Even after Sara destroyed the second monster, Elena still ordered the team to stay on watch in that hall. There were corpses of dead Hunters, wreckages of destroyed monsters, monsters that had been rendered harmless with their bodies almost fully intact, they were looking at these while still on stand by in that room. The time that they spent there was crucial to gather and analyze all the data that they could get there. But it was only a matter of time before it turned into simply a waste of time.
[Judging from how the monsters reacted, it seems that they don’t know our location. It might be because their ability to share information and contact each other is also lowered just like how the sensitivity of our information-gathering devices are also lowered. If it’s blocking them from calling reinforcements, it might also be the case for their ability to contact each other, no, maybe they can but only for the monsters on the same floor? Then, even if it’s true that the manager of this building has turned hostile to us, then why is their ability to contact each other affected the same way as how the sensitivity of our information-gathering device is affected? Is the manager of this building not sharing information with these monsters? Is it because they’re under different management? Or is it because these monsters are broken or something? Or is it simply because they’re not working under the management of this building? Or is it that they’re trying to trick us here?]
When Elena’s display showed that her information-gathering device had finished gathering and analyzing all the information that it could get there, Elena decided to finally move on.
[I’ve finished analyzing the monsters here. We should be able to detect the same type of monster better now, it’ll at least increase the sensitivity of our information-gathering device. There doesn’t seem to be any reinforcement, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to stay here any longer, it would be a waste of time if we keep staying here longer. I guess it’s time to go then.]
Elena then said to the rest of the team.
“We’ll keep up our method and speed just like before. Although you can see the result for the radar on your map, don’t drop your guard just because there are no monsters detected. Just fight the monsters that block our way, there’s no need to kill all the monsters, prioritize more on searching the area. But of course, safety is still number one. That’s all, let’s go.”
They immediately started moving again, and as Elena ordered, they kept the same speed and method although the situation on the 20th floor was completely different compared to the 19th floor.
There were puddles of blood mixed with wreckages of monsters on the floor as they continued their search on that floor. There were traces of destroyed barricades and the Hunters who must have frantically fought those monsters. The Hunters’ hands that were poking out from a pile of wreckages of dead monsters were still holding their rifles even now. Rubbles and wreckages blocked the hallways and the corpses of the Hunters who created those piles scattered inside the hallways.
The monsters there already turned the Hunters on that floor to corpses, and the still-moving monsters now quickly turned their attention to the new enemies that just stepped into that floor.
Alpha gave Akira an order while they were in the middle of moving.
“Akira, to your right.”
Akira who was running immediately stopped at the intersection in front of him and aimed his rifle to the right.
He gathered his concentration and compressed his time perception as he fixed his aim at the target that he could not even see. He then tracked the A24 monsters that passed through the next intersection and pulled the trigger the moment they showed themselves.
Akira was able to see the location of the control device inside the monster’s body due to Alpha’s support. Alpha also indicated the location where Akira’s bullet would easily pierce its armour and destroy its control device. As Akira tried to align his aim, a trajectory prediction line extended from his CWH anti-material rifle’s muzzle.
The bullet that flew out from the CWH anti-material rifle hit the weak point of the monster. It destroyed the monster’s outer armour and pierced through its innards, it went straight for the monster’s control device and destroyed it in one shot. The monster that had lost its brain immediately stopped functioning and just crashed into the ground with the momentum that it had when it flew out from the intersection due to inertia.
Akira nodded and immediately started running again. When he had a chance, he quickly turned to Alpha and asked her a question while still running.
“How was that?”
Alpha smiled and warned him.
“If I didn’t fix your aim, it would have missed the monster about 1 metre to the left. You need to try to keep calm while fixing your aim as fast as possible.”
Akira felt slightly depressed, he felt pretty good with himself after that shot, but it turned out that it was all thanks to Alpha’s support.
But Akira quickly pulled himself together, he knew that he had no time to lament. He then commented about the other factor that increased the difficulty of sniping monsters there.
“But still, this place is pretty bad. It would have been much easier if they cleaned this place just like what they did on the lower floors.”
