By the time Varga told Akira to take care of the monster that he detected, Akira had already taken care of that monster. Even Varga was surprised by that. He then flusteredly checked his radar and confirmed that Akira was not lying, and so he was still shaken when he replied back to Akira.
Varga then curiously asked Shikarabe.
“Shikarabe, where in the world did you find that boy? Wait, that’s not right. How the heck did you discover his ability?”
“There was a chance when we worked together in the Kuzusuhara underground ruin. That was the trigger.”
“Ohh, that, huh. If I’m not mistaken, they found a big Yarata scorpion nest there and executed a big scale extermination operation, right? I heard that the Katsuya faction was able to gather a lot of reward and achievement during that operation. So Akira also participated in that operation, huh?”
Shikarabe shook his head.
“Nope, as in matter of fact, he withdrew from the underground city request on the third day. So he did not participate in the extermination operation. The reason why I was able to see his ability was when I got assigned to a team of Hunters to explore the underground city.”
“So, did he do anything amazing there?”
“Not really, he was at least not a deadweight to me and the other Hunters. That was all there was to it.”
Varga tilted his head.
“Then why did you invite Akira? Judging from what you just said, there’s no real reason why we should invite him for hunting the bounty monsters, you know? Does he have anything particular written in his Hunter history?”
Yamanobe joined in and refuted that guess.
“Nah, there’s nothing amazing written in his Hunter history. Since Shikarabe invited that boy and after seeing what he was capable of yesterday, I went to the Hunter Office’s site to check his Hunter page. There’s nothing interesting in particular written there. He’s just a Rank 21 young Hunter, he has killed a lot of monsters and went up a few ranks sooner than most of his peers. That’s all that is written on his Hunter page.”
Varga looked a bit confused as he asked Shikarabe further.
“Then why did you invite him? Is it that thing? That Shikarabe’s intuition thingy? You always say that a good intuition is a crucial aspect for a Hunter.”
“I know well enough not to rope both of you in solely because of my intuition, you know. Well, it’s true that it was because of my intuition at first, but I decided to invite him after I got more information about him.”
Shikarabe then pulled out his information terminal, operated it, and then gave it to Yamanobe and Varga. Both of them looked at that information terminal and checked the information displayed on its monitor.
Yamanobe looked slightly confused.
“Is this a copy from the Hunter Office’s webpage? I already checked it, you know.”
“You should already know why I went through all the work to get a local copy. It contains confidential information that you won’t be able to see normally unless you pay an information broker from the inside the Hunter Office. Look how it’s different from what you have read.”
Yamanobe then operated the information terminal to look for that difference.
“…There’s some difference in the request history. The details about the Kuzusuhara underground city request is really short… Hm?”
Yamanobe raised his eyebrows as he read through that short detailed description of Akira’s Kuzusuhara underground city request history.
“Confidential request from Kugamayama City Management… The details of the request… Is hidden. Ahhh, it must be a copy from someone who has no right to see this information, huh. The only available information that we can see is just a short summary of the request.”
Shikarabe then interjected.
“You can see the reward too, so check it out.”
Yamanobe and Varga checked the reward from that request. Both of them looked thunderstruck when they saw the number.
Yamanobe rechecked that number again to make sure that he did not misread it as he said.
“160,000,000 Aurum!? That boy is a Hunter who’s worth more than 100,000,000 Aurum, huh?!!”
That title referred to the Hunters who gained more than 100,000,000 Aurum in a single request. It was one of the indicators that showed the ability of a Hunter. Of course, there were not that many Hunters who could attain that title.
Although it was a customary title, if a Hunter had finished at least one request that earned that Hunter more than 100,000,000, Aurum or any other currency recognized by the Corporate Government, then that Hunter could claim that title.
But if a Hunter wanted others to treat him or her as a Hunter with that title, then he or she should find a way to prove it to other people. Thus it was hard for a Hunter who achieved that title from a confidential request, of course, that was excluding the people who knew about that confidential request.
Varga was honestly amazed as he said.
“…It says that 60,000,000 Aurum was used to pay for his medical bill. But it’s still a reward that’s worth more than 100,000,000 Aurum. There’s no mistaking it, he’s worthy of that title… No wonder he’s that strong.”
Varga then continued, but this time he sounded a bit suspicious.
“The only thing that bothers me is that this information is not set to be hidden by Akira himself. This information is not just simply hidden from public view, this means that it’s basically forged public information. I bet it was forged after Kugamayama City Management made a formal request to the Hunter Office and Akira himself had given his approval too. What exactly happened?”
Shikarabe smiled and answered Varga’s question.
