Thanks to Garm and Amy, Tsutomu had been able to find himself a Tank and an Attacker, so he was worry-free while exploring the Dungeon while watching over Daryl’s training. After that, the four had dinner together before going their separate ways.
Daryl’s Job was the Heavy Knight, so his equipment was heavy and limited to his movements, but he could hold his ground well thanks to exactly that in addition to his high VIT. That in turn meant that Tsutomu’s future party would at least have its defenses secured; Diniel, an Archer, had abilities on a dependable level as well. At worst, Tsutomu would have to make do with just three members — and he could still see the possibility of success in doing so, so for now, he decided to concentrate on the Stampede rather than the party.
From the next day on, Tsutomu made it his routine to buy the morning newspapers containing information about the Stampede, training to ride a horse, compiling information about Dungeon City’s Defensive Battle, and confirming escape routes. As Tsutomu frequented the reference library on the Guild’s second floor, Amy and Garm occasionally watched him from the sidelines.
“I wonder what’s going on with him…”
Tsutomu used to spend his free time staring at the Monitors at the Guild and all over town and taking notes, but for the past several days, he had been doing none of that and was favoring something else for once. The two were worried about that change, what with Tsutomu previously having no interest in anything not concerning God’s Dungeon before.
In the process of checking for escape routes, Tsutomu had the chance to leave Dungeon City for the first time ever since his arrival in this world… and it was mostly a wasteland-like empty space, devoid of any other form of nature. Such was the result of the monster armies’ ravagements during the semi-annual Stampedes, once from the north and once from the south.
The highway and transport routes were well-maintained, but the rest of the roads were rickety, as if meteorites had frequently fallen on them. Tsutomu, being a novice rider, would never be able to ride through the latter kind; in fact, even passing through them with horse-drawn vehicles would prove difficult.
After confirming the escape routes to the south by both means of horse and <<Fly>>, Tsutomu watched from the sky as wagons and groups of people lined the well-maintained roads — those were refugees from nearby towns and villages.
They would pack up their bare-minimum necessities and move to find refuge in Dungeon City during every Stampede. Other large cities besides Dungeon City existed as well, the closest of which being Uga’ol, located to the north. The people in the villages and towns near Uga’ol should have taken refuge there by now, too.
Currently, the Stampede had begun its advance from the north, trampling down villages and towns and closing in on Uga’ol. The newspapers were constantly reporting the situation, with recent reports stating that the hungry horde would reach Uga’ol in three days.
[Are they gonna be alright?]
While flying back to Dungeon City, Tsutomu thought back to the Clan Leader of the Labyrinth Conquerors, the silver-haired Elf. The Labyrinth Conquerors were currently on their way to the city further north of Uga’ol, in order to rescue and direct the survivors. Information regarding their activities had yet to reach the news, however; that was one point Tsutomu was worried about.
Another was that Leon of the Golden Tune had been sent as a scout by the Security Team to the same northern city. Thanks to his unique skill, he could attain an AGI rating of S- at best, temporarily breaking through his base rating of A+. If he were to run seriously, he could reach his given destination faster than a warhorse, making him the most capable one around to work as a scout.
The main thing about this was that, as far as Tsutomu knew, it was a rare occurrence for the Security Team to name specific individual Explorers for their tasks; that was what made him warrier and warrier of the coming Stampede. The fact that they had requested Leon to do the scouting meant that they were lacking information. As such, Tsutomu carefully studied all the escape routes he could, and also secured himself some long-lasting preserved foods.
Back at the city gate, the gatekeepers were busy inspecting all the new arrivals; Tsutomu showed his Status Card to them and entered the city, then ate his lunch before visiting the Ealdred Crow Clan House.
It seemed that Rook had spent a decent amount of time searching for recruits for Tsutomu, just as the latter had requested as his reward; he passed a stack of documents to Tsutomu, each sheet containing information on the candidates he had found. Tsutomu looked through the sheets; although these were not for members of Ealdred Crow, the ones presented were beginners with potential and-or scouted talents.
Some of the listed newcomers were even ones that Tsutomu had seen on the Monitors before. And then, once he flipped over to the last sheet, his eyes widened in surprise.
“This one looks too good to be true, at least from what the document says…”
“Oh, this girl’s got… problems. I’ve put her there just to be sure, but really, I wouldn’t recommend that you take her.”
“…So her personality isn’t desirable, then?”
“Nah, she’s good and all honest — but also stubborn as hell. Used to be with us as well, actually, until she quit a month ago.”
“Honest and stubborn, huh…”
Rook scratched his cheek, unsure of what to say next, before explaining,
“She’s a Boxer and used to work as an Attacker, but then one day she just insisted real hard that she wanted to be a Tank, you see. We let her practice with the other Tanks for about two months, but she just couldn’t pull it off. At all. Eventually, she just handed in her resignation and left — said she didn’t want to cause any more problems for the Clan and stuff.”
“So that’s the deal with her… Was she really performing that bad, though?”
“As an Attacker, she was good enough to stay a permanent member of our top parties, actually. But as a Tank… yeah, that bad. Her race and physical build just don’t mesh well with the Tank role — you can probably tell that even at a glance.”
