Akira traversed the wasteland in his car and finally arrived at his destination. After he looked around his surroundings, he seemed uncertain.
“…Alpha, is this really the place?”
“This should be the place according to the data that we got from Higaraka Residence Ruin.”
There was a weird silence between Akira and Alpha.
“In order to find an undiscovered ruin, we’re trying to look for Lion Steel Corporation’s branch office or any facility with a terminal. If it is located in an area that is not widely known to the public, there is a good chance that there’s an undiscovered ruin there. This place is one of such an area, am I right, Alpha?”
There was an endless wasteland laid in front of Akira. Buildings that were abandoned would slowly become decrepit before crumbling down. The wind and rain would then shave the debris into fine particles. As for the dead human and monster corpses, they eventually returned back to be one with the earth. Then, new life would bloom out from where they were. However, only small traces of civilization were left in this place, it was too barren to be called as a ruin.
“…I guess I got my hopes up too high, huh. But it’s only to be expected though. If finding an undiscovered ruin was an easy thing, the other Hunters would have found dozens of them already.”
Akira tried to cling onto his faint hope.
“Is it possible for you to get more precise data? Even if you tell me that it’s around here, this place is vast. We might be able to find something if you can come up with a more precise location.”
“Wait… Look over there…”
When Alpha pointed her finger towards a location that she extracted from the data set, Akira quickly turned towards that direction. With his vision that was enhanced by her support, he was able to see an arrow that was pointing at a specific location. But unfortunately, it was pointing at an empty space.
Akira tilted his head when he saw where the arrow pointed to.
“Are you telling me that there’s a building with some kind of optical camouflage over there….?”
“Nope… Alright then!! This one is a bust! Let’s go to the next one!”
Alpha answered immediately in a fashion as if she was trying to just gloss it over. Akira found that a bit funny as he smiled bitterly.
It was not like Akira was blaming Alpha. Even old-world cities that spanned over a very wide area could not resist the might of time and had turned into a barren wasteland. The so-called ruins were basically nothing more but a part of those cities that, for some reason, were able to withstand the withering of time and were preserved till now. They were exceptions but not the rule.
Akira and Alpha just left that place and headed to the next one. They then checked all the places that they could extract from their data, but they did not find anything interesting.
Akira could not help but let out a sigh since he kept finding the arrows pointing at empty spaces. Frustration kept piling every time he headed to a different place. His motivation was slowly shaved and his original expectation was crushed.
Looking at the discouraged Akira, Alpha tried to cheer him up with a bright voice.
“It’s all busts, huh. What do you want to do now? Want to stop looking for an undiscovered ruin and go back to exploring already discovered ruins? Those data are also useful even in an already explored ruin, it might help to navigate through confusing areas or dangerous places. With that data, we might even be able to find undiscovered hidden places filled with untouched expensive relics, you know.”
Akira hesitated before answering back.
“…I think I’ll stay looking for this undiscovered ruin for some more time. Since we got that data, I want to make use of it as much as possible.”
“Alright. I hope we hit a jackpot in the next place.”
“You can say that again. Although it would totally suck if it’s overrun with monsters.”
“Well, no one knows the number and type of monsters roaming in an undiscovered ruin. They’re called as undiscovered ruins because Hunters haven’t discovered them, so there’s no information about the monsters that roam there. If there’s a monster that you can’t handle, then you have no other choice but to give up on it. So I hope there will only be monsters that you can easily handle.”
“About that though, can’t I rely on your support to evade fighting them?”
“Of course I’ll help you. But there’s no guarantee that you’ll be completely safe. I can only give you my best support in the Kuzusuhara ruin, I can’t give you the same level of support in another ruin. I’ve told you about that too, remember?”
Akira’s face turned grim.
“Ahh, you’re right. I remember it now.”
“To be more precise, my detection ability will fall outside Kuzusuhara ruin and there’s a limit on how much the information-gathering device can supplement my detection ability. The monsters might even be able to discover you before you discover them. You can’t explore the other ruins as easily as when you’re exploring the Kuzusuhara ruin.”
“I understand, I’ll be careful.”
Alpha’s support was the reason why a child from the slum such as Akira could survive in the ruins. Akira understood that well, that was why he tensed up, knowing that Alpha’s support would drop outside the Kuzusuhara ruin.
