The next day, we have gathered in front of 【Devil Cultists' Hideout】 and then infiltrated the mansion through the dry well.
"All right. Today we'll investigate the second floor, do your best Yun, Gantz."
"Gantz, I made these thinking you might be able to use them, what do you think?"
"What is it? A present from you, Yun-chan… hm?"
What I passed to Gantz, were two types of metal throwing needles.
He stiffened as he looked at them, meanwhile, Minute peeked in from the side——
"This is… I see, Yun-chan wants Gantz to swallow these and shut up once and for all, huh."
"That's a roundabout way of telling me to kill myself, isn't it?!"
"Uh, no. Gantz has a 【Throwing】-type Sense so I thought he could use these needles that were synthesized with 【Sleep】 or 【Stun】 bad statuses in order to render the patrolling NPC harmless."
Right now the 【Throwing】 Sense has been integrated into his 【Martial Arts】 Sense, but the original throwing ability correction should have been inherited by the new Sense.
The needles that I passed to him had each been synthesized with powerful 【Sleep】 or 【Stun】 bad status. In case the enemy does not have resistance to bad status, they should be unable to move for approximately 20 seconds.
Gantz pulled out several iron needles from the bundle and put them between fingers of his main hand, then snapping his wrist he threw them at the wall.
Soundlessly, the needles pierced slightly into the wall.
"Ohh, looks like using these fulfilled requirements for a new martial arts skill."
"SERIOUSLY?! What kind of requirement is that?!"
"Well, it's not a pure martial arts skill though, it's weapon martial art skill. It's name is 《Needle Strike》. You receive the skill when using your martial arts and delivering piercing damage with an expendable weapon, it says, huh."
"Why the poor reaction, Gantz? You get a free long-ranged skill, you profit right?"
"I already have the Strike and Flying Kick skills for ranged attacks so I'm not sure how should I react for this one."
"Well, with this you'll maybe pass some other skills' requirement."
Said Taku, and this conversation was over.
We climbed the spiral staircase near the entrance on the first floor and finally proceeded with the second floor's investigation.
"As we thought, there's more patrols on the second floor than there was on the first one."
While Taku muttered quietly, ahead of his line of sight was the deformed Devil Cultist NPC holding a candlestick, who was walking around the mansion. Because of the large number of patrols, the interval between their loops was quite short, we realized that soon after our six member party started moving.
"First of all, Yun, Gantz, could you find us a safe zone?"
"All right, let's make some room our base of operations and then slowly progress."
Moving ahead, Gantz and I searched for a safe place.
As we avoided traps with my 【See-Through】 Sense, we arrived to the left wing, the room closest to the staircase at the entrance.
After I confirmed together with Gantz that the room is safe, we gave a signal to Taku and the others who were waiting on the floor below and we all slipped into the room.
"We'll make this room our base and investigate the second floor, but first let's investigate this room itself."
The two of us scouts listened to what Taku had to say and then once again started searching inside the room.
There were no items or quest information inside the room, but the furniture and such were much more luxurious as compared to the rooms on the first floor.
"Maybe the setting is that the first floor is servants' residence area and workplaces whereas the second floor is used by the owners?"
"In that case, based on the floor plan there should be a wide space on the right wing, like a dance hall."
hearing Mami-san's impression I responded by taking a look at the floor plan I drew myself.
By the way, the patrolling NPCs were turning clockwise inside this mansion so it would be difficult to go directly to the room on the right since it's going against the flow of the patrols.
Therefore we also should move clockwise and collect quest hints along the way. Is what I thought.
"So there's nothing here, huh. Let's have Yun and Gantz investigate the next room then."
"Leave it to us!"
Gantz's usual lively reply made me uneasy as I listened to the footsteps of the patrolling NPC who passed by, after which I sneaked out into the hallway.
Moving as not to be noticed by the patrols we checked one room after another, but there were much more locked rooms than there was on the first floor.
Gantz stopped in front of one of the locked rooms.
"Can you wait a moment, Yun-chan? I want to try something."
"What is it?"
"An idea flashed in my head, just like it happened for you yesterday."
As he said that, Gantz knelt in front the door to confirm there was no trap on it.
While I wondered what is he going to do, Gantz took out one of the iron throwing needles I made and twisted it by force.
Yesterday Gantz had a low success rate with his 《Unlock》 skill, but by making a picking tool out of a bent metal needle he seemed to intend on opening the lock with it.
Although he stubbornly challenged the lock, his 【Trap Disarm】 Sense wasn't too high so he had a hard time succeeding with a tool he made on spot.
Moreover he was working on a small keyhole inside a dim hallway, with not much more than the tactile feedback to go by.
"It feels like it's going to work…"
"No, it's taking a lot of time. Let's return to Taku and others, then look for another…"
Safe room, is what I was about to say when I noticed a light of a candle extending towards us.
We had to hurry back to the room we were in earlier.
However, if we didn't make it in fast enough, the patrolling NPC might see that we entered the room. If that happens, the rest of the party inside the room won't be able to escape and we will have to fight NPCs that come one after another.
"Gantz, give up! We'll come again!"
"Just a little more…"
Maybe because he felt a good response from the lock, but Gantz wouldn't move away from the door even as I pat his shoulder.
Filled with tension on the thought we'll be found, I planned countermeasures just in case.
Finish off the patrol NPC? No, these NPCs are quite strong and we could at most stop him in his tracks, if we attack and he calls for additional support we'll be in trouble.
In such case we should temporarily hide in the nearest empty room before joining up with Taku.
Or maybe look for one of the pitfall traps there are in the mansion and let ourselves fall onto the first floor, then run away?