“There was an incident the same day Akira withdrew from the underground city’s request. The army sent from the Kugamayama city engaged in a battle against some relic thieves. Since the thieves were aiming for the relics in the underground city that were originally owned by the City Management, a lot of Hunters got roped in that incident. You guys heard about that too, right?”
“Yeah, but I heard that the army was able to easily apprehend the thieves. It was written somewhere in a small corner in the news sites.”
“I bet that incident has something to do with that confidential part in his Hunter history. It’s just my guess though, but I believe that Akira was somehow connected to that incident and did something which made the Kugamayama City Management pay him 160,000,000 Aurum. Either that or it was bribe money to make sure that Akira won’t leak anything. I can’t really judge his ability, but looking at the reward that he received, I can make a guess that he’s at least as strong as us. Does that convince you?”
Yamanobe smiled confidently and said.
“Yeah. But still, hypothetically speaking, if we can’t pay him enough reward, you’ll be in big trouble right, Shikarabe?”
“No need to worry about that, it won’t be a trouble if we get to beat one bounty monster. Let’s have Akira work hard for his own reward.”
After Shikarabe said that, they laughed together. Being over-optimistic in their betting was normal in Hunter’s line of work. As long as they went out to the wasteland, they were gambling with their lives at stake. And so, these Hunters expected a high return for the high risk that they were taking.
Akira was driving his vehicle while talking with Alpha, so from the outside, he looked like he was driving silently. Or at least, there was no conversation between him and Togami.
Togami always had an annoyed expression plastered on his face, but now his anger was no longer present. And in its place, he had a cautious and curious face as if he was looking at an unidentified object. He had been looking at Akira for some time now.
Alpha then asked Akira.
“He’s been glancing at you, you know. Are you sure you want to just leave him alone?”
“It’s a huge pain in the neck to react to that. And it’s not like I can just throw him off from my vehicle just because he’s staring at me, so let’s just leave him alone.”
Akira knew that Togami was staring at him, but he just ignored Togami. As long as Togami did not strike any conversation, Akira had no plan to say anything to Togami. He would not even reply to Togami’s question unless he had no other choice.
“If you don’t mind, then I don’t really mind him either, but it really doesn’t bother you?”
“To be honest, it does, but ignoring him is a hundred times better than getting into trouble with him.”
“We should’ve refused right from the start, this was a mistake.”
“It’s not like I have any other choice. The person who made the request told me to take him with me, and to be honest, I didn’t expect he would agree to that condition.”
Alpha smiled, she looked a bit regretful.
“It can’t be helped then. Let’s just wait until we get a chance to throw him to Shikarabe’s vehicle.”
“Honestly speaking, I hope we don’t even need to do that.”
Akira looked exasperated when he said that.
Togami was still staring at Akira.
Akira was able to discover a monster even before Shikarabe told him about that monster, he then sniped that monster from a moving vehicle and was able to hit and kill that monster in one shot. If Togami asked himself whether he could execute the same feat, the answer was a loud and clear no.
In the first place, aiming from a moving vehicle was really difficult. Even if he was shooting from a stationary vehicle, sniping a monster from afar was already difficult enough. And even if he could hit his shot, he would need to either accurately snipe at the monster’s weak point or use a powerful gun to be able to defeat that monster in one shot, both of these only increased the difficulty of executing such a shot. When you want to take out a huge monster, you would have to do both—use a strong rifle and hit the weak point—at the same time.
Togami was a Hunter skilled enough to be sent to hunt a bounty monster, but even if he overestimated his own ability, he was sure he could not execute the same feat as Akira just now.
Moreover, the person who did that was a Rank 21 Hunter who was supposed to be below his own Rank. Because of that, it really shocked Togami.
If it was a story that he heard, he would be able to just laugh it off as a joke or a lie, but Akira did that right in front of his eyes.
On the other hand, he could just think of it as a pure coincidence, a lucky shot that only happened once out of thousands of shots. That might be all there was to it, but Togami could not wrap up that incident as a lucky shot. The reason was because Akira did that so casually.
Akira did that as if it was nothing to him, he did it so easily and casually just because he could, it was as if he had just squatted a fly that passed in front of him. That was the only impression that Togami got from Akira’s action. Also, Akira did not show any reaction after he executed that impossible feat and silently went back to driving.
As Togami kept on thinking and evaluating Akira, the image of Akira inside his mind was of an unknown boy Hunter who had a lower Hunter Rank than him. Since he could not admit that it was Akira’s real ability, he could not hold his curiosity back and ended up saying something to Akira.
“…Oii, don’t get ahead of yourself just because of that lucky shot. I won’t ever admit that it’s your real ability.”
