Drawn by the scent of the blood of multiple monsters, the Kobolds gathered.
Horn Rabbits, Goblins, Forest Wolves, Slimes, Gluttony Goats, Impaler Oxen and Orcs.
The smell of the blood of monsters of varying races and strength was coming from a single place. One could only imagine that this was the work of adventurers.
Adventurers who had come to the Devil’s Nest to hunt were taking a break with the corpses of the monsters they had defeated left in a wagon or carriage.
Having realized this, the Kobolds decided to swiftly attack the adventurers. As there was the scent of Orc blood in the air, it was clear that the adventurers were capable. But the Kobolds’ leader believed that the adventurers could be defeated if they were taken by surprise while they were tired and resting.
What they saw was a wagon loaded with a mountain of monster corpses, and a white-haired child who was sitting down as if hiding.
Believing that they were even luckier than they had initially thought, the Kobolds flooded in towards the cart.
And the Kobolds were met by a large dog covered in a heat-shimmer-like aura.
They shrieked as they were easily repelled, and the Kobold Soldiers’ weapons didn’t even scratch their foe. The heat shimmer around the dog distorted their vision as it leapt about, robbing the Kobolds of their lives one by one.
Realizing that they would be exterminated at this rate, the Kobold General leading the pack roared an order for the Kobolds to take a tightly-packed formation.
He had made the decision that if they protected each other and eliminated each other’s blind spots, they would be able to fend the dog off. The Kobold General’s order, and the Kobolds obeying it, was a fine demonstration of the fact that Kobolds were more capable of unified coordination than other monsters.
At the very least, they were more well-coordinated than unskilled bandit groups.
But with a loud bark, the large dog used the mass of crowded Kobolds as a jumping platform to leap at the Kobold General.
The Kobold General let out a surprised yelp, but quickly roared in return as it activated the ‘Shield Technique’ martial skill, ‘Stone Wall.’ It attempted to use its shield to defend itself from the dog.
But the shield, which had been looted from a human corpse, was unable to completely block the dog’s attack. It was deflected upwards, and the dog’s follow-up attack tore the Kobold General’s throat open.
The dog let out a roar of victory, and the surviving Kobolds screamed in terror and began to run away after seeing their leader defeated.
As if taking over for the Kobolds, the D-class adventurer party known as the ‘Iron Boulder Brigade’ appeared.
“This is a Black Dog! A Rank 3 monster! It’s a dangerous one!” Rock shouted at his companions in warning.
“Black? It looks gray to me… No, wait, Rock,” said one of Rock’s companions.
“It’s not a matter of the color of its fur! That ‘Aura of Darkness’ that looks like shimmering heat is proof that it’s a Black Dog. It uses that to confuse the eyes of its enemies, erase its presence and strike from a blind spot to inflict a fatal wound… It might be Rank 3, but it’s more dreadful than a Rank 3 monster. There are a lot of D-class adventurers who fearfully call it a grim reaper’s servant,” said Rock. “It might be alone, but don’t let your guard down!”
“That’s not what I was trying to say. Doesn’t that Black Dog look familiar? And the aura makes it hard to see, but it has a collar on. And… you,” Rock’s companion said, pointing at Vandalieu, who was sitting near the cart that Fang had been guarding. “Be faster to explain yourself. We’re at fault for giving you a fright as well, though.”
“Sorry, I wasn’t meaning to hide,” said Vandalieu, lowering his head in apology.
The plan had been to hunt a large number of monsters to acquire the meat needed for tomorrow while also increasing Fang’s Level.
Despite merely giving Fang commands to hunt monsters, Vandalieu gained Experience Points as well. But naturally, the one-tenth fraction of the Experience Points from defeating Rank 3 and 4 monsters was nowhere near the amount that he needed to Level up.
But because he had become a ‘Bestower,’ he had begun to gain Experience Points whenever someone transformed into a member of a new race like Luciliano and the others. He had also acquired Experience Points when Fang mutated, so his Level had increased a fair amount already.
