Volume 2 Chapter 2 Part 1
After driving back the group of enemies that they were engaged with, Shin and company left the Plains to rest a while.
Though Rashia was quite spent emotionally, her physical and magical state was in top condition, thanks to the rapid leveling up.
“Uu~, I thought I was going to die.”
“With the two of us here, no way that would happen.”
“That’s definitely true, but Bio Hounds are probably a bit much for normal people. Especially with how they look.”
“Please don’t remind me~!”
Seemingly having been forced to recall the scene of half-rotten dogs closing in while dragging their spilled out innards over the ground, Rashia’s shoulders began to quiver. She glared at the two men, but somehow not looking ugly while doing so turned out to be one of her charms.
“Speaking of which, is it your first time fighting against monsters?”
“It’s not exactly my first time, but anyone would be shocked to have to face something like that all of a sudden! Moreover, I’m feeling a bit alarmed at how fast my level is shooting up, too.”
“Well, I suppose it’s to be expected, given the level gap. I mean, just fighting monsters with single digit levels wouldn’t help you clear the requirement. I think that by the time you get【Purification】, you’ll be somewhere around level 150.”
Rashia was a normal human who had never reincarnated before, so her level was rising extremely rapidly. At the current rate, she was going to end up with a level close to Wilhelm’s own. The gap between their fighting power would still be like heaven and earth, but their roles were different in the first place, so there shouldn’t be much of a problem.
“I know that, but my body is feeling really light, and somehow magical power just seems to be overflowing from within. It’s a bit frightening how my body almost doesn’t feel like my own body anymore.”
“People normally level up slowly over time, I guess, so they don’t feel it so strongly.”
“I’m afraid you have no choice but to just get used to it. And I don’t want this to come across like I’m kicking you when you’re down, so I apologize beforehand, but I need you to use these.”
So saying, Shin brought out Books of Secrets for【Heal】and【Cure】. He had learned from the fight just now that【Heal】as an Arts was severely weaker than its skill counterpart. Tiera had said that Arts were about a third of a skill in effectiveness, but it was now clear that depending on the user, Arts might be even weaker than that. There was the difference in level too, but the damage that Rashia was dealing was way too low. Even though she was now around level 40, it was still taking her several hits to kill a nearly dead Bio Hound. Shin felt the need to discuss this problem frankly with the other two.
With the situation as it was, Shin prudently reminded himself to not forget that it was skills that he was giving away. However, neither of them were attack skills, so he concluded that it wouldn’t be much of a problem to teach them to someone else.
“What are those?”
“They’re called Books of Secrets. Anyone who uses one of these will become able to use the skill respective to the contents of the Book. These are for【Heal】and【Cure】.”
“Heh~, become able to use ...... What?! I can’t accept something so valuable! How much do you think these are worth?! It would bankrupt the orphanage to pay for these!”
Knowing the worth of skills, Rashia could not understand Shin’s actions. For normal people like Rashia, skills were just something to know about, and definitely not something to actually use.
She also knew that it was possible to pay someone who knew a skill to teach it, so she thought that that was what Shin was offering.
“If you guys keep quiet about me, then I don’t need any compensation. I’m the one who wants you to learn these. If you learn these, you can help people who are in suffering too, right?”
“So, the cheesy line aside, what is your real aim?”
Shin had tried to phrase things in a way that he wasn’t used to, but apparently it had only come across as being shady. Wilhelm’s eyes seemed to be saying, “Don’t you dare lie to me.”
“We can’t get far with Arts alone. Use these and ‘let’s speed up!’”
“Don’t act like you’re the only one bothered by it!”
“Nice tsukkomi. Well, I was only half joking. You guys are even more familiar with the effectiveness of Arts than me, right? I know there’s the level difference and all, but at our current pace, it will take a long time to be done. We have to defeat 200 of them, remember. Thoria-san might have trouble managing the orphanage by herself for such a long time, and there’s no guarantee that the greedy priest wouldn’t take advantage of this time when we’re gone.”
Hearing this, the orphanage side found it hard to find a rebuttal. They did know that their current efficiency was low, and that accepting the Books could only make it go up. To be honest, as long as they hid where the skills came from, Shin didn’t care if Rashia continued using them in front of other people.
Of course, the biggest issue was the possibility of something happening to the orphanage during their absence. Rashia was one of their core staff, and Wilhelm was most likely their greatest source of battle strength. In the eyes of someone looking to undermine the orphanage, the two of them being gone would seem like a heaven-sent opportunity.
“Oh, very well. I’ll take you up on your offer, then.”
Rashia timidly opened the Books of Secrets. At that moment, the effect that Shin had seen with Tiera was now wrapped around Rashia. It dissipated after a short while.
“So, how is it?”
“Ah, yes. I do know how to use the skills now.”
“So she wasn’t supposed to read and remember the contents of the Books?”
“I’ve heard that it works by directly inserting the information into your head.”
“Yes, it was like that. It’s really hard to explain with words.”
Rashia stared at the hands that had held the Books, deeply moved.
“Alright, shall we set off again?”
They weren’t really tired in the first place, so they departed immediately. As soon as they stepped back into the field, they were approached by a Pawn class Skull Face and a Bio Hound. With the aid of all the leveling up, Rashia’s【Heal】was now extremely effective.
The gloomy aura wrapped around the Bio Hound that had to be shaved off in several hits with Arts was blown away in one attack. There was no longer any need to lower the enemy’s health beforehand, as Rashia could now dispatch them with only a few hits. Seeing this, Shin understood why Skill Inheritors were treated so favorably in this world.
“Isn’t there too much of a difference?”
“Nn? That’s just how Arts are.”
“Well, it was my first time seeing Arts.”
“...... I’m surprised at myself for believing you.”
Their hands never stopped as they exchanged light banter. Wilhelm used Venom to break the hands and feet of a Jack class Skull Face, and Shin used the back of his blade to beat up a level 163 Gray Orc.
Gray Orcs were humanoid monsters also called Zombie Orcs. Their appearance was exactly how one would imagine a zombified orc to look.
“To grant reprieve to those who suffer, Heal!!”
Rashia quickly finished off the weakened monsters. Though the level gap was still large, the【Heal】skill was in a completely different dimension from its Arts counterpart, it was not much trouble to reduce both monsters to particles of light in short order.
Rashia herself was probably the most surprised at the synergy between the rapid leveling up and the transformation of Arts into skills.
“With this, it looks like we’ve managed to speed up quite a bit.”
“That’s true, but we still aren’t making any progress towards the quota. There’s probably no helping it, what with us being outside the Seal and all, but man is it frustrating.”
“...... Wait a second. What seal? It’s my first time hearing anything about a seal.”
“Oi, oi, you came without knowing? There’s an item installed around here to prevent monsters from escaping the Plains, even by mistake. It seems like the monsters that you encounter are progressively stronger the closer you get to the center. The guild is managing everything with a firm hand.”
“I see, so they’re basically attracting the stronger ones to one place, and leaving the weaker ones alone.”
“They apparently have a limited number of those seal items, so they can’t use all of them for just one field.”
In other words, approaching the center of the Plains was similar to diving into deeper levels of a dungeon.
Dungeons were set up so that monsters are stronger the deeper they’re found. The depth of a dungeon equals to the distance from the dungeon’s core.
“What do we have to do to go inside the Sealed area?”
“All you need is a guild card of A rank or higher. Since it is managed by the guild.”
“Then there is no problem. Let’s go inside the Seal tonight.”
Shin made the decision while waiting for the Gray Orc to fade away. Most likely due to Rashia having raised her level, lower level monsters were growing increasingly hesitant in approaching them. Of course, monsters on the level of Jack class Skull Faces would still attack them without any qualms, but there probably weren’t that many of such monsters around, as they rarely again came upon another group like the one that had greeted them at the very start.
So far, the number of monsters that they had brought down that counted towards the quota could be counted on two hands. After fighting for another while, Rashia finally hit level 80, and they decided to take another breather.
The party returned to their base and napped until the sun set. Though the surroundings were still bright, Shin and Wilhelm took turns standing watch, just in case. Rashia, though, was so mentally exhausted that she nodded off almost right after lying down.
Shin had nothing to do while standing watch, so he spent the time examining his skills. Back when he had first awakened in his world, he had mainly tested his attack type skills, so he now went over the detection type ones. Back during the game, there was a severe restriction on how many detection type skills could be activated at once, so Shin decided to push those boundaries first.
“This is ......”
He couldn’t help muttering in surprise.
As a test, he had tried activating more skills than the limit that he knew. Contrary to expectations, he was successful. Furthermore, skills that previously could not be used together could now be. An example was【Sense Presence】and【Search】. Combining the two of them brought their strengths together and eliminated each other’s shortcomings, effectively creating a detection skill with the range of【Search】that has the precision and level of detail of【Sense Presence】.
“Combining the skills together like this pretty much turns it into a different skill altogether. I wonder what would happen if I used similar skills together at the same time?”
Shin made a mental note to perform further tests in the future. So far, he had only discovered positive effects due to these combinations, which caused him to grow wary.
“There can’t only be positive effects. Negative ones are still entirely possible. I need to devote time to testing out similar skills together.”
Right off the top of his mind, he couldn’t think of a combination that would cause a fatal side effect, but that was no consolation. He was also concerned about whether these combinations were limited to active skills or if they were happening to passive skills too.
Occupied with inspecting his skills, Shin’s shift passed in the blink of an eye.
The sun set sometime around 8pm. Determining it to be a suitable time, Shin and Wilhelm woke Rashia up, and the three of them proceeded to the heart of the Wraith Plains. Shin had expected the walk to take quite some time, but the fog had dissipated with the rise of the moon, allowing them to see the way clearly and make good time.
“I wonder what that fog was. I had clearly thought that it would still remain during the night.”
“Beats me. The magicians seem to think that it’s the magical power spilling out of the dungeon, though.”
“They say that the dungeon itself is some kind of undead. Since half of it has been brought aboveground, when it gets hit by sunlight, it becomes unable to hold back the magical power that fills the dungeon. The power that flows out takes the form of the purple fog. Or at least, that’s what the magicians seem to think is happening.”
“Hmm, I guess that theory kind of makes sense, logically speaking.”
Being weakened by sunlight was a weakness shared by all undead. In truth, the undead that they had seen when the sun was out had also been emitting black auras—a visible indicator of the monster’s HP—into the air. The daytime fog being simply a larger scale version of this effect was the most likely explanation.
“So the dungeon is now recovering the magical power that it had lost?”
“Probably. But none of that has anything to do with us, though.”
After walking for another short while, they laid eyes on a transparent blue wall. They had apparently reached the Seal.
“Is this it?”
“Yea, it’s the Seal that I mentioned in the afternoon. The blue wall is just a visible reminder; the actual wall reaches all the way to the sky.”
The wall was only about 4 mels in height, so Shin was wondering if it couldn’t be jumped over, but his fears turned out to be unfounded.
“I can open this anytime. Is everyone ready?”
“I’m good anytime.”
Everyone gave Wilhelm a decisive answer. After confirming that, Wilhelm touched the wall with his guild card, and a hole about 2 mels high and 1 mel wide opened up. They were to enter through here.
