On the night before the large scale expedition. Yanagisawa read through the document regarding it and smiled bitterly.
Inabe no longer had any method of retreat. Since he took Violas suggestion to fake the relics that could be found in the area under his territory, he had lost the trust of his coworkers and even his position as well. Although he somehow dragged himself out of hot water, it did not change the fact that he faked the relics and the truth was that there were no expensive relics in his area. If the expedition could not show any results, it would show that the records from his area were nothing but fake. Before it happened, he had to find another area where a ton of expensive relics were waiting to be found. Otherwise, he would have no other choice but to cover his lies with even more lies, which would eventually lead to his doom.
The plan was laced with details that clearly showed Inabes effort. The budget was increased as much as his position allowed him to and he did not hold back from using all the connections he had to obtain investment in order to secure more firepower. He did not even hesitate to use his own money.
As Yanagisawa read through the document, he found Akira and Katsuyas name in the list of Hunters who had returned with expensive relics from that region. So Yanagisawas mind wandered as he reminisced on a certain incident in the past.
Back then, after the huge incident in the slum city, Nergo reported to Yanagisawa that Katsuya was someone who could connect to the old-world domain. At that time, although Yanagisawa was delighted, another question came up in his mind as he asked Nergo a question with a puzzled look.
“Thank you very much for the valuable information. But, what can I say, its not like Im doubting you, but is it okay to ask you how you got your information As I said, its not like Im doubting you. In fact, I dont doubt you. Its just to be safe.”
Nergo did not show any particular reaction to that rather exaggerated attitude that obviously showed Yanagisawas suspicion.
“Im not going to tell you to believe me. It is nothing more than just confirmation in order to not cause any unnecessary conflict between you and me when it comes to capturing Katsuya. We dont mind being the one capturing him. All I want to hear from you is that there are no problems. You are fine with that, right”
“Well well well well, dont say it like that. I just want to ask you some questions. Its okay, right Its not like were total strangers, right So I hope that you can enlighten me. Moreover, if I dont know anything, I might misunderstand, which might cause trouble later. It would be great if we can clear up any possible misunderstanding.”
Yanagisawa was signalling that he would not give his affirmation unless Nergo answered his question, and even if he did, it would only open up space for negotiation. Nergo, who understood that, lightly sighed and replied.
“…Very well. But before I explain, Ill ask you about the basics first. What are old-world connectors”
“Simply put, it refers to the people who can connect to the old-world domain, right”
“You might be just playing dumb there, but thats a very narrow way to interpret it. To be precise, that answer is wrong. Its just one of the many methods to identify old-world connectors, nothing more. This term refers to a group of people who, for some reasons that still cannot be explained with our current technology, are able to receive and send a certain signal, and this function can be built-in into their body or achieved through other methods. There were many cases where such people were either simply included in the old-world domain as a receiver node, or even as transceiver nodes. Thus, they were often used as a method to connect to the old-world domain, thats why most people interpret that term as such. An active connection to the old-world domain is not their main feature. Next, then, you do know about telepathy, right”
“Thats a type of communication method where information is not sent through sound waves, right People who have communication devices implanted in their heads can talk with each other even without making a sound. So most people trying to look cool tend to call that telepathy.”
“Just like how the people of the current era have many methods to communicate with each other, thats also true for the people who can connect to the old-world domain. Thats why this is not always true for all of them, but most of the time, they can use telepathy. Of course, they can transfer more than just sound or words.”
“Even the information terminals of the current era can be used to send videos and pictures too, you know”
“Of course, but their telepathy can send even more than that. Although there are differences between each individual, they usually can transfer all kinds of information. The old-world technology even allows them to send something as vague as intuition which cant be explained with words. And then, those who can send a certain type of information tend to cause a certain phenomenon. This is why we believe that Katsuya is one of them.”
“Ohhh, so, what different kind of information is that And what kind of phenomenon are we talking about here”
“The information is something akin to mental manipulation, like emotion or impression. These types of people are extremely rare as they can easily get along with other people. If I am to give an example, it can cause everyone around them to like what they like and hate what they hate. This is doubly true for people who wear their heart on their sleeves.”
“I see. It makes the people around them to like what they like and hate what they hate. It is the result of them unconsciously sending that information to the people around them, huh Sometimes, straightforward words can greatly move the hearts of others. If its possible to convey that feeling without words, the same kind of effect becomes more prominent. I bet that would be super effective. But then again, shouldnt only people who can connect to the old-world domain be able to receive such information”
Yanagisawa asked once again as if he was playing dumb, so Nergo once again sighed and replied.
