Reina, who just exchanged shifts with Kanae, asked Shiori.
“Shiori, did anything happen when I was resting?”
Shiori smiled gently to calm Reina.
“No. Nothing happened in particular. Or at least, I don’t see anything that might worsen our current situation. So please be at ease.”
“… I see.”
Reina was a bit weirded out since Shiori answered back so firmly, she then forced a smile.
Reina understood very well that she was the very reason why the situation was getting worse from here and on out. Her dejection was slightly leaked out of her forced smile.
Shiori then made a suggestion to help Reina take off her mind from the current problem.
“Milady, since you’ve woken up, let’s get a bite. I’ll prepare the meal right away, so please wait for a bit.”
Reina was still a bit overwhelmed by Shiori’s reaction as she was barely able to reply back.
Shiori immediately made the preparation for the meal. She somehow magically transformed a part of that room into a luxury restaurant, it made a rather awkward scene against the backdrop of the old-world ruin’s room.
She put a clean white tablecloth on top of a portable table, then she placed warm food on top of it. Although all of them were foods designed for Hunters, they were from expensive products that might even be much more delicious than most of the self-proclaimed high-class restaurants out there.
The portable foods were designed to reheat themselves when opened, and their containers were designed to keep the foods from going cold, the soup there was even steaming.
If a Hunter who did not know what was going on suddenly saw this scene, there was no mistaking it that he or she would be completely dumbfounded.
Shiori and Reina were sitting facing each other while they were having the meal. Shiori decided that it was better to take the meal together with Reina rather than standing next to her and serving her.
Consuming food is important even when they were barricading themselves. Reina’s face relaxed as she took a spoon of the delicious meal. Shiori, who saw that, smiled. Reina, who could feel Shiori smiling at her, blushed and tried to throw a conversation to change the mood.
“I know it’s a bit too late for me to be saying this, but this reminds me that these portable meals are really something.”
“The usual portable meals from Drankam are cheap portable meals after all. The portable meals that we’re having right now are from a different supplier that I’ve selected. Although they’re pretty expensive, I believe that their quality to price ratio is pretty good compared to the other foods usually sold in the wasteland. Some people don’t care much about the food that they eat while some others do, and I’m sure it’s impossible for Drankam to distribute this level of portable meals to all its Hunters. Indeed it’s better to eat the usual portable meals if we’re together with the other Hunters, but since there are no other Hunters at the moment, I believe it should be alright to take these portable meals.”
“Now that you mention it, that does make sense. I feel like it’ll cause trouble if we eat this kind of portable meals while the other Hunters are getting the usual ones.”
Reina imagined a situation where she was eating a luxurious looking meal while the other Hunters around her had to nibble on their Hunter ration, she then lightly smiled.
Reina and Shiori continued chatting while having their meal when Reina suddenly asked Shiori something that just came up in her mind.
“Say, Shiori, do you think that our current situation has something to do with the Mihazono Ruin’s ghost story?”
Reina heard about 3 ghost stories of Mihazono ruin from Shiori.
The ghoul building. From time to time, a lot of Hunters and monsters in the Mihazono ruin would suddenly vanish. According to that ghost story, the real cause of that was because the Seranthal building grew hungry and ate them.
The second story was about a door that would suddenly appear out of nowhere inside the Mihazono ruin. It would bait the Hunters to enter that door with relics, but when they entered, the door would shut and the Hunters were never seen the outside ever again.
The third story was about the lonely ghost. It was said that the dead corpses of the Hunters left in the ruin sometimes suddenly started moving on their own and attacking the other Hunters. They must have been longing for more friends.
Shiori thought for a bit before answering.
“I can’t say for sure. If I have to make a connection, it might be related to the story of the ghoul building. But it’s also not normal to find this many monsters in this place, not to mention, they’re abnormally strong, even stronger than the Hunters who took that SOS request. I’m sure the Hunter Office already knows about that fierce battle too. The level of abnormality is too big to blame everything on a ghost story. So I believe that it’s not related to that.”
“I see. I just thought that if it’s related, it might give us some hints on how to get out of this building.”
“It’s common for weird things to happen around old-world ruins, which might develop into ghost stories later. That’s why let’s not drop our guard and keep being careful… I understand that in the past you loved to explore the mansion, Milady. But please don’t do that here, if you get inside that vanishing door from the ghost story, it would be hard for me to find you, you know?”
Shiori smiled teasingly when she said that.
While on the other hand, Reina remembered her past self and could not help but to make a bitter smile.
