“Ah, Ms. Miyoshi!” Ms. Naruse, seemingly accompanied by a warm wind blowing in our faces from within the building, runs up after discovering us entering through the JDA’s automatic door. “What’s going on? You’re strangely chummy today, aren’t you?” She adds with a baffled look, seeing me with my arm around Miyoshi’s shoulder.
“Ah, well, yeah, various things happened.” Removing my arm with those words, Miyoshi giggles.
Well, I suppose it’s okay now.
“Now that you mention it, it’s been quite an uproar out front. Are you two alright?”
She probably means the matter with the trailer. Ms. Naruse asks, probably believing that the various stuff I mentioned is about the accident.
“Well, we’re safe. So far as it goes.”
Even if I were to mention that we were sniped at, it’d just cause a big fuss. As long as we manage to wrap up the trade, just reporting back to Mr. Tanaka will be enough, I think. I can’t fathom that they’d go as far as bombing the JDA next. It’d be exaggerated and too unreliable in regards to the results.
Going by the quick peek we took, the sniper seems to have fallen into the pit immediately after losing consciousness atop the building’s roof. Movement inside the pit’s space has the same underlying principle as movement in normal space. If you want to move something that doesn’t move on its own, it’s necessary to carry it. Because this action appears to be fairly costly, Aethlem asked Miyoshi to do something about the guy in there. Of course, it’s absolutely no problem to simply let him rot, if we don’t make Aethlem move him around. In short, it’d be the safest approach to quickly restrain the assailant and let Mr. Tanaka handle the rest.
Anyway, first comes business. As long as we hand over the orb to the DAD, we should be able to return to our days of peace – at least that’s what I want to believe.
『Hello. You’re the orb people?』
At that moment, a girl, who looks like a junior high school student, addresses us from behind Ms. Naruse. But, why is such a young girl in a place like this? She looks like an US-American, so she might be involved with the DAD, but…
『That’s right. I’m called Yoshimura. Are you staff of the DAD?』
In response to my question, the girl shows a pleasant smile, answering 『I’m Monica Clark. Nice to meet you』, as she holds out her hand.
While clasping it, I have some reservations about this.
“Senpai, a researcher in their forties, or a researcher in their teens; which would you want to use an orb worth 400 billion Yen, assuming neither has genetic diseases in their family?
The orb’s skill will go poof if it’s holder dies, no matter how much effort and money you throw at it. It’s not that I don’t understand the idea of extending its usage as much as possible, but…
“No, I mean…say whatever you want, but she totally looks like a middle schooler, you know?”
“That’s a matter concerning the other side. It’s nothing we should interfere with.”
It’s just as Miyoshi says, I know all that, but contrary to Ms. Naruse’s secret usage, using this orb under orders of an organization right now is equal to announcing that she’ll become a caged bird for the rest of her life.
Just when I face Monica, preparing to reply, Simon, who has apparently checked the situation outside, lifts a hand in greeting as he passes through the lobby’s automatic door.
『That was a miraculously narrow escape that would put Hollywood to shame, wouldn’t you say?』
I guess he’s talking about the stunt of us passing beneath the container earlier.
『Why would you know that?』
『We saw it all from behind you.』
A tall, slender man with ash blond hair says from behind Simon. If I remember correctly, he’s the scout of Team Simon. His name…ah right, he mentioned it was Joshua Rich or something like that, I think.
『Oh, so you were also following, just as expected』
『We were of no help at all, though』
『Were you possibly responsible for the other guys following us from behind in Gyoen having stopped to move?』
Joshua winks, doing a thumbs up.
Miyoshi, who’s been making a call at the wall, quickly runs up to me, and says, “Senpai, I got in contact with Mr. Tanaka. It looks like he’s been delayed a bit because of the mess at Gyoen.”
『Well, that’s how it is. Anyway, once we tried chasing after you in a taxi, the semi trailer rolled. That was quite surprising, or rather, really scary. I was damn sure that you’d die then and there』
He says and laughs. Their assigned primaries being killed right in front of their noses would also reflect poorly on them as it’d be their failure. Even though they aren’t expert bodyguards; it’s just that their stats stand out. Unexpectedly, the US might be running short on personnel, too.
