Itai no wa Iya nanode Bōgyo-Ryoku ni Kyokufuri Shitai to Omoimasu 389
Defense Specialization and the 9th Layer
Time went by, and the day of the 9th Layer’s release finally arrived. The eight members of Maple Tree had made plans to gather together in order to capture the underwater tower.
“One of the things we’ve gotten out of this 8th Layer is that we’ve increased our ‘Swimming’ and ‘Diving’ levels.”
“I hope we get a chance to make use of that in the 9th Layer as well.”
“Don’t wanna say goodbye to the underwater experience so soon, huh? Though I wonder if we’ll have to come back here to get materials for making water-attributed stuff…”
“Aw, it would’ve been nice if we could have the ‘Swimming’ skill as well, but…”
“We don’t have the stats required for that…”
“But in exchange, you two get to play a really active part of today’s plan. I’m counting on you two to defeat anything that gets in our way.”
“Okay, full steam ahead then!”
“Come on out, Syrup!”
Syrup was the best choice when it came to having everyone moving together while ignoring terrain.
After making Syrup go big, everyone got on his back and then Maple had him fly towards the tower.
“There’s going to be a lot of movement on the surface.”
“Being able to fly like this sure is amazing, huh?”
Since the dungeon and monsters were mainly underwater this time around, there would be no monsters in the sky, so they could fly without having to worry about a single thing.
Thus the eight of them were able to reach their destination without any trouble.
After stopping Syrup near the tower’s entrance and having everyone get down from him, he returned to his original size. After all, there was no way he could enter the tower while in his giant state.
Once they were all ready, they entered the tower while sticking around Maple, who had already activated her “Dedicated Affection”. The upper part of the tower was not submerged in water, so furniture and other items still remained relatively intact. They found themselves in a room about a dozen meters wide, with a wooden hatch on the floor leading to the floor below.
“Was this made to try to block the rising water from getting to this floor?”
“There are no monsters around. It should be safe to go down here.”
The fact that the furniture was still in place, it was easy to understand that this was the dungeon’s actual entrance.
“I’ll stand around here just in case!”
Maple stood close to the hatch, directing the pillar-like range of her “Dedicated Affection” downwards.
“I’m opening it up.”
When Chrome opened the door, he noticed the floor underneath was completely pitch black, partly because there were no windows on it. After casting a light downwards, he found that though it didn’t seem to be submerged in water, something appeared to be moving around.
“…There’s something down there.”
Maple’s defensive aura was wide enough that it reached the floor underneath, but since the only way to get there was through a completely vertical iron ladder, it would be difficult for all members to get there at the same time.
“Should I go there with Mai and Yui, or with Kasumi…?
“…I have another idea.”
Iz had a mischievous smile on her face. Chrome somehow understood what she was talking about and, thinking it would be his safest bet, refrained from jumping to the floor underneath.
What happened next was quite intense. A large number of bombs were dropped onto the floor below from its only upper entrance one after another, and once there were enough bombs in it, a flaming crystal was tossed inside before closing the hatch.
“Cover your ears!”
Immediately after that, a thunderous roar and a violent rumbling came from the floor below. Since the wooden door was an unbreakable object that wouldn’t open by itself, Maple and the others would be fine on the floor they were in, but anything that could have been on the floor below might have not survived such a blast.
“…It’s scary how important it is to be at an advantageous position.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Let’s just keep pressing on like this. We’ll worry about the underwater section once we’ve reached it.”
Thus they kept going down several floors, indiscriminately obliterating any monsters that were there by filling them up with Iz’s bombs.
“…What’s scary is letting Iz get an advantageous position.”
“Amazing! With this, we’ll reach the lower floors with as much as a scratch on us!”
A good offense tends to be the best defense, so they wouldn’t have to worry about taking damage if they simply kept blowing up everything below them as they went down.
“…Well, time for a change of plan. It’s all water from this point on.”
“Oh, then I guess that’s it for my bombs then.”
“At least it’s no longer so dark anymore. I can see some big fish swimming down below.”
