Reina and her maids knew that they were attracting peoples attention. The differences in their expressions showed how they felt about it. Shiori prioritized her master and her duty over other peoples gazes, Kanae was smiling as she did not even give a care at all, while Reina looked slightly annoyed.
Reina looked at the other Hunters reactions to Shiori and Kanae and sighed.
“…As I thought, were attracting a lot of attention.”
The other day when they were walking through Kugamayama city lower district, they were also garnering attention. Though Kanae was the only person in a maid outfit at that time. So it was totally understandable that they were gathering a lot more attention with both Shiori and Kanae in maid outfits in the middle of an old-world ruin.
Shiori tried to cheer Reina up.
“We will attract less attention once we go into the ruin, so just bear with it for now.”
Shiori understood that they were attracting a lot of attention because of their maid outfits and she understood that she was putting Reina in more unnecessary stress. But there was a reason why she kept her maid uniform on, after all, it was not like she could just take off her outfit just because it was attracting some attention.
Kanae smiled and said to Reina.
“We just need to get used to this. After all, once Milady becomes a famous Hunter, Milady will attract a lot of attention no matter what outfit Milady uses. So, like, this is a good chance to get used to it, right Of course, that is if Milady doesnt plan to be just one of those ordinary Hunters.”
Shiori glared at Kanae, so Kanae averted her gaze.
When Kanae averted her gaze somewhere else, she caught a familiar face.
Most of the Hunters in that place looked at Reina and her maids with suspicion. Akira, who noticed that, understood that his common sense was correct the previous time and spoke to Alpha in a good mood.
“Alpha, I knew I was right. It seems that walking around in maid outfits in the middle of the wasteland is not normal even for the Hunters, you know.”
“That seems to be the case indeed. Well, common sense is indeed important, but its also important not to be held back by common sense. Sometimes you need to doubt common sense and be more open to different things. After all, you can expect weird things from the old-world culture.”
“I know… Wait, what were we talking about, again”
Akira felt like Alpha just diverted the subject as he tilted his head. But she just ignored that and continued.
“Its not like we have any business with them, so lets just head to the ruin.”
“Youre right about that.”
Akira did feel for sure that Alpha was changing the subject, but he just decided to forget that and head to the ruin.
At that time when Akira was about to turn and was still looking in Reinas direction, Kanaes gaze met with his gaze.
Kanae smiled, she looked really excited as she suddenly called Akira with a loud voice.
“Yo there!! We meet again!!”
Reina and Shiori quickly noticed Akira too. Akira, who was about to leave that place, stopped. Kanae then approached him, half-running.
“Are you here to hunt for relics too What a coincidence!! Ah, Im Kanae by the way!”
Akira was a bit surprised since Kanae came at him with such a high spirit.
“I see!! Akira-shounen!! Nice to meet you!!”
Akira was actually a bit overwhelmed by that overly excited reaction from Kanae.
Reina and Shiori also came to Akira. Since Kanae noticed him, it was not like they could just ignore it and go somewhere else.
Shiori carefully spoke to Akira.
“…Akira-sama, it has been quite a while.”
Reina also followed up by nervously giving her greeting to him.
“…Uhm, long time no see.”
Akira was a bit fl.u.s.tered as he awkwardly replied.
“Y-yeah, it has been quite a while since the last time.”
With what happened in the past, Akira, Reina and Shiori, all 3 of them were not sure on how to interact with each other.
But then Kanae said to him with her still high-spirited attitude as if she could not read the mood at all.
“Its actually our first time coming here! Do you usually come here”
“No, this is also my first time.”
“I see!! What a coincidence!!”
Kanae replied back in such a high-spirit, she was sticking out so much as if she was in the wrong place.
Although at first, Akira was not really sure how to interact with Reinas group including Kanae, after seeing how Kanae was behaving, he stopped worrying about it.
Akira lightly sighed. He then turned and spoke to Shiori, who might be the most worried person in that place.
“Back then, I was not expecting that you would believe what I said and help me out. So Im already thankful enough that both of you decided to stay neutral. So well, yeah, you have my gratitude.”
“Thank you for your understanding.”
Shiori bowed deeply to Akira. For now, she was able to confirm that he had no grudge against Reina or her.
