|Author: Ryuusen Hirotsugu||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 8859 characters|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 3977 words|
|Editor(s): Miiso, Pat, Silva|
「I hope you are ready!」
「Does it look like I am!?」
The second she descended to the 6th floor and got her feet on solid ground, Emera went to punch Zef with a fiendish look. It was the outcome of his non-stop teasing until now. Though Emera wasn’t exactly acrophobic, she just somewhat disliked high places.
「They sure are noisy…」
Mira glanced over them with a wry smile and moved her eyes to the center of the area, where a giant castle towered before them. There was no place that fit Soul Howl better than this castle. Mira knew that with a single glance.
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「Fine, let’s leave them alone and head to the castle.」
Saying that to the rest of the members, she started walking on the rocky ground. It was rugged, but couldn’t stop her progress.
「Yeah, let’s go!」
Agreeing with Mira, Asbar loudly hailed the pair who were noisily playing tag near the lake. Judging by the occasional screams, it wasn’t clear if they heard him.
Now that they were closer, the sight of the enormous castle overwhelmed Asbar and Fricca. Contrary to them, Takuto was looking around with gleaming eyes
「Although there isn’t much else here, this in itself is something worth seeing.」
A cold lump of stone in the shape of a castle. It was enormous, despite the walls having no visible joints. If only it was on the surface instead of in the depths of a commonly farmed dungeon, it could have become a famous tourist spot. Though it could just as easily become a hideout for a group of thieves.
Mira entered the castle through the open gates. A large staircase stretched in front of her, shining crystals set into the walls. They were the only thing decorating the unadorned corridors.
「Well then, can you all wait for me here? The rest is kind of confidential.」
She couldn’t take them any further. There was no way she could let any adventurer know that she was about to meet one of the Wisemen under the order of the king. Another reason was because she could not find the golems she expected to be guarding the castle, considering Soul Howl’s personality. The title 『Great Wall』 was not just for show, the entrance of the castle could be considered too narrow for them.
And since the sixth floor did not seem dangerous, she decided to part with them here.
Asbar wondered what this was about, but didn’t want to ask directly. Fricca was the same, although in a different way, as she descended into her delusions about Mira’s secrets.
「I’m sorry, but I will leave Takuto to you..」
With that Mira placed Takuto’s palm in Fricca’s hands. Most likely thanks to that, Fricca was able to hold herself back despite being on the verge of going berserk.
「Yeah, no problem.」
「Take care, Big Sis Mira.」
「Don’t worry too much, I’ll be fine.」
After gently patting Takuto’s head, Mira ascended the stairs. After seeing her off, Asbar and Fricca decided that they could freely roam the first floor, since her secret business was upstairs.
Mira immediately began to look for a room with a certain facility. She hurriedly peeked through the doorless entrances and found it in the sixth room.
She entered the room and looked at the stone chair that had a hole in its center. It looked similar in shape to a Japanese-style toilet.
「Hmm… This should work.」
Inside the room with no doors, Mira lowered her underwear and raised her skirt as she crouched. Looking to the side she could see the long corridor, so if someone was here, she would immediately be in the line of sight.
While still nervous, Mira finally let out a sigh of relief.
After finishing, she promptly took toilet paper from her item box. Through a lesson learned with regards to poisonous flowers, Mira had made sure to carefully stock the paper. Lastly, due to the lack of a flush, she used concept magic to flush the toilet in its place.
Wiping her washed hands against the hem of her robe, Mira used the Sage skill, 【Life Sensing】 to try and locate her objective. But it did not detect anybody except the three people downstairs. Life Sensing had limits and its sensitivity dropped the further away the target is from the caster. Furthermore, as one of the Nine Wisemen, Soul Howl could very easily hide from her so it did not necessarily mean he was not here.
Mira headed up to the last floor. She considered calling out to him, but changed her mind because the people downstairs could hear. Calling him names like 「Expert on Zombie Chicks」, 「Afterlife Pervert」, 「Battle Gentleman」 was an option too but it could ruin both their reputations instead so Mira decided to search manually.
After getting to the top floor Mira cast 【Life Sensing】 again just to be sure.
「Oh, this reaction.」
There was an extremely weak response. However, it was so weak it would have gone unnoticed if she was not paying attention. Only after getting closer did she manage to feel it. It was so fragile it seemed like it would disappear at any moment.
Nobody except for Soul Howl could possibly be in such a place. Carefully hiding her presence, Mira started getting closer to it and since she was here, she decided she was going to surprise him.
The place where the response originated was in the large hall on the top floor. The throne room. Mira pressed herself against the wall outside to the throne room and carefully peeked in to find the perfect moment.