“Time for our diving suits, right? We can just go wild on them thanks to Mai and Yui here.”
“I’ll protect you the moment you get in!”
“Okay, let’s give it a shot.”
Just having Maple around would have been enough, but just in case, Chrome got in first, followed by Mai and Yui.
The moment they jumped into the water, the fish swimming inside reacted by showing their glaring sharp fangs and rushint to attack them.
“Don’t you worry about me, okay? Go, Mai, Yui!”
Just as the fish started to gather around Chrono, Mai and Yui, who were slightly behind him, wielded eight hammers each.
Each one of those hammers were as strong as putting all of Iz’s bombs together.
They were using basic attacks that consisted of simply swinging their hammers. However, that alone surpassed the destructive power of any special move anyone else on the team could have.
Anything that came into contact with those swinging hammers would literally explode into pieces and disappear. Their simple violence ran around the room in an instant, returning everything to nothing.
“Phew… I know that even if you were to hit me with those things, I wouldn’t take any damage since I’m your teammate… But it still sends a shiver down my spine.”
Even though Mai and Yui were actively trying not to hit Chrome, seeing such destruction being unleashed so closely to him was enough to make his body stiffen up reflexively.
“Way to go~!”
“That did the trick!”
“Thanks for your defense too, Maple.”
“Ehehe, thanks to the both of you guys, it wasn’t even necessary.”
There was a certain sense of security to knowing that they would be okay even if they were to get attacked by some chance, which allowed them to go completely on the offensive without having to worry about a thing. Hearing their conversation, Chrome silently nodded, as if agreeing that that is precisely the main role of a Great Shield user.
“Looks like it’s already over and without incident.”
“Yeah, Sally. These small fry are no match for those two when they wield all of their hammers. Also, it’s pretty amazing how my ‘Dedicated Affection’ works vertically like this.”
The skill had a wide range, covering up the entire width of the tower, so any monster that wanted to attack them had to pierce through it first. Everyone knew that such a thing was virtually impossible to achieve for most monsters.
“Okay, let’s keep going! I’m leaving the offensive to you guys!”
Since the eight of them were there, Maple didn’t have to force herself into attacking. It was important to have a potion on hand in case she suddenly got damaged. The team’s front had no way of collapsing unless Maple was defeated.
They had switched from a strategy centered on Iz to one centered on four attackers, Mai, Yui, Kasumi, and Sally, to proceed further down. Kasumi and Sally were in charge of fast monsters, and Mai and Yui would blow away monsters that seemed to have high HP and defense.
By having Chrome lure the monsters to himself and use Necro’s skill to lower their AGI stat, they were able to defeat the monsters without any particular complications.
“Look at them going. Makes me wonder if we should join in the fun.”
“Hehe, I’m glad I can actually afford to sit back and chill. I get to save on spellbooks.”
“You keep racking those up. I wonder if you’ll ever run out of those?”
“Hmm, I suppose it could happen eventually?”
“Imagine Kanade using up all of his books.”
“Hahaha, yeah. But if it turns out I need to use them at some point, I will.”
Maple and Iz couldn’t imagine what kind of opponent would force Kanade to use all of his accumulated skills on them.
Then, as the three of them were still talking, Sally popped out from the lower floor.
“All done. The next floor looks a little deeper, so we’ll all need to be there.”
“It feels like we’re just going through a series of floors, right? I’ll get my spellbooks ready just in case.”
“Yeah, please do. I can’t tell for sure since I can’t see this place from the outside, but I’m sure we’ve been diving a lot, so it wouldn’t be weird to be close to running into this place’s boss.”
When everyone got together and proceeded to the next floor, they found that it was a huge room that had once been split into several floors, but the floors themselves had caved in, leaving only the outer wall behind all the way to the bottom. Rather than having been eroded by water and collapsing, the floors seemed to have been destroyed by something so huge that it had crushed them along the edges of the wall.
“It’s pretty deep, isn’t it? It’s going to take some effort to get all the way down there.”
