Chapter 234: The Difference of What Is Normal
Akira got too fired up fighting the monsters and ended up using AF anti-material cannon 3 times, that was when he noticed a change.
“… They stopped coming, didnt they”
As he said so, he scanned the area and saw the other Hunters were still locked in an intense fight with the swarm. So, it was not like the swarm retreated, but even so, none of them was trying to come near Akira. Akira knitted his eyebrows.
“Akira, dont relax yet, lets use this opening to reload.”
As Alpha ordered, Akira checked his equipment. He took some medicines, exchanged the energy packs and magazines for new ones. And while he was at it, he also walked around and kicked the dead monsters off the rooftop to give him more space to move around. But even after finishing all that, there were still no monsters trying to approach him. This sudden free time really weirded Akira out, but when he looked around, the others were still locked in intense battles.
The reason why no more monsters coming at him was simply because he had already killed too many. The dead monsters were releasing a pheromone that would normally attract other monsters, but when it got too thick and reached above a certain level, it instead repelled monsters. That thick pheromone let the other monsters know that there was a power gap in that area so the weak monsters with no winning chance would avoid getting closer.
While at the same time, the thick pheromone would also attract bigger and stronger monsters to come. But in this situation, those stronger ones were already killed first by the vanguards, so none of the bigger monsters was able to reach where Akira was. The vanguards knew that it would be disastrous to let any of the bigger monsters pass through them, that was why they made sure that none could pass.
Thanks to that, no more monsters approached Akira, who was stationed a little bit too far to the back that no monsters would try to attack him.
“Seems like I have nothing to do now.”
“In that case, how about going to the other transport vehicles to help the other team Or so I want to say but Im sure Hikaru would stop you from doing it.”
“Yep, that sounds just about right.”
Akira would go if he was called, but he had no plans to go around uninvited to the other areas and snatch the rewards from the other Hunters. So, for now, he thought of at least telling Hikaru that he was free and could lend other areas help if needed, but before he could call her, Hikaru called him first.
“Akira, just in case you are curious, there are help requests that you can take up.”
Hikaru was lightly shocked by that sudden and casual answer from Akira.
“You dont have to push yourself too hard, you know Just because there are help requests, it doesnt mean that you have to take them. Youve fought quite a lot already, arent you tired You can take a break, refresh your supply, and only take on the requests if you really want to. It would be bad if they start forcing help requests to you, you know”
“I already took a short break and I still have some leeway in my medicine and ammo reserve. I would also be sticking out if the rest are still fighting while Im just taking it easy here. Well, of course, I wont help them just for free, but Ill leave that part to you. If they wont pay me for taking on their help requests, Ill be more than happy to just stand by.”
Akira chuckled as he said so, Hikaru replied with a smile.
“Alright then. I got it. Just leave that part to me. For starters, Ill send the help request details to you. Good luck, Akira!”
The help requests detail was added into Akiras augmented vision, and it identified the extra area that was assigned to him.
“Now then, lets keep this up for a little bit longer.”
Alpha smiled teasingly and spoke.
“Yeah, lets do that, after all, we need to make sure that you actually earn instead of lose right”
“…Dont worry, it will be okay, right”
According to the contract, he was to pay for his ammo on his own. Although it was unlikely that he would end up in the red, it did not mean that the possibility was zero. In order to shake off that creeping anxiety, Akira took up his LEO multi-rifles and went to answer the help request.
Hunters were fighting desperately on the back of the convoy. They were the Hunter group consisting of Hunters around Rank 40. It was obvious from their movements and teamwork that they were already used to working in a team. So, they were completely a different unit compared to a simple gathering of Hunters who worked together for the first time.
The inside of the vehicle was equipped with portable walls, especially around the entrance. They were using the energy from the forcefield armour on the rooftop to increase their durability, of course, they did that with proper permission. The Hunters used these walls as covers as they fought against the monsters. The bullets slowly tore off the armour plating from the huge insects and eventually killed them. The rooftop was already riddled with dead monsters as they fell over to the ground one by one.
But the situation was far from good, the monsters were too numerous.
“We cant keep this up forever, you know!! Whats going on with the help request!”
“Weve already sent them, you know!! Multiple times as a matter of fact!! But since no one is coming, it only means that the other sides are facing the same problem as well!!”
“They can at least send us the reserve force, you know!”
“Yeah, they did! But they were already sent to the transport vehicles that sent the help requests first, you see!! I knew it, we should have sent the help request sooner!!”