Togami actually wanted to confirm whether it was really a lucky shot or was it because of Akira’s aiming skill. But the words that came out from his mouth were completely different than what he actually meant.
Akira glanced at Togami and casually replied.
After he said that, Akira returned his gaze forward and continued driving. Normally, people would take his reply as an affirmation to what Togami just said. While on the other hand, it was a feat that Akira would not be able to execute without Alpha’s support, so it could also be understood as an affirmation from that point of view. Akira kept training himself every day so that he would be able to do the same thing on his own without Alpha’s support.
Togami laughed awkwardly after hearing Akira’s answer.
“…Hahaha, As I thought, it’s just a lucky shot, huh. Don’t surprise me like that. Ahh, now that I think about it, there’s no way a Rank 21 Hunter can do that in the first place.”
Togami laughed as if he was trying to convince himself, but since he himself was still not fully convinced by it, his laugh was somehow stiff and awkward.
Drankam had a base in the Kugamayama city’s lower district. Somewhere near that base, a lot of Drankam’s young Hunters were preparing themselves to hunt for the bounty monsters. They were preparing their vehicles and equipment to go out to the wasteland and filled their APCs with supplies.
Elena and Sara boarded one of those vehicles and waited until the dispatch time while looking at the scene around them. They were the Hunters assigned to help the young Hunters from Drankam to hunt for the bounty monster. Their job was to fight under the other’s orders. Both of them had already finished their preparation yesterday, so they had nothing to do but wait after they received the contact device specially used by Drankam members.
Sara looked at the other Hunters who were going to join them in hunting the bounty monsters and mumbled.
“There are quite a lot of them, but most of them are young Hunters. Some of them are even as young as Akira, well, it’s not like I’m discriminating against them because of their age though. But it makes me worry with this many young Hunters. I wonder if they really understand that they’re going to hunt for bounty monsters. It’s not like we’re going to hunt common strong monsters, you know?”
The longer someone was working as a Hunter, the more and more obscure his or her age became. But even so, it was rather obvious that the Hunters in that place were mostly young Hunters who were not even considered as adults yet.
Most of the Hunter equipment was designed to be used by adults, thus they were not perfect for young Hunters. As long as it was not some kind of fetish, even cyborg Hunters would not prefer to have a child’s body.
Due to that, most of the young Hunters who looked like young children were really young children. And as young Hunters, they did not have long experience being a Hunter, the same thing could also be said for their skill too. Of course, there were some exceptions though.
Sara was observing those young Hunters preparing themselves while waiting. To be honest, she thought that most of those young Hunters were not ready to join the hunt for bounty monsters.
Elena then spoke to her as if she was trying to reassure her.
“Both their numbers and their equipment should be enough to defeat a bounty monster. Seeing the vehicles prepared for this expedition, it seems that they assume they’ll be able to successfully take down the bounty monsters. Although, I’m not really sure if the reward from the bounty is enough to bring them profit after preparing all of these equipment. Not to mention, they also pay other Hunters like us to help out too and it’s not like all of them are only young Hunters. So there should be no problem.”
Sara frowned a bit.
“…Depending on how you look at it, it sounds as if we’re here to look over these young Hunters though.”
“There’s no need to do that, it’s obvious that we’re here to look over these children. Leaving the bounty monster aside, the reward that we will receive this time depends on the young Hunters who can return back alive, you know. So, our reward will get a huge hit if the leader of the team gets killed. Since it’s not an escort request, there’s no need to try too hard protecting these children, but if we want to keep our reward, we should make sure that the leader returns back alive or take out the bounty monsters fast. Ah, this is confidential info though, so don’t tell anyone, okay?”
“Alright… I did hear that Drankam had a policy to prioritize young Hunters, but I never thought that they would go this far. To think that they would send young Hunters and their guardians to fight bounty monsters… Just what exactly is Drankam thinking?”
Sara sounded a bit bewildered when she said that.
Elena then jokingly replied.
“We might be looking down on them, you know. All of them might be as strong as Akira.”
“That in itself is scary.”
“Now that you mention it, that’s true.”
Elena and Sara then laughed together after that exchange.
They then noticed a group of young Hunters heading in their direction. Elena smiled at the Hunter leading that group.
“Team leader Katsuya, is it time to go?”
They were the team assigned to Sara and Elena. It had Katsuya as its team leader, then Katsuya’s close cliques, and some other Hunters who got roped in his shenanigans as the members. The members of Katsuya’s team were relatively high ranking members, they looked at Elena and Sara with a meaningful gaze.
Katsuya was a bit embarrassed since Elena called him team leader.
