Chapter 294: Shirous Surprise
Two groups of Hunters just arrived in the cargo sector A7.
This was the sector that had become the only way in and out of Atlas D2771.
They came to secure the inter-city transport vehicle and eliminate the attackers.
One of the teams was headed by Tatsukawa and Melshia, while the other team was led by Zelos.
Tatsukawa seemed fired up as he heartily laughed.
“Good grief, if only they had hired us to escort the inter-city transport vehicle itself.
This would not have happened.
Now, theyre calling for us when its already too late, am I right, Melshia”
“The offer did reach us before, though.
In the end, we could not agree on the reward they offered.”
“…It did But well, if we could not agree on the reward, then it was still their fault, right”
“The offer came in a rush.
We were going to do it when it came.
I did say that I dont mind accepting it, but you got a little annoyed and demanded a huge amount, remember Saying something likethey should have offered at least this much for interrupting our good time.”
Tatsukawa finally remembered what had happened after Melshia pointed it out.
He was only able to laugh awkwardly as he tried to move away from this topic.
Noticing his obvious attempt, Melshia giggled and spoke.
“Well, thanks to that, they eventually agreed to hire us with a huge amount.
So, it was not all that bad.”
Tatsukawa quickly decided to ride on the wave she gave and nodded along with her argument.
“R-right! Alright then, lets get started! With how much we were offered, lets do this seriously.”
As Tatsukawa was about to enter the inter-city transport vehicle, Melshia suddenly grabbed and stopped him.
“Were not done coordinating with Zelos-sans team yet, so wait for a bit.”
Zelos, who had been listening to their conversation, sighed and changed the subject.
“Are you done now Well then, about the sectors that our respective teams will secure…”
Zelos team and Tatsukawas team were hired separately.
Therefore, their chain of command was not the same and they were moving separately.
To make sure there would not be any conflicts between their teams, including gaps between firepower and contribution to this mission, it was important to discuss everything beforehand.
Of course, they had completed the majority of their discussion before they came here.
The only thing that remained was a final confirmation for what was agreed upon prior, and actions taken under certain circumstances.
As high-ranking Hunters, Zelos and Melshia were already used to it.
Thus, they quickly went through everything and were about to conclude their discussion.
That was when Zelos suddenly added one extra condition.
“I dont know all the details, but it seems like Akira is inside Atlas D2771 as well.
In the scenario we somehow encountered him, I want you to handle the talking.
Im sure you already know that my team has a history with him.”
Back then when Akira still had a 50 billion Aurum bounty on his head, Zelos team broke into two factions.
The vice-captain, Gelgus, wanted to join the bounty hunt while Zelos was against it.
In the end, Zelos could not prevent the faction under Gelgus from splitting up and leaving the team.
Gelgus death and his teams defeat simply showed how Zelos prediction about Akira was right.
It was unfortunate that both sides could not peer into the future and knew about this outcome.
Thus, it could even be said that both sides had their own valid reasons which caused the team to split into two factions.
Since they did not split up because of a fight, Zelos still recognized Gelgus as well as those that left the team under Gelgus as his friends.
Had Gelgus won against Akira, it was highly likely that the split teams would merge back again.
Though, at that point, the leadership would shift to Gelgus.
It was only natural that Zelos would be hostile against the person who had killed Gelgus and destroyed his team.
Although they had no wish to harm Akira, and they knew that as Hunters, taking revenge on him would be misplaced vengeance, that did not mean they could just forgive him.
As such, Zelos wanted to keep his team away from Akira as much as possible.
Melshia understood that as well.
However, she still threw a question to Zelos.
“I can understand what you are trying to say, but that means youre going to throw this issue at us, right So, whats in it for us”
“If we somehow ended up fighting against each other, you would get involved as well.
And I dont believe Akira is willing to take the trouble of differentiating between our teams.
I believe you can prevent that from happening.
Well, frankly, I dont mind either way.
I wont force you to talk to him.”
Now that it was up to Melshia, she hummed for a bit and glanced at Tatsukawa.
Meeting her eyes, Tatsukawa casually stated.
