Defense Specialization and the Tactical Weapon.
While the “Congregation of the Holy Swords” was gathering people, “Maple Tree” stepped out into the field.
Before the time for the big battle in the center of the battlefield came, they had to do something about “Kingdom of the Flame Emperor”, who was pushing up the front with their strong formation.
Ͳհìʂ çհąքէҽɾ մքӀօąժ ƒìɾʂէ ąէ ղօѵҽӀ-ҍìղ.çօʍ
In order to try to tip the scales back to a more balanced state, “Maple Tree” had decided to put the plan they had been preparing into practice.
“Let’s see… Yeah. Looks like our sorcerers can shoot their spells at the castle from the very limits of their range safely.”
Kanade looked into the distant center of the battlefield with his binoculars. The spellcasting range was fixed to some extent, which was already a well-known fact among players. Even though the “Kingdom of the Flame Emperor” had a strong recovery and defensive ability thanks to the many obstacles they had set up, if a large group of sorcerers from this side were to launch a barrage from the very limit of their casting range, it would make it difficult for Mii’s side to advance and try to defeat those sorcerers.
Even so, with Marx's “Night Castle” at the center, and the large rocks and water that surrounded it, serving as a barrier, the “Kingdom of the Flame Emperor” continued to apply pressure without needing to deal any actual damage, demonstrating how powerful of a Guild it was.
"Taking any single step further than that would mean getting burned to a crisp by Mii. Seems that they’re doing well.”
“Then, we have to help them out quickly! Mai, Yui?”
The twins were the key to this strategy. Maple activated her “Dedicated Affection” in order to minimize the risk of them being defeated, and they all headed for the designated location she had checked in advance.
After climbing a mountain and reaching the edge of a cliff at the top, they looked at the battlefield below them. There they could see the center of this event field, and all the spells from Maple’s side’s sorcerers flying toward the castle one after another. Though this spot in particular was out of the regular spellcasting range, so trying to use magic to support the siege from here wouldn’t accomplish much.
But looking at it from another angle, they wouldn’t be able to do much from this spot unless they had some kind of attack with a longer range than that of average spells. And that’s exactly what “Maple Tree” had prepared for this occasion.
"Well, let's set things up."
"Right. I’ll take them out now.”
The things that Iz took out were something that looked like a pair of golf tees. If there was any difference between them and the average golf tee, it would be their size, which was around Maple's waist.
After Chrome and Kasumi set them up on the ground and made sure they were stable, they looked at Iz to let her know that they were good to go.
"You two take it from here, please.”
The next things that Izu took out were a pair of iron balls, which “Maple Tree” was already familiar with. However, although they were a popular type of weapon, they were also a bit different than usual.
First of all, their size. They were about the size of two Maples lined up vertically, and only Mai and Yui could carry them properly.
Next was the material they were made of. Iz had made them so that they were as sturdy as an iron ball, but they were actually transparent, as if made of glass, so it was perfectly possible to see through them. It was fairly easy for Iz to manage such changes in appearance.
"It seems that the golf tees won’t break under their weight… so it seems to be okay."
Mai and Yui placed an iron ball on each of the golf tees and then let their sledgehammers rest on the ground as they looked ahead towards their target.
At “three”, they swung their sledgehammers, hitting each iron ball cleanly and sending them flying up into the air with tremendous force.
"There they go…”
"No one else can do this, only Mai and Yui. So the enemy will not expect it.”
"They’re still going~"
The twins incredible physical strength, which was not subject to the constraints of Skill-related attack range, had produced an unreasonable flight distance. As long as they kept flying towards their destination, they would crash into the ground with their immense power, which was further increased by their momentum.
“Besides, since they’re transparent, they’re really hard to spot mid-flight. Next is…”
"To keep shooting them until they hit their mark.”
"Mai! Yui! Keep at it!”
"We’ll just keep shooting them…!”
