After eating our lunch, and taking a little rest, we head straight for the fifth floor.
We can always visit the upper floors later, and I don’t think that there’s anything around here we’ve got to seriously investigate right away either. Hence we take the shortest route, while quickly finishing off the enemies with Water Lances in places with no people around, and iron balls in places where it’s not really clear whether anyone’s watching.
And then, after descending to the fifth floor, we only now notice that we’re drawing a lot more attention than we’d expected. Starting with the fifth floor, boars and orcs will begin to appear as well. Because of that, it’s no surprise that no one comes here in just beginner equipment.
“Ugh, senpai, we’re sticking out way more than I thought.”
“I guess it would’ve been smart to bring cloaks to hide our gear.”
The fifth through eighth floors are forest areas. It was the same for the second to fourth floor, but the forest here is much denser than it was there. Caves, which seem to serve as dens for humanoid monsters, are spread all over the forest.
“Orcs, forest wolves, and wild boars are the new additions here. It looks like night wolves and church grims come out at night as well.” Miyoshi explains to me, while looking at her tablet computer.
Apparently, teams aiming for the deeper levels often spend the night on the eighth floor. It’s a reasonable choice. The tenth floor is full of undead, and the stairway to the 11th floor is far away. The 11th floor has a nasty lava environment, and the distance between the eighth and 12th floor is way too far for normal explorers to travel in one day, assuming they plan to progress deeper down. Furthermore, it’s not unlikely to suffer unexpected attacks on the ninth floor, seeing as how colonial worms and ogres spawn there.
Hence, by process of elimination, the exit area of the eighth floor is the preferred choice as a resting point. Another reason is the temporary base that has been built there, as all the equipment, which has been brought in by the various expedition-style teams over the last three years, has gathered there.
Anyway, sunset is around the corner. It’s a difficult period of time where you’ve got to decide whether to advance or go back on this floor. Several teams have started to prepare for the night in the vicinity of the stairway.
The objective of the teams waiting for nightfall on this floor is a dog monster, with crimson eyes and black fur, which is called church grim, and appears only at night on the fifth to ninth floor. This monster, which used to get mixed up with hellhounds, drops a red liquid, which is referred to as adaption medicine, and is easily confused with potions.
This liquid, which is simply labeled “Potion” if you touch it, had been ridiculed as fake-heal potion at first, because it didn’t actually heal any injuries after applying it, making its effect unknown.
This very effect was later discovered by coincidence. Yoyogi’s tenth floor is an undead area with a huge cemetery. It’s extremely troublesome, and the stairs to the 11th floor aren’t easy to find at first either. Back then, a certain team panicked and used the fake-heal potion to heal a team member’s arm that had been bitten by a zombie. Of course, the injury wasn’t healed. The team member, who realized the mistake, managed to use a real potion in a hurry before the wound got worse, but the effect revealed itself afterwards. Low-level undead, such as zombies and skeletons, ignored that team member, treating him like an ally.
Ever since then, the hellhound look-alike monsters were referred to as church grim, in reference to their use as charms against the tenth floor’s undead. Thanks to this, the tenth floor lost its reputation as a hell-like place, and started to be seen as a simple passageway, due to the newly discovered method of passing through it unscathed.
But then again, because the effect of the adaption medicine wanes at night, the tenth floor remains a troublesome floor, that’s best avoided at night, even by high-level explorers.
Explorers heading for the 11th floor and beyond generally hunt church grims on the fifth to ninth floor, in order to obtain the adaption medicine. Of course, it’s the fifth floor’s entrance area that’s the safest, and the eighth floor’s exit area that’s the most suited for this hunting. Because of that, most explorers will choose one of those two.
In order to escape the attention of the explorers preparing their camps in the vicinity of the stairs, we quietly head deeper, looking for an area with fewer people. After continuing for a while, we run into a shallow streamlet with a width of four meters. I hop across it while carrying Miyoshi.
