17-13. Changing World (2)
"""CHEERS TO GODS~"""
Several jolly men knocked their beer mugs filled to the brim together in a tavern.
Such scenes can often be seen in taverns close to the capital's [Tower] lately.
"Pheew, these beers' good as ever!"
"Drinking beers while snacking on edamame's the best thing ever!"
Beers imported from Garleon Union on the continent west are many times pricier than ales, but there's a lot of explorers who have gotten addicted to its refreshing yet sharp flavor which ales lack.
As such, none would blame explorers who have made a quick killing for their loose wallets on those beers.
Additionally, despite the fact that Echigoya Firm having a huge influence in mass production and importation of beers was not publicly disclosed, the majority of populace knew about it.
Since it's a common knowledge for the capital's populace that when something unusual happens, it usually has got to do with either Echigoya Firm, Hero Nanashi, or Earl Pendragon Household.
Though, only a few know that all of them are actually the same person.
Moreover, the boy John Smith who's become a millionaire from his successful mass production of beers is apparently on a journey to Seryu Earldom located at the northern part of Shiga Kingdom. The head clerk of John Smith Brewery hypothesized that he must be looking for a new business opportunity at Seryuu City's labyrinth.
"Here's your seconds."
"Ooh, been waiting for this!"
"Alright then, time to--"
The men hold out their beer mugs.
"""CHEERS TO GODS~"""
"Oy oy, how many times yer' gonna toast anyway."
"Eh what's bad about it, those monsters get weaker when we offer our thanks to gods like this anyway."
"Which makes it easier for us to earn our keep heh."
The men looked at each other before bursting out laughing.
"You insolent fools!"
"Now now, priest-sama. How 'bout another cup?"
"Hmph--I'll take it."
Looks like the priest wasn't seriously trying to admonish them either.
Donations to temples have increased due to the matter with the towers, priests have also gotten popular amongst explorers trying to conquer those towers.
This situation is literally a godsend to priests who want to raise their level safely, hence his mood is good enough that he'd calm down with one scolding even after watching a slight imprudence.
"E-explorers, sirs. Lemme join your group."
"Who the heck are you?"
"I-I'm Tahere. I worked as an explorer in labyrinth city back in the days."
A boy wearing ragged clothing called Tahere entreated while groveling on the floor.
One of nearby guests murmured, "It's Tahere the garbage picker". Garbage picker is a derogatory term to refer to people who pick up usable-looking items from accumulated garbage near the capital's water filtration plant.
"Where's your equipment?"
"I-I got my weapon here!"
The boy took a sword wrapped in a rag.
Looks like he picked it up in the garbage site, the rusty sword only has half its blade intact.
"You won't cut those purple gobu with that thing."
"T-then I'll carry your stuff and do chores, I'll do anything!"
"Fine. Let's see how you fare once. Show us how you fight."
The man nodded satisfyingly to see the boy immediately came up with a different proposition.
Many would have sulked and made excuses instead at that point.
"Thanks so much, Aniki! I'll definitely prove my usefulness!"
Scenes where forward-thinking people trying to break out of spiral of poor life toward the path of explorers are often seen near the towers as well.
"Uwoo, so wide."
"Whoaa, heard about myself, but it's really so big ya can see the horizon."
As explorers who never took on the tower before, these two look like country bumpkins on their first outing in a big city when they see the near capital-wide first floor of the tower.
"Oy, we're going."
"A line woulda formed if we aren't quick."
'Why'd ya think we left the capital before sunrise', complained the leader.
"I'm sorry, Aniki."
"Uwaa, that's some line."
Lines consisting of about 30 people each have formed in front of 16 of the 20 pillars.
"Aniki, aniki. There's no lines on some of those pillars, can't we just go there?"
"That's exclusive for going down. There's invisible walls on them, you can't go in."
The leader answered the boy without even looking at those pillars as it seems to be a common question from first timers.