Because of the fierce battle that happened beforehand there, the leftover of that battle blocked the way and made it more difficult for Akira to move around. Wreckages of dead monsters scattered on the ground, they were leaking out oils which then mixed together with the blood from the dead Hunters. These were preventing Akira from moving too fast. They did not have a stable footing and the floor was slippery from the oil and the blood. Sniping alone was already hard enough, but the environment there increased the difficulty even more.
Alpha then answered Akira’s question.
“The cleaning drones might have been destroyed by the other mechanical monsters.”
“…Wait, they’re not friends?”
“We don’t know for sure if those monsters are working under the command of the manager of this building. They might be a completely separate swarm that somehow entered the Seranthal building. Of course, this is nothing but a guess though.”
Akira made a troubled look, but he immediately returned his face to normal.
“This has really turned into something super complicated. It might have something to do with the current abnormality in Mihazono ruin, but well, I guess it has nothing to do with me, huh. Well, it’s true that I might be able to get 10,000,000,000 Aurum if I know the reason behind it, but it’s not the time to be thinking about that right now.”
Alpha smiled at Akira and said.
“That’s true. You came here in order to help Elena and Sara out of your own volition after all. So you need to concentrate more on that. But if you’ve had enough of it, you can tell me anytime. I’ll immediately readjust your course of action for moving separately from the team.”
Akira sulked for a bit, but Alpha just ignored it and kept smiling at him.
It was true that he actually just ignored Alpha’s opinion and dragged her for his own selfishness to help out Elena and Sara. That was why he thought that it was understandable for Alpha to poke at him like that, so he just ignored it and decided to move on.
Shikarabe aimed his rifle at the monster that was located behind a pile of wreckage and pulled the trigger. The piercing bullet that he was using was able to pierce through the pile of wreckage and hit the monster behind it. He was able to destroy the monster’s vital component in one shot and killed that monster.
Shikarabe was able to ascertain the enemy’s location from the data that he was receiving from Elena.
[It’s amazing how accurate this information that she’s sending to me is when the sensitivity of my own information-gathering device is this bad. It’s great that I can take it easy. I can see now why Arabe is always trying so hard to get Elena and Sara to join the gang, though it always ended up with a failure.]
Shikarabe was honestly impressed by Elena’s ability and smiled bitterly remembering how his friend worked so hard for it although it ended up with failures.
While Carol had a large gun with her that could blast the monsters in one shot. It was also thanks to Elena that she was able to quickly detect the monsters that hid in difficult-to-spot places.
[Elena’s ability to process information is really nothing to scoff at, Sara is also moving accordingly to keep Elena protected. It’s understandable that Akira looks up to them. I guess it won’t be easy to impress Akira with my Hunter skill, huh. Well, let’s just do my best.]
Carol was also impressed with Elena and Sara’s skill. So using that as a reference, it seemed that it would not be easy to try to show off her Hunter skill to Akira.
Togami was desperately trying to catch up with the moving speed of the rest of the team. He did not complain at all as he used all he got to use that chance to show his skills to other Hunters.
His powerful equipment supported him to push his way through difficult situations. But that was not enough for him to match the current speed. He was barely able to follow the rest of the team.
Togami checked at the other Hunters while fighting the monsters. Just like Akira who was able to track a monster that was invisible to him, Shikarabe and the other Hunters could also predict accurately where and when the enemy would appear or shoot accurately through wreckages or rubbles.
Togami was also receiving the same information from Elena just like the rest of the Hunters, but even so, he could not use it to perform as well as the other Hunters.
His expression turned stern.
[So it’s normal for them to be able to do that, huh?! While on the other hand, I can’t do that at all… At least for now though, I’ll definitely learn how to do that too as soon as possible!!]
In the past, excessive praises pushed him to grow, but this time, frustration and the feeling of patheticness pushed him to grow. Togami recognized his own skill and his pathetic performance here, he was scolding himself as if to tell him to fight back while pushing himself to the limit.
Elena kept scanning the surroundings while going deeper and deeper into the building. And of course, he was also keeping his eyes for any signals from their rescue targets while scanning her surroundings. At the same time, she was also marking the route that the team would take on the map.
Sara was fighting the monsters they encountered while making sure that Elena, the leader of the team, was properly protected. Sara’s display was showing the information that Elena had analyzed and sent to her. Thanks to that information, Sara was able to effectively remove the monsters that were blocking their way forward and any monsters that approached the team.
