§048 The Escapists’ Exploration 11/27 (Tue)


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On the day when King Abdullah arrived in Japan from Jordan, Tokyo was covered by a migratory anticyclone, turning it into a calm, mild, late autumn day. Late in the evening, as the sun prepared to set, Director of Cabinet Intelligence Murakita, and Chief of Joint Staff Nogawa, visited Prime Minister Ibe at his official residence.

“Our country waived its right to buy <Different World Language Comprehension>!?”

“It looks like that’s how it turned out.” Nogawa says with a gloomy expression.

“That’s yet another bolt out of the blue, isn’t it? Just who the hell did something like that, when and where?”

The Prime Minister had heard from the Director-General of the North American Affairs Bureau at the Foreign Ministry, and the Director General of the Bureau of Defense Policy, who had visited his residence this morning, that there were inquires about the orb in question, which had suddenly been put up for auction, by the US, but he had never imagined that things would develop like this.

A message about <Different World Language Comprehension> from America should have been handed down to the Dungeon Agency through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after Russia’s announcement. I’m sure it’s clear that the orb in question is an extremely crucial tool for diplomacy. It was obtained in Yoyogi, right? And yet our country waived the right to purchase it? Just what kind of joke is that supposed to be?

Murakita, who brought the report in, continues with a detailed explanation of the chronology and reports that the orb will be put up for auction at midnight on the 28th, EST.

“Why was such an important meeting held at the JDA in secret, and moreover, without even letting us know about it?”

“It looks like an executive director from the bureaucracy took the initiative…”

“You’re saying a JDA executive director didn’t understand the importance of this orb?”

If he had only bought it despite that, he’d likely find as many buyers as he wanted. I think there are divided assessments on whether the JDA should be regarded as a profit-based enterprise or something else altogether, but even if you look at it as a non-profit organization, it’s unthinkable to waive the right to buy the orb.

“According to Tanaka’s investigation, when the vice-director of the budget bureau complained about a lack of funds, they apparently decided to demand the orb for free, or at a low price…it seems even the Ministry of Finance easily went along with that, as it would spare their budget.”

“Demand it for free? Are the explorers relatives of the JDA or something?”

“No, that is, umm…it looks like they told them something along the lines of…it’s only natural to contribute to the country, as Japanese citizens thinking of their nation.”

“Haha, nowadays even the members of the Ministry of Defense wouldn’t say something like that, would they? Still, unfairly forcing explorers to hand over their assets for cheap? Is the JDA a dictatorship or something?” Nogawa laughs dryly, obviously flabbergasted.

It’s different during times of war or similar, but a country collects taxes exactly because it protects the individual, and it’s not like the individual exists to protect the country.

“So?”

“According to what he has learned from D-Powers, they couldn’t collect the money from the JDA, which had requested the search, because of a lacking budget. Since they were told to donate the orb to the country, they reluctantly decided to put it up for auction, they say.”

What the hell! However, if they said that they’d do so reluctantly, there might still be some room for negotiations.

“The beginning of the auction is midnight of the 28th EST. In Japanese time──”

“2 p.m. on the 28th.”

“If possible, we’ve got to buy the orb, and have the auction stopped, before then.”

“It’s said that the estimated price for the winning bid will exceed ten billion dollars, though.”

“Okay, if the supplementary budget won’t cover it, we will use the Settlement Adjustment Fund1 During the second oil shock, 2.5 trillion Yen came out from there. Around a trillion Yen should be in there, right?”

“Since we haven’t ever transferred any money into it since then, its balance is zero.”

“We just have to temporarily transfer some money from the Debt Consolidation Fund. Let’s pray that they will give their own country a little discount.”

“But, what about the approval of parliament?”

“We can get the formalities done later on. We will have the Committee of the National Diet lay the groundwork, but the time is limited to 22 hours, after all.”

Today, after this, I have a summit meeting with King Abdullah. And, starting the day after tomorrow, I must be in Argentina for the G20 summit.

“Mr. Kitamura2, let’s see, visit my residence tomorrow at 6:45 p.m. to report on the course of events.”

“Roger.”

If this goes public, the opposition might start kicking up a fuss, but…then again, if this fails, far bigger expenses might await us.

The Director of Cabinet Intelligence left the Prime Minister’s residence at a quick pace, while whispering something into the ear of the Chief of Staff.

 

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Russia’s dungeon capture organization is called the Dungeon Capture Bureau, and was established under the GUSP (Main Directorate of Special Programs of the President of the Russian Federation), and not the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) or the Ministry of Defense. And, just like the agents of the Special Programs of the President were called Moles, the agents of this bureau were called Weasels. But, in spite of that, since the president was at the top of their org chart, the GUSP bureau director didn’t have any authority over them.

The Dungeon Capture Bureau had been established next to the seat of the president, at a place slightly down the Ulitsa Il’inka (street name), which was inserted between a tourist attraction, with the queer name Sredniye Torgovyye Ryady, and the Gum Store, coming from the Red Square.

“In other words, D-Powers still hasn’t obtained the orb?”

On the other side of the office’s large desk sat a man who was simply referred to as 『Bureau Director』, he was around forty years old, had an undercut, possessed a powerful build despite being slender, and had eyes like razors.

“Very likely.”

The staff member Kurnikov, a tall man with a well-built physique, who seemed to be around thirty years old, answers the man’s question while standing at attention.

“This time the timing of the auction has taken a form different from usual. The transfer of the orb has apparently been set to take place on the 2nd of December.”

“In short, there’s something that would trouble them if it were to be prolonged indefinitely, huh?”

The situation of this orb is extremely special. Thus, it’s possible that the bidding would continue indefinitely if they used the conventional system.

“I fear that it’s likely the case.”

“Hence, their acquisition of the orb, or their opportunity to do so, has to happen on the 1st of December, correct?”

If D-Powers truly acquires the orb, and assuming they hand it over to a country other than ours, our country will lose the advantage it’s holding in the area of dungeon exploitation.

