Akira went to Shizuka’s shop to buy ammo. But as he placed his order, Shizuka looked at him surprised and asked with a puzzled look.
“Akira. You’re buying a lot of ammo this time. Are you planning to use these anytime soon?”
“Rather than a plan, it’s more like I’ve exhausted all of my reserve ammo. That’s why I want to stock a lot of ammo so I won’t end up running out of ammo when in the midst of a battle again.”
His answer hinted that he had fought against a big swarm of monsters that could not be killed using normal ammo. Those monsters were so big that he had spent all of his ammo reserves. Either that or he fought some super strong monster and ended up using all of his ammo. In the worst-case scenario, it might even be both.
Shizuka wondered if Akira did something dangerous again. Although she asked him with a worried voice and gaze, her smile somehow gave pressure as if warning Akira not to lie.
“Is it okay if I ask you what happened?”
“Uhh… When I took the request to help the forward base construction in Kuzusuhara ruin, I met and fought with a lot of Yarata scorpions…”
Akira explained everything to Shizuka without trying to hide anything. Since Akira explained it without making any suspicious behaviours, Shizuka thought that there was nothing to worry about and patted her chest in relief.
In reality, Akira actually was in such a dangerous situation that he even thought of abandoning the Hunters that he had saved. But with that being said, he knew that he could easily escape if he just abandoned the other Hunters and not to mention that the other Hunters were also saved in the end. So he thought that it was not so dangerous and left off some details from his story. Thanks to that, Shizuka could not tell that Akira actually had a brush with death.
“…Because of that, I could not use my usual AAH rifle’s ammo, you see. That’s why I thought that I should stock up piercing ammo.”
Shizuka felt relieved and smiled gently at Akira. She then came up with a recommendation considering both Akira’s safety and the shop’s revenue.
“Stocking piercing ammo is a good idea. Though, there is an alternative. In the case you’ve described, I recommend you to add a modification to your AAH rifle. If you add a modification to increase the firepower of the rifle, you should be able to use it to fight against Yarata scorpion. It will give quite an increase in firepower even when you use normal ammo, but of course, there’s a limit on how far you can increase its firepower using modification.”
“Modification, huh? But like, isn’t that a complicated procedure?”
“Even if it’s called a modification, you actually just need to replace a part of the rifle. You should be able to do it if you know how to do standard maintenance for an AAH rifle. You’ve heard about those AAH rifle fan, right? They even usually make their own parts, you know? Some of them would even spread their modified rifles around to get more AAH rifle fans. I also have some modified AAH rifles here. Modifying your AAH rifle should be cheaper rather than stocking up piercing ammo for CWH anti-material rifle just because the normal AAH rifle ammo doesn’t really work against some of the monsters. So, what do you think?”
Akira would take Shizuka’s recommendation if he had no problem with money, and as a matter of fact, this problem has been solved from the reward from his last request. Unlike the building scouting job that he took the other day, his rescue job yesterday scored him quite a huge reward. Because of the surplus money, he immediately decided to take her recommendation.
“I understand. In that case, I’ll take your recommendation.”
“Thank you for your patronage.”
As Akira smiled with a smile that only an independent Hunter could give, Shizuka found it rather interesting and smiled back.
Shizuka put all kinds of AAH rifle modification parts in front of Akira. A magazine extension to increase the ammo capacity, a port to connect the information-gathering device with the rifle, a gun barrel to increase the firepower. Although there were still other kinds of modification parts, Shizuka only had these parts in her shop at that moment.
Akira looked at these parts with wide eyes while listening to Shizuka’s explanation.
“There are so many different modifications, huh.”
“There are still many other types of modifications out there, you know. Some of them don’t even look suitable for AAH rifle. Although it would be cheaper just to buy a new gun, those AAH rifle fans would forcefully attach those parts to their AAH rifle. I guess those people are really zealous.”
“So there are even those kinds of parts too, huh. That aside, about this gun barrel to increase firepower, I wonder how much increase it would give when I use normal ammo.”
“It’ll give quite an increase, you see. It would even lessen the kickback too. Although, to be honest, I don’t really understand the reason behind it and the kind of technology it uses. I only know that it uses some kind of complex technique to produce such an effect, I guess it’s a technique from the old-world technology.”
“The old world technology, huh…?”
Akira understood well just how out-of-common-sense the old-world technology was. It was already obvious by looking at the monsters. Even for Akira who had very limited knowledge, he knew well that it would be impossible to reproduce those monsters even by using all the knowledge of the current world. But the old-world technology was able to accomplish such a feat.
