§067 D-Factor 12/13 (Thu)


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After hurrying, we made it up to the surface by late afternoon of the thirteenth.

“We’re back~”

“Oh, welcome back. So, how did it go?” Having grown completely accustomed to our office, Ms. Naruse greets us as naturally as if she’s been our office staff all along.

“We’ve managed to confirm various things.”

Probably for the sake of noting it down for her report, Ms. Naruse retrieves a pen, and writes something on a blank sheet.

“First off, it looks like all the information about parties is correct.”

“This is probably enough; it should work as strong evidence to prove Heaven’s Leaks’ credibility.”

“I see. Somehow it takes a load off my mind.”

“And as for <Mining>, genômos properly drop it.”

Hearing that, Ms. Naruse drops her pen with her mouth wide-open.

“Y-You’ve already acquired it?” Ms. Naruse picks up her pen in a hurry, and asks in astonishment, baffled by us having obtained an unknown skill very easily.

“Yes, somehow we’ve gotten lucky.”

“While at it, we’ve also confirmed the drops on the 20th floor!” Miyoshi says excitedly, immediately taking the silver ingot out of her bag and placing it on the table.

“Huh? You’ve already used it!?”

The usage of an unknown skill is usually accompanied by danger. For us, that doesn’t apply since we’ve got <Appraisal>, but ── wait, I kinda feel like we’ve calmly used the orbs even before acquiring <Appraisal>, just judging the orbs by the skill names. Considering it now, it wouldn’t have been weird for a skill like <High Recovery> to be a trap that would turn your body into a slime or something. Just like how <Immortality> turns you into an undead.

Even though it’s something you’ll encounter often in history, many scientists have been using their bodies for their own experiments. Though it almost always led to those scientists being labeled as crazy by their contemporaries. In situations where they need to test and analyze something by any means, such scientists tend to take risks. And as long as they use their own bodies, it’s not in conflict with the Helsinki Declaration either. 1

Werner Forßmann, who won the Nobel Prize of Medicine in 1956 because of his work on heart catheters, tried to insert an urine catheter into the right atrium through the vena cava of his own left arm during his time as a medical intern. Due to that experiment, he was dismissed by the hospital, but it resulted in him winning the Nobel Prize 30 years later. Even if you look for an example from more recent history, Michael Smith performed experiments using himself as a guinea pig the year dungeons appeared. He tested which place would hurt the most if stung by a bee. He apparently found out that it was the nostrils, and thanks to that, he proudly earned himself ten trillion after winning a prestigious prize in physiology and entomology. Even if the currency might have been Zimbabwe-Dollars of 2015 with the award being the Ig Nobel Prize. Of course I’m not talking about the Canadian Michael Smith who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993.

Thinking back on it now, you could say our actions lacked prudence. But, since we wouldn’t have reached any conclusions by just thinking it over, we really had no choice but to try the orbs out for ourselves.

“Yes, but it doesn’t seem to have any effect except triggering the ores to drop.”

Ms. Naruse breathes out deeply, obviously relieved, but in the next moment, she says, “Moreover, you could confirm the drop, huh?”, in surprise.

“Just on the 20th floor, though.” I point at the vanadium. “It was vanadium that dropped on that floor.”

“Vanadium!?”

Vanadium is a rare metal also used in the chemical company we worked at, but I think it’s mostly demanded as an additional agent in steel manufacture. Its price should be around 10,000 Yen per kilogram. Since gold costs a little less than 5,000 Yen per gram, it’s literally cheaper by several orders of magnitude.

“Hmm? If I remember correctly, its price has been rising sharply, but you can’t describe it as highly valuable, can you?”

“Senpai, you’re talking about vanadium with a low purity. Since it’s a product of the dungeon, this one should be a 99.99 vanadium ingot at the very least, don’t you think?”

It means 99.99% of it is pure vanadium. Such purity values are also noted as 4N. Old audio maniacs supposedly use cables with 6N or 7N for their speakers. Come to think of it, she’s right. Since it’s a dungeon drop, and is called vanadium by the dungeon system, it’s even possible that it’s a 100% vanadium ingot.

“You’re right. It could also be a 100% ingot.”

“You see? In reality, such a degree of purity in a vanadium ingot doesn’t exist.”

