Shikarabes team in the flank was also attacked by the dead Hunters, but unlike Akira who responded in panic, Shikarabe and Kanae were able to calmly handle the situation just fine. It was not because they expected someone to control the dead Hunters augmented suits, it was more because of the difference in their ability to handle a sudden turn of events like that.
After Shikarabe took care of the dead Hunters around him, he went back to the hallway and shot down the dead Hunters that might attack Elenas team.
Shikarabe had already noticed that those dead Hunters were moving around because someone took control of their augmented suit. He had a grim face as he mumbled.
“Good grief, this is exactly why you shouldnt buy cheap augmented suits, what a huge pain in the neck!”
There were many augmented suits that could be accessed from the outside. It was to help it to work in tandem with other equipment like an aiming device so that the augmented suit could help stabilize the aiming.
Depending on their users, some augmented suits could be set to be more open to external access, there were many different reasons why they did that. For example, it was so that the other Hunters could control and use the dead body as a decoy. Some Hunters forced the other Hunters to use that kind of augmented suit to make use of the other Hunters even when they were badly injured.
Of course, normally, it did not cause any trouble. After all, an augmented suit that could be easily accessed by anyone would not sell well in the market. That was why most of the augmented suits in the market were equipped with a safety function to protect them from unauthorized access. And as expected, the better the protection, the more expensive the augmented suit would be. While on the other hand, it was very rare for people to try to hack into someones safety feature. So it was a rather delicate balance.
Kanae lightly smiled and said.
“Well, this is a huge surprise. How did they hack into the dead Hunters augmented suit But well, this is an old-world ruin after all, in front of their eyes, our technology might be nothing but primitive. While on the other hand, these might be augmented suits that use their users biological signature as a key, so their safety feature is significantly lowered down even when the users get killed.”
“Well, I really cant say for sure.”
When Shikarabe saw Kanae smiling happily, he looked back at her exasperatedly.
A young girl in a maid outfit, equipment tailored for CQC, loved fighting, a total oddball. She was a rare kind of person even for Shikarabe. Although he had nothing to complain about her fighting strength, Shikarabe had no plans to associate too much with her if it can be helped.
Kanae loved fighting too much. Associating with someone like her would dull ones sense of danger. Only battle maniacs could get along with the other battle maniacs. If someone else tried to get along with them, he or she would get killed in no time, or at least, that was what Shikarabe thought.
Kanae noticed that Shikarabe was looking at her, so she just smiled back and said.
“Oh, did I just mesmerize you! Oh my, youre making me blush here! I love strong Hunters too, you see!! So youre more than welcome if you want to try to hit on me! Ah, but Im a bit busy at the moment, so it would be great if you can save it for later.”
Shikarabe obviously had given up on trying to fix that misunderstanding.
“Sorry, but even for me, I would choose who I want to hit on. I have no wish to try to hit on a battle maniac. Especially when shes fighting monsters in close range in a maid outfit.”
“Ah, this is just because I enjoy punching them directly more than shooting at them, you see. There are a lot of cases where I cant bring rifles with me during my job. You look pretty strong yourself, want to do some light duels some other time”
Shikarabes face twitched, he bet that Kanae would not stop only with light duels.
“Thats just too bad.”
Kanae honestly felt bummed by Shikarabes answer.
Togami and Reina were evacuated to a safe hallway. When the dead Hunters started to move, Togami and Reina reacted late, thus forcing Shikarabe and Kanae to help them. After that, they were escorted to a safe place and they were warned not to go out so as not to get in the way of the battle.
Reina checked her surroundings and peeked out, Kanae who noticed that immediately warned her.
“Milady! Get back, its dangerous out here! If Milady gets injured, Ane-san would slice me, you know!! Is this some kind of harassment! If it is, thats so cruel!!”
Shikarabe shouted at Togami.
