that they would need to bring a lot of those small mechanical monsters to carry these huge wreckages.”
“I see, that does make sense.”
“These wreckages might contain something valuable that they’re trying to retrieve it, so I’m sure these wreckages will fetch a lot of money.”
As they imagined the amount of money that they might earn, those Hunters started to smile.
The Hunter who was worrying also smiled after hearing what his friend said. The mechanical monsters coming to their direction were all weak monsters, so he thought that he must have been overthinking it. When that guy thought so, suddenly a loud bang echoed from afar. It was immediately followed by repeated gunshots. It was the sound of Hunters fighting monsters.
The source of that sound was moving closer and closer to those Hunters waiting for the truck. They eventually could see some Hunters running toward their direction.
The guy who was so worried just now was utterly dumbfounded as he said.
“A-aren’t there too many of them?”
There was a swarm of monsters following behind those Hunters, who were running toward the Seranthal building. The Hunters who were desperately fighting those monsters were swallowed one by one by that swarm. Distorted by the fear, the Hunters used grenades and explosives at a close range, close enough to even injure themselves. Those explosions would take out a bunch of monsters and open a hole in that swarm, but it did not take long for that hole to be covered by monsters again.
The Hunters around Seranthal building started shouting at each other.
That guy shouted as if he was saying to everyone in that area.
“R-run away? To where exactly?”
The mechanical monsters were swarming the Seranthal building from all directions, there was no opening where the Hunters could run to. All of the Hunters in that area were running toward the only location where they might have any survival chance, it was the only location where they might be able to defend themselves, it was the Seranthal building.
All the Hunters who were still alive outside the Seranthal building quickly gathered inside the building, they were able to temporarily push back the swarm. The entrance to the Seranthal building turned into a bottleneck, the Hunters focused their fires there to repel the monsters that were trying to enter the building.
But suddenly, the mechanical monsters made a huge push, as if they gathered their numbers first before delivering the push. They kept pushing forward no matter how many of their fellow mechanical monsters were killed in front of them. As the monster swarm kept pushing their way into that building, they shoved the wreckages of their dead brethren aside to open up a road or just trampled them into small pieces and slowly closed the distance between them and the Hunters.
A Hunter suddenly shouted.
“Hey!! Someone, just anyone, relay the situation to the other Hunters upstairs!! It’s not the time to be looking for relics!!”
“We’ve already been doing that!! But we can’t get any contact at all!! Is it the colourless mist?!!”
“Hah?!! Why now of all time?!!”
“Hell if I know!! I can’t do anything about it, I just can’t contact them!!”
Without the help of the Hunters who were looking for relics upstairs, the Hunters in the first floor had no chance of winning. But since they could not get any contact, they could not call for help.
“…It can’t be helped, I’ll go and call them back.”
One of the Hunters said that and left the other Hunters.
“I-I’ll go too!”
Some of the Hunters followed suit and left that place.
The first guy really went to call the other Hunters to get back, but that was not the case for the other Hunters who followed him. They were just running away from that place, thinking that it was too dangerous to stay there. They wanted to get into safety since it was safer to join the rest of the Hunters who were hunting for relics upstairs.
Then, some of the Hunters who noticed that also followed behind them with the same excuse rather than trying to stop them. Although it was only a portion of the Hunters there that went upstairs, it was enough to make the frontline crumble.
The monsters that were held back until now quickly flooded into the building. They used their cannons, guns, and their powerful mechanical bodies to kill the Hunters. The Hunters who could not stand the situation started running away out of fear and the ones who were trying to hold the monsters on the first floor were overwhelmed as they slowly retreated to the second floor.
It only took a few seconds for the monsters to completely seize the first floor.
Akira was searching the 30th floor. Since his information-gathering device was getting less and less sensitive, he continued his search carefully to make sure that he would not get ambushed. Alpha was guiding him to take the safest route while looking for a stair to go up.
“Akira, it’s about the sensitivity of your information-gathering device… It seems that it’s not because of the colourless mist.”
Akira looked happy, but his expression quickly turned into one of confusion.
“That’s good to hear… Right? Wait, it’s not like the sensitivity returned back to normal either, huh?”
“Yes, the sensitivity is falling down even now. I think it’s because of this building.”
“This building? But didn’t you say just now that it has nothing to do with this building?”
“What I meant back then is the layout of the rooms and the hallways inside this building. It’s not limited to the old-world ruin alone; when the government or big corporations negotiate about some secret stuff, they would use a special room that prevents any information from leaking out in any forms to the outside of that room. And we’re in a similar situation to that, it’s highly difficult to even scan your surroundings using your information-gathering device at the moment. If my guess is correct, this building might have some kind of feature that blocks signals.”
