Chapter 1: Neversweet on the Fifth Ring
Half an hour after setting out, the party had already been fighting a second wave of enemies for a short while.
Jun’s company of five was in a rocky area near the fortress, in the middle of a straight, narrow (narrower than the width of a road) path, watching out for four mud trolls, along with a Cerberus. If the party had were full, they would be able to fend off enemy attacks in small spaces. They would stick around and fight in a small area, based on the circumstances.
Mud trolls were large monsters. Standing three feet tall, their stomachs bulged out as if they were pregnant. Wielding large clubs, they were strong monsters with ugly grey skin.
Furthermore, it was known that they had high status effect thresholds.
“It’s time to let my bullets stop ‘em in their tracks!” Yukaria declared with her usual high pitched voice, as she readied her guns, and shot repeatedly.
Her first three-bullet salvo hit a single mud troll in the same spot. But only after the fourth, it stopped its advance and turned up at the sky, dazed.. It had been put to sleep. It took four shots to get one status effect to activate.
There were two ways monsters could defend against status afflictions: resistance and threshold. Resistance was a complete nullification of the attempted status effect, rendering it an all-or-nothing action. As for monsters that had status effect thresholds, the same type of status effect had to be used successively a certain amount of times in order to affect the monster’s status. Though many monsters had the ability to resist status effects, only some of the especially bulky ones had status effect thresholds. Troll-type monsters had just that. It made fighting them that much harder.
Crossing over the thresholds one at a time, two trolls had been immobilized, looking as if they were not paying attention to the world. The two remaining ones continued approaching Yukaria…
“I’ll get their attention.” Kasumi taunted one of them. The mud troll turned around, fired up by its increased enmity, and charged ahead.
Kasumi parried, raising her small shield against the troll’s large club. One couldn’t tell that she had learned that move just two months prior.
Meanwhile, Yukaria leapt around, distancing herself from the last mud troll.
“Perfect timing!” Yukaria emptied her magazine at the troll. The third troll stopped moving. However, there was still one troll left. “I’ve got your back! Burst mode!” Yukaria cast aside her dual guns. As they fell to the ground, they disappeared. A new set of dual guns appeared in her holsters. She nimbly unsheathed them, pointed them at the mud troll Kasumi had lured on the way, and pressed down the trigger. “I’ll leave it to you! Guys, watch this lil’ doggy go down!”
The fourth troll was a troublesome enemy, taking a whole four hit streak to succumb to the debuff. On the fifth ring, this type of enemy grew more common. However, Yukaria was always able to perform effective crowd control with Kasumi’s help.
“Great! Now Hikaru!”
“Got it, Undine, come out!”
Hikaru, who had begun a ten second long incantation just a while ago, finally finished the spell. A feminine monster, appearing to be covered in translucent gel, materialized in front of the short boy.
It was Undine, a summoned monster.
If a regular adventurer approached the fire-enveloped Cerberus, he or she would surely end up taking burn damage. However, the water-made Undine resisted fire quite well.
“Command: Attack Cerberus!” Undine, brought into existence by Hikaru, followed his order. Its watery body put out the fires, and each time it swung its fists to attack, the fiery watchdog, Cerberus, took damage. “Jun, fire resist!”
“Okay.” Jun, having been buffed with fire resistance by Eri, joined the battle. He fought alongside Undine, slashing the Cerberus with his water-imbued greatsword. With a single swipe, the Cerberus’ HP bar lost a whole tenth.
The Cerberus turned to face Jun, and focused its attention on him. Shooting crimson flames from its mouth, it tried to bite with its sharp teeth.
“Unfortunately for you, it’s a bit late for that now.”
Jun, already adequately buffed by Eri, took its bite upfront, but he smiled from inside the flames. Eri’s magic let very little damage through. Furthermore…
“Shadows, come forth!”
Jun used an ability of his second class, assassin. His figure disappeared into the shadows, and the Cerberus lost sight of him almost instantly. It turned its back on him and shifted attention back to attacking Undine. Jun looked at the monster’s defenseless back, and grinned.
