Looking from Akira’s expression, Yajima understood that Akira did not think Reina and Shiori as his friends. While from Reina and Shiori’s expression, he understood that they too did not regard Akira as their friend and they did not understand the current situation.
Yajima knew that he could use Shiori and Reina to get out from this dangerous situation. So he decided to exploit them.
When Akira lowered his rifle, Yajima was actually celebrating inside. After all, he at least was able to get out of the situation where he could be killed anytime. He now just needed to wait until the effect of the jamming smoke weakened to contact his friends for help.
And so, he decided to start acting in order to buy more time. But fortunately, someone who did not have her guards up suddenly approached him without suspecting anything. Yajima was thankful for his devil’s luck.
Reina, who was captured by Yajima squeezed out some words while in pain.
“W-what are you doing?”
Yajima laughed vilely as he replied back, he was obviously mocking Reina.
“Are you seriously asking me what I’m doing? Do I really have to explain this? I didn’t think there’s someone that stupid, you know? I think this situation explains itself really well. But I guess, just to be safe, in the rare case if those two also don’t understand what’s going on. I’m basically holding you hostage to threaten the other two people in this place.”
Yajima stopped smiling and turned to Akira and Shiori.
“Don’t move or I’ll kill this girl.”
Although his voice was calm, it was clear that he was serious.
Akira and Shiori did not make any moves while staring at Yajima. Akira’s face was stern as he glared at Yajima. As for Shiori, she was obviously directing her killing intent toward Yajima. Although she tried hard to keep a calm expression, she was actually furious inside and it was projected from her eyes. She glared intensely at Yajima as if she was trying to bore holes through him with her gaze.
Yajima looked at Akira and Shiori who just stood there and said.
“…Very nice. It’s really helpful that you guys are smart enough to understand what’s going on.”
Yajima still kept his eyes on Shiori and Akira as he said to Reina.
“Now then, since your sorry brain can’t understand what’s going on, I’ll let you know about this too. I can easily crush your neck with my hand. So don’t do anything stupid. It might be true that I’ve lost my right arm and was lying on the ground until a few minutes ago. So it’s completely understandable if you’re thinking of waiting for a chance to escape. But that would be a big mistake. I won’t lower my guard and I’m not so weak that you can break away even if there’s an opening. If it seemed like I lowered my guard to you, it’s just because I look so from your point of view, and you were completely mistaken. You might not believe my words. But looking at how the person who’s wanting to help you is just standing there obeying my words, I hope you understand the meaning of that.”
A moment of silence drifted. After confirming that Reina did not try to fight back, and Akira and Shiori did not do anything suspicious, Yajima continued.
“…That’s good. Then, throw down your weapon.”
Shiori quickly dropped the gun that she was holding. She also dropped down the gun in her holster and any other weapons that she had on her. After she removed all of her weapons, she took a few steps back.
Shiori kept her eyes on Yajima for even the slightest opening. When she removed all of her weapons, she noticed that he frowned slightly.
Yajima turned to Akira, Shiori looked puzzled and turned towards him too.
Akira was still gripping his rifle. He still had his guards up as he was staring at Yajima.
“…Akira-sama, could you please drop your gun?”
Shiori pleaded with Akira to drop his gun. But he did not say anything while still staring at Yajima.
“I hear you.”
Akira only said that, but he did not look like he was going to drop his rifle anytime soon.
Yajima frowned. He tightened his choke on Reina and made her groan in pain. Shiori looked hurt when she heard Reina groan.
Yajima calmly said.
“I’m sure you heard what I said, or is it that you wouldn’t listen to me? Are you saying that you don’t care if she dies?”
“How much more would you demand from us? Is it until your friends come here and kill us?”
“I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I don’t have friends. If you drop your gun, I’ll just withdraw to the hallway and let this girl go after I gain some distance from here. I promise you that. Ahhh, I didn’t tell you that I’m going to release her if you drop your gun, huh. My bad. So, do you get it now?”
“You… You’re thinking of stealing relics, aren’t you?”
Yajima slightly reacted when he said that. Akira then continued.
