Chapter 9, Akira and Shizuka
The next morning, while having his breakfast, Akira asked Alpha about their schedule for the day. He thought that he would do telepathic communication training again. But to his surprise, Alpha told him to renew his equipment and do training outside. It was not that he hated to stay in a comfortable inn like this, rather, it was more like he felt it was wasteful to spend all his money this way.
Once Akira finished his breakfast, he immediately prepared himself and moved out from the inn. He still had some time left before the check out time, but he thought that it was another luxury that he did not need now.
A lot of Hunters made Kugamayama City as their base of operation since there were a lot of ruins around it. As such, there were a lot of shops aimed for Hunters in the lower district.
Among all of these shops, there was a general shop called Cartridge Freak. It sold all kinds of things like guns, ammo etc for new and veteran Hunters. The shop was not bad for it to go down anytime soon, but at the same time it was not prosperous enough to open a second shop. It was common to find such a shop in the lower district.
Shizuka was the manager and the only person running the whole Cartridge Freak. Thanks to the hard work from the management and a good collection of weapons, there were many new Hunters who bought their first equipment there and continued to be its patron. Then some of these Hunters would stop coming to the shop not too long after, there were 2 main reasons for it. First of all, some of them continued raising their rank as a Hunter until the weapons from Cartridge Freak could no longer satisfy them, thus they would become a regular for other bigger shop looking for better weapons. As for the second reason, some of them went to the wasteland and lost their lives there. If you ask which one was more dominant, the latter case was more dominant.
Shizuka is a beautiful girl. There were a lot of people becoming a regular of that shop for wooing her. In her line of business, it was common for her to hear things like the guy who flirted with her the other day to be found dead the next day. Since it was something unavoidable to her as long as she was doing that business, she would just forget it and continue working. But she had decided to never date a Hunter.
Just like always, that day she was sitting alone in the counter watching the outside while waiting for customers, and then someone that she never saw before came in.
It was just a boy. Although he looked like a Hunter, he was wearing a dress mostly worn by people from the slums and he did not look that strong. Judging from his outer appearance, Shizuka was not sure if she should serve him as a precious customer or not.
The boy looked around him as if he found himself in an unknown place. Looking at that, Shizuka just observed him carefully. Only after she decided that the boy was not there to steal anything from her shop that she lowered her guard and gave a friendly look.
That boy was Akira. After he entered the shop, he was only looking at the exhibited weapons. Only after he was sure that a small kid from the slum like him would not be kicked out, did he start to look for other weapons more seriously.
There were all kinds of weapons lined up inside the shop. There was also a catalog spec placed just beside the racks that contained the weapons. But for Akira, forget common knowledge, he could not even read and write. The only thing that he could understand was just numbers written on the catalog, thus he could not understand what the catalogs were explaining at all.
“…What is the difference between this one and this one? Is it only their prices?”
Both guns looked the same for beginners. But for Akira, after seriously comparing both guns, he could only tell that they had a small difference in price. It was visible that Akira was really anxious as he hung his head low. After all, he was about to buy a gun that he would use to bet his life in the future with the money that he got from risking his very own life. If he ended up buying a bad gun, not only would it make his work as a Hunter more difficult, it would also make him regret it to no end.
Alpha then calmed Akira down while smiling gently.
“They have a lot of differences, I don’t mind explaining it to you in detail, but let’s do that later. Don’t worry, even if you don’t really understand, I’ll properly pick a good gun for you. So leave this to me.”
“Okay, I’m counting on you then.”
Thanks to the telepathic communication, Akira did not like a retard talking to himself, but his eyes still inadvertently moved toward Alpha.
Shizuka realized that strange behavior as she tilted her head.
[…He’s looking to a direction where no one is there. Or is it someone there? An optical camouflage? But it should be deactivated once you entered the shop… Is it just my imagination? I wonder if it’s just him shifting his eyes when thinking.]
The shop had a contract with a security company, thus all kinds of security devices were installed inside the shop. The device for nullifying optical camouflage was one of the devices installed there. Just to be safe, Shizuka checked the log for that device, but the log showed no reaction at all. And so Shizuka stopped worrying about it.
As Akira approached the counter, Shizuka changed to a friendly smile and welcomed Akira.
“Welcome, this is your first time here, right? Welcome to the Cartridge Freak. I’m the Manager Shizuka, how can I help you?”
