Tsutomu’s information session ended with a round of applause from the three Clans. Afterward, the newspaper companies proceeded to interview the three clans about this project and their recent activities. Since these news coverages were a compensation they agreed to in exchange for Tsutomu’s information, the three Clans assertively responded to the questions they were given. The large man of the Labyrinth Conquerors had refused most interview requests for him up until this point, but this time, he agreed to talk without resistance upon being ordered so by his Clan Leader. The newspaper people were quite pleased that they were able to get some news coverage on him, and also the influential figures of the other major Clans.
The interviews ended after about two hours, at which point, Tsutomu asked everyone present whether or not they would like further guidance; the Leaders of all three Clans immediately raised their hands. Among them, the Labyrinth Conquerors’ Clan Leader proceeded to speak to Tsutomu,
“In the case that our White Mages cannot learn long-ranged healing skills, or we fail to defeat the Fire Dragon, we would like to receive your guidance. However, since us Labyrinth Conquerors have yet to reach the sixtieth layer, we are fine with being the last of the three Clans.”
She decided to pass up the opportunity to recruit Tsutomu at this time, since she had gotten to investigate him only on a surface level. The question she had now was the purpose for which Tsutomu was exploring God’s Dungeon — in the many years that she had lived through, she had observed that men did it mostly for money, women, and prestige. But from her point of view, Tsutomu’s background did not involve any of the three; as such, she did not yet have a clear idea of his inclinations.
“All right, I understand. Then we will be paying a visit to your Clan House whenever the two other Clans have completed their programs.”
“Do take your time — we don’t mind even if it takes place after the Stampede passes.”
Stampede — Tsutomu guessed that it was what people here used to refer to this world’s equivalent of the game’s Town Defense Battle event. Meanwhile, the other members of the Labyrinth Conquerors immediately started preparing to vacate the venue. After taking a moment to look back at the members behind her, the Clan Leader continued speaking without even a slight change in her expression,
“There is much we can discuss still, but… unfortunately, we have an appointment later today with the Security Team. When the next opportunity arises, I would like to have a nice, long talk with you, if possible.”
“Yes, of course. Having heard that you are a fellow White Mage, I certainly would also like to talk, as people in the same line of profession,” Tsutomu answered, clearly stating his goodwill.
The Clan Leader then replied to him with the lifeless stare of her eyes, while hiding her mouth behind her hand. Then the man who had gotten his arm broken earlier walked up to talk to her; she nodded in response, said some words of thanks to Tsutomu, then turned around and walked away. The man took a disapproving glance at Tsutomu before following her, leaving the venue with his Clan.
Tsutomu had already heard quite early on about the White Mage Leader of the Clan that had been exploring the Dungeons outside of town, where the danger of one losing their own life was real, and had always wanted to get to know her. Glad that he at least got to establish a connection today, Tsutomu reminded himself of the matter at hand and turned around,
“And now, as for who gets to go first between Golden Tune and Ealdred Crow–“
“You guys can already do it, so it’s only fair that we get it first!”
“No way, sir. Why must I do that?”
“C’mon, we should just go by order of seniority, yeah?”
“You’re not even that much older than me…”
Tsutomu turned around to see the Golden Tune and Ealdred Crow Clan Leaders having a grand snark match against each other. Since it didn’t look like they were going to reach an agreement by simply talking, Tsutomu quickly suggested deciding by lottery. And the result was…
Golden Tune drew the right one and got the priority. Tsutomu approached Clan Leader of Ealdred Crow, who, after drawing a dud, was on his knees and with his hands on the ground.
“Well, Ealdred Crow has already at least put it into actual use, right? With the documents you were given, the Clan should be able to manage in the meantime.”
“Huh!? Come on, you can’t leave us hanging, Tsutomu! Just be done with the Wolfman and come teach us, too!”
“Don’t let his looks fool you, man — I know he looks like a brat, but he’s already over twenty, you know,” the Clan Leader of Golden Tune warned.
