In the series of Reijirou Hieda, drawn by Daijiro Morohoshi, appears a story about the main character finding Japanese tachibana as he passes through Mt. Fuji’s lava tree mould. 1 And the path here feels just the same. At least that’s the case until the cave suddenly opens up further down the tunnel. As soon as my view broadens, I can only stare dumbfounded.
“Miyoshi…sorry. No matter how you look at this…it’s a man-made cave, isn’t it?”
We can only stare with our mouths wide open at the overwhelming solemnity, going far beyond our expectations, suddenly spreading out in the space in front of our eyes. It’s obviously a plaza extending in front of an underground temple built by people. Thanks to shining plants similar to lichens and crystalline objects that are glowing weakly dotting the place here and there, the whole underground is illuminated by a dim light.
“Senpai…those stones aren’t releasing any radiation, are they?”
She’s right. It’s clearly a scene reminiscent of the bluish gleam of refined radium as it’s described in the biography of Madame Curie. 2
“No, radium isn’t as bright as this.”
There’s been no warning message, and although I try to touch one of the stones while believing in the power of <High Recovery>, I don’t feel any warmth being emitted from it. It seems alright to consider it as a simple, faint light.
Looking up, I can spot fine carvings added to massive stone pillars, which make them look playful, pointed arcs, and flying buttresses. Considering the history of mankind, it seems to be a jumble of various epochs, but looking at the whole, it’s close to the Gothic style.
“Senpai, genômos are monsters, right?” Miyoshi mutters while taking an extensive view of the architectural structures.
“Yes, they are.”
“But, this makes it seem like they’ve got a culture.”
She’s right, taking the architectural structures for what they are, it’s definitely correct to describe them as cultural legacy, but it’s not said that those have been built by the genômos. Just like the dungeons use flavor text, it’s very possible that they have created this impressive underground temple, with the genômos just inhabiting the area.
At that moment, several wriggling, child-like figures show up on the other side of the temple.
“Senpai, where’s your count?”
I start firing Water Lances at the small silhouettes rushing at us. Miyoshi shoots her iron balls while ordering Arthur’s to come out and guard the vicinity. As one has stayed back at our office, it’s only three hellhounds. Soon after the battle has begun, the first orb choice shows up.
Skill Orb – Mining 1/10,000
Skill Orb – Nimbleness 1/1,000,000
Skill Orb – Night Vision 1/8,000,000
Skill Orb – Earth Magic 1/90,000,000
The instant I see the display, I reflexively pump my fist, assuming a triumphant pose. Although it follows our hypothesis, the drop rate is remarkably high, considering that it’s a skill orb. It wouldn’t be odd if someone had gotten this skill a long time ago already.
“The number of explorers coming all the way to a cave like this would be fairly low, wouldn’t it? Anyway, senpai, please do your job properly!”
The genômos seem to spawn infinitely.
“Hey, Miyoshi. Won’t we reach 373 kills in like no time at this rate!?”
If it follows the pattern from before, the genômos should disappear the second the mansion appears. Moreover, there’d be plenty of time until midnight. Though, I wouldn’t want to be chased around by the mansion’s monsters until then.
“Probably, but I doubt that a mansion will appear.”
“Why?” I ask while mowing down the army of genômos, which are steadily increasing their pressure, with water magic and the Sword of Deserts.
I’m not too keen on using the Ultimate Flame Magic’s Inferno in a locked space.
“When I appraised them, there was an asterisk in front of their name!”
At some point Miyoshi has apparently noticed that asterisks are added in front of the names of the monsters she appraised.
“The monsters with asterisks were zombies.”
Because we have used the zombies to make a mansion spawn before, we won’t be able to make the mansion appear again, no matter how many zombies we kill.
“So you’re saying asterisks get added to monsters who have been already used for making a mansion appear?”
“If someone caused a mansion to appear through genômos, that might be the case, but…either way, I think it might be a monster that can’t be used for spawning a mansion.”
At that moment, my second orb choice appears. It took almost no time.
“Somehow, I’ve seen…this kind of game…in the past…”
Indeed, it’s First Queen. The game has come out long before either of us was born, but the genômos have been spawning from further down the plaza with an intensity as if the Multiple Character System is actually in use here. Around the time when the second orb selection screen has popped up for me, the genômos suddenly stop running at us, and begin mumbling something amongst each other.
“What’s going on?”
No sooner than I finish my muttering, a stone flies our way from somewhere, bouncing at my feet. It was a simple stone with the size of a baby’s fist, but if it had hit me, I’d have suffered quite an injury. Depending on where it hit me, it might have become really bad.
“Oh shit. Miyoshi, fall back a bit!”
I have Miyoshi step behind me, take out the shield with both hands, and survey the area guarding against the throwing stones.
