Akira blazed through the slippery floor on his bike. Vines and moss covered the small rubbles, making it even easier for the tires to slip. But with the ability of Akiras advanced bike designed for use in wasteland together with Alphas support, he was able to keep driving at a high speed as he kept his eyes on Shiori with a grim face.
Once he got relatively close, he aimed both of his SSB rifles at the female automaton and released a barrage of armour-piercing rounds. The expensive extended magazine housed way more bullets than a normal magazine and he emptied it in that barrage.
Right after that, the female automaton noticed the incoming bullets and jumped away while swinging its blade as if to cut down the bullets. The light particles left from those swings turned into a wall, it then reacted with the colourless mist in the atmosphere and transformed it into a forcefield. The forcefield killed the momentum from the bullets and deflected them away from their original trajectories. The automaton also actively evaded the already deflected bullets, thus allowing it to survive the barrage without even a scratch.
Akira was surprised by that, but he immediately changed his aiming from targeting at a single spot to indiscriminate shooting. After all, even an old-world automaton would not be able to evade all of those bullets coming at it like a wall. And as he expected, some of the bullets landed.
But with the lower firepower, the landed bullets could not damage the automaton. As a matter of fact, the automaton made use of the shock wave from the bullets to propel itself further away as it kept swinging its blade. When Akira finally stopped his bike next to Shiori, the automaton had already left the place.
Akira lowered his rifle and mumbled with both of his eyebrows raised.
“I shouldve been able to land a few bullets though Just how durable is that thing”
Shiori, who had already changed from her blade to her rifle in the middle of that fight, also lowered her rifle and frowned at Akira.
“Akira-sama. Thank you for the help, but I would have preferred if you prioritized Milady first.”
“Its Togamis job to decide when to retreat, and that includes convincing Reina to obey his order. Even if that order forces her to retreat. So, I wont accept any complaints regarding that matter.”
Shiori sighed and smiled wryly.
“Maybe I should hire you as a bodyguard next time.”
“Yeah, you can do that. But either way, Im sure Reina would not be happy.”
“Dont worry, its my duty to convince Milady in that case and Akira-sama would be the decoy.”
Shiori lightly smiled, Akira also replied with a smile. That was when Kanae returned back to them.
“Akira, there you are siding with Ane-san again. Thats not good, you know.”
“Not really, it seemed that youre doing fine, thats why I went to help Shiori instead. How about the other automaton by the way”
“Just like the one that you faced, when you arrived, the other automaton also ran away. I didnt give chase since it seemed to be too much trouble.”
Akira then remembered the time when he fought old-world automata back in Kuzusuhara ruin.
“…The other one also got away, huh Hmm, to be honest, I feel like that kind of enemy would keep coming until they are killed though.”
“Its not like I can do anything about it.”
“Youre right. Alright then, lets go back. Ah, sorry, by the way, this bike is only for one person. So the both of you need to use your legs.”
Kanae exasperatedly sighed and shook her head.
“Akira, you really dont know how to treat a lady, huh. This is where you should let the lady take the bike, you know Im sure if its only me and Ane-san, we can somehow fit on that seat.”
Shiori smiled seeing Akira reject that idea almost instantly and Kanaes exasperated face.
“Akira, keep your guards up.”
During that small breather, Akira suddenly returned back to his battle-ready state. Shiori and Kanae who noticed that immediately scanned their surroundings.
“Alpha, where is it”
“From the ruin, and there are a whole lot of them.”
Akira glanced at the ruin and could not help but frown. A swarm of monsters including the plant-type monsters from the ruin was heading towards him.
“Whoah, how did we not notice that swarm at all”
“It is probably because of the interference from the other plants.”
“So basically, those plants are of the same type as the ones inside the ruin, huh. Good grief, what a pain in the neck. But still, what the heck is with the size of that swarm…”
“This is just another guess, but I bet the automaton summoned them. Its difficult to detect monsters in this situation but its easy for the monsters to detect us. I bet those automata broadcasted a signal to let them know our location. Old-world automata have the energy source to do that after all.”
“Dont tell me that those automata only retreated because theyd done their job in slowing us down”
“The possibility of that is not zero.”
