Two days after the publication of Solit Company’s apology article, Tsutomu paid a visit to the Silver Beast’s Clan House along with Camille and Garm. Despite being located quite far from the Guild, and thus having poor location convenience, their plot of land was quite large, and the Clan House itself was a sizable three-story building.
Mere moments after Tsutomu rang the entrance doorbell, an average-height man with shaggy brown hair opened the door. Very much amused to see Tsutomu, he smirked at him.
“You sure you wanna visit us when you’re such a hot topic round town, my boy Tsutomu?”
The three were greeted by Misil, whose facial hair was untrimmed as it had always been. Tsutomu’s shoulders slumped as if he’d had enough of being welcomed by this man.
“I’m not treated like a criminal anymore, so that’s good, but… now people just approach me wherever I go. It’s pretty hard to deal with, actually…”
“I swear, that Solit Company… they’re sure as hell gonna cross the line if you let them! Never thought they’d screw up this badly, though. Anyway, that was pretty crazy, you know, killing a Fire Dragon with just the three of you. What secret tricks d’ya have up your sleeves?”
“It’s a secret.”
Tsutomu held his index finger in front of his nose; Misil let out a humorous chuckle before addressing the two behind the former,
“Good day to you two as well, Garm and Miss Camille. Always happy to welcome y’all here.”
“Mm-hm, we’ll be bothering you for a bit.”
“Oh, no, I should be the one saying that. We were the ones who invited y’all here, after all — the party of three that killed a Fire Dragon, you know! That’s a real big deal! Well, anyway… here, let’s get ourselves inside.”
After cracking a joke, Misil turned around, beckoned to Tsutomu’s group, and walked on ahead into the Silver Beast Clan House; Tsutomu, Garm, and Camille followed him.
The wide wooden corridor contained many doors on either side; each of the doors were slightly open. Through those gaps, the people inside looked on at the four as they walked along, eyes sparkling in child-like admiration. They were the Beastkin orphans and-or refugees from other villages; Misil had established the Clan House to provide them with the protection they needed.
Tsutomu, Garm, and Camille were led into a spacious living room. In addition to the familiar members such as the red and blue Birdkin girls, dozens of Beastkins and Dragonewts of all ages were waiting in silence.
“Garm and Miss Camille, we’ve gathered up the people who wanted to meet the two of you. Could we borrow you two for a bit, if you don’t mind?”
“Mm-hm, I’ve always had a feeling that this is what I was called here for.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve provided direct guidance to anyone… It might come off as a tad awkward, but sure, I’ll go.”
Garm and Camille walked up to the people who were waiting for them. Perhaps thanks to Garm’s pre-established popularity, everyone started talking to him immediately, while the young and old Dragonewts saluted to Camille. The Dragonewts, apparently knowing by instinct how to act around one they considered a Dragonewt Deity, wasted no time to gather around Camille.
Tsutomu, looking at the scene, thought to himself how tough it must be to be in the center of attention; Misil gave him a pat on the shoulder.
“…You’ll get yourself some fans eventually, Tsutomu.”
“Uh, no, that’s not what I’m worried about. Besides–“
Not quite amused by Misil’s attempt at reassurance, Tsutomu lightly brushed his hand away. He then started to speak, but Misil interrupted, having seen through what he was about to say.
“Don’t say that, Tsutomu; everyone goes through this kind of phase at first. You’ll definitely get a following after things calm down a bit. Apparently, quite a lot of people were paying attention to you during the Fire Dragon battle, you know?”
“Yeah, yeah, if you say so… Anyways, where’s your Healer?”
“Oh, right, that’s what you’re here for today… Hey! Lorena!”
Misil, reminded of the original arrangements by Tsutomu, looked over to the sofa — one so large that as many as ten people could sit on it at one time — and called over the Conykin sitting on it. The girl, her long rabbit ears perked up, walked over to the two.
Lorena, her eyes wide open, timidly bowed to Tsutomu. Tsutomu, as if his reflexes dictated that he did the same, promptly bowed back.