“Yes, we’ll start soon. Uhhmm, we’ll be in your care for today.”
Katsuya and Elena then nodded at each other, Elena smiled and said.
“We’ll be in your care too. Let’s give our best out there.”
“Both Elena and I will work hard for receiving the reward, so no need to hold back when you want to give us orders.”
Sara also smiled and joined their conversation.
“I’ll also give my best out there not to drag both of you down.”
After Katsuya said that and smiled, his face turned serious.
“Elena-san and Sara-san are actually assigned under my team, I might be an inexperienced leader, but please don’t move on your own since it might cause confusion. As long as it’s not an emergency, please stick to my orders.”
Katsuya was proud of himself for getting chosen as a team leader. He planned to give his best to turn his hunt into a success. In order to do that, he could not let Elena and Sara make their own moves although he was close to them. He said that with a serious expression to make sure that Elena and Sara understood well what he was trying to say.
Elena smiled and replied.
“Don’t worry, we’ll properly follow your orders.”
Both Elena and Sara did not seem to get offended at all. Katsuya’s expression relaxed as he looked relieved.
But there were people who got annoyed by that exchange between Katsuya and Elena. Among them was a young girl by the name of Lilina who was standing next to Katsuya.
Lilina did not even try to hide her displeasure as she shouted.
“Katsuya! You’re the team leader, so at least tell them not to get ahead of themselves just because they’re your acquaintances! And tell them to just follow your orders!!”
Katsuya looked surprised as he turned to Lilina, both Elena and Sara also looked at Lilina with a dumbfounded face. While for the rest of the Hunters there, half of them felt the same as Lilina while the other half were simply taken aback by that sudden outburst.
If Yumina was present, she would have tried to arbitrate that situation and calmed Lilina down, but at the moment, Yumina was in the middle of doing preparation somewhere else.
Katsuya was still at loss on what to do there. Since there was no one to stop her, Lilina was still glaring at Elena and Sara as she said.
“Since both of you are here because of a request, you need to at least pay some respect to the requestor and the team leader!! If you make such a friendly exchange just because you’re close with Katsuya, it might affect the team’s morale, you know!? Shouldn’t both of you be more self-conscious that you’re here because we pay you?!”
Elena looked completely flabbergasted, but she quickly changed her expression and smiled bitterly at Lilina.
Lilina’s expression turned even stiffer as she thought that Elena was mocking her. Katsuya who regained his composure flusteredly tried to stop Lilina.
“Lilina!! Just shut up!!”
But Lilina jabbed back at Katsuya.
“What do you mean by that?! Or more like, why did you let outsiders join our team in the first place?! Do you think that we won’t be able to handle the bounty monster?! Are we really that weak in your eyes?!”
“T-that’s not what I mean…”
Katsuya was overwhelmed by Lilina’s sudden outburst. She then turned her gaze back to Elena and Sara, she then sighed and said.
“Just so you know, we can take one or two bounty monsters without your help!! So just be careful not to get in our way, okay?!”
After Lilina said that, she quickly turned and left.
Katsuya’s gaze bounced back and forth from Elena and Lilina, who was leaving the premises.
“I-I’m really sorry!! Please excuse me!”
Katsuya then quickly tried to catch up with Lilina after he said that to Elena and Sara. Elena and Sara lightly waved at Katsuya and watched him walking away.
The other Hunters quickly followed Katsuya and left that place too. Now that Elena and Sara were alone, Sara smiled bitterly and said to Elena.
“This isn’t going to be easy.”
Elena laughed lightly.
“Let’s just properly do our job out there. If they really don’t need us, we should be able to take it easy.”
“Do you think we can really take it easy?”
“Oh my, I did say that we should just focus and do our job out there, right?”
They both laughed after Elena said that. Both of them understood that they would not be able to take it easy at all. As a matter of fact, they knew that they would need to work hard out there, otherwise, there would not even be any reward. Both Elena and Sara agreed on that point.
Akira and his group were traversing the wasteland. They did not get to meet much trouble on their way to their destination.
Togami had somehow calmed down. He did not do anything that bothered Akira, at least, other than glancing at Akira from time to time with a curious face.
Suddenly, Shikarabe’s voice could be heard from the contact device, he sounded really serious.
“We’ll soon arrive at the area where the bounty monster was spotted. Our target this time is Tank Tarantula. The bounty prize is 800,000,000 Aurum. Get yourself ready!”
Both Akira and Togami’s expression changed as they got psyched up for the upcoming fight. Both of them listened to Shikarabe with a serious expression.
