Akira, Reina and Shiori were still on their way to the HQ. Reina was supporting Shiori who was on the verge of collapsing as they were walking through the underground hallway. As for Akira, he was walking a little further away beside Shiori and Reina, his distance showed that he was still cautious of them.
Akira was regularly consuming medicines while keeping his eyes on his surroundings. The medicines that he was taking were the ones that he bought from Shizuka’s shop. Compared to the medicines found in the old-world ruin, their potency was extremely low. But even so, if he chugged a significant amount of that medicine, it would at least speed up his fatigue recovery and the healing of his wounds.
He glanced at the warning printed on the medicine’s packaging. Thanks to Alpha’s training, he was able to recognize words, and so he was able to understand the warning. But even so, he kept on chugging that medicine frequently.
Akira was weak. He understood that well, and so, it was important for him to maintain his body in the best possible state. Even if it meant that he would definitely die 10 years later from the side effect of the medicines that he was consuming. He knew that he had to do crazy things to survive the present, to stay alive tomorrow, and to keep his body functioning next week.
Reina watched Akira chugging medicines and asked him.
“…I noticed that you’ve been regularly consuming a lot of that medicine. Are you alright with consuming that many at once?”
Akira answered back swiftly.
“I bet it’s not alright.”
Reina was surprised by his answer.
“N-not alright, huh…”
“Although it doesn’t say how many is too many, it does warn to not consume a large amount of this medicine in a short time. So I bet it’s bad for my body.”
Shiori thought that if she let Reina and Akira continue that conversation, the subject of their conversation may turn into something that was not pleasant to talk about between the three of them. So she squeezed her leftover power to interject in their conversation.
“Milady, we’ve moved quite far from that area. I know it’s rude for me to ask, but can you please check if we can already contact the HQ or not.”
The reason why Akira was consuming such an excessive amount of medicines, even though he knew that it was bad for his body, was because he was injured and extremely tired after his fight with Shiori. He did it so that he would be in the best possible condition in case they encountered monsters on their way back. So in short, it was Shiori’s fault as well as Reina’s too. And it was not something to discuss in that situation.
Shiori’s mind was still slightly numb as she thought that she should have stopped Reina sooner, or at least warned her not to talk about anything sensitive. If she was in her usual condition, she would have warned Reina way sooner than that, but the current her was unable to do that. It was because she was focusing all of her remaining energy to keep herself awake and not to fall unconscious in that place.
Akira understood why Shiori suddenly interjected, but since he also did not want to cause any fight there, he just kept quiet. Reina was the only person who did not notice that as she focused on her terminal.
A voice came out from her terminal.
“This is HQ-“
The moment Reina confirmed that her terminal was connected to the HQ, Akira immediately yelled at the terminal.
“This is number 27!! We’ve got 3 injured Hunters after fighting against that suspicious person!! We’re not in a condition to face any more fights!! The suspicious person is dead!! There’s a good chance that he brought more of his friends from underground tunnels!! It seems that they’re planning to secretly carry relics out from the underground city!! Send us Hunters who can fight well and are proficient in providing support!! My terminal was destroyed by that suspicious person when I fought him!! That’s why I’m contacting you from another Hunter’s terminal!!”
There was a brief pause before the HQ staff replied back.
“Number 27, explain what happened. First of all, about that suspicious person-“
“Give us permission to return back to HQ first.”
“Number 27, we need to confirm the situation first before we can do that, so answer our questions first-“
“The permission first!”
Akira was yelling. From his voice, it was obvious that he was tired. The staff understood that it was pointless to argue back, so he just gave them permission to return.
“…Very well, you’re permitted to return back to the HQ. But answer our questions while you’re on your way back, understand?”
There was a slight intimidating nuance coming from his voice.
“…This is number 27, roger that.”
Akira took a deep breath in order to calm himself down.
They could hear sounds of a commotion leaking out from the terminal, it seemed that there was something going on in the HQ.
