The three who had defeated the Fire Dragon, were all down on the ground from Camille’s celebratory tackle-hug. They looked at each other with a grin on each of their faces before standing up. They stood around bantering among themselves for a while; eventually, the God Eye broadcasting footage to Monitor #1 descended from high up, approaching them.
Tsutomu made a V-sign to the God Eye. Camille leaned on Tsutomu from behind; Garm cracked a smile while wagging his black-furred tail, and also crouched down to match Tsutomu’s shoulder height.
Tsutomu lightly nudged Camille away before he collapsed under her… leaning strength, then looked up at the red particles rising from the Fire Dragon’s body. Then, he opened the Magic Bag on his back — so wide that it looked like he was spreading a carpet — and collected the Red Large Magic Stone that the Dragon had dropped.
“All right, let’s head to the sixty-first layer and get ourselves back to town.”
Camille, whose excitement finally subsided, gasped for some air before following Tsutomu as he opened the Black Gate. After the Boss of a layer was defeated, two Black Gates would appear; one leading one to the next layer, and the other taking one back to the Guild. They could head back to the Guild immediately and come back to advance onward without having to fight the Layer Boss again, but Tsutomu wanted to step into the sixty-first layer before heading back, just in case.
Once back at the Guild, the three found themselves wrapped in joyous cheering. Tsutomu was so taken aback by the overwhelming applause that he almost fell over, but Garm held him up. Camille was unfazed and took it in stride, having been accustomed to receiving praise for her exploits.
Though still daunted by the explorers all around him, Tsutomu headed to the reception counter. With the explorers near the counter made way for him, he saw the face of the beautiful receptionist lady for the first time in a while… since she’d usually be blocked out by all the people lining up for her. The receptionist lady smiled at Tsutomu; the latter thanked her before approaching the same receptionist man whom he had consulted before he set off… leaving the receptionist lady’s smile a little bit strained.
“Oh, I’d also like to update my Status Card, please.”
“You got it. But man, you’ve really done it, Tsutomu! It’s been so long since I got surprised by anything!”
“It’s all thanks to Garm and Camille, really.”
“Hey, hey! Don’t be so modest! You’re in a party of three — everyone plays their part!”
The receptionist man with the scary face tapped Tsutomu on the shoulder before passing him a piece of paper; the latter took it, applied his saliva to it, then handed it back. Once the Status Card was done updating, the Deputy Guild Master, who had been standing behind the receptionist man, bowed to Tsutomu.
“Congratulations on your success, Mister Tsutomu.”
“Thank you. I’m glad we were able to get it all done in one go. Do you think this will make the negotiations a little easier, sir?”
“Yes. Earlier this evening, some Solit Company negotiators hurried to visit us at the Guild, actually… They usually acted all high and mightly, but today they already had their head down by the time they arrived. I’d thought I would need to depend on your intimidation factor, Mister Tsutomu, but it went without incident — that sure took a load off my chest.”
Seeing from the Deputy Guild Master’s face how he seemed to have regained some weight and enthusiasm, Tsutomu chuckled.
“It definitely was worth our efforts, sir. So, how have the negotiations been so far?”
“For the time being, they’ve made the commitment to revise the article, at the very least. They’d like to make a formal apology to you as well, Mister Tsutomu; do you happen to have some free time in your schedule anytime soon?”
“I see, I see. Thank you, sir. As for when we’ll be free… I still don’t know, I’m afraid. We’d like to ask Amy about her plans before deciding on a date.”
“Very well, then… If I were to be honest, I think the negotiations would have gone on much longer if not for your successful Fire Dragon hunt, Mister Tsutomu. To think the three of you would actually defeat it… I simply don’t know what would be appropriate for expressing our thanks to you all.”
The Deputy Guild Master started sounding apologetic, his voice shaking so much that one would think he was weeping; Tsutomu promptly interrupted him.
“Oh, no, please don’t worry about it. We’d originally planned to defeat the Fire Dragon ourselves sooner or later anyway, and our careless courses of action did have a part in causing this uproar. Besides, you’ve already gotten them to revise the article, didn’t you? That’s more than enough for me.”
The Deputy Guild Master raised his head; Tsutomu smiled, then proceeded to ask his question, looking as if he had just remembered to,
“Oh, speaking of which, do you happen to know where Amy is?”
