Kurosawas group and Katsuyas group were in the middle of securing the first floor of the Seranthal building. But they were working completely separate from each other. They had agreed beforehand to operate separately to reduce the possibility of causing trouble, and they also agreed if any of them retreated, the other party could continue searching the building.
And just like before, there was something inside that building that prevented people from making any contact from the inside of the building. Because of that, Kurosawa and Katsuya stayed outside the building to keep contact with Kugamayama city and the Hunter Office while giving orders to their respective group.
Airi who was next to Katsuya looked coldly at Kurosawa.
“…Is that all”
Kurosawa looked at Airi, his expression then returned back to normal. He could see a resolve from Airis eyes, so he had no plans to mock someone with that kind of resolve. people like her were not to be underestimated no matter how weak they were. After all, they often used insult and mockery as fuel to strengthen their resolve, which eventually fueled their growth.
[And here I thought that they are just a group of stupid children who mistook the power of their equipment as their own skill when they defeated the bounty monsters, after all, they could only get those powerful equipment because of the extensive sponsor and support that they received… But it seems thats not exactly the case, huh.]
Kurosawas evaluation of Katsuyas group had gotten better, although only slightly. He then faced the person who caused that change and said to her.
“Yeah, thats at all. Weve agreed beforehand to handle different areas to make sure that we dont disrupt each other. So just be careful next time. Later then.”
He already conveyed what he wanted to say and was sure that Katsuya understood that he wanted them to stop wandering into his area. Although at first, he was planning to complain about other things too, he decided to back down as a form of respect to Airi.
When Kurosawa was about to leave Katsuya alone, he suddenly stopped, he saw a girl come out running from the entrance of the Seranthal building.
Kurosawa stopped thinking that it might be some kind of emergency, but judging from how that girl was running, it did not seem to be the case, so he decided to just forget about it and returned to his post. That girl, Lilina, ran straight to Katsuya and said to him as if she was venting her anger.
“Katsuya!! They mocked us again!! You should go there and say something to them!!”
Katsuya tried to calm Lilina down.
“Lilina, calm down, tell me what happened”
“What the heck is wrong with those people sounding so arrogant like that! Were also Hunters who successfully hunted a bounty monster, you know! They should show some respect for us…”
When Lilina was about to explain what happened to Katsuya, or at least, what she thought she was doing, she saw Kurosawa walking away. Although she did not know if that was Kurosawa, she knew for sure that person was not from Katsuyas group, and that was enough of a reason for her.
Lilina then stopped Kurosawa.
“You, stop there! I know that you guys are strong Hunters who have defeated a bounty monster, but we have too! Just because were doing well, thats not a reason for you to keep sabotaging us out of envy!”
Kurosawa stopped, he looked obviously annoyed as he sighed and turned around.
“So, where is it”
Lilina seemed confused.
“What do you mean by where!”
“What a dunce, I also received a report that some Hunters from your group picked a fight with my men, so Im asking you where that happened.”
“Isnt it obvious already! Its on the first floor of the Seranthal building!! Are you too stupid to even make such a simple guess”
“Seranthal building has multiple floors and its pretty big. There are also countless individual rooms inside it. So where exactly is it on the first floor”
“Its not in a room, but in a hallway. What about it”
“Is that even important! Whats wrong with you and your stupid questions!”
Lilina talked back at Kurosawa with a prickly tone, venting out her anger at him.
Kurosawas gaze shifted from Lilina to Katsuya. He sighed on purpose to express his exasperation and mockery. He then said to that Katsuya with a tone that obviously showed he was ridiculing Katsuya.