Various thoughts passed through my head while the patrolling NPC has approached, but we could do nothing as long as Gantz didn't move from that place.
He was still concentrating on the door, so I resolved myself to believe in him.
『"YOU, who are you!"』
The deformed NPC's filthy voice sounded and from under the robe he pulled out a slender knife that didn't match him.
When the NPC passed by the room Taku and others were waiting in——he suddenly collapsed to the side.
"Heey, what are you letting yourself be found, you two."
Taku, who was supposed to be waiting inside of the room was standing disgruntled behind the fallen NPC.
An instant later, Gantz successfully picked the lock and the door was opened along with a loud sound.
"Let's check out this room for now!"
"We're going in before the NPC wakes up."
Called in by Taku, Kei and others came out of the room they were waiting in and moved to enter the room Gantz was opening. Meanwhile I took a look at the fallen NPC.
Stuck into the robe on his back there were four iron needles, I realized they were the throwing needles I synthesized with bad status and passed to Taku.
In our party Gantz was the only one with 【Throwing】 Sense and could deal damage by throwing things, but even though Taku didn't have a Sense allowing him to deal damage the needles' synthesized effect was still properly applied.
After confirming that, I slipped into the room after Taku and others.
Then I stuck close to the door in order to listen to what's going on the corridor. The NPC who was deprived of consciousness by Taku was woke up probably by another NPC, and started to move.
"Seems like he slept for quite a while."
"They were throwing needles with 【Sleep 2】 right? It seems like the effect is multiplied if you use multiple needles, and the NPCs bad status resistance might have been adjusted quite low."
While the strength of the patrols was set quite high, on the contrary, their bad status resistance was set extremely low. Taku shared his opinion.
It appeared that the NPC beyond the door was thought to have suddenly fallen asleep as a side-effect of deformation and his memory before losing consciousness was a mess.
However, there was a more important problem than that.
"Gantz, why did you risk like that?! You were nearly found!"
If Taku didn't find a good moment to put the NPC to sleep there was a possibility we would be surrounded by other NPCs that he called.
Minute got furious at Gantz for doing that, in response Gantz scratched the back of his head along with a dry laughter.
"No, you're right. But it would be easier to hide while moving around if we have more safety rooms. So I thought we could make one as close as possible… ahaha."
He said apologetically and laughed, making me and Minute appalled and giving up.
Since he did think about the party as he did that, we couldn't blame him too strongly.
"Well, we're in, so might as well start by investigating this room before moving on."
Hearing Kei speak up we started moving to explore the room.
We already confirmed there was no trap on the door, but we had to be careful while investigating as there could be one inside the room.
However, instead of a trap, we found some equipment that was quite valuable as compared to yesterday's accessories.
"These accessories look quite usable. We'll split them once we're done with the quest. What do we do now, then?"
I spread out the floor plan on a suitable table and mapped the route we have moved and the doors we have checked, then had everyone look at it.
"Since Gantz can open doors, do we investigate the nearby closed doors?"
Taku nodded in response to Kei's question and glanced at Gantz.
"I guess we should. Though, we'll have Minute go with the two this time to keep Gantz in check."
He instructed Minute, who nodded in response.
Just earlier I thought with regret that if I stopped Gantz unreasonable actions I could reduce the risk of being found, but now I was relieved to hear that Minute will be there to hold his reins.
When the next patrolling NPC passed by the door of the room we were in, the three of us quickly moved into the corridor and started unlocking the nearest door.
As it was his second time and thanks to familiarity and system's support from leveling up, Gantz was able to open up the lock faster than before.
That room, was the room next to the room with a balcony that overlooked the entrance and where a Devil Cultist NPC was overlooking the surroundings. There was a hole in the wall and a wallpaper thanks to which we could peek into the next room.
Gantz and I peeked into the hole while everyone else eavesdropped through the wall. We were able to hear the conversation the guard NPC's with a patrol NPC.
『"I gained this appearance THANKS to FOUNDER'S power, but still DON'T feel I'm in perfect condition. My memory feels TURBID at times."』
『"According to the founder, you will eventually accustom to the power. Still, don't force yourself too much."』
『"I KNOW. HOWEVER, we have to be on full guard to succeed in COMMENCING the next devil summoning ritual. Anyway, are there any ANOMALIES here?"』
『"No, from time to time there are some humans sniffing out around here, but we render them unable to move with this 【Binding Bell】 and throw them out."』
The guard NPC said that and pulled on the decorative cord linking two bells. That appeared to be the bell preventing everyone's entrance.
After that, the two cultist NPCs had a short conversation about work before returning to their respective duties.
We saw them off and then looked at each other.
"The quest has progressed. The conversation just now must have included the minimum necessary information for the objective to be completed."
——【CQuest - Devil Cultists' Hideout Destruction】——
Intrude upon the devil summoning's ritual site —— 3／4
The only fresh information for the progressed quest was the location of the devil summoning, we still hadn't enough info.
Taku seemed to think so as well, as he looked at everyone and spoke again.
"Personally, I think we should first gather information on the devil summoning ritual they are about to do."
"That's fine I guess? There's still plenty of rooms we still haven't checked."
I answered with a light tone, everyone else also agreed on gathering information about the ritual.
Afterwards, we went around opening doors while being careful not to be found by the patrols. And the result——
・The devil summoning ritual involved summoning a devil's spirit into an object representing it and possessing it.
・The deformed NPCs are possessed by the lowest level of devil spirits.
Was that we acquired these two new pieces of information.
However, what we were looking for was a method to disturb the ritual and a method for extracting the devil spirits possessing the deformed NPCs. We had yet to find any information about enemy's weaknesses.
