I frantically run the short distance from the station to my company’s building.
Since I stayed up late last night, searching the net for information, I ended up oversleeping.
Somehow, I get there just barely on time, I stamp my timecard while panting heavily. Just then, somehow calls out to me from behind.
“Oh, Mr. Enoki, good morning.”
Cool, gotta stay cool. I’m gonna act as if nothing happened.
“Can you come to the conference room for a moment?”
“Senpai, did something happen?” Miyoshi asks me in a worried whisper.
Miyoshi Azusa, 22 years old. She’s one of our new hires. As I’m in charge of training the newcomers, she has become quite attached to me.
She’s a small, cute, beauty, with a bob haircut that has a natural gradation. She gives you the feeling of a small animal scurrying around you.
She’s excellent at mathematics, and especially numerical analysis, making her the Development Department’s rising star, but her obsession with wine is a definite flaw in the crystal.
“Mr. Enoki has been on tenterhooks since yesterday, making it difficult for anyone to approach him.”
“Yesterday he made me go apologize to a customer for someone else’s mistake for some reason. No sooner was the deal called off, than out of nowhere, Enoki starts blaming me.”
“Pardon? I don’t understand…”
“Don’t worry, neither do I.”
“…Senpai, are you going to be alright?”
“You tell me and we’ll both know.”
“Hey, Yoshimura!” I can hear his voice calling me from the conference room. So he’s already irritated enough for it to show in his voice.
“Oops, he’s calling,I’m off.”
“Oh, okay. What to say…please do your best, okay?”
I head to the conference room after being cheered on in a somewhat questionable way.
“Haaah～” I sigh deeply as I sit down in my chair with a thud.
He’s been going on and on with his tenacious nagging. He’s been chewing me out all morning. It’s been going on for so long that I almost asked him whether he had too much time on his hands by reflex.
A few times I almost said something like, “Don’t you have any other work to do besides endlessly repeating the same shit?”
I can’t stand this any longer. I’m going to quit for real.
“Good work.” Miyoshi says.
“No kidding. In the first place, I belong to research / development. Why am I being forced to act like someone from sales anyway?”
“Now, now, senpai. Let’s go grab lunch.”
“You gotta eat no matter what, huh…? You’re right, let’s go.”
A few minutes later we sit down at an Italian restaurant, a little ways away from the office.
This restaurant is slightly expensive, but you almost never run into people from our branch of the company. It’s a perfect place to talk about stuff you don’t want others to hear.
“Quitting…senpai, aren’t you way too impulsive? Couldn’t you just go talk to the section chief…?” Miyoshi says while stabbing the Strozzapreti with her fork. It’s a goat’s ragù sauce resembling white wine.
“Nah, I’m already tired of wiping Enoki’s ass. I’m at my limit.”
“Can we not talk about things like ass-wiping please?” Miyoshi replies with a frown.
Come to think of it, her sauce kind of looks like….
“Sorry, my bad.” I say while coiling the cacio e pepe around my fork.
“However, if you’re still going to quit, your unemployment insurance won’t be granted for three months, since you would have resigned on your own accord, no?”
“Listen, the savings to get through three months by a 28-years-old working adult are…huh? Was that so?”
“I don’t really know.” Miyoshi says as if fed up.
“Rather than that, what are you going to do about the afternoon?”
“Somehow everything has all become so troublesome. It’s Friday anyway, and I plan to quit, so I might as well just go home.”
“What are you gonna do about your stuff?”
“Oh, Miyoshi, can you gather them and bring them to my place?”
“Eh? I don’t know which things are yours!”
“Makes sense. Then, I’ll go get my things Monday next week then take a vacation. And then I’ll just slap my resignation letter on the table and tie up any loose ends.”
“Senpai, are you really going to quit?” Miyoshi puts her fork down and asks me with upturned eyes.
As her short bob gently spills down on one side, my heart races a little.
“Ugh, Miyoshi, where did you learn such tactics?”
“Fu fu fu, it’s the experience of a woman, experience. But, if you quit, I really wonder what’s going to happen to the current project…”
Outside the window, the roadside trees, their just turning leaves faintly swaying in the wind, signal the silent start of autumn befalling the lands.
“Who knows? Won’t Enoki deal with it somehow?”
“Fat chance. Okay, if it gets too bad, I’ll just quit too, I guess.”
“Whoa, just a second. Quit, you say? Do you have any other job prospects lined up?”
“A senpai I met at college has started a medical instrument company, under Gacco’s1 industry-academic cooperation headquarters. She’s invited me over many times.”
“…Tell me, why did you come to our company?”
Nowadays, integrated chemical manufacturers are pretty much all on the decline. The profit ratio isn’t all that rosy either.