Alpha then continued.
“And also, even if you find an undiscovered ruin, it’s not like you can bring the rental vehicle to explore that ruin. After all, there’s a possibility that other Hunters can find out the location of that newly found ruin from the route history of the vehicle. And it won’t be strange for them to sniff the existence of an undiscovered ruin by checking the vehicle’s record if you stop the vehicle in one place for an extended length of time and linking it to a big relics sale of its borrower not too long after that.”
“So my only choice is to go there with my own vehicle, huh. But borrowing a vehicle is the best that I can do for now.”
“There’s also the problem of your parking spot once you buy one. You’re still living in an inn after all. So you’ll need to rent a house with a parking lot first before buying a vehicle, and if you have some extra money, it’ll be a good idea to install a wide range information-gathering device on it too. With that, you’ll be less likely to be tailed by other Hunters and you’ll be able to avoid the monsters also.”
“And just when exactly would I have enough money for all that? Working as Hunters really needs a lot of money, huh. But in the end, it will still be a gamble whether all the money that I spend on the equipment was worth it.”
Reminded by how hard was working as a Hunter, Akira let out a sigh. Alpha then smiled at him trying to cheer him up.
“That’s why you have to make sure you have a solid preparation so that it won’t be a gamble. Of course, I’m talking both about your equipment and skill. Moreover, you have my support too, so it’ll be alright. It has been like that up until now, hasn’t it?”
Akira looked back into his memories and noticed that it was indeed true, thus he was finally able to get over it and lightly smile.
“You’re right. I’ll be counting on you.”
“Just leave it to me.”
Alpha gave a confident smile to Akira.
Akira had been gambling since the day he met Alpha. As a Hunter where he had to gamble using more than his own life, he had been winning all his bet.
But there was no guarantee that it would continue from here and on.
As Akira and Alpha continued to roam the wasteland in search of undiscovered ruin, they also continued to find empty spaces.
Akira thought that he should head back to the city soon, so he decided that the next place will be the last stop before returning back to the city. The last place he checked was also a vast empty wasteland, but there was a cluster of completely buried debris in a certain area not too far from there.
As Akira thought, it was another bust. He asked Alpha to reconfirm the location from the data as she had always done.
“Alpha, do that thing again, please.”
“It’s over there.”
Just like usual, Alpha used the data as a reference and pointed at the direction of the location. Akira then could see an arrow pointer with his enhanced vision.
Akira was surprised when he saw the arrow, it was pointing below the ground.
“That seems to be the case.”
Akira scanned his surroundings one more time, but he did not find anything that resembled an entrance to the underground.
“Is there any gate mentioned in that data?”
“I was only able to extract the location. I thought that location data would be enough since you can decide the route through simple research. It might have completely collapsed and buried underground, but if that’s not the case, then you’ll be discovering a new ruin.”
“But even so, I can’t go in without any entrance.”
“So, what do you want to do? Want to look for an entrance?”
“…No, let’s go back home for today. I’m here with a rental vehicle. So even if there’s really an undiscovered ruin here, I just can’t stay in one place for long looking for an entrance, the record left in the vehicle will be suspicious after all. So yep, I’ll have to get my own vehicle first before searching for an entrance here.”
“That’s true. We’ll have to wait until then. Let’s just go back home for today.”
Although he could not find an undiscovered ruin, he was able to find hints of one. Akira was at least satisfied with that as he decided to go back to the city.
Akira was taking a good dip in the bath inside his inn. He looked completely relaxed as he let the warm water melt away all of his tiredness.
As usual, Alpha was also there taking a dip in the same bath as him. The only thing that hid her wonderful body was the hazy steam and the ripples on the water surface. But even so, her body was utterly captivating.
Akira did not seem bothered by that at all. Although there was an unreal beauty in the same bath as him, as always, he was just wasting that luxurious scene.
A notification message reached Akira’s information terminal that he left inside his room. But since it was connected to Alpha, she also received that message’s information.
“Akira, there’s a request for you from the Hunter Office.”
“Yep, you’ve become quite a Hunter now that the Hunter Office would even send a specially designated request to you, huh… Well, normally, you should be delighted, but the content of the request is rather concerning.”
