§062 Contents of the Epitaphs 12/5 (Wed)


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It’s been three days since all of the turmoil with the <Different World Language Comprehension> came to an end.

Ms. Naruse’s intense focus on her translation work for the sake of publishing the party information has been terrifying. I think her own curiosity to uncover the truth played a big role in her motivation. Moreover, because she fully understood that it was a matter that required discretion, she spent not only the nights, but the last 72 hours secluded in our office.

Just as its name suggests, <Different World Language Comprehension> is a skill allowing one to understand the written language of another world. With the important distinction that it’s not a different world language translation. In other words, it requires a good deal of knowledge and experience to convert concepts that don’t exist on Earth (different cultural aspects, game-like terms, and language rules) and translate them into any given language used on Earth.

Ms. Naruse has translated the epitaphs, which are publicly available right now, with quite the verve. Above all, she’s a knowledgeable expert when it comes to dungeons. Which, thankfully, kept the number of concepts new to her rather low, allowing her to translate at an astonishing rate.

When I asked her whether it was okay for her to miss work at the JDA, her reply was really extreme: “Didn’t I earn 400 billion just the other day? Even if I were to play hooky for the next ten years, they couldn’t possibly have any reason to complain!”

“Oi, Miyoshi. You’re a bad influence on Ms. Naruse, you know?”

“What are you saying, senpai? No matter how you look at it, that’s obviously your fault.”

“Eh? Why?”

“Just think about it. As soon as she starts on a text, she gets completely absorbed in it, losing all relation to time, right? It’s the vicious cycle of working late into the night, then failing to be on time in the morning, resulting in her simply staying over at our company. See, that’s so very you.”

“Wait a sec, that’s not what I meant!”

I just meant the part about playing hooky for the next ten years. That’s what I’m about to say, but knowing I’d get argued down anyway, I simply give up and avert my eyes.

In any case, it looks like she’s been reporting back to the JDA every day. Probably, telling them that she wants to concentrate on her job with us. Honestly, if you consider that we’re going to publish all of her translations, you could very well justify this as the very definition of what a Dungeon Management Department should do anyway.

Within just two days, the 24 m² Japanese-styled room on the first floor of our office turned into Ms. Naruse’s workspace and nap room. Probably accepting it as inevitable, Miyoshi had a relatively nice sofa bed brought in for her.

“Even if we had heating installed in there, her sleeping on the ground is a no-no, right?”

That means Ms. Naruse is in our office all the time, to which Miyoshi responded with a laugh, “Everything that matters is password-protected, and since we don’t leave anything really important in there in the first place, it’ll be fine for a spy to stay in our office unsupervised.”

The truly important stuff is stored on a single notebook, and Miyoshi should have put all the paper documents away into her <Storage>. After all, <Storage> has a feature that automatically catalogs all of the items within it, even if you randomly toss stuff in. It’s a truly handy skill.

When she finished, the translations got uploaded to the website prepared by Miyoshi. However, given that fonts of the other world characters used on the epitaphs didn’t exist, she added photos of the epitaphs where possible, and the epitaph IDs as references next to the translated parts.

For the meantime, all of it is in Japanese only, but she said she’s considering translating it into English before it’s published. The publication date – just as I told Monica before – will be on Christmas. We missed Thanksgiving, but it appears we’re the same as the dungeons in regards to using religious events as pretext.

As the translation work proceeded, we got the impression that the epitaphs at hand are fragments of two different books. One is 『The Book of Wanderers』, which proved to be an actual dungeon manual. Beginning with an explanation of the dungeon system, the fragments of that book record the characteristics of dungeons, and some of their surprising properties.

Ms. Naruse kept slightly different nuances in the epitaph translations when describing the same object without caring about textual consistency. After all, it’s going to be the responsibility of researchers to reconcile all of this in the future. Besides, even if you call them copies, hasn’t the creator of the epitaphs gone a bit too far with the elaborate and extensive detail? Besides the manual, strange historical passages have been engraved onto some of the epitaphs that seem very unlikely to belong to 『The Book of Wanderers』.

“Maybe it’s because these are something like the flavor text we talked about before?” Miyoshi got frustrated when she picked out the parts that obviously don’t belong in the dungeon manual and tried to sort them into some kind of meaningful order while reading over their translations.

“Could it possibly be an introduction of the world on the other side of the dungeon?”

“If they wanted others to learn about their world, I think they could have simply left behind a book without choosing such a roundabout method though…”

“Well, by gradually releasing information with these epitaphs, it is more likely to draw the interest of researchers and explorers over a long period of time, right?”