“Togami, dont just stand there! Get her back in the hallway! Its your job in the first place to keep your eyes on your surroundings!! And dont let her get out from there! I put you there to guard her you know! Or is it that you dont know whats the meaning of guarding someone!!”
Togami grabbed Reinas shoulder and shoved her back.
When Reina was pulled back, she could also feel that it was out of her patheticness. Thus, she instinctively glared at Togami.
“Even I want to know whats going on outside too, you know!!”
Reina had a fierce look that she once had in the past, but the moment she saw Togami, her expression completely changed to a troubled face. Togami had a stern expression, but somewhere in his face, there was a trace of weakness, it was as if he was about to cry. He then asked Reina a question.
“Am I… Really not good enough”
“W-what do you mean by that”
“Am I really that bad to the point that my escort target would just ignore me to check the situation themselves Am I really that useless”
Togamis expression was asking Reina to deny it. When Reina saw that, it reminded her of herself.
Reina responded back with a whisper.
“…Thats not it.”
“…Is that so Then please step back. During that surprise attack just now, we could not do anything at all, we let the other two Hunters take care of everything. Im your escort at the moment. Although I have no plans to die, at the moment, its my job to get killed first before you… So please at least let me do my job.”
Reina obediently walked behind Togami, who peeked out and checked the situation.
“Its fine, dont worry about it.”
Reina did not know if Togami was apologizing because he shoved her back too hard or it was an apology for something else. But in the end, Reina did not ask him either.
After that, Togami started to take his duty to protect Reina seriously.
The vanguard team finally took care of all of the moving dead Hunters. Akira got shot two more times, but he was still able to repel the surprise attack. While Elena, Sara, Carol, and Shiori did not face any trouble at all. The only one who got injured in that surprise attack was Akira.
Elena tried to confirm everyones situation.
“Is everyone alright”
Akira answered back while enduring the pain.
Elena immediately replied with a worried tone.
“Akira, are you really alright”
“Im okay… If theres anything, its just that I set my augmented suit in battle mode, so its consuming more energy than usual. Im not so sure if my energy reserve is okay. Im sorry but when I run out of energy, please let me withdraw temporarily to put in a new energy pack.”
When Akira knew that he would be going into a battle without Alphas support, he set his augmented suit to battle mode. Thanks to that, it was able to absorb most of the impact from the bullets that hit his body, but in exchange, it was actively using a lot of energy. It was only a matter of time before Akira ran out of energy and rendered useless in that battle.
Elena then worriedly said to Akira.
“Alright. Theres no need to hold back, just quickly retreat when things get too dangerous. How about the others”
The other Hunters told Elena that they were fine.
Elena then said to the whole vanguard team.
“Im glad that everyone is okay. Well then, I have some bad news here, it seems that a part of the monster swarm started to move differently. It seems that theyre avoiding us while trying to reach Shikarabes team. If we dont take care of them, we might get attacked from both sides later… Or more like, were already in that situation.”
Some of the B18 monsters that were heading outside the building changed their aim to support the big monster. It was as if they changed their plans after confirming that the Hunters survived that surprise attack.
“Theres no need to hold back, use everything you have, you can use any trump card that you still have hidden up your sleeves. Ill handle the negotiation later to make sure that youll get compensated for that even if those cost you a few million aurums.”
Elena mixed a bit of a joke there before closing the communication.
Akira smiled bitterly, his trump card was not with him at the moment.
[…No, thats not right. A trump card is not something that you casually use all the time. Without Alphas support, I only amount to this much. Im just someone who is fully reliant on a borrowed power, on something that is only lent to me.]
When Akira thought so, he realized that his augmented suit, rifles, and even medicines were nothing but were given to him. He then lightly mocked himself for getting too conceited.
When Akira was about to start shooting again, Carol and Shiori approached him. They started shooting at the big monster while asking Akira a question.
Carol was the first one as she worriedly asked Akira.
“Akira, are you really okay It seems that youre moving slower than usual though.”
