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Itai no wa Iya 412

Defense Specialization and the Black Vortex

Due to being helped by the other guild members, Maple had been able to smoothly gather the items that she lacked. And so she succeeded in acquiring all of the necessary items, while still having some time left before the event.

After receiving the final item from Sally, Maple set it within the designated area within her inventory.

“I hope that this is it…”

“Yes, since we’ll be running out of time soon.”

If it was a battle with a large boss, then they should be able to manage with Mai and Yui, who were their ultimate weapons. But if there was something like the last item gathering, then they might have to race against time.

“How is it, Ms. Maple?”

“Did anything…change?”

“Wait a second! This is the last one!”

After Maple set the last item in, a window popped up saying that the quest was cleared. But then the next quest appeared after that.

“Hmph. Looks like there is another one.”

“Really? Hmm, this really is a meaty quest.”

“What do you have to do this time?”

“Uhh… It seems like I have to head to a destination!”

“In that case, it might be close to the end? Hmm. I smell a boss battle…”

As Sally said, it was a common pattern for something to be waiting there when you arrived. Of course, this tended to be a boss more than not.

“Does it look like we can go too? Normally, it would be fine. But if you went alone as you are now…”

If she could not use skills, then she would have to attack with items. So if the boss had high defense ability or could heal itself, then it would all be over.

“Maple?”

“It seems like we can all go together! I’ll show you the map now!”

Maple then brought up the map, which showed the route that they would have to take.

“Hmm? What is this?”

“Uhh, it’s very…”

“It’s so far away!”

The map that Maple showed them had red dots all over the place that were connected by a line, which showed the places they needed to go through. And they could see that they would need to travel quite a distance on the field to get from one dot to another. However, there seemed to be multiple routes. Some had you go through all of the dots, while others only went through a few. So the time it would take would depend on which route you chose.

Apparently, this was a little different than what Chrome and Sally had been expecting, where it was just a short journey to the boss.

“But in any case, as long as we can go with you, this doesn’t change anything.”

“That’s true.”

The seven meant to stay with her until the end. There was no doubt that working together would be more efficient than letting Maple go by herself.

“If everyone is free after this, maybe we can just go now?”

“Indeed. I think that we should hurry up and get it over with.”

“Will you all help me just a little longer?”

Maple asked, and everyone nodded. Now that it was decided, the eight of them quickly moved to the field.

“Haku, I’m counting on you.”

As always, they rode on Haku as he crossed the field. Sally kept her eyes on the map as they approached their destination.

“Is it around this area?”

“Yes. Kasumi, you can stop now.”

And so the eight of them got down from Haku, and took in the unique terrain that was in front of them.

“So, I guess it is this?”

“It’s a big hole…”

“You can’t see the bottom… I think we might be able to get down by moving along the side of the cliff.”

What was in front of them was a large and very deep hole. Previously, when they had gone down a vertical hole, Maple had used a brute force method, which meant activating Dedicated Affection and jumping, in order to reach the bottom in an instant. However, she could not do that this time.

“Kanade. You must have something, right?”

“I do have something. There are a few ways to do it… How do you want to get down?”

“The safest way!”

“If that’s what you want, Maple. Then I will prepare something that can do just that.”

And so Kanade suggested a method so that all seven of them could descend without taking any damage, and Maple nodded in agreement.

“That should be fine!”

“Maple is the reference point…”

“But it is safe…”

They were all resolved to do it as they stood at the edge. For Maple Tree, this was the way to deal with terrain with differences in elevation.

“Ready, set, go!”

Maple shouted, and then they all threw themselves off of the cliff. Gravity pulled them down immediately, making them shoot past something unknown on the side of the cliff, which shot fire and wind at them. And like that, they plummeted straight to the ground.

“Guardian Barrier!”

Kanade shouted the skill name, and then a light appeared and enveloped the bodies of the eight, making them land on their feet just before hitting the ground.

There was a shattering sound, and then the light disappeared. It had taken all of the fall damage they would have received and nullified it.

“Woah. What a way to use it.”

“I have several ways to nullify damage, and I generally don’t use them because we have Maple.”

When alone, Kanade felt that when he was in a dangerous situation, it was better to just die and try again, rather than to waste his magic books. And so he had plenty of them left. And so he didn’t mind using one of them here.

“However, I’m pretty sure that there is no boss here…”

“Yes. But I do know that there is a good gathering spot.”

Sally and Izu were not wrong about the place. There was ore to be found along the wall, but there was no boss waiting for them.

“Let’s all look around! There might be something here!”

“True. So, just tell Maple if you find something. Like when we acquired Afterglow of Salvation on the 8th layer, there might be things during the quest that only Maple can detect. So you should be extra attentive when you search, Maple.”

“Okay!”

Since it had been a hassle to come down here, they gathered materials along the way as they went around and searched the bottom of the pit. After doing this for some time, Maple found something and so she called the others.

“Maybe it’s this?”

Maple pointed at the wall, where a small, black vortex had been depicted. It was rotating slowly.

