TNG Vol. 19 Chapter 1 Part 6

“We’ve been waiting for you all. Please come in.” 

When Shin and his group arrived at the Golden Company, they were greeted by Berett, who was probably waiting for them.

Shin and his group proceed to the back of the store, attracting the attention of the customers and staff.

They were led to a room they had used before. It was soundproofed and Through Sight proofed.

After each of them sat down on the sofa provided, Berett opened his mouth.

“I will tell you more about the contents of the message. I’ll start with the circumstances that led to the discovery.”

Shin nodded and urged him on.

According to Berett, the investigation began when a hunter reported seeing a monster in the mountains of northeastern Est.

Seeing it moving around in the mountains, the hunter thought it was some kind of monster and reported it to the guild.

However, when the guild dispatched an investigator, it was nowhere to be seen, and it left behind a distinctive trail that looked like something was being dragged.

Because the Golden Company was aware of the moving weapon called Miraltrea and was collecting and analyzing reports of ruins and monster discoveries from around the country that they noticed the guild received a number of such reports.

It was a huge, long-torso monster with a body made of some kind of steel.

Berett had put a bounty on this information and was gathering more accurate information.

There was, of course, some misinformation for the sake of money, but the financial resources of the Golden Company and human tactics were used to work out the details.

As a result, it was discovered that there were reports of monsters with similar characteristics in various locations.

“And just the other day, investigators from our Company discovered the Miraltrea.”

After the long explanation, Berett’s face was pale.

“What about the other thing that was mentioned in the message card?”

“Yes. In addition to Miraltrea, an individual that appears to be from the EX series has also been found. I have not confirmed this myself, but based on the information I have gathered, I am sure of it. This is the doll that Reed said was his masterpiece.”

“…… Are you sure about this?”

Shin asked again as if to make sure.

The EX series was one of the code names given to Reed’s dolls.

The all-purpose α series.

The close combat β series.

The ranged γ series.

The non-humanoid λ series.

While there were various series for different purposes, the EX series was meant to be used against divine beasts.

It was a special doll that was distinct from the other series.

“The investigator has confirmed its appearance with a pair of binoculars enhanced by the skill Hyperopia. Based on the sighting reports from various locations and the shape of the figure and equipment the investigator saw, we are almost certain.”

The investigators apparently saw the EX Series disappear into the fog. Although it was not the entire body, some of the equipment was clearly visible.

Since Berett had seen the actual device before it was activated, he was able to make a judgment based on the information he had confirmed.

He also confirmed the information from the various sightings by showing the witnesses a paper drawing of what he considered to be the most likely sightings. The overall image, equipment, approximate physique, etc., were all carefully investigated.

“I believe that the activation test has not yet been completed.”

The test was a kind of ritual for the completion of the doll. Every doll was activated by Reed himself and given a name. That was what Shin calls the activation test.

Conversely, a doll without it was like a car without a key and without an engine. It would be strange for it to be running.

There was another EX series for which activation tests had been completed, but there were no sightings of them.

“Don’t you think it was found too recently if it malfunctioned due to a natural calamity of the Dusk of the Majesty.”

“Yes I am aware of that specific doll, but they are not equipped with a function to hide their appearance. Also, their size is incomparable to a human being. If it were moving around, it would have been noticed at an earlier stage.”

We don’t know how it operates, Berett continued.

“Some of the information we’ve gathered suggests that they saw a Titan near something that looked like Miraltrea. As for the Titans, we are pretty sure they are EX Series, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they were seen nearby.”

Berett thought that Miraltrea might be accompanied by the EX series. But there were some things that just didn’t add up.

“If they are wandering around unintentionally, there is nothing wrong with trying to stop them. But if that’s the case, you should just send out another EX series and seize it. It would be strange to just chase after them.”

The fact that Miraltrea was moving means that there was no doubt that a puppet with activation authority was active.

If they activate the maintenance dolls, they could run the other EX series. I don’t see the reason not to do that, Berett says.

“It’s not like they’re equipped with a kill switch.”

“Yes, because they were treated as Reed’s equipment. But I don’t think the equipment would have the idea of fighting each other.”

A doll was exclusive equipment to players with the job Doll Master. Technically, they were treated as weapons, so they could not be manipulated to attack the player or other puppets.

This was one of the advantages of being a Doll Master.