Vanadium is a metal that exists in reasonable quantities on Earth, but its ore deposit grade is low. 2 Moreover, no groundbreaking, efficient methods to procure vanadium with a high purity have been discovered so far. This means the refining costs go up in proportion to the purity degree.

“Even the price for a purity from 99,7% to 99,9% goes up from 80,000 to 110,000 Yen per kilogram.”

“Hee, I hadn’t expected that, really.”

“Vanadium is sold in tons. If it’s retail, something like a 4N cube of Kanto Chemical Industries vanadium costs 100,000 Yen per 100 gram.”

A million per kilogram is damn amazing. One drop of an ingot has the same value as a heal potion (1). Wait, isn’t tenfold kinda extreme? Still, it doesn’t come close to gold.

“Setting aside the price, vanadium is unevenly distributed over South Africa, China, and Russia as a resource, so wouldn’t it be a major piece of news from the standpoint of a stable and secure supply source?”

Yeah, you can look at it like that as well, I suppose. For a country it’s going to be important, I’m sure.

“But, in the end it’s only a one kg ingot. It’d be difficult to satisfy a big demand, wouldn’t it?”

“According to the statistics I read at our previous company, the annual demand for vanadium seems to be ten tons. Of course that excludes ferrovanadium, the alloy with the highest demand.”

“If you were to try fulfilling all of that with monster drops, it’d require three million monsters just to supply that amount of vanadium, no?”

Hearing that, Ms. Naruse looks mystified, “Eh? How did you calculate that…?”

“Normally, one ingot drops every three monsters,” Miyoshi supplements.

Yep, hunting more than 8200 monsters per day is a bit… Even if you challenge that task with a hundred teams, every team would still need to defeat 82 monsters per day on average. This would be extremely harsh. I mean, that floor is damn cold.

“You’re correct if you only try covering it with Yoyogi, but there’s quite a few dungeons in Japan,” Ms. Naruse adds.

Come to think of it, that’s also quite a puzzle. It’s public knowledge that nearly 80 dungeons have been discovered in the 36 or 37 Areas on Earth, but if you include the very shallow dungeons, nine dungeons exist in Japan. There should be a reason for the uneven distribution, but currently it’s not really clear.

On top of that, there’s many unexplored places in other countries, too. You could argue that the other dungeons simply haven’t been found yet, but even accounting for that, the dungeon spawn distribution is still too biased.

Anyway, very likely it’s only Yoyogi where vanadium drops on the 20th floor, but it’s no mistake to believe that it might also drop on a different floor in other dungeons.

“Either way, it means that the content of RU22-0012 has been verified, right?”

“At least on the 20th floor of Yoyogi.”

At that moment, Miyoshi’s smartphone vibrates.

Saying “Oh, excuse me for a moment. It looks like Midori is calling,” she leaves, heading towards the dining room.

“So you’re going to publish it on Christmas as planned then?”

Since it’s also Ms. Naruse’s deadline for submitting the report to her superior, she might feel uneasy.

“Finishing all the preparations will take around that much time. Monica ─ America will also need around that long to publish their findings, I believe.”

“I see.”

“Even without rushing things, I think we can obtain a reasonable amount of <Mining> if it’s Yoyogi.”

After all, the drop rate is 1 to 10,000. It’s an exceedingly high drop rate, considering that it’s an orb. On top of that, the monsters spawn infinitely. If you possess high-level area-of-effect magic, it’s super easy to farm. If it’s that cave, it looks like you can bring in small, powerful firearms, too.

“How do you know that?”

“Umm…well, we managed to get it after only a few days.”

“That’s only D-Powers…no, I understand. On that subject, I’ve mostly finished sorting through the information, too.”

With those words, Ms. Naruse heads over to the next room, and brings back a tablet full of her translations. The 266 registered epitaphs have been classified into 161 dungeon manuals, 82 historic documents, and 23 cryptic epitaphs. Around 40% of them seem to overlap in content.

“266…that’s way more than I expected.”

“On average, one epitaph per dungeon has been discovered every year.”

Oh, I see. Even if it’s just 80 per year, it’ll become 240 in three years.

“Now that I’ve heard the breakdown from you, I somehow feel like the epitaph discovery rate is rather low.”

“Since the discovery frequency goes up the deeper you head into dungeons, the pace might increase in the near future. Though, the overlapping content might become even more confusing as the epitaphs grow in number,” Ms. Naruse frowns.

