The next day, Tsutomu went to Ealdred Crow and asked Rook if he had gotten in touch with the Enchanter yet. Instead of the expected good news, Tsutomu got a bad, worrying one,
“You see, the Stampede this time seems to be quite a lot more… large-scale than they were before. It’s totally chaotic out at the town where I sent our informants to; they couldn’t even get very far. They heard from the townspeople that a monster looking like a Fire Dragon had been seen in town — that’s how bad the Stampede is.”
“That does sound worrisome, yes…”
Stampedes had at first been considered to be like natural disasters, with no ways of dealing with them. But then it had turned out that, by having the Labyrinth Conquerors and the military force thin out the monsters in the Dungeons ahead of time, the scale of the Stampede could be minimized.
In turn, that had led to relatively weak monsters coming out of the Dungeons and attacking well-defended towns, so soldiers and explorers no longer had to risk their lives as much, and merchants could make a good profit since they would get to trade a great quantity and variety of materials. The Stampede had since turned into a festival for those living in Dungeon City, and Tsutomu had been told as much.
Since the establishment of the Labyrinth Conquerors, the monsters in the Dungeons had been thinned out regularly, so the Stampedes had been manageable for many years without any unexpectedly strong monsters. This time, however, a large monster had appeared. There had been such unforeseen events once every twenty years or so, but even then, the appearance of a monster the size of a Fire Dragon was unheard of.
Currently, the Labyrinth Conquerors were rushing towards the city under attack, to secure evacuation routes for the residents and to stop the monster. According to Rook’s explanation, the aftermath of the Stampede would still be hitting Dungeon City regardless.
“Oh, please don’t talk about this to anyone yet. I only found out by accident because we happened to have sent our informants there — the Labyrinth Conquerors and the Security Team are still keeping quiet about it.”
“Then why’d you even tell me in the first place…?”
“Consider it part of my thanks for your guidance. Besides, the Security will be announcing it in three days anyway. The main thing might happen in less than a month, so you might as well do your shopping while you can, Tsutomu.”
“Ah, right. Thanks for the reminder.”
“C’mon, man, relax. You’re looking really tense like now.”
“Not as much as you, Rook,” Tsutomu talked back, seeing Rook’s grim expression, unfitting for his youthful, adorable face.
Since it was not yet public that the coming Stampede will likely be more intense than usual, Rook had been working to hoard various essential goods for his Clan, in case things later jumped up in price.
“Anyway, with the Stampede happening, we’ll have to put off the Enchanter’s training to after that’s over.”
“Yes, I understand. I’ll be taking a break until then… Well, and I think I’ll be a little busy the next three days.”
“Right,” Rook said and smiled in the corners of his mouth.
Tsutomu thanked him and left the Clan House, hurrying to see if there was anyone reselling the Forest Apothecary’s Potions. Finding one, he saw that both Green and Blue Potions were relatively overpriced, but he did not mind paying for them.
After that, he went to get his equipment checked, stocked up on emergency food that would last for a long time, and also bought some Magic Stones as substitute fuel for his magic tools. Although Tsutomu had yet to go through a Stampede, he acted now just like how he would before a Town Defense Battle event in Live Dungeon, for now assuming them to be the same thing.
Finishing the preparations of his equipment and supplies without difficulty, Tsutomu then headed to the Guild’s fee-charging reference room on the second floor. There, he searched for information on the Stampede while thinking back to the game’s Town Defense events. The first things Tsutomu thought were about God’s Dungeon and the risk of his own death.
If monsters were to enter Dungeon City during the Stampede, the city would definitely lose its function. This would, without a doubt, slow down his progress down God’s Dungeon, or in the worst case, the monsters could occupy the city and make exploration impossible altogether. Tsutomu wanted to avoid the latter from happening, so he figured that he needed to help protect Dungeon City.
However, fighting outside of God’s Dungeon came with the risk of death — of the permanent kind, unlike inside, where one would come back to life, just as Tsutomu had experienced himself.
[…Wonder if there’s some kind of logistical support unit in a safe place.]
The materials were full of detailed procedures of how to organize groups and act during Stampedes; Tsutomu flipped through them, and was disappointed to see that only medically-specialized White and Gray Mages would be put in charge of such matters.
Inside the Dungeon, a failed attempt at healing would not be much of a problem, with the target being back to normal once they left, but elsewhere, it was necessary to confirm what was wrong with the patient first before proceeding with the treatment. Although healing skills were decently versatile, there were times when the healing came out… wrong and strange. Such was the reason such things were generally left to specialists.