"It's our turn soon. Put your arm in the knotted ring you see on this rope and grab it."
"What is this?"
"Just do what you're told."
The rookies did as they were told even while looking puzzled.
"The tower will understand that we're all in the same party when we do this."
"The tower understands?"
"That's right. Did you know that you could come out on a different floor even when you took the same stairways?"
The rookies nodded at the leader.
This mechanism wasn't present in the beginning, but as more and more explorers came to these towers, this spec was added before anyone realized.
"If ya don't do this, these towers would use their own discretion to group eight random people in a party and send 'em to different floors."
Apparently, there was a confusion about this as cases where lone persons getting separated increased back when it was first introduced.
"Oy, rookie, don't hang the last string. Make sure to coil it around your arm and grab the end tip."
The rookie at the end of the line asked what his senior meant by that.
"To prevent bad guys with concealment skills tagging along with us."
There are cases where bad guys would stealthily take the end of these ropes, aiming for rich noble kids' expensive equipment, good-looking rookie explorers or weak-looking parties in a hunt for beginners. It's a trick that misuses the mechanism that sends a whole party together to a new floor.
Though it's not like one party has a monopoly on a floor so it's common for parties to encounter with each other inside these towers.
The leader gave a signal to a white furred dogkin.
The called dogkin sniffed with his nose, and inferred numbers of monsters and their directions from smell that had remained in these passages.
The dogkin seemed to dislike talking with his hard-to-understand voice and communicated his findings with hand signals.
"There's one purple gobu at the end of that passage to the right. Nothing on the left."
After explaining the signal to the two rookies, the leader led the way to the right passage.
"It's a gobu."
"It's really there."
"You two rookies, this'll be your first sortie, don't worry we'll come save you if it looks dangerous."
Rookie boy and rookie middle-aged man face off against a club-carrying purple goblin--Demigoblin Vanguard.
Neither of them is wearing armor, but they've got thick clothing and the leader has lent them single edged Goblin Sabers and small Goblin Bucklers. Both are drop items from the towers.
The goblin rushed in attacking while shouting out loud.
Induced by that shout, the two rookies also raised theirs while slashing at the goblin.
The club that the goblin swung hit the middle aged rookie, but their sabers also managed to slash the goblin's shoulder and arm, dealing shallow wounds on its purple skin.
After several trades of blows, the bloodied goblin finally ran out of health.
With a scream that sounded like both 'gya' and 'gyu', the goblin disappeared into a dark purple mist.
Thanks to the protection of gods, the Demigoblin Vanguards who once proved challenging to even trained soldiers can now be defeated by a boy who retired from explorer's life and a middle-aged man whose only redeeming quality is his strength without a decent training.
"Well done, you two."
The two laughed to hear the praise.
"That was shoddy, but since you managed to keep your eyes open and went at it without running away, I'm giving you two passing grades."
"Right. Their swordsmanship's so-so as well, guess it's fine?"
The two are laying on the ground full of sweat just from defeating a single Demigoblin Vanguard, the weakest monster here.
"No broken bone. It's only some bruises. Next time, dodge your opponent's attacks for real."
"Yeah, I got it."
The rookie middle-aged man nodded while getting a first-aid treatment.
The explorer who treated him was going to complain since he didn't hear even a single word of thank, but when he remembered that the guy was a newbie who had just gone through his first battle, he let it slide with a snort.
"Go pick up your first loot."
The rookie boy went to look for a fragment of magic core on the ground.
"Hard to find no? Be sure to pick those up only after you've killed the enemy, never during a scuffle."
"Yup, I got it."
The boy who was groveling on the floor picked up a magic core fragment and handed it over to aniki.
"Alright, let's move on."
"Eeh? We're going already?"
"Yer' free to stay here if you wanna get more rest."
The leader walked toward the direction the dogkin pointed while saying that to the complaining middle aged rookie.
"I-I'm okay now."
Not willing to get left behind, the middle-aged rookie whipped his trembling knees and got up to chase the group.