Then once again, in order to collect further information, me, Gantz and Minute moved ahead. The moment Gantz unlocked the room's door, an alarm sounded all over the entire mansion.
Hearing the high-pitched artificial sound we reflexively moved away from the door. Minute looked at Gantz.
"Gantz, did you miss a trap?"
"I don't think so, Minute. I checked it too. In any case, let's go back to where Taku and others are right now."
Gantz himself thought he was the one who caused the alarm to go off and unexpectedly paled.
We quickly returned back to the room everyone was waiting in and waited for the alarm to stop ringing, but there was no sign of that happening.
Gantz who was listening to what's happening beyond the door relayed what's happening outside.
"...It kinda looks like they're searching rooms one by one, there's the sound of doors opening and footsteps sound of several people."
"Haah, to think there was a trap like that…"
Taku held his forehead and sighed, making me inquire.
"Got any idea what's this about, Taku?"
"We opened a lot of rooms to gather information, but there was a mechanism that made the alarm sound if a certain number of doors is unlocked."
A mechanic that kills everyone on the first time, Taku said.
Meanwhile, Gantz listening to the situation in the corridor said that the NPCs were gradually getting close to the room.
Resolving himself when hearing Gantz's report, Taku scowled and took out an item from his inventory.
It was a reward for the quest we have completed in First Town's library's basement.
An item said to be the treasure of knowledge——【Oracle Orb】.
Taku pulled out an item that gave hints when questioned and asked a question.
"——『Tell me how do we get out of this pinch!』"
It was the first time I saw 【Oracle Orb】 being used, the shining orb turned into particles of light and responded mechanically.
『"——Escape is in the corridor's dead-end."』
With just those words, the particles of light disappeared leaving us astounded at the sight.
"Yun, show me the plan!"
I spread out the hand-drawn plan, showing it to Taku.
Surrounding the plan we compared the first and second floor's plans to find the location specified by the hint.
It was a dead end behind a crossing to the right outside of this room.
"At this rate we'll be found. Let's go to the hallway and head to the dead-end!"
Everyone nodded hearing Taku's instructions and prepared in front the door.
Then at Gantz's signal we all ran outside.
『"YOU, where did you come FROM?!"』
One deformed NPC has approached us, but the moment we leaped out of the room Gantz had thrown the throwing needles to buy us some time so that we could run down the corridor.
At the crossing we looked to the sides, the left side led to the veranda and on the right there was a big door that was guarded by two deformed NPCs.
The two NPCs who were on alert had come running in haste when they saw us.
"As if we'd let ourselves get caught! ——【Clay Shield】!"
When we reached the dead end of the corridor I turned around and spread Magic Gems to create a triple earthen wall that would stop the NPCs.
Although the NPCs were blocked by the wall, we could immediately hear the sound of the wall being shaved off from the other side. We were completely driven into a corner.
With the 【Oracle Orb】's hint to go by we desperately searched the spot.
"Found something?! Anything?!"
Taku looked around the dead-end but it was an empty space just like it was on the first floor.
However, what if there was a meaning behind this empty space?
I took out the plan I drew and compared the space with the first floor's plan.
By counting steps I compared it to the first floor and found out it was slightly shorter.
And when I focused on it, I felt a slight, tiny response from my 【See-Through】 Sense.
"Over here, Taku! There's space behind this wall!"
"Here…? This wall?! But how do we enter it?!"
Knocking on the wall I pointed to, Taku ascertained there was a difference in the sound, but we didn't know how to enter it.
"Taku! Try asking the 【Oracle Orb】 one more time!"
Kei delivered a body blow to the wall and raised his voice. Taku tried pushing against the wall the same way and also replied loudly.
"I only had one of those!"
Gantz examined the wall with the assistance of his 【Trap Disarm】 Sense but couldn't find anything.
While we grew impatient because of the sound of the wall behind us being brought down, Minute, Mami-san and I moved away from the other three and looked for something else. That's when Mami-san found something.
"Hm…? Something's weird."
She pointed with her finger towards the candlesticks arranged at even intervals in the hallway. For some reason just one of them was turned around 90° and pointed horizontally.
I carefully touched the candlestick and turned it back to the correct position.
When I did——along with a clicking sound, the wall Taku and others were pressing against had turned to the side.
"It opened! Everyone jump in!"
Taku jumped into the hidden door without checking whether there's any trap inside, Gantz, Kei and others followed him.
This wall looks like a ninja mansion's hidden door, I thought as I entered the passage together with Minute and Mami-san. The wall turned completely and returned to its original state.
After that I heard another clicking sound and the wall had affixed itself in place.
At the same time on the other side of the wall, the enemy NPCs destroyed the wall made from Magic Gems and searched the dead-end, but soon enough I could hear their footsteps fade away as they left.
"Phew, that was close. Who the heck was it that thought up of a trap that rings the alarm when you open too many doors."
"That'd be OSO's development team. Haah, kill on first look joke, huh."
Hearing an exchange of words between Gantz and Minute after we somehow slipped away from the NPCs I put up a weak, bitter smile.
When we calmed down a little, we found a crystal ball that worked as a viewing hole that allowed us to look what's going on outside and confirmed there was no enemy that followed us. The alarm also stopped ringing.
"I guess we're safe for now."
I muttered that, and with the help of the light ball created by Minute's light magic, I investigated the surroundings. On the other side of the hidden door there was a room with simple furnishings and a passage continuing to the back.
Then, Taku found a piece of old paper on the table in the room and made a fearless smile.
"The main item for this hidden room is this."
Seeing the content included on paper I opened my eyes wide.
"Is that a plan of the entire mansion?! And it's complete, too!"
I compared it with the plan that I made.
