Tsutomu went inside the Forest Apothecary and rang the bell at the counter. The old Elf lady walked out with her staff to welcome him… and upon seeing that it was Tsutomu, she broke into a grin.
“My my… look who’s here! How has life been treating you, mister hotshot newbie, hmm?”
The old lady, holding in her hand the newspaper issue in which the Dungeon Maniacs’ commentary on yesterday’s battle had been printed, smiled happily. Tsutomu himself cracked a hearty smile and shot her a V-sign, then put his Magic Bag down on the floor.
“Boy, oh boy, do you have any idea how loud this morning has been over here? And you know, I’ve been watching you from inside the shop as well — Garm and Camille were amazing, of course, but so were you, Tsutomu! The skill shots you sent flying around? Those were awesome!”
“Thank you very much.”
Tsutomu smiles bashfully; he felt as if the lady was praising him as if he were her own child — and she kept singing him praises even after she sat down. Tsutomu kept on listening to her, albeit reluctantly and humbly. After a certain point, the old lady stopped and sighed.
“…I do feel sorry for Amy, though. If it weren’t for that fiasco, she would have gotten to go fight the Fire Dragon with you all, too.”
“So do I. We plan to take her with us next time, of course.”
“My, my… what a nice young man you are!”
The old lady, seeming surprised by Tsutomu’s claim, leaned her back on her chair. Tsutomu, not quite understanding what she meant to say, cracked a little laugh, thinking it to be the appropriate reaction for the time being.
“All right, then… do you have the usual Blue Potions in stock?”
“Well, about that — thanks to you using them back there, the Blue Potions were all sold out just now. All of them.”
“Ah… I see.”
Although he had somewhat expected this, Tsutomu still dropped his shoulders in disappointment. Since he had been seen using the Blue Potion throughout the Fire Dragon battle, he did have a hunch that people would rush to buy some for themselves.
Now he regretted not stocking up within yesterday; he had gotten carried away with his victory. But then, the old lady let out a witch-like mischievous laugh and ducked behind the counter, and lifted out a large bottle filled with Blue Potion.
“Check this out — I’ve saved up your share! I charge you the usual price just this time, Tsutomu. Heh heh heh!”
“Whoa, that’s one scary grin…”
“I’ve seen you in action with my own two eyes, Tsutomu — right then, I knew that people would come to buy it up, so I raised the price in advance. Boy, I sure got me some nice profit yesterday.”
“Good for you.”
“Well, not that I need all that much money, though. My apprentice’s finally been getting better, so I don’t have to work myself as much lately.”
“Huh… you have an apprentice? Maybe I should be one, too, after I retire from being an Explorer.”
Tsutomu cracked a joke, at which the old lady rolled her eyes for a second, then laughed back.
“I can only teach potion-making to Elves, unfortunately. I sure would welcome you with open arms if you were one, too… First, you’d have to work hard on brewing for a hundred and fifty years…”
“Well, that’s too bad. Oh, here’s the money… and the Fire and Wind Magic Stones.”
300,000 G in cash and 500,000 G’s worth of Magic Stones — after handing them over, Tsutomu began wrapping up the bottle with a Slime wrapper. While the old lady accepted the payment, she lowered her eyebrows apologetically.
“Just so we’re on the same page, you’ll be paying the new price next time for the Blue Potions, all right? And since demand is through the roof right now, the stock will probably run out if you don’t line up for it early in the morning, so keep that in mind.”
“Geh… That’s fair, I guess.”
Not only the major clans, but also the resellers would be lining up first thing in the morning themselves for Forest Apothecary potions; Tsutomu himself would have to be up early, too, if he were to get what he needed. Tsutomu, after putting the bottle into his Magic Bag, knit his brows at the thought of how much of a hassle it must be; the old lady looked up at him.
“And, well, it’s also about time for my apprentice to graduate. The potions’ healing properties will be a few levels lower than mine, but the recipes are still the same. We’ll be able to produce more potions than the other shops. You’ll have to make do with what you can get in the meantime, all right?”
“Yes, I’ll use it with care. Thank you very much — I really mean it.”
“Always glad to be of help, Tsutomu. You and me, we’re friends!”
“…Yes. I’ll be in your care from now on, too.”
Even after he had started being called the Lucky Boy, even after Solit Company’s fabricated article made the rounds, the old Elf lady had been one of the few whose attitudes toward Tsutomu never changed. It could be said that her kindness had saved him.
Swearing to himself that he would drop by from time to time even if the old lady couldn’t make potions anymore, Tsutomu bowed deeply before leaving the Forest Apothecary.
Then, needing replacements for some shock-resistant potion bottles, he proceeded to the glassware store and made an order for five of them.
