Akira who was taking a nap in the truck suddenly heard Alpha’s voice inside his head.
“Akira, it’s time. Wake up.”
Since Akira was the only one who could hear her voice, she was free to wake him up by blasting him with a loud voice. Akira immediately opened his eyes and looked up. He saw Kibayashi, a staff from the Hunter Office, standing in front of him.
Kibayashi was the truck driver and he was responsible for maintaining the truck. His job also included taking care of the Hunters who were in his truck’s tray. He smiled when he saw Akira wake up right before he started cleaning the tray, it was as if Akira woke up on an alarm clock.
“Right when I was about to throw you out if you don’t wake up, huh. It seems that you’re using a pretty good alarm.”
“Yeah, I’m using the best one out there.”
Akira just smiled lightly while Alpha looked a bit offended.
“Wait for a second, I’m not an alarm clock.”
Kibayashi then shouted to all the Hunters in the tray.
“It’s time!! We’re going now!! Anyone making ruckus will be kicked out!! You understand?!!”
As Akira looked around at the other Hunters who were in the same truck, he saw Katsuya and his friends too. Judging from Kibayashi’s words, Akira thought that another problem had occurred when he was sleeping, thus he looked away from Katsuya as to avoid getting involved with him.
Not too long after that, the truck started moving, and that marked Akira’s third patrol job for the day.
Although the patrol went well without any trouble, for the Hunters who were aiming for rewards, it was a bad run. After all, they did not encounter any monsters at all.
The truck that was outfitted for the patrol job was equipped with a wide range detection device. The main aim for the patrol was only to cull the number of monsters around the city, thus it would only take a route with a low possibility to encounter a monster. So it was completely normal not to encounter any monsters at all from time to time.
Everyone in the tray had already relaxed and started making silly talks. And thanks to the wide range detection device, they could relax without fearing any surprise attacks. As for those Hunters who were already used to doing the patrol, they had completely put their guards down.
Akira was looking out to the wasteland with a stern face.
Alpha looked indifferently when she replied back. She didn’t even look at Akira and spoke in an apathetic way. After hearing Alpha’s reply, Akira understood that she was not in a good mood.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know that it would bother you this much.”
As Akira frankly apologized, Alpha quickly changed her behaviour. But there was still a trace of indifference on her face.
“…Don’t worry, it’s nothing. It’s good that you’re acting all friendly with me, but you did call me an alarm clock back then. So just be more careful next time, okay?”
Although Akira was curious as to why Alpha was in such a bad mood, he was afraid to worsen it further by asking her any unnecessary questions, thus he just stayed silent.
The awkward mood between them continued, but Alpha just smiled at him and said.
“If you really want to fix my mood, it’s a good idea for you to say something nice to cheer me up.”
After saying that, she made a teasing pose in front of Akira and smiled provokingly.
Akira thought for a bit. He then fixed his pose and made a serious face.
“It’s all thanks to you that I’m alive until this point. Thank you very much for guiding me through the ruins while avoiding any encounter with monsters, thank you for helping me search for relics, thank you for helping me fight monsters. You even helped me to get this augmented suit and to improve my accuracy. Thank you very much for everything, I’ll be counting on you as always.”
“You’re welcome. I’m happy to help you. I’ll be counting on you too.”
Alpha became happy when Akira was honestly being grateful to her. But there was still some awkwardness floating in the silence right after that as she was smiling faintly and awkwardly.
“…I’m happy with what you said, but there’s something else, you see.”
Although Akira did expect that it would be pointless to say his thanks this late. But he saw something strange in Alpha’s behaviour.
“Something else? Is there anything strange?”
“Yep, for example, is there anything you want to say about my appearance?”
Alpha changed back to her swimsuit when Akira was sleeping. It was an aggressive swimsuit with a high level of exposure showing her beautiful skin and limbs, and at the same time, it was very alluring and captivating.
Akira took another good look at Alpha. He then decided to word out his candid opinion that he thought to be meaningless even if he said it.
“As I thought, it looks really weird. If you can, please return back to your normal dress.”
Alpha let out a sigh and changed her dress. She erased the swimsuit, became naked for a blink and put on a fully armed battle suit. It had fasteners running from around her neck, down to her chest and to the back of her hip. But the fastener was not zipped all the way and it showed her alluring bare skin.
Although it was not that exposing, it was clearly an alluring appearance to the opposite sex. After Alpha changed her appearance, Akira voiced out his opinion again about her outfit.
