Sheryl and the other children immediately started gathering relics when they arrived at the Higaraka Residence Ruin.
The Higaraka Residence ruin was one of the ruins near Kugamayama city that were once frequented by a lot of Hunters. But the current Higaraka Residence Ruin was already emptied from any expensive relics. It had little worth in searching for relics, so Hunters normally would not go there just to hunt for relics.
But with that being said, there were still some relatively cheap relics left in that ruin. And so, Sheryl and the other children were there to collect those kinds of relics.
Although those relics were not worth bringing back home for the Hunters, they were still precious relics for Sheryl’s gang. The ruin was filled with relics that those children of the slum city could never find in the back alley of the slum city. If they had any cheap means to go there, those people of the slum city would happily travel to the ruin to collect relics.
So in short, that ruin was like a treasure box for Sheryl’s gang. Of course, if they had to pay Akira for escorting them there, Sheryl would have still ended up with a deficit, but she did not have to worry about that problem this time.
They had already decided beforehand how they would gather the relics. First of all, they would stay in the cart until Akira parked the vehicle near the entrance to one of the buildings. Then Akira would go in first to scan the building for relics and to clean up any monsters inside it. After that, the children from Sheryl’s gang would go into that building to carry any relics inside it to the cart while Akira would patrol the area for any monsters. Once they were done emptying the building, Sheryl would contact Akira through the information terminal to meet up before moving to the next building.
As Akira was patrolling the area, he suddenly stopped as he watched the relics that were carried into the cart. The cart was filled with all kinds of relics, there were curtains with holes, broken beds, cracked kitchen utensils, old furniture that had their shape distorted, and also small relics with mechanical parts inside them. Akira stood there staring at that pile of mismatched relics.
Alpha found that weird and asked Akira.
“Akira, what’s wrong? There are no expensive relics in that pile, you know?”
“Nah, I just remembered that I was also gathering those kinds of relics not too long ago.”
Akira felt slightly nostalgic, but Alpha quickly cut that short.
“Nothing has changed even now. Then you used to go to dangerous ruin to hunt for expensive relics, now you are going to a more dangerous ruin to hunt for more expensive relics. The only difference is the degree of risk involved.”
“… Well, that’s kinda true now that you mention it.”
As Akira looked at the pile of relics in his cart, it reminded him of his past self. Although he felt like he had come a long way since then, after Alpha pointed it out, he realized that what he was doing right now was not that much different from his past self.
The only difference was that the back alley slum city had turned into a relatively safer place for him and stuff that he could find there was relatively not worth the time for him right now. So right now, in order to gain more profit, he chose to go to a more dangerous place and get more expensive relics. That was the only difference between the current him and the past him.
Akira still encountered some monsters inside Higaraka Residence ruin. But he was able to handle them just fine. Thus, Sheryl’s gang was able to gather relics without facing any particular trouble. With more and more relics piled inside the cart, the sitting space for the children from Sheryl’s gang shrunk.
After they finished collecting relics from one of the buildings there, Akira returned back to his vehicle and asked Sheryl.
“Sheryl, How long are you planning to stay here for today? I don’t mind staying here until the sunset though, but it seems we’re running out of free space in the cart. I have no complaint if you want to let them sit on the top of the relics, but I won’t care if any of them trip and fall off the cart, okay? Also, I might have to pace the vehicle if we encounter a monster on our way back home. So don’t blame me when that happens.”
Sheryl went to check the cart, and as Akira said, the cart was more or less filled with the pile of relics that they gathered that day.
But since it was a very rare chance for her, Sheryl wanted to take back as many relics as she could. After all, she might not get any more chances to go to the Higaraka Residence Ruin again.
Sheryl did not know what she should do so that Akira would accept if she asked him to escort them again. Thus, as long as she did not know how to get Akira to accept her request, she thought that she would not get another chance like this.
Sheryl looked hesitant, she then said to Akira.
“Let’s go for another one before going home. I think it should still have enough free space for one more building.”
Akira then went back to the driver seat, Sheryl sat next to him on the driver’s assistant seat. As he was about to turn on the vehicle, suddenly a water droplet fell in front of him.
Akira raised his head and looked up, the sky above him had already turned cloudy before he even realized it.