“Though we could also say that we can just beeline to the bottom since there are no more floor divisions here.”
“…Something’s shining? Guys!?”
While they were discussing what to do next, Sally saw something shining far below, and called everyone’s attention. Then, the moment everyone looked down, three lumps of shining water flew towards them one after another.
Sally and Kasumi swiftly dodged them, and Chrome blocked one of them with his shield. Iz and Kanade also managed to avoid them, but Mai and Yui, who were slow and had no “Swimming” skills, had no means to evade them.
As the lumps hit them directly, bubbles and a damage visual effect were displayed on each of them. Since they were under the effects of Maple’s “Dedicated Affection”, everyone else looked back at Maple.
“…No damage! But, their air…!”
Maple confirmed that their remaining oxygen had decreased as a result of the direct hit and explained what happened to the rest of the team.
“I see… Right, that is one big weakness we all share here…!”
“Oh, that’s low. Attacking us by depleting our oxygen after a long underwater dungeon…”
However, from the different atmosphere and changes in the battle terrain, it was easy to think that that had probably been an attack by the boss.
Still, the boss itself couldn’t be seen because it was too far down below. All that could be seen were its long-range attacks coming from the darkness of the tower’s bottom at high speed.
“We can block these with our shields just fine! Let’s make a beeline to the bottom while Maple and I at the front. If we waste our time idling here, it’s gonna get rough for Maple!”
“Right. I’ll get some defensive magic ready.”
“I’ll repel them with my sword as well. I also have my ‘Mind’s Eye’. I’ll be able to see the range of its attacks.”
“Should I change my weapon into a Great Shield too?”
“Mai, Yui. You two have all of us protecting you. So go give that boss hell!”
“Okay! Let’s go, everyone!”
Under Maple’s command, the eight of them advanced towards the bottom. With Mai and Yui at the back and Maple and Chrome marching in front, the formation’s defense was solid, and with support from Iz and Kanade, Kasumi and Sally were the first ones to deal with the boss’ frontal attacks.
Their win condition was to take Mai and Yui to whatever was there at the bottom. There was nothing that those two wouldn’t be able to defeat, provided it was within their attacking range.
“There’s four shots now!”
“I’ll take care of this one!”
“I’m blocking this one!”
With a swift swing of Kasumi’s sword, the lump of water split into small bubbles and disappeared just before it could hit her. Sally takes safety precautions and turns her weapon into a large shield to catch it. Maple and Chrome each blocked the remaining two shots, so not even a single one of them managed to land a direct hit.
“That’s efficient role-sharing for you!”
“Yeah, we have the right people in the right places. Let’s focus on destroying that boss.”
Kasumi and Sally noticed a slight change in the water as they managed to get past the lumps of water that attacked them one after another.
“The flow… Kasumi!”
Kasumi activated her skill in order to turn Sally’s hunch into a certainty. What she saw was a scene that glowed bright red everywhere except near the walls due to the effect of her attack-predicting skill.
“Get to the walls! Something’s coming!”
There would be no mistake in Kasumi’s words whenever she was using her “Mind’s Eye”. Anything she could see with it was something that was inevitably going to happen in a few moments.
Immediately after everyone approached the edge, a huge water current burst upwards from the center of the room. Getting caught in that stream would not only have dealt damage to them, but also returned them to the starting point.
“It’s coming back!”
“Kasumi, can you do that again?”
“…Yeah. ‘Battlefield of Carnage’ ‘Mind’s Eye’.”
A red aura rose from Kasumi’s body, instantly reducing her skills’ cooldown. This made it possible for her to use her “Mind’s Eye” once again in quick succession.
“If this effect expires, I won’t be able to use the skill, but if it helps those two move forward, then that shouldn’t be a problem.”
Even if the negative effects of “Battlefield of Carnage” happened to deprive Kasumi of the use of her skills, it would serve the purpose of protecting Mai and Yui until they reached the boss.
With her current ability, she was confident that she would still be able to dodge most attacks anyway.
