Chapter 282: The Direction Of The Killing Intent
It had been a week since Akria started living in Sheryls base. Even so, there were no huge changes to his surroundings. There were no attacks and his new equipment from Saka**a Heavy Industry also had not arrived yet. The only unfortunate change was that he no longer could find any targets to practice on, to test his new equipment.
It was not like Akira could do anything about the situation as well. As the situation continued, one day, he heard something from Shirou from inside the camping vehicle.
“Akira, as far as I have investigated, it wont be strange for the next attack to come anytime soon. Itll be even bigger than before.”
Their conversation started with good news for Akira. After all, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Chloe got kicked out of the inner wall.
On paper, Chloe was officially put under house arrest inside Kugamayama city. However, Inabe somehow managed to lift the house arrest. Inabe gave the reason for it being a bad idea to place someone from the Lion Steel Founder Family under house arrest for so long.
Udajima thought it was Inabes plan to use that as a pretext to remove Akiras monster designation. Thus, he made a counter suggestion during the officers meeting to not retract Akiras monster designation. In the end, Inabe was forced to back down and was only able to get Chloes house arrest lifted.
However, it went as Inabe had planned. The reason why Inabe was acting as if he was about to remove Akiras monster designation was simply to shift Udajimas focus to that matter. Now that Chloe was no longer under house arrest, the city had no reason to shelter her. Thus, Inabe could demand protection money from Chloe.
It was already known that someone with a 50 billion Aurum bounty was aiming for her life. Furthermore, Akira was scheduled to get front-line equipment from Saka**a Heavy Industry. With the ongoing battle between Lion Steels Third and Fourth ward, there was a good chance that the city would be engulfed in it if Chloe stayed in the city. Thus, for all these reasons, Inabe was charging as much as possible for Chloes protection fees.
On the first day, it was only 100 million Aurum. Soon, after multiple negotiations, it was jacked up to 1 billion Aurum per day. He planned on increasing it until he could push Chloe out of the city. It might even reach trillions of Aurum a day.
As for Kugamayama city, the higher the protection fee, the better it was for them. Once Chloe decided to leave the city, there was no need for Akira to try to force his way into it with his front-line weapon anymore. Those who wanted the city to stay neutral and those who preferred to stay out of the fight, supported Inabes idea because of this reason.
As expected, even the Lion Steel Eastern District Third Ward branch could not continue to pay if the protection fees kept going up. It was only a matter of time before Chloe had to leave the city.
“Because of this, the third branch had gathered their military forces in the facility near Higaraka to escort Chloe to another city. To be more precise, they are using this as an excuse to gather soldiers there. Judging from the scale, it would not be strange for them to suddenly attack Kugamayama city. Though, they continue to claim it as a necessity to fight back against a 50 billion bounty target who has the support of the Fourth branch. Well, City Management keeps pushing the protection fee up using the threat from you as an excuse. So, the third branch cant really complain about the fees.”
Akira nodded and asked Shirou a question.
“By the way, how did you get all this information”
“Well, through a lot of means. The details are confidential.”
“I see. Putting that aside, its quite impressive for you to gather that much information. Youre pretty amazing.”
“Yup, thats right, Im indeed amazing, yeah”
Shirou had pride in his own skill. However, the fact that Akira was not amazed by it up until now was a thorn that continued to bother him. Now that Akira complimented him, Shirou replied back with bolstered smugness.
“Though it might be weird for me to say this myself, information is the key to ruling the world. I was specially trained in the Saka**a facilities to be victorious in any information warfare. I was even receiving special treatment. Im just that great, you know That information that I told you just now was something that no normal person could get a hold of. Just to remind you, you owe me one for this.”
Akira questioned if he had somehow provoked Shirou in a strange way. He decided to simply continue the conversation in a more soothing manner.
“I know, I know. I owe you one for that. So, when will they make their move I bet something will happen soon. To be exact, just how soon would that be A few days Tomorrow An hour from now”
Akira lightly joked as he asked, but Shirou unexpectedly replied with a serious expression.