I intended to draw mine quite accurately, but there were hidden rooms on the first floor that I failed to find.
And what was amazing about this hideout, was that this hidden room was leading to other rooms.
Of course it led to the first floor rooms, but also to the guard's veranda room, corridor, and there was even a hidden door leading to the big room on the second floor that was end point of the quest.
"Haah, to think we'd find an item like this. My sketch is inaccurate in comparison."
"What are you talking about, yours has plenty value too."
"No no, Yun-san! It might be incomplete, but distances and such are easy to grasp!"
"Kei, Mami, thanks for cheering me up."
Kei furrowed his eyebrows and Mami-san spoke hurriedly as they both tried to cheer me up, but I put up a faint smile as I responded so. However, everyone looked at me strangely.
"Rather, there's few players who are even able to make a plan this correctly."
Saying so, Taku pat my back to cheer me up so I responded with displeasure.
"As if, anyone could do this if they want to. All you need is paper and pen… mm? You guys can't make one?"
I tilted my head and asked everyone, but they all responded by shaking their heads sideways.
"If there's anyone who can do it, it would be the few completionists who verify everything. Right now, the 【Eight Million Gods】 guild is training players to be able to create maps so that they can efficiently complete the unsearched areas."
Learning something new at this point, I felt two new emotions appear inside of me.
First was happiness, that my cartographic ability was necessary for the quest and was a highly evaluated player skill. Second, was that to use it I would have to actively take part in exploring new unsearched areas and quests, which was against my style of playing at my own pace.
"Heck, Yun, why do you have such map-making skills in the first place?"
"It's your fault! You made me help you out with a game that had no auto-mapping function!"
"Ohhh, back then!"
There was a time when Taku was into high-difficulty games, and after he bought an old one somewhere he made me help him with completing it.
While Taku was repeatedly dying in the retro game, I did my school homework and at the same time, I did mapping and took notes on items and NPC conversations.
"Yes yes, while I am curious about your story, I think we should continue with the quest."
"Whoa?! You're right!"
Reminded by Minute, I recalled what we were supposed to be doing and returned the floor plans to Taku.
"For now let's move into the back of the room that's guarded. It doesn't seem like there are any traps in the way."
Taku moved in front while checking the plan.
We still haven't made sure there aren't any traps, I thought and advanced with caution making sure there aren't any traps with my 【Sky Eyes】 and 【See-Through】.
After advancing for a while, we were safely able to move behind the guarded room, and Taku used the crystal ball to confirm the situation inside when we approached the hidden door. We listened attentively.
『"What are you doing! We're right before an important ritual!"』
『"MY apoloGIES. FOUNDER."』
After hearing a man shouting, we heard the voice of NPC apologizing.
『"Not only have you failed to abduct a maiden of high blood, which is necessary for the ritual, you even allowed the mansion to be infiltrated and then let them escape. At this rate, it will not go as planned."』
The man called "founder" spoke to himself in frustration, before taking a deep breath to calm himself.
『"Mm, very well. Even without a sacrifice, there's plenty of possessed believers inside the mansion. We should be able to summon a high-class devil if we make use of the malice that this mansion has been filled with."』
"Hey, usually such plan modifications are flags for either failure or the whole thing going berserk."
Everyone smiled wryly as they heard Gantz's mutter, but we continued listening to what the Founder was saying in order to gather as much quest information as possible.
『"I will be heading to the ritual site now. Have all possessed believers, with exception of guards, gather in the eatery on the first floor and offer their malice. I will suck it into the dance hall on the second floor and commence the summoning ritual."』
With that said, the subordinate guy appeared to have left the room.
『"Kukuku, now, I need to start preparing the ritual."』
And Founder also left the room.
Taku, who was looking at the situation inside the room told us what's going on inside.
"There's no one inside. Also, if what the guy said earlier is true, all the deformed NPCs inside the mansion should be gathering in the eatery on the first floor. Does that mean that we're able to move around freely?"
"No, the deformed NPCs that are patrolling might have been replaced with normal Cultist NPCs instead. However, we did learn where the ritual will take place."
According to Taku's map, the dance hall was above the eatery on the Eastern side of the first floor. Also, since the the hidden passage led all the way there, we could go to the ritual site directly.
But, before that——
"Take——what we can take."
Along with Taku's words we opened the hidden door and entered the unguarded room to ransack it.
"It sure feels like I'm being infected by you guys. Ah, Taku, that drawer has a double bottom so leave it to Gantz."
"Got it. Gantz, take care of it."
Taku and Gantz found a small hole on the back side of the drawer with the double bottom, and after inserting a needle in there, they pushed from below to find a hidden jewelry box that Taku put in his inventory without even checking its contents.
"Hey, Kei. Since we don't have time to open it, help me destroy the safe that I found hidden behind the bookshelf here."
"Got it. HNGH!"
Minute and Kei broke a toolbox-looking metal box with their mace and sword, and then collected the items that were inside.
I was also looking around the room together with Mami-san, and we found expensive looking accessories, jewelry, items that seemed like they would sell for a lot, and pure money.
Looking at this objectively, it would be hard to tell which side are the villains, but I ignored that and we were able to recover the items without taking too much time.
It appeared that this was an important room in the hideout, so we gathered not just information but also nice items. Leaving the item check for later, we headed back to the hidden passage and reached the dance hall that had been turned into the ritual site.
"Looks like the ritual has already started."
Just like with the other hidden doors, when we looked inside through the crystal ball placed beside it, we could see cultists and deformed NPCs with their backs turned to us.
Ahead of the NPCs, there was a magic circle shaped like a five-pointed star on the dance floor. In the circle's center was a devil's statue made out of black stone that had a stern expression on its face.