The ‘Bestower’ Job might be surprisingly good for gaining Experience Points. And I gained quite a fair amount when Eleanora and Isla disposed of the ‘Bounty Hunter Hunter’ Abel, too… I heard that humans gain less Experience Points when killing another human, so it must have just been my imagination when I felt like I got a lot, even though it was only a tenth of what the kill was worth.
Thanks to these circumstances, Vandalieu didn’t have to think about his own Leveling.
But although he had originally intended to use up all of the time from the early morning until the afternoon, plans had changed due to various circumstances. He needed to strengthen the surveillance network that he had secretly set up around the city of Morksi.
He was simply increasing the number of surveillance Golems and Undead, so it didn’t take too much effort, but it wasn’t a simple enough task to be completed in a matter of minutes.
In order to lure a large number of monsters to them in a short period of time, Vandalieu had decided to drain the blood from all of the corpses of the monsters he’d hunted in one spot.
The smell of blood drifting into the surroundings had lured starving monsters in. Fang had been using his physical strength that had been improved by Vandalieu’s guidance to hunt the monsters that gathered, with the occasional assistance from Eisen and Kühl.
Naturally, his Rank had increased in the process.
“A Black Dog… From what Rock-san and the others told us, it seems that you’re a rare kind of monster,” said Vandalieu, patting Fang’s head.
Fang gave a happy bark. With the way he was wagging his tail, he looked like an ordinary large dog, especially since he was suppressing his heat-shimmer-like aura.
According to Rock, this aura had the effect of instilling fear in humans; Black Dogs were troublesome monsters that attacked not only the bodies of their enemies, but their minds as well.
“… It seems that monsters are more scared of me, though,” said Vandalieu.
He had not realized it until recently, but he was even more terrifying to monsters than Fang was.
He had been aware that Demon-type monsters feared him, but it seemed that this was true for low-Rank monsters in general.
Just like herbivores would avoid carnivores, weak monsters would not approach Vandalieu unless they were starving to the point of insanity.
And the majority of the monsters in the Devil’s Nest closest to the city were the weak kind that feared Vandalieu. That was why he had been staying near the cart with his presence erased during the hunts, though he would have shown his presence if too many monsters happened to gather.
But that was why it had taken some time for him to deal with Rock and his companions when they arrived onto the scene.
“We went a little overboard, didn’t we,” said Vandalieu.
Fang gave a regretful whimper.
Though they had prepared a large cart in advance, Fang had defeated too many monsters, and all of the meat and materials would not fit on it.
After parting ways with Rock’s party, Vandalieu had decided to call Gufadgarn, create a connection in space and have her move the meat that would not fit on the cart to the house.
“Pay it no mind. It is a joyful thing for me,” said Gufadgarn.
Incidentally, the spies of the region’s lord did not follow them into the Devil’s Nest. This was likely to avoid being found by monsters and being noticed by Vandalieu as a result, something that they prioritized over keeping their eyes on him.
“Still, is the Goblin and Kobold meat not unnecessary? I believe you could simply discard it after cutting off their ears,” said Gufadgarn.
The majority of the meat that she had transported to the house was not for use in skewers, but meat that was unsuitable for consumption in the first place. This was meat that nobody would desire other than inhabitants of the slums who were unable to secure a meal for themselves for the day.
“And if you are intending to donate something to the orphanage, would it not be better to offer something a little better in quality?” Gufadgarn added.
Goblin meat was stinky and hard, and Kobold meat was hardly any better. They were not poisonous; meat was meat, so it would be better to eat it than nothing at all. The orphanage would happily accept it, considering that the nuns running it had been forced to cut down on the orphans’ meals and were unable to feed them properly.
“No, I don’t intend to do that. I have other meat for donation. I was thinking of using this meat for Gobu-gobu or baked dishes,” said Vandalieu. “The owners of the food carts operating near us have been looking at us harshly lately, so this might be a chance.”
“… I do not understand how the gazes of the owners of other food carts are connected to Gobu-gobu or a chance for us, but all will be as my master Vandalieu wills,” said Gufadgarn. “But may I say just one thing?”