Without a moment’s delay, Jun swung his greatsword downwards, onto the Cerberus’ back. The assassin’s ability combo, Fade Attack while hidden in the shadows, allowed him to deal five times the regular damage. The Cerberus was instantly mortally wounded. Then…
“Water lance!” Hikaru summoned a blue, liquid shaft and ran it into the Cerberus’ torso, dealing the finishing blow on that infuriating enemy.
“Just as I thought, having two attackers makes things so much smoother~” In high spirits, Eri sat down on a nearby rock and swung her legs back and forth. “But to be honest, I can’t really do much. I guess choosing white magician for my secondary class as well might’ve been overkill.”
“Well, you were the one who chose it as your sub-class. You said it’d serve as a good safety net.”
“I guess I did…”
Jun started attacking the mud trolls in the region. “Disarm!” Using another assassin ability, he knocked the mud trolls’ wooden clubs off, greatly weakening their offensive capabilities. “Hikaru, come attack!”
Hikaru dismissed Undine and summoned Salamander.
Summoners required the largest amount of MP for simple control. Until a summoned monster was defeated or dismissed, the summoner’s MP couldn’t even fully recover. For that reason, summoning multiple monsters at the same time would prevent the summoner from performing any other task.
Consequently, it was important to take into account the group’s needs when choosing which monster to summon. Negligence in this regard would only waste MP. So far, Hikaru had been painstakingly switching summons in and out.
Actually, he enjoyed calling them pets.
For this reason, summoners were unpopular with others, and thus rarely took part in farming parties.
“Salamander, come on. Command: Attack mud troll!”
Both Jun and Hikaru’s Salamander flanked the trolls, dealing a ton of damage in the blink of an eye. In that time, the other mud trolls began waking up one by one…
“Kasumi, well played!”
The trolls that Kasumi had aggroed were still asleep.
It would be an easy battle. A group of six could quickly defeat them.
“Now, after the battle, I’ll heal everyone up!”
Yukaria, having chosen druid as her second class, cast regenerate on everyone. Since her first class did not use MP, it made sense to delegate post-battle healing to her.
“I’m getting less and less stuff to do…” Eri said, confused. “I’ve got too much free time! I knew it! I should’ve chosen an attacker for my sub-class.”
“Eri-chan, it’s fine. Your MP is depleted,” said Jun.
“Well, that’s because I spent all my spare time buffing. That’s why I chose to sub the same class.”
If an adventurer chose to align their first and second classes, their abilities would become stronger. At the moment, Eri’s buffs were more powerful than they were before, and even stronger than that of the dedicated buffing class, druid, that Yukaria chose as her sub-class, by far.
“Thanks to those buffs, we’re enjoying ourselves a lot more. Safety first, of course,”
“But I haven’t been able to show off my own skill!” Eri whined.
“It’s fine if healers don’t spend every waking moment acting during battles,” Jun responded.
“I know, I know! But ever since I chose my second class, everything’s been too predictable.”
Two weeks prior, second classes were opened up to everybody in Sky World. In a flash, people gathered information and were thoroughly exploring the new feature.
According to general knowledge, the second class system worked as follows:
– An adventurer could choose a class completely unrelated to their first class to be their second class. It functioned as a completely separate class.
– There existed new fifteen classes other than the first class options. Front-line attackers included monks, who attacked with their fists, duelists, who dual-wielded swords were also added to the list. As for rear-line fighters, the new options included sorcerers, who had abilities that increased the damage of their spells, missionaries, who specialized in fighting solo with charm. Some of these classes could only be discovered upon the completion of certain quests.
– It was possible to change second classes. However, there were special quests for doing so. These second class changing quest could be found on several islands.
– Abilities obtained through a sub-class were generally 80% the power of those of their first class counterparts. Skill levels were generally limited to 80.
– If an adventurer chose to set their second class to be the same as their first class, the power of their first class abilities would increase by about 20%. The upper limit for skills would increase as well. Furthermore, maximum HP and MP would increase.