The Founder NPC was chanting some kind of spell. Standing beside him were two deformed NPCs who were acting as escorts, and they had purple smoke rising from them. Moreover, the same purple smoke was also rising from beneath the floor of the room and gathering at the magic circle.
"So that's the malice thing. All right, we'll rush in and render the two unable to move, then go after the Founder guy to finish the quest."
Everyone nodded in response to Taku's words and he put a hand on the hidden door.
He opened the door along with the signal that he gave in a low voice and we sprinted out into the dance hall.
"《Enchant》——Attack, defense, speed!"
While Taku, Gantz and Kei rushed towards the deformed NPCs, I applied triple enchants on them from behind.
Taku, who had passed through the room in a swoop, slashed one of the deformed guard NPCs before the enemy could react, rendering him unable to move.
Following that, we made our move in the rear guard before the other NPC could move.
Mami-san's invisible cannon blew away the second NPC and I created a pool of mud at the place of his landing to stop him in his tracks.
Kei stood on top of the fallen deformed NPC to avoid receiving the mud's influence and stabbed his sword into the NPC's neck, cutting his head off.
"We finished off the guards, now for the Founder!"
Seeing the two guards beaten, the Founder opened his eyes in surprise.
If we beat this guy, we'll be able to stop the ritual and destroy the cultists' hideout. I thought.
However, purple smoke started to blow from the bodies of the deformed NPCs we had defeated, which was then absorbed by the magic circle.
"Kh-hahaha!! So with their hosts destroyed, the low-class devils left the bodies and became sacrifices for the ritual! With this I have the materials to summon an even greater devil!"
The quest progressed along with the Founder's delighted declaration.
——【CQuest - Devil Cultists' Hideout Destruction】——
Eliminate the summoned devil—— 4／4
Since the previous stage of the quest involved intruding upon the ritual, the devil being summoned was probably the default route for this quest.
The five-pointed magic circle sucked in the purple smoke filling the dance hall and its mysterious shine rapidly grew brighter. It appears like it has granted power to the black stone devil statue in the center of the hall.
The black statue suddenly twisted its torso, spread its wings, and roared as it raised its claws.
"FUHAHAHAHA!! The ritual was a success! Go, gargoyle! Eliminate those intruders to start with!"
The Founder swung his arm and commanded the moving statue to attack us.
The statue flapped its stone wings and leaped between Taku and the Founder.
"Gargoyles are usually small fries in games. What about you?!"
Taku skillfully swung around his two swords to continuously slash at the statue with a devil inside of it, but it repelled his attacks. It looks like the possession had made the statue even harder.
"Khh! His HP isn't going down at all!"
"I'm next! If slashes don't work, maybe blunt attacks will!"
Slipping behind the gargoyle, Gantz kicked the base of its wings and then struck it with his fist, but he ended up suffering damage from the recoil instead.
"C'mon, what are you doing. ——《High Heal》!"
Gantz's HP was healed thanks to Minute's recovery magic, but neither Taku nor Gantz were able to deal any damage to the gargoyle.
Then, the gargoyle who was not fazed by their attacks turned towards Kei for unknown reason, Kei raised his shield vigilantly.
The devil spread its wings and charged with its body low, nearly sliding on the floor before striking the shield from the front.
"Kei! ——《Aero Cannon》!"
Mami-san fired her invisible cannon right after the gargoyle's attack, but its extra-hard body of stone repelled the spell.
In addition to being resistant to physical attacks such as slashing and blunt attacks, it was also resistant to Mami-san's magic. Seeing that, everyone moved away from the gargoyle. Taku voiced his analytic opinion on the gargoyle's abilities.
"His defense is way too high. It would take several hours to beat him with normal attacks, and our weapons would break long before that. There must be some kind of special mechanic to beating him, either time or some condition."
"In any case, I'll defend the rear guard."
"All right, leave it to me to buy us time. Rather, let's beat the Founder NPC first if we can."
While preparing a plan, Taku raised his two swords. Kei stood in front of the rear guard with his shield up and Gantz did some hops on the spot to calm himself down.
"C'mon, let's go!"
The three rushed out with Taku's shout as the signal. As long as we don't find the mechanic to beat the gargoyle, the possibility of our defeat will continue to rise. Despite that, the way the three happily rushed at the gargoyle made me, Minute and Mami-san put up wry smiles.
"Well, let's try attacking from a distance with magic."
"Agreed, we can't leave everything to the vanguard!"
Minute and Mami-san also displayed their eagerness to fight as they prepared their spells.
Matching that, I weakened the gargoyle.
"Go! ——《Light Shoot》!"
The gargoyle, weakened by my Cursed spells, received Minute's bullet and the attack from Mami-san's converging flames.
However, the gargoyle was intact even after receiving those two magic attacks. Taku's slashes that had the purpose of preventing the gargoyle's counter-attacks didn't damage it either.
Mami-san used magic attacks of various elements to check if there was any difference in the damage dealt, but all of the attacks only dealt a small amount of damage.
"I can't deal high damage like Taku or Mami-san, but I'll try as well!"
Raising my spirits, I released an arrow with a bad status effect synthesized into it, but it was repelled by the gargoyle's body.
If it's going to be like this, we have no choice but to aim at the Founder who gave the gargoyle its orders.
"Taku! Aim for the Founder! Check how it reacts!"
"Well, if the gargoyle is this resistant to attacks, we can only beat the guy controlling it! Let's go Gantz!"
Taku ignored the gargoyle that was locked in frontal combat with Kei, and aimed for the Founder who was standing behind it.
Noticing that, the Founder issued a new order to the gargoyle.
"Gargoyle! Protect me!"