She was still able to completely avoid even those attacks that had little indication by looking into a certain future. There was no room for mistakes or misreadings because she wouldn’t be dodging simply as a result of her intuition or experience.
Right after they managed to completely dodge the water stream attack, the effect of “Battlefield of Carnage” expired, and Kasumi’s field of view was restored to normal.
“Time’s up, huh… The rest is up to you guys.”
“We’ve been diving down for quite some time now, we should be coming across the boss anytime now.”
Right after those words were said, they looked down at the bottom of the tower, and found that there were a large number of blinking lights there sparkling in the darkness, like a starry sky on a moonless night.
And not a single one of them would not know what that meant.
“I’ll put up a defensive barrier!”
“Wake up, Sou! ‘Mimic’! ‘Guard Magic’!”
Kanade deployed a barrier while having Sou mimic it, and Iz put up an energy barrier that made a crackling noise by tossing one of her crystals ahead.
The shining dots at the bottom of the tower turned out to be a large amount of water bullets. It was an almost unavoidable barrage that headed towards all eight of them at once. However, they were all blocked by the many layers of defense, completely sparing them from being hit directly.
“…I saw it!”
Sally, who was in the forefront, finally caught a glimpse of the boss. Its body was huge, covering almost the entirety of the tower’s girth, and it had many fins and beautifully shining pale blue scales. It was not a fish, but a water dragon.
When the water dragon noticed that the eight of them were approaching, it began to move, rising at a tremendous speed.
“…! Don’t let it through! If we do, he’ll have the high ground!”
If the water dragon were to dash past them, they would have to go back up while avoiding attacks again. Though that was something that was bound to happen sooner or later, with all eight of them in the battle, perhaps they could create a momentary chance to deal some damage.
“Sou, ‘Slow Field’!”
“Necro, ‘Dead Man’s Weight’!”
Sou distorted the space around them, and Necro’s power caused a huge skull to float behind Chrome for a moment. Put together, both skills would massively slow the water dragon down.
“‘Invitation to the Ocean Floor’!”
Maple’s fully stretched tentacle hit the water dragon’s body, causing several damage visual effects to appear. However, that had just been an aftereffect of her “Evil Eater”, and not what she was trying to do with her tentacle. The real goal was different.
A shocking sound echoed as the boss’ body was momentarily paralyzed. Because the water dragon was a boss, the paralysis would only last about one second. But for that second, the boss’ movements had stopped completely. And there were two girls who had been waiting for that chance all along.
Sixteen sledgehammers relentlessly rushed the water dragon’s body with the full force of Mai and Yui’s tremendous attack power. Other than bosses resistant to physical attacks or raid bosses, there was no withstanding this overwhelming force.
Sixteen shockwaves rapidly hit the boss’ body, and its HP brought to zero in an instant.
After defeating the boss and diving deeper down the silent tower, they found a magic circle at the bottom, which would allow them to advance towards the next Layer.
“Great job, everyone~! Thanks to everyone’s effort, I didn’t end up running out of oxygen!”
“That’s good to hear. You too did a nice job with that paralysis there, Maple.”
“I wasn’t expecting that to happen when I threw my tentacle at it, though.”
“Maybe normal monsters get eaten up too quickly before getting a chance of being paralyzed by it.”
Since they had cleared the dungeon, they would soon be leaving this underwater world.
There was also the fact that they were running low on oxygen. Since they couldn’t afford to talk too much in that place, the eight of them stepped on the magic circle that led to the 9th Layer.
“I wonder what kind of place it is!”
“I’m looking forward to exploring it fully!”
Then the eight of them were wrapped in light and disappeared. After a while, when everything stopped being white and their field of vision returned to normal, they felt solid ground at their feet. They then took off their diving clothes and gazed upon the new world before their eyes.
From the top of the hill they found themselves at, they could clearly see two distinctive areas.
Water and ice could be seen on one side, and lightning that echoed with flames could be seen on the other side. There was a side where a rich forest could be seen, while the other one was all rocks and hot lava all over the place, each based on an underlying tone of white as if to symbolize light and darkness. There were many contrasting things just by looking at them from where they were.