“Rain, huh. The weather forecast said that we’ll have a clear day though? As I thought, I can’t really trust a free weather forecast, huh?”
“Akira, we should move.”
“Hm? I can just go to that building over there to take shelter from the rain…”
Akira turned his head to glance at Alpha. The moment he confirmed Alpha’s expression, he quickly turned on his vehicle.
Sheryl who was sitting in the driver’s assistant seat could feel the G-force as Akira stepped on the pedal, the children in the cart lost their balance as they quickly grabbed on the cart railing. As the whole cart swayed, some of the relics from that pile toppled over.
The usual smile on Alpha’s face was not there, it only meant that Akira was in a situation that might endanger his life.
Akira drove the car following the instruction shown in the navigator of the vehicle’s control unit. His destination was a big mansion located deep inside that ruin. It was the same mansion where Alpha told him that he was someone who could connect to the old-world domain.
“Akira!? What’s going on?!”
Sheryl was surprised when Akira suddenly paced the vehicle. But Akira only signalled her with his hand that he had no leeway to answer her question. After all, it was not like he had the answer to that question anyway.
“Alpha, what’s going on?”
“I’m sorry to rush you like that. But don’t worry, it’s not like we were about to get attacked by a swarm of monsters again.”
“I see. So then, why did you rush me?”
“It’s to make you move out from the area with the same level of signal interference as the colourless mist as fast as possible. If we had stayed in that area, there’s a good chance that monsters might ambush you. You also need to find a place where you can take shelter from the rain as soon as possible.”
“If it’s because of the rain, can we not pick one of those buildings around here?”
“I’m sure you want to avoid a situation where you’re surrounded by monsters and forced to fight them in a small closed space, right? You need a big place where you can fight optimally. That big mansion would be perfect for that, and even if it’s filled with monsters, you can secure one of the empty rooms for Sheryl and the other children and it would be an easy job for you to clean those monsters from that building.”
As Akira was talking with Alpha, the rain was getting stronger and stronger. Akira noticed that the effective scanning range shown in his goggles was growing narrower because of that.
“Whoah there, this small rain has this much effect? If a small rain has this much impact, what would happen if it’s heavy rain?”
“In the worst-case scenario, your information-gathering device would be completely useless outdoor and there might be some effect even when you are indoors.”
“According to your prediction, how bad will this rain be?”
“To be honest, I don’t know for sure. That’s why I urged you to get out as soon as possible assuming the worst-case scenario.”
Akira frowned. Sheryl looked worried when she saw his expression, Akira then noticed that Sheryl was worried about him.
“I’ll save the details for later, but we’re basically heading to a safer place, so don’t worry.”
Sheryl replied back with a smile.
“I understand, we’ll be in your care.”
Just that short explanation from Akira was enough to make Sheryl regain her calm.
Originally, Akira and Alpha planned to continue their training until Akira escorted Sheryl’s gang back to Kugamayama city. But now with this sudden turn of events, although he planned to rely on Alpha’s support as little as possible, Akira himself had no plans to keep that up and unnecessarily put Sheryl’s gang under more risk.
“Alpha, let’s end the training here. I’ll be relying on your support again.”
“Roger that, I’ll take the wheel.”
The moment Alpha took control of the vehicle, it obviously moved much stable than before. Akira stood up from the driver seat and moved to the back seat.
Up until now, Akira operated the control panel and set the vehicle on auto-drive before he moved to the back seat. But he did not do it this time, Sheryl who noticed that panicked and asked Akira.
“Uhmmm, is it okay to leave the steering wheel?”
“It has a self-driving function, so it’s okay.”
“Don’t you need to set to auto-drive mode using the control unit terminal?”
“It’s alright, it’s one of those advanced control units.”
Akira did not hesitate when he said so. Because of that, he was able to convince Sheryl. And since there was really no problem with the driving, Sheryl easily accepted his explanation.
Alpha smiled teasingly and said to Akira.
“Yep, that’s right. It’s an advanced control unit after all… So you should make your explanation more convincing than that, you know?”
“It’s alright… Maybe.”
Akira thought to himself in secret that he should be more careful next time.
