Chapter 14: Negotiations and a battle of words

 Originally released 15-08-2016

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Johana


We were currently sitting in a room that I was sure hadn’t even existed before on the entrance floor of the dungeon, it was an impressive hall with three grand tables, a few stands, and a throne at the end of the hall that overlooked everything else all surrounded by a seating layout that looked down at this set up in a style that reminded me of arenas and colosseums. We had never been shown this room before and judging on how Hanna had reacted neither had she. It was not uncommon for dungeons to make changes to themselves while people are inside of them, but even so it is always deeply disturbing when they do. It reminds me that dungeons are very much living beings and they are constantly improving themselves by finding and new ways to kill anyone that enters them.

Even so the grandeur and majesty of this room that seemed like a cross between a meeting room and a court of law couldn’t hold my attention as it might have earlier. Right now I doubt anything could, my mind was far too distracted recalling the image of the guardian Loria and the visions she showed me. I knew that I shouldn’t let her get to me like this, just as I had known that she was using some sort of mind magic and illusions to manipulate us. I had known all of that just as clearly as I knew that right now my focus should be negotiating terms for the guild’s special relations and privileges with this dungeon, instead here I was trying to halfheartedly banish thoughts of a certain woman with looks rivalling any goddess of beauty from my mind.

The sad fact of the matter was all that meant less than nothing, I had let Loria do as she liked with her illusions and even let her illusions affect me even more than they normally would by accepting her power into me like an old friend. I had been tempted by what they showed me and I had desired more, I wanted to do more than just see what she showed me. I had wanted to feel it, wanted to taste it, to smell it, to hear those sweet moans and gasps as if they were actually being whispered into my ears. So I gave in to temptation and let her power in, and in that moment I experienced bliss. It was by far the best pleasure I could ever imagine and it seemed to go on for days, there were things in that vision that occurred that I would probably be fantasizing about for the rest of my life.

By the gods, the best sex I have ever had wasn’t even real… That’s just so beyond messed up I can’t even wrap my head around it… How am I supposed to focus on anything when I keep remembering how Loria’s skin was the most soft and supple thing I’ve ever felt… Or how she is equally capable as both a Dom and a Sub… Or, gods, the things that woman could do with her tongue…

I trembled slightly at the phantom sensation that ran across my body the moment I remembered that particular gift the guardian of this dungeon’s first level possessed. The only words that came close to describing it would be divine perfection.

…Loria has probably ruined me for all other women, I can’t even look at Hanna, Erica, or Cecilia and seeing all the little flaws in their features now…

As I struggled to put the thoughts of my newest obsession and fantasy out of my mind, I tried my utmost to focus on Hanna and what she was talking to the dungeon will about at the other side of this grand long-table. I had a vague awareness of my party seated around me at this end of the table, but in this moment they didn’t matter. All that mattered was doing what I came here for, negotiating a successful and if possible advantageous contract between this dungeon and the explorers guild.

And the way that Loria’s fingers felt as they danced across my body, playing with me as if I was some sort of musical instrument and delighting in the noises I would… Shit, focus. Negotiations, that’s what’s important right now, I can fantasize later… Ok, I can do this…

I had to cycle the mana in my body around near constantly to avoid the phantom sensations the would ghost across my body, but I was confident that I was clearheaded enough now to at least not make an utter fool out of myself when I talked. I was beyond thankful that Loria wasn’t present for this, if she were I doubt I would even be able to think straight let alone negotiate an important contract. Hell, I probably wouldn’t even be able to talk straight if she were here, I’d be a stuttering mess that acted like I was still only 25 years old.

“So, you really want speak other than to clarify on terms? You want agree or anything like that and will leave the main portion of these talks to me, right?” (Hanna)

“Yes Hanna, I already said that I will leave the negotiations to you. Just remember what I said about the tributes, oh and that money thing you keep bringing up…” (Waynor)

It was interesting to see the silver orb floating there and talking to a girl I once thought of as a top tier beauty, I couldn’t help but notice how Hanna seemed to have the beginnings of premature grey hair mixed in with the honey-blond now. Or how she had faint dark sparks under her eyes like she hadn’t been sleeping as well as she should, or even how her nose was ever so slightly slanted to the left. All things I’d have never noticed before meeting Loria, but now seemed so glaringly obvious they were impossible to overlook.

I noticed that Hanna and Waynor had seemed to have finished talking, and cleared my throat to gather their attention on me. If I was going to have any shot at securing an advantageous deal for the guild in a contract with this dungeon I would need to seize the initiative, the best way to do that would be to have their sides begin the talks then begin making demands and small concisions on an unimportant point to gauge how much I can push them. The only thing that was concerning was the feeling that I had gotten from Hanna, the feeling that reminded me of experienced and shrewd merchants more than twice her age.