“Sure, that might be true… Either way, since it’s probably a waste of time to brood over it, we should try other methods of categorizing them, like lining them up in the order of their discovery.” With that, Miyoshi stands up and stretches, obviously to reset her thinking.

“I think I’m going to take a break.”

“My words.” Miyoshi fills the coffee-pot pot with water, and lights the heater, starting to brew coffee in the dining room. “Which reminds me, the other day news about that semi accident appeared on TV.”

The truck driver was pulled out by an emergency rescue worker, but it looks like he was already dead from a heart attack. In the end, the whole accident was treated as due to the sudden death of the driver.

“Somehow I really get the feeling that the world is overrun with evil intentions and schemes, you know…?”

“And here we just want to lead peaceful, carefree lives…”

“No kidding…”

“I’m sorry to spoil your hopes for a peaceful life, but…I think that’s going to be slightly impossible.” Cutting into our conversation from behind, Ms. Naruse timidly holds out the translation of RU22-0012

The epitaph ID is a code consisting of the abbreviation of the country that discovered it, the Area ID, and a code describing its rank in the discovery sequence. In other words, it’s the 12th epitaph which was discovered by Russia in Area 22 (around Moscow).

It contains information that might throw all explorers into a frenzy. And, this is very likely the part Russia must have intentionally held back. After all, all the top explorers wouldn’t have gathered in Yoyogi if this had been publicized. And as if to prove this, Russia’s second rank on the WDARL hasn’t actually come to Japan.

“Infinite mineral resources are deposited on the 20th ~ 70th floors of a dungeon and beyond…huh?”

The epitaph states that you can obtain infinite mineral resources from dungeons.

“Even if this is really true, for argument’s sake, the amount of looted resources is actually limited because carrying out a large amount of material is difficult at the current time, isn’t it?”

“But, if it’s rare and precious metals we’re talking about, it’d have an impact on the world’s resource distribution, no?”

“Well, of course. Besides, mineral resources might also include jewels.”

“It makes you really wonder what’s to be found on the 80th floor and beyond, doesn’t it? Seeing how nothing else is mentioned about it on this epitaph, this cutoff somehow feels like a nasty teaser.”

“I’m pretty sure you’ll find mithril, orichalcum, or some such down there.” I respond sarcastically in response to Ms. Naruse’s question, but I think the possibility of my answer being true is rather high.

The dungeons are inviting mankind to dive into their deepest parts. That’s why they should have prepared appropriate rewards to boost our motivation to keep going.

“There’s a passage saying that the resources obtainable on a floor differ between dungeons, but it explicitly states that only on the 50th floor can you find…『Gold』.”

All dungeons across the world produce gold on the 50th floor? Moreover, infinitely?

“Okay, if this gets out, the gold price will take a nosedive, no doubt.”

“You said it yourself moments ago, senpai, but don’t you think it’ll be quite a chore to take out many thousand tons of mass from the dungeons?”

Currently, the annual amount of mined gold is around 3000 tons. Taking such an amount out of the dungeon, and moreover a deep floor like the 50th surely might be hard. If things don’t go well, the mining costs might actually increase instead.

“It sounds like it won’t be that easy to obtain either.” Ms. Naruse scrolls through her translation. The latter part of the epitaph also explains the mining methods. “It’s dropped by monsters having the earth attribute. Only when you obtain a skill called <Mining>, does it become possible for monsters beyond the 20th floor to drop mineral resources, you see…”

The mineral resources that will be dropped seem to depend principally on the floor, and not on the monster types.

“<Mining> is an unknown skill at present.”

“Monsters having the earth attribute, huh…? Considering it from the intended usage method of <Mining>, I think it should drop from some monster before the 20th floor.”

“The ones immediately coming to mind in Yoyogi are the Great Desmana, I’d say.”

“Them, eh? Hmm, they sure are related to earth.”

They’re moles, after all.

“If only gnomes, genômos, gnoms, or maybe even dwarves exist…”

“Huh? Senpai, genômos should be present in Yoyogi.” Miyoshi says after hearing my casual muttering.

“Wait, seriously?”

“If I remember correctly…”

“They inhabit the 18th floor,” Ms. Naruse adds. “It’s a floor with steep mountains. Genômos are monsters living in caves within those mountains, but with the floor consisting mostly of steep mountain ranges and troublesome underground caves, coupled with all of it seeming to expand forever when looking at it from the mountains’ foot, explorers have ignored their existence.”

“That totally sounds like a winner.”

“Are we going there?” Miyoshi asks with sparkling eyes.

Well, infinite mineral resources are at stake here. It’s got the potential for a fantasy. But, you see…

“If you can’t obtain the minerals unless you possess <Mining>, isn’t the restriction way too tight?”

“About that…” Ms. Naruse scrolls further through her translation.

