With the Bolseyer out of the way, Absolute Helix’s main activities switched back to leveling themselves up while updating their layer progress. Back in his room in the Clan House, Tsutomu looked through the documents he had compiled. He had already thought up an efficient leveling routine for the Volcano layers, so all he had to do was to make some final confirmations before putting it into action tomorrow.
In game terms, leveling routines basically involved hunting experience-efficient monsters. Still, while it technically was the best way, it would not in fact be the most efficient method unless one was comfortable with labor-intensive activities.
Daryl and Hannah were sure to be fine, what with the former having the perseverance to undergo Garm’s strict training, and the latter doing just fine with Ealdred Crow’s leveling routines. Amira and Diniel, however, did not exactly seem able to hunt monsters for extended periods of time.
If Amira were to be classified as a Live Dungeon player, she would be closest to the average high school student audience. A few among them were dedicated, of course, but from Tsutomu’s experience, most of them tended to favor short-term enjoyment from gameplay. Amira’s tendency had been especially apparent when she had charged so eagerly at the Bolseyer. Then again, she had been keeping up with her daily <<Dragon Form>> and <<Fly>> training, so at least a decent degree of dedication could be expected from her.
Diniel was unique, so to speak, but still closest to a stay-at-home parent — the type to enjoy a game for its social interaction features rather than gameplay, and would quit out of boredom if unable to maintain casual conversations. For her case, ‘casual conversations’ would be replaced with ‘lazing around’.
Seeing that Amira wanted to have fun, and Diniel wanted to laze around, forcing them to level up the tedious-but-efficient way would end up being inefficient, as he had observed such cases from various other Clans. As such, he had to think up routines that would cater to their personalities.
Back in Live Dungeon, Tsutomu could be considered a pioneer of leveling methods, having experimented with various routines such as simple ones that even beginners could enjoy, ones that were tempting to even higher-leveled players thanks to good loot rates, and ones that were not the most efficient but left plenty of breathing room for chatting.
Here, however, no one was sitting in front of their screens and tapping on their keyboards — and as such, directly applying Tsutomu’s old knowledge would never work out well. To ensure maximum efficiency for Absolute Helix, he also had to consider the Volcano’s high temperature, the time it would take to fight the experience-efficient monsters, and various other factors.
For Amira, Tsutomu decided to customize the routine to include more monsters that she could fight without using <<Dragon Form>> too much, and fewer monsters that were stronger and yield more experience — against which she would be allowed to transform. Doing this should at least prevent her from growing bored of fighting the same monsters over and over again. Going back to hunt the earlier layer bosses once in a while was an option worth considering, too.
And for Diniel, regular break times were an absolute must. On paper, the team would have to take breaks and have dinner within the Dungeon for maximum efficiency — but that would dampen Diniel’s motivation the most, so letting her rest up properly would actually be better.
Additionally, using tools to stave off the Volcano layers’ heat could help to make the grind more comfortable — which would incur a great increase in expenditures. And as such, they would need Ollie’s permission. Inferno Magic Stones and other Volcano materials were still going for high prices, so the team could expect to turn a good profit, but it was surely better to discuss such matters with her first.
And so, Tsutomu made some estimates, noting them down on paper and going to Ollie for advice. She was currently going through the materials obtained from today’s Dungeon exploration as well as sorting the equipment used, so Tsutomu called out to her and handed over the paper.
“Miss Ollie, I’d like to discuss the equipment we’ll be using for the coming week’s Dungeon exploration. Is now a good time?”
“Yes, of course.”
Ollie put down her pen. Tsutomu sat at the opposite side of the table and proceeded to show her the estimates for tomorrow onward — particularly the additional equipment expected to be used, and the different kinds of materials expected to be obtained.
“Starting tomorrow, we’ll be training to gain some levels before attempting layer seventy. I’ve listed out the consumable tools I think we’ll be using on that sheet.”
“Understood… Hmm, I see.”
Taking the sheet from Tsutomu, Ollie calmly scanned through the details. She was the one currently managing most of the Clan’s materials, deciding what to keep and what to sell off, and also keeping the supplies topped up. She was sure to know the current market values of items and fix up Tsutomu’s estimates accordingly.
“My amount and price calculations might be off, so please do point them out if there’s any.”
“Actually, they all seem just about right, as far as I can see. I’ll have tomorrow’s portion of supplies ready.”
“Thank you. If nothing goes wrong, we’ll be sticking to this general routine for some time.”
Ollie cracked a somehow calming smile and bowed. Tsutomu bowed to her as well, and then spoke up again as if he had just recalled another thing,
“Oh, I’d also like to talk about where to cash in the Magic Stones…”
Ollie, after being told of the Dwarf girl’s Magic Stone Exchange, took a long moment to think things over. In the end, she decided that she would pay the place a visit tomorrow. Tsutomu awkwardly raised an eyebrow — particularly due to the ‘tomorrow’ part.
“Um, Miss Ollie? Isn’t tomorrow your day off?”
“Yes, it is. Why?”
“Now this is another thing I’ve been meaning to say… you should actually take time off.”
Just like all the Clan members, Ollie had two days off per week, during which housework would instead be handled by a hire-by-the-day worker, and the supplies management by Tsutomu himself. Despite that, Ollie would often show up unprompted to do housework and accounting anyway.
