Queen's Gate:Volume 1 Chapter 2
|This text is a machine translation (MTL).
Be warned that the degree of translation error may be higher than usual.
This page was created before the updated (July 19, 2015) MTL guidelines and has not been reviewed.
Chapter 2: Reliable Partner?
Dodgson Foundation Headquarters, 1:00 a.m., late at night at the mansion. Alice came out of a limousine from the Baum’s house that was tasked with escorting her after the fight in Moscow had ended.
“Welcome home, Professor.”
Welcoming Alice as she returned home, there was a woman in black with a hat over her eyes: Hatter.
“I’m back. It took more time than expected, I ended up coming past midnight.”
Alice took her coat off as she went from the entrance to the stairs. Hatter grabbed it right away, folding it so that it wouldn’t get wrinkled.
As an artificial life form created on the basis of the Lost Technology Alice’s mother had discovered, she didn’t require sleep. When she wasn’t running the Vimana, her main duty was managing the mansion, taking advantage of her skills. If March Hare, who also acted as onsite support for Alice, was her chauffeur, Hatter’s role was more of a female butler’s.
“How was Moscow?”
Hatter asked as if greeting her normally, tucking Alice’s now folded jacket under her arm.
“Not good, as you can see, it ended in a miss. Neither Dorothy nor I were able to obtain the treasure.”
When her mother created Hatter, what she had required from her were her information-gathering abilities and her analytical skills. To accumulate vast amounts of information, and when asked a question by her mistress, to sort and retrieve the available information with a defined judgment to provide an answer. She was said to be quite accurate, with a better performance, higher speed and higher capacity than a supercomputer.
Since she would have checked too the video information relayed from Alice’s goggles, naturally Hatter knew what had happened in Moscow. But, she wouldn’t utter an opinion about it on her own. Unlike human beings, artificial life forms didn’t take voluntary action. If their master didn’t ask them, they wouldn’t act on their will themselves. That was engraved in their behavior principles, as a safety device to prevent rebellion and defiance. In that respect, they were harmless beings, that one could even call tools.
“You withdrew with no results, then.”
“We got results. Such as the performance of the Twister from the Baum house.”
If it was the data from the one and only aircraft in the world that boasted of the same performance as the Vimana, Hatter would agree too. Since the information barriers of the Baum family were one of the sanctuaries that Hatter couldn’t break through.
Oh? What a weak reaction.
Alice looked slightly doubtful.
“By any chance… do you already have it?”
“Yes. By the Bharat Agreement that Lady Lewis concluded with the predecessor of the Baum family, we exchange the data of the Vimana and the Twister for mutual safekeeping.”
Even if she knew, she wouldn’t tell her any further unless she asked. It was at times like these that Alice realized that both Hatter and March Hare were just tools, artificial life forms her mother had left her.
“Bharat Agreement, you say?”
“The Dodgson Foundation’s Vimana, the Baum house’s Twister; both are machines that hide unique abilities from the world. So as to not crush each other and lose it all, both families swore to exchange information and not to fight each other except in treasure hunts.”
Alice understood it perfectly. The moment she completely held the real power of the Foundation at least, she could work and try to secure the products of the Lost Technology the Baum house owned. Aside from her childhood friend, Dorothy the mudhead, a lot of excellent staff awaited in the Baum house.
They would be thinking the same. And with her mother, the family head, missing, right now was the perfect opportunity if they wanted to begun various approaches to that effect, including an economic offensive, against the temporarily weakened Dodgson Foundation.
Despite the situation, there were no signs of anything like that. In fact, when it came to Dorothy, it was more like she even proudly presented the advanced tools she had developed herself. So Hatter meant it was all because of some common front system that Alice didn’t even know herself.
“I kinda feel like I’m the only one out of the loop.”
Alice pouted a little, expressing her dissatisfaction in a childlike manner.
“That’s because you didn’t ask, Professor.”
As long as there was no one to turn its pages, a dictionary was only paper. Hatter’s knowledge and information was the same. Alice gave a sigh, and looked up at Hatter’s face.
“Then, there’s something I want you to investigate for a bit.”
“About a Gate, Irukinuf, and guys who use invisible tentacles.”
“Gate... that information could lead to Lady Lewis.”
Hearing her mother’s name coming out from Hatter’s mouth surprised Alice considerably.
“Is that related to Mom’s whereabouts?”
“Then, I can investigate it even without the Foundation’s permission?”
“Of course. If it’s something about the Gate, you don’t need the permission of the 3 Queens.”
Since the moment Lewis, the Foundation’s representative, had gone missing, the Foundation was under the management of guardians called the 3 Queens. Alice only interacted with them through electronic documents. Therefore, the identity of the 3 Queens remained unknown, not to mention their ages and appearances, or even their sex.
Once, she had tried to have Hatter investigate it, but with Lewis having given Hatter orders not to investigate it, the homunculus had obstinately refused. When she tried to force her further, Hatter put up such a strong protection she thought she’d lose her mind, so Alice hadn’t undergone any more action in relation to the 3 Queens’ identities after that.
“That is to say, you know about the Gate.”
Hatter nodded. Alice looked at her watch. About fifteen minutes past one o’clock. She should go to sleep considering she was to go to school the next day, yet despite that, she didn’t think she’d sleep a wink with this situation anyways.
“Tell me, Hatter. About Mom’s involvement with the Gate.”
“Then let’s visit the underground storage room.”
Hatter gave the jacket she was holding back to Alice. It got chilly underground. She’d need her jacket.
“If you’re in front of the actual thing, you’ll understand it faster.”