Distancing itself from Kei against whom it was engaged, the gargoyle jumped and glided with its stone wings in order to slip in between Taku and Gantz.
A normal enemy would have just focused on the player with the highest hate value, but the gargoyle was prioritizing its attacks under a different set of principles, making it a hard enemy to fight against.
The gargoyle stood so that it could protect the Founder, using its high defense to withstand any attacks before delivering heavy blows in response.
Also, since the gargoyle's movements were agile, it crushed any of Taku and Gantz's attempts at activating Arts. Moreover, while it defended itself against any kind of melee attack that was used against it, it also stood in the line of fire between the ranged attackers and the Founder, protecting him with its body.
"What about this? Will this make you attack us?!"
Minute, Mami and I aimed for the Founder who was behind the gargoyle's back, but it freely manipulated its stone wings to block the long ranged attacks, not allowing any damage to be dealt to the NPC.
In addition, since the gargoyle was now far away from Kei, and the Founder staying behind it took even more distance himself, there was a need to redo the positioning.
"Damn, how about this!"
At such a time, Gantz desperately threw something at the Founder, but it was blocked by the gargoyle's wing.
However, that action would become a trigger for finding out the mechanics of this boss battle.
"This isn't working. No matter what we try, we can't beat this gargoyle."
Even after repeatedly attacking the gargoyle's stone body, it had endured the attacks and we weren't able to shave even 10% of its HP off. It also had wings and could move around freely, so even if I created a mud pool on the dance hall's floor, it could easily slip out of it.
Other than that, we also tried doing things like dropping a chandelier on it to stop its movements, as well as checking the magic circle and items in the surroundings for hints. However, we couldn’t find anything that might help us beat it. And when we were nearly out of ideas——my eyes stopped on it.
Something was pierced into the gargoyle's stone wing. It was extremely thin and looked unreliable, but it had pierced through the wing that was as durable as iron.
"Is that a needle…?"
It was one of the synthesized throwing needles with a bad status effect that I had passed to Gantz.
"Are piercing attacks working? No, my arrows didn't pierce him, so that's not it. Then what…?"
Using 【Sky Eyes】 to its fullest, I looked for a way to beat the boss. And what I found was——
"...I see, a special effect based on what material was used for the weapon."
Among the throwing needles that I gave to Gantz, the ones made out of iron have fallen on the floor, but the golden throwing needles have pierced its stone body.
Speaking of which, we found a large amount of weapons made of gold on the first floor.
And on top of that, gold was also used for candlesticks, chandeliers and weapons that were decorating the walls.
"Let's use this thing to confirm it."
It was a golden arrow that was among the weapons we found on the first floor, and the only one I had left in my inventory. I thought there was no point to it since it was impractical, but now I nocked it on my bow and aimed for the gargoyle.
Aiming for the middle of the gargoyle who had yet to take any evasive action so far, I pulled the string of the bow.
"——《Bow Skill - Arrow Stitching》!"
The golden arrow that was empowered by the Art flew straight through the dance hall and approached the gargoyle, which was currently locked in combat with Taku.
Sensing the golden arrow approaching it, the gargoyle took an action it had not taken before and distanced itself from Taku and the others.
"It… avoided the attack?"
While Taku was astounded when he saw the gargoyle's strange behavior, I shouted.
"His weakness is golden weapons! Just like silver works well against undead, golden weapons are effective against him!"
Once the Art's delay time ended, I immediately aimed at the gargoyle and released another arrow.
However, even with the increased hit rate from my high dexterity, my arrows were avoided by the gargoyle, who was able to fly freely within the dance hall.
"Golden weapons might deal direct damage, but they need to directly hit it, right? This won’t help us at all if he flies around and avoids us!"
Minute kept firing her magic at it after changing her weapon to a bourgeois mace, but it dealt no damage to the gargoyle even when it hit.
Apparently, just like Minute said, the golden weapons' special effect would only work with direct weapon attacks.
Minute and Mami-san's long ranged attacks weren’t working, and the vanguard couldn't reach the gargoyle since it was flying in the sky.
"Yun! Aim for the Founder! The gargoyle will definitely protect him, so let’s use that!"
When I changed the arrow's aim from the gargoyle that was flying indoors to the Founder, the gargoyle realized that and entered the line of fire as fast as possible in order to protect the NPC.
And when the golden arrow pierced the gargoyle's stone body, it dealt the highest damage so far, though the gargoyle still had over 90% of his HP.
"All right, it's our turn!"
Taku and Kei changed to golden swords and slashed at the gargoyle that had landed on the ground, but it quickly escaped.
We managed to find a way to beat the boss, but it still wasn't enough.
"Hey, Yun-chan. Do you have any golden tools I could use?"
"Usable golden tools, huh… I’m sorry to say that, aside from the arrows, I melted everything we got yesterday down and remade them into ingots…"
"Then, could you show me an ingot if you have one on you?"
Although I wondered what it was that she came up with, I took out a Gold Ingot that I had in my inventory and handed it to Minute.
After receiving it, Minute checked its size and weight with her thin arms, and then nodded.
"Can you put a physical attack enchant on me, Yun-chan? Also, I'll be borrowing this gold ingot for a moment."
"Eh? Ah, sure. 《Enchant》——Attack."
Although I was still wondering what this was about, I gave her the enchant that she asked for. Minute then switched her weapon from the bourgeois mace that she was holding to a heavy-looking mace made out of Black Iron.
And then, after posing like a batter, she threw the heavy gold ingot into the air and swung the mace with both of her hands.
The swung mace splendidly captured the Gold Ingot, sending it flying towards the Founder while rotating due to the air resistance.