“…Exactly this instant.”
“They just made their move. They just dispatched a squad from their facility in Higaraka. Its about 20 large-sized armed vehicles… No, thirty… Wait, theres more”
“Armed vehicles Like tanks”
“Hmmm, they look more like mobile missile pods. Ooh, theyre stuffed full with missile launchers.”
“Either way, its not something that would be normally used near a city.”
“I dont care about such flimsy rules. The only thing that I care about is the fact that they are bringing out all these weapons from Higaraka to Kugamayama city. This includes powered suits and APCs. So far, thats all I know.”
Akira pondered with a severe expression. It was completely dependent on their side, whether they would use force to assault the city. Even if it meant antagonizing the city, Akira fully expected them to continue their pursuit.
Lion Steel was a huge company. There was no telling how far it was willing to go against Kugamayama city. The Hunters did try to attack Akira when he was in the midst of negotiations with City Management. However, it was still understandable considering that he had a huge bounty set by Lion Steel. Additionally, although it was located right next to the city, the slums were treated as a part of the wasteland. Thus, there was no reason for them to hesitate in blowing up the whole place if it meant taking him down. Akiras thoughts narrowed down to –they will definitely attack. He started to ponder over methods to deal with the upcoming large assault.
“Alpha, what do you think If they attack the slums, it might be better for me to go out and face them out in the wasteland instead, no”
“No. Lets prepare to face them in the slums. They might hesitate if were in the slums. After all, their attacks might damage the city. City Management would have to send out the city defence squad as well. So, it would be better if you can stay within the slum on your bike but not be in this base.”
“Alright, lets get ready then.”
Although he said that, Akira had already prepared his bike to be refitted with weapons. In other words, he was already fully prepared. The only thing he had to do was warn the others about the upcoming assault.
However, the only one that he could inform was Carol. After all, no one else knew about Shirous existence. He could not afford to tell the others. As he was pondering over a way to inform the others, Carol casually came up with a solution.
“Alright. I will slowly let the other people know.”
“Eh Would that be alright”
Seeing Akiras worried expression, she smiled with optimism and said.
“Didnt I tell you before Why Im close to Viola It is exactly for times like this. It wont be strange for me to know things that normal people wouldnt know.”
Akira tilted his head and smiled.
“Ah, youre right. Alright then. Ill leave it to you”
“Ill get it done right away, so just wait for a bit.”
“No, Im heading out alone. Carol, you stay in the base.”
Carol immediately pouted.
“Youre leaving me behind Are you saying you dont need my help anymore”
“Thats not it. I want you to stay in the camping vehicle together with Shirou. If things go wrong, I will have to return back to living in the wasteland. Sorry, but Ill leave the camping vehicle and safety of the base to you.”
Even after he explained, Carol still seemed displeased with his decision.
“…So, its not like you dont want to rely on me anymore, right”
“Im relying on you. Otherwise, I wont be leaving the camping vehicle, filled with ammunition to you, right That is my lifeline in the case I have to live out in the wasteland again, you know I have no plans to spend the night out in the wasteland with an empty rifle.”
Carols usual confident smile returned.
“Of course, you can leave that to me!”
She then stared at Akira.
“Of course! You too.”
Akira and Carol said in a joking manner, but it was all their honest feelings.
Afterwards, Carol went to let Sheryls group, Reinas group, as well as Shikarabes group know. As for Akira, he returned to the garage and hopped on his bike, and left the base. Once he was distant enough from the base, so that it would not get involved, Akira picked one of the nearby buildings. He went to the rooftop and gazed toward the open wasteland.
The wasteland still looked the same as usual. It was as decrepit and lonely as ever. However, for Akira who knew about the force that was dispatched from the Higaraka ruin, it felt like the silence before the storm.
That was when suddenly Alpha confidently smiled and assured him.
“Dont worry. Im right here with you. Ill be alright.”
“Youre right. Ill be counting on you this time as well.”
