Chapter 262: Stacking Bets
Pamela returned to the Lion Steel company’s facility and went to face Chloe with a pained expression.
Chloe was only listening to Pamela’s after-report without saying a word. She was not blaming Pamela for the failure nor trying to cheer her up. This caused Pamela to knit her brows.
After Chloe listened to her report without a change in expression, she then spoke, without a bit of displeasure in her tone.
“That just means we have underestimated his fighting capability. Because of that, you were not able to kill him like you stated.”
The reason why Chloe did what she did back in Mihazono ruin was because she believed Pamela’s words. That Pamela could kill Akira. Had Pamela said that Akira would only slaughter them, Chloe would not have even thought of meeting him. Her actions were influenced by the words of the people around her.
There was no trace of fault in Chloe’s gaze toward Pamela. That was the reason why Pamela was so worried. If Chloe believes that she had lost her ability to judge, and had lost her value, then it was only a matter of time before she got laid off.
That was exactly why Pamela then spoke up with a serious expression.
“Not at all. It was because we were trying to take our time to carefully finish him. Unbeknown to us, during that time, he was thinking of escaping. He still had his bike, which was still functional. We were caught off guard because of that. Of course, this does not change the fact that we failed. But I will not take back my words that we can kill him.”
Chloe only said as much and returned to silence.
Pamela stood there, frozen, with a stern look on her face. Pamela was not sure whether Chloe forgave her or not. She was trying to calm the raging anxiety in her chest.
“Well, it doesn’t really matter. You should step back, whether to shoot him or to support the fight to kill him, you should get your equipment ready. I will give you your orders later.”
Pamela sighed in relief, at least, she had not been abandoned. She then gracefully bowed and left the room with Latis.
Once Chloe was left alone, she then mumbled.
“So, we failed in trying to kill him, huh…”
If they successfully killed Akira, then that would be great. But, if they failed, then it only meant that she would need to throw more into the pot she bet on. As Chloe thought so, her smile deepened.
Winning this bet was not enough. Chloe needed a jackpot. She had to make it such that all her past mistakes became a bridge towards success. She had to raise the stakes as high as she could, make the odds be in her favour and bet everything she had. Finally, all she needed to do was win. She had to completely throw the word ‘caution’ out the window. What she sought was a victory that granted her everything.
Suddenly, a call reached Chloe’s information terminal. When she checked it, it was from the Lion Steel company’s security department. They detected someone was trying to pin down her location.
Chloe thought of a plan with new information at hand. She smiled bewitchingly as if she had found what she was looking for.
Latis walked through the facility’s hallway with Pamela by his side. He suddenly threw a question to her with a stern expression.
“So, how much of what you said should I take seriously?”
Pamela threw a sharp glance at Latis.
“Are you saying that I gave Milady a fake after-report?”
Pamela was oozing a prickling aura, indicating that this would not end well depending on Latis’ intention when he had asked that question. However, he was not perturbed at all.
“I didn’t say that. But the report has a variety of loose interpretations. I’m sure you were aware of at least that much, right?”
Pamela did not say anything, but her silence was an affirmation of Latis’ question.
“You said you won’t take back your statement, that you can kill that Hunter. You told Milady that there’s nothing to worry about, you can kill him. But you didn’t specify how you will do so the next time. Will you be able to do so with room to spare? Or will you be able to kill him only after a close shave from death? You didn’t give a more detailed explanation to Milady, but I think I already understand without you saying anything. Now that you’ve heard what I’m talking about, let me ask you this. If I take your words seriously, then we should be able to easily kill that Hunter next time, right?”
“W-well, about that…”
Pamela stopped midway. Such a response was already an answer. Latis sighed and spoke.
“Calm down. I also understand that the situation is not good. Based on the report, if I had come with you, we should have been able to kill him. Basically, it means that by going against Milady’s order, I have also failed to kill him. If you’re going to get kicked out, then I will, without a doubt, get kicked out too.”