Akira was answering the questions from the HQ staff while walking back to the HQ. He told the staff about Yajima who suddenly attacked him out of the blue, about the jamming smoke that prevented him from contacting Shiori and Reina, about the fact that he killed Yajima, and about the reason why he thought Yajima and his friends were planning to secretly carry out old-world relics from the underground city. He properly answered all the questions that the HQ staff asked him.
The staff was also thinking of asking Shiori and Reina too. But Reina still could not fully recover from that chaos and was still a bit dazed by everything that just happened. Not to mention, she was really worried about Shiori, as such, she was not in a condition to answer the staff’s questions. As for Shiori, she was barely conscious, she was also not in a position where she could properly answer his questions. Thus he was only able to question Akira.
Akira was giving his report while carefully moving forward, he then noticed a group of Hunters running towards them. Reina and Shiori were relieved that their rescue finally arrived, but in contrast to them, Akira frowned.
“Reina!! Shiori!! Are you guys alright?!”
The reason why Akira looked slightly annoyed was because it was Katsuya’s group who came running.
Shiori was so relieved that they were finally able to meet up with the other Hunters, that she immediately lost consciousness then and there. Reina panicked and tried to hold her up as she was about to collapse. Katsuya and the others quickly surrounded her and helped Reina support Shiori.
Alpha then said to Akira.
“Let’s just leave her to them. We should leave quickly. If you stay around them, it would be a pain in the bum when they start asking you about the situation.”
“You’re right. It’s not like they told us to go back to the HQ together anyway. And I want to avoid anything troublesome if it’s possible.”
Akira was quietly walking away from Katsuya’s group, but Katsuya noticed him and tried to stop him.
“Wait!! Where do you think you’re going?!!”
Shiori was obviously in a bad shape as she fell unconscious and Reina panicked when that happened. The only person who was completely calm, Akira, was trying to sneak away. From the situation that they were in; plus his distrust of Akira, Katsuya thought that Akira was the real cause of that situation. He thought that Akira did something bad and caused Shiori and Reina to get injured, or even maybe it was he who attacked Reina and Shiori.
Akira was already running away from that place. Alpha smiled at him and warned him.
“You can’t stop running, okay?”
Even without Alpha telling him, Akira ignored Katsuya’s voice as he kept on running towards the HQ.
Katsuya was at a loss whether he should chase Akira or not. Then suddenly HQ staff’s voice came out from Reina’s terminal, and the staff was unaware that Akira was already gone from that place as he asked a question.
“Number 27, what was that sound? What’s going on over there?”
Katsuya sounded obviously angry when he replied back.
“This is Katsuya from Drankam!! We just met up with the injured Hunters!”
“Who? What number?”
“…It’s number 52!!”
“Where’s number 27? Is he not there? I heard that there were 3 injured people including number 27.”
Katsuya realized that number 27 was Akira as he answered back as if he was venting.
“If it’s that guy, he looks completely fine and ran away!! I don’t even know where he’s going!!”
“…I see. The rest of the injured Hunters are from Drankam, right? Number 52, I’ll put the other two back in your team, you take the command from here and on. That’s all.”
Katsuya yelled at the terminal.
“Wait!! Are you telling me to bring Reina and Shiori around rather than sending them back?”
“Your duty is to confirm your situation. Check how bad their injuries are and decide whether to bring them along with you or to let them rest in the defensive point. You can even bring them to the medical team if their injuries are serious. You guys decide what to do from there. Whether you would send some people back or not, or proceed with your duties with the remaining Hunters, or whether you bring your whole team back since it doesn’t seem like you can continue with your current situation, it’s up to you guys from Drankam to discuss and decide on your own. Don’t ask us for every single thing on what to do. Ask Drankam instead. Only inform the HQ if you decide that it’s necessary to do so. We’re also busy here, you know. That’s all.”
The HQ staff ended the call after saying that.
Katsuya could feel that the HQ was taking Shiori and Reina’s situation lightly. His face was twitching with anger. He then quickly decided on what to do next.
“We’ll take Shiori and Reina back to the HQ.”
Taking everyone back to the HQ could be interpreted as abandoning his duty. Airi understood it, so she asked Katsuya.
“What about our duties?”
Katsuya smiled as he answered back.