The discovery of epitaphs is similar to drops from monsters, but an epitaph can be hidden somewhere on a floor, or simply lay on the ground.

“As far as I can tell from the additional information I’ve translated, items obtained from area bosses seem to play a major role in this as well.”

The epitaph about the ore drop of RU22-0012 came from an area boss, and BF26-0003 about the food was discovered on a unique monster that suddenly spawned like Hecate.

“It’s the same for something like this.” Ms. Naruse points at a page with GB26-0007 written on it. “This was found in the dungeon on Man Island. It talks about safety zones in dungeons.”

“Safety zones?”

The epitaph gives an overview about safe areas and safe floors which start to appear on the 32nd floor of a dungeon and below.

“Safe floor means an entire floor is a safe area?”

“Looks like it.”

“Senpai, if we spot such a floor, we can definitely build a town there.” Miyoshi rejoins the conversation, apparently having finished her call.

“What did Ms. Midori say?”

“We talked about that device we’ve discussed. For the time being, we’ve agreed to meet up tomorrow.”

Nodding at Miyoshi, I return to the topic of safe areas, “It sure sounds like a recurrence of the land-use issue inside dungeons. Ms. Naruse, it’d be best if you set up some rules in advance while you still can.”

Ms. Naruse bobs her head, answering, “I’ll bring it up with my boss.”

There are too many important epitaphs to count, such as US01-0001 which supports the dungeon = passage theory, or AU10-0003 which details the roles of dungeons. While quickly scanning through these, I notice that many terms you wouldn’t hear too often in daily life appear on several different occasions.

“What’s this 『Magic Particle』 that’s frequently referenced in here?”

“Isn’t it the source of magic power as it often appears in fictional stories?” Miyoshi immediately replies, but it’s Ms. Naruse, the holder of <Different World Language Comprehension>, who has used this term to describe the dungeon’s concept in our language. Therefore it should be quite dependent on Ms. Naruse’s vocabulary.

“What’s your image of it, Ms. Naruse?”

“Let’s see…I guess it feels like 『an element for the sake of embodying dungeon power』. It might have been fine to go with atom or element, but that would’ve invited misunderstandings.” She explains in a reserved manner.

An element embodying dungeon powers, huh? Dungeon’s Atom, or Dunam for short? Yeah okay, that really sounds like some robot anime.

“If it’s for embodying dungeon powers, wouldn’t factor work? D-Factor. The latin word root is 『Perpetrator』.” 3

“That one’s got a nice vibe.”

“Ah, but D-Factor has been mentioned in the Psychological Review that was published this summer.”

What Miyoshi has looked up refers to an element commonly shared by those with dark personalities, according to a study that was released by a joint research team of the Copenhagen University, Ulmer University, and University of Koblenz and Landau. It’s called Dark Factor, I think.

“For abbreviations to overlap is rather normal, isn’t it? Stuff like ATM is really overloaded, you know?” 4

For ATM, it’s anything goes.

“Okay, that makes sense.”

“According to AU10-0003, dungeons seem to be tools for scattering magic particles ─ D-Factors now, I guess.”

“A tool for scattering D-Factors?”

In short, it means dungeons are continuing to spit out a substance called D-Factor even as we’re speaking? Adding to that, ever since three years ago?

“Eh? Are we going to be alright?” Miyoshi asks with an uneasy look.

Now that I know about it, the fact that mankind has been unknowingly exposed to an unknown substance for three years inevitably makes the issue of pollution cross one’s mind.

“You mean as in the existence of the D-Factor, right? The effect it has on the human body isn’t recognized as a particular problem if you only look at it in regards to public health.”

It appears to be data based on the physical examinations of all explorers. When they compared the data with non-explorers, they found no significant difference in the results after evaluating their medical check-ups and disease rates. Rather, the researchers seemed to have the impression that the explorers’ health has been improved on the whole.

However, what’s bothering me is the terminology used by Ms. Naruse.

“In other words, there’s a problem if you look at it in some other regard than public health?”

“Nothing less of you, senpai. You love spinning words around.”

Miyoshi teases my perceptive contemplation through an evil comment. But, girl, anyone would think so if she expressly uses such a preface like 『only look at it in regards to public health』, right!?

“I guess you can call it a problem──” Ms. Naruse reveals a smile at our exchange while adding, “──Mr. Yoshimura, what is your take on such a game-like system with leveling, stats, and so on?”