『Still, you sure made a mess out of things for us, didn’t you?』
Simon screws up his face to look sullen, but fails as the corners of his mouth twitch in amusement.
『What could you be talking about?』
『The ninth floor』
Ah, it’s about the ninth floor where we moved to at the end. It looks like the search teams of the various countries had a really bad time in the colonial worm section on that floor.
『Our country seems to have sent a DoD team after you as well. It doesn’t sound like the worms are super strong, but…that appearance and in those numbers? After quickly running out of bullets, it soon developed into a freaking annoying battle, you know?』
Simon says while stifling a chuckle, and Joshua shrugs his shoulders exaggeratedly behind him.
『So? Did the colonial worms drop any items?』
Simon’s eyes brighten up once Miyoshi asks.
『Is that another way for saying that those mobs drop some important items?』
『Eh? I’m just curious, okay? Still…why are you telling us all this?』
『It’s ’cause you showed interest in it, Azusa』
『Whoa, come on. Currently you’re the second hottest explorer in the world. You didn’t know?』
According to Simon, Miyoshi has already drawn attention from all over the world because of her orb auctions, but along with the sale of <Different World Language Comprehension>, she’s apparently become the world’s most famous trade license owner. If the WDA were to release a trade license ranking, she’d single-handedly dominate the first place by leaps and bounds.
『With your ability to easily find an orb highly sought after by explorers all over the world, you’re in the center of attention among even military authorities and politicians, not to mention other traders』
『It was just coincidence, though.』
『Bullshit, as if anyone would believe that』 Simon shoots down Miyoshi’s reply at once.
Because the conversation is starting to head in a dangerous direction, I casually change the topic, 『If Miyoshi is the second, who’s the first? Team Simon who cleared Evans?』
『It pains me to say, but I think we’re already third or even below that. Not in my wildest dreams had I expected that our clearing of Evans would be overshadowed in no time』
『Don’t ask the obvious, man. A certain world rank 1 who became famous overnight』
Ugh, I’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest there.
『But, nothing is known about that guy. I tried asking around all over the place in Yoyogi, but let alone knowing who it is, not a single explorer has even the slightest idea who it could be』
『Wouldn’t that simply mean that this person isn’t in Yoyogi?』
『Maybe? Well, you might be right. Either way, neither the JDA folks nor the explorers have the slightest clue about their true identity. They’ve been given the nickname The Phantom. Some also called them Mister X, but it’s not like the options are limited to men only』
Yeah, it’s equivalent to saying it’s all a show.
“Senpai, I wonder, which is cooler, King Salmon or The Phantom?” Miyoshi asks while suppressing a laugh.
As if I’d care!
『Well, having said that, Azusa, you’re already a worldwide legend. After all, you’re being considered as the Number One Orb Hunter. But then again, it’s not like a number two exists either』 Simon laughs.
I’d say it means she’s the sole orb hunter in the world.
『In any case, recently Area 12 has an abundance of news for sure』
Monica has been silently listening to our silly chit-chat with an expression showing great interest.
『On that subject, Simon, who’s she?』
『Ah…I guess there’s no point in hiding it any longer now that we’re here. She’s the orb user, or so I’ve been told』
I get slightly angry due to the reply which follows my prediction. I won’t brandish my commoner logic, which would be misunderstood as stunted, by talking about social justice here or anything like that, but I’d like to at least ask if she’s being tricked into it.
『You know what this means, right?』
『I get what you want to say, Yoshimura. But it’s a matter that doesn’t fall under my supervision』
Nothing less of a soldier. I bend down, matching my line of sight with hers, and ask, 『Say, Monica』
『Are you aware of the circumstances surrounding the orb you’re going to use?』
『Have you agreed to using that orb? On your own judgment, without having any kind of pressure applied on you?』
『As people are living in a society, they can’t fully escape those kinds of pressures. No matter how free they are, it won’t be anything but simple chaos if no rules exist at all』
Monika answers, revealing a slightly grown-up smile.