“There should be no problems accepting his condition, dont you think Ive also always been wanting to talk to him if I ever get the chance since that day.”
“Well, if you say so, then I dont mind.”
“Sorry and thank you.
Now thats out of the way, lets get started.”
After both teams completed their preparations, they stormed the transport vehicle and started securing the insides.
The team under Tatsukawa and Zelos were slowly fighting through the force that attacked the inter-city transport vehicle.
Putting aside the level of danger they faced, their job was a simple one.
They had to go into each sector of Atlas D2771.
Each sector was protected by powerful forcefield armour, and they had to check, kill any enemies that they discovered, and secure the sector before moving to the next sector.
They had to do this until theyve completely secured the whole inter-city transport vehicle.
Of course, the attackers would all get eliminated through this process.
Unlike Akira, who was only there to pick up his cargo.
The team under Tatsukawa and Zelos were hired to eliminate the enemies inside Atlas D2771.
Thus, they had to diligently go through each sector and check every nook and cranny to make sure that no enemies were left.
The main firepower of the team, like Melshia and Tatsukawa, blitzed through the sectors and destroyed the drone swarm.
They did this until it was safe enough for the rest of the team to come in.
The rest would sweep through the entire sector, checking to see that they did not miss anything.
Afterwards, they would set up a portable barricade to the other hallway as well as do other finer details to secure the sector.
Along the route that they had already secured, the rooms were turned into forward-bases, where large amounts of medicine were stocked.
This was done so that they could quickly heal any injured member of the team.
Their systematic process was proceeding extremely smoothly.
Tatsukawa was even able to smile casually after fighting a swarm of drones.
“That was easy, though theyre quite numerous, they arent that strong.”
Although Melshia also had the leeway to smile back at him, she still warned Tatsukawa.
“Danger comes soonest when its most despised, you know You always get ahead of yourself too quickly.”
“No no no, Im doing better lately though.
Back then, I only did that because we wouldnt be able to succeed unless I got a bit reckless, you know”
“Well, I wonder about that.
Anyway, its my job to kick you when you get too carried away, so feel free to do whatever you want.”
Melshia made a half-teasing smile.
Tatsukawa only smiled bitterly in response to what she said and apologized
“Sorry, I know I keep causing you trouble.
But as I said not too long ago, our team has grown this big and its mostly thanks to your leadership and management skill.
I have no plan to throw that down the drain now.
But dont worry.
If something goes wrong because of you, we can always start again and rebuild it.”
Melshia slightly blushed, Tatsukawa was basically saying that he did not mind losing the team that they had brought all the way here through their hard work if it was for her sake.
“If you really mean it, make sure to not drop your guard.
I dont mind starting from zero again in a new team, but that would be a lot of work, right”
“Yeah, youre right.”
As they proceeded to secure the sector, the rest of the team witnessed Melshias and Tatsukawas flirty exchange.
Those two were the spearhead of the team so the rest just exasperatedly ignored them, thinking that it was just as usual.
Tatsukawas team, which had secured two sectors and was in the middle of securing the third sector, once again encountered a swarm of the multi-legged drones.
Although it was another easy victory for him, Tatsukawa felt something was off.
His expression turned solemn.
“…This is strange, Melshia, what do you think”
“Strange Whats strange”
Even Melshia, who was good at reading between the lines, could not understand what Tatsukawa was talking about.
Tatsukawa pondered over what he felt and spoke nonchalantly.
“The hallways and rooms are way too pristine.
Theres no wreckage left by the drones.
Isnt that weird”
There was an original escort team that was sent inside to secure Atlas D2771.
Thus, there had to be some signs of battle against the attackers.
This meant that there should be pieces of the multi-legged drones on the ground, if not, corpses of the deceased team.
However, even after they had already gone this deep, they have not encountered anything like that.
As expected, Tatsukawa found that to be worrying.
Melshia gave it a bit of thought before explaining a possibility.
“Including the dummies, there are 12 special sectors designed to house the cube inside Atlas D2771.
Although that is all that they can share with us since were basically outsiders, I bet the original escort team, the attackers, and the original suppression team affiliated with the transport knew of the correct location of the cube.