Meanwhile, our entrees arrive. It looks like it’s lamb today.
The pink-colored meat looks really delicious. Befitting the current season, it’s garnished with trumpet and chanterelle mushrooms.
“This is about you, senpai, not me. What are you going to do after quitting the company?”
“Well, for the time being, I’m planning to dive into a dungeon.”
What’s with that silly look? But well, I’m sure she’s surprised. Even I’m surprised about it.
“You don’t know? Dungeons?”
“No, I know what they are, but…why all of a sudden? Is this something along the lines of going to get the materials directly instead of just researching them? That doesn’t sound like you?”
Well, I always did work using computers, so I don’t really come off as being an active type of guy, I suppose.
Ah, but I feel like boasting a bit to Miyoshi. She seems to be someone who can keep a secret.
“How rude. Miyoshi, you know about dungeon cards?”
“I have one.”
“I was invited back at college, and went several times to Yoyogi. The first run was just a card acquiring tour, though.”
“There’s the matter with the orbs. But, well, it’s something like fashion, I’d say?”
Going into dungeons for fashion…just what’s going on with today’s universities?
“What’s your rank?”
“No idea. I don’t quite remember, but I think it was somewhere in the 90,000,000 range.”
“Fufufu, I actually have one, too.”
“Well, I guessed as much. Otherwise you wouldn’t start talking about going to a dungeon.”
The Perceval 9.47 (knife) in Miyoshi’s hand sinks into the lamb meat without any resistance.
It seems as though it’s full of meat juices. Without spilling even a single drop, she carries the pink slice to her mouth.
“Miyoshi, what I’m going to tell you from now on remains a secret between us, okay? Swear that you won’t tell anyone.”
“Swear on what?”
“Hmm? Come to think of it, you’re right. Huh? God?”
“Someone like that doesn’t exist.”
“Well, whatever. Either way, it’s a secret.”
“I swear on this agneau2. Though it’s half-eaten.”
“Somehow I feel like it’s become quite insignificant all of a sudden.”
“Eh? This lunch set will suffice. It’s your treat, right senpai?”
“Hey! To sponge off a guy who’s about to become unemployed, you’re quite the heartless one, aren’t you?”
“It’s going to be your treat. So, what’s the matter?”
“Don’t forget your agnello pledge. By the way, we’re in an Italian restaurant, so go with the Italian language.”
While pouting a bit, Miyoshi says, “Senpai, I think this sort of thing is why you’re not popular with women.”
“How meddlesome. Tsk. Look at this, and be astonished.” Saying so, I place my dungeon card down in front of Miyoshi with a snap.
“Isn’t that a D-Card? Just what are you sayi…whaaaat!!!?” Miyoshi raises her voice unconsciously, and then looks around us in a hurry.
For an instant, the eyes from several tables turn to us, but the people immediately return to their food, apparently having lost interest.
“W-What’s t-this? A fake card?” Miyoshi abruptly leans forward and whispers.
“Don’t be stupid, what would be the point of forging something like this?”
“Umm, to surprise your kouhai?”
“I mean, this has Rank 1 written on it, doesn’t it?”
“Sure, it has your name listed, and the card looks somehow realish as well…wait a moment please.”
Miyoshi takes out her smartphone and accesses some site.
“It’s true. An anonymous person of Area 12 has become rank one in the WDARL…” She shows me the list.
“You thought it was a fake?”
“Well, that’s only natural, no? I mean, are you going to tell me that you had the spare time to go to some dungeon with your black-hole-like work schedule?”
“Black hole, you call it…well, it’s true that I didn’t have time for something like that, though.”
“What kind of unfair trick…”
“No, you, what do you take me for?”
“Let alone the high performers of the military, who have been diving into dungeons as part of their work for three years, it’s rank one, okay? I think that’s definitely impossible for you, unless you pulled some mean trick.”
“Well, there’s been stuff. Look, you’re going to stay silent about this, right?”
“Even if I told anyone, they wouldn’t believe me anyway.”
“…I guess that’s true as well.” While I mutter that, dessert is served.
The specialty of this place is the Mont Blanc, no, Monte Bianco, I suppose. Of course, it uses Japanese chestnut.
It’s plenty sweet, but not sticky. Sweets do need a certain degree of sweetness in my opinion.
“Moreover, you even got a skill! Okay, I guess that’s only natural for rank 1…so, May King? King of May, sounds like potato, somehow. What kind of skill is it?”
Miyoshi pulls a silly face for the second time today.
“Miyoshi, do you know how to use a skill?”
“No idea, since I don’t have one.”