“I got shot, so it might have caused me to slow down.”
Carol tried to be careful not to change her expression. She had seen him get shot when he covered her, but back then, it did not seem to have affected Akiras movements at all. So in short, he was lying and Carol knew that.
Shiori pursued even further.
“To be honest, it seems that your movement was slowed down even before you got shot.”
Akira frowned. Both Shiori and Carol were keeping their eyes on him even before he got shot.
Akira sighed and then replied with a serious face.
“I apologize if Im slowing everyone down, feel free to just abandon me.”
Carol did not stop shooting as she flusteredly said.
“…Ah, its not like I think youre taking it easy, I didnt mean that when I asked you that question. I was just worried since you didnt move like usual.”
Shiori also did not stop shooting as she tried to probe what might be behind Akiras words there.
“Im not suspecting you for cutting corners, not at all. But I could not find any reasons that might cause your movement to worsen.”
Akira shot out a couple of grenades at the enemy before he hid again. Shiori was still staring at Akira as if she was waiting for an answer.
It seemed that Akira finally gave up as he gave a mildly vague explanation.
“…If I have to say something, it seems that I consumed too many medicines since we returned from the 30th floor. When I use the full power of my augmented suit, it puts my body in immense stress and Im compensating that with medicines. But I feel like its a bad idea to keep consuming medicines at this rate. The last time I overused medicines, I fainted for 3 full days out of exhaustion. I thought that it would be really bad if I faint in this situation, so I decided to reduce my medicine consumption.”
Akira was not lying, even if that was not fully convincing, it should at least be enough to hold back their suspicions. As Akira thought so, he glanced at Shiori and Carol.
Carol and Shiori seemed to be somewhat convinced by that explanation, but it was not like they just accepted Akiras explanation as it was.
They added extra guesses based on their experiences and knowledge on top of the new information that they just received from Akira.
Carol unconsciously nodded lightly.
[Although he said that its because of the medicines, I bet hes taking medicines with strength enhancers or something. Judging from the fact that he fainted for 3 days out of exhaustion, it should be a pretty strong drug. If his slowed movement is because of the kickback from that drug after it ran out of effect, then his reasoning does make sense. After all, the kickback of an accelerator drug is really not something so scoff at.]
Carol was definitely sure of half of her guess as she asked Akira a question.
“Akira, do you usually modify your time perception I mean like, you know, when things around you run on slower time than they should.”
Akira was surprised by that question.
“Oh, you can tell”
Carol smiled satisfied thinking that she opened one of Akiras secrets.
“Well, pretty much, this is a common knowledge for Hunters, you see.”
Although, unlike what Carol guessed, Akira actually was controlling his time perception with his own power without help from a drug. He was surprised since he thought that Carol had guessed that out, while Carol thought that Akira was surprised since she was able to guess that he was using accelerator drugs. They misunderstood each other and no one there could point that out.
Shiori then asked Akira with a serious look.
“Akira-sama, you said that you fainted out of exhaustion, right Is this something that might kill you”
Akira tilted his head, he thought that it was weird for Shiori to ask a question that had an obvious answer.
“No, but if I faint in this situation, Im pretty sure that Im dead.”
“Which means that the exhaustion itself is not life-threatening, so the kickback from the drug is not that strong and it would be fine as long as you can take a rest in a safe place for a few days after that, correct”
“…Well, yeah, thats true.”
They were still shooting at the monsters while having that conversation, in that situation, they did not have the chance to just focus on their conversation.
Carol immediately returned to hiding behind rubble after releasing some shots, she then glanced at Shiori.
“What is it Are you telling him to use the accelerator until he faints since its not life-threatening Like he said, its stupid to do something like that in this situation. And looking at the current Akira, it seems that the kickback is already at a pretty bad level.”
The reason why Akira was moving slower was simply because he was still inexperienced. But since it would be bad if he tried to explain the truth to both of them, Akira chose to not say anything.