The Onmyoji’s spirit and the summoner’s summoned beast were not treated as equipment, so they could attack their masters, other players, and allied spirit and summoned beasts if they were subjected to effects such as confusion or charms.

The disadvantage was that since it was treated as equipment, it would break if it falls below its durability value.

Comparing the advantages and disadvantages, it was a pleasure for players to choose one over the other.

“But that is not always the case. Some of Reed’s puppets were more like support characters that made their own decisions and moved on their own. The masterpiece that we are talking about is also one of them. It is possible that they are trying to do something on their own.”

In a world that has become more flexible since the Dusk of the Majesty, it was now possible to do things that were unthinkable in the days of video games.

Schnee and the others were not bound by their position as support characters. It was not surprising that dolls that can act independently would do the same thing.

“Is it possible that this is the reason they haven’t contacted you?”

“I can’t say that that’s not the case. I personally hope the reason for this is that the doll is treated as equipment, so items such as message cards cannot be used.”

“I see. That’s possible.”

Just as swords and spears do not use items, dolls do not use items. It’s a very likely reason.

It would be possible to have the puppets carry a message, but from their point of view, they would not know where Berett was. It was also possible that they were looking for Berett and the others.

“And, just a speculation, it is possible that the EX Series was activated before the Miraltrea.”

“What do you mean?”

The EX Series is housed in the Miraltrea.

Even if the EX series was activated first, it can’t go out if the Miraltrea doesn’t move. It would be a different story if they could pry open the doll’s loading door.

“Although it is not confirmed, there is more information on the EX series, and it seems that it was sighted before the Miraltrea. Specifically, the EX series started to be seen about three years ago, and the Miraltrea about one year ago.”

This difference in timing seems to be bothering Berett.

“I see, then it is possible that the EX series was activated first. Hm? But didn’t you already find Miraltrea? Didn’t you make contact with it?”

Even if they don’t know where Berett was, Berett has found Miraltrea.

Shin asked why they didn’t proceed to contact them.

Then Berett shook his head, his face contorted.

“The problem is the location where it was found. The local investigators can’t even get close to it.”

“No one can get close to it, huh? Tell me more about it.”

Shin’s first thought was that, like the Romenun, there was something harmful in the vicinity.

He was told that Romenun was found early on, but they were unable to get close to it.

“The Miraltrea are currently stationed deep in a zone called the Grandmost Mountains. It is peaceful if you go up the mountain a little bit, but the deepest part of the mountain is a dangerous area where high-level monsters roam about, and a reasonably competent person is required to conduct an investigation. Although the investigator was a Chosen One, she was not able to get close to them, and was only able to confirm its appearance with a pair of binoculars enhanced by the skill Hyperopia.”

The level of monsters inhabiting the area around Miraltrea was at least in the 500s. 

The investigators could see no more than that.

The local hunter, who had been pushed into guiding, finally agreed to accompany them, promising not to engage in combat and to follow instructions, in addition to an outrageous fee. The investigators also followed Berett’s instructions to strictly observe, was how they were able to bring back the information without incident.

The investigator told them that she would not have been able to confirm the existence if she did not have the special binoculars made by the Golden Company. The distance was that great.

“On top of all this, the time of year is really bad. The Grandmost Mountains are in an ice and snow area with an unstable climate, and right now the entire mountain is covered with snow. The hunter who accompanied us last time said that going up there is a death sentence.”

According to Berett, the climate around the mountain range cycled between autumn and winter. However, this effect disappears when traveling a little further from the mountain range.

Such areas were scattered all over the country, so it was not uncommon, but this time it was an obstacle.

“I see… high-level monsters and heavy snow. That’s not very approachable.”

The scorching hot areas like the Anguaini’s Sacred Place where they fought on the isolated island were troublesome, but the icy and snowy areas where everything was frozen were troublesome in a different way.

Even during the game days, it was said that the snowy mountains in the ice and snow areas were a difficult challenge. If this were the case, in reality, the difficulty of the investigation would be incomparable to that of the game era.

“I would have to give you all this information in a very long message, so I decided to talk to you in person.”

Shin thought for a moment, and then asked Berett, who had been dreading the whole process.

 “…Is that really all there is to it?”

If Berett were to write everything he has said so far in a message, it would take a good number of pages. Even so, Shin did not think it was something that needed to be told in person.