Stats – those can be considered a quantification of human abilities like what happens in games. The existence of experience points and stats has been often debated by scientists ever since dungeon research began, and to this very day, those researchers haven’t fully understood the details. But then again, the existence of these values will become clear from the information written on the epitaph about the party system.

“If you’re asking and want to know whether levels and stats are related to the phenomenon that could be called a strengthening of the explorers, I’d agree. Is that the problem you’re talking about?”

“Rather than a problem, I think it should be described as a phenomenon that can’t be explained adequately…”

The influence of stats. Our own investigations have led us to the guess that stats might somehow function like an exoskeleton. No matter how much you examine the physiological values, the effect doesn’t really reveal itself in those. Thus, she might be right in saying that medical science can’t explain it as anything but a phenomenon triggered by an inexplicable power.

“Having said that, there’s no evidence of explorers being affected by some mental influence making them especially aggressive or anything like that. Ultimately it’s at the level of explorers becoming stronger or having more stamina, but──”

“The extent of its influence goes beyond all understanding.”

Ms. Naruse nods, “Nowadays high-ranking explorers might easily be able to break athletic world records in all kinds of sports.”

She’s right. Around that much should be possible. As someone who has actually experienced an AGI of 200, I even feel like running 100 meters in less than two seconds should be possible, not to mention something as easy as nine seconds. Now then, can you still call people capable of something like that human…even that is already questionable at best.

“If the mysterious phenomenons taking place inside and outside the dungeons are caused by these D-Factors, it might mean that skill orbs or potions wouldn’t work without them either.”

If that’s the case, any frantic chemical analysis of potions is bound to fail in clearing up the mysteries behind them. After all, the real part triggering the phenomenon very likely doesn’t exist within the potions themselves, or at least isn’t a chemical component that’s contained in the potions.

“Then, the effect being bigger if you use skill orbs or potions inside a dungeon means──”

“It looks like it’s not necessarily a groundless rumor.”

Looking back, the effect of <High Recovery> used on Ayesha was tremendous. Wasn’t that affected by the high density of D-Factors within the dungeon? Although it has probably diffused widely across the world during the last three years, the effect of a potion applied to a person, who doesn’t possess a D-Card and in a place far away from a dungeon, might be far, far lower in comparison.

“And it appears that monsters are formed from D-Factors, which get scattered when you defeat them.”

“Are those black light particles when a dead monster disappears the D-Factors in question then?”

“Wanna try catching them in a bottle next time?”

“I think it’s an invisible element?”

“Couldn’t you confirm them under an electron microscope if D-Factors actually exist physically?”

A part of modern microscopes, and especially electron microscopes and scanning probe microscopes, allow you to observe atoms. If the D-Factor exists physically, it might be possible to confirm its existence.

“But, how are you going to catch a sample?”

No matter what microscope you have at hand, if you can’t obtain an appropriate sample, observing the target will be impossible. Just like you can’t simply watch oxygen atoms swirling around in the air right where you are.

“How about letting the black light pass through a super fine mesh, and hoping that you’ve been lucky enough for something to get stuck on the mesh?”

Sweeping a carbon coated grid for electron microscopes through the black light, and simply checking it afterwards, huh?

“We can give it a try if you think it’s necessary, but I’ve got very little faith in succeeding with this method. I mean, it’s light, you know?”

Rather, it sounds like sucking it into a very thin pipe and hardening both ends with resin would have a better chance of locking it in. If it’s truly a light-like material, that might not work either, but still…

Come to think of it, light enters your body whenever you use a skill orb, too.

“Maybe the stats are influenced by the amount of D-Factors brought into one’s body.”

I clap my hands together.

“Either way, the mysterious material called D-Factor does exist, and it might be put to use naturally on the other side of the dungeons. I think it means the people on the other side have troubles with worlds that don’t possess any D-Factors, and thus they try to prepare a suitable environment for themselves by creating dungeons and scattering D-Factors on the worlds connected to theirs.”

“If they’re capable of something like that, they should also be able to fill other worlds in one go, though. Why would they be using such a roundabout method?”

“We won’t know the answer to that unless we ask them, but even if we might look to them like uncivilized monkeys, we’re at least intelligent life-forms who’ve managed to build a materialistic civilization.”

“You mean as in them having a rule for getting in contact with intelligent life?”