He took out the camouflaging sheet that he usually used on his vehicle and threw it to the children in the back cart.
“Just use that for now!!”
Akira shouted as he set up the folded roof on his open-roof vehicle. The children from Sheryl’s gang expanded the camouflaging sheet to protect the relics and themselves. As for Akira, the vehicle that he was driving was equipped with a foldable roof. Although it still depended on how strong the rain was, they would at least be able to avoid getting completely drenched because of the rain.
They eventually arrived at the mansion that they were heading to. The mansion that Alpha picked was a big mansion complete with a parking lot. There were leftovers of dead monsters scattered around that mansion. There were also metallic wreckages scattered here and there, those might be what was left of the defensive equipment of that mansion. Of course, those already turned into broken scraps after enduring the harsh weather of the wasteland. Akira parked the vehicle near one of the entrances of that mansion.
Akira removed the DVTS minigun and CWH anti-material rifle from his vehicle and carried them with both of his hands. Both of them were heavy rifles, the only reason why he could carry them around with one in each hand was because of the quality of his new augmented suit.
Of course, it was completely a different problem whether he could use them with only one hand since he had to deal with the recoil of those rifles. But with the help of Alpha’s support, it should be no problem at all.
When Akira saw some of the children from Sheryl’s gang about to enter that mansion before him, he quickly stopped them.
“Don’t go in there before me, step back.”
But when Akira stopped them, they sounded super annoyed as they replied.
“What the heck, just let us in already.”
The rain had gotten pretty heavy. So Akira understood their feeling of wanting to get in that mansion as soon as possible. But he could not let them do that since he was working as their escort at the moment.
“I don’t mind if you want to meet the monsters that might have taken shelter from the rain inside that mansion before us.”
When he said that, the children from Sheryl’s gang flusteredly moved away from the entrance.
After Akira made sure that everything was safe around the area, he gathered all the children from Sheryl’s gang in a big hall. The hall was so big that it still had a lot of free space even after everyone gathered there.
The hall was almost empty. It was because the Hunters had already taken out all of the relics from inside that place. Since the mansion looked luxurious, a lot of Hunters in the past must have thought that there must be some expensive relics inside and decided to take out everything from within that mansion.
Akira then gave them an order.
“We’ll stay here until the rain dies down. I’ll go ahead and check the safety of all the rooms. Since it’s dangerous, don’t go outside this room without my permission. Sheryl, give me a call if anything happens.”
Sheryl bowed and saw Akira off as he left that room.
Akira started scouting all the rooms around the area starting from the closest rooms from where Sheryl’s gang was staying.
He had come to that mansion before in the past, but for some reason, the air inside the mansion felt different this time.
“Alpha, don’t you think there are too many dead monsters here?”
“It’s true that there are more dead monsters compared to the last time we came here. The vibe is also different.”
“The last time we came here, remember that there was a dead greedy crocodile corpse, right? I think some Hunters had killed that crocodile. Putting that aside, there seem to be more monsters in this area. They might have originally come here to feast on that dead crocodile, either that or they originally might have been staying away from this place when that greedy crocodile was still around.”
“I see, so there’s something like that too, huh. I thought that this was a safe area the last time we came here, but it seems that it’s not exactly the case now… Or was it actually this dangerous right from the beginning?”
“Don’t worry, looking at the dead monsters in this place, it seems that there are no dangerous monsters in this area. You should be able to deal with them with no problem. Not to mention that I also picked a particularly safe place for Sheryl and her gang. So there’s no need to worry.”
Akira slightly relaxed after hearing that.
But then Alpha changed her tone and warned him.
“Akira, if you’re too tense, it’ll only make you get tired quickly. I did tell you about this before, right? This offer will also profit Sheryl and her gang as well as give you a good chance for training. Although it’s dangerous, Sheryl would be able to bring home some relics with her, they’ll properly profit out from this too. So there’s no need for you to be overly conscientious about it.”
Akira understood that and was trying to not be too tense. Although there were some parts that both he and Sheryl felt awkward about, both of them agreed to do the ruin exploration. But even so, he still felt slightly guilty about it.
