Chapter 48: Exploration Team 9
Chapter 48: Exploration Team 9
On the next day, Akira went to the first floor of the building that was connected to the Kuzusuhara ruin’s underground city. That building was the forward HQ for the Hunters who went to the underground city.
Akira already fully refilled his ammo in Shizuka’s shop yesterday. Shizuka looked worried when he came to her shop and bought all the CWH anti-material rifle’s special ammo, although he already did that the day before too.
In order to reassure Shizuka, Akira said that he always kept his distance and shot the monsters from afar. It was exactly because he was thinking of keeping his safety that he bought all of the special ammo. He was somehow able to convince her after explaining it to her as such.
Akira was not lying. To be more precise, he knew that he was doing such a dangerous thing which left him with no other choice but to do this to ensure his safety.
Shizuka’s intuition picked up something suspicious, but she just told Akira to be careful and to be sure to return back alive while smiling gently at him. She did not say anything more than that. After all, it was not like she could tell him not to go.
As Akira entered a room inside the HQ, the HQ staff inside the room immediately noticed him. He was the same staff who assigned Akira to defensive point 14.
“Number 27, you’re finally here. Exploration team or extermination team, pick one.”
Akira looked puzzled. Yesterday, he was given the choice to either join the defense team or the exploration team, but this time, he was not given an option to join the defense team.
“Can I join the defense team again? If it’s possible, I want to join the defense team again just like yesterday.”
“No can do. Exploration team or extermination team. You can’t pick the defense team. It’s because of the skill that you showed yesterday, the HQ thinks that it would be a waste to assign you to the defense team. Aren’t you glad that we think highly of your skill?”
“…Wait for a sec, if you’re going to evaluate me from my performance yesterday, you should evaluate it as a part of the defense team.”
“Well, it’s not like I can do anything about it anyway. It was the people on the top who decided that. There’s nothing I can do about it no matter how much you complain. So just give up and choose either of the two… Well, although the level of danger varies, I believe that there is not much difference.”
Akira hesitated. If he did not want to travel around an uncharted area, he should join the extermination team. But if he hated the idea of fighting Yarata scorpion swarms or charging into their nest, then he should join the exploration team.
Since it seemed that Akira would not be able to decide on anything soon, Alpha made a suggestion to him.
“You might be able to avoid fighting monsters if you join the exploration team, but on the other hand, you might be thrown into unexpected battles. As for the extermination team, they should have better firepower to fight the monsters, but there’s no mistaking it that you would have to fight monsters. After all, that’s the main job of the extermination team. If you want to make sure you have enough support in case you get to face something like yesterday again, I recommend you join the extermination team.”
Akira made his decision and said to the HQ staff.
“I’ll join the exploration team.”
“…Alright… That’s it, it’s done. Follow the instructions on your terminal and go to the defensive point 19. Then follow your next order there.”
As Akira turned around and headed to the defensive point 19. That staff looked at Akira’s back while making a puzzled face.
The terminal on that staff’s hand was showing the data about Akira.
“…This’s the boy who Kibayashi endorsed. He is also the one who signed the ammo waiver. Lastly, the one who’s assigning this boy’s post is also him… This must be the same Kibayashi, huh. In short, it’s him who sent that boy here. To think that reckless guy really took a liking to this boy… I’m not sure if this boy is actually lucky or not…”
Kibayashi was affiliated with both Hunter Office and Kugamayama city. He was in a position where he had the veto right in this underground city exploration joint operation. This Kibayashi guy who had met Akira in the past was pretty infamous.
To go out in the world and return back alive, or to go out in the world and die, Kibayashi loved such lifestyle and he believed that the Hunters who considered this as their way of life shone the brightest. He was famous among his peers for proactively pushing the Hunters who he was interested in and helping them live such a way of life.
There were Hunters who had the skill but not the opportunities, these Hunters wished for a chance to overturn their lives. When Kibayashi found these Hunters, he would gleefully offer them high-risk high return requests. To these Hunters, his offer was very attractive. There were only 2 possible outcomes for those Hunters, either win big or lose big.
