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"Naotsugu, pay attention to the right!"
"Right, leave it to me!"
Naotsugu replied to Shiroe's warning with a yell, raised his silver shield and downed the Triffid.
With one blow, Akatsuki quickly restrained the green twisted ivy reaching out from the left, and right after that, she lowered her body and positioned herself to protect Shiroe.
This place was the Herbery of Small Stone.
It was a small zone but as it held ancient entertainment facilities, it was different from the ruins around it. There were great variations in its terrain and combat was difficult.
"Then again, isn't this a little too many?"
"Their numbers increase whenever Naotsugu cracks a dirty joke."
"So it's my fault?"
Without replying to Naotsugu's retort, Shiroe cast a bluish-white magic arrow and fired it at the Briar Weasels. Mind Bolt was a basic attack magic of Enchanters, an arrow of mental energy that struck a single enemy.
While Shiroe was looking at the rodent-like creature that was roughly a meter in height as it shrieked and jumped about, an icon appeared in his mind.
The icon had turned pale to represent its recast time, and it was slowly recovering like an hourglass. Until the icon regained its luster, that spell was unusable. However, there were close to 30 other skills that Shiroe could use.
"Rush them! Akatsuki, attack their left flank!"
"Leave it to me!"
Furthermore, even if all of his skills were unusable, Shiroe currently had two comrades with him.
"Haa, let's do it! Shield Smash!"
The silver-armored warrior who quickly advanced down the moss-covered path and swept his shield sideways, mowing enemies down, was Naotsugu. He was a tall guy with short hair and jovial-looking eyes and he was Shiroe's friend from the old days.
His class was Guardian. Among the 3 warrior classes that could single-handedly draw in and tank enemies' assaults, Guardians boasted the greatest defensive abilities and, in Elder Tales, were nicknamed "Unbreakable Shield".
"... Too slow!"
A young girl, who gave one the impression of a swallow, made a quick dash into the gap that appeared from Naotsugu's assault. A strange creature that looked like a burst rugby ball with glass-like fangs growing from it attacked but she cut it down with the short sword she wielded as she passed it.
This petite girl with her black hair fluttering in the wind was Akatsuki.
She called Shiroe "My lord" without hesitation and was also Shiroe's friend.
Her class was Assassin. It was a resourceful class that wielded one-hit kill skills. It boasted of having the strongest physical attack among the 12 classes of Elder Tales.
Though Shiroe viewed the movements of these two in fascination, he hurriedly advanced forward.
Shiroe's class was Enchanter.
Amongst the three magic attack classes, it was a 100% support class type specializing in support and battle status magic. As was common for magic attack classes, the Enchanter's defense wasn't something to rely on. Leaving out Naotsugu's full-plated armor, it couldn't even equip the leather armor of Adventurers like the set Akatsuki was wearing.
Under the huge white gown-looking mantle of his, there was nothing more than a rather ordinary tunic shirt and a pair of trousers.
Shiroe, who was the rear support without defensive abilities, could not be left alone on the battlefield; he needed to take the opponent's area-of-effect magic into account while keeping in mind that being overly close to the front lines could be dangerous. So the best method was to be wary of ambushes of the rear while maintaining a set distance from Naotsugu and Akatsuki.
Needless to say, the Herbery of Small Stone was not a field-zone of a high difficulty.
The monsters that could appear in this zone were Triffids, Briar Weasels, and Venom Moths; all around Level 50.
Shiroe and the other two were Level 90 Adventurers.
In the world of the MMORPG, Elder Tales, they were the highest class of power. Even if Shiroe's defense was low, he wouldn't receive much damage with that much of a level gap.
Furthermore, although Naotsugu was up against a large number of opponents, even if it were just ten or twenty Triffids, they were opponents of a level where they could be taken care of single-handedly by any of the three party members.
(Even so, the current situation...)
Till now, the three of them all had carefree looks on their faces, chatting and bickering, but Naotsugu and Akatsuki both had serious expressions right now.
Battles were terrifying.