Although Shiori originally regretted the fact that she was caught completely off guard when Kanae suddenly called Akira, and that she could not stop Kanae back then, she started to think that it might be a good thing that Kanae did that.
Shiori took another close look at Akira. He was carrying better equipment compared to the ones that he was carrying in Kuzusuhara underground city.
She unconsciously assessed his fighting power. If she and Kanae fought Akira in a 2 vs 1 fight, there was no mistaking that they would be able to kill him. Although either she or Kanae would also get killed in that fight. But if Reina also joined in, it would be extremely difficult to win against Akira since she had to protect Reina. And honestly speaking, Shiori did not think he would let that weak point slip off when it came to that.
Thus Shiori concluded that it was not wise to be hostile against Akira.
Akira then casually asked a question.
“So then, what business do you have with me If its just saying hello to an acquaintance, then Ill head to the ruin now.”
“I understand, please be careful out there.”
Shiori was about to end their conversation there and let Akira go, but Kanae suddenly interjected.
“This must be some kind of fate to meet here!! So why dont we go together”
Reina and Shiori looked at Kanae in panic. Shiori was about to scold Kanae, but before she could do that, Akira quickly replied back.
“No, thank you.”
Reina looked a bit down since Akira replied almost instantly without any hesitation. She turned into the self-deprecating mode as she wondered if it was because she would only slow Akira down and it was something that could not be overturned even with the help from Shiori and Kanae.
Kanae giggled mischievously and said to Akira.
“Geez, youre so cold. To think that you would refuse such an offer from a group of beautiful girls, dont tell me that youre already sick of girls in your age.”
Akira seemed obviously exasperated.
“I just dont want to stick out by walking together with people in those outfits. Moreover, its a hassle to fight over where to go and how to divide the money. Honestly, why are you even wearing that maid outfit here in the first place You do know that youll attract peoples attention, right Or is it that you have that kind of hobby”
“Its my masters hobby, you see!!”
Kanae said that without any hesitation. Thanks to that, she sounded very convincing.
Akira glanced at Reina and looked obviously weirded out.
Reina, who was down, quickly refuted in panic when she realized that Akira was misunderstanding the subject.
“Thats not true!! Its not my hobby!!”
“Ah, right, of course.”
It was obvious that Akira did not believe her.
Shiori smiled bitterly and explained to Akira to correct his misunderstanding.
“To be more precise, its the hobby of our master, Miladys father. Were officially working for him. These maid outfits are practically the best armours that we have. Actually, when we requested equipment, the upper echelons sent us this maid outfits and rifles. We understood that we gathered a lot of attention with these outfits. But considering its quality as an armour and how itll help us protect Milady, I think its better to keep using this outfit although it attracts peoples attention.”
“By the way, were also using augmented suit under it.”
Kanae then lifted her skirt with her left hand and pointed at the black tight-looking augmented suit under her skirt with her right hand. There was a good chance that Shiori and Reina were also using similar augmented suits. As Akira thought so, he did not question it at all.
“So as we explained, this is not out of Miladys hobby. I hope you can understand that.”
Shiori tried to confirm that Akira understood that point as she slapped Kanaes hand that the latter was using to lift her skirt.
Akiras expression suddenly changed as if he realized something.
“Ahh, I see. So that maid outfit must be an old-world relic, huh. I heard that old-world fabrics are so strong that they are often used in place of armour. And then you complement it by using an augmented suit under it, right”
Akira used all of his knowledge to come up with a plausible explanation. After all, normally, it was unthinkable that a maid outfit could withstand a fight against monsters. But if it was an old-world relic, then it would be completely possible. That was what Akira thought.
But then Shiori rectified his answer.
“No, this is not an old-world relic. I heard that its specially ordered from a corporation that normally works on Hunter armour.”
There was a short silence before Akira asked another question.
“Do tell me if Im mistaken… Honestly speaking, why would you need a maid outfit that can withstand fighting monsters Maids are those people, right They usually work to take care of a house, right So why would you even need such a strong maid outfit When you said its out of a hobby, does it mean that its that kind of hobby, like, putting maid outfits on Hunters”
“No, I heard that every maid working in the main house is using the same type of maid outfit. This outfit might be a leftover from the main house.”