Then, a big town was there, which could be seen from either side even when looking at it from a distance.
“Hoho, I see. I may have understood a little about the upcoming PvP looking at this conflicting place.”
“Oh, this makes things easier to understand.”
“Is this going to be a guild-based PvP event? Or an individual one?”
“Which of these sides would you prefer to be on, sis?”
“Hmm, let’s see… I’d feel much safer around lots of greenery…”
Each member of “Maple Tree” showed their first impressions of the new Layer.
“What about you, Maple? I think you’d do well at either side. Though this has a certain ‘light versus darkness’ feel about it, huh?”
If you look only at her skills, Maple would be more suited for the “darkness” side. However, she also had a “light” component to her, which had recently been bolstered in the 8th Layer.
“Hmph, I can’t tell unless I get a better look at things.”
“You’re probably right. And it might be decided for us when the event starts anyway.”
Until then, they simply had to decide which side they would like to explore.
The green side seems to be very beautiful. However, the volcano area could feature something they had never seen before.
Such thoughts troubled Maple, but there were merits to both sides.
“Okay~! Let’s walk around everywhere!”
Maple cheerfully proclaimed that as she looked upon the new Layer from atop the hill.
350 Name: Anonymous Spear user
A PvP event at last~
351 Name: Anonymous Bow user
Time to see how much stronger everyone has become
352 Name: Anonymous Greatsword user
I don’t know about the details yet, but here’s hoping I don’t get eliminated early
353 Name: Anonymous Magic user
I’ve gotten stronger too but that monster of a player is really scary
354 Name: Anonymous Great Shield user
Well, more than a 1 vs 1 thing, this looks like it’s going to be team vs team
355 Name: Anonymous Magic user
Yeah but this is one heck of a juggernaut
356 Name: Anonymous Great Shield user
357 Name: Anonymous Greatsword user
Oh? Did something happen while you were exploring on the 8th Layer?
358 Name: Anonymous Great Shield user
Lots of things, lots of things happened
359 Name: Anonymous Spear user
This time I’m gonna get her, I’m gonna get her
I swear I’m gonna get herrrr
360 Name: Anonymous Bow user
There’s no way we such ridiculous things can happen, right?
There’s no way, right…?
361 Name: Anonymous Magic user
The PvP event is going to begin soon, so why don’t you see for yourself?
362 Name: Anonymous Greatsword user
At least don’t use that Atrocity thing on me
363 Name: Anonymous Spear user
What would you do if that tentacle sprouting from her hand were to take over her entire body?
364 Name: Anonymous Bow user
We’ve been underwater this entire time so I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s gotten even more tentacles
360 Name: Anonymous Great Shield user
What do you guys think about Maple?
366 Name: Anonymous Spear user
She’s this game’s final boss
367 Name: Anonymous Bow user
She’s a mixture between a monster and a girl, with a little bit of angel about her
~~and with tentacles~~
360 Name: Anonymous Greatsword user
And with a whole bunch of cannons
369 Name: Anonymous Magic user
Yeah she’s bad news
370 Name: Anonymous Great Shield user
Yeah bad news for whoever gets eaten up by her skills
371 Name: Anonymous Spear user
This may sound obvious but please don’t get eaten up
372 Name: Anonymous Bow user
But it’s possible that she hasn’t gotten any stronger than before
373 Name: Anonymous Greatsword user
That’s some wishful thinking
She must have gotten some crazy new skill
374 Name: Anonymous Great Shield user
Why don’t you see for yourself then?
370 Name: Anonymous Magic user
Aren’t you giving yourself away by saying that? Though I do want to see for myself…
Players couldn’t afford to tell how strong they had become until they were matched against each other. Maple included, of course.
Maple and her friends, and their rivals “Congregation of the Holy Swords”, “Kingdom of the Flame Emperor”, “Thunder Storm”, and “Rapid Fire”, spent their days exploring the 9th Layers, eagerly waiting for the day of the PvP event.