“…Hn. I will go…too.” (Ringo)
Ringo proposed…no, pleaded this on top of the deck where wind blew as she held the Bear on her chest.
I smiled wryly at those words she said who knows how many times now.
What Ringo is looking at is the door leading to the corridor where the energy core is at.
And also the robot that is the boss of the Sky City.
The deck of the stern portion is divided in two. The round open space has an opening where the two are lined up just right.
The inner circle is where we are standing in, and the outer circle is where the door leading to the deepest part and the dungeon boss are in.
I thought Ringo would also show her disapproval in my plan to head to the door without fighting the boss just like Sazan, but she unexpectedly accepted the idea itself.
“…Safety is most important.” (Ringo)
Looks like she is prioritizing me not being in danger rather than me being a decent human.
I don’t know if to call that obedient or in character.
Anyways, it worked fine until that point, but this time she instead said she would be coming with me which is troubling.
But I can’t accept that one.
“You coming with me is dangerous so it would be troubling, but how are you going to get to the other side?” (Souma)
“…With my…skill combo…” (Ringo)
“You can’t activate movement skills in midair, and you can’t cover enough distance to begin with.” (Souma)
It is true that Ringo can now use Skill Cancel after her training against the Demon Lord.
But it is impossible for her to get to the other side with that alone.
Because there’s a decent distance between the deck here and the deck there, you would normally need to activate the mechanisms here and open the bridge.
If you want to get to the other side without the bridge, just the combo of Step, High Step, and Ground Compression wouldn’t be enough at all.
“No matter how well you use your skill combos, ‘you must not use offensive skills’ close to that guy. It is unfortunate, but you can’t get there unless you have the Pegasus Boots.” (Souma)
—Decisive Battle Weapon Humanoid Form for Decisive Battles: Barnis V.
That’s the name of the boss in this Sky City.
Leaving aside the retort of ‘Why did they use decisive battle twice in its name?’, its battle power is fearsomely high.
It may not have projectiles, but for enemies that are in the sky or are faraway, it would take the Bird Form to charge at you; when moving, it will turn half-transparent and phase through any obstructions.
That mysterious mechanic is also on the sword. Even though it is such a big sword, it phases through the wall and deals damage to the player. That’s so unfair.
Because it is equipped with verniers, it can return immediately even if you manage to drop it from the Sky City.
We have to challenge it to close quarters combat since you can’t shake the boss off no matter what, but because of its giant size of more than 2 meters, its varied attacks that make it hard to think it is an enemy in Nekomimi Neko, and the effect of the KAREN device that reacts fearsomely fast, it corners the players.
But the reason why Barnis V is feared is because of its overwhelming counter skill.
“Barnis V reacts to ‘Offensive Skills’, ‘Offensive Spells’ and ‘Offensive Items’ that are used nearby and will throw a super high speed counter.” (Souma)
I was seriously surprised when it happened the first time.
The moment I used Side Slash at a decent distance to check, it suddenly teleported to the very front as if saying ‘don’t you dare use skills in my presence!’ and the moment I saw the flash of a slash, it was already game over.
“Huh? Geim Obah? That means you died, right?” (Sazan)
I nodded at Sazan who made a shocked face.
“Yeah. Just saying, but my HP and defense was higher then than it is now.” (Souma)
And yet, I was killed in one hit.
It goes without saying what would happen if I were to be hit with that as I am now.
This is just a possibility, but even Ringo might die instantly.
The only one with a chance to survive would be Mitsuki, but even that might have little hope.
“B-But if you use your special skill combo to avoid it…” (Sazan)
“That would be difficult too.” (Souma)
The next time I encountered it, I thought it was a bad move to have attacked it, so I first used Godstep Cancel to move and gauge its state.
But the result was the same as before.
Godstep Cancel is a combination of Step, Slash, and Short Cancel.
Well, in my case, I would use Side Slash instead of Slash, but the core is the same.
The condition to activate the counter is ‘use Offensive Skills’ so it hit me with a counter after reacting to the Slash, but what you have to concentrate on here is that I couldn’t escape from it even with my Godstep Cancel speed.
Even if there may be some small differences, the Short Cancel of offensive skills normally means ‘move to the next skill before the damage registration window comes in’, so the moment you raise your weapon with Slash, Step is already activated.
In other words, only a few seconds have passed since the activation of Slash to Step.
That would mean the counter of Barnis V managed to cut me down even when I immediately moved with Step.