“So you mean that signal blocking function suddenly turned on, huh. But why so suddenly?”
“I have no answer to that question.”
Akira stopped and thought. He then asked Alpha with a serious expression.
“Should we pull back for now? Although we can’t get to our main goal, I’ve already gathered quite a lot of old-world relics today.”
Alpha thought for a bit before answering that question with a big smile.
“If you think so, then let’s retreat. I guess it’s better to cut it short before your bad luck goes off again.”
Akira smiled bitterly and turned around, just when he was about to swing his leg forward, Alpha suddenly signalled him to stop.
“Someone is coming. That person is running in this direction, it seems that he’s in a hurry. At this rate, he will reach here soon.”
Akira pointed his gun in the direction where Alpha told him that person was coming from. It was to be safe just in case if it was an ambush.
But that person was Carol. As she was running through the hallway, she spotted Akira and shouted at him while still running.
“Akira!! Help me!! Do something about them!!”
As Akira peeked behind Carol, he could see small mechanical monsters with half-destroyed bodies chasing her. He found that weird, but he decided to at least give Carol a help.
“Are you out of ammo? Get out from my shooting line.”
Carol quickly ran out of Akira’s line of sight. Akira then aimed at those monsters using his A2D rifle and shot them. As the piercing bullets hit the monsters’ half-destroyed bodies, it turned them to scraps and blew them to pieces.
Akira could only consider those monsters as weak and started to ponder. [If they were this weak, Carol should be able to defeat them without my help, there was no need to ask for my help.]
He found that weird as he mumbled. “If it’s only that much, she should have done something about them herself-“
But before he could even finish his sentence. A swarm of monsters suddenly gushed in from the hallway where Carol came from.
Akira quickly pulled out his DVTS minigun and showered those monsters with bullets. Although it was able to make quick work for the smaller mechanical monsters with weak armour, the monsters with thicker armours kept pushing forward against the raining bullets.
When Akira was about to change to his CWH anti-material rifle, Carol who had already stood beside him shot them first. The bullet that she shot pierced the monster’s thick armour and sent it flying back. It only took one shot to kill that thick armoured monster. Although she was using nothing but a hand cannon, it might have the same firepower as a CWH anti-material rifle. But she could not use it for continuous shooting, thus it was not a suitable gun to fight a swarm.
“We need to run away!”
After Carol said that, she immediately started running again, leaving Akira behind.
Akira quickly followed Carol, Alpha was floating beside him while smiling bitterly.
“It seems that we’re too late. Akira, your bad luck is really fast.”
“You can say that again!!”
Akira was chasing Carol with an irritated face.
Unlike Akira, who came to the Seranthal building for the first time, Carol had come there numerous times in the past, thus she was able to keep running without getting lost.
Although the situation inside that building was completely different from what Carol had known, Carol placed her bet that the layout of the building did not change as she kept running forward without checking whether there were monsters in front of her or not. The monsters were coming from below, so as long as the layout of the building did not change, the monsters should not be able to circle their way around Akira and Carol.
Akira was still running behind Carol when he asked her a question.
“Carol, what’s going on here? What happened downstairs?”
“Mechanical monsters are gushing out from below. A swarm of monsters is climbing the building while fighting the Hunters on their way. They’re having a fierce fight downstairs, although it’s not that bad, it’s not a good idea to go downstairs right now.”
“Is it that the other monsters from outside are coming inside this building since I killed the monsters guarding this building?”
“I don’t know. Well, I guess that’s the case for the Hunters, but… I actually thought you used an opening in the monsters guarding this place to kill some of them and sneaked into this building, but judging from what you said just now, you killed all of them, right? And you did that alone on top of that. You’re a really interesting fellow, how did you kill those guardian monsters?”
Carol seemed to be honestly interested when she asked that question, Akira’s face turned stern as he said.
“I can’t tell you. It’s my secret trump card after all.”
And even if Akira told Carol the truth, it would only end up with Carol questioning his sanity or suspecting that he was just simply lying. So he decided to deflect that question, he did not tell any lie there.
It seemed that Carol was not expecting Akira would tell her anyway, so she just smiled as she said.
“Is that so? If we’re not in this situation, I would love to spend more time to loosen your lips, but it’s not the time for that. And also, even if someone destroyed all the autonomous weapons outside, it won’t cause the other mechanical monsters roaming the ruin to flood this building.”
After that, Carol’s expression turned cloudy.