“What is it?” Vandalieu asked.
“If you intend to continue hunting as you did today, I suggest that you bring more carts and also more members with you.”
Fang vehemently objected to Gufadgarn’s suggestion with a series of sad barks. It seems that he took her words to mean that he alone was not enough. “That’s not right, Ane-go*,” he seemed to be saying.
TLN*: Respectful term for older sister.
But it seemed that Gufadgarn had no intention to imply this either.
“Fang, we are brethren,” she said. “I am not saying that your strength is insufficient. I made this suggestion because the humans may grow suspicious otherwise.”
Vandalieu and Fang were the only ones who were known to have gone out hunting today. At the very least, that was what the Iron Boulder Brigade and the guards at the city’s gate believed.
On top of that, they were under the impression that Vandalieu was leaving the majority of the fighting to Fang. They would never imagine that he would participate in battles himself with magic or weapons.
And then there were today’s results. They were likely surprised that Fang had defeated so many monsters that were of the same strength as himself, but at the same time, perhaps they would feel some apprehension.
Fang gave a short bark of understanding.
“I see,” said Vandalieu with a nod. “From an outsider’s perspective, it looks like I’m getting carried away and conducting dangerous hunts. You’re right in saying that leaving all of the fighting to just Fang would be worrying, even if he is a Rank 3 Black Dog.”
There was no guarantee that monsters would always appear in groups one after the other, in small enough numbers. In fact, it would be more likely for multiple groups of monsters to appear at once, and some of them would attack the (seemingly) defenseless Vandalieu while Fang was fighting off others.
Perhaps Rock and Kest would imagine such terrible scenarios. Kest was just a rookie guard, so even if he imagined these scenarios and worried about the danger, he would simply warn Vandalieu more and more. But Rock and his party were adventurers that hunted in the same Devil’s Nest.
Perhaps they would ask to hunt together. Vandalieu might appreciate the sentiment, but… it would be very inconvenient.
“Yes… and Mom still has her sermon… She will probably be asked to give more sermons from time to time from now on as well, so we can’t always be hunting together,” said Vandalieu.
Darcia was busy today with her preparations for her sermon at the Communal Church tomorrow; it was likely that she only intended to give one sermon. But Vandalieu was certain that she would be asked to give more, because he was a mother-con who knew how attractive his mother was.
Fang barked a few times.
“Rita and Saria? Those two… I don’t know if people will believe that I’ve tamed Undead at this point,” Vandalieu replied. “But Eleanora and the others are in the criminal organization so I can’t have them act, and having Miles give us some bodyguards or recruiting companions at the Adventurers’ Guild would be pointless, since it would be just as inconvenient for us to hunt with them as hunting with Rock’s party… so I guess there’s no other choice but to ask Rita and Saria.”
Deciding that there was no choice but to somehow convince Kest and the rest of the guards that Rita and Saria were humans, Vandalieu began thinking about how to do that.
Gufadgarn opened another hole in space. “No, I believe we merely need the numbers to make it seem like we have a powerful party, rather than actually having a powerful party. So why not insist that you have tamed these during your hunts? They also happen to be monsters that appear in this Devil’s Nest,” she said. “Now then, show yourselves before our lord, my brethren.”
From inside the hole, three monsters emerged, summoned by the evil god of labyrinths!
Having returned to the city of Morksi, Vandalieu explained his situation at the gate, purchased three additional collars from the Tamers’ Guild and completed his restocking for tonight.
Accompanied by Darcia, Fang and the others, he visited the orphanage in the slums to make a donation and comfort the orphans.
Vandalieu’s group approached the gate to the orphanage.
“Hey everyone, the meat is here!” one of the orphans said in a lively voice as he spotted them.
The orphans, who had been spending their early afternoon in the garden, immediately rushed towards them. Vandalieu had donated the unused meat from yesterday, so the orphans remembered him well.
The boy with the lively voice, leading all the other orphans, was Matthew – the one who had previously attempted to steal from the food cart and been stopped by Fang.