Even if my speed wasn’t 3x like in this world, that’s still fearsome speed.
Well, you could say it is still better that it just counters offensive skills and spells and not healing magic and movement skills…probably.
Ah, by the way, I was mainly solo, so I haven’t tested it myself, but it apparently uses the counter when your party members use offensive attacks too.
“T-Then, that means you have to defeat it without using skills and spells?” (Sazan)
I once again shake my head at the scared Sazan.
“No, Barnis V is crazy strong even without the counter.
I at the very least have not heard any stories about someone winning against it in close quarters without using skills.” (Souma)
“No way…” (Sazan)
Sazan was making a dark expression I could tell even with a mask on and Ringo grabbed my arm as if worried.
I hurriedly spoke.
“Ah, it is not like there’s no way to defeat it. I did defeat it once after all.” (Souma)
Barnis V was thought to be invincible, but for good or for bad, there’s no way the Nekomimi Neko developers would make such a perfect job.
The only weak point of Barnis V is when it is entering battle mode.
It seems like this action pattern is the only place where the developers skimped on, and it is a big opening you can take advantage of.
To be more precise, when it gets hit from outside its range of vision, it will first look at where it received the attack, and after a while of not being able to confirm the enemy, it will return to its initial state.
That’s why you can hit Barnis V when it faces its back towards you, and then quickly hide behind a wall.
You continue hiding when Barnis V is cautious, and after that’s done, you attack it from behind again. Rinse and repeat.
That said, you may have to wait more than 3 minutes between each attack.
You will get countered mercilessly if you use offensive attacks at too close of a range even if it is before entering battle mode, and even if not, if you were to hide late or peek your head out when it is not facing its back, you are done for.
If you get caught once and it enters battle mode, it is over.
It won’t ever go back to normal mode again, and as long as the player and their party members are in the Sky City, it will chase you till you are dead with its phasing ability.
I have actually been found countless times and killed.
Doing such a stressful thing when my life is actually at stake here would be bad for my heart.
But that’s why I am bringing out this plan.
“There’s actually one more weak point for Barnis V before entering battle mode.
It seems to be patrolling the deck over there, but it is only wary horizontally.
It can’t find people that are at a certain altitude.” (Souma)
I told this to Ringo, who still seems to be uneasy, and made an even brighter face.
“That’s where these Pegasus boots come in. I said I can use skills in midair, but when I use skills like Jump, I can do pretty interesting stuff.” (Souma)
In the first place, Jump is a skill that lets you move in the opposite direction from the ground when you are on land.
What happens when the restriction of the ground goes away?
—The answer is that you can move 360° in the air.
On top of that, jumping skills are easy to connect to the point where they are commonly used to Cancel attack skills, so with the restriction of only being able to activate them on ground being removed, the application of it has vastly increased.
Jump and High Jump can be comboed, so you can freely move in the air by just connecting both of them.
They are obviously inferior in distance traveled and speed compared to pure movement skills like Step, and it is difficult to adjust the direction you move until you get used to it, but if you master the movement, you can pull off tight turns and maneuverability that doesn’t lose to the others.
“Also, once we activate the energy core, we can use the bridge of the ship.
If we operate the computer terminal there, not only the small fries, even Barnis V and the batteries on the outer walls will stop.
Considering everything as a whole, that’s the safest method.” (Souma)
When I said this without much hope, Ringo seemed to fall into thought a bit, and then reluctantly let go of my arm.
“It has been a while since I have flown in the sky with this.” (Souma)
Seen off by Ringo who was worried until the very end and Sazan who said ‘Y-You see…be careful, okay?’ as she looked away, I used Jump towards the deck.
Just when Jump finished, I connected it with High Jump and got even more distance.
“I feel like I will be able to manage somehow with this.” (Souma)
I didn’t say this because it might worry Ringo again, but this is my first time using the Jump and High Jump combo in my 3x speed state.
I was worried about what to do if I failed, but there doesn’t seem to be any issues right now.
But I can’t lower my guard.
If I mess up even once in my Skill Cancel and fall into an altitude where Barnis V can detect me, the chances are high that I will be killed.
No, that’s not all.
Barnis V’s battle mode doesn’t get undone after entering it, so if I get defeated, the next ones are Ringo and Sazan.
The first time I got to this Sky City, I thought I could just use fall damage mitigation magic and could run away at any time by just jumping down, but the developers weren’t so soft.
