It turned out that Tsutomu had been wrong right from his initial assumptions. He had heard from Misil that Lorena, Silver Beast’s White Mage, had succeeded in learning the long-range <<Heal>> in just half a day. With Lorena belonging to a mid-tier Clan, and her being able to do it so easily, Tsutomu had assumed that the act of using long-ranged healing skills itself was not all that difficult.
However, Lorena could be considered more experienced in this line of work, having explored God’s Dungeon since six years ago, meaning she had been in the scene before the discrepancy of treatment between Job types had been a thing. Back in those days, Enchanters still saw prominent activity, and Silver Beast even had one among their ranks. That Enchanter of theirs had shown Lorena their long-ranged support skills, which had given the latter a clear image of what she needed to make, and on that same day, she had gotten to see Tsutomu shoot a <<Heal>> at Misil on the Monitor at the Guild.
In comparison, Eunice had become an Explorer four years ago, and by that time, two of the most influential faces of Enchanters had already essentially retired. One had joined the Security Team, and the other had taken over their family’s business. As a result, there were no longer any notable Enchanters, and in turn, the job had stopped showing up on the Monitors altogether. As such, Eunice had never really gotten to see a long-ranged support skill in action, and since she had not paid full attention to the Fire Dragon battles, Tsutomu’s use of <<Heal>> had left no lasting impression on her.
Considering those factors, it was not possible for her to fully understand the long-ranged <<Heal>> within a day; the most she could do now was the vapor-like aura. Tsutomu, after realizing that, thought back to what he had said earlier, and guessed that he must have sounded quite sarcastic.
“Sorry. I might’ve missed some crucial information there,” Tsutomu said as he bowed to apologize to Eunice and Leon.
“Ah, well… She’ll just have to keep practicing, yeah?” Leon said as he glanced at Eunice, feeling awkward and with his wolf ears down.
Eunice, taking Tsutomu’s bowing as him apologizing for her lack of ability, had tears welling in her eyes and was seeing a whole lot of red, to the point at which one would think she would be punching Tsutomu any second now. She was just about overwhelmed with emotions of rage and shame.
The exploration continued on after that, with Eunice practicing how to shoot <<Heal>> along the way… and it did not take long for the team to run into trouble. It happened during the second wave of monsters in a multi-wave battle.
The party’s Tank, Barbara, still was not able to fulfill her role; that fact was especially evident during multi-wave battles against monsters. Seeing how she had her hands full dealing with just one Orc, Tsutomu was at his wit’s end as to what could be done.
Barbara’s level was sixty-five, the same level as Garm, and among the highest level range of all the Heavy Knights in town. As such, Tsutomu had initially held expectations for her to be decent at her role, if not on the same level as Garm.
But her performance turned out to be poor enough that one could clearly assert that her proficiency did not correspond with her numerical level. In practical situations, she would lose to Orcs and Kungfu-garoos’ critical attacks rendering her unconscious and locking her into a Stunned state. Wyverns could also easily bite her, destroying her equipment. And she was worse than Tsutomu when it came to controlling <<Fly>>.
[She’s like a volatile minefield…]
Her level and status ratings were high, but her movements did not match up with them at all. In Live Dungeon, such players were christened as bombs under the surface — in other words, a minefield. Tsutomu, while observing her shabby movements, grumbled to himself and shot her a <<Medic>> each time she was Stunned.
“Wyverns from the north. Orcs from the west,” Diniel, who had been using <<Eagle Eye>> to search the vicinity, informed the team of more incoming monsters, topping off an already sticky situation.
The ones remaining here currently were seven Orcs and one Wyvern. The team was unlikely to wipe out the monsters before the third wave arrived, and the same probably would go for the fourth.
If this was a standard party of five, the team would still be able to salvage the situation despite one Tank out of commission, but this time, it was a two-Healer setup. If they were to lose their Tank now, continuing with the three-role composition would put them all at the risk of death. Tsutomu used <<Fly>> to ascend and cast <<Protect>> for Barbara, then shot <<Haste>> to both of the Attackers at once.