「What in the world?」
Mira, who expected to find him surrounded by zombie maids, was greeted by an unfathomable sight. The almost insane state the throne room was in made her take a small step back.
Like a concert hall, there were countless chairs lined up facing the throne. Mira approached one of them and brought her face closer as if to peek in.
「Are they not functioning?」
Mira touched the cheek of the woman in a maid uniform that sat in the chair. Cold, no trace of life or warmth. Closed eyes, closed lips, none of it carried any emotions, she was simply there.
「It seems like his fetish has gotten even worse.」
Mira scanned the surroundings while being slightly disgusted. Women with both western and eastern features dressed in a variety of maid uniforms occupied all the chairs in the room. The embalming was done perfectly, as expected of Soul Howl.
However, all of them were dead and could not have been detected with Life Sensing. Mira concentrated again and felt the response further ahead, from the direction of the throne.
There Mira found a very different existence.
Two thrones side by side. Mira’s eyes were drawn to a woman sitting on the queen’s one.
She was a pretty woman with ephemeral but distinct facial features, dressed in a beautiful and elegant dress. Her long indigo hair reached down to the waist; her skin was too white, even pale. She looked to be about 17-18 years old.
Mira stood as she looked at her face with fascination. She sat with closed eyes, her lips forming a smile. Mira tried to call out to her but, despite having a life response, this woman showed no signs of life.
Confused, Mira reached for her hand but instantly pulled away as soon as she touched her skin.
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The skin of this woman was cold as ice.
「Soul Howl, where are you?!」
Unable to understand anything anymore, Mira reluctantly called out to him. However, a dozen seconds passed, another dozen, but there was no answer. Mira gave up and went to look for clues herself.
She started looking in a room behind the thrones and fortunately got what she wanted. This room was filled with papers scattered everywhere. Encyclopedias and manuscripts were piled up on a desk in the middle of the room, and there were countless hastily-written notes on the pieces of paper scattered on top of the table.
Thinking it could be used as a clue, Mira took some of the papers to examine.
「Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree?」
Mira whispered the answer she got from examining the papers and piled up documents.
The Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree. It was capable of recovering any and all debuffs upon use, heal any wounds, and making death itself irrelevant, removing even the death penalty. Furthermore, it was a legendary item considered to be one of the ultimate defenses against the archenemy of the human race, devils.
However, there was no word of anybody actually obtaining this artifact. Thus, amongst players it was rumored to be an unimplemented item; nobody knew even if it was a drop item or a treasure from some dungeon.
The Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree existed only in the lore.
(Why would he research such a thing?)
While it surely had exceptional effects, the situation where one of the Nine Wiseman would be forced to use such a thing would barely ever happen. Then why?
While Mira was contemplating it, the frozen woman she saw earlier flashed in her mind.
She returned to the throne room and thoroughly examined this woman from the head to toe. Feeling a little guilty, Mira calmed herself saying that it was all for finding the truth.
The examination finished with Mira being unable to find anything special so she started considering other possibilities. But when Mira looked at the woman again, one thing came to mind. Since the woman was sitting, Mira has not checked her back.
Mira carefully and slowly tilted the woman bit by bit to reveal a red stain on her back.
The stain spread across her dress. But it was not blood. It was composed of symbols and shapes lined around a six-pointed star with the letters ‘XV’ in the center.
Those symbols were familiar to Mira.
The weird circle engraved on her back was a seal. It was known as the curse of the netherworld or the blessing of a devil and meant only one thing: an unquestionable death.
There was previously an event called ‘The Shadow of the Black Wings’. It was set around saving a knight marked with a similar seal, but he ultimately died. Every player knew about this event since it was the premise for the first clash with the devil race.
Mira could clearly recall that due to the impression it left on her.
These memories were connected to the Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree. Soul Howl wanted to remove this seal with the power of the chalice. Since this seal existed exclusively for the event, no spells or potions could dispel it. If a player was asked for the one thing that had the possibility of removing it, any of them would respond with the Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree. Mira herself also concluded that nothing else could work.
She looked at the woman again. Despite being frozen, she was alive since she had a life response. Mira had no knowledge of such a spell but it should definitely be one of the necromancy skills. Thirty years have passed so it wouldn’t be strange if somebody had found a spell with a similar effect. And Soul Howl probably stopped her time while she was still alive and left to look for a way to help her.
「Still, for a living woman huh… Perhaps he has changed a little too.」
Remembering the obsessed-about-undead-girls Soul Howl, Mira bowed to the woman on the throne and left the throne room.
The mission target was not in the underground cemetery but she had found traces of him. She looked around the castle, collected materials that could be clues in her item box, and returned to the first floor where everybody was waiting for her.