“She has has been confined to the Guild Dormitory’s vicinity until all this turmoil is resolved. Her room number is–“
Once Tsutomu noted the number down, the Deputy Guild Master bowed to express his thanks once again; the former promptly stopped him.
“Mister Tsutomu. I know this is quite selfish of me, but could you please hear out this one request of mine?”
“Yes? What is it, sir?”
“…This is about Amy, you see. As you know, she had infiltrated the Solit Company of her own accord and further tarnished your reputation. But she’s… She’s an honest girl at heart. Her immaturity may have led her to act without thinking things through, but in approaching Solit Company, she had not intended to discredit you, Mister Tsutomu. So… if possible, please don’t be too harsh on her. As the Deputy Guild Master, I am willing to take at least part of the blame in her stead. Please, I beg of you.”
“…Mm-hm… Oh, how old is she, by the way?”
“If I remember correctly, she will be turning eighteen this year.”
“A JK, huh… She’s younger than I’d thought…”
(Silavin: JK means joshi kōsei. An abbreviation for female highschool student.)
Tsutomu was somewhat surprised to hear Amy’s real age; he had thought she was somewhere between twenty and twenty-two. He turned back to the Deputy Guild Master, who expressed confusion at the word ‘JK,’ and proceeded to say,
“I suppose I can’t blame her, then. Well, not that I’d planned to blame anything on her in the first place, but it’s only reasonable for someone that young to make mistakes… more often than not.”
“I see… Thank you so much.”
“Also, many thanks for your help with the negotiations, sir. As for the interview with Solit Company, I’ll let you know the date and time after matching up our schedule with Amy. I reckon I can get back to you within the week.”
“Yes; thank you for all your hard work. Please, do get some rest while you’re able.”
“…I don’t suppose I can, unfortunately…”
Tsutomu said and looked at Camille’s as she waited behind him; the Deputy Guild Master shook his head with a sympathetic expression.
“By the way… what about you, Garm? How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I don’t remember much from when I was little, but I think I’m in the early twenties now.”
“Oh, I see. You should be around my age, then.”
Camille, upon hearing Tsutomu’s last statement, who had looked cheerful up until now, opened her eyes wide and froze over… then revived a few moments later and tapped Tsutomu on his shoulder.
“W-wait, Tsutomu, how old are you?”
“Hmm? I’ll be turning twenty-two later this year.”
“What!? You’re kidding!”
“No, why would I do that? Besides, I wouldn’t have been drinking if I was underage… wait, no, nevermind that last part.”
“I’d always thought you were the same age as Amy… Sorry for that, Tsutomu.”
Garm sounded somewhat apologetic, prompting Tsutomu to say that he didn’t mind at all. Behind them, Camille proceeded to mumble some things to herself.
Later that night, after celebrating their victory over the Fire Dragon, Tsutomu and Garm returned to the Guild Dormitory… while also holding up Camille, who had gotten quite drunk. Tsutomu took a bath in the provided hot tub, and proceeded to crash onto his bed, instantly falling asleep.
The next morning… Amidst the refreshing chirping of birds, Tsutomu let out yawn after yawn while checking out Solit Company’s morning newspaper. He was curious as to how Solit Company would cover his team’s story immediately following their victory. He had wanted to bring Garm along as well, but the latter looked to be sleeping quite comfortably, so he had left him alone.
Although Tsutomu knew that Solit Company would not continue fabricating their news about him, what with them having already expressed their desire to apologize, he still checked their morning issue just in case. Around him, other people who had come to buy newspapers were comparing him to the pictures in the papers.
The front page of Solit’s issue showed a black-and-white picture of Tsutomu’s party of three fighting the Fire Dragon. Tsutomu scanned through the text, and saw that it was a safe article that only provided general details of the battle’s course; once that was out of the way, he turned to look at the newspapers of two other publications.
Neither of the two publications had photo-taking Magic Tools in their possessions, their articles were accompanied by beautiful original illustrations, and both bodies of text sang praises of the first party of three to successfully defeat the Fire Dragon. Tsutomu thought that these articles, which included commentary from the Dungeon Maniacs, had more substantial content than that of Solit’s newspaper, which had been written so as to not offend anyone.
[Well, duh… Makes sense that they couldn’t write much after all that negative coverage on me.]
Tsutomu had never bought any of Solit Company’s newspapers, but he had taken glances the issues others had bought, and had been able to verify their contents to some extent. Remembering all that, he had a dark smile plastered onto his face as he asked to buy today’s newspapers of two other smaller publications instead, and then headed back to the Dormitory.