The underground storage room of the Dodgson Foundation. Its gross area was ten times the mansion portion's, only below ground. Not only was it there where they developed various mechanics including the Vimana, but also had an arrival and departure facility, manufactured tools and various items required for explorations there, and it was fully equipped with experiment facilities. If the secret base that existed in the South Pacific was a hangar, this place could easily be called the command center.
At the bottom layer of the mansion, there were many inheritances that kept being collected without being exposed to the world. As she was guided by Hatter, the woman with a silk hat over her eyes, Alice arrived at the 66th storeroom.
“Here is where we store the relic that became the basis of Lady Lewis’s conviction of the Gate’s existence.”
Hatter held up her hand, and released the seal on the storeroom. She also served as a master key herself.
The door opened with a quiet drive sound, and light entered the pitch black room.
Still guided by Hatter, Alice set foot in the 66th store. In the center of a room ten meters high per ten meters wide, with a size of about one hundred square meters, the statue of a goddess tightly grasping a sword stood alone.
“Is this it?”
Alice looked puzzled. Though it was a fine modeling abreast of the ancient Greek sculpture style, it wasn’t particularly eye-catching.
“This stone statue is what proved the Gate’s existence for Lady Lewis.”
Hatter removed the mounted pad displaying information from the wall, and handed it to Alice. The information presented on the pad’s LCD screen made Alice’s temple twitch. While the composition data just showed plain marble, the test results suggested that this same marble didn’t exist anywhere on this earth.
“So it’s a marble that only exists here alone in the whole world.”
“Yes, an impossible craft, i.e. an OOPArt.”
“But, how is this connected to the Gate? What’s the Gate in the first place?”
“The Gate is what connects the multiple worlds. You must be familiar with the Many-Worlds Interpretation.”
There isn’t just one world. Multiple worlds exist at the same time. Each world is slightly different than the others, and they increase infinitely if you stop to count them. For example, there’s a theory that says the worlds diverge even for a case like if you eat breakfast or not.
“Isn’t that a theory only good enough for a Sci-Fi movie’s plot?”
“But, it’s true.”
Hatter made a pause, and turned towards the statue.
“Where do you think this statue came from?”
“Aren’t we still digging out things yet undiscovered?”
Hatter shook her head in silence.
“It’s from somewhere outside our planet, no, our world.”
Alice frowned hearing Hatter’s words.
“...Are you serious?”
“Let me show you in an orderly sequence.”
When Hatter held up her hand, the floor slid and a small case rose.
“Artifact number QB001, Crystal Sword.”
Alice looked at the crystal ball enshrined in the case. The figure of a woman holding a sword flickered inside it.
“What’s with this?”
“This is the moment it was discovered, to the south of Iraq’s Euphrates ravine. The ruins were dated as 800,000 years old.”
“A heritage from the prehistoric civilization.”
“Yes. And it still survived up to these days.”
Hatter snapped her fingers. The illumination of the storeroom slowly darkened, and the case housing the crystal ball lowered down into the floor, which became plane again. A bright light was cast from the 4 corners of the room at the same time, forming a three-dimensional image in the center.
The picture that emerged showed the shape of Lewis, Alice’s mother. The Lewis in the video was saying something while holding the crystal ball.
“Is there no sound!?”
“Unfortunately, nothing of the sound remains. But, I can analyze a few of the words by the movement of the lips. Do you want me to display subtitles?”
The letters “acknowledged” were superimposed over Lewis’ image matching the motion of her lips. As soon as the letters disappeared, a circular shape appeared, shining light around Lewis’ body.
Was that projected from the crystal ball? That didn’t seem to be the case. It had emerged from the ground. That circle rotated slowly for a while, then disappeared.
Then, the circular shape appeared at a spot about 3 meters away from Lewis. Not only that, but a stone statue rose from below that circle. It was the same stone statue that was right beside Alice.
Rather than having been buried underground and coming out after displacing the soil, the stone statue showed up in front in Lewis as if having passed through the circular shape.
“Nothing existed underneath there. In the prior underground radar explorations, it was reported that no ruins had been detected whatsoever.”
Alice didn’t need to wait for Hatter’s words to understand. The stone statue hadn’t come from underground. It had come from another world, somewhere beyond the circle.
The image disappeared abruptly, plunging the room into darkness.
“Lady Lewis realized that the Gate from this circular formation was a portal to another dimension.”
With Hatter’s words, the clubroom became bright.
“After that, Lady Lewis was eager to journey into the unknown beyond the gate, and we repeated the experiment to open the Gate over and over again. Various technologies, such as us artificial life forms, or the magic creatures that serve as your hair ornaments, Professor, were obtained from there. But that wasn’t what Lady Lewis desired. What she wanted was to get to cross over the portal herself.”
“And Mom crossed the Gate in the end?”
“The odds are high.”
“Then why are you showing me this image now?”
Hatter should have shown me earlier, right after Mom went missing!
Even if the situation wouldn’t have changed with her being told, Alice became quite emotional.
On the other hand, she could rationally understand the circumstances at the time. Hatter couldn’t act on her own will, and the 3 Queens had their hands full with the management of the Foundation, too. They probably couldn’t afford to pay attention to a little girl.
“Those were Lady Lewis’ instructions. Only when you noticed the existence of the Gate on your own and sought an answer, was I to tell you, Professor.”
If they were her Mom’s instructions, it couldn’t be helped, since Hatter was just following them faithfully. It would be wrong to lash out at her.
“With that said, this is a photograph of the ruins Lady Lewis was investigating before she went missing.”