"Yeah, no need to worry about a thing. Since we have already alerted our allies about it, none of them should be in danger of getting hit by these iron balls by accident.”
The main goal of this operation was to keep the enemy in check. Even though hitting any given spot with this was considerably hard, all Mai and Yui had to do was to keep launching these iron balls into the sky until the enemy was forced to choose between heading out to take out the sorcerers or stay inside and avoid being hit by these random meteorites.
A few seconds later, transparent spheres too big and hard to be called raindrops started to rain down on the camp of the “Kingdom of the Flame Emperor” one after another.
"Oh!? W-What’s going on!?"
"We’re under attack… W-What kind of magic Skill is this?”
“Everyone, start deploying barriers! Misery!”
Even though Mai and Yui were the ones who launched these huge iron balls, the main force bringing them to the ground was their natural falling and their own weight, so they wouldn’t be strong enough to one-shot players as strong as any of the main members of the “Kingdom of the Flame Emperor”. But even then, any player getting crushed under one of these iron balls would deal continuous damage until their HP reached zero, and due to their sheer weight, it would be very hard for anyone to escape from them once that happened.
"I'm checking with the camera… there's no magic circle or anything, they’re just raining from the sky? What on earth is this…?”
"We need to stop this now! Marx, who’s behind this!?”
"I don't… I don’t know. I don’t think there’s anyone with a Skill like this, at least not that I know of…."
“We can recover from this situation for now, but it’s still a little too overwhelming…”
The “Night Castle” where the four of them were besieged, as well as the defensive walls set up around it, had a high durability. But if they didn’t do something about those attacks from the sky, even those sturdy defenses would eventually give away, and the enemy could drag them all outside of the castle.
"What should we do, Mii?”
"…Let's retreat temporarily. It’ll do us no good to stay here and get attacked like this.”
Mii knew that the main goal behind this attack was to drive her and the others out of the castle.
To retreat at this point would be the same as allowing the enemy to get away with their objective. However, like many other players, Mii was playing through the event with caution, prioritizing lowering her possibility of death as much as possible, so she wasn’t feeling like overdoing it at this point.
"Marx, what about that trap?"
"The trap I’ve left behind on our way here is still set. It’s very unlikely that the enemy will trigger it.”
"Alright. Shin, call everyone back."
"Sure! I’ll give everyone the signal!”
While seeing those two were preparing to retreat, Mii let out a sigh. Misery then approached Mii and started talking in a quiet tone.
“The only people who can do this are those two.”
"Yeah. Mai and Yui, right? With their insanely high STR and their ability to use eight sledgehammers at once, they might be able to attack this position from quite a distance…"
If so, then they would be able to outrange any sorcerer or archer. And on top of that, their raw power was completely out of this world.
"And I thought that they only specialized in melee combat…”
“Yeah, but they can use their insane strength as if they were some sort of fixed artillery battery.”
Those twins had proven to be more flexible than what their stats implied, further adding to the things Mii and the others had to worry about. After finishing their preparations to withdraw, Shin and Marx returned to Mii’s side.
"Alright, Mii! All of the Guild members have returned to the castle!"
"Everything’s ready on my end as well.”
"Hmm… Okay. Let’s retreat for now then! Marx!”
All of a sudden, the “Night Castle” changed places with a trap that Marx had set a little deeper into their own territory, allowing the entire “Kingdom of the Flame Emperor” Guild to be instantly teleported to safety while preserving their impromptu castle as intact as possible.
"Hmm… it looks like they've retreated. Though I don’t think they have noticed our position.”
"Oh, so it worked?”
“Well done, Mai, Yui! That was an incredible attack!””
“I’m sorry we ended up using so many of those iron balls, Iz…”
"Ah, don’t worry. They have no other use, after all…”
"This is exactly why I made them.”
“This should make things a little more difficult for the enemy. Would you like to shoot a few more of those as a follow-up attack?”
