After exploring more of the Volcano layers, Absolute Helix was now down to layer sixty-five, with Amira at level fifty, Daryl at fifty-six, Hannah at sixty-four, Diniel at seventy-one, and Tsutomu at fifty-eight. That made up an average level of about sixty for the party.
Here in layer sixty-five, Tsutomu’s party had to face the Bolseyer, which guarded the way down to the next layer as if it was its own child. The monster swam in a doughnut-shaped lake of lava, the center of which was an island with the Black Gate. As such, without defeating the Bolseyer, progressing any further would be quite difficult.
Unlike layer bosses, however, one was not required to defeat the Bolseyer to proceed. In fact, Golden Tune had successfully bypassed the monster, making use of Leon’s exceedingly high AGI to get everyone down to layer sixty-six.
If Absolute Helix only wanted to update their layer progress, then they could make it past the monster easily enough. However, Tsutomu also wanted the loot — particularly the heat-resistant equipment from treasure chests dropped by the Bolseyer. Besides, defeating it would help Clan members gain levels faster, as he wanted the average to be at least sixty-six by the time they started challenging layer seventy.
It was not as if he wanted to rush his layer progress, but he was not about to let Ealdred Crow keep their first place and conquer the hundredth layer before his team, either. Since his goal was to be the very first group to clear the Dungeon — just in case that achievement was important to getting him back home — Tsutomu had to do things optimally, not only thinking of short-term benefits.
“There… that’s our fish.”
Tsutomu and the others headed straight toward the lava-surrounded Black Gate, following the direction Diniel had scouted for them. The Bolseyer suddenly stuck its head out of the lava lake, as if to welcome the team of five.
Due to its round, blank eyes and high-pitched cries, this monster could be considered adorable by some. As a monster to fight, however, it was undoubtedly quite brutal. Its movements, boosted by the slimy membrane covering its body, made it difficult to catch — and its long-ranged lava blast attacks made it even worse.
“Daryl, do the thing.”
“Yes! <<Warrior Howl>>!”
As Daryl unleashed a massive sound blast, the four others started making their move. The Bolseyer, upon seeing that Daryl was the source of the provoking sound, quickly slid out from the lava lake.
While intimidated by the sight of the gigantic fish sliding on land, Daryl managed to move out of the way, avoiding a direct hit — and more importantly, its bite. If he were to be bitten now, he would practically be boiled inside its mouth. Even the high VIT of a Heavy Knight would not protect him from that.
For now, all he had to do was not let the monster restrain him. Even if Attackers could help him to some extent, it was still ideal to not get caught at all. Daryl moved to a position where he would not be bitten, blocked the Bolseyer’s charge with his tower shield, and was knocked quite far back.
The <<Barrier>> effect of his tower shield, which Tsutomu had applied beforehand, also lost quite a bit of its stability. Although surprised by the power of the blow, Daryl kept his eyes trained on the Bolseyer, observing its every movement.
The Bolseyer, the appearance of which was a cross between a loach and a catfish, naturally had no legs. Instead, it moved along the ground with its fins and tail, and secreted a red, slimy substance to ensure that its mobility was not compromised.
Daryl, continuing to build more aggro, faced the Bolseyer head-on. He had already viewed numerous battles against this monster through the Monitors, and had memorized all of Tsutomu’s plans and information of note. He was sure that he would not be beaten so quickly, at least.
Recalling the strategies he had been told, Daryl took a glance at Diniel’s position… and was met with an unexpected sight.
Amira dashed past Daryl and swung her greatsword at the Bolseyer. However, that only caused the red membrane on the monster’s body surface to burst and scatter, lightly burning Amira’s face and arms. Amira promptly retreated from that spot.
“Amira!? Aren’t you supposed to wait for Diniel to shoot first!?”
Amira, having moved without thinking due to being fascinated by the Bolseyer’s strength, snapped back to her senses thanks to Daryl’s warning.
“It’s attacking! Watch out!”
After dodging the monster’s ram, Daryl continued to pull its aggro, while Amira looked awkwardly in Tsutomu’s direction.
Tsutomu, watching those two from a distance, heaved a sigh. Amira had acted like a child rushing to take the toy she had always wanted, refusing to stop when being told to.
“Gah… She really does not know how to wait, that girl.”
“Should I start attacking now?”
“Yes, go ahead. As a reminder, please try not to hit her by mistake.”
