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Defense Specialization and When the Night Comes

Spectator area. After a large-scale battle was concluded, there were those who were satisfied and returned, and those who felt the need to summarize all the new information. Each of them did their own thing—but as a whole, there was a calm and relaxed air as if they’d passed the climax.

“It’s a shame that Misery didn’t survive…”

“I’m sorry. But I wish that I could’ve optimized Bell’s skill.”

“It can’t be helped. The opponent was tough.”

“You did a pretty good job. I was lucky that I was able to put a dent on Misery’s total invincibility.”

“Tch, I wanted to stay, too!”

“Still, didn’t Sally do something weird? Not only did she use Maple’s skill, she also used Payne’s and Kasumi’s.”

Shin stared at Drag and Dred, wondering if they knew something because they were from the same faction.

“Who knows? I haven’t heard anything from Frederica, either. I don’t know the details.”

“I’m serious, by the way.”

Apparently, he wasn’t lying. Upon realizing that, Shin deemed it useless to probe. Misery also seemed to be curious because it was her cause of death.

“It doesn’t seem like they changed their equipment… Did they use anything? Or is it some kind of skill?”

“It’s a Holy Sword skill, right? If she could even use one of Payne’s skills, then she’d be able to use everyone’s skill. Is that really possible?”

“Now that I think about it, it’s somewhat far-fetched… After all, it’s related to their classes.”

After all, the Holy Sword skill wasn’t ordinary in any means. In fact, the two had even begun to think that it might be a unique one. Besides, the [Machine God], which only Maple could use, and the [Origins of the Swords: Hollow] which only Kasumi could use—were too rare. Therefore, it was only natural for them to think that there was some kind of trick.

“…Still, if she truly can use all of them, then there’s no defeating her.”

In terms of player skills, Sally was among the top players. Even if she didn’t actually possess those skills, she was still a demon on her own. Hence why people felt threatened every time she acquired a powerful move.

“What will you do after this, Shin?”

“I’ll go watch them, obviously! What about Drag and Dred?”

“That’s a great idea! Even if we left, there’s not much EXP to get. It’ll be better if we watch!”

Even if they left the time-accelerated space, the event would end soon and everyone would come out. As long as they were still up to it, it’d be better to stay and watch for the sake of information gathering.

“After all, there are things that can only be understood by watching from outside.”

Drag and Dred decided to remain there.

“The next battle will be at night.”

“I’m sure the speed-type assassin is still alive. Ugh, if only Dred survived…”

“Maybe, [Thunderstorm] defeated us in anticipation of that?”

“No… I don’t think that’s the case. They probably didn’t plan it that far. Although, Hinata might differ.”

“Well, there’s that.”

Shin smiled wryly and turned his gaze at the strategy meeting of the Kingdom of the Flame Emperor.

“As long as Payne wins, I have no complaints.”

“I want Mii to give her best, too.”

“I’ll go get something to eat and drink. You guys stay and watch!”

“Oh, nice, just when I’m starting to crave for something…”

“If it’s Frederica, I’m sure she’ll have something.”

“Shall we move to a seat with a table?”

“Great idea!”

The four of them moved to a seat with a table. From where they sat, the monitor could still be seen. Just like other players, they were trying to gather as much information as they could and support their allies.

Hopefully, the next one to be eliminated wasn’t the main force in their faction. With that in mind, the four of them looked at the monitor while chatting.

***

Upon their return to the royal castle, Maple and the others confirmed the survivors once again.

Ally that died and had been transferred to the spectator field could be recognized at a glance due to the change in display.

“Alright, everyone seems to be alive.”

“What a relief! Since we’re separated like this, anything can happen!”

“I’m sure they’ll return once they’re done.”

After a while, six people returned from different directions.

Not much time had passed, but it was the first time in a while that they’d gathered together. Furthermore, they’d just survived a harsh battle.

“I’m glad. Mai, Yui, you seem to be alright!”