“I got that right, didn’t I? Back then when you tried to kill me, you didn’t try to make any excuses and instead immediately tried to kill me without hesitation. Which meant that the moment I saw your face, you had no other choice but to kill me. You’re a cyborg, so you can freely change your expression the way you want. But even so, you still tried to kill me when I wanted to contact the HQ. I bet there’s something down here that you don’t want the city to notice no matter what.”
Akira’s guess was correct. Yajima and his friends had hidden relics in multiple places in the underground city, and one of those places was around that area. His friends should already be transporting the relics from the other places. His job was to guard that place until his friends came there to carry the relics.
“You’re planning to kill everyone who saw your face, aren’t you? Since we know your face, the city staff would easily identify you after all. You’re basically picking a fight with the city, they would have a bounty for your head. So in order to avoid that, you have no other choice but to kill us. Am I wrong?”
Yajima who was only listening without saying anything replied as if he was reproving someone that would not listen to him.
“It seems that you’re misunderstanding a lot of things here. I don’t mind telling you where you went wrong with your guess that is full of holes, but I have a feeling that you would not listen to me no matter what I say.”
“So, for how long do you need to buy time? How strong are your friends? Seeing how you’re taking this slowly, it seems that they’re strong enough to be able to kill us easily.”
“Even if I go along with your rubbish talk, one thing for sure is, this girl will die if you don’t drop your gun.”
“If you kill that girl, there’s no mistaking it that you won’t leave this place alive. But you’ll still kill her even after knowing that, huh. I guess you’re confident that you have enough power to deal with us then.”
Akira and Yajima locked gazes with a serious face. There was a moment of silence before Yajima coldly said.
“This is the last warning. Drop your gun.”
Akira swiftly refused Yajima’s demand. They stared intensely at each other, Shiori’s face was already turned pale as she was watching them.
[…Is this boy for real? He knows my plan and also knows that I’m not planning to leave anyone alive. What should I do now? I don’t know for sure when Kain and Nelia will arrive. This boy might decide to shoot me on the spot the moment he sees Kain and Nelia. My cyborg body is badly damaged, I don’t think I can evade if he shoots at me.]
Yajima looked exasperated.
“Although I’m taking hostage a beautiful girl like her here… You’re really a cold person, you know. Don’t you have any sense of righteousness in your heart?”
“I don’t want to hear that from the person who’s taking that beautiful girl hostage.”
“It’s fine for me, I’m a villain after all. I can do bad things without feeling guilty at all. It’s the special right only for villains, so a hero can’t afford to do that. Well, putting that aside, since it seems that this hostage isn’t important to you, I’ll just ask the other person who cares for the hostage.”
Yajima then turned to Shiori.
“If you don’t want this girl to die, go kill that boy.”
The moment Yajima said that, Akira put up his guard against both Yajima and Shiori. Yajima noticed that slight change and inadvertently took a step back while still holding Reina.
Akira still had his CWH anti-material rifle pointed downward. If he had pointed his rifle at Yajima, Yajima would have reacted with something more extreme.
Shiori was in dismay and exchanged glances between Akira and Reina. She was shocked and confused as she was put in that absurd situation.
Akira chose not to drop his gun. The rest was up to Shiori to decide, and all the available options that she had were hopeless.
Akira was waiting to see what Shiori would do as he asked Alpha.
“…Alpha, what do you think?”
Alpha replied back almost instantly.
“I think she’ll decide to attack you.”
“And the reason for that?”
“It’ll allow the hostage to live longer by attacking you. If she doesn’t follow what he said, he would realize that there’s no meaning in holding the hostage and kill the hostage. Even though she knows that he plans to kill everyone, as long as the hostage is still alive, there’s a hope that she would be able to save the hostage. Looking from that point of view, there’s no way she would let this chance to keep the hostage’s life slide.”
“I totally agree with you for the same exact reason. Dammit, I should’ve not worried about explaining the situation back then and just quickly killed this man.”
“Nothing will change even if you regret it now. Let’s just do what you can do right now. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll have to kill everyone, okay?”
Akira had made his resolve.
While on the other hand, Shiori still could not resolve herself to decide on anything. If she lunged at Yajima, he would immediately kill Reina. But even if she killed Akira, there was no guarantee that Yajima would not kill Reina. She believed that Akira’s guess was correct, Yajima planned to kill everyone in the end.
Looking at Shiori who was still standing frozen in place, Yajima acted angrily and said.
