Overview (Spoilers Below)
All our favorite characters need to train prior to the all-guild 4th event. If the Maple Tree Gang can’t get their acts together by then, many of the more established—and therefore, more powerful—guilds will defeat them without breaking a sweat. It doesn’t matter that they have Maple who has been literally unstoppable thus far. The admins are doing everything in their power to limit her limitlessness. Going forward, she’ll need a proper guild to prop her up.
Our heroine starts by helping the guild’s newest members—Yui and May—level up. Just like an older sibling helping a younger sibling defeat a hard part of a game, Maple takes them to fight the Hydra. The inexperienced girls don’t have to defeat it—Maple will take care of that—but they’ll still get the experience points as long as they hit the beast at least once during the fight. After defeating the tri-headed serpent, Maple orders her team to fight it, again and again.
To make the tedious process more fun, she uses a stopwatch to time their progress, and they try to beat their previous record each time. Even though they all move slowly, they’re able to race through the dungeon inside Maple’s big ball o’ poison. Defeating the Hydra so quickly also enables the new girls to earn special skills which gives them greater strength and the ability to hold two-handed weapons in one hand.
On the next (in-game) day, the guild splits apart to level up in smaller groups. While the newbies go off with Sally to learn evade skills, Maple takes a sojourn with Kasumi to collect wool and other supplies for Iz. Hijinks ensue when Maple uses her “turn me into a wooly sheep” ability and allows Kasumi to shear her with a giant katana. Those same hijinks heighten when Maple carelessly poisons the wool she wears, making it impossible for Kasumi to shear it, or for Maple to escape.
Meanwhile, fueled by fear of being left behind, Kuromu takes on a ton of creepy skeletons in a secret dungeon he happens upon. After a well-earned victory, he’s awarded some really creepy armor that makes him look like a second-rate Batman villain.
On the next (in-game) day, Maple goes on a series of quests assigned by a NPC whose daughter is very sick. Because our heroine has so many special skills and has already amassed a ton of items, the quests are far easier than they would be for an average player. In fact, much of the NPC’s dialogue comes off as strange since it’s contingent on a weaker player. Anyway, after saving the young girl, Maple is given a skill known as “Loving Sacrifice” by an in-game angel.
This new skill—aside from turning Maple blonde and making her look more angelic—enacts protection for her entire guild. So long as Maple stays alive, her entire party will have the same defense-level as her. This means, her party is practically immortal.
The admins are not going to like this.
First the guild is created, and now we get to see it grow. Up until this point, we didn’t really know how the other players measured up against our dual protagonists. However, once Maple announced that Yui and May had made it to level 20, the team sounded impressed but not bowled over. Therefore, we can reasonably assume that, with the exception of Kanade, the other members of the guild are above level 20. And since Maple has admitted to being below level 30, that particular level is understood as a desirable rank. If I were a betting man—which I am—I’d say the majority of top-tier NWO players are between levels 20 and 30.
Payne, who’s allegedly closing in on level 60 is an anomaly, and is the exception as opposed to the rule.
The final scene of this episode was from the POV of Payne’s guild, and we’re reintroduced to a number of players we haven’t seen in many weeks. Dread, Dreg, and Fredrica remain mysterious characters whose motivations are suppressed due to their lack of screen time. At some point—off-screen—they aligned themselves with frontrunner Payne. Why would they do this, when they’re each powerful in their own right? Considering their top-level finishes in the first two events, they all have the gumption and ability to lead their own guilds.
What makes a powerful person/player want to be a follower instead of a leader? The most likely answer is: each did an assessment and determined they weren’t powerful enough to take on Payne who is a figurative monster within the game. And just like in real life, monsters are scary, and you never want to face them alone—especially if there’s a chainsaw or haunted summer camp involved. So in the end, Payne wins almost every time on intimidation alone. This guy probably hasn’t fought a PvP in ages, and there’s likely a chink in his armor, but nobody has the nerve to poke around and find it.
With that being said, the Maple Tree Gang will eventually find themselves squaring off against Payne and friends. Since the gang is now practically invincible under Maple, our little fortress girl will be an even bigger target than ever before.