Without hesitation, Diniel nocked some elemental arrows fitted with Ice Magic Stones, and repeatedly shot at the Bolseyer as it charged at Daryl.
As soon as the arrows landed, the red membrane evaporated away, darkening some spots on the monster’s body surface. Hannah then punched those exposed spots with her brass knuckles-equipped fists.
“Amira! Get back here!”
Called loudly by Tsutomu, Amira had a blatantly frightened look on her face on her way back to him. After casting more support spells for Daryl, Tsutomu proceeded to put his hands on his hips and look down at Amira. The latter, knowing that she herself had messed up, was like a student being scolded by her teacher.
“Did you not hear me?”
“Sorry. I just… ran ahead without thinking.”
“…You would’ve been dead if that happened on layer seventy or deeper, you know. Stick to the plan and pay attention.”
Seeing that Amira actually was apologetic, Tsutomu proceeded to tap the end of his staff on the ground and cast <<Heal>> to treat her burns.
“As a reminder, the Bolseyer’s red membrane is its strong point. Wait for Diniel to disable it first, then strike the exposed parts like Hannah is doing now. Got it?”
“…Well, I can at least understand being excited to fight new monsters for the first time, though,” Tsutomu added, seeing that things were getting awkward, what with Amira turning somber as a result of his scolding.
In response, Amira stared blankly at him.
It was only natural that Tsutomu understood her excitement. Whenever new content was added to Live Dungeon, he would excitedly rush to log in, and whenever he encountered new monsters, he would be itching to fight them. He could not feel that way in this world when it came to layer bosses, what with the inability to retreat from them, but for other normal layers, he had always been having fun conquering them.
“It isn’t a bad thing in itself to have fun. I’m also excited, after all. But it’s a problem if you don’t stick to the plan and listen to orders. The team won’t be able to work together, and I won’t be able to support you either.”
“That… does sound like a problem.”
“I know, right? It’s a problem for me as well. If I can’t support, then I wouldn’t be worth anything — and it’d be more efficient to just run a team of five Attackers instead,” Tsutomu said without skipping a beat, albeit with a self-deprecating smile on his face.
Amira, seemingly feeling bad for Tsutomu, widened her eyes and looked up at him.
“What the hell!? You’re not supposed to say that!”
“Uh, well, I guess. If that’s how you feel, then you better stick to the plan and listen — at least a little bit. Do that, and I’ll be able to support, which will help your fighting go smoother.”
“…Well, get in there — and go all out when the timing is right. I’ll keep your support effects up.”
“All right! I’m counting on you!”
Amira rubbed her nose and grinned like an innocent little boy, then hurried over to help Hannah and Daryl. Tsutomu chuckled at Amira’s going quickly back to her audacious self, then proceeded to cast support effects for her, and then healing for Daryl. After that, he accurately placed a <<Haste>> pick-up for Hannah, whose movements were gaining some good momentum by now.
“She really is a… straightforward girl.”
“Better that than a complicated girl, Teach.”
“…Hey, I’m a straightforward girl too” Diniel spoke up.
“No, I don’t think so — you wouldn’t be saying that if you actually were straightforward.”
While arguing with Tsutomu, Diniel kept on shooting, disabling more and more of the Bolseyer’s red membrane. Hannah and Amira attacked the exposed parts, while Daryl held his ground against the Bolseyer’s attacks.
“Hannah! Time to switch with Daryl!”
Seeing that Daryl was getting exhausted after being knocked back repeatedly, and that the Bolseyer’s defenses were weakening, Tsutomu decided to switch the Tanks around. Daryl received <<Heal>> and <<Medic>> casts as he retreated, and Hannah used <<Combat Cry>> and attacking skills to pull the Bolseyer’s aggro.
“Diniel, stop using ice arrows — change back to normal attacks instead.”
Diniel put her ice arrows back into the Magic Bag on her back, and took out the normal iron arrows instead. Shortly after, the Bolseyer thrashed around, knocking Amira and Hannah away as it attempted to slide its way back to the lava lake.
Knowing that the monster was doing that because its defensive membrane had lost effectiveness, Tsutomu took this chance to use <<Air Blades>> and get some damage in. His attack was weak compared to those of Attackers, making it not at all viable for a main combat role. Still, that was without a doubt the most damage Tsutomu could dish out — and the most any Healer could do in general, even.
Stephanie, as she was right now, already had her hands full with support and aggro management, so she could not take many chances to try and deal damage. Lorena excelled in aggro management, so her damage output was higher than Stephanie’s, but her maintenance of support effects was not quite perfect.