This time, when Akira came to the ruin for training, he brought some people who would definitely slow him down to explore an old-world ruin. His duty was to make sure that they would return back alive. It was a training to increase his fighting capability. So in short, Sheryl and her gang were there only to be used for his training.
Akira himself understood that Sheryl and her gang were going to get something out of this ruin exploration too. But at the same time, it felt like he just used sweet words in order to bait Sheryl and her gang out to the dangerous wasteland.
But to be more precise, this also showed the fact that Akira had little trust in his own ability. Simply put, Akira thought that he did not have enough ability to make sure that everyone from Sheryl’s gang would be safe under his protection. After all, if he was strong enough to the point that he was confident that he would be able to make sure of the safety of Sheryl’s gang in the wasteland, then he would not feel guilty as he is now.
Alpha smiled and said to Akira.
“If you can’t stop yourself from getting bothered by it, then you should work hard to become strong. If you become strong enough to the point that you think it will be a piece of cake to escort Sheryl and her gang, then this kind of training will be just you giving them free help. At that point, it would not be you baiting them to get out to the dangerous wasteland using sweet words, but instead, you’ll be just simply spoiling them. I’m sure you won’t feel guilty in that case, right? Don’t worry, I’ll properly give you my support until you can get that strong.”
“…You’re right. This will all get resolved if I become strong enough. Not to mention that I’ll be able to finish that request from you too.”
Akira lightly smiled when he said.
“I’ll look forward to that.”
Alpha also replied back with a smile.
After Akira made sure that the mansion was safe. He put down his rifle on the floor and took a short rest.
He peeked the outside of the mansion through a window. Far from slowing down, the rain was stronger than before. He then tried to check the situation outside using his information-gathering device, but the scan range was already so small that it was basically useless.
Akira then thought of something and asked Alpha.
“By the way, why does rain have the same effect as the colourless mist?”
“There are many theories out there. The most widely accepted theory says that it’s because the thick colourless mist in the sky gets mixed with the water droplets and fall down to the ground during a rain.”
“If that’s true, then we won’t be able to move out for some time even after the rain stops, right?”
“I can’t really say for sure until the rain stops. There are also cases where the situation quickly comes back to normal once the rain stops, but there are also cases that it gets worse instead.”
“…Are you sure that theory is correct?”
“Like I said, there are many theories out there. There are many things that humans don’t understand, you know.”
Akira was obviously not fully satisfied by that answer, but he decided to stop digging any deeper.
The children from Sheryl’s gang were doing all kinds of things to pass the time. Some of them were even playing trump card using the deck that they found among the relics.
Sheryl left everyone behind and went to Akira’s place.
“Uhmm, is it okay if I sit beside you?”
Akira looked up to Sheryl, she was smiling at him while trying to figure out his mood.
“I’m in the middle of my escort duty right now. So just don’t cling on me. It’ll slow me down if anything happens. And also, don’t sit too close.”
Although Sheryl took her gang to Higaraka Residence Ruin because of the offer from Akira, it was still recognized as a formal request in the Hunter Office. Thus the record of this request will also be shown in Akira’s battle record in the Hunter Office website.
The reward from that request was 10,000 Aurum. Including the brokerage fee for the Hunter Office, it would be 20,000 Aurum. Since the request wasn’t submitted as an individually designated request in the Hunter Office site, it was possible for a completely unknown Hunter to take that request too. But such a possibility was highly unlikely.
It was the lowest possible reward for a request that was submitted in the Hunter Office as an individual request which was not from a company or an organization. Not to mention, the transportation would be handled by the Hunters, the ammo expense would be paid fully by the Hunter, the escort targets were just small children who knew nothing about fighting, the request would take a whole day, and to top it off, the reward payment would be given only after the request was finished.
If Hunters flood to take this request, it would be very suspicious. Although it was to be expected, there was no other Hunter who took that request except Akira. And just to be safe, after Akira finished the administration work to take that request in the Hunter Office, the request was closed. Thus preventing other Hunters from taking that request.
The reason why Akira took the exploration as a formal request through the Hunter Office was to strengthen his resolve. Since it was a formal request, it put him under more pressure to fulfil his duty of protecting Sheryl and her gang. It was a form of his determination as well as a way to convince Sheryl that he would not abandon her just because he did not get paid for escorting her.