“Number 2 and 3 will take the front position once the fight starts, all the other Hunters will need to protect number 2 and number 3. Attract the Tank Tarantula’s attention and keep it occupied so it won’t aim its attack on number 2 and number 3. You can check your and the others’ positions from the display in the communication device, pay attention to it as you circle the target. Don’t use the rocket launcher until I give you my signal. Once number 2 and 3 finish their job, we’ll attack the target altogether. That’s all, are there any questions?”
After listening to that short description of the plan, Togami frowned and asked Shikarabe.
“It’s number 8. I need more information on the plan. Aren’t you going to give us orders as to where to go, where we should station ourselves, and when we can attack the target?”
“Other than the decision to withdraw, look around and make your own decision yourself.”
“So we basically can do anything we want to react to the situation, huh?”
“In the first place, we’re just a mix batch of Hunters. We’re not very organized that we can work together on a detailed plan. So make your own decision. But if it’s needed, we’ll also give you orders.”
Togami did not try to hide his displeasure as he said.
“…Give me a break, it’s your job to organize the team, you know?”
Togami was not exactly wrong there. Shikarabe’s orders were very open to interpretation, it basically discarded the advantage they got if they moved as a team. If they made a more detailed plan for them to work together, they would be able to more effectively dish out damages.
Shikarabe himself understood that fact. The reason why he did not do that was because he thought that it would be useless or might even be counter-effective. The only people who he fully trusted were his friends, Yamanobe and Varga. He did not trust that the other Hunters would properly follow his orders. He even thought that there was a good chance the other Hunters would get intimidated, scared, and eventually run away from the fight once they face the bounty monster.
Shikarabe did not expect any of them to do more than the least amount of work that they were needed to do. He did not believe even for a sec that the other Hunters would obediently follow his command. Rather than giving them a proper order, which they could not handle and instead pushed them to abandon the fight, Shikarabe thought that it was better to just give them rather vague orders.
But of course, it would be a whole different case if Shikarabe was gifted with a strong commanding skill. It would allow him to accurately identify the characteristics of the debt-ridden Hunters and Hunters with particular situations that he just met a few days ago and make sure that he only gave them orders that they could execute without much trouble. But Shikarabe himself knew well that he was not that good.
Shikarabe replied back with a strong tone to Togami.
“Is it that you can’t do anything unless I explicitly tell you what to do? If that’s the case, just make sure you don’t get in our way. Other than that, you can freely do anything you want. Anyone has any other questions?”
It seemed that no one other than Togami had any questions for Shikarabe. While Togami was enraged that he was not in a situation where he could ask any further questions.
“If no one else has any other questions, then that’s all. Make sure you work hard enough to earn your reward.”
Shikarabe then ended the call, but Togami did not stop glaring at the communication device.
They continued heading straight to their destination.
Shikarabe kept his eyes on the radar and the information display connected to his vehicle’s control device. The bounty monster was huge, so he should be able to easily notice it when it was somewhere close. He then spoke through the communication device again.
“Spread out, it would be bad if we stick close to each other like this.”
Shikarabe then turned to Yamanobe and Varga, they were number 2 and number 3.
Both of them were sitting on top of a wasteland bike inside the APC. The back door opened for both of them to go out. Yamanobe was carrying an anti-material sniper rifle while Varga was carrying a kick-backless hand cannon. An automatic reloading device was fixed behind their bikes and it was connected to their respective rifles.
Shikarabe threw a question at them.
“You guys ready?”
“Final check is done, I’m ready when you are!”
Yamanobe and Varga smiled as they replied back to Shikarabe’s question. Both of them were a bit excited and nervous at the same time.
Shikarabe then asked them again.
“I don’t know how well the others will do their job as diversions. I’ll also use this vehicle as a diversion, so, do you want to go out now while you have the chance?”
Varga shook his head.
“Nah, I want to confirm the position of our target as close as possible before heading out. It would be a bad thing if we go out first and then get attacked first instead. This APC is already reinforced, right?”
“Yeah. It would be able to take some beatings. If it becomes dangerous to stay in this APC, I’ll give the order to withdraw. You guys need to be careful out there too, alright?”
“I know. It’s also Hunter’s job to return back alive. I have no plans to get killed because of greed.”
They then laughed together. Hunters always put dangers and possible rewards on a scale before making any decisions. Some Hunters decided to take more risk chasing for more reward and got killed instead. Up until now, Shikarabe and his friends were able to always return alive and they had no plans to break that streak now.
Shikarabe’s gaze returned back to the display. It suddenly showed a dangerous threat, it was from the bounty monster.
Shikarabe swiftly shouted at the communication device.
“I found the Tank Tarantula!! Get yourself ready!!”