It was past four in the afternoon. The time at which the sun started to wane, the women in town started preparing to cook dinner, and the children cheerfully ran around outside. Around the monitors, the Dungeon Maniacs and the people who were off work started to secure themselves a spot from which the view was better, while those who worked the stall were taking a break after having washed all the dishes in the wake of the lunch rush.
In the midst of such a leisurely atmosphere, the ones being displayed on Monitor #1 were of the Scarlet Devil Squad. This Clan, in the middle of clearing the sixty-third layer, had distinguished themselves from the other major Clans by successfully defeating the Fire Dragon; their popularity was currently on the rise.
Starting from the sixty-first layer, the scenery had changed to that of a Volcano with streaming, bright red lava. Since this was a new territory, the audience was watching on with great interest, while the Dungeon Maniacs were closely observing the Volcano’s geographical structure and new monsters.
Monitor #2, on the other hand, was showing Amy… while the one on Monitor #3 was the Clan Leader of the Golden Tune. Their race to the Black Gate was being followed and broadcast by the God Eyes above them high in the sky. In the end, Amy managed to secure the Black Gate just as the man with nicely-trimmed blond hair was about to catch up to her; some among the audience who had been following the race cheered a little for the victor.
Then, at around half past four, Tsutomu’s team entered the Black Gate to the sixtieth layer. The Dungeon Maniacs who were following Monitor #2 were puzzled by how the party was challenging the sixtieth later without Camille in their ranks.
Camille herself would know. She had been the first one to defeat the Shell Crab with sheer strength, and had already led the charge as the leader of her Clan to conquer many other Dungeons before this God’s Dungeon had been a thing. One among the Dungeon Maniacs felt that, despite some technical difficulties in the early stages, Camille’s contribution had been essential to the team in bringing the Fire Dragon down.
Of course, he also held in high regard Tsutomu’s healing and supporting skills, and also Garm’s ability to take on the Fire Dragon’s attacks. He knew that, without those two, the team wouldn’t have been able to win.
Additionally, Amy was undoubtedly strong. Although the God’s Dungeon was the first Dungeon she had ever explored, she had caught up to the standards of major clans and had been scouted to join one only after a year or so into her exploring career. That, and the fact that she was good-looking and had a great deal of attractive qualities for the spectators, had made her popularity quickly soar.
However, the Clan had disbanded after their failure to defeat the Shell Crab, and Amy had been working as a Guild Staff Member since then. Even then, her popularity remained high, maintaining her idol status among the public. One of the Dungeon Maniacs had the impression that Amy was nothing but a popular public figure.
But their idea was quickly overturned after two hours since the beginning of this Fire Dragon battle. The time was now six o’clock in the afternoon — the time at which day workers wrapped up their jobs for the day and subsequently flooding to the Monitors.
“Whoa! They’re running Fire Dragon again! I didn’t get to watch them last time, so this is great!”
“Finally, a broadcast at a time I can watch… They sure are taking their sweet time, though…”
“Amy’s on! Man, it’s been forever since I last saw her…”
Since many of the workers only knew of the previous Fire Dragon battle through word of mouth and newspaper articles, many of them were now gathering around Monitor #2. Fans of Garm and Amy, and also those who were interested in the Fire Dragon in general, also flooded to the Monitor.
“Hah, those guys just don’t get it. We oughtta focus on the Scarlet Devil Squad, people.”
“The Fire Dragon is so last week, man.”
“Yeah, ’cause you guys already got to see them last time! I’mma have a good time watching this one!”
Those among the Dungeon Maniacs who had seen the Fire Dragon battle last time gathered in front of Monitor #1, more interested in gathering new information, while those who hadn’t been here last time moved to Monitor #2.
By now, the Fire Dragon’s scales had begun to be peeled off, and Amy was in the middle of chopping off its tail. Amy’s movements were always fast thanks to her constantly being under the effect of <<Haste>>. The Fire Dragon’s blood gushed with every swing of her dual blades. Following Tsutomu’s direction, Garm used the aggro combo of <<Warrior Howl>> and <<Shield Throw>> to pull the attention of the Fire Dragon, while Amy attacked different parts of the monster’s body to regulate the amount of damage she dealt.
“<<Dual Wave Slash>>.”
Amy ran across the ground and swung her swords around as if she was dancing, unleashing blade waves with each swing. Such was the origin of her nickname — Amy the Chaotic Dancer.
The audience cheered Amy on as she bravely fought against the Fire Dragon. And then, when she severed the Dragon’s tail, the Monitors’ vicinity was filled with cheering screams of all ranges.