Roughly speaking, adventurers experienced a 20% increase in overall power from the second class system. This was akin to saying a group of five people now had the same power as a group of six would have had. It could be considered a global buffing.
Naturally, people would usually choose their second classes to best complement their parties. For this reason, it became routine to discuss sub-class choices with the group.
“I’m sure there are a lot of white magician slash white magicians like Eri in permanent groups.” Hikaru said, after ordering Sylpheed to keep watch in the skies above them. He was still just a middle schooler, but he was very skilled with data and analyzing information. Perhaps that was why he was able to succeed in playing as such a technical class like summoner, manipulating various pets.
“But…” he tilted his head, looking at Kasumi. He now had a good grasp of each of the group members’ HP, MP, and class configuration. “Uh, something piqued my interest a while ago. Exactly what kind of second class is Kasumi’s Phoenix Guard?”
Jun and the others looked at each other with unsure expressions.
Jun was a magic swordsman / assassin. Specializing in close range damage dealing, it made sense for him to choose the sneaky assassin. It was a no brainer.
Eri was a white magician / white magician. Strengthening her support magic by choosing the same class as her main class would increase her ability to heal. It was an honorable decision, allowing her to stand at the top of all healer mains.
Yukaria was a gunslinger / druid. Though gunslingers were crowd controllers, their attack abilities did not use MP. Hence, it made sense for her to take on a dual role of support before and after battles. Though oracles, another healer class, had the similar ability to teleport, along with charming abilities, since they could not use their abilities while wearing leather armor, she quickly ruled it out.
And then, there was Kasumi, who had chosen to be a light warrior / phoenix guard.
Currently, it was very possible that the only people with access to that class were the five of them. Aside from the four of them (Kasumi, Jun, Eri, Yukaria), Ryuka, the girl who managed the second-hand shop in Payang, had also unlocked that class.
It was the group that had embarked on the special quest in that pyramid, “The Resurrection of the Penglai Emperor”.
That quest introduced secondary classes into the game.
Adventurers explored the new feature. Jun’s group itself provided a lot of information. However, they made an effort to avoid spreading information about the phoenix guard class as much as possible.
Setting aside the extraordinary circumstances behind that class, it was also very possible that no other players would be able to unlock that class anymore. They thought that.
“Half of online gamers just think about standing in the way of others! You’ll see if you ever look at an online board!” Eri said, giving her opinion on the “2channel way” . She was sure that they would incur the wrath of PK guilds if they didn’t take proper precautions.
In fear of such consequences, the five of them hoped to conceal the existence of the phoenix guard class.
Kasumi, however, was firmly opposed to Jun’s policy.
“The Phoenix was enough to give us this power , so we should use it.”
Jun mostly understood what Kasumi Yukasaki was on about. The Phoenix was no more than an NPC. It was nothing more than a program that had somebody happened to put together and launch… but he knew he wouldn’t be able to successfully convince Kasumi of that.
When she was in her stubborn mode, she could not be swayed.
In the end, only Kasumi used this second class. Fortunately, that class worked very well with her as a tank.
“We got access to the phoenix guard class unexpectedly through a special quest.” Only today, he explained the truth behind it to Hikaru, who had been accompanying them for a while. So far, his summoner prowess had proved unrivaled, and Jun knew that he had a big heart. “It probably was a unique quest that can’t be repeated. We didn’t want it to spread, but… it’s no problem telling you.”
“Ah, got it! My lips are sealed!” Responding obediently, Hikaru smiled.
Jun followed by explaining how that second class worked. “Its main abilities are Regenerate and Damage Shield.”
Damage Shield ability, often abbreviated as DS, returned a fixed amount of damage to the monster that inflicted it. For example, earlier, when they were fighting the Cerberus, if Jun took burn damage, it would have dealt some damage back. However, due to Eri’s fire resistance buffs, he hadn’t taken much damage at all. And Undine, with its default resistance to fire, probably took no damage at all.