Ignat, who was forced to use the orb <Different World Language Comprehension> against his will because of the circumstances, was an illiterate explorer hailing from a miner family. That orb made it possible for him to understand the words written in the language of a different world, but in order to translate that into Russian, the ability to describe the concepts written there in Russian was indispensable. Hence they had to first teach him the basic knowledge in order for him to be able to translate correctly, which was exceedingly inefficient.

“Are we going to send in personnel to obstruct them?”

Shooting a freezing stare at Kurnikov, who said that while looking at the face of the bureau director, he quietly said, “Please dispatch personnel that will cooperate with them.”

“I’m sure Yoyogi will be teeming with more dangers than usual on that day. Don’t you think it’s necessary to make sure that their people can get back home safely, by supporting them with our guards?”

“Then, from the teams of the Dungeon Capture Bureau──”

“Have them dispatch one group from the FSB’s department V.”

“Huh?”

Department V of the FSB is a unit that was called Vympel during the era of the KGB. Back then, the unit was in charge of protecting nuclear facilities. However, its true nature can be described as an elite unit specialized in intelligence and subversive activities. Two of the elite units which had supported the KGB’s illegal activities, nowadays, after many twists and turns, existed as Department V and Department A in the Special OPs Center of the Counter Terror and Political Extremism Bureau, under the jurisdiction of the FSB.

“Ah, don’t worry, it’s just a bit of insurance.”

To Kurnikov it looked as if a smile had formed on the lips of the bureau director, which he couldn’t see clearly, as it had become dark in the room.

“Haah… But will that be enough? If we assume that their people manage to safely come back to the surface, what can they do, other than simply being present at the place of the exchange?”

“There are times where you can’t avoid accidents, even if you’re careful.”

“…It will be right in the middle of Tokyo, you know?”

“No matter how safe a country Japan might be, accidents happen, right?”

“That is…”

“It wouldn’t be strange even if one took place on that day, by chance.”

“I understand.” Kurnikov says, and leaves the bureau director’s office to handle the formalities.

“And yet, that might still be insufficient.” Muttering that remark, the bureau director suddenly picks up the phone receiver, and enters the numbers to connect him with the SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation).

 

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We told Ms. Naruse how we’d contact her after leaving the dungeon, quickly wrapped up our preparations, and dove into the dungeon. And then we rushed downwards, taking the shortest route, while avoiding and ignoring all explorers and monsters. <Detect Life> played a big role in that.

We’d stuffed everything of importance into my <Safe> and Miyoshi’s <Storage>, and as we didn’t use up most of the goods we had prepared last time, most of it is still there. Having learned from last time, we didn’t forget to prepare mantles to hide our conspicuous beginner gear this time. I had thought that people wore mantles just because they flutter in the wind, so it was a rather big surprise that they were actually really warm once I put it on.

“Senpai, the video feed from the back camera keeps showing glimpses of people every now and then. Isn’t someone following us?”

“Wait a sec.”

We’ve been following a different route from normal, while using <Detect Life>, but when I check very carefully, I spot four groups, apparently advancing while sticking close to us. The actions of each group are independent, and it doesn’t appear at all as though they’re cooperating, but since they’re following us while maintaining a fixed distance, it makes me think that they must be quite skilled.

“Yep, they’re there. And it’s more like four groups.”

“Four groups means…US, CN, and GB, who have been gathering at Yoyogi, and also JP, as expected?”

“What about RU?”

“I think it’s a bit too soon for them. Unlike the other countries, they shouldn’t have any interest in where we go. Their turn will come on December the 2nd.”

In that case, it’s rather unlikely that they’ll attack us right now. We might actually receive protection from them instead. We’ve got to stay on guard, though.

“Still, it doesn’t look like Simon’s team is here.”

I suppose it’s because they’re an assembly for top 10 rankers, but the feeling I get from them when I use <Detect Life>, something like power or vitality, is on a different level altogether. There’s no doubt since I’ve tested it several times.

“None of the groups feels all that amazing.”

“I’m pretty sure they’re scouting units or something like that, don’t you think? Organizations with lots of manpower do operate differently, after all.” Miyoshi says with an envious undertone, and then laughs with the look of someone who just came up with something evil. “It sure feels like it’d be funny for all their teams to run into each other when they enter some narrow, straight corridor.”

“They’d simply feign ignorance while looking as if they met by coincidence, no?”

“You think they won’t restrain each other or something similar?”

“Even if they did, you see…there’s no way they’d suddenly start killing each other. They can’t afford to lose sight of us after all.”

However, being tailed endlessly feels unpleasant, it’s like being monitored. No, they might actually be monitoring us to begin with.

The instant we turn at a corner, I mark our pursuers with <Detect Life>, heave Miyoshi into my arms, and raise my speed, relying on my stats.

“Guee…uuh, did we give them the slip?”

“Hmm, I don’t know whether we’ve lost them completely, but I think them following us here would confirm that they’re tailing us.”

Even though the guys behind us were out of sight for a short while, they definitely kept following us. They might possess some exclusive scouting technique to see footprints or something.

“Aren’t they equipped with inter-personal radars? There aren’t very many people in the fringe areas around here.”

“Such small inter-personal radars exist?”

“Fifteen years ago, an MIT researcher built a device to detect moving bodies through wi-fi electromagnetic waves. Even though it was developed as a counter-terror device, it wouldn’t be odd for them to have those.”

“That’s damn amazing.”

 

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“That’s my full report about the most recent activities of D-Powers.”

In a small meeting room of the JDA, Naruse Miharu reported her support activities, and the recent actions of D-Powers, to Section Chief Saiga.

“Good work for the time being. After you got involved with them, Naruse, just the profit of the handling charges they brought the JDA amounts to 2,470,000,000 Yen. For a business lady that’s beyond remarkable. If things hadn’t gone well, we’d need to deduct three digits from that.”

That doesn’t really stem from my effort… she thought, but didn’t comment on it in particular. Be it ability or luck, the result is what it is. That’s how the world of adults works.

Once Saiga closed the report in his hands with a bang, he changed his attitude, and crossed his legs as, if to start some idle chit-chat about God and the world.

