The first floor of the Seranthal building was filled by the Hunters that were sent by Kugamayama city, to be more precise, they were a group of Hunters who accepted the request from Kugamayama city. They also sealed the way to go to the upper floors and to the basement.
Something was still blocking the Hunters from making connections from inside the building. As such, they installed a huge relay device near the entrance to connect them to another relay device outside.
The first floor of the Seranthal building was reinforced so much that it looked like a forward base.
That was where Yanagisawa and his men made an appearance. The mood on the first floor immediately changed, it was obvious that someone of high ranking was present. Yanagisawa just ignored that mood and proceeded through the first-floor atrium to one of the receptionist desks. Due to the fighting before, the receptionist desks were completely destroyed to the point that they were unrecognizable.
Yanagisawa started speaking while facing empty space.
“I want to ask for permission to enter the facility.”
Nothing happened. Yanagisawa’s men tilted their heads while checking up Yanagisawa’s expression. Yanagisawa then once again said.
“I want to ask for permission to enter the facility. The rule states that even when it’s inactive, I should still be able to apply for a visitor permit. If you won’t follow it, then I have no other choice but to take another alternative. With this, at least you know that I tried to follow the proper procedure, right?”
When he said that, Seranthal suddenly appeared in front of Yanagisawa. Seranthal then gave a very formal introduction before answering Yanagisawa’s query.
“Dear customer, the building is not open at the moment, anyone with no business in this building is not allowed to enter. So please leave the building.”
“I’m Yanagisawa. I can’t make a proper connection because of some reasons, but I’m the one who made the application to visit the 60th floor. Can you check it?”
“My apologies, but there’s no such visitation application to this building.”
Yanagisawa’s smile slightly clouded.
“…Is that so? I confirmed that the application was properly received though.”
“There is no such visitation application during the closing of this building in our record. We’re really sorry, please try sending the application again.”
Yanagisawa placed his hand on his chin.
[…Did I make a mistake when I sent the application? Or is it that I can’t send an application when I properly make a connection? It can’t be helped, I guess I’ll try using that.]
Yanagisawa pulled out a black card from his pocket and showed it to Seranthal.
“I have some business on the 60th floor. Just let me pass.”
When Seranthal saw that card, she smiled and lightly bowed.
“Understood, I will guide you, over here please.”
Seranthal walked and guided Yanagisawa and his men to one of the elevators.
The way past the elevator was sealed with a strong barricade. Seranthal, who did not have a corporeal body walked through that barricade.
Yanagisawa smiled at a guard near that barricade.
“Sorry, but can you open the barricade.”
That guard nervously replied.
“I’m really sorry, it’s a type that once set up, it can’t be opened or moved. I’m really sorry.”
“Aaah, I see. Well, it can’t be helped then. Nelia, cut it down.”
A girl with cyborg body stepped out from Yanagisawa’s men. She was wearing a rather exposing bodysuit. Although she had a nice figure and beautiful face, the bodysuit from her neck down seemed to be made of a mix of metal and rubber. It was obvious that it was not a fleshy body. She was one of the relics thieves that Akira fought back in Kuzusuhara ruin, Nelia.
Nelia stood in front of that blockade and frowned, she then swiftly cut the blockade down with her blade. The blockade wall that was even strong enough to withstand tank warhead was cut into small pieces in a blink of an eye and crumbled down to the ground.
“Well done. Want to go grab some food together next time?”
“That’s so cold. I’ll take you to a good restaurant. It’s a restaurant with high reviews and delicious foods, you know?”
Nelia looked at Yanagisawa with very cold eyes. Her cyborg body was not equipped with devices to digest food.
Yanagisawa just smiled and gave an order to his men.
“Nelia will accompany me, the rest of you stay here until we return.”
Nelia looked surprised.
“Why won’t you take everyone?”
“Eh? You want to know?”
Nelia, who saw his smile decided to not ask further.
“Nope, not really.”
“The biggest factor is because I know I can blow your head off with one push of a button.”