A picture was projected on the wall. Standing in the center of a stone circle in the shape of a ring, Lewis appeared shaking hands with an elderly, white-bearded gentleman in a wheelchair.
“Where is this?”
“The Northern Scotland Highlands. That’s a megalithic structure that came out from the bottom of a glacial lake that collapsed due to global warming.”
And of course, Alice was also curious about the elderly gentleman in a wheelchair.
“And who is it? This person here.”
Hard as she tried to remember the faces of her mother’s friends and acquaintances, she couldn’t recall ever seeing that face.
“Swodar Nyarmain. The first discoverer of the Highlands’ megalithic structure.”
“Is he still alive?”
“He went missing, much like Lady Lewis.”
“Who or where is he from? That alleged Swodar.”
“We know nothing of him. His nationality, whereabouts, even his past history are unknown.”
For Hatter herself to say those were unknown, it probably meant there were no records of him anywhere on the face of the Earth.
“And, how did the investigation turn out?”
Alice asked to change the mood.
“Immediately after Lady Lewis went missing, we did an investigation on the Highland’s megalithic structures in collaboration with the Baum house, but there was nothing left.”
“Let alone biological traces of Lady Lewis, the megaliths reflected in the picture had disappeared too.”
The picture projected on the wall surface changed. It now showed how the land had been cut in a circle, just as if someone had scooped out the ice’s surface with a spoon.
As she heard Hatter’s emotionless voice, Alice fully understood why her Mom had been hiding the Gate’s existence: it was too dangerous.
There were no problems in the case of the Vimana and the Twister. The same went for the artificial life forms, the magic creatures, etc; they were only tools. Without anyone to use them, they were meaningless, worthless.
On the other hand, the Gate had infinite potential. Being able to come from and go to the innumerable existing worlds, one could even bring back something lost in this world from other worlds. Used well, it might also be possible to make mankind progress in innovative ways. But, it could destroy the world if someone ambitious got their hands on it.
Therefore, its existence had to be kept secret. To that end, only few people should get to know. Even for relatives, it must be kept hidden from those who didn't deserve to know. Lewis had judged it so.
“Say, Hatter. Display the list of the treasures related to the Gate Mom had been searching.”
Upon Alice’s request, Hatter moved her fingertip, and the wall surface reflected a list. When she saw the list, a smile formed in her lips.
“So I see.”
For Alice to take action as a Treasure Hunter, the projects which the 3 Queens had given unconditional permission to use the whole equipment for overlapped beautifully with those related with the Gate. The 3 Queens might as well be telling Alice: “Go chase after your mother.”
“Hatter, investigate about a child named Lynn who can use invisible tentacles, and about Irukinuf. After all, it seems those guys are aiming at the Gate too, somehow.”
Hatter bowed lightly hearing Alice’s words.
Location: the aircraft Twister owned by the Baum family. Inside the vast area of the Baum family, most of its airframe, with the shape of an inverted cone, sank into the ground like a top stepped on from above. If any stranger saw it, it’d look like a peculiar detached building to them.
Even though soon it’d be about time the sky began to dawn, a number of staff were still working on it. Inside the control room, a large yet slender woman, who spared no time working there even after returning from Moscow, had just finished working at last.
“I see, so it was like this?”
The woman looked at the analysis on the screen and made a comment that sounded satisfactory as she printed it out. What she was analyzing was the replica of the Salzburg Cube that the enemy Dorothy encountered in Moscow had dropped.
“Milady. After all, it’s likely that Irukinuf is secretly substituting OOPArts.”
Her eyes turned to the young girl she had a report to give to. Her dear Milady had collapsed with an unladylike pose on the sofa. Though she wanted to put her to bed as she was, she couldn’t afford to. She picked up a bunch of her Milady’s golden hairs, and began tickling her nose.
“Feh, feh... atchooie! Shoot, what a fright!”
Startled by her own sneezing, her Milady awakened.
“I apologize if you’re tired. The results came out.”
“Ah, thank you very much, Scarecrow. Did you find something out?”
The large woman called Scarecrow handed her Milady a printout. Though they might be handling electronic data, handing the reports of her findings on paper was actually more tasteful.
“Oh, as expected from you. I’ll be able to sleep soundly with this.”
Her Milady, aka Dorothy, smiled while stifling a yawn.
“That sounds fine enough.”
“You rest as well, Scarecrow. Good job-.”
“Yes. Excuse me then.”
Scarecrow bowed deeply, and headed to her bedroom with steps that seemed like she’d fall down at any moment.
Alice parted from Hatter and returned to her room. The hands of the clock marked 4:00 am. Since today was a weekday and she had school, she had to get up at 7:00. Doing a one-day trip Moscow on a weekday, she sure was reckless.
It was quite hard to go back and forth from the routine to the extraordinary. Rather, should she take a day off? As she pondered about it, Alice fell down on the bed. With that prolonged whirlwind tour, even the well-trained Alice was like this; there was no way Dorothy and her average stamina could endure as much.
First of all, now was the time to scrutinize the information. The Gate her mother chased. An Irukinuf involved with that Gate. A non-human child claiming to be Irukinuf’s Songstress. So many, many mysteries to investigate.
Just when she turned off the light, about to surrender herself to the sleepiness, Alice’s gaze turned to her desk. She had killed the lighting but the room was still dim. Following the source of light, she found out that her computer monitor was shining brightly.
Seems like she had gotten an e-mail. Though she could as well have read it in the morning, she couldn’t bring herself to ignore it and go to sleep. Alice raised her body from the bed, and gave the order to open it towards the PC’s mike. The PC, operated by speech recognition, automatically displayed the received mail on the monitor.
