Smartphone: #297 The Black Market and “Etoile”

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Arc 27: The Reverse World
Chapter 297: The Black Market and “Etoile”

「The “Black Market”?」(Touya)

What’s with those overly threatening words? I can imagine what kind of place that is, but is it really alright for us to go to a place like that?

「It’s a sacred place for backroom deals, not limited to various stolen and unknown goods, but also prohibited items. Anyone can acquire almost anything there, not just the  golems」(Nia)

「That place is dangerous, so it must have connections to some kind of nasty organization… right?」(Touya)

「You’re right. The one controlling the Black Market is an organization called the “Black Butterfly”. Unlike us, those guys will do anything for profits. I intend to smash them one day but… that’s right! I can crush them if I have Touya with me」(Nia)

Nia starts muttering precarious words as if they’re nothing.

「Wait-wait!. You’re a little weird in here. Don’t drag a good-natured citizen into one your ploys」(Touya)

「Would a good-natured citizen jump into a room where a woman is changing clothes?」(Nia)

Uugh! I don’t think that event is related to this one…

「Well, let’s leave that aside. If you want to get your hands a “Legacy” golem, the Black Market is the quickest way to access them because you can’t be sure that you’ll be able to find one if you search a ruin」(Nia)

Exploring the ruins IS an option, provided I have some time to spare… But it looks like I have no choice other than to give up this time, huh?

Moreover, the place we’re going to is more or less called a black market. I may be able to obtain something unusual there.

「Normally, the market isn’t dangerous to the buyer. Just remember the “don’t inquire into the origins of the goods” rule. As long as you can just follow that, you’ll be just fine」(Yuri)

Yuri adds to the explanation as well. Oh right, there are stolen goods in there too. I suppose everyone would be suspicious if someone starts probing for information on their wares. At worst, the person in question might be marked by this “Black Butterfly” group.

「Got it. Take me to this place. I’ll just say this in advance, but I don’t have any intention of crushing that organization. Do you understand?」(Touya)

「Damn. Oh well. I guess that’s fine. I want to inspect the enemy’s movement a little all the same. Once Rouge comes back… oh, it’s here」(Nia)

Nia turns her eyes toward the fort. Then I notice a small object walking here from the other side.

It has a deep crimson-colored body which looks like a burning flame. It could be seen as a knight in full-body armor, but it has a size belonging to a child. And yet the thing which it’s carrying on its shoulder is a large wild boar about the same size of an automobile.

Unlike its appearance, it must be considerably powerful. This small golem drops the wild boar with a thud.

「Welcome back. Hey. How far have you gone to?」(Nia)

『North, to the depths of the forest. I’ve met an unexpected trouble』(Rouge)

「Did it just talk…?」(Touya)

Though the voice sounded mechanical, I’m pretty sure this red golem just talked. That wolf-type golem that I encountered before… Was it called Fenrir? It talked just as fluently as the Babylon sisters of our household.

「Rouge, this is Touya. He’s the one who gave us the items necessary for your repairs. Touya, this is my partner, Rouge. His full name is “Blood Rouge”, but I call it just Rouge since his name is too long」

『I heard the story. I thank you』(Rouge)

「Aah, no… Don’t mention it…」(Touya)

The red golem slightly bowed. Somehow, its tone and appearance don’t suit each other. This golem looks strangely human. The vice leader Est’s golem… Was it called Akagane? It had more of a robot-like feeling to it.

If I remember correctly, wasn’t this guy from a special series called “Crown” or something?

A “Legacy” with an exceptionally unique ability is said to be one of the most outstanding golems in this world… I don’t see them like that at all though.

「Rouge, we’ll be going to the “Black Market” after this. Come with us」(Nia)

『Understood, Master』(Rouge)

Rouge makes a small nod in response to Nia’s words. Somehow those two look like an elder sister ordering her younger brother. Though in reality, the younger brother is much older.

「So, where is this place?」(Touya)

Operating my smartphone, I then project the map of this world.

「Here’s the fort we’re in. The black market is located in the city of Goldes south from here. Goldes is a town being called the Casino city…」(Nia)

「Now wait just a minute. Is that the city that’s shining in all dazzling myriad of colors?」(Touya)

「So you know about this city?」(Nia)

That city? I stopped by this casino city one time before right after parting with Nia and the rest of their group and before returning to my world. So that city’s called Goldes, huh?

