After the meeting with the young man called Daryl, whom Garm had introduced to him, Tsutomu went to send another set of his letters to the major Clans; this time, they included the details regarding the project and the remunerations it would entail. Then on the next day, he received replies from all three Clans confirming their choice to participate in the conference.
After that, Tsutomu went to discuss with both of the newspaper publishers and moved forward with the project’s preparations; having received confirmation from them both, he secured a venue for the event. Seven days later, the two publishers announced in their articles the conference itself and the participation of Ealdred Crow, Golden Tune, and Labyrinth Conquerors. Then, three days after that, the day of the conference came; now information would be disclosed, and guidance would be provided.
Each Clan arrived at the venue in groups of about ten each; the people from the newspaper publishers ran the event’s reception. Although the staff members were nervous to meet the major Clan’s members, many of which were well-known figures in town, they managed to do their work quickly and effectively.
Ealdred Crow’s was led by their Clan Leader, a boy-ish young man of relatively short stature; the group itself included some White Mages, their overall structure incorporating the three-role party system that had started to catch on, and their information also accompanied them.
As for Golden Tune, nine women surrounded their Clan Leader, a man with nicely-trimmed blond hair. Among them was a blonde Elf named Diniel, a close friend of Amy’s, walking in the far back of the group.
On the side of the Labyrinth Conquerors, one gigantic, bear-like man stood out from the rest; the newspaper staff at the reception table was quite startled by him. Next to the large man was their Clan Leader, a silver-haired Elf woman with emotionless eyes; behind her were several men, keeping an eye on the whole area so as to ensure the safety of their leader.
“Hey. I knew you’d come, too.”
“Long time no see, sir.”
The Clan Leaders of Ealdred Crow and Golden Tune looked at each other and subsequently smirked in a corner of their mouths. As the ones running their respective major Clans, they had known each other for a long time and had crossed paths often in the competition of conquering the Dungeon.
“And the Scarlet Devil Squad… doesn’t seem to be here. Hah, they sure are taking things easy.”
“I didn’t expect you to attend this conference, though. At the point you’re currently at, shouldn’t you be able to take on the Fire Dragon already?”
“We all got stuff to do, things to think about. You and me both.”
“…I suppose you’re right,” Ealdred Crow’s Clan Leader replied in agreement upon seeing the non-Attacker members behind the other Clan’s boss.
As the head of a major Clan with a large number of members, he did not consider the status quo to be particularly good. And although he wanted to change how things were being operated if he could, and had been working toward doing so with trial-and-error, the Scarlet Devil Squad had gone ahead and defeated the Fire Dragon with the tried and tested four-Attacker and one-Healer composition.
Thanks to that happening, demand for Attacker Jobs had gone up again, further increasing the disparity between them and the other Job types. Then, the potential turning point appeared in the form of the party of three defeating the Fire Dragon. The image of a Knight with low STR playing an active role in the battle had been burned into his eyes. Then came Tsutomu, the leader of that famous party and one once known as the Lucky Boy, and along with him a suggestion — there was no way Ealdred Crow would not be on board.
“Tch… And here I thought we’d get to hog all the good stuff for ourselves.”
“The audacity of this lad. Now wait a sec… don’t y’all already have your teams in shape? You sure you haven’t already been talking to them before this?”
“Perhaps, perhaps not. Judge for yourself, sir.”
“Man, and your face is as punchable as ever…” The Golden Tune leader cursed at the younger man, seeing how the latter was making the face of a neighborhood delinquent.
Then, after getting his greetings done, he approached the Labyrinth Conquerors’ group instead.
“Hey, good to see y’all back in town. So, here for Fire Dragon info? Or is it the long-range <<Heal>>?”
With the Wolfman starting a one-sided conversation, the Labyrinth Conquerors’ Clan Leader listened to not even one word of his. Then, when the large man then intervened, he whistled to gloss him over and walked away.