“…I bet youre just pretending to not know, so Ill answer your question. Most of the people in the eastern district can actually connect to the old-world domain. If we take an analogue with information terminals, the transceivers are only sending a low-power signal that is barely recognizable while the sensitivity of the receivers are dialled so low that they cant receive any signals. It is as if they are information terminals on defective settings. Even if you try to dissect and analyze the brains of normal individuals and those that can connect to the old-world domain, there are no notable differences between them. This is why even with all the advanced medical tools that you have in the eastern district, people still cant identify them correctly. So basically, normal people cant connect to the old world domain, but if its just a short-range direct transmission, they are still working as terminals to various extents. Of course, there are big differences individually. As for the people in the eastern district who live on the western side near the central district, for some reason, most of them have already lost that ability. It might be because they have a lot of children between them. I wonder if that ability is connected to how much one inherited the blood of the old-world descendants.”
“I see, that is some amazing information. But still, I dont think its that convincing. To identify an old-world connector just from his relationship with the people around him After all, people like Katsuya are not that rare. Im sure you can find a few if you search, right”
“That decision is based on other observations as well. We have other reasons why were so certain. For example, there is a huge gap between the logical and concrete evaluation of that guy compared to the intuitive or emotional evaluation. Thats the result of the person in question, unconsciously sending his own evaluation of himself to the people around him. So in short, if he believes that he is powerful, others around him will be pushed toward direction as well. Comparing that to his real power, a gap has been observed, which also serves as more evidence.”
“Hmm, and that would make people think he is a powerful person even if he is not that powerful in reality, but the opinion of the people around him cemented that notion even further. But again, its normal for talented people to be evaluated highly by the people around them, right And Katsuya is not that bad himself. Hes been doing well as a Hunter. If hes really that untalented, he would have died a long time ago, right After all, monsters dont care about such things. They just attack everyone equally.”
“Its not like we think that hes weak either. Hes a skilled Hunter. The focus here is the gap and the strange dissonance that can be felt from it. Ive been observing him from afar ever since I infiltrated Drankam, this is the conclusion that Ive reached after observing that strange dissonant feeling. Its a conclusion made after gathering impressions from all kinds of people included his track records, documents, the people who are in his faction as well as the people who hate him… If you accuse that I need to do more investigation, I have no words to deny it and partially agree with you.”
“Ohhh Did something happen”
“There was a large incident in slum city the other day and Katsuya was also involved in the battle. The reason was because I told him the whereabouts of a certain pickpocket named Alna. Judging from his personality, I was certain that he would go save her if he knew her location, and I was right. However, I also predicted that he would bring reinforcement from Drankam. Normally, it would be impossible for Drankam to dispatch its men just to save a mere pickpocket. So I was originally planning to confirm if he is someone who can connect to the old-world domain using that event. If he is, then his ability would affect their decision. It remains to be seen just how far the people who like him or think highly of him would ignore the benefit of the gang. But… To think that he went alone, it took me completely by surprise. Because of that, it was difficult to judge if Drankam was trying to cover for him or if the gang was simply trying to erase any relation between that incident and the gang. So, it did not produce any clear evidence.”
“I see, so thats the reason, huh.”
Yanagisawa who was acting as if he was pretending to not know although he already knew everything right from the start, caused Nergo to be irritated as it leaked a bit in what Nergo said next.
“…As I said, the conclusion was made from various observations as well. Even if some of the evidence gathered is not that convincing, it doesnt change the conclusion. Im sure you dont need any more explanation, right So just answer my question already.”
“Well, putting the matter with Katsuyas investigation aside, I actually have other questions, you see.”
“What is it”
“For example, do you think that there is another old-world connector in the slum city”
“Why do you think so”
“Well, dont be that stingy. I just wanted to ask this question to someone who is more knowledgeable about this matter than me, nothing more.”
Nergo sighed and replied firmly.
“No, theyre all dead.”
“Ohh, that was a firm reply. It means you have evidence for that, right If you would be so kind as to share that with me as well, then…”
Yanagisawa still maintained his half-joking attitude, that was when Nergo interjected.
“I had made a deal with a Kugamayama City Management officer from the Rebuild Laboratory in the past. Although to be more precise, I dont know if hes still a member or a former member. In exchange for providing him with monetary support and a research facility, he will work on a method to awaken incomplete old-world connectors. City Management accepted that deal. That is the thing that you actually want to know, right”
Yanagisawas tone turned serious.
“…That facility is supposed to be a tightly guarded secret even in the upper echelons of City Management though.”
“Youre not the only person in the City Management who we are working with. There are others who support our cause, and were working with them even now. It is just that simple.”
“I see. I would be super thankful if you can share the list of people though.”