Akira frowned, he tried to make sense of all the information that he just received.
“…Youre talking about the guards, right Theyre just people trained in combat wearing maid outfits, right”
“No, its true that some of them are guards, but the maids who mainly work on taking care of the house also get the same set of equipment. Moreover, all the maids in the main house are required to be able to fight, they even have to go through a specialized lesson for that.”
Shiori was a serious person in the first place, thus she answered Akiras question sincerely without trying to lie nor to trick him. But that only caused him to question it even more.
Akira was confused as to why maids needed to be trained in fighting. They were in the inner wall of the city, so in his mind, that place should be a relatively safe place protected behind the wall.
Akira did not know if he was mistaken there, the inner wall might be not as safe as he thought to the point that the maids there had to learn how to fight, or it was just that his assumption about maids was completely wrong.
After hearing something that was the opposite of what he thought as normal, Akira mumbled.
“Is it my fault Is it because my common sense is just wrong…”
Kanae laughed and then said to him.
“Its pointless to worry over such a thing. This world is a big place, thats all there is to it.”
Akira looked at Kanae, she nodded deeply as if she tried to convince him.
Akira quickly decided to just forget about it and gave up thinking any further about that subject. Even if it was because his common sense was wrong, it was not like it affected him at all. He was going to explore the dangerous ruin from now on, it was not the time to worry himself about useless things.
Akira sighed, he decided to move on as he said to Reina.
“Well, that aside, I have no plans to work together with you. Putting aside your outfits and the problem about how we are going to divide the money if we work together, I dont feel like joining a group consisting of 2 bodyguards for that one person in that group. I dont really mind if you ask me to come with you as your bodyguard, but since I didnt receive such a request, I have no plans to join you. So yeah, later then.”
After he said that, Akira just waved and left that place.
Reina, Shiori and Kanae just stood there and watched Akira leave. Once he was out of their views, Shiori immediately scolded Kanae since she was interrupted back then when she was about to send Akira off.
“Kanae, why did you do that”
Kanae played fool as she said.
“What do you mean by that”
“Why did you call him What would you do if something bad happened”
“Well, nothing happened and its good to hear that hes not angry at us. So like, theres no need for you to be angry, right”
“Im asking you why you did that. You remember what happened back then, right So why did you do something so dangerous”
Shiori had a very serious expression, an intimidating air was even exuding out from her. It was as if she was saying that she was willing to dispose of Kanae if Kanae kept exposing Reina to unnecessary dangers.
Kanae did not show any fear at all as she smiled and said.
“Thats exactly the reason, we eventually have to confirm whether hes angry at us or not. Assuming that hes still angry enough that he would kill us the moment he sees us, it was the perfect chance to ask him since there are a lot of Hunters in this place and were right next to the Hunter Office. And even if he did try to attack us, we would have the upper hand in this place.”
“…If thats really the case, fine then.”
Shiori decided not to pursue that subject any further. It was because she knew it was a very good excuse as well as that it was only an excuse since she understood that Kanae loved fighting and she did that fully expecting that Akira would cause a fight there.
But with that being said, it was not like Shiori could just kick Kanae off the group. As long as she could not protect Reina on her own, Shiori could not afford to lose any fighting power.
It was unclear whether Kanae knew what Shiori thought or not, but she then casually said.
“Sure. Well then, Milady, lets head to the ruin, shall we Or do you want to take a break for a bit It seems that theres a cafeteria inside the Hunter Office.”
Since Kanae sent that question to Reina, Reina finally spoke up.
“…Im not tired, lets go.”
Then they also went to the ruin a few minutes after Akira.
Akira was exploring the Mihazono ruins city area. He was able to see his destination since it was indicated by a pointer in his enhanced vision. To be more precise, it was pointing at a floor in a high storey building visible from afar. It was pointing at the locations where Akira should be able to find the Lion Steel corps terminal.
“Why is it in such a place”
“I have no real answer why. It might be because the views from up there are pretty good”
“Well, I bet the views from up there are indeed amazing. But unless the stairs in that building are still intact, theres no way I can go to that floor. Just so you know, I refuse climbing up the outer wall, okay”
The pointer was pointing at a floor that was indeed so high, in case if Akira fell from that height, there was no mistaking it that he would be dead.