Depending on how Pamela took it, it sounded as if Latis was complaining. That she was also pulling him down with her because of her failure. Though Latis was speaking with a considerate tone, Pamela understood that he was saying that purely as a reassurance since he was also in the same situation as her. Thus, she managed to calm down.
“Don’t worry about it. Things like this sometimes happen. He also killed my men, it’s only natural to be angry.”
Latis smiled as if he really did not mind it that much, but his smile then turned serious.
“To make sure that the sacrifices our men made do not go to waste, we need to keep moving forward. We can’t afford to fail a second time. So, let’s get back to the main topic. It’s true that we failed this time because we underestimated him. So, just how strong is he? Judging based on the data from the Hunter Office’s site, his Hunter Rank is 55. If we put some margin in, believing that his Hunter Rank doesn’t really reflect his true strength, then, 56? Or maybe 57 at most? Considering that you would take this into account and still failed, what do you think his Hunter Rank should be? Although he ran away from you, you did fight against him, after all.”
Pamela hummed with a severe look.
“…Depending on the situation, it should be around 60.”
“60!? That high!?”
Latis was extremely surprised. He did not expect that she would rate Akira that highly.
Although Hunter Rank was not a perfect representation of Hunter’s strength, it was a good estimate. Though, the higher the rank, the better that rank indicated the Hunter’s true might. That was because as they reached a high rank, more achievements were needed. It became increasingly more difficult to go up a rank higher. Because of this, Hunters of the same rank could have widely different battle prowess.
With that in consideration, a 5-rank deviation was completely abnormal. That was why Latis was flabergasted. As Latis unconsciously looked at Pamela with doubt in his eyes, she turned at him with a serious expression and stated.
“Our men are not weak. They had fought to their very end. But he essentially killed all of them even before I arrived. Although it was due to my blunder, he still got away from me. It’s well under reason to say that he is around Rank 60.”
“…You have a good point. And, next time, we wouldn’t even have the chance to surround him first before starting a fight, huh? It was a good thing that we had asked Milady for permission to use the emergency equipment.”
As Latis and Pamela arrived in front of the warehouse’s door, it opened. That warehouse housed a powerful weapon, one enough to kill a Rank 60 Hunter.
Latis and Pamela went to put on their respective equipment, and suddenly, a notice from Chloe reached them. It contained an order from her. Latis and Pamela looked at each other, confused after they checked the content of that order.
Akira paced his bike through the roadless wasteland into Higaraka residence ruin. He was surprised to see something that was not there the last time he visited that ruin when he arrived. He stopped and looked around the ruin. As he was about to head straight to the Lion Steel facility, Alpha suddenly stopped him
“Akira, you’re going to raid a facility owned by a company this time. Since it is built in the middle of a ruin, it’s only to be expected that it’s armed. So, let’s not break-in from the front door.”
“Alright, so, what’s the plan? Shoot the AF anti-material cannon from afar? I don’t have much ammo left for that cannon, and it’s not like we can kill Chloe by randomly shooting at that building, you know?”
What he knew from Viola was only that there was a good chance Chloe was in this building. Viola did not specify where exactly she was. She might not even be there in the first place. Since it was not like he would get paid by killing her, every shot was Akira throwing away money. Now that he had substantially calmed down after reconnecting with Alpha, he was calm enough to consider the ammo expense. He did not wish to take on any more unnecessary expenses for his objective.
Normally, the moment he showed hostility toward the Lion Steel company, he would be facing trouble more worrisome than mere ammo expense. But Akira did not care about that at all.
Alpha hoped that Akira would be more worried about that part as well, but since she did not want her relationship with Akira to sour, she focused on her second-best option, which was to help him.
“Let’s leave the bike behind and sneak in using the camouflaging cloak. Then, we can find her, kill her, and escape.”
“Optical camouflage, huh? I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to find us though.”
Although Alpha’s words reminded him that he had that option as well, he thought about how he saw through their camouflage. Thus, it was likely that they would be able to see through his camouflage as well. If that was indeed the case, then it was better to raid the facility on his bike.