“But nothing happens?”

“I’ll try touching it.”

As looking at it brought about no change at all, Maple slowly stretched out her hand and touched it. And the black swirl suddenly spread out over the wall. Then the gaps between the spiral shape closed up, so that the wall was just a pulsating black.

“It’s like…a gate.”

“Yes.”

Maple put her hand up to the wall, and then it began to unleash a black light as if it was activating. However, it seemed like they would have no idea what lay beyond it unless they stepped through.

“Then we better prepare to meet anything before stepping in.”

“Yes! I’ll prepare some items!”

It was better to prepare and there be nothing, then to not be prepared and lose.

Once they were ready to defeat just about any kind of monster, Maple put her hand against the wall.

And then the black light flowed out and enveloped all eight of them. At the same time, they felt the floor disappear from beneath, suggesting that they were about to be teleported.

“It’s coming after all!”

“Prepare for battle!”

“Yes!”

“Yes!”

A moment later, their vision turned completely black, and they were teleported to a dark place. As the eight of them went into a fighting stance, the torches on both sides of the wall were lit, illuminating the whole room.

What they saw in the far back was a giant with three heads and six arms. Each of its hands wielded a weapon that it would surely attack with. At a glance, it gave the impression of something that would push with high attack ability and many moves.

“Six arms, huh… But…”

Sally looked behind her. They had two people with eight arms. And now that they had used item buffs, they would have equal attack power as well.

“I’ll guard you as you get closer! It will help if you could try and attract its attention as much as possible!”

Chrome stood in front of Mai and Yui, while Kasumi and Sally dashed ahead. The enemy had six arms. And their chances of winning would rise if it had fewer arms to target Mai and Yui with.

“Wind Cutter!”

“Blood Blade!”

Both of them unleashed their long-range preemptive attacks on the boss, and in reaction, the boss made use of its own reach and attacked them by swinging with its weapons.

The two of them stayed near the wall, so that the attacks would not reach Mai and Yui. And with their great speed, they dodged the weapons that came swinging down and then moved in to attack.

“Multi-Cover!”

Chrome blocked the attacks from the remaining arms as he slowly advanced. As no one aside from Kasumi and Sally had dealt any damage, the other arms started to change their target to the two. Of course, this is what Maple Tree had been waiting for.

“Now! Run!”

“Yes!”

“Yes!”

While Chrome held up his shield, and Kanade prepared his defense magic, Mai and Yui ran.

If they could get close enough, and as long as this was a defeatable boss with HP, then it would not be able to stand against them.

Four of the arms were now targeting Sally and Kasumi, and so Mai and Yui faced the remaining two that shot towards them.

“If it’s just this much…”

“We’re fine!”

The two held their great hammers ready, and then slammed down just as the weapons swung down at them.

“Act of the Giant!”

“Act of the Giant!”

With their STR that surpassed all manner of things, they drove back the attack of an opponent that was much stronger than them, and caused the damage that they should have taken to bounce back towards the boss.

And just as it was staggered, they moved in. It was here that the two swung all of their great hammers, which included the six that hovered in the air.

“Let’s do this!”

“Yes…!”

“Weapon Throw!”

“Weapon Throw!”

As they shouted the skill name, all of the weapons they were equipped with shone at once. Immediately after, they began to rotate while shooting towards the boss at a high speed.

A skill where you throw your equipped weapons. Of course, Mai and Yui had eight weapons each, and all of them left their hands and went flying into the air.

In exchange for being able to attack from a long distance, there was the big demerit of having to throw your own weapon. However, it was a completely different matter when used by these two.

There was a dull thud and squishing sound as the great hammers started to sink into the boss’s body, causing incredible damage and staggering it.

It didn’t matter that they had thrown all of their weapons. As long as this one attack was sure to carve out the last bit of the enemy’s life.

The last greathammer stabbed into the boss’s face that was turned towards them. And then it tore a hole through it and crashed into the wall behind. The boss’s entire body was enveloped in black flames as it crumbled to the ground. And then finally, it turned into light and disappeared.

“I guess we didn’t have to get close to it after all…”

“As long as we have substitute weapons, this will be easy.”

“And we won’t have to worry about throwing them if Izu is here.”

Perhaps a day would come when all of the unused weapons in Izu’s inventory would see the light of day.

“Amazing! I didn’t know that you had such a skill!”

“Yes! We learned it while using Flying Attack and Throw to defeat monsters!”

“Though, it can’t be adjusted so that you can throw only one…”

In the first place, it was very unusual to be carrying eight weapons, and since that situation had not been considered when making the skill, having multiple weapons did not affect the demerit. If anything, since it increased the damage and widened the area of effect, that meant the enemy had less chance of surviving, so it was best to throw as many as you could.

Especially in their case, by destroying the enemy completely, they would not be left open afterwards.

“Though, I doubt that this skill was originally meant to be this strong…”

“In any case, now it will increase your options in terms of strategy.”