A bomb was planted inside Nelia’s head. As long as she had not paid enough contribution to overweight a death sentence or as long as she could not escape the position that she was in, that bomb would stay.
Yanagisawa then passed over the cut down blockade and went ahead. Nelia lightly sighed and followed behind him.
“Ah, by the way, ask for a replacement for the barricade too!!”
Yanagisawa said to the rest of his men before leaving that place.
Elena and Sara were taking a rest in their home. Both of them were completely in their relaxed state. Because both of them were very tired after returning back from Mihazono ruin, they did not make any complaints about each other’s appearance that day.
After Akira left, Elena had to finish up an extremely troublesome negotiation. Thanks to the help from Carol, both of them were able to secure a good amount of reward.
Elena had nothing to complain about Carol, who was good at fighting as well as negotiating. Normally, she would have used this chance to form a connection with Carol. But there was still one thing that was bothering her, it was something that Shikarabe had told her about Carol.
“Say, Sara. What do you think about what Shikarabe said back then? You know, that one when he said that Carol was a bad girl.”
Sara thought for a bit before replying.
“Hmmm, well, she is someone who would use that augmented suit out of her own volition after all, if it still bothers you, how about asking Shikarabe? He did say to ask him after that request if it still bothers us, remember? So I’m sure it’s okay if you ask him now.”
Elena thought for a bit. It was not like she wanted to look for Carol’s bad sides. She just wanted to check if Carol was a problematic person or not and if she should stop trying to associate with Carol. But, Carol had some connections to Akira. For someone labelled as a ‘bad girl’ to be around Akira, Elena could not help but wonder.
“You’re right. I guess I’ll do that.”
Elena took her information terminal and called Shikarabe. It was also set so that Sara could listen to their call once they were connected.
“It’s Shikarabe. Elena, huh. Did something happen with the request?”
“Nope, it’s not about the request. I just remembered that there’s something I wanted to ask you. It’s about what you said about Carol back then. You did say that you’ll tell me the details later, right? Carol really helped me during the negotiation, so I was thinking if it’s a good idea to get along with her, but then I remembered what you said back then.”
“Oooh, about that, huh.”
Shikarabe paused as if he was thinking about what to say.
“Well, uhh, you saw it for yourself that she was using that attire. So I’m sure you can make some guesses yourself. If you don’t want to be seen under the same light as her, you might want to refrain from associating with her. I guess that’s the gist of it when money is not involved. If you want to know more about the details… Well, I guess I’ll need to have you pay me 500,000 Aurum.”
Elena’s expression did not change at all as she operated her information terminal.
“Done, can you check it?”
Shikarabe was surprised as he asked.
“…The heck? You really paid the money?”
Honestly speaking, Shikarabe only said that to let Elena and Sara know that he actually did not want to talk much about Carol. After all, Carol was such a notorious woman, who caused so much trouble, that you would normally need money to know more details about her. He did not think that Elena would really pay him.
Elena, herself, would not have paid if the one who brought Carol to the team was not Akira.
Although Shikarabe only said that half-jokingly, now that he really got paid, he had to properly tell Elena and Sara the details now. Elena and Sara could hear Shikarabe sigh, he then continued with a serious tone.
“I can tell you the details, so, is it okay to tell you now through this call?”
“Carol’s main job is being a Hunter, but she’s also selling her body to other Hunters as her side job. Although she would serve almost anyone, her customers are mostly based on her taste. She has no fixed price either. She sometimes is willing to take as little as 100 Aurum. But, I bet she only does that to let her customer have a taste of her body and ask for more money next time. It’s basically like an entry price for a narcotic. She’ll increase the price every time the same person asks for her again, in the end, she sometimes asks for a few billion Aurum just for a night. Moreover, I heard that her aim is not simply the money, but it’s the money that the Hunters get from risking their lives. I heard that is the exact reason why she will only accept Hunters. After all, risking life is a professional hazard for being a Hunter. So I guess that perfectly fits her taste.”
Elena then asked a question.
