Defense Specialization and Joining an Army 2
While this was a large unit compared to the “Maple Tree” guild, it was still too early into the event. It had yet to reach the point where every single player would gather to have an all-out battle, so it was still very risky to march on the flatlands that spread out in front of the castle. If they were to encounter a small enemy party that was out on reconnaissance, they could possibly defeat them easily due to their difference in numbers, but in the worst case scenario, many players from the allied forces would be exposing themselves to danger way too soon into the event.
"If it looks like we’re about to battle, I’ll give you a signal. Please use your ‘Dedicated Affection’ when I do.”
Maple was still on the cart in the center. They would try not to use “Dedicated Affection” until they’re in a situation where they absolutely need it, since the skill had a very flashy visual effect that would give away their position from a distance.
Currently, Maple and the others were advancing through a wasteland that had no particular terrain effect. After a long while, they finally arrived at a place where the landscape itself became a weird mix of greenery and a wilderness with huge rock formations, lava pools and ice pillars, all at the same time. A rich forest could be seen in the back, and from there on it was clear that it was the enemy territory.
As the tension increased, they hid behind a large rock –which they had previously scouted– and checked the forest side of the terrain.
There were a few potential hiding spots before they could reach the actual forest. If there were any enemy forces there, waiting with a large army hiding in the forest, the allied forces could be spotted before they could enter the forest. That would be a very disadvantageous situation, so the plan was to carefully watch the situation from behind the rock.
One of the members of the party, who was staring at the forest through binoculars, finally said those words, further increasing the feeling of tension among the allied forces.
"So they’re in the forest, right? How many are there?”
"To be clear… it didn't seem like there were that many just now."
They had been able to check this one-sidedly because they had been able to secure this vantage position behind the rock, but they still didn’t know the details pertaining to the enemy’s situation. Since the possibility of being found by the enemy increased the further they stepped into their territory, the allied forces couldn’t afford to show themselves carelessly.
Were they at such a numerical superiority that they could risk charging headfirst into the forest, or should they instead wait behind the rock for the enemy’s advance? Since the event didn’t allow for even a single death for each player, it was only natural that players would want to fight as safely as possible, and under the most advantageous circ.u.mstances available to them.
And since the event was still going to be on for quite some time longer, it was important to win every skirmish without losing a single ally.
"What should we do… hm?"
Then the party leader realized that they had a beast of a player by their side, one that hadn’t been part of their original plan. He turned around to face this beast, who was still sitting in the cart. Yes, with Maple by their side, the story would change.
"…Let’s rush into the forest. Now’s the best time to have the strongest s.h.i.+eld by our side."
Hearing that, everyone readied their weapons and prepared themselves for the long-awaited chance to battle it out.
"Let’s go over the strategy one more time!”
After making sure everyone was on the same page, they set up their formation, and Maple and the others rushed out from behind the large rock.
Meanwhile, not far away from there, inside the forest in the country of Nature and Water, a player that was on surveillance duty saw a large number of players come out from behind a large rock. He grimaced and turned to his companions at the back.
"The enemy is here! There’s quite a lot of them, call for reinforcements!"
Seeing their Great s.h.i.+elders marching forward to try to block any incoming damage, the player tried to use the terrain to his advantage and prepared to fire an area-of-effect spell to damage the invaders from the cover of the forest.
However, the opponent seemed to have already foreseen his actions, and suddenly a large amount of white smoke appeared out of nowhere, covering the surroundings.
“Tch! …Everyone get ready!”
Despite that, he still fired his spell, but it didn’t seem to be enough to stop the incoming a.s.sault. Their Great s.h.i.+elders at the frontline rushed in from the curtain of smoke, and several others followed behind them.
However, even so, the fact that the players on this side had set up their position in advance still gave them the upper hand. The invaders were surrounded by a barrage of fire and wind spells, instantly increasing their momentum.
“””’Large-scale Magic Barrier’!”””
A huge defensive wall rose to protect them, and at the same time, a tremendous amount of flame covered the area. Riding the wind, the flames spread like a tornado, overcoming the invading vanguard and engulfing all the approaching enemies.
"How d’ya like that!? Wh…!?”
A sword protruding through the wall of flame cut deeply into his body. The HP above his attacker’s head hadn’t decreased at all, which meant they must have been under some kind of buff that granted immunity to damage.
The player was baffled, after all, the plan he had prepared hadn’t worked at all, and as a light started to cover him, he saw all of the enemy players, including those at the rear guard, rus.h.i.+ng into the forest without a single scratch on their bodies.
And when he died, he finally realized. The s.h.i.+ning visual effect that had been partially covered by the fire and smoke. The player with angel wings, who seemed to have followed the rest of the invaders as if teleporting herself into the fray.
The surrounding sounds of war cries, clas.h.i.+ng of swords, and spells being fired, completely swallowed up the player’s death throes as he disappeared into the light.
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"…Something is coming!"
Everyone looked up at the sky in response to Maple's voice. A large amount of arrows wrapped in red light started to pour down from the sky. Trying to get out of range seemed to be too difficult, so the mages started deploying defensive barriers.
However, these barriers weren’t strong enough, and shattered under the barrage of arrows, which rained down on Maple and the others.
"Gather around me!"
As everyone got inside the range of Maple’s “Dedicated Affection”, she suddenly remembered Sally's words.
They were dealing with other players. And the fact that they had launched this kind of attack meant that they probably knew that Maple was there with them, and that she would most likely activate her “Dedicated Affection” in response. If so, there had to be some kind of reason for the enemy to launch an attack like this, which would normally be repelled by Maple with ease.
“P… ‘Pierce Guard’!”
As she had planned with Sally, if something seemed too dangerous, Maple would quickly take countermeasures against piercing attacks just in case.
After having let loose that rain of arrows from his vantage point on top of one of the floating ice pillars nearby, Wilbert reported his results to Lily, who was right next to him.
"…They repelled them.”
“‘Pierce Guard’ huh? Impressive. I thought we’d get her here for sure… but it seems Sally has been giving her some ideas.”
The fact that she would rely on her “Dedicated Affection” to try to block any kind of damage was also one of that Skill’s greatest weaknesses. On its own, that Skill would have been useless against a wide-ranging piercing attack.
However, they had no intention of easing my attack just yet. The two of them still had an overwhelming range advantage.
“Will, let’s take them down here. We’re most likely not getting a better chance than this one.”
“Most of the members of the unit we managed to form in a hurry don’t know much about Maple other than her being the leader of ‘Maple Tree’.”
Wilbert drew back his bow and shot an arrow wrapped in reddish-black light at Maple, who was holding up her s.h.i.+eld in the distance.
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