“Senpai, I could already tell back on the second floor, but the effects of raising your stats are really nothing to scoff at, are they?”
“No kidding. Even someone as heav- gefuuuh…”
Miyoshi, who drove a right hook into my liver from behind, mutters, “The pheasant would not be hit but for its cries.”
You, I don’t think that’s how the saying goes. 1
Seeing a perfect, open place ahead of where I’m crouching, Miyoshi takes out our base car, after making sure that there’s no one around us.
“Ooof, I’m pooped.”
Miyoshi, who turned on the surveillance devices after entering the car, checks the situation outside on the monitors, and then quickly scurries into the shower room. Given that the entire exterior of Dolly has been covered by titanium sheets, you can’t look outside normally. That flaw is compensated for by the surveillance cameras installed all over the car’s frame.
As I drink a bottle of tea I took out of <Safe>, and stare at a monitor without really registering what I’m looking at, Miyoshi exits the shower room with a clang.
“Senpai, the shower’s free now. Oh, please take out something for me to eat before taking a shower!”
I line up several bento, pastries, and drinks on the table, and then start to walk towards the shower room…just to stop on the way.
Miyoshi leaps in front of the console, and raises the sensitivity of the outside microphones. I hear the same voice once more at the same time as a small flash shows up in the stream of a surveillance camera.
“You’re right. It’s a scream and howling. Senpai, what’re we gonna do?”
“If you see what is right and fail to act on it, you lack courage, was it?”
Miyoshi sighs once, and throws an earpiece my way, indicating that she’ll guide me from the van as far as possible.
“Please use that.”
“OK.” I answer, and start to run in the direction Miyoshi tells me.
Once I cross the streamlet and run for a bit, I suddenly encounter a thick fog. It has an unnatural feel to it, as if saying that another world waits beyond.
“Miyoshi, do you see the fog?”
“I do, but to me it looks more like darkness than fog. It’s black. The inside is, wait a sec…I’ll send in a drone.”
There’s even a drone stored in that van?
Once I resolve myself and step into the fog, the occasional howling of beasts, threatening yells, and the repeated screaming of a woman, gradually become louder.
“What the fuck? These guys aren’t church grims, are they!?”
A man holding a 2.5 meter pole forces back the beasts, by widely brandishing his weapon. The pitch black bodies of the wolf-like monsters meld with the darkness as soon as they fall back a bit, with only their crimson eyes and mouths betraying their presence.
“No idea! Usually church grims should hunt alone, but…fuck!”
The one answering, a man with a large build, swings his two-handed sword, fending off the coordinated assault of the hellhounds.
“I’ve heard that hell…hounds work together in packs, but…”
Says the woman who had screamed earlier, standing behind the two men after regaining her composure a bit. She’s trying to stop the bleeding of a small man, who has apparently fainted after suffering a serious injury.
“Those guys start appearing on the eighth floor, no!? However, if those are truly hellhounds…it’d mean a barghest is with them!?”
“N-Now that you mention it, this black fog which has suddenly manifested…”
The men, who had been fighting, look at each other.
“Oi, Mishiro. Leave Shouta behind, and go.”
“Huh? Just what are you…” The woman called Mishiro says, while looking dumbfounded.
“If there’s really a barghest here, there’ll be nine hellhounds. Forget defeating them, chances are we’re not gonna make it out of here alive.”
“That’s why, you understand…?”
The hellhounds refrain from attacking, surrounding the humans at a distance, as if enjoying their bickering. The crimson cracks representing their muzzles look as if the darkness itself is laughing at the humans.
“D-Don’t be silly! You’re telling me to abandon my little brother and run away!?”
“Have it your way, you can get eaten along with him then!”
With those words, the men start to run.
“Ah, wait! Wait for us!!”
The woman screams while kneeling, but the men ignore her.
Several low growls are audible from behind her. The woman chews on her lips in mortification, tightly grasps her bow’s trigger-less release 2 with her right hand, and nocks an arrow on her compound bow. And then, just as she turns around, she releases the arrow, aiming at the eyes of one of the hellhounds assaulting her.