“Right now, China’s Huang, and Great Britain’s Wiliam, are visiting Japan for orbs, right?”

“Eh? They still haven’t gone back to their countries?”

“Far from going back, the other day Team Wiliam, and Team Fang, have entirely arrived in Japan from their respective countries.”

“Huh?”

“I’ve been told to let them stay in Yoyogi for a while.”

“Even their countries possess dungeons that are in the middle of being captured, don’t they?”

“Most likely.”

However, there’s few dungeons in China. For some reason, hardly any dungeons have appeared in the areas in the back of Japan, if seen from the Pacific Ocean.

“Why are they abandoning those dungeons and gathering in Yoyogi then?”

“Well, pretty obviously because of those auctions, no?”

<Different World Language Comprehension>. The auction for that orb will be held in Japan, and the hand-over location is Ichigaya. It’s clear as day that the orb comes from Yoyogi.

“Moreover, France’s Victor, and Germany’s Edgar, including support teams, have filed a request to participate. It looks like the US will increase its personnel here, too.”

“Support teams for Simon’s team?”

“No, it seems the personnel of the Dungeon Department will be increased by several people.”

“The DoD (Department of Dungeons)?”

“Yep.”

Simon belongs to the DAD. This is an organization under the direct control of the president, initially created by calling in staff from the FBI and DEA. The DoD is a ministry created last year, mostly to treat the dungeons as resources. Having said that, because there was no way to simply transfer jurisdictions that would clash with the DAD to the DoD, the DoD had independent field forces. In short, the US possessed two organizations, with different command chains, related to dungeon captures.

“Is there discord between the DAD and the DoD?”

“No clue. That’s none of our concern. I don’t have any intention to poke my nose into the internal affairs of the U.S.” Saiga said while spreading his arms. “Well, with that said, the international affairs surrounding Yoyogi have suddenly gained tremendous momentum.”

“The lodging facilities of Yoyogi Dungeon can’t handle all these people, you know?”

“I have already passed that on. Fortunately, there’s a plethora of hotels around Shinjuku. The embassies of the respective countries will find something suitable, I’m sure.”

“The top 20 soldiers, except for Russia’s Dmitrij and Italy’s Ettore, have assembled in a single dungeon?”

Saiga shifted his body’s weight in his chair’s backrest with a squeak.

“It might be the first time for such a situation to take place, since the nations put their systems in order after the dungeons appeared across the world.”

“The Kiryas Kul’yegan Dungeon is closed, right?”

That’s why everyone isn’t over there, despite knowing that it’s the dungeon where the orb was first discovered.

“Correct. But then again, a completely open dungeon like Yoyogi is rare. So, the guys from D-Powers have gone into the dungeon today, right?”

“Yes. They said they’d hang around there, and come back before the auction finishes.”

“Them entering the dungeon at this time will make anyone believe that they’ve gone to get the orb, no matter how they think about it, right?”

“Well, that’s…”

“As far as I can see from the entry lists, scouting teams from all nations are chasing them.”

“If Russia were to be there as well, we’d have to worry about assassination as well, though,” Saiga cracked a joke that wasn’t funny at all.

“I don’t know what those guys are thinking, but the handover has been specified to take place on December the 2nd. Grasping their whereabouts on December the 1st will likely become the highest priority for the secret services around the world.”

Yoyogi is wide, and has a large variety of monsters. Quite the effort will be necessary, if they were to comb through all the floors. However, if they can narrow down the floor with D-Powers on it, they should be able to lower that effort significantly.

“Moreover, it appears that after the folks from the security department went in, they lost sight of them. They came here to sound me out as well.”

“Eh? They were surveillance targets?”

“Guarding targets. You’re sticking to them from our side as well, aren’t you?”

Miharu was surprised exactly because she wasn’t quite aware of that.

“I can’t believe that I’d be of any use as guard, though…”

Hearing that, Saiga laughed, and said, “You see, it already makes a difference just to have someone watching.”

“Anyway, given that the security department, which should have staff at every important location, can’t keep track of them, it’s very likely that even the scouting parties of the other nations have lost them. Around now they’re probably panicking on-site.” Saiga twisted his lips, looking amused. “So, can you get in contact with them?”

Miharu hesitated for a moment, but decided to report the truth. “Sort of, in case of emergency.”

“That’s fine then.”

Outside the window, the shortening days meant the time was already fast approaching when the autumn sky would turn to crimson.

 

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The area around the stairs descending to the ninth floor, where we arrived after having shaken off our pursuers, was covered by a dry moat and an earthen wall, and had certainly been fashioned into something like a base. As might be expected, there was no inn, but the slightly fantasy-like setting, with food and stuff being sold at a stall, was quite amusing. According to the lad at the stall, they seem to run their business with two teams changing every two days. Apparently, among the explorers capable of reaching the eighth floor, there are a lot of surprisingly wealthy people.

“Still, since you’re an explorer, this is what you’re after, right?” He says, as he held out a skewer of grilled meat to me. When I ask back, “Is it orc meat?”, it actually seemed to be normal pig meat.

There are orcs on the eighth floor too, but the drop rate of orc meat isn’t all that high, and I hear it’s far more profitable to bring it back up to the surface. Nevertheless, one skewer costs 1,000 Yen, location, location, location, I suppose. I finish paying, for both me and Miyoshi, with two 1,000 Yen bills.

Business between explorers, besides trade licenses, are handled with cash, or direct payment through WDA cards. The latter is an automatic withdrawal from the account linked to the WDA card, but it’s limited to transactions below 100,000 Yen, and each time a commission, plus a tax of 100 Yen, will be automatically deducted from the sender’s account. Since it’s about the same as an ATM fee, it could be called convenient, but since the trade itself is open to scrutiny, there’s basically no privacy. Furthermore, trades inside a dungeon are apparently settled at the moment when you leave through the dungeon’s exit. Well, it’s because the internet doesn’t work here.

“It’s definitely a bit burnt, but I guess it’s part of the ambience. It’s actually surprisingly good.”