“They told us to decide on our own. We’ll return back to HQ, leave Reina and Shiori with the medical team, and then return back to our duty. After all, our friends’ lives are much more important than our duty, right?”
Seeing how Katsuya prioritized his friends’ lives over his duty, the other young Hunters in his team looked at him with approving gazes.
Although Yumina was not sure whether it was a good idea to bring everyone back, she felt like Katsuya would decide to be the one staying behind if she said anything, so she just kept quiet. She knew how skilled Shiori was and something had happened to render her in such a bad shape, so she did not want to let Katsuya take any risk by going alone.
When Akira arrived at HQ, he went on to give his report about Yajima. He thought that the staff would be asking him a lot of questions again, but instead, he was let go after giving a simple report.
It was because they had already asked the necessary details when Akira was on his way back to the HQ together with Shiori and Reina. And also, while Akira was on his way back, the situation had changed. There seemed to be more of Yajima’s friends found in the underground city and they killed some Hunters that the HQ had dispatched.
Akira let out cold sweat when the HQ staff told him that there were some deaths reported after the clash between them. If he had encountered more people who were as strong as Yajima on his way back, there was no doubt he would have been dead by now. He barely dodged the bullet back there.
Looking at Akira who was lightly shivering, Alpha just smiled and consoled.
“I’m glad we quickly left that place.”
“You can say that again. I wonder why I’m always pushed into this kind of dangerous situation? Is it because I really ran out of luck?”
Alpha replied back as if she was cheering the mumbling Akira.
“I’m sure it’s because you were thinking of leaving a beautiful hostage to die back then. You might need to do more good deeds in the future.”
Akira looked annoyed.
“Don’t be crazy. If I had threw down my weapon, there was no mistaking it that he would have killed me immediately, you know?”
“I bet you’re right. Although you somehow saved her, that might not be enough to balance everything. Or it may be since you were able to save her ultimately, your luck increased and were able to get out from that unlucky place right before anything troublesome happened.”
“That’s just unreasonable.”
While it was true that if he had stayed together with Katsuya’s group, it might have turned into something troublesome. Akira did not want to think that it was because of luck that he was able to escape. If it was possible, he wanted to use his accumulated luck for something better.
He understood that Alpha was only joking in order to cheer him up. But for some reason, she sounded really convincing to Akira.
Although there were only a few minor external wounds, Akira’s body was actually in a terrible state. The cheap medicines were not enough to heal his wounds. So he asked the staff about the medical team and the staff explained to him about the details.
“I don’t mind if you want to meet the medical team. But let me tell you this beforehand, it’s not free. There are a lot of Hunters who misunderstand this point. So be careful with the bill.”
“What should I do to pay the medical bill?”
“You should negotiate it with the medical team. Most of the Hunters have their medical bills subtracted from their rewards. The amount of the bill depends on the medical services you seek and whether you have taken the insurance or not. Ahh, your terminal was broken, right? You should go and get a replacement first, the medical team won’t help you without the terminal. If you don’t share your location through the shared network, they might think that you’re going to run away without paying. So be careful about that too.”
Akira followed the staff’s suggestions to first get a new terminal before heading to the room where the medical team was on standby.
Although they were called as the medical team, there were many other Hunters who did not have a biological body like Akira. Some of them used nanomachines to enhance their bodies, some of them were cyborgs with human-like appearance, and some of them looked completely mechanical from the outside. These types of Hunters needed fixing rather than healing.
As Akira followed a board saying ‘biological body is this way’, a man wearing a white coat welcomed him.
That man, Yatsubayashi, looked more like a scientist who loved to do human experiments rather than a doctor. He was stationed there to heal Hunters with biological bodies.
Akira looked worried when he saw Yatsubayashi. Although he never went to a doctor before, it did not take him much to notice that Yatsubayashi was obviously a shady person.
Yatsubayashi welcomed Akira in high spirits.
“Welcome to Yatsubayashi clinic, Kuzusuhara ruin branch. Sorry to cut the chase, but how are you going to pay for the bill?”
“Subtract it from my reward.”