And when the gargoyle stood in front of the NPC to protect him, the ingot pierced its belly.
"Actually, a spherical ball would be best, but this is nice in a way. Supply me with bullets, Yun-chan!"
"Ah, I'll do it too! Let's do this! ——《Coin Toss》!"
As he said that, Gantz's eyes sparkled as he threw the things he had in his hand at the Founder with a snap of his wrist.
The things he was throwing were G coins, which flew like shuriken and pierced the gargoyle’s stone body.
Although Mami-san and I were taken aback by the sight of Gantz and Minute throwing Gold Ingots, money and other golden items at the enemy, we immediately removed the golden items in our inventories in order to replenish their throwing ammunition.
Fortunately, there was plenty of ammo since the Founder had gold coins in his room.
Eventually, an innumerable number of Gold Ingots and coins were stuck to the stone gargoyle's body, causing it to be covered in cracks.
"HIIiiihh!! Gargoyle! Protect, protect mee!"
The Founder screamed miserably, but well, I can understand that having Gold Ingots and coins thrown at yourself does sound like a nightmare. I thought. A Gold Ingot thrown by Minute pierced the base of the gargoyle's stone wing, causing it to break off and fall to the floor.
As a result, the gargoyle was forced to descend to the ground as it had lost its ability to fly, allowing Taku to go on the offensive.
"Now, let's go!"
When struck by Kei's golden shield, the cracks on the gargoyle's body continued to spread and its movements were stopped.
And the instant the gargoyle was knocked back, Taku poised his sword.
When this slashing sword Art was used by Taku, the gargoyle's left arm finally collapsed.
The gargoyle swung its right arm as if to show it was still eager to fight, but this time it was blocked by Kei's sword, which caused the boss’ right wrist to crumble due to the golden weapon's special effect.
"This will end it! ——《Power Buster》!"
Taku's long sword, which was swung down from overhead, cut away the gargoyle's remaining HP, causing the entire statue to collapse.
With that, we finally managed to defeat the devil statue.
"Ahhh, the devil we summoned…"
The founder muttered in delirium as he looked at the statue.
"That'd be the quest cleared."
While saying that, Taku turned away from the gargoyle's remains. Immediately afterwards, purple smoke rose up from the debris.
"Taku! Behind you!"
"?!! Whoa, a two stage battle?"
He turned around and started stepping backwards as he raised his sword again.
What appeared from the smoke, was a translucent devil-like spirit with long fangs and claws.
"Ohh! The devil’s existence doesn't disappear even after the host has been destroyed! Now, go on! Kill them!"
The Founder rejoiced at the sight of the ominous devil appearing again and tried to give it orders, but the devil looked over its shoulder at him and breathed in deeply as if to fill its chest——
"Ghhh, the painn! No way, you're…! I summoned you, yet you're taking my soul…?! GAHHH!!"
Something white, appearing to be a soul, slipped out of the Founder’s mouth and was sucked into the ghost devil's mouth.
The deformed NPC guards that had fallen on the floor had small purple souls pulled out of their bodies and sucked into the devil's mouth as well.
In addition to that, there were small purple souls springing out from under the floor, which were probably coming from the eatery below. These souls were jumping into the devil’s mouth one after another in the same manner as those from the guards.
"Hey, the deformed NPCs are returning to normal."
"Which means the problem is just the second boss."
Gantz noticed the sudden change to the deformed NPCs, but hearing Taku’s analysis, we judged that the dead NPCs were no longer a threat. With that, we looked up and focused on the devil spirit.
After sucking in all the lower devils that were possessing the deformed cultists, the devil spirit's semi-transparent body was filled with ominous colors, showing that it had been filled with strength——and then, the 【Devil Geist】 looked down on us while smiling sadistically.
Seeing through enemy's actions with my 【See-Through】 Sense, I gave the party a warning. With that, everyone switched back to their original weapons and started moving.
Immediately after that, the devil spirit spread his arms to the sides and started manipulating the objects inside of the dance hall.
Objects such as golden candlesticks, pots, paintings, and swords rose up into the air before showering us from above..
"That gargoyle didn't have any ranged attacks, but this guy uses magic! ——《Sonic Edge》!"
While running to avoid the objects manipulated by the devil spirit, Taku activated a ranged Art.
His flying slash approached the devil, but the boss blocked it by using the objects around it as a shield.
"He blocked it, but the objects being used as shields disappear after they’re attacked!"
The objects broken apart by Taku's slash turned into particles of light before they even fell to the ground and have disappeared. This meant that once the boss has no more objects to manipulate in the room, it wouldn’t have anything to shield itself with.
"I’ll use area of effect magic to clean up the room, then! ——《Down Burst》!"
Mami-san, who hadn't moved until now, unleashed the magic she had been accumulating.
A mass of air blew down as if it was going to crush the devil spirit from above. In response, the boss moved all the objects in the room to try and prevent it, where they were then struck down to the floor one after another, disappearing after they turned into particles of light. Finally, the devil spirit itself was pressed down onto the ground.
Still, none of us thought that it was defeated.
Kei quietly positioned himself in front of Mami-san and raised his shield in order to protect her.
Responding to his call, I put a double defensive enchant on Kei.
The next instant, a black sphere jumped out from the fingertip of the fallen devil spirit, targeting Mami-san who had gathered a lot of hate with her 《Down Burst》.
Kei, who was standing in the line of fire, held his shield in front and repelled the attack.
Before the black sphere had returned to the devil spirit, it jumped up and escaped.
Aiming for that moment, Minute, Gantz and I attacked it all at once.
"《Element Enchant》——Weapon. ——《Magic Bow Skill – Phantom Arrow》!"