At the castle entrance, Emera and Fricca were huddled together with pale faces and Asbar’s face also didn’t have the best color. Zef and Takuto, who were playing cards, noticed Mira descending the stairs and waved her over.
「What happened here?」
Called by Mira, Emera and Fricca turned their empty gazes to her.
「Really, what’s wrong?」
With a bit of a wry smile Mira looked away from them, and immediately after, received Takuto who rushed at her
「Welcome back, Big Sis Mira.」
「Were you a good boy?」
Takuto nodded with a full-face grin. Saying 「Really?」 Mira patted his head.
「Mira… nothing… special… is supposed to be here… right?」
Emera, unable to hold it in anymore, clung onto Mira, disregarding the age difference.
「Wait, what exactly had happened?」
「Dead maids… a lot of dead maids…」
Emera voiced the situation while Mira was trying to make some guesses. It seems they found maids similar to ones in the throne room. Moreover, a lot of them.
「You don’t need to worry. It’s just necromancy.」
「You mean this necromancer lives here?」
Still sitting, Asbar turned to face Mira. Also looking for the answer, Fricca who was sitting nearby lifted her head too.
「There is evidence that he was here, but it looks like he isn’t right now.」
「Judging by your words, could it be that your errand had something to do with this necromancer?」
「Yeah, that’s right. But there is no reason to worry. His hobbies are as bad as you saw but he’s a good guy.」
Despite her words, it was absolutely mindblowing for them.
Generally speaking, necromancy does not deal with corpses. It deals primarily with souls. And necromancers can attach this soul, an energy chunk containing pure force, to a golem or corpse.
Also, necromancy was officially recognized as one of the nine masteries. So the people of this world didn’t really think of it as some inhuman, immoral, or heartless skill. That said, it did have a dark and eerie image.
After Mira explained to them it was just necromancy, Emera, Fricca, and Asbar quit digging deeper.
「Necromancy… I wonder if I can use it…」
Impressed by the beautiful maids, Zef half-seriously muttered that.
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「For now, let’s eat. I’m hungry.」
Stroking his stomach, Zef sat down.
Hearing him, Mira noticed she got hungry as well and agreed. The rest of the members half-heartedly agreed too and started to take the food and utensils from their item boxes.
「Hey, vice-captain, you too.」
「Haah… It would have been better if we hadn’t actually found anything here.」
Emera muttered with a sigh when Zef called her.
They finished lunch and were resting with tea. With all the shopping they did the other day, the lunch made by Emera and Fricca was good. And as for dessert, the apple pie from Mira got good responses. Everybody’s mood brightened up.
「This place is really cozy for some reason. Even though it’s a dungeon.」
「Speaking of that, we’re still inside of a dungeon aren’t we.」
「Oh yea, we are. How do I say it, I wonder what’s up with this place?」
Hearing Zef’s words, Fricca and Asbar too, had once again grown conscious that this was a dungeon and asked the same question. However, there was no one who knew that. Mira did not know what meaning was there behind this place either.
「All right, my business here is done. Let’s go back.」
Mira drank the remaining tea all at once, then acting just the opposite of Zef who was lying around lazily, she stood up.
Mira more or less achieved her goal here. She could not meet Soul Howl, but instead, she acquired hints regarding his possible destination
「Sure, let’s return. No matter how safe it is, we’re still on the last floor of a dungeon.」
After cleaning up from lunch, Emera readjusted the sword on her waist.
「True. Let’s go.」
「And up we go.」
Along with Emera’s words, other members also stood up and started to confirm their weapons while groaning and stretching themselves to loosen their bodies. Takuto stood up and hastily reserved his spot beside Mira.
After leaving the white castle, they proceeded toward the stairs to the upper floors. Just as on their way here, the way was lit by the light of crystals so they could clearly see the way.
「Wait, it feels like there’s somebody over there?」
With those words, Zef stopped and stared at the lake. The round-shaped lake looked like it was gouged out from solid rock with a spoon. It was a truly mystical sight to behold, what with the lake glittering by reflecting the light of crystals back up.
「Are you sure? As long as monsters don’t appear here, even the curious adventurers won’t bother coming down here.」
Asbar said while looking at the lake. The swaying light on the lake surface could actually be mistaken for somebody when seen with peripheral vision. Zef himself started to believe it, but his face stiffened at Mira’s next words.
「No, something is really there.」
Mira immediately looked around the lake with 【Life Sensing】. Putting his personality aside, Zef was still a scout, that’s why Mira checked the slight possibility and confirmed it.
「Hey hey, what the hell is there in a place like this?」
「What do you mean by something, there are no monsters in here, right?」
Asbar tightly gripped his large hammer, Emera unsheathed her sword and turned towards the lake.