“Ah, yes Johana you had points that you wished to discuss in the hopes of creating a binding contract with Waynor, right? Well as I am the current representative of this dungeon for matters both legal and financial, it will actually be myself that you shall be entering negotiation talks with. Waynor will of course have final veto rights for any and all concessions that I propose, but as the master of this dungeon he has agreed to merely observe as an invested party and has left me with all the privileges and rights to conduct negotiations of this manner. Please make it clear at this moment if there is anything in this arrangement that you feel is dissatisfactory or in any way disagreeable.” (Hanna)

I stared at the girl who had spouted all of that out as if it were only natural with a calm smile, in that single moment any hope I had of gaining the advantage in talks with an inexperienced girl died a cold and tragic death. I had dealt with entire merchant firms that operated below the level of prowess she had just shown in the art of negotiations, she was already forcing me to make a concession before the talks had even started. Hanna seemed to be as comfortable with situations like this as I was with my bow, and given what I would have to do that was a prospect that was just depressing.

…Trapping me into a concession before we even get to the actual negotiations, huh? This girl is far more frightening than I had anticipated… it looks like this is going to be a serious uphill battle, and I’m the only one who can fight it…

I looked back at my party only to see them utterly avoiding eye contact with me. Erica seemed to be utterly indifferent to all this, Darek was looking off to the side and seemed to be thinking about something deeply like he had since he had been shown his vision, Feris was making eyes at Hanna and winked at me when I glanced at him, and Cecilia was just looking around the room in fascination. None of them had either the authority or it would seem the desire to even attempt to help me in this.

I let out a sigh as I brought my attention back to Hanna.

“No, I think this arrangement is fine…” (Johana)

The girl just smiled as the dungeon will moved back to hover over the throne at the end of the room. I had the fleeting thought that I would have much rather been doing paper work at this moment before Hanna began to speak again.

“Then let officially enter into negotiation talks at this time. I would like to suggest we begin by clearly stating what both sides primary goal in these talks are, as well as making clear the eco-political situation of both parties as it matters in regards to any assets, resources, or intents that may hold any significant value to these specific talks. This is of course suggested with the understanding that any future talks will include and require future elaboration on the sides of both parties. Is that agreeable to you, Miss Johana?” (Hanna)

…I might just be in way over my head with this…

I let out another sigh as I nodded my head.

“Yes, I find that agreeable…” (Johana)

Maybe it would be better if I had just brought Benj here to deal with this for me, he is better at this sort of stuff than I am anyway… Yeah, then I could’ve stayed with Loria and explored how willing she is to make that illusion into reality………



 


Hanna


When I rejoined the explorers after their encounter with Loria I couldn’t help but notice how different each of them were acting, not that I couldn’t understand why they were acting strangely. I had experienced myself Loria’s illusions and they were very strong, but as long as you remembered that they were just illusions they really shouldn’t be all that compelling. It was like reading a fairy tale, just instead of reading it you got to watch it and the fairy tale was about you. Granted they had to deal with that and Loria’s appearance, which on its own can be overwhelming, all in one sitting, I guess that probably kept them from calmly assessing things which is what lead to their strangeness ever since I rejoined them.

They were all acting strangely in some way besides Feris who seemed to be acting the same as always, but most importantly Johana seemed to have trouble focusing on anything for too long and would periodically blush and smile to herself. Johana was obviously out of sorts, and since she was the one I was negotiating with that only made my job easier. The only real downside was the way she looked at me had changed, it was less warm and seemed far more indifferent than it once had been. That fact took away a few of the plans I had to approach negotiation talks, but in the end it really wouldn’t matter all that much. It just meant that I would need to change my approach and given how hard it seemed for Johana to focus on anything right now, that wouldn’t be all that difficult.

When Waynor joined our group he quickly ported us into a new room on the entrance floor that he apparently had just made for this situation and for the possibility of others like it in the future. Waynor was very excited and it was obvious in his voice that he had been waiting for this ever since he had left us all those hours ago, it was times like these that I really noticed how young sounding Waynor’s voice really was. Waynor sounded like a boy of nine or ten years old, but usually he was so mature and knowledgeable I overlooked that fact and just treated him as if he were my age or older. I guess in reality he really was far older than me, but he didn’t act that way so I usually overlooked that fact even more often than I overlooked how young sounding his voice was.

As Waynor and I spoke and he reminded me of what he wanted in the negotiations all while I reminded him that he should leave the deal and negotiating to me, I noticed that Johana seemed to be focusing herself and trying to overcome whatever had been distracting her. That was perfect, it would be impossible to make an official deal with someone who was so clearly out of it, or at least it would e impossible to get the guild she is representing to support whatever one-sided deal she agreed to due to her state. I wanted her competent and reasonable, but also distracted enough that she could make some mistakes I could then use against her, a delicate line that Johana herself was making all the easier for me to establish and exploit.