“This one is better than before, but… this does not help at all since you’re already floating around, so you still look weird to me.”
In order to make him look less suspicious to the other people, Akira was looking out to the wasteland which also doubled as him looking out for monsters too. And Alpha was floating as if she was standing on an invisible platform.
Alpha just smiled bitterly.
“That’s not what I meant, I was expecting some compliment about my appearance, like if it’s beautiful, or it looks great on me, or simply whether I look dashing in it.”
“Ohh, I see.”
Akira looked surprised when he said that, but he then immediately turned back to his normal self.
“I think you’re very beautiful and all the dresses that you usually wear are wonderful and charming. It is just that your last dress was very inappropriate for the current situation, but it was still very charming and wonderful to me.”
“Really? But your reaction was pretty weak, you know.”
“Even if you tell me so. Well, although it’s weird for me to say this. Maybe I somehow already got used to it, or something like that?”
Alpha’s appearance was basically a CG produced through an advanced and complicated graphic calculation. Because of that, Alpha could freely change her expression and body proportion. Alpha took advantage of this freedom to create an extremely beautiful and alluring appearance that was rare to be found naturally.
Akira remembered the first time he saw Alpha, it was so shocking and captivating as if his soul was sucked out from his body. But it was no longer the case now and he thought that it was because he already got used to her beauty.
Alpha was almost always beside him 24/7, and there were a lot of occasions where she would pose her naked body or wear a dress that was close to naked in front of him. She even went into the bath together with him. That was why Akira thought that he should have gotten used to it.
Alpha at least accepted Akira’s explanation for now.
“…Got used to, huh? I guess I’ll need to think about it.”
“You’re not thinking of anything bad, right?”
“Nope, not at all.”
Akira looked at Alpha with suspicion, but Alpha just smiled it off.
When Akira was sleeping, Katsuya noticed him as he boarded the tray.
Yumina looked around and checked people that she knew.
“There are also other Hunters who we met in our last patrol job. But it seems that man who picked a fight with you is not here, that’s good.”
Although Airi was also one of the people who caused trouble in the last patrol, she intervened as if she was telling Yumina to just forget about that subject.
“Katsuya, don’t make any trouble this time.”
“I know… That guy is sleeping though, is that really okay?”
“Just leave him be. Try not to get involved with other Hunters who’re not members of Drankam. They’ll just throw him away if he’s still sleeping when the time comes. So just take your seat.”
Katsuya just obediently boarded the tray and took a seat. He was only talking with his friends while waiting for the truck to move, but he unconsciously made a stern face and was staring at Akira. Remembering what happened during his previous patrol, he just could not come to like Akira.
And when the time came, Akira was still sleeping. Katsuya was actually looking forward to seeing Akira getting kicked out from the truck. He even grinned in an ill will when Kibayashi stood in front of the still-sleeping Akira.
But Akira just woke up right before Kibayashi kicked him out and Kibayashi just chuckled when that happened, thus Katsuya’s mood got even worse.
Their patrol finally started. Katsuya was thinking of taking a closer look at Akira this time, but they did not meet any monster at all during this patrol, thus he did not get his chance. So his mood worsened even more.
As everyone in the truck started to relax, Katsuya let out a sigh, he could not focus on today’s training because he was in such a bad mood. He could not see any monsters from his binocular and the detector did not pick any monsters at all, so he had lost all of his motivation. Katsuya then asked Shikarabe while making an annoyed face.
“Say, there’s no monsters though, do we still have to do this training?”
Shikarabe answered while trying to suppress his annoyance.
“Whether there are any monsters or not, it’ll still be training for detecting monsters. You should already know that in a thick colourless mist, you would not be able to detect monsters using binocular or other information gathering devices. So you have to spot monsters by using your eyes. You guys should have been taught where to watch, points to be careful about and how frequently you should change the person keeping watch and so on.”
“But will this training be useful without any monsters around?”
“…I won’t force you. At the moment, this is just voluntary training since our original plan was changed after Elena and Sara got that sudden request. So you’re free to do what you want.”
Although it was also one of his duties to train Katsuya and his friends, he had no wish to force them to do training. After all, it was outside his main duty. Shikarabe did not even care if Katsuya just skipped his training and got into trouble later. That’s what Shikarabe thought as he clicked his tongue.
After that, Katsuya decided to just keep doing his monster detection training for the meantime, but he eventually started talking with the other Hunters. Looking at that, Shikarabe just let out a sigh and thought that it would be a waste of energy to think about him, so he just ignored Katsuya.