Seeing the contents, I knit my eyebrows. “Unique and 49 people?”

The text says that it’ll become possible for anyone to have the respective minerals drop on any floor with more than 49 <Mining> holders.

“Miyoshi.”

“It’s our lucky number.” Miyoshi answers almost instantly.

“Huh?” Ms. Naruse looks confused.

“This time it’s going to be good luck, I’m sure.”

I guess she’s right that it’ll be wonderful for countries with limited resources…

“The name came from an anecdote about people croaking if they were in an unlucky location.”

“Just what are you two talking about?” Ms. Naruse interrupts, obviously not understanding the slightest.

“49 is the lucky number of the 13-sequence, and it’s an especially lucky number because it signifies the place where someone would survive when people got thinned out in a set order.”

“No matter how you look at it, you’re overthinking this.” Ms. Naruse says with a doubtful look.

However, just as seen in earlier examples, we definitely can’t ignore this if we assume that the dungeons are referencing culture on Earth.

“Either way, it looks like the acquisition of <Mining> will only happen after experiencing a fair amount of danger.”

“But, in the end you’re going to try getting it, aren’t you?”

“Well, I suppose it’s inevitable.”

I don’t really get what’s inevitable, but poking our nose into something unknown is definitely unnavoidable. I mean, that’s what it means, right?

“Please wait a moment. <Mining> is fine and all, but there’s actually one more matter to note.”

“One more?”

BF26-0003 is written on the document Ms. Naruse holds out to us with yet another apologetic look.

“BF?”

“It’s Burkina Faso.”

“Somehow, that sounds like a dinosaur name.” Miyoshi comments while laughing.

Burkina Faso is a country located in West Africa, and since a few years back, droughts and food-crises have repeatedly affected the Sahel Region (a dry area at the Sahara’s southern edge) in its north. You might describe it as a country relatively familiar with such disasters, seeing how even Japan has been providing aid.

That epitaph was apparently retrieved from the Dakoay Dungeon, a dungeon that appeared south of a huge pond called Dakoay. It is situated around 30 km northeast from Gorom Gorom, the biggest city in Burkina Faso’s northern Oudalan Province.

“They did really well to have discovered the dungeon in such an area.”

“I heard a member of Bird Life International was the first to spot it.”

“What the heck’s that?”

According to the information Miyoshi immediately looked up, Bird Life International is the largest international, environmental NGO in the world that protects birds. With Dakoay being a treasure trove of birds in that area, various environmental protection programs have been implemented there since 2000.

Moreover, that document is far more sensational than RU22-0012.

“Food!?”

“If you believe the epitaph, dungeons – just as with its mineral resources – infinitely produce food in their upper floors, from the 2nd to 20th floor.”

If the epitaph isn’t wrong here, it’ll be possible to resolve all food issues in the Sahel Region. Come to think of it, it might be possible to resolve not only the poverty problems of areas having troubles with agricultural production, but also the world’s overpopulation issues.

“If you look at this in context for all mankind, won’t it produce much more of an uproar than something like the mineral yield?”

“The problem lies in the condition, though…”

“I bet it’s requiring an orb called <Harvest> or something again, eh?” Miyoshi jokes.

However, the condition noted further down the translation is something else.

“The number of explorers?”

Indeed, the trigger for food to drop is the total number of explorers.

“If the number of explorers exceeds 500 million in total, food will start to drop in the dungeons, it says.”

Right now, three years after the dungeons’ appearance, the number of explorers amounts to less than a 100 million. If you extrapolate from there, meeting the condition is pretty obviously a matter for quite a ways in the future…

“If this condition becomes publicly known, the countries worrying about their future food supply due to overpopulation might very likely have their citizens register as explorers as a state project.”

China will be the very first to do that. Food availability has the highest priority for every administration. It wouldn’t be unexpected if some states were to force their citizens to register as explorers.

“Statistically the Asia/Africa regions alone are inhabited by more than 5 billion people, so reaching 500 million might actually be a breeze.”

“But, senpai, it might be fine for areas where starvation occurs, but won’t it result in chaos for the goods distribution and food producers in areas where starvation isn’t an issue?”

The major cause for areas where people starve to exist on Earth is clearly the uneven distribution of food production. But then again, I don’t see how that’s avoidable once you consider distribution and costs.

“Since you don’t earn much money with the sale of food, the food would be mostly consumed by those living in the areas where people starve, I think. Areas that don’t have starvation issues wouldn’t have any incentive to actively procure food from dungeons, right?”

Disagreeing, Miyoshi shakes her head, “Senpai, weren’t there conversations about explorers observing dungeon food boosting their abilities?”

