David Jean-Pierre Garcia has been looking down at the Marne from the highest floor of a five-story building, which used to be a high-class apartment complex, in the city of Maisons-Alfort, located to the southeast of Paris’ suburbs.
“Is it true that the daughter of Munbai’s Ahmed had magic cast on her in Japan?”
The young man, who had come to report, calmly replies to David’s back, “It’s a fact that he has returned to India, in the company of a beautiful girl.”
“And you say, it was that wheelchair woman?”
Because of Ahmed’s grasping at straws, Ayesha had once visited Altum Foraminis. Ahmed is a prominent Indian multi-millionaire, and granting his wish would have been a huge boon for the cult’s future.
However, David, after taking a glance at the extent of her injuries, decided that it’d be impossible to help her. However, he couldn’t simply tell Ahmed the truth. After all, the cult is in the business of selling miracles. Thus, he had been delaying her treatment, giving one excuse after another.
“Apparently that was the story he told when he met an acquaintance on the way home. Since it sounds like a topic that will go public in high society sooner or later, I think we will get clarity then.”
David let his thoughts turn to the influence that this would have on the cult.
Mostly unknown to outsiders, Altum Foraminis Sacri Esse was generally recognized as Christian cult worshiping the dungeons ─ the bottom of the earth that was neither Tartarus, the Abyss, Hades, nor Vorago, by those familiar with it. The name is assumed to originate from the healing power obtained in a dungeon by the cult’s holy woman, Marianne Thérèse Martine, but compared to many other cults, this one had a clear difference.
In short, Marianne was the real deal. David met her in Andorra’s Encamp two years ago.
Back then she was surrounded by kneeling, old locals while sitting on a small bench outside the San Marc & Santa Maria Church, located in Encamp’s public cemetery, while wearing shabby clothes.
“Is that some kind of meeting over there?” David asked a man, who seemed to be a staff member, as he considered the group to be strange.
The man fleetingly cast his face in that direction, and answered in a whisper, “Those are people requesting Ma Santa.”
The man lightly shook his head at David’s repeated questioning, turned his back on him and left, as if running away from something he mustn’t get involved with. Having his curiosity greatly piqued, David sat down on a different bench, and watched the group’s actions from a distance.
A short time later, there was busy movement in the direction of the gate. A limp-looking, older woman was carried by a panicked man – maybe her husband – as he ran up to the bench. The woman’s face was red and inflamed, and terrible burns covered the upper half of her body, making one think that she probably made a mistake while cooking, resulting in her being showered by boiling oil. It would be a matter of life and death if she wasn’t taken to a hospital at once. David felt anger towards the ignorant people, wondering why they had brought her to a place like this, but in the next moment, all his emotions except for surprise dispersed.
The girl, who had been sitting on the bench, only held her hand over the woman’s face while smiling calmly, seemingly planning to cast some kind of curse. However, by just that action, the bleary face of the woman, who had been truly on the verge of death just now, transformed into its normal state, as if he was watching a video that was played backwards.
The man, who had brought the woman to the girl, lowered his head so deeply that it looked as if he was going to kiss the tip of the girl’s foot.
Having unconsciously risen half to his feet, David froze for a while with his mouth gaping open so wide that one might think his jaw was dislocated, but before long, time started to flow in his world again, and he flopped down on his bench with a thump, apparently having lost all strength in his body.
He strongly perceived that he was right now standing at an important fork that would determine the course of his future life. Indeed, he was struck by a divine revelation.
The miracle of healing would likely be possible by using a dungeon potion. But then again, the girl had no reason to use an expensive potion for free, and thus he couldn’t believe her to have done that.
In any case, for David it didn’t really matter whether it was a genuine miracle or some sleight of hand trick. The crux here was that it looked genuine.
God was one of the best goods created by humans. After all, God’s love was a love free of charge. Or in other words, it was always in stock. Everyone was competing and buying a product with an effective cost ratio of 0%.