Even if one had a strong body or a sound mind, even if one cast magic or used a sword skill, when facing a monster, fear still lingered.
Both feet on the ground, hands firmly gripping his staff, they were all parts of his body. The wind that blew past his cheeks, the piercing howls of the monsters, the adrenaline that was pumping through his blood, they were all that Shiroe was experiencing at the present.
Tooth and claw that suddenly appeared in their faces, flames or attacks of acid assaulted them. Needing to dodge or intercept these attacks at the front-lines was a lot harder than they thought. In order to conquer this handicap, they had no choice but to accumulate combat experience, this was the conclusion the three of them had come up with.
"Watch your right!"
"I got it!"
Despite a serious look on his face, Naotsugu still swiftly looked in the direction that Shiroe had warned him from, swinging the longsword in his right hand. Although the strike did not deal a critical hit, it was sufficient to restrict the movements of the Briar Weasel.
The weasel extended its green briar, glaring with its crimson eyes as it chirped two or three times, pulling back by curling its body into a ball.
The attack just now had proven their suspicions.
They were all Level 90 Adventurers, originally if they met these monsters that were around Level 48, it would be impossible for a situation where there would be an "Attack Failure".
This proved that the cooperation between the two was still insufficient.
Despite being Level 90 Adventurers, they were still unable to wield their skills to the best of their best abilities yet.
That was why they had to carry out their roles the best they could. Shiroe who had arrived at this conclusion executed an area of effect skill. Nightmare Sphere was an area of effect attack magic that Enchanters possessed.
Although it was an offensive skill, the damage that it actually dealt was very little.
The Enchanter class was not versed in offensive magic from the start. Compared to other classes of the same level, the attack magic that Enchanters could dish out by themselves was very weak; this was a fact known to everyone. The skill that Shiroe used traced out an unreliable arc, landing right in the middle of the weasels and the moving plants and violently exploded; it seemed that it did not cause much damage to the opponents, this was the best proof that Enchanters were weak.
Even though they were monsters who had levels half of his, he was still unable to defeat them in one strike; only able to use attacks of such low damage, this was the trait possessed by Enchanters.
As such, the Enchanter was an unpopular class in Elder Tales.
As players, they were ruthless when playing games. In a world where language and communication was restricted, numbers were something that was absolute. Despite being in a game universe and precisely because it was a game universe, it caused this world to be a caste society that was even more heartless and strict than the real world.
The classes that were "highly popular" and the outcast classes had a very large evaluation gap.
However, even though it wasn't popular with normal players, Shiroe was not unhappy with his own class. It would be great if he had some special ability that he could use, but despite lacking in that, he was still able to find a way to enjoy playing this class. This was Shiroe's playing style and the truth of it was, Shiroe never once felt troubled when he played this class.
Furthermore, Shiroe liked the Enchanter class.
Including this troublesome trait, its weak abilities as well as its hidden versatility, Shiroe was interested in all of them. The class that was "useless if he was left alone," it was completely different from Shiroe's own shortcomings, Shiroe liked that particular point very much.
The Nightmare Sphere that Shiroe cast released a colorless mental wave in its area of effect. The multiple enemies caught in its area were all affected by the wave, they seemed to have suffered grave mental trauma, resulting in a huge drop in movement speed.
It was the status ailment of movement speed reduction.
Nightmare Sphere was a skill that had short effect duration but it was capable of inflicting a crippling effect on its target.
"Yeah! I can fight better like this!"
"Thank you, my lord."
The two cried out with elated voices. The monsters that the three were currently embroiled with were Triffids and Briar Weasels, although they looked menacing and hideous, the height of the two monsters were only around a meter.
Once their movement speed dropped, they would only need to step in boldly, and let their attacks hit.
"Alright! I got one!"
"Not bad, Shrimp!"
"Don't call me a shrimp, Idiot Naotsugu!"
The two teammates weren't people who would only engage in negative thinking.
Naotsugu's positive thinking was exceptional and although Akatsuki was usually silent, she was not behind Naotsugu in that field of thinking as well.