“No, we cant share that kind of information with you. At least, not until you join us for the great cause. For now, my answer is I do hope from the bottom of my heart that you would eventually join our cause one day.”
“I see, hmmm…”
There was a moment of silence. It demonstrated their relationship, they were only working together because it was beneficial for both of them when in reality they were not on the same side.
“…Although Im not sure that this is enough compensation for you, Ill at least answer your previous question. The method used by that officer is to promote mutation with nanomachine, which is administered through an injection. So there is no need to implant some kind of device into the subject. But even so, this method is still in the midst of development, it is still in the human testing phase to be more precise. Its accuracy is low and it still needs a lot of human test samples. But gathering a lot of testing subjects would attract attention and because this project has to be kept secret, it does not take up any actions that would put it under the spotlight. Currently, there is a lack of test subjects. Also, if information about Rebuild Laboratory working with us surfaces, it will cause a lot of trouble. Thats why they mix nanomachines in the food distributed in slum city. That way, even if the nanomachine rampages and kills the test subject, or if it turns the subject into a monster, people can just chalk it up as an unfortunate accident. Furthermore, free food distribution down in the slum city was created exactly for this reason. It was originally for the sake of testing nanomachines derived from the dead monster, to test if they are lethal for human use. I do feel some pity for them.”
“Well, I have to refuse to make any ethical comment about it, so then”
“Most of the people who rely on that kind of food are weak. Even if the test successfully awakens them into old-world connectors like Katsuya, they would die in no time before we can confirm if the test is a success. Thats why the experiment is seen as a failure and it will stop in due time. Hence, there wont be any old-world connectors in the slum city, since they are already dead.”
“Why dead though They might still be alive, right”
“Slum city has atrocious public order. In order to stay alive there, weaklings need to be aware that they are weaklings. If they get too conceited and think of themselves as the strong, theyll be killed in no time. Moreover, they need to be extremely prudent, otherwise, they will just get tricked and again, killed. Now, imagine if they are broadcasting their impression of themselves using the old-world domain, that will give them a hell of a time trying to survive in the slum city. Unconsciously telling others that they are weak would result in people looking down on them and hating them. Even the paranoid attitude needed to survive in the slum city would also be transmitted, further damaging their relationship with those around them. Because of this, it would be difficult for them to stay in a group. Even if they manage to join a group, being pessimistic and ultimately paranoid will only cause others to use them as expendables, they will just be used and abandoned later. They will end up having all the downside of being in a group without any of the benefits. They will not even be able to hold the least needed connections and communication skills to stay alive in slum city, so there is no doubt they are all dead by now.”
“In that case, they can just, like, you know, try their best sending likability and trust, right”
“That would be plainly impossible. That kind of technique is not something technical like a communication device, its a more subtle technique like a speechcraft. The more familiar and skilled they are, the better the accuracy and the broadcast strength, and the opposite is also true. As I explained before, due to the environment in which they live, it would be difficult for them to broadcast positive emotions such as trust, self-confidence, or likability. While at the same time, it is way easier for them to broadcast negative emotions such as suspicion and hatred. And even if they can send those positive emotions, if the receivers reply with negative emotions, it would be counter-effective.”
“…Theres a possibility that some still survive even after that, no”
Yanagisawa sounded as if he was not just simply asking random stupid questions. As a matter of fact, it sounded like he had some kind of particular question that he was looking for an answer to. It only caused Nergo to be puzzled.
“…Why are you so insisting on that possibility”
“Its nothing important.”
“…In order for them to survive, I bet they would have to strive to be Hunters. But they would have to be an individual Hunter unaffiliated with any groups and dont join any parties. I believe thats the only way for them to stay alive for an extended period of time. We are talking about the dangerous slum city here, it is not strange for its denizens to think that they need to be Hunters in order to survive living in slum city. But that would be a misunderstanding. The wasteland is not the same as the slum city. Green Hunters getting killed by monsters is not a rare occurrence. Moreover, the chance of them getting killed out there is higher compared to normal Hunters. Normally, common Hunters would transmit their location to the monsters through vision, sound, vibration. But this type of information transmission method is often damped by the colourless mist. Unfortunately, this is not true for the Hunters who are connected to the old-world domain. The colourless mist cant block their information transmission, thus letting monsters identify their positions easier. As such, they have a higher monster encounter rate compared to normal Hunters. Of course, that would mean that theyre more likely to be killed by those monsters as well. For old-world connectors living in the slum city, going out to the wasteland is not a wise choice in order to survive.”
“…But what if they survive the wasteland as well”
“…Just why exactly are you so insisting on this matter”
“Like I said, theres no reason in particular. And that is my last question.”