“But, I have seen it on the blog of a person who used one. Umm, if I remember correctly…you touch the skill’s name on the card, and then recite that name, I think. It looks like you practice the invocation like this until you get used to it.”
“Hee, really? Got it. Let me try.”
“Try, you say…you never used it?”
“Mmh? Yeah, well, stay silent about it, okay?”
I had also looked up skills online.
Miyoshi keeps complaining, “And yet rank 1, rank 1…,” but whatever.
I touch the skill name on my D-Card, and try to do as she said.
“Touch the skill name, and recite it, okay?”
It’s like I’m a chuunibyou or something.3 How embarrassing.
“You sound like a chuunibyou, a bit awkward, isn’t it?”
“Gah! I don’t want to be told that by you!! Be quiet!”
“No, senpai, activating a skill with an unknown effect in such a place; what are you going to do if it’s offensive magic?”
Ugh, she’s right.
Any researcher would naturally want to experiment right away. No, it might just be me.
“But, senpai muttering 『May King』…pfft.”
You’re the one who said to do that in the first place, right?
“In any case, you said you want to dive into dungeons? Well, you’ll likely earn an absurd amount as rank 1, though.”
“King Samon of Area 2 has been flying all over the world in his private jet.”
“The sole anonymous explorer in the single digits, until you became rank 1, senpai. Right now, he’s rank 9.”
“His name is known despite him being anonymous?”
“All high rankers are celebrities. Your identity gets exposed due to the Area information on the ranking list.”
“I see. I suppose in that case, he wasn’t able to hide his identity after becoming the top explorer from Area 2.”
The most important dungeon-native items that can be trafficked are potions.
However, since most of the potions found by the military are used by the army itself, or stockpiled as national strategic resources, those potions don’t appear on the market in general.
In the end, the ones available on the market are mostly provided by civilian explorers. It seems like quite hefty sums of money are paid for them.
Do I have a chance too?
“Senpai, senpai. I just looked at the comments for a bit, but since there’s no one in Area 12 who would potentially qualify to be the new rank 1, there’s a huge uproar on the net.”
“Seriously? Are there no celebrities in Area 12?”
“Because Japan had been quick to put dungeons under the control of the JDA, there are almost no people who raided dungeons of their own accord. That’s why the JSDF holds all the top spots. The civilian explorers are far below them. Even the high-ranking ones seem to be around the four digit mark.”
“In the range of rank 1000?”
“Yep. At most they occasionally place in the lower triple digits.”
“There’s Russia and Indonesia, as well as Australia, no?”
“Aside from Japan, the countries in Area 12 aren’t overly populated.”
“Senpai.” Miyoshi suddenly straightens her back.
“Please hire me if I quit the company.”
“I mean, you will make a living by diving into dungeons from now on, won’t you?”
“Well, probably. I don’t have any other prospects after all.”
“But, you don’t want to become famous, do you?” Miyoshi says while laughing weakly.
This girl has grasped me unexpectedly well, hasn’t she?
“So, there are agents, aren’t there?”
“Being known by the JDA will be unavoidable, but you need a JDA trading license to sell items you acquire yourself.”
“And, if you do business with that, your identity will be exposed because of your trade license. That can’t be avoided.”
“Yeah, there’s some law in regards to special business transactions or something like that.”
“That’s why, if I get a trading license and sell the items you acquire――”
“Any attempt to trace my identity from the license will end with you, is that what you’re saying?”
“That’s it. A capable manager and an agent. But her true identity is!”
“An Oumi trader brimming with the intention to be senpai’s kickback and leech!”
However, it looks like she will keep my secret, and she’s quite easy to get along with. It might actually be a good idea.
“Alright. I will think it over.”
“However, I still don’t know how it’s going to pan out, okay? Don’t resign as long as you can endure it. It’s not like I will be able to start dungeon diving right away either. It looks like I have to do some training first.”
To freely enter a dungeon, it seems necessary to register as an explorer, and take a training course.
At that point, an explorer card will be issued for control purposes. That card is called an explorer license.
Just what’s the point of D-Card then?
“…Please wait a sec.” Miyoshi pulls a mystified expression while placing a finger on her espresso cup.
“Why do you have a D-Card when you don’t have an explorer license?”
“…Oh, I defeated a stray goblin or something.”
“What do you mean, “or something”? In the first place, what’s a stray goblin? If goblins were able to wander around in back alleys all over the place, it’d be damn scary! How shady…”
“Well, it doesn’t matter now, does it? I will tell you at some point. Look, lunch break’s over.”
“…It’s a promise, okay?”
“Then, thanks for the meal!” Miyoshi says, throws the last macaron ― no, baci di dama ― into her mouth, and drains her espresso.