So, it is possible there are no leftovers around because the battles only occurred near the sector housing the cube.
We might still not be there yet.
Or at least, that is just my guess.
Do you have any other possibilities in mind”
“Well, thats a good guess, but…”
Tatsukawa agreed with Melshia that it was a plausible explanation.
However, something still felt off and he could not bring himself to accept it like this.
His face was still as solemn as before.
After a moment of hesitation, he decided to contact Zelos.
Normally, the powerful forcefield armour protecting each sector would prevent them from contacting each other, but since they kept some of the doors open, and placed relay devices along the hallways, they were able to reach each other.
Tatsukawa gave a short explanation regarding his worry, and then Zelos replied.
“The situation is the same for us over here as well.
The only ones on the floor are the ones that we have defeated.
So far, weve only encountered those weak multi-legged drones.
We have not found anything that might be from the original attackers.”
“By the way, have you encountered Akira yet”
“…Then Im afraid it is as you feared.
Something is indeed not right.
Even if Melshia-sans guess is correct, that the attackers were gathered somewhere near the sector where the cube is stored and that these multi-legged drones are only sent for reconnaissance, weve encountered so many of them.
Akira and the other Hunters who went in before us must have encountered them as well.
So, why dont we find any leftovers from them Does it mean that Akira did not encounter them That is highly unlikely.”
If it was only them, then it might still make sense.
However, considering Akira had gone in before them, things became extremely suspicious.
Basically, there was something that they did not know happening inside the transport vehicle.
Both Tatsukawa and Zelos proceeded with more caution.
Akira continued going deeper into the transport vehicle.
He was following the route to the sector where his stuff was located.
Although he encountered multiple swarms of multi-legged drones along his way, he was able to deal with them with no difficulty at all.
Akira checked the map, which showed the insides of the transport vehicle and sighed.
He had just confirmed that it would take him some time before he could reach sector B28, where his cargo was housed.
“The route they gave us takes a rather long detour, dont you think It would be great if they can allow us to use a shorter route.”
After Akira leaked his complaint, Alpha casually stated.
“Well, its understandable considering the situation.”
The new equipment that Akira had ordered through Saka**a Heavy Industry was all frontline equipment.
Naturally, they were expensive and extremely dangerous.
Although there was no need to keep them in a secured sector, as secure as where the cube was kept, they were still located inside a sector that was more secure than the other normal sectors.
Such a sector was protected by multiple layers of forcefield armour and was located deep inside the transport vehicle.
However, the attackers were also inside the transport vehicle.
To prevent them from escaping outside Atlas D2771, they strengthened the already powerful forcefield armour.
Excluding the A7 cargo sector where Akira entered the transport vehicle, there was no other way to get out of the vehicle.
Thus, it effectively locked the attackers inside the transport vehicle.
As an outsider, Akira had received limited permission thus, his access was strictly limited.
He was not allowed to go into most of the sectors.
Furthermore, with strengthened forcefield armour, some of the sectors were even rendered completely inaccessible.
Because of all these factors, although sector B28 was easy to reach from another exit, Akira had to go through a rather long route to reach it.
After Alpha explained all these points, she then elaborated further.
“Most probably, the reason why this inter-city transport vehicle is not moving is because its diverting all its energy to fuel its forcefield armour.
It no longer has the capacity to accelerate the transport vehicle.
I bet they prioritized supplying the forcefield armour protecting the cube, meanwhile, making sure that the attackers are trapped inside as a secondary objective.
This way, they could send in a strong team later to secure the transport vehicle and resolve the situation.”
Akira frowned and asked.
“…That strong team youre talking about… Thats not me, right”
“Even if someone hoped that you would do that for them, you didnt receive such a request.
So, lets not worry about it.
You just need to pick up your stuff, and get out of here as soon as possible.”
Alpha smiled as she spoke.
Hearing that, Akiras frown vanished and was replaced by curved lips.
“Youre right, lets just get this over with.”
Akira pushed that thought aside for now and just focused on reaching the cargo sector B28.
As he reached the door to the next sector, he readied his rifle and cautiously opened the door.