“Can I please get a maintenance kit, AAH assault rifle and some bullets. And also, I want to sell a few things.”
Then Akira put 2 guns on the counter, those were the guns that he took from Hayya and his friend.
Shizuka checked the condition of those 2 guns, after that, she asked Akira for a confirmation.
“One of the guns is an AAH assault rifle though? Are you sure you want to buy a new one? It is indeed in a bad shape, but rather than selling it and buying a new one, you can still fix it with a maintenance kit. Moreover, this AAH assault rifle is of higher quality, are you sure you want to sell it?”
Just shutting up and continuing with the business as usual would give Shizuka more profit, but she asked for a confirmation out of her kind nature.
Alpha then explained to Akira.
“It’s okay. Sell it and buy a new one. After all, rather than quality and power, it’s more important to get a gun that you’ll have no problem using. As for the AAH assault rifle, I’ll train you to use it from now on. So it’s better to buy a brand new one compared to a gun that someone has used before.”
“It’s okay, please proceed with the selling.”
“Alright then, in that case… Deducting from the guns that you sold, the total will be 100,000 Aurum.”
After he finished the payment, Akira looked at the remaining money inside his envelope while looking rather conflicted. His hands were shaking when he was handing over the money, and now his balance was already down to 60,000 Aurum. 200,000 Aurum was a small amount of money, he made a bitter laugh as he now understood the meaning of Alpha’s words.
Shizuka put all the stuff that Akira bought on the counter, she then made a smile which was a mix of a seller smile and a smile of confidence on her own goods.
“These are the goods that you requested. If you want, I can give you explanations too. There are unexpectedly many people out there who are using these weapons with half-baked knowledge, you know. It’s not like you’ll lose anything by hearing my explanation, and not to mention that I have nothing to do right now, so I can give you a detailed explanation if you want.”
Even if that was just a formality toward a customer, Akira was taken aback by that kindness that was shown to him. And then Akira told himself an excuse by saying that it might be helpful and decided to take that offer.
“Well, uhh, yes please.”
“Alright then, AAH assault rifle is the favorite rifle for the Hunters. Among all the guns circulating in the eastern district, it’s the oldest gun…”
Shizuka smiled happily as she started her explanation. Whether it was because she was so bored or because it was a subject that she was an expert with, she continued giving her explanation skilfully.
The AAH assault rifle was a famous rifle that had more than 100 years of history. It was regarded as a masterpiece of its time when it was released. It was used as a basic model. It is being improved continuously till now and it was a gun that is circulating widely in the eastern district. It had a lot of functions like automatic mode and semi-automatic mode. Moreover, it had good accuracy for long range shooting too. Continuous improvement for 100 years was able to erase almost all design flaws. It was a cheap gun for fighting a monster. It had good reliability, durability, maintainability, and it rarely had any failure. As such, many people liked this type of weapon.
Many companies expanded the model individually from each other and many people who like that gun made so many modifications so that the gun did not look like its original form at all. All of these guns were called collectively as AAH assault rifle.
Even for Hunters who brought tanks, weapons, or all kinds of personal weapons to fight monsters, they always had at least one AAH assault rifle with them as some kind of good luck charm. That is just how much the Hunters loved the AAH assault gun.
Shizuka was really satisfied when she finished her explanation. Although it was something that most Hunters already knew, Akira listened very closely to that explanation. Thus, Shizuka felt that it was worth the time explaining it to Akira, she then happily continued their conversation.
“Do you need anything else? How about recovery potion, you can never bring too much of it. I recommend you to always have surplus potions. It’s okay too if you want to bring more ammo and equipment instead, but you better plan to get back here sooner if you do that. There are many people who could not get back home just because injuries that they thought to be only light wounds. Fast and adequate healing is very important.”
This made Akira think for a bit. If it was about the healing potion, he still had some medicine that he had found in the ruin. He then guessed how much such medicine would cost judging from its effectivity and decided that it was not something that he could buy with the amount of money that he had at that moment. But then he started thinking of things that he might need and could buy here.
“In that case then, do you have clothes for a Hunter?”
“Do you need armor? Or augmented clothes? I’m sorry. Equipment like that usually need a body measurement of each Hunter, that’s why we don’t sell readymades. But you can order one here if you want.”
