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Itai no wa Iya nanode Bōgyo-Ryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu 386

 

Defense Specialization and the Cube

 

 

Although it had been a terribly bright light, what happened had been nothing more than an usual teleport, and the two of them were thrown into a place so dark that they couldn’t see anything at all in there.

 

“Phew, I’m glad it was just a teleport. It certainly felt like it was going to be something else…”

 

“Yeah. Maybe that’s the usual animation for that ruined town?”

 

“It made my eyes hurt, though.”

 

“…It’s so dark that I can’t see anything, but it looks like there’s no water here.”

 

“Ah, you’re right!”

 

As she moved her limbs, she didn’t feel the usual resistance of water. And when she tried jumping, she felt the ground below her feet.

 

“Let’s take off our diving suits then.”

 

“Yeah, mine does restrict my field of vision a little. Let’s do that.”

 

After taking off their diving suits, they tried checking the surroundings once again with their headlights.

 

“It’s a floor. It seems to be made of the same stones as before.”

 

“Are we inside some kind of building? I can’t see the sky.”

 

Though there was air there, they couldn’t see any stars when looking up. Since the floor was artificial, it was more likely that they were inside a building than in a cave.

 

“Why don’t we walk until we hit a wall? If we do that, we might know how big this place is!”

 

“That’s a good idea. Let’s do that. Things seem to be pretty quiet for now, so we should try to learn our surroundings before something comes out.”

 

Both of them turned around and started walking in a straight line. Since this kind of teleport would usually take them to a place where they would need to walk forward to face a boss monster, they were planning to go in the opposite direction in order to get as much information as possible before an eventual battle.

 

They found themselves before a wall shortly after they had started walking. It was a sturdy wall, made with black stones, and lacked any doors or any way to get to their other side.

 

“Looks like we’ve been moved to the edge of a room. So if we turn around and walk towards the center…”

 

“There might be something there?”

 

“Yeah, it feels like a boss might be up ahead.”

 

“Right! We have to be careful…”

 

It hadn’t attacked them as soon as they appeared in that room, but it was still entirely possible that something was waiting for them to approach. This place, which seemed to be quite large, had a similar shape to the boss rooms they had rushed into many times.

 

Maple and Sally wanted to be as ready as possible to face whatever that boss could throw at them.

 

They walked along the walls to check how big the room was. Eventually, the two of them reached an adjacent wall as their footsteps echoed in the silent darkness, as if it was a completely empty room.

 

“Seems to be quite big.”

 

“Umm, if the room is big, then…”

 

“Then the boss could be quite large as well.”

 

Basically, the size of the room usually depended on the size of the boss. If the room were to be too small for a bigger boss, it would hinder its movements, so naturally a big room would mean that the boss itself would be big as well.

 

Furthermore, since they were no longer underwater, the boss could be literally anything, so it would be quite difficult for Maple and Sally to predict the boss’ patterns this time around.

 

Because of that, their upcoming battle would be more like a performance done without any prior rehearsal.

 

“I think it’s time to turn around!”

 

“Let’s be ready for whatever comes at us!”

 

“Yeah!”

 

The two walked to the opposite wall, and after seeing that there was nothing on that side either, they went back halfway along the wall and faced to the front.

 

“Shall we?”

 

“Yeah! I’m good to go!”

 

Both of them moved forward while being extremely vigilant. Then, the room started to gradually become brighter as if it had reacted to their advance, and the whole picture became clear.

 

As expected, they had been walking at the edge of a room with walls that were tens of meters long.

 

After crossing halfway to the center, they could see a large amount of things that looked like materials close to the walls, such as crystals, rocks, and plants that they had never seen in the 8th Layer before.

 

“Is this some kind of storehouse?”

 

“It would be a very messy one, but still… That thing over there seems to be the most conspicuous of it all, don’t you think?”

 

“Yeah!”

 

At the point where Maple pointed, there was a huge black cube. Each of its sides were about 2 square meters.

 

It was floating in the air due to an unknown force, and felt oddly different from the other materials that were scattered about the area.

 

“It seems a bit similar to that thing we saw underwater earlier, right?”

 

“If it’s a monster of the same type as that, our means of attack will be rather limited. It does look a lot like that other cube monster.”

 

That other cube had been underwater, and it used the water around it to attack, but this room was not submerged. As they took another step towards the black cube, wondering what kinds of attacks it would use, there was a reaction from it. An intricate blue line appeared on its surface, and its body split in half just like that sphere that had brought Maple and Sally to this room.

