On the next day, Akira quickly packed his equipment and headed to the Kuzusuhara ruin’s underground city again, the HQ assigned him the job of installing illuminations in the underground city.
The illuminations also doubled as an information-gathering device and communication relay. It allowed the Hunters to contact the HQ as long as they were close to it. Some of them were also equipped with a camera and motion tracker to watch out for the monsters around the area.
Most of the illuminations installed in the underground were just normal illuminations, so Akira’s job was to replace those illuminations with these new hi-tech illuminations starting from the area around the HQ.
The underground city was way larger than what the people from Kugamayama city had predicted and the number of the monsters inhabiting it was also more than expected. At first, the city only planned to destroy Yarata Scorpion nests underground until none of these monsters could venture to the surface, before pulling out from there. But now the city had decided to change its stance and fully explore the underground city in order to get full control of the area.
Akira and the other Hunters were carrying hand-carts full of high-tech illuminations and replacing the old illuminations. Once their hand cart was filled with the old illuminations, they would return back to the HQ to get a new batch of high-tech illuminations before heading out again.
As Akira was replacing the illuminations, something came up in his mind.
“I wonder why they did not use this high-tech illumination from the start.”
Alpha thought carefully about his question before answering. Rather than telling Akira the truth, she prioritized on telling him an answer that could convince him. She wanted to observe how he would react to her answer in order to confirm how much she understood how his mind worked.
Alpha answered back smiling.
“The whole operation cost them more money than originally thought, that is all. If the underground city was not this large and if there were not this many monsters here, I bet they would have kept the old illuminations.”
Akira was convinced by her answer, Alpha was slowly but surely getting closer to fully understanding his mind.
There were other Hunters around Akira, some of them were also working on replacing the old illuminations, some of them were pushing the carts, some of them were watching out for monsters. From time to time, some Hunters left after completing their shift and were replaced by new Hunters.
Since the areas where they needed to replace the old illuminations were considered as fully controlled areas, they were in a relatively safe area. But there was no guarantee that nothing would happen, Yarata scorpions might burst out from a new hole anytime. The wreckages that were scattered around the narrow hallway might also be Yarata scorpions. These were the reasons why the HQ sent many Hunters just to replace the old illuminations.
Akira continued working for some more time. Since some of the other Hunters were about to finish their shift, he was thinking of returning back to the HQ with them. So he contacted the HQ, but instead, the HQ told him to continue working and stay there until the new Hunters dispatched from HQ met up with him. And so he did not have any other choice but to wait there.
In the hallway illuminated by the lightings that he just installed, Akira was waiting for the new Hunters dispatched by the HQ. But no one came even after some time had passed.
“No one is coming…”
“Let’s wait for a bit more, I’ll handle the enemy detection, so there’s no need to worry about getting ambushed by monsters. Just count it as your luck since you only need to stand here without doing anything while waiting for your shift to end.”
Alpha smiled at Akira to reassure him that there was no danger around him. Looking at that, Akira held back all his displeasures, but he was still bored since he had nothing to do.
Alpha’s face suddenly turned stern.
“Akira, just to be safe, get your weapon ready.”
Aware of her sudden change, Akira quickly put his guard up. Alpha never made such an expression when she detected Yarata Scorpions that were far away from him. So in short, it must be something more dangerous than that.
Alpha pointed her finger toward the hallway. There was a small opening not too far from where Akira was standing and there was a shadow of someone in that opening.
“There’s someone armed over there.”
Akira looked puzzled as he asked Alpha.
“Wait, it’s not anything strange, isn’t it?”
Including Akira, all the other Hunters in the underground city were armed. Thus, there was nothing strange with carrying a weapon in this area.
“You do know that the terminal lent to the Hunters here are sending signals to ascertain their position so that the Hunters won’t mistakenly shoot at each other, right? But nothing as such is coming from that person. There are only a few reasons for it, either his terminal ran out of battery or it has been destroyed, or maybe he doesn’t have one in the first place.”
If it was because their terminal ran out of battery or because that person was not carrying a terminal in the first place, it would make that person suspicious. In short, there was a 66% chance that the person was suspicious and he was armed too. Akira quickly understood the situation and readied his rifle.