When Johana finally coughed to get our attention Waynor had left things to me and gone over to hover above the throne behind me, I sat at the head of the center table and faced the woman who would be my opponent in this battle of words. She was a smart and cautious woman, that I could easily tell just from the brief time I had known her, but this was my element. I had struck advantages deals with firms before my breasts had even begun to grow, negotiated lasting contracts with high nobility before I had even had my first period, crushed rivals under the weight of their own legal and financial practices that if brought to light would spell the end of their success as a business before I was eligible to have a suitor. I didn’t matter how competent or cautious this woman was, I knew that I was better.

I would see that all of the things Waynor asked for were meet, then I would get more. I would secure the most advantages and binding contract possible, and I would prove just how useful I could be to Waynor and the paperweight.

I let my practiced mask, the friendly smile and kind expression I had used for business for the last decade of my life, fall into place on my face. My posture straightened and I cast aside all unnecessary things in my mind as I let myself fall back into the mentality I had honed all my life. It didn’t matter where I was, what had happened to me, not even what I was at this point, all that mattered now was bringing down the enemy before me and forcing them to concede far more than me. Words and assets were my weapons now, and luckily enough since I was representing a dungeon I had a limitless supply of both. This would be a simple matter, the other side wanted a contract, that’s why they were here after all, so I had already won now I just needed to negotiate terms.

I almost felt sorry for Johana as I opened my mouth to speak, she was so out of her league here it was actually rather sad……


“Yes, I find that agreeable…” (Johana)

I couldn’t help but let a real smile slip through  my mask for a moment, she had just given her consent to my having free reign in these negotiations and stripped away any possibility of refuting my points by using the agreement of my being an unrelated party. I doubted that would come up here in this negotiation, but it was important to establish this now so that it wouldn’t come up as an issue in the future. It also gave the added benefit of establishing a precedent for my being the one people dealt with for official relations, it was the only real point I had concerns about and so I decided that I would bring it up multiple times and in multiple different ways or phrasings throughout these talks if Johana hadn’t agreed to it, luckily she had and now those plans were unnecessary.

Next I should establish who it is I am actually dealing with here, how much of the explorer’s guild is Johana actually representing here and just how much have they given her to work with… I’ll keep up my momentum by offering up details on our side first, it’ll be perfect if she frames her own response based of mine as well…

I opened up my crossed arms and was sure to keep my body language as open and agreeable as I consciously could, it was important that one remembered their body language in negotiations that was what separated the truly gifted negotiators from the amateurs. By keeping myself closed off with body language until now, I have sent a subtle message that Johana was sure to have picked up on at some level.

“I’ll begin explaining the position of Waynor’s dungeon’s side first, please do take note of this as it will affect what we are willing or able to offer in any deals we come to…” (Hanna)

I carefully watched the woman as I spoke, she reacted just as I wanted. I could see the acceptance of my logic clear on her face, then there was her careful attention that seemed to hone in further than it had before. It was clear this is what concerned her the most, what she and her guild could gain rather than what they could possibly lose. It was a common mistake in deals, even those with experience and believed to be experts at negotiations make that mistake. Even I did for quite a while in my life, but now I knew better and would be all too happy to exploit her misconception for my sides own gain.

“As you know Waynor is a dungeon and as such is capable of producing practically anything including all manner of resources. This means nothing in regards to our negotiations as what we are willing to concede or offer is vastly limited compared to what Waynor himself is capable of producing. For the sake of this particular talk let us establish that what our side is willing to deal with is solely natural resources, social allowances, and specific services and rights, anything else is not up for debate and will not be offered in these talks. If you wish to obtain anything else you may pursue another contract with the assumption we come to accord on this current issue, this will of course mean another round of negotiation talks and deals will be made between our two sides.” (Hanna)

She was nodding along as I spoke and I could see shock register on her face briefly when I mentioned a few points, it seemed she was expecting a lot less than what I said we were willing to deal in. that was good, it meant she would be dealing with things she was unprepared for and would likely have to offer more as compensation for what our side was willing to offer her. It was important to establish a measure of awe in whoever you were negotiating with as well as making sure to maintain the initiative in the talks, otherwise the best you could hope to gain were a few minor concessions at best. I was essentially playing with loaded dice in that regard by representing a dungeon, especially one like Waynor who was more than willing to allow me to concede points as long as I could get him what he wanted. To Waynor valuable resources were practically nothing, and in many ways the power that he used to obtain them was more valuable to him.

In the end the explorer’s guild would risk more by not dealing with everything in their power to provide, than just offering up every asset they had set aside for these talks. Waynor could literally become a gold mine for them, and an inexhaustible one at that.