When you try to move out from the Sky City by other means that are not the soap bubbles, you will get shot down by the batteries that are at the outer walls.
Ringo and I might be able to barely manage to deal with those, but Sazan, who has no skills she can use in midair and has practically paper physical defense, won’t be able to endure it.
This is probably a countermeasure for when you are trying to take shortcuts in the exploration of the Sky City or when you try to come in from below to get here with skills. How thorough.
Also, the escape device that’s the only safe way to move to the surface can’t be moved unless you activate the energy core.
I told Ringo and Sazan about the location just in case, but I have to at the very least reach the energy core in order to use it.
“I really have a lot on my shoulders!” (Souma)
I monologue as I link the skills rhythmically with a set tempo.
I try not to look down as much as possible and just advance with my destination in sight.
There were chilling moments, but the difficulty of the Jump combo is not high.
I got a bit of leeway, and when I felt a bit more relaxed in the 70% mark…
The scream of Ringo cut through the air.
A bright red mechanical doll was right below me.
I felt like my eyes made contact with Barnis V.
I felt instinctive fear and tried to forcefully twist my body even when my body couldn’t move freely in the middle of an activated skill.
After an ominous wind cutting sound, a red something passed by at super high speed with paper-thin difference.
No, it wasn’t paper-thin difference.
The string I had on was cut and my adventurer bag slid off from my waist.
I reflexively stretched my hand out, but that decision was one second too late and the bag dropped all the way to the deck, close to the door.
It wasn’t the time to be distracted by the bag.
The red something that passed me by -Barnis V in its bird form- turned in the air and directed its nose at me.
“[Ground Compression]!” (Souma)
I reacted on the moment and activated Ground Compression to the back instead of Jump.
The bright red machine once again roared.
The bright red bird passed right in front of my eyes with a speed far above that of 3x speed.
—That was close.
According to the info I gathered in my game days, the true value of the KAREN device is the elevation of reaction speed and the strengthening of the FCS (Firearms Control System).
Of course, that’s just the lore, but that has heavily influenced the conduct of Barnis V in the game.
The battle AI of this guy is especially good within Nekomimi Neko, and it even competes with the most seasoned Nekomimi Neko players when it comes to predicting the actions of its enemies.
The charge of the bird form just now calculated my next location and added extra corrections to that.
I don’t know if I would have been able to escape if I had continued moving forward with Ground Compression.
I was internally getting cold sweat here as I activated Jump downwards and hurried to land.
Thanks to the Jump, my maneuverability increased in the air, but it is not to a degree where I can deal with the bird form.
Any further air battle will cost me my life.
I hurriedly went down after reaching that conclusion.
When I did, Barnis V made mechanical sounds as it returned to humanoid form.
With this, there’s no need to be wary about the speed of the bird form, but this isn’t a good situation even when trying to look at it positively.
(…Damn it. Even when it was on the spur of the moment, the location I landed on was bad.) (Souma)
Me, Barnis V, the adventurer bag, and the door leading to the deepest area; that’s the positioning right now.
With this, if I don’t evade Barnis V, I won’t be able to get the bag or reach the door.
The door is bad, but dropping the bag is also painful.
I have a number of potions in there for emergencies in my pouch, but the amount is worrying.
Also, considering the countermeasures for the Evil God and everything else, I must retrieve my bag no matter what, so it is now harder to choose to retreat.
(No point crying over spilt milk. I should evacuate Ringo and Sazan for now and…) (Souma)
I looked back to give orders and was shocked.
Ringo is pointing her palm at Barnis V, and the Bear is lifting the Gouging Vajra as if it were to throw it at any moment.
Sazan was all flustered here, but she is beginning to chant after seeing Ringo’s state.
“You idiot! Don’t shoot!! If you do, its target will switch to you! If that happens, I won’t be able to do anything!” (Souma)
My lack of composure was showing in how violent my tone was.
Sazan froze at that strong tone and the Bear also lowered the Gouging Vajra, but Ringo wasn’t lowering her hand.
“Sazan, grab Ringo and go to the escape device!” (Souma)
I shouted behind me while keeping an eye on Barnis V on the corner of my vision.
But Sazan was not moving.
It seems she is still confused, but I have no time to wait for that.
“Get on with it already, Sazan!!” (Souma)
When I shouted again, Sazan quivered and trembled, but she shook her head in the end.
“N-No! As if I can leave you!” (Sazan)
Aah, damn it!