“Matthew! Make sure to call him ‘Vandalieu-san!’” said a nun, scolding the boy, then turned to apologize to Vandalieu and Darcia. “I’m so terribly sorry. My shortcomings have caused him to develop insufficient manners…”
“It’s alright, Seris-san. Being lively is the most important thing for children,” said Darcia. “Vandalieu was just a little surprised… weren’t you, Vandalieu?”
The nun was Sister Seris, the one who had come to pick Matthew up from the food cart.
“Well, I would appreciate it if he called me by my name,” said Vandalieu.
“I’m sorry. But that’s how we are, right?” said Matthew, clapping Vandalieu on the shoulder.
“… Huh?” said Vandalieu.
“What are you saying, we’re friends, aren’t we!” said Matthew, still grinning broadly.
‘Friends.’ This word reverberated inside Vandalieu’s mind. Yes, ‘friends.’ Not an older friend like Kasim and the others, but a friend of his own age.
“Yes, we are friends,” said Vandalieu.
“Yeah, of course!” said Matthew, putting his hand on Vandalieu’s shoulder once more.
He was getting rather carried away considering that he had initially tried to rob Vandalieu, but… at this moment in time, Vandalieu strongly considered him to be a ‘friend.’
“Children make friends quickly, don’t they?” said Darcia, beaming.
“I-is that so? Vandalieu-san’s expression isn’t changing and the tone of his voice is still flat… Isn’t he hating this?” asked Seris.
“That’s not true. Vandalieu just isn’t very good at expressing his thoughts in his expression and his voice,” Darcia assured her. “Look, they’re having so much fun.”
Seris looked back at Vandalieu to see that… Matthew and the other orphans were cheering at Vandalieu for him to show them his claws.
“H-huh… A-are they?” said Seris, looking uncertain.
It looked like bullying to her, but perhaps Darcia knew how her son was feeling inside because she was his mother. Seris had thought of herself as the children’s older sister, but she realized that she still had a long way to go.
“Wow, they’re longer than I thought,” said one of the orphans.
“Can they cut through anything?” asked another.
“Yes, I can peel fruit very easily, like this,” said Vandalieu, demonstrating.
“Oooooh!” the children exclaimed in awe.
“Cutting the shell of hard fruit and scooping out the flesh inside is simple as well,” said Vandalieu, demonstrating further, as if he were showing a product on a shopping program.
“OOOOOH!” the children exclaimed, even louder than before.
Vandalieu didn’t feel that he was being bullied.
“Hey, where did those fruit even come from?!” one of the orphans asked.
“They were hidden in my sleeve,” Vandalieu replied.
He had actually grown the fruit with the effects of the ‘Tree Caster’ Job mere moments ago.
“Wow, can I eat this?” the orphan holding the fruit asked.
“Go ahead,” said Vandalieu.
“Wait, you’re a girl?!” asked Matthew in surprise.
“I’m an Onii-chan. I’m a boy, Matthew,” Vandalieu told him.
Despite having started to slowly develop secondary sexual characteristics, Vandalieu’s voice was still high, and he had no facial hair whatsoever. It seemed that the orphans had been unable to determine his gender.
“Onii-chan, did you kill the monsters with those claws?” another one of the orphans asked.
“No, Fang here is the one who mainly took care of them,” Vandalieu replied.
The Black Dog Fang was introduced to the orphans.
“He looks strong!” the children said.
Fang, who disliked humans, didn’t give much of a reaction. But he stayed calm and sitting, still suppressing his aura, and none of the children became annoyed by this.
“Then what about these huge rats over there?” asked Matthew, pointing at three very large rats that were about the same size as Fang, who was a large dog.
One of the rats gave a squeak.
They were Great Giant Rats, each of a different color – white, black and gray. They had round eyes, whiskers that acted like feelers, and long, thin tails. All three of them looked exactly like rats, except for their size.
“That’s Maroru, Urumi and Suruga. They’re the Great Giant Rats that I found and tamed on the way home today,” said Vandalieu.
