Tsutomu ended the discussion by deciding that the training would take place on the fifty-sixth layer; together with him, Eunice reluctantly went to explain the process thus far to Leon. Tsutomu had figured that layers with fewer multi-wave battles, such as the fifty-fifth or a few layers lower, would have been better for training, but Eunice had refused, citing the public reputation that a major Clan had to maintain. Tsutomu wondered whether or not the Clan Leader was the kind of person to care much about displays of honor, but in the end, he had not said anything.
This time, Leon was losing badly at his board game; while scratching his short, blond hair, he listened to Eunice’s proposal of party composition and choice of Dungeon layer. After acknowledging every detail, he then went to gather up the party members.
The selected Healers were Tsutomu and Eunice. Attackers were Leon, who boasted the highest firepower in the Clan, and Diniel, as the long-ranged damage dealer. Once the latter saw Tsutomu, her eyes widened into a scrutinizing look, to which Tsutomu reacted with confusion. The day in which Diniel had first seen Tsutomu, she had kept herself ‘hidden’ from the scene, so from Tsutomu’s point of view, now was the first time they actually met each other.
From Diniel’s point of view, on the other hand, Tsutomu was the man whom her best friend had been clinging on to that night. And with that best friend of hers being Amy, of all people, Diniel was naturally curious as to what Tsutomu’s deal was.
Last but not least, the team’s designated Tank was the Heavy Knight Barbara, a Furbalg — human-bear hybrid. She was quite rigid in expression, perhaps due to being stuck between the happiness of getting to be in a party with Leon and the nervousness of delving into unknown territory in terms of her role.
“Without further ado… let us head into the Dungeon.”
“Yup, let’s go! I’m expecting good stuff, man!” Leon shouted out cheerfully and patted Tsutomu on the back before walking on ahead.
Eunice, shorter than both of them, was glaring at Tsutomu the whole time.
“Is something the matter?”
“…No, it’s nothing,” Eunice held her tongue and looked away, denying the fact that she had been trying to say something earlier. As she turned, her yellow hair fluttered. She proceeded to go after Leon, who was by now already out of the Clan House.
Tsutomu took his eyes off Eunice and also followed Leon, leaving the Clan House and heading to the Guild.
Along the way, Tsutomu looked up at Barbara, the Furbalg who had been chosen to be the team’s Tank, with whom he had not yet spoken. Since Furbalgs were very likely to have large builds by heredity, she was almost as tall as Garm despite being a woman. She carried a large Magic Bag on her back, and the heavy armor she wore rattled with her every step. The bear ears on her head were large, round, and in light brown, and she stiffened up upon realizing that Tsutomu was looking at her.
“Hello. I look forward to working with you today.”
“Oh, have you looked over the handouts, by the way?”
“I have… So the gist of it is that I’ll be using Combat Cry and making myself the shield that protects Leon from monsters’ attacks! Isn’t that right!?”
“The party’s shield, yes.”
“Ah, right, right. Now I can fulfill my duty — shield Leon, fall down, have him hold me until I turn into light and fade away…” Barbara rambled on, her eyes a fiery blaze.
Tsutomu tried to continue the conversation, but she seemed to have gone into her own little world and would not respond. After trying to talk one more time, Tsutomu gave up and spoke instead to the blonde Elf Diniel,
“Good day — I look forward to working with you.”
“Good day,” Diniel replied curtly to Tsutomu’s greeting.
Tsutomu proceeded to try and talk to her, but all he ended up getting were brief, almost minimal responses. She did not seem to act any differently toward Leon, however. Having observed as such, Tsutomu wondered what kind of person she really was like; he dwelled on the thought right up to when the group arrived at the Guild.
Upon stepping inside, Leon headed straight to queue up for the counter managed by the beautiful receptionist lady, despite it having a rather long line. Once it was finally the group’s turn, he only briefly greeted the lady and immediately proceeded to hit on her, leaving Tsutomu behind him exasperated.
The receptionist lady passed each of the four Golden Tune members a needle and a piece of paper, while Tsutomu got just the paper. Looking at the receptionist, Tsutomu thought to himself how well she knew him despite them having never even been in a conversation; the lady, upon noticing him, beamed him a smile. Tsutomu, to cover up his awkwardness, put the tip of the paper in his mouth.
“Huh, so you don’t use the needles, Tsutomu?”
“It hurts, so no thanks.”
“Really… You don’t wanna show off to the receptionist lady? How ’bout I show you how to look cool while doing it, eh?”
Leon swiftly twirled the thin needle in one hand and grazed it again a finger of another, drawing a single drop of blood, which then splattered onto his piece of paper. Tsutomu, not quite impressed, thought to himself how similar the move was to pen-spinning, and in the end refrained from doing so.