I pretty much lost all of my money there and became penniless…

「Is that city controlled by the “Black Butterfly”?」(Touya)

「No, the black market changes its location every month. It’s in Goldes this time, but it doesn’t particularly mean that the “Black Butterfly” controls Goldes. Naturally, they must have someone cooperating with them from within the city though」(Nia)

Them changing the venue each month is probably to mislead the eyes of the country, isn’t it? However, Nia sure knows much about it.

「It takes a thief to catch another thief. There are ways for us to acquire this kind of information too ~right」(Yuri)

Yuri puts a finger on her lips while saying so. Although the “Red Cats” is a group of chivalrous thieves, they don’t shy away from obscure practices. Such information later becomes a trump card.

As such, I feel like saying “don’t leak sensitive information like this to outsiders such as myself”. Well, I won’t be doing anything even after I hear it though.

「Oh well. It’s possible to go to this Goldes city at once because I’ve been there before, but… Is it really alright for Nia and the rest to come along?」(Touya)

I’m saying this just for the record, but she’s the leader of a group of thieves. Seeing that I’m hesitant if bringing her to places which attract public attention is alright or not, Nia waves her hand with a masculine-like laughing.

「There aren’t many people that know that I am the leader of the “Red Cats”. Besides, I have Rouge with me, he will protect me from almost any danger」(Nia)

Does it mean that the number of people who know the face of the Red Cats’ leader is limited even if the group itself is famous? Oh well. I plan on hiding our true identities with “Mirage” if push comes to shove, but it doesn’t look like I will need to worry about that.

For the time being, we tell the members in the fort where we’re going and leave them with a mouse that I’ve summoned.

In case they want to contact us for anything, they should be able to reach me through this mouse.

Witnessing the summoning magic, Nia presses me to teach her this magic as well, but she drops her shoulder disheartened when I tell her that I couldn’t teach her this magic since she doesn’t have the aptitude for the darkness attribute.

=================================================================

The outer district of a casino in the capital Goldes. Even this gorgeous capital has a dark side. The place called the slums. It’s here where people with broken dreams end up and the last stop for those who are lost.

Having opened “Gate” in the back alley of such place, we then transfer to Goldes. Immediately coming out to the main street and walking for a while, we arrive at the street facing the central district.

The neon lights of this city aren’t shining because it’s daytime, but the city looks flashy as usual even under the sun.

We travel up a hill towards the central district and pay the toll to the gatekeeper before the flashy shining gate.

I had thought about this when I came before, but this somehow feels as if paying the admission fee before entering an amusement park.

「So, where at the central district are we supposed to go?」(Touya)

Inside the central district, there are several casino domes, each one having a different owner, I hear. Surely, the money-mongers here are having a fierce competition night after night.

There are also buildings with somewhat a pretty large amount of land that can be seen here and there. Though the casinos aren’t opened during the daytime, I wonder at what place and time would the black market open?

「The place where going to is the casino “Goldman”. To be precise, it’s a place where the casino “was” located」(Nia)

「”Was”?」(Touya)

「Several months ago, the owner of that place was arrested for illegal gambling and all kinds of other stuff. I heard they made slaves fight the golems, making them kill each other. We had intended to deliver the divine retribution upon them ourselves, but I guess we were beaten to the punch」(Nia)

Nia looks the other way with a sullen face. Just when I’m thinking that her attitude is strange, Yuri says something from the side.

「The one who had driven that owner to ruin was a person in possession of a black “Crown”, similar to the one Chief has. She’s sulking because her rival seized all of the spoils」(Yuri)

「Don’t say anything unnecessary!」(Nia)

“Bishii!” Nia flicks Yuri’s forehead. “It hur-r-r-rts”, says Yuri as she squats down while touching her forehead. It was an excellent sound.

A red crown and a black crown. Does this mean that the crown series have colors attached to them as names?

「At any rate, the new owner, who purchased the casino dome, is cooperating with the “Black Butterfly”」(Nia)

I see. I open my map app and look at the map of this city. It’ll troublesome if the name of the casino has already been changed, but it looks like it still retained the name “Goldman”.

