As Akira turned his head, Elena, Sara and Shikarabe instinctively followed him and saw Katsuya’s team approaching them. Shikarabe’s face turned sour, Elena put both of her hands on her face while Sara just smiled bitterly.
Alpha then warned Akira.
“I don’t think I even need to tell you this, but be a good boy and try not to cause a fight, okay?”
“I know, Elena-san and the others are here too. I’m sure they’re not here to pick a fight either.”
“Well, I wonder about that.”
Akira looked confident with his guess, but Alpha refuted him making a serious face.
From how Alpha was acting, Akira thought that she was worried if he would cause a problem. So he reminded himself to act carefully.
Elena let out a sigh and said to Shikarabe.
“If it’s another problem among Drankam Hunters, be sure to sort it out yourself, okay?”
“Of course. You can just blame me for everything he says.”
Shikarabe stated that out flatly. Akira, who did not know what was going on, looked at Elena. Sara noticed him and explained the situation to him.
“Just like Elena said, there was a compatibility problem earlier. Originally, we planned to go out with more people. But it seems that among the Hunters that Drankam sent, there’s a Hunter that Shikarabe just can’t get along with, and so Shikarabe vehemently said that he would not go with that Hunter.”
Sara and Elena then told everything to Akira.
Sara, Elena and Shikarabe were originally a part of the temporary base construction aid request. Sara and Elena formed a team of two and were given the duty to patrol the area and take out any monsters they find. While Shikarabe was dispatched together with the other Hunters from Drankam and had similar duties.
In order to make a way to the deeper part of the ruin, there were a lot of people working around the temporary base in the construction site, some of them were clearing the rubble and wreckages while some of them were paving the road. Normally, they would use tanks to clear up the wreckages, but bringing tanks inside a ruin was next to impossible. There were monsters living in the tall buildings around the area and there were cases where humanoid weapons could not be used to deal with them because of their size. Because of that, Hunters were dispatched to help in fighting against those monsters.
As the road from the temporary base extended deeper into the ruin, the workers encountered more monsters, each seemingly stronger than the last. And in order to deal with those monsters, the Hunters with enough skill to be stationed in the front line were dispatched.
But on the outskirts of the ruins, where there should be only weak monsters, they encountered Yarata Scorpion swarms. Then a later investigation showed that there were multiple Yarata Scorpion nests in the underground city. Given the size of the underground city, it was perfectly possible for it to be connected to the deeper part of the Kuzusuhara Ruin.
Because of that, the commander in the temporal HQ on the surface had no other choice but to send some of the Hunters from the surface to the underground. And that was the reason why Elena, Sara and Shikarabe were here.
The three of them were originally skilled Hunters who were stationed in the front line. They only needed to pick up some Hunters immediately to form an exploration team. Since Shikarabe was affiliated with Drankam, the original plan was to team up with some other Hunters that Drankam had dispatched to form an exploration team.
But there was a problem. The Hunters that Drankam sent were Katsuya’s team.
Even in Drankam, Katsuya and Shikarabe just could not get along with each other. Especially Shikarabe, he really hated Katsuya’s guts.
Shikarabe was strongly against the idea of teaming up with Katsuya and his friends. He said that he would step out if they joined the team, or that he would do all their worth of work too, so there’s no need to take Katsuya’s team. He even said that if things got really bad, he did not mind if Elena and Sara used him as a decoy to save themselves.
This was an internal problem of Drankam. Thanks to Shikarabe’s highly evaluated skill and his good connection with someone among the higher-ups in Drankam, in the end, his selfish appeal was accepted. After that, the HQ sent Akira to join their team.
Shikarabe and Katsuya were arguing while Akira was listening to Sara and Elena’s explanation.
Katsuya suddenly yelled while glaring at Shikarabe.
“Give it a break already!! I’m no longer working under you!! I have no reason to listen to you!! Don’t you know that you’re troubling Elena-san and Sara-san just because of your selfishness!?”
Shikarabe replied back while posing as if he was picking a fight, he was not even trying to hide his hatred toward Katsuya.
“Before spouting something like that, you should know how much trouble you’ll be giving them if we let you join the group. Now get lost!!”
They sounded like they would not come to a compromise anytime soon. At this rate, they would just continue arguing forever.
Katsuya was so happy when he found out that he would be dispatched together with Elena and Sara, he thought that it was the chance to show them his growth and redeem himself from their last evaluation of him. Although he also hated the idea of being in the same group with Shikarabe, he was planning to endure it.
But Shikarabe cut short that opportunity just because of his selfishness. So it was understandable that Katsuya was angry at Shikarabe.
Katsuya’s face tensed up as he tried to convince Shikarabe.
“Are you seriously planning to go out with only the three of you?! Drankam would not send another Hunter here just because you hate me, you know!! How long are you planning to be so stubborn?!!”