Why is it that this girl is so manly only in situations like this?!
I wanted to scratch my head off here, but I told myself to calm down.
Ringo and the others have no means of escape unless I reach the energy core anyways.
Even if they are there or at the escape device, the situation won’t change.
I once again felt the pressure of 3 lives being on my shoulders as I glared at Barnis V.
That dignified stance was truly like that of a hero robot in those TV programs.
The trauma of being killed tens of times by this guy resurfaced, and the reality that I have never defeated it once in a proper battle made the weight of my weapon heavier.
Even with the 3x speed and the strength up from the seeds, I don’t feel like I can win.
My specialty is battling with skills, but I am honestly not good at moving my body.
I don’t think I would be able to slip through the attacks of this guy without skills and deal a hit, and I don’t know how many shots it would take to defeat this guy without skill modifiers.
On the other hand, if this guy has the same attack power as in the game, I will easily be killed with one clean hit.
Every thought that crosses my mind reminds me of the overwhelming difference in power, and I bite my lip.
…But it is alright.
It is not like I am being forced to defeat it.
If I avoid this boss and activate the energy core, we just have to escape.
It is dangerous, but I could also jump down the deck, and I could also try a gamble of jumping through a wall with Infinite Mirage Prison.
It would be a gamble of whether my Infinite Mirage Prison gets through first or its counter, but it just means I still have cards.
I calmed down a bit and confirmed the terrain.
There’s a big bridge on the deck here.
No, it might be some sort of device for the space battleship, but that doesn’t matter.
If I manage to draw that guy there and make a turn around the bridge, our positions would be reversed.
I can then run at full speed to the door and activate the energy core.
Ringo and the others should head to the escape device if they know that the energy core is moving.
Or more like, I hope that’s the case.
The moment I glanced at Ringo’s direction for a second, Barnis V moved.
A gesture of pushing out the giant sword it is holding in its right hand.
I jumped to the side with Step one breath late, and in that instant, Barnis V’s back burned with fire.
No, it activated the verniers on its back at full power and came at me with a thrust.
A joke-like robotic voice declared the name of the technique, and I felt an impact on my body at the same time.
I managed to avoid the sword of Barnis V after jumping to the side, but I couldn’t avoid its big body.
An impact as if I had been run over by a car.
I don’t even have the leeway to see just how my body is.
The sky and the ground were switching places over and over, and I couldn’t tell up and down for a moment.
Just when I shook my head and was trying to raise my head, what I saw in front of my eyes was a giant sword letting out sparks and a steel colossus.
“Guh! [High Jump]!” (Souma)
I activate my skill while still down.
A breath later…
<<Barnis Victory Slash!!>>
A sword releasing light was swung down at a speed faster than the naked eye.
A sword trace so intense it can draw a V in the air.
I practically licked the floor, barely escaping from the attack.
I somehow managed to escape from the range of the slash, but my skin was burning just from the shockwave of that ultimate slash.
“Don’t joke around.” (Souma)
I would have died without the Pegasus Boots.
I got shivers seeing the floor letting out smoke while melted into an unknown liquid from the fearsome heat.
At that moment, a square stick stretched out from the mysterious smoke way too naturally.
No, that’s no stick, but Barnis V’s left arm—
I didn’t have the leisure to get ready.
The tip of the shield wrapped around the left arm had a thick stake protruding from it and was shot at me.
“Wa?! Say the name of the ability!” (Souma)
I take distance while accusing it unfairly.
Fortunately, the range of the stake protruding from the shield wasn’t that big of a deal.
I clumsily combo skills and get into the shadow of a pillar I saw.
“Damn it! Not being able to use offensive skills or magic is…” (Souma)
I complain with my back on the pillar.
Most of my skill combos and the KB Cancel can’t be used, so not only my attack power, even my mobility is greatly decreased.
“I did know, but…” (Souma)
It really makes me realize just how much I relied on skills.
Feeling like my hands and legs are tied is fine and all, but there’s also that unpleasant feeling as if the air around me has gotten heavier and is wrapping around me.
In a situation like this where lives, especially the ones of my friends, are at risk, I will obviously want to complain.
I keep an eye on my sides while entrusting my back on the pillar to cool down my stirred heart.
What was currently running in my head right now in this momentary break was a way to solve this…no, what brought this situation.
(Why did it manage to find me when I was high up?) (Souma)
The player wouldn’t get found in the game when you were at that altitude. Did I remember wrong?