One of the Dungeon Maniacs, who had been watching this Fire Dragon battle from the start, realized that his initial assessment had been wrong. Last time, it had taken Camille three hours to cut off the Dragon’s tail. But now the team had managed to do the same in two hours. Not only that, but Amy had also created so many cuts on the monster’s hind legs and back.
Now he was actually considering the possibility of the team defeating the Fire Dragon faster than last time, provided that nothing out of the ordinary happened. And it would not be long for it to turn out that his guess was correct.
As the Fire Dragon was about to sear its wounds, Amy jumped on the creature’s head and smashed its forehead with her <<Rock Splitter Blade>>, then pulled out and landed softly on the ground as the Dragon flinched back. A <<Haste>> shot was sent to her at this time, maintaining her speed-up effect.
Then, when the Fire Dragon went into a frenzy, Garm and Amy calmly focused on the Dragon’s scars, reopening and widening its wounds, while Tsutomu supported them from a safe distance where he could adequately react to the enemy’s actions. There was not a sliver of hesitation in the team’s movements — their synergy was so consistent that one would even think they had already fought the Fire Dragon together countless times.
The time was now eight o’clock in the afternoon; the hour was entering the golden time, at which the most people gathered around the Monitor. The numbers of people around Monitors #1 and #2 now were almost the same. Thanks to there being an unusually high number of spectators in the vicinity of Monitor #2, the nearby stall owners were quite ecstatic about their increased sales. The more food they made, the more they would sell, and the louder the screams of joy from the people around them.
Then the Fire Dragon was no longer in an enraged state. As it wobbled around, dazed from excessive blood loss, Amy landed a surprise attack, driving both of her swords into one of its eyes. The crowd cheered in unison with the Fire Dragon’s scream. Then more people flooded over to Monitor #2, attracted by all the cheering.
Also attracted by the cheering to Monitor #2 were the other major Clans — The Ealdred Crow’s informant and one of their parties to which he had taught to use Tsutomu’s strategies, and the Golden Tune party that had lost the race against Tsutomu’s team, who had all decided to return and watch the Fire Dragon fight instead. The managers of the Dungeon Conquerors, now back in town after they had wrapped up their outer Dungeon expedition, were also among the spectators.
These three major Clans had yet to successfully defeat the Fire Dragon. As such, they had gathered around Monitor #2 to obtain information with which they might be able to use to achieve victory. The surrounding crowd buzzed up as one major Clan after another gathered around, and they made way for them to get a good view.
Soon after that, Amy gouged out the Fire Dragon’s remaining eye. The monster now had to fight its three enemies by relying on sound and smell. Although its senses of smell and hearing were good enough to fight, the fact that it had lost its eyesight was, in the end, still fatal.
“Hey… are they really gonna take it down faster than when they had Miss Camille with them?”
“Amy! I love you!”
“You’re the best, Amy!”
“Wait, look — this time Garm and the other guy… Tsutomu, yeah — they’re attacking as well, right? Didn’t see those two hitting much last time around.”
“Go get ‘im, Amy!”
Some of the spectators around the Monitor looked displeased as the chanting of Amy’s fans intensified. Naturally, not all of the watchers here were here for Amy, and had come here simply to watch a team of Explorers fight a Fire Dragon. On the other hand, there were some who were here for Garm and Tsutomu as well. In expressing their annoyance toward the loudness of Amy’s fans, they chugged down their drinks.
None of that changed the fact that so many people were gathering around thanks to all the commotion, however, as dozens of people started to flow out from Monitor #1 to #2 instead.
Amy steadily chipped away at the blinded Fire Dragon; after about an hour and a half more, the creature finally collapsed and dispersed into light particles. The audience, in numbers almost equal to that of Monitor #1, screamed with joy. The air in front of the Monitor was filled with the people’s voices; their voices were so powerful that pots and pans on the nearby stalls were shaking.
As the three ended their Fire Dragon hunt in success, the vicinity was flooded with cheers, the magnitude of which exceeded that of the previous Fire Dragon battle. Monitor #2 showed live footage of them smiling and giving each other high-fives. The way Amy and Tsutomu acted around each other reaffirmed to the audience that Solit Company’s reports were indeed false.
The major Clans’ members slipped away from the still-unrelenting storm of cheering and quickly made their way back to their own Clan Houses. The Ealdred Crow informant called out to his Clan Leader,
“That was their perfect form. What do you think of it, sir?”