“We might get wiped out at this rate, so I’m changing our tactics! Diniel and Leon, just fight like you normally do! I’ll adjust myself to match!”
“Oh? Got it, man!”
Leon, wolf ears twitching in response to Tsutomu’s voice, licked his lips like an actual wolf facing its prey.
“<<Gold Breath>>,” Leon uttered, and at the same time, his short blond hair and tail glistened… and a moment later, he sprinted ahead with blinding speed.
The air shook, the magnitude of wind pressure making it seem as if the air itself was avoiding him. In an instant, he reached the Orc that Barbara had been attacking, and he proceeded to simply stab its chest with his long sword. Still maintaining his boosted speed, he then slashed to the side… and by the time Tsutomu blinked, Leon’s sword was already stabbing another Orc.
Leon had already reached his current level limit of seventy, and his strongest status, AGI, had the rating of A. Moreover, his Unique Skill, Gold Breath, had the effect of temporarily raising one’s highest status by two rating tiers. Adding that and Tsutomu’s <<Haste>>, his cumulative AGI had a rating of S.
In terms of speed alone, he was far above Camille. In Tsutomu’s perspective as he watched carefully from above, a black dot was zipping around at extreme speed, felling one monster after another upon reaching them. It was as if that dot was flicking the monsters out of the way as it traveled in straight lines from creature to creature.
And Diniel, the team’s Archer, had turned to the new, fast-approaching monsters, shooting arrows at them without pause. The Wyvern, flying toward her from the north, already had more than ten arrows stuck on each of their bodies.
Tsutomu predicted the directions in which Leon would be moving, placing a <<Haste>> pick-up for him along the way. Since Leon’s fast movements were mostly linear, the prediction was correct, and as a result, he stepped on the pick-up and got an extension to his AGI boost.
Tsutomu then cast <<Heal>> for Barbara, and while Diniel was running along with an arrow fixed to her bowstring, he shot her a <<Haste>> to extend her effect’s duration right before the previous cast ran out. Since Barbara had not applied the effect of <<Combat Cry>> to the new wave of monsters, the ones that weren’t being taken care of by the two Attackers started heading towards Tsutomu instead.
[Give me a break…]
Tsutomu thought how annoying it was to be targeted by monster aggro for the first time in quite a while, but still did his part in sorting out the kinds of approaching monsters and his allies’ positions, and also worked out the remaining duration of their support skill effects.
Understanding the situation’s big picture in no time at all, Tsutomu landed, focused his mental energy, and deployed a powerful <<Barrier>>. Then, while casting <<Haste>> on himself, he pulled a small bottle of Blue Potion from his waist and took a sip. The Barrier, taking on the attacks of more than ten monsters, crumbled in mere seconds. While the monsters rushed in on him, Tsutomu used <<Fly>> to ascend, and then dodged the incoming Orcs’ arrows and Wyverns’ tail spikes.
While dodging all the projectiles he could with just <<Fly>>, the ones that could not be avoided were intercepted by another <<Barrier>>. Twelve seconds left until Leon’s <<Haste>> expired. Tsutomu placed a <<Haste>> pick-up early for Leon, so as to have time left to place another in the case it missed him, and then shooting another <<Haste>> to Diniel just before her effect expired, hitting her as she ran along the field of battle.
In the sky, two of the Wyverns chased after Tsutomu, while some of the Orcs on the ground nocked their arrows and aimed at him. Tsutomu evaded the Wyverns’ ramming attacks and blocked their tail spikes with <<Barrier>>, then managed to dodge the arrows coming from below by a hair’s breadth. One of the arrows grazed his robe, sending a scrap of white cloth fluttering down.
“Ack–” Tsutomu let out a shameful whine upon seeing the arrow take away a bit of his robe, while also doing all he could to dodge the two Wyverns’ attacks; as for the tail spikes and attacks he could not dodge, he managed to cast another <<Barrier>> just in time to ward them off.