 

“Here it comes!”

 

“Yeah!”

 

As they readied themselves, wondering what kind of magic it would use, several stone pillars made of the same material as the cube suddenly appeared from the space generated between the cube’s two halves.

 

The pillars started to rotate slowly, making a crackling noise and storing energy before releasing it as a large amount of light bullets all at once.

 

“Are those g-gatling guns!?”

 

“‘Cover’!”

 

Maple stood in front of Sally with her shield behind her back, and blocked the light bullets with her body. She took no damage from it, but the visual effect of the bullets colliding against her body was so intense that it didn’t let her see anything past her own nose. It had a much higher rate of fire than any of Maple’s weapons, so taking them head on without any means to block damage would have normally turned its target into Swiss cheese.

 

“It’s a bit different from what we’ve expected, Sally!”

 

“And here I was thinking it was going to be something more mystical…!”

 

It was unclear whether those light bullets would ever run out since they were different from those fired from an ordinary firearm.

 

“…I need to look at his shooting pattern a little longer!”

 

“Sure! I’m not taking any damage, so take as much time as you need!”

 

After a few minutes of staring at the cube’s light bullets with earnest eyes, Sally nodded slightly as if telling it was alright now.

 

“Alright, I can dodge them. I’ll draw its fire so you can shoot back at it when you get the chance.”

 

“Leave it to me!”

 

If Sally said she could dodge them, Maple had no reason to doubt her. She knew more than anyone else how good Sally’s evasion was.

 

“‘Quick Change’ … Okay, here I go!”

 

“Go for it!”

 

Sally jumped out from behind Maple and approached the cube. Neither of them had attacked yet, so the cube switched targets and started firing at Sally, who had come closer to it.

 

Though the light bullets came really close to hitting Sally, they would only go through the space where Sally had been less than a second ago every time, unable to match her speed. She had just declared that she could dodge them, so there was no way she could have been wrong when calculating the difference between the light bullets’ speed and her own.

 

“‘Path of Water’!”

 

Delivering a direct attack to a target floating in mid-air was much harder than doing so to an underwater target. For that reason, Sally created a water stream and swam through it at high speed to approach the cube.

 

If she had no water to move as if she was underwater, she could simply create it.

 

“‘Pinpoint Attack’!”

 

As she thrusted her dagger forward, the blue line on the cube’s surface blinked and a shield was deployed on its surface.

 

 

“Pierce through it!”

 

Sally stuck her dagger into the shield while still under the effect of her skill. For a brief moment, the dagger made a clicking sound as it struggled to penetrate the shield, but it eventually managed to get through, reaching the cube and shaving off a bit of its HP.

 

“It… wasn’t trying to block it?”

 

Sally felt something uncomfortable, something that she couldn’t quite put into words, but she had no time to stop and try to find out exactly what it was.

 

She absolutely had to keep moving in order to dodge the barrage from those gatling guns. She wouldn’t be able to dodge it as calculated if she were to move at anything but her maximum speed for even a second.

 

“‘Commence Attack’!”

 

As for Maple, she had just unleashed a barrage of bullets of her own. Although her rate of fire was inferior to the cube’s gatling guns, her attack power was superior. The cube hardly moved, so it took Maple’s onslaught head on without being able to do much about it.

 

Just like Sally’s attack, the bullets made a crackling noise as they pierced through the thin shield, and chipped the cube’s surface.

 

“It’s working!”

 

“It was good damage, but…”

 

Sally noticed something different happening to the cube as Maple fired her volley. Below the cube’s HP bar was a gauge unlike anything she had seen before, which was gradually filling up in response to their attacks.

 

“Maple! Can you see that gauge?”

 

“Umm… Yeah! I can see it!”

 

“It’s filling up everytime we damage it! Be careful!”

 

“Got it!”

 

The only way anyone could be truly careful about it was for them to know what that gauge meant. They had yet to know whether letting that gauge fill up would be a good thing or a bad thing, but since they had to damage the boss enough that its HP is reduced to zero in order to defeat it, it was impossible to fight the boss without letting it fill up.

 

In that case, they had no other choice but to take everything that the cube could throw at them head on and still win the battle. Fortunately, their abilities were suitable for such situations.