“Well, at least I get it that she’s a problematic person, but was there any need for me to pay 500,000 Aurum for that information?”
“It depends on each case, but she basically has caused so much trouble that asking for more detail about it will cost you that much money. To be more precise, 12 people already dead because of her.”
Elena’s expression turned stern. Shikarabe then continued.
“The number of Hunters who died because of her is simply too much to ignore. Each Hunter had a different reason behind their death. Some of them got into a fight with their friends to get enough money to pay Carol, some of them got killed fighting other customers over Carol, some of them got killed trying to force Carol although they didn’t have enough money. The real problem starts here. Some of those Hunters were veterans from Drankam.”
Elena’s expression turned even sterner, she understood the severity of the subject.
“In the past, Drankam took a special request from the City Management. At that time, they were given secret information about old-world relics for the request, but that information got leaked out. And after an investigation, it was found that someone leaked that information to Carol.”
“And the one who leaked that was a veteran Hunter from Drankam, huh?”
“To be more precise, there’s a good chance that was the case. From what I heard, the Hunter paid Carol with that information instead of money. That Hunter should have known what would happen to him if he leaked secret information from the City Management, but even so, it seemed that his mind got so messed up that he did not care about consequences. It’s still unclear whether Carol sold that information to someone else. That Hunter told Carol in a cheap inn where she might have set some audio recorders or something.”
“So then, what happened to that Hunter next?”
“He was furious and went to kill Carol, but he ended up getting killed instead. By the way, I was the one who killed him. At that time, I accepted a request from Carol to be her bodyguard. I don’t know if Carol had known that Hunter was coming to kill her beforehand or not. But one thing for sure, Drankam did not leak that information to the public. Nonetheless, Drankam still took the responsibility for the information leak.”
Elena and Sara were listening to Shikarabe with stern faces. From what they heard, it seemed that Carol was far more problematic than both of them had thought.
“The 12 dead people are also the number that came up after an investigation. In reality, there might be even more people who got killed. Well, basically, a lot of people get killed just by associating with her. So with all of this info, I have no other choice but to see her as a problematic girl. But putting that aside, Carol is indeed a skilled Hunter. I heard that she’s making profits out of information that she received from the other Hunters in place of money. Depending on the subject, she can also gather information about old-world ruins through negotiations. So depending on how you get along with her, it might be really profitable. But if you slip-up, you might get yourself in big trouble.”
Shikarabe then changed his serious tone to a more relaxed one.
“I guess that’s the gist of it. I believe that I gave you enough information for what you paid for. I won’t take any complaints, okay?”
Elena replied with a serious tone.
“…Don’t worry, that’s good enough.”
“I see. Do invite me again if you get any profitable requests, okay? Later then.”
Shikarabe then ended the call. Elena and Sara looked at each other, both of them had an expression saying that they were worrying for someone.
Shikarabe was drinking together with Kurosawa in a pub. The table in front of them was a big table designed to accommodate the server girls too. But the ones sitting on that table were only Shikarabe and Kurosawa. That in itself was a rather luxurious way of using that table.
Shikarabe and Kurosawa were enjoying their expensive drinks while talking about the current popular topics among Hunters, which included what just happened in Mihazono ruin too.
Kurosawa there threw a question to Shikarabe in a good mood.
“By the way, what happened to the Hunters whom you rescued back there?”
Shikarabe sounded totally uninterested as he answered.
“No idea. I bet they’re negotiating with the Drankam’s upper echelons even now.”
“I heard that one of the maids that you rescued even threatened Drankam.”
Shikarabe looked slightly surprised. He looked a bit annoyed as he said.
“Even you have heard about that too, huh…”
The secret message for Drankam officers that Shikarabe deciphered inside the Seranthal building was basically a rescue request from Shiori that sounded closer to a threat message.
It was basically a request to send a rescue squad as soon as possible under the assumption that Reina was still alive. And if Drankam ignored it or failed in rescuing Reina, it was written in detail what would happen to Drankam. As a matter of fact, Shiori had already made a reservation with the related party to carry on the aftermath and that reservation was impossible to take back unless Reina returned back alive.