“Judging from the outer appearance of the building, it seems that the facilities inside it are still working, it would be great if we can find an elevator inside it.”
“Even if we find one, do you think that it will still be functional If were unlucky, it might be an elevator from hundreds of years ago, you know.”
“The possibility is not zero. The lighting inside the Yonozuka station ruin was still working too, remember Although it depends on which era it was built, if it still has a fully operational self-repairing function, then there should be no problem with that.”
“Is there any other possible problem then”
“Even if its still functional, theres no guarantee that we can use it. Theres also the buildings security to deal with and in the first place…”
Alpha then pointed her finger forward.
“Were not welcome in this ruin. So I wonder if we would be able to use the facilities inside that building.”
Akira noticed mechanical monsters coming from the front of him. Or to be more precise, the monsters noticed Akira as its legs and hands extended out from their square bodies and they started moving toward his direction.
Akira lightly smiled and aimed his CWH anti-material rifle.
“Youre right about that one.”
He then pulled the trigger, the piercing ammo easily pierced through the monsters torso and destroyed the machines inside it.
The security guards that were patrolling the city area of Mihazono ruin would attack any intruders that they could find even now. It might be out of mercy and ethical design concept that those monsters would not grow rifles on their bodies and start shooting at the people.
Akira was solely relying on his skill as he explored the city area of Mihazono ruin. He was also using his augmented suit with his own skill only. The current him was not receiving any support from Alpha.
Moving his body and his augmented suit in-sync would allow him to lower the burden on his body even in the case when he solely used the power of his augmented suit to forcefully move his body and give him a superhuman strength for a split second. Akira was moving carefully to train his body while not lowering his vigilance. It was a training so that he would still be able to move around even when he lost support from Alpha.
The city area of the ruin was littered with wreckage and crumbled buildings, it reduced the width of the road and transformed the city into a labyrinth. But Akira sometimes could see new buildings right beside the crumbled buildings or strangely clean area beside piled wreckage, it was completely different compared to the outskirts of the Kuzusuhara ruin.
Akira saw such scenes and he indeed found it weird.
“Alpha, why are some areas so clean while others so dirty For some reason, the difference between those two areas somehow looks too unnatural.”
“Maybe its based on the difference of the security and maintenance facilities handling those areas. So for those dirty areas, it might be because the security and the maintenance drones tend to go to those areas and Hunters tend to fight there.”
“So basically the clean areas are relatively safer, huh”
“But dont drop your guard just because youre in a clean area. Those places might be clean because the self-repair drones are working hard in those areas, so it doesnt mean that there is less fighting in those areas. While for the dirty areas, it might be because its abandoned for years since the self-repair drones in that areas are inactive.”
“Well, at least for searching relics, it might be better to go to the clean areas.”
“Thats true, want to have a go”
Akira thought for a bit before answering back.
“I guess not this time. After all, it seems like we can find better relics in that high building were heading to. And even if were going to have a look, lets do that on our way back instead. We might be able to find a lot of relics in our destination after all, and thats exactly why were heading there in the first place.”
“You have a point there. Dont drop your guard and carefully move forward. Lets only hunt for relics if something happens and you decide to stop going to that building.”
Alpha agreed with Akiras idea. If they got unlucky, they might be retreating while running away from the monsters, so it was unwise to increase his luggage since it might be fatal when that happened. At the moment, that decision was not a mistake, it would only become clear whether it was the correct decision or not later.
Akira checked the contour around his destination and confirmed the location of the monsters using his information-gathering device. From there, he picked a relatively safe route using the wreckage and rubbles around him. Every time he picked a wrong route, Alpha would immediately point it out and correct him.
“Alpha, what is my mistake this time”
Akira did not understand the reason why Alpha picked a different route than the one that he picked, so he decided to ask her. When he did that, she enhanced his vision to help him temporarily see everything around him.
“The red areas are dangerous areas. The thicker the red, the more dangerous it is. The route that you picked passes through one of those very dangerous areas, you see Its better to avoid that place.”
“I see. So then, how exactly can I accurately identify such an area without your support”
“Well, you have no other choice but to somehow see it.”
That vague answer from Alpha caused him to frown in confusion as he looked in her direction.