Elena and Sara basically work together as a team of two when they did Hunter jobs. Depending on the request that they took, they sometimes had to work under a different team, or sometimes, as the leader of the team, but that was not enough to break their habit of working as a team of two. It was simply because they understood and trusted each other, they knew that it was the best option and they trusted that fact.
Sara then contacted Elena through the transceiver.
“Elena, who is this rescue target that we’re trying to rescue this time? Or more like, is there really any survivors in this situation?”
“This is only my guess, but I think it’s very likely that they’re still alive. Or at least, it seems that Shikarabe thinks so. If Shikarabe’s aim this time is to retrieve the borrowed equipment or the corpses, I’m sure he would have chosen another option. That’s why he asked us to do this even though he doesn’t want to.”
That answer did not fully convince Sara. She looked around at the wreckages of dead monsters that were scattered on the ground and said.
“The people who fought these monsters might be the Hunters who accepted that SOS rescue request, right? So basically, they must be the Hunters who were in this ruin yesterday. I’m sure most of them only had enough supplies thinking that they would return back during the day, right? And even if they brought with them extra supplies, I’m sure they had used most of them to fight all of these monsters. And if they are strong enough to handle all of these monsters in that situation, I bet they’ve already escaped the building by themselves though.”
Judging from the average strength of the Hunters in the Mihazono ruin, the state of the Hunters who accepted that SOS rescue request, and the leftover of the battles in that place, Sara’s experience as a Hunter was telling her that there was zero chance their rescue targets were still alive.
Elena actually had the same thought as Sara. But even so, she believed there was a good chance that their rescue targets were still alive, and that reason might lie in the secret information that Shikarabe would not tell her.
“I actually agree with you. But even so, Shikarabe still believes that they are still alive. They might have some team members who specialize in close-quarter combat, or they might bring with themselves way more supplies than most Hunters would, or they might be way stronger than most of the Hunters in this ruin, or they made sure to barricade themselves somewhere to make sure that they would be able to return alive. So judging from that, they might still be alive even now. Don’t you think that’s plausible too?”
“Well, that does make sense, a lot of Hunters went to this building after Drankam issued that SOS rescue request after all. So it won’t be strange if some of them are actually that skilled.”
Sara was convinced by that answer, but even so, Elena who answered Sara’s question felt that something was still bothering her.
It was the reason why Shikarabe made that expression back then. Judging from there, there was no mistaking it that it must be something troublesome, something that forced Shikarabe to adjust his action assuming that their rescue targets were still alive. There was no telling how much that something might affect the other Hunters later.
Elena then carefully asked Shikarabe.
“Shikarabe, I didn’t ask you this since I thought it must be information that you can’t share, but at least I’ll ask you this now. Can you at least tell us the name of our rescue targets?”
Shikarabe’s expression turned clouded.
“It’s not secret information. But, in case if that person is already dead or if we fail to rescue that person, it’s way better if you don’t know that person. Not telling you here is actually an act of kindness. But if you want to know no matter what, I don’t mind telling you.”
“I won’t ask any further then. And also, if that’s really the case, if we have to negotiate with them afterwards, I’ll have to ask you to lead the negotiation for us, yes?”
“Roger that. It might include inside information about Drankam, so it might be better if I’m the one to do that anyway.”
Elena understood a few things after listening to Shikarabe’s answer. One thing for sure, it was not someone that Shikarabe did not know. He knew about this person that they were trying to rescue. And it was someone that might bring trouble later to the point that Shikarabe made that annoyed look the moment he decrypted the message from that person.
Elena thought that it was better to just get this request done with and move on. Which meant that they had to find their rescue targets and escort them back to safety as soon as possible.
Reina, Shiori, and Kanae were barricading themselves inside a room on the 30th floor.
The entrance to that room was heavily barricaded. They used wreckages from the dead monsters, portable barriers, and furniture found inside the room to barricade the entrance. They abandoned their chance to get out from that building and prioritized more on making sure that no monsters could get inside the room.
Shiori was taking care of her weapons while using the wreckage of monsters as her chair and table. The cut surface of that wreckage was clean, Shiori cut that wreckage with a single swing of the blade dangling on her hip.