It went without saying that cults were created as a system to sell god’s love. Doctrines and ceremonial procedures were productions for the sake of selling it. The facilities and the cults’ organizations were figuratively similar to exclusive stores. And the people believing in those cults would spend fortunes to buy what you could call a tranquility of their hearts. Something like that could be obtained by just sleeping at the breast of the woman you loved, but David believed that both might be the same when it came to costing money. Just that the latter added the freebie of fleshly satisfaction, making it even more of a bargain.
During that day, David followed Marianne around, and once he identified her home, he made a business proposition to her father. Her father, for whom the word trash would qualify as compliment, happily sold off his own daughter to a crook at the slightest mention of money.
The more he heard about this girl, who was the embodiment of miracles, the more perfect she was for his machinations. The prénom 1 Marianne was the national personification of the Republic francaise. On top of that, her deuxième prénom 2 was Thérèse, and her surname Martine. Although she had the most common surname in France, her second name vividly reminded one of Thérèse de Lisieux, the second French patron saint, whether one liked it or not. And, just like her, she was a patron saint of the poor and sick.
At this point it fit so perfectly that it could have been the script of some cheap fiction novel, but either way, David, who launched a cult with her miracles as the foundation, sweet-talked politicians and millionaires, using her as a weapon. Those running the state and large enterprises, had a far stronger inclination to adore mysticisms and the occult than most people would expect. History has proven that fact, beginning with Rasputin and the Freemasons. Precisely because of that, he believed that it would give them a chance to pluck off ripened fruits. The girl, who embodied a small miracle, completely changed into a great saint after he excessively exhibited her abilities, while making free use of potions and such. And it worked wonderfully as a scheme to rip off the world’s rich. Alongside Marianne’s beauty.
“If that really was Ahmed’s daughter, that would mean that a potion beyond rank 8 was used, wouldn’t it?” David looks back over his shoulder, asking the reporting man.
A potion beyond rank 8 shouldn’t have been discovered at present. If something like that exists, we must acquire it at all costs.
“It’s possible, but…aside from that, there’s a rumor that Ahmed deliberately took his daughter with him to Japan for the sake of a skill trade.”
“Skill, you say?”
After getting an explanation about her ability directly from Marianne, David has always believed it to be the result of a skill, but he could never determine what kind of skill it could be. That’s because she lost her D-Card. Also, he doesn’t clearly understand just how she had obtained one to begin with. After all, Marianne doesn’t have any memories about that time. But then again, it’s also possible that she’s only pretending.
“The other day, a skill orb auction was held in Japan.”
“That wasn’t a scam?”
“It’s hard to believe, but if you put together the available information, it looks like the trades have been actually carried out.”
When David heard about this story, he perceived it as a trick of a prodigious swindler like himself. Moreover, as he couldn’t predict how it all would play out in the end, he considered it to be a trick that could truly be described as god-like, as he couldn’t figure it out no matter how much he brooded over it. For it to be the real deal is more than a shock for him.
“One of the orbs traded there was called <High Recovery>.”
“Has its effect been cleared up?”
“It seems that it immediately heals small injuries and bad conditions triggered by fatigue.”
“Who’s the exhibitor?”
“Which monsters drop it?”
The explanation of its effect, which is far too meager for its exorbitant price, and the extremely fishy details, are instead giving him the impression that something is being concealed.
The existence of a person who can perform a miracle upon injuries even the cult can’t heal──
David turns his back on the young man, and mutters quietly while looking down at the Marne once more, “There mustn’t exist any miracles of healing besides those of Altum Foraminis.”
On that day, a high-pressure front has been imposingly hanging over the Japanese islands, causing the people living there to greet a rather chilly morning for November.
“Senpai, it looks like the camping van will be delivered today.”
“It was about time. So, how did you resolve the issue with the external armor in the end?”
“I got the manufacturer to affix titanium plates. It doesn’t appear that it’ll pass a car inspection once those are added.”