These were the Rank 2 monsters that Gufadgarn had recommended.
Of course, it wasn’t Gufadgarn who had caught and tamed them. All three of them were originally animals who had been born from Vandalieu and Luciliano’s experiments involving living animals mating with Undead, then transformed into monsters after drinking Blood Potion.
“Stand in line,” Vandalieu ordered.
Perhaps because the Great Giant Rats had been born from experiments involving the breeding of Undead and transformed into monsters by Blood Potion, they were firmly loyal to Vandalieu. On top of that, their appearance was exactly the same as ordinary Great Giant Rats; there was no way to tell that they had been born in unusual circumstances.
And although Great Giant Rats were not as common as Goblins, they were still very common. Since Vandalieu had the precedent of having tamed Fang, there was nobody who could refute his claims of having encountered and tamed them by chance.
Even Bachem, the Guild Master of the Tamers’ Guild, hadn’t shown any signs of suspicion.
“Can we pet them?” one of the orphans asked.
“Yes, as long as you aren’t too rough. Make sure not to pull on their whiskers or their tails,” said Vandalieu.
The children began petting the quiet Great Giant Rats. They had grown up in an orphanage, so they were used to being around rats, but it seemed that they were very curious and interested about these enormous rats that would be taller than themselves if they were to stand on their hind legs.
The Great Giant Rats squeaked and showed off their cute side to the children, rubbing their smooth fur against them.
In other words, they were putting on a show.
“So cute!” one of the children said.
“Hey, didn’t these guys sound deeper when they squeaked earlier?” said Matthew, who was one of the older children, realizing that the lovable enormous rats were being sly.
But the rest of the children were obsessed with the three rat sisters.
Maroru and Urumi began letting the children ride on their backs, and the youngest of the rats, Suruga, went over to Fang and began slapping her tail against him.
Fang let out a surprised bark. Suruga gave him a series of squeaks. Fang protested a little more, but he gave in and let out some soft, never-heard-before barks as he approached the children.
It seemed that Suruga had told him, “We’re doing our best to show off our charm and win over these young humans, but you’re not doing anything even though you’re our senior?! You call yourself a male, curling up like that?!”
Fang, who was above Suruga in Rank but lost when it came to appeal, reluctantly went to interact with the children.
“Hey, did you see that?!” said Matthew, turning to Vandalieu.
But for some reason, Vandalieu was doing push-ups with three young children sitting on his back.
“What is it?” Vandalieu asked.
It seemed that he wanted to show off the strength of a Dhampir.
“Wow, you’re so strong even though your arms are so thin,” said Matthew. “You’d be fine even if Seris-neechan got on your back, right? Even though she probably weighs about ten times as much as you.”
“Matthew, what are you saying?! There’s no way I’m that heavy!” Seris protested.
“But I guess it’s impossible after all, since Nee-chan’s gotten fatter these days,” Matthew continued. “Ah, but I think you’d be fine with Vestra-neechan on top of you, since she’s thinner than Seris-neechan –”
Seris and another nun of around the same age, with slanted eyes and a strict-looking face, quietly walked behind Matthew and took a hold of his cheeks.
“Matthew, if you have the time to be saying silly things and saying mean things about Seris, you can help us carry the meat to the food storage,” said the nun named Vestra in a considerably blunter tone than Seris’s. “Seris, don’t get upset over every thing he says. You need to scold him.”
“Vestra… Thanks,” said Seris. “I know what I need to do, but…”
“Come on, Vestra-neechan! Even you were screeching when Rudo-niichan made fun of you in the past!” said Matthew.
“The past is the past, and the present is the present! Go and help!” said Vestra sternly.
“Okay then. Let’s go,” Matthew said to Vandalieu.
“Yes, let’s get it done and out of the way,” said Vandalieu as he began carrying the food with Matthew.
“Eh? Vandalieu-san, you don’t have to,” said Vestra, hastily trying to stop him.
“She’s right! You’ve made donations two days in a row now; we can’t thank you enough as it is!” Seris protested.