“…What the heck, so taking this girl hostage is basically meaningless, huh? I guess I have no other choice but to kill her then. I’m sure I’ll be dead too afterwards, but my friends would definitely avenge my death when they get here.”
Yajima’s words were just a bluff. He had no plan to die in that place. Shiori understood that well, but if she just stood there and did nothing, it would be only a matter of time before that bluff turned into reality.
Looking at how Shiori was in so much pain, Reina tried to say something. But she could not raise her voice since Yajima was strongly strangling her neck.
Yajima turned to Reina and said with full killing intent.
“You just shut up.”
Yajima did not know what Reina was trying to say. But whether she was trying to ask for rescue or she was trying to tell Shiori to just forget about her, it was nothing but a needless voice in his opinion.
Yajima’s crooked mind thought if Reina pleaded for help with a pained voice, Shiori might start attacking Akira. And if Reina told them to just forget about her, Shiori and Akira might really do that.
Reina’s pained groan and expression triggered Shiori to move.
Shiori lunged forward and grabbed the gun that she dropped on the ground, she quickly pointed it to Akira and pulled the trigger. But the moment Shiori moved, Akira quickly hid behind nearest wreckage. Thus the bullets shot by Shiori did not hit Akira as they ricocheted when they hit the wall, the floor or the wreckage.
The battle had already started.
Akira readied his CWH anti-material rifle and shot at Shiori. But she quickly took cover behind thick wreckage that could hold the power of CWH special ammo. She used her experience, skill and observation ability to predict when Akira released shots and took cover from the flying bullets.
If Shiori chose wrong wreckage, the CWH special ammo would easily penetrate through the wreckage and cause a fatal injury. If she mistakenly read when Akira took a shot, the CWH special ammo would turn her into minced meat in an instant. There was no way human armour could withstand the power of the ammo that could even destroy a tank.
In the case of firepower, Akira was overwhelmingly above Shiori. But he could not land a hit on her. In such an extreme situation where one hit would be enough to turn her into minced meat, she used her superior reflex and highly-trained skill to evade his shots.
Shiori kept shooting at Akira to keep him in check while trying to get close to him, who was keeping his distance from her.
Shiori understood that even if she killed Akira, that did not mean that her situation would improve. She knew that Yajima hoped she and Akira would kill each other in this fight.
But if she did not kill Akira, then Yajima would kill Reina. She was aware of her duty, and the hopelessness of the current situation had distorted her mind as she recklessly charged toward Akira.
Akira kept shooting at Shiori who was charging at him. Since CWH anti-material rifle could not be used for continuous shooting, Shiori was able to quickly close the distance between them using the opening between each shot. She eventually reached Akira and saw him changing the magazine of his CWH anti-material rifle right in front of her.
Shiori thought that it might be her only chance to take away his overwhelming firepower and quickly closed the distance between them. Akira finished reloading the magazine and pointed his rifle at her in point-blank range. Gunshot echoed through the area, but it was only after Shiori kicked the rifle. The stray bullet ripped through the air and hit the ceiling.
Shiori looked relieved for a few seconds after disarming Akira. But he did not let her get away with that and swiftly kicked her rifle too. Both of them lost their weapons as their rifles landed on the floor away from them.
Both Akira and Shiori did not think even for a second about picking up their rifles as they quickly decided to continue the fight with CQC. They both had non-enhanced bodies and were using augmented suits. Since both of them were not using a helmet, single hit on the head using the augmented suit would spell instant death. They leapt forward with the goal of inflicting that single fatal blow.
Their fight shifted from shooting bullets to throwing punches. Even though the distance between them had reduced and the weapon they used had changed, they still tried to kill each other just like before.
Reina could see blurry images of Akira and Shiori trying to kill each other through her teary eyes. It was a fight that happened because she was taken hostage, she knew that both of them would stop if only she died, but she was still alive at the moment.
Reina’s feelings were in chaos. The fear of getting killed as Yajima literally had her life in his grasp. The regret of doing something stupid. The guilt from seeing Shiori who was fighting in order to save her and Akira who was dragged into this situation. And lastly, the feeling of powerlessness for not being able to do anything in such a situation.
She was desperate and wanted to do something, and also the hatred toward Yajima made Reina use all her power to swing her elbow at him.