As long as an opportunity was provided and ample support was given, they would be able to repeatedly defeat monsters. Shiroe only needed to provide rear support for the two, if the two had monsters left over that they had missed, he would only need to use magic to restrain them as well as provide a final blow.
Lowering the movement speed of the opponent was something that would turn the tables to one's advantage. Since that point was understood, Shiroe would know what he should do, that would mean using Nightmare Sphere or Astral Bind related restraining type magics to restrict the enemies, completely taking on the role of supporting the front lines.
Thinking closely, it was not that big of a deal at all, it was a basic battle strategy that had been repeated countless times.
(At the very least, we can't continue struggling with these low-level opponents; I still haven't tested a new formation yet.)
Shiroe pondered over such thoughts.
A sharp yell sounded out. Naotsugu and Akatsuki were seasoned players with tons of experience.
As long as there was an opportunity, they would become partners that focused on teamwork who got along remarkably well. His preconceived doubts vanished.
"It's over like that?"
Naotsugu swung his one-handed sword in a large arc, wiping the blood off his sword before returning it to its sheath.
Coming back to his senses, the battle was already over.
Shiroe nodded his head in reply in response to Naotsugu's question, dispelling the magic that he had been readying.
"We defeated a lot of monsters already."
"There seems to be no more indications of any enemies in the surroundings, maybe it'd be best to stay alert for a while--I'm sorry, but can you two help with the loot?"
Shiroe called out while beginning to observe the surroundings.
The warning indication in his mind changed from red to a calming blue, indicating that battle mode had been deactivated.
Naotsugu and Akatsuki started to loot the monsters that they had felled, they probably were going to strip the weasels of their fur.
This was survival instinct that had been honed from the past few weeks.
It was fortunate that the sun was still high in the sky.
There shouldn't be any abrupt incidents that might happen. Shiroe withdrew a water bottle from his magic bag at his hip and took a sip, pricking his ears for any sign of trouble.
(Really now, in the end the one that keeps thinking negative thoughts is me.)
Shiroe let out a long sigh.
Looking down, it was the edge of his white cloak, made from tough cloth that was suitable for outdoor activities, long pants that seemed to be of high quality. If he remembered correctly, the shoes that he was currently wearing were made from Thunder Elk's leather, boots that were soft and comfortable.
As for what he was carrying, it was a staff.
Staff of the Wise Owl--it was a rare item that was able to raise his magical power and casting speed, it was Shiroe's treasure.
Around two meters long, it was longer than Shiroe's height.
His appearance gave him a sort of mysterious air. Shiroe thought that such a design looked great, the word "great" was not the feeling that he'd use in the real world, but the feeling that one would feel inside the virtual world.
After that day when the incident coined as the Apocalypse happened, everything around Shiroe and the others had totally changed.
It wasn't as grandiose nor as sweet as heroic epics, but full of sarcasm, muddied, stress-laden and tough--another "Reality".
The "Reality" mentioned, were the monsters that Shiroe and his friends had just fought against; it was the reason why Shiroe was paying attention to any movement around him, it was the ruins that was shrouded in greenery, it was the teammates who wielded their weapons and skinned their prey.
A cold wind blew through the forest, bringing a chill with it.
As well as leaving behind the fear of battle under his skin.
All of this, was currently the "Reality" that Shiroe was living in.
Shiroe and his friends seemed to have been confined in the world that was supposed to be just a game, Elder Tales. After the Apocalypse happened, everything changed.
(However, if we can do battle like this we can earn money as long as we fight. We have a bed waiting for us when we go back. Furthermore, since I can meet Naotsugu and Akatsuki because of this in many different levels, this can said to be the most fortunate turn of events.)
Shiroe repeatedly sighed, forcibly changing his gloomy thinking into something more positive.
The scene of the day when the Apocalypse happened flashed in his head, the scene of countless players holing up in Akiba. Shiroe did not wish to be like them as they fell into a swamp of despair.
Shiroe observed his surroundings as he recounted the chain of events that happened on the day the Apocalypse occurred.
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