“Just leave it to me.”
Alpha was smiling as confidently as usual. Akira was affected by her and smiled back. Just like always. Just like what he did every time. It was as if this was an essential ritual to achieve victory. Once again, he renewed his resolve.
Among the forces dispatched, Pamela too was present. She looked happily at Latis as she declared.
“Latis, its finally time. Lets do our best together.”
As expected, a dead man could not respond. Even so, Pamela was ecstatic.
A maid who was also from the Lion Steel Eastern District Third Ward Branch, Totra, saw Pamela and frowned with a rather ominous expression.
“…Say, Begg, is it really okay to leave her like this”
Begg was a butler who was working together with Totra, he whispered back without any change in his expression.
“Lets not comment on it… You should already know what is expected of us when the branch manager sends us out like this. We just need to do our job. If things go well, our evaluation will go up. Thats already good enough, right”
“That might be true. They were even willing to open the Rank 9 warehouse. But… it doesnt feel right to have her as the commander, you know…”
“If you have any complaints, go and tell the branch manager. Dont go venting it out on me.”
Totra hesitated for a bit before eventually deciding to call Beltram. Once the communication device connected through, Beltrams image appeared inside her augmented vision.
“What is it Are there any problems”
“Well, what can I say… I am actually worried about the psychological state of Pamela as the leader of the whole force…”
Totra was using a communication device that would prevent her voice from leaking out while she was speaking with Beltram. Moreover, she also mentioned that if it was possible, she wanted to take over the leadership position in place of Pamela.
Beltram simply listened to her without any change in his expression. Once Totra was done, he then casually said.
“Im sure you already know by now. This is exactly why your loyalty toward the company is a very important aspect. If you make it the basis of your existence, you would be able to stay calm even after the one closest to you is killed.”
“Of course. But, if I may, I dont think it is wise to leave the command of this force to her. We are well armed with weapons from the Rank 9 warehouse. Weapons capable of assaulting a city. I dont believe it is a good idea to leave the command to her.”
“…If its about that, use your skills and loyalty to deal with it. Your duty is to support her. It includes taking command in the case she is deemed no longer able to fulfill her duty as a leader. It is best for you to find a way to improve the situation as much as possible. That also includes making the decision you are proposing.”
After she closed the call, Totra smiled. She now had Beltrams word that she could take command when she deemed there was no other choice. Thus, her mind shifted toward what to do in order to remove Pamela. After coming up with a few ideas, she believed that she should just isolate Pamela using her weakened psychological state as an excuse. Thus, she immediately started to make her move.
But right at the next moment, Totras head got suddenly smashed into the wall behind her. Although she was immediately knocked unconscious, she did not fall from the wall. After all, her head was still held up by an invisible hand.
When the person holding back Totras head removed their camouflage. A maid appeared out of nowhere. It was the maid who was working under Pamela. She got killed back during the fight against Akira. Currently, she was being controlled remotely by Pamela, just like Latis.
Begg was shaken up by what just happened. He inadvertently looked toward Totra. The moment Begg noticed that there was someone else nearby, he already found Pamela right next to him. She was close enough for Begg to feel her breath. She peered expressionlessly at him, as if looking deep inside his soul.
“Dont get in my way, okay”
“…But of course. The branch manager also ordered us to give you support. We were not ordered to get in your way.”
Pamela was staring emotionless at Begg, who was getting anxious. She paused for a moment before smiling and muttered.
She then returned back to Latis and started talking to the corpse, which did not respond. The automaton under her control started walking again. It still had Totra in its hand, dragging her along as the group moved. The blood dripping from Totras head slid down to her leg and painted a long red line on the floor.
Begg stood frozen and heaved a huge sigh.
[The ability to control automatons. We didnt notice its presence at all… and the way she suddenly appeared in front of me out of the blue. Even in that psychological state… she is still a servant serving under someone from the founding family, huh…]
Begg then reminded himself: Put aside everything and just focus on the duty.