 

 

 

Judging by how it looked, though the sturdy cube had been damaged by Maple’s bullets, it still seemed to be far from defeated. Even though it looked similar to the one they had found underwater, that mid-boss and this boss were different.

 

“It’s almost halfway full.”

 

Sally kept on avoiding the cube’s gatling guns and keeping a close eye on its movements to always be ready to dodge, while sticking to her hit-and-run tactics and constantly checking its mysterious gauge, which was currently the thing she was concerned about the most.

 

Precisely because she was Sally, she was able to notice that a portion of the gauge had suddenly been depleted even as she attacked among several visual effects clouding her vision.

 

“Maple!”

 

“…! ‘Cover Move’! ‘Cover’!”

 

With just a single word from Sally, Maple rushed towards her as she herself was rushed by flashes of light and shockwaves from left and right.

 

“‘Dedicated Affection’!”

 

Maple instinctively guarded against the unprecedented attack, sticking close to Sally and having the blast throw the two of them away from further harm.

 

“Oh…! Nice! That was a good move!”

 

“Ehehe, I had to think quickly!”

 

Looking back at the cube, two smaller cubes are now orbiting around the bigger one’s two halves. There were many stone pillars lined up right in front of the boss, and there also was something that looked like a spiked ball floating around there.

 

“Is that a bomb? Like the one just now?.”

 

Those explosions had a rather wide range, and it would be very risky for Sally to try to dodge them.

 

“Then I’ll keep you safe!”

 

“Thanks. Then I’ll keep your weapons safe in return.”

 

Maple’s “Dedicated Affection” was unable to protect her weapons. For that reason, it was a common tactic for them to have Maple defend Sally while Sally in turn became a shield for her weapons.

 

“And it keeps getting more and more stuff to attack us with. I think it uses up that gauge that goes up whenever we attack it to summon those things.”

 

“You’re right!”

 

Maple could also grasp the current situation by looking at the cube’s depleted gauge. There was no telling how many more weapons the boss would gain before its HP was reduced to zero.

 

In addition to the boss’ high defense, its shield dampened the damage it received and filled up its gauge with every attack. These factors made the boss more durable than anything they could have imagined.

 

“This might be a long battle!”

 

“At least we’re not underwater!”

 

“Yeah. If this was an underwater battle, we’d probably be toast by now.”

 

Since it worked in their favor, they didn’t have to worry about it. It was the same for Sally, but Maple found it easier to fight on solid ground.

 

“I’ll block anything that comes our way, so don’t worry about its attacks!”

 

“It doesn’t seem to have access to any piercing attacks yet.”

 

The battle was still far from over. When they were ready to fight again, both of them started walking toward the boss one more time in order to close the distance they had created.

 

 

 

With their defense bolstered by “Dedicated Affection”, Maple also readied herself to use her “Afterglow of Salvation” in case of an emergency evacuation, all while remaining in range so that Sally could safely act while she tanked the gatling guns and the explosions by herself.

 

“You keep an eye on that gauge as well, Maple! That way, you should be able to tell as soon as it’s about to get more weapons.”

 

“Roger that!”

 

When Maple got within range, she spawned a number of giant laser cannons, lowering her center of gravity and pointing the cannons toward the center of the cube. Of course, by doing that, her weapons would be vulnerable to the cube’s gatling guns and bombs, but Sally would be defending them.

 

“‘Flash Flood’!”

 

Sally caused a large amount of water to be spewed from under the ground, using that to drive an incoming bomb off, then transformed her weapon into a great shield to block the gatling guns’ barrage.

 

“‘Commence Attack’!”

 

Maple’s cannon let loose an intense red laser, hitting the cube directly. This was as expected, since it had no actual shield or minion to take the hit for it.

 

As a result of Maple’s attack, the boss’ gauge filled up to a certain point before depleting itself once again, generating yet another new weapon for the boss.

 

“It’s a long pipe!”

 

“Is it some kind of artillery weapon…? I know I’ve seen something like that before but I don’t know what it is…”

 

As they kept on attacking, wondering what would happen, a thin line of light projected itself from the long pipe and onto Maple’s forehead. It looked like a pointer.

 

“That’s a sniper rifle…!”