But Vandalieu diligently pushed the cart that was loaded with dried meat he had made quickly with magic and furs that could be used as blankets.
“I’m strong, so don’t worry about it,” he said. “And you don’t have to add ‘-san’ to my name; both of you are older than me, aren’t you?”
“No, you’re running a food cart… and you’re an amazing Tamer,” said Vestra.
“Yes. In fact, you’ve got it together better than us,” said Seris.
The two nuns began helping him push the cart. It seemed that they thought highly of Vandalieu having a temporary registration at the Commerce Guild and being a Tamer, rather than thinking about his age.
“I guess boys have to work, after all,” Matthew sighed. “Hey, Vandalieu, teach me some taming tricks or how to fight!”
“My taming is self-taught so I’m not very confident in it, but I can teach you how to fight,” said Vandalieu.
“Matthew, don’t cause any more trouble for Vandalieu-san… Wait, you’re okay with it?” said Seris.
As Vandalieu and the others headed towards the food storage, Darcia was talking to the head of the orphanage. Other than having an eye-patch over her left eye and being very thin, the head of the orphanage seemed to be a gentle, elegant woman.
“I see, so this is Vida’s…” said Darcia.
“That’s right. When this city was still developing, and the slums had begun to grow larger as if it were the city’s shadow, the first head of this orphanage built this building with his own private funds. ‘This is the place that needs the most love,’ he said. This building has a history to it, if nothing else,” said the head of the orphanage, smiling and pointing at the orphanage that had signs of having been repaired here and there. “I don’t think it can be called much of a history when talking to a Dark Elf, however,” she added.
“No, I’m quite young.”
“Is that so? You have such a dependable son, so I thought… I would certainly like to hear about how you educate your child.”
“Oh no, I don’t do anything special. I’ve caused nothing but hardship for my son.”
Darcia suddenly thought back to the days that she had spent with Vandalieu… and felt a little depressed at all the trouble that she had caused him.
But this wasn’t the time to be feeling depressed. This conversation was not just to build a good relationship with the orphanage’s head, but also to gather information, so she pulled herself together.
“More importantly, you don’t seem to have a good relationship with the priest of the Communal Church and the lord of the region,” Darcia said.
The head of the orphanage seemed to not notice Darcia’s inner thoughts.
“I suppose you can tell. The first head of this orphanage was a Vida fundamentalist, while the priest of the Communal Church is a member of Alda’s peaceful faction,” she said. “In the past, the entirety of the Alcrem Duchy was not a good place for Vida’s races to live in, and this orphanage took in Beast-kin and Titan orphans, so there weren’t good relations back then.”
About three hundred years ago, there was a tragedy in which the daughter of the Alcrem Duchy’s duke lost her life to a bandit attack. The attack on the troop of caravans that she was with resulted from information that was leaked by a Beast-kin knight, and around half of the attacking bandits were members of Vida’s races such as Beast-kin and Titans.
The duke, who loved his daughter dearly, did everything in his power to hunt bandits. At the same time, he exiled members of Vida’s races from public positions such as knights, guards and civil officials. He left a will to his descendants that members of Vida’s races must not ever hold public positions.
Unfortunately, the duke had served as king of the nation for two terms, and was a righteous and beloved figure who had made the Alcrem Duchy prosper. Many of the exiled members of Vida’s races did not resist, believing that he would come to his senses one day.
The next duke maintained his father’s policy out of the sadness he felt from losing his older sister.
This policy had been continued until recently. Under the policy’s influence, Vida’s religion had grown less influential, with more of the Communal Church’s priests favoring Alda’s followers over the generations, causing the orphanage to become estranged from the Church.
“As you can see, we have Beast-kin and Titan children here too,” said the head of the orphanage. “But that is because we have received support, albeit secretly, from the lord of the region over several generations. Though I do believe that it was for political reasons rather than out of compassion…”
“You’re probably right,” Darcia agreed as she watched Fang and the rats play with the Beast-kin and Titan orphans.