Though he was surviving, being hunted relentlessly by two enemies meant that Tsutomu had no means of escaping them completely, and despite <<Barrier>> draining chunks off his mental energy pool, he had not enough time to drink a Blue Potion. Slowly but surely, he was being driven into a corner.
Upon dodging one Wyvern’s ramming attack, Tsutomu saw that the other Wyvern had been waiting for him to do just that. Its talons drew near, ready to grab his face.
But that moment, a black silhouette clad in a blue aura streaked forth, knocking the Wyvern away. It was none other than Leon, in his black leather armor.
The bow-wielding Orcs on the ground, having been prioritized by Diniel, had already been turned into Magic Stones by now, leaving the ground battlefield with only close combat Orcs and Kungfu-garoos. Although momentarily relieved, Tsutomu drank a <<Blue Potion>> to recover lost mental energy, and upon seeing Leon wave one of his arms in pain, cast <<Heal>> on him.
With the monsters’ numbers lessened, the battle situation stabilized, and the team eventually made it out of the multi-wave battle. Barbara, whose equipment was badly tattered, dragged her heels on her way to regroup with everyone, and Eunice looked at Tsutomu with her eyes wide open, her earlier anger completely dispelled.
Tsutomu looked at the torn section of his white robe and heaved a sigh. He had expected things to be more difficult than when he was with his previous party, but he still was greatly discouraged by the fact that he had almost gotten shot on his first outing here.
“Looks like the Canyons are still too early for us. We ought to retreat,” Tsutomu suggested.
“Huh? No way! We should be able to push through just fine, right?” Leon insisted, overly excited because of Tsutomu’s ability to maintain his speed-boosting effect with <<Haste>> pick-up placements.
“Uh, not quite… my Potions are from the Forest Apothecary, you see. Besides, going at it like this wouldn’t be good training for a Tank, either,” Tsutomu said and revealed the Potion bottles on his waist under his robe.
“Ahh, all right. I understand. Let’s retreat,” Leon, calming himself down, finally agreed to the choice.
“Sorry for the trouble, but it’s for the best.”
The team’s choice to explore the Canyons had been forcibly decided by Eunice, but Tsutomu had also agreed to it, having thought that things would go fine with Barbara’s high level; thus, he was partly responsible for the choice through that compromise. Eunice directed a silent stare at Tsutomu, which the latter ignored as he walked in the direction Diniel was pointing at after she had finished searching for the enemies in the area.
Although the party encountered some monsters and engaged in more multi-wave battles along the way, they managed to get through with Tsutomu focusing his support on the two Attackers, and also turning himself into a pseudo-Tank by using <<Barrier>> to defend against enemies’ attacks.
[But my Potions…]
However, that strategy demanded the greatly increased consumption of Potions, and also put Tsutomu’s body considerably closer to danger than he should ever be. Furthermore, although Tsutomu had practiced covering objects and other people with <<Barrier>>, he had yet to learn how to properly use it to protect himself. This had caused him to make his <<Barriers>> unnecessarily large, and the skill to consume more mental energy than needed; that, in turn, had resulted in him having to down quite a lot of Blue Potions. Although he still had plenty of them in stock, the item’s market price had skyrocketed lately and supply was running low, so he did not want to use them if not necessary.
And so, clocking out at about two hours, the party exited the Canyons without much success. Eunice still could not use the long-ranged <<Heal>>, and Barbara’s movements and numerical level were still greatly uneven. Tsutomu suggested to Leon that they ought to go back to the Clan House for the day, which they then did.
Additionally, Leon decided to reimburse Tsutomu the cost of Blue Potion he had used with a larger share of the loot, lifting quite a hefty weight off of the latter’s chest. On the way back to the Clan House, Eunice asked Tsutomu to teach her the various moves he had used, but Tsutomu flatly refused to, saying that she ought to be able to use long-ranged skills first.