While the guild was buzzing with excitement over Ealdred Crow’s success in defeating the Fire Dragon, Tsutomu looked at the party shown on Monitor #1 and nodded in admiration. One Tank, one Healer, two Attackers… and the Clan Leader, a Summoner, so Tsutomu did not quite know how that worked, but he guessed from the composition that it was also a Tank-type Job.
“Ooh, they sure work fast, don’t they?”
“Man, they beat us to it. I swear that lil’ brat is gonna send me a letter tomorrow asking about our progress just to rub it in,” Leon said with a tone of annoyance as he scratched his head, seeing how Ealdred Crow’s victory had caused quite an uproar in the Guild.
“But thanks to them, now it’s been proven that this kind of team composition can reliably beat the Fire Dragon. Golden Tune should be able to do the same after another month of training, I think? All that’s left now is to get everyone moving in sync and have Barbara improve her control of <<Fly>>.”
“If you say so… By the way, Tsutomu, I got something to ask you about.”
“If that’s going to be an invitation, I’ll refuse,” Tsutomu brushed aside Leon’s supposed proposal without a second thought.
“…Figures. Well, not that I was hoping for anything once I heard that you’re looking for some crew yourself, though,” Leon said and slumped his shoulders down. Tsutomu proceeded to turn to the others and said to them,
“You’ve already gotten the essentials down, so now you just have to work from there. I think you all will be better off that way — you’re hard workers, so it’ll be fine.”
Barbara looked reluctant to say anything, while Eunice only stared back blankly. Diniel lightly waved her hand and said some brief words of thanks.
“So you’re leaving already, Tsutomu? There should still be some time left, right?” Barbara finally said.
“Yes. You see, I’d been prepared to stay for about two months at first, but you’ve been quite excellent at learning everything, so it was done much sooner than I’d expected.”
“…If you say so.”
Barbara, apparently knowing that he’d said that only to lighten the mood, did not seem too pleased. She took off her helmet and held it at her side, bowed her head, and shook both of Tsutomu’s hands firmly.
“You know, Tsutomu, it’s because of you that I started to see some hope in staying as an Explorer. Thanks.”
“Please don’t mention it — I was too strict with you in some respects, after all. You did great, and I’d say it was very rewarding to teach you.”
“…Really, thanks a lot. Now I’m so glad that I didn’t quit…”
Barbara, a Heavy Knight, could now explore the Dungeon without coming off as off-putting to others, while also feeling that she was being helpful. Getting to explore the Canyons had been a dream come true for her. As such, she was deeply grateful to Tsutomu for teaching her the way of the Tank.
Tsutomu, seeing Barbara sniffling and putting her steel-wrapped arm over her eyes, softened his tone to calm her and patted her a few times on her back. Then, when he was about to leave, Eunice called out to him in a panic,
“Y-you don’t have anything to say to me!?”
“Huh? …Well, keep up the good work.”
“THAT’S IT!? I’m definitely gonna beat you one day, so be ready!”
While Eunice kept on stomping her feet, Tsutomu turned to look at Leon behind him instead, and saw that the Wolfman was smiling broadly with his hands clasped together. Tsutomu forced out a chuckle back at Leon, then said a few words to wrap things up,
“All right, then — good job, everyone. I hope you all will find great success in your future endeavors as well.”
Tsutomu then left the Guild and returned to the inn. After he was done with reception, he walked into his room and sat down on his bed, his face looking quite weary. Tsutomu had not expected Ealdred Crow to win against the Fire Dragon this early, and he was now stuck pondering over how he should proceed with them.
He had always thought that a party with an average level of 70 would be able to easily defeat the Fire Dragon as long as they knew the basics of the three-role composition. What he had not expected, however, was for them to succeed on their first try. Although they had indeed challenged the Fire Dragon many times before, Tsutomu had thought that they would be wiped out at least for the first few times in their new formation.
The hidden detail here was that Ealdred Crow’s informant had been observing Tsutomu’s party ever since they had gotten through the thirtieth layer. As a result, Ealdred Crow had ended up as the first to adopt new tactics for Tanks and Healers, and in turn got themselves several steps ahead of other Clans.
Ealdred Crow had a system of evaluating Clan members once a month, and then reorganizing their parties accordingly. Each of the parties was given a quota in proportion to their abilities, which they had to work to achieve on a daily basis. Because of this, even Tanks and Healers were given opportunities to keep raising their levels, to the point that they already had a level 70 Tank among them — and not to mention one whose abilities were not too shabby.
