As Sara had guessed, Elena was having a difficult time negotiating. When Sara explained the current situation to Akira, she deliberately hid some information including the reason why Elena was so irritated to the point that she raised her voice.
Although it had been decided that the squad sent to Seranthal building would consist of the Hunters that successfully hunted a bounty monster in the past. And with that many Hunters that would be sent to Seranthal building, they would need to have a clear chain of command so that they could work together effectively. But at the same time, this chain of command could be the source of another trouble.
The City Management was originally planning to use the same chain of command used during the bounty monster hunt. After all, it was to be expected that the Hunters who led the group that successfully hunted the bounty monster should at least have a good commanding skill. Even the group that was able to successfully hunt the Big Walker actually had a sudden team reconstruction before they were dispatched, and yet, they were able to kill the Big Walker with that team. The City Management thought that the Hunters would sort out any problems regarding the chain of command by themselves.
In order so that the Hunters had the same chain of command in the field, they needed to take someone who was already a leader of a team or an officer from an organization or a gang. Thus, the City Management let the team with the most contribution during the bounty hunt to pick the squad leader.
Which in this case, meant the City Management left that decision to Drankam since Drankam bounty hunt team had contributed greatly during the bounty hunt. Most of the independent team from the Drankam were also able to successfully kill a bounty monster too. Moreover, the gang also contributed greatly in defeating the strongest bounty monster. Thus, it was no surprise that the City Management left the details of the investigation squad to Drankam. So, the current plan was to let Drankam decide the strategy and the leader of the team, then the other Hunters would work under Drankams command.
But in the end, an unexpectedly lot of Hunters complained about that.
When the situation in Mihazono ruin suddenly changed, Drankam issued the SOS rescue requests to the Hunters around the ruin. This resulted in a lot of Hunters getting trapped inside the ruin. Most of the rescue targets for the current SOS rescue request were actually the Hunters who got trapped from the previous SOS rescue request.
Although they ended up judging the situation only from the result, this basically meant that Drankam had sent a lot of Hunters into the wasteland just to get them trapped there only for a small reward. There was not a small number of Hunters who fortunately were able to return back alive while their companions got killed back in the ruin, and most of these Hunters ended up holding a grudge against Drankam. Due to a lot of Hunters getting trapped in the ruin because of that SOS rescue request from Drankam, the current public opinion of Drankam had already significantly fallen.
While on the other hand, some people in Drankam were thinking of using this chance to increase Drankams reputation in Kugamayama city.
There were a lot of other Hunter gangs in Kugamayama city beside Drankam. If Drankam was able to make the investigation a success with the strategy that Drankam itself decided, there was no mistaking that it would definitely make Drankam even more renown. So, if someone not from Drankam took the command and participated in that investigation and made it a success, it would give a boost to the reputation of the gang that Hunter was affiliated with.
Moreover, there were also Hunters who were worried if Drankam took command of the squad, people from Drankam might push the dangerous jobs to the other gangs.
Because of those reasons, a lot of Hunters refused to have Drankam taking command of the squad.
Then to top it off, there was also an in-fighting within Drankam itself.
Drankam had already dispatched its Hunters to Mihazono ruin, and that particular squad was formally commanded by Katsuya. So any reinforcement who joined that team would basically work under him.
Inside Drankam, there was friction between the young Hunters and veterans, there were also some young hunters in the gang who were members of the anti-Katsuya faction. Although they were not as bad as Shikarabe, a lot of Hunters in Drankam refused to work under Katsuya, enough for the gang not to be able to just ignore those Hunters. They demanded to shift the command from Katsuya to one of them or for the City Management to accept the extra conditions that they imposed for that request, and in order to do that, they even dragged the upper echelons in Drankam to get involved in the negotiation.
Then, to top it off, each Hunter had different aims during the negotiation. Some of them demanded as much rewards as they could get, some of them deliberately picked a fight against the other gangs in order to be able to refuse that request while keeping their reputation, while some of them tried to get special favour in exchange for taking that request.
With all kinds of people gathered there, each of them was aiming only to bring profits to themselves, or to the gangs that they belong in, it was only to be expected for the negotiation to turn complicated.
At the moment, there were a lot of people gathered in the Hunter Office branch of Mihazono ruin including the negotiators from Drankam, leaders from various Hunter teams, and people from the request brokers that some of the Hunters were contracted with, Elena was one of them. They were trying their best to reach a consensus.