After that, they continued having a silly talk while taking the meal. Once she was done and got her stomach filled, Reina regained some of her energy. Nutritious food was the main fuel for fighting, that was why they were worth their price.
As Shiori was cleaning after the meal, Reina suddenly apologetically said to her
“Shiori, I’m sorry.”
Shiori tried to think of the reason why Reina was apologizing. Although she could come up with several guesses, it did not change what she would reply with.
“Milady, there’s nothing for you to apologize for.”
“But if I had properly listened to you and decided not to come here, we wouldn’t be in this situation right now.”
“Neither I nor Milady could have seen this coming. I also only thought that this Seranthal building would only be a little bit more dangerous than what Drankam thought it was. I also did not expect it to be this bad. Although it might be an exaggeration, I believe that being able to see this coming at that time would be close to predicting the future. If I knew that something like this would happen, I would have tried everything that I could do to stop Milady back then… After all, I’ll never let you go to a dangerous place just to get killed. I hope that Milady could at least believe me about that.”
Shiori had a serious look when she said that to Reina. Even if Reina somehow doubted Shiori’s loyalty, Shiori’s devotion will not waver. But even so, Shiori still held the desire of Reina trusting her.
Reina herself trusted Shiori more than anyone else, she thought of her as one of her family that she had been together with through thick and thin. For her, Shiori was like a reliable sister.
Sometimes, that level of trust caused her to make selfish requests to Shiori, and the current situation was the result of one of her selfish request.
Reina replied with a serious face.
“I know, and I do trust you.”
Shiori smiled happily, she looked somehow satisfied. But her smile then changed to a teasing smile.
“In that case, as I explained just now, I hope Milady would understand that there’s nothing for Milady to apologize.”
Reina smiled, her expression was saying that she understood Shiori just pulled a good one on her.
After cleaning up the table, Shiori returned to check her equipment. She returned back to the wreckage that she was using as a seat. From there, Shiori could see Kanae who was lying down not too far from her and Reina who was sitting close to her.
Shiori looked at both of them for a few seconds, her face then turned rather stern. She took a deep breath to calm herself down, her expression turned back to normal, and then she said to Reina.
“Milady, if I may?”
Seeing from how Shiori was acting there, it seemed that she had something important to talk about.
“Sure, what is it?”
“We’re barricading ourselves inside this room for days since we hope that the situation outside will get better with time, hoping Drankam might send out a rescue team for us, or the monsters that were surrounding this room might leave. But with that being said, we can’t keep barricading ourselves inside this room forever. If we keep ourselves inside this room without no means to check the situation outside, we can only hope that the situation outside is getting better, and sooner or later, we have no choice but to dismantle the barricade and try to make a run for it.”
They could not check the situation outside and they could not make any contact outside either. Due to the unknown source that was lowering the sensitivity of information-gathering devices inside that building, they could only detect a few metres outside the entrance, and they knew nothing about the area further than that. They could only wait and hope there that the situation outside was getting better.
If they got unlucky, the situation outside might have actually turned worse than before when it was filled with monsters, screams, and cries.
Reina then replied back firmly in order to expel the fear and worry that were creeping inside her.
“…alright, so then, when are we going to do that? Is it soon?”
Seeing how Reina replied back so firmly like that, Shiori made her resolve too.
“We’ll do it once we’ve finished all the preparations. We need to dismantle the barricade and Kanae just took a rest not too long ago. We have several strengthening drugs too, but they’ll take some time before the effect kicks in. Other than giving Kanae more time to rest, we have other preparations to do. We’ll try to make our run once we’re sure we’re 100% ready…”
As Shiori was explaining things to Reina, Kanae, who was sleeping suddenly opened her eyes and sprung up.
She stared at the wall as if she was checking something outside that room, she was in a stance as if she was ready to fight anytime.
The moment Shiori noticed that, she immediately stepped in front of Reina to protect her while keeping her eyes on the barricaded entrance. But Shiori did not see anything out of the ordinary.
“Kanae, what’s wrong?”
Kanae looked amused as her rare talent was telling her that a presence that she liked was somewhere close.
“Ane-san, we need to get ready to break out of this room, this might be our only chance.”
Kanae was beaming when she said that.
Elena’s team just reached the 30th floor. To be more precise, they were climbing the stairs from the 29th floor to the 30th floor and were checking out the situation on the 30th floor.
Akira’s face twitched when he saw the situation on the 30th floor. The same also happened for Carol, Elena, Sara, Shikarabe, and Togami, although at different levels.
The reason why Akira and Carol looked far more concerned than the other Hunters was because of their experience. They could see countless monsters filling the hallways in front of them.
