Chapter 11, All kinds of Prey
In the ruins, Elena and Sara kept searching for footprints and finally found footprints of a child. The footprint that they found was so light that it would have easily erased if the air blew over it. The reason why they were able to find that slight trace was because of Elena’s tenacity and skill. And it definitely was Akira’s footprint. So they continued their search in good mood expecting to find the rumoured unexplored area.
But it was fruitless. They followed the footprints into an abandoned building and searched the whole place to find nothing of value inside it. Even so, they continued their search since they found similar footprints in the building. While on the other hand, the colourless mist was getting thicker.
After sometime, Sara realized that the colourless mist had gotten pretty thick and her vision blurred when she looked through her binoculars. Just to be safe, she asked Elena.
“Elena, the colourless mist is getting thicker. Is it okay to continue here?”
Elena answered Sara’s question after an unnoticeable pause.
“…It’s okay. Although it’s started to affect the information gathering device. It’s not so bad that we have to withdraw from our search.”
“Is that so? Well, I guess it’s fine if you say so.”
Elena then asked Sara in a worried tone.
“How about you? Are you okay? If the colourless mist starts negatively affecting your nanomachines, we’ll withdraw immediately. So do tell me if it does and don’t hide it, okay?”
“I’m fine. Although I can’t say that it doesn’t affect me at all, I’m still alright for now.”
“Well, if you say so. But don’t push yourself too hard, okay?”
Sara laughed mischievously at Elena to make her stop worrying.
“I’m telling you, I’m fine. When the push comes to shove, I’ll carry you and run away. So I still have a lot of spare power, you know.”
Elena then replied back while smiling teasingly.
“Oh my, are you trying to say that I’m fat?”
“NO! I was talking about your equipment. There’s no other deeper meaning than that. That’s really all. I’m telling you that’s all.”
Elena and Sara were laughing as they were teasing each other. At least they were able to confirm that they were really okay.
Elena did not lie. Although the mist affected the information gathering device, the effect was not that bad. But it would be unfavourable if the mist got any thicker, and by the looks of it, the possibility was very high.
If it were any other day, Elena would have decided to withdraw due to the danger. But she couldn’t do that today. They would not get any money if they went back empty-handed. And if their financial situation got any worse, there was a good chance that Sara would postpone replenishing her nanomachines, which would be life-threatening for Sara in her present condition. Elena wanted to avoid such a situation no matter what and she unconsciously pushed their search longer.
And Sara did not lie either. Her situation was the same as Elena’s information gathering device, it was manageable for now. But if Sara suggested Elena to stop the search because of her little discomfort, Elena would definitely go against it. And she feared that if it was handled badly, Elena might even go to the ruins alone without her, who was the primary firepower in the team. And that was not something that she wished to happen. As such, Sara pushed herself so that Elena would not worry about her.
Elena and Sara were actually having a hard time working as Hunters. Sometime ago, they were able to explore more dangerous ruins to earn money, but after going through some difficult circumstances during which they couldn’t earn much, their financial condition rapidly declined. As such, they had less money to prepare for expeditions, which in turn reduced their efficiency when searching in the ruins. They had fallen into a vicious cycle, that instead of earning money, they were actually losing money with each subsequent expedition. It was also the reason as to why Sara limited her nanomachine replenishment. It was also because they were in such a hardship that they believed in the rumour.
Hunters who had fallen to such a vicious cycle would need to either hit a jackpot or push themselves for a gamble, in order to escape from it. If they were to win their gamble, they would be able to raise up again as skilled Hunters who get rich. But if they lose their gamble, they would fall into deeper hardship due to the backlash from pushing themselves too hard.
Elena and Sara were betting on the rumour in order to turn their condition for the better. But due to their desire to get out from their situation, they unconsciously became careless. The fact that they put their bet on a baseless rumour was the proof of that.
Normally, they would have stopped here, but Elena and Sara were already committed in their bet that they forgot to be wary of their surroundings.
There were a lot of Hunters other than Elena and Sara who came to Kuzusuhara City ruins chasing after the rumour. But most of them already abandoned the search and returned back. While most of them who stayed also decided to return back due to the thickening colourless mist.
But a small part of these Hunters didn’t leave. They were the declining Hunters who were allured by the rumour. Since the danger was comparatively minimal and this was also a chance for them to turn their situation around in one shot, these Hunters remained obsessed in their search.
But they could not find the rumoured ruin no matter how much they searched. As such, they were getting annoyed and irritated. Since such a ruin did not exist in the first place, they would only get more and more annoyed.