Hearing Tsutomu’s words of concern, Ollie raised an eyebrow and tilted her head, unsure as to how she wanted to reply.
“As strange as it sounds, I don’t know what other things to do. I’ve been doing nothing but work all this time, you see.”
“Ah… Well, how about we go somewhere when we’re all free? The whole Clan, together.”
Hearing the suggestion, Ollie went silent, her expression, unreadable. Just as Tsutomu thought he had pried into her business too much, Ollie smiled as if to smooth over the awkwardness.
“Thank you. I would very much love to.”
“Ah… if you don’t want to, you can just refuse, all right? I didn’t mean to force you or anything.”
“Oh, no, I was just surprised — because I’m not used to being invited, you see.”
Tsutomu nodded, relieved to see that Ollie was not faking her smile.
“All right. I’ll be sure to ask everyone about their plans later.”
The next day, Absolute Helix started their leveling routine. From noon, they went down to layer sixty-six and hunted mainly the experience-efficient monsters, leaving the Dungeon and taking proper breaks at regular intervals to help things feel less tedious.
Tsutomu’s game knowledge helped to some extent with navigating the terrain, and Diniel’s scouting skills were relied upon to determine where the team would hunt. The main things she was to search for were locations in which many monsters gathered, rare monsters hidden in walls that granted a ridiculous amount of experience called Golden Bombs, and the high experience-yielding regular monsters called Salamantulas.
The current party setup meant they were primarily physical attackers, and as such ineffective against Golem-type monsters and most effective against squishy monster types such as bugs. The bug-type monsters and the like had no resistance against everyone’s attacks except Tsutomu’s, so the team had a relatively easy time killing them to gain experience.
After an hour of that, the team went back to fight a Bolseyer, breaking the monotony to satisfy Amira. Then they continued their leveling, letting Amira use her <<Dragon Form>> against the Salamantulas.
The Black Gate down to layer sixty-seven was found in the evening, so the team returned to the Guild and took a break. Diniel was not one to often speak out her feelings, so Tsutomu knew to give her regular breaks despite her not demanding them out loud.
After spending an hour and a half resting and having dinner, the party teleported down to layer sixty-seven. They continued their training, while also spending some downtime to mine for ores and gather materials. It was during this step that they had a chance of finding the elusive Golden Bomb, so they had to keep their eyes peeled at all times.
“Hey there, Tsutomu!”
At one point while Tsutomu and his team were mining, someone suddenly called out to them — then they instantly recognized the person as Leon due to his characteristic golden fur. Tsutomu put down his pickaxe and looked at Leon. He saw that the latter was smiling… in a way that suggested some ulterior motive.
“Hello, Leon. I didn’t know that you were here, too.”
“Small Dungeon, eh? Lemme just get to the asking — How about we explore together? We’re down to layer sixty-nine now, so y’all can just take the Black Gates whenever we find one.”
“Ah, that would be helpful.”
The Dungeon’s Black Gates, once passed through by one party, would teleport randomly to a different location. In the case of multiple parties exploring the same layer at once, progressing downward was sure to become a first-come, first-served race, so cooperation in this manner was quite a rare occasion.
Since Golden Tune had already progressed past the current layer, however, they could just resume their exploration from the Guild without needing to touch the Black Gate here. Taking Leon’s proposal into consideration, Tsutomu asked his Clan members what they wanted to do, and no one seemed particularly against it.
As for Tsutomu himself, he did not consider this cooperation to be a bad thing, either. Although their leveling efficiency would be somewhat lower for a while, getting to observe closely another party in action was sure to serve as good motivation — especially for Amira and Diniel, who had not been watching the Monitors all that much.
Tsutomu also felt the need to help Golden Tune out in some way, what with him practically poaching Diniel from their ranks. As such, he agreed to Leon’s proposal, putting away his mining tools and following the wolfman.
Golden Tune’s main party consisted of Leon, Eunice, Barbara, and two other women, one an Attacker and the other a Tank — a suspiciously similar lineup to Absolute Helix’s. Eunice could be seen rocking a new wardrobe, now wearing a pure white robe tailored to her small stature and large fox ears and tail. Her equipment loadout was almost the same as Tsutomu’s.
Barbara, being a Heavy Knight and large in stature just like Daryl, also had a similar but not entirely the same equipment loadout — heavy armour with added functions for improved cooling, a large shield, and a spear. Upon seeing Leon bring the Absolute Helix crew along, she took off her helmet. Her perfectly rounded bear ears popped right up after being squished down by her helmet for so long.
“They agreed to go exploring with us!” Leon said, and Tsutomu promptly greeted,
“Ohh! Thanks a bunch, Tsutomu!”
“…Hmph. You really don’t have to, you know.”
Barbara brightened up and bowed to Tsutomu, while Eunice arrogantly folded her arms. Seeing that the two had not changed at all, Tsutomu chuckled and proceeded to greet the two others as well.
“Is it all right if we leave all the planning to Golden Tune?”
“Oh, sure thing. I see some monsters over there, so let’s go check them out.”
Leon, with the help of <<Haste>> and his unique skill boosting his AGI rating up to S, was sure to be the best option for scouting. Leaving things to him was sure to not drop the team’s leveling efficiency too much. And so, after the two Clans’ members got to spend a few moments chatting with one another, they began their joint exploration.