That was why Akira said that he was in the middle of a job and hence it would be stupid to let Sheryl cling on him while he was working.
Sheryl then sat one person space away from Akira, she was relieved that it seemed Akira’s mood was at least better compared to when they were outside.
“The rain is not slowing at all, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, the weather forecast said that it would be a clear day though. Well, it was from a free weather forecast, so I guess it’s not really that accurate, huh? Ah, it might as well be because it’s a weather forecast for Kugamayama city and not Higaraka Residence ruin. Ahh, that makes sense then, it’s not like those people in the inner wall care about the weather in the wasteland after all.”
“It would be bad if it doesn’t rain at all, so it’s a good thing that it rains from time to time. With the humid atmosphere and the wet ground, the air feels much more gentle.”
“Well, it’s all good that it rains from time to time, but I hope that it will not rain when the weather forecast that I checked said that it won’t rain. I just hope that the tire won’t get stuck in the mud. I guess I’ll have to pick another route to go back home.”
Sheryl was only talking about her impression of the weather while Akira was talking about what he should do to adapt to the rain. Both of them were basically talking about the same thing but focused on two different subjects. Akira noticed Alpha was smiling as she watched that exchange.
“It’s nothing. Look there, Sheryl is wearing the clothes that you gave her the other day, you know?”
After Alpha said that, Akira took another look at Sheryl’s clothes. He did not really remember it, but it was actually one of the dresses that he gave to Sheryl.
Sheryl noticed Akira’s gaze, she then smiled and said.
“This is one of the dresses that I received from you, how does it look?”
There were a lot of parts on that dress that did not really fit Sheryl’s body. But because she was used to that kind of dress and because of some adjustment that she made, it did not look weird on her. It was the result of her skill on how to use a dress as well as the trial and errors that she did beforehand in front of a mirror.
As for the underclothing, the old-world underclothes was, for some reason, very flexible and stretchy. Thanks to that, even a petite girl like Sheryl could use them comfortably. Although they do have a sexy design, it was not like people would be able to get a peek as long as she did not do any crazy stunt, and since she planned to only let Akira see them, Sheryl did not have any problem with them.
Sheryl, herself, was actually hoping to get some light compliment, something like ‘they look good on you’. She thought that she should be able to at least get that since she received that dress from Akira, that was why she asked Akira for his opinion.
Akira stared at Sheryl, he then frowned and looked a bit troubled. After a small pause, he hesitated and said.
“…Well, I think it’s okay.”
Although Akira gave a vague response, Sheryl was somehow able to keep up her smile when she said that.
There was an awkward silence between them. After that, Akira suddenly spoke something that sounded like he was confessing his sin.
“Well, uhh, to be honest, those are clothes that I found in the ruin. It’s just that, I didn’t check them when I gave them to you, so some of them might have a weird design. Well, if you find them having strange designs, uhh, you don’t have to use them, you can just throw them away, you know?”
Akira did not have any sense of fashion at all. He had no problem using a piece of cloth as long as it had no tears or holes. Even now, he always wore his augmented suit outside, thus there was no occasion where Akira could train his fashion sense.
There was also a time when Akira was doing close combat training with Alpha. At that time, Alpha would change her dress into a battle outfit from the old-world and it was a suggestive dress that was much more seductive than being naked. When he saw that, it made him really doubt the fashion sense of the old-world people.
The dresses that Akira gave to Sheryl were old-world clothing. So he thought that some of them might have a weird design just like what he once saw from Alpha. Of course, since he more or less had already gotten used to the old-world design, he was not able to tell apart those clothing from others, and so he was worried if he had given some dresses with a weird design according to the current standard to Sheryl without knowing it. Sheryl, who noticed that Akira suddenly looked worried, carefully picked her words to reply to him.
After listening to Akira’s story, Sheryl more or less understood the situation. She then smiled to reassure him and said.
“I’m using this dress since I really like it, so please don’t worry about that.”
“Is that so? It’s all good then. So… Well, yeah, it looks good on you.”
Akira thought that everything was good as long as the one using it was okay with it.
“Thank you very much.”
Sheryl smiled happily after she got the reaction that she wanted from Akira.