“Seranthal building is a dangerous place where many Hunters lost their lives after stepping inside. So, it wont be strange if you get suddenly attacked by a swarm of monsters out of the blue when youre inside the building. Not to mention, for an unknown reason, the sensitivity of information-gathering devices is significantly lowered inside that building which makes it harder to accurately detect things around you. And with the inability to contact each other, Hunters have no other choice but to only judge whether they are looking at friends or foes solely on their visions. So of course, Hunters get more high-strung inside that building, and when you encounter another group of Hunters roaming around in the same area, theres a good chance that it might cause misunderstanding and even fight too. So, in order to avoid unfortunate accidents, its important to refrain from unnecessarily interacting with the other group. Thats exactly why, for the sake of safety and profit, our operation areas are properly divided from the beginning, or at least thats what I understand. The patrol time and route are decided beforehand and we are properly following it. Its designed so that when any of us encounter someone else inside that building, they dont need to spend too much time checking if theyre friendly or not and just can make an assumption that they are hostile. And if any of us cant return back on time, it can be assumed that theres a fight inside the building. The report that I got is saying that the fight happened in C7 hallway. Its obviously inside our territory and its not a place that you can enter by pure chance. So as long as you dont enter it on purpose or unless you get lost inside the building, you should not be able to go there.”
Kurosawas expression changed from mockery to hostility.
“I dont know whether its just stupid Hunters who entered that place on purpose or it was just stupid Hunters who got lost inside that building, but in this case, were basically not the one at fault even if we suddenly opened fire. Whichever the case, are you seriously sending such stupid Hunters inside that building Do you seriously want to pick a fight with us that much”
Lilina was overwhelmed by Kurosawas pressure, but she was somehow able to talk back.
“We just passed through it for a bit! Theres no need for you to go that far, isnt it!”
Kurosawas gaze was still fixed at Katsuya.
“The report said that my men got into a fight. So basically it meant that your men did not withdraw from that place and even caused the patrol squad to return late, I bet its because your men did not let my men go, right And you still said that you just passed through it for a bit Ahh, I see, I know it might just be a bit for you, I guess this is where our understanding of how important this kind of thing differs. You should get that straight first without roping us in. Were not Hunters from Drankam, so we have no plans to tidy up after your mess.”
Kurosawa was exuding an aura that only those powerful Hunters had. There was no trace of joking or mockery in his face, he was using a tone that he would only use to talk against people who he recognized as enemies as he spoke to the leader of the other group, Katsuya.
“Listen here, we have no wish to fight you because its too much of a hassle to have to fight you while we have to fight the monsters too. So at least just dont get in our way. Dont make me decide that its faster to just clean all of you from here and continue securing this building all by ourselves. This request is from the City Management and you guys are Hunters from Drankam, thats why were holding back as much as we can, but theres a limit to that too. So sort your mess out by yourselves. Got it”
After Kurosawa said that, he immediately ran back to his post without waiting for a reply since one of his men contacted him and told him to get back.
Kurosawa was still looking obviously annoyed as he thought.
[…Although there seem to be some proper Hunters among them, I guess the majority are still those stupid ones, huh Can we really secure the Seranthal building while avoiding getting into a fight with them Are we seriously going to work with them once the main squad is here… Good grief, I swear its better if we just leave this operation to Drankam people without roping us too, isnt it]
Kurosawa was thinking about what to do next as he ran back to his station.
Lilina was overwhelmed by Kurosawas presence, but once he left, her anger quickly welled up again.
She was about to burst with anger even now.
“…W-what the heck is wrong with that guy!”
Yumina tried to calm Lilina down.
“Lilina, I understand your feeling, but just calm down for now, okay”
In contrast to that, Airi threw short but harsh words.
“Lilina, shut up.”
Lilina was about to say something, but she stopped midway after she saw Yumina and Airi. Yumina looked at Lilina with a rather stern face, while Airi was looking at Lilina with her usual expressionless face but mixed with a tinge of hostility. Both of them were staring at Lilina, putting pressure on her.
There were other girls beside Yumina and Airi around Katsuya. But Airi and Yumina had been together with Katsuya for a long time. Their Hunter Rank was the second highest in Katsuyas team, only after Katsuya. Their pressure was enough to shut Lilina up, and even scared her.