The whimpering sound that follows gives the woman a tiny feeling of satisfaction, but the jaws of the remaining three hounds pouncing on her simultaneously are likely going to reach her body any second now. The woman closes her eyes, obviously having given up.
In the next instant, she hears squashing sounds, but no matter how long she waits, no pain assails her. As she timidly opens her eyes, she sees the back of a man in beginner gear, standing a short distance away.
“Can you get up and walk?” The man asks without looking at her.
Damn it. Why does trouble pop up one after the other like this? I mean, my LUC should be pretty high up there, right!? These situations make me want to tell my LUC stat to get to work, at least a little bit.
“Can you get up and walk?”
In response to my question, the woman looks at a man, who has fainted after receiving a terrible injury on his arm.
“Hurry, and wake him up. Once you do, run until you cross the streamlet in that direction.” I point north.
Barghests can’t cross flowing water. Monsters have been designed to adhere to Earth’s culture this far, so I’m pretty sure this part won’t be any different.
“What about you?”
“Well, I’ve got to do something about those guys, don’t I?”
“I will hel──”
“You’ll get in the way.”
The woman looks daunted for a second, but after seeing the headless corpses of hellhounds scattered around her, she immediately nods. She seems to be a fairly smart woman who’s capable of making quick decisions. Having said that, why haven’t the corpses of these guys disappeared?
The woman quickly pulls something out of her pocket and shoves it under the unconscious man’s nose. As soon as she does so, the guy wakes up while groaning. The woman tells the man something, and once he nods, he somehow manages to get up while moaning in pain. It looks like his legs are fine.
The two turn in the direction of the streamlet I’m pointing at, and start running, while obviously dragging their bodies.
Four hellhounds try to chase after them, but all of them fall prey to my Water Lances before their fangs can get close to those two. While feeling relieved that the spell works against enemies of this level as well, I calmly tell the numbers to Miyoshi.
“Senpai, it sure looks like you’ve got leeway to spare.”
“Well, it’s just that my spell is working on them.”
“Looking from above, there’s something huge further ahead.”
“Probably the barghest. I can hear a sound similar to chains being dragged across the ground.”
Once the presence of the hellhounds vanishes, the chain sound, which I could hear from in front of me, becomes louder, and an eerie growl reverberates out of the darkness right close by. At the same time, nine magic crests appear, summoning nine hellhounds.
“Oh? Does that possibly mean, I’ve gotten lucky?”
I’m pretty sure Miyoshi must have been with me when I saw the hellhounds being re-summoned. Considering past precedent, there’s no doubt that a monster which can summon these hounds, must be a barghest species, but if you take into account its ability to summon them several times, it’s very likely a special mob.
Because I’m certain that the number of defeated mobs was at 69 after we acquired <Detect Life>, adding the seven I defeated to save those two people earlier makes it 76. In other words, if I defeat that special mob after killing another 23 small fries──
“I guess I’ll do my best for a little bit.”
While tightly gripping tomahawks in both hands, I face the nine hounds and shoot Water Lances in quick succession. I continue blowing up their heads before the hounds can get close enough to bite me. 14 more left!
When the next nine suffer the same fate, the barghest charges at me with a roar. Its crimson eyes, floating within the darkness, are high up in the air. It looks like it’s close to three meters tall.
“Wait, hey! What about the other five!?! Summon them!”
I wonder whether there aren’t any night wolves or orcs prowling around somewhere, but as this thick fog seems to be this guy’s territory, I can’t sense any other monsters nearby.
Its claws, packing a fiendish punch, continue passing next to me. Since I see them in slow motion, it’s still okay, but it’s quite the thrill nonetheless.
I cut off its right hind leg with the tomahawk in my right hand, using all my strength. With a loud scream, the barghest takes some distance while limping, and summons its servants once again.