Shiori thought that Akiras silence was due to him getting annoyed. But even so, she made a request to him.
“Akira-sama. I know its rude for me to ask this. But, if you take extra medicines without worrying about the kickback, is it possible for you to stop that monster for at least 10 seconds If its possible, if you can give me 10 seconds, I guarantee that I will destroy that monster without fail. So please, will you consider taking extra medicines”
Akira and Carol inadvertently turned at Shiori, they were completely surprised. Shiori kept staring at Akira, waiting for an answer. Carol, who just returned back to her senses frowned and opposed that plan.
“Whoah, wait, 10 seconds If a single person gets the full attention of that monster for 10 seconds, its more than enough to turn that person into minced meat, you know You basically want him to get its attention off of you, right Isnt that just impossible”
Shiori did not reply back to Carol, she kept staring at Akira, waiting for his answer. Shiori thought that Akira had never shown his full power yet until now. That was why, she thought that if it was Akira, he might be able to accomplish her impossible request.
No matter whether he was using extra medicines or not, it was impossible for Akira to do what Shiori just asked him to do. Akiras own skill was nowhere near enough to do that. He was sure that he would definitely be turned into minced meat before 10 seconds even passed, there was no question about it.
Right when Akira was thinking what he should say to refuse that request…
“Im back, how is it Do you miss me”
Alpha suddenly appeared in Akiras views.
Akiras face immediately turned stern, he was fighting back as much as he could from making a relieved face. Alpha was still smiling like usual when Akira replied back with a complaint.
“Yeah yeah, I really missed you. To be honest, I really wished that you would have returned back sooner, so, can you do something about this situation”
Alpha was smiling confidently as she said.
“Just leave it to me.”
Akira regained his composure after he heard Alphas reassuring reply. His mental state was freed from excessive anxiety as it returned back to its optimal state for fighting. His stern face relaxed for a bit and he started explaining to Alpha.
“I see. So, Shiori asked me to be a decoy and buy her 10 seconds though. If I can do that, it seems she will take care of that thing. Honestly speaking, I really want to get out from here as soon as possible, so, 10 seconds, can we do it”
“As long as you have me, rather than being a decoy for 10 seconds, its better to just kill it yourself though. Ask her to reduce the length, its much more dangerous to keep its attention on you without killing it for an extended time without any good reason.”
Akira then asked Shiori.
“Can you make it 5 seconds less”
“5 seconds, huh…”
When Shiori asked for 10 seconds, she was expecting that Akira would try to make a compromise before eventually accepting her request, but 5 seconds was a lot to ask.
[…5 seconds… That might be the limit of how far Akira-sama could go… I guess it would be meaningless to ask more than that, huh.]
Shiori earnestly bowed to Akira.
“Very well, 5 seconds, Ill be counting on you, Akira-sama.”
Carol looked at Akira with a flabbergasted expression.
“Akira, are you being serious here Its still really dangerous even if its just for 5 seconds, you know That 5 seconds is long enough to get yourself killed out there.”
“Yeah, but as I said before, if this situation continues, my augmented suit will eventually run out of energy. If this will end the battle, I can at least do that much. Without my augmented suit, Im the same as dead in this situation anyway.”
Seeing how Akira seemed to have suddenly regained his confidence, Carol found that rather suspicious, but she then smiled and said.
“Alright then, Ill give you some support too, be careful.”
Akira, Carol, and Shiori repositioned themselves. Akira was hiding behind a pile of rubble away from Shiori and Carol. He had his CWH anti-material rifle in one hand and his A4WM automatic grenade launcher in the other. He was standing with his left leg on the ground and his right leg against the big rubble in front of him.
That rubble was big enough to completely block Akiras view. But for the current Akira, that did not matter at all, he was still able to see the big monster behind that rubble just fine.
Akira then said to Alpha.
“Alright then, lets do this.”