“…The slum city is a place where people wont easily recognize your power even if you are indeed powerful, this would cause their personality to distort. Thus they would stay paranoid as they would go further to the east, seeking a place where people would recognize their achievements which would get them killed eventually. But if they still survive that, I bet that they will be working in the front-most battlefield in the east. That hell is filled with people with distorted personalities and firepower. So it wont be strange for them to be mixed in with the people who live there.”
“I see. Thats a really interesting subject. By the way, it might be weird to call this my form of gratitude, but you can do whatever you want with Katsuya. I wont complain no matter what. But it would be difficult if you ask for my help to take him away. As you know, hes starting to stick out after that incident. It would be weird for someone from City Management like me to not give special treatment for a phenomenal Hunter like him, I hope you can understand that.”
“No problem. We have no plans to take him away, we only want to introduce our beliefs to the people. So we will just use him to promote the great cause, nothing more.”
“I see, so basically you want to get Katsuya on your side and make him attract more people to support the Nationalist, huh”
“I would prefer if you would refer to that as just spreading the truth to clear up the Corporate Governments propaganda. Well then, I shall excuse myself.”
Nergo then closed the call. After that, Yanagisawa mumbled to himself.
“…I wonder just how far they are planning to go. Well, I dont really care as long as they dont get in my way.”
Yanagisawa already knew that the people who could connect to the old-world domain could send emotions through telepathy, but he also knew that they could send something far worse and evil than that through telepathy.
There was a theory saying that during the old-world era where it was common for people to be connected to the old-world domain, emotions were transferred to their enemies. It would make them think that killing themselves was the best course of action. Eventually, suicide spread across nations which ended the civilization. That was why the buildings were very well preserved even after civilization had ended a long time ago. After all, this long term preservation was unexplainable solely with the self-repairing system.
Many thought that as a result of security enhancement against such a psychological attack, those who were not even able to connect to the old-world domain survived and rebuilt the world. The people of the eastern district were basically the descendants of these people, this was the reason why they could not connect to the old-world domain. So judging by this story, the people who were identified as old-world connectors in the current era, referred to those with the faulty security setting and they were actually in danger. So the plan from the Corporate Government was to increase the number of these people. Naturally, this was for the sake of their own profits.
There were also many other problems concerned with being able to connect to the old-world domain. Yanagisawa did not know how much Nergo knew. The reason why he was pretending to be clueless was to check how much Nergo knew about old-world connectors and how much information he was willing to share.
At the very least, Nergo had strong resistance against the emotion transmission from the old-world connectors. As such, it was difficult to identify an old-world connector using that method. That was why Nergo was trying to identify that by observing the effect on the other people. Yanagisawa understood that it would be counter-effective if the officer sent by the Nationalists to find an old-world connector fell victim to their thought transmission.
Although Yanagisawa was interested in Nergos resistance, he did not say anything about that matter nor did he try to pursue that question. After all, he understood that it was not a wise thing to do. So he decided to stop worrying about that and once again reopen the information window about Akira.
“…Although its not in a straightforward manner, hes supporting a slum gang. He also did work together with the other Hunters although very rarely. He worked in a team in the Seranthal building. He then risked his life in order to save his lover during that battle in the slum city. Although he basically works alone, he can also perform well in a team. So it doesnt really match the indicators from what Nergo had said. I guess hes really not one of them…”
Yanagisawa then lowered his guard toward Akira. After removing the information about Akira from his panel, Katsuyas information once again came up.
“As I thought, hes the one.”
In contrast to Akiras case, Yanagisawa raised his guard toward Katsuya.
As Yanagisawas mind returned to the present, he projected the information about Katsuyas team on the holographic display up in the air. Ever since they started using the coordination support system augmented suits, they showed a rare level of teamwork and were performing really well. The note on the side listed both the praises and the complaints regarding the augmented suit as well as a small notice that Inabe had secured an investment from the city defence squad for the expedition budget.
Seeing that, Yanagisawa could not hold back his chuckle.
“I dont know how far it is just coincidence, but if all of them are, then hes really one lucky guy.”
According to the information that he had received from Nergo and the people under him whom he had sent to monitor Katsuya, the data extracted from the support system used by Katsuyas team pointed out that Katsuya was a highly troublesome person.
The positive emotions, impressions and evaluations from old-world connectors affected the people around them. Their real skills and all the dangerous situations that they undergo together with their team in the wasteland would result in greater expectations from others. In others minds, it was as though their team would always perform well. As all of this coagulate to push their positive impression even further, it also helped to mask their ability as an old-world connector. After all, even normal Hunters would form a close bond when they go through numerous dangerous situations together. The existence of such a bond helped further hide the identities of old-world connectors.