Akira focused his gaze on that person, his vision was enhanced to see the area around that person. It seemed that the person was alone. Since he was quite far away, he did not seem to notice Akira yet.
Akira hesitated for a moment before contacting the HQ. There was a possibility that it would turn into something troublesome. Although he had the choice of ignoring that person since it seemed like that person had yet to notice him, Akira thought that his current situation was enough of a reason to contact the HQ.
“This is number 27. HQ, can you hear me?”
“This is HQ. We’ve dispatched some Hunters and sent them your way. Just wait for a bit more.”
The staff thought that Akira was calling the HQ to ask about the Hunters, so he just said that and was about to disconnect the call.
“That’s not it. Don’t disconnect the call. I found someone who doesn’t give off a Hunter signal. Tell me what to do. If you don’t, I’ll just leave that man alone.”
“I won’t come up with a lie like that just because I’m bored.”
“I see. It might be because of some kind of error in the terminal. Can you check on that man? If he turned off his terminal by mistake, tell him to turn it on again and immediately contact the HQ.”
“What should I do if that’s not the case?”
“Bring that man to the HQ if it’s possible. In case if he retaliates, you’re allowed to use violence to deal with him. Work with the other Hunters around you and report to me on the progress later.”
Akira disconnected his call and let out a big sigh.
Alpha floated in front of Akira and warned him.
“You already got permission from HQ, so you can kill him if you need to. Don’t hesitate when you really have to kill him, okay?”
“As I thought, that was what the staff actually meant, huh…”
In short, the situation might really turn into something troublesome to even make the HQ give him that permission.
Akira looked around and made a mental note of the positions of the rubbles and wreckages around him. It was so that he could quickly jump behind them to hide in case that person suddenly started shooting at him. Akira then moved and positioned himself better before taking a deep breath.
“Alpha, I’ll be counting on you if things go bad.”
“Don’t worry, just leave it to me.”
After hearing her reply, Akira calmed himself down and made his resolve.
“You there!! Your terminal is off, you know!!”
Akira’s voice echoed through the hallway. The person ahead of him started looking around confusedly, but it did not take long for him to notice Akira.
That man smiled and waved at Akira, he then pointed his finger at his terminal a few times before waving at Akira, urging him to come closer.
That man was signalling that his terminal was broken, so he was telling Akira to come closer since he wanted to contact the HQ. But that man did not take even a single step toward Akira.
Akira just stood there and was watching how that man was acting. That man’s face suddenly changed from smiling to puzzled and started walking toward Akira.
[…I guess I worry too much.]
Akira thought that the reason why that man did not approach him was because he was trying to lure him. But now that the man had started walking toward him with a puzzled face, Akira stopped suspecting him.
Akira started swinging his legs toward that man, leaving the wreckages around him. That man smiled as he saw Akira walking toward him.
After a few steps, that man pointed at his terminal again. Akira lowered his guard as he slowly lowered his rifle that he was gripping, the muzzle of the AAH rifle in his right hand shifted from pointing at that man to the ground.
The very next moment, that man pulled out a handgun and released a few shots toward Akira.
Gunshots reverberated through the hallway. Akira could not react in time to that handgun which was suddenly pointed toward him nor the bullets that were released from that gun. The first bullet grazed his cheek, the second bullet hit the information terminal on his left hand, and the third bullet hit the closest wreckage from Akira.
All the bullets were accurately aimed at Akira. He was not able to react at all, it was Alpha who operated his augmented suit and forcefully moved his body from the bullets’ trajectories.
Alpha controlled Akira’s right hand through his augmented suit to quickly grab his AAH rifle and started shooting back at that man. Piercing bullets flew straight from the rifle’s muzzle, but that man was already hiding behind a cover and removed himself from the bullets’ trajectories. Thus the bullets only ended up hitting the walls and the floors and ricocheted.
The aiming device of Akira’s AAH rifle was connected to his terminal. Alpha used that to capture images and analyze the data from it, she then confirmed that none of the bullets hit that man.
Even after knowing that, Alpha made Akira shoot at him, it was to prevent that man from shooting back. It was also to buy more time until Akira returned back to his senses.
Akira moved behind wreckage in the midst of that chaos, he had finally come back to his senses. It was thanks to Alpha who was moving his body through his augmented suit that he was able to survive.