Once we walk up to the front of the casino dome, two gatekeeper golems, about three meters tall and made of blue steel, blocks our way. Huge~. They aren’t as tall as frame gears though. Apart from being short, stout and looking old-fashioned, those golems seem to be very strong.

Several thug-looking men that look like ruined adventurers are standing before them.

「A customer?」(Evil-looking Man)

Seeing us, the evilest looking one among them glares at us. If this place was a proper first-class casino, his behavior wouldn’t be acceptable.

「If you came here to buy, it’s one gold per person. If you came here to sell, show us your products」(Evil-looking Man)

「…We came to buy. It’s three gold coins, right?」(Touya)

As I inquire about it, the man nods silently. “Pay the fee if you want to enter”, – is what he probably meant.

The admission fee is about 100,000 yen per person, huh? Apparently, golems aren’t counted for the admission fee here, but we had to pay Rouge’s share as well when we entered the central district.

I take out three gold coins and hand them over to the man. Upon receiving the fee, the man only moves his jaw, urging us to move.

We pass through a big door and come out to a barren hall. Looks like every decoration inside this casino dome was cleared away. Even though I had entered a different casino before, the hall from that time looked more gorgeous.

But in here, there are no tables to play roulette or poker and bar counters. There’s no big chandelier in here as well. Only a large number of assorted stores are lined up throughout the spacious dome.

There are small tent-like stores even on flea markets, but both the shopkeepers and the customers here look way too suspicious. A chaotic world is spreading before our eyes here.

「It feels like a flea market or an antique market…」(Touya)

A lot of things are being sold namely: some sort of parts in which I don’t have any idea about, various types of jewelry, expensive-looking vases, even animals that I’ve never seen before. Everything around appears, so I end looking restlessly around without thinking.

Oops! I mustn’t forget what I really came to do here.

However, I couldn’t find anything resembling a golem even after looking around. What’s the meaning of this?

「In black markets such as this one, expensive goods like golems are placed in a different location, you see. Yuri has already gone to inquire about it, so just wait for a bit」(Nia)

Yuri returns a short time later. Apparently, transactions that deal with high priced items such as golems are being conducted in the basement.

In front of a thick, black leather-covered door, thug-looking bodyguards are standing watch again. And they’re demanding money again. Oi!…

Although I’m already quite irritated to this attitude, it’s no use opposing this treatment. I’ve once again paid three people’s worth of fees and set foot in the slope leading towards the basement.

After descending a gentle curve, we are greeted by a bowl-shaped venue with various golems put on display. They come in all shapes — human and animal — and sizes — big and small — with some even having figures that I don’t recognize.

The view is spectacular when they’re lined up like this. It’s like we are in an exhibition of sorts.

「Let’s go」(Nia)

「A-aah」(Touya)

Being pressed by Nia’s group, we go down to the bowl-shaped venue. Weaving our way through various golems and customers, we walk around while checking what catches our attention one by one.

「I don’t know which one is a “Legacy” and which one is a “Factory” at all though……」(Touya)

「Once you get used to them, you’ll be to differentiate the two just by looking at their design or the parts they use. For now, you can just look at the price. “Legacy” golems are substantially far more expensive than their counterparts. Well, it happens from time to time, but some super-high-quality “Custom-made” frames do appear occasionally」(Nia)

An ancient frame which has been excavated from ruins —  A “Legacy” golem。

A “Factory” mass produced unit — A “Ready-Made” golem.

According to a golem engineer, a one-of-the-kind unit is called “Custom-Made”.

Rouge is a “Legacy” golem, and the crab bus that Sancho-san has is probably a “Ready Made” golem.

Looking at the prices, there are definitely a few golems whose prices have one more digit in them. However, nearly all of them have the tag “No ability” written under the price.

As expected. Units with an ability, which could be called “Golem Skill”, aren’t that easy to obtain.

「Oh」(Touya)

Among them, there’s one golem without the “No Ability” tag underneath the price.

The green golem in question is approximately 2 meters tall, with long and big arms, and shaped like a gorilla. It’s carrying some kind of tank on its back.

「Excuse me. Is this golem an “Ability Holder”?」(Touya)

「Indeed. The range is limited, but it’s capable of transforming the terrain」(Shopkeeper)

Hee. Looks like it may be useful in civil engineering. Though I couldn’t believe the 500 million price tag. Wouldn’t this golem be stolen if left in a place like this? No, since it’s in the black market, it might’ve already be stolen though.