Her blade was housed in a black sheathe, both the sheathe and the blade were made using old-world technology. The blade was so sharp that it cut through the monster like a hot knife cutting through butter. The sheathe itself was equipped with a feature that automatically repaired the nicks and any other damages on the blade. Among all the equipment that Shiori had, it was her most prized equipment. Kanae was also using the wreckage of a dead monster as a chair, she was sitting next to Shiori.
There was a huge dent on the body of the destroyed monsters, it was created when Kanae punched those monsters. Thanks to her powerful augmented suit and trained body, she was able to make a huge dent on the monsters’ armours that could easily ricochet bullets and crush the innards of those monsters.
The monsters that Shiori and Kanae were sitting on were the monsters that they defeated when they secured that room. Of course, it was not comfortable sitting on them, but thanks to their augmented suit, they had no problem sitting on those wreckages for a long time. Although there were other soft things in that place, they gave them all to Reina.
Kanae smiled at Shiori and said.
“Well, what can I say, I’m glad that we made sure we’re ready for anything, right?! Thanks to that, we’re able to survive this far! We still have quite a lot of ammunition and food! We should still be able to stay here for some time, yep yep!!”
Shiori stopped her hands and glanced coldly at Kanae who was still smiling widely at her.
“That aside, it’s pretty amazing how everything that young boy Akira said is true. Our information terminal quickly lost any connections and we can’t use it to contact anyone. Then, the sensitivity of our information-gathering device also significantly worsened, then to top it off, we got surrounded by swarms of monsters. Hm? Ahh, the facilities inside this building are still working well though. It might be just because we didn’t check it, but I wonder what actually caused it.”
Shiori was looking at Kanae with a colder gaze than usual, but Kanae just ignored it as she kept smiling at Shiori.
“But again, if Ane-san didn’t ask Akira to escort Milady, we wouldn’t know about that and we might be dead by now. Our destiny might have changed for the better the moment Ane-san did that. After all, it’s because Akira told us all of that that we decided to buy the map of the Seranthal building. Thanks to that, we were able to quickly find this room that looks strong enough and easy to defend. Although it was a bit more expensive than usual, I’m glad we bought that map.”
Shiori looked even colder toward Kanae, she then sighed and looked mildly annoyed as she said.
“So then, how many more times do you need to say that before you stop talking about it?”
Kanae had been talking about that multiple times until now. That was the reason why Shiori’s gaze turned colder and colder towards Kanae.
But then Kanae casually replied.
“If you don’t like talking about that, how about you come up with something else to talk about? I don’t mind listening to your story about Milady here, you know. After all, I have nothing else to do right now.”
Shiori obviously looked irritated as she said.
“No thanks. After all, every time I do that, you always try to refute it and we always end up debating each other.”
“I was just pointing out that Ane-san is too overprotective and spoiling Milady too much, you know?”
“You’re 100 years too soon to say anything about my relationship with Milady.”
“No no no, it’s a good idea to listen to a third party’s opinion sometime, right?”
It might be because they had been stuck inside that room for such a long time that their decision making skill was affected. Shiori replied with something that she would have never said normally. Then right when Kanae started getting bored making small talks to kill time, she suddenly said to Shiori with a serious face.
“…So then, Ane-san, are we still going to stay here?”
Shiori replied with a serious expression and a rather heavy voice.
“I see. I’m fully leaving that decision to you though. So I’ll follow all of your orders, but putting us aside, isn’t it getting worse for Milady?”
As Kanae said that, she glanced at Reina who was lying on her back. She was lightly wounded during the fight, but her wound was already completely healed after using medicine. Although they rationed their food and drinks, there should not be any problems at the moment. There was no reason for them to worry about Reina.
Kanae was actually talking about Reina’s mental wellbeing. It had been 3 days since they barricaded themselves inside that room.
This was not the first time where Reina had to stay inside an old-world ruin for multiple days. But they had done that under a safe situation. They had enough people to keep watch on turns, then to top it off, they had a safe route they could take any time they were in danger. It was not a situation where she was only barely able to reach a safe place in the middle of a fierce battle against a swarm of monsters which was filled with gunshots and screams from the other Hunters.
Moreover, they could not make any contact with the people outside, and their information-gathering devices were barely able to pick up anything. Judging from the sound of the monsters trying to get inside, that room was still surrounded by monsters. So, basically, they were surrounded by killing machines that did not get tired nor hesitated in killing them.