While saying something rude, Miyoshi stuffs her cheek with the grilled pork. The afternoon has already advanced quite a bit, with the time for an afternoon snack having passed. Our pursuers seem to have lost sight of us, seeing how they are out of the range of <Detect Life>.

We thank him for the meal while returning the skewers, and head to the stairs leading down to the ninth floor. Probably because the lad at the stall saw the beginner gear peeking out through a gap in my mantle, he pulls an astonished expression, and ends up asking, “You’re descending with that equipment?”

 

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“BO8. This is 18. We’ve reached the eighth floor. Over.”

“This is BO8. The targets descended to the ninth floor just now. Over.”

“BO8. You’re kidding, right? No matter how you look at it, that’s too fast. Over.”

“I’m certain. A pair of a man and woman, in beginner gear. The woman was doubtlessly Miyoshi Azusa. Over.”

The man, who had been selling grilled meat on a skewer, talked into a headset in the shape of a small earpiece, while standing in the shadows, away from the stall.

“Affirmative. We’ll hurry and chase after them. Additionally, it looks like a lot of our colleagues have joined the rally. Be careful over there. Over and out.”

The man removes the ear piece, and stands up.

“That means they managed to get a lead of one floor on our scouting team…” He mutters, while looking in the direction of the stairs the two had just descended. “Just who the hell are those guys?”

 

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We emerge on the ninth floor in a climax forest rather than a jungle. Moreover, it has a Japanese style. Big trees similar to Japanese beeches are growing into the sky, while leaving quite a bit of space between each other. <Detect Life> registers several monsters. It’s probably boar and bear types. According to the documents, even forest wolves and ogres seem to appear here. My current kill count should have 66 as the last two digits. The next 33 can be anything.

While pondering that it might be fun to experience the night on the tenth floor that everyone seems to hate so much, we continue walking towards the stairs leading down to the tenth floor. While Miyoshi devotedly hurls out iron balls on the way, she checks out various things. It looks like she can freely use <Storage> to attack, without spending any MP. I think she’s got plenty of balls with her, too.

There are quite a few people on this floor. As long as you avoid the colony worms, ogres and king boars seem to be quite nice as prey. Of course, that is only if you can defeat them.

That’s why the iron ball attacks are handier than magic. It’s easy to deceive others since shooting the balls looks kinda like using a sling.

Based on my secret peeking at the other explorers, most seem to travel in parties of four to six people. The general principle of fighting consists of the vanguards stalling the monsters, the middle guards attacking them with hammers and spears, and the rear guards using composite bows, crossbows, and guns.

“I’ve heard that the JSDF forms a solid defense line with bunker shields, and fires volleys with rifles.”

“Type 89s?”

“According to the rumors, there’s stories about them having brought in Type 19s by Howa Machinery3 or something like that.”

Experimenting with the next generation of rifles inside a dungeon…well, seeing how there’s quite a few humanoid monsters in here, it’s quite possible.

Around the time when the sun is about to sink, we arrive at the stairs to the tenth floor, while avoiding the eyes of others as much as possible. Because there’s a relatively decent camp on the eighth floor’s side of the stairs connecting the eighth and ninth floor, the explorers, who spend the night in this area, concentrate on that area. In other words, no one is around here.

Thus we go down to the tenth floor without caring about the sun sinking beyond the horizon.

 

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“Section Chief, there’s a call for you on line three.”

“And here I wanted to go home early for a change.”

“You have my condolences.”

Hearing that line, Saiga wondered for a moment whether he had made a mistake in training his subordinate, but he reconsidered that it might not be bad to close the distance to his subordinate, as long they kept up appearances outside the office.

“Yes, Saiga speaking.”

What he heard from the other side of the telephone was the voice of a somewhat stiff-sounding JSDF officer.

“…Oh, Mr. Terasawa. It’s been a while since our last contact. Yes. Yes. Eh? Right now?”

Seeing the shoulder of the female employee, who had received the call, twitch for an instant upon the comment he spontaneously blurted out, Saiga smiled wryly without saying anything. It’s because anyone would hate troublesome work popping up at such a late hour.

“There’s no time? Okay. …Understood. Then──” After saying that, Saiga looked at the clock on the wall. The clock’s hand was about to hit 6 p.m. “──how about 7 p.m.? Yes. Yeah, I know. Okay. See you later then.”

Once he hung up, the employee, who had taken the call, asked, “Shall I stay back if you’re going to meet someone after this?”, seemingly taking him into consideration.

“No, it’s fine. We will meet outside. Thanks.”

Upon his reply, she bowed her head, saying, “Understood. Good work,” with a relieved expression, and started to prepare to leave the office.

 

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The taxi, which had entered the Tokyo-Idai-Dori from Tomihisacho 4 , turned left at the crossing at the end of the Tokyo-Idai-Dori, just before the street would exit towards the Shiba-Shinjuku Ouji Line, and after heading down the street for a bit, came to a halt in front of a rectilinear-designed multi-store building, with an inconspicuous entrance and a pure white wall, located on the right side.

The place in front of him, which had extremely low reviews, was a store that he would hesitate to enter if he hadn’t been told about it in advance. When Saiga, who had pulled open the somewhat heavy door of the bar, named after an old cocktail for its first part, lightly lifted a hand after spotting Terasawa at the furthest seat of the counter, the bartender, who had immediately guessed that he was Terasawa’s companion, drew back the seat next to Terasawa for Saiga.

“It’s a nice and calm bar.”

“Well, it’s got the fact that there are no customers in the early hours going for it.”

Seemingly having just opened, there were no other guests to be found at the ten counter seats, or the tables that were even further in the back. Using the serviette offered to him, Saiga ordered a gin and tonic, and immediately got down to business.

“So, what is it that you wanted to talk about?”

Of course Saiga guessed that it might be about the orb in question, but going by the fact that Terasawa had privately called Saiga to such a place that was unrelated to the Ministry of Defence or the JDA, it was highly unpredictable what kind of story might be thrown his way.

“Why did you watch all of this while remaining silent?”