Because Alpha was moving Akira’s body forcefully, his body was put under immense stress. But even so, that was still a thousand times better than having holes in his body. That man’s skill was a real thing, if Alpha had not moved Akira out of the way, he would have been immediately killed right there.
Akira asked Alpha while enduring pain.
“…Alpha, what’s going on here?”
“That man is proficient with a handgun and he just shot a few shots at you. I controlled your body through your augmented suit to evade the bullets and made you shoot back at him, but nothing hit him. I also used the terminal to shield your body, so it might be broken now. That man is so fast that I did not have much leeway. Looking at how fast he moved, it seems that he’s a physically enhanced human. That’s why he could execute such accurate quick-draw. I believe that his skill and equipment are tailored to kill other humans, basically, a skill set for a murderer. I bet he used a handgun to maximize speed in place of firepower since he understands well about the differences between fighting a monster and fighting another human.”
From Alpha’s explanation, he understood that his opponent was someone above him, and it was someone who would not lower his guard even when fighting against a boy like Akira.
“I see. Is it possible to win against him?”
“Of course! The moment he wasn’t able to finish you off with that surprise attack, that man had run out of luck.”
Alpha smiled when she said that. Hearing her confident answer, Akira lightly smiled.
“That’s great news. My whole body is hurting like crazy though, this isn’t anything bad, right?”
“Don’t worry. Take the medicine while you’re hiding here, be sure to take the expensive one, okay?”
“The cheap one won’t do?”
“Sure, if you don’t mind getting your arm or leg torn off.”
It meant that there might be a need for him to make extreme maneuvers that would put his body under immense stress, Akira smiled bitterly knowing this fact.
“I’ll take the expensive one.”
Akira only had a small amount left of the medicines that he found in Kuzusuhara ruin, but it would be stupid to get himself killed here just because he did not want to use it. He pulled out the medicines from inside a small pouch hanging on his hip and swallowed them. He also put some in his mouth and held them there.
After Akira had finished all his preparations, Alpha said to him.
“Alright then. Akira, let’s start fighting back. Ready your resolve.”
“Yeah, that’s my responsibility, after all.”
Resolve was Akira’s responsibility. He had resolved himself that he would kill in order to survive, it was something that he had always done until now. He lightly smiled thinking that he might have to keep doing that from now on.
Yajima, the person who shot Akira, was shocked by what just happened, but he calmly looked around for Akira.
[There’s no mistaking it, that surprise attack was perfectly executed. His face didn’t show that he was acting at all. My shots really caught him off guard and my quickdraw was perfect, just like always… So how in the world he evaded that?!! He had the reflexes to evade my shots!! Is he always using an accelerator that can only be bought using Chrome?!! Or is it that he has an enhanced brain?!!]
The eastern district had analyzed all kinds of old-world relics to create drugs and medicines, some of them provided temporary physical enhancement, some of them increased cognitive ability. There were all kinds of medicines ranging from only healing fatigue to recovering from serious wounds.
Among all of those drugs, there was a type of drug that caused the users to feel time move slower around them, this drug was known as the accelerator. Many Hunters used this accelerator so that they could make an important decision faster than their opponents during a dangerous situation. Among the old-world relics, there was an accelerator that would even make the user able to follow a flying bullet with their eyes.
On the other hand, using such a drug would put the user’s brain under immense stress. If it was a high-quality expensive drug, it would leave almost no backlash, at most, it would only leave the user a little tired. But if it was a strong drug or a cheap low-quality drug, it might leave the user crippled after using it or even cause brain death.
Moreover, there were a group of people in the eastern district who were dubbed as the brain enhanced people. These people put modifications inside their brain to accelerate their brain functions. Some of them used nanomachines to do that, while some of them stuffed a mechanical processing unit into their brain. They did that in order to accelerate their cognitive processing ability or to add new functions into their brain and gain a better brain than a normal one.
But of course, it was very dangerous to mess with the brain. Not only with money, but they also had to pay for such enhancement with their flesh or even psyche. Each and every person had different opinions whether such an enhancement was worth the sacrifice or not.