But of course I would never do that… They want this deal just as much if not more than our side does, there is no need to ever offer up so much just to let them understand that it is there… besides if we were to cause such a drastic change in the region’s economy like an inexhaustible gold mine with a high yield it could only lead to problems… I’ll need to be very careful about this, I’ll have to manage the other sides greed by both feeding it yet also starving it of what it truly desires while still letting them know it’s there… Difficult, but far from the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…

Johana quickly adjusted herself and adopted a look of calm detachment as she began to speak, it was too late as I had already read her reactions but it spoke to her experience that she was so quickly able to adapt. She was undoubtedly a decent negotiator, she just wasn’t an expert.

“As I am representing the entire explorer’s guild, I have been entrusted with the combined assets of the Metia, Drugtar, Aldorn, Sealiven, and Winalfor main branches as well as all of the sub-branches and outposts under the governance of said main branches. This of course does not apply to those assets necessary for these branches continued operation to the guild’s standard or any of the guild’s personnel, but otherwise what the guild is prepared to offer within the confine of those assets was officially left to my best judgement.” (Johana)

I made sure that my mask was as perfect as always, that nothing in either my actions or expressions showed anything other than what I wanted to project. I hadn’t expected the guild to be willing to part with so much, even with the caveat of maintaining the essential assets and all of their personnel what they were presenting was still equal to a half a small kingdom’s assets. I had been expecting far less, a fourth of that at most, but even with this surprise nothing has really changed. The power and asset dynamic of negotiations were stacked in my favor to start with, no matter what they could offer it could never hope to match let alone offset the prospect of limitless resources. Nothing I could think of ever could, but still this gave me quite a bit of room to work with.

“I see, well now that we are both clear on what both sides can put forth we can begin negotiating terms. I believe your primary goal was to secure a contract with Waynor, correct? I can see some benefit in just such a contract for my side as well, that is of course if some points of our own are met. Why don’t we begin with you guild master Johana, what is the first point you’d like to raise in regards to this issue?” (Hanna)

It’ll be interesting to see where she and the guild want to take this… If their sole desire is profit and resources than this should be fairly easy, but if their half as smart as I’d assume they’ll want to clear up basic relations issues before they pursue profit. I’ve already indicated that we’d be open to future negotiations so profit should be a secondary concern now, primarily they should desire guarantees of basic safety and rights now… At least that’s what they should want if they are smart and have even the smallest of cares towards their personnel… Either way will work out fine, but if they prioritize safety first I can probably handle the things Waynor wants first by means of exchange. Maybe spin it as a sort of tax or tribute, that would probably be the best way to handle things in a way that doesn’t reveal how important those points actually are…

“Well primarily we would like to ensure that any official representative of the explorer’s guild has the assurance of their own safety, within reason of course.” (Johana)

As expected, only idiots would pursue a contract that doesn’t guarantee their own safety… Perfect…

I gave a sympathetic smile making sure that there was clear concern in my voice, this would be an easy point to sell and it had the added benefit of coming off as a mere good-will concession at the start of the talks instead of being one of my side’s main demands. I would be giving them more than they’d expect and probably more than they thought to ever reasonably ask for, but in return I would be gaining one of the few points Waynor stated as a necessity. I could even clarify on his second point by playing it off as a conditional necessity to the offer, it was the second best way I could have ever hoped to pitch these demands and it had the added bonus as coming off as an offer.

“Of course, safety is an issue of great importance. Naturally you and your party have the freedom to leave this dungeon at the conclusion of our talks regardless of the results of said talks, but I believe it is the future safety of representatives you are speaking of is it not?” (Hanna)

The woman gave a careful nod and gave me a hard stare. It seems like she was beginning to notice how careful she would need to be with her words now, just like I wanted. People tended to relax their guard around spoken issues and raise their guard when reading written contracts, I wanted to exploit that by making her over-conscious of what she said and how she said it. It was a bit of a double edged sword, but this tactic would ensure that her points were both carefully thought out and considered while also causing her to deeply consider my own points with that same care. This of course meant that I wouldn’t be able to slip in any double talk, layered meanings, or any other shady tricks into the talks due to the risk of her discovering any of them and using them as leverage against me, but it also meant that now neither could she and that when she gave her responses she would be confident in them without overstating anything. It was a tactic I used when it was more advantageous to have an honest lasting contract between two parties than not, just like now.

“Yes, that was what I meant to imply. Please excuse my lack of clarity when I spoke just now.” (Johana)

Perfect… now to sell her more than what she wants at less than she’d expect, all while making it seem like it’s a favor concession for a future point in our talks…

“Think nothing of it, I just wanted to confirm your official point on the subject since it could be interpreted in many ways. Now in regards to the subject of safety, we have an offer that we’d like to propose to you that we think would be to your liking. We propose that the entire entrance floor of the dungeon including any future expansions made to said floor is made into a safe area for all those entering the dungeon, this of course is as long as the rules of said floor are followed. The dungeon itself will be the one to determine what these rules are and they will be subject to change over time, but I can assure you they should not impede the basic freedoms and rights of any people that enter the dungeon and that violating these rules will only result in a person’s removal from the dungeon and not death. Would such a thing interest you?” (Hanna)

I could see that it did, it was only obvious it would given how I had laid the foundation for just such an offer with Johana’s party’s tour of this floor. It was easily more than the guild would’ve been expecting and it was probably what Johana herself had secretly been hoping for given the way I had talked about some things while giving the tour. I also stated that everyone who entered the dungeon could enjoy that privilege and not just guild representatives, which was an added bonus to her side she probably wouldn’t realize was a bonus to Waynor as well. It was a good pitch, and as long as she said she was even faintly interested in the idea I would be able to sell it to her and through her the explorer’s guild as a whole.