Terasawa guessed that this section chief of the Dungeon Management Section, who was pretending to be a harmless office worker, had been able to obtain the orb in question since the very beginning. After all, a mere half month after he had nudged him with his own idea, the unbelievable situation of the orb in question being put up for auction came to be. There was no way to call it anything but world-shaking, but assuming it was related to D-Powers, it’d sound like a lie to say that he was unrelated.

“…What might you be talking about?”

Without addressing that question, Terasawa clenched his fists atop the counter. “You should have been able to handle this a lot smoother. To me it simply looks like you created this situation to suit your own purposes.”

Saiga revealed a bitter smile at his overly blunt way of speaking, and took a sip of the gin and tonic that had been placed in front of him. The fragrance of the lime tickling his nose seemed to spur on his tired brain.

“Is this about the matter of that orb? I think you’re overestimating me a bit too much.” While keenly taking a second sip, he added another barefaced lie, “As you know, that’s an item capable of triggering a competition between countries. It’s not like a mere section chief would be able to do anything here, right? I simply bring it up whenever something happens that has to be reported.”

Saiga pointed his finger upwards as if saying “with my superiors.”

“However, since you haven’t contacted my office, the one who requested your help, about it either, I can only believe that you had some motive.”

“You’re making way too much out of it. Above all, the orb still hasn’t been found.”

What Saiga had reported to his superiors was no more than the inquiry as to what he should do when the orb was discovered. But then again, his maneuver of contacting not only his direct superior, but also Executive Director Mizuho was definitely different from usual.

“But, D-Powers gave a preliminary announcement that they would put it up for auction. They should have contacted you before that.”

“I just asked my superiors about the first steps of the negotiations, such as what I should do when the orb was discovered, and whether we would buy it. Anything beyond that is none of my business.”

Saiga, who had been thirsty, drained down the remaining gin and tonic in one go, looked in Terasawa’s direction, as if thinking that it might be inevitable, and tilted his head to the side.

“And that’s how that ridiculous outcome came to be?”

Terasawa, who had been informed about the details by Tanaka, reflexively held his head, being at his wits’ end.

“That’s above my pay grade.” Saiga said.

Terasawa looked at him, looking suspicious. He could only think that this whole situation had been constructed by this man, by manipulating the timing and occasion of bringing it up, no matter how he thought about it.

At the moment when their conversation took a break, the bartender came over to take orders for their second round of drinks. Seeing that, Terasawa whispered to Saiga, “The single malt of this place is superb.”

A large number of distinguished bottles stood close together at the back bar, lined up on the other side of a glass door. Even within the dark illumination, the characteristic bottle designs were clear.

I don’t really want to think about how much all of these bottles have cost, considering the steep price rises in the recent years, but if Terasawa recommends it, it must have a reasonably fair price.

However, currently it was a bad time for him to get drunk on strong booze.

“I don’t hate drinking it straight, but it’s a bit too early for that.” Saigai laughed and ordered it diluted with water, while making a pun of Terry Lennox’ famous phrase. 5

The bartender asked about the alcohol he’d like to have, once told to go with the standard, he nodded silently, retrieved a Famous Grouse 6 , and started to mix it with skilled hand movements.

“However, they still haven’t gone to search for the orb, and by just saying that they would run an auction, it’s not like that they actually started one either. Don’t you feel it’s somewhat weird in such a situation that the whole world has started to move as if they have actually discovered it?”

Terasawa could understand that argument, too. He even considered it to be reasonable. However, it was an undeniable fact that the intelligence agencies all over the world would pay close attention to their actions on December the 1st. Having said that, even if he tried to get to the bottom of it at this point, it would have no meaning. His objective today was linked to Japan’s wish to somehow recover their preferential right right now.

“Saiga-san, just as you say, the auction hasn’t started yet. The scheduled start time is tomorrow 2 p.m., going by Japanese time.”

Saiga silently listened to Terasawa without looking in his direction, while tasting the diluted Famous after placing his elbow on the counter.

“In other words, it’s still not too late. If we can somehow stop the auction──”

“Mr. Terasawa.”

Saiga had remained silent up to this point, but here he suddenly interrupted Terasawa. Terasawa didn’t continue any further, staring at Saiga’s profile, he sensed a sudden change in Saiga’s demeanor.

“If you can prepare a satisfactory offer, you might be able to have D-Powers stop the auction by apologizing to them. At least I think that something like that might be possible.” Saiga was doubtful whether they’d grant such a request at this point in time, but if he got Naruse to beg them in tears, while emphasizing all the troubles in regards to the trade, he felt like they might be unexpectedly willing to agree to it. However──

“In that case──”

“Tell me, what are you going to do after obtaining the orb?”

The ice in the glass clinked, as he rotated the glass while pinching its rim.

“…What do you mean? As a security guarantee, and also diplomatically, it will be a trump card to──”

“Trump card?” Saiga placed his glass on the coaster with a hard clack.

 

 

“Try thinking about it. Assuming Japan were to obtain this orb, just who do you intend to allow to use it? An expert? A JDA staff member? Or a bureaucrat? Or maybe you will have a soldier of your JSDF use it?”

Because Terasawa believed that it was the job of the politicians to decide what to do with the orb after obtaining it, he didn’t have any reply to those questions.

“Now listen. No matter who might be made to use that orb, they probably won’t be able to lead a normal life anymore.”

After all, there would be text passages only that person could read. If some outrageous secret was written there, would they really be capable of turning that into words? And assuming they were, would people believe those words? I wonder, just how many people exist who can live on while being persecuted by the suspicions of others? In this country, that is.

“But, someone must take on that duty.”

“You might be right there.” Hearing that remark, overflowing with a sense of duty, Saiga shifted the direction of their conversation, “Say, Mr. Terasawa, you’re surely not thinking that anything goes as long as it’s for the sake of Japan, right?”

“A bit, I’d say. Well, I do have this kind of job, after all.” Terasawa said, with a slight hesitation after remembering the foolish remarks that were apparently made in regards to this orb trade.

Thinking like that myself, and forcing that thinking on others, are two different pairs of shoes.

Hearing that, Saiga shook his head, “I see. But, is obtaining this orb really good for Japan?”