The first person to go through was Wilhelm, who had experience fighting inside the Seal. Right behind him was Yuzuha and Rashia, and Shin brought up the rear. It was insurance, in case a monster rushed their backs as they were passing through.
There were no visible differences between the two sides of the Seal. From what they could see, it just looked like two adjoining pieces of land.
However, Shin’s newly enhanced detection abilities had immediately picked up on several monsters. There were still more than 10 minutes left before they would make contact, so Shin focused on each of them in turn to get more detailed information.
——Three Rapt Raptors right in front.
——Two Jumpkins to the left.
Rapt Raptors were wyverns with their wings rotted off. They had no hands, but their kicks were fierce and powerful. Additionally, their claws grant a paralyzing debuff. Their average level was 170.
Jumpkins were, at a glance, pumpkins flying through the sky. Let’s not make the tsukkomi that they’re not actually jumping. These pumpkins were, of course, rotting. The pumpkins had faces displaying joy, anger, pathos, and humor; the joy and anger faces used fire magical skills, and the pathos and humor faces used earth magical skills. Their average level was 200.
“Something’s drawing close to us.”
Wilhelm muttered the warning while Shin was still in the middle of analyzing. The enemies had apparently gotten close enough to be within Wilhelm’s range of detection.
“Rapt Raptors from the front, Jumpkins from the left.”
“You can tell what they are?”
“Yea. I’ll leave the Raptors to you. I’ll go restrain the Jumpkins.”
The two of them nodded to each other, then set off.
Leaving Yuzuha to protect Rashia, Shin and Wilhelm both ran off towards their respective targets.
Shin was the faster one, so he made contact first. Strongly kicking the ground while beginning to release a horizontal mowing attack, Shin flew in a straight line towards the Jumpkins.
Jumpkins do indeed float in midair, but they are actually only about 2 to 3 mels off the ground. It took only a moment for Shin’s blade to reach across that distance.
Two red arcs were drawn through the air, and the next instant found the Jumpkins stopped in their tracks. Before Shin even landed, two sounds like the squish of raw food falling to the floor rang out across the quiet grassland.
Thanks to Shin using the back of『Akechidori』, the two Jumpkins were now afflicted with both Faint and Paralyze. Shin took out a large wrapping cloth from his inventory and wrapped the Jumpkins up, then turned back to have Rashia finish them off.
Wilhelm reached the Rapt Raptors about 10 seconds after Shin did with the Jumpkins.
Those who know the word ‘dinosaur’ probably imagined that instead. Indeed, they were a kind of dinosaur with only two legs and no forearms. Their bodies were about 2 mels long, and they were also half-rotten like how Bio Hounds were, but their speed and muscle strength was on a completely different level. They made annoying opponents. Though they were bad at it, they knew to coordinate attacks together with the rest of the pack.
Right off the bat, Wilhelm dodged the single Rapt Raptor that lunged for him first. The other two came right afterwards, intending to have the first serve as a decoy, but Wilhelm sent both of them flying with a single sweep of『Venom』. Rapt Raptors have very brittle bodies, so the lurid sounds of bones breaking and organs bursting could be heard.
Confirming in the corner of his eye that the two of them were not so much on the brink of death as on the brink of disappearing, he turned around to face the one that he had dodged at the start. Deciding that running away was not an option, the Rapt Raptor gazed at Wilhelm with teary eyes.
“Having to hold back is such a pain.”
The Rapt Raptor’s vision was dyed black after those words.
Wilhelm used ropes to tie up the Raptor with its head half smashed in and the other two Raptors with broken legs and caved in torsos, then also returned to where Rashia was.
True to convention, a scream was heard from where the two of them had returned to.
While Shin and company were working hard hunting undead in the heart of the Wraith Plains, the sound of fighting was ringing around a place inside a forest about several days’ worth of carriage travel away.
“Surround it! Aim for the core!!”
“If you got hurt, use potions to heal yourself! Priests and magicians, don’t stop firing holy elemental arts!”
“Aggro the Jack! Don’t let it coordinate with the Pawns!!”
Several people wearing dully burnished armor were raising their voices while attacking Skull Faces. Behind the knights with shields, people wearing priest clothes and people wearing robes were releasing shining spheres of light towards the Skull Faces.
Those lights gradually wiped away the dark auras around the Pawn class Skull Faces, eventually reducing them to mere bones. However, nobody there let their guard down. The biggest enemy on the battlefield was still standing.
“Guh, it’s too heavy.”
“Those who still have stamina left, come help! We won’t be able to hold it back if anymore of us go down!!”
“Damn it, what the hell is that?!”
Voices half filled with desperation echoed throughout the forest. They were the best knights from each of their respective countries, but even several tens of them together could not deal any fatal wounds to the single enemy that they faced.
“I know a Jack class is strong, but to think that it’s still standing ......”
The complaint that unconsciously spilled out was lost beneath the din of swords and shields clashing.
If all was normal, this battle was supposed to have been over since a while back. However, this Jack class Skull Face was holding a white shield, which allowed him to shrug off the knights’ attacks while dealing frequent and heavy counterattacks.
The knight in command, Berg, was a veteran, but none of his knowledge nor experience gave him any ideas on how to deal with this Skull Face that was making movements beyond his imagination.
Aside from its clever movements and expert swordsmanship, this Skull Face’s shield made it nearly impervious to holy elemental attacks, which were supposed to be its weakness. Even though they completely surrounded the Skull Face, any wrong moves were immediately rewarded with a counterattack. The frustration of the knights grew as time passed.
(It will be bad if things continue like this. If only that shield was gone, then we could somehow handle it, but ......)
It was a thought that had come into his mind numerous times during the battle. The presence of that shield was what was making the Skull Face so formidable. High defense and magical resistance. Considering how the Skull Face was not tiring despite using it, the shield was probably not that heavy.
He couldn’t help thinking how much of a cheat weapon it was.
(However, it’s not like it hasn’t taken any damage whatsoever.)
Each and every one of the knights present had the pride and experience of numerous battlefields under their belts. All of them had skill. If they used everything they had, they could slowly wear the Skull Face down. While keeping an eye on the condition of his allies and the condition of the enemy, Berg desperately looked for the road to victory. Depending on how things unfold, though, they might have to retreat. Right when he was about to yell out further instructions, a silver streak flashed before the knights’ eyes.
The streak headed straight for the Skull Face and, without stopping, flew straight through the Skull Face before quietly stopping right next to Berg.
The battlefield that was supposed to be filled with the sounds of battle was returned to its original silent self in that split second.
The silver streak turned out to be silver hair that was shining with reflected light. The owner of that hair had simply been moving so fast that the eyes of the knights could only see it as such.
The dumbstruck knights left themselves wide open, but not a single one of them felt a sense of danger. They all knew that this silver-haired person had never once failed in delivering the final blow.
The waist-long silver hair was glossy and shone with a gentle luster. Together with blue eyes that seemed almost transparent and a faint smile that was both motherly and intimate at the same time, this person could almost be called a piece of art.
When the wind ruffled the silver hair, the pointy ears that were revealed indicated that she was an elf, or perhaps even a high elf.
What she was wearing was similar to, but distinctly different from, the clothes that a waitress would wear. Someone with modern knowledge would have been able to identify it as something like Victorian-era maid clothes. The outfit, which also had a large apron and a long skirt, was the uniform for employees of Tsuki no Hokora. It was not clear whether the clothes fit her so well because they had been tailored for her or whether she herself has really great style. Needless to say, several knights could not help sliding their eyes towards the mounds that were pushed up in the chest area of the costume.
She was exuding a calming atmosphere, despite still holding a short sword in one hand. This person who had gathered the attention of everyone present was identified as the Acting Owner of Tsuki no Hokora.
She was none other than Schnee Raizar.
Her voice rang out across the silent place.
At the same time, the surrounding knights were wrapped in a soft, strong light. What Schnee had activated was the God-type Skill【Wide Heal】. It was the wide area version of【Heal】.
When the light faded away, even the knights that had collapsed onto the ground with exhaustion were left without a single scratch on their bodies.
As the soldiers raised voices of admiration, their commander, Berg, was the first to regain his senses. Realizing that he was just standing without doing anything, he shook himself, then resumed barking out instructions in a loud voice.
Being actual veterans, those instructions did not go unanswered. Coming back to themselves, the knights began rushing around in a fluster. A different clamor from before reverberated throughout the forest.
“You really saved us. I was seriously considering withdrawing out of necessity before you arrived.”
While standing up, Berg thanked Schnee at the same time. His voice was already raspy, but strangely enough, it did not cause listeners to feel uncomfortable.
“Not at all. The only reason why I was able to defeat the monster was because of everyone’s efforts in fighting it.”
The words that reached Berg’s ears were so kind and sympathetic that the illusion that his heart was being cleansed just from hearing them might not be an illusion after all.
“Thank you very much for saying so. However, no one can deny that the extermination of the Skull Faces was finished due to Schnee-dono’s help, so please accept my expression of gratitude. Even if it’s only to save me face.”
“If you would insist so, then I would be honored to accept. However, it is still too early to let down your guard.”
Schnee responded with a slightly troubled smile.
The warning to not let down their guard was not merely said to make them focus. It was the truth.
To trace back to the start of the whole incident, one would have to return to one month earlier. An adventurer who had just recently made B rank at the time had decided to visit the Wraith Plains to test his own strength. Right when he was about to cross the boundary line between the forest and the Plains, he witnessed several Skull Faces emerging from the fog at a spot several mels from where he was.
Monsters from the Plains cease to exist when they cross the boundary line. This piece of common sense was overturned by what he was seeing.
The adventurer was shocked at the impossible scene that was unfolding before his eyes, but he had crossed many battlefields to reach where he was. Realizing the abnormality of the situation, he immediately retreated, heading for the nearest town’s Adventurers’ Guild while evading the Skull Faces the whole way.
Upon receiving the adventurer’s report, the guild promptly sent out an investigation team. Though they never did determine the conditions for the occurrence, their investigation confirmed that several Skull Faces much stronger than their normal counterparts had indeed escaped the fog and entered the forest.
Due to the size of the Plains and the large number of monsters that had escaped, as well as the uncertainty of exactly when and where monsters might break through again in the near future, several more weeks were needed to ascertain the exact details of the first wave’s breakthrough. Before the investigation was over, they had no way of knowing even the exact number of monsters loose in the forest. Without enough information, nearby countries were unable to set up the necessary countermeasures, and damages began mounting.
When Shin had visited the guild and was told that the upper ranked adventurers were all dispatched, this was what they were dispatched for.
Of course, the countries that were being ravaged by the runaway monsters did not just twiddle their thumbs. In order to protect their own citizens, all of them stepped up security and sent out more patrols. The problem, though, was that the monsters that had escaped from the fog were a lot stronger than what normal people knew them to be. Due to that strength, most soldiers that actually did encounter one of those monsters ended up being routed or wiped out.
Concerned over the situation, the kings of the respective countries invoked an alliance agreement that they had signed long ago to pool some of their best knights together into an international monster subjugation squad. The squad’s mission was to work towards diffusing the situation. At the same time, the kings also sent out a request to a certain person.
The place where they sent the request to was『Yorozuya Tsuki no Hokora』.
The certain person was the Acting Owner of Tsuki no Hokora, Schnee Raizar.