Akira quickly understood that there was something bad going on. He quickly tensed up as all of his consciousness that was melted into the warm water was snapped back into his body.
“So, what it needs me to do?”
“To put it simply, they’re thinking of taking out all the Yarata Scorpion’s nest in the Kuzusuhara ruin and they want you to help them out.”
“Nice, let’s refuse it.”
Akira immediately refused it. Normally, any Hunter would have welcomed any specially designated request from the Hunter Office. But as he remembered the hard battle he had fought in that abandoned building and how he had to fight a swarm of Yarata scorpion while trying to run away from that area, he did not hesitate when he decided to refuse this request.
But Alpha then lightly shook her head.
“It is concerning because you can’t just refuse the request, you see. The requester is the Long-term Strategic Division of the Kugamayama city. It would be simple if it was from the city guards since their duty is to maintain the safety around the city. But this one is from the Long-term Strategic Division, if you refuse it without any good reason, they might paint a bad mark on you thinking that you have no motivation in helping with the city’s growth. It would be very troublesome if they see you in a bad light as long as you’re living in this city, you know. Well, in the worst-case scenario, you can just move out to another city though, but I don’t think it is worth all of that troubles for just refusing this request.”
Akira groaned, even he would not want to be put in a bad spotlight in the city.
“…Is there any way to politely refuse this request? Maybe I can put extra conditions if they want me to take this request, but what should I put so that they would retract the designated request?”
“Well, it is indeed a hard question, a condition that is not impossible but enough to make them retract this request, huh…”
After Akira had a long consultation with Alpha about what condition should he demand from the requester. He understood that simply asking a big reward would not work, even if that might be able to let him evade the designated request, there was no mistaking it that it would buy him animosity from the city. So, they decided to ask for a big reward for his next request as his last option.
In the end, they came up with 3 conditions. Because of his lack of skill, he would be using a lot of the special piercing ammo for his CWH anti-material rifle, and so they will be paying for the ammo upfront. And although he would be working as a part of a team, he was to be allowed to make his own decision and move alone separated from his other team members from time to time. That also included the time when he decided to return back home. The reward would be paid based on the number of monsters killed. And lastly, his reward would not be deducted from any passive actions such as going back home first.
He had a hard time fighting the Yarata scorpions yesterday because of his lack of skill. Thus, he would not take the request unless he was entitled to get this much exemption. This was what he added to his reply mail before sending it.
“I wrote a lot of stuff there, but I wonder if I’ve asked too much.”
Akira could not take back his reply mail since he had already sent it, so it was a little worried.
Alpha smiled at him to calm him down.
“It can’t be helped. If it was too easy, then they would just accept your conditions. Let’s just hope that they would retract their request without getting too angry.”
Akira let the warm water take over his body as he wished for this matter to be resolved peacefully.
The next morning, Akira was shocked when he read the message that reached his information terminal.
“…You got to be kidding me…”
All the conditions that he put out for the Yarata Scorpion’s nest cleaning request were accepted.
Akira visited Shizuka’s shop right when it was just opened, he looked grim as he asked Shizuka.
“Shizuka-san, how many CWH anti-material rifle’s specially designed ammo can you sell to me if I ask you for everything you have?”
Shizuka tilted her head when Akira asked her that question.
“How many, huh? To be more precise, how many do you exactly need?”
“As much as I can carry. Since I have an augmented suit, I’m thinking of stuffing my rucksack with as many bullets as possible. Then I want to buy some more as reserve ammo too.”
Shizuka felt something bad was going on, thus she worriedly asked him.
“Why do you suddenly need that many CWH anti-material ammo? What exactly are you planning to fight?”
“Yarata scorpions. Things happened, you see…”
Akira then explained everything to Shizuka. After that, she frowned and said.
“…Yarata scorpion’s nest, huh. It’s true that their exoskeleton is very hard, so it’s understandable that you would use expensive ammo to make sure that they are really dead. With that in mind and considering the strength of the swarm that attacked you the other day, it must be quite a big nest.”
“And I’m going to fight those monsters, huh… Maybe I should’ve given them a crazier demand…”
Shizuka felt a pang in her heart as she saw how dejected Akira was. But she prioritized herself as a shopkeeper as she said to him with a serious face.