The truck kept running on its patrol route in the middle of the wasteland although they did not encounter any monster. But it suddenly stopped, the Hunters in the truck immediately picked up their guns and put up their guard. Kibayashi then got on the tray and shouted.
“I just got a call, the patrol job is finished here and now. We’ve taken care of all the administrative processes for you. And now, I’ll tell you about the current situation. According to the information that I got, a large group of monsters is heading to the Kugamayama city from the Kuzusuhara ruins. The defense squad is already preparing themselves to intercept that group of monsters.”
Hearing this announcement, restlessness spread among the Hunters in the truck in an instant.
“The city has issued an emergency request and is asking for help from this truck. All the Hunters around the ruins had been called to gather up and be sent later, the content of the emergency request is for us to help those Hunters.”
Kibayashi looked at the shocked expression of the Hunters and did not know what to do, thus he shouted to urge them.
“Decide now!! If the majority of the Hunters decides to accept this request, we’ll be heading to the nearest battleground, but if the majority of the Hunters want to return back home, we’ll immediately go back to the city! The rest can just walk to the city or to the nearest Hunter group on their own! Decide in 5 minutes!!”
After Kibayashi finished his explanation, most of the Hunters immediately decided to go back home. After all, the truck was only fit for the low-risk patrol job and most of the Hunters in the truck did not have the ability nor the equipment to take this emergency request. Even if there were some Hunters who wanted to accept the emergency request, it was only a handful of them. None of them was foolish enough to take the emergency request when it meant that they would be left behind. While some of them were thinking of taking the request after returning back to the city and arming themselves with proper equipment.
The Hunters looked at each other and quickly confirmed each other’s decisions. Just to be safe, Alpha also asked Akira.
“Akira, we’ll return back to the city first, okay?”
“Of course, no one would want to face a group of monsters out of their own volition.”
Akira’s face turned grim, he remembered the time when he was attacked by a group of monsters, got saved by Elena and Sara, and was barely able to survive the fight.
Most of the Hunters had made their decision to go back to the city. But there were a few exceptions like Katsuya.
Katsuya was having a fierce debate with Shikarabe, their voices were heard by the other Hunters and attracted a lot of attention. Shikarabe thought that Katsuya’s decision was not a good idea and so he did not allow him to go. Although he was really angry, he was still holding himself back.
“No! Give me a break, already!! You’re being a pain in the ass, you know!!”
“The Drankam is famous for taking in any emergency request!! You’re the one being a pain in the ass here!! We can do this!!”
“Drankam only takes emergency requests that they can safely accomplish! And also!! Don’t put me together in that “We”!! I’m not a member of your team!!”
Kibayashi shouted wanting to end the debate.
“It’s time! Raise your hand if you want to take the emergency request!! …Then those who are against it!! Alright then, we’ll go back to the city!! Those who want to stay, get off from the truck now!!”
Katsuya mumbled when he saw Kibayashi returning back to his driver seat.
“…The request that Elena-san received must be about preparing for this monster attack… Even I would be able to help them out somehow…”
Yumina and Airi then tried to cheer Katsuya.
“…Katsuya, I can understand your feelings, but it’s impossible for us.”
“It’s plain recklessness.”
There were people in this world who proved their silly talks and hollow optimism as reality using their skill and luck, they were those who turn their big talks into reality. Such feats were usually done by great people, heroes and champions. Katsuya had done such a thing in the past. From time to time, he would make a decision that he knew to be impossible and turned it into reality.
It was one of the reasons why Yumina and Airi were attracted to him, and that was why they could understand some of the crazy decisions that he made.
But of course, there was a limit to that. They too did not want anything bad to happen to him. But if they just left Katsuya alone, he might become obstinate and decide to stay even if he should get off from the truck. Thus they were worried and tried to stop him.
Katsuya understood Yumina and Airi were worrying about him, so he decided to back down. But it was not like he could just let go of his displeasure. Not to mention that Shikarabe was glaring at him with hatred. He then mumbled to vent out all of his displeasure while locking glare with Shikarabe.
“I bet you’re just scared of fighting against those monsters, the heck calling yourself a Hunter. You’re nothing but a coward.”
Shikarabe’s anger reached its peak and burst. He had been holding himself back up until now. Due to that, the way he looked at Katsuya and his friends changed from just a mere pain-in-the-ass into hostility. At the same time, he mocked Katsuya as if he was challenging him.