The power forcefield armour turned into a layer that was impermeable to information.
Thus, when Akira slightly opened the door, information from the inside of that sector started leaking out.
It was quickly analyzed and displayed in Akiras enhanced vision.
Immediately, he tensed up.
There was a signal indicating someone else was nearby.
Akira raised his voice, prompting a reaction from this unknown person.
He rested his fingers on the triggers, ready.
With his rifles positioned, he waited for the moment this person jumped out from behind the door.
If there was no answer, then Akria would consider that signal hostile.
The time limit Akira gave before he began to take the initiative to attack, was immediate once the door was fully open.
But right before the time limit, before the door was fully opened, a voice responded to his question.
“Right back at you, who are you If youre not a part of the attackers! Show me your identification code! I will shoot you if you cant do that!”
Akira glanced at Alpha, so she broadcast using a short-range communication frequency Akiras identification code, which was provided with the map information he had received.
A moment later, the other person also sent back their identification code.
“…It seems like youre not one of the attackers.
I will step out, so dont shoot, alright”
Akira lowered his rifle.
After a short pause, as if they were confirming the situation, the other person stepped out from behind the door.
Akira was a bit surprised to see it to be a girl that looked around the same age as him.
The girl also seemed surprised when she saw Akira.
She fearfully asked.
“…You… By any chance, are you that Akira”
“…Just to be safe, which Akira isthat Akira youre referring to”
“The one that had a 50 billion Aurum bounty on him.”
“…Then yes, I am that Akira.”
The girls conflicted expression obviously indicated that she had regretted showing herself.
She did not want to meet someone like Akira, who she did not want to get involved with.
Meanwhile, Akira was uncertain as to how he should deal with her.
Eventually, he came to a decision.
To just ignore her and walk past her.
That girls gaze went back and forth between Akiras back and the direction where he came from.
A moment later, she loped behind him.
The moment she caught up with him, Akira asked.
“Uhh, uhmm, can I come with you I dont feel safe going around alone inside the transport vehicle, so…”
The girl stated that she originally came here together with another team to secure the transport vehicle.
However, they were ambushed by the attackers. She got seriously injured and got separated from the rest of her team.
Currently, she was in the middle of escaping.
Once she explained her situation, she asked Akira for a favour.
“Please dont misunderstand my intentions.
Im not hoping for you to do my job for me.
You can just continue to secure the transport vehicle as per your request and profit from it.
I will help during the fight, and I wont complain about whatever my share of the reward is, so yeah, its okay, right Right”
“Sorry, I dont have the leeway to accept an escort request.”
“E-escort Its not something like that…”
The girl looked away and awkwardly smiled.
She started blabbering, trying to make excuses.
Explaining that it was not like she was hoping Akira would be her escort, but her awkward attitude did not convince anyone.
Akira simply sighed.
“If youre going to come along, feel free to do so, but just dont get in my way.”
“Of course! I will never do something like that! Ah, by the way, my name is Rebecca, nice to meet you.”
“Right, Im Akira.”
As Akira gave the expected reply to people who just met each other for the first time, Rebecca walked next to Akira and giggled.
Akira bitterly smiled and rushed ahead.
In the middle of going through the hallway, Alpha suddenly warned Akira.
“Akira, I dont mind having that girl come along with you, but dont drop your guard.
Dont forget that shes still a stranger that youve just met in a dangerous area.
If we get attacked, theres a good chance that shell use you as a diversion and run away.
She might shoot haphazardly when she panics as well.
So, keep in mind that she adds an unpredictable factor to this situation.
Leaving aside her skill, her equipment is not that bad.
So, it would be troublesome to deal with her if it came to it.”
After Alpha gave her warning, Akira glanced at Rebecca and scanned her equipment.
She was using an augmented suit that looked like a leotard with some holes on it.
The holes seem to have some unknown function other than needlessly showing skin.
Furthermore, she was using a dress with a large slit, which was her defensive coat.
Both were of the old-world design.
She was also carrying a rather large rifle with her.
“Rebecca, that equipment, are they old-world equipment”
“Do they look so”
“At least they look relatively strong.”
“Is that so Thanks.