If Vida’s races were completely persecuted, there was a risk that they would unite and form a rebellion, and it would have also been problematic if they turned to crime because they could not afford to eat.
But since the duke would not change the policy against Vida’s races, it was hard to support the orphanage openly. That was likely why the lords of the region in the past had done so in secret.
“But then, wouldn’t it be possible to repair the relationship?”
The entirety of the Alcrem Duchy now allowed members of Vida’s races to take up public positions. The wolf-type Beast-kin Kest serving as a guard was one example of that.
But the head of the orphanage slowly shook her head. “It does not go very well. Even if the system changes, people’s hearts… We have had some disputes with Alda’s priest at the Communal Church.”
“I see, that’s –” Darcia began.
Unfortunate for the children, but convenient for us, she thought, finishing her sentence in her head.
Darcia and Vandalieu were against Alda’s peaceful faction… or rather, against all of Alda’s forces. It was important for children to have ordinary lives without starving, but it would be strange if Vandalieu gained friends who were followers of Vida with good ties to Alda’s peaceful faction as a result of his support of the orphanage.
In other words, I need to maintain the Vida fundamentalism in this orphanage, and pull the followers of Vida at the Communal Church towards us. I have to do my best at the sermon tomorrow! Darcia thought to herself.
“Is something the matter?” the head of the orphanage asked.
“No, it’s nothing,” Darcia replied with a smile.
That evening, while Vandalieu was making preparations to open the grilled skewer cart tomorrow, an incident occurred.
The owners of the food carts on the same street gathered in front of Vandalieu’s food cart. There was an unusual air about them, so Fang revealed himself from the food cart’s shadow, and the Great Giant Rats were alert as well.
“Umm, is something the matter…?” a bewildered Darcia asked the food cart owners.
“Please, spare us!” one of the food cart owners said.
“I’m begging you, please stop!” said another.
The food cart owners bowed their heads, making Darcia even more confused.
“The skewers at your food cart are delicious and too cheap! And the meat you used today was even bigger than yesterday. Don’t tell me you were using boar… Orc meat or Huge Boar meat!”
“If you sell stuff like that at the same price, nobody will even take a second look at our meatball soup that has Goblin and Kobold ears in it, or our sandwiches with vegetable and meat scraps!”
“We procure the meat ourselves so we don’t pay anything for it, and we do all of the butchering as well,” said Vandalieu, still continuing to cook his skewers. “That’s brought our prices down, and you’re feeling threatened as a result?”
If even the poor residents of the slums could acquire delicious food for the same price, they would certainly choose the delicious option. And Vandalieu’s skewers weren’t just cheap; each skewer had a large quantity of meat.
And as one of the food cart owners had guessed, today’s skewers had been made with the meat of the Orcs and other Rank 3 monsters that Fang had defeated. This was meat of a quality that would have been better suited for sale at a food cart on the main street near the entrance to the city or in a proper restaurant, not in a back alley that connected the slums to the red-light district.
What the food cart owners said was correct. There was no way that their products, which relied on their quantity and cheap price to make up for their terrible flavor, could compete.
“Yeah, that’s right! I’m sure you’re thinking that we should just set up business somewhere else, right?!”
“You guys can only do business here because you’re on a temporary registration, but the rules of the Commerce Guild let us set up business anywhere, after all!”
“But the reality is that you don’t have anywhere to go. Your current products won’t sell on the main street, and the other food cart owners might chase you out because your food carts aren’t a good look. But if you move deeper into the slums, you won’t get as many sales, so you can’t make a living,” said Darcia.
“Th-that’s right! You guys probably think that we should just work harder to sell better food rather than the crap we’re making now, or buy new food carts to set up new businesses on the main street, or find some other job, aren’t you?!” the angry food cart owner shouted.
“But if you could do that, you’d have already done it. It seems like you all have your own circumstances, too… Maybe you can’t do manual labor because you injured yourself when you were a mercenary or adventurer, or you can’t get any jobs because you don’t have an education or because you have a criminal record,” said Vandalieu. “You barely even get by from day to day, so you don’t have the funds to buy ordinary ingredients or new food carts.”