Although Alpha was teaching Akira about basic scientific knowledge, she prohibited him from asking about the monsters.
The out-of-common-sense technology of the old-world could create things that were close to magic. If Akira wanted to understand the knowledge behind it, he would need to spend his whole life studying. That was why Alpha told him to not think about it for now.
“The technology of the old-world, if all kinds of mysteries in this era can be solved with those 3 words, it would take one’s whole life to understand it. I bet those researchers who are working under the Corporate Government are devoting their entire lives to do that, but I heard that even they still don’t fully understand the old-world technology.”
A gun’s barrel that could change the velocity and mass of a bullet, or a magazine that allowed stocking impossible amounts of bullets in such a small space. All of these things were made possible due to the old-world technology and the people of the current era still did not understand the working mechanism behind it.
“If it still bothers you that much, you can try becoming one of those researchers and research it yourself. So what do you think? Want to give it a try?”
He would be lying if he said that he was not interested. But Akira still had a heap of other stuff that he had to learn and do. He just did not have the time nor the money to indulge himself in studying the old-world technology.
“I’m a Hunter, so I won’t be digging too deep into that kind of stuff.”
Akira smiled mischievously when he said that.
After that, Akira followed Shizuka’s recommendation and bought some modification parts plus an aiming device that he could connect to his information-gathering device. And with that, half of the money that he earned yesterday was gone.
Hunters had 2 choices, to use the money for updating equipment or to increase their quality of life. Focusing more on the former would help to earn more money. But neglecting the latter would ruin their health and affect their performance as Hunters. It was important to be able to maintain the balance between these two, after all, all the Hunters who could not do this end up dead.
But for Akira who had spent his whole life till now in the slum alley, his current lifestyle was actually lavish for him. Rather than ruining his own health, it was actually an upgrade from his previous living condition. So even if he splurged on equipment, it would not disturb his balance.
Suddenly, Akira could hear Elena’s voice from inside the shop.
“Shizuka!! Come here for a bit!”
“Akira, wait for a sec here, okay?”
Shizuka just smiled at Akira before she went to the back room.
Akira waited for Shizuka while making a puzzled look. Not too long after that, he could hear Elena’s panicked voice and Shizuka’s voice which sounded like she was teasing Elena.
“…Eh?! Akira is here?!!”
“Yep. And remember that you did promise him to show it when it arrived, right? So let’s go.”
“I never said yes to that, you went and made that promise without my permission, didn’t you?!!”
“But you didn’t say no either, didn’t you? Let’s show him, it’s not like you’ll lose anything anyway.”
“Whoa- stop pushing me…?!”
Elena appeared from behind the back room with Shizuka pushing her from the back. Akira was frozen when he saw Elena, who was wrapped in a thin bodysuit-shaped augmented suit.
Her augmented suit was made of glossy material. It fit tightly on her body that it fully showed her bodyline. It was obvious that the augmented suit was made of very thin material. There were thin lines that were just a few centimetres wide running on the surface of her augmented suit. It ran from her shoulder to her elbow and extended to the tip of her fingers, some of it ran down from her neck to her chest and down to her lower abdomen, and also from her hip to her knees and reached her ankles.
Seeing Elena wrapped in that thin body-tight augmented suit which showcased her bodyline in a suggestive way, Akira could not help but to remember the naked Elena’s image that Alpha reconstructed using the data left inside his information-gathering device. Elena’s image from back then was so breathtaking that it was enough to make Akira lose his cool.
As Elena’s eyes met Akira’s, she could see him flustered and blushing. Because of that, her face started turning red too.
Shizuka who was the only person who wasn’t flustered, smiled teasingly as she explained about Elena’s augmented suit.
“The augmented suit that Elena is using is the B3CSD augmented suit. Unlike Akira’s augmented suit, this augmented suit is not equipped with exoskeleton support. It might be all baggy before being turned on, but once you turn it on, it will fit tightly on its user’s body. Because of that, it would feel like it’s not even there and it won’t disturb the user’s movement. It has enough air permeability that the user would even be able to feel the breeze as if it was blowing directly over the user’s skin. And of course, it also augments its user’s physical power too.”
Just like Shizuka said, Elena felt like she was actually naked. Although she did not feel cold nor hot because of the temperature control function in the augmented suit, she could feel as if the air was blowing directly on her skin. It felt like she was walking naked had she not confirmed that she was actually using an augmented suit.
Her augmented suit was so baggy earlier, but it completely shocked her as it fit tightly on her body when she turned it on. Elena knew that her augmented suit would show her body line. So she still couldn’t believe that she came to meet Akira with her augmented suit on.