Most of the Hunters who took such offer from Kibayashi ended up dead. Even those Hunters who had the potential to grow successful if they were given more time. Some of them went out searching for glory and returned triumphantly, while some of them died in pursuit of greater glory.
“I don’t know if he should be happy with this chance or should he hate it. He might still be alive if he did not take this request. After all, when it comes to gambling, it’s easier for him to lose his bet the more he gambles.”
That staff looked like he felt sorry for Akira as he mumbled.
On his way to the underground city, Alpha asked Akira.
“Akira, is it okay if I ask you why you chose the exploration team? If you want to avoid unexpected fights like yesterday, it’s better if you join the extermination team, right?”
“But in exchange, I would have to use a lot of CWH special ammo. I want to retain as much ammo as possible, you see. Moreover, if I join the extermination team and something like yesterday happened, they might think that I’m a very skilled Hunter and force me to fight monsters that I can’t fight without special ammo. I want to avoid that no matter what.”
Akira and Alpha stared at each other.
Akira’s answer somehow sounded like an excuse to her.
“What? It’s true that I can get more experience if I join the extermination team, but it would be meaningless if I die, am I wrong?”
“You’ll be contributing to her revenue if you buy a lot of CWH special ammo from Shizuka’s shop, but on the other hand, it’ll make her worried every time you do that. You prioritized the latter, didn’t you?”
Akira could not answer back, Alpha then continued.
“It’s not like I’m blaming you for picking that option. But if you ask me, I would rather you get yourself better equipment and get strong enough as soon as possible so that you can take out Yarata Scorpion’s swarms like they’re nothing. That way, you don’t have to worry about anything.”
“…Well, you’re right.”
Akira replied back swiftly and bluntly.
Akira arrived at defensive point 19. The defensive point 19 was located in a big hall in the underground city. It was placed there in order to secure the uncharted area around it.
There were multiple Hunters stationed here in order to protect this important defensive point. It was also used as a place for the exploration and the extermination team to rest. Because of that, the hall was bustling with Hunters.
There were some staffs from the HQ in the middle of the hall giving orders to the Hunters. Akira followed the instructions on his terminal and headed to the centre of the hall, one of the staff noticed Akira and called him.
“You’re number 27, right? The exploration team that you’re going to join is in the midst of an exploration right now. Wait here for a bit until they’re back. You can do anything you want as long as you stay in this hall. If you have nothing to do, you can at least help us watch the place and clean up any Yarata Scorpions that you see.”
Akira looked for an empty space and moved there, leaving the staff alone.
That staff took out his terminal and contacted the exploration team.
“This is defensive point 19. Exploration team 9, answer me.”
A girl’s voice was heard from the terminal.
“This is exploration team number 9. Isn’t it a bit too soon for the regular report? Is there anything wrong?”
“The extra Hunter that you requested has arrived. Come back here if you want to pick him up.”
A guy’s voice suddenly interjected it, inquiring about that new Hunter.
“It better be someone useful, alright? We have enough people for scanning the area, what we need is more firepower, you know?”
“Don’t be picky. Well, he took out a whole load of Yarata Scorpions yesterday. I’m sure he’ll be useful. If you don’t like him, you can just choose the same guys that you chose before. Don’t you realize that we went through all the hassle in picking him because you didn’t want to go with those previous guys?”
That guy then replied back in annoyance.
“I would rather go alone than bringing those guys along.”
Then the voice returned back to the girl from before.
“We’ll head back to the defensive point. Be ready to receive the data that we gathered. That’s all.”
The staff ended the call. He then turned to another staff and said.
“Exploration team 9 will return soon. Be ready to send the data to HQ. Even if the data conversion from the previous one is not over yet, be sure to at least properly receive the new data!”
The other staff saluted him and left to make the preparations. That staff looked at his terminal and mumbled.
“Well, looking at that boy’s battle record from yesterday, I’m sure it will be alright.”
His terminal was showing the Hunter data for Akira. But the thing that worried him the most was Kibayashi’s name there.