“How the hell do you know all of that?!”
The food cart owners whose circumstances matched Vandalieu’s guesses broke into tears. The rest of them were all wearing exhausted, miserable expressions.
… Even Fang, who had been wary of the food cart owners at the beginning, was now looking at them with a pitiful expression.
Incidentally, Vandalieu and Darcia knew of the food cart owners’ circumstances because their advisor Chipuras had told them that something like this might happen if they sold their skewers at too cheap a price.
He had infiltrated human society as a Deputy Guild Master of the Commerce Guild and as a counsellor; one of his jobs had been to extend a helping hand to those who had stumbled in life, ensure that they had nobody to turn to other than him, and utilize them for various purposes.
Thus, he could easily guess the circumstances of such people.
“So, you know why we’re asking this of you, right?” one of the food cart owners said.
“I’ve been courted by the ‘Starving Wolf’ Michael, so you can’t do anything rash,” said Darcia. “I’m sorry. We didn’t intend to drive you people into a corner, but…”
“It’s fine… Unlike the guy before him, Michael-san is a good guy.”
“He only asks for space rent once a month, and he settles disputes properly.”
“His subordinates make sure to pay for their food, too.”
It seemed that the ‘Starving Wolf’ Michael, or rather Miles, was respected by the inhabitants of the slums.
“But since you understand our situation, we beg you. Putting the matter of the ‘Starving Wolf’ aside, your son is a talented Tamer who can tame monsters, isn’t he!”
“I know you’re on a temporary registration, but even if that doesn’t work out, you can make a fine living by becoming an adventurer and hunting. If our businesses fail, we’ll end up dying on the streets!”
“I thought you’d say that, so I’ve prepared another option for you,” said Vandalieu, pointing at the large stone vase that was on his cart.
“I will teach you how to make a new product, so will you become a part of our chain… our affiliated stores? I just need you to mark your carts with Vida’s holy symbol,” Vandalieu told the bewildered food cart owners.
This was the point where Vandalieu’s encroachment upon the inhabitants of the city of Morksi began to become visibly apparent.
Name: (Maroru, Urumi, Suruga)
Race: Great Giant Rat
Status Effect Resistance: Level 1
Enhanced Body Part (Front Fangs, Fur, Tail): Level 1
Enhanced Agility: Level 1
Rapid Healing: Level 2
Enhanced Attribute Values: Creator: Level 2
Self-Enhancement: Guidance: Level 2
Surpass Limits: Level 1
Whip Technique: Level 1
Armor Technique: Level 1
ヴァン■■■’s Divine Protection [Van]
These are the three sister rats who were born from breeding experiments between Undead and living animals, mutated through Blood Potion, then increased their Rank.
Their appearance is that of ordinary Great Giant Rats, but they acquired a variety of Skills around the time their Rank increased.
During battle, they use ‘Armor Technique’ martial skills – ‘Stone Form’ to increase their defense and ‘Rapid Reaction’ to increase their reaction speed. They move quickly and use their tails like whips, and enemies who slip past their tails and get close are met with their front fangs.
Of course, ordinary Great Giant Rats do not possess the ‘Status Effect Resistance’ and ‘Rapid Healing’ Skills.
They are also far more intelligent than ordinary Great Giant Rats, and they worship Vandalieu as their creator.
Race: Black Dog
Dark Vision (Transformed from Night Vision!)
Superhuman Strength: Level 2 (LEVEL UP!)
Detect Presence: Level 2 (LEVEL UP!)
Intuition: Level 1
Self-enhancement: Guidance: Level 1
Enhanced Body Part (Fangs, Claws): Level 1 (NEW!)
Mental Resistance: Level 1 (NEW!)
Silent Steps: Level 2 (LEVEL UP!)
Aura of Darkness: Level 1 (NEW!)
Scream: Level 1 (NEW!)
ヴァ■■■■’s Divine Protection [Va]