But Alpha expressed her confidence.
“It should be no problem with my support.”
“Is that so? Alright then.”
Seeing Akira obediently step off his bike, Alpha released a sigh of relief. For Akira, he did not care as long as he got to kill Chloe. He did not see the whole Lion Steel company as his enemy. Even if he got discovered trying to sneak in, it would be fine as long as no one could prove that it was him. And with enough support from Alpha, there should be no problem sneaking in with Akira’s current camouflaging equipment. As such, sneaking in should be a much better choice rather than barging from the front door. That was why Alpha made that suggestion to him.
But that plan turned out completely useless.
A huge armoured APC suddenly jumped out from the Lion Steel facility. It quickly went past the ruin and out to the wasteland. Akira, who had received the notification about the passing vehicle, quickly jumped right back on his bike and immediately chased after that APC.
When an APC with an important officer from a large company went out to the wasteland, it often ran while broadcasting a notice through the general communication frequency. Although it might lure monsters, they were normally well guarded and had no need to worry about monsters.
The broadcast was for the Hunters around the area. It was basically a warning. To prevent any unnecessary fights, they were advised to keep their distance from the APC. Otherwise, they would be treated as suspicious individuals. The message broadcasted included ‘we will not hesitate to fire at anyone we find suspicious without warning’.
The content of that notice this time was from an officer affiliated with Lion Steel Eastern District Third Branch, Chloe. She was on the APC.
With this, Alpha’s plan to sneak in and assassinate Chloe instead of breaking through the front door to avoid unnecessary battle was all in vain. Riding a high-speed bike would greatly reduce the effectiveness of the optical camouflage. There was no doubt that they would be able to notice Akira. In the first place, at this point, Akira no longer had any wish to quietly assassinate Chloe.
Alpha frowned and gave Akira the second-best option.
“Akira! Don’t lose your cool this time!”
“I know!! Hm?”
Akira frowned. While his gaze was locked on the APC. The back door of the APC opened, showing Chloe standing inside. She also already noticed that Akira was chasing after her as she smiled and lightly waved at him.
Akira’s expression was immediately filled with killing intent. His gaze was leaking his ominous emotion as it was locked onto his target. As if only obeying his emotion, Akira moved the AF anti-material cannon on his bike. He aimed at his target and rerouted the energy from his bike to that cannon.
“Alpha! I’ll leave the finer aim and power adjustment to you!”
“Geez, didn’t I tell you to keep your cool just now? Good grief, alright!”
The moment the anti-material cannon was pumped full of energy, it released a lance of light with otherworldly accuracy. Thanks to Alpha’s aim and adjustment, its spread was reduced to be as narrow as possible. It turned into an intense lance of light that melted everything in its way, which raced straight toward its target.
At the same time, the APC also took a defensive stance. The forcefield shield that was installed on its highly durable armour, expanded countless layers of fs in the trajectory of that beam. They were placed to slightly deflect the beam and had a dispersing effect to reduce its power.
Thanks to that, the beam turned into waves of light which enveloped the whole area. With its spread increased, its intensity rapidly reduced.
Because Akira temporarily rerouted all the bike’s energy output to the cannon, its acceleration was temporarily stopped. Since the balancer also lost its effect for a moment, Akira was almost thrown off the bike.
As his bike skidded, Akira leaned to one side and held down the brake to rebalance his bike. Once the flashes of light died down, he then looked at the APC. On the other side, he could see Chloe completely fine as she was amusedly laughing and shaking her head.
Akira’s expression became even grimmer. If a stare could kill, his stare definitely would. However, Chloe, who had some screw loose just like Akira, only laughed mockingly at his scowl. She then lightly waved her hand, turned around, and went inside the APC. After that, the back door of the APC slowly closed.
With his bike frozen in place and Akira still on top of it, he just saw the APC trailing off with his chilling gaze.
“Alpha, why didn’t that one go through?”
In order to calm him down, Alpha explained to him with a serious look on her face.