Latis sacrificed himself since he thought that leaving Pamela alive would be more beneficial to Chloe. Excluding her psychological state, Latis decision was definitely correct.
Akira saw a cloud of dust at the very end of what he could see. The source of it was Pamelas team. He could clearly see tanks equipped with large missiles, as well as multiple powered suits and APCs.
Akira directed his information-gathering device to scan that direction and frowned.
“So, theyre finally here, huh… That aside, if they seriously use those things here, the city will definitely not let it slide Are they really going to go through with this”
Alpha smiled, it made her look relaxed even in this situation.
“Well, the very person who made a similar irrational decision is over here after all. So, it should not be surprising to find someone else making similar decisions, no”
“U-uhh, well, about that, hmmm, you got a good point.”
Akira laughed awkwardly, trying to wiggle out of that topic. Thanks to that momentary distraction, he did not seem anxious anymore.
“I bet they will claim they need such a force to escort Chloe. She is on the brink of getting kicked out of the city, after all. It can be seen as being precautious, considering how dangerous the wasteland is and the fact that someone with a 50 billion bounty on him is after her, its understandable for them to prepare such powerful escorts.”
“If thats really the case, I would be thankful though.”
With everything that happened recently, Akira had calmed down considerably. Enough for him to consider going after Chloe only after receiving his new front-line equipment from Saka**a and completing Alphas request.
However, that plan quickly got abandoned. The missile launchers inclined up and released their payload into the sky, above Kugamayama city.
“Whoah! Theyve actually started shooting!”
Akira inadvertently gazed up, following the trajectories of the missiles.
Goutols team was assigned to watch the border between the slums and the lower district. They were able to clearly see the missiles as well.
“Captain, they really started shooting in this direction…”
“Maintain formation. Shoot down any missiles that veered off from the region that they have designated beforehand. Otherwise, dont do anything about them.”
“Roger that. But are you sure this will be enough If we are late in intervening and it ends up damaging the city, it will be horrendous, no”
“Those in the upper echelons have made the decision. Its not like I can do anything about it, so just stop worrying and do as we are told.”
Although it might hit the city, it would still be outside the inner wall. Thus, it was still tolerable, or so Goutol believed as he knitted his eyebrows.
Even after seeing more missiles fill the sky, Goutols team still only stood guard, not doing anything.
The missiles that were shot up above the citys sky reached the sky directly above the slums. They suddenly changed direction and dove straight down. The initial missiles then exploded, releasing multiple smaller missiles which scattered all over. They covered the whole area from the wasteland to the slums.
Akira thought that the explosions would raise hell on earth. However, that did not happen. The missiles that fell close to the slums were all mini-missiles. None of them exploded.
Akira found it to be strange. He then noticed a change in his vision and tilted his head.
“What was that…”
The view of the wasteland suddenly blurred to the point where it was difficult to see its buildings from where Akira stood.
Alpha immediately noticed the reason for it.
“Those missiles are discharging jamming smoke. The jamming causes the same effect as thick colourless mist. Theres a good chance they also have speed filter effect as well.”
“Wait, isnt the use of such smoke pointless in an open space Since it would disperse right away”
“If youre using the usual amount, then yes. But with the amount theyre using, the effect would retain for a while. Well, its not like they need it to be thick enough to stop bullets like back in the inter-city transport mission. I bet theyre only using enough to ensure no stray bullets would reach the lower district.”
Akira finally understood the role of those missiles. If the blast from a huge-scale battle in the slums damaged the city, the city defence squad would be dispatched to remove the threat. That would end their assault. In the first place, that was the reason why he was staying in the slums. By adjusting the reach of their weapons with speed filters, Pamelas force would be able to avoid that problem.
As more and more missiles anchored onto the ground and released jamming smoke, eventually, the area around Akira got enveloped by it.
At that moment, Alphas expression suddenly turned solemn.
“Akira! Keep calm and quickly go to the next building!”
The bike was already racing. Akira headed to the rooftop so that he could jump to the next building just like what Alpha had advised. However, a moment later, Alpha suddenly vanished. Akiras connection with Alpha got cut off.