It was a gamble whether she would accept the request or not, but knowing that the request was because of their genuine desire to protect their citizens, she decided to comply. She hastened to join up with the subjugation squad.
“We understand. And now, according to the contract, the weapons and raw materials from the monsters ......”
“Indeed, I’ll take care of them.”
After nodding in response to Berg’s words, Schnee began gathering into her inventory the equipment scattered all over the ground that had been dropped by the Skull Faces.
As this squad was made up of knights from several different countries, this measure was in place to prevent them from fighting each other for the valuable equipment and materials. The agreement was that the loot, with the exception of a small portion, would be fairly distributed after the subjugation was over. To discourage anyone who might be tempted to try stealing the loot, the role was entrusted to Schnee, who had an inventory and had battle strength without compare.
While watching Schnee put items away, Berg thought about how much worse off they would have been if Schnee had not shown up when she did.
The previous battle had illustrated all too vividly that there were enemies that could not be defeated even when the best knights from each country fought together. To be fair, their teamwork was most definitely not perfect, as they had never worked together before, but that was far from enough to explain away the monster’s exceptional strength.
The biggest problem of all, however, was that the Skull Face that they had just fought was not the only one who wielded an exceptional weapon. According to the information gathered so far, it was only Skull Faces who wielded these weapons, but the reliability of that information was not high.
All Berg could do was merely pray for those special weapons to run out, wherever their source.
So far, Schnee had personally brought down several of these weapon bearers, while the knights had relied on sheer numbers to bring down a few more. As soon as the knights encountered a weapon bearer, they would immediately send a runner for Schnee. This time, she had somehow managed to arrive in time. As long as she got there, however arduous the battle, she would finish it with a single instant. And it would be with a melee attack too, something that elves were supposedly bad at.
“As expected of a personage who was worthy of accompanying a high human.”
The continental conquerors from history. Just the fact that she was someone who was allowed to stand at that place was enough to earn her unwavering reverence from everyone in this world. The high humans’ supremacy over the entire continent still burned vividly in people’s memories today.
These feelings were also very strong in the knights, despite all of them being of different affiliations. They all tried their best to show only their best side, which resulted in very few quarrels and very smooth subjugations.
According to the reported number of escaped monsters, the Skull Face that they had just defeated was the last one. The number was confirmed with the help of adventurers dispatched from Adventurer Guilds after numerous days of work. If there was nothing else, then the subjugation squad was slated to disband, with the knights either returning to their respective countries or joining the Guilds’ efforts at setting up a surveillance network over the Wraith Plains.
“It would be great if there was nothing else, but ......”
Berg’s numerous years of experience made it hard for Berg to believe that the entire incident was over. When his gaze inadvertently swept towards Schnee, he saw her standing among the raw materials from the Skull Faces and being absorbed in reading something.
“Schnee-dono? Has something happened?”
When Berg called out to her, she put a piece of paper away and turned toward him. Berg’s eyes caught the word『Aotsuki』before she did so, but he had no idea what it was about.
“Oh, it is nothing of note. After this, I have to go search, so I will have to take my leave from this squad. Where I’m going will be quite dangerous, so if you guys come upon another monster, please reach me through this magic item.”
After quickly setting up a method of communication, Schnee left the place.
While maintaining a speed normally unthinkable for someone wearing a long skirt, she mused over the contents of the letter within her mind.
The letter from Tiera conveyed a certain person’s message and intention to head towards the Wraith Plains.
That person’s name was not particularly rare. It was such a common name that it seemed she could find several people with some variant of it just by looking around. However, it became an entirely different story if he possessed『Aotsuki』. To Schnee’s knowledge, that could only describe one person.
“Did he really come back ......”
Schnee continued running, aware that there was a part of herself somewhere inside that was not composed. She was heading towards the Wraith Plains.
She almost couldn’t bear giving up the time that she had to dedicate to searching. However, she was duty-bound, having accepted the job, so she performed her tasks without cutting any corners.
She limited her heart to being the only thing hopping around with impatience.
The long-awaited reunion with that person might finally come to be.
That thought blazed within Schnee’s chest.
Volume 2 Chapter 2 Part 2
Volume 2 Chapter 2 Part 2
You can grab the PDF here.
A certain night several days after the the start of the hunt deep inside the Wraith Plains found Shin and his party still inside the Seal.
“Wai-, oi, Shin! A Pecker Hollow is coming this way!”
“No helping it, let’s retreat for a bit, then.”
The two who sensed the approach of the monster first made sure that Rashia and Yuzuha had safely gotten away before also stepping out of the Seal themselves. Apparently, one of the functions of the wall of the Seal made it so that monsters within would not be able to sense people outside, even if they were standing right next to the wall. Every time they took advantage of this function, the monster that got near seemed to lose track of them. After aimlessly wandering around the vicinity for a while, it would eventually head off somewhere else.
This time, the monster that got close was a level 541 undead called a Pecker Hollow. It was a large monster that looked like many vengeful spirits melted together. Its compound eyes and sickle-like arms gave it the appearance of the top half of a praying mantis growing straight up from the ground. Though it looked that way, it was not a monster with simple insect parts. Its compound eyes were actually made of a large number of human eyes, and its sickles were actually human bones gathered together in bundles. Human faces, hands, and feet protruded from all over the monster’s body, giving it a very horrific appearance overall. It was understandable why the majority of female players refused to step inside any fields or dungeons where Pecker Hollows would spawn in.
The most annoying thing about Pecker Hollows was the fact that they could use the skill【Dead Man’s Howl】. The damage from this skill was not much, but anyone caught in its range would be afflicted with several debuffs at the same time, including Confusion, Distraction, and Curse. Furthermore, all debuffs were at least level V or higher. Shin and Wilhelm were one thing, but Yuzuha or Rashia could easily be hit with the maximum level debuffs.
There was no merit in taking the huge risk of such an outcome, so they decided to take refuge outside the Seal instead of confronting the monster.
“Is it gone yet?”
“Let’s wait a while longer just in case. It’d be annoying if it’s still close enough to hear the sound of us fighting and came back again.”
These past few days, the number of monsters that they had defeated numbered over two hundred, if they included the trash mobs. By Shin’s count, there was only one monster left between Rashia and【Purification】.
“Rashia and Yuzuha, how are the both of you doing?”
“I don’t know how else to put it, but I’ve come to terms with how life is full of hardship ......”
Shin smiled wryly at the strangely philosophical answer from Rashia and Yuzuha’s energetic bark while probing the immediate area for presences. He was able to confirm one level 343 Jack class Skull Face, two level 158 Gray Orcs, one level 177 Gel Bison, and four level 249 Ein Jackals.
Gel Bisons are basically bison skeletons enveloped with a gel-like substance. When the monster gets close to someone, it uses the gel like a whip to immobilize its enemy, which it then dissolves and absorbs.
Ein Jackals, on the other hand, are monsters that eat rotten meat. As a result, they themselves are also undead. They look like simple purple-colored jackals, but their bodies are actually 2 mels in length. Though their levels are relatively low, they have an evil eye that can cause the Paralysis debuff.
Both are monsters that even low level adventurers that had gotten used to the game found difficult to handle.
The Pecker Hollow in question was no longer within detection range. It has been a while since it had left detection range, so it was likely safe to assume that it was truly gone.
Of all the nearby monsters, the Skull Face was the closest to them, and all of the others were just barely within range.
“There’s a Skull Face near us, but there’s something weird about its level.”
“What you mean?”
“What is the matter?”
Wilhelm and Rashia responded with questions to what Shin said.
“It’s level 343. I’ve told you guys about the King class Skull Face from before, right? I think that this guy is likely a similar case.”
“Although it’s true that this place is slightly irregular, I’ve never heard of something like that spawning here. But then again, it’s been more than a month since I last went back to the Kingdom. It wouldn’t be strange if something had started happening in that time.”
“...... Speaking of which, Ragnal-san told me that there were several incidents of powerful monsters attacking villages in Beiroon recently.”
Hearing the level of the Skull Face, Rashia drew out the piece of information from the depths of her memory. At the time, she did not think it very relevant to herself, so it had pretty much gone out the other ear as soon as she heard it. Beiroon was on the opposite side of the Wraith Plains from the Berylricht Kingdom.
“These powerful undead might be related somehow. By the way, who’s Ragnal-san?”
“The master of the bar that I took you to. He’s the one you met that time.”
“Ah, that guy.”
Shin recalled the man who had left without saying a word. At that time, Wilhelm had indeed introduced the man as his adventurer comrade.
“Let’s leave that conversation for another time. How should we proceed now? It doesn’t feel right to just leave it alone.”
“How strong is it, exactly?”
“My personal assessment is that you should expect it to be as strong as its level indicates. It will use martial arts-like moves that you normally wouldn’t imagine from a Skull Face. The one that I fought before had pretty tricky movements.”
“Then we’ll take care of it with just the two of us. No point exposing Rashia to unnecessary danger.”
“No, I am coming too!!”
As it was an opponent stronger than the average enemy, Wilhelm suggested fighting it together with Shin only. However, Rashia was perhaps filled with confidence from all the leveling up, and was adamant about coming along.
“What do you think? I don’t mind, to be honest. Since she still has the item that I’d handed her before, she wouldn’t get hurt anyways.”
“Good point. Oi Rashia, you sure about this?”
“You bet I am! I won’t be able to go back with my head held high if I merely let myself be protected the entire trip!!”
As a result of all the fighting from the past few days, Rashia had already gotten to the point where she wouldn’t lose her composure even when facing monsters above level 200. Though monsters outside the Seal were generally not as strong as Skull Faces, most of them were higher than level 80. Rashia, however, was now strong enough to fight them single-handedly and win. This was the product of Shin and Wilhelm’s Spartan training. She was still a young girl at a tender age, but unfortunately, she was not cut any slack because of it.
“Let’s do it, then.”
“Just make sure to not get in front of us too often.”
“I’ll show you I can do it!”
Shin and Wilhelm continued to worry about Rashia while heading towards the Skull Face. Due to the difference in speed, they gradually pulled ahead of her, but since she wasn’t supposed to be meleeing anyways, they only left Yuzuha behind to accompany her.
The Skull Face this time was not wearing any obviously strange equipment. However, the way it was holding its sword and shield was exactly like the one that Shin had encountered before.
“This one is clearly the same type as the one that I’d fought before. Its stance is the exact same.”
“Either way, what we have to do doesn’t change. Oraaa!!”
Wilhelm had the longer reach, so he launched the preemptive strike.
The Skull Face deflected the attack aimed at its core with the curved surface of its round shield. Wilhelm had intended to pierce through even the shield, but right before his spear tip found the purchase on the round shield to do so, the Skull Face moved it just enough so that the spear’s trajectory was altered instead.
In the same motion, the Skull Face brought its sword around in a counterattack. Without flinching at the sparks flying around like fireworks, the sword swung downwards, accompanied by the sound of it cutting through the air. Wilhelm quickly withdrew Venom to meet this attack.
The clash of metal resounded throughout the Plains in the night. The Skull Face had added the force of its twisting motion on top of its brute strength, causing the attack to pack so much power that Wilhelm was forced to lower his stance and plant his feet firmly on the ground.