“This will put your body under immense stress, are you sure youre ready”
“Yeah, if its enough to kill that thing, I can give you my resolve as much as you want. Its my responsibility after all.”
Just like he said, Akira had a resolved look on his face. Alpha returned that resolved look with a happy smile.
Akira needed to keep that big monster occupied for 5 seconds. In normal situations, that was a very short span of time, but in the middle of a battlefield where bullets were flying all over the places and one might get killed out of the blue, 5 seconds was long. So in order to survive those 5 seconds, Akira gathered all of his focus and compressed his time perception as much as he could. Inside that distorted world where everything around him was running a beat slower than him, Alpha was the only one who was still moving around normally.
“Well then, lets start!”
With that signal from Alpha, Akira pushed the rubble in front of him with his right leg and made it fall forward toward the direction of the big monster. Alpha controlled Akiras augmented suit to increase its output to its maximum ignoring the stress that it put on its user. The big rubble fell over and slid on the floor with a very loud sound.
Akiras right leg that pushed the rubble and his left leg that supported that force against the floor were put under immense stress, Akira could clearly feel the bones inside both of his legs cracking. Of course, the medicines that were still active inside his body immediately started fixing those cracks, but Akira did not wait for them to completely heal his bones as he immediately started running as if he was chasing for the sliding rubble in front of him.
Since the augmented suit hardened and acted like an exoskeleton to support Akiras both legs, it was able to absorb the impact from the ground so as not to disturb the healing on the cracks of both his legs. Thanks to that, Akira was able to run even with broken legs.
All the machine guns on that big monster turned as much as they could to aim toward the incoming rubble. The impact of the bullet storm that swallowed the sliding rubble was enough to stop that rubble from slipping further. Right after that, all the machine guns on that big monster immediately fixed their aim at Akira who was charging at that big monster alone.
Akira was running while using the rubble in front of him as a shielding, he kept repositioning himself to make sure that he would not get hit by the bullets that passed through the small openings and cracks on that big rubble. It was an impossible feat to execute without Alphas support.
Countless bullets flew right next to Akira, but none of them hit him, not even his equipment. Akira did not slow down at all as he kept on charging forward.
Akira raised his A4WM automatic grenade launchers and pulled the trigger, he did not even aim, it was as if he was just shooting grenades randomly. But thanks to Alphas calculation, all of the grenades that he shot flew in a parabolic trajectory and landed at the big monster.
Some of the machine guns fixed on the big monsters body changed their targets to the flying grenades. They moved as fast as they could to intercept the incoming grenades.
Right at the next moment, Akira raised his CWH anti-material rifle in his right hand and pulled the trigger. The CWH special bullet flew past the grenades and hit the weak points of the machine guns that were trying to intercept the incoming grenades. More than that, it pierced through multiple force field armours and hit one of the energy sources that were supplying energy to those force field armours.
As one of the energy sources of the monster was destroyed, a part of its force field armours temporarily stopped working. When grenades landed on that unprotected side, the explosion transmitted into the inside of that monster, thus, temporarily stopping it.
It was not a coincidence, it was something that can only be done with full knowledge of that monsters anatomy, and of course, that was only possible thanks to Alphas support.
Akira kept on shooting his CWH anti-material rifle and A4WM automatic grenade launcher in succession, thus, prolonging the state where that big monster could not retaliate. But it was not close enough to kill that monster, the humongous monster was created from multiple B18 monsters, thus, it had multiple energy sources and control devices. So, Akiras attacks were only able to stop that monster temporarily.
Inside that slowed down world, Akira asked Alpha.
“How many seconds to go!”
Since he was in compressed time perception, he did not know how many seconds had passed. What he knew was that the big monster was still alive and kicking.
So Alpha who was measuring the accurate elapsed time in place of Akira answered back.
“Its already 5.14 seconds.”
That telepathic exchange happened in a split second.
Akira started to feel doubt. He had already bought enough time as he had promised, but the enemy was still alive and well. Shiori had not fulfilled her promise. Because of that, he could not help but glance at where Shiori was.