According to the information that Shikarabe received from Arabe, a Drankam officer that he got along with, it seemed that Shiori was not lying and it would be impossible to play dumb about it.
Shikarabe did not have any other choice but to make that request to Elena back there and ended up roping Elena’s team to rescue Reina too.
Shikarabe sounded really annoyed as he spoke.
“That rumour is true. It’s exactly because of it that I did not have any other choice but to rescue them. It was really ironic since Drankam was the one who sent them to the Seranthal building in the first place.”
Moreover, Reina was one of the young Hunters, and the one who took care of her mess was Shikarabe, a veteran Hunter in Drankam. There was no mistaking it that people in Drankam were trying to blame each other in their meeting and Shikarabe basically ran away from participating in that meeting. Although it gave Arabe a headache, Shikarabe had no plans to help him out.
Shikarabe’s face turned stern as he said.
“I know that there must be a special reason why they are in Drankam. But I never thought that they’re this troublesome. I always thought of them as a rich girl dreaming to be a Hunter and her bodyguard until now…”
Kurosawa lightly laughed.
“They even brought along a bodyguard in their Hunter job. So isn’t it obvious from the first glance that they’re troublesome people?”
“I did think that there must be a special reason for that. It’s just that I never thought they have enough power to threaten Drankam, you know. Do you think that people who normally have that much influence would be frequenting the wasteland?”
Kurosawa remembered when Shikarabe escaped the Seranthal building with the other Hunters.
“Well, if they’re just simple beautiful maids, I have no complaints at all though.”
Shikarabe smiled as if he was poking fun at Kurosawa.
“If you’re really that interested, you can just go to the third floor and asked one of the girls to wear that outfit though.”
It might be because of the alcohol that Kurosawa replied back with something unexpected.
“No no no, you don’t get it. It’s also important to have the air around them saying that it’s their real job. Just a simple costume won’t be enough.”
“What the heck are you expecting from them? They’re even strong enough to kick and cut down mechanical monsters, you know.”
“So basically, when we were inside the Seranthal building, you see…”
Shikarabe and Kurosawa continued enjoying their time in that pub while getting drunk.
Then Kurosawa, who was still more or less rather sober, checked how drunk Shikarabe was. And when the timing was right, he asked Shikarabe a question.
“By the way, about that boy who you told me, that Katsuya…”
Shikarabe immediately frowned.
“Can you just stop? You’ll ruin the mood.”
“Come on, don’t say that. I saw him back then, he is indeed a strong Hunter. It’s no surprise that he got appointed to be the leader and I can understand why you told me that he at least has the talent. But his commanding skill is rather questionable. I won’t say that the has no talent there, but at least, he’s not as good as you said he was.”
But then Shikarabe mockingly said.
“I don’t remember ever recognizing his commanding skill, although, I admit that he’s a talented Hunter. Of course, a Hunter also needs to be able to work in a team. But in the end, it’s usually just a motley crew of several Hunters. I don’t consider the ability to command such a group of Hunters as an essential skill.”
“Well, I know it’s weird for me to say this since I’m the one who brought this up, but that’s kinda true.”
“Right? It’s true that Katsuya is a talented Hunter, I admit that. But that’s his individual skill as a Hunter. Even if he can be a powerful Hunter, that does not mean he can take command of a group of Hunters.”
Kurosawa lightly frowned.
“Then, why was he the leader of that Drankam group?”
Shikarabe sighed, it was as if he was trying to convey his feelings about that subject by doing that. He then made a conflicted face as he said.
“It’s basically the result of the things happening in Drankam.”
Shikarabe began talking about what was going on in Drankam as well as his own guesses while drinking the alcohol.
In the beginning, Drankam only dealt with stuff regarding its members’ activities as Hunters. But as it grew bigger and bigger, it started to turn into a company seeking profit, even to the point that making profit was one of the main aims of the whole gang at the moment.