“Yes, that does seem like a wonderful offer and we would have an interest in pursuing it, but what is it that your side would gain from making such an offer?” (Johana)

She did it, Johana did just what I thought she would… Even better she’s starting to use “we” and as such is speaking for the guild itself as a whole… This will make everything much simpler, I don’t even have to worry about the guild reneging on an offer she made now due to it being done without their name. Everything she says and offers now will be as the explorer’s guild’s proxy, something that can be seen when I put everything to writing later on as long as she keeps using we…

“Well that’s a rather complicated matter actually, you see our side would like some sort of tribute for this privilege but as a dungeon money isn’t a very attractive form of compensation. Instead I propose the use of something that the dungeon doesn’t have already as a tribute: knowledge. I propose that a monthly tribute of 100 books is made to the dungeon by the guild, this of course excludes exact duplications as that would defeat the reason for the tribute to be made in this way.” (Hanna)

“The use of books as tribute itself is a premise that we can agree to however, the amount you are asking for is utterly impossible. I’ll offer ten books paid on the first of the month as tribute for the privilege you previously proposed.” (Johana)

It took a lot to keep from breaking my mask and letting my face show how I felt at that counter offer, Johana and by extension her guild had all but accepted one of Waynor’s demands as a privilege offered as a favor to them. With one of Waynor’s necessary demands settled and since my initial offer was so outlandish that they counter offered with the amount of books he said he wanted, I had met almost all of the things that Waynor told me were necessary and he wanted. All that was left was that he could have his dungeon kill people, He is able to freely talk with people in his dungeon, and his soulmancer rule.

The killing people thing will be easy enough, I can play that off as a warning after reaching an agreement on this safety offer… Waynor talking to people will be par for the course since this is his dungeon, I can work that into the talks as an aside at some point in the talks… The soulmancer thing won’t be all that hard to deal with either, they are dangerous and usually criminals who have a well-known desire for soulstones. Making a specific point about them in the talks should be fairly beneficial to both sides and shouldn’t seem too out of place. Maybe it’ll be something I can tack on the end of the talks as if it were an afterthought… Yes that seems like it would work well, but for now let’s see how many more books I can get for Waynor a month…

I looked at Johana and made a point of seeming troubled over something, I couldn’t tell if it affected the woman herself any but it at least seemed to fool Feris and Cecilia judging by the glance I gave the other members of Johana’s party. I doubted they were here in any official capacity but there was a chance one of them might be overseeing the deals made here for the guild. As far as I was concerned that didn’t matter to me just to Johana and her future job security within the explorer’s guild, as long as the contract was made and they all sign as witnesses then they were utter non-factors to these talks.

“Well just ten is a bit troubling, if 100 is too difficult for you then perhaps 50 would be acceptable? Of course this isn’t just limited to books as scrolls and other writings are more than acceptable as well, though the exact duplicate condition still applies.” (Hanna)

That should make things easier for the guild, it’s still an overestimate for what they could reasonably provide long term… I’d say the counter offer should be somewhere in the fifteen to twenty five range, if it’s twenty or above I’ll accept… That’ll be double what Waynor asked for so he should be happy, and it’ll show that our side is willing to make reasonable compromises after some haggling to Johana… Two birds, one stone…

“Hmm, well that is still a bit steep for us to prepare every month, even if it isn’t solely limited to books. How about twenty per month?” (Johana)

I smiled a weak smile and nodded, Johana would have probably kept haggling with me and if I really wanted to I could probably push her as far as 60 or 70 per month, but that would defeat one of the purposes for making the offer like this. It was best to concede this point for a greater gain in return later on, and it was best to move on so as not to linger to long on any one issue. If we spent too long on any one point it’ll give Johana too much time to think of a way to better her own side and standing in this deal beyond what she thinks of as fair, it was always best for that to never happen in negotiations unless it’s occurring for your sides benefit.