The “Black Butterfly” group is managing the security of this place properly, but I really wonder about that.

I could confidently say that I could steal everything in here, but I won’t.

「Hey, Touya. How about that one?」(Nia)

「Eh? Which one?」(Touya)

The machine Nia points to looks more like a power-up suit rather than a golem. It looks like it’s supposed to be worn on someone’s limbs and back. I wonder, does this machine belong to another class of golems?

「This one is an equipment type golem. Even though it may look like this, it still has its uses. It moves according to the thoughts of its wearer and assists that person by doing so」(Nia)

It certainly looks interesting, but what I want is the autonomous type.

「Touya-san, how about this one?」(Yuri)

Yuri leads me to the front of a store with a large number of firm-looking cases lined-up. Amongst them, a certain golem is being silently displayed.

It has small stature like a kid, about the same as Rouge. The frame has white as its base color and made with a vague form of a girl. There are three of them in total, each having a certain fluorescent color — red, blue, and green — incorporated all over their bodies. They even have fluorescent hair-like parts on their heads. Someone surely has mastered their craft.

「A humanoid type, huh? How rare」(Nia)

Nia mutters while comparing the three “Legacy” golems with her eyes. Certainly, when compared to an armor-wearing unit like Rouge or the exoskeleton-type gorilla from a little while ago, these golems seem to be made to imitate a human being.

However, I’m not that surprised by that fact since our household has robo-girls which are almost indistinguishable from humans. Those humanoid golems still give off the feeling of being “dolls” though.

「Are they “Ability Holders” as well?」(Touya)

「They are. I can guarantee that. However, I don’t know what abilities they have since they can’t be activated」(Shopkeeper)

Apparently, golems have a device usually installed in the chest area that’s being used to register someone as the owner of said golem, but that device doesn’t seem to be working. The shopkeeper, whom we asked about the details, says that he had shown the golems to the engineers specializing in them but gave up on fixing the golems in question. As such, the shopkeeper has decided to sell them in their current state.

「Therefore, I’m selling them for cheap, and I want the customer to buy them」(Shopkeeper)

The fat storekeeper calls out to me while rubbing his hands together. Ummm. Even if you say that you’re selling them “for cheap”, each of them costs 70 royal gold coins. It’s 700 million yen, you know? The amount does seem a bit strange.

The gorilla-type from before costs 500 million, and it’s an “Ability Holder”. Are you saying that it’s less expensive than these golems? Despite that fact that the gorilla seemed stronger and sturdier.

「Can’t be helped, I suppose. Hey, look here」(Shopkeeper)

The storekeeper points at the chest of the cased golem. A small ☆ mark, some kind of characters and a number, is carved in that area.

「A star emblem… Does this golem belong to the ”Etoile” series? That would explain things」(Nia)

「I see」(Yuri)

Seeing those symbols, Nia and Yuri nod in consent. According to Yuri, who explained to the uncomprehending me, golems that are marked with a star-shaped symbol belong to the “Etoile” series, which are considered as one of the best series of golems even amongst other “Legacy” golems.

I suppose the mark itself is probably something like a proprietary logo of the manufacturer.

Though I find out about it later, it seems that there’s a crown mark engraved into the neck Rouge, hidden behind its armor. Apparently, it’s the brand mark of the “Crown” series.

「Is that real?」(Touya)

「There’s no one who’ll display a fake in the black market. He would be prohibited from entering, or he might even be erased, at worst」(Nia)

I see. That probably means that even without knowing the ability of those golems, they are worth this much simply because they belong to the “Etoile” series.

「So, what will the customer do? Will you buy it? Will you not? Normally, an “Etoile” golem doesn’t go for cheap, you know?」(Shopkeeper)

「Hmmm……」(Touya)

Honestly speaking, I’m looking for a “tougher” golem that could be worth calling a gatekeeper. Based on how these golems look, I believe they are more suited to be caretakers.

Our in-house professor will probably be able to analyze them and activate them eventually. Even if she fails, she’ll think of another way. In that case… this is possible as well, I guess?

