The eastern part of the Labyrinth City was even less safe than the southern part, which housed a lot of adventurers and workers.
The Order of the Sun had barely any presence there. Bounty hunters went after vicious criminals and repeated offenders, but lighter crimes pretty much went unpunished. The area that was supposed to be developed but there were abandoned buildings/projects, which were particularly dangerous sites even in such an area. The city attempted to build a town hall, but the people in charge embezzled the money that was supposed to go to contractors, and construction was also done sloppy, which made it a precarious building.
The irregularities and laziness started piling up, until construction was abandoned.
The first people to settle there were construction workers with nowhere to go. Next, came an avalanche of wanted people that could not stay anywhere else in the Labyrinth City.
These new inhabitants started doing unregulated and haphazard remodeling in the unsafe buildings that were abandoned half-way through being built, and it expanded so much, it could be called a labyrinth.
Survivors stood at the gate of this area. This graffiti filled gate was like an entrance to the underworld.
“Sorry about this detour Sem.”
“Hm? We came straight from Manhunt.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
Nick giggled at Sem’s naive answer.
“It’s alright. Stepping Man is our main target, but this is also something we have to do right? And it’s not like I’m frantically looking for Stepping Man.
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Sem started talking, but stopped.
“Nothing. More importantly, can we really just come in…?”
“…That’s usually the case.”
Said Nick with a sour expression, which prompted Karan to ask him.
“Do you know about this place Nick?”
“Just a bit.”
“So you do know.”
Said Tianna, to which Nick nodded.
“I did some bounty hunting with my previous party, but… Our leader didn’t really like this kind of work, so labyrinth exploration soon became our main line of work.
This is the entrance, but we should talk to the gatekeeper first.”
“There’s a gatekeeper… They’re not going to attack from that side, are they?”
Said an exasperated Tianna.
“That does happen. Usually, one of three things happens, and it depends on who is here and why.”
“First, if it’s the Order of the Sun, they’ll probably band together and attack with all they have.”
“That’s pretty extreme…”
“If they don’t do that, they’ll be driven out. Next, if it’s someone that wants to live here, they’ll usually be accepted. People here won’t look after them or anything, but they can stay in one of the abandoned buildings, and if they have connections or abilities, they can find work with one of the factions here and be fed.”
“I see… And the last one?”
“People like bounty hunters, or people looking for someone. Those kinds of people will usually be let in, but…”
“…Well, you’ll see. Let’s get going.”
Nick prompted them to move on, and they passed through the graffiti filled gate.
Around them were people wearing shabby clothes, sitting or lying down.
Among them there was a thin, unhealthy looking man looking at them. The man approached them.
“I haven’t seen you around here… Are you bounty hunters?”
“Then, I can’t be your guard and I can’t tell you where you can find whoever it is you’re after, but I’m also not helping whatever idiot got a bounty on their head.”
“Alright. We don’t need a guard or a guide.”
Nick shook his head, and Karan looked on, confused.
“…Do we look like we need a guard?”
“I don’t mean guard in the sense of putting my body on the line to protect someone else, I mean acting as an intermediary between you and my partners to make sure they don’t attack you. But if you don’t hire us, we can’t guarantee your safety in here.”
Said the man while shrugging, and Karan whispered, seemingly understanding what he meant.
“So, people are going to attack us instead of monsters? We don’t need help either way.”
“What an interesting lady. Do you want information?”
The man stretched his hand while laughing out loud, and Nick placed some copper coins on it.
“It doesn’t have to be precise or anything. Has anything changed lately?”
“The other day some idiot shot a hole in the roof of the assembly hall with magic. Because of this, the people who claim that area as their turf are fighting the people of the Hoshimi square barracks. Stay clear of that place if you don’t want to be caught in the middle.”
“Another thing. Don’t mess with Nargava while he’s working.”
“Nargava? Who’s that?”
“A priest. There’s a new rule around here, don’t bother him when he’s healing or during his divine service.”
“Ehh… How peaceful.”
Nick was surprised, and Sem also seemed impressed.
“So that sort of thing happens even in a place like this.”
“Got it? Go on.”
The man annoyingly gestured with his chin, and Survivors went on their way.
Grumbled Karan while pinching her nose.
“Well… The ventilation and plumbing are terrible.”
Nick and the others walked through the abandoned area. Everywhere they went had low ceilings and was cramped, but the area itself was surprisingly wide.
Between buildings were rooms and roads built with construction materials that were left behind, and the people living there expanded in any way they wanted.
But because of this, no one cleaned, and it couldn’t be said to function well as a city.
Simply put, the inhabitants were ruffians.
Muggings happen as often and as casually as a light greeting.
“You came from outside uh?”
“You need to pay a toll to… Geha!?”
Before the shady men could finish bringing out their swords and axes, Nick and Bond rendered them unconscious with the back of their weapons.
“Be careful, some people will attack when they see outsiders.”
“That surpassed my expectations.”
Sem and Tianna let out tired sighs.
“I can detect when someone approaches us carrying a blade. You will do well to rely on me.”
Said Bond full of confidence.
In actuality, he really was the main player here. With his excellent sight and hearing, it was possible to quickly detect hoodlums approaching them and deal with them.
“Yes, we will. Sem, wake one of them up, I want to ask where Hale is.”
“Ah, I guess that’s one way to do it.”
“More like, I personally feel that we shouldn’t touch the gatekeeper, but after that, it’s free for all…”
“I see. So who will it be?”
“The guy with the mohawk seems to be their leader.”
Sem approached one of the hoodlums that attacked them and cast healing magic.
“…H-hum? W-who are you?”
“That’s my line. Do you know where Hale is?”
As soon as the man with the mohawk woke up, he flared up at Nick, who immediately grabbed his arm and twisted it.
“Stop complaining, you’re the one that attacked us.”
“Alright alright! You mean that lady killer Hale right?”
“Yes. Apparently he used to work as a host.”
“He’s probably in the bedroom.”
“It’s a building in the east that was supposed to be a lodging house. That’s what we call it. He’s a pimp there.”
“Alright, that’s all we need to know.”
“G-gimme an information fee or something.”
Nick was amazed by the man’s shamelessness.
He was going to ask how he had the nerve to say that after attacking them, but Sem stepped forward.
“…You’re going to die soon you know?”
“You’ve been taking some bad drugs haven’t you?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Is it the ones you boil and inhale? Or do you bite seeds and leaves? Do you feel depressed when you drink, or feel happy?”
“W-what’s your problem?”
The man backed off, intimidated by Sem’s pressure.
He felt he had no choice but to start talking about his consumption and situation.
“I-I can’t sleep. What else can I do!? I can’t live a decent life here. You wouldn’t get it.”
Sem quietly listened, and in the end…
“This medicinal herb has a calming effect. You can have it as your information fee.
It’s not very strong, but bear with it instead of relying on what you’ve been drinking.”
“Take more. Share it with the others when they wake up.”
The man seemed confused as he took the herbs from Sem, who paid no heed to his confusion and turned to his partners.