“Here’s Lorena, our best Healer. Lorena, this is Tsutomu. Well, I guess you already know him, having watched the Fire Dragon fight and all.”
As Misil introduced her to everyone, Lorena nodded along. Tsutomu replied to her with a bow.
“Hello. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Y-yes, likewise! I’ll be in your care today!”
Lorena, not at all accustomed to formal speech, bowed again several times. Tsutomu pulled a strained smile as he looked on; Misil raised his hand as if to apologize.
“Sorry, she’s not used to this. Don’t mind if she comes off as a bit impolite, yeah?”
“Oh, I don’t mind at all. So, I tagged along today because I wanted to verify some details regarding her <<Heal>> shots… Would you mind if I asked a few questions?”
“Go ahead — you’re always welcome to. Didn’t expect you to head over here this soon, is all… Anyway, let’s go talk over there.”
Misil pointed at the desk away from the crowd around Garm and Camille; Tsutomu nodded and moved there, then sat in one of the chairs. Misil and Lorena sat opposite to him.
“So, the skill shots — how effective are they looking right now?”
“Not that much of a progress, really. Better direction and accuracy, at least, but the healing skills aren’t doing their thing at all. Oh, but the support skills are more or less usable, I think?”
“Yes. Skills like <<Protect>> and <<Haste>> didn’t lose their effectiveness at all.”
“Minstrels are still better for that, though. No need to worry that it’ll hit enemies, longer effect times… and most importantly, affects all allies at once. And her <<Heal>> shots now are weaker than what Minstrels can do, even.”
Seeing Lorena’s rabbit ears dropped down as she lost confidence, Tsutomu crossed his arms and thought things over. He couldn’t actually know how bad the healing power was until he saw it in action, but if Misil wasn’t mistaken, it would be completely obsolete to a Minstrel’s healing capabilities. As things stood now, her one-use <<Raise>> was the only advantage she had, nothing else.
If one wanted to distinguish themselves as White Mages, they would need the ability to use long-distance <<Heals>> as Tsutomu could. Not that it was THE one thing they needed, however — its healing power wouldn’t weaken if it wasn’t in the long-range variation, so being able to use it like how Ealdred Crow’s Header did would be good, too.
However, it was still true that one’s tactical versatility as a While Mage would greatly expand if they could use long-range <<Heals>> without losing effectiveness. Ealdred Crow’s White Mages had to be close to a Tank in order to provide healing; quite often the White Mages were caught up in enemies’ attacks and died as a result. It would be ideal that one was able to take both approaches, in fact.
Tsutomu uncrossed his arms and looked at Misil.
“For the sake of experimentation… would it be safe to assume that the medicinal herbs found in the Grasslands area are good enough to heal minor cuts?”
“Yeah. Her <<Heal>> shots can’t even completely patch up a paper cut even when she used full mental energy. Healing blisters on your hands is the most it can do right now. The housewives at the water well loved it, though.”
‘Terrible,’ was what Tsutomu was about to say before he stopped mid-sentence and thought things over.
“Say, what’s her level?”
“Higher than me, then. Which means…”
Tsutomu figured that the reason for the <<Heal>> spell losing power was, most likely, the difference in its users’ knowledge levels. He himself had not only a great deal of knowledge when it came to the Live Dungeon game, but had also memorized the information regarding the human anatomy at the level of a typical college student. Knowledge of the structure of the human body, translating subconsciously into the healing functions — he guessed that this might be what made his <<Heals>> so effective.
He wondered, assuming that was to be the case, if Lorena’s <<Heals>> would become more effective if he were to pass all that knowledge to her. That approach was indeed an option, but it would take quite a lot of time and effort. Moreover, Tsutomu still had other methods in mind that could possibly increase the effectiveness of <<Heals>>.
“Hmm… It’s still hard to say anything definite without testing things out first. I have a few ideas, but nothing conclusive.”