“Alright, got it. Ahhh, thanks to the aid from Kugamayama city management, you can get a free check-up. Check-up is free of cost but my other services costs money. Don’t hold any grudge against me if I don’t fix your body because you don’t have enough money, okay? Alright then, remove your clothes.”
Akira followed Yatsubayashi’s instructions and took off his augmented suit. Yatsubayashi used a strange camera-like tool and some kind of scanner to check Akira’s body. He also used other weird tools to do the check-up. With his current knowledge, Akira had no idea if all of those tools were really for checking his body or not.
It took about 10 minutes to finish the check-up. After which, Yatsubayashi gave Akira the result.
“I’m glad that it’s nothing serious. But I suggest that you get some treatment. So, what kind of treatment would you like to take?”
“My wounds are nothing serious? My limbs are screaming in pain though. I can only move around thanks to the cheap medicines that I’m taking.”
Akira seemed to doubt what he just heard. Yatsubayashi just smiled and answered.
“Serious injuries are those cases in which you have lost your limbs or have your internal organ gouged out or even destroyed, basically they’re injuries that win you a straight ticked to the hospital. Just a few cracks on your bones, or some internal bleedings, or damages from tired muscles are all small injuries.”
It seemed there was a big gap between Akira’s and Yatsubayashi’s standard for light injuries. But from the perspective of the Hunters, Yatsubayashi’s line of thinking was the correct one.
Akira smiled vaguely, he sounded as if he was half convinced.
“Can you heal my wounds at least so it won’t lower my fighting ability?”
“I see. There are various treatments that you can take, but I suggest you take the one for which normal insurance doesn’t apply.”
“I’m not in any insurance.”
Yatsubayashi looked surprised. After all, most of the Hunters in that place were in some type of insurance.
Yatsubayashi seemed delighted. It was at least an expression that a doctor would not make.
“That sounds great!! In that case, how about taking this medicine that I’m developing? This is my recommendation! You’re not in any insurance, right? So I’ll let you buy it for cheap!!”
Yatsubayashi grabbed a small container near him and showed it to Akira. The container was filled with a green liquid. It was a very dubious-looking medicine no matter how you slice it.
“No thanks. Since insurance doesn’t apply to that thing, it must be something unsafe.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry. It’s not like I made it from nothing. I made it by breaking down and analyzing the old-world medicine, then using that data to imitate its effect. I can guarantee its effect since I’ve already tried it on myself before. The reason why insurance doesn’t apply to it is because of the influence of the big companies, it’s set like that so people would choose the medicines manufactured by those big companies instead. This medicine is better, I can guarantee you at least that much! So, what do you think? It’s not like I can get the certification unless I have enough data and samples from people using it. It’ll also be better for the world if people can buy a cheap but powerful medicine, right? It’ll provide a better healing effect that might even save people’s lives. Just think of it as a good deed to regain some of your humanity that you guys tend to lose when you do dangerous works as Hunters.”
Yatsubayashi was trying hard to convince Akira.
From her observation of Yatsubayashi, Alpha said to Akira.
“Akira, I’ll at least tell you this, he’s not lying. He’s not trying to scam you or squeeze your money. I don’t think he’s planning of tricking you at all.”
“W-well, even if you tell me so, it’s just that… You know…”
“Well, that’s completely normal.”
Even if that medicine could not become mainstream because of the influence of the big pharmaceutical companies, if it was a medicine that had spread among the people and had earned a certification, then it at least should not have any bad side effects. No matter how many times Yatsubayashi used that medicine on himself in the past, it was not enough to convince Akira.
Yatsubayashi knew that Akira was hesitating. But hesitation was not equal to refusal. Yatsubayashi thought so as he urged Akira further.
“Ah, I know!! If you buy this medicine, I’ll also sell the old-world medicines that I have with me!! These are medicines that you can’t usually buy unless you use Chrome!! But I’ll sell them to you in Aurum!! What do you think?!”
Yatsubayashi pulled out a box from a bag near him and showed it to Akira. Akira was familiar with that box, it was similar to the medicine that he found back in Kuzusuhara ruin.
Akira confirmed that with Alpha.