The gang started to pay wages to its Hunters. In exchange for bringing profit to the gang with their Hunter activities, the Hunters were paid back with money. That in itself was not a bad thing, but some veterans in Drankam did not like that change.
The Hunter activities that the Drankam Hunters could do were limited for the sake of the growth and profit for the whole gang. The officers started to amass more power to the point that their request could be taken as a compulsory order. As such, more and more Hunters started to have a problem with the changes. The gang also started taking a cut from the rewards that its members received for all kinds of reasons, that cut then would be used for the sake of the whole gang. Eventually, some people started to feel that they did not get enough benefit from the gang compared to the amount of money that they paid to the gang.
The biggest advantage of weapons lent by Drankam to its Hunter was that the members could get their hands on powerful weapons with a relatively small amount of money, but at the same time, it also forced them to be dependent on the gang. If they went against the order of the Drankam officers and got themselves kicked out from the gang, they might have no other choice but to go to the wasteland unarmed. Thus, they would have to obey the orders from the higher officers even if they did not want to.
The rivalrous factions inside the Drankam other than the one between the veteran Hunters and the young Hunters, was the infighting between those who knew the old Drankam and those who did not.
One of the reasons why Katsuya was assigned to command the Drankam group was to pull him into the management’s side. For officers who were not originally Hunters like Mizuha, it was a perfect chance to put a spotlight on Katsuya, who was one of the examples of the success of their newly proposed plan, and they could almost definitely use this chance to push their agenda even further.
And at the moment, the new faction was more prominent within Drankam. Mizuha’s renewal plan with Katsuya as its spearhead had a good reception from the people in the inner wall, thus they received a lot of support from the City Management side.
Shikarabe explained all kinds of things regarding that subject while complaining to Kurosawa.
Kurosawa smiled bitterly.
“So it’s the transformation phase in Drankam, huh?”
Shikarabe annoyedly said.
“If you just sweep everything under the rug saying that it’s because the gang is in the process of change, it will never end, you know.”
Kurosawa just smiled bitterly at Shikarabe who let out a big sigh. Shikarabe then made a serious face as he said to Kurosawa.
“So, what’s your aim this time?”
“I thought that you invited me here to gather up information about what’s happening inside Drankam. And since you’re willing to listen to me complaining, instead of paying it back with money, I gave you more information than I would usually do. But it doesn’t seem that it’s your aim, so, what exactly do you want to know?”
Kurosawa smiled wryly, it seemed that Shikarabe had completely read his intention. Then he also made a serious face and said.
“There’s something that’s bothering me, you see. So I want to know your opinion about it.”
“Oh, what is it about?”
“Back then when you were still fighting inside the Seranthal building, well, I’ll skip the beginning, but basically, I saw Katsuya fighting against the monsters. So, at that time, I felt something strange, something felt weird. I can’t really explain it, but it’s basically this different feeling that you get when you listen to a formal description of something compared to when you listen to a fiery description of the same exact thing. I felt like the other Hunters also got a little bit excited back then, enough to even make me worry if the other Hunters would jump out and follow Katsuya. Thankfully, no one did that, but still, it’s still bothering me even now. So, do you have any guess about that?”
“No, I have no guess at all, why do you ask me?”
“You were the one who took care of him, right? Did you ever have the same feeling too?”
Shikarabe tried to dig through his memories. But he could not remember anything that resembled what Kurosawa was saying. So he lightly shook his head and said.
“Sorry, but nope.”
Kurosawa seemed a bit disappointed, it made Shikarabe even more curious.
“Are you really that bothered by it?”
“Yeah. I got myself excited when I saw it. For the sake of holding the command, I always train myself to stay calm and rational. It’s just like how you train your intuition. Honestly speaking, I’m pretty confident in my skill to stay calm, but that confidence is wavering from what happened today, you see. So I was thinking if someone with a good intuition like you have some kind of guess why that happened.”
This time, Shikarabe was the one who seemed dejected.
“Honestly, recently my confidence in my intuition is also wavering, you see.”