The idea was to show that they were able to continue to attack in order to discourage the enemy from recklessly trying to regain their position. Assuming that they only continued to keep each other in check, then the side that has the ability to put more pressure on the other will be the one to take the initiative.
"Should we try that now that we have the chance? I don't think there will be any problem."
"Then let's do it just once, as a review!”
Following Sally's suggestion, Maple entered a capsule Iz had prepared, which was fixed in mid-air with support from both sides. It had been prepared in a hurry right after the event started, but there was no problem with its quality precisely because Iz had been the one who made it.
"Maple? Are you okay?"
After hearing Maple’s cheerful reply from inside the capsule, Mai stood right to the left of the capsule, while Yui did the same on the right side.
Maple's “Wooly” could only be used once a day. Therefore, in order for it to be safe for Maple to be launched again like she had done earlier that day, a capsule with a sturdy outer shell and the ability to increase in size would be required.
""Here we go!""
With their perfect synchronization, the twins readied their sledgehammers as if they were golf clubs before bringing them down at the lower part of the capsule at the same time. A roaring sound of metal hitting metal resounded, and the capsule containing Maple was blown vertically into the sky.
"There she goes!”
"Even though I know she can endure it, I wanted to hold back."
“Ahaha, well, Maple was the only one who could have taken care of this part of our strategy.”
"I wonder if it went well…? She’s not coming down.”
The capsule surrounding Maple self-destructed, ejecting Maple even higher up into the air. Maple flew far into the sky, and as she passed through the clouds, she used her “Helping Hand” to equip two extra shields, placing each of them under her feet so that they would become temporary footholds so that she wouldn’t start free-falling just yet.
This was a height that Maple couldn’t reach by blasting herself into the sky. Not even Syrup had managed to fly this high either.
Such a place could only ever be visited by those with high-altitude flight ability, leaving aside all Skills with a fixed range.
After confirming that both the launch and her ejection had been successful, Maple put away the shields at her feet and started falling to the ground at high speed.
After safely fetching Maple, who had sunk into the ground after her fall, “Maple Tree” concluded the operation and returned to town. There, the players who had already decided to head to the front line with the “Congregation of the Holy Swords” had already gathered, and each of their Guildmasters were going over some fundamentals.
"Ah, Maple. Looks like it went well. Frederica was very surprised."
"Anyone would be surprised to see someone fall from the sky like, don’t you think~?”
"Look at all the people that are going to join the fight!”
"That's right. We may lose a few and gain a few more, but either way, this seems to be a pretty solid force."
"Then we should start talking about the core of the strategy we’ve come up with.”
After saying that, Sally prepared the monitor with Iz, and had Maple demonstrate.
"’Throne of the Heavenly King’! ‘Afterglow of Salvation’!”
Four white wings grew from Maple's back, and a white throne appeared behind her. The moment Maple sat on it, two layers of a glowing white light spread out on the ground, and the players inside it received damage reduction, increased natural recovery, and other endurance effects. Even without using her “Dedicated Affection”, Maple could also be useful by giving out strong buffs that provided two layers of protection against damage.
“I don’t think we can use ‘Dedicated Affection’. Once the enemy switches to piercing attacks, Maple won’t be able to endure them.”
The combo of “Dedicated Affection” and Maple's defensive power was indeed powerful, but as expected, many players already knew its strengths, and have already devised countermeasures for it.
If Maple were to force herself to protect a much larger number of players than usual, she could be defeated in an instant.
"With this, we will be raising everyone’s endurance instead. And these buffs will not disappear unless Maple is defeated."
By increasing the endurance of everyone instead of protecting them, each of them would have better chances of survival. Although it was rarely used since “Dedicated Affection” would normally be the better choice, this time the front line would be supported by powerful damage reduction buffs.
"This will make the fight easier."
Once the details of the exact percentage of damage reduction was shared with the other Guilds, they started rebuilding their strategy based on that.
"So, up to this point, we've been talking about the things that we can do to help you all feel safer out there on the battlefield. Now, please look at the monitor. We’d like you to fight while keeping in mind that we will be ‘deploying’ this, so be prepared.”