“…Or at least, that should not cause something like this. The mechanical monsters inside the Mihazono ruin are security drones with fixed patrol areas that they’re protecting, there’s no way they would go outside their designated area. That’s why, in Mihazono ruin, you sometimes can save yourself by entering a nearby building when you encounter powerful monsters. Thanks to that, this ruin is a relatively safe ruin for the Hunters to explore. That’s the real reason why so many Hunters frequent this ruin, enough for the Hunter Office to build their branch in this ruin.”
Akira frowned and asked a question.
“Then why is this happening right now?”
Carol twitched a bit and then screamed.
“Like hell if I know!! That’s how it has always been up until now!! I’ve never found monsters inside this building and the monsters outside have never tried to enter the building!!! Even if those Hunters ran to this building from a group of monsters, those monsters would not even try to enter this building to chase those Hunters!! So if there’s any reason why this is happening, I want to know that reason too!!”
Although there was no way for Akira and the other two to know it, the reason was actually very simple. It was simply because the manager of that building, Seranthal, had given permission for those monsters to enter that building. And at the same time, she also requested for reinforcements to take out the intruders. Because of that, all the monsters in that ruin answered that request and quickly gathered there to kill all the Hunters inside.
Akira was still running as he said.
“As I thought, old-world ruin is really scary. No one can say for sure what will happen.”
As Carol looked at Akira who was still calm, she regained some of her calmness. She then smiled bitterly and said to him.
“…You’re right about that, I put too much trust on my experience coming to this place.”
Akira then asked another question.
“By the way, I understand that we can’t head downstairs, so where exactly are we heading now? It’s not like we can find a way to escape if we keep going upstairs, right? Are you planning to make a stand somewhere? Or are you just running randomly from those monsters?”
“Nope, I did tell you before, right? I know a backdoor, we’re going to use that backdoor to escape.”
Akira was so surprised when he heard that unexpected answer, he then asked another question.
“…So the backdoor that would allow us to escape this building is located upstairs?”
“Well, I won’t tell you to trust me. It’s completely up to you if you believe me or not… Of course, I won’t tell you to not follow me in this situation, after all, I’m sure that it’s meaningless even if I tell you so… Haah…”
Carol exasperatedly sighed.
If Akira kept following her, obviously, she would end up guiding him to the location that she could sell for 5,000,000 Aurum. But she had no plans to tell him not to follow her even if he did not pay her. In that situation where she was being chased by a swarm of monsters, it would be bad if Akira turned hostile too.
As Carol was cursing her bad luck since she would be losing a piece of information that she could have sold for a huge amount of money, Akira suddenly said something that she did not expect at all.
“If you tell me not to follow you, I’ll go somewhere else though. Should I do that?”
Carol suddenly stopped out of surprise. Because of that, Akira could not stop in time and ran past her. He then stopped in panic and looked back at her in surprise.
“Don’t stop now. We need to run, right? Or is this where the backdoor is?”
Carol looked at Akira with a face saying that she was both surprised and suspicious. She then asked Akira a question with a dead-serious tone.
“…Are you being serious?”
“Yeah. I have no plans to create more enemies in this situation. You look pretty strong after all.”
Carol stared at Akira. She was trying to judge if he was lying from his tone and expression. Then according to her experience, she found that Akira was being serious there.
Carol was quite surprised. Although she was in a rather precarious situation, she ended up standing still in that place for a few seconds.
Akira more or less had the same thought as Carol. He had no time to deal with her in case she turned hostile in that situation. But there, rather than thinking that they had no other choice but to work together, Akira’s line of thinking was so twisted that he chose to keep his distance away from others in case they started trying to kill each other for some reason.
“…I’m not really sure what’s going on in your head, but if you’re going to stay here, I’ll go ahead and leave you.”
After he said that, Akira immediately turned around and was about to leave. If they stayed there, it was only a matter of time before they would be swallowed by the incoming swarm. So they had no other choice but to keep running at the moment.
Seeing Akira start running ahead, leaving her behind, Carol snapped back to reality. She then smiled and chased Akira. Once she caught up with him, she smiled at him and said in a good mood.
Akira then said to her, just to make sure that she understood.
“I won’t pay you any money, you know?”
Even when Akira said those words that did not show any wish to compromise, Carol kept smiling.
“I know, that’s why, how about we make a deal instead? If you escort me out alive, I’ll not ask any payment for sharing the information about the backdoor, what do you think?”
“So you would give away that 5,000,000 Aurum information just for that? You’re being rather generous here.”
“Well, it’s not like I can bring any money to the afterlife after all. That’s why I don’t plan to be stingy about it, I’ll also pay for your ammo expense.”
It was a good thing if Carol would help to escape that building, and Akira had nothing to complain about that deal. Thus he immediately replied.