“What do you mean?”

Terasawa twisted his upper body, turning his body in Saiga’s direction.

“Even if <Different World Language Comprehension> were to be truly put up for auction at this point in time, it would be one of only two in the whole world. Hence, if there were any discrepancies in translation, it would merely turn into endless arguments.”

Terasawa nodded.

“Assuming our translation were to clash with Russia’s, would Japan have the power to insist that Russia had lied about it?”

“The West should back Japan’s translation. They should have at least that much trust in us, right?” Terasawa answered while smiling bitterly.

“What do you think, on just what will that trust be based?”

“I’d like to say that it’d be based on our great efforts as Japanese people after the Second World War, but the root of it might be the economic prosperity that came from the Japan-America Alliance.”

Even though it was occasionally ridiculed as excessive American gratuity, it was an undeniable fact that it was a part of why Japan accomplished such economical flourishing.

Saiga nodded lightly, and continued speaking, “You’re right. That’s why, if I were Russia, I’d suddenly grant Japan some concessions in regards to the Northern Territories issue a while after the orb was used.”

“That’s…”

If something like that were really to take place, it might look as if there’s some backroom deal, even if nothing like that happened.

“As it’d likely plant a seed of suspicion in the Japan-America relationship, it’s quite the fantastic idea, isn’t it?”

Even if it might be a small distrust at first, the demons of doubt would gradually grow in size within the people’s minds. And eventually, there might come a time when the root of Japan’s credibility would corrode.

“A divisive maneuver, huh…?”

“Mr. Terasawa, this was just a terrible joke. It’s something that’s always used by the folks who are slaves to disputes over concessions and cliques within parliaments.”

The country possessing the strongest military force in the world likely won’t rest as long as they don’t have their own translator. It seems obvious that it’ll result in them applying some kind of pressure at every opportunity.

“In that case, there’s also the option for Japan to obtain it and hand it over to America…”

“I think you’d better refrain from that. Even our country has those kinds of people, right? At the moment the state became the seller, all kinds of pressure should swoop down on the authorities all at once. Exactly because the sellers are individuals, it would be a shame to apply pressure on the level of a state on them.”

So to speak, it’s something like pounding away with a heavy machine gun to kill a water flea. I’m pretty sure it’d be completely exaggerated.

Saiga gulped down his drink, and said, “This is the best way to have the countries in similar situations constrain themselves. Russia will arbitrarily divulge things that America wants to hide, and America will do the same with matters Russia wants to hide. That keeps it all in balance.”

“Both countries might come to an agreement, for the sake of something silly like trying to deceive the other countries, no?”

“If something like that really becomes reality, the world would be controlled by those two countries, and the existence or absence of the orb wouldn’t make much of a difference, right?” Saiga replied to Terasawa’s objection while revealing a dark smile.

Certainly, if America and Russia seriously cooperated, no power would be able to match them militarily.

“Although they’re sitting at the same table, using the same cards, America and Russia, and the other countries, play different games.” Saiga quietly lifted his glass towards Terasawa. “That’s why I’d say, let’s have America pull the joker.”

 

◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇

 

A Western-styled graveyard was expanding across the whole area.

“Senpai! It stinks, you know!?”

“Eh? Seriously?”

She’s right, if you focus on the smell, a faint rotten stench hangs in the air. Since the opponents are zombies, you might say it’s only natural, but just how does that work when they vanish once defeated?

After we travel for a bit, in the opposite direction from the stairs to the 11th floor, groaning zombies show up from the graves all over the place. For starters, I shower them with Water Lances. As there’s no sign of explorers around us, no one is watching anyway. I can kill the zombies I hit in the head with one blow, but the ones I mistakenly hit in the legs are heading our way, dragging the upper bodies along the ground, even with their lower bodies having been blown away.

“Is this some kind of biohazard, or what!?”

Because the path isn’t overly wide, with gravestones standing close together even next to the path, it’s quite annoying to target them if they keep crawling along the ground. By the way, <Detect Life> only shows them as very small responses. In other words, they are almost stealthy. I can spot them if I focus on it, but this is quite a nuisance.

“Miyoshi, let’s use the top of that hill over there as a base!”

“Sure thing.”

The sun is about to go down anytime now. We run up the hill slightly ahead of us, while shooting spells and iron balls. Once we’ve finished exterminating the monsters in our vicinity, Miyoshi swiftly takes out the camper-van. We rush inside and close the door.

Since we’ve removed the rear ladder, it’s a kind of a stronghold. Even if the tires get destroyed, it won’t matter to us at all.

“Phew. Three more until the next 100, huh?”

Miyoshi boots up the surveillance monitors. Although it’s already dark outside, the video on the monitors is relatively clear.

“What’s up with that? Infrared rays?”

“The current main filter is an amplification of visible light. Zombies probably don’t emit any heat, right?”

“Who knows. I’ve got no clue, but I guess anything works as long as we can see them. Or rather, the night on the tenth floor actually seems to have some light sources.”

Once I look, stars are twinkling in the sky, despite this place being inside a dungeon. If werewolves and their ilk exist, there might even be a moon. Besides, it appears objects similar to torches occasionally flicker here and there in the graveyard. It’s mysterious.

“Now, now, senpai. Let’s leave the stargazing for later, and have dinner first.”

Once I take out tea and bentos, we start our dinner, with the occasional sounds of the titanium covers being hit as BGM. Our bentos this time were ordered from a lunch vendor in the neighborhood by Miyoshi. I was astounded by the little extravagance when I heard about this, but as might be expected of a glutton’s recommendation, they taste quite good.

After a short time, the sounds of the titanium covers being hit stopped. I don’t understand what component of the living draws the undead to them, but now that we’ve secluded ourselves in the car, it doesn’t seem as though there’s anything drawing them here.

 

◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇

 

“Lao Wang. Are we really going down here?”

Chin Yen, the only woman on the team, confirmed with their leader, Wang Wei.

“What’s wrong, Chin Yen, you scared?” The youngest among them, Wang Chi Yin, said as if mocking her.

