Chapter 26, The True Worth of An Augmented Suit
Akira started going to the wasteland again, but it was for the purpose of training using his augmented suit. He put on his augmented suit in the wasteland not too far from the city while carrying his anti-monster AAH rifle with him. In short, he was fully equipped to fight monsters in the wasteland.
On the other hand, Alpha was donned in a white one-piece, not something that one would typically wear in the middle of the wasteland. The glossiness of the dress further accentuated that it was made of high-quality fabric, and as the light shone on it, it made a drop-shadow effect that traced her body line.
Although Akira wanted Alpha to change to something that better suited the wasteland, he decided to hold himself from saying anything. He recollected her naked self during their first meeting in the ruins and her beautiful pure white dress that she wore during a previous trip to ruins when he was targeted by 2 Hunters. During both these occasions, she had a reason for wearing such a dress. Similarly, he thought that there must be some reason as to why she wore this dress now too. But more than that, he knew that she would only change her dress to something worse if he commented about it. It was quite a while since the last time he had the chance of going to the wasteland, thus he did not want to do anything that might bring him trouble.
Akira mumbled to himself that it was a thousand times better than her being naked and just assumed that it was a part of his training too.
Alpha smiled and told Akira to start the training.
“Akira, we’ll start the training for using the augmented suit.”
Akira was about to turn ON his augmented suit when the suit suddenly booted up by itself. Although he was a bit surprised, he immediately realized that it was Alpha’s doing when he saw her smiled meaningfully.
“So then, what should I do?”
Alpha pointed to a location in the wasteland that was 100 metres away from them.
“First of all, walk till you get there.”
As Akira turned to the pointed direction, he could see an arrow pointing to the intended location. It was something that Alpha added to his vision. Akira was already used to it, so he was not surprised. He then started walking towards the location. He was able to get there without any problem. So Alpha gave him the next command.
“Next, over there.”
Once he arrived at his next location, Alpha gave him the next order again. He just kept on walking from one location to another for about 10 times. Thus, he started to find it weird.
“Alpha. Do I need to walk more carefully? Or maybe walk while carrying my gun? Or is it that I should not do any of those at all? Or are we still confirming the functionality of the augmented suit and we will only start the real training after that?”
“Nope, we’re already in a training session and I’ve started gathering your data too.”
“Just by walking?”
Alpha just smiled meaningfully while looking at Akira who was puzzled.
“Yep, after all, you would never realise the usefulness of my support until you try to move around without it.”
“Support? But I’m just walking normally, right? Is there anything more than that?”
Alpha smiled mischievously.
“You’ll know soon enough. Akira, try to walk over there, but this time I’ll turn off my support. Actually, I’ve been adjusting the power output of your augmented suit. So then, go ahead and feel for yourself how great my support is.”
Akira had a bad feeling as he saw Alpha smiling at him. As he tried to step forward, he immediately tripped over. The moment he swung his leg, he accidentally kicked a boulder powerfully and sent it flying, the kickback made him rollover.
He was stunned as it happened. He tried to stand up by thrusting his right hand on the ground, but his right hand went deep into the ground right till his wrist.
He then tried to pull out his right hand by pressing the ground with his left hand, but he pulled so hard that he was thrown back and almost fell on his back, so he tried to readjust his position in panic. But instead, it completely disrupted his balance as he fell down again. And when he tried to get back up on his feet, he pushed too hard and tripped again.
After that, he tried to be careful and moved slowly, so he was somehow able to get back on his feet. But when he tried to step forward, he could not keep his balance and was about to fall down again and used all of his strength to keep himself standing.
As Alpha watched Akira trying to move so slowly and carefully, she smiled as if she was enjoying it.
“Now you get it, right? If you can’t control your augmented strength, you can’t even walk normally, you know. The reason why you don’t usually fall down when you walk is because your body unconsciously adjusts your centre of gravity. It is a very crucial part of the training to be able to walk wearing your augmented suit, you know. I’ll turn my support back on, so you can go ahead and walk without worry.”
Akira started to walk carefully. But this time, he could walk normally, thus his face turned stern as he smiled bitterly.
“I can’t even walk without your support, huh? Does everyone who uses an augmented suit for the first time go through this? Did all of them go through a lot of training to turn from not being able to move around to be good enough to use it for combat? Until I finish the whole training, I think it’s better if I don’t use this suit, you know?”