“…I think we aren’t ready to pull something of that level yet. But… I suppose it doesn’t have to be perfect, so long as we have a chance of winning.”
The Ealdred Crow Clan Leader, a young-looking man — so young-looking that one would not believe that he was already in his twenties, in fact — looked up at the informant. Then he headed back to his Clan House with a refreshed smile on his face.
“Man, that’s awesome! We should do that, too!”
“Yes. I think that would be nice.”
“Hmph, just don’t push yourself too hard.”
“Leave it to me. I can do it.”
The Clan Leader of the Golden Tune raised his hands cheerfully and the women surrounding him gave him various reactions.
The members of the Labyrinth Conquerors looked at the scene on the Monitor as if it was a farce — just a game where one did not put their life on the line. Most of this Clan’s members looked down on the Explorers who only operated in God’s Dungeon.
However, the Labyrinth Conquerors’ Clan Leader, a slightly slender woman, was muttering something to herself as the images of Tsutomu’s movements repeated again and again in her head. The huge beast-like man walking next to her provided no input, simply following her on her way.
When the three returned to the Guild after defeating the Fire Dragon, they were greeted with congratulations from the Guild Staff Members, followed by a storm of applause erupting from the Explorers around them, mainly the good-natured ones. Amy looked embarrassed but thanked them back, which prompted a teasing whistling sound from somewhere in the crowd.
Seeing Amy being congratulated by the Explorers for defeating the Fire Dragon, Tsutomu felt half happy and half sad. This victory must have restored Amy’s confidence as an Attacker. But it also meant that Tsutomu’s Lucky Boy nickname had been effectively gotten rid of, which in turn meant that it was time for their party contract to be terminated.
Tsutomu thought to himself again how good of a party this had been. He had it figured that, if not for Garm and Amy, his progress through the Dungeon never would have been this fast. Tsutomu couldn’t imagine what would have happened if he had ended up with the bad eggs instead.
“Good work down there, Tsutomu.”
From behind the counter, Camille greeted Tsutomu, albeit with her brows lowered. Her voice was a little low, perhaps because she was feeling frustrated about taking longer to defeat the Fire Dragon last time.
“Thank you. I think it went pretty well, what with it being my second run through this.”
“True, you and Garm even got to join in on the offense as well.”
“So there’s no need for you to sound so disheartened, then.”
“I-I’m not. Not at all.”
Camille dismisses Tsutomu’s words of concern with a shake of her head. Tsutomu dropped his grin.
“And I suppose this is the end of our party contract, then. Thank you for taking care of us.”
“Don’t worry about it, Tsutomu — it’s only natural that we do. We’ve caused you trouble as well, after all. If there’s anything else you want, just say the word. We’ll help as much as we can.”
“Oh, no, I’ve got plenty already.”
The two bowed to each other, and Garm, who was looking at them near the Black Gate, was deep in thought and had quite a serious look on his face. Then the two was about to continue their conversation when Amy interrupted them,
“Hold it right there, Guild Master! What about me~~? I also took part in killing the Fire Dragon, y’know~~?”
Camille was about to respond coldly, thinking that Amy was coming at her with a sarcastic remark about the longer time it had taken her to defeat the Dragon, but Amy’s genuine smile drained all signs of toxic intent off her face. Instead, she narrowed her eyes happily as she proceeded to pat Amy’s head.
“C’mon, Tsutomu, praise me too! I did great work!”
“I already did that a whole lot, though… But, well, you did great.”
And so Tsutomu joined Camille in patting Amy’s head; Amy’s cat ears twitched around as she looked down to hide her face.
Then, when Tsutomu and Camille let go of her hands, Amy looked up at them with a somewhat regretful look on her face. Upon realizing that herself, her face turned slightly red — she had ended up briefly thinking of those two as her parent figures.
“Now, time to celebrate! You come too, Camille! Yeah!?”
Amy, scrambling to skirt around the fact that she was blushing, pulled Camille’s hand. While doing so, she also turned to look at Tsutomu as if to ask if he could go with them, to which he immediately nodded.
In the end, Amy pulled Camille along as she darted out of the Guild. Tsutomu turned to call Garm, who had been strangely silent behind them all this time.
“So, Garm? We’re thinking of celebrating right now, but do you have anything you need to get done first?”
“…No, I don’t. Let’s get going.”
Garm, who had been pondering over things by himself this whole time, was finally brought back from his sea of thoughts by Tsutomu’s words; he proceeded to walk up to the latter. Then they chased after Camille and Amy together.