“Alpha, isn’t that…?”
“It doesn’t seem like he’s lying and that box is still sealed. I think it’s the real thing. You would want to get that if it’s possible.”
Alpha and Akira agreed with each other. He knew well how powerful that medicine was. As such, he really wanted to get some of those medicines if it was possible.
“How many boxes are you willing to sell?”
“Just one for 2,000,000 Aurum. This medicine is usually used only for serious injuries, so it’s not like I can sell it for cheap.”
To be honest, it was actually a kind of insurance in case his medicine did not work. But of course, Yatsubayashi would not say that to Akira.
The price was reasonable. Although Akira was hesitating at first, he ended up taking that offer.
“Alright. I’ll take that. Please subtract the payment from my reward.”
Yatsubayashi seemed delighted as he started to prepare for the treatment. Seeing that, Akira felt like he just made a bad decision and looked slightly worried. But he then resolved himself and accepted the treatment.
The treatment itself was finished in no time. They only put bandages soaked in that green liquid and injected that green liquid at some points in Akira’s body.
“That’s it. Just take a rest for the time being… Let’s say for about the next 1 hour. It won’t kill you if you move around, but its effect will be maximized if you just take rest. And also, don’t tell anyone that I sold you that medicine, okay? It’s not something that I usually sell, you know. So it would be troublesome if other Hunters come to me asking for the same thing.”
“Alright. How much for that treatment?”
“100,000 Aurum. You can look forward to its effect. Since insurance doesn’t apply for this one, I gave you a big discount for the treatment here. Thank you very much for cooperating with the treatment.”
Yatsubayashi smiled suspiciously. Akira frowned since he found some words that Yatsubayashi just said to be very questionable.
Akira did not know whether it was expensive or not. If it would recover his body to the point that his injuries would not lower his fighting ability in 1 hour, he thought that it was rather cheap.
Not to mention, he also got a powerful medicine, so he could use that in case if anything bad happened. Alpha also did not stop him, so it should be okay. So he just decided not to worry about that in order to conserve his mental strength.
Suddenly things got pretty busy around him. Akira looked over to the source of the commotion and saw some Hunters with severe injuries being carried to the medical team. Some of them were drenched in blood, some of them lost all of their 4 limbs, there was even a Hunter who had lost half of his body.
Yatsubayashi looked at those Hunters and said.
“Whoah, we have an emergency here. Everyone with light injuries would only get in the way. I’m sorry but can you guys move somewhere else? I want to save as many people as possible.”
“…Even if you say so, some of them are already dead, aren’t they?”
“That might not exactly be the case. Some of them have half mechanized brains and some of them are using nanomachines that would allow them to stay alive even after losing their neck for a short time. We might still be able to save those people if we hurry up. Well, of course, that is if they have enough money to pay us though. It’s not like we can turn you into a cyborg with zero cost after all. They might have to work for their whole life to pay the debt, but it’s not our problem. So there you have it, make way, make way.”
Akira took another look at those Hunters. He was surprised to know that Hunters with that level of injuries could still be saved as he moved away so that he would not get in the way.
Alpha smiled at Akira who was looking at those Hunters.
“It’s good that you only get light injuries.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
Akira would have joined that line of Hunters if he had made even the slightest mistake. He even bet that he would be dead if that had happened.
Before putting back his augmented suit, Akira replaced the energy pack in his augmented suit with a new one. He noticed that he had used way more energy than he had expected.
“We’ve used quite a lot of energy, don’t you think?”
“It’s because I took control of the augmented suit to execute crazy manoeuvres. So it can’t be helped. It’s a good thing that it’s not broken because of that.”
In order to make sure that Akira would survive the fight, Alpha controlled the augmented suit in a way that would definitely shorten its lifetime. Although it allowed Akira to survive, it was not cheap at all.
Akira could feel that the augmented suit was a bit stiff as he walked back to the HQ. The check-up result from Yatsubayashi was a good excuse to explain about Akira’s injured state to HQ, as such, the HQ only assigned him to keep watch around the area near the HQ so he could take rest. He hoped that his shift would end without any more bad things happening.