Since Akira could connect to the old-world domain, it could be said that he already belonged to that group. Without his ability to connect to the old-world domain, Akira would not be able to enjoy all of the support that he was receiving from Alpha. So Yajima’s guess that Akira had an enhanced brain, in a sense, was actually correct.
[There should only be Hunters assigned to replace the old illuminations around this area, there’s no way someone who could explore the inner part of the underground city is assigned to this place. So why would someone like him be here…? Don’t tell me that he’s a secret agent from Kugamayama city? Did the city discover our plan?! He might be a child-type cyborg with someone actually skilled controlling his body. Whichever it is, this is not good. I have to take care of him as soon as possible.]
Yajima decided to contact his friends. Since he was using the communication device installed inside his brain, he did not make any sounds at all.
“It’s me. How is it going over there? Did you already open a hole to the surface?”
Yajima’s friend replied.
“We haven’t even started yet, aren’t you the one who told us to wait until all the relics are gathered?”
Yajima clicked his tongue.
“We have a change of plan. Start digging a hole now and tell the truck to hurry up. Also, send Kain and Nelia here.”
“Wha-?! what’s going on there?”
“The city might have noticed our plan. There’s someone who could evade my quick draw loitering in this place. It’s suspicious that someone like him is even here. In the worst-case scenario, that person might be an agent sent by the city.”
“…An agent from the city?! Are you kidding me? I have no plans on picking a fight against the city, you know?!! Didn’t you say that it’s going to be alright?!!”
“Just shut up. We’re already picking a fight with the city the moment we decided to snatch the old-world relics owned by them. This won’t be a problem if I can kill him and escape this place, just hurry up with the hole.”
Yajima then disconnected the call.
Yajima and his friends were planning to smuggle the old-world relics from inside the underground ruin to the surface. They were working in the exploration team before and had explored the underground city. During that period, they found an impressive amount of expensive old-world relics. They knew that they could definitely earn a huge load of money if they sold those relics.
But it was almost impossible to bring all of those relics through the entrance that was located in the HQ. So, they hid all of those relics in a certain place in the underground city and hatched a plot to carry them out.
And since then, Yajima and his friends continued exploring the underground city while also filling up their hidden relics repository. They found way more relics than they expected and their plan was going well.
But then came a big threat to their plan, the HQ decided to replace the old illuminations with new ones.
The new advanced illuminations were equipped with a surveillance camera and motion detector, thus it would be almost impossible to carry all of those relics secretly once the new illuminations were installed. It was already difficult enough for them to move the relics from their hidden repository. And if their hidden repository was discovered, Yajima and his friends who were assigned to explore the area around it in the past would be the first ones to be suspected. Thus he decided to execute the plan sooner than they had originally planned.
Yajima was monitoring the area around their hidden relics repository. He turned off his terminal so that the HQ would not be able to track his position. Although it might make the HQ suspicious of him, it would at least prevent the HQ from pinpointing his location. He already knew about this when he turned off his terminal.
On top of that, Yajima was also being careful not to get discovered by other Hunters. Since if someone found him, the HQ would quickly notice that he had left his station without permission and it might jeopardize his plan.
The reason why Akira was able to spot him was because of Alpha’s superior detection ability and Yajima who was in the middle of executing his plan was anxious and nervous.
In Yajima’s eyes, Akira looked like just a common young Hunter. He bet that Akira was a Hunter from Drankam and that he was only able to join the Yarata Scorpion nest extermination request due to the gang’s influence. Which meant that he just needed to kill Akira if Akira had noticed him.
Yajima’s wrong guess led to the current situation.
Akira was hiding behind a pile of rubble while Yajima was hiding behind a pillar. Both of them were peeking and checking each other.
Akira used his right hand holding an AAH rifle to peek out. The aiming device of his AAH rifle that was already connected to his information terminal sent the image of the pillar where Yajima was hiding to Akira’s information terminal. Then that data was reflected onto his enhanced vision, it was so that he could put holes on Yajima’s body the moment he jumped out from that pillar. Thanks to Alpha’s superior detection ability, he could even clearly see what Yajima was doing behind that pillar through his enhanced vision.
“So, what do you want to do? Want to try approaching him?”