Shikarabe then continued talking with Kurosawa while sipping his drink.
The whole of the 60th floor of the Seranthal building was a single room. The wall, floor, and ceiling of that room were all white. Yanagisawa stood in the middle of that room.
Nelia was standing near the elevator door inside that room while looking at Yanagisawa. She was ordered to just stay there and she could not move anything below her neck. Yanagisawa held the highest command over her cyborg body, so without his command, she would not be able to even lift her finger.
Nelia looked around the white room while glancing at Yanagisawa from time to time, she was making a guess of what kind of room it was while killing time.
[This room might be a special room to be used for augmented reality. I bet those people who can connect to the old-world domain can see all kinds of things inside this room. The reason why he brought me along is to protect him during close-range combat, so basically, he didn’t know what he was going to find in this room. This place is some kind of old-world facility and he has some kind of business to take care of here. He’s also the reason why the City Management sent people to secure this building… Ahhh, I really have no idea what’s going on here, but I really want to know.]
Nelia continued thinking about the situation that she was in while lamenting about it at the same time.
Yanagisawa brought with him a device to help him connect to the old-world domain. He could see a beautiful girl standing in front of him. Of course, that girl had no corporeal body and she was using a similar attire as Alpha when Akira met her for the first time.
“Why are you naked?”
That girl replied apologetically.
“Unable to confirm the connection. The connection is important to verify individual identity. Please recheck your connection setting before trying again.”
Yanagisawa showed his black card again and said to her.
“I can’t connect to the old-world domain at the moment because of several reasons. Can’t I use this device as a replacement? Is the right from this card not good enough?”
Yanagisawa tried all kinds of things to make contact with that girl. But that girl always returned the same reply.
Yanagisawa gave up and tore the connection device from his body. That girl immediately vanished from his views.
[…What to do now? Should I focus more on fixing my body first? Or should I bring someone else who can connect to the old-world domain to this place? If only I can connect myself to the old-world domain again, they should be able to recognize me. But if I bring someone else, that person might betray me down the road.]
Yanagisawa had a stern face when he returned to Nelia.
[My visitation application is only deleted from Seranthal’s side. It properly got sent from the issuer side, why is that? Did Seranthal get reset when that abnormality occurred in Mihazono ruin? But if that’s the case, why didn’t they erase the record from the issuer too? Is it because that’s not the cause?]
Yanagisawa still had a stern face as he entered the elevator. Nelia, who had already gotten her freedom to move around, was with him. The elevator’s door then closed and they returned back to the first floor.
[In the first place, why did the security level in Mihazono ruin suddenly change? Is it because we dispatched several humanoid soldiers and tanks to ensure my safety? Did that trigger the security level in Mihazono ruin? If that’s really the case, why didn’t it happen sooner? Is it because they knew about me and someone forced the security level to change from the outside?]
Nelia smiled and suddenly asked Yanagisawa a question.
“You’ve stopped smiling, you know?”
Yanagisawa looked at Nelia with an expressionless face before he returned to his usual smile.
There were many reasons why the situation in Mihazono ruin suddenly changed, and one of those reasons was Akira.
On the first day Akira came to the Mihazono ruin, everything that happened inside and outside of the Seranthal building was properly recorded by Seranthal. During that time, Akira was able to fight back the monsters extremely effectively thanks to Alpha’s support. This information was also sent when Seranthal sent an application for extra reinforcement.
The security of that ruin then analyzed that information and changed the threat level inside the ruin. It changed from simple thugs with weapons to organized trained soldiers. And when it was still in that state, some groups of Hunters came to Mihazono ruin.
The rest was just a domino effect. That group of Hunters who arrived in the Mihazono ruin was assumed to be invading the ruin, so the ruin security sent drones to drive them off. But in response to that, the Hunters sent tanks and humanoid soldiers. So the security sent stronger drones to fight them back, then this cycle continued and caused a large scale change inside Mihazono ruin.
So basically, it was a chain of events that brought about an unexpected result. That was all there was to it.