“You didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just that they have better equipment. At least, we know that now. So, just calm down and use that information for the next exchange. The more you lose your cool, the less likely you will be able to kill her.”
Akira sighed and started his bike again to chase after Chloe.
Inside the APC, Pamela had a worried look on her face as she said to Chloe, who was still smiling.
“Milady! That was dangerous! It’s true that the APC is very well reinforced. But that doesn’t guarantee that it’s impenetrable! So, please don’t do such a meaningless and dangerous thing again!”
But Chloe did not care about Pamela’s warning at all.
“Oh, it wasn’t meaningless though? We need to make sure that he had a good look at me to let him know that I am indeed in this APC. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that he would raid the facility instead, right? So that was just for precaution.”
If it was to kill Akira, staying in the facility was the better choice. Even if she decided to take shelter inside the wall of Kugamayama city, there was still no need to let Akira know of her position during the process. Pamela, who thought so, seemed confused. She did not understand what Chloe’s true intention was. However, since she wanted to avoid making any more mistakes, Pamela decided not to pursue that subject any further. She did not want to be abandoned because of incompetency,
“I originally thought that we had to go around the wasteland for a bit in order to lure him out. To think that he already knew where I was and was already this close. He’s pretty good. I guess I can understand why Pamela, you had a hard time killing him, huh?”
Pamela understood that confirming her statement would only lower her worth. Thus, she did not give a reply. She just made a solemn expression as she made her resolve. [I will not fail the next time.]
Chloe smiled and turned to Latis, who was waiting inside the APC.
Latis gracefully took off his butler uniform, under it, he was already using a heavy augmented suit’s inner. The machines around him started to move as they fixed multiple arms to Latis’ heavy augmented suit. Parts that looked like pieces of small parts slowly gathered around Latis’ heavy augmented suit.
He was also equipped with extra equipment. A flying device, missile pods, sabres, huge rifles loaded to an extremely long magazine belt, and many other things as well.
The heavy augmented suit was similar to a powered suit. Appearance-wise, it seemed closer to a powered suit rather than an augmented suit. However, Latis had to put it on instead of getting onto a machine. Also, ignoring the time needed to put it on, it was more or less a powerful powered suit.
The ceiling of the APC opened up. A loud sound was produced. It came from the flying device of the heavy powered suit that had taken off. Latis used a forcefield shield to protect the area around him before take-off. Due to the sheer amount of energy that was pumped into it, the forcefield shield created solidified air, which was like a glowing wall of glass. Beyond it, Latis bowed to Chloe.
“Well then, I shall now go. I shall bring back good news for Milady when I return.”
But Chloe only lightly replied.
“Yeah, also, if you want to give me a good after-report, then I have one order regarding the fight, do it grandly.”
“Yep. It’s important to kill him. But you must do it elegantly, prioritize more on making it grand. If you end up unable to kill him because of that, don’t worry. That’s fine as well.”
“Milady, what do you mean by-”
Latis, who did not understand the intention behind her order, was about to ask another question. That was when Chloe’s gaze suddenly stopped him. Chloe gazed deeply into Latis as if she was trying to look deep down inside him. Those pupils oozed out a level of authority, one fit for a family member of the original founder of the Lion Steel company. That stare allowed the insanity inside of her to take a peek inside Latis’ soul. Meanwhile, it also allowed Latis to see the deep insanity within Chloe’s eyes.
“Latis, are you not going to obey me again?”
The overwhelmed Latis decided to put any questions for later. At least for now.
“N-Not at all. Very well then. I shall fight him grandly.”
Latis took off into the sky.
“Pamela, keep your eyes on the surrounding, repel him if he gets too close.”
Pamela also did not fully understand the intention behind Chloe’s order. But she had no trouble following her order. Just like Latis, she put her questions aside for now and simply obeyed. The maids that were standing lined up on both sides of the APC followed Pamela’s order and went to collect their equipment. They went to the rooftop of the APC, to their respective positions and kept their eyes on the surroundings.