…That’s true; I think we spoke about it before. In short, dungeon food equals the materials to mass produce Superman.

“If dungeon food really raises abilities, even the areas not affected by starvation will start to hunt for it en masse. After all, it could be obtained as early as the second floor in any dungeon.”

“But, wouldn’t it coexist with the currently available food as expensive, additional foodstuffs then?”

Of course, if you look at it from the production amount, the number of dungeons is negligible compared to the Earth’s size. Ultimately, I can’t believe that it would be possible to obtain a sufficient amount of food to replace the majority of food consumed by all mankind through the dungeons. Rather than causing a decrease in the market prices for existing food because of a surplus, I feel like the food produced by the dungeons is going to be treated as luxurious, expensive extra food. Likely, establishing a new market different from the current food markets. Depending on the prices, it might develop into a situation where areas affected by starvation will export the dungeon harvest to earn money. I guess we’ve got no other choice but to hope that it’ll be bartered for normal food.

“Haaah…seeing all this, I’ve got a gut feeling that the world will drastically change, starting next year.”

“That means it’s possible to make a killing by going all in on selling derivatives, no?” I’ve said this as a gag, but in reality, the impact of this information is going to be big.

The prices of food-related derivatives should temporarily hit rock bottom. If you look at it calmly, you’ll see that there’s no way for this to allow such a huge increase in production amounts that it would cause a long-lasting effect. Putting it in simple words, it’ll be no more than an explorer having built a field to feed their family in the garden of their house. For the time being at least.

“Since we’d get black-lilsted all over the world if they track us back through our trade history, it’s better to abandon that idea.”

Figures. I feel like it can’t really be called insider trading, but when the markets start to shift because of the leaks related to D-Powers, there’s no doubt that Miyoshi would be denounced as her name represents our party.

“Even if we publicize this right away…people won’t believe us, will they?”

I fully understand Ms. Naruse’s feelings on this. However, as the publication of the epitaph information is currently such a delicate matter, it’ll be essential to build trust at the start.

“Unfortunately, no. Increasing our credibility with the party-formation information, we have to gain enough trust for people all over the world to at least try it out, otherwise it’ll end with us getting ignored.”

Ms. Naruse nods, agreeing that there’s no other way around it.

“But, not all hope is lost. Things are heading in a direction where, sooner or later, it’s quite possible for an epitaph to be discovered that mentions something along the lines of 『Descend, bold traveller, into the crater of of Sneffels, and you will attain the centre of the earth』.” 1 I say jokingly while surveying the epitaph information that’s yielded way too many results.

“Actually a dungeon exists at Snæfellsjökull in Area 28. If I recall correctly, it should be open for sightseeing.”

“A journey to the center of the world in reality!?” I spurt out.

I’m pretty sure the minerals yielded over there will be crystals and diamonds.

 

◇◇◇◇◇◇◇◇

 

Epilogue Volume 2

 

“Pheeew.”

Monica took a breather after finishing the translation of one of the epitaphs found in the U.S. The place she’s currently staying at isn’t New York where the USNDA is located, nor the current headquarters of the DoD at the Department of Homeland Security, but a section of a multi-floored building near the White House that’s managed by the DAD. Her living space and research rooms have been set up right next to each other. Putting it nicely, it allows her to focus on her research. But, if you regard it critically, you can essentially call it imprisonment.

The dungeon research is very interesting since it involves many different fields. Besides, gathering as much information as possible might be crucial in preparation for a first contact with whoever lives on the other side of the dungeons. That’s why I was truly happy when I came into this position allowing me to use a precious skill orb.

However, in spite of only a few days having passed since the handover the different objectives between science and politics have started to give birth to conflict.

She thought about the man she’d met in Japan. He’d told her, 『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』.

“What a strange man he was.”

He had been different from anyone Monica had met so far. Even though he seemed aloof from the world, his vague words stood out, seeming oddly persuasive, giving her the feeling that he was fully convinced of them.

“Indeed, somehow it felt like a bam.”

That’s why Monica instinctively believed that his statement, 『When you become an adult, you’ll have a lot more freedom than now』, would certainly come true. Exactly because those words came out of his mouth.

 

◇◇◇

 

She took out a small piece of paper from her pocket, and gently opened it.

I probably haven’t looked forward to Christmas this much ever since I was old enough to enter kindergarten.

While an innocent and childlike smile formed on her lips, she repeatedly opened and closed the paper with the URL she had received from Yoshimura.

 

 

 


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Translation Notes:

  1. TL: It’s a reference to Jules Vernes’ Journey to the Center of the World. I don’t have the exact phrasing in the book at hand, but yeah. Also the mountain Snæfellsnes is located in Iceland. ED: Looked up and added the proper quote.

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