For Kasumi and Sally, who were dealing with the attacks of the arms right in front of them, it was as if sixteen great hammers had suddenly appeared and sunk into the boss’s body, so it must have been quite a surprise.

“With Mai and Yui with us, it might not take much time at all, even if we went around to each one.”

“If everyone has time, maybe we should take the longest route then? The quest itself is quite long, and so it will feel better if we don’t leave anything undone.”

“We’re fine with that!”

“Yes, I can still fight…!”

“If you all agree!”

Normally, it would be quite hard to continue to fight boss battles, but it was no problem for Maple Tree.

Now that they had decided this, they wanted to move to the next destination quickly. And so they stepped on the magic circle that appeared and were transported back outside.

“…? Maple.”

“What is it, Sally?”

“Hmmm. I think that black stain on your face has gotten bigger…”

“It has? I can’t tell because I can’t see it.”

“Well, maybe it’s just me. But perhaps it changes as you advance through the quest, or there is a time limit. So let me see it occasionally.”

“Okay!”

And like that, the two chased the other six as they went back outside.

What happened after that could be called a proper stampede. They went to holes just like the first one, which led to dungeons. They would then enter a place that was the monster nest, and they would obliterate everything inside that moved and then go on to the next one.

Unless you had some special countermeasure prepared, then there was no way to stop Mai and Yui’s nearly supernaturally strong attacks. And such a thing was too difficult for a field boss.

In this way, they would defeat what they could and pass through every point on the map while riding on Haku, until they reached the final point.

“Still, it has spread quite a bit…”

The black stain on Maple’s face had now spread to her back, shoulders and thighs. But judging by her status, there were no status effects or other changes, so they had no idea if this was a good thing or a bad thing.

“Maple, so nothing is different?”

“Yes! It seems like it’s just my appearance.”

“It’s clear that it spreads every time we defeat a boss, but… It makes me think that your condition is getting worse.”

“There are no hints at all, so it’s impossible for us to know anything.”

As they had taken the route that went through all of the points, the results should either be the very best or the very worst.

In any case, they could not turn back now, and so they had no choice but to finish the quest. However, since there was no problem as long as they didn’t face a monster that had the skill to nullify all of Mai and Yui’s attack, the truth was that Maple Tree were not all that worried about it.

“According to the map, we should be there soon…”

“But we’re in the middle of flatlands. Is there really something here?”

“I guess we’ll have to get off and search.”

If it was the same as every other point, then the black vortex mark that reacted to Maple should be somewhere in the area. And so Kasumi returned Haku to her ring once, and they all started to search for the mark.

As it was flatland, surely it should not be so well hidden that they couldn’t find it.

And so after some careful searching, they were able to find the mark that shone from the ground.

“Oh, there it is, Maple! Over there!”

Maple heard Sally calling, and so she rushed towards the spot. And then the quest was completed, and a new quest appeared.

“It seems that I have to fight a boss that’s inside…but… Hmm…”

“What about your skills?”

“It seems like I can’t use them.”

“If it’s the end of the quest and then a boss fight…could this be the final one?”

“I’ll do my best!”

“No matter what kind of boss it is… We will defeat it!”

Mai and Yui had supported Maple Tree’s brutal advance up until now, and they were excited for the next one. Even if this monster was stronger than the previous ones, it was doubtful that it would be able to take so many hits.

“Uhh. It seems like I have to go alone.”

“What? So we can’t go with you?”

“It says that it’s only solo… That’s what it means, right, Sally?”

Sally checked the quest that Maple received, and confirmed that it was limited to solo players.

“I’ll ask you again. Your skills haven’t returned?”

“Yes. Only the passive skills can be used.”

Skills that had an effect without declaring them continued to be activated, and so there was no change to her defense ability. But that was it. Maple had been robbed of nearly all of her attack methods, and so she had not been able to do much on the way here. She mostly just walked around. Because of this, she still had all of Bizarre Eater left, but she wasn’t sure if that alone could beat the boss.

“In that case, it will have to be defeated with items, but…”

“You don’t even know what kind of boss it is. So you’ll have to prepare for different possibilities.”

And so the eight of them racked their brains and thought of strategies in order to raise the chances of victory even a little. On top of that, they gave Maple a mountain of items that might be useful. Other than that, they could do nothing but believe in her.

“I think this will be a very long fight… So I’ll tell you the results on another day!”

If she was going to beat the boss with items, then Maple would have to do what she used to do a long time ago, where she left her defense ability to do the talking as she slowly chipped away at its health. This would be an abnormally long battle of endurance.

And she would feel bad if they had to wait here for her. Maple then braced herself and touched the vortex by herself.

“I’ll be expecting to hear good news!”

“I will pray for your victory.”

“Please do your best, Ms. Maple!”

“Please do your best, Ms. Maple!”

“I don’t mind if you use all of the items.”

“Hehe. You better bring back an interesting skill.”

“Maple! You can do it… You can win.”

After hearing the words of support from the other seven, Maple nodded firmly before being enveloped in darkness and disappearing.