“That’s inevitable, I guess. We won’t drive it on public roads anyway, so it’s no problem.”
“When I told the car manufacturer that, they asked me whether I was planning to drive this thing into a war, while pulling weird faces.” Miyoshi laughs, apparently recalling the situation back then. “I don’t know from where it’ll come, but it looks like they’ll deliver the car by driving it up to our front door.”
“Hmm? Does that mean they can drive it on public roads?”
“For now, at least. The armor parts that would make it a no go, such as the front panel, will apparently be affixed later after the delivery. That’s why I think it’ll be impossible afterwards.”
Forget a car inspection, if you can’t watch the street in front of you, driving will be out of the question. Though it’s not really an issue, as I’m just going to use it as a base.
“In the meantime I’ll pull through with this, but still, I’d really like to have a proper dungeon house. You think we can get someone to build one for us, even if it’s the camping van manufacturer?”
“It’s because a camping van won’t last for a long time in the harsh dungeon environment, right? If it needs perfect hermetic sealing, and a circulatory system, I’d go in the direction of a space development corporation.”
“The requirements aren’t that severe, but living in normal tents inside a dungeon sounds kinda unreasonable for us, doesn’t it…?”
“You bet. That’d be impossible for us weaklings, who are totally used to the conveniences of modern society.”
“Wait. It’s not because we’re weak, okay? It’s because there’s just two of us. You can’t arrange a proper lookout rotation with just two people, y’know?”
Upon hearing my declaration, Miyoshi laughs through her nose, and answers, “Well, let’s leave it at that.”
Hey, that’s the truth here.
“Still, when you think about it that way, soldiers are really amazing, aren’t they?”
Normally the JSDF adopts the explorer style when attempting to clear a deep dungeon within the country. It’s the same for foreign organizations. It might be because it’s a safer approach for exploring, but above that, it’s likely for the sake of avoiding an uncontrollable situation.
In contrast to that, Simon’s team seems to raid dungeons with a pure adventurer style. He had laughed it off with the reason that they are on vacation right now anyway, but I can easily imagine that they might have various military hi-tech items with them, though it’s likely basic beddings for lookouts & explorers.
“So, what are we going to do about weapons and defensive armaments? After all, it’d be stupid to go beyond the first floor without that kind of gear, wouldn’t it?”
“Well, we’d surely stand out way too much in casual clothes down there…it’d be a bother if we had to deal with even more kind explorers pointing out our lack of equipment.”
I’d like to be excused from being told that it’s dangerous each time we pass a group of explorers. For the people giving that advice with good intentions, it’s a one-time occurrence, but for us on the receiving end, we’d end up getting told the same thing many times over.
“Since even expensive armor wouldn’t be able to protect you completely anyway, let’s go with stuff that emphasizes ease of movement, while trusting <High Recovery> and VIT (Vitality). Isn’t the beginner gear that Ms. Mitsurugi and her friend used at the beginning just fine? It’s also cheap.”
“Given that our ranks are G, such equipment would be appropriate for us, I suppose.”
“Ah, I want a shield to ward off projectile weapons.”
“A titanium frying pan isn’t an option, eh?”
“It’s just a bit embarrassing, y’know? ”
She’s right. It has a fairly high cost performance ratio if you just look at its specs, but it doesn’t offer any protection to its wearer, and foremost, it looks way too fishy.
“No wonder, if it’s not the shop at a dungeon facility, you can’t buy anything like that.”
Miyoshi briskly checks her PC, narrowing down on a good shield.
“Oohh, this looks sturdy!”
“Let me have a look.” Once I take a peek, a bunker shield is visible on the display. “Now listen…who the hell’s capable of walking around while holding a shield weighing 180 kg?”
Yeah, well, I might be able to carry it. But, come on──
“I’m going to stick out like a sore thumb in a completely different way!”
“Gosh, you’re such a whiner. How about this then?”