“Very well, it’s not ideal but we can accept those terms. Twenty per month with no exact duplications, is that correct?” (Hanna)

“Yes it is, so we have reached an agreement now then?” (Johana)

“Yes, as long as the monthly tribute is received none that enter this dungeon will be harmed on the entrance floor and will enjoy status as guests visiting the dungeon. This of course also means that the use of the resting area and some of the recreation areas will be available to any who enter, though many of the services that could be provided such as food and prolonged stay will require further individual compensation.” (Hanna)

“That is more than agreeable.” (Johana)

“This privilege of course only extends to the entrance floor and does not apply to any other floor besides this one. Naturally this means that there is the likely possibility of death for those who advance onto the deeper floors, but that is only to be expected is it not?” (Hanna)

Johana made a rather complicated face for a moment before nodding, she probably intended to negotiate some sort of non-death agreement for explorer’s guild members or perhaps some other group. In which case it was best I set the stand point Waynor wanted as practically non-negotiable before it was ever brought up. I doubt it’ll be brought up again in these talks, but it might become an issue that is called into question in the future if don’t handle it carefully in all future talks with the explorer’s guild.

Johana shifted slightly in her seat as she began to speak.

“Well we believe that quite adequately settles the matter of safety for now, which leads us to consider one of the major points that we wished to discuss with you. After seeing the first level of this dungeon it is clear that it’s rich in herbal resources, I assume that your side will not consider it theft if anyone picks or collects them?” (Johana)

Ah, so we have begun to touch on the resource issues… Well Waynor has practically everything he wanted, and he did put the herbs there to draw people in… And I do have permission to use them as assets for negotiation, perhaps it’s time I seriously start pursuing benefits for our side now? I think I’ll start with rights for the dungeon, then I’ll move on to territory, and then I’ll move down from there with secondary points… Maybe call an end to the talks when a good frame work for future talks is made and our side has gained a decent amount of territory around the dungeon’s entrance…

I made a dismissive wave.

“As long as the one who picks them is willing to enter the dungeon and risk his life in doing so, anything that they are able to obtain from the dungeon and take out with them is theirs to own and do with what they will. Of course most monsters will die outside of the dungeon without soulstones, but non-monster plant life should be unaffected by that…” (Hanna)

“I see, then the issue of monster drops? Er, I mean… We are concerned about what the effects this will have on monster parts brought out of the dungeon, will the lack of a soulstone cause these parts to deteriorate or become less effective outside of the dungeon?” (Johana)

That was a point I hadn’t even considered, but I guess that was a major concern for both explorers and their guild. Monster parts could be used for all sorts of things from weapons to potions and curatives, whether they lost their effectiveness or anything similar when taken out of the dungeon would be a huge loss for these people and would detract from Waynor’s dungeon’s appeal in a huge way. I tilted my head in the exact way that I had indicated to Waynor earlier as the signal I needed to consult something with him privately.

I immediately felt the tickle of something strange and foreign enter my mind, then I heard Waynor’s wonderful voice resound in my thoughts.

Yes Hanna? (Waynor)

Is that actually an issue? Will creature parts actually be affected by stuff like removing them from your dungeon?

Not unless I use power to specifically alter them to, otherwise they should be fine… Well unless the part is still alive, then it would of course die when taken out of my dungeon. Otherwise the parts of my creatures shouldn’t change at all by being taken out of the dungeon, why would they want just parts anyway Hanna? (Waynor)

They can be used for stuff like weapons or potions, wait what did you mean unless the part is alive? Wouldn’t the fact that it’s been removed from whatever body it came from mean it’s already dead even if the main body of whatever it came from is still alive?

Most of the time, but it’s fairly easy to make creatures whose parts can live on without them as well… (Waynor)

Oh, ok… Um, maybe don’t make any of those for the first few levels then… actually maybe don’t make those at all if you can help it, they sound kinda disturbing…

Hmm… Ok I won’t make any like that until I have more levels, and they’ll only be on the deeper levels too… That should be ok, that way things at the beginning shouldn’t be too difficult… (Waynor)

I felt the whatever Waynor did to link our minds fade away as quickly as it had begun, only a mere moment had passed probably no more than a second or two as we had been speaking at the speed of thought. I had my answer, but that bit at the end that Waynor was considering was concerning on an entirely new level than these talks.

As I focused back on Johana and smiled I once again cast aside all my stray thoughts, I fell back into my focused state as easily as I put on a dress.

“Monster parts will be vastly unaffected as being removed from the dungeon merely kills monsters eventually, it does not cause them to deteriorate. As such I don’t believe there will be any problem with using them as you would normally, though this does raise to mind a point I’d like to bring up…” (Hanna)

As I contemplated the best way to phrase this next point, I watched Johana’s face relax with relief before regaining its careful neutral expression.