When it comes to clothes for Hunters, it usually means armor for battle. It includes armor with particular functions like slash-resistant, pressure-resistant or bulletproof armor. As for the augmented clothes, these were clothes that augment their user’s physical strength by artificial muscles. Since Shizuka looked like she was feeling sorry, Akira was flustered a bit as he immediately shook his head.
“Ah, that’s not what I meant, uhh, I mean clothes that look sturdy and easy to move with. And also I would take a rucksack too if you have one…”
“Oh, that’s what you meant, huh… I do have some but it’s not for children size, I think it will be alright after I modify it a bit, wait for a sec, okay?”
Shizuka went inside the shop and returned with the goods that Akira asked, clothes and a rucksack. It was just a coat with armor pieces spread in some places, although it had no worth as an armor, he only had nothing but that to use at the moment. While the rucksack was an old dusty rucksack that you cannot put out as an item to sell.
Shizuka included the payment for the cloth and the rucksack in the payment from before. So in short, Akira got them for free. Akira was rather surprised by that.
“Are you really sure?”
“Yep, I don’t mind. It’s just some kind of extra service. If you like them, then please frequent this shop and buy a lot of things.”
“I understand, thank you very much for everything.”
Since Shizuka was smiling gently at him, Akira smiled back and bowed.
Shizuka kept waving her hand at Akira as he was leaving the shop. But once she could not see Akira’s figure anymore, her expression turned worried.
“A kid Hunter, huh. I wonder how long he will survive.”
Working as a Hunter was really dangerous, you could be killed anytime, even more so when you are a kid. And not to mention that Akira did not seem like he had any experience in using anti-monster guns. Shizuka could see that through her experience.
“Seriously though, I really hope he can be a regular to my shop.”
The cloth and the rucksack that she gave were some kinds of send-off gift for Akira.
(Athena13: send-off gift you give to people that will be buried)
Akira went straight to the wasteland to prepare himself for training right after he left Shizuka’s shop. He changed to the dress that he bought, took out his brand new AAH assault rifle and loaded it with the ammo that he bought together with the gun.
Guns made to fight monsters were heavier than Akira thought and it got heavier with the ammo loaded inside it. It reminded him of what was in store for him as a Hunter, i.e. fighting monsters. And so, he strongly squeezed the gun that he would be trusting his life to with a serious face.
Looking at that, Alpha’s face turned serious, she then asked a question to Akira ignoring what he was feeling at that moment.
“Akira, was that girl from before your type?”
“Girl from before?”
“The manager of that gun shop. Her name is Shizuka, isn’t it? You were flustered and all over the place, you know?”
“I was flustered…? I was only buying weapon like usual, was I not? Of course, I was happy that she gave the dress and the rucksack for free, but that was all, you know?”
“No, something is different, I know it.”
“Even if you told me so, I can’t really say for sure. Leaving that aside, I’ve finished my preparations here.”
It was not like Akira was trying to avoid the subject. He only had a faint feeling and he did not realize it himself, so he really did not understand. As such, he only let the conversation slide away while looking puzzled.
As for Alpha, the girl type that Akira liked was important information for her. But she judged that it was useless to pursue that subject further, so she changed the subject.
“I understand. Let’s start, Akira, get your gun ready.”
Akira’s expression turned solemn, but since he had no training in using a gun, he did not know how to properly ready his gun. As such, he could only imitate vague images from his memories.
Alpha told Akira that it was no good while smiling.
“Yep, that’s no good at all. You should stabilize the gun with your body, like this.”
Alpha made an image of AAH assault rifle on her hand and showed a pose on how to hold it.
Akira was rather surprised since he never thought that Alpha could make other images beside her cloth. But then he realized it was not that strange after all and he fixed his pose by looking at Alpha.
After that, Alpha pointed out the important places that were not satisfactory. From adjusting Akira’s arm and hip position, explaining where he should put his power and weight. Then she moved to a more detailed explanation on how much power he should put on his thumb.
Akira was so focused on his training that he did not realize something strange, how in the world did Alpha know where he put his strength in his body by only looking at him?
That pose training took 1 hour, even though Akira did not even shoot a bullet, he already felt so tired. But that was not for nothing, thanks to the detailed explanation from Alpha, Akira’s pose was surprisingly better compared to before.
Seeing that Akira no longer looking like a beginner, Alpha nodded with satisfaction.