“Scared? Yeah, you’re right, I can’t help to get scared if I have to bring complete amateurs who are not even full-fledged Hunters like you to fight a group of monsters. Bringing dead weight like you into such a fight is equal to suicide. Just go ahead if you want to go. I won’t stop you. But leave all the equipment that you borrowed from Drankam here. They’re not your own equipment. As a part of Drankam, I’m the one making decisions here. If you won’t listen to me, then you’re out from Drankam. So you can go ahead and fight those monsters unarmed and die for all that I care. Or do you want to try taking that equipment with force? Do you want to kill me and take them? I don’t mind if you want to try, you know? Come here. I really don’t mind. You’re not a coward, right? Make your decision now.”
Shikarabe had recognized Katsuya as a hostile entity. He was ready to kill if Katsuya made any aggressive moves.
Yumina and Airi could only stand frozen overwhelmed by the killing intent and anger exuding out from Shikarabe. Katsuya was barely able to stand against it, but of course, it did not make the situation any better.
“What’s wrong? Go ahead and choose. Whether you go back obediently or fight those monsters with your bare hand. Dropdown your weapon if you’re not going to fight me. But if you want to fight me, then let’s do it. I don’t mind even if you bring Airi and Yumina to assist you.”
Shikarabe pressured Katsuya, Airi and Yumina for their decision. So it was not only Katsuya making the decision now.
Katsuya finally realized that he was also getting Airi and Yumina involved. And that made him back down. It can be said that he backed down as to not get others involved, but looking at it from another point of view, it can be said that he was using that as an excuse to back down.
Katsuya then dropped his gun, Airi and Yumina followed suit after him.
Shikarabe finally suppressed his killing intent and expressed his scorn as he said to Katsuya.
“Then just shut up and take your seat.”
As Katsuya and the other two obediently took their seats. Shikarabe let out a big sigh and said.
“Bunch of cowards.”
Katsuya looked frustrated, Yumina and Airi worried for him when they saw that.
Shikarabe then looked at the other Hunters and said.
“Sorry for making a scene!! Please get the truck moving again!!”
Shikarabe thought that the reason why the truck was still not moving was because they were waiting for them to end their ruckus, that was why he shouted to let Kibayashi know. But the truck was still stuck in its place.
Shikarabe and the other Hunters found it weird and peeked into the driver seat. But instead, he caught the sight of Kibayashi outside the driver seat with Akira who was straddling a small-sized bike.
Akira heard everything when Katsuya was arguing with Shikarabe. That was when he came to know that Elena and Sara were going to intercept that group of monsters.
Akira was deep in thought for a bit before he stood up and picked up his rucksack. Alpha somehow understood what Akira was about to do and so she tried to stop him.
“Akira, why don’t we think about this one more time? I don’t think I need to tell you this, but this is very dangerous, you know?”
Akira then jumped out of the truck’s tray.
“It’s not like we know for sure that Elena and Sara are going to be in danger too. And with your current ability, you might even be a dead weight to them.”
“That might be true too.”
When Akira knocked at the truck’s door, Kibayashi stepped out.
“What’s wrong? We’re about to leave now, you know?”
“What should I do to accept the emergency request?”
Kibayashi was surprised when he heard Akira, he then asked him again for confirmation with his still-surprised face.
“Eh? You’re still planning to go? By walking?”
“I’ll be running.”
As Akira answered back promptly with that short answer, it only made Kibayashi even more confused.
“Wait wait wait wait, I’m not talking about that, you see. It’s true that I did say the Hunters who want to go should go by feet, but I didn’t mean it literally, okay?”
“I have my augmented suit with me, so I can do high speed running. Of course, it’s still slower than directly taking a truck, but I believe it’s still faster than going back to the city and looking for another truck to take me there.”
“When I asked you back then, you didn’t raise your hand, right?”
“I changed my mind. But it’s not like it would change the end result anyway.”
Kibayashi was completely dumbfounded as he kept staring at Akira, he then mumbled in a small voice.
“…Is this boy being serious now?”
Kibayashi suddenly smiled, he looked as if he found it very amusing deep inside his heart, he then asked Akira in a good mood.
“Say, can you ride a bike?”
Alpha confirmed immediately.
“Akira, it’s not a problem.”
“Yes, I can.”
Akira never rode a bike before, but since Alpha said that it was not an issue, he just replied back with that. He only thought that it would be fine as long as Alpha said that it was okay after he gave his answer.
“I see!! Then wait here for a bit!!”
Kibayashi looked very excited as he went back into the truck.
Alpha frowned and asked Akira again.