The sender was Dorothy. The time stamp, fifteen minutes ago.
“Isn’t she tough~”
No, she isn’t. Surely she hasn’t even noticed she's tired herself. Because she's stupid.
Muttering to herself with a wry smile, Alice looked through the mail.
<I found out about something good. For more details, let’s talk at school tomorrow.>
If it turns out to be something worthless, I guess I'll punish her a bit.
Hatter was working to gather information in a room lit by the glow of the monitors. Speaking every language, entering all the networks around the world, she could glare at the whole world from there. If she put her mind to it, she could check the actions of the President with the White House’s security cameras, or she could get local information through the mobile phone of a civilian going through the town.
“...Hmm... no articles or traces of them...?”
Her search finished, she reached the conclusion that they were impossible to identify, and decided to move to the next measure: reporting that they couldn’t be found. Since she couldn’t obtain even a clue at this stage, future searches could also lead to a waste of effort.
Reaching that conclusion, Hatter booted up her e-mail software to send the information to the sleeping Alice.
A mail had arrived, addressed to Hatter. It’s title, “Introduction to the Creation Myth of Irukinuf/Arukinuf.” The field of the sender read, “Red Queen.”
“Why does the Red Queen have information even I couldn’t obtain?”
With a small frown, Hatter opened the e-mail.
The Book Building, after school. There were many students in the librarian’s room, that was being used by the literature club as their headquarters.
“Chief, did you finally wake up?”
Alice gave a dull answer to the male member’s question. Indeed, there was no way she could recover her stamina by sleeping less than three hours. Although she could have used some medicines, she didn’t want to use them if at all possible, as the side effects were scary. So in the end both Alice and Dorothy spent most of their classes in the arms of Morpheus.
“Dorothy, you were sleeping too, what happened last night?”
“We were working on our latest plot until late.”
In contrast to the gruff Alice, Dorothy answered the male staffer’s question in the manner of a quite well-bred Milady.
“Anyways, since I’ll be working out the details of the ending with Dorothy from now, move away and don’t listen to our conversation if you want to read and enjoy the complete work.”
Alice moved her hand to send the boy away. Though it was more the kind of gesture you'd use to make an animal obey you, since she did those things all the time, the staff didn’t really mind.
“Dorothy, will you wake up anytime soon?”
Alice pressed lightly the tip of Dorothy’s nose, who had just given a clear answer to the boy just now.
“I’m awake. How rude.”
Dorothy raised her voice in protest, but her eyes became glazed the very next moment, and changed to an expression like she’d fall asleep at any time.
“The focus of your eyes doesn’t seem to match that, does it?”
Groggily, Dorothy fell face-first on the club room’s desk.
“Just like the mudhead. Sleeping so much, and still sleepy.”
The school classes had no more meaning for Alice than to maintain her attendance record. She achieved good enough results in the tests, and was certain to submit her homework every time. When it came to Dorothy though, she seemed to be struggling with every test.
In the first place, unlike Alice, who attended school in order to experience the day-to-day as the family motto, there was no reason for Dorothy to attend school. If she needed knowledge, a professional tutor could be called in through the financial power of the Baum house, and make an education curriculum for Dorothy’s exclusive use. Her attending school was just due to her having the opportunity of attending the same school for the first time in many years with the Alice she was separated academically from since childhood, nothing but wanting to enjoy the student mood together.
“If you get failing marks in a test and have to hold back a year, Dorothy, I won’t care at all~”
Lying like so, Alice spread her own notes in front of Dorothy’s eyes.
“Eh? Allie, what’s this?”
“I just put my notebooks in the table. You may look if you want to, I didn’t say anything about copying them before it’s too late.”
Dorothy’s eyes shined with surprise and joy.
“But, Allie, you were sleeping like me, how did you take these?”
“I rather keep that a secret for now.”
Whenever the classes were over and it looked like there was a recess, Alice woke up, borrowed a notebook from a classmate and copied it.
As long as she took notes, that was enough to prepare for an exam. In fact, though she had pulled this stunt more for Dorothy's sake than her own, it wasn’t like Alice to say such a thing.
“So, do you want them? Or not?”
“I do! I do! I need them! Thanks, Allie! You're the friend everyone should have!"
After Dorothy thanked her profusely, she immediately began copying from the notebooks.
“If you think about it, in this world with advanced computerization, I don’t think it’s a good idea that part of the education is still analog.”
Dorothy complained with a grumble, her hands fast at work.
“I don’t really dislike it. If you move your fingers, won’t your body remember it better? And if you learn about classical literature series like the “Iliad” or the “Odyssey”, it might be unexpectedly useful later.”
“You don’t know?”
“What are those? If it’s classical literature, wouldn’t it usually be “The Count of Monte Cristo” or “Moby Dick”?”
“...Dorothy, dear gal, just how did you find the ruins of Troy?”
“I found them by digging properly!”
Only you could find it that way!
Alice had to make an effort not to retort aloud.
In contrast with the Dodgson Foundation, where treasure hunts began with a minute investigation, carefully and cautiously double-checked, in the Baum Foundation their actions consisted on bold ideas. What was important in an adventure was whether it was interesting or not. “Leave the certainly safe treasures to the common people. The luxury to enjoy uncertain danger is ours to take.” That was the Code of Conduct unique to the family loved by the Good Luck Fairy.