Akira did not look that strong from the outside, but even so, he got recommended for this dangerous request, and the one who recommended him was the reckless-lifestyle-lover Kibayashi. His name made that staff doubt Akira’s ability, but he then decided to trust Akira’s battle record from yesterday.
Akira looked around and checked the area around the defensive point.
The route that he took to that place was very well illuminated, but the other areas around that place were still pitch black. The underground city was wrapped in darkness without any lighting. Akira did not know whether they did not install illuminations in the other places because they just ran out of illuminations or because those areas were not safe yet.
Among all the Hunters who were guarding or just resting in that hall, Akira found some familiar faces. It was Katsuya’s group.
“So those guys are also assigned here, huh.”
“It seems to be so. But Akira, now that we know they’re here, let’s put more distance from them.”
“Why should I do that?”
“It will only cause trouble if they approach you again.”
Akira could not refute Alpha’s words, so he moved to the opposite side of the hall from Katsuya’s group. He then just stayed there while watching his surroundings.
As Akira was wondering if he could get lucky such that he would just have to stay in that place until he finished his shift, all of a sudden someone called him from behind.
Akira turned to the source of that voice and saw Sara walking towards him while lightly waving at him.
Akira went to meet Sara. He made a slight bow and asked.
“Sara-san, are you taking this request too?”
“Yep. Although to be more precise, we took the request to guard the temporary HQ, but we somehow got assigned to explore the underground city instead. But that aside, so you’re the extra Hunter, huh? That was a bit of a surprise.”
“Me? Wait… That means the exploration team that I’ll be joining is…”
“Yep, you got that right. It’s the team in which Elena and I are. The team leader is Elena, come with me.”
Sara then took Akira to the centre of the hall, where Elena, the HQ staff and other Hunters were. Elena immediately noticed Akira and waved at him as he was walking toward her.
“Welcome to the exploration team number 9, I’m the leader of the team, Elena.”
“I’m Akira, I’ll be in your care for today.”
Elena jokingly introduced herself, Akira followed through with that joke and introduced himself politely. Then both of them giggled.
“But still, I didn’t expect that the extra Hunter would be you, Akira. Of course, I’ll help you as much as possible, but it’s still dangerous out there, so be careful, okay? We’re going to explore an uncharted area, so we know nothing about the monster distribution in that area. It won’t be strange to find something unexpected there. So be sure to be really careful, alright?”
“I understand. I’ll be careful not to drag Elena-san and Sara-san down.”
“Nice, you’re a good boy… You can rely on us if things get dicey. After all, Shizuka too will be sad if anything happens to you.”
“Okay, I’ll be relying on you when that happens.”
Elena was happy with Akira’s answer as she smiled at him. Akira did not show any excessive excitement nor nervousness, he was completely calm and composed. Elena who saw that thought that he should be fine.
Elena then went to hand over the data that she gathered during her previous exploration. She operated her information terminal to send that data to the city staff.
Although the rental terminal that Elena carried could also be used to gather data, Elena mostly used her own information-gathering device.
The data accuracy from Elena’s information-gathering device was on a different level compared to the data gathered by the rental terminal from the city. But since the data format from Elena’s information-gathering device was different compared to the one that the city staff used, there was a need to convert the data first before the HQ could use it. Normally, the city would not accept non-standard formatted data in order to avoid having to convert them.
But the data that Elena gathered was so valuable that the HQ made an exception for her and went as far as to convert the data themselves.
Akira looked genuinely amazed as he listened to Elena’s explanation.
“So the data that Elena-san gathers even gets special treatment, huh. As I thought, Elena-san is amazing.”
Akira was genuinely praising Elena, to which, Elena blushed a little. She felt happy that he praised her. She then proudly said.
“I’m really happy to hear that. There are Hunters out there who don’t appreciate the usefulness of this kind of data, you know? They think that they just need to defeat any monsters that they see, some of them even say that they never get lost in a ruin no matter how complicated the layout is and even if they get lost, they always find the exit. There are many Hunters who go to the ruin thinking like that, you know.”