There were a lot of crumbled buildings in the Kuzusuhara ruin. Behind one of those crumbled buildings, a big sized transport truck was parked as if it was hiding from sight. There were heavily armed people near that truck. It was Yajima’s friends who were planning to carry out old-world relics from the underground city.
Since the mastermind of that plan, Yajima, was dead. The plan continued with Nelia and Kain at the helm.
Kain and Nelia had exited the underground city carrying the relics that Yajima had hidden. After they reached the surface, they blew up the hole to cover their tracks.
Their original plan was to run away to another city after retrieving all the relics that they had hidden in the underground city. The truck itself was well prepared to traverse the wasteland, it was big and very durable. There was a huge amount of expensive old-world relics piled on its tray. They only needed to escape that place together with their friends and they would be rich.
Of course, that was if they could escape that place with those relics. For some reason, they were still gathered in that place. It was because they encountered a problem.
Countless terminals that were fixed into Nelia’s powered suit were connected to the truck. She was connecting to the truck’s control device. Among all of them, she was the second-best when it came to operating the control device after Yajima died. She was now trying to take control of the truck’s control device.
While Nelia was still trying to take control of the truck, Kain asked her, he did not even try to hide his displeasure.
“So, how’s it going?”
Nelia waved her hand as if she was giving up when she said that to Kain. Hearing those words, Kain vented the feelings inside his heart.
“…Dammit!! That damn Yajima, how dare he leave us with this shitty souvenir!!!”
Kain smacked the truck. His powered suit was big sized with equally big power. Thus it made a loud sound when he smacked the truck.
The truck was originally Yajima’s. It had an advanced control unit so that even an amateur would be able to drive that truck just fine. But the very source of their problem was that advanced control unit. The control unit prepared by Yajima was installed with an extra program from him.
It was the post-mortem revenge request program. It was a program that the Hunters could download from the dark web of the eastern district network. It was a program used by the cyborgs to collect the data of the person who killed them and send them over the network to make a request to kill that person. By killing that person, the one who completed that request would get rewards such as money from the requester’s hidden account or locations of hidden properties of the requester.
Yajima installed this program to the truck’s control device in case Kain or any of his friends betrayed him.
But Yajima was killed by Akira. That program had set Akira as the most likely person who killed Yajima. After all, he was the last person that Yajima met before he died. He was also the closest person to Yajima before the program’s connection was interrupted by the jamming smoke.
The control device of the truck was set to freeze until the target from the program was killed. Of course, they could just rip out the control device, but in order to install a new one, they would need a special set of skills. And they did not have that skill nor a spare control device that they could use.
The program could confirm the target’s death using different methods depending on the setting of the program. Some badly made programs could be fooled using a similar mannequin doll, it might also be unable to confirm the death of the target even after the target of the request was killed. As for advanced programs, they confirmed the death of the target from submitting the image of the dead target.
Nelia was trying to bypass that confirmation process. But all of her trials ended in failure thanks to the advanced control device and the advanced program that someone spread in the darknet. She also did not have the skill to hack through the program.
Since Nelia could not do it, it meant that no one here could do it.
Nelia sighed and said to Kain and the others.
“There’s nothing we can do about it, let’s just give up.”
Kain yelled back in anger.
“Give up, you say?!! Are you kidding me?! How much money do you think is riding on this plan?!! How much do you think all the relics that we gathered are worth?!! If we sell them, we can at least get 10,000,000,000 Aurum!!! No, we can get even more than that!!! Like hell, I would leave those relics here!!!”
The others around flashed looks of dread when Kain flared. If he went on a rampage with his formidable powered suit, no one in that place would be able to stop him.
Looking at Kain who was misunderstanding her words, Nelia exasperatedly said.
“Who said anything about giving up on the relics?”
“…What do you mean?”
“I was just saying to give up on bypassing that program.”
The terminal connected to the truck’s control device was showing the target of that program’s request. Nelia pointed her finger at that terminal and said.
“Let’s go and kill this boy.”
On that terminal was the image of Akira.
Silavin: Hey Akira… how’s that good luck going for you?