I use 'Scout’ to search the area for a place I can enter from.
As predicted, there was a student standing guard at the receiving dock for the supplies.
Just one person huh… If I surprised him, I might be able to get through, but there was nothing wrong with being careful either.
I looked for a different entrance to get inside and found a window that seemed like it would fit that purpose.
It was locked shut, but that was no problem.
Momo appeared from the 'Shadows.'
Momo's shadow slipped through the crack in the window and opened the lock from the other side.
As long as there was the slightest 'Crack,’ then the 'Shadow’ would be able to pass through it.
It really was a useful skill to have.
I wanted to give her lots of pets as a reward, but I restrained myself.
I lightly pat her as if placing my hand on her head, then send her into the shadows, as I enter through the window.
'Scout' had already ensured to me that there was no one on the other side of the window.
It was dark inside, but I had 'Night Vision’ on, and so I could see just fine.
Was this…a restroom for employees?
There was a table and fold-up chairs set around here, there were even lockers along the walls to put your belongings in.
"It seems like someone was here until recently…"
There were a plastic bottle and half-eaten boxes of calorie mate on the table.
Whoever it was, they might return. I needed to hurry.
I went out into the hallway. It was crowded with cardboard boxes and products that hadn’t been put out on the store shelves yet.
Since it was quite dark here, it would not be hard to hide if the need arose.
The fluorescent light in the room was off.
So electricity didn't work here either then…
I had thought that a hardware store like this might have had a generator or solar panels, but I suppose not?
But, I wonder why? My own apartment was like that, but was there a reason that only electricity seemed to be unusable?
There were small lights illuminating the dark hallway.
They were stationary flashlights that were set at equal distances apart.
"It looks like there are quite a lot of people after all…"
I detected over ten people alone, within my current range for 'Scout.'
Someone was headed towards me.
I hurriedly used 'Conceal' and 'Presence Block' and hid in the shadows of the products.
The people who came were students.
It was the leader-like person named Nishino and a quiet-looking student who wore glasses.
Neither of them noticed me as they entered the resting room.
I made sure that they were well out of sight before I moved.
The entrance had been left wide open, so I made my way to the selling area.
This area was very wide and dark inside.
I just needed to know the placement of the products and who was where.
The combo of 'Scout’, 'Presence Block’, 'Silent Traversal’ and 'Night Vision’ really worked best in these kinds of situations.
Momo was also lying in the 'Shadow' and so no one would see her.
I moved slowly, making a mental image of the number of people and the placement of sold goods.
As a result, I was able to determine that there were twenty-two people in this home center.
Ten students and twelve refugees.
All the refugees were gathered in one spot in the selling area.
And as if surrounding them, three students brandished weapons and monitored them.
The refugees had expressions filled with exhaustion as they slumped on the floor, in their hands, they gripped plastic bottles and food rations. Apparently, the students had given it to them.
Hmm? One of the refugees had stood up and was walking towards the students.
Ah, I'm pretty sure it was the old man who had bowed with his head touching the floor at the entrance.
"Hey, hey, could you give me one more? My bottle is empty…"
"No. We already told you that everyone gets one bottle each."
"Bu-but, I haven't eaten anything since this morning…! Please, have mercy and give me just one more bottle! I'm desperate. Help an old man out. Won't you?"
Hey, now. How shameless can you get…
Even the other students were glaring at the old man with expressions that said, 'What is this guy even saying?'
"Tsk, I'll go and ask Nishino. You stay here and don't move a muscle."
The boy spat loudly and walked away.
I had presumed that he would have lost his cool, but it looks like he was able to control himself.
Ahh, seemed like a tough job…
It was doubtful that the other two would move from their stations.
Now, I was finished counting the numbers and confirming positions.
I would be able to store the supplies later, so I might as well gather information first.
I was using the 'Listening’ skill to hear the conversation between the old men, but it was unlikely to give me anything important. All they were mumbling were things like, 'We just need to wait until the self-defense force show up.' Or 'This is just a dream, it must be.’
Clearly, if I was going to spy on any one, it should be the students.
I made my way back towards the resting room and hid against one of the walls.
There were a lot of boxes and products here which made it perfect for hiding.
I put my ear against the wall and activated the 'Listening' skill.
The 'Scout’ skill had already alerted me that there were three people inside.
Well then, I wonder what they were talking about.
"—-Was it really a good idea to take all of them in?"
"Ex-exactly. We are barely making it by ourselves. If we start bringing other people in now…"
These voices, I think it was that punk-like kid from earlier and the quiet one with glasses.
Okay, I'll call them Punk and Glasses from now on.
It seemed that the two of them were against bringing in the refugees.
Well, it was nothing surprising. They would only get in their way.
"…Indeed. But the reality is that we are also lacking in personnel. Shibata, did they believe all the stuff about levels and skills?"
"Well, I did give them a demonstration. But they weren't entirely convinced either. To be frank…even we didn’t really believe it until we started gaining levels like we do now. Also…"
“Uh…there are some who resist the idea of killing monsters. These guys, they haven’t done anything themselves, but they have a lot of one-sided demands…fuck!”
It seemed that the last incident had quite the effect on him.
Punk boy slammed a fist to the wall.
"Exactly. Th-that food, we risked our own lives to retrieve it from the supermarket…!"
Glasses boy muttered in agreement.
"…I understand how the two of you feel, but you must bear with it for now. Once they have increased their levels, it will become much easier to acquire food and to scout out other territories."
"But will they obediently do as we order?"
"It shouldn't be a problem. You know my 'skill' right? Also…in the worst case scenario, these guys are 'disposable.' If any monsters appear that we can't handle, then they can act as bait which will give us plenty of time to escape. Didn't I say this before?"
Woah, Nishino. His face was so calm, but clearly, the most heartless things were in his head.
Well, perhaps you needed to be that calculating in order to survive.
He was also very confident, it seemed. I wonder what kind of jobs or skills he had?
It made me wonder.
“But more importantly, now that we’ve accepted them, it is important to increase our food supplies in a hurry. Once the two who are gone come back, we will have to rethink the rotation.”
"In any case, let's prioritize the acquisition of food. Fortunately, if we go to the nearby supermarket, there should still be some preserved food—"
"It's, it's terrible!"
The door swung open and a single student stormed in.
Well, I had already detected him with 'Scout' anyway.
"What is it? What happened?"
Nishino did not appear to be in the least bit surprised at the sudden intrusion.
"Hah, ahh…just, just now…the guys who were out returned…hahhh, ahh…! I can't believe it! It's not possible, this can't…!"
"Calm down, what happened, exactly!"
What could it be?
Could a powerful monster like a high orc have appeared?
However, the answer that came from his mouth was not at all what I had expected.
"The, the inside of the drugstore had been emptied… And it's not only that. All the supermarkets and convenient stores around here have been wiped of food and supplies, completely…!"
"…What, what did you say!?"
All three raised their voices in shock upon hearing this report.
…What? Could it be, that the culprit behind it all, was me?