Reina was using an augmented suit. So her elbow swing smacked Yajima with more power than from a usual human, but it was only enough to make him stagger a bit. It did not make his left arm move at all as it was still firmly holding her neck.
Yajima’s expression did not change as he applied more power in his left arm, tightening the choke on Reina. She gasped in pain.
Yajima kept his choke tight as he said to Reina.
“Did you think that there was an opening? Or is that a plea to just kill you? Well, either way, that was pointless, you know? My cyborg body won’t even get damaged with that level of attack and I won’t easily kill you since you still have your use as a hostage. It seems that your body is an organic body, are you planning to bite your tongue and kill yourself? Well, if you do that, I’ll just move your body to make it look like you’re still alive. Don’t worry, I’ve been making sure that you don’t make any sound, so I’m sure they wouldn’t notice it right away.”
Yajima laughed mockingly. Reina heard clearly that he was ridiculing her futile effort. With that, she completely stopped trying to fight back.
As Reina stopped struggling to fight back, she could only just silently cry there.
Seeing how Reina had stopped, Yajima sneered at her and thought.
[She lost her will to fight back just because of that bluff, huh. She’s naive, way too naive. If she resolves herself to die and fight back, she might be able to create an opening. There are also so many other ways for the others to notice if she’s already dead or not. Well, this stupid girl was someone who would come to me and basically offer herself to be the hostage after all. I thought that I’ve run out of luck when that boy was so close to killing me, but at this rate, I guess it’ll be alright now.]
Yajima was observing the fight between Akira and Shiori while holding Reina as his meat shield.
[…But still, those two are pretty strong. There’s no way Hunters with that much skill gets assigned to replacing the illuminations, so what exactly is going on here?]
Before losing his CWH anti-material rifle, Akira was actually looking for a chance to shoot Yajima. Shiori thought that Akira might shoot and kill Yajima there even if it meant that Reina would be killed in the process. That was why she regularly shot at Akira to prevent him from shooting at Yajima. In the end, her actions allowed Yajima to survive.
In front of Yajima’s eyes, Akira and Shiori were evenly matched. If both of them worked together to attack him, his winning chance would be extremely slim. But that chance got better and better the more they injured each other.
[Just keep on fighting like that until either one of you can’t move or run out of energy. That girl, is this the best she can do? Try harder, will you? If that boy is dead, it’s basically my win. And as a reward, I’ll give you a painless death.]
Yajima laughed while still gripping hard on the useless girl who was also acting as his life insurance.
Shiori’s teary face looked pained as if she was crying like a little girl while still throwing deadly swift attacks at Akira. While on the other hand, Akira’s expression looked grim while desperately blocking and evading her attacks and throwing counters.
Even a single hit from their attack would inflict a fatal injury. A straight hit on the head would not end with only a stinging pain, it would blast their head and scatter their brain matters.
Akira was actually surprised by Shiori’s strength, he thought that he would win the fight the moment they switched to CQC.
Akira was trained in CQC by Alpha. Although it was a virtual training, Alpha demonstrated an overwhelming fighting strength against him. So if she took control of his augmented suit, he thought he would be able to perform in that level of strength too. Although it might put his body in more stress, he would at least be able to easily win this fight.
But something unexpected happened. Shiori was able to hold off his attacks although Alpha was helping him, or more like, Shiori was actually slowly pushing him back.
“I never thought she’s this strong!! Alpha!! Is this going to be alright?!!”
“Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine, just endure the fight for now.”
“Please do something about it before my limbs get torn off, okay?!! They’re already hurting like hell, you know!! I would even believe you if you tell me that they’re already torn off!!”
As Alpha was controlling Akira’s augmented suit, the more he made a manoeuvre that was above his ability, the more it put his body under stress. And the harder the manoeuvre, the higher the stress on his body. His and Shiori’s CQC abilities were obviously not at the same level. In order to fill the big gap in skill, Alpha pushed his body to its limit.
Alpha smiled as she replied.
“It’ll be alright… Maybe.”
“What do you mean with that ‘maybe’?!!”
Seeing how Alpha answered back with something worrying while looking completely calm, Akira twitched and yelled in response.