“Nice, that’s good. Remember your pose just now, okay? Next, you will shoot that small boulder over there”
Alpha pointed her finger to the front of Akira. Akira focused his eyes trying to look at what was in front of him. Alpha was actually pointing at a small boulder 100 meter in front of him, but there was no way Akira could see that.
“That small boulder…? Which one exactly?”
Alpha just smiled when Akira protested and looked at her.
“You’ll see it soon enough, I’ll remind you again just how great my support is. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised, now look at where I’m pointing at again.”
Akira was a bit puzzled as he looked back to where Alpha was pointing. But when he did that, suddenly a box frame appeared and there was a circle inside that frame. And when he inadvertently focused his gaze on that circle. His vision zoomed in to that point as if he was using a long range vision device. Akira was so surprised and stopped focusing, thus his vision immediately turned back to normal.
“Alpha!? Something strange happened to my eyes, did you do something!?”
Alpha laughed with satisfaction seeing how Akira was reacting.
“I added long range vision support to your vision. So use it to find the small boulder.”
A red point appeared in Akira’s vision. When he focused on that point, his vision zoomed in again like before and he could see the red circle around a small boulder, but it was still blurred.
“There’s a limit on how much you can zoom in with naked eyes. Try to do it again with the rifle’s aiming device.”
Akira then tried to look for the small boulder from before through the aiming device of his rifle. But his line of vision through the aiming device was really narrow and the small boulder was outside its range. It was impossibly hard to find that boulder.
But then suddenly an indicator appeared in his vision. When he moved his aim slowly to that indicator, he found the small boulder from before. Moreover, a blue line extended from the gun’s muzzle.
“That blue line is the approximation of the bullet’s path that I calculated. If you align that line with your target and pull the trigger, there’s a good chance that it will hit perfectly.”
The blue line was shaking randomly. Akira tried hard to align that line with the small boulder and pulled the trigger. A gunshot echoed, the kickback from the gun threw Akira’s small body into disarray. The bullet spewed out from the muzzle, flew at high speed tearing through the air.
But then it passed beside the targeted boulder and vanished far into the wasteland.
“It was only an approximation after all, not a prediction. So the bullet path would change greatly from external factors. Just now, the biggest external factor was change in your pose. Remember to keep your pose, take a good aim, then pull the trigger. At a real battle, you will take aim on a monster rather than on a small boulder. Do your best to hit your target and kill it in one shot if it’s possible. In the worst case scenario, at least you should neutralize enemy’s movement with that shot or they will shoot you back and kill you. You’ll die if you miss. You should keep that in mind when you shoot.”
Akira kept shooting at his target while putting all his focus on aiming. But it did not seem like any of his shots would hit the target anytime soon, or more like, none of his shots landed near his target. Most of his shots missed the target badly. Every time his pose was broken, Alpha would tell him to fix his pose and shoot again.
Only after he was doing that for 1 hour did he start to see bullets land in his field of vision through the aiming device. And also, all the tiredness piled up until that point started to disrupt his focus. Then from all the built up stress, a question came up in Akira.
“Say Alpha, I’ve been thinking, you know. Things like these telepathic communication and zoom vision, you could’ve done it sooner, right?”
For Akira, it was just a random question that came up in his mind. But Alpha judged that depending on her answer, it could be a seed of distrust between them. And so she chose her words carefully while still smiling.
“To put it simply, I would’ve done it if it was possible. I would’ve done it if it was a better course of action. I guess that’s all there is to it. In the case of when we fought those two, I had to ask for your permission first, that’s why it was impossible.”
“I think I would have given you my approval if you had asked, you know? It’s that thing, right? About whether it’s okay to give me support thingy.”
“Originally, I did not even have the permission to ask for your approval. It is all because of a particular rule that is too long to explain. But, even if I had the permission, I would still not do it. If your vision changed in the middle of a battle, it would instead confuse you and hinder you from maneuvering normally. For example, that approximation line for the bullet’s path, if you could see that, you would’ve taken more time for your aim which would’ve given a chance for Hayya to shoot back at you.”
“Ohh, you’re right.”
Akira was convinced by that answer as he nodded. After confirming that, Alpha continued her explanation.