After the five were done registering their party, they stepped into a Magic Circle, teleporting to the fifty-sixth layer. While Tsutomu gazed blankly into the distance of the storm-ridden sands, Barbara took out everyone’s equipment and luggage from her large Magic Bag and started getting things set up.
The Golden Tune party was comprised mainly of those with relatively light equipment; the only one in heavy armor here was Barbara, while the others were in either lightweight armor or leather. Leon wore a set of black leather armor and wielded a long sword, and Barbara carried a buckler in one hand and a spear in the other. Today’s designated luggage carrier, Eunice, proceeded to carry the gigantic Magic Bag instead.
Diniel, having finished setting up her wooden bow, fixed an arrow to the string and aligned her aim diagonally upwards. Then she uttered the name of a skill in a drained, zero-motivation voice,
“<<Eagle Eye>>,” she said, and together with it, let loose the arrow.
She proceeded to let loose more arrows, one each to the east, west, south, and north, then squinted into the distance while pulling her hand in and out of her long and narrow, quiver-like magic bag.
“Orcs to the north. Wyverns to the west. Nothing to the south and east.”
“…Hmm. All right. Let’s head north, then,” Tsutomu stated his direction of choice.
The Archers’ Job-specific skill, <<Eagle Eye>>, not only improved one’s eyesight and accuracy, but also allowed one to temporarily transfer their field of vision to wherever their arrows were. Since Tsutomu had thus far been asking someone to help him search for enemies on foot, he was quite surprised to learn that such a convenient skill existed.
The reason Tsutomu had chosen north was that he felt that going to the Wyverns right off the bat would be too much for this group to handle. The Tank, Barbara, looked quite nervous, since this was her very first time in the main party. Leon and Diniel were perfectly capable, but Tsutomu wanted to avoid the Wyverns until Barbara got her moves down.
While the party of five headed north with Leon in the lead, Tsutomu tried explaining the courses of action of a Tank to Barbara, but the latter seemed too nervous to take any of the information in — so nervous, in fact, that it showed despite her wearing a full-face helmet. Tsutomu also tried asking Leon to explain things to her instead, but once the latter started talking, Barbara ended up getting too excited. As Tsutomu lamented how this run could end with a failure, the party of five encountered their intended targets, a group of nine Orcs.
“<<Combat Cry>>!” Barbara shouted, her voice muffled perhaps due to her helmet, as she unleashed a red aura and charged at the Orcs.
Tsutomu tried to keep her in check, but she simply would not stop. Though exasperated by what he was seeing, he gave up trying to keep Barbara still, instead waving his staff and shooting <<Protect>> to her, raising her VIT. With the knowledge that a Heavyweight Warrior would not die so quickly, Tsutomu turned to look at Leon, and saw that latter was looking at him as well.
“So we just beat the monsters while Barbara distracts them?”
“Then let’s get started–“
“Oh, wait, Leon — please just watch and see how things go this time.”
Having almost taken his first step forward, Leon had to force himself to stop upon hearing Tsutomu’s statement.
“Diniel. Can you pick off the Orcs one at a time, while also being extra careful not to misfire?” Tsutomu proceeded to ask.
“…I think I can.”
“Please do that, then.”
After waving his hand in the direction of the Orcs, Tsutomu proceeded to use <<Fly>> on himself and ascended into the sky. Looking down, he saw Barbara being surrounded by the nine Orcs, struck by their clubs and slashed at by their short swords.
Initially, Tsutomu had planned not to use <<Fly>> at all, with the intention being that he wanted the team to understand the basics of ground-level support. But since Barbara had gone and gotten herself surrounded by the nine Orcs right off the bat, he felt that it would be impossible to provide ground support, which had led to his choice of supporting from high above.
Now surrounded by the Orcs and without a way out, Barbara was in quite a bit of potential danger; no matter how high her VIT was, hits to their head would be considered Critical damage, which would in turn result in the weakening of one’s VIT’s defensive properties. Barbara was taking more and more damage, and repeated blows to her head threatened to make her lose consciousness — also known as the Stun status effect.
As Tsutomu observed the battle from above, he cast <<Heal>>, and also <<Medic>> just in case. Upon being hit with the latter spell, Barbara seemed to have snapped out of whatever trance she had been in.
And as if to cover her, three arrows were fired from behind, two of which pierced the legs of an Orc with precision, and then the third, most powerful arrow struck its head. The Orc dropped dead, dispersing into light particles.
“<<Heal>>. Barbara! Fall back!”
Hearing that from Tsutomu up above, Barbara did as told and broke away from the group of Orcs. Two of the Orcs that had been watching one of their kind get shot in the head looked instead in the direction of Diniel, the one who had shot the arrow, as if they were being extra careful about her.