“I’d like us to go into the Dungeon together when I have the time to. Would you mind me tagging along with one of your parties, Misil? I’d like to see how she fights in a team of five, first of all.”
“Oh, how generous of you. Almost enough to make a grown man cry, boy…”
“Well, we’ll be having a meal here later today, I assume? Consider it as my thanks for that, then,” Tsutomu chuckled in response to Misil exaggerated, humorous crocodile tears.
Conykin Lorena, her face in a cheerful expression, stared at Tsutomu as her long rabbit ears twitched energetically.
Afterwards at the Silver Beast Clan House, more than a hundred people gathered in the first floor hall for lunch; the meal was in the form of a standing buffet party. Garm was constantly surrounded by the Demi-humans; Camille found herself constantly being greeted, both by her Dragonewt fans and those of the other races as well.
Tsutomu was approached by a few people, too. They mainly talked about the Fire Dragon battle and the fabricated story article, to which Tsutomu replied with a smile while giving inoffensive comments. Then, once Tsutomu finished talking to those few people, more and more of the others who had been watching from the sidelines, after seeing how well-natured he was, started talking to him.
After the buffet party, Garm began his training session in the Clan House’s garden; Camille, entrusted with some bright-eyed new-faces by Misil, led her group into the Valleys of the fifty-first layer.
Tsutomu, in order to see them in battle, joined one of the Silver Beast’s parties, heading with them to the fifty-fifth layer. This particular group consisted of Adventurer Misil acting as a Swordfighter, two Birdkins — one red and one blue, both Boxers — and lastly, White Mage Lorena. Tsutomu himself would also double as a luggage carrier.
The lowest layer Silver Beast had ever reached was the fifty-sixth; since they hadn’t been able to survive the multi-wave battles there no matter what they had tried, the Clan was currently in the process of raising its members’ levels. Misil’s level was sixty-two, while the others were sixty or below.
Since Tsutomu was going to be in charge of the whole party’s luggage, he went to deposit all of his Magic Bag’s contents at the Guild before receiving the party’s equipment from Misil. The things included Potions, traps, energy biscuits, loaves of rye bread, and emergency-use smoke bombs, among other stuff; Tsutomu inspected every item closely before tossing them into his Magic Bag.
The Silver Beast party looked on at him, impressed. Misil, getting a look after he had finished the party’s application at the reception desk, also grew more and more curious as the process went on.
“Man, the Magic Bag’s a neat thing to have. Should be pretty expensive, right?”
“Oh, it sure was. It was looted from a Silver Chest, apparently.”
This Magic Bag was in fact the most expensive item Tsutomu had bought back when he was getting geared up. This particular one was special; the more popular variety of Magic Bags would look bigger on the outside while having less capacity. Many luggage carriers would even choose to go with cheap Magic Bags, the sizes of which were almost too large to fit through the Black Gates.
“All right then, I’ll be watching from the sidelines for a while. Well, I’ll also keep all these items safe, of course.”
“Yeah. We’ll be counting on you,” Misil replied and smiled in one edge of his mouth.
Tsutomu stepped into the magic circle, moving to the fifty-fifth layer together with the Silver Beast party members.
Once inside the Dungeon, Tsutomu immediately reminded himself to stop his habit of distributing Potions. Unlike his usual group, normal parties’ Potions were mostly managed by the luggage carrier alone; none of the combatants would carry Potions themselves. The reason was that some would run the risk of drinking in an untimely manner upon sustaining injuries if they were to have Potions on them.
Although Clans in which members were close and trusting of each other, and also the major Clans, would allow members to carry some themselves, the Silver Beast had a policy of not allowing that under normal circumstances. Potions were expensive, after all; even the cheapest Green Potions would cost at least a ten-thousand G for a small vial. Since the Silver Beast also operated as an orphanage of sorts, they were strict when it came to monetary expenses.
While waiting for the red Birdkin to scout the area, Tsutomu passed the time by directing a dozen or so <<Heal>> shots in the air around himself. Lorena’s eyes widened upon seeing those cue ball-like masses of energy spinning around.