Katsuya did contact Drankam’s management beforehand, he was hoping that the management side would give their absolute order to Shikarabe, who was so vehemently opposed to Katsuya joining the exploration team.
But in the end, the management side told them to sort it out themselves. It was because Drankam’s management wanted to avoid using its right to force Shikarabe, who was a veteran and skilled Hunter or Katsuya, who was like the representative of the young Hunters in the gang.
Although the Drankam’s management sided with Shikarabe, they did not send another Hunter from Drankam here. So Katsuya thought if Shikarabe met a monster strong enough to give him a hard time, he might let Katsuya join the exploration team. That was why he went to talk to Shikarabe who just returned from an exploration.
Shikarabe smiled lightly.
“Don’t worry about that. The HQ already sent an extra Hunter. It’s Akira. He seems to be pretty strong, doesn’t he? It seems that he took out a huge number of Yarata Scorpions yesterday, even the HQ approved him, you know?”
Shikarabe said that and introduced Akira to Katsuya. Katsuya and his friends turned to Akira. They did notice Akira’s presence, but they did not think that he would be the extra Hunter for the exploration team. They thought that he was only talking to Sara and Elena since they knew each other.
“…He’s not a Hunter from Drankam, you know?”
“So what? The HQ was the one who recommended him. I bet he’ll do just fine. In the first place, Elena and Sara are not from Drankam too, am I wrong?”
“Our rule says that when we need a skilled Hunter for a certain request, we’ll be prioritizing Hunters from Drankam!!”
“That doesn’t mean that we have to take deadweight useless Hunters with us and divide our hard-earned reward with them, you know. Are you misunderstanding everything that you’ve experienced up until now or something?!”
Shikarabe was looking down at Katsuya, and Katsuya was glaring at Shikarabe with rage. They were totally against each other. The only reason why it did not break into a fight was because both of them knew that they should not fight in that place. If it was not for the Hunters around them, it would have been a very dangerous situation.
As it looked like it would not end anytime soon, Elena interrupted and put an end to their argument.
“It’s time, let’s go.”
Elena immediately turned and left the place after saying that, Akira and Sara just silently followed behind her. Shikarabe smiled mockingly at Katsuya before following suit.
Katsuya kept glaring at Shikarabe’s back as he was leaving that place, his gaze then shifted to Akira.
“…That boy again, huh?!”
If Akira was not there, Shikarabe might back off and let Katsuya join their exploration team. Katsuya unconsciously thought so as he mumbled angrily.
Akira who just joined the exploration team headed by Elena continued walking deeper into the underground ruin with a grim face.
Every exploration team was given a certain job. The exploration team number 9 to which Akira was assigned to, got the duty to map an uncharted area of the underground city. In order to at least understand the rough layout of the uncharted area, they brought a survey device to map out their surrounding.
But of course, they had no information about the area that they were exploring. They did not know what kind of monsters were living there nor its count. Moreover, the hallways in the underground city formed a system of a labyrinth. And on top of that, it was unlike the defensive point, where there were illuminations. The uncharted area was still wrapped in total darkness. It was the territory where those monsters which could live in dark conditions roamed around.
To delve into the uncharted areas, to bring back information on the layout of the area and the monsters roaming that place, and to ensure a minimal level of safety for the extermination team that would go there later. These were the jobs of the exploration team, in other words, these were the jobs for Elena’s team, which now included Akira.
They continued exploring the uncharted area without a minimal level of safety like illuminations or information about the area. It was taxing Akira’s physical and psychical stamina more than he thought.
The team was moving with Elena in the centre, Sara on the left, Shikarabe at the front and Akira on the right. They, of course, brought with them some illuminations, but it was far from enough to illuminate the whole area, as such, the area around them was still pitch black. They were using their individual information-gathering devices to inspect their surroundings as they moved forward.
The whole team was moving pretty fast, too fast for Akira.
He did not know that Elena adjusted the whole team to move slower than usual in order to check Akira’s skill. But even so, it took everything that he had to barely be able to match up with their speed.
Akira was scanning the area using his own ability without any help from Alpha, it was a form of training for him. But because of the difference between Akira’s ability and the other Hunters’ abilities, it quickly made him tired. Because of that, Alpha decided to stop the training temporarily.
Alpha said to Akira.
“Akira, let’s stop the training here. I’ll be watching out for any monsters, so you can relax for a bit. If we stay like this, you might get too tired to handle the situation in case if anything bad happens.”
“…I’m sorry. To be honest, I’m already at my limit right now. So, is it okay if I leave it to you?”
“Of course, just leave it to me and relax. Nervousness will only cause you to get tired faster. It’ll be bad if the tiredness slows you down when you need it the most.”
“I’m really sorry. I’ll be leaving it to you then.”
“Just leave it to me.”