Today was Saturday, a day in which most people were off work, and also in which explorers replenished their supplies. The first thing Tsutomu had to do was go over the party’s profit and loss from the Fire Dragon battle. He went into his room and opened up his Magic Bag.
Potions used… Four sets of Garm’s equipment destroyed… Broken Potion bottles… Flash Bottles… Two Fire Coats tattered… Nimbly jotting along with a quill pen on a piece of paper, Tsutomu wrote down the costs of repairs and cleaning of their equipment, totaling up the estimated expenditures incurred from the Fire Dragon hunt.
The red Large Magic Stone the Fire Dragon had dropped could definitely be sold at a high price. It was a precious Fire Magic Stone, not to mention, its immense size and excellent quality. It was fairly rare, relatively speaking, so he knew for sure that its market price was quite good. Tsutomu didn’t believe that its price alone would be high enough to make up for all the losses, however.
“Even with the Lightning Magic Stone sales included, we might still be in the red…”
Tsutomu muttered to himself, then stood up to leave his room, intending to go sell the Magic Stones immediately. Putting on his order-made leather shoes, he headed to the Magic Stone Exchange.
As usual, the Dwarf girl was in the middle of appraising a Magic Stone with a magnifying glass. Once she saw Tsutomu, the tense expression on her face promptly changed to a smile.
“Welcome! Magic Stone trading, right!? I’ll be right with you in a second!”
Seeing how cheerful the girl was now as she rushed to the back room — a completely different attitude from the other day — Tsutomu couldn’t help but chuckle… and promptly put his hand over his mouth to hide it. The guard standing by the counter, expressionless as ever, bowed to him.
“Apologies on her behalf if she’d offended you.”
Tsutomu forced himself to stop laughing, coughing to clear his throat and proceeding to say,
“Oh, I don’t mind at all; we have someone just like her in my party, so I’ve gotten used to it.”
The guard raised his head and resumed his watch, holding up the spear in his hand again.
“I see. Truth be told, I’ve also seen your exploits live on Monitor #1. Now it’s clear to me that you’re not all luck, for what that’s worth.”
Just as Tsutomu replied to the boorish, expressionless guard, the girl came back holding a large tub of water. Tsutomu untied the bag that contained the colorless Magic Stone Scraps and Small Magic Stones, and proceeded to pour them all into the tub. Each of them made a plopping sound as they fell into the water in succession.
Then he put his Magic Bag on the counter and unfolded its opening. The girl looked on, her eyes sparkling as Tsutomu took out the Magic Stones inside; the latter looked to be having a hard time getting each of them out.
First the few Large Magic Stones that had dropped from the Wyverns in the Canyons, then the Small and Medium Lightning Magic Stones; the girl reached for them as if she intended to steal them away.
“Lightning Magic Stones! I knew you’d bring in the good stuff, Lucky Boy!”
Tsutomu, slightly ticked off by her last two words, retracted his smile; the girl, seeing that, accidentally dropped the Lightning Magic Stones in her hand down to her lap.
“I-I’m so sorry– yeowch!!”
“Y-you all right there?”
The girl had tried to bow in apology, and ended up banging her head on the iron table. She held her forehead, seeming to have hit it with considerable force; once Tsutomu expressed his worry, the girl immediately looked up again.
“I-I’ll be fine. But nevermind that! You got any more of those Lightning Magic Stones!?”
The girl’s forehead had turned visibly red from the knock that she had just taken. Tsutomu took out a total of fifteen Lightning Magic Stones and placed them on the counter. The girl looked at those Magic Stones as if they were a mountain of treasures; her eyes have practically turned into G symbols.
“And here’s the last one.”
While the girl was carefully carrying the Lightning Magic Stones to the back room, Tsutomu retrieved the red Large Magic Stone from the Magic Bag, rolling it out with both hands. The girl was enchanted by the size of it alone.
“Whoa… it’s HUGE! So THIS is what the real thing looks like!”
“Try to give me a better offer than the Guild this time, all right? I’ll be getting them appraised over there as well, so…”
“You got it!”
The girl held up the Large Fire Magic Stone and patted it as if it were her own child. Seeing that, Tsutomu pulled a dry smile before taking the signed wooden board as proof of the transaction; done here for now, he proceeded to the Forest Apothecary.