I crushed a light elemental stone and enchanted my bow with the light element, then released a silver arrow.
Following it, five magic arrows were created from the trail left by the silver arrow and overtook it, assaulting the devil spirit's body.
All five of the magic arrows pierced the boss’ limbs from different angles, and the silver arrow that lagged behind pierced its chest.
"Take this——《Angel Ring》!"
A shining ring was released from the mace that Minute was raising up high. This ring restrained the devil spirit’s body that was drifting in the air and had just received my arrow, forcing it to fall to the ground.
"Leave it to me! ——《Multiple Kick》!"
The moment the restrained devil was about to fall onto the floor, Gantz slipped beneath it and delivered several heavy blows to its body.
Even from a distance, the sounds of his attacks were loud enough for me to hear. As the attack was repeated two to three times, the devil restrained by the Angel Ring spell had been turned into a sand bag floating in mid-air.
"Now, for a combo finish!"
Gantz blew away the devil spirit with a powerful roundhouse kick. Ahead of where the devil was sent, Taku crossed his long swords he held in his both hands, ready to cut the boss down. 『"GAAAaAaaa."』
The slashes cut the devil spirit's body like scissors, splitting it apart. The cut body parts passed by on both sides of Taku, turned into particles of light and disappeared.
Then, a white soul-thing which had remained after the boss was defeated flew straight towards the fallen Founder NPC's mouth.
After that, once all of the boss’ remains had completely disappeared, we were able to confirm the quest's completion in the menu.
"Phew, it was so-so for the second stage's boss. Heck, wasn't it actually weak? The gargoyle was stronger than this."
"Nonono, I think that this was quite the difficult battle as is."
I strongly denied Taku's mutter, making everyone laugh with vague expressions.
While it’s certainly true that its strength was set quite modestly considering it was a continuous boss battle, I still don't think it can be considered "weak". I thought that, but then I recalled something.
Oh right, Taku's party members are all top class OSO players.
For such players, a simple magic-based boss like 【Devil Geist】 would be much easier than the gargoyle, which requires you to discover a special mechanic in order to defeat it.
"Well, it looks like the quest is finished with this."
The sound of footsteps could be heard in the corridor and then the door opened towards us.
From the entrance, Guard NPCs wearing armor flowed into the dance hall and captured the Founder and the NPCs who used to be deformed.
"I am the commander of this town's guard troops. I would like to thank you for your cooperation with destroying the Devil Cultists' Hideout. Although your direct client is the nobleman, I would like to once again thank you for plucking the buds of disturbance we had in the town."
After saying that, the Guard Commander NPC gave an order to one of the Guard NPCs, who then gave each of us a leather bag.
"This is the reward that your client, the nobleman, had left with us. Now, please excuse us, but we have to deal with the aftermath."
The guards disappeared all at once and we opened the bags that were passed to us. Inside the bag was the quest reward of 20 Quest Chips, as well as a mysterious reward that was marked as 【???】.
Tattoo of Samsara【Accessory】 (Weight: 1)
Additional Effect: HP Recovery Increase (Medium), HP Recovery Restriction Decrease
There was a silver sticker that looked like an angel’s feathers on the slippery and hard paper.
"What's this? Are tattoos treated as accessories?"
"Heeh, it's like a sticker. Interesting."
Saying so, Minute immediately tried wearing the reward item. Because the sticker was a unique accessory, it was apparently possible to stick it anywhere on your body.
It appeared it could be used repeatedly, so she tried putting it on her cheek, and on the back of her hand and other places.
"The HP Recovery Increase means that it's perfect for me!"
Minute was really happy that she received an accessory that’s well suited for her, and she finally decided to put the sticker on her shoulder.
"How is it?"
She asked, showing her shoulder to me. I answered.
"I think it looks good. Though, it's a little disappointing that it's hidden under the winter clothes."
"True, but if it can't be seen then it means that no one will know that I have it, which will give me an advantage in PvP."
Afterwards, we looked around the mansion to try and collect some more items, but——
"It looks like the Guard NPCs collected everything as evidence. There are no items left here!"
"Well, we can't do anything about that. If that’s how it works, then gathering the items from around the mansion must have been one of the main elements of this quest."
Taku smiled wryly as he patted Gantz’s shoulder when the latter cried out at the lack of items to gather.
Dragging Gantz with us as he lamented over the items we may have missed, we consulted each other on how we would split the items we have acquired during this quest.
The items that would sell for a large amount of money would be sold and then the money would be split between us. Useful items would be picked out and given to the one who'll make the most use of it, and unnecessary items would also be sold and distributed equally.
The fierce negotiations between Taku and the other members over some of the useful items took longer than the fight against the second stage of the boss.
I set my eyes on some accessories that could serve as references when I’m crafting with the 【Engraving】 Sense. Still, I wasn't so desperate to have them that I would negotiate to get them no matter what, so I mainly picked up some versatile and cursed accessories.
"Yun, are you really okay with these?"
"Well, they don't seem like they would be useful, but this kind of stuff is interesting."
Still, I DID think to myself that there’s something wrong with me for picking cursed accessories just because "they're kinda interesting". In any case, just like that, the quest chain that started with us escorting a noble had come to an end.
In the end, we were able to clear the quest before the deadline we had set for ourselves, so it was a satisfying outcome.
Then, once everything was finished, Taku recalled something.
"Speaking of which, Yun."
"What is it?"
"Couldn't you have used your 【Sky Eyes】 and 【Earth Element Talent】 combo to blow up the Founder directly without allowing the gargoyle to get in the way?"
Everyone, including me, had forgotten all about that.
The fact that I didn't think of this method of attack even though I possessed it left me feeling slightly depressed.