“Somehow Like, how exactly”
Alpha seemed to be confused as well.
“Hmm, I cant really say anything other than that. You somehow need to be able to correctly judge the danger of an area only by the limited information that you get after checking out that area. Like the buildings located in the direction thats not covered by the wreckages or the rubbles in an area, the condition of the walls on those buildings that are facing to your direction, the existence of windows in those walls, the possibility of finding monsters inside those buildings and if those monsters would try to shoot you from those directions, the accuracy of those monsters. There are a lot of details that you need to factor in. Its difficult to explain everything only using words, if I have to do that, it might take a whole day and I wont even be close to finishing. And even if I just show you through visuals since its the fastest way to let you know, its still not an efficient way to do it, you see. Its still difficult to convey the reasons why an area is dangerous even if I do that. Of course, I can add oral explanation too, but youre already past that level. You can already identify and make decisions based on all the information that I can add through an oral explanation.”
With Alphas support online, Akira could get notified if he was in a dangerous situation and she could take control of his augmented suit to evade an ambush. But when he did not have that support, then he would have to do something about it using his own power. He had to detect dangers and avoid it using his own skill.
But at the same time, that remark also showed how much Akira had grown. He was already able to detect and react to dangers that could be easily explained through an oral explanation.
“So basically, I just need to get enough experience so that I can intuitively detect dangers and deal with it, right”
“Yep, thats correct. Theres no other way but to gather enough experience and sharpen your intuition. Of course, I will give you my help to effectively gather that much-needed experience. As you can see, Im enhancing your vision like this to let you know which area is dangerous.”
“Intuition, huh. Well, Im good at sensing troubles, so I guess I have no other choice but to rely on that gift.”
Akira once again checked his surroundings with the help of that vision which allowed him to see the danger level of the areas around him. Although he did not realize it, his guessing skill was actually getting better just by looking around using that enhanced vision. He then picked the safest route based on that vision as he continued moving forward.
Akira was moving slowly and carefully through the Mihazono ruin. Although he was relatively slow, he was doing way better compared to when he took 1 hour just to move forward 100 meters back in the Kuzusuhara ruin. He kept on pushing forward with Alpha sometimes giving him some pointers.
Most of the monsters that Akira met in that ruin were mechanical monsters. Although some of them had the appearance of biological monsters, they scattered out machines when Akiras bullet pierced through their bodies. He sometimes also encountered monsters that looked like normal big dogs, but they would run straight to him with a speed that obviously would not be possible for a dog. And when he shot at them, they would again scatter metallic parts and their dead wreckage would reveal the machines inside them.
Akira looked at them and tilted his head.
“So its a robot dog, huh This place is filled with nothing but mechanical monsters”
“It might be because theres nothing around this place that can be used as a food source for the biological monsters. Either that or the maintenance drones make sure that this place is clear of those biological monsters. By the way, those trees beside the roads are made of metal, you see. And since its made of those nanomaterials, the biological monsters cannot use them as a food source.”
Akira looked at the trees on the roadside. According to Alpha, the green leaves on those trees were made of metal, while to him, they looked completely like natural leaves. But there were cyborg humans and animals out there, so if it was using the old-world technology, it might be completely possible to create mechanical plants. Akira kept staring at those roadside trees that would never wither.
“Its fully understandable for biological monsters to be multiplying somewhere, but how about the mechanical monsters Where are they coming from”
“I believe its from the factories. This place is a city area, after all. So once the Hunters destroy enough drones, it might send a signal to the factories to produce replacement drones.”
“If thats the case, then once we take control of the factories, this place will be a safe ruin, right So why dont they do that already”
“I cant really answer why. It might be because the security is too strong that they cant take control of those factories. They might even intentionally leave the factories alone since the mechanical monsters are one of the sources for material. I dont really know the answer to that question, but someone from the City Management or the Hunter Office should be able to give you a better answer.”
“Well, I guess they have their reasons, huh”
If it was possible and if it was an important thing, they would have done that by now. And it was not like they would explain the reason why they did not do that to a common Hunter. Akira bet that he would be able to know that reason once he got to a higher position and had enough influence. But for the time being, it was something that was impossible for him as much as it was something that was not important to him. As Akira thought so, he decided to just forget about that subject and move on with the exploration.