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Ollie noted down all the tools the team needed, and then double-checked her list: Ice Magic Stones for Daryl’s heavy armor’s cooling function, Diniel’s elemental arrows, spare equipment and Potions, and other miscellaneous tools for protection against heat.
Preparations for this evening’s boss challenge were going smoothly at Absolute Helix’s Clan House. The plan was to get themselves ready within an hour, after which they would explore layer sixty-nine and search for the Black Gate, then head down to challenge layer seventy right when the spectators gathered in front of the God Pedestals.
While they readied their equipment, Hannah and Amira could not keep themselves from moving around, apparently quite short on patience. These two were especially excited to see how long this party would last on layer seventy.
“Aah! I wanna go right now!”
Ealdred Crow and Silver Beast were still the only Clans that had progressed past layer seventy. Although Golden Tune had been performing well, they had not been successful so far, with their formation often breaking apart around halfway through the fight. And the Scarlet Devil Squad still insisted on locking the Black Staff away despite having Alma back in their main lineup, so Weiss was the only one among them that people expected to put up a good fight.
All things considered, Absolute Helix had quite a good chance at nabbing the third victory. As such, Hannah and Amira were excitedly talking non-stop about the Dungeon right now.
On the other hand, Daryl seemed extremely nervous. He was happy to have been able to talk to Amira while training in the Volcano layers, but then Tsutomu had told him to plan things for the team by himself during their attempt against the layer boss.
[Gotta do this right…]
He was so nervous, in fact, that his teeth were chattering, and he could not even move around right. That much was quite obvious to everyone, what with him sitting on the sofa with his trembling hands folded together as if he was praying.
Seeing Daryl like that, Diniel’s expression suggested that she was without a care as usual, and then she started nodding off as soon as she sat on the sofa. She had felt pressured by her role as the most important Attacker for the team’s attempt at conquering layer seventy, but when she had been told that she would get days off after this was over, she immediately was able to sleep without worry once again.
“Mister Tsutomu, all the final checks are done.”
With Ollie’s equipment check complete, everyone went back to their rooms and changed into their battle gear. Then they regrouped in the living room, with Diniel being the last to arrive.
For increased heat resistance, Tsutomu wore the recently-obtained Scorchstone Robe, while Daryl equipped his custom-ordered heavy armor — which had cost him not only a cartload of materials, but also quite a lot of trial-and-error on Dorren Workshop’s part. The armor was one of the best heat-resistant equipment that could be crafted with current technology, and was worth as much Gold as a low-end single house.
Diniel’s loadout included her DEX-boosting Verdure Shirt and the Shell Bow that she had obtained from a treasure chest dropped by the Shell Crab. This particular bow had also been used during the Fire Dragon battle, and was one of the most valuable among her collection.
As for Hannah and Amira, their equipment was unchanged from what they usually had. Hannah’s evasion-based Tank role meant she could not change out of her cloth armor, and Amira had opted to keep her red leather armor out of pure preference.
“All right, let’s go over our strategies one last time. Daryl.”
Daryl nodded, still all stiff from the pressure of having to decide the general flow and tactics for the Mount Golem battle. He proceeded to explain things to everyone for about thirty minutes, during which Hannah asked questions quite frequently, apparently out of concern for her combination with Diniel.
After that, Hannah counted something with her fingers, prompting Diniel to narrow her eyes and say to her,
“Don’t worry so much about messing up — it’s the first time for all of us. Just try to stick to the plan as much as you can. I’ll take care of the little things.”
“Ah- oh, okay.”
“Thinking too much might slow you down instead. And without your mobility, you’re useless.”
“…You could’ve said that a little bit nicer, you know.”
Hannah was taken aback by Diniel’s lack of mercy. Considering that reaction, Diniel stared back blankly and spent a moment to ponder things over, after which she looked at Hannah again.
“Just fight however you like, Hannah. I’ll match up with you just fine.”
“You sure that’s gonna work out…?”
“Mm-hm. Any problem with it?” Diniel asked and tilted her head, her ponytail swaying around a few times.
Hannah facepalmed, almost annoyed by how straightforward Diniel could be sometimes.
“Well, if you say so. I’ll be counting on you, then.”
“Mm-hm. Leave it to me,” Diniel said in her usual, uncaring tone, seemingly unaffected by the fact that she was practically playing this operation’s most important role.
Seeing Diniel ooze with confidence, Hannah started feeling competitive, but took a deep breath to calm herself down.
Daryl and Amira did not speak to each other at this time — only because Amira would rarely speak to Daryl unless he struck up a conversation with her first. And although she could tell that Daryl was on edge, she figured that he would get better once they were in the fight proper.
Tsutomu, considering this dynamic to be unbearable to watch, tried to relieve Daryl’s tension by talking to him, but his expression only froze up even more. Out of ideas on what to do, Tsutomu turned to Amira for help.
“Looks like Daryl’s pretty nervous. Can you talk with him for a bit?”