“They’re using magic-like, sophisticated technologies, so I think it’d be reasonable. It’s a standard you’ll find in many SF works, too.”

“Okay, but assuming humans would fly into space and find a planet suitable for life, I feel like the humans wouldn’t give a damn if they spotted life-forms at the level of monkeys, even if they showed signs of some intelligence as native inhabitants of that planet.”

“No, they’d still care if natives built a materialistic civilization.” I say while bitterly smiling at Miyoshi’s extreme comment, but setting aside the logic, although it’s a standard in SF as an unshakeable foundation for civilizations with advanced ethics, it’s probably naive to call it correct. It’s no more than speculation at the level of being mere wishful thinking.

“Also ─ ah, right. Maybe raising the density of D-Factors suddenly has some kind of bad effect on the native people?”

“Wouldn’t such an effect show in the bodies of the explorers?”

“That’d be the result, right? If you consider it as a patch test performed towards the Earth, it wouldn’t be all that strange.”

Patch tests are used to verify whether an allergic reaction occurs by sticking an allergen to skin. If you think of it as a test on the small group of explorers to see if any effects occur in an environment with a high concentration of D-Factors, you could explain their actions to some extent. Though I’ve got no clue why they’re using dungeons.

“Maybe they want to coexist with us native inhabitants in the end. I mean, they’ve thrown in various benefits, and it sure looks like mankind is about to become dependent on dungeons, right? It’d make no sense to do something so bothersome if they intended to simply destroy us. Probably.”

Their objective might not be Earth, but us humans in fact.

“Senpai, whether they plan to destroy us or not, do you believe that mankind could oppose something capable of accomplishing all of this in reality?”

“Definitely not.”

“Figures.”

In short, everything depends on how they feel about things.

“Well, we’ve got no choice but to follow the path shown by the dungeons, steadily capture the dungeons, and wait for the first contact, right?”

“I wonder, why doesn’t the other side approach us?”

“Maybe they’re shy.” I joke, but it doesn’t ease up Ms. Naruse’s expression.

“Even just listening to you two makes me worried what kind of reaction mankind is going to have after learning about all of this. I feel like I kind of understand the reason Russia hasn’t revealed all the information they obtained.”

If mankind is told that dungeons are tools to reform Earth, they’ll likely react badly to that. It might trigger dissidents demanding for the dungeons to be buried all over the world. However, I think it also depends on how you explain that part. In reality, no negative effect befalling Earth has been found so far. Even looking at it from the standpoint of an ordinary citizen like me, I can only see dungeons as an overwhelming benefit.

People who lost family during explorations might have a different opinion, but those are risks you can’t avoid as an adventurer, I believe. Since explorers head out on explorations out of their own volition, it’d be mistaken to blame the dungeons for whatever happens to them.

“Is it really okay to publicize all of that?” Ms. Naruse mutters while fixedly staring at the tablet in her hands with worry coloring her face.

“I think it’s better to have all facts on the table, no matter how cruel the information might be, if you have to make an important decision. As long as the information is accurate, of course.”

I want to believe that the cultural standard of modern society isn’t so low that all of this information would trigger a panic. But, that’s just wishful thinking, I know.

“Anyway, Ms. Naruse, let me change the topic. There’s a little something we’d like to consult you about.”

“Huh?” Hearing that, Ms. Naruse puts herself on guard a bit while knitting her eyebrows.

Come to think of it, our last consultations with her have all been outrageous things like becoming a different world language translator or what to do about licenses for hellhounds.

“Please don’t be so wary. As a matter of fact, we want to use land on Yoyogi’s second floor, but we were wondering who we should ask for permission.”

“Use land? For what?”

“We’d like to cultivate a small field for farming.”

“Pardon?”

 

 


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Translation Notes:

  1. Check https://www.wma.net/policies-post/wma-declaration-of-helsinki-ethical-principles-for-medical-research-involving-human-subjects/
  2. Ore deposit grade describes the content of a metal in an ore in percent.
  3. A/N: Miyoshi has randomly mentioned it in Volume 2, but it’s been corrected in the second edition of the volume. Eh? You possess the first edition? Forget about it!! Btw, Shasu-kun possesses the 1st edition, so it’s being mentioned in §057.
  4. Automated teller machine, Asynchronous Transfer Mode, Anti-Tank Missile, just to name a few

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