“Miyoshi Azusa is keeping hellhounds as pets?”
In light of yesterday’s promise that she would look up the details, Miharu immediately consulted Saiga, using their regular briefing as her opportunity. Hearing the story from her, Saiga first looked completely dumbstruck, and soon after, covered his face with his hand.
Watching him shake his head in resignation, Miharu sympathetically consoled him, “Yes, I totally understand how you feel. Still, the JDA has no regulations in regards to Summoners or Tamers.”
“Well, obviously not.”
Up until now, no explorer had found such skills. And, something like preparing a regulative framework in advance while only speculating on the potential existence of certain skills was impossible for a Dungeon Organization which couldn’t avoid a reactive position. Leaving it always falling several steps behind.
“Since I didn’t find them in the list of animals designated as dangerous by Japanese law or in the register of exotic species either, there’s no choice but to treat them like simple dogs.”
What she was saying was in accordance with the law. However, that’s merely because the law hadn’t caught up with the current situation. In Japan’s constitution, §39 guaranteed legal non-retroactivity. As long as the pets didn’t cause any problems, it’d be next to impossible to forbid hellhounds as pets with the current legislative state.
“Y-Yeah. So, those dogs…are they okay?”
“What do you mean by okay?”
“I mean, they’re monsters, right? They don’t attack people or stuff like that?”
Miharu had completely mellowed out towards the hellhounds who had always stayed with her while she’d been translating. In the end, one could say, fluffiness was justice.
“I-I see. Well, I suppose it could be fine if you think of them as somewhat big retrievers.”
Although ones who have possibly spawned from hell.
“You’re right. Then again, their withers are three times that of a retriever.”
If you take the withers of a Labrador or Retriever as an example, their withers are around 50-60 cm. In other words…
“You’re telling me hellhounds exist with withers of 150 cm!?”
“Yeah well, the measurement sounds about right.”
The standard withers of a hellhound is somewhere around 100 cm on average. So, they’d be quite a big specimen. With withers of one meter, the largest Bengal tiger weighs roughly 300 kg. A Siberian tiger is said to weigh-in around 350 kg. Some horses, like Shires, can exceed a ton in weight, but something like that as a dog?
“Can you even describe them as dogs in the first place?”
“Leaving aside their appearance, they’ve been very clearly acting like dogs.”
Hey, what’s the deal with leaving aside their appearance, Saiga was assailed with anxiety, but since he clearly perceived that nothing good would come out of retorting here, he strained himself to ignore it.
“So, what are you going to do?”
“For the time being I’ve been checking the law. Next I’ll investigate whether the JDA or the WDA actually has some official procedures for this, and if they do, there’s no choice but to abide by them.”
“Makes sense, I guess. But then again, such legalities shouldn’t actually be handled by the dungeon administrations. Ultimately, handling such matters ought to fall under the jurisdiction of the Government of Japan.”
If the Dungeon Management Department doesn’t have any such protocols, they won’t exist for Japan either, though.
“Understood. Also, since I’d be troubled if I ran into any problems while we’re still not finished with all the different formalities, I’d like you to remain quiet about this matter for the time being.”
“If their existence becomes known before they’ve been officially approved as pets with Miyoshi Azusa as their owner, we’d be forced to constantly pay attention that none of the various research institutes sneaks in and takes them away.”
“Oh, I get it. Sure, no problem. Since it doesn’t look like we’ll run into similar issues with other explorers besides D-Powers for a good while, I’ll entrust this matter to you, their exclusive deputy chief. Please keep me up to date with your progress.”
Having descended all the way to the 18th floor, we’re overwhelmed by the scenery suddenly spreading out in front of us. Surrounding us, a bleak area with huge rocks scattered across a black ground. Beneath the steep, high cliff at our feet extend clouds as far as we can see.
“You’re not going to tell me that the dungeon is going to continue all the way down below those clouds, right?”
“By the look of it, it could very well continue for dozens of kilometers.”
“I can fully understand why they haven’t finished the mapping of this floor.”
“I have copied the data over, just in case.” With those words, Miyoshi takes out the tablet with the map of this floor.