Elena glared at Shizuka while still blushing.
“…Shizuka, this thing is just too much, you know.”
Although a Hunter with a powerful physical ability was glaring at her, Shizuka could not feel the pressure from her glare at all because Elena was flustered and still blushing. Thus Shizuka could maintain her smile as she replied.
“I want you to still use an armour if it’s possible. I picked this augmented suit since it would be hard to operate your information-gathering device if it has baggy gloves, right? I wouldn’t want your augmented suit to become an obstacle when you’re using your information-gathering device. That’s why I picked an augmented suit that you can use comfortably and can be used along with your information-gathering device. I also considered your request for an augmented suit that enhances your physical strength and it can be finely adjusted by yourself. You don’t like it?”
Elena could not argue back, her augmented suit fulfilled all the requirements which she originally thought to be a bit impossible. So she had no complaints about it.
“…To be honest, I thought it would be impossible to get an augmented suit with all of those functions with my budget, you know?”
Elena tried to come up with any arguments that she could find, but Shizuka calmly and quickly answered back.
“For the sake of her precious friend, Sara also contributed for the budget, you see. You should thank her properly later…”
“So that’s why, huh?”
It was true Elena felt really happy that Sara helped her to pay for her augmented suit. But looking from the other perspective, it meant that she would not be able to get her hands on this augmented suit had Sara not helped her pay for it. Elena understood this as she smiled bitterly.
Shizuka who was smiling at Elena suddenly turned to Akira and asked him.
“By the way, what do you think after seeing Elena’s augmented suit?”
Akira and Elena looked at each other. Akira’s face turned red, he then answered back while trying to avoid looking at Elena’s body.
“…I think it’s a bit too extreme, I think it’s a good idea to wear something over it.”
Akira tried his best not to get too flustered, but that was rather impossible for him.
Elena immediately realized that she could just put on her usual armour on top of her augmented suit. She was so flustered up until now that she did not realize that at all.
Elena smiled awkwardly.
“…Y-you’re right! Erm. W-well, I’ll be back soon!!”
Elena went to the backroom in panic. Akira just saw her off without saying anything while Shizuka giggled mischievously.
Akira took a deep breath and calmed himself down. He thought that he would not be able to talk normally with Elena once she returned if he was not calm enough. So in order to change the mood, he asked a light question to Shizuka.
“…Shizuka-san. Do all advanced augmented suits look like that?”
“Nope. Not all of them look like that, but that type is not rare either. After all, there’s a demand for that type of augmented suit.”
Akira was surprised when he heard her answer. He wondered if some of the girls actually wanted to buy that kind of augmented suits, or that it was just because the people who bought them were not very concerned about that “feature”.
Shizuka looked at Akira’s expression. Since he could not come up with a reply, she took note that he was misunderstanding something, so she explained to him.
“It’s not like they would go out with only that augmented suit, you know. It is originally designed as a support-type augmented suit that was meant to help you when you use a heavy augmented suit or other types of equipment that you can’t use without any physical enhancement. It is designed to reduce the stress on your body when you use a heavy augmented suit or to add functions that you can’t normally find on a heavy augmented suit. Then it expanded from there, some of them are used together with armour, some of them can be used under normal clothing, and some of them are redesigned to be used in daily life. I’m actually using one too, you know, although, it’s a cheaper one compared to Elena’s.”
“Yep. Without it, I won’t be able to carry around heavy guns and ammo after all.”
Akira had seen Shizuka carrying around heavy guns and ammo as if they were nothing, but he never really paid attention to it before. After hearing her explanation, he quickly realized it.
“Now that you mention it, that must be the case, huh. I didn’t realize it although I’ve seen you carrying heavy stuff around.”
“Most of the people won’t notice it. Some people intentionally use simple clothing while hiding an augmented suit under it in order to catch their opponents off-guard. It’s an important skill for a Hunter to be able to discern that, so you should be careful, Akira.”
Akira could feel that he was really lacking in both knowledge and skill as a Hunter.
Elena then returned after putting on her usual armour on top of her augmented suit. As she and Akira looked at each other, she just smiled trying to gloss over what happened not too long ago.
Akira once again threw out a new subject to change the mood.
“Elena-san, thank you very much for the information-gathering device from the other day. It is really useful.”
Elena understood Akira’s intention and immediately answered back.