Just when the Skull Face was about to slam its shield into Wilhelm to send him flying, Shin darted in from behind Wilhelm. Sensing the incoming attack, the Skull Face promptly leaped backwards, bringing its shield up.
However, the moment it landed, a “kin” sound rang out, and it found that it had lost both the shield and the left arm that was holding the shield. If it had been a split second slower, it would have lost the entire left side of its body. The decision to sacrifice one arm to minimize the amount of damage received was unthinkable for any normal Skull Face.
“I see what you mean. This guy really isn’t your run-of-the-mill bone bastard.”
Having seen the Skull Face’s movements, Wilhelm bared his teeth in a ferocious grin.
As long as a Skull Face’s core was intact, it would not die even if it lost all its arms and legs, so there was no need for the two of them to hold back against it, even though they were aiming to leave it alive for Rashia to deal the final blow.
Apparently the Skull Face’s skill had ignited Wilhelm’s fighting spirit.
“Don’t forget our goal, alright?”
“I won’t, so let me enjoy this a while longer.”
“I think you’ll be fine, but if I see things get dicey, I’ll join the fight again.”
“Fine by me. I’m going to have this guy continue being my practice board as long as it’s still standing.”
Laughing with wild abandon, Wilhelm readjusted his grip on Venom.
He dropped his center of gravity, crouching to half his normal height. He held Venom slanted, with the spearhead pointing slightly towards the ground.
His right hand held the butt of the spear, while his left hand was stretched forward as support. His stance bore a striking resemblance to a bow right before release. The fighting spirit emanating from Wilhelm almost seemed to make creaking sounds like that of a bow with its string stretched to the limit.
In response, the Skull Face fixed its posture once again. It withdrew its right foot slightly, and tucked in its sword to right beside its head, with the blade pointing straight up towards the sky. The flickering aura around the Skull Face began to converge upon its body.
Seeing the Skull Face take a stance that seemed like that of a knight, Wilhelm’s fighting spirit burned even fiercer.
Man and monster stared at each other without even the slightest movement, as if the very air was frozen. The silent scene was like that of a keg of gunpowder with a lit fuse at the very instant before it explodes.
Having finally caught up, Rashia’s voice shook the frozen air.
Like the strike of a bell, it served as the signal for the two figures to begin rushing towards each other.
A red flash slicing through the darkness met the Skull Face’s beheading strike. The two weapons clashed for only a split second.
The next moment found the Skull Face’s head and torso hitting the ground separately, behind which was the figure of Wilhelm standing still after riding the momentum of his attack to dash past the Skull Face.
In human terms, the Skull Face was on the verge of death. The single attack from Wilhelm had pulverized its arms and legs and left innumerable cracks on its core. A single touch would be enough to make the core completely fall apart.
“Rashia, don’t just stand around and deliver the final blow already.”
“This is all the fighting I get to do?! What am I supposed to do with all the resolve that I had mustered back there?!”
Rashia was understandably disappointed that the fight had been reduced to being the exact same as all the others before it. It was as if her heartfelt resolve from just now had been voided of all meaning.
“It can’t be helped. There was no room for you to join in.”
“Uu~. God, is this perhaps one of Your trials ......”
Looking slightly wilted, Rashia turned around to Heal the core. The spell that she cast enveloped the core, extinguishing the final flickers of aura emanating from it and completely destroying the Skull Face.
At the same time, a golden light flared all around Rashia.
“Wha-What is this?!”
The sudden occurrence threw Rashia into a state of confusion. Wilhelm also didn’t know what was going on, and so could not move carelessly.
“Don’t worry!! This is the effect from learning a new skill after clearing the requirements!!”
Shin raised his voice to calm the two of them down. Shin’s count had apparently been correct, and the Skull Face that they had just defeated was indeed the 200th one.
The light disappeared almost right after Shin’s explanation. It revealed Rashia staring off blankly at space.
“Oi, Rashia! Are you okay?”
“Fue? Ah, un. I’m okay.”
Rashia gave a listless answer in response to Wilhelm frantically tapping her shoulder and calling out to her.
“You look so out of it, are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine. I was just surprised at the information about the skill suddenly flowing into my head.”
“Did it feel different from the time with the Books of Secrets?”
“Eto, let’s see. The Books of Secrets gave a “sutto” feeling, and this time gave a “dotto” feeling. I’m afraid I really can’t explain it any better.”
It seems that there was indeed a noticeable difference.
Hearing this, Shin’s interest was perked, as it proved that there were distinctly different ways to acquire skills. Rashia was clearly unharmed, so there was no cause for further worry, but it’s just that Shin couldn’t get a good grasp on how it felt. Information suddenly flowing into someone’s mind is normally impossible in the first place, so it was understandable that he had no experience with it.
“Well, at any rate, it appears that you have successfully learned【Purification】. Congratulations.”
“Yea, you did good.”
“Thank you very much. With this, we’ll be able to help the orphanage pull through.”
Now that she had acquired【Purification】, the orphanage was out of danger. When she realized that, Rashia started tearing up while expressing her heartfelt gratitude.
“Alright, let’s return to the base then. We’ll sleep till the morning, then quickly get back to Berylricht.”
“Good idea. No point in staying here any longer than we have to.”
“Yes, let’s go.”
They headed outside of the Seal, with a huge smile on all of their faces. There was no presence of any enemy in the vicinity of the group of three people and one pet.
The request was fulfilled. All that was left was to return to the Kingdom. Everyone present thought so.
Until that happened.
Then that suddenly happened.
Shin heard the sound because the Wraith Plains was an extremely silent place, as no insects nor wild animals lived there. Yuzuha, who was lounging on Shin’s head, also picked up it up with the extraordinary hearing unique to animals and sat up with its ears standing straight up, initiating a survey of the area.
“Nn? What sound is that?”
It was similar to the rustle of the wind. If it was just the sound of the the nearby grass being ruffled, then it wouldn’t have caught Shin’s attention.
However, at the same time, there was a “gushari” sound like that of a living creature being squashed. Instead of looking at his map, Shin turned around instead, and stopped in his tracks.
Right before his eyes was an unbelievable scene.
“What on earth ...... is that ......”
“Nn? What’s wrong, you ...... guys ......”
Noticing that Shin had stopped, Wilhelm also turned around. He saw the exact same thing that Shin was staring at.
Back where the remains of the Skull Face lay, a black sphere that had not been there before was floating in the air. That sphere was in the middle of sucking up a Pecker Hollow. That part of the map at the edge of Shin’s vision had been empty just now, but there was now a large red marker alongside the white and green markers that represented Shin and his party.
The three of them stared speechlessly as the 30mel-wide sphere ate up the Pecker Hollow. The sizes were obviously disproportionate, but the “gishiri” and “gushari” noises that they now heard told them that the Pecker Hollow’s body was being compressed even while it was being sucked in.
However, the Pecker Hollow was not raising a death cry, nor was it offering any resistance. Rather, all of the faces on its body were smiling. It was almost as if it was delighted at what was happening to it.
“What the hell is going on? What is that thing?!”
“Uu, looking at it makes me feel sick ......”
The scene of human faces being slowly stretched out before being crushed understandably caused Rashia to press her hand to her mouth and squat down. Wilhelm ran over to her, and Shin stood between the black sphere and the two of them.
In short order, the Pecker Hollow was completely eaten up. At that moment, a great tremor began rocking the ground.
They had to quickly adjust their posture to prevent falling over. They didn’t know what was happening, but a quick glance around the Wraith Plains showed purple light rising up into the sky from several different places.
A twinkling pillar of light was also rising up from the place where they had defeated the Skull Face.
“So pretty ......”
The unexpected scene looked fantastical and beautiful.
Shin would have been able to enjoy it too if it wasn’t for the mysterious black sphere. They did not have the leisure of staying there to admire the sight.
He turned his vision slightly to the top, prompting the ingame map to open up. He realized that the red marker was gone.
“This is ......”
Looking back away from the map, he activated the【Long Sight】skill and strained his eyes to look at the places where the map was indicating other red dots, all while remaining wary of the black sphere. As he did so, he saw purple light being sucked out of Gel Bisons and Ein Jackals. The glittering light bore strong resemblance to the effects from back during the game that indicated the death of an undead monster.
After a short while, the monsters with light being sucked out of them lost their form, seemingly dissolving into thin air.
Then the extracted purple light flew in a parabola towards the black sphere and was absorbed.
Seeing this, Shin and Wilhelm both moved to cover Rashia. While remaining wary of their surroundings, they focused the majority of their attention onto the sphere in front of their eyes.
“It’s sucking up all the magical power.”
“Yea, that purple light is the magical power that enables the undead to move. Without it, they couldn’t maintain their forms anymore.”
“So that’s how it is.”
The black sphere very quickly sucked up all the magical power in the atmosphere. Then it whirled up into the sky, stopping at roughly ten mels off the ground. At the same time, the sphere began releasing a dusky black aura. Gradually, the aura took on form, until a gigantic Skull Face stood before them. It was covered head to toe with jet black armor, and the aura could be seen between the skeleton and the armor. All this took place within the span of ten seconds.
In no time at all, the figure of a Skull Face more than ten mels in height was looming over Shin and the party.
The armor was so detailed and ornamental that they wouldn’t have believed it was made from aura if they hadn’t seen it themselves. If it wasn’t for the skull at the top, the figure seemed quite knightly.
However, an ominous aura was coming off from its entire body. That was the definite proof that this was an undead monster.
Then Shin and the rest, all of whom were frozen with tension, saw a light come on in its face.
——— Skull Face Lord, level 804.
【Analyze X】activated to give Shin the monster’s name and level.
That level was considered within the higher tiers even back in THE NEW GATE.
“Its level is 804. Is it the dungeon boss?”
“Oi, you sure about the level that you just said?”
“Yea, no doubt about it.”
“No way ...... that level means it’s strong enough to wipe out entire countries!!”
Yuzuha raised its voice menacingly while Wilhelm and Rashia tried, and failed, to hide their shock at the unbelievable number. After the Dusk of the Majesty, if the monsters living inside the Holy Lands were not counted, the strongest monster recorded in history did not even reach level 600. And that monster had actually erased several countries.
“B-But there’s the Seal, so it can’t get out, right?”
“I wonder about that.”
As Shin was answering Rashia’s worry-stricken question, the Lord finally moved.
It bent one arm, which looked several mels long, and made a fist of its hand. It then bent its knees slightly, then jumped up into the sky in the form of an uppercut.
A dry “gashari” sound was heard when its arm finished extending. The falling traces of magical power indicated without a doubt that the barrier that had surrounded the area was completely shattered. The devastation was reflected in the eyes of Shin and company.
“I guess that’s that for the Seal.”
“Yea, that single attack took care of it.”
“Thi-This can’t be ......”
Rashia fell onto her butt in the face of enough power to smash through a barrier supposedly designed to hold back high level monsters.
While sucking up even the magical traces from the remains of the barrier, the Lord turned its attention towards Shin and company.
“It’s looking this way, oi.”
“It sure is.”
The Lord didn’t have eyeballs, but there was no doubt in the minds of everyone present that the Lord was currently focusing on them. The enormous pressure turned Rashia’s face ashen and she began trembling uncontrollably.