Fortunately, there were no monsters at all near the stairs, thanks to that, they were able to check out the situation on the 30th floor from a relatively safe place.
“Elena, what should we do about this? Or more like, are we still going to push forward?”
If it could be helped, she actually did not want to proceed forward. After all, that would mean that they had to fight all of those monsters for the sake of the Hunters who might already be dead by now. Elena easily caught what Sara was trying to say.
Sara evaluated that this was as far as they could go safely.
But Elena was still unsure, she was still facing forward, looking at the monsters in front of her, she then said with a stern expression.
“If we have no extra information, the right choice, in this case, would be to pull back, but…”
Shikarabe immediately intervened.
“So in short, you have a piece of information that warrants us to push forward, right?”
Elena then answered Shikarabe’s question.
“On our way here, I found similar information relay devices like the one we found back on the 15th floor. The content of those relay devices is also the same so I thought that there’s no need to tell anyone. But then, basically, I also found similar devices here but with different content. Look at your map.”
Elena updated the map data that the others were receiving from her to show an indicator that was pointing at a particular room on the 30th floor.
“If we are to trust the data from that relay device, the people who owned those relay devices should be in that room.”
Carol sounded slightly impressed as she said.
“So basically they ran all the way from the below up to this floor and barricaded themselves inside that room, huh. Well, it’s true that room should be able to hold for a long time against all the monsters outside as long as they properly barricaded the entrance. And it won’t be strange for them to find that room if they bought a map of Seranthal building before they came in here. Shikarabe, you know all of this, that’s why you guessed that they’re still alive, right?”
Shikarabe’s expression did not change as he replied.
“Possibility wise, yes.”
Carol knew that she should not pursue any further as she said that.
Akira made a rather stern face as he looked at the indicated room in the display map.
“They’re in a rather troublesome place, huh.”
“Yeah, you can say that again.”
Elena also agreed with Akira’s opinion. It was obvious that from the way she said it that things would get complicated from here.
If the location was too far away, Elena would have not hesitated and immediately decide to pull back there. She then could just convey that information to the main squad that would come to that building later and hope that they would rescue those Hunters.
But if they were close enough, they could just break through the monsters’ encirclement, secure the hallway to that room, and check the inside of that room. Then from there, they could escort their rescue targets out if it was possible, but if there were too many Hunters, or there were badly wounded Hunters, they would have no other choice but to ask those Hunters to keep barricading themselves inside that room and convey the information to the main rescue squad.
But the problem was that the room was not that far but not that close either. That was why Elena was hesitating.
They already spent most of their energy to come all the way here. Elena tried to calculate all the factors before finally made her decision, the dangers that they had to face if they pushed forward and the possibility of rescuing their targets now.
Elena then ordered the rest of the team.
“I’ll break the team into two–-My team, and Shikarabe’s team. My team will secure the hallway while Shikarabe’s team will go and try to reach the rescue targets. Everyone will try to open a path for Shikarabe’s team to go through while reducing the number of monsters. I’ll leave the timing to Shikarabe when he’ll try to make the run. Once we group up again, we’ll immediately retreat no matter what the condition of the rescue targets. And also, if the encirclement is too hard to break through, we’ll just give up on rescuing the targets and immediately retreat. The moment either I or Shikarabe decides that it’s impossible to rescue the targets, we’ll immediately pull back, okay?”
Shikarabe then asked Elena a question.
“Well, I was the one who asked you to rescue them, so I can understand leaving the job to break through the encirclement to me, but who will be in my team?”
“If it’s possible, I want you to go alone.”
“No, that would be impossible.”
“I do understand that you want to stay in a safe situation, but we don’t have enough manpower to spare here, so just pull back if you think that it’s impossible. If you think that it’s difficult to break through the encirclement unless you take too many people from my team, I’ll stop this plan here and call a retreat now. And also, Sara will be on my team, so you can’t pick her.”
Shikarabe frowned and made a stern look as he pondered. Elena basically told Shikarabe to take the least firepower needed just to barely be able to secure the rescue targets.
If they took everyone to reach the room where their rescue targets were, it was indeed pretty much guaranteed that they would be able to reach that room, but in the worst-case scenario, they might get surrounded and have no other choice but to barricade themselves inside that room too. Shikarabe understood that Elena wanted to avoid that. After all, there was no guarantee that the main squad would come for them later.
After thinking for a few seconds, Shikarabe finally made his decision.
“Akira, come with me.”
Shikarabe believed that Akira was the second strongest person on the team. Moreover, he believed that he had not seen Akira’s full power yet, and he knew sometimes, Akira had an abnormal ability to detect or react to enemies.