Going by the information of the documents we checked in advance, the mapped area spreads radially from the stairs to the 17th floor, but stops at the stairs to the next floor as if the survey was aborted abruptly. The only conspicuous exception to that rule is the path towards the summit.
I sigh while looking down at the sea of clouds rolling beneath us, and at a broken slope that looks good enough for a descent.
“Yep, I do get how the exploration team must have felt back then.”
I mean, there’s no end in sight. Precisely because you have such a great outlook from here, they must have felt quite disheartened by the prospect of having to map this huge area. Moreover, if you look upward, you’ll spot an array of sharp, pointed pyramidal peaks blanketed by snow. Among them, the biggest and most remarkable peak gradually rises like an amalgam after it had mercury inserted into an aluminum hole.
With my toes, I kick away a black stone lying at my feet.
Miyoshi bobs her head in confirmation, and says, “No doubt, it’s the Kenya Mountain,” while gazing up.
I follow her eyes, squinting my eyes as I look at the mountain.
“Either way, our destination is the cave system. It looks like the entrance can be found at the foot of that peak, nicknamed Batian.”
“Over there is the off-limits area, right? That means, you’ll find something there.”
The JSDF members, who lived out their climbers’ spirit after seeing that mountain, lost their lives on the summit. Moreover, as of yet, the reason for their deaths remain shrouded in mystery.
“Something, huh? Putting it like that, doesn’t it actually pique your curiosity a bit? I feel like the media and a bunch of brainless amateurs would immediately flood the area.”
“Senpai, even if they’re rotten to the core, this is still the 18th floor of a dungeon, you know? TV station staff that could reach a place like this with ease don’t exist, and even if brainless amateurs were to try forcing their way down here, they’d probably croak around the tenth floor.”
“How about someone like Yoshida Teruo?”
If times hadn’t changed, it would not have been strange for Yoshida Teruo to launch expeditions, acting as the commanding officer, to uncover the dungeons’ behind-the-scenes secrets and track mysterious creatures for viewers all over the world.
“I’ve heard rumors that he’s an unexpectedly serious man. He might have been against doing mockumentaries. Besides, even if he wanted to come here, it’d probably never happen since dungeon shows don’t draw many viewers nowadays.”
It’d require a large number of explorers as guards to come all the way here while carrying the necessary equipment, likely making the costs for the production exorbitant. It’s the same reason why there’s almost no TV shows in space or in the depths of the oceans.
“Still I think it’s somewhat intriguing, don’t you think so too? I wonder whether we’ll run into a unique monster like the Hecate from the other day.”
“Maybe. However, if it follows folklore ── it’s going to be a god, isn’t it?”
“Look, this mountain would be the Kirinyaga, no?” Miyoshi comments while looking up the mountain once more.
The aboriginal Agĩkũyũ refer to the Kenya Mountain as Kirinyaga. In their language it means “God’s Mountain.” Come to think of it, I did read Mike Resnick’s novels, didn’t I? But, the name of the god in the Tales of Kirinyaga should have been Ngai.
“It kinda feels like the Sun God Enkai is going to sit on a golden throne at the summit.”
“A god, right…”
“Moreover, Enkai is called 『Ngai』 in the language of the Agĩkũyũ. Senpai, His Grace Nyarl, is going to make his appearance!” 1
“Yea, but only if this were the northern forests of Wisconsin County, right?”
Ngai is the name of the forest base used by Nyarlathotep, said to be located in the northern woodlands of Wisconsin County. Of course that’s completely unrelated to Enkai.
“But, word games are definitely no joke with this dungeon.”
She’s probably right about that one. Ever since the old Wizardry game, Western RPGs are full of wordplays. There might be differences in opinion whether you can regard the dungeons as Western video games, but they definitely have such a flavor to me.
“I swear, if Nyarlathotep were to really come out on the 18th floor, I’ll grab my things, scurry back home, hide under my bed’s blanket, and never get close to a dungeon ever again.”
I stretch myself while taking a deep breath, and look up to the Batian after clearing my head.