“From now on, every time you think that there’s something that I should be able to do easily but intentionally not doing, then this is the reason for it – either because it is physically impossible, or technologically impossible, or it doesn’t agree with the rule, or it will only make the condition worse, it will always be one of these reasons. Even for me, it’s not like I can do everything. If I could do everything, then I would’ve explored the ruin myself rather than asking for your help. I’m bound by a lot of things, that’s why I’m asking for your help.”
“Well, what can I say… it seems that you’re also having it hard, huh?! But again, it was thanks to that condition that I was able to meet you. I do feel bad for you for saying this, but I’m thankful for that condition that you’re in.”
Akira said all of those things without thinking too much, but when he realized it, he thought that he just said something rather rude to Alpha. When Alpha saw that, she smiled mischievously as if she just found another thing to tease Akira. Then she got closer to Akira’s face and said in an inviting voice.
“No need to hold back, you can be more thankful, you know. You may even express it with real action. For example, you can work hard to increase your accuracy, or you can take the bait better when I seduce you, you know?”
“…I’ll try my hard doing the former one.”
Akira pulled the trigger, but again the bullet missed the target so bad.
His training continued until the sunset. Akira had gotten better at shooting. With the help from Alpha’s support, he could at least hit 1 out of 100 shots when aiming for a medium sized boulder 100 meters away from him.
When Akira finished his training and went back to the city, it was already dark. He then stayed in the inn that he previously stayed. When he finished his payment and looked back at his mostly gone money, it reminded him again just how meager his 200,000 Aurum was. But he just pushed that subject aside as he entered the bath and let the water wash away all his tiredness. As such, all his tiredness was exchanged for sleepiness. After he finished his bath, he just crashed into the bed and fell asleep.
On the next day, Akira did some maintenance on his AAH assault rifle inside his room, this was also a kind of training for him. Since he did not know how to properly do gun maintenance, he did the maintenance with Alpha’s instruction.
“At the moment, this gun is your lifeline. If you take maintenance of this gun lightly, it means that you’re taking your own life lightly. You should keep that in mind and take good care of this gun.”
“I understand that very well.”
Akira was giving his best doing maintenance with a serious look while getting a lot of warnings from Alpha. He disassembled the gun and individually did maintenance for all the small components. But when he assembled the gun that was in pieces, he was left with some leftover pieces. As such, Akira reassembled the gun again in panic. Although the piece that was left last time was properly assembled into the gun, there was another different piece leftover in the end.
As Akira let out a sigh seeing the leftover piece, Alpha just smiled at him and gave him a warning.
“I don’t recommend using this gun in this condition.”
Akira then disassembled the gun one more time and reassemble it. This time, he had no leftover piece, but the gun was not functioning. Of course Alpha gave him some hints after that. Akira then continued his hard battle, and when he finally finished his maintenance, it was already afternoon.
“At this rate, if I get a spare gun, I would take 1 whole day just to do maintenance on them.”
“About that, you have no other choice but to keep training so that you can do the maintenance with higher accuracy and speed. After all, we don’t have any money to spare for maintenance. Alright then, we’ll conclude today’s training with this.”
Akira gave a puzzled look.
“That’s all for today? So we’re not going to have a shooting exercise today?”
“Since we met, you’ve done nothing but exploring the ruin and training, after all. A change of pace is important, do you have anything you want to do, Akira?”
“Something I want to do, huh?”
Akira tried to think of something, but nothing came up. When he was in the slum, he used his free time for collecting metal pieces and sold them for money. For his current condition, that would be equal to exploring the ruin.
Up until this point, Akira used all his personal time for surviving. As such, he was rather unfamiliar with the concept of entertainment. Because of that, no matter how hard he thought, he could not come up with anything except for the countless sighs.
Alpha just kept looking at Akira without saying anything, she knew well why Akira could not come up with anything.
“In that case, how about we use your free time for learning to read and write? After all, those are important skills both for studying or for leisure. It is very inconvenient that you can’t read or write, so it might be a good idea to learn them as fast as possible.”
Akira then bought a notebook and writing tools from the inn’s general shop and used them for learning how to read and write from Alpha. Alpha’s teaching was very effective, it did not take long before Akira became able to write his own name.
Akira then remembered that his name was written wrongly on his Hunter’s ID. So he pulled out his Hunter’s ID and took a close look at it, his name was written as Ajira there.
Akira was finally able to recognize that his name was written wrongly.
“…So I got a little bit smarter, huh?”
Though Akira was being cynical when he said that, he also gave out a hearty laugh.