Even Glinda, Dorothy’s mother, the predecessor that gave away the seat of Treasure Hunter to Dorothy two years ago, was also said to have acquired many operable super-ancient inheritances, including the Twister, because she had seen them in a dream. The family motto of the Baum’s house was “The truth is not on a desk. It’s at the actual site”, giving priority to taking action, that Dorothy had taken to heart well.
“What happens, Allie?”
Dorothy’s voice pulled her back to reality.
“I was just thinking of an effective retort for someone from your family. Anyways! It doesn’t hurt to take a look at the classics related to the Roman Empire, Egypt and Persia.”
“But, the sites around those have been dug exhaustively. Even if we learn about those now, it won’t help much, will it?”
Dorothy answered as she transcribed notes. A friend who could regard these topics not as topic trivia knowledge, but as information that could be put to practical use, was precious.
“We could obtain a clue investigating other civilizations of the same period.”
The architecture technology and higher mathematics of the ancient Rome were so sophisticated they were even used nowadays. Though different theories diverged on whether that civilization had developed naturally or they had taken over a different sophisticated civilization, Treasure Hunters like Alice leaned towards the latter.
The civilizations repetition theory. It was the hypothesis that after a highly sophisticated civilization collapsed and retreated back to Paleolithic levels, after a long time it'd end up recovering. Though, it wasn’t just a theory for Alice or Dorothy, who had inheritances of super-ancient civilizations in their hands...
Speaking of which, the Gate’s existence Hatter told her last night, that sure was a crazy theory that could give this hypothesis a run for its money; Alice got the feeling many of her core beliefs had been shaken.
“There's also are many cases where myths or aboriginal folktales way before the written era were actually talking about the things we cover.”
After that preface, Alice whispered to Dorothy, “Like your Twister, that was originally considered an Ukifune on the sky of Japan.”
“Ah, that was right. Since I use it normally, I had forgotten.”
“I feel sorry for your attendants, having to deal with this mudhead...”
“Munyu~, if you call me a mudhead, Allie, I’ll also call you a wet-girl...”
Alice didn’t even let Dorothy finish her sentence. She took the hardcover she had put on the table and swung it down vertically at the crown of her head.
The eyes around the clubroom concentrated on the dull sound. Without raising her voice, Dorothy grabbed her head and fell face-first on the table.
“Don’t say that in public!”
Seeing Alice’s eyes full of murderous intent, Dorothy stayed silent.
“Nothing to see here!”
Alice’s roar, like a drill sergeant's, made all the members divert their eyes at once.
“Aalright, that’s better!”
After making sure the other members had returned to their work, Alice brought her head close to Dorothy, the latter with her eyes wet and her lower lip pushed out.
“So, how about you tell me more about the email?“
“The one you sent me this morning! Did you forget!?”
Several seconds passed in silence. Alice reached out for the hardcover again.
“I wonder if you’ll remember if I hit you with the dark and mysterious 1st edition of the “Dictionary of Cthulhu Mythos”?”
“Noo. At the very least, let it be with “Memories of the Future”.”
“Däniken? So you like him too.”
“Well, that’s because he writes about the truth.”
Dorothy smiled with a grin, and bonnk!, the binding of the “Dictionary of Cthulhu Mythos” burst when the book hit the crown of her head.
“Did you remember? If not, we can go on with the “Mu Special Compilation Encyclopedia Series”. We have one on ESP, UFOs, mystery stuff, super-science, ghosts... I wonder how many books are there in total.”
“Using books as weapons, that's forbidden!”
“Okay, that’s enough! It's forbidden to talk aloud~!”
The warning of their teacher Faye echoed through the room. Though she was by no means shouting, she projected her voice well.
Alice shrugged, and returned the hardcover she was holding to the table. They had really gone off track. Apparently, the mudhead there seemed to have forgotten the contents of the email she had taken seriously, even if only for a minute.
“Good grief... I thought this might happen, it’s a good thing I copied it.”
Sighing, Alice showed Dorothy her mobile’s screen. Reflected there was the text of the email she had sent her that morning.
“Did you see?”
“Yes, I saw. That’s the email I sent you.”
“It’d be a serious situation if it wasn’t from you. So, did you remember what you were going to say? If you can’t, it’s the encyclopedia series this time.”
“I remember! Err... It’s this, this thing.”
To prevent Alice from reaching for the hardcover a third time, Dorothy thrust her hand into her bag in a hurry.
Dorothy proudly took out a jet-black cube.
“No way, it’s the real deal?”
Frankly, the probability that she had obtained the real deal by chance, was plausible if it was Dorothy.
“Unfortunately, it’s the replica that girl dropped.”
Alice went “Wha~t” and drooped her shoulders hearing Dorothy’s words.
“And, these are the results of Scarecrow’s examination of it.”
Dorothy showed one sheet of the printout to Alice. A detailed analysis of the cube was written there. It proved that the components of the replica, or one could say even its very nature, were exactly the same as the real deal.
“The fake is at the same level as the real deal.”
With no difference at all that could reveal this one as the fake, it felt like a similar trick to the one with the golden boat days ago.
“Somehow, it appears the culprit of the secret substitutions is that child.”
“More accurately, would it be the organization that child belongs to?”
Preparing such a replica expressly, what meaning was there in secretly substituting the real deal with them? What did the real deal have that the fake didn’t?
“Say, Dorothy. What do you think is the difference between the two?”
“Myu~. What the real deal has that the fake doesn’t... For example, maybe it’s something like a live goldfish versus a dead one?”
Though both goldfishes had the same components, the crucial difference was which one was alive. Unexpectedly, she might have not been off the mark.
“Live OOPArts...? So, you mean that's the “good thing that you found out”?”