“Akira, you can still rethink about it now. We don’t know if we can meet Elena and Sara even if we go and I don’t think having you there will change the situation by much.”
“Even if you’re saying to me that it’s futile, I still want to know for sure whether it’s completely meaningless for me to go or will I be able to help out by doing something there, so that I won’t regret it later. Even if it’s futile, I’ll still be picking this option.”
Akira picked this option because of his feeling of guilt and obligation towards Sara and Elena. They thanked him for saving their lives. He owed them a favour for saving his life too. And he used them in the past as a pretense to kill the people that he wanted dead.
Of course, Akira understood very well that there was no guarantee he would be able to meet up with Elena and Sara even if he took the emergency request, and if he did, there was a good chance that he would be just dead weight like Alpha said.
But even so, Akira still decided to accept the emergency request. It was not solely because he was trying to help Elena and Sara while they were fighting. It was also for his own self-satisfaction as well. That was exactly why Akira did not hesitate at all when he accepted the emergency request although it might be futile and he might as well get himself killed.
Akira thought that his life was his own, thus he had no trouble deciding to futilely go and fight that group of monsters on his own accord. Moreover, for him who spent most of his life in the slum, he had nothing else other than his own life that he could put on stake. He could not completely get over that line of thinking due to all the years that he spent there. Thus for him, it was natural to put his own life on the line for his selfishness.
Alpha who, to some extent, understood the moral principles Akira was obeying, knew that it would be meaningless trying to stop him. Although she did make an exasperated look and let out a big sigh, as she expected, it did not change his decision at all.
Kibayashi grabbed a foldable small sized bike and stepped out from the truck.
Although it was only a small bike, it was specially designed for exploring the wasteland. When it was folded, it was barely enough to fit the seat beside the driver seat. He had that bike there to call for help if in case the truck got attacked by monsters and was unable to move. Most of the Hunter Office staff would put their foldable bike on the driver seat since the other Hunters would use it without permission if they left it in the truck’s tray.
Kibayashi then quickly unfolded the bike and assembled it. When he was finished, he looked at Akira while lightly patting the bike’s seat.
“Get on this bike. It’s at least faster than running, and also, give me your Hunter ID.”
Akira gave his Hunter ID to Kibayashi who then used his terminal to read information from Akira’s Hunter ID.
“This will finish the registration for the emergency request. If you use your information terminal to access the Hunter Office’s site, you’ll be able to see the area assigned to you. At the moment, you should be assigned to the nearest battlefield. And also, this bike is just an upfront payment for accepting the emergency request. Be careful out there, okay? If you try to abandon the request, the Hunter Office will chase you even to the end of the world.”
Although Kibayashi said that with little intimidation, Akira just replied back as if it was nothing.
“If that’s my plan from the start, I wouldn’t be taking this emergency request alone like this.”
Kibayashi laughed and looked amused by that answer.
“Well, you have a point! Alright then! Good luck! Impossible, Reckless, Futile!!! Using their own lives as a chip in a gamble is what the Hunters love to do, am I right? Whether you’ll die or come back alive, keep stepping forward!! After all, there are not that many Hunters who are like you these days, you know!!”
“Although, to be honest, I think I’m more of a cautious Hunter though.”
Akira was honest when he said that, but Kibayashi thought that it was a joke, so he just got along with it and laughed loudly.
“Stop with the jokes. No careful Hunters would go running towards a group of monsters on their own volition, you know!! You should be able to see the precise coordinates in your information terminal, it’s basically north-west from here, so it’s that direction! If you get close enough, you should start hearing gunshots from the Hunters who are fighting against the monsters! So good luck out there and I hope you have a good hunt!!”
Akira got on the bike and went out alone as Kibayashi was seeing him off in a good mood.
All the Hunters in the truck’s tray were having mixed feelings as they saw Akira off. Amazement, praise, envy, shame, jealousy and mockery. All these feelings were present as they were staring at the back of the Hunter who chose a different option than them.
Shikarabe was honestly amazed as he mumbled.
“That boy went alone huh, not bad at all.”
Shikarabe acknowledged Akira’s courage and praised him a little.
Katsuya looked frustrated as he watched Akira disappear in the distance with a shred of jealousy in his gaze.
Silavin: Honestly, I was a little confused about his motive here but after thinking for abit, I sorta get it. I initially thought that it was to help them. It is true to an extent but Akira’s form of help is: so long as it helps them a tiny bit, it’s help. That means, indirectly or directly.