Since potions, especially those from the Forest Apothecary, were quite valuable, Tsutomu absolutely hated the possibility of wasting them; as such, he was very particular about their containers, so as to not lose their contents during battle. Since normal bottles would break relatively easily upon impact, he bargained with the crafter for the shock-resistant ones; in the end, he paid a fairly hefty price for them to be made to his liking.
The small bottles would need some monster materials and the appropriate crafting skills, though, and it would take seven days to process the materials if they were to be purchased from the market today. As such, Tsutomu also bought some mediocre bottles off the shelf to use in the meantime. The plan was to put potions from places other than the ones from the Forest Apothecary in them.
Afterward, Tsutomu went looking for a place where he could get the Red-thread Fire Coats repaired, as they had been torn quite badly from receiving the Fire Dragon’s attacks. The Volcano layers were up next; although they could loot some high-tier equipment from dropped treasure chests there, the team would need to make do with the Fire Coats until then.
The place Tsutomu ended up choosing was a shop that dealt mainly in sturdy clothing and leather armor for Explorers, the same one he had purchased the coats from. When he went in, he was immediately apologized to by the shop’s owner, a plump Dwarf man. He had been out to get some materials appraised back when Tsutomu purchased the coats. Tsutomu had paid the apprentice boy fifteen Large Magic Stones — a ripoff, as apparent when the boy later pocketed six of them for himself. Noticing the boy act suspiciously, the shop owner Dwarf had questioned him and learned of what had happened.
The boy in question, brought along from the back room, seemed to have been scolded and beaten quite badly by the shop owner; his face was so bruised that one might think the shape of his skull had been changed, and so swollen that one might he had been stung by a swarm of bees. Seeing him apologizing in tears, Tsutomu could not help but feel sorry for him.
“It’s all right — here, use this to pay for your clinic visit.”
Tsutomu consoled the crying boy and shoved one highest-quality Medium Magic Stone into his hands. In the case that his bones had been broken, the fractures must be re-aligned properly before he could be healed. In turn, he would have to pay a visit to a skilled healer with extensive knowledge of the human anatomy; otherwise, he would run the risk of making the internal injuries even worse.
Wounds suffered in the Dungeon, even the worst of the worst ones, would be mended right up when one returned to the Guild, but the same didn’t apply to the outside world. Tsutomu had studied biology as an elective toward his liberal arts degree at the university, so his knowledge about the human body was above average, but of course, he had no experience in dealing with broken bones.
Although Tsutomu deduced that none of the boy’s bones had been broken, he suggested the latter to seek medical attention just to be sure. And although the shop owner refrained from admitting that he had mismanaged his apprentice, he didn’t deny that he had punished him too harshly, either.
And despite having been ripped off, Tsutomu didn’t consider that to be much of a loss, since those six Large Magic Stones had been within the spending budget for their preparations at the time. He felt more hurt toward the boy’s injuries that he had been toward the lost funds, even.
Tsutomu asked the shop owner not to punish the boy any further, paid the money in advance for the Fire Coats’ repairs, then quickly left the shop. He proceeded to the blacksmith’s place to have Garm’s broken equipment salvaged before selling the scraps, ordered some new sets, and also had his own clothes cleaned up.
It was now quite a bit into the afternoon; while waiting for things to be done, Tsutomu bought from grilled food skewers from a stall, eating them while watching over Monitors #1 to #10. The screens’ footages were in the order of the explorers’ layer progresses; the Scarlet Devil Squad had been shown on Monitor #1 for some time now.
Two among the team were Alma, the Black Mage who had purchased the staff that Tsutomu had auctioned off, and a man with the nickname of ‘Crimson Spellblader,’ a Swordfighter with a preference for fire-elemental skills. These two acted as the cores of the party of five as they investigated the sixty-first layer’s Volcano biome. Tsutomu’s party of three had been the talk of the town following the Fire Dragon battle, so the Scarlet Devil Squad had felt forced to resume their suspended activities to win their popularity back.
Although fortunate that they had earned back the money they had spent on the exceedingly expensive staff and their previous Fire Dragon battle, they had planned to live off newspapers’ interviews for the foreseeable future, but that wasn’t quite possible anymore. Now they, especially Black Mage Alma, saw Tsutomu’s team as an obstacle.
Monitor #2 showed the Ealdred Crow, and #3 showed the Golden Tune; #4 onwards were taken by mid-tier Clans. Happy to see one of his recent acquaintances, the Silver Beast, having a good run on Monitor #10, Tsutomu left for the Magic Stone Exchange with a grin on his face.
The Magic Stone Exchange was practically deserted by this time of day. Most customers would come here either early in the morning or late in the evening; that way, they could cash out by noon for the former case, and the next morning for the latter. One would need to wait a whole day if the Exchange was especially busy, but that rarely happened.