At the end of the day, however, a Healer’s damage output was a drop in a bucket compared to an Attacker’s. And since their main role was to support, their capacity to attack was further limited by their stock of mental energy. Even if they could help out a little against monster hordes in normal Dungeon layers, they were bound not to be involved in direct fighting against big enemies.
Then again, coming from Live Dungeon, Tsutomu had the tendency to try and maximize efficiency, wanting to end fights even just a single second faster — when it came to this, he would never pull his punches just because things seemed tedious. Besides, the longer a battle lasted, the higher the chances of everyone getting hurt.
“Lava blast incoming! Hannah! Hang in there!”
The Bolseyer’s lava blasts were extremely fast, and they ricocheted when they hit the ground, making them difficult to avoid completely. Additionally, they were powerful, so having Daryl catch them was not exactly an option. That was where Hannah, the evasion-based Tank, could shine.
Flying around with the effect of <<Fly>>, Hannah concentrated on the Bolseyer as it swam in the lava. Then, when it stuck out its head and launched lava blasts, she dodged them, one after another, adjusting her movements with her blue-feathered wings.
Since the blasts were aimed at the airborne Hannah, they did not hit the ground, and in turn warranted no worry about them ricocheting around. All she needed to watch out for was them bouncing off walls, but her positioning meant that would not be much of an issue, either.
Completely refreshing its defensive membrane after launching lava blasts for some time, the Bolseyer proceeded to hop ashore once again. The team repeated their routine, with Diniel neutralizing the membrane with ice arrows, Hannah pulling its aggro, and Daryl tanking the hits with his tower shield.
And this time, Amira transformed, leaving things to her instincts for some time as she attacked the Bolseyer. Just as she was about to generate too much aggro, Tsutomu waved his staff.
Her transformation dispelled, Amira snapped back to her senses and dug her heels into the ground to stop her rush… and then bared her fangs like a beast. Tsutomu chuckled dryly and proceeded to give Amira his next instructions as the latter proceeded to happily swing her sword around.
“Amira! Less attacking for now!”
“Yeah!! –Whoa, hot! Gimme some water!”
“I’ll have it ready! Get back here!”
Tsutomu quickly pulled out two canteens and two towels from his Magic Bag — one set for Amira, and the other for the sweaty Daryl, who was also heading toward him.
The high temperature of the Volcano layers was bound to drain one’s stamina, so it was essential to regularly rehydrate. Hannah and Diniel also took frequent chances to drink water whenever Daryl and Amira were the main ones fighting.
“That thing’s tough.”
“I think we’re getting pretty close, though. Just have to hang in there for a bit longer.”
Amira held her canteen over her head, letting some of the cold water shower over her face before drinking from it. Daryl used his cold towel to scrub his face and pick his ears.
Tsutomu proceeded to take out a small box of frozen candies, picking out a red one and popping it into his mouth. It was similar to what Rook had given him a taste of before, but not made-to-order, so it did not taste quite as good.
Still, anything cold enough was sure to taste good in this heat. Daryl picked one of the candies, his black-furred tail wagging, and Amira also took one for herself.
“More please,” Daryl promptly said.
“Just one more, all right? Pick what you like — red, yellow, or blue?”
“Might as well give me another one, so that I get to try all three…”
“These don’t come cheap, you know. And Miss Ollie won’t be happy to hear that you’re such a glutton…”
“I’ll take the yellow one!”
Tsutomu placed the candy in Daryl’s hand, and the latter opened his mouth wide and threw it in, looking quite happy. Amira looked at Daryl and twisted her mouth into a half-annoyed grin, prompting the latter to lash back at her.
“What’s that look for, Amira!? Are you gonna complain about me to Miss Ollie as well!?”
“Huh? Nah, it’s just… unbelievable how straightforward you are, so easily satisfied with just some candy…”
“If you don’t want another one, you can give it to me instead!”
“Sure, I’m cool with that.”
“Huh!? For real!? Thanks a bunch! C’mon, Sir Tsutomu! Gimme!”
[Yeah, BOTH of them seem quite straightforward to me] Tsutomu thought to himself. After casting support spells for Diniel, he gave Daryl another candy then sent him and Amira back to fight the Bolseyer. After another fifteen minutes or so, the Bolseyer was defeated, and Absolute Helix proceeded down to layer sixty-six.