Alpha replied back confidently. It gave Akira a sense of security as he obviously relaxed his guard.
Akira did not know that Shikarabe was actually observing him. Shikarabe suddenly asked him.
“Akira, how’s the right side?”
Akira was a bit surprised as he quickly replied back.
“…There are 3 Yarata Scorpions about 50 metres ahead. They’re not moving, so I think they’re dead. But even if they’re just playing dead, since they’re not in our way and it doesn’t seem like they’re coming here either, I think it’s fine to just ignore them.”
Shikarabe turned to Elena, he was asking for her confirmation, so Elena quickly responded.
Shikarabe looked a bit surprised when he heard Elena’s answer.
“Roger that… That’s weird, here I thought that he lowered his guard, but it seems that he’s doing his job properly, huh. I guess my intuition has dulled.”
Of course, Akira was only repeating what Alpha said to him. Although he tried his best to hide his shock and keep calm, there was still a trace of shock on his face.
[…That was a close call.]
Shikarabe was able to accurately grasp the fact that Akira lowered his guard. As Akira caught a glimpse of the skill of a real veteran Hunter, he gritted his teeth to stop himself from making a bitter smile. But on the other hand, his face turned stiff because of that.
It was not like Shikarabe asked Akira that question in order to warn him. Akira was added to that team as extra firepower in the first place. So even if he lacked surveillance skills, Elena could cover him just fine.
If it bothered him, Shikarabe could just watch his right side too, it was only a question to help him judge whether he should do that or not.
Sara and Elena were surprised by how proficient Akira was. After all, that level of area scan was close to Elena’s level who specialized in that skill. Sara and Elena did not think that Akira’s searching ability was that good, but of course, their prediction was correct. After all, in reality, it was Alpha who was scanning the area.
Shikarabe suddenly said gleefully.
“What a jackpot, to think that not only he’s good with fighting, he’s also good with surveillance too. I’m glad we decided to bring him rather than Katsuya.”
Elena jabbed, she sounded a bit annoyed.
“But I really hope you stop roping us into your gang’s problem, you know?”
“Don’t say that, I did volunteer myself to be in the front as an exchange for my selfishness, right? And in the end, you being the leader of the group also approved it, didn’t you?”
Akira turned to Elena in surprise, and that remark by Shikarabe meant that she decided to bring Shikarabe alone rather than bringing 5 people in Katsuya’s team.
Akira did not think that Katsuya was that weak and he also did not think that Shikarabe was so strong. Elena could catch Akira’s line of thinking from his expression.
So she decided to explain it to Akira.
“…Well, it’s not like I was taking Shikarabe’s side. I decided that based on all the advantages and disadvantages that we would get if we replaced Shikarabe with Katsuya’s team. For example, in a small narrow underground hallway or room, it’ll diminish the advantage of bringing more people. In that case, it’s better to bring one skilled person who can deal with various situations. Moreover, it’s hard to move fast when you bring a big team. Then also…”
“…I’m not sure if they would listen to my command in case if we’re in a pinch, you see.”
It seemed that Elena knew that she made a difficult choice.
Sara smiled bitterly and joined their conversation.
“Well, Elena is a worrywart after all, but you decided to take that option thinking that it was the best option for our safety. This team was formed on the spot, so it might be a bad idea to suddenly form a big team. So please don’t think bad of her, okay?”
Akira smiled as he answered back.
“Of course not, it’s just that because of my inexperience, I thought that more people would definitely mean it would be safer, that was why I found it a little strange. It’s not like I’m doubting Elena-san’s decision. If Elena-san thinks so, I’m sure that it’s the correct decision.”
Shikarabe then said in a good mood.
“I agree with that. I can assure you that it was the correct decision. I used to work together with them, you see. So I know a lot of things about them. Katsuya often takes action without approval thinking that he’s absolutely correct. Yumina and Airi are only there to support him, so they obey whatever he says. Reina is impulsive and hot-tempered. While Shiori is only there prioritizing Reina’s safety. All of them are full of problems. Especially that Katsuya, if he finds something that he doesn’t like, he’ll always go with voting and take over the command. Since the other 4 are always backing him, his opinion will always come out on top. He would not even notice that and insist that it’s a decision they made together. I can guarantee that. If they do something like that in the uncharted area of the underground city, it’ll definitely break the team. In the worst-case scenario, it might even cause the whole team to get wiped out. That’s why it would be a big mistake to bring them here.”
Although he still did not know for sure whether that was correct or not, Akira at least knew that Shikarabe really hated Katsuya’s guts after listening to what Shikarabe just said.
“…Leaving aside whether that information is accurate or not, I wanted to cut off the need to worry for something like that and that’s the biggest reason why I decided not to bring them here. I’ll be very careful not to give any bad orders, so Akira, be sure to obey my orders, okay? If you want to know why I give you a certain order, you can just ask me and I’ll explain it to you.”