Although there was no guarantee that bringing Akira along would give him a better result, Shikarabe was sure that he at least would not slow him down, and Elena should at least be okay with bringing Akira along. Thus, he decided to put his bet on Akira’s unknown real ability and proposed to take him into his team.
Akira answered back casually.
Togami suddenly raised his voice and requested to go together with Shikarabe’s team.
“…I’ll go too!”
Everyone there turned to Togami, whose expression there was saying that he was resolute to go too.
Shikarabe looked at Togami and was honestly at loss on what to do. He glanced at Elena to see her reaction if he took Togami from her team too and thought for a bit before replying back.
“Alright then, the men will break through the encirclement while the girls will secure the hallway. Elena, you’re okay with that, right?”
Elena looked at everyone present before replying.
Everyone nodded back to Elena.
Carol lightly smiled and said to Akira.
“If only I’m in your team too, I would be able to show you how good I’m at fighting but… Well, it is just too bad.”
Akira smiled confidently.
“Didn’t you already show me enough when we returned back to this ruin and found it in this state?”
“Is that so? In that case, make sure to come back here alive and see how good my skills are again. So I can expect a good reward from you, okay?”
“Well, in that case, I just need to secure the rescue targets and balance out your contribution with mine this time.”
Akira and Carol were smiling at each other while lightly poking fun.
Shikarabe then turned to Akira and Togami.
“I’ll say this beforehand. I won’t give you detailed orders, just observe and adapt to the situation.”
Akira replied casually while Togami took a small pause to gather himself together before replying back.
Sara smiled at Akira and said.
“Akira, be careful and don’t get too reckless, try not to make a mistake when to pull back, okay?”
“Of course, Sara-san too, be careful.”
Akira nodded firmly and said that, Sara too replied with a firm nod.
The monsters that filled up the hallway were from the B18 type. They were the upgraded version of the A24 type. Although they were relatively weak, they were equipped with force field armour and extra guns. Their ability to fly around was also better than most of the other monsters. Compared to the legged monsters that had a problem moving around inside that floor that was filled with rubbles, wreckages, and corpses scattered on the ground, they were able to move around much more freely. They were semi-autonomous monsters usually stationed to guard different facilities.
The B18 type had enough firepower to easily defeat common Hunters, but they did not show any sign of hostility toward Akira and the other Hunters. It might be just simply because they were outside the monsters’ patrol range. Or maybe, it was simply because the lowered sensor sensitivity also affected the B18 type monsters. Whichever case, the Hunters had the first initiative there.
The Hunters readied themselves to start the rescue operation, they warmed up their bodies, sharpened their senses and perception. They prepared themselves to head into a fight against the monsters that would not hesitate to kill them and to reach their hand for the victory that lay behind it.
Elena then started the countdown.
“I’ll start the countdown, 5, 4, 3…”
Akira readied his rifle and waited for the countdown. The Hunter’s equipment were specially made to give the Hunters some chance to fight against the monsters that were way stronger than a normal human and to even give the Hunters the upper hand against them. To give the Hunters the ability to kill before killed, to destroy before destroyed, to defeat the monsters before getting overwhelmed by them, no matter what kind of monsters that they were facing.
“…2, 1, zero!!”
They immediately jumped into the 30th floor and spread out into the hall room, they aimed their rifles at the B18 in front of them, fixed their aim, and pulled the trigger without a trace of hesitation. The place was filled with flying bullets in an instant as bullets rained down on the B18 monsters, tore off their outside armour, pierced through their metallic wiring, crushed the inside of their bodies, and ultimately destroying them.
The Hunters who had the first shots quickly turned the B18 monsters into scraps.
Akira kept his finger on the trigger of the DVTS minigun on his right hand as he aimed to the hallway. Countless bullets flew out through its muzzle against the B18 monsters in that hallway. Although most of the monsters there had already turned into scraps, Akira kept on shooting bullets in that direction.
Although the B18 type monsters were equipped with force field armour that could easily hold out against the multiple bullets that were flying out of DVTS minigun, with the energy output of the B18 monster, it was not enough to keep the force field armour active except for only for a short time. Once the force field armour ran out of energy, the bullets easily passed through and dented the monsters’ bodies. It eventually opened a hole in their bodies and destroyed the inside of the monsters as the impact threw them further back into the hallway.
After they secured the hall entrance, Elena’s team immediately reinforced their position while Shikarabe’s team immediately went to their rescue target.
Shikarabe did not completely destroy most of the B18 monsters that he fought, he only stripped most of them from their weapons to render them harmless or destroyed their means to move around and turned them into useless flying devices with nothing but a robust defense.