Akira frowned even more while still gazing at the incoming swarm. Suddenly a bullet flew past, landed on the monsters forehead, instantly killing it. But it did not stop there, more bullets came in and killed some of the monsters. When Akira was surprised by that, Togamis voice came in from his information terminal.
“Akira! Kanae! Shiori!! Come back here now! The radar detects a whole lot of monsters from that direction!! Reina will take care of incoming monsters, so just ignore them and get in here fast!!”
Before Shiori could tell him to just forget about them and run away, Togami already closed the call.
Shiori inadvertently turned to the source of that voice and met Akiras gaze.
“Its your job to convince Reina, right”
Akira was basically saying that he would be the decoy this time, thus erasing any hesitation left inside Shiori.
Shiori then said firmly with a serious face.
“I leave the rest to you.”
Shiori bowed to Akira and started running toward Akiras APC where Reina was.
Kanae still had her usual smile as she said.
“And there you are siding with Ane-san again. As I said before, thats no good, you know”
“Save it for later and go.”
Kanae laughed amusedly and left without looking back.
Akira aimed both of his SSB rifles at the incoming swarm and quickly emptied his magazines.
The bullet storm swallowed the monsters, turning countless monsters into minced meat. The monsters behind them just stomped their dead comrades under their feet as they kept marching forward. The green floor of the ruin immediately turned red in a blink of an eye.
Since Reina switched her rifles mode to sniping in order to provide support for Shiori and Kanae, she was able to quickly detect the incoming swarm. The bullet that she shot with a proper aim pierced through multiple monsters as if it was sucked into their bodies. The power of her rifle, her talent, and her calm aiming, the experiences from all the training and battles up until now, all of these factors combined into one, allowing Reina to release high-performance sniping with an exceptional firing rate.
Shiori emphasized long-range sniping for Reina in order to keep her away from danger while still allowing her to provide support when she was together with Kanae and Shiori. After all, Kanae had a habit of jumping into danger. The result of that training was fully showcased in this situation.
Reina could see Shiori and Kanae running in her direction while making sure not to obstruct her aim, while Akira was following not too far behind them while shooting at the incoming swarm. Seeing that, Reina felt that she was finally no longer a dead weight. Although it was a special circumstance, she was able to move on from the one being saved to the one who was saving others.
That was when she ran out of ammo. As it pulled her back into reality, her smile turned into a slight frown. She realised that she had used all of the reserve ammo.
“Togami!! Bring me more ammo!! Something that my rifle can use!!”
Togami put a magazine that he found inside Akiras truck beside Reina. Seeing that magazine, Reina could not help but crack a smile.
“Ohh, he has some rather nice things here.”
“Akira did say that were free to use anything inside his APC. But if he gets angry later, you should apologize with me, alright”
Reina put that magazine into her rifle while smiling teasingly.
“Oh my, that part is your job, no That kind of thing is the party leaders duty, you know.”
Togami smiled wryly and returned back to shooting. After loading the new magazine, Reina carefully took another aim, aligned the cross-hair with her target, and pulled the trigger.
The bullet that Reina released soared to the sky and unnaturally made a turn, seeking its target. The power of that bullet was also as strong as she had predicted, she then took aim and released another shot.
Homing AP bullet. Size-wise, it was more or less as big as a mini-missile. And the magazine that Reina was using was an extended magazine of that bullet. It was an expensive magazine for Akira even after applying the special discount for Hunters above Rank 50. He had originally saved it for emergencies.
Akira watched the bullet fly past above his head and zoom at the monster in front of him.
“Theyre using it!! My special ammo!! That was expensive, you know!! And I havent even used it myself!! Not even once!!”
Alpha, who was next to Akira, smiled at him.
“You did tell them that they were free to use any ammo inside your APC. So just think of it as a good thing since its worth its price.”
“…My reward, Ill make sure that theyll pay for my ammo first before dividing the reward this time.”
Akira said so to get his mind off that matter for now as he gazed at the expensive bullet that blazed through the air and struck down the monster in the front line.