“I didn’t mean it had occurred to me!”
Dorothy proudly stuck out her thin chest.
“That’s not how boasting works!”
“But, since it was Scarecrow, my brains, who thought of it, it’s basically the same as if I had!”
Alice stared half-eyedly as Dorothy triumphantly folded her arms taking credit from others, and reached for the printout.
“So it’s not you who is great, but Scarecrow, for reaching that conclusion in such short a time. I wonder if we should try to scout her out?”
“You wouldn’t! Scarecrow is my precious subordinate!”
“Yea yea, the Baum Foundation is blessed with very excellent talented people. Even with you mudhead managing it, somehow.”
“Though I intended to have you cooperate with my strategy, I don’t think you’ll need the paper.”
Dorothy stretched out her hand in an attempt to snatch the printout away from Alice.
Alice dodged her hand and looked her in the face.
“Yes. No matter how much it resembles the real deal, a fake is a fake. Wouldn’t you like to give this so-called Lord Irukinuf a taste of hell, Allie?”
“You bet I do.”
“Then, it’s the turn for the second sheet of the printout.”
From under the printout that described the results of the cube’s analysis, a second sheet appeared. Suddenly, the title of “Grand Strategy to Summon the Irukinuf Clan,” written with cheerful letters, jumped into her eyes.
“As expected of Scarecrow.”
Reading the text under the title, she was honestly impressed. Listed there were OOPArts that might have been secretly substituted by fakes with the same components as the real deals, and the OOPArts with no evidence of having been replaced secretly. The ones that were secretly replaced by fakes were all the first kind of OOPArts, the prehistoric ones. Scarecrow’s plan was clear simple. Even Dorothy would understand this.
“So, in other words, the organization of this Irukinuf or whatever has secretly replaced the first kind of OOPArts with fakes.”
“So, we’ll lure them using OOPArts they haven’t secretly replaced yet as bait.”
“Yeah, that’s about it.”
“But, I can’t mobilize the Foundation’s stuff if I don’t have permission from the 3 Queens.”
“Even if you don’t have the permission from the 3 Queens, we’ll have enough forces with you, Allie. My subordinates will also put in their best efforts this time, we won’t require the help from the Dodgson Foundation.”
With Dorothy as a bonus, the 3 of them, Scarecrow, Lumberjack and Löwe were very useful.
While Scarecrow the information chief was only human, she had information-gathering capabilities comparable to her Hatter from the Dodgson Foundation, and had the ability to formulate a feasible strategy that even the mudhead could understand. Besides, she also had a side to her that was a super-genius engineer that produced a variety of items making full use of the Baum Foundation’s exclusive workshop. If Alice ever had the chance, the number one talent she'd want to recruit for herself was this person.
Dorothy’s second subordinate would be Lumberjack, armored from head to toe, an enhanced soldier with the biometal called “Roswell Metal”, a product of an unknown technology, endowed with the enemy searching analytic ability at the same level as the latest electronic surveillance planes. Besides, he had demonstrated his capabilities the other day by making Dorothy come back alive even from a submarine pyramid.
And the third person was Löwe. A beast woman with many mysteries, captured by the predecessor from the Baum house, Glinda. Her physical abilities were equal to Alice’s in her Boost state.
Dorothy would be accompanied by three formidable people now. Even if Dorothy wasn’t there, with these 3 people they probably wouldn’t fall behind that tentacle child, Lynn.
“So, where do you intend to place the bait?”
“We settled for here.”
“The club room!?”
“Yes. If it’s here, even if things heat up and something gets broken, we can fix it with our influence and money, and since the private school is a kind of extraterritoriality, no nuisances will enter. It’d be quite troublesome if it was at Allie’s house or ours, right?”
Still, the school’s club room. Typical of Dorothy, a daring... I mean, an absurd strategy. No, it was Scarecrow who thought of it, so what exactly is she trying to pull here?
“I don’t think it’s a good idea either to make the enemy suddenly come to your stronghoold~”
With a heh heh!, Dorothy stuck out her slim chest again. Most probably what Scarecrow had told her beforehand.
“But, I wonder if the enemies will notice?”
“It’s all right, we’ll leave that to Scarecrow.”
“How about some details?”
Dorothy gulped when Alice came closer.
Dorothy mumbled. It seems she really left it all to Scarecrow.
Just when Alice tried to give her a word of warning.
“Oh my, I wonder what you’re talking about?”
A well-projected voice sounded from up close.
“Seems like you got a bit worked up.”
Their teacher Faye, adviser of the literature club and beautiful one-armed woman, reached Alice’s table while swinging her glamorous figure.
As Alice apologized to Faye like an ordinary student, she hid the printout right away.
“I'd like you to be a bit quieter, but well, it can’t be helped if you get caught up in it. Since your teacher here loves your stories too, Alice, I’ll let it slide just a bit.”
“Thank you very much.”
As they were members of the literature club, they had to publish some kind of works. Alice, in the guise of a co-authorship with Dorothy, had published some adventure stories. As a matter of fact, no one would realize their stories were non-fiction.
“And, what made you get so worked up?”
The teacher Faye pushed her voluptuous breasts against the table, as she brought her face closer to them.
“Won’t the school festival be soon?”
“Yes. I heard the literature club also publishes a club journal issue matching the cultural festival.”
“Along with the club journal, how about each member brings whatever the inspiration for their story was and displays it? I was asking Dorothy.”
Alice smoothly spoke of her idea. Even if she planned to push forward her strategy regardless of the literature club’s advisor, she should go through the motions to carry it out.