Since he had the same family name as the leader, he was called Shao Wang, with the leader being called Lao Wang.

“The guidebook of Yoyogi states that even top teams avoid the tenth floor at night.”

“What, it means the top teams of the amateur folks, right?” Having checked their equipment, Yu Han cut into their conversation with those words.

“Hanghua…”

Chin Yen saw that the JSDF-like scouting team avoided descending to the tenth floor, after confirming that the sun would go down very soon. In a slightly separate place, the GB and US teams, who had confirmed the same, apparently refrained from going down to the tenth floor as well, seemingly copying the actions of the team well-acquainted with Yoyogi.

Very likely it’s because they didn’t manage to prepare adaption potions.

“However, the JSDF team, which should possess adaption potions, and knows Yoyogi well, isn’t trying to head down.”

“Chin Yen, if the Yoyogi guidebook is correct, the effect of the adaption potion is weak during the night anyway.”

“True.”

“Besides, our targets headed down. With just two of them.” Lao Wang said, hinting at the party that proceeded to the next floor a little while ago.

It was impossible for the party, which had calmly gone down to the tenth floor at night, an environment which made even the JSDF hesitate, to have reached the stairs leading to the 11th floor before the sun had completely set, no matter how you considered it.

“Alright, let’s go then!”

Alongside Lao Wang’s encouraging yell, the four went down the stairs leading to the tenth floor, chasing after D-Powers.

 

◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇

 

“Whoa! Wait a sec, isn’t that the CN team?”

The JSDF’s scouting team stared in wonder, while watching Lao Wang’s team go down to the next floor in the distance.

“I don’t know whether they’re that confident, or simply don’t have a clue about things, but you think those guys will be able to come back?”

“Wouldn’t it be better if we went to rescue them?”

“Stop it. It’s regrettable, but with our combat power, we’ll definitely go for wool and come home shorn.” Mimasaka, the commanding officer of the scouting unit, said with a vexed look.

“However, the D-Powers duo are Japanese. Moreover, they’re currently treated as VIPs. Shouldn’t we go to rescue them?”

“No matter how much of a VIP they might be, explorers have to manage their own risks. It’d be different if we had an order to do so, but we haven’t received any orders to protect them. Our objective is ultimately to monitor them.” Mimasaka tightly clenched his fists.

Even he would have gone down to the tenth floor right away, if only he had enough strength. But, as the commanding officer, who precisely grasped their capabilities, he knew more than well enough that this would be beyond their abilities.

“Listen, don’t try to do the impossible. Incompetent, hardworking, people will only invite the worst outcome.”

Once he said so to his team, as if persuading himself, he kept looking for a long time, with a fierce glare, at the stairs where the CN team had disappeared.

 

◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇

 

Descending to the tenth floor, they immediately confirmed with their heat tracking sensors that the two people had apparently headed in the opposite direction of the stairs. After a few minutes of following the sensor, while getting rid of the undead, the sun fully disappeared beneath the horizon, and the temperature fell right away. And then, within the sun’s afterglow, which was about to fade away, the sounds of rifles being fired in three round bursts echoed across the tombs.

“Lao Wang, our bullets won’t last!”

Chin Yen shouted, while shooting his QBZ-95-1 at a crowd of zombies swarming the group. 7 . Hanghua had already entered close combat with his bayonet. However, unable to gain much distance due to the limits of his Bullpup, he struggled hard against the crowd of undead assailing him from three sides.

A zombie, who dragged his body along the ground after being reduced to just a torso, jumped out from in-between two graves, and bit the foot of Wang Chi Yin, who had been covering Hanghua.

“Guaahh!”

“Shao Wang!?”

Chin Yen, who turned around after hearing his voice, saw the zombie biting away at his foot, and reflexively fired at its head at point blank range.

“Stop! The ricochets!”

The graveyard’s paths were stone-paved. A rebounding bullet grazed Hanghua.

“Fuck, withdraw!”

Lao Wang yelled loudly, and launched a grenade at the undead in the direction of the stairs leading to the ninth floor.

 

◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇

 

“Oh?”

“What’s wrong?”

“Didn’t you hear something like an explosion just now?”

“Explosion, you say…this is the tenth floor at night, you know? I don’t think there’s anyone besides undead here.”

“No, something like a scream, too…”

“Did even banshees come out?” With those words, Miyoshi turns up the volume of the monitors.

Once the two strain their ears, they can faintly hear the sounds of guns being fired.

“Just as I thought, someone is out there, right?”

“Did some team come chasing after us, seeing as how it sounds like gunshots?”

“To the tenth floor at night? How reckless.”

“Senpai, you’re one to talk.”

“Should we go out to save them?”

“It might get troublesome down the road if we reveal ourselves while saving them, if it’s a scouting party from a foreign nation. Besides, they’re kinda far away. It seems like they’re gradually going further away, so I wonder whether they might be withdrawing right now…”

“It’d be really great if they’re safe and sound.”

As we’re waffling about whether we should try to go save them, the gunshots gradually fade away, and a faint howling becomes audible.

“A barghest, I guess?”

The video feed from our cameras silently begins to be covered by a fog, and we can hear the sound of dragging chains.

“It’s around 150 meters to the front. It’ll be alright since there’s nothing above us.” Miyoshi says, while pointing at the ceiling.

Just when I’m about to head to the bunk bed, Miyoshi takes out a helmet with something bulky sticking to it.

“Senpai, wanna try to use this?”

“You, this is…a night vision device?”

“Apparently an AN/PVS-15. It seems to be a product of the USSOCOM (United States Special Operations Command) purveyor.”

“You can buy stuff like that?”

“I bought it online no problem.”

“Haah, what an amazing era we live in.”

Once I put it on, after roughly scanning through its manual, I silently move to the car’s front, and jump on the place where the bunk bed would usually be. As a door has been in place of the sun roof, it’s become possible to get on top of the car from there.

Quietly sticking out my head from the roof, I carefully check my surroundings.

“Oohh, wow. You can see unexpectedly well with this.”