When Tsutomu spoke to the girl as she was busy appraising some Magic Stones with a magnifying glass, she hurried to reply to him as if she was facing the Layer Boss. Then she retreated to the back room and lifted out a bag full of Gold, put it on the iron table, then unrolled a sheet on the wooded counter.
“Here’s the Appraisal Certificate for the scrap and Small Magic Stones.”
“…All right. Looks good.”
“Next, the Colorless Large Magic Stones. The total amount is thirteen. Ten lows, three mediums. We’ll take them for a million G.”
Tsutomu, with a smile plastered onto his face as he accepted the two stamped Appraisal Certificates, proceeded to take the bags of Gold and pop them into his Magic Bag. The Dwarf girl then put the Lightning Magic Stones on the counter and pulled over the Appraisal Certificate that she already had ready on the iron table.
“The seven Small Lightning Magic Stones are medium quality. As for the eight Medium ones, five mediums and three highs.”
“…All seven of the small ones are medium-quality?”
“Yeah, if my Appraisal skill isn’t wrong. Remember, mine is level 4 — so believe me on this one.”
The girl took out her Guild-issued Skill Level Certificate — which she’d had on the ready — and showed it to Tsutomu. The level of her skill was indeed one higher than that of Amy’s, despite the latter having gained a level herself from appraising Tsutomu’s old staff.
The Dwarf girl had fiddled with many objects — though mainly magic stones — since her childhood, and had come to see through their true value. Her Appraisal level of 4 at the relatively young age of sixteen had been achieved through exceptional talent and unrelenting effort.
“So, how much for them?”
“70,000 G for the small ones. 250,000 for the mediums.”
“…I see,” Tsutomu muttered without breaking the smile on his face; he had expected to rake in around two million G from the things listed so far.
He contemplated feigning hesitation for a brief moment, but decided to agree to that price for now, with the plan to save the haggling card for the Large Fire Magic Stone.
The girl, heaving a sigh of apparent relief, took the Lightning Magic Stones from the counter and stored them in a cushioned container in the back, and then presented Tsutomu with another hefty bag of Gold. Tsutomu took it and stored it in his magic Bag.
“And now, the Large Fire Magic Stone… There we go.”
The girl easily lifted with her both hands the Magic Stone — one twice the size of Tsutomu’s face — and placed it on the counter. Under the sunlight, the fire-elemental stone glittered like a jewel. The girl then took out its Appraisal Certificate.
“This Large Fire Magic Stone is most likely of the highest quality. We’ll give you seven million.”
Tsutomu was so taken aback by the sheer numbers that he turned silent and expressionless. Garm and Camille had expected at least four million, and his estimate had been about the same. He stared at the girl, as if trying to figure out her true intentions. Intimidated by Tsutomu’s gaze, the girl backed away and tripped on the chair behind her — and then she quickly covered up the blunder by putting her hands on her hips.
“…That sounds kind of sketchy.”
Seeing the girl look so awkward, Tsutomu lets down his tense suspicion. The Large Magic Stone the Scarlet Devil Squad had obtained from their Fire Dragon, the quality of which had been assumed to be the highest, had been sold for roughly five million G. Tsutomu had never expected the one his team got to sell for any higher than that.
“My gramps work at the blacksmith place, you see — and this is probably just what he wants… So I wanted to secure this specific one for myself! So… yeah? Pretty please!?”
[Would this clearly money-hungry girl really buy the Fire Magic Stone for her family, even if it meant making the trade at a loss on her end?]
Tsutomu crossed his arms and pondered the question over; the girl kept on insisting,
“I wanna make gramps happy!”
“I’ve been selfish around him when I was little — that’s why I’d like to repay his kindness somehow, at least!”
“…Yeah, this is getting shadier and shadier.”
“What gives!? Look, a forge will need all the power and heat it can get, so the bigger and higher-quality the Fire Magic Stone, the better! That’s why it’s so damn valuable! The more heat they get, the bigger variety of materials they can process — and there is still a bunch of stuff they can’t process with what they have now!”
“Oh, I see. Okay, now I can sell it without worry. You should’ve explained that from the beginning, you know.”
Tsutomu, looking relieved, accepted the Appraisal Certificate; the girl found herself a little stunned… before holding up the Large Fire Magic Stone with both her hands.
“YAY! Now gramps can’t not approve of me now! Thanks! Love ya bunches!”
The girl put the money on the counter, then proceeded to kiss the Magic Stone with a hearty smile on her face. Tsutomu, eyes agape, looked on as if she were a freak. Then, after storing all of the Gold in his Magic Bag, he went to deposit today’s earnings at the Guild, and then headed back to the Guild Dormitory, while also going over his memo on the way.