“Alright, we’re going to sneak around at the foot of the mountain. Leaving the expedition of the summit itself, where something crazy like that might be lurking around, to someone else.”
“Somehow, that line totally stinks of a flag.”
“Don’t jinx it.” Being assailed by a bad hunch from Miyoshi’s comment, I take out an orb from my <Safe>, and pass it to her.
“What should I do with this?”
“It’s the <Sense Danger> that I got from a wolf the other day. Use it for caution’s sake.”
“Why don’t you use it, senpai?”
“According to your appraisal, it’s the kind of skill that’ll warn its user of danger. If I take it, it’s quite possible that it won’t trigger on things that are dangerous to you, don’t you think?”
Seemingly grasping the idea behind my words, Miyoshi holds the orb up in the air, and mutters, “It’s kinda like I’m really going to stop being a human anytime soon!”, resulting in the orb melting into her.
But I gotta say, she nailed it. The number of skills she possesses is soon going to exceed the level where you could just laugh it off as a joke.
“Hmm, I just wonder how useful it’s going to be.”
“In games and such, it’s also a matter of in-game balance. Usually, the number of uses is limited, but…”
“No, it’s just, for the most part, real life is like a shitty game. I’d really hate it if each skill were to shorten my lifespan by a set amount of time or some other silly stuff like that.”
“A side effect, huh…? I hadn’t considered that possibility at all. But, shouldn’t that be noted on the epitaphs or in your appraisal results then?”
“I mean, look, it could be that skills also have a leveling concept.”
I guess that’d mean a low-level appraisal won’t be able to show such information…
“What a nasty assumption.”
“Ah well, so far nothing has happened, so it’s probably going to be fine!”
Come on, wouldn’t you only notice that it used your lifespan when you’re on the verge of dying? Then again, appraisal would likely show it if such a big drawback actually existed. Well, whatever, I just wanted to point it out either way.
While chasing after Miyoshi who has started to climb the slope, I begin to walk towards the caves where the genômos are awaiting us.
“Still, I must say, this place is really completely deserted, isn’t it? Just as Ms. Naruse said, it’s very unpopular.”
“Be it the first floor, or the tenth floor…recently, we’ve only spent time on unpopular floors.”
“Let’s consider that to be a streak of luck.”
Fortunately, our methods of attack work normally on this floor as well. As we kill monsters similar to Alp Capricorns and walking mountain plants, we arrive at a place that looks very much like the entrance into a cave after an hour.
“This seems to be the cave closest to the Kenya Mountain…”
The density of the genômos population appears to increase the closer you get to the Kenya Mountain. Above all, this time we need a fairly large number of genômos, so we opted for a place with as many of them as possible. The place looks just like the entrance to a somewhat larger Gama. 2 Having expected the entrance to be a lot bigger, I’m surprised by its small size.
“Still, they’ve done really well to spot such a cave.”
“You mean, they did well to have considered entering through such a small hole, right?” Miyoshi replies while carefully scanning the vicinity around the entrance to make sure that it’s safe.
“Maybe they had some cave maniac, who loves to dive into caves, among them, kinda like the climber maniac.”
“Well, we’ve actually got organizations like the Japanese Caving Union and the National Speleological Society, so why not.”
“Back when the dungeons appeared, they drew quite some attention.”
“Oh okay. Kinda makes sense as you could also describe dungeons as caves, I suppose.”
Even before the appearance of the dungeons, circles interested in exploration, underground research, and cave research have existed at various universities. The most recent one was at Yamaguchi University, so they might have originally been a research society for the Akiyoshido Cave. Then, when the dungeons appeared, those experts, if you can describe them as such, were often dragged in front of cameras by the mass media.
After putting on helmets with headlights and passing through the entrance, we find it to be a fairly narrow, lava cave.
“I suppose this is a remnant of a huge tree being enveloped by lava.”
Now that she mentions it, the walls definitely look basaltic. The viscosity of basaltic lava is low. If this is a hole created during the time when this mountain was still an active volcano, it’s very possible that she’s right on the money.
“It sure looks like tsuchigumo might lurk deeper inside, hiding among blossoming Japanese tachibana.” 3