「Alright. I’ll buy them. However, please look at this before doing a transaction」(Touya)

I take out an adamantite ingot from “Storage” and show it the storekeeper who’s looking doubtful. The storekeeper then looks at it for a while before opening his eyes widely and turning his face to me.

「I-is t-this adamantite!? Where in the world…!?」(Shopkeeper)

「Isn’t it against the rules to ask about the origins of a product here? I want you to sell those three golems to me for 130 royal gold coins and this ingot」(Touya)

「All three of them!? Nu…u…」(Shopkeeper)

The storekeeper is pondering in front of the adamantite. Actually, my 150 royal gold coins were decreased due to the admission fees and other stuff. I’ll be glad if the transaction goes through with the current amount I brought out. Although I could simply pay the full price using adamantite only, I would look suspicious if I’ve done so.

Golems from the “Etoile” series that couldn’t be activated or a very precious and rare material. The scales inside that man’s head are probably trembling.

Eventually, the storekeeper shows a complacent smile and says something.

「Got it. I’ll accept this adamantite and 130 royal gold coins. I’ll sell everything」(Shopkeeper)

「It’s a deal」(Touya)

I hand over the money to the storekeeper and purchase the three golems. The reason for buying all three of them is to have a spare in case something happens. One could also say that separating those three away from each other bothers me, seeing as how they look like sisters when they’re lined up like that.

When I stored the three of them along with their cases inside “Storage”, the storekeeper stiffens at the sight but decides not to mind it.

「No matter of much of an “Etoile” they are, are you really sure about having the three of them?」(Nia)

「Mmm. I don’t know, but I think there are no other golems better than them. In the first place, I don’t know when I’ll be able to obtain one again」(Touya)

I vaguely answer Nia’s remark. In any case, I’ve achieved one of my objectives. All that’s left is to find a place where I could set up the dimensional gate, huh? Should I go as far as reclaiming a small uninhabited island somewhere?

As I’m having those thoughts, I hear a faint scream coming from somewhere.

「…What’s that?」(Touya)

「Huh? What’s wrong?」(Nia)

Nia calls to me when I suddenly stopped.

Again. A scream is mixed within the noises of the hustle and bustle, but I could still hear it from the distance. And it’s not just one. I’m hearing a lot of screaming.

When I suddenly look to the side, I see that Rouge has also stopped in the same way, staring up at the ceiling. Is the source coming from above?!

Something’s happening on the upper floors.

「……〜♪ 〜♪……」

What? Just when I think that the screams have stopped after a short while, I hear a happy singing voice this time.

In the next instant, the thick leather-covered door leading upstairs is cut in right in half, falling heavily onto the floor.

As the door falls, I manage to hear the song coming from the darkness of the passage more clearly than from a while ago.

「……from the hanging stand〜That pleasant laugh♪ Brandishing the knife〜The doll is scooping out cat’s eyes〜♪」

「T…that voice!」(Nia)

Nia becomes vigilant and glares beyond the torn door.

One girl shows herself, stepping over the wreckage of the door.

She’s wearing gothic-styled clothes with purple frills and a very short skirt while holding a small purple umbrella. She’s also wearing slim glasses, but her purple eyes don’t look like there’s life in them.

With her long, amethyst-like hair, she looks just like a classic Japanese doll. Although she may look cute at a glance, her whole body is bathed with spurts of blood.

Though what bothers me the most is the small purple golem that’s holding a long sickle like a death god standing next to the girl. That aura and features, they closely resemble the red golem, which is standing beside me.

「Hey! No way that…」

「This golem is the purple “Crown”, Fanatic Viola. And she is…!」

「Luna Trieste……. “The Lady of Madness”」

Madness……? While I’m doubting their description of her, the girl starts twirling herself around in front of the entrance while rotating her umbrella.

「G~ive it to me. G~ive it to me. Please give me your eyeballs♪ Feel at ease instead, I will gift you an eternal sleep♪」(Luna)

While she’s humming that song and being smeared with blood, the girl just keeps on spinning around and around. Once she realizes our presence, she starts to sing with a wider smile than before.

「Your heart, please give it to me♪」(Luna)

TL: Airsblue
TLC: greujnik
ED: Blackswordsman

Smartphone: #296 The Magic Training, and the Talent
Smartphone: #298 The Purple Crown, and the Lunatic