“Of course you noticed. Yes. I wanted to meet you in person this time because I had a favor to ask you.”

With that, Berett stood up and kneeled on the floor.

“I know that I am weak compared to you all, but would you please take me with you.”

He bowed deeply and spoke clearly.

In this world, Berett was not weak by any means. However, when compared to Schnee and others who were trained with an emphasis on combat, Berett was one rank below them.

His highest status was over 600, and the average was around 500.

This was not enough to accompany Schnee and them, whose status exceeded 700 without any equipment.

Even so, Berett expressed his desire to go with them.

There were advantages to taking Berett. But it was unnecessary. With Shin, it was not as if he could not get into Miraltrea.

“Oh, that’s it? I would have felt rather uncomfortable if you had told me you weren’t going with us.”

However, that was a practical matter, such as status and systems. Emotion was another thing. Shin thought it was only natural that Berett would come along, just as the members of Shigureya had asked to accompany them when the 2nd Assault Ship Celciutos was found.

“…Thank you.”

“Stop there, we should be the ones to thank you.”

Shin stopped Berett, who was about to bow more deeply.

“We wouldn’t have been able to find Miraltarea on our own unless something had happened. Even now, I’m dependent on you to gather information. And it’s natural to be concerned about the guildhouses of the people you served. I’m also concerned about the guildhouses of my friends, and I want to make sure they are not misused. It’s something we both need to do. So there’s no need to thank me.”

Shin said what he thought, chuckling inwardly, wondering if he was being a little too cool.

Although out of sight, he had a feeling that Schnee and the others were nodding their heads in agreement.

“Well then, let me work harder than ever to gather more information. The only thing left is Shin’s Demi Eden.”

“I seriously wonder where my guildhouse is.”

Under the ground, at the bottom of the sea, or deep in the mountains where people do not enter. Or perhaps it has been destroyed. If it was safe, he could only hope that it would be found soon.

“Shall we leave immediately?”

“Yeah, it’s not a place that people can approach at the moment, so it’s not like someone is going to run into it, but there’s still the possibility that the EX series goes down the mountain on its own, you know? We’d better hurry, no?”

So far, the paths taken by Miraltrea and the EX Series based on the sightings have been in secluded places. The sightings that Berett has received have been in unpopular or physically inaccessible places, such as mountains or deep in the forests. 

Some of these inaccessible places were believed to be the domain of divine beasts.

Many of the people who witnessed the Miraltrea or EX series were veteran hunters or experienced senior adventurers who had lived in the area for many years and were capable of going to places where ordinary people would not set foot.

They were lucky that they judged it to be an unknown monster and did not carelessly try to touch it. Some of them were unlucky enough to run into them head-on, but they were not attacked.

“I think it will probably be all right even if we take our time a little. I did say earlier that we don’t know the principle of action, but we do have a pretty good idea of what its goal is.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll tell you more on the way. I told you we do have time, but personally, I want to hurry.”

Berett seemed to have his own justification.

Shin decided to go ahead with his suggestion, as Berett had been gathering the information for a long time. Whether in a hurry or not, the sooner they leave, the better. 

“Which method of transportation are we using, by air or by land?”

“By land. I checked with Vizzy, but we can’t move the dragon yet. We can gain a lot of distance by teleporting, so we’ll have to ask Kagerou to do the rest.”

Flying would have saved a lot of time, but Vizzy, Cashmere’s support character, replied that the dragons had just come out of their breeding season so it would still be difficult for them to travel long distances with people on board.

There were dragons of all sizes living in Rashugum, but surprisingly few species could be used as a means of transportation, as they were not good at flying or cannot transport people in the first place.

“I understand. We have prepared a map. With this group, it will be unlikely for bad things to happen, but we should be able to travel as smoothly as possible along a route that is free of obstacles.”

Even in a world where wars between countries were rare, a detailed map was a valuable commodity.

Adventurers and merchants made their own maps by scribbling their own paths and landmarks on rough maps. The military almost always had accurate maps.

However, the Golden Company was one of the exceptions.

They accurately measured from the sky and produced maps that were, in some cases, more accurate than the militaries. Of course, this was top secret, known only to a handful of people in the Golden Company.

“I will inform the shopkeeper of our departure. Please wait a moment.”

After deciding on a rough route, Berett left the room. It seems that he had already completed the transfer of work so that they could leave at any time.

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