The skill 【Life Sensing】 was capable of detecting life signal but couldn’t tell exactly what it was, it only identified if there was something alive or not.
Emera and others grew nervous due to the abnormal presence. If it was something that had an ill will, they could not show their backs to it. To confirm it, Asbar and Emera took a step towards the lake, and at that moment——
A large water pillar arose from the lake. A pitch-black shadow thrust out of the pillar lit by crystal’s light and landed in front of them.
「That’s… What the hell…」
「Impossible… why in a place like this?!」
Asbar and Emera raised their voices in response to the identity of the shadow. It was completely black. Although it had physique similar to that of a human, its surface felt inorganic and shiny black claws extended from its four fingers. The face looked like a noh mask and had no nose, just eyes and mouth twisted creepily. Finally, the most characteristic parts were its twisted horns, as well as the bat-like wings extending from its back.
The creature that appeared in front of them looked like the ones that threw this world into chaos 10 years ago.
「It can’t be… A devil…」
「They were supposed to be exterminated 10 years ago…」
Zef’s eyes were filled with shock as he muttered. Fricca too gaped at the black creature in front of her.
「What’s the meaning of this. Why is there a Devil here?」
Devils, the absolute enemy of mankind. The Defense of the Three Gods’ Countries was a war against the demon army led by devils with the survival of mankind at stake. And it was believed that humankind won the war and eliminated the devils. However, in front of their eyes was without any doubt, one of the devils.
For just an instant, the seal on the woman seen in the castle appeared in the back of Mira’s head. Maybe this Devil had something to do with that. However, since the details of the seal were completely unknown, there was no way to prove this possibility.
Devils were known to be extraordinary creatures, unlike normal monsters. Thus, in the game, they appear only on the missions concerning the Three Gods Countries. Each one had a court rank, and the weakest one was a baron of third rank who had strength equal to a player who just climbed up high enough to be considered high-ranked.
Mira immediately summoned the Holy Knight and charged him with Takuto’s protection. She then pushed his back with a word of warning, 「Takuto, go hide in the castle.」 Takuto probably felt the tension filling the air and with a light nod went to the castle along with the white knight.
「To think I would meet humans in such a place, how fortuitous of me. You shall become a splendid offering.」
At the same time a muffled voice sounded as if spoken inside water, a large scythe had appeared in the Devil’s hand. Seeing the obvious hostility, Emera and Asbar frowned.
「Damn!! He wants a fight after all!」
With a frustrated voice, Zef pulled out his dagger and took a low stance behind Emera and Asbar. Fricca started to prepare a spell behind them.
In such a situation, Mira calmly inspected the devil. Since it was totally unheard of to meet a devil in such a place, she checked his strength. It was a natural habit of any player.
「Hmm… Earl of third rank, huh. Guys, can you fight him?」
From the bottom up to the Devil’s ranks, there were baron, viscount and earl. Each one further divided into three ranks. Unless something had changed, at the very least it required a party of six high-ranked adventurers to beat an earl of third rank.
Asbar had already seen devils like the one before them. Once, when he had just become an adventurer, black clouds covered the sky and a swarm of devils rained down from it. Even now he could clearly recall it. Adventurers being trampled over, among them were people Asbar looked up to. Now, was he stronger than those adventurers back then?
After thinking up to that point, Asbar shook his head to shake off this question he posed to himself. In any case, there was no escape.
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「If you mean to match him, it’s straight down impossible. At best we could buy some time.」
Asbar answered with a bitter look while keeping an eye on the devil. Then, he suddenly recalled the sight of heroes sweeping Devils from the town, the backs of those who possessed power beyond humans.
「Hmm, I see.」
Looking at the distorted faces of Asbar and Emera, Mira realized that the four members of the Écarlate Carillon were no match for this enemy.
(Have I fought seriously ever since I came to this world?)
When this was still just a game, she had beaten devils up to the Duke of 3rd rank. But at that time, she still had the proper equipment and medicine prepared. Right now, however, she had yet to get used to reality and had given some of her equipment to Cleos, so there were reasons for concern.
She was full of anxiousness. Having little experience in combat in this reality-turned world, she had yet to resolve herself to fight battles with her life at stake. Mira herself thought of slowly getting used to this world. How much could her skills reach, how would this new body respond. She planned to take time to investigate it.
What Mira had now, was the experience and skill she had gathered up when it was a game, just the knowledge. Based on this alone, the Devil in front was not an opponent strong enough to be wary of.
「Step down, guys. I will fight.」
She said in a low, powerful voice and stood in front of the two.
Although they knew each other for a short time, there was no doubt Emera and others were good-natured people. If she acted like usual, she could protect her comrades. Wishing for that strongly, Mira resolved herself.