There was no mistaking it, both of them were angry. If Lilina said anything, there was no mistaking it that both of them would get even angrier. Thus Lilina just shut up without being able to even make any excuse.
Katsuya was basically a kind person, if someone weak came to him scared, no matter the reason, he would extend his hand. And even more so when it was someone from his own team and a beautiful girl to top it off.
Katsuya also felt slightly scared since he could also feel Airi and Yuminas anger, but even so, he tried his best to make a smile and calm Lilina down.
“Well, Lilina, just calm down for now… Are you good now Well, lets proceed with the report. Since you returned back faster than originally planned, it means that you have something you want to report as soon as possible, right”
Lilina calmed down after she saw Katsuyas gentle smile. But she still could not fully calm down, as she flusteredly tried to piece her words together.
“…W-well, uhh, we met them when we were about to head back, and, uh…”
“You can save that for later, first tell us why did you return back sooner than planned.”
“W-well, uhh, its nothing big, but…”
Lilina was hesitating, which only made Airi angrier.
“Just spit it out…”
“T-The elevator moved…”
“Is that all”
“Uhhh, weve agreed beforehand that we wont go to the second floor until we secure the first floor, right Since the elevator started moving, they might use it to go to the upper floor without securing the first floor first. I just thought that I need to let Katsuya know this as soon as possible so that they wont steal a start…”
Lilina mixed her own guesses in her report.
After Kurosawa returned and received a report from his men, he frowned and asked if his men were sure they were not mistaken.
“Are you sure about it”
“Yeah, the elevator moved.”
“So basically, no one went to the upper floor without my permission and the elevator started moving, is that correct”
“Yeah, thats as long as we believe the floors display on that elevator. The Hunters who are stationed near the first-floor elevator also said that they heard the elevator moving. The elevator on the first floor started moving and we have nothing to do about it, and theres no fool among us who would go upstairs without permission.”
Kurosawas face turned grim as he thought.
[Did any of their men go upstairs and call for the elevator No, it might be from the squad that went into this building before us… Wait, but the elevator is supposed to be unusable, right So why has it started moving out of the blue Did something change in the building… I have a bad feeling about this.]
Kurosawa then looked at his men with a serious face and said to them.
“Inform everyone inside the building to return back as soon as possible, everyone, understand Just leave the portable information-gathering device behind. Tell them to get back here, now. Also, tell the other Hunters who are transporting the dead monsters outside the building to stop immediately, and gather here. Also, prepare their weapons. Use all the portable walls to form a barrier, take some distance from the entrance so that you can safely focus your fire on the entrance, and form a barricade around the entrance.”
Kurosawas men were surprised when he suddenly gave that order to them. After all, it sounded as if Kurosawa had given up securing the building. One of them looked bewildered and said to him.
“Whoah, are you sure about that Were almost done securing the first floor, you know Are we really going to just abandon it”
“Its fine. In the first place, theres another group who are working together with us in this place and theyre not friendly to us. So even if we secure the first floor, I still doubt if it would be really safe. Moreover, its not like I can trust those children to properly secure the area theyre responsible for. And even if no monsters come out from the building, we can just restart the work to secure the building again later.”
“But, well definitely lose a lot of time to secure the building, is this moving elevator really that dangerous”
The amount of the secured area basically affects the reward that Kurosawa and his men would receive. Kurosawa put some pressure on his words as he replied to his men who were against retreating from the building.
“Its my intuition. So this is just to be safe. Youve decided to work under me when you joined this team, so stop yapping and start working. I know that its a cowards decision, but you accepted to join this team knowing fully that Im a careful person. If you want to question my decision, you can do that later.”