“That depends on each augmented suit. Usually, high quality augmented suit can be paired with high-level software enabling the user to adjust the power output of the augmented suit. There’re a lot of augmented suits that can be used normally right from the start. There are also augmented suits that use the installed auto-balancer as their selling point. The higher the power output, the more control you’ll have to exercise when you do a fine movement. For example, even if you have enough power to send a vehicle flying, it’ll also send yourself flying if you can’t control its power. So it’s not just about the output power, but having the function that would help the user to use it normally without any problem is also one of the indicators of how good an augmented suit is.”
Akira looked interested as he listened to Alpha’s explanation. He then realized something.
“So it means that you are adjusting its power output when it moves, right?”
Akira looked genuinely amazed. The difference when he had Alpha’s support and when he did not have it while using his augmented suit was crystal clear to him.
Naturally, Alpha was satisfied with Akira’s reaction.
“But that’s not all, you know. In order to make you realise just how great my support is, I’ll have you work hard. Okay?”
Then he continued his training and kept following Alpha’s orders. Walk slowly, walk faster, run slowly, sprint, quickly get on feet after lying on the ground, stand on his hands and get back on his feet, sprint and then make a sharp turn. His movement slowly shifted from doing light manoeuvres to those that fully utilized his augmented body strength.
Normally, one would need a long time worth of training with such a low functionality augmented suit before they could do any of those manoeuvres. But Akira did not realize that as he kept moving around normally. He could not even grasp the fact that he was able to do that only because of Alpha’s superior support.
After finishing his morning training, Akira went to have a light meal. He was eating Hunter’s ration that he packed in his rucksack. It was cheap and nutritious, although it had no taste, it was enough to at least fill his empty stomach.
As he was chewing on the hard-to-chew tasteless fried dango-like thing, he unconsciously complained about its taste. And when he realized that he was complaining about how bad it was, he just laughed bitterly.
[Although I’ve always been thankful to even have something to eat until today, now I’m complaining about the taste, huh. It seems that I’ve become too used to living in luxury.]
Although he was criticizing himself, he was also glad that his life had turned better than before.
“Alpha, what to do for the afternoon? Are we going to continue with the training?”
“We’ll have shooting training in the afternoon and then melee training after that.”
“Melee training? Uhhm, do you mean like training how to kick and punch the enemy in close range?”
“It’s just standard training including how to use your rifle in short range. First of all, I’ll have to teach you martial arts and train you to use it against humans. You’ll also have a mock fight against me.”
Akira looked confused.
“…What are you talking about? I can’t touch you… Wait, I can’t touch you, right?”
Akira was a bit surprised as he wondered whether she got a corporeal body. So just to check, he extended his hand towards her. But just like always, his hand went through Alpha’s body.
As he confirmed that she did not have a corporeal body, he was puzzled as to how they were going to do the training and it was shown in his face. Looking at that, Alpha just smiled.
“You’ll understand when we do that. So just look forward to it, okay?”
Although Akira wanted to know badly, it did not seem like Alpha would tell him now. Thus he continued eating his ration while making a questioning look.
After he finished his food, Akira started his shooting training as scheduled. He could feel a weird sensation coming from the thick gloves that he was using to grip his rifle. Since he was still in the process of getting used to it, he started by aiming at small rocks rather than images of monsters.
He carefully took an aim at a small boulder 100 metres away from him and pulled the trigger. The bullet flew out of his rifle, hit the small boulder precisely and sent it flying.
Akira smiled as he knew that he did well. He then moved to the next target, aimed carefully and pulled the trigger. This time also it was a bullseye, and the next one too, and the next one too. All of his shots were accurate.
“Oh! You’re doing really well today!!”
Akira was in a good mood due to his unexpected result in the shooting practice. Even Alpha complemented his result while smiling.
“In that case, I’ll increase the distance of the target gradually.”
Akira then aimed at his next target more carefully than before and pulled the trigger. Then the bullet flew straight and hit that target.
Since then, his consecutive targets became further and further away from him every time he hit the previous target, and he did not miss even a single shot. But suddenly, his good mood vanished.
