When Miyoshi put the auction up on her site, and spread the news all over the place, the world reacted so quickly that it was astonishing. The phone of D-Powers’s office, whose number shouldn’t have been available to the public normally, kept ringing so much that I thought it might never stop again. We dealt with it by pulling the plug.
I contacted the man calling himself Tanaka, gave him a rough briefing on the results of the meeting held at the JDA, and informed him that we put up the orb for auction, since Japan waived its right of first sale. That was the first time that the phone number he gave me was of any use.
“Well, that’s how it is. Please take care of the rest.”
Tanaka is panicking on the other side of the phone. Even though they were the ones who forcibly put a travel ban on us, I’ll call it even with this.
“P-Please wait a moment. Why have things turned out like this?”
“Please inquire about that at the respective ministries and government offices I’ve told you about just now. Oh right, it might be best for you to investigate every foreigner who has entered the country since the 26th.”
I make the threat that even the site of the exchange will very likely turn into a battlefield of many nations after there’s a winning bid, cut the phone call, turn off my smartphone, and toss it into <Safe>.
The news raced across the world in an instant, causing a controversy among the dungeon research institutes of many nations. Chief Aaron Ainsworth, of the US Dungeon Research Institute in Nevada, received a summons from the Dungeon Department, and thus traveled down to Washington D.C.
The Dungeon Department had been established right next to the Department of Homeland Security as the latest, 16th, Ministry. Because it had been established in a hurry, in response to the sudden appearance of dungeons, it was currently renting a section of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ main building.
“I suppose it means, dungeons are resources as well.”
Passing through a narrow access road, leading to Interstate 395 from the George Washington Memorial Park Way, the car got on a bridge crossing the Potomac River. The bank examiner that the bridge was named after, paid with his life, in exchange for saving two women. 1 The end result was merely that the name of the bridge was taken away from a French earl. 2
We’re standing on top of a dangerous boundary. He understood that better than anyone else. However, like hell will I simply become the shield of humanity. All the more so, if the price will be my own life.
They turned onto 12th Street, and as they eventually drew close to Smithsonian Station, light and shadow were cast on the car in alternation, thanks to the roads that crossed three-dimensionally. It was completely like the clash of the Demonic and Angelic forces battling during Armageddon. And then, within the final light, a straight road flanked by two, high, museum walls appeared.
The optical illusion through the contest of the walls, which were gradually becoming lower as they drove uphill, seemed to be telling him that he had no means to escape his own fate. Once the car turned left, immediately after escaping the walls, the Washington Memorial Tower came into sight on the left side, and the White House on the distant right.
This place is the center of politics. However, at the time when the rules of the world are rewritten, I’m sure it’ll become the furthest, most remote, region.
Right in front, the flag hoisted up on the Second Division’s Stone Monument fluttered in the wind at half mast.
The burning sword, a symbol of Paris’ defensive battle to block the German’s advance, that might be just the kind of thing we need right now.
Aaron, shook his head, thinking that he had become somewhat too sentimental, as the car merged onto 18th Street NW from US-50, and before long, a square building, with a trace of pink, became visible to him on the left side.
Yep, that place is my final stop.
“So, just who the hell offered this for sale?”
The founding secretary of the Dungeon Department, Curtis Peter Hathaway, cuts the greetings short, and immediately gets down to business.
Aaron concisely reports without any emotions, “It’s a license code from the JDA.”
“JDA? I’ve never heard anything about any orb auctions. Did something like that become possible recently, or what? I don’t seem to have received any reports about it, though.”
“As far as I know, it’d be possible to do if you could publicize it within 24 hours of finding the orb, gather the bidders within 24 hours, pull off the transaction after determining the winning bidder within 24 hours, and make the hand over, all within the same 24 hours.”
The secretary hits the desk with his pen’s butt end several times while suppressing his anger, as if to say that he already knew all that.
“According to that website, the bidding starts at midnight November 28th, our time. Moreover, the bidding will apparently last two days?”
“It’s possible if they obtain the orb 『by coincidence』 on the day designated for the winning bidder to receive it.”
“Doesn’t that mean it’s basically impossible?”
Aaron simply shrugs his shoulders at that without replying.
“Let me change the question. Could our country pull that off?”
“No.” Aaron replies straight away.
“Let me hear your report and analysis.”
Aaron hands in the written report he had put together in advance, and begins to explain. According to him, he has received news that First Lieutenant Simon had already won two orb auctions on that website, and actually received the orbs as well, meaning, it’s no scam. The precise method is unclear, but going by the words of the trade partner, they obtained them “by coincidence.” He further adds that the website in question has already sold two different types of unregistered skills.