Chloe sat on an already prepared seat and smiled. It was as if she was enjoying the show that was going exactly as she had planned.
Akira, who was chasing her on his bike, noticed Latis launching out from the top of the APC.
“Powered suit? No, that is a heavy augmented suit, huh? Looks pretty strong.”
Alpha, who saw that, warned Akira with a serious tone.
“Don’t think that augmented suit is the same as the one you fought before. Assume that it’s completely on a different level.”
“I know. After all, those maids were already that strong. Judging from its appearance alone, that thing must be extremely strong. Should we use the AF anti-material cannon?”
“We don’t have that much ammo for that one, so I want to conserve it to destroy that APC if it’s possible. So, let’s start with LEO multi-rifles.”
The six LEO multi-rifles that Akira originally had were now reduced to three. He had one on his right hand while the other two were fixed on the arms of his bike.
The energy tank of the bike was filled with energy. Its power was rerouted through Akira’s augmented suit and into his LEO multi rifle. Thanks to that, it took only a few seconds for him to fully charge his C bullet. With this, he was ready to shoot the fully charged C bullet. The arm of the bike that held the other rifles had the same capability.
“Leave the fine-tuned aiming to me, Akira. You just focus on facing that headache. Although you have my support, the drawback of using compressed time perception and reality manipulation at the same time is not meagre. If necessary, this will be a good opportunity to polish up your skill too. Let’s go!”
Akira aimed his LEO multi rifles at Latis. The rifles were already in their ready-to-shoot state. They released fully charged C-bullets with pinpoint accuracy.
The moment Latis jumped out of the APC, he quickly confirmed Akira’s location. With the help of the APC’s scanners and his own information-gathering device, he was able to confirm and have his aiming system lock onto Akira, who was rapidly moving.
He thought of the next thing he needed to do. He simply needed to aim his humongous gun at him. It would be more than enough to kill him. However, before he did so, he recalled his master’s order, to fight grandly. So, he decided to use another method to kill him.
“It is due to Milady’s order, now, let’s see you die in a grand explosion.”
Multiple missiles launched from the missile pods fixed to Latis’ heavy augmented suit. All the missiles took different routes before they took sharp turns and converged straight toward Akira. When they got close enough to him, the tip of their warheads broke open, releasing smaller missiles inside them.
These were cluster missiles. They were filled with smaller missiles using the same technology to create extended magazines. They housed an abnormal number of missiles; way more than they seem. Instead of breaking from the main missile and flying independently, they rained down as if to comb the area targeted by the warhead, assaulting Akira from all directions.
The next moment, mini-missiles exploded. The explosions combined into one. It created a massive blast that destroyed everything in the area. It was no doubt overkill if it was only meant to destroy a single target. A second later, the blast was accompanied by a powerful gust of wind, blowing away wreckage and rubble up into the sky.
Not even a second later, the bullets that Akira released went straight toward Latis. Their line of fire was accurate. None of them missed their target. However, they were not enough to injure him. He was protected by the powerful forcefield armour of his heavy augmented suit. The most that these bullets did was shave off a huge chunk of his energy reserves.
“A last gambit, huh? He’s a good Hunter right to the very end. As expected of a Rank 60 Hunter.”
Latis lightly complimented Akira, he had already concluded the boy to be dead. Due to the size of the explosion and the force of the shockwave, colourless mist in the area compressed temporarily, forming a thick layer. From the outside, the colourless mist looked like a translucent film that wrapped around the explosion and smoke that was raised. Those from afar would only see and feel a normal shockwave. However, that area trapped inside that condensed layer of colourless mist was burning and melting from the heat of the explosion. It was no different than an inescapable scene from hell.
Latis thought he only needed to wait for the colourless mist to disperse and for the explosion to die down before confirming and reporting back to Chloe. If he could not find anything, he could report that Akira had been blown to pieces. Either way, he was certain that he had already won.
However, his confidence was shattered, a massive light blade suddenly extended out as if to cut open through the flames and explosives. From there, Akira jumped out.