Akira realized that his targets had become so far from him that it would normally be impossible to hit them accurately. But even so, weirdly enough, all of his shots still accurately hit those targets. He assumed that it might be because the augmented suit absorbed the kickback from his rifle, so his accuracy had increased.
And after he accurately shot a target that was 500 metres away from him, he turned to Alpha and asked her a question.
“Alpha, you’re doing something here, aren’t you?”
Alpha just smiled which confirmed Akira’s guess.
“I’m giving you my complete support.”
“…As I thought.”
Although he already guessed that it was not because his shooting skill suddenly went up, it was still frustrating when he heard it. He could only smile bitterly after realising the fact.
“After you moved your aim around the target, I controlled the augmented suit to make some fine adjustments. And when you pulled the trigger, I also adjusted your stance and centre of gravity. I also make a small adjustment to your augmented suit to completely absorb the kickback too.”
“So you can even do that too, huh.? That’s amazing… Hm? Doesn’t that mean that I don’t even need to do shooting training at all?”
“Nope. The better you can aim, the less adjustment that I need to do to make an accurate shot. Moreover, there may be occasions in the future, where you will have to fight without your augmented suit or when I can’t give you my full support. That’s why you still need to train.”
“Well, that’s true, alright then.”
“Since I can adjust your stance to the most effective one to shoot now, so your training will even be stricter than before. After all, with the augmented suit, you can shoot while being in a variety of positions. I’ll train you so you can shoot accurately even when you’re running, or when you don’t have visual confirmation of your enemy, or when you’re in a tight spot. Don’t worry, even if you’re too tired to walk, I’ll use the augmented suit to assist you in walking, so you can train without worry.”
“…Be gentle, please.”
Seeing Alpha say something so scary with a smile, Akira winced a bit. Alpha then turned serious and said.
“Now then, since you know that I can give you my support when you shoot thanks to the augmented suit, I have something that I need you to know.”
“What is it?”
“At the moment, I cannot do anything more than giving support by adjusting your movement through your augmented suit. Which means that I can help you do what you want to do, but I can’t ignore your wish and make you do something that you don’t want to do. But if you agree, I can configure your augmented suit so that it can give me full control over your body. Thus I would be able to move your body without your will. Of course, I promise that I will not do anything that will bring you harm. But even so, there are pros and cons in doing so, so listen to me closely and think carefully before making any decision.”
Looking at Alpha who was making a serious face, Akira remembered the time when she asked him for permission due to some annoying rules. As he realised that it must be something that she needed in order to give him her full support, he firmly replied back.
“I understand, tell me the pros first.”
“If I can completely control your augmented suit, I can unleash its full power. So you’ll be able to do some superhuman feats. For example, you’ll be able to run along the edge of the rooftop and shoot monsters with guns on both hands with your eyes closed. You’ll be able to fight people who are expert in martial arts. You’ll be able to evade attacks or even counter-attacks from your dead angle as long as I notice it.”
“All of those things sound amazing, so then, what are the cons?”
“First of all, you’ll feel uncomfortable since your body will move on its own. Then since the augmented suit moves your body with it, it’ll cause bigger stress on your body. And because it’ll change our role from me adjusting my movement with you, to you adjusting your movement with me, so when you try to make a different move than mine, it’ll disrupt the fluidity of your movements and it’ll cause bigger stress on your body. In the worst-case scenario, it might even break your bones.”
Akira then thought while making a serious face.
[It sounds like the pros are worth the cons, but since she said to me that I have to think carefully, I wonder if there’s something more to it.]
Although Akira tried to think hard about this, he could not come up with anything more than what Alpha just said.
“…Is it possible to try it out?”
“Of course, it is possible.”
“In that case, I’ll try it out first.”
“Alright, I’ll be controlling your augmented suit then. We’ll start by walking slowly, then I’ll increase the speed until you are running. If you feel it is very uncomfortable, you can stop me immediately.”
“We’ll start now.”
Akira’s augmented suit started moving on its own and made him walk. He was a bit shocked when that happened, but that was all. Although it felt like his legs were moved by external power, it was not that uncomfortable. Moreover, as he adjusted his movements to match with the movements from his augmented suit, the stress on his body was further reduced. And after he started running, it felt way easier since his augmented suit actively supported his movements.
[Hmm, is this all? If this is all, I don’t think there’s any need for her to warn me just now…]
As Akira looked relieved, he started to run faster and faster. Before he realized it, he was already running faster than he ever could on his own without her support.