"Huh? Did you get yourself cooking magic utensils?"
"Huhuhu, nice eh."
A young man who came to a tavern for delivery stared in wonder at a brand-new magic tool.
"Man, must be profiting nicely from those explorers eh."
"Well yeah. Those guys only ever brought cheap liquor, but they always had a feast every night after returning from the tower, so I'm making bigger bucks than when I ran a tavern downtown."
"But ain't these cooking magic tools super expensive?"
"Naw, that's old news. Thanks to a sharp decline in magic cores' price, magic tools also got cheaper."
"Aah, from those towers huh."
"Yep yep. Those 『Towers』 are really handy."
Up until now, magic cores were mainly produced in labyrinths, thus they maintained high prices in the market, but thanks to excess supply of magic cores and magic core fragments obtained in the towers lately, the prices of lower grade magic cores have been slashed to up half the normal prices.
"Maybe I should try my luck as an explorer. Even children can hunt those first floor goblins anyway."
"Eh forget about it. You'd understand if you run a tavern. Several explorer parties come by here every night, but only about half of those members are permanent. The rest are ever changing, lots never come back here even."
The barkeeper warned the young man when he heard his muttering.
Being an explorer means gambling on your life, he said.
"Maybe they went to another party or another tavern?"
"Some of them are that kind I guess."
The barkeeper implicitly told the wistful sounding young man that the majority of those lost explorers had died in the tower.
"I'll give it another thought."
"That'd be wise."
Thus the young man left, but the one in charge of delivery a few days later turned out to be a different person.
The barkeeper didn't mention anything about it as he could only hope for the young man's safety while wiping tables.
Such intense rates of personnel swaps is another common facet of daily lives after towers.
"Huh? You're closing up already?"
A housewife who was walking down the capital's street stall marketplace looked troubled when she saw a store she was going to had already closed up.
"Yea, today's stock all sold out."
"My that's so fast."
"Eh no not really. Business's booming lately, we're usually sold out by this time of the day."
Just as the stallkeeper said, many stalls nearby are about to sell out as well.
"Gontz stall three aisles over yonder should be open still."
"That store is pricey... I'll just go to Robson-san's store then."
"Hmm? Robson shuttered his store already, ya know."
"Did something happen?"
"Guy went and became an explorer, off to the tower along with some laborer men he knew."
"Ara ara, my my, Robson-san is so young."
People dreaming of making a killing in the tower is a common tale in the capital lately, hence the housewife didn't think much when an acquaintance changed job.
"I suppose I've no choice but to go to Gontz store then."
"Don't think it's gonna differ much, stuff are just getting pricier lately. Even Gontz gonna sell out soon if ya don't hurry."
"No choice then."
The housewife headed to another store while grumbling.
"When it's this expensive, our lives don't get any better even with my husband's higher wage."
As the housewife complained, the wave of inflation is gradually drawing closer to the capital.
"Ou! That you Pendora youngsters!"
Boys wearing blue mantles called out to some men who were taking a break in an open space near the labyrinth city's tower.
Dozon the Red Iron explorer is well known among young explorers for being an affable persona and is good at taking care of other.
"You guys not with Usasa and the guys today?"
Dozon asked when he noticed that the members they were usually with weren't present.
"They're exploring the labyrinth with Nee-san today."
"Nee-san? Are they culling out labyrinth monsters with Iruna or Jena?"
Dozon mentioned teachers of Explorer School founded by Earl Pendragon.
"No no. They're with Pochi neesan. Since she was saying, 『Let's hunt a whole lotsa meat nodesu』, I think they went to hunt for dungeon frogs or dungeon deers. She took a lot of carrier kids along with Usasa and the guys with her after all."
"Ain't Pochi that armor twerp--"
Dozon imagined a dogkin girl with short limbs strolling about in his mind.
Dozon unintentionally broke out a smile at the cute reminiscence, but then he recalled about a feat that dogkin and her master have accomplished.