All of them gathered in the cafeteria of the Hunter Office branch. Carol and Elena were also there, Carol was sitting next to Elena on one of the tables in the cafeteria. Sitting opposite to them was a negotiator from Drankam by the name of Maeda.
Elena and Maeda were talking to each other with a stern face, while Carol was listening to them with a relaxed smile.
After that Maeda listened to a report from one of his co-workers, he then cut the call on his information terminal, sighed, and said to Elena.
“…I just checked with Drankam side again, and as I said, the answer is still a no. We cant accept the conditions that you put up.”
“I see then. It means that we have no deal here, yes”
When Elena said that, Maedas face twitched.
“You do know that we cant have that here for the sake of both of us, right Its a request from Kugamayama City Management, you know You do know well how angry theyll be if we keep dragging this negotiation without any good reason, right”
Elena did not waver at all, her expression did not change as she replied.
“Of course. I bet the City Management wants us to quickly finish this negotiation so that they can dispatch the squad to take control of Seranthal building as soon as possible.”
“If you understand it, can you at least lower your demand The longer we drag this negotiation, the more the City Management would hate both of us.”
“Just to let you know, in order to save us from that, we already lowered our demand as low as we can, you know”
“…You demand 5 times the original reward offered by the City Management and for us to pay some of that reward in advance as the condition to join the squad under Drankams command… Then you say that its already as low as you can go You know that we cant accept that demand no matter how you look at it, right”
“Thats because we recognize this request is much more dangerous than Drankam is willing to admit. Like I said, its the lowest we can go. If we had more time, I would have demanded even more reward, you know”
Maeda was staring at Elena with a stern face, there was no trace of deception in Elenas expression and words. Maeda then sighed.
“…Seriously now, are you for real This is a request from the City Management, you know If you keep insisting on making such impossible demand, we have no other choice but to tell the City Management that the negotiation has failed because you keep making that demand. Are you sure youre okay with it if the City Management thinks of you as a Hunter who cant be reasoned with”
Hunters spent their days fighting dangerous monsters in the old-world ruin, so in order to have a winning chance against those monsters, they had to bring along powerful weapons, and it would be an overkill using those weapons that were designed to kill monsters on humans. So, for the sake of maintaining order in the eastern district, the City Management had no other choice but to get those Hunters armed with powerful weapons under their control.
The cities of the eastern district, the corporations that were in control of those cities, and the Corporate Government that controlled those corporations, all of them were doing all kinds of things to maintain order in the eastern district. There were times when they made use of the Hunter Office to threaten the Hunters so that they would not get ahead of themselves and go on a rampage in the eastern district.
They sometimes had to reason with the Hunters and reminded them to keep their behaviours in check, or some other time, they had to convince some Hunters to not wreak havoc. There were even cases where they had to act as arbitrator between 2 Hunters in conflict or offer certain benefits to persuade certain Hunters. Or if nothing worked, they sometimes blatantly threatened Hunters to just stop. But the City Management would only do these kinds of things if they saw that those Hunters could be reasoned with.
As for those Hunters who could not be reasoned with, the City Management saw them as equal to monsters. Those Hunters were treated as threats against the public order in the eastern district, usually a bounty would be put for their heads and they would be killed by other Hunters.
Being recognized as someone that could be reasoned with was a very important thing in the eastern district where most of the people knew how to fight and powerful weapons were freely distributed around.
Although no one could tell what kind of effect it would bring if Drankam informed the Hunter Office that Elena was a Hunter who would only make one-sided demands and would not listen to other people, it was obvious that it would bring some level of harm toward her.
Most of the Hunters in Kugamayama city already knew that Drankam was deepening its relationship with Kugamayama City Management. So of course, Elena also knew about that too. Thus Maeda lightly threatened Elena there hoping that it would ease her demand.
But then Elena stoically said.
“You can go ahead and do whatever you want. But dont you forget that Ill also explain to the City Management why the negotiation with Drankam side ended up in failure. Im pretty sure that they can understand my reason, thats why, if its possible, I hope you can just let me negotiate directly with the City Management.”
Elena did not waver at all. Maeda who saw that put both of his hands on his face in frustration. Elena herself knew that Maeda was also stuck in a difficult position, but that did not mean that she should lower her demand just because of that.
“By the way, just to let you know, youre the one who suddenly butted in when I was negotiating with the City Management in the first place, you know So I have no reason to play nice with you.”
“Weve been giving you requests through Drankam. Although it doesnt mean that you have the duty to accept all of our demands, you can at least make some compromises, cant you”
Elenas face turned slightly irritated.