“What would this point be exactly?” (Johana)

“We would like the right to officially expand outside of the dungeon, and we would like a set amount of territory around this location to be given to our side. Ideally a five mile round area with the dungeon’s entrance at its center would be what we’d like, and of course we would only expand the dungeon territory outside of the dungeon within that area. It would be considered an expansion of the first floor and subject to the same rules and protections as that same floor.” (Hanna)

It was fairly telling to see how Johana’s eyes hardened but she didn’t close off her body language, she had been given permission to deal using that territory but she clearly didn’t want to. Maybe it was a last resort for the guild, or maybe the territory was claimed by someone else already and the explorer’s guild would need to purchase it from them to offer it to us. There could be all sorts of reasons for her reluctance, but either way it meant that our negotiations were about to change in tone.

I see, well that’s fine too… In fact now that we’ve gotten the delicate relations aspects of things settled already, I don’t really even need to skirt around with politeness. We can just deal in assets, and for that there is no need for either of us to really be pleasant to each other… In fact it will probably be easier and faster if we weren’t…

I waited for the woman’s response, and it was fairly obvious she was trying to decide what the guild would want her to say or offer in this situation. I had been keeping things tame until now, bringing up issues that her side wanted addressed and nothing that was overtly for my sides own gain, but just now I had changed that dynamic. This was the point that many negotiations would breakdown, but luckily I knew for certain that Johana and her guild desperately to gain a contract with Waynor as that was the only possible explanation as to why a guild master would come here in person with permission to deal in so much of the guild’s assets. Her side was stuck whether they liked it or not until both sides decided it was time to draw up the contract, and I’m sure by now Johana had realized just what that could mean for her.

“You realize that the territory you are speaking of is unclaimed and rests on the border of four different kingdoms, don’t you? For us to recognize and support the rights of a foreign power to claim it as their own would be no minor issue, it would involve careful political maneuvering on our part and quite a lot of assets to accomplish something such as that. It can be done, but it is rather much to simply ask for upfront without a clear benefit for us in granting this concession…” (Johana)

“I see, then let’s dispense with all unnecessary points then shall we? Both sides have something the other desires so let’s trade assets for assets directly. What do you want for the official rights to the territory I specified?” (Hanna)

The look of shock that appeared on Johana’s face was brief and quickly overtaken with an almost predatory look.

“Fine, that’ll make this easier on me anyway… We’d like ores, ores we don’t have to brave the dangers of a dungeon to gain access to. Gold and silver are always preferable, but industrial ores are always a necessity…” (Johana)

“You won’t get gold, it could be done but not when our side is getting so little for it. We are willing to offer a copper and iron that will be created nearby on our newly established land. It will be on our territory and thus subject to our own rules and taxation, it will also contain minor dangers as a sort of sub-dungeon.” (Hanna)

“Add in precious stones and at least one precious metal or that won’t even be worth considering for us.” (Johana)

“We will add the accelerated formation of crystals and small silver veins in a far lesser quantity than the iron or copper. We will also add nickel veins to the same degree as the copper and iron veins.” (Hanna)

“What degree would that be exactly? We would like to know the percentage ratio of yield to soil in the mine proper, and the breakdown of ore and precious stones within that yield.” (Johana)

I see, so you want to know just how much you stand to gain here, huh? Well fine, I have already confirmed all this with Waynor anyway… I don’t think we need to use the 75% yield and 25% soil composition that Waynor set as his limit… 50% yield would be an amazing mine on its own, practically a divine treasure trove of resources that couldn’t be found naturally…

“The mine proper will have 50% yield 50% soil. Of the yield 30% will be copper, 30% iron, 30% nickel, 6% silver, and 4% crystalized precious stones…” (Hanna)

I felt the tickle of Waynor’s voice in my mind speaking to me quickly, and fading away before I could even feel my own heart beat.

“In addition below the mine proper there will be a mine populated with various more powerful monsters that will have a yield of 10%. That 10% will be made up of 5% emonite and 5% irisial. Of course both mines will have unlimited renewal of their resources, and though it will take time for this renewal to occur it will likely begin to replenish the mine’s yield after 80% of that yield has been excavated and removed from the mine. Within a year the mine’s yield should be fully restored to its initial values, we believe that this should be more than satisfactory for you.” (Hanna)

I could practically see Johana’s mouth drop in shock when I brought up the magical metals, and when I brought up how the mine would restore its own yield when the mine was almost exhausted her face froze for a moment. It was clear that with that I had easily secured the rights to the land, it was too valuable for the guild to ever pass up and now explorer worth their rank would every pass up the chance of magical metals and the equipment that could be made from them.