Seeing this, Wilhelm held her in his arms, and got ready to start running away.
The Lord’s roar almost seemed to be threatening them to not run away. The sheer volume of the sound was such that all four of them felt physical weight to it. Shin braced himself, Yuzuha curled up into a ball, Wilhelm fell to his knees, and Rashia cowered on the ground while covering her ears.
“Guh, it’s telling us not to run away?”
“No, that’s wrong. Look around!”
Shin’s shout drew their attention to the white bones thrusting out of the ground
Though the sizes were different, all the bones were clearly the arms of humanoid monsters. One by one, the arms clawed at the ground and pulled out the rest of their bodies.
All the monsters that came out turned out to be skeletons wearing crude armor. Needless to say, they were all Skull Faces. Ranging from Jack class to Queen class, with even one King class thrown into the mix, they crawled up from the ground one after the other. All of them were about twice the normal height for their class, such that the King class towered at about eight mels in height. Their numbers seemed to cover the entire surface of the Plains, looking very much like an army.
The aura released from all of them mixed together, causing the surface of the entire Plains to be dyed completely black.
The emergence of the Skull Faces seemed to be occurring all over the Wraith Plains, the surroundings of Shin and company already teeming with them.
“Wil!! Oh, Wil, what are we going to do?!”
“Calm down! It doesn’t help to get all flustered. Oi Shin, let’s break through and run away right now!”
“Hmm? Nah, I’m going to stay.”
“Aah? What are you saying, you bastard. You got a death wish or something?!”
Annoyed at how calm Shin still was, Wilhelm grabbed his shoulder. However, when he pulled the other in expectation of making him turn around, it felt like he was grabbing onto a gigantic rock that refused to budge even an inch.
Turning slowly to face them, Shin quietly deactivated【Limit】.
Shin’s released power rushed through Wilhelm and Rashia in a torrent, turning their eye in shock.
“I can’t leave this guy alone. I’ll open the way, so Wilhelm and Rashia, you two turn back towards the Kingdom first.”
“All this power ...... Who on earth are you ......”
“I’ll explain everything another time. I also have personal business with this guy. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to get you guys involved, so please get away as quickly as you can.”
So saying, he began gathering magical power in his hands. It became so concentrated that chills ran down the backs of the other two.
“Tch, no helping it. I’ll take care of Rashia and that fox, then. You want me to gather back up the items at the base?”
“It would be great if you would. However, it wouldn’t be much of a loss to leave them behind.”
“Then we’ll be off right now. When we get back, I’m not going to let you go until you explain every single detail to me!”
“Okay, okay. Alright, I’m going to cast some buffs on you to make you faster than usual. Just make sure you don’t trip!”
“Hah! Who the hell you think you’re talking to? Dammit, your fox isn’t letting go.”
“Ow ow ow ow! Oi, Yuzuha! Stop pulling!”
Yuzuha refused to let go, as if it was saying that it didn’t want to leave. It clung on with all its strength, expressing its refusal to let Shin stay back by himself.
“Oi, now what?”
Yuzuha’s emotions flowed into Shin through their contract. It was sending through its powerful desire to stay by Shin’s side.
“............ Haa, no helping it. Don’t you ever let go then, okay?”
Yuzuha purred from on top of Shin’s head. It was full of motivation.
“Then that’s that. Come on, quickly.”
“Right, sorry for the wait. Here goes!”
Shin cast the promised buffs on Wilhelm, then turned to release a skill in the direction where their base lay.
What he used was the Lightning-Type Magical Skill【Lightning Bunker】.
Two prongs of lightning, each several mels in diameter, shot into the Skull Faces deployed behind the party, turning all of them to charcoal in an instant. Shin maintained the skill while sweeping left and right, burning a hole through the encirclement.
At the signal of Shin’s shout, Wilhelm kicked off the ground. Due to Shin’s strengthening buff, Wilhelm shot through the opening, leaving only afterimages in his wake, every step so forceful that it left cracks in the ground.
“Kyaaaa!!!———— — — — — – – – – –”
Rashia couldn’t help screaming at the incredible speed, but her voice soon faded away. When they were together, they had made sure to not stray too far from the edge of the Seal, so it didn’t take very long for Wilhelm to break through the encirclement at his current speed. There were a lot of swords and spears thrown onto the ground by the Skull Faces that had perished, but Wilhelm’s speed brushed them all away.
Shin released the skill after confirming that he could no longer see the other two. He had also destroyed several tens of Skull Faces with that attack, but as soon as he let up, a large number rose from the ground to plug the hole back up.
“Well then, let’s get started too, then.”
The enemy was the Skull Face Lord, who had Jack class, Queen class, and King class summons.
The Lord that was glaring at them had not looked away even during Wilhelm and Rashia’s escape, giving Shin its full attention the entire time.
Shin had never heard of a monster named Skull Face Lord. There was no monster higher than level 800 that Shin did not know of. In other words, it was an entirely new monster. It was clearly not an opponent that he could afford to gauge by its level alone.
However, a new monster might be a key for Shin to return to his own world, as there was a possibility that it might give up some relevant item or information. As long as that possibility existed, running away was not an option for Shin.
While feeling Yuzuha’s steadying presence, Shin readied his katana, then began running towards the large army of Skull Faces.
In one word, it was a massacre.
Any normal person would have been speechless in the face of over a thousand Skull Faces, but the reason for their speechlessness would be completely altered upon beholding the current scene.
Bones were broken, swords were snapped, and armor was dashed to the ground like so many pieces of scrap iron.
Cracks were running into the ground and trenches were being dug, all so deep that no one would believe it was done without any magic whatsoever.
All of it was being carved out by Shin alone. Only Shin and his sword.
Without using skills, Shin merely brandished his sword. Just a single swing sliced the cores of more than ten Skull Faces in half, reducing them to magical traces that faded into the air.
Merely the wind pressure after a swing was enough to smash both swords and armors.
The moonlight shining upon the Plains illuminated the many arcs being drawn in midair that were obliterating scores of Skull Faces like a sand castle being pulled down.
Even the King class, which would require several tens of adventurers to take on with the resolve to die, proved to be no more than a slightly more durable wooden doll.
Skull Faces were being casually mowed down like only so much overgrown grass.
Of course, Shin wasn’t the only one attacking. From its position on top of his head, Yuzuha was also spitting out bursts of bluish-white fire that reduced Skull Faces to piles of ashes.
It was using the monster-only skill【Fox Fire】. In the case of normal fox partners, it would be a red fire, but apparently Elemental Tails were different in this aspect. In its full form—the level 1000 one—its many tails would release a multi-colored attack. However, it was not strong enough for that yet. Each of an Elemental Tail’s nine tails corresponded to Fire, Water, Earth, Lightning, Holy, and Dark-type magical skills, physical damage, and God-type skills, making any opponent feel like they were fighting against nine different enemies at the same time.
The tail that Yuzuha was currently using was the God-type one, which provided an extra elemental multiplier. This skill was not one that players could use, so all of Shin’s understanding of it was coming from Yuzuha in the form of images.
“Seriously, there are so many.”
Shin and Yuzuha had already destroyed more than a hundred Skull Faces, but they had not made much actual headway. The numbers stood for itself, but every one of the Skull Faces had an above average body physique—or in their case, bone physique?—such that every opening created was refilled in a matter of moments.
It felt like an endless task as repetitious and meaningless as trying to dig beneath a mountain of sand with bare hands, watching sand fall back in to fill up any progress.
The Skull Face Lord, which was most likely the boss, decided to retreat into the center of the Wraith Plains after producing the large number of Skull Faces. The Plains stretched dozens of kemels from one end to the other. Shin was still quite near the edge of the Plains, so the Lord was no longer within his line of sight. It was at least smart enough to make the decision to retreat and let Shin wear himself out on these adds when Shin had been busy helping Wilhelm and Rashia escape.
It wasn’t clear whether the Lord had simply retreated to wear him down first or whether it was also preparing something else.
Shin swung his katana and Yuzuha spat its fire, both of them thinking the entire time of a way to make their opponent come back out. Within the Plains that had been dyed with the black aura, the immediate vicinity around Shin was the only place where the bare ground was visible.
“Don’t overexert yourself, okay?”
When seen from the side, the scene looked like one in which the man and pet were almost going to be swallowed by a black tide. In the midst of such a situation, the two of them were still leisurely chatting with each other.
A few more Skull Faces had fallen to slashing attacks within the time it took for their exchange, and it looked like the tide was being pushed back for a change.
The deeper they progressed, the more hemmed in they were. However, none of the monsters present were strong enough to break through the barrier. All of them displayed exemplary footwork, sword mastery, and skillful techniques, just like the one that Wilhelm had fought, but all of that only bought them a tiny bit more time before they too were cut down.
It was pathetic how there was absolutely nothing they could do.
“This isn’t working. The area where they’re spawning is too large.”
Shin combined detection skills to gather information about the nearby area. Due to the ruckus he was creating, most of the Skull Faces on the Plains were crowding towards himself, but a few were ignoring the battle and wandering off towards the outside.
One of them was a large red dot that Shin suspected was a King class.
“I’m going to bring it up a notch. Hold on tight!”
So saying, he released a powerful swing that cut down numerous Skull Faces around.
Taking advantage of the opening that he had caused, he used his left hand to take out a new weapon, at the same time bringing his right hand back in a throwing position. An incredible amount of lightning incomparable to anything before ran through Akechidori’s blade. The red lightning enveloping the blade was so dense that it gave the impression that the sword itself was fiercely shining. The intermittent sound of metal creaking was the sword protesting from the sheer amount of magical power being poured into it. Clearly, Legend grade weapons were not strong enough to bear Shin’s full strength after the boost to his stats.
Feeling the intense concentration of magical power, the Skull Faces hesitated to approach.
That hesitation gave Shin the rest of the time that he needed.
He activated the Sword-Type Lightning-Type Combined Skill【Hien • Raisei (Flying Swallow • Lightning Cutter)】.
It was a combination of a martial skill and a magical skill. That single powerful attack shot out from Shin’s hands.
After being thrown with a physical strength beyond human capabilities, Akechidori easily flew through the air. It tore through everything in its path and left a powerful shockwave in its wake, with the Skull Faces unable to offer up any resistance whatsoever.
Right after leaving Shin’s hands, the red lightning from Akechidori forked out into several branches that reduced Skull Faces to ashes with a mere touch. They looked like the heads of a hydra. The sight of the sword’s passage, combined with the forks of lightning, gave the impression of a red hydra parting a black sea at superspeed. It was as if the Skull Faces were offering themselves up to the forks that raked through the air.
In the wake of its flight, Akechidori left behind a path about 10 mels wide, and the resulting shockwave gouged out the ground in a straight line.
Shin dashed through the path in one go.
The intended destination was the heart of the Wraith Plains, where the Skull Face Lord was.
His expectation was that it would take the death of the Skull Face Lord or the destruction of the dungeon core to settle the entire incident.
(If Schnee was here, then I could handle it in a different way, though.)
There was a certain skill that he could use if she was present, but Shin conceded that there was no point in obsessing over the ‘what-if’s. All he had to do at the moment was what he could do by himself, and that would have to be enough.