In order to avoid getting hit by Shiori’s high-speed consecutive attacks, Akira had to evade on the same level of speed before readjusting his stance and attacking back. Because of that, his vision changed really fast, enough to make him dizzy. He could no longer discern the floor or the wall or the ceiling.
But even so, Akira was able to see Alpha’s smile because she anchored her image onto his vision. Even if he was upside-down, or made a 360-degree spin, or even if he closed his eyes. He would still be able to clearly see the image of Alpha smiling.
If there was someone else who could see her, Alpha would look as if she was floating around, detached from what was going on there.
As Akira’s body was flung around to avoid Shiori’s attack, Alpha who was floating beside him said.
“It seems that she’s using a drug to enhance her ability. I don’t know how long that drug will be in effect, that was why I said ‘maybe’. She looked desperate trying to end the fight as soon as possible. Looking at how she was able to evade your shots and how she’s avoiding your attacks now, it seems that it’s a drug that focuses more on the strength of its effect rather than the duration. It’ll be your win once the effect wears off. That’s why it’ll be alright, maybe.”
Akira readjusted his stance and quickly asked back.
“Wait, but I’m also using a drug, right?! That medicine that I took before the fight! It’s still in effect right now, that’s why I can continue fighting like this without tearing my limbs off, right? So it’s a matter of whose medicine’s effect wears off first between us, huh?!! Are you sure this is going to be alright?!!”
Thanks to the medicine that he took beforehand, the micro-injuries created from the stress put on his body were continuously getting healed. This was why he could keep fighting without tearing his limbs. But of course, the effect of that medicine would not go on forever.
“It’s alright, maybe.”
“Just stop with that ‘maybe’ already!!!”
“I don’t know how much drug she took beforehand, that’s why I can only say maybe. But don’t worry about that, just focus on the fight. Complaining won’t change your situation.”
Akira saw Alpha’s smile which cleared up his worry. After all, according to his experience, everything would be alright as long as she was still smiling.
Alpha was still smiling. As long as making a grim face would not help Akira’s situation, she would keep smiling. As long as it might bring about a good turn of events, she might still smile even when he was on the verge of death. She was giving her best to help with the current situation.
It was like what Alpha had guessed, Shiori was actually using an accelerator. Even if the augmented suit could increase its user physical ability, the user would still need the required speed and cognitive ability to control and match the movement speed. She was only able to evade bullets because of the time dilation effect from the accelerator drug.
But even so, Shiori was having a hard time fighting against Akira. Although it looked as if he had a lot of openings, the moment she tried to strike during that opening, he would block or evade her attack and strike back. His attacks that looked amateurish at a glance would turn into sharp and deadly strikes the moment they almost hit her. It threw her off guard and made it extremely hard to evade those attacks. For her, all of his openings already looked like nothing but baits to lure her.
The moment they changed into CQC, Shiori was sure that she would have the upper hand. The fighting techniques that the Hunters learned focused on fighting monsters. Basically, it was to kill monsters from afar before they could get close, or to fight monsters in close range using a gun in case they encountered monsters in a closed space when exploring the ruin. Those were the usual skill set for the Hunters, in short, they were not usually trained to fight another human.
But that was not the case for Shiori, she might be registered as a Hunter, but she was not just a Hunter. She was Reina’s maid and bodyguard, she was only going along with Reina’s Hunter activities. As a bodyguard, Shiori was trained on how to fight another human. It included methods to deal with the situation when she lost her weapon and had to fight unarmed.
Because of that, when the fight shifted to CQC. Shiori was thinking of holding back and making it look as if she was fighting the best she could in order to buy time, she thought that something might change if she did so.
But it was immediately obvious that she did not have to do that. Akira was strong enough to kill her if she held back. He came at her with moves showing that he was obviously trained as he was trying to kill her.
[…To think that he’s this strong!! I never thought that there was this big of a gap between my guess and his real ability!! I was thinking to look for an opening to save Milady while fighting against him, but it seems that it’s impossible now!! Once the accelerator runs out of its effect, I would not be able to fight anymore! …Milady, I might not be able to save you this time… What should I do?! What should I do?!!]
Helplessness continued to corrode Shiori’s heart. The feeling of despair started dominating her sense of loyalty. She kept on struggling while making a pained expression, she would not give up until there was nothing that she could do. But that end was already creeping close.