[Hmm… At least the usual monsters won’t be much of a threat, from what I’m seeing.]
The main monsters of Stampedes were Goblins and Kobolds, individually weak but quick to increase in numbers. The other monsters were like those found in the Grasslands and Forests, with the occasional stronger monsters, but even those were at the level of Swamp monsters at best. The Explorers of Dungeon City would indeed have no difficulty doing away with them.
However, Rook’s mention of a Fire Dragon-like monster was worrisome. In Town Defense Battles, one would know what event-unique special monsters they would face, but the game had no history of any Fire Dragons and similar monsters spawning. If the informants’ news were true, then things could get quite troublesome.
[I’ll make sure to secure myself an escape route, at least.]
To Tsutomu, God’s Dungeon was an important lead to his return to his old world; losing access to it would be the same as losing one of the objectives that motivated him. Then again, him dying would mean losing everything, so he looked for escape routes just in case.
[Maybe I should learn how to ride a horse. But I don’t have a place to keep one… and if I leave it in someone else’s care, I might not be able to access it quickly enough in an emergency… Well, I’ll just learn it. I might not be able to always use <<Fly>>, after all.]
In this world, horses were the most common means of ground transportation. There were some people who tamed monsters to use as vehicles, but that was not yet practical enough to let just anyone use them. Magic-powered trains also existed in some other towns, but not in Dungeon City, the reason being that Stampedes occurred every six months, making it impossible to maintain the tracks.
Stampedes had been a thing before the emergence of God’s Dungeon, with the monsters flooding out of the Dungeons and laying waste to the nearby areas in search of food. After God’s Dungeon had appeared, however, the monsters would always head to Dungeon City after their initial rampages.
There were several theories as to what the root cause of this was, but the currently most plausible theory concerned the Magic Stones. It had been confirmed that monsters gained power and evolved upon ingesting Magic Stones, and therefore, it was believed that the monsters could sense the large quantity of Magic Stones being retrieved and traded in Dungeon City.
Other theories include that they were trying to enter God’s Dungeon, or that they were the wrath of God. Some religious groups would become active immediately following each Stampede, claiming that it was divine retribution for invading God’s Dungeon.
Tsutomu put the Stampede documents back to where he had gotten them, then went to ask Garm for more information and reconfirmed what to prepare. Then he withdrew a hefty amount of G from the Guild to buy himself essential goods for the day, and pay the riding school the training feels, reserving a timeslot on the day after tomorrow.
The next day, it was slightly cloudy out; at noon, Tsutomu observed the Explorers’ activities on the single-digit Monitors while nibbling on some chocolate-coated bananas. It was partly to pass the time, but the main purpose was to see if he could secure himself some capable personnel.
Tsutomu had often asked Rook if the latter had found anyone, but results thus far suggested that he should not expect much. Stephanie was out of the question, and the two Tanks who had been set to leave the Clan were now motivated, and the Dualblader was starting to behave himself, so it was easy to imagine that they would not agree to join up with him.
[Man, is there anyone who’d be on board at all? I don’t care if it’s a Tank at this point, just give me someone who’s around level 30…]
He could live with training an Attacker or two from the baby steps, but he really wanted his Tank recruits to already be decently-leveled. If at a high enough level, even the worst-skilled of them would do their job in holding the party together, which would help with leveling up the Attackers as well.
Tsutomu currently had one Tank recruit candidate: a boy named Daryl, whom Garn had recommended to him. He had already seen Daryl exploring the Dungeon with Garm through Monitor #10, and their training regimen seemed quite rigorous. Then again, thanks to his training, Daryl’s movements were refined and his physique desirable, making him quite promising. Still, Tsutomu was planning to add another Tank to the team.
[Two Tanks and two Attackers would be ideal… But man, Attackers are harder to find than I thought they’d be. Maybe I’ll look for some newcomers after the Stampede’s over.]
Tsutomu continued to ponder over such things while loitering around the Monitors.
Although the demand for Attackers had decreased due to the introduction of the other roles, Clans still recruited them in large numbers, and many parties still preferred having at least two of them at a time. That still did mean that fewer Attackers got into parties at once, so Tsutomu was looking to pull in some of the Clans’ excess Attackers. Surprisingly, however, not many Attackers had been let go as excess, and those who had left the major Clans were those who were dissatisfied with the three-role composition. There was no point in letting the latter type of people into his Clan.