He took out a different sword and unsheathed it, resting it on his shoulder while still running forward.
What he was holding was the Mythology rank oodachi『Hamon Hirumaki』. Based off of the best oodachi from Japan, it measured more than 3 mel from tip to handle. Its blade glittered brilliantly with reflected moonlight, almost as if it would cut through darkness itself. The name was a bit unique, and some people might think of『Nenekirimaru』when they hear of it. True to that comparison, Hamon Hirumaki was indeed a very high level anti-undead sword. In addition, its length, and its subsequent weight, gave it both the power and reach of a spear.
It was the same mowing attack as before. However, the scale was on a completely different level.
In the first place, Hamon Hirumaki was a sword that required at least 800 STR to wield properly, as it weighed enough and was sharp enough to slice off the head of a low level dragon with its weight alone. There was no limit to the amount of power that could be drawn out when it is wielded by a player with fully maxed stats.
The blade sliced through the air, creating a shockwave that shredded everything to pieces. There was absolutely nothing that the Skull Faces could do in resistance. That was how great the difference in power was. For the Skull Faces, it was as if they were facing a natural disaster, something like a gigantic storm, earthquake, or flood. Something of such absolute violence that no one—not even if they all banded together—would be allowed to defy.
In his current state, that was exactly what Shin was.
He now pushed forward over the gouged out ground at a pace that made his previous efforts seem like he had been standing still.
The Skull Faces tried to refill the path that had been created with【Hien • Raisei】, but this time Shin’s progress was so fast that simple numbers was no longer enough. Every swing of the blade was accompanied by a roaring that was not supposed to be there, smashing everything in its path into dust.
While he was at it, Shin decided to activate a magical skill too.
It was the Wind-Type Magical Skill【Air Barrett】.
The skill creates a mass of air about 3~40 cemels large freely launchable from any direction, having enough force to shoot down a flying monster. However, what Shin was using was no longer on that scale. Flying in all four cardinal directions around him, airballs more than 2 mels large were easily blowing away Skull Faces together with their armor. The Skull Faces flying through the air no longer possessed even a shred of the dignity that they had previously demanded as the world’s image of terror.
While heading towards the center of the Plains, the damage that Shin was inflicting on the surrounding area attracted all the Skull Faces to himself, until the map at the edge of his vision became swamped with red dots, indicating that there were so many of them that he couldn’t even count them anymore.
He continued running, all while watching the red tide threatening to overwhelm the single white dot that was himself. What he was actually thinking about was the black sphere that had sucked up the Pecker Hollow. The Skull Faces that were being spawned by that were indeed strong. However, it was not that rare for a boss to have the ability to summon and strengthen adds. What was currently going on was probably the most terrible thing that this world could imagine, but in terms of scale, Shin had been part of even larger scale events. That was why Shin was actually feeling slightly let down while brandishing the oodachi, thinking that at this rate he was going to resolve everything without much resistance.
(It won’t hurt to stay cautious.)
He made sure to reserve some strength while obliterating the enemies. He had the leisure of doing so because his stats were now so much higher than they had been back in the game. Shin was now really strong. However, it’s just that sometimes quantity is enough to overwhelm quality. Though all his stats were maxed, he was by no means invincible, nor was he immortal.
If he was killed, he would die.
A high-pitched scream reverberated throughout the Plains. As if it was a signal, innumerable white hands thrust up from the ground.
The source of the scream was the Skull Face Lord. The reason why the number of Skull Faces never went down despite how many Shin cut down was because of that scream. As long as it kept ringing, Skull Faces would continue springing out from the ground.
Shin felt that he was drawing closer to the source of the roar. There were so many enemies around that he was sorely tempted to use a wide area annihilation magical skill, but he made a conscious effort to push the feeling away.
Unlike back in the game, the power of magical skills were no longer bound by arbitrary numbers. With Shin’s stats, even a beginner magical skill employed without proper control could easily cause as much devastation as an upper mid tier skill. One could only imagine what would happen if he went full out with a high tier wide area magical skill. Many of these skills could only be used in large scale guild wars, but such restrictions were no longer in place. Shin was not yet familiar enough with his current strength to use such skills freely. It would be no joke if he erased an entire forest with a simple slip up.
The effect of his newfound strength was that he was now fighting while chained down by such worries.
(I would be more willing to try things out if I was alone here, but ......)
While staring at the green markers on his map, Shin activated another magical skill.
What he used this time was the Fire-Type Magical Skill【Impel Flame】.
A large number of fireballs appeared above Shin’s head then fell onto the the Skull Faces between Shin and the green markers. Instead of exploding, the fireballs simply turned extremely hot whenever they were touched, such that all the Skull Faces that came into contact with one were killed by being turned into a beehive.
There were very few sparks flying around, as he was firmly reining in the flames, and the air remained free of dust as there were no explosions going on, so Shin was about to accurately aim for even targets that were quite a distance away.
The green markers on the map were most likely supposed to be his backup. Green markers indicated neutral players or NPCs. In other words, there were currently still other people in the Plains.
Though Shin didn’t know it, those markers were actually the adventurers and knights deployed to keep an eye on the Wraith Plains. They had, completely by chance, encountered a Skull Face that was about to leave, and thus decided to engage it in combat.
“This isn’t good.”
Due to the large physique of the Skull Faces in his way, Shin could not see who it was that was fighting. However, based on the movements of the markers, it appeared that they were putting up a pretty good fight. They were at least as strong as higher rank adventurers, and had the fortune of having come upon a level 353 Skull Face, which was among one of the weaker ones. However, a level 500 was approaching quickly. It would be a different story if those people were just running away, but if they were truly adventurers, they might not allow themselves the luxury of that choice because of their pride in who they are. Or perhaps they have yet to realize that there are an enormous number of Skull Faces on the Plains.
There was a limit to how much Shin could do, even with the use of magical skills. The green markers were simply too far away. By applying detection skills in combination, he had an accurate understanding of the situation, and realized that it would be really difficult, if not outright impossible, for him to reach the group in time. It would be so much easier if he could just fly through the sky, but THE NEW GATE have no flying options. He can「Jump」, but not「Fly」.
“Why on earth are they heading this way?! Do they not hear the roar?”
Wrapped in the gale of violence created by his blade, Shin pushed on towards the markers on his map. He didn’t know who they were, but he was not going to simply let them become sacrifices if he had anything to say about it.
Yuzuha was asking “Are you going to help them?”, to which Shin replied “As long as I don’t die before reaching them.” He continued spamming magical skills to mow down the enemies in his way. However, the green markers kept on heading deeper into the Wraith Plains. Shin watched the red marker that they were fighting with disappear, but in its place appeared several more nearby.
“Tch, please let me make it in time!!”
To save the surrounded group, Shin began gathering magical power in his hands.
Right before he was going to release a magical skill, blue lightning flared at the edge of his vision.
It was the Lightning-Type Magical Skill【Lightning Bunker】, the exact same one that he himself had used to help Wilhelm and Rashia get away.
The skill wiped out the Skull Faces surrounding the group, almost grazing them with how close it was. However, it did not look like they had suffered any damage from the skill.
Shin had no time to be relieved at the development, as there was a new marker that had appeared on his map, which was labeled with a name that took his breath away.
The marker’s color was blue. That color indicated an ally.
The displayed name read【Schnee Raizar】.
Volume 2 Chapter 2 Part 3
Volume 2 Chapter 2 Part 3
You can grab the PDF here.
The blue marker that represented Schnee approached the green markers. She had most likely told them to leave the Plains, as after a short while, all of them started doing exactly that. Then the blue marker set a course straight towards Shin, heading directly for him.
She was also cutting down the surrounding Skull Faces with ease, though not not quite at Shin’s pace.
Without saying a word, Shin also hacked down the Skull Faces in his way, heading towards Schnee. However, his steps were by no means light. Based on the reaction to his letter that Tiera had told him about, Schnee most likely did remember him still. But now, at the cusp of their reunion, Shin realized that he didn’t know what to say.
Back during the game, all the conversations that he’d had with Schnee were programmed lines. He had set her relationship level with himself at the maximum, as she was his support character, but he didn’t know how much that might have been affected by Schnee gaining her own free will.
To put things in perspective, he had abandoned the shop and disappeared for more than 500 years without any news nor communication. He had absolutely no idea what she thought of him by now. He would not be able to blame her if she was angry with him or had come to hate him.
As these worries whirled through Shin’s mind, Schnee steadily made her way towards Shin.
————The two reunited amidst the squirming sea of darkness and skeletons.
In fear of the combined strength of the two of them, the Skull Faces hesitated a moment.
When they made to move against the pair, they found an invisible wall in their way. Slightly confused at what was happening, Shin glanced around warily. Before he could do anything about it, a paw lightly slapped his forehead with a ‘pon.’ He understood from the incoming telepathic messages that it was Yuzuha who had erected this barrier. It wouldn’t be able to maintain it for very long, but this was not an appropriate place for a prolonged reunion scene anyways.
In response to his “Thanks” came “Don’t worry about it.” This fox was proving to be really good at reading the atmosphere.
Finishing up the exchange in an instant, Shin then turned his full attention back to Schnee.
With her silver hair flowing in the breeze, she was looking straight at Shin.
Seeing this, the first thought that popped into Shin’s head was “Oh wow, she really hasn’t changed a bit.” Not the dazzling silver hair, nor the almost transparent blue eyes that were looking at himself, not even the clothes. Every single thing about her was exactly the same as when he had parted with her last.
“...... Have you ...... been well?”
He didn’t know what to say. He had wracked his brain so hard while swinging around the oodachi, but this was all that came out of his mouth in the end.
He knew how irresponsible his words sounded. As she was an NPC, he had not expected to ever see her against after the game ended. Such had been his thinking.
In a way, she was the one who had been with him the longest, the one to whom he had the greatest attachment to. Back in the VR, she had not looked any different from normal players. He had found himself wishing numerous times that she had the AI to participate in a proper conversation.
There was no reply from Schnee. Or rather, it was more accurate to say that she could not reply.
Her eyes were turning moist, and her lips were pressed together firmly in a quivering straight line, indicating that she was holding something back. Seeing how she was trying so hard not to cry, Shin could not find the right words to say.
As soon as he called her name, he saw the flicker of a silver light.
The rise in intonation at the end was due to Schnee grabbing Shin in an unexpectedly powerful embrace. Her place as his highest-specced support character was not merely for show. The conventional “Gofu!!” nearly escaped from Shin’s mouth, but he somehow managed to hold it in.
“Don’t you have something to say to me?”
Shin called out to her while his spine creaked in protest. Though she said that there was something that he was supposed to say, in the current situation of being completely surrounded by enemies, Shin’s mind was not working properly, and nothing that seemed appropriate came to mind.
“Um, I’m sorry for leaving you alone this whole timeahhhh?!”
“That’s not it.”
The arms around him pressed even harder.
“Th-Thank you for taking care of the shop?!”
“That’s not it.”
His breath was almost being crushed out of him. So, what she wanted was neither an apology nor thanks.
What was left? What was he to say?
The gears in Shin’s head turned furiously.
As he mentally went over everything that had happened since coming to this world, the images that floated to the top of his mind were that of Schnee’s crying face and Tsuki no Hokora, the place where all of them had spent so much time together that she had protected this entire time.