“Well, isn’t that nice? The literature club’s displays are always rather dull.”
Faye smiled with a grin.
“And, what will you two display? You can’t bring dangerous or expensive things here.”
“I’ll bring a replica straight out of what I’m writing with Dorothy.”
“Many of them came out in stores a bit earlier. With sweets as a bonus.”
Dorothy answered before Faye had the time to ask any question.
“Yeah. Like the collection of mysterious animals, or the collection of super-ancient civilizations.”
Alice backed up Dorothy’s words. At the very least, they wanted the ordinary people, including their teacher, to think that was the case.
“Yes, that sounds interesting.”
“For this reason, we want to carry it out at once tonight.”
“Oh my, on such short notice.”
“Is it no good?”
Even if it was soon, there was still a day before the school festival. Even if she declined, it couldn’t be helped, but Alice waited for Faye’s answer in silence.
“I don’t mind. I’ll talk to the guards, so do as you like.”
Faye gave a blooming smile and moved away from their table.
Alice gave a sigh of relief, and regaining her foothold, make a small victory pose. Though they had improvised it, they had somehow pulled through.
“Dorothy, it seems we’ll be busy tonight.”
“Yes. But, one thing before that.”
“What? Is there something you want to do?”
“Can you lend me the notes a little longer? I fell asleep through a~ll of today’s classes... tehe.”
Dorothy put on a pleading smile, and grabbed Alice’s notes.
A solitary island far off in the ocean, covered in a deep jungle. Adding to the fact that it wasn’t listed in any map, it largely deviated from the routes of boats and planes, and not even satellites passed over it for some reason, so no person was aware of the island’s existence. Even the odd person who arrived by chance wouldn’t come back alive either.
All over that island, waterways and pyramid-like hills that could have only been built artificially protruded from the jungle. A plaza had been prepared halfway up a mountain in the middle of them, with a temple decorated with countless stone pillars. The temple had architecture reminiscent of the ancient Greece and Rome, there were 12 entasis pillars carved elaborately, a person’s silhouette visible at the base of each of them.
A young red-headed girl walked towards the throne placed among the huge pillars arranged in symmetry, 6 to the left and to the right. An elderly gentleman was sitting in the throne ahead of them.
Upon a closer look at the gentleman’s shape, one would notice that his bottom swelled unnaturally from his waist. In actuality, what constituted the lower part of his body weren’t feet. It was an organ formed by four thick tentacles. In his hand, he had a cane with a complexly entangled tentacle in it.
“That’s far enough!”
At around 10 meters before she reached the throne, two men came out from the left and right and called her to a halt. A hero with a bald head exposing the upper half of his body, covered with thriving muscles, and a giant who had grown a beard of fluttering, black curly hair.
“Dear me, the Great Tentacles Lord Leonidaas and Lord Rasputin. Whatever are you stopping me foor?”
The girl’s voice spread through the temple like a song.
“You were found out. Didn’t you go too far this time?”
“We’re those who lurk in the darkness of history and rule over humans. Did you forget the rules that state you mustn’t attract attention? No matter how much the Tentacle King naively regards you as his Songstress, we say that’s intolerable.”
The people there at the base of the stone pillars agreed with the pair’s words.
“With a social standing of a mere Four Tentacles, even standing in front of us, the 12 Apostles of the Tentacle God, is the height of impudence.”
“Know your place, lass!”
The commotion spread around the throne.
“Oh, please calm down, all of you 12 Apoostles.”
Without even flinching among the powerful atmosphere of intimidation, the red-haired girl’s well-projected voice echoed throughout.
“I have come here todaay, to tell everyone that we’ve regained a part of our God, Lord Irukinuf’s body.”
The red-headed girl fluttered her skirt, and a jet black cube appeared between her legs, which fell down slowly.
“Could it be, the Salzburg Cube!?”
Nodding at the 12 Apostles’ words, the red-haired girl held out the jet black cube in front of Leonidas and Rasputin.
“You can’t possibly have forgootten, the purpose of our cult dating baack to BC, have you?”
The young girl asked to the throne behind Leonidas, her tone full of confidence.
“No one here has forgotten.”
The 12 Apostles straightened themselves all at once, hearing the voice from the throne.
“Tentacle King Swodar.”
The red-headed girl quickly prostrated, and the 12 Apostles soon followed.
“Lynn. You did well, coming back with the Salzburg Cube.”
Swodar Nyarmain rose up from the throne, and slowly got closer to the girl, skillfully moving the tentacles of his lower body.
“Stand back, Rasputin, Leonidas.”
Rasputin went back to the pillar’s base, following the Tentacle King’s orders. Leonidas did the same, as he flexed his pectoral muscles brimming with strength.
“Behold, 12 Apostles of mine. The revival of our God!”
The Tentacle King screamed out, and held out the cane in his hand towards the Salzburg Cube.
Along with the sound of something moving quickly, the Tentacle King’s cane came undone, and wriggled with countless tentacles. With a movement reminiscent of deep-sea organisms searching for food, the tentacles extending from the cane preyed on the Salzburg Cube.
<Servants of minnnne.>
A voice rang in the mind of everyone with tentacles present at the shrine. At the same time, the closed eyelid at the top of the Tentacle King’s cane opened, and a rainbow-colored eye appeared.
“Lord Irukinuf’s eye!”
“So the Cube was genuine?”
A feeling of joy, surprise and delight ran among the 12 Apostles.