Kurosawa was indeed a skilled Hunter with good commanding skill, but judging from that point of view, he sometimes made cowardly decisions. There were many occasions where he focused too much on pessimistic guesses during the ruin exploration and gave an order for his men to withdraw although they could have gathered valuable relics if only they pushed just a bit further.
But thanks to that, Kurosawas team had a high survivability rate. He was different from most of the Hunters in the eastern district who would happily take a high risk just to be able to return back with a lot of relics, instead, he preferred to maintain a long term profit.
Even during their fight against the bounty monster Maimai, no one got killed in Kurosawas team, not even badly injured.
Now that Mihazono ruin had turned dangerous enough that it was more or less the same as an unexplored ruin, the other Hunters understood that Kurosawas cautious nature was an important factor in making sure that they would be able to return back alive from the Seranthal building.
Kurosawas men looked at him with a serious expression and said.
“Roger that, well do it right away.”
“Hurry up then!”
Kurosawa urged his men to hurry up with a serious face. Even if his decision was a mistake, he would not regret it. After all, just in case if that decision was not a mistake, then it meant that he would have saved a lot of Hunters from facing their ends in that building.
Elenas team was able to reach the first floor safely. But right when they stepped on the first floor, the Hunters who have a good intuition immediately frowned, their expression turned grim, Akira included.
But before Akira was able to ask Alpha about it, she suddenly said something that he could not ignore.
“Akira, sorry but Ill need to leave you for a bit.”
“Its for the sake of improving your current situation.”
Alpha only said that and immediately vanished from Akiras views. Akira could also feel his augmented suit suddenly become heavier.
Although Akiras face turned even grimmer, he was still able to maintain his calmness. After all, that was not his first time, and he thought that he just needed to pass the entrance to escape the building.
But that line of thinking also caused Akira to not notice something. Unlike last time, Alpha did not say that it would be alright, or that she would be back in no time, or that there was no monster around.
Elena then explained the current situation to the rest of her team.
“Theres a big signal reading in the large hall near the entrance. It would be great if its from a forward station made by the reinforcement team, but that might not be the case. So keep your guard up.”
All the other Hunters nodded, they then carefully moved into the hallway.
As they came closer and closer to the hall near the entrance, they started to spot dead Hunters spilling fresh blood. They were fresh corpses and it seemed that they were killed by gunshot.
Shikarabe checked the equipment of those dead Hunters and frowned. There was a Drankam mark painted on their equipment.
“Their equipment is from Drankam. I bet theyre young Hunters from Drankam, they should be working in teams… So the fact that they didnt retrieve the dead bodies means that were attacked and did not have the leeway to do so.”
Elena looked at everyone and said.
“Just to be safe, well treat the signal from the hall as an enemy. Ill change the route based on that assumption. This doesnt change the fact that well have to be careful.”
They continued walking through the hallway, ready for battle. They found other dead bodies, but this time, they just ignored them.
Akira unconsciously gripped his rifle tight, he tried to control his breath to calm his nerves down.
Akira had a stern expression as he called for Alpha.
“Alpha! Are you not done yet”
Alpha did not respond back at all.
At the same time, in a vast empty white space, 2 girls were standing. It was Seranthal, the A.I manager of the Seranthal building, and Alpha.
Alpha seemed obviously annoyed as she said to Seranthal.
Seranthal was expressionless, but it was somehow obvious that she was also annoyed.
“Im not violating any agreements that we made beforehand. I didnt block your way when you explored the building and Im not preventing you from getting out of the building either. Its as we agreed on.”
“Then why are you using the elevator”
“That happened outside of my control. Its true that Im the manager of this building, but there are other people too who have permission to use the facilities inside this building without going through me. Especially for the users of the 50th floor and above, they have the rights to directly use the elevator. The security drones also have that right. So I bet it was the B18 that used the elevator.”
“I found B18 drones on the 30th floor too though.”
“Theyre just exercising their rights to defend themselves. Im also actually troubled here with those drones roaming inside this building without my permission. And I also feel sorry for it. But, its not like I can do anything about it. Im really saddened that theyre creating a mess inside this building.”