"--One of Demon Lord Slayers huh?"
"Un, yep. Usasa and the others consulted teachers about how there were some kids who couldn't eat due to a sudden increase on food price in labyrinth city, maybe Earl-sama heard about that and dispatched nee-san here."
"Yeah, young master Pendragon would go out of his way and do that fer' sure."
Dozon who remembered when Earl Pendragon did charity works in labyrinth city even when he was still a honorary noble, nodded in agreement.
"You guys not going with them?"
"Un, we're working hard to catch up to Usasa and the guys now."
"Cuz we've got no right to wear these mantles if we're always getting rescued."
"Is that so. Working hard is a good thing, but you gotta be careful not to hurt yerself now."
"Un, I know!"
"That was drilled hard to us Pendora at explorer school."
The boys nodded at Dozon's advice.
"Food shortage huh..."
Dozon muttered while looking at the departing boys.
The majority of explorers who set up bases at Labyrinth City have shifted to exploring the tower because of how profitable it is.
As a result, there's fewer people exploring the labyrinth, and labyrinth city is starting to run low of cheap meat that has been supporting it.
"Isn't it only natural? I mean there are monsters who drop food in the tower too, but their bodies disappear when they're killed unlike in the labyrinth."
Dozon's comrades watch over him mulling.
"Alright, we're delving in the labyrinth for a while from tomorrow on."
"Well, knew Dozon would say that."
"Geez, our boss is hopeless."
At Dozon's declaration, his comrades consented even while complaining.
"Forgive me, this is just how I am."
"No worries, boss."
"We've earned big on towers already, going to the labyrinth for a while would be a nice change of pace."
"Yeah. Would be nice if the labyrinth had something like Tower Escape orbs though."
"You don't say~"
The men who had enough of rest laughed as they headed to the tavern.
It seems Dozon's comrades are fond of his personality of putting the vulnerable over own profit.
<TLN: If you're reading this novel at any other site than Sousetsuka .com you might be reading an unedited, uncorrected version of the novel.>
"What! You dared charged one big copper coin for this crap size?!"
"I got no choice, market price went up you know."
"Like this stingy meat will give me power."
"You're free to go to other stores if you don't like it."
"What'd you say! Who do you think you're talking to huh!"
The enraged man knocked the storekeeper out.
Other guests screamed, the store's bodyguards ran up to subdue the man.
The bodyguards leaped at him vigorously, but the man easily knocked them down with a swing of his arm.
"We're with the 13th Royal Capital Guards! Who's the idiot causing this commotion! Turn yourself in!"
Guards rushed into the tavern when they heard screams inside.
They saw a man knocking down bodyguards lying on the ground and the passed out unmoving storekeeper, and immediately understood the situation.
"Guards you say? Just right, I still need to rampage more! I'll show you guys the color of your blood!"
"Like we guards gonna lose to fools who brandished the power they obtained in towers on common people!"
The man is higher in term of level, but an explorer who had only dipped their foot on martial art was no match against soldiers and their excellent teamwork and high morales under the guard captain's commands.
The man immediately fell down by soldiers' hook spears, trampled down by multiple soldiers and got tied up.
"Good grief, these fools drunk by their powers."
As more commoners delved in the towers, more people also obtained enough power to rival the knights, as such, fools such as this man who tried to solve everything with brute forces proliferated everywhere causing troubles.
"Lemme go! You damn guards! I ain't gonna lose to you noble lapdogs!"
The rampaging man put his still free right hand to his mouth.
"Right hand! Tie up his right hand!"
The guard captain who noticed that quickly issued an order, but by that time, the man had already bit the pill in his mouth.
As the man shouted, magic circles patterned like red ropes showed up on the man's skin.
It's the same defensive barrier the monsters that spawned during the Capital Red Rope uproar had.
"Fiend Drug huh! Abandon arrest. You're permitted to kill."