<Child of Irukinuf. You did well, restoring my body. I’ll give you a rewarrrrd.>
This cane was the Tentacle God Irukinuf, the object of worship of the Irukinuf cult. And it extended a tentacle, grabbing the body of the red-haired girl in an instant.
Feeling the touch of the chilly tentacle groping her body impudently, the red-headed girl gave up on her body, that turned red bright, and the four tentacles that extended from her waist changed from transparent to pale pink.
“Aanh, it-it’s beeen a whiile... aah!”
The tentacle groping her body finally arrived at the location it seeked, and rushed into the girl’s hole.
Her breathing completely obstructed, the girl fell into dyspnea, and the strength left her body.
<Die and be reborn, thou shall obtain a new life and powerrrr!>
The tentacles that clung to the girl and infringed upon her body pulsated with something... then released her, and shrunk and gathered into a cane form again, with a shrinking noise.
Meanwhile, the girl collapsed on the shrine’s floor as if she were dead. Before long, before the gazes of the Tentacle King and the 12 Apostles, the girl’s body began twitching and convulsing.
“For a new power!”
“For a new power!”
Following the Tentacle King’s words, the 12 Apostles responded by extending the tentacles from their bodies.
The Irukinuf cult had existed all the way since the creation of mankind. Among the believers, the proof of the upper echelons were those tentacles, that were also a testament that they had been granted a seed from Irukinuf, which let them live for a thousand years with just one of them. And now, the girl lying dead in front of them had been given a new seed by Irukinuf. If the fertilization and germination succeeded, she’d acquire even more power.
“Wake up! You who hold the title of Songstress!”
As if responding to the call, something began wriggling in the girl’s skirt.
A voice leaked from the girl’s mouth.
“Aah...... hiah...... Nkuuh~~~”
With a moan-like scream, what would become her fifth tentacle grew from the lower part of her body.
“Awaken, Songstress Lynn!”
Led by the Tentacle King’s body, the red-haired girl, Lynn, raised her body.
“No matter how many tiimes, it’s still greeat~!”
Lynn gave a sigh, with red cheeks and a smiling expression of ecstasy.
After making sure of Lynn’s revival, Irukinuf close its eye.
<It’s not enough yet. More... regain more of my body partssss...>
Irukinuf went to sleep again in the Tentacle King’s hands.
“I’ll give you a new mission.”
As the 12 Apostles watched attentively, the Tentacle King gave Lynn a new command.
“So sooon? You work your men haard, Tentacle Kiing.”
“It’s a job no one but you can do. There’s someone I want to add to our midst.”
The Tentacle King’s words caused a stir among the Apostles. Several years had passed since the last time the Tentacle King himself invited a new comrade. But, 100 years earlier, and even a good several hundred years before that, it was a rather common occurrence. One could say that continuing the trend in such a short span of time was exceptional.
“The two girls that you encountered in Moscow. This girl, the “Gate Opener.” And bring the “Trap Avoider” too.”
The Apostles reacted to the words, “Gate Opener.”
“That mission was Yue Ying’s!”
A female Apostle wearing Chinese clothes raised her voice.
“That’s too heavy a load for a Five Tentacles. Leave that to us, the Great Tentacles!”
The Tentacle King quelled the 12 Apostles’ voices by raising his right hand.
“Don’t be impatient. You 12 Apostles have another duty. There’s a granite disk from the Dropa tribe, the Dorchester Pot, there are still many Irukinuf body parts to gather. And the Gate must also be in working order soon... to avoid the destruction in 2012!”
The Tentacle King’s words straightened up the 12 Apostles.
“In that caase, you can leave it to Lynniie!”
Seeing the 12 Apostles holding back, Lynn stepped forward towards the Tentacle King.
“Buut, what if she refuses being our comraade?”
“She won’t. You should remember the reaction when that person came in contact with the Salzburg Cube.”
Smiling, the Tentacle King went back to his throne, the dormant Irukinuf in hand.
“You were lookiing... perveert.”
The Tentacle King ignored Lynn and sat down on the throne. Having become Tentacle King with 9 Tentacles, seeing the world through the field of vision of a lower-ranking existence wasn’t difficult. Recalling the event that occurred when that girl had held the Salzburg Cube, the Tentacle King closed his eyes.
“ “Gate Opener.” Soon, we’ll face each other again...”
Remembering the appearance of the silver-haired girl in a battle dress, the Tentacle King started meditating.
Translator's Notes and References
- See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Many-worlds_interpretation
- I'll be using “Gate” only when the katakana appears, to differentiate when it's just a kanji for "door/gate"
- For reference, her weird sneeze sounded like “hekuchubi” (instead of “hekushi”)
- The text mentions a "fountain of Hypnos," but that doesn't seem to be an actual expression, probably is a typo.
- As far as I can tell, this "文明反復論" is not a real theory
- This should be a reference to The Tale of Genji, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukifune
- This is a real book of course, see the 4th edition: http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/405900829X. The 1st edition was probably released in 1995, it’s hard to track
- Can’t find the English title, but it’s this book about aliens, pyramids and that kind of things by Erich von Däniken: http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/4047912638
- Like she said, this is a series of Japanese books about the supernatural. Vol 6 here is about magic: http://kijimunan.ocnk.net/product/530
- She technically doesn't say "in stores," but if they're supposed to come with sweets, there aren't many other options.
- Great Tentacle, aka “触大”, should be a rank in their organization, I’m assuming.
- This guy, Leonidas, uses “onushi” to refer to Lynn (aka old-timer speech)
- Much like Lynn always drags on her vocals somehow, Irukinuf will always repeat the last consonant 4 times
- See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dropa and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorchester_Pot