“No choice but to withdraw at this point, but…”
The tunnel we used to enter the plaza is already filled with a swarm of genômos who went around us.
“The only place that looks like it’d allow us to escape is over there!” Miyoshi yells while pointing at the temple.
I hesitate for a moment, seeing as it’s a temple, but if we keep dilly-dallying around here, we’ll only get separated within a huge swarm of genômos. That’s something I must avoid at all costs.
“No helping it. We’ll evacuate into the temple!”
Storing away my shield, I start sprinting at full speed towards the temple while carrying Miyoshi under my arm.
Miyoshi shouts, “Withdraw before getting surrounded!”, to the three hellhounds rampaging behind us.
No matter how powerful they might be, even hellhounds will get crushed once they’re completely surrounded by such a force. Make sure to run away quickly whenever you get the chance for it, you guys.
The genômos’ encirclement shrinks down so as to completely lock us in, but fortunately I’m faster at running up the temple’s stairs. The temple’s exterior ornaments look Gothic, but behind the door we find a layout using lots of Greek and Egyptian pillars. With a backward glance at the flock of genômos closing in from behind, I leap into the room right ahead of us, and slam its door shut.
At the same time as the massive door closes with a bam, the room is wrapped up in darkness. It looks like our headlights have been destroyed by stones earlier. I can hear how something is banging against the door from outside, but after a short time that stops as well.
Three pairs of golden eyes gleam within the darkness. It looks like all of us got away in time.
“Senpai, it seems to have become quiet outside.”
Now that she mentions it. No sounds can be heard from the other side of the door. But, unfortunately my Detect Life tells me otherwise, betraying the countless creatures waiting outside.
“Nope. A big number of them appear to camp outside.”
“If you say it’s a big number, I could randomly shoot my iron balls at them from here?”
“No, we’d be in a pinch if you were to trigger them to break down the door for some weird reason. Let’s reserve this as our last resort.” With those words, I take a LED lamp out of my <Safe>, and turn it on.
As the LED only has around 1000 lumen, it’s too weak to fully illuminate the entire room, but it manages to create a small space of light around us. I pass a spare headlight to Miyoshi, and replace my own, too.
A narrow corridor seems to continue all the way deep down the room.
“Aethelm, could you check out the area ahead for us?”
Being asked by Miyoshi, Aethelm nods his head lightly and scuttles along the corridor. That’s a hellhound for you. I’m pretty sure they can see in the dark without any issues.
“Now then. If we can’t go back through the door, we’ve got no choice but to head deeper in──”
I affix the small LED lamp to a string, hang it over Drudwyn’s neck, and have him walk slightly ahead of us. As he’s been staying in my shadow as a guard for a while now, he’s the one closest to me among the three hounds.
It looks like there’s still some time left until sunset, but by now it’s already late afternoon. As soon as we get ready, we begin to walk further down the room, following Aethelm. After advancing along the corridor for a while, we run into a fairly big room with big pillars orderly lined up.
“It’s a pillared room, as you’d find in the Great Temple of Amon.”
The Great Temple of Amon was expanded in proportion to the gain in power of the Egyptian kings. It’s a culmination of pillared rooms. With our every move, the pillars’ shadows sway, dancing like strange creatures. However, Detect Life shows no response. Arthur’s noses don’t pick up anything either.
“If this temple follows the same layout as Egyptian temples──”
“We’ll reach the inner sanctum sooner or later.”
“What’s an inner sanctum?”
“No clue. I think it’s what they call a sacred site, but…it’d be a sacred place in a temple hidden beneath a god’s mountain right? I’m totally hyped about what we’ll find in there.” Miyoshi deliberately phrases it in a joking manner.
“I’m going to piss myself any time now,” I answer with a wry smile.
We try to go around the room once, but this room has no side corridors either. There’s just one way, continuing further inside the temple. I glance at my watch. Strangely the time on the floors is aligned with the surface.
“We have around one hour until sunset. Well, I suppose we’ll go as far as we can.”
Afterwards we continue to trudge on for a while, but we encounter no monsters on our way. Well, you could say that it’d be expected of a sacred place. We pass through several pillared corridors and courtyards, and at the end, we crawl several meters through a tunnel as narrow as a birth canal, just to come out in yet another room.
“This is the inner sanctum?”
The room is slightly bigger than eight tatami – an octagon room that seems to have a width of around four meters in all directions.
“It should bear the meaning of this part being similar to a womb.”
Miyoshi examines the vicinity with keen interest, but there’s nothing notable in here. Except for a weird magic square that had been hidden.