“Because of all that, those related to the website either possess a technology to preserve orbs, or they possess a special technology for discovering and acquiring orbs, or──” Aaron leaves a short pause there, unsure whether he should actually speak the last option, but in the end he decides to continue, “otherwise, they are loved by the gods, in my humble opinion.”
Hearing that, Curtis warps his face faintly, but doesn’t say anything in the end.
Aaron hasn’t included the story passed down from the EU about a magician, who supposedly met an Indian millionaire, because he believes that quite a bit of high society exaggeration has been added to it.
“If such a technology really exists, isn’t there any way that we can obtain it by putting pressure on Japan?”
“Please talk about that with the State Departments or the White House. However, it’s just my personal opinion, but──”
“Out with it.”
“Even after two auctions have passed, the Japanese government hasn’t made any moves. Isn’t it very likely that it’s completely unrelated to their government?”
“Hmm,” Curtis ponders.
“So, what are you going to do about it?”
“The orb itself is definitely necessary for the sake of keeping the balance in the world. I’m sure you already know this, but the only ones currently able to decipher the epitaphs are the Russians.”
“We don’t know whether their translations are lies. Only Russia knows the truth. That’s what you’re saying, right?”
“If possible, I’d like to win the bid, but what is your estimate?”
“I haven’t offered any estimate.”
“None. If you consider the budgets of all the countries that need that orb, I think it’s safe to say that it’ll be a billion dollars at the very least.”
“What was that!?”
“If Russia, which wants to keep its interests, the EU, which desperately wants to get its hands on it, and our country, compete over it, it wouldn’t be surprising for the bidding to go beyond 10 billion dollars, I think.”
“That means it’ll be a cheap price to pay, if we can keep the balance of the world with 1.4% of our country’s national defence budget?”
“If you could get back the world’s balance with two aircraft carriers, I might actually call that a good deal.”
The hands of the clock hanging on the wall smoothly continue to make their rounds without a sound.
“If I put together what you’ve told me, it seems like the simplest method would be to force those related to the auction to cooperate with us by kidnapping them.”
Due to the extreme statement, even Aaron can’t refrain from showing his feelings, “Something like that…would the public tolerate it?”
“Laws, morals, and all that useless bullshit, doesn’t play a role on the front lines, where the interests of world powers clash with each other. All you can find there is power. As long as the public doesn’t know jack, it’ll basically be as if it never happened.”
Aaron listens to those words with a face full of resignation. He has no other way to deal with it.
Seemingly believing that he has gone too far due to Aaron’s reaction, Curtis plays it down as a joke, “Having said that, we, the protectors of a free democracy, can’t do anything like that.”
He’s likely convinced that he has glossed it over skillfully, but Aaron has a hunch that Curtis’ true thoughts are the complete opposite. However, Aaron wouldn’t make any statements that would compromise his boss. After all, it doesn’t pay to bite the hand that feeds you.
“Speaking of First Lieutenant Simon, why doesn’t that person belong to the Dungeon Department yet?”
The DAD (Dungeon Attack Department) is an organization that was initially established under the direct control of the president, and the Pentagon originally assembled its staff from the DEA and FBI, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. The Dungeon Department severely lacks field forces, because it was created last year, mainly for the sake of handling dungeons as resources, but as it was impossible to force a transfer of authorities that would counter the DAD Department to the Dungeon Department just like that, both are independent organizations for the time being.
“I’d say it’s a separation of capture and control.”
“He’s still in Japan, isn’t he?”
“Officially it’s treated as a vacation after the successful capture of the Evans Dungeon, but as it appears that he got into contact with the aforementioned orb auctionists of his own accord, he’s currently diving at Yoyogi.”
“Yoyogi is a magnificent mine, but Japan sure is lenient to allow other countries to dig up their resources as they please, aren’t they?” Curtis reveals a smile as if he’s holding something in contempt, but he immediately tightens his expression again. “However, I certainly don’t think it’s possible, but…”
“What is it?”
“First Lieutenant Simon hasn’t been putting the orbs he acquired on the black market through those auctionists, has he?”
Aaron swallows back down the words, “No way.” The possibility isn’t zero, and the folks attached to the DAD are all people that are hard to deal with. But then again, he couldn’t imagine that they would be able to deceive the control mechanisms of the WDA.
“If you’re worried about that, how about mobilizing the army’s internal auditing department?”
“It’s never a good idea to owe the Pentagon.” Curtis grins broadly. “Isn’t it high time for our field forces to start becoming active?”
Aaron couldn’t see Curtis’ face as anything but that of a sinister lizard.
“I will have a section of the Dungeon Department handle the bidding. It’s fine for you to remove things related to this matter from your duties.”
“Understood.” With those words, Aaron nods, and leaves the room.