But they are not.
Though, they are still pretty powerful.”
Rebecca then smiled rather smugly.
But Akira instead noticed something strange.
“You said that you fought the attackers and got defeated right So, what kind of enemies did you fight”
“Multi-legged drones equipped with laser cannons.
I bet they were brought here by the attackers.
Not only are they strong, but there were also billions of them…”
“…And your team was defeated although you have that equipment You were in a team, right Not alone, right”
Judging from the drones that Akira had fought and considering Rebeccas capability to fight based on her equipment, Akira found it to be weird.
Especially when he considered her team members to be equipped with the same level of gear.
[How did such a team get defeated by such weak enemies] Akira inadvertently shot a suspicious glance at Rebecca.
But unexpectedly, Rebecca exasperatedly said.
“Haah, well, you did survive even after having a 50 billion Aurum bounty on your head.
Your evaluation of our fighting capability is completely off.
Im sure you said that based on your own experience fighting those drones.
Was it really that easy of a win for you”
“…At least, I wouldnt say that it was hard.”
Rebecca sounded a bit offended as she replied.
“Well, that would explain everything.
But dont worry.
Although Im super weak compared to you, I will at least make sure not to get in your way if we get attacked.”
Akira thought that he made a mistake there since he ended up saying something that sounded like reproach with a hint of mockery.
Thus, he only managed to awkwardly reply with that shortokay.
Moreover, he had become strong enough for Alpha to admit it.
Furthermore, Rebecca did not have Alphas support.
Thus, he reflected on his evaluation and believed that it was awful of him to use the strength of the enemy to evaluate someone elses fighting capability.
The sour mood stayed for quite some time before Rebecca opened her mouth.
“Sorry, I said something rude.
You are the one allowing me to come along with you.
Though I almost got killed during the fight and Im worried for the rest of my team as well.
So, I guess Im a little bit more stressed out than I thought.
But I was being honest when I said that I wont get in your way and help you fight too if we got attacked.”
Akira lowered his shoulders.
“Okay, Im sorry for suspecting you.
I think I got a little bit paranoid since Im only here to pick up my cargo.
Instead, I got roped into this troublesome mess.”
But something in Akiras apology piqued Rebeccas interest.
“Pick up your cargo What do you mean”
“Its exactly as you heard.
Im not here to secure the transport vehicle, Im here just to get my stuff.”
“You do know that there are attackers inside this transport vehicle aiming for the cube, right But you still decided to go to such a dangerous place just to pick up your stuff”
Seeing exasperation on Rebeccas face, Akira added an extra excuse.
“I have my reasons, alright”
Rebecca found Akiras attitude amusing and giggled.
“As I thought, your common sense is completely different from us.”
“Oh shut it.
Ill leave you behind if you keep saying something like that.”
Akira paced his steps faster; Rebecca was still giggling as she lightly jogged to follow next to him.
On their way to cargo sector B28, Akira and Rebecca once again encountered a swarm of multi-legged drones.
Akira was able to handle it all by himself.
Therefore, now that he had an extra helping hand from Rebecca, the swarm did not give them any trouble at all.
Rebecca smiled smugly after drilling holes through those multi-legged drones with her laser cannon.
“So What do you think Im pretty good, right”
“Yeah, not bad at all, youre pretty strong.”
Although Akira agreed with her statement, he had a conflicted expression on his face.
Naturally, Rebecca noticed it.
“You dont seem that happy though I know that Im not as strong as you, but still…”
“Thats not it.
I just thought that although you have other allies who are more or less as strong as you, you still couldnt win against the attackers.
Youve just only barely managed to escape, right Or are there other stronger enemies present”
“W-well… That is… Yeah, there were other enemies, and they are super strong.”
Rebecca was visibly flustered.
Akira did find that strange and Alpha immediately warned him.
“Akira, lets forget about the attackers and just focus on getting your new equipment.
As for the attackers, we will take them down if they try to attack you.
So, theres no need to think too much about them.
In the first place, your main goal here has nothing to do with eliminating them.”
“You have a point.”
His equipment came first, Akira reminded himself.
“I see, anyway, lets hurry up.”