“I’m glad to hear that. As I thought, a general type information-gathering device is more suitable for beginners. Not to mention that I heard the power of the general type information-gathering device has been increasing lately. I guess the trend for information-gathering devices really leans towards that direction nowadays…”
Akira and Elena continued their conversation awkwardly, trying to forget what just happened. Shizuka was just silently watching them while enjoying their reaction.
Akira borrowed a car from the rental shop and was traversing the wasteland.
“Alpha. How long before we arrive?”
“At this pace, we should arrive there in about 30 minutes.”
“I see… So then, Alpha, why are you in that uniform?”
Alpha who was sitting in the assistant driver seat was wearing a maid uniform. It looked very non-practical since it focused only on aesthetics.
It was made of glossy luxurious fabric with a snow-white apron above it and it had zero skin exposure below the neck. The skirt extended down to her ankle, thus completely hiding her long legs. It had long sleeves that covered her arm and her hands were wrapped in snow-white gloves. Alpha looked graceful and refined.
She then let out a bewitching smile.
“Oh my, do you want me to put on something else instead? If you have any request, I’ll change to any dress you want, you know?”
“Well, it’s not like I have any request though. It’s just that I feel like you always use dresses that don’t fit the wasteland, you see. So I’m just curious why you always do that.”
“The reasoning behind my dresses, huh? You can say that I have a lot of reasons behind it, but you can also say that I’m just picking dresses randomly.”
“A lot of reasons, huh…?”
Akira remembered the other day when Alpha was using a provocative swimsuit in the middle of a request. Although it was better compared to when she was naked every time she took a dip in the bath together with him. Unlike in a bath where it was to be expected to get naked, wearing a swimsuit in the middle of the wasteland in a normal condition was completely abnormal. Thus he could not help but get distracted by it.
[…Well, I guess it’s still better than a swimsuit, huh.]
Alpha might change into something worse if Akira prodded too much. That was why he decided to not pursue that subject.
“It might be a little bit too late asking about this, but, is this vehicle really okay? A wasteland vehicle for Hunters usually has guns attached to it, but this vehicle has no guns, you know? Well, it’s not like I want to rent a vehicle with a huge cannon, it’s just that we can get a better vehicle if I spend a little more money for the car, right?”
The vehicle that Akira borrowed was the cheapest vehicle for Hunters that were available in the rental shop. So there were many other better vehicles in that rental shop if he was willing to spend more money on it.
“This one is good enough. Thanks to the previous request, you are Rank 20 Hunter now, and this vehicle has the best price vs. performance ratio that you can get for now. Although it’s true that this vehicle has no weapons attached, it’ll be fine as long as you can take out the monsters that you meet. It will also work as a test for your newly modified AAH rifle after taking Shizuka’s suggestion. Not to mention, I can’t control the guns attached to a vehicle because they are controlled by the control device on the vehicle. After all, it’s not like I can just hijack the control unit of a rented car, right?”
“Ohh, I understand now.”
“The control device also doubles as an information-gathering device used by the Hunter Office to decide your reward from the monsters that you kill, you see. So if you mess with it, they might cut your reward. But even so, do you still want me to do it after knowing that?”
Alpha smiled teasingly, while in contrast to that, Akira’s face turned pale.
“Please don’t touch the control device.”
Akira looked annoyed since it seemed like Alpha was enjoying herself by bullying him.
“Putting that aside, what would you do if I suddenly tell you to do that?”
“I’ve explained to you all the risks that might come from doing that, so if you tell me to do it even after knowing that, I’ll do it, you know? Like when you saved Elena and Sara, I’ve told you to stop but you still decided to help them and I still gave my support to you when you did that, remember? And also when a big swarm of monsters came out from Kuzusuhara ruin, I told you not to go but you said that you would go even if you had to go alone on foot, but even so I didn’t use the augmented suit to forcefully stop you and I even gave my support too, right? I always try to respect your will, you see? That’s why, Akira, you should think carefully before deciding on something, okay?”
“Aaah, you’re right.”
As Alpha gave off a pressuring smile to Akira, he thought that he should not have asked while making a stern face.
They continued talking while heading to their destination. Akira who was bothered by the content of his request this time suddenly asked Alpha.
“By the way, the request that I took this time is a normal monster hunting request. But it seems that I can still get the reward if I just submit the scan information that I collect around the destination area even if I don’t kill any monsters, right? But it’s a monster hunting request, so why is that? “
“It’ll be used as data for monitoring the monster distribution in the area. I think they’ll send an eradication team if they find an area with a lot of monster signals. So it’s basically a reconnaissance request, but since they don’t know the exact location to send the Hunters, they also combined it with an extermination request for convenience. Basically, you won’t get any money if you just waste your time loitering around the city, but you can get some money if you loiter around a bit further away from the city, you see.”