They could not just go back empty-handed even after reaching their limit. They started looking for another way to obtain something so that their trip won’t be in vain. Rather continuing the search for this rumoured ruin and wasting their efforts and time, they began diverting their attention onto other prey.
Elena was traversing the ruin with a grim face. The colourless mist had gotten thicker faster than she expected and its effect on her information gathering device had become severe. The device’s detection range had considerably reduced and hence the chance for them to encounter a surprise attack had increased.
(…This is bad. To think that the mist would get this thick in such a short time. What a blunder. )
Then Elena said to Sara while regretting her poor decision to continue their search.
“Sara, we can’t go further, we should head back now.”
“Sorry, the detection range is already very small, we should’ve returned sooner.”
“It’s alright. There shouldn’t be that many monsters in the outskirts. It’ll be alright as long as we head back carefully.”
Seeing Elena blaming herself, Sara just returned a smile that showed no trace of blame. Elena smiled in return and changed her mood since she understood that there was no meaning in regretting now.
Elena and Sara decided to head back. They were moving through the outskirts of the ruins looking for the vehicle that they parked there. Normally, the outskirts were a relatively safe place, but now that it was blanketed with the colourless mist, it had become a dangerous place.
Since their vision got worse because of the mist, the probability of close encounter with the monsters increased. It greatly lowered the survival rate of the Hunters who relied on ranged attack.
If they met a monster, which boast of great vitality, inside this fog, they would be forced to fight with it in close range. And that would be a very dangerous situation.
Suddenly, a gunshot echoed as Elena and Sara were moving inside the mist. Considering the sound distortion factor due to the mist, they knew that the source of that gunshot was pretty close to them, behind a crumbled ruin. Sara readied her gun while Elena operated her information gathering device and put all its resources on enemy detection.
“Elena, did you find anything?”
“Wait for a sec… I got some signals from where the gunshot was fired. It seems that 8 Hunters are fighting against 1 monster and they are headed our way.”
They could see Hunters running from the source of the gunshot and these Hunters were chased by a giant monster. Although they did shoot back while running away, there was no sign of the monster getting killed anytime soon.
Elena analyzed the situation.
“Looking at them, it seems that these Hunters have no close-range firepower. And also, the monster seems to be pretty strong that those Hunters won’t be able to defeat it with their equipment. We’ll get involved if we leave it be and it seems that it will be able to catch up with us even if we run away. There’s no helping it, we should defeat it in their place instead.”
Sara aimed her huge gun towards the monster, then Elena shouted at the hunters who were approaching her.
“Get out of the way!”
The hunters who heard her words acknowledged and stopped shooting back at the monster and kept running toward her.
The monster was so huge that Elena could see it easily even under the thick mist. It was a big carnivorous monster, its muscle line was visible even when it was covered by its thick fur. It opened his big mouth showing its huge fangs as it was trying to devour those Hunters.
Sara, who was aiming at that monster found something strange. Through her aiming device, she could see that the monster was mostly unharmed, even when the hunters were shooting at the monsters as they were running away from it. She thought that it might be because of its superb vitality that the monster was able to chase the hunters while ignoring their gunshots. But that did not seem to be the case.
[…Did the thick fur protect it from the bullets? Or is it that these hunters only have weak guns with them? Or is it that most of their shot missed since they were shooting while running away? Well, not that it really matters now, I’ll take care of it myself.]
Sara just pushed the question aside and pulled the trigger. The huge bullet that shot out from her big gun hit the monster right on its head. Fresh blood splattered from its head and it fell down to the ground. While that happened, the Hunters kept running while ignoring what happened to the monster behind them.
Elena saw something strange about these hunters. They should be showing desperation trying to run away from their certain death situation. But instead, they were lacking any expressions showing their fear of death or happiness that they found someone who would help them.
But she did not have the time to think about the reason. Due to the thick colourless mist, she had allowed a monster and a group of hunters approached them. And because she prioritized in taking out the monster, she was late in reacting to these Hunters.
These Hunters kept running past Elena and Sara without even saying a single word of gratitude. And then one of them threw something towards Elena’s feet.
Elena and Sara were so shocked when they realized that it was a type of hand grenade. Sara who was quick to react, immediately grabbed Elena and tried to run away from that place. But they were a bit late and the grenade exploded and threw their bodies into the air.