Akira sounded surprised as he said.
“Is that true? Well, for me, I rather avoid fighting any monsters and I definitely don’t want to get lost inside a ruin. I can’t believe there are Hunters who make light of Elena-san’s job…”
Although every Hunter had different opinions on what it meant to be a good Hunter, most of the Hunters evaluated others’ abilities based on whether they could easily defeat a powerful monster or not. It was true that as long they kept working as Hunters, fighting prowess was indeed an indispensable skill. It was also the easiest way to show how good they were to the other Hunters.
Because of this reason, some Hunters looked down on other Hunters who did not focus on polishing their firepower. Elena had experienced such an unpleasant thing so many times in the past.
When Akira was exploring Kuzusuhara ruin, he realised that he was only able to survive because of Alpha’s ability to gather information about the enemies and the topography around him. That was exactly why he understood how important Elena’s job was.
Elena somehow could feel that Akira genuinely understood her role and its importance. She was actually very happy deep inside her heart, so she gleefully continued talking.
“Surprisingly enough, there are quite a lot of Hunters who think like that, you see. But it does not end there, some of them would encounter some monsters, attract more monsters from that fight, waste a lot of ammo before starting to curse and run away, and then to finally get lost inside the ruin. Not only do they waste ammo and time that could have been used to search for relics, they even have the guts to complain saying that it’s because we didn’t do our job properly, you know?!! Those Hunters are just the worst!”
Elena realized that she was about to start complaining endlessly, and of course, Akira would not be happy to listen to her endless complaint. So she decided to end her complaints and came up with another topic.
“Ah, let me tell you this beforehand, even though it’s true that I rely on Sara for firepower, I’m pretty good at fighting too, you know? I can use my information-gathering device to increase my rifle’s accuracy. Moreover, I bought myself an augmented suit not too long ago. Thanks to that, I can use heavy rifles that I couldn’t normally use before. So just because my main duty is to gather information, it doesn’t mean that I’m bad at fighting.”
“Now that I think about it, Elena-san, you’re now using that augmented suit from before, huh…”
“Well, my information-gathering device is pretty heavy after all, so I can only use a lighter rifle compared to Sara. But even so, it still packs quite a punch…”
As the subject about Elena’s augmented suit came up, Akira could not help but to remember the augmented suit that Elena used when he visited Shizuka’s shop.
Talking about the figure of Elena in her augmented suit, it reminded Akira about her beautiful curves highlighted by her augmented suit and also the image of flustered and blushing Elena in her seductive augmented suit.
On top of that, it also reminded him of the highly accurate naked image of Elena that Alpha created using her advanced image reconstruction ability. The same thing also happened in Sara’s image. Both of them had a very attractive body. Those images left a strong impression on Akira.
When Akira realised that he made a big blunder, he already remembered those images in his head. He frantically tried to distract his mind, but since he was so shocked, he was not able to completely forget those images.
Seeing Akira’s reaction Elena immediately realized that he was recalling the time when she met him in Shizuka’s shop. Watching how hard he was trying to keep calm, she also tried her best to do so. But it was not like she could completely calm down either.
Akira and Elena’s conversation stopped, both of them smiled at each other trying to gloss over the subject. Sara smiled mischievously looking at both of them, she had heard what happened from Shizuka, so she knew what was going on now. Seeing how her best friend was acting so unlike herself, she felt pitiful but also found it interesting at the same time.
Of course, there was no way Sara could know that Akira also thought of her naked image.
In order to change the mood, Akira also tried to come up with another subject.
“By the way, how many people are in Elena-san’s group?”
Elena immediately hopped on to that subject and quickly answered back.
“With you included, it’s 4 people.”
“4 people? Uhh, if I’m not mistaken, isn’t that smaller compared to a normal group? I think it’s a good idea to get more people.”
Akira remembered that he had to face a swarm of Yarata Scorpion only with Reina and Shiori, with 4 people including him, it would not be that much different from yesterday. With such a number of people, Akira felt like he would be brushing with death again.