A Protech Tactical’s Personal Ballistic Shield, which is used by US SWAT teams, and LBA’s Mini Shield are shown there.
“The Personal Ballistic Shield weighs less than ten kilograms. The Mini Shield is made out of Aramid fibers, and weighs around three kilograms. Its protective coverage is rather small though.”
“For the time being I just want to block instantaneous attacks with it, so the mini shield will do. How about getting two as spares?”
“Sure thing.” Miyoshi quickly clicks through the shopping site. “Next are the weapons, but…wanna try to go with a cool holy sword series?” Miyoshi laughs while displaying a Sword of Edrick with gaudy ornaments.
“The hell’s that?”
“Those things exist as well, stuff made by game companies cooperating with weapon makers.”
“No matter how you look at it, it’s a collector’s item, right? Besides, neither of us can handle a sword.”
Attacking with a sword I’ve never held before is somewhat unreasonable, I think. If I’m just going to swing it as hard as I can, it’d be similar to a bat.
“If you don’t want monsters to get close, projectile weapons would be the best choice, right?”
“Projectile weapons, huh?”
However, be it a slingshot or a bow, it’ll be difficult to transmit my stats into power without breaking them. Firearms are even more limited, as there’d be absolutely no place to apply my stats in regards to offensive power. It’d be different with a bow that can’t be pulled by anybody and everybody, but I doubt that something like that would be up for sale. But even before that, I have a hunch that the arrows wouldn’t hit anyway. Isn’t there any way to somehow handle it with DEX?
There’s also the option of using magic as my main weapon, but seeing as there’s also the parameter called MP (Magicpoints), I’d be quite anxious to rely on it exclusively. It’s a common trope for monsters which are immune to magic to show up when the degree of difficulty increases.
“The territory of the Moon Clan on the 14th floor is a valley-like place…so you could throw iron balls?”
Direct throwing, eh!?
“There’s a manufacturer called Funabe in Hyougo. They specialize in producing metal balls.” 3
“I’d expect nothing less of Japan, anything goes.”
“They can make balls out of various materials, in a diametrical range of below one millimeter to around a hundred millimeters. Two kilograms for a diameter of eight centimeters, and 850 grams for six centimeters.”
“Then, how about ordering a hundred each of the six and eight centimeter versions? Let’s test out various things with them.”
“I think a normal person would dislocate their shoulder if they threw a two kilogram iron ball at full power, though.”
“I’ll steamroll through with the power of my stats. Also, if it comes to throwing, axes would be the standard.”
“You mean tomahawks?”
“Yeah, yeah, those. Slightly heavier ones would be really nice. Get me around a hundred of Browning’s Shock n’ Awe Tomahawks.”
“Somehow it starts to feel like I’m ordering stuff for an army here.”
“I had a feeling you’d say that.” While blaming me with a chilly look, Miyoshi wraps up the orders.
“It looks like they’ve got them in stock, so most of it should be delivered by tomorrow.”
“Roger. Next would be the route, huh?”
If there’re any monsters, I wanna check on the orbs they drop on the way, I wanna be able to hunt those as well.
“Speaking of dreamlike skills, the ideals would be teleport and resurrection, no?”
“Also, body enhancement types are simple and convenient.”
“The ones that look like they can be sold for a large sum of money, without being usable for crimes, are the types that can be put to use in the medical field, though.”
“Healing types, eh…?”
Heal, Cure, Discurse. Oops, I guess the last one’s different. 4
“It’d be really handy to have a tool allowing us to communicate with people outside of the dungeon.”
“I hear there are places researching means of communication using quantum teleportation.”
“Does it still work when it’s a different dimension?”
“For the time being, they have been preparing experiments to check the quantum entanglement within dungeons.”
“Hee, it’d be awesome if they could implement it as fast as possible.”
I say that, but except for thinking that it sounds amazing, I’ve got absolutely no clue about the finer details.
“I feel like they’ll find a way to handle it with dungeon materials before it comes to this, though.”