Sara covered Elena from the explosion and was able to protect her. But the explosion threw her away from Elena before landing hard on the ground. After that, she was in confusion for a bit, but she immediately regained her composure and realized that she was lying on the ground defenceless. She reflexively hid behind wreckage as she got up.
She then immediately tried to confirm Elena’s safety, but she could not find Elena around her. She was about to call for Elena when she heard a guy’s voice.
“That other girl!! Throw down your weapon if you don’t want your friend to die.”
Sara then heard Elena’s voice from the same direction.
“Sara!! Don’t mind me!! You can freely run away or shoot these bastards!!”
Sara was showing a pained face when she understood how bad the situation was, Elena was captured by those guys.
A lot of Hunters went to the ruins daily looking for valuable relics and then they would fight against the monsters living in the ruins. As such, many hunters were killed in the ruins and left their equipment scattered around the ruins.
Normally, the next person who found these equipments would be their new owner. Although sometimes the dead Hunter would leave a letter asking to accept their equipment as a payment to take care of his or her burial or to send a certain belonging to his or her family, no one would follow through. The finder would keep all the equipment left behind.
But some of these Hunters who had bad personality would change from being a Hunter into being a robber inside the ruins. Rather than looting a dead Hunter, they would kill other Hunters, and take their belongings. Then a bounty would be put on their head and some of them would die as prey of some other Hunters.
These were the kind of Hunters who attacked Elena and Sara. They already coveted for Elena and Sara’s equipment. This was the day when they changed their profession from skilled Hunters to ruthless robbers. It was just bad luck on Elena and Sara’s side. They did not kill that monster on purpose and all these were their elaborate play to trick Elena and Sara to lower their guard.
Guns were pointed at Elena from her back, but Elena looked back and glared at the Hunters behind her. But the sensation of the gun muzzle pressed on the back of her head prevented her from doing anything further.
The Hunter pressed his gun’s muzzle harder on Elena’s head and shouted.
“You just shut up! Do you want to die?”
But Elena did not show any fear and shouted back.
“Just pull the trigger and you all will be dead!! Sara!! Don’t listen to them!!”
“Didn’t I tell you to shut up?!!”
The Hunter behind Elena violently smacked his gun onto Elena’s head and Elena could not help but let out a scream. Sara who was still hiding behind the ruins clenched her teeth hard while making a grim face.
If she followed Elena’s order to just forget about her, she might be able to kill all the Hunters, but in exchange, Elena would definitely get killed.
But if she obeyed the Hunter’s order and threw down her weapon. She might be able to save Elena. But on the other hand, it would worsen their situation. They would definitely rape her and Elena, and there was no guarantee what they would do after that.
Sara could not pick either choice.
Then another Hunter shouted as if he was letting Sara hear him.
“Just kill her already!! Then we can just move on and kill the other girl afterwards!!”
Sara shouted back in reflex and made her decision, she threw down her weapon and stepped out from the ruin with both her hands up.
Elena shook his head. But Sara smiled at Elena, there was a slight trace of bitterness in that smile. Sara then moved slowly toward the Hunter while making a serious face as to not alert him.
Seeing Sara approaching them unarmed, the Hunters were making a nasty laugh. Since it seemed that Sara would listen to them obediently, some of them lowered their guns. But the gun behind Elena’s back remained in its position.
Sara moved slowly while measuring the distance between them.
(…It’s okay. They’re off guard right now… It’s still too far… But it’s okay. If I can get close enough to them, I could beat them with bare hands.)
If she ignored the nanomachine consumption and raised her physical ability to its limit, she would be able to boost her physical ability and it would be enough to counter attack those Hunters despite the fact that Sara had no previous training in martial arts.
But on the other hand, the nanomachine consumption would also be enormous. In the worst case scenario, she would spend all her nanomachines and die. And even if she could take care of those Hunters without dying, she would only be left with a short time awaiting her death.
If Sara had ignored Elena’s safety and shot back with her gun, it would cut her nanomachine consumption to a minimum. Elena’s glare at Sara was saying that she wanted Sara to take that option. But Sara could not do that.
Sara had made her resolve and moved forward. It was only a few steps until a chance to retaliate would come to her.
“Stop there!! Stop there and take off your Augmented clothes and armour!”
The Hunter who shouted, laughed as he saw Sara stop just like she was ordered to.
“After all, even without a gun, I don’t want to be beaten to death with the physical enhancement from that augmented clothes. We did lower the firepower of the grenade so that your equipment won’t sustain any damage, but to think that you would be able to survive that unscathed and even didn’t fall unconscious, it seems that you have quite a good equipment on you. Don’t worry, we’ll use them with care. So you hear me, right? Remove it slowly.”