Every time his legs swung forward, he could not catch up with its movement and his legs were forced to swing forward against his will. So his legs started to scream in pain. And every time he kicked the ground, he could feel the impact through his bones which shook his whole body.
Akira was running in the middle of the wasteland while leaving a cloud of dust behind. He was already running as fast as a vehicle. His face twitched in shock, fear and pain that was assaulting him. As he returned to his senses, he immediately asked Alpha to stop.
“Stop!! Please stop!!”
His running speed then slowed down to compensate for the burden that it had caused. And when it was slow enough, Akira was back in control of his augmented suit. When he finally stopped running, Akira was on his knees and breathing roughly.
“If you are able to run a bit faster than this, you would be able to outrun a group of monsters if they come chasing you. It might be hard for you, but it’s a good solution for such a situation. So what do you think?”
Akira understood well as to why Alpha told him to think it through.
“…I’ll only give my permission when it’s necessary. And also, do tell me next time when you want to control my body.”
“Roger that. I will seek your permission every time.”
“…Permission, huh? It’s about that, right? Those annoying rules about permission.”
“That’s right, I need your permission when I want to take any action that is beyond your wish. But don’t worry, I won’t do anything bad. That aside, we’ll do melee training next, we’ll start once you can move around again, so just take a rest for now.”
Akira just laid flat on the ground. The stress subjected to his body when it moved without his will by the augmented suit was too much to handle. He always thought that things would be easier since he had his augmented suit now, but that line of thinking was destroyed by the pain that was assaulting him.
But even so, there was no doubt that he had acquired a new power and Alpha’s support had also gotten more effective. And it was obvious that he got stronger, that was what he told himself as he was enduring his pain. He was just lying there in the middle of the wasteland for a while, and when his pain had mostly subsided, he was back on his feet.
“Are you finished resting?”
“Yeah, it’s not like I can safely sleep in the middle of the wasteland. I’ll take a good sleep when I get back to my room.”
Akira knew that he would not grow stronger if he stayed lying down. He needed to become stronger in order to rise up as a Hunter. He wanted the power to reach for what he wished. Thus, he got back on his feet.
“I see. In that case, let’s move on to melee training.”
Alpha smiled as she saw that Akira was really motivated to move forward.
The melee training started, but they did not go straight to martial arts training.
“This dress is no good, I guess. So let me change it.”
Alpha removed her dress, became buck naked and then changed to a fighting suit.
Her fighting suit was comprised of something that looked like a high cut bodysuit and a low rise pant. It looked as if it was made of a thin fabric that emphasized her body shape. It even had a hole that seemed to have no other use but to show some skin. It was as if that dress was contradicting its functionality during a fight.
Alpha just stood smiling in front of Akira. Although she was wearing a dress that was much more inviting than being naked, Akira who was looking at her seemed to be genuinely questioning that suit.
“…What is with that suit?”
“It’s one of the fighting suits from the old world, you know.”
“Did they really use that suit?”
“Yep. You can find one if you look for it in the ruins.”
Akira’s misunderstanding about the old world deepened. He thought that even though it was a high-quality suit that was produced using the advanced technology of the old world, since Alpha had no corporeal body, it could not show its full functionality. He asked Alpha another question.
“Should you really wear that suit?”
“If you have any request, I can change it to anything you want. But please pick something that can show my movements clearly. With your current ability, this won’t be good training unless you can see my moves clearly. So anything that reduces the prediction of my movements is rejected.”
There were people who could predict their opponent’s next move from a small shift in their limbs. Thus there were people who used clothes to hide their movements. If they really went down that line of thinking, then the best dress that allowed such a prediction would be the birthday suit. Akira realized that and he changed the topic.
“Alright, let’s start. Now then, what should I do? Even if I attack you, my attack would just go through you, right?”
“For now, just try to attack me any way you want.”
Although Akira was still not sure about it, he just stepped forward to attack Alpha like he was told to. She blocked his fist with her right hand, and strangely enough, when his fist should have just passed through her, he could feel his fist bumping on something.
“…Eh!? It was stopped? No, wait, what is this?”
Akira was surprised at that unexpected turn of events. Alpha saw that and smiled as she started explaining.