『Hey, Simon. You’re not going to pull a joke like saying that this girl is actually thirty years old or something similar, right?』
『No clue. However, I hear she enrolled at MIT at the age of nine, and became the youngest Ph. D. just before turning fourteen』
What the hell! But then again, intellectual and emotional growth are two different pairs of shoes.
『You see, human emotions sometimes can’t be explained with logic』
『Even if you consent to it now, it might become unbearable at some point』
As I look into her eyes, I hesitate on what would be the best to tell her. That’s why I smile and simply tell her what comes to mind.
『But it’s okay. When you become an adult, you’ll have a lot more freedom than now』
After all, the dungeons are trying to spread <Different World Language Comprehension>.
She has listened to my words, which must seem to be completely unfounded, with a serious look. I bring my face close to hers so that no one else can hear us, and quietly tell her of the URL I heard from Miyoshi.
『Please access this site on Cristmas Eve. However, keep it a secret until then』
『Understood! It’s a secret magic chant!』
She says happily, showing a childish smile this time.
『A secret magic chant?』
『Mr. Simon has said that you’re a magician』
Simon? Just what kind of crap is that guy spreading about me…?
At this time I still didn’t know that a Japanese magician had become a hot topic in the Indo-European high society because of Ayesha.
“Senpai. It’s Yes to lolita, but No to touching.”
“Now listen you, I don’t have any such preferences.”
The team around Tanaka, who had arrived on-site after being contacted by one of its members, handled the settling of the incident caused by Joshua and Natalie at Gyoen.
“Their equipment is US-American, but their race seems to be eastern Slavic.” Tanaka’s subordinate said while examining the unconscious, bound quartet of men.
“When all’s said and done, it’s been handled very skilfully.” Tanaka surveyed the vicinity, obviously fascinated.
Although the line of sight from the promenade was blocked by the grove of trees, they had taken on four special force members of some country close to the promenade in Gyoen on a Sunday, knocking them out while making sure that no one noticed the whole event. And very likely bare-handed at that.
“The gun has been fired twice.”
“Easily dodging gunfire from a trained professional, and knocking out all four of them before the other three could fire their guns…putting it into words makes it sound easy, but would our guys be able to pull off something like this?”
“According to the men who received their equipment, it was apparently a couple, a man and a woman.”
“This only strengthens my belief that it’s nigh impossible.”
At that moment Tanaka’s smartphone vibrated.
“Sorry, give me a moment.” With those words, he took the call while separating from the scene a bit.
“Ah, hello, it’s Miyoshi.”
The carefree voice on the other side of the line told him something completely unbelievable.
“You caught a sniper?”
“Yes, that’s how it turned out, I guess. We’ve seized him alongside his weapon, so please come pick him up at a suitable time.”
“Eh? Just a moment, Ms. Miyoshi!”
While staring in a daze at the smartphone, which showed that the call had ended, Tanaka had absolutely no clue just how they had apprehended that sniper. It’s completely different from catching a spy who got close on his own. Just how the heck did they catch someone who’d run away right away after sniping at them from a fair distance?
He felt ashamed hearing that someone had been freely using such a weapon within Japan, but what was even worse was their structural problem, making it impossible for their organization to track everyone who had arrived from Domodedovo on the 29th.
“We’re very obviously lacking manpower.”
Are we really going to be able to prevent a large-scale terror attack from occurring during the upcoming Olympics by just mobilizing the police? Maybe it’d be smart to simply request the folks of D-Powers to guard the VIPs,’ he wondered with a bitter smile.
The orb trade itself finished without a hitch in almost no time. Monica used the orb immediately, right then and there. Then, some adult brought in documents, and after looking at those, she discussed something with the new arrivals. My guess is that they wanted to verify that she really had now become capable of understanding the written contents.
“Ms. Naruse told me just moments ago, but my trader license has gone up in rank or something, and I received a new card.”
“Figures, you’re a legend now, right?”
“Please stop with that.”
“So, did you go up by two levels in one breath or something?”
The license Miyoshi hesitantly holds out to me is different in some respects to the plastic card I possess. It’s completely black, and its catchy appearance carries some dignity as well. Also, its top is shining radiantly, and an “S” is written on it in a pearly, glossy color…
“Whoa, are they commemorating you with a special seven rank promotion!?”