“What’s your basis for that?”
Miyoshi opens Yoyogi Dungeon’s floor map and taps on the 9th floor.
What’s displayed there is a monster called Colonial Worm.
“Never heard of it.”
“It’s a monster that’s being left alone since it’s way too troublesome.”
Some kind of incentive is needed to go hunt monsters living in places too far off the routes to the stairways leading to the next floor. There’s basically a trend to ignore monsters which don’t have any such incentive, or too little benefit for the sponsors. Like the slimes on the first floor.
This one seems to also be a representative of those monsters that are neglected.
“So, what about it?”
“Colonial Worms are organized into small colonies and larger main bodies.”
The JSDF unit that came into contact with them first, apparently thought that the main bodies were their hives.
“The worms of the colonies actively attack various things and devour them, or rather swallow them, but their thickness etc. doesn’t change.”
“I guess that means they’re not like a Tsuchinoko.”5
“Yes. And it looks like the JSDF tore open a main body with a blade when they defeated it, but before turning into light particles and vanishing, objects that had apparently been swallowed by the colony spilled out.”
Dungeon monsters vanish once defeated. That’s probably why a completely satisfying examination can’t be carried out, but I suppose that means its contents mysteriously spilled out before the main body’s death…
“Things that weren’t native to the dungeon were apparently left behind after the main body vanished.”
“It totally sounds like a treasure chest.”
“That’s why I’ve been wondering whether the colony parts and the main body parts aren’t connected within.”
“Fantasy all over. So you’re saying they have something like a shared stomach?”
“Correct. In that case, wouldn’t it be possible that the main body’s stomach and the organs of the colonies’ worms share the same space?”
“Possibly. It’s possible, but…it’s not like you can retrieve items by disculting a captured monster, right?”
“You’re right. Besides…”
The movie playing back in my head due to Miyoshi is exceedingly gross, and to be honest, very scary. A colony of bugs sticking to the walls of a hallway, and constantly squirming along them, is just like the scene inside the house around the end of the movie Squirm.
“Yep, no one wants to face those things, right?”
“You bet. I don’t have any intention to get close to them as long as I don’t get my hands on powerful AoE magic.”
“I’m totally with you. I don’t want to be eaten yet.”
It’s no laughing matter.
“If it’s simple magic skills, there’s plenty of candidates, though.”
Lesser Salamander on the 11th floor, Kamaitachi on the 17th floor, Great Desman on the 13th to 14th floors…she keeps pointing at one after the other.
“What the hell’s a Desman?”
“In a manner of speaking, it’s a mole. It appears to resemble a big mole called Russian desman. Its traits are a pointed nose and a thick tail.”
Even without counting its tail, it has a length of a meter. It’s a monster similar to a rat or mole.
“Such monsters are wandering around there? I feel like tomahawks won’t work at all against those.”
“It might be better to have physical weapons on hand that possess lengthy blades.”
Lengthy blades? So swords, after all?
“Which reminds me, I thought about storing and retrieving a bus, but what’s your take?”
“When taking something out, isn’t it possible to decide the orientation and location where it appears to some extent?”
“Yeah, it is.”
“That means, it’d be possible to take out something very heavy and sharp above an enemy, wouldn’t it? Of course it wouldn’t work against fast moving enemies, though.”
“A mass weapon, eh…? I think that’s got some room for consideration.”
“I mean, using magic, if you can maintain its position after creating it, wouldn’t it be possible to suffocate a monster if you keep overlapping water spheres with the enemy’s head as the target?”
“Do monsters need oxygen?”
“No clue. It’s based on the passage theory, but if deep dungeons are truly connected to other worlds through passages, a difference in the air’s gas composition and a change in atmospheric pressure would likely turn into a huge problem, but nothing like that has happened so far, even after three years have passed.”
“Isn’t that owed to each floor being in a different space?”