Although it caught him off guard, Akira kept his cool. He headed to the other building. After he jumped and landed on the nearby building, he hid deep inside it. He quickly went inside one of the rooms and closed the door.
[…this is only a temporary solution, what next]
If the jamming smoke hindered Akiras connection to Alpha, then he should be able to regain connection by preventing the smoke from surrounding him. Thus, he thought that closing the door in an enclosed room should at least allow him to reconnect.
Akira anxiously called for Alpha. After a short pause, Alpha reappeared in his vision.
“Akira, are you okay Keep calm, alright”
“Yeah, that made me nervous for a bit.”
Akira softly smiled and confessed. Watching him act like this made Alpha smile in satisfaction. She continued to elaborate on their current situation.
“Alright, let me explain the situation once again.”
At the moment, Alpha had to focus her resources to maintain their connection through the jamming smoke. Thus, she might not be able to give Akira her full support during the battle. Hearing that his support would be handicapped, Akira frowned and asked.
“What a pain. In that case, wouldnt it be better if I go above the effective range of the jamming smoke”
“Unfortunately, that would not be possible. Look up.”
Akira looked up just like he was told to. Normally, he would not be able to see anything except for the ceiling he was facing. However, his augmented vision allowed him to see past the ceiling and right to the sky above the slums. For some reason, that sky was dyed red.
“Hm That red colour. Its an area that Im not allowed to enter, right I didnt know they consider the sky above the slums as a part of the lower district.”
“To be more precise, its an area where its feared it would bring damage to the city if you entered it.”
If Akira went high enough outside the effect of the jamming smoke and the speed filter, there was a good chance that the bombardment would reach the lower district. Thus, Alpha explained if he used that to his advantage, he would basically be using the city as his shield. City Management would definitely see that as a hostile act toward the city.
“Argh! What a pain! Then, I have no other choice but to meet them in the wasteland, right”
“I dont recommend you do that. If you head out, they will have no need to worry about the risk of damaging the city anymore. Overall, it will only worsen your situation.”
“Then… in that case…”
“Yeah, we have no other choice but to fight from here. I will try my best to maintain connection even when were outside, so be careful.”
“Yeah. Im counting on you.”
Akira heaved a huge sigh and smiled wryly as he jokingly muttered.
“Or is it that Are we in this situation because I did not buy equipment from Shizuka-sans shop this time”
Akira was partially serious. After all, the things he bought from Shizuka had always proven to be useful to him during all the incidents he had gone through.
Alpha lightly giggled and jokingly replied.
“You might be right. Maybe we should buy a good luck charm the next time we visit her shop.”
“Yeah. Youre right. Lets do that.”
In order to survive and get that chance, Akira declared in excitement.
“…Alright!! Lets go then!”
Akira then accelerated his bike away and resolved himself to jump into the battlefield. He was headed towards a place where he might lose his connection to Alpha at any point in time.
The slums regained its silence, it seemed like the missiles stopped. However, that was not the reason why it was silent. It was simply because the jamming smoke had dulled sound propagation, a mimicked effect from the thick colourless mist.
Akira stopped his bike in the middle of an alley.
“Alpha, any enemy”
“I detect nothing within my scanning range. But dont drop your guard. The jamming smoke might be preventing me from detecting enemies. After all, it also reduces the support that I can give you. If you feel something is up, trust your intuition.”
Akira gathered his focus and sharpened his senses. He probed for information impossible for the five senses. With the help of his information-gathering device under the effect of the jamming smoke, he processed it as his sixth sense, searching for the presence of enemies.
In the next moment, he could feel something coming toward him, and he was facing it.
“Alpha… Theres something ahead…”
“Yeah, I noticed it too. Be careful.”
After noticing someone ahead, Akira carefully moved forward. Based on his scanner, it seemed to be of a humanoid shape. The signal seemed to be approaching him at normal walking speed. However, judging from how it was moving, it did not seem like it was an enemy. Akira was watching carefully as it was approaching him. Since it did not show any sign of hostility, he did not attack.