“Everyone did their best to protect us…”

“Hey, you did great in the last battle. I’m sure everyone thinks the same, hence they protected you!”

“Did Iz and I manage to whittle the enemy’s damage?”

“Indeed. Had you not done it discreetly, it'd be a lot more difficult to remove our debuffs.”

While there weren’t many ways to remove enemy buffs, there were a number of ways to remove allies’ debuffs; mostly using light magic.

Rather than a strategy to overthrow the enemy, the joint effort between Kanade and Iz were centered around hindering their advance.

“I saw Kasumi jumping around as she pleased—though, there weren’t that many casualties. I also felt our difference in numbers a bit, as if we’re being pushed back.”

“Once the duration of [Mind’s Eye] is over, I can’t just be reckless. I wish I could’ve attacked a little more boldly…”

“No, no, you’re already bold enough…” Chrome responded, and some people nodded along with him.

Apparently, the four of them were also able to avoid catastrophic damage on the battlefield. Furthermore, it was also great that the player who was supposed to die survived.

“Mai, Yui, where did the two of you go in the previous battle?”

“Judging from what they said, it appears that they went to the frontline.”

“That’s right!”

“We are…”

Mai and Yui told Maple about what happened on their end. To put it simply, the enemy unit was annihilated.”

“I-I see, that’s awesome…”

“For someone who doesn’t know how to play an iron ball, that’s quite an achievement…”

“No, in the first place, I don’t think an iron ball can be used as a weapon…”

“Since we use a sledgehammer all the time, retrieving the iron ball isn’t a problem.”

In their case, offering logistical support should be sufficient. Moreover, both were melee users. Yet somehow, the two managed to deal damage to the enemy with iron balls.

“Awesome! Good job!”

“I agree. Besides, you did it without any hesitation, too.”

“A-actually, it’s all thanks to those who fought alongside us…”

“It motivated me a lot!”

Apparently, the two had met their ideal players. Both of them seemed to be relieved that they managed to do well. At the same time, they seemed somewhat tired.

“Let’s rest for now. It might be safer for us to stay near the castle just in case.”

“Oh, sure. After all, the enemy’s aim is the throne. If we reside at the castle, no matter what happen, we’ll be able to join the defense at any time.”

Since no one objected to the suggestion, [Maple Tree] decided to head to the royal castle.

“We should replenish our inventory. The town is still available for use. If you need any of the items I made, do let me know.”

“Oh, during the rescue, I used the [Doping Seed] and some potions…”

“We have to make sure so that we don’t run out of it later.”

“What about the weapon's durability? I don’t really care. The others also didn’t seem to mind that one.”

“In that case…”

“We’d like you to repair it just in case!”

“Of course.”

Since Mai and Yui’s weapons were made by Iz, their durability would decrease with frequent usage. The performance of all 16 of their sledgehammers—fully customized by Iz—were incomparable to those sold in stores. Of course, it’d require a lot of time and effort to craft the same thing again. Therefore, they had to take care to not break it.

While making plans for the future, [Maple Tree] decided to take a temporary truce. During break, they chatted in a friendly atmosphere, shared their feedback on the battle so far, devised a strategy, and shared their inner turmoils.

Without knowing when they’d return to the battlefield, they took care to not miss anything.

“I’m worried about you, Maple. Hm— are you resting properly?”

“Don’t worry. Besides, there are places in the castle that allow you to cook. I can relax there!”

“Are you going to cook something?”

“Yes, for example, this giant slab of meat in my inventory!”

“…Huh, you’re going to use that?”

Listening to what she was about to cook, Sally widened her eyes, thinking it was rather wild. However, upon recalling the king of that country, it didn’t feel so crazy anymore…

“There are other ingredients as well!”

“Hopefully, you’ll be able to come up with something that beats Iz’s cooking.”

“Eh? I wonder if that’s even possible…”

Maple began to look back and wonder.

—Thus, the eight of them went towards the royal castle.