“Alright. I’ll help you as much as I can with the ammo. But there’s one thing that I want to make sure first, about the ammo expense that will be paid by the requester, how exactly are they going to pay it? Ordering a big amount of CWH anti-material rifle’s special ammo cost a lot of money, so it would be troublesome if you don’t pay me upfront. Business is a business after all.”
Personally, Shizuka wanted to sell the ammo even if Akira could only pay it on a later date. But if she did that and other Hunters heard about that, it would be very problematic for her. As the manager of her shop, she wanted to avoid that situation no matter what.
But Akira answered back swiftly.
“Don’t worry about that. I heard that the requester will pay for the expense when you deduct the ammo expense from my bank account. So please use this request’s unique code when you charge me for the ammo.”
After Akira finishes his payment, all of the money that he spent will be considered as a loan to the Hunter Office in case if he ran away from the request. But the collection of that debt would be done in a quick and violent manner, simply put, only a bad ending would be waiting for him if he did that.
Akira already resolved himself. Because she already knew that, Shizuka decided to do her best as a businesswoman who was dealing with a Hunter to make sure that Akira would return back alive. She then gently smiled at him to cheer him up.
“Alright. I’ll bring them to you right away, so wait here for a bit, okay. And also, you’ll be bringing your AAH assault rifle too, right?”
“Yeah. I did modify it after all and I’m sure I’ll meet other types of monsters too.”
“In that case, you should replace the normal AAH rifle’s ammo to piercing ammo. I’ll bring you the strongest piercing ammo that can be used for AAH rifle. It’s okay if I put it on the same payment account, right?”
“Its firepower is pretty high, and so is its price. I don’t usually recommend using it since it will bring down the gun’s durability. But it’s not like you can worry about it this time, right? So, when are you going to need them?”
“I already received the dispatch order, so I’ll immediately go after I get the ammo.”
“…I see, I’ll bring them here right away.”
Shizuka went to the warehouse to look for the ammo after she said that.
Akira finished his preparation, bought as much CWH special ammo and AAH piercing ammo as he could carry from Shizuka’s shop, made sure that his rifles were in top shape, and stuffed his rucksack with as many supplies as possible. Then with the help of Alpha’s support, he adjusted his augmented suit so that he could walk normally with all of his heavy loads.
Shizuka stood in front of Akira and gave him a warning.
“I don’t think I need to keep telling you this, but don’t do anything reckless, okay?”
Shizuka gently but tightly hugged Akira. Because of their different “builds”, Akira’s face was buried inside Shizuka’s breast. But rather than being surprised, the warmth and the sound of Shizuka’s heartbeat calmed him.
Shizuka tightened her embrace, but it was not like she could stop him now. She looked very worried when she gently said to Akira.
“…Be sure to come back alive, okay?”
Akira sounded rather happy when he said that.
Akira was listening to the explanation about his new request from the staff inside the temporary base in the Kuzusuhara ruin.
“Your request is to take out Yarata scorpion’s nest. The details about the request have been sent to you, I’ll assume that you’ve all read it, so I’ll skip that part. Just read the instructions in the terminal that we lend you and go to your designated place. After that, listen to the commander in the field.”
“How about the road there? Is it safe? It would be troublesome if I meet another swarm of Yarata Scorpion, so I don’t want to go alone. I did include that in my demand, right?”
“Don’t worry, we have taken out all the swarms out there. But you might still encounter some small groups that separated from the main swarm. Since you’re here for taking out their nest, you should at least be able to handle a small group, right? Well, if things get dicey, just contact us through the terminal and you can always withdraw.”
Akira stepped out the base with a terminal that the staff handed to him. Alpha suddenly gave him an order.
“Akira, connect that terminal with your information terminal, I’ll modify it so I can work with it.”
“It’s just a borrowed terminal, you know? Are you sure?”
Akira did not mind if Alpha wanted to hijack or even falsify the data inside his information terminal. But he hesitated to allow her messing with a borrowed terminal. So he could not help but ask her with a puzzled look when she told him to connect his information terminal to that borrowed terminal.
Alpha smiled to assure him.
“It’s alright. It’s easier to use one’s own information terminal, so of course, I rather use that one. It is just that it can be connected to other information terminals for Hunters, so I just want to make use of that feature too.”