“Hey! Don’t joke like that; you make it sound like I’ve died or something. At least use recognized or advanced or such. Please?”
The WDA’s ranking doesn’t reflect actual ability, but ultimately shows your level of contribution to the respective national DAs. If it comes to trading licenses, things like what merchandise you’ve traded and how much handling fee you’ve paid to the JDA should play a major role. Considering it logically, the JDA has earned 40 billion Yen from just this one trade. It’s no wonder that she’s become an S rank with that.
“Probably S rank will grant you that template reward.”
“A free pass into all dungeons restricted by the states.”
The WDA’s ranking limits the sale of weapons and armors, and is used as an estimate for pricing when an enterprise hires an explorer, additionally, it also limits access to restricted dungeons.
“I see, orb hunter, eh?”
We’re basically two slackers who want to do our beloved research while leading carefree lives. Being ordered to go get various orbs for some big shots is a big no go.
“Let’s make it a rule to turn such requests down whenever they crop up.”
『Hey, Azusa, Yoshimura』
Right now Monica is still talking about something with the people around her on the other side of the room. Thus, apparently bored to death, Simon chats us up.
『Those guys will soon go back to the states, but since we’ve decided to genuinely tackle Yoyogi for a bit, you’ve got to put up with me and my team a bit longer, ‘kay?』
Eeeh? Just scurry back home and do your job properly, dude! Oh, which reminds me!
『Are you going to escort them up until Yokota?』
『Hmm? Well, yeah, but what ’bout it?』
『As a matter of fact…』
I pull Simon into a corner, and tell him in a whisper that Miyoshi had been sniped at.
『What was that!? …Don’t tell me, that trailer too?』
『I can’t say so for sure, but I have my suspicions.』
『So, what about the offenders?』
『The sniper should be restrained, but I think it’d be better for you to be careful until you enter Yokota』
『Got it. Thanks a lot for the heads-up』
With those words Simon goes out onto the corridor. He’s probably going to call some place via his cell phone. This room is shielded after all.
『Mr. Yoshimura. Thank you very much on various accounts』
Monika says so and holds out her hand when she’s about to leave the conference room. It looks like it’s been decided that she’ll fly back to Yokota with a helicopter from the Ministry of Defense. Come to think of it, Japan also cooperated in the acquisition of the orb, didn’t it?
While grasping her hand, I say with a wink, 『If it becomes too much of a pain to be stuck between research and politics, you just gotta selfishly do what you aren’t forbidden to do, even if you don’t do what you’ve been told to do. It’s fine. Even if something happens, as long as you’re not told to do something, you’ll be able to get off the hook to some extent』
『If something happens, contact us at any time』
Monica nods lightly, and cheerfully walks through the corridor while grinning broadly. If possible, I’d like her to become happy. After all, it’s not necessary for her to live by sacrificing herself for something, just as her name suggests. 1
『You’re really a nice guy. Though you’re a bit too much of a busybody』
I cast a fleeting glance at Simon, who has positioned himself next to me without me even noticing, and curtly answer, 『Far from it』.
I’m merely trying to live while following my own emotions as much as possible. That’s why it’s only natural for there to be many contradictions and futility in my actions. The trauma of having worked at an exploitative company isn’t just for show.
『Whatever. Just make sure to be as careful as possible. Nice guys tend to die sooner or later in dungeons』
While casting a sidelong glance at Simon who’s put his arm around my shoulder in an overly-familiar manner while delivering his peptalk, I bump his chest with the back of my right hand.
『In short, we’ll be alright as long as you’re alive』
Hearing that, Simon grins broadly, removes his arm, bids farewell by slightly raising one hand, and runs up next to Monica. Miyoshi and I leave through the lobby and see their group off. With that, I feel completely drained.
“It’s finally over, huh?”
“Yeah, we’re done here.”
The leaves on the roadside trees having turned a vivid crimson are tolling the beginning of winter. Monica gets into a limousine parked in front, surrounded by Simon’s team and her SP. The trip to the ministry will take just a minute. As long as the front gate isn’t fully blocked by the semi truck or some such.