“It cant be helped, you know! Melshia-san warned us that she would crush us if we sent a help request so lightly!!”
“Im pretty sure what she meant by that is that we should handle the situation better so that we dont get crushed, you know Its true that we made a mistake and handled the situation wrongly. What we can do now is nothing more than buy time. Well lose at this rate, but its not like it would happen right away. If the people in the front finish off those larger monsters, the situation will turn around. So, we just need to survive until then.”
“I know I know!! Goddammit!!”
Everyone there understood that what they were doing was simply buying time in a losing battle. But even so, they were still able to maintain their teamwork and fought relatively well. That was the biggest reason why they were able to postpone their defeat for that long.
As the losing battle continued, the Hunters were pushed back, monsters kept coming nonstop and the density of monsters surrounding the Hunters kept slowly increasing. Some of the Hunters already lost their arms from the acid fluid, some were enveloped in the sticky fluid and could not move, so they ended up having to cut off their limbs to stay alive. Some were badly wounded from the hardened fluid. The wounded were sent to the rear, which meant that they could only produce less pressure to hold back the monsters. As such, the faster they were pushed back and the faster the monsters mobbed them. Everyone in the team understood that their time was slowly coming, and a heavy mood befell them.
But right on the next moment, the area was enveloped in a blinding light. The blinding light temporarily devoured the monsters and disintegrated them in an instant. The Hunters were taken aback as that light went off and was gone. Once their vision returned, they could see some of the stronger monsters rise back up with some of their body parts scorched black.
“…So that wasnt enough to kill all of them, huh”
The Hunters there had their jaws hanging, there was also another emotion mixed in their expression.
Alpha was smiling wryly next to Akira who just used his AF anti-material cannon to help out the Hunters.
“Some of them survived. Well, were shooting from this far and there are a lot of them. You need to also note that we were focused on the area of effect, so the firepower got lowered. One more time then.”
Akira noticed that the monsters were outside his LEO multi-rifles effective range, so he decided to use AF anti-material cannon instead. Although that decision was not a mistake, it did not alleviate the ammo expense. He could not help but frown, imagining how much money he just used to fire that shot.
“Lets clear the leftovers and hope that the reward is worth the expense.”
Akira immediately started running to close the distance, this time, he used his LEO multi-rifles to mow down the surviving monsters. As half of the monsters surrounding the Hunters were eradicated, they quickly bounced back and joined the battle. The situation was turned over, Akira and the Hunters had the upper hand now.
As they cleaned up the monsters in the area, reinforcement slowed down and shrunk in size. It was not like the monsters were limitless as well. With the Hunters working hard, it was a matter of time before the swarm was eradicated.
As Akira thought that should take care of the monsters for the time being, another notice came from the security, which showed the enemys location in the area. Although there were no more monsters around them, there was a huge swarm coming from outside the area under their watch. They immediately glanced toward the direction of the signal and found another swarm of insect-like monsters coming at them. But this time, they were bigger than the ones that they just fought.
“…Wait for a sec, arent there a bit too many And a bit too big as well”
“Among the monsters that came out from the mother ship-like monsters that were defeated by the vanguard, the smaller ones reached us first and basically the rest, which are mostly the medium-sized monsters, finally caught up with the transport vehicle.”
“Give me a break already, its not funny at all!!”
Akira frowned thinking that as expected, this was out of what he could handle, the other Hunters there thought the same and had the same expression as him.
But Alpha was smiling as usual, Akira noticed that and was about to ask if he had a winning chance against that swarm when the answer revealed itself.
A barrage composed of energy bullets and physical bullets blazed straight toward the swarm and shot the monsters down one by one. The energy bullet extended like a lance that cut open the swarm while the physical bullets dyed the sky in fiery explosions, devouring the monsters in it.
Akira quickly traced back the source of those bullets. A powered suit from the frontline flew to the back of the convoy. All the five fingers of its each arm turned into cannon muzzles. The right hand was shooting out physical bullets while the left was shooting energy bullets. A heavily armed woman was standing on the shoulder of that powered suit.
That woman was the leader of the Hunters in that area, Melshia. She was wearing an old-world augmented suit, and as usual, the old-world design was very daring. The extra arms that were coming out from her shoulders and back were carrying huge rifles that did not suit the size of those arms. While a flying device that was equipped on her back extended to her lower half.
Melshia noticed her men cheering on her, after sending a glance at them, she also noticed Akira and obviously raised her guard. She then jumped from the powered suits shoulder and landed next to Akira.