“Youve used that favour entirely in the last request that you gave us. To be more precise, although weve agreed on it in the contract, we did not make any complaint when you cut a big part of our reward money last time.”
Elena thought that she was keeping her poker face and that she was calmly assessing the situation, but in reality, her face was slightly changed and a part of her real feeling was starting to leak out, Maeda also noticed that.
Maeda was using a glasses-type information terminal. That information terminal was connected to Drankams server and was showing information about Elena on its transparent display. To be more precise, Maeda was looking at Elenas request history.
Maeda picked the last request that Elena accepted and checked its detail. The record also contained the subject about the reward cut too. But it only said that both sides agreed on that reward cut and there was no problem with it at all.
[…What the heck is with thisno problem at all, this is one heck of a problem, isnt it Who the f*ck wrote this report… Mizuha That new officer who just got promoted from the administration department, huh Shes an officer now though, is she that stupid as to writeno problem at all here Or is it that someone from the other faction overwrote the report Seriously though, I really hope they would stop roping me into this infighting problem between factions. Its really making my job difficult. Wrong information like this is really fatal during negotiation.]
Although Maeda was a member of Drankam, he did not belong to either faction. To be more precise, he was more of a neutral faction, and this faction chose to keep itself from getting involved in the infighting.
[With more infighting inside the gang, more negotiations are happening lately. Most of the negotiators are ending up arbitrating among Hunters inside the gang, and so, fewer negotiators are available for negotiating with people outside the gang. Good grief, I really hope they would do something about this… Whoah. This is not the time to worry about that, I need to do something about this negotiation first.]
Maeda shook off his irritation while still lamenting how he got roped into such an annoying situation.
Drankam side could not afford to accept Elenas demand. After all, Elena was not the only Hunter that Drankam had to negotiate with. If the other Hunters discovered that Drankam accepted Elenas demand, they would use that information to demand more rewards too.
But with that being said, Drankam could not afford to have the negotiation break down there and let Elena negotiate directly with the City Management. Drankam was the one who used its connection with the City Management to butt in when Elena was negotiating with the City Management, as such, if he reported back to the City Management that he failed, there was no mistaking it that the City Management would lower its evaluation of Drankam.
But the more time he spent trying to reach a deal there, the worse the evaluation from the City Management would be.
Maeda, who had no idea what to do there, shifted his gaze from Elena to Carol. Although he was sure that Elena had the last say there, since Carol was sitting next to her, Carol might be able to somehow affect the direction of the current negotiation. Thus in order to change the mood, Maeda turned to Carol and spoke to her.
“Carol-san too, Im sure you dont think its a good idea to be stuck in this place forever, right If we keep being stubborn here, no one would win, itll only bring trouble to both of us, yes”
Carol was still smiling as she asked Maeda a question.
“In that case, can you at least tell us how Drankam organizes its Hunters and who will take the responsibility for making the plan”
“…Will it even make any difference if we tell you”
“You wont then”
“Like I said, it wont make any difference, right”
“Its part of making compromises, no If the one who will take command is a skilled and experienced Hunter, then we, as the Hunters who might be working under that Hunter, would feel safer, right I want you to understand that we asked that much rewards since we feel uneasy about that part.”
“Are you saying that you cant trust the leader that Drankam picks”
“I wont go that far though, but like, you know, a lot of Hunters are trapped inside the Seranthal building because of the last request that Drankam issued, right I heard that it was enough to cause panic among the insurance companies.”
“So youre saying that its Drankams fault No matter how you look at it, no one could have predicted something like this would happen, yes”
“Its not like Im saying that Drankam is at fault here. But, I want you to understand when we say that Seranthal building is a really dangerous place.”
“Its exactly because we know its a dangerous place that were forming a big Hunter squad in order to save those Hunters inside the Seranthal building. Were asking the other Hunters to work under the same leader here to prevent them from moving independently and cause trouble during the operation. Im sure you can understand that too from reading the detail of the request.”
“We do understand that point. Thats why Im asking you who will take the lead of the squad. If we know that the one taking the lead is a competent Hunter, we can feel safer following the orders from that Hunter. And if its someone that I know, I can also more or less predict that persons commanding skill. Which in that case, I can explain to Elena and I maybe can even convince her too. That way, Elena might be willing to lower her demand and we might be able to finally find a compromise that we both can accept. Do you understand why I asked you that question now”
After she said that, Carol threw a smile at Maeda. Maeda understood well that he was in a disadvantageous position there as he was barely able to react to her reasoning.