When he saw Shiori, Akira was taken aback. Shiori jumped out from behind rubble and charged straight at the big monster. She placed her hand on her sheathed blade, ready to pull her blade anytime. Judging from the length of that blade, she should not be able to reach that big monster from that distance.
Just like Akira, Shiori was running in compressed time perception. She was using her accelerator trump card.
Shiori had studied CQC and swordsmanship. If she was fighting against an enemy with rifles inside a closed room, even if that enemy was using a machine gun, Shiori could close the distance in an instant.
But leaving the smaller monsters aside, Shioris blade was not even close to being big enough to take care of that huge monster. She herself knew that.
Shiori had decided to use her other trump card other than her accelerator. The time that Akira bought for her was for Shiori to use her trump card.
When Shiori saw Akira jump out from behind the rubble, she also jumped out from behind the rubble and started running towards the big monster. Inside that distorted world where Shiori could even trace floating sands, she thanked Akira for buying her time as he promised. This time, she had to fulfil her part of the promise. She gathered her concentration and gripped the blade dangling on her hip. She held the handle with her right hand and sheathe with her left hand. She focused on her blade and took a sword-drawing stance.
Shiori gripped hard on her blades handle, used all the strength of her augmented suit and pulled out her blade. On the next moment, a huge blade of light cleanly cut the huge monster into two. The other B18 monsters around that big monster were also sliced with it. When that big blade of light hit the huge monsters forcefield armour, a blinding light flashed. That blinding flash of light came from the force field armour trying to convert any kinetic energy into light, it was the proof that the slice cut through the other force field armours that were still working.
After cutting that monster horizontally, Shiori then cut that monster vertically. But she did not stop there, she kept flinging her sword, cutting the big monster and the B18 monsters around it to smaller pieces.
Akira was dumbfounded watching that scene of this monstrosity being sliced and diced by a gigantic sword of light. Suddenly, his left hand started moving on its own and shot multiple grenades from his A4WM automatic grenade launcher at the monster. It was Alpha controlling Akiras augmented suit.
The huge monster was left vulnerable after being sliced by Shiori, then to top it off, it was mowed by the grenades from Akira, it then finally stopped moving.
The sword of light that extended out from Shioris blade vanished and the rest of the blade crumbled to dust. Shiori then sheathed her sword, of which only the handle was left, and breathed out.
Akira returned back to himself and immediately aimed his rifles at the hallway where B18 monsters might come out, he then asked Alpha about what just happened.
“Alpha, that one just now, is it that thing Old-world technology thingy just like the one that I used with that knife back in Kuzusuhara ruin.”
“In a sense, yes, I believe that blade was created using the technology recovered from analyzing old-world relics. Although the length of the blade and the sharpness is not that good, its at least good enough for a single-use weapon.”
“…It is not that good!”
“Back in the Kuzusuhara ruin, you were able to easily cut through pillars and walls, remember Although it depends on the items, old-world relics are way more amazing than that.”
“…I feel like you should not compare that with an old-world relic though.”
“Oh my, thats not true at all. In order for you to accomplish my request, you will have to get similar level of equipment, you know”
If Alphas statement was true, it sounded as if Akira should be able to easily find that level of equipment. He was once again reminded of how scary the old-world ruins were.
The other Hunters watched what happened with wide eyes, but they quickly returned back to reality and started moving again. They returned to the hallway while making sure that their escape route was still safe and waited for Shikarabes team to come too. Togami and Reina quickly grouped back with Elenas team. Not too long after that, Shikarabe and Kanae, who were holding the B18 monsters back, finally grouped up with Elenas team too.
Although the other Hunters also saw that flash of light and had some questions about it, they just shelved it for now and prioritized more on escaping the building. After confirming that everyone was alright, they immediately headed to the buildings entrance, hoping that the situation outside would be better than what they faced just now.-