“Pretty please? I just tried talking to him, but it just had the opposite effect, so…”
“Just let him be. He’ll get better when he’s in the thick of it.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure…”
Tsutomu felt uneasy to see that Daryl was even more worried now than he had been before the Fire Dragon battle, but in the end, the time came for the team to head to the Guild.
Arriving there, they found Garm, Amy, and Camille taking up positions in the Dining Hall, ready to watch the live broadcast. Seeing this as a good opportunity to ease up Daryl’s tension, he led the team over to greet them after the party registration was out of the way.
“Hello. Taking time off today?”
“Well, yeah! Y’all are going down to layer seventy, right!? Gotta make sure we get to watch it live!” Amy shouted cheerfully as she held up a bag of fried potato chips.
Tsutomu proceeded to sit down with them for a while.
Daryl got to talk to Garm, which seemed to have helped him calm down somewhat. He still looked nervous, but not as badly as the end-of-the-world anxious look he had had moments earlier.
Amira exchanged a few good words with Camille before going back to Tsutomu — and upon noticing that he had been looking at them, apparently happy that the mother and daughter had reconciled, she gave him a little poke with her elbow.
“Don’t stare so much, man.”
Tsutomu tried to nudge Amira away, disliking being poked so accurately at a bad spot on his rib cage. Camille, seeing that, walked over to his group, prompting Amira to turn visibly bitter and keep her distance. Chuckling dryly at her daughter’s reaction, Camille proceeded to speak to Tsutomu,
“I haven’t gotten to check the Pedestals lately, but it seems like she’s doing well, so that’s good. Please do take care of my kid from now on.”
“Yes, of course.”
The two proceeded to shake hands.
“Shaddup,” Amira grumbled and opened her mouth wide as if she was about to throw up.
Then, after some more small talk, Tsutomu and the Absolute Helix headed down to layer sixty-nine and started searching for the Black Gate to layer seventy.
Exploring the sixty-ninth layer that had become so familiar to them by now, the Absolute Helix team eventually found the Black Gate amid a formation of red rocks. Now was finally their first foray into layer seventy. Tsutomu and Diniel seemed perfectly fine, while the three others were at least a little nervous. Among the latter group, Daryl was rubbing his hands together as if he was feeling cold.
“All right, let’s go.”
Hannah and Amira hammed up their replies to blow away their tension, while Diniel simply nodded. Daryl also answered with a nod a moment later, seeming to have zoned out briefly.
Tsutomu went through the Black Gate first, and the rest of Absolute Helix followed, setting their feet into the seventieth layer where the Volcano layer boss was waiting.
They appeared in an arena-like area, around which rocks were piled up like a dome, obscuring the sky. Lava spread out like an ocean in front of Tsutomu’s team, and behind them was a stretch of solid ground. Tsutomu cast <<Barrier>> for Daryl by tapping his hand on the latter’s heavy armor, and meanwhile, the whole team felt a tremor under their feet.
The shaking came at a regular interval. A pitch-black rock — the head of the Mount Golem — gradually emerged from the vast lava. And as it rose, it also slowly walked forward. Its size was greater than anything the team had ever encountered. From Tsutomu’s perspective, it was as if he was seeing a multi-story building move around.
Hannah, Amira, and Daryl were taken aback by the sight of the colossal monster, while Diniel observed it with great interest. Tsutomu proceeded to cast <<Barrer>> on everyone’s armor, enabling them to soak up a little more damage from weaker attacks.
Eventually, the Mount Golem fully emerged from the lava and stepped onto the land, the residual lava on its head and shoulders dripping down. Just as Tsutomu was done casting <<Haste>> and <<Protect>> for everyone, the Mount Golem started swinging its arms, flinging forth clusters of round, rock-like chunks.
“Hannah, distract the Mount Golem. And Daryl–“
“I know!” Daryl promptly replied with an unusually strong tone.
“…All right,” Tsutomu said after being stunned for a moment. He repositioned himself to avoid the rock cluster before adding, “We’re counting on you.”
Once the rocks fell to the ground, they sprouted arms, legs, and heads — they turned into Golems.
Tsutomu cast <<Fly>> and ascended into the air and kept an eye on the Golems as they appeared, while Amira and Diniel quickly smashed the clumps that had not turned into Golems yet. Hannah pulled all of the Mount Golem’s aggro to herself, and Daryl launched a wide area <<Combat Cry>> to distract all of the smaller Golems.
The battle against the Mount Golem was divided into two parts. One involved Hannah and Diniel shaving away at a single target: the Mount Golem. The other part was Daryl and Amira taking care of the other Golems that spawned from the boss monster.
The Mount Golem was known to be slow during the early stages of the fight, so even an unskilled Tank could easily distract it full-time safely and without difficulty. In exchange, it would regularly spawn several smaller Golems — that was where the difficulty during this phase came from.
The Golems were generally composed of rock and humanoid in shape, and in the Volcano layers, they had been noted to come in various types, such as Lava Golems, Bomb Golems, and Throw Golems. The latter two types were particularly bothersome to deal with among them.