Moreover, parties that failed to meet their quotas would be at risk of being demoted to a lower priority rank, so their members took Dungeon exploration relatively seriously.
They were not judged purely on a team basis, however — individuals of the parties of fives who were not as talented as the others would find themselves on lower priority as well. How it worked was that their informants and quota-list managers would also watch their members through the Monitors and evaluate individuals’ performances, picking out ones they deemed worthy to be promoted.
As for their Clan House, theirs was the largest and most well-equipped among those of the major Clans, so as to maximize Dungeon exploration efficiency. Rooms for Clan members were comfortable, and the Dining Hall contained delicious food and packed lunch for one to bring into the Dungeon, all made by skilled cooks. They even had prostitutes of both sexes stationed in dedicated rooms.
In addition to all those, the Clan had exclusive employment of some blacksmiths who inspected their equipment, and also clerks who managed the parties’ supplies, so as to create an environment where they could focus solely on Dungeon exploration. No other Clan in town offered this great of an employee benefits system.
Still, despite all the good, Ealdred Crow did have its drawbacks. Namely, the absence of an ace member to represent the Clan. Scarlet Devil Squad, Golden Tune, and Labyrinth Conquerors all had at least one member with a unique skill, while Ealdred Crow had none.
[I sure hope this goes well…]
Tsutomu thought while worried that his offerings would be treated as useless to them at this point, sent a letter to Ealdred Crow to inform them that he had finished his training program for Golden Tune.
“Tsutomu! Welcome to Ealdred Crow!”
Tsutomu’s worries two days ago ended up unfounded. On his arrival, he was greeted by Rook, the Clan Leader of Ealdred Crow, who held out his arms as if calling for a hug.
Invited into the very large Clan House, Tsutomu bent down a little and shook hands with Rook, then spoke to him about what had happened two days ago,
“Pleased to make your acquaintance. I saw you defeating the Fire Dragon the other day — congratulations.”
“Thanks! The documents you gave us really helped big time! We were already quite familiar with the Fire Dragon itself, you see, so applying and adapting to new strategies was just what we needed.”
“Is that so? From what I’ve often seen of your parties on the single-digit Pedestals, I’ve always expected an easy time teaching here… but I’d never thought you’d go ahead and win against the Fire Dragon before then. That was your first attempt using Tanks and Healers in your team, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, it was. We thought it’d be more exciting for the crowd, you see — lots of planning and improvisations, I tell you. What’s more, it was our Tank’s first time against the Fire Dragon, so that was a lot of trouble… but we all pulled through! Isn’t that awesome!?”
Rook was in the best of moods after his great victory, as apparent from his almost angelic smile. Tsutomu nodded along appropriately to the conversation as he walked, with Rook showing him around the Clan House.
The Workshop had many apprentice workers, each with towels wrapped around their heads and supervised by their masters, constantly refining weapons. In the Dining Hall, the cooks were preparing ingredients to have them ready for cooking before the mealtime of over a hundred Explorers. In addition to the Explorers, clerks and cleaners walked to and fro in the hallways; Tsutomu was even greeted several times.
“I must say… this Clan’s facilities are nothing short of amazing.”
“I know, right? I think they’re even as good as the Labyrinth Conquerors’ stuff. But over there, you’re putting your life on the line — not worth it.”
“True,” Tsutomu sighed in agreement as he followed Rook; at one point, they stopped in front of a room closed at the entrance by a thin pink curtain.
Tsutomu saw that the lighting here was somewhat dim and smelled something like sweet perfume in the air; Rook looked up and shot him a suspicious grin,
“Wanna sneak a peek?”
“…No, I’d rather not.”
“If you say so.”
Rook retracted his grin without saying anything more, then turned around and continued down the hallway. In truth, Tsutomu was quite interested in the room in question, but he had used his unparallelled power of reasoning to resist his urges. He did not want to have any lingering attachments in this world, at least until he knew for certain that he would never be able to return to his original one.
Tsutomu continued to walk behind Rook for a while, after which the latter stopped in front of a large door. Rook pushed the door open with his shoulder, revealing many fully-equipped Explorers waiting inside.
“Here’s where our Clan members gather up, pretty much to check our gear and equipment before heading to the Dungeon. I’d like you to meet up with us here at the beginning of each day, Tsutomu.”
Once Rook and Tsutomu walked into the room, the Clan members who were already waiting inside started talking loudly among themselves. Tsutomu followed Rook and saw him sitting down at a small table, so he himself sat in front of him across it.