Akira was a little surprised when Melshia landed next to him. She then threw a friendly smile with a tint of suspicion at him.
“Im pretty sure this area is assigned to my team though. Youre not a new member of the team either. So, who are you”
“Im here because of the help request, I…”
Before Akira said his name, he suddenly stopped there and smiled wryly.
“Sorry, Im under a strict prohibition from my operator so I cant speak any further.”
Melshia also received a flustered call from Hikaru through the security teams shared network. Melshia was being extra careful of Akira since they just got through a bad experience with a stranger infiltrating her team not too long ago. But after seeing how flustered Hikaru was, she lowered her guard and smiled wryly.
“I see. You must be having it hard too, huh Im Melshia, thank you for saving my men. Ill take care of the rest, so its okay now. You can go ahead and take a break first. Later then.”
Melshia then returned to the shoulder of the powered suit and went charging toward the swarm. The weapons fixed on her augmented suit had more or less the same firepower even when compared to the firepower of the powered suit she was on, and she was showing that power in full view in front of her men as well as her opponents.
As the vanguards finished taking care of the larger monsters, they slowly joined the battle at the back of the convoy. The tanks and the powered suits coursed back; past transport vehicles one by one. While the Hunters used the flying device equipped on their augmented suits to jump to the transport vehicles behind them, some of them had air bikes. With the vanguard joining the fight, they had the upper hand to quickly disperse the remaining monsters.
Akira was watching that battle and thought that there was nothing left for him to do.
“Hikaru, can I get back inside now Or should I just stand by at my post”
“Just return back to your post for now. Ill get permission from the security team first and pick you up after that.”
“Good work out there… But still, its obvious even from my point of view that those Hunters are abnormally strong.”
“Couldnt agree more to that.”
It was as the saying goes, there would always be someone else better. Akira could really appreciate that saying now.
After that, it did not take long for the escort team to clean up the rest of the swarm.
Although it was still a bit too early to end their shift, Akira and the rest of the Hunters were allowed to leave their post. They still could fight if the need arises, but many of them were injured. All of them needed rest and to resupply. It was an important thing to maintain their fighting strength, that was why they were allowed to get back inside the transport vehicles.
As Akira returned back in, Hikaru welcomed him with a smile. She then stuck close to Akira and escorted him back to his room. Taking it positively, it looked like they were lovers, but taking it negatively, it looked like Akira was being treated like a prisoner. Other Hunters who saw that had two different impressions. The first one was that it was a Hunter trying to look cool during his escort duty and brought a girl with him. While the other was that Akira was a Hunter with restricted permission and had to be kept under supervision all the time. Although each Hunter had slightly different impressions, most of them leaned toward the latter.
After returning to his room, Akira was recommended by Hikaru to take a good rest. She would be watching the radar and take care of anything else. So, Akira took off his augmented suit and threw it together with the exclusive inner that came with the augmented suit to the laundry machine, while he himself went to the bath. It was so luxurious that it made him feel a bit conflicted as he unconsciously compared that to the bath back home. The high-tech laundry finished laundering and drying the augmented suit and the inner in no time. Akira felt that it was a bit regrettable as he dragged himself out of the bath, put on the inner and returned to his room.
Akira then started stretching his body, which was a daily routine for him. He made sure to stretch every part of his body to slowly increase the flexibility of his body. One of the stretches that he did was standing on one foot while having his other foot pointing up, making almost a straight line while maintaining the balance. That was when he caught Hikaru watching him.
“…Ah, uhh, i-its just that youre pretty flexible, arent you”
The inner that Akira was wearing was designed to be durable enough to prevent inflammation when his skin rubbed the augmented suit as he moved around inside it, while at the same time, it was also thin and tight enough to allow sensation to flow through the augmented suit and convey it to his skin. Because of that, it stuck close to his well-trained and pronounced body.
Although it was a little too stimulating for a girl around her age, Hikaru thought that it would be a bad move to get flustered there since Akira seemed to be completely fine with it. So, Hikaru tried to come up with something else, but he misunderstood it and replied with a confident smile.
“My body was really stiff before and I am only able to do this just recently. Thanks to it, I feel I can move way better in my augmented suit.”
“Is it really that different”
“Yeah, I know someone who could not follow the movement of his augmented suit and ended up having his arm torn off, you see. Im pretty sure that something like that is completely avoidable with a body that is flexible enough.”