“Ah, yeah, right.”
Akira went ahead, Rebecca, who followed him, made a sigh of relief a moment later.
After Akira left the hallway, the dead drones once again melted into a pool of green liquid, consuming the metallic wreckage around it.
This time, they gathered in two different places and created two female humanoids.
Those two glanced in the direction where Akira went and quickly left in another direction.
After that, Akira did not encounter any more enemies and safely reached cargo sector B28.
He thought that he was finally there and was about to open the door but for some reason, the door would not open.
“Hm Thats weird.”
Akira thought he must have made a mistake.
Thus, instead of inputting the data through his enhanced vision, he pulled out his information terminal and sent the procedure to open the door through the terminal.
But unfortunately, the door only returned an error message and would not open.
Akira rubbed his head and mumbled.
“What the heck is going on…”
“I actually have the permission to open the door, but…”
“So, the door wont open, huh Well, this is troublesome.
The guy who gave you the code to open the door is outside, right What do you plan to do now”
It was not like he could just tear down the door.
He would have to return back to those from Brunkel and ask them to assist him to open the door.
Akira turned around and knitted his eyebrows.
It was not easy to get here.
At the very least, he would have to go back and forth once.
Now, no one could say how many round trips he would have to make until he could open the door.
Naturally, he really did not want to go through all this hassle.
That was when Akira thought of something else.
“Shirou, are you free right now”
“What is it Did something happen”
After Akira gave a brief explanation, Shirou then confidently said.
“Alright, Ill use you as a proxy to do some investigation.
You can pick two choices.
Either to tell me a safe entry point to connect or to set up a temporary circumvention route for me to connect.”
Akira had no idea what Shirou was talking about, but since it would be weird for him to ask Shirou, he confirmed with Alpha first before replying.
Just connect to me.”
Shirou dove into Akiras old-world connection as an old-world connector and put himself in the system, making it as if he was there.
It did not take long for Shirou to notice what was wrong.
“It says that it cant confirm the code you gave.”
“I did get the permission, though The code was able to open the door to the other sectors as well…”
“Sector B28 seems to house really valuable cargo, so its security level is much higher than the other sectors.
Even if you have permission to open it, if youre going in together with someone else without permission, the door will not open.
Are you there with someone”
“Yeah, I met this girl named Rebecca on my way here.
So, if I leave Rebecca behind, I should be able to open this door, right”
“No, once that code gives an error, it is rendered invalid.
Judging from the identification method, you will either need to return back to have it unlocked or to get another unlock code.”
Akira sounded extremely frustrated.
Since it was through telepathic communication, not only his words, but his emotions were also fully conveyed.
Shirou, who was on the receiving end of that call, laughed.
“But you do have the permission, right Dont worry, Ill open it for you, Im actually pretty good at this kind of thing, you see.”
“Oh! Thank you!!”
“Yeah, just leave it to me.
Arent you glad you did not leave me behind and brought me along with you”
“You can say that again, thanks.”
In contrast to Shirous voice, which was full of confidence, Akiras voice sounded a bit wry.
Though, it was his true feelings.
From inside the camping vehicle, Shirou immediately got to work.
“…With this system, its easier to fake an identification code instead of hacking the locking system.
Akira, Ill be borrowing your information-gathering device.
I need the information used for the identification code to create a fake identification code for that girl, Rebecca.”
“Dont break it, okay”
After hearing Akiras short warning, Shirou immediately accessed his information-gathering device and prioritized its scanning target at Rebecca.
Akiras powerful information-gathering device would normally be able to see through under the targets outer clothes and even pass the skin down to the blood vessels and organs.
Of course, an expensive augmented suit would be equipped to prevent that.
Thus, with a good enough augmented suit, it would be impossible to see all those details.
That was why, although Akiras information-gathering device could only gather information about Rebeccas appearance, Shirou did not find that to be strange at all.
[I cant really see the face though.
Its needed to make the identification code.
Does the sonar sensor not work well because of the forcefield I guess I will have to use the camera to get a clear-]
Once Shirou used the information-gathering devices camera to see Rebeccas face, he was in absolute shock.
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