Latis was completely flabbergasted.
Alpha understood that it was impossible to evade the countless mini-missiles raining down on them. Thus, she quickly took action. She gave her order to Akira. She leaned the bike on one side and the moment its tire lifted off from the ground, she accelerated the bike.
The bike that was laying on its side, continued to create forcefield armour under its tires as it spun like a spinning top. The quick spins created layers upon layers of forcefield armour.
While the bike was spinning, Akira quickly pulled out the metallic liquid blade container fixed on his bike. He pulled the handle out of the blade container and liquid metal gushed out of it. Normally, the liquid metal would harden into a thin blade. However, with Alpha’s control, it turned into a wide, extremely thin blade, still covered in liquid metal. Akira then swung it, matching its timing with his spinning bike.
The force of his swing caused the liquid blade to bend like a fabric. It was then painted around with his bike as its centre. After the liquid metal was sufficiently spread, the forcefield armour helped to temporarily harden it.
Right after that, the missiles exploded and engulfed Akira in it. He was only able to survive that thanks to the multi-layered forcefield armour plates and the hardened liquid metal that enveloped him.
Of course, this should not have been enough to fully withstand the might of the explosion. However, the protective structure was arranged with Alpha’s advanced calculation. It deflected and dispersed the force from the explosion. It thus greatly weakened the explosion before it reached Akira. In that short time before the blast reached them, Alpha had made numerous complex difficult calculations. This included all the effects and changes when each individual explosion compounded into one. Only then did she come up with this move.
Even so, the explosion still engulfed and hit Akira. Thankfully, those protective layers had softened the blast to the point he did not get hurt.
He used half of the remaining liquid metal that survived the explosion to form a blade, which was used to cut open the thick layer of colourless mist. Using that opening, he accelerated his bike to jump out of it.
As he jumped out from that small opening, the explosive force contained behind him made him get pushed out even quicker. A moment later, the colourless mist layer broke and crumbled into pieces. The explosion that was compressed and held inside of it, spread out as if there was a second explosion.
After Akira escaped such a dangerous situation, he could tell that it was a close call. He then said with a frown.
“That was dangerous! Just what is with that guy!?”
Alpha looked at him with a stern expression. It was both to let Akira know how dangerous that situation was and how powerful the opponent was this time. To confirm it, she issued a warning.
“It seems that he’s using a pretty powerful heavy augmented suit. It’s strong enough to be posted in the front during the inter-city transport-escort request.”
“That strong, huh…!? Well, it indeed looks to be that strong. Though, it makes me raise the question: why didn’t he use it back then? Hmm… I guess they really just wanted to negotiate before, huh?”
To show the willingness to negotiate, it’s important to hide one’s weapons. If they were planning to kill Akira right from the start, they would have used this heavy augmented suit. Akira reflected on the situation. It was thanks to their blunder that he survived that battle. He could not help but smile with self-mockery.
“Well, thanks to that, I’m still alive right now. I guess I have at least sufficient luck needed for that, huh?”
“Akira, if you combine that small luck that you still have left with my support, you could’ve fought better, you know? Even that attack just now. You would have been dead if it was not because of my support. If you think that you have bad luck, make sure that you can compensate for it with my support. Make sure to prioritize recovering our connection.”
“I get it already, sorry about that.”
Akira smiled bitterly and apologized to Alpha, who seemed to be angry.
In the middle of their exchange, he was still moving forward with his bike. Akira then put that thought aside for a moment and focused on what was in front of him.
“So, any idea how to shoot him down?”
“First of all, let’s check if we can chase the APC while ignoring him. If it’s possible, I want to try a close-range AF anti-material cannon or zero-range slice. If we get closer to the APC, I’m sure that they will have to be careful so as to not shoot that APC as well. So, let’s go with that.”
Akira accelerated the bike toward his target. To maintain his calm, he did not use his urge for murder to fuel his anger, instead, he used it to fuel the cold calculating side of his as he blazed through the wasteland.