“Deal, we find that acceptable. Now we would like to be exempt from taxation or any subsequent fees for using the mine.” (Johana)

“Then the explorer’s guild must officially recognize this dungeon and it’s territories as a sovereign state, and announce it’s founding to the neighboring nations after all sets of contracts have been met and signed officially by both sides.” (Hanna)

“Only if we are given the right to establish a branch within your territory and establish at least a single town near both the dungeon and mine, we will establish the population by advertising the opportunities of this location to those we deem appropriate.” (Johana)

I see, so they will let us have our own territory and be subject to no other nation as a sovereign state, but only if they get to populate that state with the people of their own choosing… Well that in of itself is fine, but I think I can still get a little more out of the guild to help counter that point…

“Very well, but all residing within our territory will be subject to our rules and that includes the explorer’s guild and any other guilds that choose to create a branch within our territory. That will of course mean they are subject to taxation as well if that comes to be one of the rules that our side decides upon.” (Hanna)

“That’s acceptable. Do you have any other points you’d like to raise as well?” (Johana)

This was it, Johana has obviously recognized that the contents of our deals have started to stray into territory that is out of her league to deal with. At this point I have practically forced her and by extension the explorer’s guild to recognize and back us as a small kingdom. Of course it wasn’t to that point yet and I doubt I would ever push for that point since it would lead to far more issues than it would benefits, but acknowledging Waynor and his dungeon as a sovereign entity and essentially granting that entity land rights was already a pretty huge deal for a guild even one as large, influential, and powerful as the explorer’s guild. Even if I wanted to push for more Johana probably couldn’t grant anymore to my side without consulting with her superiors, and that would probably lead to a breakdown of negotiations.

This is good, this is more than enough and should grant Waynor legal protection and some level of status with the surrounding nations. All I can think of to add is maybe… Oh, that’s right I need to add one more point before letting the negotiation talks end!

I looked at Johana and smiled a simple innocent smile, I doubted that she would recognize the significance of what I was going to ask. It wasn’t something that would matter to a guild master and it wouldn’t matter to an explorer either, only a noble versed in international practices and extremely well versed in law would truly understand the total significance of what I was about to do.

“Yes there was one more thing, we would like you to recognize the rules my side decides upon as laws for our territory. After you agree upon that point we will happily draw up a number of copies for a contract acknowledging the points we have discussed and agreed upon and that states our terms, the contract will of course be binding and this will be reinforced by the true-oath magic that enchants both the paper and ink of the contract.” (Hanna)

I could see the initial confusion at my last point and then the suspicion at the mention of the contract run across the face of the woman sitting across from me.

“Fine that last point is agreeable, but you must know that we will inspect the magic in the contract before signing it. I myself will be inspecting it before I give my own signature as well, and if I find anything aside from the true-oath magic…” (Johana)

I smiled as I waved away her concerns, there would be no tricks or traps in the contract. Waynor and Instinct both made it perfectly clear how just how imposable it was for them to falsify a contract, and even my doing it in their name would result in the destruction of whatever contract I created as well as myself. That wasn’t a pleasant prospect to me, and since the deals stated in this contract would be to our own benefit there would be no real reason to try such things anyway. Although there was one other point that I should mention to Johana before she begins her inspection, but that could wait until later.

“Relax the only other magic will be for the means of transporting the contracts in a timely manner to the other relevant parties. I’ll happily explain it to you in detail at a later time, but for now why don’t we take a break? I believe it is long past time for me to have my dinner, and I would be happy for you and your party to join me Johana…” (Hanna)

I felt the tickling sensation of Waynor’s voice entering my mind in that way he called whispering for some strange reason, that talent of his had really come in handy during the talks a few times. Even still I didn’t like it all that much, even though I knew better it felt too much like Waynor seeing into my mind and there was a lot in my mind I didn’t ever want him to see. Loria knowing some of that stuff was already bad enough and she was my best friend, well my best friend since I was abducted and taken from my old life in front of my old best friend as she tried her best not to make eye contact with me.

Good job Hanna. I didn’t understand a lot of what you were talking about for a while there, but Instinct says that it was really clever of you and would help us a lot so good work! Although I’m a bit confused about why you didn’t bring up the part about soulmancers not being allowed in my dungeon… (Waynor)

That will be a part of our rules, and within the territory it will be the law so that point really didn’t need to be made specifically in the negotiations itself.

Oh, ok then. I’ll give you a treat for doing such a good job with your dinner… Good Hanna, good girl! (Waynor)

I felt the tickling sensation leave me as I contemplated the mixed feelings that came from what Waynor just said.

On the one hand I’m getting a treat and Waynor’s treats are amazing, on the other hand he’s still treating me like a pet with that “Good Hanna” stuff… Then again that isn’t too bad to hear every so often, and I did do a good job if I must say so myself… But I’m still a human being, not a pet. Yep, totally not a pet, I’ll just let it slide this time since it was so nice to hear-….. Er….. I mean it was so true, yeah that’s all… it was true that I did a good job, so logically I must be a good girl… yeah that’s all………

I smiled as I got up and began leading the explorer’s to the nearest dining area, which I found out was right next door to where this room had been made. Today had been long, but it should be over soon since all that was left was…

Oh… Shit… I still have to write the original contract before Waynor can make copies of it… Well my day just got a lot longer, hopefully my treat has lots and lots of chocolate to cheer me up……………..


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