Rook proceeded to call over a waiter, take one deep breath, and then made eye contact with Tsutomu before starting to talk,
“First things first, Tsutomu, I’d like you to check out our main Healer. I’m sure she’s already done everything that’s written in your documents, but I’d like to get some evaluation directly from you.”
“Yes, of course. I look forward to meeting her.”
Tsutomu had an inward sneer as he listened to Rook, thinking how different this time was shaping up to be, compared to when he had dealt with a certain fox girl. On Rook’s order, a waiter came to serve Tsutomu a cup of tea, which he picked up to drink with one hand while flipping through a stack of documents with the other.
“Tsutomu, this may seem like a personal request, but may I ask you something?”
“Please go ahead.”
“Thanks. It’s about the documents you handed out…”
Rook flipped through the pages and pointed at a certain word in the text. Tsutomu took a sip of tea, then took a look. Rook continued,
“I’ve been wondering if you could tell me more about this ‘Buffer’ role. The Jobs of this type include Minstrel and the like, right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Could you explain it to us in more detail? We’ll put on some extra rewards on top of what you’ll already get, of course.”
“Well… I don’t need any payment for just explanations, really. The information itself isn’t that big of a deal anyway.”
“You mean it? Thanks a bunch!”
Rook, the androgynous young man, raised his voice quite high. Tsutomu, while doubting whether or not the former actually was over twenty years old, proceeded to speak.
“Buffer, as its name would suggest, refers to a role that involves mostly providing support to allies. For example, White Mages could use <<Protect>> and <<Haste>>, while Minstrels have <<Hymn of Protection>> and the like.”
Rook picked up a pen from the pedestal on the table and began to quickly jot down Tsutomu’s words. The latter stopped and looked at Rook to make sure he didn’t miss anything before continuing,
“There’s one more thing — the Debuffer role, which I haven’t mentioned in the documents. It refers to combatants whose main task is to weaken monsters. Black and Gray Mages could use <<Paralyze>>, and Enchanters have <<Blind>>.”
“In many cases, a White Mage and a Black Mage would work in conjunction as a Buffer and Debuffer, respectively. Incidentally, I double as a Buffer for my parties as well. What’s worth noting is that Jos like Minstrel and Enchanter could work as both Buffer and Debuffer at the same time, so it’s pretty common to have just one of them, too. In this case, they would be simply called a Buffer.”
Minstrels had skills that augmented the STR of all party members at once, and Enchanters could inflict various status effects onto their enemies — in Live Dungeon, they were considered an Attacker’s eternal best friends. Out of the whole game, only these two Jobs had the ability to buff STR, so they were indispensable for Attackers who wanted to maximize the numbers they dished out.
“…And that’s pretty much all there is to it. Ealdred Crow does have a few Minstrels, so it might be worth considering, I’d say.”
“Tsutomu,” Rook said, his eyes implying a serious tone.
Tsutomu, slightly startled, straightened his posture up.
“So this Buffer role… Enchanters can do it, right?”
“Yes, they sure can.”
Rook crossed his arms and seriously pondered over things for a moment, then looked back up at Tsutomu.
“So here’s the thing, Tsutomu — could you train up a Buffer for us? An Enchanter, as you might have guessed — I’d like to request that of you, if you are able.”
“…Me, teach a Buffer?”
“Appropriate compensation provided, of course.”
Rook, seeing that Tsutomu was reluctant, pressed him for an answer. Tsutomu, though showing hesitation, brought up a proposal for the reward in question,
“You see, I’m actually planning to establish my own Clan…”
“…So you want personnel, then? Mm-hm. But now really isn’t a good time, what with us having taken down a Fire Dragon just days ago… If I’d known this, I would’ve delayed our attempt for a bit,” Rook whispered, so as to keep the talk away from the others around him.
In response, Tsutomu cracked a dry smile.
“Is there anyone decently capable you could send my way at all? Level no lower than 30, preferably.”
“…There ARE a few that fit those general criteria. Still can’t make any guarantees, though.”
Tsutomu’ disappointed, dropped his shoulders in a dramatic fashion. Then, while changing his plans in his head now that his only option was to look for the people he needed at the Guild, Tsutomu raised his face back up and said,
“I can help teach the Buffer role, no problem. By the way, about your victory over the Fire Dragon — is there any chance you would agree to be interviewed, free of charge, by the two newspaper publishers other than Solit Company? I’d appreciate it if you would do that as part of the aforementioned compensation.”
“Huh? If you’re alright with just that, then we’re happy to oblige!”
“Thank you very much. Oh, but some personnel would also be nice — if possible, of course,” Tsutomu put his hand over his mouth and whispered to Rook, who answered by giving him a thumbs-up.