Fiend Drug found in the towers as drop items have been spreading in the capital's underground community, and some of those who consumed these drugs have gained ability to produce red rope barrier and enhanced strength.
The guards have been tightening up on the drug's circulation, but due to its usefulness in tower explorations, many explorers are taking it even while being fully aware of its ban.
"I am invincibleeeeeeeeeeeeee"
The man tore off the rope binding him, thrust aside the guards and rushed out toward the exit at full speed.
There was a well dressed black haired girl right in front of the rushing man.
The man's mouth warped sadistically when he saw the girl, and opened his arms wide in an attempt to grab the girl.
"This is bad. --make it please!"
Seeing that, the guard captain threw his hooked spear while activating Super Strength skill.
With a cute voice, the man rotated in spot before hitting the ground hard.
The guard captain was flabbergasted to see an unbelievable scene unfolding before him, but then he realized that the spear he threw was going straight to the girl's face and shouted.
The girl smiled and laughed, then she swung her held-out hand and got the hooked spear tightly in her hand as if she had used magic.
The man was still trying to rampage around, but the girl held him down firmly not allowing him even a slight movement.
"...■ Mana Drain."
As the girl cast the spell, the red rope magic circle covering the man's body vanished.
The girl then knocked the still rampaging man out and handed him over to the guards.
Someone murmured that.
"You mean Lulu the Maid Lord?"
"You idiot! Put 『Sama』 after her name!"
"Yeah yeah! Lulu-sama is an aspiration to us cooks."
"That's not exclusive to cooks! As maids, she's also an object of our yearnings!"
The girl who watched people getting all worked up over her--Lulu turned her face away shyly after checking that she hadn't forgotten to put on Recognition Inhibition veil.
"Ta-Tama-chan, save me."
"Don't worry be happy~"
When Lulu murmured softly toward her own shadow, Tama's hand jumped out of it like a plomp, caught Lulu's feet and dragged her into the shadow.
Leaving the surprised people behind, Lulu who was helping with ruffian suppressions went back home together with Tama.
"Tie up this guy and take him away. Don't forget the mouth gag to prevent him from using Fiend Drug!"
The guard captain ordered his subordinates once Lulu was gone.
"Captain. One of the bodyguards and the manager have passed away. Another has a serious injury."
"I see. Carry the one with serious injury to temples or medical charities."
Two guards put the injured person on a stretcher and carried him away along with some drunkards.
"And this was before he took Fiend Drug..."
"We're really fortunate that Watari-sama was present."
The guard who knew Lulu's family name is a huge fan of [Demon Lord Slayers], he's read many books depicting their tales.
"...Tell me about it."
Many people in the streets would have fallen victims if they had let the man get away there.
"Gotta ask Regional Commander to send a letter of gratitudes to Lulu-dono."
After murmuring that, the guard captain led his subordinates back to patrolling the city.
"Soaring food price?"
"Yes, urban areas have started to run out of vegetables while rural areas are suffering meat shortages."
The former was because a shortage of vegetable farmers and distributors, while the latter is because of a shortage of hunters who provide meat for villages. In both cases, the majority is because they all became tower explorers.
Urban areas are not having a meat shortage thanks to ranches unloading their livestocks, but it's not like the price of meat has not increased.
Thanks to explorers who've made a quick kill feasting on meat products en masse, they've seen a sudden jump in price in urban areas including the capital. At the rate it's currently going, forget several years, there's a high chance that even livestocks won't be enough by next year.
"In particular, many have given up or abandoned farmwork in rural areas."
There have been cases of second and third sons of farming families leaving villages because they don't want the hard work of reclaiming new lands since forever, but the rate of it has seen a dramatic increase lately.
Using [To protect the village] as a pretext while only doing the minimum in reality, they would go crazy trying to conquer the towers in a quest for a small sum of money. Apparently this has been happening a lot.
Even though it's very rare to have bad crops thanks to the protection of City Cores, farmwork is not as simple as [Sow seeds then wait for them to grow by themselves].