He then kicked them right to the entrance of the hallway, he kicked only the monsters with still active force field armour deeper into the hallway. The kicked monsters flew and broke through the rubbles blocking the hallway as it flew further in and crashed against the other monsters while blocking the bullets coming from deep inside the hallway.
Shikarabe did that again and again to block the bullets coming from the hallway while forcing a way through the encirclement.
Shikarabe only said that and immediately went into the hallway, Akira and Togami were a bit surprised how Shikarabe forced his way into the hallway, but they quickly followed him from behind.
Akira thought about Shikarabe’s powerful kicks while running behind him and mumbled.
“Those were pretty powerful kicks, is that the power of his augmented suit?”
“His augmented suit is on a different level compared to yours after all.”
“Well, I guess it’s normal for powerful Hunters to have powerful equipment, huh. I bet they’re super expensive though.”
Alpha smiled teasingly and said.
“You’ll be able to buy that kind of expensive equipment sooner or later. After all, you’ll need those to accomplish my request.”
“I know, well, it seems that I still have a long way to go.”
Akira smiled bitterly as he imagined how much money he would need to buy that kind of equipment and how much he would need to work to get that money.
Alpha smiled full of confidence and replied.
“Oh my, it’s actually sooner than you might think, you know? It’ll be fine with my support.”
For some reason, Akira felt that mention of the time gap being shorter than what he knew, also meant that his suffering would be doubled.
Shikarabe led the way into the hallway. Akira imitated Shikarabe and used the destroyed B18 to hide from the incoming bullets while creating obstacles to prevent the monsters from entering that hallway as he followed behind Shikarabe.
Akira kicked the dead monster in front of him. Thanks to Alpha’s support, the monster that he kicked flew straight to another monster with very high accuracy as if he had kicked a lot of monsters in his life. The powerful kick released from his augmented suit transmitted the full impact of the kick into that monster and sent it flying into the hallway with a high speed.
Shikarabe saw that and thought.
[The augmented suit that Akira is using…It is the PWD Silence from Nejima R&D corp, right? But I don’t remember it being that strong and I don’t think Akira is that strong either. Did he get some kind of upgraded version or something?]
There were many Hunters in the eastern district who used augmented suits, and of course, in response to that, there were many types of augmented suit distributed in the eastern district.
But compared to the number of augmented suits distributed in the eastern district, the number of the modified augmented suits in the eastern district was extremely low. One of the reasons was because the technology used in those augmented suits was secret information, thus, it would be extremely difficult to modify them without the help of a specialist.
Of course, there were many Hunters who tried messing with their augmented suit, but they only did that to the spare augmented suits that they had. To top it off, most of them tend to leave the control device alone. Since even if they tried, the best that they could do was usually just to readjust some options that were not shown in the usual display.
If they tried to go even further than that, most of the time, it normally ends up in a disaster. If they tried to mess with the ventilation, they might lock the suit and get themselves killed from suffocation. If they tried to mess with the force field armour, it might cause the force field armour to be projected inside and get themselves crushed inside the suit. There were many unfortunate stories like that going around. And of course, the guarantee for those augmented suits was annulled the moment they try to modify their augmented suits.
It was common-sense among the Hunters to not mess with their augmented suit or not to try to modify them if they did not want to get killed.
But of course, there were exceptions. There were cases where a modified augmented suit with upgraded output power and guaranteed safety appeared. They were usually made by people with high technical skills in order to show off their ability, or by a newly found corporation to show off its capability, or by some corporation in order to gain extra capital. Because of that, these kinds of augmented suits would appear in the black market from time to time.
If Akira’s augmented suit was really one of those modified augmented suits, it would not be strange for it to be stronger than the public catalogue spec. If that was the case, Shikarabe could easily understand that power. But even so, he still found something bothering him.
[…It’s rare to find a Hunter who has the connection to get that kind of equipment. But again, I really can’t say for sure.]
Akira was actually using an augmented suit with a control device that was already fully under Alpha’s control. So looking from that point of view, it was not a mistake to say that he was using a modified augmented suit.
Shikarabe could guess that Akira was probably using a modified augmented suit, but that was as far as he could go and all the guesses that could come up from that fact made it more difficult to estimate Akira’s real ability.
It would be really troublesome if he got on Akira’s bad side, Shikarabe was really glad that he was able to peacefully resolve the problem about the reward for the bounty hunting request from last time. As Shikarabe thought so, he decided to be more careful around Akira, the boy that threw off his intuition.