While praying that the 100th kill will adhere to the order I kill them in, I get rid of five hounds that attack me, dodge the attacks by the remaining four with light foot-work, and jump right in front of the barghest. From there I throw a series of eight centimeter iron balls, aiming for its head. Right as I watch the third ball penetrate its head through the jaw, the barghest’s huge frame collapses with a loud thump.
No orb selection screen opens up for me.
“D-Don’t tell me, it follows the order of aggro!?”
The four hellhounds approach me, as I unconsciously sink down to my knees in disappointment. Just when I’ve become careless, thinking, Shit! I don’t give a flying fuck anymore!, I hear a groan from the fallen barghest.
“It was still alive!?”
While dodging the hellhounds, I drive several Water Lances into it without delay, and after the fourth, the usual list pops up in front of my eyes. Looking at it, I hold my breath, completely forgetting about the remaining four hounds for a sec.
Skill Orb Different World Language Comprehension 1/1,000
Skill Orb Darkness Magic (VI) 1/2,000,000
In the moment I hurriedly defeat the four hounds, who came attacking without giving me the time to choose, with Water Lances, the fog instantaneously clears up, and the dead monster bodies vanish just as usual. It looks like the drop item processing is handled once the battle, which seemed to have been something like a boss fight, has completely come to an end.
“Senpai? The fog is gone, but are you okay?”
“Miyoshi, it’s about the barghest’s orb, you see──”
Just when I try to explain things to Miyoshi, a beautiful, rainbow-colored orb appears in front of me.
The purchase list of <Making> is still open. In other words, this is a real drop. Once I touch it while surprised, I confirm that the orb floating there definitely has <Different World Language Comprehension> written on it. Sorry LUC. You’re doing a great job.
“Senpai? What was that just now?”
“What, so the camera has been running as well? It looks like the barghest dropped an orb.”
“Eeeh? What is it? Come on, tell me!”
“Listen and be astounded! It’s <Different World Language Comprehension>.”
As expected, Miyoshi is surprised as well, huh? According to the list, the probability for <Different World Language Comprehension> to drop is 1/1,000. It’s very likely that it’s been added to special boss-type monsters with a relatively high drop chance. Isn’t that like the one behind all this telling humanity to read the epitaphs? I’m sure more of these will drop, sooner or later.
“I think we’ll be able to sell it for a hefty sum of money. I suppose I’ll get <Darkness Magic>, huh?”
“Senpai, that means, it’s also recorded on the orb list, isn’t it? <Different World Language Comprehension>.”
“Correct. It says the probability is 1/1,000.”
“I don’t know what else the list has, but please get it. Definitely.”
“Why? We’ve already got one of them, don’t we?”
“Senpai, if only two people in the whole world possess this skill, the arguing over who’s right will never stop.”
I see. What Miyoshi says is very reasonable. Going by the barghest’s abilities, Darkness Magic (VI) must be that fog space or the summoning of hellhounds. Since both are spells used by ordinary barghests, it’s very likely that common barghests possess that orb as well.
“Would you strangle me if I didn’t pick that?”
“Eh? What’s the deal with that? A flag?”
I select <Different World Language Comprehension> while laughing. With that I got my hands on a second <Different World Language Comprehension> without letting the first one slip out of my hands. On top of that, several items have dropped around me.
It looks like the items will always appear close to you, just like orbs, no matter where the monster might have been defeated. The fact that you’ll know the item’s name by touching it also matches the way orbs work.
Healing Potion (5) x 2
Cure Potion (7)
Fang: Hellhound x 8
Pelt: Hellhound x 3
Magic Crystal: Hellhound x 8
Pelt: Hellhound of Hecate
Horn: Hellhound of Hecate x 3
Magic Crystal: Hellhound of Hecate
“Those are the loot items, huh? First time for me to see these. But, for a different world monster to be called 『Hecate』…”
I put those items away in my <Safe> without being able to put my feelings into words.