As the shadow started to get clearer, the figure of a maid showed itself. She was someone Akira had met before. It was Pamela. Even under the effect of the jamming smoke, she was walking casually toward him. Even after they were close enough to recognize each other, she still showed no sign of hostility.
Akira promptly ordered, Pamela came to an immediate halt, just like she was told to. Akira was wondering if she had come to negotiate. Thus, he ordered her to stop. Pamela smiled and greeted him.
“Long time no see!”
“What is it now”
“Oh, Shiori and the others are not with you I thought they would be somewhere close to you, but… well, I guess you should do just fine.”
Akira felt an odd fear after being exposed to hardly any killing intent exuding from Pamela when she worded out her intention to kill him. He was uncertain how he should react to her statement, which lacked the will to kill him.
Either way, it did not change the fact that it was an enemy. As Akira quickly aimed his rifle at Pamela, she reacted accordingly by quickly closing in on him.
Suddenly, a blade appeared and hewed down on Pamelas neck, cleanly cutting it off from her body. As the head rolled on the ground, the headless body fell limply to embrace the earth.
Akira was taken aback but noticed something strange in front of him. The blood flowing out from Pamelas beheaded body was green.
Shiori glanced at the decapitated head. But when their eyes met, Pamelas lips slowly curled up into a smile. Unlike when she was talking with Akira, her gaze showed a clear desire to kill.
“There you are… Found you… I knew you were nearby.”
The mood tensed up. It was a suffocating level of killing intent. However, in contrast to the surprised Akira, Shiori was completely calm.
The headless body quickly returned back on its feet and went straight for Shiori. However, before it could reach Shiori, it was suddenly sent flying. It got struck by something invisible on its abdomen.
Kanae stood right where Pamelas body was a moment ago. She had turned off her camouflage and revealed herself. The body-less head turned towards Kanae and smiled ominously.
“Youre here too… Dont worry, Ill kill you too.”
Shiori sliced the headless body into 4 pieces while Kanae crushed the head under her feet. A gory mix of flesh, blood, and machinery got scattered all over the place.
Akira, who was still a bit confused at what just happened, asked Shiori and Kanae.
“So, can anyone tell me what is going on”
“That was a remote-controlled automaton controlled by Pamela. As you can see, it can still move even after severing its head. Though it will make it more difficult to control the body, so cutting off its head is not pointless.”
“Also, that must be a declaration of war. I bet she wont feel satisfied with assassinating us. Thats why she went out of her way to make a declaration of war. So, her goal isnt merely our death. She wants to kill us with her own hands. That must be the main reason why she didnt use explosive missiles. After this, Im sure that she will send in swarms of remote automata to kill us.”
“O-okay… Uhhh, is Reina and the others somewhere nearby as well”
“Milady is staying back in the base.”
“She was raring to go though. But since we dont think we can protect her during the fight this time, we asked Milady to stay behind.”
After briefly explaining, Shiori and Kanae turn towards the wasteland. Akira also followed suit. He knew that there was a huge force coming from that direction.
“That maid seems more motivated to kill you instead of me though. Did you do something that offended her”
“That seems to be the case indeed.”
“Though, we didnt expect her to act like this.”
From the wasteland, they could see dozens of remote automata on air bikes storming the slums. Their goal was to get Shiori and Kanae. All these automata had Pamelas face on them. They also wore the same expression, a grim smile which showed their anticipation, delight, and excitement for the opportunity to kill Kanae and Shiori.
A moment later, Akira and the others were attacked from all directions. Some of the automata jumped off the air bikes and assaulted Akiras group with their rifles. Those who stayed on their air bikes used machine guns installed on the bikes to do the same. They quickly went to their respective positions and worked together like a well-oiled team.
Akira, Shiori, and Kanae fought back with their respective weapons and equipment. Sounds of explosives and gunfire signalled the start of war within the slums.-