Hikaru could not help but imagine the tragic bloody scene and turned pale.
“Well, it might be an exaggeration to say it was torn off. But its true that the joint was torn, and he was in a lot of pain. It would have been fatal if he had been in the middle of a fight. It would be impossible to perform normally even if he tried to force fix it with medicines. So, its better to stretch my body like this beforehand to reduce the strain on it when Im using an augmented suit, you see.”
“I-I see, that must be tough.”
As an officer from City Management, Hikaru knew that Akira frequently visited the hospital. She already knew that he had once received a full-body treatment and had his arm regrown after losing it. She knew the details of why and how Akira got those injuries. But all of them only ended up in mere knowledge, she still did not fully understand the real weight of that information.
But after seeing how Akira fought and listened to his talk, and finally saw his body, the realization finally sunk in. A boy of around her age, sent to the hospital a few times after medicine overuse, was injured so badly to the point that he had to go through cell regenerative treatment. In short, his experience was filled with such a cruel life. Although she was only able to get a glance of it, that understanding caused her to stop having the awkward expression that she had and change into a serious one.
“It must have been really hard.”
“I cant deny that, but still, Ive already gotten used to it.”
[Just how many cruel experiences did he have to go through to get used to it] Hikaru tried to think of an answer but she could not come up with anything.
Even after the changing shift, Akira continued resting in his room. The security team changed the shift composition. The one who took Akiras place was someone who was forced to retreat during the previous battle, which caused the transport vehicle to take on more damage.
After the previous battle, there were no more major confrontations with monsters, so the escort team mostly worked on cleaning the rooftop. They pushed the dead monsters off the rooftop, cleaned up the dangerous fluids, and made sure that no monsters were still alive. Although the payment was not as much, they were still paid for doing it.
The reward for the Hunters were usually calculated on a team-by-team basis. But Akira not only was able to do his job well protecting his area which was originally a job for a team, he even went to help another team as well, as such, he was earning way too much money as a single Hunter. Since there was a case where paying too much of a reward to a certain Hunter caused dissatisfaction among the other Hunters, as long as there was no emergency, Akira was thus placed on the reserve force.
Meanwhile, Hunters who went out to the field when they were not ordered to would be fined instead. Thus, it was not worth losing money because of something as silly as that. In order to balance out their rewards, the rest of the Hunters were working their asses off while Akira was resting in his room.
Akira and Hikaru were looking back at that battle on the rooftop. Hikaru was playing a slow-motion replay of what she saw on the rooms display, Akira was beside her explaining what he was doing in the clip. After listening to his explanation, Hikaru could not help but frown.
“Akira, that. Over there. You obviously shot at the monster when it was completely outside your field of vision, you know And you hit it accurately on top of that, its not like it happened out of luck, right How exactly did you do it”
“Basically, I got the general direction from the information-gathering device and then locked my aim using the video feed from the aiming device.”
“Yeah, while running.”
Akira replied so casually, Hikaru tilted her head and asked.
“Akira, do you know just how crazy you sound”
Seeing Hikaru looking at him like she was looking at a crazy person, Akira retraced back what he just said. He tried to put himself in a normal persons shoes, using his past self before he met Alpha as the starting line. He imagined how he would have reacted if he heard someone say the same thing to him. And as expected, he would have reacted the same way as Hikaru.
“I-its true that its not something everyone can do. Its not like I could do that right from the start, you know I only started being able to do that after getting expensive equipment and rigorous training, you see.”
“Youre basically saying that everyone can do that with good enough equipment and enough training”
Akira was about to sayof course, but he noticed Alpha smiled amusedly while shaking her head.
“…It depends, I guess”
Hikaru looked at Akira as if she was looking at an immensely problematic child and sighed.
“If you know that, I think you ought to rethink your actions, you know”
Akira, who did not know that until now, could only smile wryly without saying anything back.
“Lets return back to the point you mentioned. You did say that you get the general direction from the information-gathering device, right To be honest, I cant really understand that part. How did you do that Wait, I understand that it was the information-gathering device that picked up the monsters locations, my question is how did you get that information Judging from the recording, it doesnt seem that its displayed in your augmented vision, you know And I dont think you get that from sound as well…”
“Well, uhhh, about that, you see… What can I say…”
Of course, Akira could not say to Hikaru that he accessed that data using his connection to the old-world domain. As Akira was trying to find a plausible answer, he ended up making vague excuses instead. But with that answer, Hikaru looked at him as if she was looking at a strange person and nodded convincingly as if she just remembered something.