 

Before Sally could finish talking, a thunderous roar was heard, and a single bullet hit Maple’s forehead at such incredible speed that there was no avoiding it, and was sent flying far away to the back. Her “Dedicated Affection” and “Afterglow of Salvation” were still in effect, so there had been no visual effect of damage on Maple as the bullet hit her forehead, and taking into account that since it was a single attack, her “Stout Guardian” still remained active as well, so all that was left for her to do was to call out to Sally and focus on the boss ahead of her.

 

“Looks like I’m okay, so I’ll resume my assault!”

 

No matter how good Sally was, it wasn’t an attack she could avoid without paying undivided attention to it. On top of that, whether or not she could defend against it would determine whether or not Sally would be able to keep on moving about and scraping off the boss’ remaining HP as freely as before. But since she still had her “Empty Shell” under her sleeve, there was no better time to try that out.

 

“Okay…”

 

Sally confirmed that the pipe above the cube was storing energy and took a step back. At that brief instant, the gatling guns changed their angle in order to chase after Sally. It was a slight gap, and if Sally were to be attacked there, even if she managed to stop the attack somehow, she would have no chance to counterattack.

 

The cube would try to fill that gap, and Sally would lure it into doing so. With another thunderous roar, a bullet was fired towards her. However, the red pointer shining on her told her what the bullet’s trajectory would be in advance.

 

“Haah!”

 

The flow of time slowed down almost to the point that it seemed to have stopped completely. In this “bullet time”, Sally’s gaze firmly grasped the bullet. Half reacting and half predicting, she swung her dagger, hitting the bullet from the side, causing sparks to fly, and deflecting it away from its intended target — her forehead.

 

Sally’s body was also repelled backwards thanks to the knockback caused by blocking the attack with her weapon, but she still managed to adjust her posture in the air and land safely on the ground.

 

With tremendous speed, the bullet quickly made its way through just past the upper left side of Sally’s body, making a loud noise as it crashed into the wall behind her.

 

“It worked…!”

 

As soon as the momentary exchange was over and the perception of the flow of time felt returned to normal, the cube’s gatling guns opened fire, and Sally started running once again.

 

“Technically I can repel that bullet… But I think that job is better left to Maple, after all.”

 

Since it would require a lot of concentration on her part, Sally wouldn’t be able to keep doing that for too long. As Sally looked at the gatling guns and then at Maple, she seemed to be safe as expected, and though her weapons had been destroyed, her HP had not decreased at all.

 

“Sorry, Sally~! Are you okay!?”

 

“Yeah. You really can brush it off quite easily, huh?”

 

“I’ll be sure to catch the next one!”

 

Maple had several means to deal with something like that sniper rifle. She could swallow the bullet with her “Evil Eater” or take it thanks to her “Heavy Body”. These were all far from being the worst tactic against it, since both of them also ensured that Maple wouldn’t take any damage in the first place.

 

“Shoot at it with everything you’ve got. That’s the safest way to get some damage done to it.”

 

“Okay~ ‘Deploy All Weapons’! ‘Seeping Chaos’!”

 

“‘Cyclone Cutter’!” ‘Fireball’!”

 

The boss’ HP took a hit, while it in turn couldn’t do anything to hurt Maple and Sally, who attacked it unilaterally from behind their multi-layered safety net. The cube had no actual countermeasures for their attacks.

 

Maple and Sally were very compatible with each other, so they could overrun any enemy. That was the main advantage of them having such eccentric builds.

 

“…It has two new weapons!”

 

“Watch out for those!”

 

One of them was floating directly above Maple and Sally, and the other one was suspended near the boss’ frame. As Maple and Sally wondered what those would do, each of the cube’s new devices fired a thick laser that crossed the room from one end to another.

 

“Whoa!”

 

“T-they’re moving! We need to either duck or jump in order to avoid these!”

 

“B-but that’s easier said than done for me!”

 

Jumping to dodge the moving lasers was something that Sally would be able to do, but Maple was a different story.

 

Maple’s jumping abilities were nothing to write home about.”

 

“Then…”

 

“…I see!”

 

Sally’s suggestion was to try to use her Great Shield to block the gatling guns’ bullets as the laser approached her.

 

That single move could decide the fate of their long battle.

 

 

 

After accepting Sally’s suggestion, Maple allowed her weapons to explode as the laser approached her, using the shockwave from their explosion to launch herself upwards. However, she wasn’t going up vertically, but diagonally forward.

 

The cube’s knockback rifle was still charging, and though the gatling guns had destroyed her weapons, there was nothing they could do to stop Maple’s approach.