“We have a deal then. I’ll be counting on you, be sure to properly protect me, okay?”
Although it was a sudden request, it did not change the fact that it was still a request. So Akira answered back firmly.
“You don’t even need to tell me. Since I’ve accepted that request, I’ll be sure to do it properly.”
“That sounds so reassuring.”
They then continued running inside that building with Carol guiding the way smiling.
As someone who had already explored that building several times in the past, Carol was able to navigate inside that building which had a complex layout without getting lost. As for the monsters that were closing up from behind, it was Akira’s job to deal with them.
It was obvious from a look that the mechanical monsters were designed for killing purposes rather than being equipped for apprehending people. These monsters were equipped with wheels on their legs to ride over rubbles, which allowed them to quickly close their distance to Akira. Considering that there were a lot of obstacles scattered inside that building, they were traversing the building at a relatively high speed.
Akira aimed and shot those legs before starting to run again. After losing their mobility, those monsters were turned into extra obstacles blocking the hallway. Akira accurately shot those monsters down one by one, and thanks to Alpha’s detection support, there was no need for him to look back to take a careful aim. When he released his shot, he just turned back without losing much momentum, released a shot, and then ran again to catch up with Carol.
Carol saw Akira’s skill and smiled.
[As expected of someone who can kill all the guardian monsters alone, he’s indeed strong. It’s rather amazing for someone his age. Well, that’s of course if he’s as young as he looks.]
There were many Hunters whose age couldn’t be determined with a look. Their body was the main tool for the Hunters, thus it was not rare for Hunters to take anti-ageing treatment to maintain their bodies in tip-top shape. The medicines that they consumed might also have effects on their cells. Sometimes, it accelerated their ageing, and sometimes, it had the opposite effect. Of course, they could reverse that through treatment, but there were Hunters who intentionally did not take that treatment.
There were also Hunters with full cyborg bodies, these Hunters had a completely different look compared to their ages. After all, cyborgs could switch their bodies as many times as they wanted, it was impossible to judge a cyborg’s age solely from the looks. Because of those reasons, there were many Hunters who had completely different ages compared to their outer appearances.
As Carol was helping Akira shoot back at the monsters chasing them, she asked him a question.
“Say, Akira, how old are you?”
Carol thought that Akira simply did not want to answer that question.
“I see, well, if you don’t want to tell me, I won’t force you though. After all, I’m also keeping my age a secret. I sometimes gave a random answer when other people asked about my age.”
But Akira casually replied.
“That’s not it, I really have no idea. I don’t know my own age, after all, I’ve spent quite a large portion of my life not even knowing the current date. And no one ever told me when I was born and how old I’m right now. That’s why I don’t know my own age.”
After hearing that, Carol decided not to pursue any further. It was a common thing among the Hunters who originated from the slum city to not know their own age. And some of those Hunters did not like it when people inquired.
Carol did not think that Akira was lying. Although it sounded as if he just casually answered back, it might be just him putting up a front. Whichever the case, it was not worth antagonizing him just to pursue that question, thus she asked a different question.
“By the way, have you been doing Hunter jobs for a long time? It’s up to you to decide the starting line.”
There were many Hunters who only started actively doing Hunter jobs years after they received their Hunter ID. There were also those who had been doing Hunter jobs for a long time before actually getting formally registered as Hunters. Then there were those who did not include the time when they were below Rank 10 in their history as Hunters.
Because of that, many Hunters had different time spans when they started doing Hunter jobs for real compared to how long they registered themselves as Hunters. Some of those Hunters were sensitive when asked about the period when they started working as Hunters. Because of that, Carol left it up to Akira to decide.
Akira hesitated for a bit before replying back.
“…Not that long. Pretty short, that’s all I can say.”
“Is that so? Then you’re a fresh Hunter, huh. It’s amazing for a fresh Hunter to be as skilled as you.”
“I just got lucky.”
To be more precise, it was all thanks to Alpha. Akira thought that he did not lie there since he did get lucky for meeting Alpha.
Carol thought that Akira was trying to be humble, so she teasingly said to him.
“Oh my, luck is also a skill, you know? Especially for us who might get killed anytime.”
Akira smiled bitterly.
“Is that so? Then it means that my skill has really gotten worse, huh.”
“It’s not a problem as long as you get to return back alive. You have no plans to die here too, right?”
Akira and Carol hurried up to escape the situation that they were in before they ran out of luck.
Thanks to Carol guiding him, Akira was able to quickly find the stairs to go up. But just like last time, he encountered a lot of locked doors preventing him from going further, and every time that happened, they had no other choice but to look for another stair in that floor.
Akira annoyedly mumbled.