“I see, I guess it’s fine then.”
Akira was convinced by that and connected his information terminal with his borrowed terminal. With this, Alpha was able to access the information inside the borrowed terminal.
Akira arrived at his destination, he was standing and looking at a half-destroyed tall building in front of him. It was not rare to find such a building in the outskirts of the Kuzusuhara ruin. His face frowned imagining such a building being overrun by Yarata scorpions.
“Is this building a Yarata scorpion’s nest?'”
“Not this one.”
“Wait, no? But I was told to come here though.”
“This is just an entrance. I picked signals from other Hunters inside the building, so let’s go.”
Akira could see some Hunters together with the staff from the city defense division inside a big hall on the first floor. The staff who was taking command in that area waved at Akira as he noticed him entering the hall. But he obviously looked disappointed when he saw Akira up close.
“Let me confirm this, are you here for the Yarata scorpion’s nest extermination request?”
“Another child Hunter, huh?! I guess I really need to ask those people in HQ to only give me real Hunters next time.”
That staff did not even try hiding his displeasure.
Akira was not there because he wanted to, so he really hoped that anyone who wanted to complain would not word it out. But he also understood that it was not like that staff asked for him either, so Akira tried to just ignore his spicy remark.
“Well, that’s fine. You want to join the defense team or the exploration team?”
“Please assign me to the easier one.”
His answer made that staff flare up as he glared at Akira.
“Are you f*cking kidding me?”
Akira face turned stern as he firmly replied back.
“I’m being serious here. If you tell me to choose, I’m picking the safest and easiest job. But I don’t know which one of those two is easier, that’s why I’m asking you as someone who knows the current situation here.”
That staff kept glaring at Akira, but since Akira glared back at him without even flinching back. That staff changed his stance and mocked Akira.
“Humph, very well. I’ll leave you with the defense team. You just have to guard the buildings and points that we have taken control of, it’s an easy job that children like you should be able to do.”
That staff operated his information terminal and started processing Akira’s assignment. He was obviously annoyed when he saw the data that he read from Akira’s borrowed terminal.
“Name, Akira. Hunter Rank 20, huh. That’s pretty high for a small kid like you. Do you have another Hunter behind you that you’re piggybacking?”
“I’ll leave that to your imagination.”
He was extremely annoyed by Akira’s apathetic attitude. But since he just finished processing Akira’s assignment, he decided to stop thinking about it.
“Humph, your station will be in the defensive point number 14. The location should be shown in your terminal. So there, now go.”
Akira then left that place.
After Akira was gone from his views, that staff mumbled.
“Good grief, that little turd. I have no idea which gang sent that brat here. But I really wish they would send his guardian Hunter too when they send a brat like him for a request like this. I bet he has nothing interesting in his record anyway…”
He then used his information terminal to open the Hunter Office website to see the Hunter related information about Akira. Although it did not show Akira’s history, it did not take that much of tweaking around to open the history page that he normally should not be able to see.
The Long-term Strategic Division, as the one who ordered for this request, had a close relationship with the Hunter Office. Because of that, some people in certain positions in the organization were given the rights to access information about the Hunters.
Some Hunters hid the requests that they failed and only showed the requests that they had succeeded. The city staff found such a thing so many times in the past as they laughed at those Hunters. He mocked Akira since he thought that it must also be the case for Akira. He believed the boy was also hiding his request history.
But the moment he saw Akira’s request history, he was completely blown away and reactively turned to Akira’s direction.
Although Akira was just a small boy from the slum who started from Rank 1, it only took him a few months to climb up to Rank 20.
There were several records saying that Akira responded to Kugamayama defensive squad’s emergency request and came back alive. Then he went against a swarm of Yarata Scorpions during the forward base construction aid request while saving the other Hunters.
And to top it off, he did all of that by himself. There was no record of him working in a team with another Hunter nor that he ever joined a Hunter gang like Drankam.
Akira’s request history did not agree to what he expected from a young Hunter who he just mocked. It even made him suspect Akira for falsifying the information.
“W-who in the world is that boy…”
What that staff felt was not amazement after seeing a mind-blowing Hunter record that attested for Akira’s strength, but it was more like being spooked from seeing a boy who defied all common sense.