“Use <<Combat Cry>>!”
“Use <<Combat Cry>>! Hurry!”
“C-<<Combat Cry>>!” Barbara activated her skill on reflex, prompted by Tsutomu’s shout. A red aura spread out in a circle around her, compelling the Orcs to target her as they were hit with it.
“Position yourself before you’re surrounded. You don’t have to defeat any of them — just don’t get surrounded.”
“They won’t let you stand around for long! Get ready!”
Barbara was just about to answer Tsutomu up above when a dagger went straight at her head. After blocking it with her buckler, she thrust her spear at the Orc’s thigh. As Barbara pulled out her spear and was about to deliver another blow, Tsutomu stopped her,
“They’re going around you! Pull back now! You’re not an Attacker — don’t attack!”
“What the — but I can’t! Well, I mean…”
She thrust her spear again anyway, but this time it did not penetrate the Orc’s tough muscles; instead, it only went halfway through, failing to be a fatal strike.
The Orc, with Barbara’s spear still stuck in its flesh, sent her flying away with its club. Taking the swing on her right arm, she rolled quite a distance away as she landed. Several Orcs tried to chase her down, but Tsutomu distracted them with <<Air Blades>>, then Diniel’s arrows came flying at them from afar, making short work of the monsters.
That also caused the remaining Orcs to ignore Barbara, heading toward Diniel instead. But before they could reach her, she unleashed a combination of skills to shoot repeatedly, hitting all their heads and turning them into light particles.
[So, we’ve got to also train the Tank as we go, huh…]
Now it was not just about Eunice, but Barbara as well — the latter still had it deeply etched in her mindset and behavior that she must attack. While thinking about how that must be corrected, Tsutomu helped Barbara up.
“Where does it hurt?”
“Right arm, maybe left leg.”
“All right, then please hold them just like that. I’d like to teach Eunice to use <<Heal>> now.”
Barbara stood up on her feet and walked out a little shakily, following Tsutomu back to where Leon and the two others were.
“…Y’all doing all right there?”
“Well, I’d say it was perfectly fine for one’s first outing. Even Garm couldn’t manage all that well at first, you see,” Tsutomu spoke with a genuine, broad smile.
“O-oh. Right, right,” Leon nodded in relief.
Tsutomu proceeded to have Barbara remove her armor, and after he confirmed the bruises on her right arm and left leg on which she had been hit by the Orcs, he called out to Eunice,
“First of all, I’ll heal the bruise on her right arm. Look closely, and recognize that long-range healing skills can heal effectively.”
“Understood,” Eunice answered, her tail of neatly-trimmed fur waggling.
Tsutomu stepped away, keeping a distance of about seven meters while he held up his white staff.
“<<Heal>>,” Tsutomu slightly suppressed his mental energy in creating the <<Heal>> sphere before sending it flying at Barbara’s right arm; the bruise faded away, and eventually disappeared completely.
Eunice observed the healing process with quite a serious look on her face.
Tsutomu ran back to confirm that the bruise on Barbara’s arm had healed, and that the bruise on her left leg was still there, then turned to Eunice.
“Now you give it a try, Eunice. Take a few steps away and cast a long-ranged <<Heal>>.”
Eunice did not answer, and only looked down with her fox ears standing upright, as if to signify her increased vigilance. Tsutomu, wondering what the deal with her was this time, tilted his head to the side and continued,
“Oh? Did you not hear me? I’d like you to try using a long-ranged <<Heal>> at least once… Not that I think you’ll manage to heal fully with your very first shot, of course, so don’t worry about failing.”
“Ngh–! I know! I’ll get it right, you’ll see!”
Eunice scowled at Tsutomu in ill humor before holding up her staff and walking away, her steps as heavy as her apparent anger. While still wondering what was wrong with her, Tsutomu turned to look at Eunice as she kept a distance of about three meters. It was somewhat too close for his liking, but Tsutomu did not take issue with it, and waved his hand as a sign for her to get started.
“Go ahead, then. Again, it’s alright if you can’t pull it off yet, so please don’t pressure yourself,” Tsutomu said some words to lower the bar of expectation, having wondered if it was because she did not want to fail while Leon was watching.
Eunice grumbled something to herself, then gripped her staff with both hands, assumed a ready stance, and chanted the skill’s name,
The vapor-like aura of <<Heal>> appeared from the tip of her staff. The mass of energy sparkled in green as it flew toward Barbara… but was swept away by the wind and disappeared into the clouds.
Now, Tsutomu had a guess as to why Eunice was in such a bad mood. Eunice proceeded to walk back to the group, her face bright red in frustration, her hands tightly gripping her staff, and her yellow tail pointing down.