“Every time you hit me, I’ll harden your augmented suit on the part where it makes contact with me. It would give you a little feedback as if you really hit something. With this, you can at least get the feel, right? Now then, let’s start for real now, come at me.”
Alpha then smiled as if to invite Akira and made a ‘come-on’ taunt with her fingers. Akira then changed his stance and launched an attack at her.
It was obvious that he was a complete amateur in close combat. Most of his attacks did not even hit Alpha. So even if she had a corporeal body here, she would end up with only some light bruises.
Alpha kept guiding him on how to execute his moves. From how to clench his fist, how to kick, where to attack, how to position himself, what was the correct fighting stance, how to step in, things he needed to be careful, how to adjust his body’s weight, how to prepare himself to evade, how to evade and how to block. She kept firing instructions to Akira through telepathy.
The more accurate Akira’s movement was, the easier he moved due to the support from his augmented suit. And whenever he made a wrong move, the augmented suit would push him in the right direction. Thanks to that, Akira could learn by remembering the feeling and the sensation when he made the correct moves.
The hitting feeling during the fight coming from his augmented suit also recreated the sensation from Alpha’s attack. When he got punched on his abdomen, he would be pushed back. And when he got his legs swept, he would lose his balance and fall down. Even when he blocked an attack, he would feel as if he really did receive that attack.
Before she attacked, Alpha always told him where she aimed, how she would attack and when she would attack. But even so, Akira had a hard time blocking her attacks. Even if he tried to dodge, he would only get hit if he did not evade correctly. And if he tried to block, he would lose balance and get hit unless he blocked correctly. He almost had no chance to counterattack.
Every time Akira got hit on his head, it would be considered as a killing blow and they would restart the fight. If he got attacked on his head by someone using an augmented suit, there was no doubt that his head would be blown away. Depending on the situation, it might even blow his head to pieces. There was no way of predicting how good his block would work against that kind of attack. So Akira was taught to prioritize evading when faced with such an attack.
As Akira was lying on the ground on his back, Alpha just smiled, raised her leg and stomped his head wanting to crush it.
Akira tried to look at Alpha’s face that was hidden behind her breasts as he was still lying on the ground. With a little adjustment, he could see her looking down at him while still smiling. He could sense that her smile now was a bit scary than her usual smile.
“There, you died again. Get on your feet. Or do you want me to make you get up?”
“It’s okay, I can get up on my own.”
Akira dragged his own body up. There were images of his corpses with crushed head scattered on the ground all around him. It was the same as to when he had his shooting training, although they were just images, it was enough to make him wince.
“There you go, another image of your corpse. Let’s work hard so that the real Akira won’t be added among these images, okay?”
“Yeah, I know.”
Akira could again sense something scary hidden within her beautiful smile as he continued his training.
In the middle of his training, Akira realized that something felt strange.
“Alpha, can I ask you something?”
“Uhmmm, how should I put this out? I’ve been feeling something weird, did you do something to me?”
“Something weird? I’m just operating the augmented suit so I can efficiently teach you how to move, do you mean that?”
“No, not that one. It’s like, I always find my body already moving when I want to do something.”
“Do you mean that your body moved first even before you intentionally tried to move your body and it was not the augmented suit that made you do that?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Maybe it’s just your imagination. My guess is that your augmented suit received the information of what you were going to do from its sensors, so it moved to match your movement. And what you noticed was that move. I think the reason for your strange sensation is because of the time gap between that movement and your sensation. It’s not like I did anything there, you know.”
“Is that so?”
“But remember that sensation well. If you try to match your body to that movement, it should greatly reduce the burden on your body. Moreover, the augmented suit is set using the movement of someone well trained as the basis, thus if you follow that movement, you might be able to fight well even without my support.”
“I understand, so in short, that sensation was a good thing, right?”
“I think so. It’s not something for you to worry about. Now then, let’s continue the training.”
Both Akira and Alpha took their fighting stance and this time Akira proceeded by following that movement he felt without any worry.
They kept training until sunset. After he finished his training, Akira was so tired that he could not even walk on his own, thus it was thanks to his augmented suit that he was able to return to his room. So in short, it was just like Alpha said, he was able to return back by making him walk using his augmented suit.
With his new augmented suit, Akira’s training had become more efficient and harsher than ever before.