“Oh, I see, So, youve gone through sixth sense training too, huh Well, in that case, its not strange for you to be able to understand the information from your information-gathering device without using any display.”
“Ah, yeah, thats right.”
Akira was acting as if he understood what Hikaru was talking about while asking Alpha for help.
“Alpha, what is this sixth sense thingy”
“Its an artificial sixth sense which is outside the normal five senses that people usually have.”
The sixth sense was rather popular among high ranking Hunters. It started from the cyborgs who directly connected their brains with their information-gathering devices. It then evolved to a word referring to an artificial means to perceive information and to expand it outside 5 normal human senses. Basically, it referred to an extra sense outside the 5 normal senses.
Kinetic sense to detect movement, thermal sense to detect heat, dynamic sense to understand 3D objects. There existed many kinds of sixth sense, it included abilities to perceive light with a wavelength outside the normal range or the ability to see 360 degrees.
Of course, it was not something that one could easily gain by installing an extra device in ones brain. It was much more difficult to achieve compared to prosthetic arms or extension limbs. It relied deeply on the compatibility of the person. In the worst-case scenario, the brain might not be able to process that sense correctly, which would cause chaos in the brain. So, in order to get used to that difficulty and danger, Hunters often would have to go through particular training.
And then, the wordsI can just tell became an expression often used by those who had gone through such training and attained sixth sense. Normally, this expression was often used by those who received a sixth sense just recently.
Although the word sixth sense was not an unfamiliar expression among the high ranking Hunters, more often than not, those high ranking Hunters had dozens of senses including their original 5 normal senses. So, judging from how Akira fought, Hikaru thought that it would not be strange for Akira to have more than 5 normal senses.
After that, they continued discussing the record from the last fight with Akira asking for Alphas help from time to time. Due to them going through the record in slow motion, when they finished reviewing the battle that should have only taken minutes, it was already night outside. Hikaru had a stern look on her face as she told Akira her thoughts.
“Ill now tell you my thoughts after seeing that recording. As someone from City Management that has worked with many other Hunters, I can say that Im not exactly an amateur in this but I cant claim that Im an expert in this either. I cant really judge what is normal and what is not normal for Hunters. But with that being said, I want you to take my words positively as praise for your fighting skill. In one word, youre not right in the head. If what youre doing there is not reckless or crazy, I dont know what is. Its no wonder why Kibayashi is really invested in you… That is what I think.”
For some reason that he did not really understand himself, Akira felt a bit discouraged. For two people to talk about what was normal when one of them lived in the inner wall while the other one in the outer wall. When one was a normal person while the other was a high ranking Hunter. The difference in what was normal was, as expected, unsurprisingly large. After all, it was as if they came from two different worlds.
Hikaru was taking a warm dip to heal the fatigue that she accumulated that day. She looked back into her memories of what happened and sighed, half of that sigh was from her enjoying the bath.
“…Today was really full of surprises… And I still have 2 more days to go, huh”
Working with Akira was filled with way more surprises than she had thought, it was especially hard on her mental stamina.
“That Kibayashi… He is basically working with multiple Hunters who are like Akira, huh It might even be in the dozens too. Its no wonder why hes so influential.”
The high-ranking Hunters were way more skilled than the normal Hunters, while at the same time, they were harder to handle as well, that realization hit Hikaru hard.
She did not doubt her skill, but that did not mean everything went well for her. As she told herself that this was nothing more than a bump, she pulled herself together and renewed her resolve.
“Alright then, only 2 days left, lets do this! But for that, I will need my important rest… This bath is even better than the one back home, so I might as well enjoy it while I have the chance… As expected, equipment for high ranking Hunters is really special. I wonder if this is normal for Akira Seriously though, the world that we live in is really so different.”
Hikaru started to feel a tint of jealousy toward high ranking Hunters, it was normal for those Hunters to earn billions of Aurum. The thought of Akira only using cheap baths daily never crossed her mind.
After she finished her bath and changed into rental pyjamas, she returned back to the room to find Akira already sleeping. He was even wearing his augmented suits inners when sleeping.
Hikaru took a peek at Akiras sleeping face. He was sleeping so soundly without a shred of anxiety. It was completely unlike how he usually was when he slept back in the slums back alley.
“When I look at him like this, he looks completely normal. Well then, good night, Akira.”
Hikaru smiled and went to sleep in the bed as well, since the bed itself was pretty big, it did not cause any inconvenience to her.-