“But still, isnt that just too many of them Alpha, as I thought, something weird is going on here.”
“Youre absolutely right. Even if they came here because those two automata summoned them, there should not be this many. As long as we dont include the monsters from the inner part of the ruin, there should not be this many monsters. But even if we understand the reason now, it wont help us in our current situation. So just focus on the monsters in front of you for now.”
“I know… I guess I should get a little bit closer.”
Akira then accelerated his bike towards a part of the swarm that was less dense and kept his finger down on the trigger. The bullet storm released from his SSB rifles killed so many monsters, but it was not significant when compared to the entirety of the swarm.
“…Theres just no end to them. I left the rest of my ammo back in my APC, this might be a good time to return back.”
Akira made a 180-degree turn and headed back to his APC while wondering if he was cursed to encounter a monster swarm no matter where he went.
Meanwhile, the old-world automaton in a maid uniform stood in front of one of the countless semi-sphere structures scattered in the Lida commercial district. It then used its communication device to send a signal to that semi-sphere structure. Not too long after, a flood of monsters appeared, all of them were aiming toward that automaton as it escaped.
The monsters were chasing after the automaton, but suddenly, that automaton vanished before appearing again somewhere further outside the ruin.
The swarm of monsters was baited outside the ruin just like that and then baited further toward Akiras direction.
Shiori eventually caught up with Akiras APC and jumped to board the APC. The first thing she did after that was to check on Reina.
“Milady!! Are you alright!”
Reina seemed to be smiling amusedly as she replied.
“Shiori, thats my line.”
“…Youre indeed right, Milady. I am alright for now.”
Kanae also jumped into the APC not too long after that.
“This place is so cramped, make some room, will you”
“This means that Akira is the only one left, huh”
Togami then looked back at Akira and saw him accelerating his bike right toward the APC.
“…Whoah, wait a sec! Dont tell me that hes planning to jump in with that bike!”
As if Akira was affirming it, he accelerated his bike even more. In front of the panicking Togami, Akira used the control device of the bike to spring it upward before it landed on top of the APC, making a bang sound.
Reina and Togami looked at the ceiling and mumbled.
“…That was amazing.”
“That guy is good with basically anything, huh.”
Kanae smiled at that amazing performance from Akira, while Shiori looked worriedly at Reina, hoping that Akira would not be a bad influence on her.
Akira stepped down from his bike and looked back at the monster swarm coming at him while still standing on top of the APC. The monsters seem to be chasing vigorously, as a matter of fact, they were running faster than the APC.
“These guys really dont know when to give up. Alpha, can you drive the APC faster”
“Unfortunately, no. The ground is not suitable for high-speed driving, and the APC is filled with heavy armour tiles, relics and ammo too. Although the APC has high horsepower, its not that much.”
“I see, well, it cant be helped then.”
“Oh, are you planning to throw away some weight That would be a huge waste, you know.”
“Not that, Im going to shoot at them!”
“Im just kidding.”
Akira heaved a huge sigh in reply to Alphas inappropriate joke and aimed his SSB rifles at the monsters. But in the next second, his vision blurred.
Akiras augmented suit suddenly moved with its full power. Akira tried his best to match his body movement with his augmented suit, he could even feel the air resistance from making such a sudden move. But in the midst of all of that, he still could see Alphas grim face, which was more than enough to know just how grave the situation was as he immediately went straight at the incoming enemies.
The two automata that had run away suddenly landed on top of the APC as if they were warheads. The shock shook some of the armour tiles off the APC and even broke through the APCs forcefield armour, which could even withstand a tank shot, leaving a huge dent.
As the broken armour tiles flew around in slow motion, the male automaton quickly aimed its pistol at Akira and released a beam shot.
Seeing the beam that was coming at him from close range, Akira stomped on the APCs armour tile on his feet, enough to break it, as he quickly evaded the beam and leapt straight toward that automaton. As Akira tackled the automaton down, he thrust his SSB rifle right toward the automatons chest and pushed it down onto the top of the APC. Now that the male automaton was stuck in between the APCs armour tile and Akiras SSB rifle, it had no method to evade as Akira released a rapid barrage that even broke his SSB rifle due to the recoil.