Tsutomu, troubled by what response he ought to give to the man of middle school-age stature clinging on to him with begging eyes, was quite surprised by the statement. The young man was half-human, half-Elf, so it was a given that his appearance still retained some childlike features at his current age. Moreover, he definitely had the wisdom to use his appearance to his advantage.
With the young man sticking his tongue out at the Wolfman while clinging on still, Tsutomu promptly pulled him off. Then, after saying goodbye with a dry smile, Tsutomu turned to the Golden Tune Clan Leader and resumed their conversation,
“Now then… when should we get started?”
“We’re ready whenever you are.”
“Let us begin tomorrow, then. We look forward to our cooperation in the days to come, um… Leon — I can call you that, yes?”
“Sure, no problem at all. Be seein’ you, man,” Leon said as he held out his hand.
Tsutomu proceeded to give Leon a handshake, which got him a grip as firm as he had expected. He also bowed to the women behind the Wolfman; most of them smiled and bowed back, with the exception of two, who only nodded with somewhat dissatisfied looks on their faces.
After that, Tsutomu went back to his room, having been told by the newspaper people that they would deal with the cleanup themselves; they had sounded quite proud of themselves to declare so, and Tsutomu had been all too willing to oblige. Feeling relieved from the tension of talking in front of more than a hundred people, he fell asleep quite early in the evening.
…Then Tsutomu suddenly woke up in the dead of night, instantly regretting the fact that he had slept at the wrong time. He proceeded to search through his drawers for the documents on which he had compiled data on the Golden Tune; although he had collected more information of the mid-tier Clans, he had more or less looked into the major Clans as well.
Golden Tune was a major Clan led by Leon, and similar to Camille, he was the sole ‘Golden’ one of his Wolfman kind and possessed a Unique Skill. Naturally, he was the best of his group, with many of his followers also being excellent Attackers.
The Clan, including its office workers, had about forty members in total. One point worth noting was that most Clan members were women, and out of those women, ninety percent were married to Leon. In other words, a harem Clan. As such, there was the advantage in that its members were obedient to Leon, but also some natural advantages that came with it.
The first thing Tsutomu had noticed from their activities was that many of the Attackers were, for some reason, quite eager to sacrifice themselves for their Leader. ‘Watch out, Leon!’ they would shout and push him out of the way, taking monsters’ attacks in his stead and dispersing into light particles as Leon held them. The scene would have been tragic if it did not occur so often, at which point the people watching through the Monitors only wondered why it was happening again and again.
Other than that, support skills applied at the beginning of fights had clearly longer durations on Leon only, and they also had a tendency to drink Potions themselves then feed the contents to him mouth-to-mouth. At one point, them doing all that had resulted in them almost getting wiped out in the Canyons; it had been quite an exasperating sight for Tsutomu to witness.
Although they did not fool around when attempting the Fire Dragon, elsewhere, the Attackers would sacrifice themselves in place of Leon from time to time. Once, when Leon could not be resurrected after dying for a second time in a round, the party’s performance had gone noticeably worse.
With Live Dungeon being an MMORPG, Tsutomu had occasionally seen the rare female player characters being buttered up by men starving for attention, effectively staging up a princess roleplay routine. Golden Tune was the opposite of that, with women in a harem being all over their ‘prince’ — that was the impression Tsutomu had of them.
[This kind of dynamic would work super effectively if they had Tanks in their ranks, though. Looks like they might actually learn the concept faster than I’d expected them to.]
The role of defending Leon from the monsters — imagining that the women with Knight-type Jobs would be quite eager to do it, Tsutomu began to prepare for tomorrow by looking through the notes that contained details of the Golden Tune’s notable members.
The next day, Tsutomu headed to Golden Tune’s Clan House. There, he was welcomed and guided inside by the bespectacled clerk. A Clan made up mostly of one man’s entourage — seeing that in person, Tsutomu immediately questioned his views on Leon; from earlier conversations, Tsutomu had seen him as just a good-natured cool guy, but now, he saw him as someone on a whole ‘nother level.