“I understand, don’t worry, even if you make a bad decision, I’m sure that it’s still better than if I were to make the decision myself. And when I ask you about your reason, that’s not because I want to complain, please think of it that I only ask the reason just in order to learn.”
Akira was being honest when he said that, he did not think even for a second that his judging ability was better than Elena. Moreover, Alpha herself also recognized Elena’s skill. So he had no reason to doubt her decision.
Elena blushed as she replied back.
“I’ll give my best to answer your trust.”
Sara was smiling mischievously when she saw how Elena was acting. Elena noticed her and returned with an intimidating smile, so Sara quickly turned her face back to watching the hallway.
They continued their exploration without any trouble. The underground city had a very complex design in the first place, and on top of that, the crumbled rubbles blocked some hallways and there were shutters that sealed some areas. Because of that, the underground city felt like a labyrinth.
The only reason why they could venture safely deep into the underground city without getting lost was because of Elena’s information analysis skill. She used the gathered topological information of the area to create a rough map and used the special features of the area around them in tandem with the direction and distance they travelled to accurately ascertain their position. She was also avoiding areas with monsters and any other dangerous areas where other Hunters had encountered monsters, to pick the safest route.
They encountered some monsters during their exploration. Most of the time, Shikarabe who was in the front would take them out all by himself, and when the monsters were too many for him, 4 of them would work together to repel the monsters. Most of the monsters that they met were Yarata Scorpions, but their numbers were not huge. They continued exploring the underground city without facing much trouble.
Among all 4 of them, Shikarabe was the one who worked the hardest since he was in the lead position. Just like he said, he took Katsuya’s team’s worth of work too, that was why he had the biggest workload.
Of course, it put Shikarabe under more stress, it shaved his physical and psychical stamina as well as his ammo reserve faster.
Elena thought that it was time to rotate the position as she said to Sara.
“Sara, can you take the lead now?”
“I’m not that tired yet, I can still go on.”
Although Shikarabe said that, Elena immediately rejected his suggestion.
“Even if you have the stamina, it’s not like you have an unlimited amount of ammo, right? It’s better to rotate when we have the chance. Not only can you take a rest, but it’ll also conserve your ammo too.”
“I see, alright… In that case, how about Akira takes the lead?”
Elena looked puzzled when Shikarabe made that suggestion.
“I want to confirm his ability. Since we’re not in a relatively dangerous area, we can handle the situation even if he misses something and gets ambushed by surprise. So what do you think? Well, I won’t force it if Akira doesn’t want to do it though.”
It was true that it was a good idea to confirm whether Akira would handle well during a real fight or would drag them down. Akira also thought so as he said to Elena.
“I don’t mind.”
In the end, Elena had the final say in that team. Even if she judged that he did not have the skill to do that job, Akira did not mind at all.
Elena looked at Akira’s face, she planned to reject that suggestion if there was even the slightest annoyance or nervousness in his expression.
There was no nervousness in Akira’s expression even if he was about to be put in the lead position. But on the other hand, there was also no trace of excitement either. So Elena thought that he really did not mind whether he was put at the front or not.
Elena also agreed with Shikarabe’s suggestion, so she decided to rotate Akira’s position to the front.
“Alright then. Akira, exchange position with Shikarabe and take the point. Be sure not to do anything reckless, okay? Also, Sara and Shikarabe, if you think that Akira is in danger, there’s no need to wait for my orders to help him, okay?”
Akira: “I understand.”
Shikarabe: “Roger that.”
Akira was completely neutral, Sara and Elena smiled gently to reassure him, while Shikarabe sounded as if he was looking forward to it.
Alpha then asked Akira before he changed position.
“Let me ask you this while we still have the chance, how much support do you want from me?”
Akira did not understand why Alpha asked that question. He looked puzzled as he answered back.
“…How much, you ask? Full support, please.”
“This is just an idea, if you want, you can lower your performance so you might get assigned to the defense team next time. On the other hand, if you do too well, they might send you to a more dangerous place next time. So, with that in mind, what do you want?”
Akira finally understood why Alpha asked that question after listening to her explanation. He realized that he had such an option after he understood what Alpha actually meant, he then said.
“…Hmmm, it’s true that I can do that, but if I do that, I’ll be causing more trouble for the others. So give me full support, just like usual.”
“Well, I knew you would say that. Alright then, just leave it to me.”
Alpha smiled as she said. She now understood bit by bit how Akira’s thought process worked.
Silavin: Yo, Finally, we hit the Goal!
There will be two chapters this week. Naturally, it is all in accordance to the goal. So, if the goal dips, we will be returning back to normal.
At this time of posting, the goal has dipped but I thought it was fair to have 2 chapter this week since we hit it last week.