There was almost no space that separated the muzzle and the automatons chest when Akira released this barrage. The bullets collided with each other applying massive pressure focusing around the part of the automatons torso which had already been damaged from its fight against Kanae. The bullets eventually pierced the automatons torso and destroyed its generator.
The moment the female automaton landed on the APC, it immediately launched an attack at Akira. It quickly expanded its collapsible baton that was already transformed into a blade of light and swung it. But before it could land, Akiras bike suddenly accelerated to its maximum speed and rammed straight at the female automaton. The collision threw the automaton off balance, causing it to miss its swing. The blade of light drew an arc on Akiras side and hit the APCs body, releasing a blinding light on contact with the APCs forcefield armour. As the blade extended way longer than its corporeal body, the rest of the blade went past one corner of the APC and sliced the monsters that were nearby.
The energy conversion of the forcefield armour filled the area with blinding light, the armour tiles that were still in the air blocked the light and created contrasting shadows. Akira pushed his time compression to its limit to the point that everything else almost stood at a standstill. In this slow-moving world, he sent commands to his body so that it would be able to match the speed of his consciousness.
The automaton cut open a path through Akiras bike that was protecting him. The bike that was cut in two rolled over and fell off the top of the APC. But when the bike was sliced through, its forcefield armour was boosted to the maximum in order to reduce the durability of the automatons blade as much as possible.
As the bike rolled over on the wastelands floor, the female automaton did not waste the opportunity and closed in on Akira. In reaction to that, Akira also quickly closed the distance between them since the automatons blade had lost most of its power. Due to both of them colliding at each other, the automaton did not have the chance to take another swing with its blade.
As the automaton sent down its blade at Akira for the second time, Akira blocked it using one of his SSB rifles. The rifle itself had a build-in forcefield armour that he often pushed to its maximum capability in order to hold back the kickback from the high-speed shooting that he often executed. Although that level of forcefield armour could only block the blade for a brief period of time, that was more than enough for Akira to thrust his other SSB rifle at that automaton and push it down. And just like what he did to the male automaton, Akira drilled a barrage of bullets into that automatons torso.
But unlike the case with the male automaton which was already damaged from its fight with Kanae, that was not enough to kill the female automaton as it continued to struggle to get away from his tackle. Akira used the power of his augmented suit to overpower that automaton and kept it down on the ground as he kept shooting at its torso. When he finally emptied his magazine, the automaton stopped moving. Right after that, he followed suit and fainted there.
All of these chains of events took only a few seconds in real life.
Shiori and Kanae agilely climbed up to the APCs top from the back door to check what was going on. But the moment they arrived at the top of the APC, they were flabbergasted.
The two automata that had run away from them just a moment ago were lying limp. Akira was also lying next to them as if they had just knocked each other out simultaneously. And beside him, was an old-world automaton in a maid uniform smiling amusedly.
Shiori and Kanae immediately decided that the automaton was hostile and jumped at it. Both of them closed the distance in a blink of an eye, Shiori pulled out her blade and released a skilful swing while Kanae threw a punch augmented with forcefield armour and the enhanced strength from her augmented suit.
The automaton did not move at all and still maintained its smile. It then caught Shioris blade and Kanaes fist. Although the full force of their attacks was obviously transferred to the automaton, it only cracked the armour tile under the automatons feet, the automaton itself was not damaged at all.
Shiori and Kanae were caught speechless, that the automaton was able to receive their attacks this easily. The automaton then said with a casual voice.
“Can we stop this”
Shiori immediately jumped away, leaving her sword still in the automatons hand, and switched to her rifle. While Kanae stomped on one of the automatons legs and grabbed its arm to prevent it from evading. Shiori then immediately aimed her rifle at the automatons face.
The bullets that Shiori shot were all blocked by the automatons other hand. Furthermore, the automaton did not deflect the bullets. It accurately predicted where Shiori was aiming and caught the bullets in the middle of its flight. Since the automaton had released Shioris blade in order to catch the bullets, her blade made a loud banging sound as it landed on top of the APC.