“Self DS is pretty rare, right?” Hikaru asked.
“Not really. Previously, druids, oracles, and most tanks could do it. Summoners can even do it.” However, in reality, the phoenix guard’s DS dwarfed them all. Kasumi would’ve probably been able to take down the mud trolls with just the combined use of DS and Regenerate, if it came to that.
“Uh, does it have any other abilities?”
“There are many buffs. In addition, it has many fire-element attacks and spells.”
“Well, the latter aren’t really necessary, right?”
When fighting in a group, it would just create useless commotion. Furthermore, light warriors weren’t really meant to use magic, anyway. One time, Kasumi tried, and it did very little damage.
“Well, in the worst case scenario, it wouldn’t even be useful for attracting enemies… I think,” Kasumi said.
“Yeah, those spells don’t do much,” Jun responded.
“No, and they take about five seconds to cast…”
“They’re useless.” Jun dismissed his response with just that. In reality, that was the truth.
However, just the Regenerate and Damage Shield abilities made it a perfect fit for Kasumi.
There is one more ability, though.
Jun decided to leave that one out.
It was Phoenix Blessing.
Up to a maximum of once a day, it would automatically activate when its user’s HP dropped to zero.
Without using up any tablet battery, its user would be instantly revived on the spot with full HP.
In Sky World, even white magicians didn’t have that kind of power. It was an extraordinary resurrection ability. Just the thought of it made healers’ like Eri mouths water.
Currently, Jun’s team had a monopoly on that ability. They were extra cautious with it. They didn’t want to incur the wrath of any unknown players.
Upon hearing this, Eri folded her arms and uttered a “Hmph”, turning away her mediocre chest.
“What? Are you saying that I should just let you guys die? Certainly not, right? Even though I might have an attitude at times , I’ll keep protecting you all. So, we don’t even need that as a safety net. Aside from that, white magicians are certainly the backbone of every team.”
In any case, the point was that, presently, Kasumi would be the only one to use this exceedingly overpowered class. It should have been expected that some adventurer they happened to cross paths with would take an interest in the matter. They already created some cover stories for when such a situation should arise, like, “Phoenix guard is just about high defense, it has nothing special except for DS,” etc.
Jun’s explanation to Hikaru, though, was different. He came close to explaining exactly what happened with the phoenix guard class. Yukaria and Eri were looking at him, as if asking if that was okay.
“It’s fine. Hikaru, the whole time that we’ve worked together, I’ve wanted to invite you to the group.”
“Huh? Uh, really, am I… is it really okay?”
“Of course, you’re good. In the past week, we’ve worked with many people, but you are definitely the best.”
“Okay, Jun on Hika, huh? No, maybe it’d be Hika on Jun,” pondered Hikaru .
“He’s a good for nothing seme!” Eri interjected.
“Hey, pipe down. I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I don’t think it’s anything wholesome,” retorted Jun.
“Allow me to explain, Jun,” Eri responded.
“Please do!” Jun said.
“… Hmm, Jun, either way I think of it, Jun as a seme would be…” muttered HIkaru.
For some reason, while saying that, Hikaru’s cheeks flushed. The cute boy seemed to imagining dirty things. He looked up at the sky. Then, Kasumi chimed in, “If it’s Hikaru-kun, then I’ll be supportive”, smiling. She went into saint mode.
Coincidentally, the end-of-battle-event announcement just appeared. It looked like the dark elves had decided to retreat for the day.
“Well, please give it some thought.”
Hikaru pat his own shoulder, and returned to the fortress to ensure safety.
 – 2channel is a popular Japanese imageboard akin to the English language 4chan. Just as in its Western counterpart, users are stereotyped to be trolls and flamers, so Eri is noting that lots of people want to purposefully sabotage other players.
 – Hikaru is wondering about who the seme and uke would be in a Jun and Hika relationship. A seme is the top, and an uke is the bottom. Typically, in shipping lingo, the seme’s name comes first.