Since both of them were hiding behind an object, they had to move if they wanted to be able to have a clear aim at the other person. Akira sent Alpha an image of him moving quickly from one wreckage to another while pointing his rifle at that pillar following a route that he planned.
Thanks to his telepathic training that started with Akira sending the image of Alpha’s dress through telepathy, he was able to send accurate images now.
Akira’s suggestion was perfectly sent to Alpha, but she shot it down.
“No, let’s make good use of your equipment advantage first. Take out the CWH anti-material rifle.”
Akira exchanged the AAH assault rifle in his hand with CWH anti-material rifle loaded with special ammo. Of course, he never thought that he would be using it against a human.
But suddenly Yajima shouted.
“I’m really sorry!! Things happened to me so I thought you’re an enemy!! Please don’t shoot! Let’s talk!! I’m sure you’ll understand if you just listen to me!! I’m a Hunter assigned to the exploration team around this area!! My terminal was destroyed by another Hunter and I can’t contact the HQ!! So can you please contact the HQ?!! I’m sure it’ll clear up the misunderstanding if you call the HQ!!”
Akira replied to that plea with a simple answer. He started unleashing CWH special ammo to that pillar. A loud bang echoed through the underground city with each shot followed by a big crack on the pillar. But the bullets were not able to penetrate it.
“That’s one strong pillar, as expected of the old-world ruin.”
“Let’s keep shooting.”
Akira kept shooting at the pillar and all the bullets that he shot hit the exact same point on it without even the slightest error. The special ammo would instantly kill Yajima once it was able to penetrate through the pillar. Even if Yajima jumped out from that pillar in panic, Akira who could completely see his image would immediately shoot and kill him. But if he stayed there, Akira would eventually destroy that pillar and kill him. It was checkmate.
Yajima was able to gauge his situation from the tremors of the pillar.
[…He didn’t say anything and started shooting. It seems like he’s using some kind of anti-material weapon, which means that this pillar won’t hold for long. But he didn’t contact the HQ or try to tell the HQ what’s going on here. In short, either his terminal is broken because of that surprise attack or he got suspicious of me because I told him to contact the HQ. Whichever the case, this is a good thing, I just need to kill him here to keep my plan hidden.]
Yajima laughed, he thought that his situation was not that bad. His face showed a twisted expression as if he was enjoying the situation that he was in.
Akira saw something fly out from behind the pillar, he thought that it was some kind of explosive and quickly shot it down. But rather than exploding, it spread some kind of smoke. Yajima quickly moved behind another wreckage the moment that happened while pointing his handgun at Akira.
CWH anti-material rifle was not built for continuous shooting. As such, Akira was not able to shoot at Yajima when he jumped out from behind the pillar. But it was not enough of an opening for Yajima to reach behind another wreckage as Akira aimed his next shot at Yajima, ready to pull the trigger and shoot through that smoke.
But suddenly Yajima’s image from the aiming device blurred. Akira was surprised but managed to pull the trigger. The bullet spat out from the muzzle but did not hit Yajima, it stirred the smoke and flew straight before vanishing into the dark hallway.
Yajima released a few shots at Akira to keep him in check while still running. Akira quickly evaded and hid behind a wreckage, Yajima too used that small opening to hide behind another wreckage.
“Alpha, what was that?”
“That’s a jamming smoke. It reduces the effectiveness of information-gathering devices. It was made using the technology obtained from analyzing the colourless mist. The reason why your vision blurred is because your enhanced vision is based on the data gathered by the information-gathering device which is affected by that smoke. Normally, it’s used to reduce the detection ability of mechanical monsters, but since most of the monsters in the underground city are biological monsters, it means that he was expecting to fight other Hunters down here right from the beginning.”
“What a pain in the ass. As I thought, fighting against another person is different compared to fighting against a monster.”
“But that’s the reason why humans survive this long.”
“Well, you’re not wrong.”
Akira smiled bitterly. He had thought that he would mostly fight monsters after getting his augmented suit, but instead, he had to fight against another human now.
Because of their tenacity and craftiness, humans were able to survive in the eastern district which was filled with monsters. Although they had to deal with all of those monsters, they still had the leeway to fight and attempt to kill each other.
Humans were still trying to kill each other even now. This might be one thing that would remain unchanged even after they exterminated all the monsters.