Electromagnetic waves between the inside and outside of a dungeon won’t reach. It’s the same for each floor as well. In the first place, dungeons have sizes that are impossible based on the underground spaces they’re occupying in reality. Anything but them existing in a different space is unthinkable.
“Even if that might be so, can’t you go back and forth between floors without any impediments, as if they are completely connected?”
“In that case, it might also be possible for the air to move between them, you mean? In that case, it’d mean that the air composition and the atmospheric pressure is mostly the same between here and the other side, wouldn’t it? Is that why you think the living creatures breath oxygen?”
“Of course, the spaces themselves are separated. It might be possible to connect them through a teleport-like function, but…don’t you consider it weird to begin with, senpai?”
“A point of contact with a different dimension where monsters are loitering around? Many people would trespass into such a place, right? Wouldn’t there be stuff like unknown pathogens and similar in there? There’s no medical inspection, is there? What about preventing epidemics?”
Hmm, yeah, even on Earth, medical inspections are enforced in the exchange between countries. And yet, nothing like that is done for dungeons, as far as I know. So far as it goes, it means that no dangerous bacteria or living beings except for monsters were discovered in the time since the dungeons were opened to the public, but…
“It’s also possible to think that different world bacteria are annihilated by the oxygen here.”
“Anyway, even if we rack our brains over this, we won’t reach a conclusion. Well, the idea of using a mass weapon was nice. Are you going to prepare stakes weighing around a ton?”
If it’s too heavy, I can’t store it in <Safe>.
“If they’ve got pointed ends, something around one ton might be pretty user friendly. If a dungeon’s height is limitless, the most interesting item available on the market would be rebars, with a thickness of around five centimeters, I think. But then again, most of the places where you’ll use them won’t have a height allowing you to freely handle those,” says Miyoshi while smiling wryly.
Rebars, huh…? Come to think of it, the rebars that dropped down that hole back then were the beginning of this weird fate, weren’t they? I wonder just what they actually hit there.
“They’d be handy if I can add some acceleration to them.”
“Oh, I feel like that should work. I’ll try practicing with them later on. However, if it enters the weight range of tons, it’ll be a special order after all. I’ll try to get an estimate by creating a blueprint in 3D, but it won’t be in time for this coming dive.”
Is that how it works when you’re adding acceleration!?
In that case, I guess I’ll try practicing with ping pong balls or something. If it’s possible, it might be better to raise INT and DEX rather than STR? I’ll try to examine that part later as well.
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”
At that point, the doorbell rings.
“Oh, it’s finally here, isn’t it?”
Once I open the gate, after checking the screen, I see a car enter the front driveway.
The camping van that was delivered is quite big.
“Y’know, Miyoshi, it’s kinda garish…” I mutter reflexively, after going inside and looking at the interior.
A Dorlly Varden 25ft has apparently been used as the foundation, but all of the windows have been sealed off so that no light leaks inside. Big monitors, which are displaying the footage of the surveillance cameras around the van, are hanging down at the bed deeper inside and the dinet.
“Since I’ve heard that making noise in dungeons is bad, the electric power is completely provided by fuel cells. That’s ultra expensive!”
For some reason Miyoshi looks happy. I guess she has fun when using new technologies.
“It’s a coupling of PEFC and DMCFC. 6. For caution’s sake, I have stockpiled a heap of them, but there’s various nice gadgets, since the fans would be way too loud otherwise.”
Now that she mentions it, I can’t hear much in here.
The food will be completely inside my <Safe> anyway. The kitchen area has been kept very simple, probably because there normally won’t be much need for me to cook anyway.
Miyoshi gives me explanations about various things, but I think about silly stuff, like why a Dorlly Varden has an American-style interior. Well it might be more appropriate to call it something similar to Old American or British style.
In any case, the general preparations are done with this. Once the stuff we ordered is delivered tomorrow, we’ll be ready to dive into the dungeon. I’m somewhat thrilled to be setting off on what could be considered my very first real adventure.