“Im glad to hear that, so, will you tell us now”
After Carol said that, Maeda suddenly went silent. Carol understood the situation that Maeda was in as she smiled at him and said.
“If you wont tell me, I wont be able to say anything to Elena, you know”
“…We havent decided yet.”
“I dont mind if its just a guess. If you can tell us of any particular person or any particular faction that might get chosen, its at least better than nothing.”
“…Were still in the middle of discussing that.”
Maeda sounded as if he just forced himself to say that and he immediately hung his head low for a bit after he said that.
Carol was really happy that she got the answer that she was hoping for, but she did not show that on her face, instead, she made a rather troubled face and said to Maeda.
“Im sure Drankam also understands the importance of this request since it came from the City Management, right And Im sure Drankam also understands very well that it should decide on the leader as soon as possible, right If you guys cant decide on the leader even in this situation, I cant help but feel worried about your commanding skill. If you think the reward Elena demanded is to compensate for the danger that this request might cause us, then unfortunately enough, I dont think that Elenas demand is unreasonable at all.”
After listening to what Carol said, Maeda let out a long sigh. A part of him actually agreed with Elena and Carols reasoning. But, due to his position, he could not express it.
Maeda then complained inside his heart.
[…Ahh, I cant take this. I dont have anything that I can use to convince them. To hell with this, Ill just let them negotiate directly with the City Management. Im sure the upper echelons would make some complaints later, but its their fault in the first place for taking too long. It has nothing to do with me, its not my fault.]
Honestly speaking, Maeda was actually a dutiful person. But there was a limit to how far he could keep going. The infighting between the people in the upper echelons caused trouble to his job and he also agreed with some arguments that the other party was making, so he concluded that if he stubbornly tried to continue the negotiation there, it would be nigh impossible to achieve his original aim. It really lowered his motivation and caused him to start considering just letting Elena negotiate directly with the City Management.
From that sudden change in Maedas behaviour, Carol immediately noticed that Maeda had given up on the negotiation. She then smiled at Maeda and said.
“This might be unrelated, but I think its a bad idea not doing anything until the main squad is formed. At the very least, you guys could have sent some smaller squads ahead, yes”
Maeda looked confused there for a moment, he tried to think what was the meaning behind those words before he said anything back.
“…Are you telling me that we should use you as a reconnaissance team and send you ahead in order to prevent the City Management from bothering us for the time being Even if you said that to me, I have no right to say anything about the strategy used in this operation. And even if I have that right, that would be the decision that Drankam should make as a whole, not me alone. I cant let your team go for something like that, after all, we need you to join the main squad since there are not that many Hunters in Drankam who are skilled enough to be dispatched to Seranthal building. Not to mention, Im sure only those Hunters who have something to complain about this chain of command would want to join that reconnaissance squad. In the first place, we dont have Hunters to spare for that squad, or at least, I cant spare you any Hunters to form such a squad.”
Carol smiled mischievously.
“So basically, we can do that if we have someone who has a say on the strategy used by Drankam, or at least someone who has some connections with the upper echelons in Drankam, right”
“…Well, that would be true, but…”
Maeda looked a bit confused.
Carol then pulled out her information terminal and called someone. The person that she was calling almost immediately picked up her call.
“Carol, what now You should know well that Im really busy, right”
It was Shikarabe, he sounded like he was in a really bad mood, but in contrast to him, Carol replied in a good mood.
“Oh my, I called you thinking that I might be able to help you, you know… Are you sure youre okay treating me like this”
“What do you mean”
“Im actually looking for more Hunters so that we can take that request from the City Management as an individual team though. Im sure youre also having a hard negotiation over there, right I bet that youre in a panic right now since at this rate youll get assigned to work under that Katsuya guy, right”
After Carol said that, there was a few seconds of silence. From that silence, she confirmed that her guess was correct.
Shikarabes calm voice then could be heard from Carols information terminal.
“…Why do you think so”
“Its because youre talking to me right now.”
Shikarabe could not help but to leak out his real feeling there with that reaction. Hearing that, Carol then giggled and continued.
