Knights of the Blood Oath Headquarters inner sanctum...
In a meeting room surrounded by stained glasses, Heathcliff sat at the head of the grand semi-circle table with his lieutenants seated around him. One could tell they were high-ranking because they wore different uniforms compared to other KoB members. Meanwhile, Wu Yan and Kirito stood in front of the table.
Wu Yan couldn't help but curl his lips, the nerve on Heathcliff and his gang, making their guests stand while they rest their fat behinds on the comfortable chairs there. Also, what is up with this set-up, are all major guilds these annoyingly pompous?
Heathcliff just became a showoff inside Wu Yan's mind. He glanced at both Wu Yan and Kirito before focusing on Wu Yan.
"Before I get down to business. Firstly, Yan-kun, I want to apologize for the unruly behavior of my subordinates, no guest should ever suffer through the same treatment you got. Please forgive me..."
Wu Yan silently judged Heathcliff.
Did this guy think he is fooling anyone with his theatrics?
Wu Yan acted like he couldn't care less. He nodded with a shrug.
"Well, look on the bright side, due to my sparring session with them, I managed to regain some of the skills that went rusty during my two weeks hiatus..."
Heathcliff laughed so hard one couldn't see his eyes.
"That's good to hear..."
Kirito lifted his head.
"I think it's time you explain why you brought us here..."
Heathcliff hung his head, a weird glint flashed in his eyes.
"It's as you two suspected, I invited both of you here to talk about the 75th-floor boss. We found it."
Kirito's face turned grim. Wu Yan finally looked at Heathcliff. Seeing as he caught their attention, Heathcliff placed his elbows on the table as he continued explaining.
"Yesterday, our clearing squad dived into the labyrinth. We gathered information on the labyrinth's layout. Although we explored the labyrinth for quite some time now, I deliberately instructed the frontliners to focus more on safety than clearing. This is to reduce unnecessary deaths, at least, before we start the raid on the 75th-floor boss. It will be a hard fight, it may even evolve into a precarious one..."
Forget Kirito, even Wu Yan felt a bit down in the dumps.
Of all the bosses the players took down up to the 74th-floor, the 25th boss and the 50th-floor boss took the cake when it comes to a difficulty jump. They were abnormally strong and similarly hard to defeat. The clearers/frontliners suffered heavy casualties before and during the raid fight.
Now, the 75th floor's boss room has been found. But, nobody is cheering in joy because they knew what comes next. It was wiser and ultimately, understandable that the frontliners took a slower approach.
"It took us quite some time to map the whole labyrinth, fortunately, there weren't any player deaths this time but..."
Heathcliff changed his tone.
"We found the boss room during our expedition yesterday!"
"And, we sent out a scout team made up of 20 players from all five major guilds. They entered and..."
Heathcliff closed his eyes, emotional fluctuations can be detected when he opened his eyes.
"We sent out 10 vanguards and made 10 supporters stand near the door. The intention was for the vanguard to gain some intel on the boss..."
"You sent 10 players into the boss room to gather information?"
Kirito asked with an uneasy look. He didn't like where this is going.
Wu Yan crossed his arms with a frown.
"Judging by your attitude, I am guessing that didn't end well for you guys..."
Heathcliff looked at Kirito and he shook his head.
"Nope, it's worse!"
Heathcliff said with a voice that's too calm for anyone's heart.
"The moment the boss appeared, the boss room closed.
Kirito clenched his fists.
"The 10 supporters who were hanging around the door reported a 5 minute period where the door stayed closed. They tried using attacks and lock-picking skills on the door to no avail. After 5 minutes, the doors opened again."
Kirito gnashed his teeth. Meanwhile, Wu Yan sighed.
Heathcliff gathered them here, he needed their help, synthesizing this with the story they heard up till now, it should be obvious what happened to the vanguards...
Heathcliff pursed his lips, he focused by closing his eyes once more.
"The room was empty! The vanguards, the boss, and any other observable changes were gone! There were no teleportation crystal residues. The vanguards also didn't return to their guilds. Their deaths were confirmed when we saw their names crossed out on the Monument of Life..."
Kirito inhaled deeply, his lips trembled. It took him a while to reveal a bitter smile.
"No teleport crystal residue... An anti-crystal zone?"
Heathcliff nodded. He turned towards Wu Yan.
"Yan-kun, when you faced the 74th-floor boss, I heard the boss room was covered in an anti-crystal zone, right?"
Wu Yan nodded.
"Kobatz died because of that."
"From this, I can surmise that every boss room from this floor onwards will be anti-crystal zones!"
Heathcliff dropped the bomb on everyone. Nobody said anything.
Anti-crystal zone meant that crystals like teleport crystals that can transport a player out of a dangerous situation, the healing crystal that can restore a player's health, the detox crystal that can get rid of debuffs were all ineffective when a player is inside the anti-crystal zone.
Debuff crystals and healing crystals can be substituted by better equipment and loadout. However, the loss of teleportation crystals made any raid significantly riskier. Those who can't escape during the fight will find surviving a very hard feat. More players are going to die at this rate!
If what Heathcliff said is true, clearer will have to get used to deaths pretty soon. There won't be anymore 0-deaths boss clears.
Heck, most clearers would probably choose to quit.
If all the clearer quit, the raid group might as well be disbanded.
Without the raid group, they can all forget about leaving this game.
That's not the end of the bad news. Heathcliff continued.
"Besides being an anti-crystal zone, the boss room automatically closes to seal off any escape attempts."
"To maximize our chances of winning and lower the risk of deaths. We need to gather as many elite players as possible, up to the maximum limit decided by the system!"
"That is why, Yan-kun, Kirito-kun..."
Heathcliff straightened his back and he looked directly at the two players standing before him.
"We are going to need your help! With the Fae Swordsman and the Black Swordsman aiding us, I am sure we can push through the boss fight this time, no matter how hard it is!"
"This is to prevent another mass death event, please, I implore you two to extend your helping hands!"