***

Seeing them off from behind, Frederica spoke to Payne, who’d finished issuing the necessary instructions to the [Congregation of Holy Swords].

“Since Drag and Dred are gone, we’re going to have to revise some of our strategies.”

“That’s true. Still, I can’t help but think about the skill that defeated them…”

The two were defeated because they were forcibly isolated by Hinata’s skill.

“It’s safe to assume that Hinata’s the one who decides who to take inside.”

“I’m sure of it. Quite frankly, if I’d been chosen, I’d have a hard time, too.”

To not only be able to freely choose their opponent, but also transfer them on the spot—obviously, that was quite a threat.

For example, if someone from [Maple Tree] like Iz, Mai, or Yui were kidnapped, they’d be at a huge disadvantage.

At the same time, they still hadn’t figured out how to counter that skill.

“Then, we’ll have no choice but to stay away from the enemy.”

“Since both Velvet and Hinata have flashy skills, I have no choice but to track them down and deal with them.”

Perhaps, there were ways to counter that skill. But as it was, they had no way of finding out.

“What should we do tonight? Dred—the highlight of our strategy—is gone.”

“I think I’ll postpone making a decision until I’ve consulted with [Maple Tree].”

“Ah, it’s about time for Sally to go.”

For some players, the darkness served as a camouflage for an easier fight. While the atmosphere of the battle itself would change, but there's still be a certain number of players deployed at night. Thus, Sally had to go there so the enemy wouldn’t have the upper hand.

“Oh, that reminds me… I got a reply from Dred a while back. What do you think, Payne?”

“Let’s take a look. …That’s right. Should we also show it to Sally?”

“Sally should be able to make use of this! Yes, that’d be a great idea!”

“Then, I entrust this to you.”

Payne checked the content of the message before handing it to Sally with a nod. It seemed that what was written there was useful for Payne, as well.

“Apparently, everyone has an ace up their sleeves…”

“It seems so. We’ve gathered plenty of information. However, when it comes to ultimate skill, we can only determine that through battle.”

If anything, that was only natural. After all, everyone only used their trump cards when the going got rough. Under normal circumstances, Frederica would’ve never used [Mana Ocean], either.

“I’ve been improving my sharpness. Hopefully, we’ll be able to win this.”

“Ahaha, don’t be down just because the two were defeated, okay? Everyone has high hopes for Payne.”

There were no doubts that many other guilds rely on him, and not just [Congregation of Holy Swords]. He’d been a formidable man since the first event, so it was natural to rely on him when problems arose.

“I know. I’ll fulfill your expectations and lead everyone to victory.”

“Yeah, yeah. Keep it up. Then, I’ll go to [Maple Tree].”

“Send me a message if you need anything.”

“Will do.”

After exchanging those words, Frederica headed for the royal castle.

“Now, what should we do?”

With the defeat of Drag, the skills to intercept the enemy's approach and attack were greatly reduced. Furthermore, they also lost Dred, along with his useful ability to protect multiple people from attack. It could be said that the risk of fighting against many moving players had increased.

“I’ll have to admit that rearguard is my weakness.”

Knowing that, he had to either prepare something to replace it, or revise the strategy so they could fight without it. Payne took some time to plan their next move.

The first half of the game started with a search. From the intensifying battle, along with the previous interpersonal battle, each individual had proven their growth. The huge, head-on decisive battle that came then was settled in the form of sharing the pain between the two.

Despite the increasing number of casualties, the battle wasn’t over. There was no doubt that this battle—which had become a melee—would prove to be a challenge for both sides. Therefore, they needed to get some rest to achieve perfect condition, both mentally and physically.

Thus, the first night of the event dawned.

Some players moved under the cover of the night, while others advanced boldly. Each of them had planned in advance. Hence, that night was a crucial moment for all of them. Which side would be the first to execute it? While there were various strategies, everyone shared the same goal—which was victory.

Darkness engulfed the event field. Unlike during the daytime, different tension drifted across the map. Thus, the offense and defense in the darkness of the night began.

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