The Bomb Golem, as its name suggested, could produce exploding rocks and had a tendency to self-destruct when in danger. The Throw Golem also produced rocks, and true to its name, it specialized in throwing those rocks as long-ranged attacks.
These two types of Golem almost always spawned as a set, and the Throw Golem would also use the Bomb Golem’s exploding rocks — quite a troublesome combination. Shrapnels of the rocks exploding in mid-air made the attacks almost impossible to fully avoid, on top of being extremely powerful.
Such wide-area attacks were especially bad for Hannah, whose base VIT was low.
Daryl had to keep those Golems away from her as more and more of them kept showing up. Thankfully, his <<Combat Cry>> was so well-tuned that he could avoid aggroing the Mount Golem while pulling all of the other ones to himself.
Amira swung at the Golems’ weak joints with her steel greatsword, destroying them one by one. Diniel was currently killing the smaller Golems, too, due to their high spawn rate during the early stage of the battle.
That left Hannah to face the Mount Golem alone, but the monster’s movements were still extremely slow. Its attacks could be easily avoided even by Tsutomu, so it was virtually impossible for Hannah to die to them.
Hannah used a variety of skills to rack up combos and occasionally mixed in her new skill, the <<Count Buster>>, to maximize her damage output. Since physical attacks like cuts and blunt force were ineffective against the Mount Golem, she technically was not hurting the monster all that much.
Still, she kept hitting it like a sand punching bag, keeping herself and the monster away from her teammates. The Mount Golem reached its arms out to grab Hannah, but she did not even need to move much to get away, and then she even took a chance to kick its head.
Following that, rocks — still large, but pebbles compared to the Mount Golem’s size — broke off and fell from the boss monster’s back and legs, turning into Golems that proceeded to throw rocks at Hannah. Daryl started using <<Combat Cry>> and <<Warrior Howl>> more frequently and was able to pull most of them away, enabling Hannah to keep on fighting easily and without worry.
The four other combatants, unlike Hannah, were having a hard time with their part in the fight. Diniel was tired of seeing Golems walking around wherever she looked as she nocked her arrows, and Amira was in her <<Dragon Form>> and beating down all the Golems she could see with reckless abandon.
Tsutomu kept up his support and healing while also providing extra damage with attacking skills, but the number of Golems seemed to stay the same — no increase, but no decrease either. Regardless, the team had to deal with them the best they could as the Mount Golem kept constantly spawning them.
Daryl, the sole target of attention of the Golem army, had to stand against the monsters’ bashing attacks and exploding projectiles — and it was quite one-sided. But thanks to <<Protect>> boosting his VIT rating to A, and Tsutomu’s healing, he was nowhere near the point of collapsing yet.
At one point, a Bomb Golem glowing red rolled over and self-destructed near Daryl, blowing him away, but he managed to quickly stand back up and re-ready his shielding stance.
He also kept an eye on the Mount Golem and regularly used <<Warrior Howl>> to pull the newly-generated Golems to him. As he bashed his armor and tower shield together, another Bomb Golem — this one missing an arm — rolled over to him and self-destructed, blowing him away again.
And as if to give chase, two more Bomb Golems, ready to blow up, rolled to where he was. Daryl looked around to check Amira and Diniel’s current position, while also holding his tower shield out in front of him.
With the attack, he managed to stop one of the exploding Golems, and then he knocked it away to where the other one was. The Bomb Golem then exploded, and the other Golems around it were caught in the blast.
But then, yet another Bomb Golem charged at Daryl’s flank, emitted white light from the cracks of its body, and blew up.
No matter how resilient Daryl was, eating the powerful self-destruct attacks at point-blank range was bound to hurt. Thankfully, green energy bullets came flying and hit Daryl’s body, healing his injuries and alleviating the pain. Still, he noticed that the Bomb Golems were blowing themselves up near him quite a bit more often than before.
Wondering why that was happening now, he glanced at Amira to see that she was in her <<Dragon Form>>. After blocking some rocks that came flying at his head with his tower shield, he shouted out,
“Diniel! Focus on the Bomb Golems that Amira missed! Shoot them down!”
“Gotcha. <<Double Arrow>>.”
At Daryl’s request, Diniel shot out a volley of ice arrows to cool the red-glowing Bomb Golems down.
By nature, a Bomb Golem would start glowing red after sustaining a certain amount of damage — a sign of it preparing to self-destruct — after which it would rush at the target it wanted to blow up. Since the self-destruction process required a build-up of heat, however, cooling them down would prevent them from detonating.
Each of the Bomb Golems, struck by two ice arrows, stopped glowing red and were unable to detonate themselves. Diniel proceeded to keep shooting, killing off those Bomb Golems for good.
Amira, in her <<Dragon Form>>, left the fighting to her instincts, which sometimes resulted in her failing to land the finishing blow on her targets. Daryl, understanding that, had decided a slight change of strategy for Diniel and was able to reduce the chances of the Bomb Golems blowing up in his face.
As the battle raged on and the number of spawned Golems started to decrease, Tsutomu finally instructed Diniel to shift her attention over to the Mount Golem.