“Why are there so many locked doors? Is it that someone is bullying us or something?”
“If it’s really someone bullying us, that would be Seranthal then. According to her, as the manager of this building, this building is actually closed after all. So I bet that originally all of these doors were actually closed, the ones that are open must have been opened forcefully by someone in the past.”
“Ohhh, I see.”
It was not an easy feat to open a locked old-world door. Whether they opened it through brute force or through hacking, either way, both required a ton of effort. There were Hunters who set the doors so that only they could open those doors, and there were Hunters who decided to just tear those doors.
The doors that Carol and Akira were passing through were doors that were left open either because they were torn down or because their control panels were toasted. Of course, there were no Hunters who would spare their resources to fix those doors.
“Wait, does that mean that most of the doors on this floor are locked?”
Carol confirmed Akira’s guess.
“Unfortunately, that’s indeed the case. We’re aiming for 45th floor, but once we reach the 40th floor, we’ll have to change stairs every single floor up.”
“I don’t know who exactly opened these doors, but, did they do that intentionally to make it more difficult climbing this building? What a pain in the neck, what exactly were they thinking?”
“They might intentionally do that so they can sell the map of the layout at a high price.”
“That sounds plausible.”
The more difficult and confusing an area was, the higher the price of the map of that area. After hearing Carol’s explanation, Akira thought that it did make sense as he sighed.
Akira and Carol were shooting back at the mechanical monsters chasing them while running. Thanks to Carol’s precise guide, they were able to get to their destination in the shortest time and the monsters who tried to encircle them could not get ahead of them. It caused Akira and Carol to start assuming that the only monsters in that building were all behind them.
Although it was only for a few seconds, Akira lowered his watch to whatever that was in front of him. With all the monsters coming from behind him, he had no leeway of focusing his guard on what was in front of him. So, it would be unfair to consider that as carelessness.
But it did not change the fact that they did not put much attention to what was in front of them. It was then, something happened.
Akira was climbing the stairs past the 40th floor behind Carol who was right in front of him. When Carol saw that the door to the 41st floor was locked, she quickly turned to the door leading to the 40th floor.
The moment she stepped into the 40th floor, Carol immediately froze. Akira who came from behind her was also the same. There were already multiple mechanical monsters there waiting for them.
Those mechanical monsters had a long body, legs and arms extended out from those bodies, and there were rifles perched on their backs. Then to top it off, multiple monsters were watching that door where Carol and Akira just came out from.
The shock caused Carol to freeze up. There should not be any other way to reach the 40th floor except for this particular stairway that she and Akira just passed through, so Carol did not expect to find any monsters on that floor.
Akira was also surprised by that, he could not help but to freeze up too, although only for a few split seconds.
Everything happened in slow motion. When Carol saw the rifles of the monsters in front of her pointing at her, she realised that she had no chance in evading them. Strangely enough, she did not have the time to feel fear as she calmly assessed her situation.
Then in the next moment, Akira suddenly jumped into Carol’s field of vision. He stood in front of Carol with his back facing the monsters as if he was covering her. And almost at the same time, she could hear gunshots coming from the monsters behind Akira.
Bullets showered Akira’s back, his augmented suit went to full power to take in the impact of those bullets. Then, while still facing his back against the monsters and receiving the bullets, Akira turned his arm, which held his rifle, a bit past the limit of his joints and started shooting back at those monsters.
Akira was shooting back in a difficult position, normally, none of his shots would hit. But due to Alpha’s support, Akira defied that logic and accurately shot the rifles perching on those monsters.
Carol immediately moved to help Akira. She used him as a shield and grabbed her hand cannon that was more or less as strong as CWH anti-material rifle and started shooting at the monsters in front of her.
It did not even take 10 seconds for them to make short work of those monsters. When the shooting stopped, all the monsters were dead. Thanks to Akira covering her, Carol was unharmed. But then, Akira coughed out blood and fell to the ground.
After confirming that all the monsters were dead, Carol hurriedly checked on Akira.
“Akira, are you alright?!!”
Although the bullets could not pierce through Akira’s augmented suit, his augmented suit could hardly dampen all the impact from those bullets. As a result, his inner organs were injured and blood was dripping out from his mouth.
Akira pushed himself away from the ground and spitted out all the blood that was left inside his mouth. He then put down his rucksack, pulled out his medicines, and quickly swallowed them. As expected of expensive medicines, they immediately went to action and showed their results.
Akira’s face distorted in pain as he mumbled.
He looked completely devastated.
The relics that he was carrying on his back had served as his shield when he was showered by the bullets, and now they turned into scraps scattered on the floor.
Silavin: Ahhh!!!! The loot!