"Your excellency, my subordinate has requested an audience."
One of the king's page called to the prime minister.
The prime minister went to another room to listen the report when he heard that it was an urgent matter before going back to convey it to the king.
"Your majesty, a civil war has erupted at Makiwa Kingdom."
When its family head passed away, a family quarrel broke out in Jizaros Earldom, one of the four great nobles who posses Orb Wands and hold great powers in Makiwa Kingdom, and then those who had taken over Jizaros Earldom declared their independence, raising a revolt against Makiwa Kingdom.
"Furthermore, some skirmishes originating from food shortages have developed into full blown wars in some locations at central countries."
The king sighed deeply when he heard the prime minister's report.
"Good grief, just when the world was about to enter a peaceful era thanks to ancestor king-sama efforts, Demon God went and did these unnecessary stuff!"
"Our kingdom has enjoyed a sharp increase in magic core supply thanks to the towers, so it's not all negatives."
Having lower priced fuel for Magic Furnaces which are needed in mines and airships also means lower costs of distributions and mining work.
Furthermore, it also helps to get higher grades magic cores--which were used for fuels and thus unavailable in the market before--become accessible to alchemists and magic tool makers.
There may be some rapid movements in allocations of work forces, but the prime minister speculates that it will all eventually settle down once the fervor on [Towers] ends.
"Your majesty, do you have time?"
"Good day, ancestor king-sama."
"Just call me Mito, I'm telling you."
Mito--ancestor king Yamato waved her hands in panic while asking for the king and prime minister to raise their heads.
"We're on the verge of food crisis, right? Since we've got a huge stock of emergency rations and all, do you think it's okay to distribute them to each countries in Shiga Kingdom's name? Do tell if you want to have political moves attached."
The king halted the prime minister who was going to come up with one.
"We shall not dirty ancestor king-sama's magnanimity with political moves in our conveniences."
Now that Saga Empire and western countries have lost a lot of power, and with Weasel Empire gone, Shiga Kingdom has become the biggest country on the continent.
The king wanted to say that they have no need for more powers.
"I got it. Then we'll go and distribute them. Oh and this here is a sample. It doesn't really look like food though since it's a mix of hardened fish and vegetable powder, freeze dried alga pills."
Even though she said it didn't look like food, the sample Mito gave was no different from common preserved foods in Shiga Kingdom.
Some of the rations used kraken powder instead of fish, but Mito didn't talk about it since it would only complicate things.
"They've got enough nutritions and calories, and they're tastier than they look, no one would starve to die with this."
"Very well then, I shall write letters addressed to every kings."
The king orally narrated the content to his secretary and ordered his subordinates to mass write the letters.
"Thank you. I believe those kings will surely accept our aid now."
Mito smiled when she heard the letter's content.
The gist of these letters being, 『In accordance to Shiga Kingdom's doctrine, we hereby provide foods to the people of your country. In exchange for our aid, we request that you do not let any of your people die from hunger.』
"Ichirou-nii, Sete's given his approval for the food aid. These are letters addressed to kings at each countries."
"『In exchange, don't let anyone die』, huh, that's really nice."
"Un, as expected of Sharlick-kun's descendant."
Mito smiled broadly to hear Satou's praise.
"Okay then, time to get going."
"Mind if I come along too?"
"Of course not. Then I'll take Kuro form, and you Hikaru as Nanashi."
That day, Hero Nanashi and his attendant showed up in every corners of the world and delivered an enormous amount of preserved foods before leaving.
Representatives of countries who received those emergency rations distributed the rations to starving people as promptly as possible.
Of course, there were some people who made an attempt to use those for their own gain, but mysteriously enough, their misappropriations were made public within days, taking them down.
None managed to find out whether someone did secret maneuvers behind the scene.
Only that there were some whispers about sightings of a pink colored shadow at those countries. Nin nin.
※Next update is planned for 5/5