 

“‘Invitation to the Ocean Floor’!”

 

Just as she was about to land, Maple turned one of her arms into a tentacle, stretching it out and wrapping it around the cube. Even if its thin shield could mitigate some of it, there were quite a lot of damage effects bursting from the gaps between the parts where the tentacle completely covered the cube as it squeezed it like a sponge.

 

“That seems to have worked! Just a little more… ‘Deploy Barrels’!”

 

Maple turned her free hand into a huge barrel before letting loose a powerful laser from it at point-blank range. and the laser is emitted at zero distance as it is. The damage effect mixed up with the laser’s red light, and the boss’ HP started to decrease at an amazing speed. However, its mysterious gauge also began to increase at the same amazing speed, and the generated impact forced Maple to let go of the cube and sent her flying.

 

“Wha-!? No! I was so close! Uwaaah!?”

 

Just as she fell on the ground, Maple was targeted by both the gatling guns and the rifle. She rolled towards Sally’s position while being engulfed by the burning moving laser.

 

“…You’re okay, right?”

 

“Yeah!”

 

“Look at you, replying so cheerfully after all that!”

 

Maple thought about going for another attack, thinking that she would be able to finish it off after a few more shots, but before the two of them could do anything, a large portion of the boss’ gauge was consumed, and started emitting an unprecedented light.

 

When the light subsided, the gatling guns in the center of the cube had disappeared, and had been replaced by a huge pipe that was about ten times bigger than them. Though it would have appeared to be nothing more than a stone pillar to the untrained eye, Maple and Sally quickly realized that it was a cannon with a tremendous power.

 

As soon as it was created, the cube started charging it up, and deployed several shields of light to protect it.

 

“What do we do, Sally!?”

 

“Well, I’d love to defeat it before it gets a chance to shoot that thing! But…”

 

Its power and range were unknown, but there was no doubt that this was the cube’s last trump card.

 

It would be better to deliver the final blow to the boss without letting it shoot, but there was no telling how much more resilient it had become.

 

There was a risk to both counterattacking as usual and rushing to finish it off.

 

“What do you think of this, Sally?”

 

This time around, it was Maple’s turn to suggest an idea. Upon hearing it from her, Sally nodded in approval.

 

“Sounds good. Then we’ll wait for it to shoot. I trust your abilities, Maple.”

 

“Yeah! We’ll be alright!”

 

Having Maple around meant that it was often better to only attack after having blocked the opponent’s own attack than to try to do something reckless and end up in a position where she can’t protect anyone.

 

As long as Maple was able to neutralize anything that was thrown at her without any risk thanks to her defense and her “Dedicated Affection”, they should be able to wait without any problems until the time was right for them to attack.

 

“I think it’s about to shoot!”

 

Sally, who was observing the situation, saw the light converging on the weapon became stronger and felt the signs of imminent fire.

 

“Just in case… ‘Pierce Guard’! ‘Unbreakable Shield’!”

 

Maple activated those skills in case of a direct hit, cancelled her tentacle hand, and took up her Great Shield once again. Shortly after that, a high-pitched sound was heard indicating that it was ready to fire, and then there was a roaring sound, much louder than ever, and most of the room was covered in an intense white light.

 

 

 

It had been only a brief moment, and after everything was over, Maple and Sally were no longer on the ground where everything had burned down, only the overflowing water remained. But that didn’t mean that they had been killed, or that the room had collapsed and flooded.

 

“Excellent timing!”

 

“Ehehe, it worked like a charm!”

 

Both of them were right above the boss. By targeting the cube’s laser with Maple’s “Ark”, they were able to phase through the attack without taking any damage.

 

When Maple said “Just in case”, she meant in case this strategy failed.

 

In exchange for a big final shot, the cube had discarded the gatling guns that had always been targeting either of them, and all of the other weapons it had available were unable to attack them immediately. This was a great chance for them to attack.

 

“Maple, let’s go!”

 

“Okay~!”

 

“”Deploy Barrels!””

 

Both of them turned each of their arms into a giant laser cannon, pointed directly at the cube underneath. If their opponent was to bring out the big guns, then Sally would use her “Reversal of Lies” to do the same.

 

“”Commence Attack!””

 

The lasers they fired mixed together, destroying the boss’ shield with as much force as the one fired just a moment ago, burning the cube’s body and completely stopping its movements.

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