Maybe because we’ve touched some switch, or maybe because it starts up automatically as soon as someone enters the room, the hidden magic square activates a little while after we enter the room. As soon as it finishes drawing a pretty pattern on the floor, I’m suddenly assailed by a nasty floating sensation. It’s truly──
“Kinda like the elevator of a skyscraper, isn’t it?”
We’re being moved upwards while floating above the glowing magic square.
“That means, the destination is…” I reflexively look upwards.
“You should never underestimate the power of flags…” Miyoshi mutters in admiration, and likewise, resignation. Then continues louder, “Assuming the one waiting for us above is Enkai──”
“A compilation of Maasai folklore has been published as a book in 1983 by a cultural anthropologist called Ms. Naomi – a Maasai herself. That book also mentions Enkai.” 3
Oh, I see. So basically, if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. But then again, just one battle would be plenty already.
“Enkai had a wife called Olapa. At first they had a very intimate relationship, but when she made a little mistake, Enkai immediately resorted to violence. When I read the passage, stating, in just the same way women are beaten by their husbands, it confirmed for me that the Maasai are also a society where men beat women.” Miyoshi carefreely blurted out.
Hmm, so what’s the point in her telling me all this anyway?
“However, because Olapa was also a super short tempered person, she fought back against Enkai, injuring him terribly on his forehead.”
Did she throw an ashtray at him, or what?
Next Miyoshi says something scary: “Moreover, Enkai tore out one of Olapa’s eyes in retaliation for her counterattack. That seems to be the reason why the moon has a crater. After all, Olapa stands for the moon.” And further continues after a short pause, “It’s said that Enkai has been shining strongly ever since then so that the people wouldn’t be able to see his injury as he felt ashamed of it. And that’s why he’s referred to as the sun.”
“I see. So the sun still shining to this day means his wound hasn’t healed yet. In short, you’re saying his forehead is like his own Achilles heel, correct?”
“No, the Ol in Olapa appears to actually be──”
So it’s not a talk about Enkai’s weaknesses? Just where is she going with this then?
“──a prefix for men. In other words, it was BL!! No, wait, do the Maasai have BL in the first place?”
“As if I’d know!!”
Damn it. Don’t I look like a total idiot for having taken her seriously? Still, tearing out an eye after cutting a forehead apart, and all that during an argument between husband and wife…that makes for a really terrible impression ── hmm? Wait a sec. Maasai?
“Just a sec, Miyoshi. Isn’t the Kilimanjaro the Maasai’s mountain?”
Their habitat is situated at the border between Kenya and Tanzania. If we talk about mountains big enough to house gods, only the Kilimanjaro would come to mind.
“Ah, Enkai is the Maasai term for the Agĩkũyũ’s Ngai. And it seems it’s the same god who dwells on top of the Kilimanjaro and the Kenya Mountain, but Ngai doesn’t have such a backstory like Enkai.”
I see. Well, it’s not unusual for legends being passed down in areas relatively close to each other to have similarities.
“Either way, we just have to aim for his forehead, right?”
“If the legend influences his appearance in the dungeon, that is.”
The other phenomenons inside dungeons tell us that it’s highly likely to be just like that.
Thereupon, Miyoshi clearly drops the silly attitude, and says with a serious look, “The JSDF member who got promoted by two ranks was apparently killed the second he entered the area. The others, who narrowly escaped death as they were just outside the area, all reported that they couldn’t understand what had happened in front of their eyes. No matter what might be up there, I think it’d be best for us to take the initiative.”
“Roger. Oh, the count is at…”
“Senpai, it’s a bad idea to get greedy just because you’ve got a certain level of power.”
It looks like Miyoshi has been receiving flashy warnings from <Sense Danger> for a while now. If we continue heading upwards like this, her life will apparently be in peril.
“For me to be told something like this by an Oumi trader…don’t worry. I value my life above all else.”
After a few dozen seconds, which felt like eternity, I sense how the elevator’s speed slows down. A chilly wind immediately blows into the mountain from above. As I look up, I can see the crimson sky peeking in through a small hole at the end of the shaft. It seems sunset is around the corner.
My <Detect Life> clearly tells me that something is up there.
“Currently it doesn’t look like he’s got any attendants with him.”
Miyoshi summons only the heads of her three hounds, and removes the lamps, completely wrapping up our preparations. Or rather, I had no clue that they could pass through shadows while wearing something man-made.
And then, at long last, the elevator reaches its stopping point.
- The names appearing here can be found on Wiki, if you want to look them up. Reijirou is a character appearing in Yokai Hunter, a series that has been referenced in this novel before.
- Marie Curie, one of the few famous female physics scientists. She defined the term “radioactive” and discovered polonium and radium with her husband. I’ve read her biography. A truly remarkable woman.
- A/N: Naomi Kipury 『Oral Literature of the Maasai』.