The automaton then swung its arm and broke from Kanaes hold. Kanae, who was thrown away, landed agilely next to Shiori. Both of them had grim looks on their faces. In front of them, the automaton threw away the bullets in its hand, picked up Shioris blade, threw it in Shioris direction as if to return it. It then smiled at them as if to show that it had no wish to fight.
“Dont worry. We no longer have any wish to fight you. Ive done more than enough for what Ive been paid for.”
Shiori picked up her blade, she still looked confused as she sheathed her blade. Seeing that, Kanae also lowered her fist. Although she was no longer in a battle stance, she still had her guard up, and that was true for Shiori too. This was a situation where their opponent was strong enough to easily overpower both of them. However, since Reina was still inside the APC, Shiori was ready to jump into action anytime.
“If you really have no wish to fight, it would be great if you could at least introduce yourself.”
The automaton bowed deeply.
“Lion Steels general-purpose A.I, Olivia, at your service. If fate has it, Ill look forward to your patronage.”
Shiori and Kanae could not hide their surprise.
Olivia pulled out a white card from her skirt and lightly threw it at Shiori. Shiori caught that card and took a closer look at it. Once again, she could not hide her surprise.
“Its not for you. If this boy wakes up, please give it to him. I shall take my leave then.”
Olivia pointed to Akira, then bowed once again and suddenly vanished. Shiori immediately scanned her surroundings but she could not find Olivia anywhere.
“…A hologram! Since when!”
Kanae smiled amusedly and lightly frowned as she said.
“…Probably since the time when it threw that card. I bet it used some kind of camouflaging device to hide while leaving behind a hologram and already left the area. Moreover, right before that hologram vanished, I was still able to feel its presence somewhere nearby. A hologram that can even fool me, its a pretty advanced decoy. Im sure it is an old-world automaton. Fuuh, seriously though, that was dangerous.”
Kanae hid her disappointment by complaining instead.
Reinas voice could be heard coming from the APC.
“Shiori! Whats going on up there!”
“Were coming down now! Ill explain the rest later! Milady should focus on the monster swarm! Theyll catch up with us at this rate!”
Reina and Togami, who had stopped shooting due to the surprising turn of events, flusteredly started shooting again.
Kanae sent a suspicious gaze at Shiori.
“So then, Ane-san, whats the plan now”
“…For now, we need to get back down from here.”
Shiori understood what Kanae was actually asking her and refused to give a straight answer.
Shiori and Kanae returned back inside the APC. Kanae just threw the inactive automata inside the APC while Shiori gently placed Akira down.
Shiori first calmed Togami and Reina, who were restless to know what just happened.
“Please calm down. Akira-sama is just unconscious. First of all, Milady, please focus on the monsters. Togami-sama, please take the wheel. With Akira-sama being unconscious, we dont know how to change the autopilot now. In the worst-case scenario, the APC might come to a complete stop. So please get to the driving wheel immediately.”
Togami rushed to the driver seat. Although it was originally his duty to make the decision in that situation since he was the leader, he understood that this was an emergency and also knew that Shiori had better skill in this regard. So he did not complain and obediently followed her order.
“Kanae and I dont know in detail about what had happened up there. We need to ask Akira-sama when he wakes up, so lets put any questions aside for now. Until then, Milady, please take care of the monsters. Kanae and I will have to take a short break, were pretty much spent.”
“Eh Me alone”
Reina was bewildered, seeing which, Kanae teasingly said to her.
“Milady, are you planning to act spoiled again now that weve returned to you”
“I-Ill do it!”
Reina replied back by pure reflex which she regretted inside her heart. It was definitely not an easy job to fill in because of Togami and Akiras absence. Reina had a grim look as she started shooting at the monster swarm that was creeping closer and closer to the APC. When she glanced at Kanae and Shiori, they were really taking a break and even Kanae was lightly waving at her.
“Alright alright, Ill do it!!”
It was definitely the result of them treating her as a full-fledged Hunter. But Reina was not sure if she was to be happy because of it, as she kept shooting while gritting her teeth.
Shiori glanced at Reina and then looked back at the white card. She was seriously evaluating her options there.-