Akira thought that it was something interesting, thus he continued asking about that matter.
“Doesn’t that mean that the Hunters can just run around in the wasteland in a high-speed vehicle without fighting any monsters and still get money?”
“Some Hunters do that too.”
Akira was half-joking when he asked that question since he thought that no Hunters would do something like that. So he was surprised when Alpha gave that unexpected answer.
“…They do, huh.”
“They’re called as the runners. They use vehicles specially designed for enhanced speed and equip it with a very powerful scanning device as they just roam around the wasteland. But of course, they won’t be able to do that if they don’t have the ability to escape from the monsters. Else they might gather a huge number of monsters chasing them around while trying to run away from them, you know. Since they know that the city defense will take them out together with the monsters chasing them if they bring those monsters to the city, they have no other choice but to desperately try to break off from the monsters chasing them.”
“So there are Hunters who earn money by doing something like that, huh? I thought that Hunters only earned money by hunting monsters or relics.”
“You’re not 100% mistaken, hunting relics and hunting monsters are the primary income sources for the Hunters. I’m just saying that it’s not the only income source for the Hunters. But well, I guess it has nothing to do with you, Akira. What you need is basically polish the most fundamental skill for a Hunter, the skills to explore ruins.”
As Alpha was smiling at Akira showing her expectation of him, he just returned back with another smile.
“I know. Please be patient until I have enough skills to explore the ruin that you requested me to.”
“In that case, let’s see how good you are now so I can plan your next training schedule.”
Alpha smiled and pointed her finger forward. There was a monster running towards the vehicle in front of them.
Akira stopped the car, got off from it, and readied his AAH rifle that already had the modifications that he bought from Shizuka’s shop installed on it. When he took his aim through the scope, it worked together with his information-gathering device to calculate the distance to the monsters and to show the scan result from the area around him.
At the moment, Akira received no support from Alpha. He wanted to test his own skills as he carefully took his aim and pulled the trigger.
The bullet that flew out from the rifle’s muzzle did not even scratch the monster. It flew past not too far to the right from that monster.
“That was close. It missed 2 metres to the right of that monster.”
Alpha enhanced Akira’s vision so that he could see the trajectory that the bullet took. He confirmed the trajectory and immediately took another aim.
He adjusted his aim and aimed carefully. He then used his augmented suit to hold his aim so it would not sway before pulling the trigger again. This time, the bullet passed through the left side of the monster.
“You missed 1 metre to the left this time. Just a bit more and you’ll hit it.”
As the monster kept running towards him, Akira slowly took a long deep breath to calm himself down and took another aim at the monster. He knew well that he would die if he panicked, and getting nervous would only put him in a worse situation.
He kept himself calm and aimed carefully before pulling the trigger again. This time, the bullet hit the monster. But it did not hit the weak point of the monster nor was it able to deal severe injury. It was only enough to stagger the monster as it continued charging towards him.
Akira kept trying to snipe the monster continuously. Although all of the bullets that he shot hit the monster, he was not able to stop it. The monster was already in a dangerous distance from him.
Akira lightly sighed as he changed his stance from sniping to just standard shooting. He changed the rifle’s mode from semi-automatic to fully automatic. He sacrificed precision for damage as he shot out countless bullets with enhanced firepower thanks to the modification that he had installed on his rifle. It was no longer important to aim for the monster’s weak points, Akira now just showered the monster with bullets and slaughtered it; without giving it any chance to escape.
Akira thought back. With Alpha’s support, this fight would have ended with the first shot. He cursed his own weakness and lack of skills.
“As I thought, most of my shots missed. What should I do to be able to shoot accurately as if you’re helping me?”
“My extremely accurate aiming is based on a complicated trajectory calculation with my superior processing ability. That’s why even if I teach you how I do it, it won’t help you much. So just try to imagine the TPLine that I usually show you before you shoot. I’ll train you hard until you can make an accurate judgement of the bullet trajectory. But that aside, you’re actually getting better, I can guarantee you that much. So be patient and let’s keep doing our best.”
Seeing how Alpha smiled when she said that, Akira decided to trust her. After all, it was not like he could do anything about it even if he doubted what she just said.
“I know. Well, if it’s that easy, I guess people won’t be having a hard time like this, huh.”
“Yep, that’s true. So let’s patiently polish your skill.”
Akira changed his gear, returned back to his vehicle and drove to his destination, leaving the dead monster corpse behind.