“The request from the Kugamayama City Management is basically issued to the Hunters who successfully hunted the bounty monsters not too long ago. But then I bet that because of some reason, those Hunters who were in your team when you hunted the bounty monster could not come to the Mihazono ruin at the moment. After all, if that was not the case, you would have picked those Hunters and already formed a team with them instead. I bet youre trying to find replacements for those Hunters but you still cant find enough people at the moment, right After all, if you did, you would have been dispatched to Seranthal building by now. And if youre already heading to the Seranthal building, it would mean that the operation is already underway and you would not be roped into the infighting inside the Drankam about who should take the lead of the squad, which would mean that you would not have picked my call, right But you did not ignore my call. Since you cant go with the same team that you were together with during the bounty hunt, Drankam must be trying to get you into another team, for example, another team that also has successfully hunted a bounty monster too. And then, that exact team thats also already in Mihazono ruin right now is the team that Katsuya leads. Since Drankam cannot afford to keep dragging out the request from the City Management, I bet that the officers from Drankam are pressuring you to join Katsuyas team, right”
Shikarabe went silent again after Carol said that.
Carols guess was completely correct. The upper echelons in Drankam were pressuring Shikarabe to join Katsuyas team.
The only thing that Carol got wrong was Shikarabes actual plan. Carol thought that as this situation continued, Shikarabe would eventually break under the pressure from Drankam and join Katsuyas team.
But in reality, Shikarabe had no plans to join Katsuyas team no matter what. If his only option was to join Katsuyas team, he would rather accept that request from the City Management and head to Seranthal building alone. But of course, he wanted to avoid that if it could be helped, that was why Shikarabe was looking for more personnel for his team.
Shikarabe then sighed as if he just gave up there, he then annoyedly asked a question to Carol.
“Yeah yeah, you got that right. Im more or less in that situation right now. So then, how are you going to help me out Im super busy right now, so I wont take any stupid ideas, okay So then, tell me what do you have in mind.”
It was not like Carol brought that subject to Shikarabe because she wanted to help him out. Shikarabe himself knew that very well, he also knew how dangerous it was to get indebted to Carol. But he thought that it was way better than working under Katsuya, thus he decided to take Carols offer.
Carol then explained her idea to him, Shikarabe registered that plan inside his head and analyzed it. He was not pondering whether to take her suggestion or not, he was pondering if it was possible or not. He then finally reached a conclusion.
“Alright. Ill convey that to one of the officers in Drankam who might agree with your plan. Tell whoever negotiator that youre talking with right now to let you talk with an officer from Drankam by the name of Arabe.”
“Okay, later then.”
Carol then ended the call and asked Elena.
“I ended up pushing the negotiation without your permission though, is that okay”
Elena at least did not show any displeasure as she said.
“Its alright. I have nothing to complain about with your suggestion.”
Elenas main goal was actually to avoid working under Drankam since it might get her in the same situation as the previous time when she accepted that request to hunt the bounty monster. Back then, not only did Elena and Sara have to cover for the rest of the team, they were even insulted for being useless and got their reward cut. Moreover, if things were to happen again this time, it would not only affect her and Sara, but it would also affect Akira and Carol too. That was why Elena refused to step back.
Of course, Drankam had its own indicators that it used to evaluate Sara and Elena, and it seemed that Elena and Saras performance during that request was far below what Drankam was expecting from them. So from Drankams point of view, it was simply that they had no other choice but to do what they did.
But if that difference was a fatal one, it would have been better if both of them stopped working with each other. It would have been better if Drankam hired other Hunters who could accept the evaluation that Drankam gave.
While at the same time, although it was not like Elena did not feel anything when Carol just pushed the negotiation without her permission, thanks to that, Elena was able to fulfil her main goal. So she had no complaints about it.
Carol smiled a bit smugly to Elena and said.
“Is it okay if I take it that it was worth it taking me with you here”
Although Elena was a bit bothered by the way Carol was acting, she then said.
“… Well, youre right, youre a big help. Thanks to you, it seems that we can avoid getting roped into a troublesome situation.”
“Can you please tell that to Akira too”
“Sure, but can you tell me why you want me to do that”
“Its to increase my value in his eyes since hes the one hiring me at the moment. Since Ive been useful, its normal for me to want to let my employer know that I did well, right After all, if Akira knows that Im useful, he might pay me a lot of money later. So, will you do that for me”
Although there was something that was still bothering Elena, she also understood that Carol had a good point there. In the first place, it was exactly because Elena did not agree with the evaluation that Drankam had about her that she did not want to negotiate with Drankam this time.
“…Sure… Ill properly convey that to Akira.”
Carol smiled as she thought that it would leave a better impression on Akira if he heard it from Elena instead of hearing that from Carol herself.-