“…Hmm. Well, may I have her contact info, just in case?” Tsutomu said as he scanned over the information sheet — Race: Birdkin, Job: Boxer.
Rook, eyes widened in surprise, asked back, “You serious? If you want to recruit her as an Attacker, you’d be better off giving up now — she definitely won’t do it.”
“I plan to invite her in as a Tank, of course. The actual meeting will have to wait until after the Stampede, though. Oh, I’m also interested in these people…”
Tsutomu, wanting a total of five or six members so that he would have enough to form one full party, selected a few more sheets from the stack. He then proceeded to chat with Rook, exchanging the latest information and discussing the coming Stampede.
“I’ve read in the newspaper yesterday that sightings of a Fire Dragon-like creature had been confirmed. Things could turn out to be particularly bad this time, don’t you think?”
“Ah… Say, Tsutomu, you’re from outside Dungeon City, right? Seeing that you’re so scared of the Stampede and all.”
“Well, I suppose you could say that I am, yes.”
“It’s one hell of a disaster outside of Dungeon City, that’s for sure. I hear about it all the time, what with some of our Clan members being from those towns and villages. But there’s no need to worry when you’re in the city. House Babenberg’s people are back from the Royal Capital now, and they already have plenty of Magic Stone saved up. Not to mention, their defensive magic — the best there is in this world. I assume you haven’t seen it in action before, Tsutomu?”
“I do know about it, but haven’t seen it with my own eyes yet.”
House Babenberg, the royal household that ruled over Dungeon City, were famous for their use of ironclad defensive magic. Because of that ability of theirs, they had been ordered by the Royal Capital to rule over Dungeon City, which back in the day had simply been a city surrounded by the region’s various Dungeons. At one point, God’s Dungeon had emerged within the city, boosting Magic Stone excavation rate to an unprecedented level and further strengthening their defensive magic.
House Babenberg currently had enough resources to use their defensive magic for a month, covering the whole Dungeon City with a protective barrier all the while, so it was said that the city could never lose to the Stampede. In fact, Dungeon City had not suffered any damage from any Stampede over the past hundred years.
“Well, Uga’gol should have the Labyrinth Conquerors helping them by now. Not to mention the Stampede’s gonna pass through other cities on its way here — Uga’gol should weaken it down a great deal.”
“Then again, it’s always better to be prepared. This one’s going to be bigger than last time, that’s for sure. We won’t be having any difficulty with Fire Dragons, either. No limit of how many people can fight at once, unlike God’s Dungeon — and we even killed one with a team of five!”
Rook concluded with a wink. Tsutomu was somewhat relieved by Rook’s optimistic attitude; the two proceeded to talk about Stephanie and the Enchanter, after which Tsutomu left the Clan House.
[The townspeople’s mood hasn’t changed all that much…]
The inhabitants of Dungeon City did not seem to mind at all when it was reported that a monster similar to the Fire Dragon had appeared among Stampede.
[So Stampedes to them are like earthquakes are for Japanese people, I guess.]
While thinking things to himself, Tsutomu observed the marketplaces; the prices of everything were starting to be marked up, little by little. Foods and daily necessities were especially high, with the biggest one being Magic Stones.
The Magic Stone market had been becoming more active over the past two weeks, with more Stones being traded than ever before. Most of the items used for town defense were magic tools, their fuel obviously being Magic Stones. Even the purchase price of colorless Magic Stone has gone up, making it a good opportunity for Explorers to make some profit. As Tsutomu looked at the price list on the Magic Stone Exchange’s board, he noticed a certain woman standing in line.
She wore slightly dirty clothes, and her bushy brown tail had become shaggy, a far cry from how shiny and well-groomed it had once been. Such was Mirul, a former Solit Company employee, standing in a long line of people waiting to cash in their Magic Stones.
In order to prevent Mirul from harming Tsutomu, Solit Company had hired a detective to keep track of her activities and pass the information to him. Therefore, Tsutomu had already known that Mirul had become an Explorer, but this was the first time he had actually seen her.
She still worked as an Explorer, but there was no indication that she intended to harm Tsutomu. If she were to show even the slightest hint of such a move, Solit Company would ask Tsutomu if he wanted her eliminated. Although Solit Company has been weakened by the recent success of the two next biggest newspaper outlets, they still were powerful enough to do something like that.
Mirul was currently partied up with some no-good Explorers, and was not earning much of anything. Although places like Ealdred Crow and Golden Tune had begun to somewhat reevaluate Healers and Tanks’ roles, the Job disparity was still overall widespread. As such, Mirul’s income was low; with her assets confiscated and her pay reduced to a fraction of what she used to earn, she could not even afford to stay at an inn.
And due to her notoriety from the Solit Company incident, she was unable to team up with good Explorers, and even among the buggers, only the ones with the worst personalities would take her in, causing her to be stuck in the lowest tiers of Explorers.
[Welp, hang in there.]
After seeing how happy Mirul was to sell her Magic Stone Scraps for more G than usual thanks to the price hike, Tsutomu looked and walked away. He then bought some newspapers before heading back to his room.