The fog has steadily continued to get thicker, but unlike the darkness-like thickness caused by the Hound of Hecate, this one looks like normal fog. As I’m observing my vicinity for a short while, it appears with a low growl within the swarm of undead. It looks like it still hasn’t summoned its companions.

I swiftly shoot Water Lances at the zombies in the area, and once I’ve defeated two of them, I immediately shoot Water Lances towards the barghest at full power.

The barghest, who noticed me after seeing the zombies fall apart, tries to immediately summon his hellhounds, but the instant the magic crest appears on the ground, he’s pierced by my Water Lances.

——–

Skill Orb – Detect Life 1/50,000,000
Skill Orb – Darkness Magic (II) 1/100,000,000
Skill Orb – Darkness Magic (VI) 1/280,000,000
Skill Orb – Abnormal Condition Resistance (2) 1/500,000,000
Skill Orb – Illness Resistance (4) 1/700,000,000

——–

I swiftly jot down the contents displayed by Making, acquire <Darkness Magic VI> as initially planned, and withdraw into the car from the roof.

“If we assume that <Darkness Magic (VI)>  is related to summoning, II will be the fog?”

“I don’t know. It might be the other way around. Since I’ve never seen them erase the fog if they pull back or something, it’s also possible that they’re passively clad by it as long as they’re alive.”

“That’d be unpleasant. Let’s put this on hold then. <Abnormal Condition Resistance> seems to be resistance against poison, paralysis, sickness, sleep, and charm. The Arabian number refers to its level.”

“That one’s amazing. Although it’s 2, it might be good to get it for the future.”

“I think <Illness Resistance> is an exclusive resistance against sickness among the abnormal conditions. But, 4 sounds amazing. Maybe you’ll become immune to influenza or something like that?”

“In that case, it’d be great, but…well, even if we speculate about unknown orbs, it’ll lead nowhere. We’ll know once we obtain <Appraisal>, right?”

I point at the <Darkness Magic (VI)> orb I have placed in front of Miyoshi. “You’re going to use this one after obtaining <Appraisal> then, okay?”

“Becoming a beauty clad in fog doesn’t sound all that unattractive, but it’d be bad for shopping if you can’t erase it.”

“A beauty covered by mist inside a store, you say?”

“Senpai, that’s a dirty old man joke.”

“Anyway, I suppose I’ll go raise my counter some.”

I return to the bunk bed to kill the necessary numbers for the next orb in a hurry. As I peek out my face from the roof, waves of zombies and skeletons turn up in succession. The living must look like torches to them within the darkness of the tenth floor. It’s an easy job to simply kill them with Water Lances, and store away the items that drop from them every now and then.

At that moment, I get carried away, and end up being careless. Because I’ve been attacking more than my MP recovery could handle, my MP keeps decreasing gradually. Right when it’s about to fall below half, just when I started thinking that I should stop soon, something flies at me, grazing the back of my head.

“Uoohh!”

Once I reflexively turn around, searching my vicinity, I find a skeleton with a bow, standing in a slightly distant place.

“There’s even skeleton archers!?”

Nothing but skeletons were mentioned in the documents, but at this rate, there might also be mages and such around as well, no?

The instant I go to counterattack with a Water Lance, the head of the skeleton archer bursts open.

“Ueeh?”

“Senpai, it’s dangerous to get negligent.”

Bah, Miyoshi, eh? Just how the hell…? As I timidly peek out across the roof, while wondering that, I see the heads of one monster after the other burst open. It looks like she’s started to shoot her iron balls while looking at the monitors. From within the car.

“Hey, that’s cheating, you know?”

The activation point of emission-type magic is basically next to you. That’s why something silly like using magic while looking at a monitor inside a car is impossible. But, it looks like the iron ball shooting using <Storage> follows a different rule. Come to think of it, she mentioned something along the line of 『When taking out the bus, I could do so in a place somewhat further away than I had expected. It was fun』 when she checked the capacity of <Storage> with buses, didn’t she?

The last two digits of the counter have become 84. Deciding to leave the rest to Miyoshi, I collect the items scattered in the vicinity.

——–

Healing Potion (1) x 2
Magic Crystal: Barghest
Magic Crystal: Skeleton x 12
Fang: Barghest
Bone: Skeleton x 28

——–

In spite of having killed quite a few, the number of dropped items is surprisingly low. Wait, zombies don’t drop anything?

While pondering about such things, I quickly go back inside the car, closing the roof door.

“Haah, if that arrow had hit, it’d have been quite dangerous.”

I flop down on the sofa with a thud.

“The helmet was a good idea, wasn’t it?”

Maybe I would have repelled it with my VIT power, but I’ve got no desire to test it out. That Miyoshi, while just grunting at other people’s words, she’s looking at the surveillance cameras’ videos, defeating one zombie and skeleton after the other. Or rather, she’s quite good at aiming using just a video feed.

“You know, you can do that as much as you want, if we’ve got a base on the tenth floor.”

“Dehehehe, feel free to praise me, okay?”

I look up to the ceiling as if having given up on her, and stand up, pondering whether I should take a shower.

“Don’t play this shooting game all night long. Miyoshi, make sure to get some rest when you find a good stopping point, got it?”

“I know, I know.”

I shrug my shoulders at Miyoshi, who answers without even taking her eyes off the PC, like a child who’s totally absorbed in their game, and head to the shower room.

 

 


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Translation Notes:

  1. It was set up to cope with a decline of tax revenue in 1977 with an initial capital of 200 billion Yen. The intention was the settlement of future deficits through payments of the Fund.
  2. Yep, author turned the name around here, it’s not me!
  3. Look here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howa_Type_20 The Type 19 is still in development as far as I understand it. But I think you get the drift.
  4. An area close to Tokyo’s Medical University
  5. Terry Lennox is a character appearing in the movie “The Long Goodbye.” It’s based on a novel by Raymond Chandler. I can’t find the exact wording in the movie, so it might be a bit inaccurate.
  6. tis one: https://kohei-fujimura.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/img_1113.jpg
  7. Look here: http://pewpewpew.work/china/rifle/qbz95/95-1b.jpg

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