Everyone held their breath and looked at the video so as not to give in to the sense of uneasiness generated by the words uttered by Sally, who was one of their allies.
It seemed that it was received with considerable shock as most likely none of them had ever seen anything like that before. The subsequent noise from many people talking was proof of that.
"So, Payne, this is Maple’s new ‘ace up the sleeve’.”
"…I understand. I'll be careful as well."
"Ahaha, that's amazing, huh? Imagine having to tell your allies to be careful about your own Skill~”
It was decided that a flare would be shot up into the sky as a signal before the “deployment” so that everyone could prepare in advance for Maple’s new secret weapon, waiting for the upcoming head-on collision.
Mai and Yui were sent to the front line from time to time so that they could launch a moderate barrage of iron balls into the enemy territory to keep the enemy in check, and before long, time came for the monsters to attack all at once as expected.
During this period, when all the monsters move at once toward the enemy's camp, there would be a higher chance for the rather balanced state in which both factions were to be broken, so it was no wonder that most players were feeling a bit nervous about marching out of town.
“At last, Sally!”
"Yeah. Let's settle things here and now."
Maple would undoubtedly become an important asset in this battle. The fact that her “Stout Guardian” had been used up for the day was concerning, but Sally would cover up for it.
No matter how difficult that may be.
Since this had effectively become one large Guild with “Congregation of the Holy Swords” at the helm, “Maple Tree” would be able to move freely to some extent.
"Then I'll leave the front line to you."
“We will provide logistical support as well. Good luck.”
""We’ll be rooting for you!""
Mai, Yui, Iz, and Chrome would be staying behind. Without Maple’s “Dedicated Affection”, it was possible for the first three of them to be caught up in collateral damage, so they would be supporting the battle from the rear while being protected by Chrome. Now that Mai and Yui could launch a barrage of powerful iron balls from a long distance, they could be a big threat even from the rear.
"I'm sorry, I can't use ‘Dedicated Affection’…"
"Haha, it would be helpful if you could destroy the enemy so they can’t reach those of us who are staying on the back.”
“Yes, I will do my best to make something happen!”
"B-But don’t overdo it, okay?”
As each of them started to get fired up, the field finally started to get noisy, and the earth began to tremble, indicating that the stampede of monsters had finally begun.
"Let’s march to the center!”
In response to Payne’s call, each of the players from various Guilds started to march in unison and rushed out of town.
"Yeah! Whenever you’re ready!”
""Here we go!""
After quickly entering her capsule while everyone else was marching out of town, Maple was once again sent flying high into the sky thanks to Mai and Yui's unparalleled physical strength.
"Kanade, Kasumi. Let's go with the rest of our forces.”
"Just as planned, right?"
Sally, Kanade, and Kasumi followed the trail of the other players, who were heading straight for the front lines.
Dragons and other monsters with the ability to fly were lining up in the sky, while beasts clad in flames and thunder –which were the characteristics of this country– were rushing out at ground level. When Sally and the others were marching along with them, they saw a black shadow kicking up dust on the horizon, which made a huge castle appear in the center of the battlefield at a certain distance.
There was no mistaking it. The “Kingdom of the Flame Emperor” was right in front of them.
"We have to focus all of our energy.”
At the very moment when the two armies were just about to collide, and one of the two sides was about to start attacking the other one with magic…
A red and black spark dashed in a circle behind the enemy lines without a warning, indiscriminately scorching all life within range.
Its effect, power, and origin were unknown. But seeing how much damage their fragile rear guard had taken managed to shake the enemy to their very core, and the allied forces took this chance to rush in with “Congregation of the Holy Swords” at the front.
"It's time for our heavenly tactical weapon!"
As Sally drew her weapon, she thought of Maple, whose preemptive attack which had consisted in deploying her “Annihilation Area” from far up in the sky had been a tremendous success.