(Aah ...... I get it now.)
Having come so far, the rest was simple.
He almost wanted to laugh at himself for all the unnecessary things that he was thinking before.
Saying things that he didn’t need to say, and not saying things that he needed to say.
Having stepped out from the store, having been away for a while, and now he was back.
Thus, the first thing that he should say is————
“...... I’m back home.”
Nothing else needed to be said.
Hearing the “I’m back,” Schnee pulled back from Shin.
There were no more tears in her eyes. The calm and gentle expression that Shin was so familiar with was back.
“Mou, I thought you’d never be back.”
“...... Indeed. To be honest, I also didn’t think that I’d get to see you again.”
It was something that he had known when leaving the store. After the death game was cleared, the data that made up Tsuki no Hokora and his support characters would all be deleted together with the rest of the game’s data. When he returned to the real world, he would never see Schnee and the other characters again.
Even though they were NPCs and could not do anything beyond their programming, the parting had hurt more than he had expected.
It wasn’t something that could be easily given voice, though.
It wasn’t just affection or love. Neither was it simple friendship. There were those who were proud of the support characters that they had created, but that didn’t quite describe what Shin felt either.
Perhaps the best way to put it was “more than the data, but not fully human.” It was all so complicated that Shin himself was not clear.
The solemn and heartfelt atmosphere was interrupted by the sound of an exhausted sigh. Shin’s vision drew upwards to behold Yuzuha laying limply on top of his head.
Apparently, Yuzuha had reached its limit after maintaining the barrier for so long. The Skull Faces that had stayed a certain distance away began to rush towards Shin and Schnee.
“There is so much left to talk about, but how about let’s resolve this situation first.”
“Good suggestion. I had been looking forward to the reunion so much that I’d almost forgotten about them.”
Wryly smiling at the cry from Yuzuha that seemed to say “I’m leaving the rest to you guys~”, the two of them turned their attention towards the Skull Faces.
“For the first blow, I’m thinking about giving them a really big one.”
“Let’s do it. We have the perfect thing for that, after all.”
They both smiled, Shin with a broad grin and Schnee with a sweet tilt of her head. Then they raised their hands skyward.
“Manifest thyself, O Pure One!”
“Manifest thyself, O Eternal One!”
What they were activating was a special God-Type Skill that could only be used by two or more players or support characters working together.
The name of that skill was————
Their chant faded off into the darkness.
Then immediately, the effects materialized above the heads of everybody and everything present on the Plains.
A gigantic magic circle had appeared in the sky.
Shin and Schnee. It was a collaborative skill cast by the two strongest people in this world. The effect was dimensions above what a common magician could achieve.
Before the Skull Faces could reach Shin and Schnee, the light poured down from the sky in a massive torrent.
Tearing apart the darkness and illuminating the entire earth, the cleansing light mercilessly purified every bit of filth and impurity crawling upon the ground. The light temporarily threw back the veil of the night, illuminating the Plains so brightly that it was as if the sun itself was in the sky.
As the light continued pounding down, the Skull Faces were one by one reduced to magical traces that dissolved into the air. Of course, this was not enough to finish off the Skull Face Lord, but the Skull Faces that were rising up from the ground due to its sustained roaring were purified as soon as they came up.
Though the magic circle was supposed to last only a few seconds, the two of them had poured a lot magical power into it, so the strong yet gentle light continued to shine brightly. In that state, the Skull Faces were no longer able to do anything. The map at the edge of Shin’s vision was now cleared of all red markers, allowing him to see a clean and unoccupied field.
“Well then, all the annoying obstacles are taken care of, so let’s go take down the ringleader, shall we?”
“Does Master know who is causing this phenomenon?”
“Yea, it’s a monster called Skull Face Lord. It’s my first time seeing it, do you happen to know anything about it?”
“...... No, it’s also my first time hearing of it.”
Shin had hoped that Schnee might know more, as she had been living in this world much longer, but apparently that was not the case here.
Now that all the Skull Faces were gone, they had a clear path to the Lord.
After quickly checking their equipment, they headed towards their target. Due to the healing effects from【Sanctuary】, Yuzuha had made a full recovery, and was now using its heightened senses to keep a sharp eye on their surroundings.
Shin really wanted to hand『Aotsuki』over to Schnee, but it was still back at Tsuki no Hokora. So instead, he handed her a ninjatou (T/N: shorter sword that ninjas used) and wakizashi (T/N: short Japanese sword), both of which were stronger than what she was currently using and were specced to be anti-undead. Schnee’s main profession was Kunoichi, the female version of Ninja. It had been quite a popular job back during the game, as all weapon job restrictions were removed for characters in this profession, so they were not limited to ninjatou and short swords. Support characters of an average player could properly wield maybe two or three different kinds of weapons. However, unfortunately for Schnee, she was Shin’s support character. Two to three was nowhere near enough.
With Shin at her side, she started running towards the Skull Face Lord, wielding a ninjatou in her right hand and a wakizashi in her left.
“I see it.”
Traversing the Plains at a speed that would overwhelm anyone else, the two of the quickly reached the place where the Lord was. Due to the light still shining down, the Lord was on its knees, with magical energy evaporating from every crevice seen though the many prominent cracks on its armor. Its HP bar was roughly halved. Part of it due to the strength of Shin and Schnee’s collaborative skill, and part of it was due to the skill’s element being one that the Lord was weak to.,The Skull Face Lord had already taken an enormous amount of damage even before they had engaged it in direct combat.
It looked down on Shin and Schnee while still roaring. The ghostly fire burning within the skeleton was giving off a very ominous light. As expected of a monster with a level over 800; Shin and Schnee did not have the leisure of letting down their guard for even a second in the face of such pressure.
“There’s so much I want to ask you, but it doesn’t seem like you’re in any condition to talk.”
So Shin muttered while standing in front of the monster. He didn’t have any actual expectations for a proper conversation in the first place, but since it was a monster that had never appeared before, he did hold out hopes of gaining information of some sort. To that end, he now closely examined the Lord’s body.
Though its armor was crumbling in several places, the impression that Shin got was that this Skull Face’s appearance was even more polished and refined than a King class. Even including the information that he was getting from【Analyze】, all he knew was that this was an upper tier Skull Face. It still bothered him how the Lord had sucked up an entire Pecker Hollow, but there was no way to learn anything other than to tear apart the armor in the way and directly examine the core.
“From the start, it has been an opponent that we must defeat.”
“Yea, I guess ...... Alright, let’s do it!”
After replying to Schnee’s words, they launched their assault on the Lord, which was standing in a defensive stance.
In the Lord’s hands were dark, night-colored greatswords that it had pulled out from somewhere. As Shin and Schnee charged in from the front, it released a fierce horizontal mowing attack. In response to the incoming attack that was accompanied by the scream of the air splitting apart, Shin decided to receive it with his oodachi.
Adding together the oodachi’s own weight, the momentum of the sudden acceleration, and Shin’s superhuman muscle strength, the single attack from Shin caught the Skull Face Lord’s sword on the flat side in the middle of the blade, sending it flying backwards with the thunderous roaring sound of steel smashing against steel.
The Lord kept its hold on the greatsword, barely avoiding losing its weapon. However, the cost of such a choice was that it was unable to redirect the trajectory of the sword, which caused its upper torso to rotate all the way to the back. Schnee took advantage of the opening and rushed in with her two swords.
In mid-flight, she activated the Sword-Type Martial Skill【Seijin (Blade Crusher)】.
On top of that skill being highly effective against enemies with resistance to slicing attacks, what Shin had handed over to Schnee were the Mythology grade ninjatou【Rurien (Azul Flame)】and wakizashi【Hien (Scarlet Flame)】. Twin trails of red and blue fire drew arcs in the air, breaking the Skull Face Lord’s armor wherever they touched and revealing what was underneath.
The inside turned out to be packed with a tar-like substance that was pulsing as if it had a mind of its own. And where the armor was cracked or shattered, the substance reached out immediately as if to grab Schnee.
Wary of the black tentacles, Schnee decided to not continue pressing her attack and withdrew a bit. She repelled the few tentacles that did reach her with her two swords, and quickly removed herself from their range.
“That attack is really similar to what Gel Bisons use.”
Upon seeing the black tentacles, Shin thought back to Gel Bisons, a type of monster that he had seen on the Plains. Due to having directly witnessed a Gel Bison being turned into magical energy and sucked up, their image quickly came to Shin’s mind.
(Could it be that this monster can use the abilities of all the monsters that it had absorbed?)
Shin earnestly hoped that his guess was wrong. Undead monsters in general drew from a limited pool of special abilities, and the fighting style of most of them hinges instead on their extremely high stamina. There weren’t a lot of kinds of monsters that could use tentacles.. Therefore, the Skull Face Lord displaying this ability gave credibility to Shin’s conjecture. Which was a problem, for mainly one reason: one of the monsters that had been absorbed was a Pecker Hollow.
“No grudges either way, alright?”
After confirming that Schnee had retreated safely, Shin began gathering magical power in his left hand.
The cast time was instant. Within a few moments, crimson flames were shooting from his hand towards the Lord.
What he had used without even needing an incantation was the Fire-Type Magical Skill【Flare Volcano】.
The roaring flames that towered several tens of mels over the Skull Face Lord slammed into its target in a direct hit.
The purifying light and crimson flames. Burned by the two different kinds of magic, the Skull Face Lord perished so quickly that it didn’t even have time to let out a death roar. The flames were so fierce that they left a line of melted earth on the ground.
“Did we finish it off?”
He had used the skill with the intention to kill. However, Shin was feeling very apprehensive at how easy the fight had been.
Of the same mind, Schnee continued glancing warily around, still crouched in a defensive stance.
Shin rested『Hamon Hirumaki』on his shoulder and deployed his detection skills to their maximum range. Due to the battle, the atmosphere was thick with magical power, allowing him to feel it flow in currents that he wouldn’t have noticed if it wasn’t so concentrated. The currents weren’t on the scale of one or two monsters. It felt like all of the magical energy was flowing towards a specific location.
The exact moment when Shin’s attention was drawn towards the ground, the two of them were struck by a huge tremor.
At the same time, a small red marker popped into existence on Shin’s map. The size of the marker grew together with the strength of the tremors, until it finally became bigger than the marker that had previously represented the Skull Face Lord.
“Yea, this is the real boss.”
At Shin’s words, the black sphere floated up from the ground. Unlike the first time they had seen it, red lines that looked eerily like blood vessels now ran all over the surface of the sphere, seemingly pulsing in time to a heartbeat.
“The thing just now was just the shell, I think.”
No wonder it had been so weak. Apparently, the main purpose of the shell had been to act as a decoy to buy time for gathering up all the magical energy floating about on the Plains.
Another great tremor accompanied the appearance of the sphere. What first emerged from the sphere were gigantic arms large enough to pick up a King class. A total of six arms, divided into three pairs, clawed at the ground and pulled out the rest of the body.
A head with two twisted horns attached was followed by a torso much thicker than before, all of which was supported by four legs positioned in a way that gave the lower half of the body a crustacean appearance. Five scorpion-like tails waved from behind the monster.
Turns out that it had indeed gained the ability of the Pecker Hollow. Its height was greater than 20 mels, placing it far beyond the height range for normal Skull Faces..