Tsutomu casually glanced over to the lower-numbered Monitors, and the first thing that caught his eye was Ealdred Crow. They were in the middle of fighting through layer sixty-four, with Stephanie back in the ranks of the main party as their Healer. Stephanie had already cast <<Protect>> for the Tank and <<Haste>> for the Attacker, and was proactive throughout the battle. Tsutomu continued to observe the team for ten minutes, and there was never a break in her support.
[I’m looking forward to layer sixty-five, people.]
With Stephanie’s training having focused on trial-and-error and salvaging the situation whenever the fight turned chaotic, the true results of her struggle would start showing on layer sixty-five, where parties were most likely to find themselves annihilated at least once. Thinking he would come to watch against tomorrow, Tsutomu then set his sights on the other, higher-numbered monitors.
The next thing that got his attention was Garm and Amy, exploring the Volcano layers together. They were both silent, with Amy appraising the items and monsters and writing their information down on paper.
The Appraisal skill was mostly possessed by gifted craftsmen, merchants, and Staff Members who created Status Cards, but Amy had mastered it as well thanks to her ability since childhood to discern objects’ properties to some extent. Amy was the only one in town known to both be able to fight and possess the Appraisal skill, so her capabilities were quite useful whenever a new layer was unlocked.
Seeing the two taking it easy, perhaps precisely because it was official work, Tsutomu smiled lightly. The remaining single-digit Monitors showed Ealdred Crow’s party two and eight fighting the Fire Dragon and plowing through layer fifty-nine respectively, while Scarlet Devil Squad’s two parties were also on the fifty-ninth layer. Tsutomu proceeded to wade through the crowd, glancing at the other Monitors as he made his way to two-digit ones.
Once he got there, he eventually found the Silver Beast fighting through the Canyons on one of the Monitors. Their party structure seemed slightly different, with them having brought in a Tank. The middle-aged Adventurer Misil was there along with the two Birdkins. Their Conykin Healer, Lorena, was still going strong as well.
Upon a closer look, Tsutomu saw that Lorena had become a much better Healer than before. Using her long ears to detect her party members by their voices, she was able to shoot her <<Heals>> at precisely where they were. Thanks to that, she could heal her allies without turning around, and also maintain her support skills on everyone at once.
[…Huh, isn’t she just about as good as Stephanie now?]
Although it was hard to say for sure who was better, Lorena’s skill as a Healer had improved considerably. Moreover, the party was doing a tremendous job at cooperating. After Tsutomu had told Misil about the Tank role, Misil had worked to train a member with a Knight-type Job and quickly introduced them to his ranks, making the three-role composition mesh with his party quite well. Even if one were to not have Tsutomu’s personal biases, Silver Beast’s cooperation would still be undeniably amazing, surpassing even that of Ealdred Crow’s in this front.
Silver Beast had already beaten layer fifty-nine before, and was now able to fight through the multi-wave battles there without difficulty. In fact, they were the third Clan in town to have ever won against the Fire Dragon. Tsutomu, while feeling excited to see what the Silver Beast would go on to achieve in the future, moved on to scan over the Monitors from #10 to #30.
[Oh, there’s Amira.]
Monitor #30 showed Camille’s daughter, Amira, challenging the Shell Crab. Her party was of the five-Attacker composition, their strategy being to tear down the Shell Crab in one go.
[Huh, aren’t the crab holes’ locations supposed to be published already?]
The Shell Crab strategies that had been published in the two minor publishers’ newspapers a while ago had already been confirmed as true by Explorers, and is now being talked about as one of the currently most effective methods. Minor Clans that had been unable to win against the Shell Crab up until then had since used the new strategies to finally get past the monster, yet Amira still insisted on pushing through with a five-attacker party.
[Man, this is quite… a disaster.]
Tsutomu kept on watching some more, and saw that Amira, the party’s Leader, was moving around quite well. Her skills made it easy to see why Camille had so openly praised her. The tone of her voice was quite harsh, however, so her angry shouts were pretty much the only things one would hear from her party.
The other party members seemed to be having a hard time keeping up, naturally making the mood… not ideal. Tsutomu could see them being unsuccessful in defeating the Shell Crab, if the situation continued like this.
[Maybe I should tell Camille about this… or maybe not.]
Tsutomu turned around to see Camille on one of the benches, seriously observing Amira’s every move, so he dismissed his idea and turned back to look at the Monitors some more.