While all that was going on, the other members of the three Clans entered the venue and started seating themselves on the chairs on which the names of their respective Clans were attached. On the podium in front of them, they saw that Tsutomu, the one who had invited them here, was still getting things set up, fiddling with a magic tool.
“Hello? Is this thing on?”
The Magic Tool he was testing out was a microphone of sorts, affixed with a Wind Magic Stone for sound amplification. Those of Ealdred Crow and Golden Tune were quite curious as to what Tsutomu had in store, while those of the Labyrinth Conquerors looked on from the back row with suspicion.
At one point, the Labyrinth Conquerors’ Clan Leader tapped on the large man’s log-like arm as if giving him an order. The man stepped forward, stopped a step away from the podium, and took a deep breath through his nose.
Tsutomu, seeing the stranger stomping toward the podium and suddenly starting to sniff him, leaned his head away but did not pay the man any attention otherwise as he went over his script again. After a few more breaths, the large man went back to his leader.
“…Doesn’t reek of death.”
“Is that so?”
Hearing the large man say so, the Clan Leader proceeded to cover her mouth as if to hide something. In truth, Tsutomu had already been killed once, by the Corroded Elder Dragon from his very first day in this world, but then, he had been exploring the Dungeon for three months since then without ever dying once. The large man’s assessment was not necessarily wrong.
The woman, convinced by the large man’s words that Tsutomu was fit for joining the Labyrinth Conquerors Clan, now looked at Tsutomu with eyes that were not those of a dead fish, but ones that were quite lively.
The main activity of the Labyrinth Conquerors was to go around to the various Dungeons outside of town and thinning down the monster population in them, so as to make sure that the numbers do not get too high and the creatures flood outside. Although there were rare instances when they would completely neutralize Dungeons by defeating their Bosses at their deepest layers, their main purpose was not to do that, but to simply keep the numbers down.
If monsters were to leave those Dungeons in droves, they would roam around seeking prey; sooner or later, they would most likely end up invading villages and towns. Without the strong walls and fighting power on the level of this Dungeon City, those villages and towns would never be able to take on those monsters.
The Labyrinth Conquerors were a Clan established by the people of such villages and towns to prevent casualties caused by such monster attacks; it was even said that they were the oldest clan, having existed even before God’s Dungeon had appeared. In the past, there would be no shortage of those who aspired to be part of this Clan, but things had changed ever since God’s Dungeon had come into the picture.
As more Explorers became comfortable with the ability to come back to life after they were killed, the Labyrinth Conquerors had started shrinking in scale. Still, some of the changes had played in their favor — God’s Dungeon Status Cards, being simple to update, had made it easy for one to acquire skills. Moreover, on-the-job mortality rate had gone down significantly, and the sudden jump in the market value of monster materials had greatly increased their profits.
Then again, the quality of newcomers to the Clan had dropped dramatically as well. In God’s Dungeon, one did not die when they were killed — that mindset of theirs would still show when they were exploring the other Dungeons. Those who had operated mainly in God’s Dungeon would develop a subconscious non-awareness to death, and that could prove to be fatal in the other Dungeons where the same rules did not apply.
As such, the Labyrinth Conquerors’ Clan Leader had, contrary to her initial expectations, seen Tsutomu as useful and capable, what with him not ‘reeking of death,’ possessing long-range <<Heal>>, and leading a party of three to victories over the Fire Dragon. An obsession was building up inside her — she wanted to secure him for her Clan by any means necessary.
“All right, I believe everyone is here?”
“Yes! We aren’t expecting anyone else today!”
“Thank you. I say, we close the door and get started, yes?”
Tsutomu, too stage-frightened inside to notice the Labyrinth Conquerors’ Clan Leader’s silent enthusiasm, took a deep breath and told the newspaper staff to move on to the next step.
When the door was closed, Tsutomu opened his narrowed eyes and looked around at the thirty or so people in the room, then switched on the magic tool in his hand.
“Now then, let us begin. I will be making public the information I possess — It is an honor to have all of you here today.”
Tsutomu bowed; all but a few of the thirty or so people nodded their heads in response.