The women who greeted Tsutomu on the way did not seem to hold any animosity toward him; in fact, their interactions seemed perfectly normal. The catch here was that some of the Attackers did not take well to Tsutomu’s proposal of the three-role composition, as did a few of the Healers, as apparent from the few disapproving looks he got.
The guide showed Tsutomu to the reception room. Inside, Leon was playing a board game with three women, and stood up immediately as he saw Tsutomu enter.
“Oh, there you are, Tsutomu! Anddd… game set!”
“Wha — wait a second!”
Leon approached Tsutomu and put his arms around the latter’s shoulder; Tsutomu, on the other hand, took a glance in the table’s direction and saw that the women, having apparently lost the board game, were tidying things up with frustration showing on their lips.
“Time’s a-wastin’ — let hurry up into the Dungeon!”
“Uh, no, we ought to go over our agenda first.”
“Ahh, right. Eunice! Over here!”
The young woman in question, upon being called by Leon, had her yellow tail standing upright and her face a cheerful smile… which turned into a blatantly disgruntled look upon seeing Tsutomu; she proceeded to trudge over to them from the far side of the room. She was none other than the Healer who had presented a prominent opinion during Tsutomu’s press conference on the previous day.
“Here’s Eunice, the current Healer of our main party. Remember her? You know, talked back at you yesterday? She’s also in charge of setting the party’s policies. C’mon, let’s get talkin’!.”
“Leon, you can stay there and keep playing your board games. I’ve got this!” Eunice suggested to Leon, her voice sounding quite merry.
“O-okay… Just tell me about it when you’re done, then!” Leon said after a brief moment of contemplation, then tapped Tsutomu on his shoulder before returning to the table.
Tsutomu, after seeing Leon start up another board game session, looked back at Eunice and noticed that she was somewhat shorter than himself.
Eunice promptly retracted her grandiloquent grin and shook her head as if telling him to follow her to the hallway before walking away. Tsutomu, understanding that as her telling him to continue the conversation elsewhere, said nothing and simply followed her.
“…I’ll go bring some tea,” Eunice said and went to the far side of the room again.
After a while, she returned with two cups of cold tea and set one in front of Tsutomu. Tsutomu, getting a bad sign from this gesture, only tapped his lips on the cup without touching the contents, then proceeded to say something as he moved the cup away,
“Um, are you sure you don’t want Leon in this discussion?”
“…*I* am the one in charge of the party’s policies.”
“Ahh, right, right,” Tsutomu said while worrying about why it had to be her, or all people, and whether or not things were actually going well for them.
Eunice placed the materials she had received from Tsutomu yesterday on the table.
“First of all, I’ve already looked over all of these… And I must accept the fact that your strategies are useful, as they have already been used by a team of three to successfully defeat the Fire Dragon. Leon has also always been vocally against Knights receiving unfair treatment, so we are working to introduce Tanks to our composition.”
“…Now, you have to hurry and teach me how to do long-range healing skills — I mean, please. I tried it out yesterday, and it didn’t work out at all.”
Eunice bowed her head to Tsutomu, albeit with a look of deep reluctance, and asked for his guidance. The black-furred part at the tip of her tail, too, shook in correspondence with her frustration. Tsutomu, showing no change in expression in particular, replied to her nonchalantly,
“Is that so? I’ll have a look at it once we’re in the Dungeon, then — but first of all, you have to have it in your mindset that you actually can heal with long-range healing skills. Also, how would you like the party set-up to be?”
“…I was thinking we’d go with two Healers, two Attackers, and one Tank.”
“Understood. For today, let’s aim to have you learn to use long-range healing skills, then.”
“If I can’t learn it, I’ll have you answer to the court of law.”
“Oh, you don’t say,” Tsutomu replied as flatly as ever.
Not liking the reaction she had gotten, Eunice looked away, disgruntled.