There were Yarata Scorpions’ nests located in the uncharted areas of the underground city. Although the exploration team’s duty was to only scout those uncharted areas, Akira still thought that 4 people were too small. Of course, there was also a possibility that such a small number was not a problem with their abilities, but it was not a number that could reassure other Hunters without any further explanation.
Elena and Sara raised their eyebrows when Akira asked them that question, they then looked at each other. It seemed that it was not a pleasant subject to talk about.
Sara answered Akira’s question.
“Well, to be honest, we wanted to get more Hunters, you see… But something happened.”
This time, Elena answered Akira’s question.
“There was some compatibility problem with the other Hunters who joined this team before, you see. Although such situations are not rare, I really hope they take care of things like that beforehand…”
Akira looked at both Sara and Elena. Judging from their expression, he noticed that there was a slight difference between Sara’s expression and Elena’s expression. He thought that Elena and Sara had different kinds of problems. Elena’s problem was with the group itself while Sara’s problem was more on a personal level.
Suddenly, the last person in the team joined their conversation.
“I’m really sorry. I’ll be sure to tell them to take care of that problem beforehand next time.”
The last member of the team was Shikarabe, a Hunter from Drankam just like Katsuya and his friends. He was the Hunter who acted as Katsuya’s guardian in the past. But right now, Shikarabe had been released from that position and Katsuya’s group was already moving separately from him.
Shikarabe turned to Akira and said.
“I’m Shikarabe. I’m also on the exploration team number 9. Are you the Hunter who will join this team?”
“I’m Akira. I’ll be in your care for today.”
Shikarabe looked at Akira as if he was evaluating him.
“I do welcome an extra Hunter, but I hate to get someone who would pull us down like the previous one. Are you sure you’re not mistaking something?”
Although Shikarabe sounded as if he was provoking him, Akira just answered back as if it was nothing.
“If you think that I’m a dead weight, please tell that to HQ. I’ve tried… It’s the HQ who assigned me here after all. So if you want to complain, then complain as much as you want to the HQ and get a replacement for me.”
To someone who was obviously telling him that he was doubting his ability, Akira replied back telling him to blame the people who sent him to that place instead.
In the first place, Akira preferred to be assigned to the defense team. So he did not want to listen to the other Hunters’ complaints that should have been directed to the people who assigned him to the exploration team even though he did not have enough skill.
His answer was the opposite of what Shikarabe expected. He thought that Akira would start boasting about his skill or snap back at him who doubted his skill.
But looking at how he reacted, it seemed that Akira did not feel any displeasure towards other people who looked down on his skill, and that was rather surprising for Shikarabe.
Shikarabe tried to hide his surprise as he intentionally mocked and provoked Akira.
“That sounded really pathetic, don’t you have confidence in your own skill.”
But Akira replied back calmly.
“I don’t know what you’re expecting in terms of my ability. But at least, I know for sure that I don’t have enough ability to say things like ‘everything will be okay since I’m here now’ or like ‘don’t worry, I’ll do something about it’. So if you’re talking about that, then yes, I’m not confident enough with my skill to say things like that.”
After hearing Akira’s answer, Shikarabe burst out in laughter. His mood turned better as he said.
“It’s all good, I’m sorry about that. I know a lot of foolish Hunters who are so full of their abilities even though they have no proof to support their claim. At least, I know that you’re not one of those fools. Well, I bet it’ll be alright. The people in the HQ are not that stupid as to send someone with questionable skills here.”
Shikarabe said that as he grumbled and apologized to Akira.
“I’ve already finished my preparation, I can go anytime you’re ready.”
Elena checked her information terminal which was transferring data. Her terminal showed the estimated time needed to finish the data transfer.
“We’ll go once I’m finished with the data transfer, it’ll still take about 5 more minutes. Are you okay with that, Akira?”
“It’s okay. I can go anytime… Hm?”
Alpha suddenly pointed her finger and Akira instinctively turned to that direction. Not too far from them, he could see Katsuya’s group walking towards him with Katsuya leading in the front. He obviously looked displeased.