Sara did like what she was told to. She removed her own clothes and armour. She was also glaring at them while trembling in order to make them lower their guard even more. Soon she was only left with her undergarments. Seeing this, the Hunters’ laughter only got nastier.
Sara had to bear with their stare while reassessing her chance.
(Since they mistook my armour as enhanced armour, it means that they don’t know that I use nanomachine to enhance my physical power. It’s okay, this will work well.)
Sara kept glaring at them.
“…I’ve removed them.”
“Is that so?”
Then suddenly bullets tore through Sara’s both thighs and Sara fell down to the ground. Elena screamed and ran towards Sara forgetting the fact that she also had a gun pointed at her head.
The one who shot Sara was the leader of this Hunter group, Bubaha. Bubaha looked at Sara who was on the ground and confirmed their safety. He then looked at his subordinates and pointed at Sara while saying.
“This girl is a nanomachine enhanced girl. She should be a few times stronger than a normal human. The cloth that she removed is just a normal armour, not an augmented one. If you don’t want to get twisted and torn apart, you might want to stay away from that girl.”
“How do you know that?”
“You can tell that from her movements and equipment. It’s because you can’t recognize something like this, you guys are stuck as amateurs. When nanomachine enhanced person is severely wounded, the nanomachine will prioritize in healing the wound. As such, their movement would be affected during that time. But they’re still stronger than a normal human. So if you guys want to toy with them, then just use the other girl.”
Bubaha then pointed at Elena, so everyone’s attention gathered at her.
Elena who ran to Sara hugged her close as she was writhing in pain on the ground.
Sara smiled meekly. The nanomachines inside her body prioritized in healing her wound and life support, thus she was in no condition for combat. She was in a condition where it was impossible to turn the situation around with her own power.
“…I’m sorry, I made a blunder.”
“Why didn’t you run away…?”
Elena’s voice was trembling as she asked the question that she wasn’t expecting an answer for. She thought that if Sara had ran away, then at least Sara would be safe.
In contrast to her answer, Sara smiled at Elena. That “Sorry” was filled with so many meanings in it. Sara and Elena looked at the Hunters who were laughing nastily while approaching them. But in the next moment, Bubaha was shot right through his forehead and dropped dead.
The gunshot’s sound kept reverberating through the air. The other Hunters were so shocked by the sudden turn of events. And before they could even put up their guard, 10 bullets were already fired at them. Those who got hit dropped into the ground and screamed in pain. As for those who got lucky started cursing at Elena and Sara thinking that they had other friends with them. But with that meaningless action, their luck ran out as well.
“Damn you!! You still have other friends with you, huh…!?”
Elena and Sara were also surprised by the sudden turn of events. But Elena was able to immediately compose herself. She then took the gun from the Hunter who was on the ground near her and shot at the other Hunters who were still able to fight. After that, she looked for anyone who was still breathing and nested 2 shots into their heads each, thus stopping their breath.
The other Hunters, of course, were also thinking of killing Elena, but since bullets were flying toward them, they could not do that and focused more on hiding themselves from the enemy’s line of sight. And so in the middle of the confusion, they focused more on looking for ruin and wreckage to hide.
While the Hunters were trying to hide, Elena dragged Sara trying to escape.
“Sara! Can you walk!?”
“I can’t !! Elena!! It’s okay, just run from here!!”
“I won’t! Don’t you joke with me!”
Some of the Hunters noticed them and tried to shoot at Elena and Sara, but they were also stopped by the gunshots that came from nowhere.
Sara who was dragged by Elena picked up the gun that she dropped. While Elena who was dragging Sara together with her went towards a building. All the while, the echo from the gunshots did not stop.
Elena and Sara were somehow able to run toward an abandoned building near them, Elena then pointed her gun’s muzzle outside and was watching her surroundings carefully.
“…Elena, what do you think just happened?”
“I don’t know. Someone who is not from their side suddenly open fired at them. That’s all I know at the moment. I want to think that person did that to help us, but there’s a chance that person is actually trying to steal those Hunters’ prey. Sara, how’s your wound?”
“…It’ll take about an hour before I can walk on my own.”
“I see. Just don’t move too much for now and prioritize your nanomachine on healing your wounds. Let’s analyze our current situation from this place… It’s not like we’re already safe, after all.”
And so Elena and Sara bunkered themselves inside the abandoned building while making a grim face.