It is my bad habit as a bug gamer to immediately begin thinking about how it happened when something is different.
Anyways, everything can come after I have gotten through this.
Reconsidering this, I take my back off the wall and…
A light passed on top of my shoulder.
No, the moment I noticed that it wasn’t light but a polished blade, I rolled to the front, pitched forward.
“That…that just now…” (Souma)
If I hadn’t gotten off just now, that blade would have pierced my head.
That danger of death that rolled so close yet so naturally made my heart rampage.
I don’t even have the leeway to use skills as I shamelessly take distance and look back. That sword was protruding from the pillar where I had my back on.
No, not only the pillar.
As if being birthed from the pillar, the sword, the robotic right arm, and the majestic metallic form began to show themselves.
“Oi oi, it attacked directly from the wall? Such an action wasn’t in the game…no!” (Souma)
An idea suddenly came to mind.
Even though it is a situation like this, I ended up shouting.
“The KAREN device!” (Souma)
The action patterns of the monsters in this world are not different from that of the game. But NPCs -in other words, human characters- showed incomparable growth from monsters.
This Barnis V is using organic brains in its AI.
There’s simply the possibility that the Nekomimi Neko developers gave it preferential treatment and gave it a special AI, and it is also possible that the device has increased in intelligence when it turned real.
“…Haha, so this is the importance of flavor text, huh. I am the one who mentioned it, yet I missed it.” (Souma)
Even when I muttered this in self-deprecation, the situation won’t change.
The silly *thuwoom thuwoom* sound effect of its footsteps sounded like the footsteps of an executioner.
(…What do I do? What can I do?) (Souma)
The situation worsened even more.
I was cornered to the end of the deck, and the door was even further away from me now.
On top of that, considering how high the intelligence of the other party is, even if I managed to get out of here nicely, I doubt it would let go of the defenseless moments when I open the door or activate the energy core.
—Cornered on all ends.
Those words surfaced in my mind.
No matter how much leeway I think I have, irregulars can easily invite death with just one small mistake.
Even though I understood that harshness and danger of Nekomimi Neko the most, I wasn’t prepared properly.
Barnis V was slowly approaching me, as if mocking me while I was paralyzed, and…
A clear voice rang from my back when my mind was completely elsewhere.
I forgot my caution towards Barnis at this unexpected development and ended up turning around defenselessly.
There was Ringo with her palm directed at Barnis V with that exact same posture and…
“…Run immediately once I shoot.” (Ringo)
I for some reason heard that voice clearly even within the raging wind of the deck.
Even with that, my brain needed a bit of time before it understood the meaning of that.
Why did she direct her hand at Barnis V from the very beginning without moving at all?
Even if Ringo were to shoot her Lightning Strike, she wouldn’t be able to defeat Barnis V. Not only that, it would simply switch the target to Ringo…
—When my thoughts reached that possibility, chills ran down my spine.
That was her objective from the very beginning.
She didn’t think about defeating Barnis V from the very beginning.
She intended to draw its attention and become bait.
So that I can get to the energy core.
But that’s reckless.
Even I am unable to deal with it when I have 3x speed. There’s no way Ringo would be able to do it.
I shouted with overflowing emotions, but Ringo didn’t lower her hand.
Not only that. She looked at Barnis V with heightened resolve and…
I can’t let her do that!
Now that it has come to this, I will gamble on an attack skill and…
A creepy sound echoed from below at that moment.
“Wa?! This is…!” (Souma)
The sound of something gigantic waking up.
I reflexively look at Barnis V.
This situation must be incredibly unexpected for it too. It stopped moving as if it were confused by this.
When I looked back, there was Ringo hugging the Bear while still in her stance to shoot the Lightning Strike but unsure of what to do.
“What is it?! What’s going on now?!” (Sazan)
Sazan shouted with a teary voice, but I know what’s happening.
I have experienced this before, so there’s no doubt about it.
—Someone activated the energy core.
All my comrades should be on the surface.
Is there a character with enough intelligence to activate the energy core in this Sky City?
No, the chances of that are…
I desperately turn my gears, but the time limit came.
I raised my head at that jarring noise.
When I looked, even further in from where the adventurer bag is, at the door leading to the deepest area, the door opened slowly from inside.
Everyone including Barnis V was observing this, and the one who showed up was…
There it stood with one ear alone seemingly patched with a bizarrely flashy flower pattern cloth; a really familiar bear plushie.