Alpha and Seranthal continued talking to each other, none of them seemed to be willing to back down.
Elenas team eventually reached the receptionist desk near the entrance, they confirmed the current situation from the piles of rubbles and wreckage inside the hall and the holes in the walls.
There were also many dead bodies lying around the hall, a fierce battle must have happened there. Those corpses were still clad in augmented suits and they were still gripping their rifles.
The front hall of the Seranthal building had a tall ceiling and tall entrance doors. It even extended all the way until the third floor of the building. Elenas team noticed that there were other things inside that hall that was not there when they came into that building.
Reina could not help but mumble the very thing that everyone there was thinking.
“…What in the world is that”
There was a huge mechanical monster in the front hall. It was so huge to the point that it was obvious it would not fit inside the hallway of that building, heck, it would not even fit the entrance of the building. Its body was enveloped in armour plating, it did not have legs, wheels, caterpillar tracks, or anything that it might use to move its huge body. It did not seem that it would be able to move except by flying. And even if it could move, it would not be able to get into the building because of its size.
This monstrosity seemed to be stationed there to guard the building against any trespassers.
Kanae smiled amusedly and said.
“This thing is pretty huge. How did this thing get inside this hall”
When Kanae said that, the elevator in that hall suddenly opened and several B18 monsters came out from it. Most of them went straight out from the hall, but one of them approached that big monster and climbed it.
That B18 monster then stopped right on the head of that big monsters. Then on the next moment, that B18 monster suddenly exploded as if it activated its self-destruct protocol.
Then one of the armour platings of the big monster slid open, multiple arms came out and gathered the wreckage of that B18 monster and pulled them inside its body. The dead B18 monster became one with the huge monster–a new armour plating, a new machine gun–thus making its already huge body even bigger.
Elena nodded, her face was grim.
“I see. So its staying here because there are materials available here. Its one of those monsters that can fix itself…”
Sara smiled wryly.
“Then, that means that the snake monster on the 30th floor must be there to consume the wreckages too…. I get it now, its true that there are many materials available in this building.”
More B18 monsters appeared from one of the hallways and headed outside the building, but suddenly, one of them was sniped and exploded.
Another bullet also hit the big monster, when that happened, a blinding light flashed.
“…That light, force field armour, huh…”
It reminded Akira of the powerful powered suit that he fought in the past in the Kuzusuhara ruin.
Shiori was observing that huge monster with a serious face.
“And judging from that light, its a powerful force field armour. It would have been great if that single snipe was able to damage its body…”
They waited with bated breath, then a part of that monsters armour plating crumbled down, exposing a new armour plating right under it. That armour plating then popped out as if to replace the armour plating it just lost.
All of them thought about the exact same thing without saying anything.
Shikarabes face twitched.
“Carol, youre knowledgeable about this building, right Do you know any secret route that we can use to escape this building In this situation, Im willing to pay any price you ask.”
Carol shook her head.
“Unfortunately, the front entrance is our only exit right now.”
“Yes, it is. Even if you pay me 10,000,000,000 Aurum, I cant give you what I dont have.”
Akira, who was hoping that there was another way to escape the building, looked obviously disappointed. He did not think that big monster would just let them pass through peacefully. If they wanted to get out of that place, they had no other choice but to destroy that monster. And judging from the fact that it was able to take that single snipe shot just fine, it would be a difficult task to accomplish.
[Since were already on the first floor, cant we just open a hole in the wall and escape through it… No, that wont work. Carol also said that the entrance is our only logical choice. If only Alpha was here, I could ask her why it wont work though…]
Unfortunately enough, Alpha was still away. At this rate, Akira would have to fight without Alphas support.
Akiras expression tensed up as he tried to call for Alpha again.
“Alpha! Are you really not done yet!”
And again, no reply at all.-