If that situation continued, there was no surprise that they would feel mental exhaustion. Although Reina was still somehow holding out at the moment, it was only a matter of time before she hit her limit. Forget fighting, she might even lose her willpower to move her body.
If the situation developed to that point, Shiori and Kanae would have to fight through the swarm of monsters while protecting an extra burden in order to escape from that building.
If Reina’s situation worsened, it would risk the lives of everyone in that room. And if they stayed inside that building, Reina situation would only grow worse.
Shiori knew she had to make a decision to try to escape that building before Reina lost her willpower. Shiori herself knew that very well. That was why she was making a serious and somehow pained expression as she said to Kanae.
“…I know. But it’s not the right time yet.”
There was still hope that a rescue team would reach them. Although she did not know the extent of losses here, with that many Hunters dead in this building including the Hunters from Drankam, it was very likely that Drankam would decide to do something about it since it had its reputation to uphold. There was a good chance that another rescue team would be dispatched even after knowing the possibility that it might cause them more loss.
While at the same time, the monsters outside might leave that place if they wait long enough. If those monsters flooded the Seranthal building because all of those Hunters entered that building, then now with most of those Hunters dead, those monsters might eventually leave the building. And if it was just a temporary abnormality, those monsters would eventually leave if they wait long enough.
But in the end, those were just possibilities. It might even be just her wishful thinking, but even so, as long as those possibilities were not zero, Shiori had to consider them as she needed to decide whether to stay inside that room or try to force their way out.
If she made a wrong decision, Reina might get killed. She might end up killing Reina with her bad decision, that thought weighed heavily on her mind and dulled her decision-making skill.
Kanae more or less knew that Shiori was also having a hard time there, she then thought.
[Ane-san is way too overprotective of Milady. Honestly speaking, nothing good can come up from mixing up personal feelings in your job though, I wonder if we’re really going to be okay?]
If Shiori’s decision was affected by her personal feelings, then Kanae would have to make her own decision. Which meant that it was up to her when to try to escape that building while Reina was still able to move. In the worst-case scenario, she might even need to kill Shiori to do that. But if she was lucky, they would be able to get out alive just fine. But she had no idea how much luck she would need to be able to do that.
Shiori herself also should have known that very well. That was why she might make her decision before it reached that situation. Kanae did trust in Shiori’s skill, but just to be safe, she then decided to remind Shiori.
“I know that it’s my job to protect Milady even if it kills me, but it’s not like I’m going to just easily throw my life away, you know?”
Shiori’s voice sounded somewhat heartless, but it at least showed that she understood what Kanae wanted to convey.
Reina opened her eyes. Although, in reality, it was not like she was sleeping, she was actually only in a half-asleep state all this time as she had given up forcing herself to sleep.
She tried to pull herself up and she could clearly feel that her body was growing weak.
She understood that she was being a useless burden. The only thing that she could do right now, the only thing that she could barely do at the moment for the sake of the other Hunters there, was to preserve her strength as much as possible so that she would be able to quickly move her body if the chance to escape that building finally showed up, or if they had to run away again if the situation suddenly worsened.
Reina herself understood that she was barely able to even do something like that, she was completely crestfallen, the shadow in her expression was even mixed with self-depreciation to the point that was close to depression.
Reina took a deep breath and let out a big sigh, she was trying to expel her feeling of hopelessness and fear inside her heart with that big sigh. She then tried to make a smile, if she kept making a depressed face, it would only make Shiori and Kanae worry even more for her.
“…Alright then, it’ll be fine.”
Reina told that to herself as she smiled.
She then went to Shiori, Kanae noticed her.
“Milady, good morning, it’s still too soon for the shift change though.”
“It’s okay, I just can’t get a good sleep so I ended up waking up sooner. I got bored just lying down all the time.”
“I see, well, although it might be sooner than scheduled, I guess we can change shift now.”
Kanae stood up and headed to the bed. When she turned her back to Reina and Shiori, her expression turned grim.
[She’s already reached the point where she can’t even get good sleep, huh. This is getting pretty bad…]
Kanae, Reina, and Shiori. It was only a matter of time before they had to make their own decision. Kanae thought so as she laid her body on the bed.