“Huh? Oh, this… it’s not something you’d do in a real fight, of course. But it’s worth fiddling around with in your free time — you know, good practice and all.”
Tsutomu continued talking to Lorena while directing those ten <<Heal>> balls to circle around Misil like a swarm of bugs. Lorena proceeded to give it a try as well, creating one <<Heal>> ball and sending it flying. She seemed to be able to control it, albeit unreliably in some aspects. Seeing that, Tsutomu nodded and sent his <<Heals>> flying toward a nearby tree.
“You’ll have to direct them around the monsters when shooting on level ground, so you’d do well to practice with trees and such,” Tsutomu said as he directed ten of his <<Heals>> to orbit around the tree.
Lorena proceeded to send her <<Heal>> toward the tree as well. At first her direction was slow, but as she gradually got used to it, her control became smoother and smoother.
The red Birdkin, having come back after finishing reconnaissance, was startled by all the <<Heals>> swarming around. Misil, now that he was informed of the layer’s terrain, decided that the party would be fighting in the mountain. All five proceeded to march up a trail.
As far as Tsutomu had observed through the Monitors, the Silver Beast’s fundamental strategy involved using the Birdkin’s unique skill, Feather Dance, to obstruct monsters’ vision, then have Misil, whose STR was the highest among the team, chip away at the targets. The two Birdkins here were also Attackers; not only could they use Feather Dance by default, but also take advantage of their unconventional movement patterns to throw off the monsters, and take them out with sword and talon attacks.
Lorena, the White Mage, would use support skills before the start of a battle, and healing skills when the fight was over. She would also use <<Fly>> and <<Raise>> as needed. Since Misil was the party’s main Attacker, Lorena would have to use <<Raise>> whenever he died, and would be targeted herself as a result.
As for the luggage carriers, most of the time they were brought along so that they could update their layer progress. The impression was that many of them were actually here for carrying things; rarely would the Clan’s carriers double as Attackers.
Tsutomu, keeping that in mind, proceeded up the trail. He was second to last in the formation, while Misil, the most powerful and experienced one here, took the lead.
Misil’s Job, Adventurer, was characterized by the passive skill that nullified all terrain effects, and also the ability to unlock treasure chests. Moreover, since their LUK was relatively high when compared to those of other Jobs, the rate at which treasure chests dropped for them was slightly higher, too.
In terms of combat, the Job was comprised of various Warrior-type skills such as Double Attack; a notable one among them was the skill called <<Fatal Blade>>. Unique to high-level Adventurers, it induced the user’s weapon with high-frequency vibrations, greatly increasing its attack power.
“…It’s a grizzly. Get ready,” Misil whispered, prompting everyone behind him to stop their advance in succession.
The sound of something running could be heard up ahead. And that something was, as its name suggested, it was a grizzly bear with red fur, a stark contrast to the green sceneries of this biome.
The Birdkins, their eyes locked onto the Red Grizzly running on all-fours, jumped up on the branches of a nearby tree and got ready to use Feather Dance. The blue Birdkin pointed at herself, and the red Birdkin nodded; then, when the bear was close enough, they unleashed their skills together.
A swath of blue feathers buffeted the Red Grizzly with great force, stopping it in its tracks. It pointed its face down, shielding its face from the attack. Once the rain of feathers stopped, Misil ran ahead in parallel with the last wave.
His kukri, made to vibrate, easily cut off the Red Grizzly’s front leg. Misil then drove the blade into the face of the Red Grizzly as it screamed, then slashed up, as if to split its brain. The bear collapsed, red particles dispersing from its body, followed by a medium-sized Magic Stone falling to the ground.
[She can’t try her <<Heals>> if they don’t get hurt… And it doesn’t look like Misil will be getting hurt anytime soon. Hmm…]
Tsutomu, some morbid imaginations surfacing briefly in his mind, Tsutomu collected the dropped Magic Stone and stored it in his Magic Bag.