In addition, once they broke through a certain limit of someones positive impression and likability, they would form a local network made up of said people. This would allow them to share more of their emotions and increase their teamwork and performance as a team.
Moreover, information tends to flow from the people in the upper hierarchical structure to the people below. Thus Katsuyas confidence naturally flowed to the people under him, causing his team to have no fear when up against anything. The local network would then further blur the line that differentiated them individually. So even when they got killed during the battle, as long as Katsuya was still alive, they would not be able to recognize their own death, which greatly reduced the fear of dying. As a result, formed a team with a core that did not fear death.
“Well, I bet he can only do that because hes an amiable person though. But again, it is impossible to ignore its effect. His local network has grown as big as Drankam itself. No wonder Nergo wants to get him. If he joined the Nationalists, it would be an easy thing for them to take over the city. And then, Im sure they will also provide support to him. And with that local network, their support will also reach his friends. The speed of how the local network is forming and their performance as a team… everything makes sense now even if hes not doing so deliberately.”
Yanagisawa, who was usually smiling, suddenly stopped.
“Should I kill him right away”
After a short silence, he then continued without making any change in his expression.
“No, I still dont have irrefutable evidence. And even if its true, they should still not know that Im watching Katsuya. There might be some profit I can scrap up by letting him live for now. More importantly, for tomorrows expedition…”
After another short silence, this time his expression turned rather serious.
“…I might be able to use this. If we continue extending the supply line, I bet theyll start reacting differently. I need to make some preparations for that.”
Yanagisawa pulled out a black card and stared at it.
“I dont know how far this card will go, but it should be alright. That thing also hates them after all, so there should be room for negotiation. Although it is dangerous, its a worthwhile bet.”
Yanagisawa placed that card back as his expression returned to his usual smile, but his frown did not completely vanish.
Before the day of the expedition, Akira took a wonderful bath to prepare himself for the incoming operation. Since he had taken a bath in Sheryls base a few times before, his current bath now felt somehow lacking. But since he could just go straight to bed afterwards, he still chose the bath in his house.
“If only the money from the automata came in a bit faster, I would have some time to readjust my equipment as well.”
Even if he went to buy new equipment from Shizukas shop, she would still need some time for the order to arrive, and there was not enough time for that before the expedition. So he decided to get new equipment next time. Depending on how things played out, he was thinking of adding more to the budget that he handed over to Kibayashi. Kibayashi, who knew that bank transfer through the Hunter office was not cheap, told Akira that the more money he invested, the better the equipment that Akira would get.
Alpha, who was also in the bath with Akira, just like usual, tried to cheer up a sulking Akira.
“It cant be helped. I think we already did our best preparing ourselves with the time that we had.”
The APC that was sent out for repair had returned. Although it took quite a long time for the repair to finish due to the damage on the APC, it was still cheaper than buying a new one. That was why Akira decided not to buy a new vehicle.
The vehicle was also protected with expensive armour tiles. Since it was not the type of vehicle that could manoeuvre nimbly enough to avoid attacks, he splurged on the armour tiles to make sure that the vehicle would not get stopped on its way.
Akira had also bought as many bullets and energy packs as possible from Shizukas shop. That was also the case for the medicines from Katsuragis shop. This time, he paid all of his own expenses. In exchange, Inabe promised to buy any relics that he found at a good price. That was a covert signal from Inabe, telling Akira to find expensive relics first before asking him to pay for the expense.
“Get to bed early and get ready for tomorrow, nothing good will come from exploring ruins while being sleep deprived.”
“I know. Well, it is a request. Although I had no plans to go near Kuzusuhara ruin, for the time being, it cant be helped. Lets give our best tomorrow.”
“Akira, if you think that its getting dangerous, withdraw immediately, okay It seems that Elena and Sara wont participate in this expedition, so it should be alright.”
Alpha was smiling teasingly, Akira replied that with a wry smile.
“Yeah, I know. Sorry.”
When Inabe said that he had received replies from the other Hunters with the Hunter Rank above 40, Akrias mind went to Elena and Sara. Inabe did think of bringing out Elena and Saras names to manipulate Akira, but then he decided to approach the matter from another direction and only hinted at the matter. So basically, Akira lost to Inabes negotiation skills.
After a short usual idle talk in the bath with Alpha, Akira went to bed and slept just like usual. He did not show any particular excitement nor fear toward tomorrows expedition, it was business as usual for him.
The date changed, the sun climbed the sky. Katsuya, Inabe and Yanagisawa had their own respective aims during the large-scale expedition that started that day.-