The sphere was seemingly dissolved and absorbed into the huge body. Right afterwards, an eerie flame was lit inside the eye sockets.
The howl was so powerful that it could almost be felt as a physical attack. For Shin and Schnee, though, it was just a vibration in the air, but any normal adventurer would easily have been literally blown away by the wind pressure.
“So it seems.”
“In that case, then we should get serious too.”
In response to the Skull Face Lord’s howl, Shin changed his loadout. Having already registered the loadout as a set, with the help of shortcut keys the change took only a moment. He was now wearing the exact same outfit that he had been wearing when he took on Origin.
Crimson handguards and greaves protected his hands and feet, a black longcoat fluttered on his back and red lines ran like lightning across his black scarf.
Shin released the clasps that held the Ancient grade sword【Shingetsu (True Moon)】inside its sheath, and propped up the blade a little with his left thumb to make it easier to draw.
Along with the change of his equipment, the color of the vibe that surrounded Shin also changed.
For some reason, be it the effects of the changing, the conscious decision to change, or the aura of the image of a figure cloaked in black and red, Shin now radiated an even greater amount of pressure than before.
Seeing what Shin had done, the fire that served as the Lord’s eyes, which had been glaring at Shin and Schnee the whole time, seemed to swell slightly in size. With the pressure emanating from the unique equips added to Shin’s own pressure, the Skull Face’s bones creaked as if it was flinching at the change.
“...... Let’s go.”
Shin grasped the handle of his katana with his right hand, ready to draw it at any time.
Wordlessly, he activated【Shukuchi】and crossed the distance between the two of them.
Four arms swung to intercept Shin. Inside those hands were swords so black that they seemed made out of darkness itself. The great wind speeds caused by the swords were clearly not just a bluff, but spoke volumes about the weight of the swords.
Before Shin managed to reach the Lord with his katana, the numerous greatswords reached Shin first. As the greatswords entered the katana’s range, the katana handle separated from the scabbard in a red flash.
Though he had successfully deflected all four greatswords, there was only one sound. A single swing from his sword had been enough to repel them all. Undeterred, Shin continued flying into the bosom of the Lord.
The Skull Face was about to use its remaining two hands to deal with Shin, but a slight chill caused it to instinctively bring up one hand over its head. Almost immediately, the sound of metal clashing against metal rang out, and sparks scattered all over.
That had been Schnee, trying to score an attack with Rurien in the Lord’s blind spot. It was no simple feat to detect an attack from a Shinobi, the highest tier of Assassins, that had been aimed at a blind spot. However, it was true that this strategy was not very effective against undead, which do not rely on their five senses to fight. This Skull Face’s responses were made possible by perception abilities far beyond what other Skull Faces normally possessed. As someone able to objectively grasp her own strengths and weaknesses, Schnee was now learning exactly how far beyond the norm this Skull Face was.
“As thought, it really is different from the existent monsters, huh.”
Utilizing the recoil from the exchange, she landed at a different spot than she would have normally. Evading the attack from a tail released in revenge for just now, she continued analyzing her opponent.
The reason why the counterattack against Schnee seemed so light was because of Shin. The Skull Face Lord had brought its final arm to bear, but there was no way that a single arm could achieve what four arms couldn’t. A single attack wrapped in【Seijin】shattered the single greatsword, creating a shockwave that the Lord took advantage of to retreat several tens of mels. Having decided to not hold back any longer, every attack from Shin now benefited fully from his boosted stats, dealing damage far beyond his former limits. The display of power illustrated just how enormous the difference in fighting power between Shin and the Lord was.
Schnee, who had been very familiar with Shin’s strength, stared in shock.
Shin pressed into the retreating Lord before it could regain its balance. Having lost its weapons, the Lord crossed its arms in a defensive stance. Shin’s katana fell onto the handguards protecting the arms, then sliced through all of the limbs in a shower of sparks.
Together with the roar, the Skull Face Lord lashed out in counterattack with its tails. The four tails that shot toward Shin had saw-like teeth, and tried to corner him by coming from four different directions. Before they reached him, though, Shin leaped towards the Lord.
Evading the arm swiping at him in a desperate attack with a double jump enabled by the Movement-Type Martial Skill【Hiei (Flying Shadow)】, Shin closed in. After dodging, Shin found himself right in front of the Lord’s torso, where the solar plexus would have been for a human.
It was the perfect position for an attack at point-blank range, given the height different between the two of them. It was also the place where the core of the Skull Face lie. Feeling the imminent danger, the Lord desperately tried to regain some distance, but Shin was already in an attack stance and it was too late to do anything about it.
The katana swung down as he exhaled sharply.
What he had used was the Sword-Type Martial Skill【Hazan (Mountain Crusher)】.
Even though he was in midair and had no solid ground to kick off of, Shin’s single attack packed more than enough power.
The flash that was a mix of red and black dove straight into the Lord’s left shoulder, emerged from its torso on the other side, sliced off one of its right legs, and finally left a shockwave that cleft a deep trench in the ground.
The Lord roared from the damage. Diagonal lines could be seen all over its body where the armor was sliced through and black liquid was oozing out. Shin’s eyes saw that the black sphere that was acting as the core had only about a fifth shaved off.
“Oh, I missed.”
The core that had been visible for a moment quickly disappeared from view. It seems that to some degree, the Lord was able to freely move the core within its body. While thinking furiously of a countermeasure, Shin landed and continued attacking without letting up.
He directed most of his efforts at the remaining right leg, aiming to bring the Lord down.
The flurry of slices were delivered at such high speeds that they left afterimages in the air. On top of that, for every slice that Shin landed on the Lord’s body, additional ones appeared spontaneously on random places.
This was because of the Sword-Type Martial Skill【Kasanedachi (Repeated Cut)】.
Each additional cut dealt as much damage as Shin’s original attack. With the armor already cracked and crumbling in places, these extra attacks tore into all the exposed areas without mercy.
【Kasanedachi】was a skill that enabled sword wielders to assail several enemies at the same time. The stronger the user, the more destructive it was. When Shin used it, as someone from whom even a normal attack was already so deadly, the skill became something beyond a mere series of attacks, as the heavy barrage also managed to completely stun lock the Skull Face Lord.
“GI ............ A ...... aa ............”
The effects of each and every slash raged inside the Lord’s body. It had already been hanging on only by the skin of its teeth after being hit with【Hazan】, and no longer had the strength to withstand this new onslaught.
Shin’s strength was greatly amplified by wielding an Ancient grade weapon. Their combined might was so great that even if Sanctuary was no longer active and the Lord was at full strength, it would still have been thus one-sidedly overpowered.
Even the last means of counterattack left to the Lord, its tails, had already been all cut off by Schnee.
The invisible follow-up attacks from【Kasanedachi】were directly leaving their marks on the inside, leaving behind energy that was causing the Skull Face Lord’s body to expand from the building pressure. Trapped inside the body by the unbroken parts of armor, the energy that kept on accumulating sought an exit.
The core was nowhere to be seen. It wasn’t that they had overlooked it. It was just that the torso was no longer a safe place to store the core, what with the continuing barrage of attacks. In that case, there was only one place for it to be.
“This is the end!”
Shin leaped into the air with such force that the ground cracked under his feet as he was kicking off.
At a position above the Lord’s head, he adopted an overhead stance, with red lightning wrapped around【Shingetsu】.
He then activated the Sword-Type Lightning-Type Combined Skill【Kogetsu・Raimeisen (Arc Moon・Thunder Flash)】.
The red blade made of lightning struck the Skull Face’s unprotected head. Immediately after, when the sword blade sliced into the Lord’s head, the red lightning rushed to invade the inside. Red forks shot out from the eye sockets, shredding the fire that had been burning there previously. As if the head wasn’t enough, the lightning flowed through the neck to the rest of the Lord’s body, effectively roasting it from the inside out.
“......! ............ ! ........................”
Despite being burned alive, there was no howling.
Shin’s attack itself had already sliced the core in half, as it had been hiding in the head. The additional lightning had incinerated whatever was left of it. Normal Skull Faces disappeared quite quickly after having their core destroyed, but the Skull Face Lord’s body was gigantic, so it was taking some time to fade away. However, it was already empty. It was just a husk.
“! ...... ! ............ !”
Or so it was supposed to be. In reality, almost as if in defiance of its crumbling body, the Skull Face reached towards Shin with its last remaining hand.
Seeing Shin freeze up at the sight of the Lord, Schnee called out to him. Holding her back with one hand, Shin continued staring intently at the Lord.
The hostility and bloodthirst and pressure from before were all gone. The hand that was stretching out towards Shin seemed to be reaching out to something beyond its grasp.
“(So ...... Wo ............ Ni ......)”
Shin’s ears picked up on a voice. Though it was distorted and marred by a lot of noise, it was undoubtedly speaking the language of man.
However, immediately after that, the Lord went the way of all other Skull Faces and turned into magical energy that dissolved into the wind. Where the Lord previously had been, a gigantic jewel more than 50 cemels large was rolling to a rest.
“Master! Are you alright?!”
“Yea, I’m fine. No problems.”
Shin pacified Schnee, who had rushed over in a fluster. Inside his head, he continued ruminating over the words that been imparted to him just now.
(After all this, I still haven’t learned anything useful. It had been quite the opponent, though.)
While trying hard to not let his disappointment show on his face, he turned his eyes toward the jewel that had been left behind. It was unmistakably an exceptional jewel of the highest grade. In case it would turn out to be a clue or key of some sort, he decided to put it into his inventory for the time being.
When he looked at his map, he noticed the markers indicating the Skull Faces that had managed to escape the fighting disappearing by themselves. There had been a few that had happened to be beyond the area of effect of【Sanctuary】, but they had apparently spontaneously died when the Skull Face Lord did. This was undeniable proof that the Lord had indeed been the one behind this entire incident.
As Shin was checking his map, the light shining around them was gradually weakening. It was about time for the effects of【Sanctuary】to run out. When the spell completely faded away, the Plains returned to being illuminated solely by moonlight.
The return of the moonlight revealed an enormous change to the Plains. It had not been visible in the dazzling light of purification, but sparkling traces of magical energy were now steadily rising up from the entirety of the Plains. The scene all around them was that of magical energy rising high and dissolving into the atmosphere.
Even the knights and adventurers, who were still very wary, stopped to stare.
The rising magical energy had become visible with the fading of the holy light that had dispelled the night.
This sight that had never been seen before instilled awe and wonder in the hearts of many who beheld it.
“Looks like it’s all over.”
“So it seems. After some time, these Plains should most likely return to normal too.”
“...... Time to go home.”
There was no need to ask “where is home.” The magical light shone on the two figures walking away.
They had both been under stress during the battle, so they had automatically fallen into how they had used to talk before. Now that the danger was over, however, a strange air hung between the two of them.
The time that they had been apart for had been short for Shin, long for Schnee.
It wasn’t awkward like they had to probe each other, it was just that some time was needed for the words to gradually start flowing. The two of them slowly found the words that could begin to fill up the time that they had lost.
Before the arrival of the knights and adventurers who were rushing over to investigate, the two silhouettes had already disappeared towards the direction of the Kingdom.