Shin and Schnee left the room immediately and made use of their explosive strength to leapt to their destination. They used roofs and walls as footholds, but if they kicked at full power they would surely be destroyed.
It would be troublesome if they caused needless destruction, so they used 【Flying Shadow】 to create footholds in midair, using roofs and walls only when the skill’s usage limit did not allow them to create any more footholds. The plan was to reach the holy area using 【Flying Shadow】 as much as possible.
As they were moving, Shin felt an indescribable feeling when using the skill. In this world, when he used a skill he could understand how it worked through his senses. In case of sword skills, how the sword had to be swung; in case of magic, what effect and power it would have. In Shin’s case, he could also check the skill details via the menu.
Shin was now having a bizarre feeling about the Movement-type skill he was using, 【Flying Shadow】. The skill in question allowed the user to create up to 2 platforms in midair to use as a foothold, but he couldn’t help but feel that it was possible to create more.
“Could it be…?”
Shin felt a sort of irritation towards the two foothold limit: not expecting anything to really happen, he tried activating the skill. He jumped off a roof and used it once, then one more time in mid-air.
Then, when he would usually use a wall or roof again to reset the counter, he tried making a third foothold. Normally, nothing would happen and he would end up kicking empty air. What Shin’s feet felt, however, was the same hard surface that appeared when the skill was properly activated.
Guided by his senses, Shin activated the skill a fourth, fifth, sixth time, continuing to leap through the air.
Schnee’s surprised reaction reached his ears. She needed to use actual surfaces to proceed, so, by blitzing through the air, Shin achieved a pace much higher than hers.
Shin landed on a roof and waited for her, then – without a word- picked up the perplexed Schnee up in his arms in the so-called “princess carry”.
“Ehm, Shin? What are you…”
“Looks like I can use 【Flying Shadow】 without limits now. I don’t know why it happened, but I’ll make the most of it.”
It was so sudden that it was normal to be confused, but Shin somehow felt that it was a good thing.
“I’m going to jump at full power. Hold on tight!”
Schnee wrapped her arms around Shin’s neck, while he also strengthened his hold. Then their preparations were complete.
Shin lightly kicked the roof to jump up, then put more power in his legs. An invisible platform formed under his feet. This platform, strong enough to withstand his kicking power, catapulted them in the air. Now that he didn’t have to worry about damaging any property, Shin could take the shortest route to the holy area turned dungeon.
“(Tiera sent a reply. Can you read it, Schnee?)”
The wind pressure would make it difficult to speak, so Shin talked via Mind Chat. He held her even tighter, to avoid any chances of her falling. Schnee unwrapped her arms and quickly caught the message card materialized from Shin’s item box, then opened it.
“(Tiera is safe. Apparently, the World Tree and its surroundings didn’t turn into a dungeon.)”
Schnee scanned the message and reported on the situation surrounding Tiera’s group. The World Tree and its surroundings, in a 200 mel radius, were unchanged. Outside of that, a bizarre haze of colors covered everything, making it impossible to move.
Despite looking like mist, it was hard enough that Tiera’s arrows couldn’t even chip it.
The mist also covered the air around the World Tree, so it was impossible to see the sky. The path leading to the World Tree had turned into a dungeon, so there was a cave-like entrance.
The message also mentioned that Tiera felt that it looked like a living creature.
“(I thought it would be an instant dungeon, but maybe it’s using the impurity?)”
“(It could be, but there’s also the possibility that a demon turned its body into a dungeon.)”
“(A demon dungeon…yeah, it’s possible.)”
Instant dungeon appeared randomly in various fields. “Demon Dungeon” was a sort of variation of such dungeons.
The dungeon boss would be, needless to say, a demon. The biggest difference with instant dungeons was that it was impossible to escape. In ordinary dungeons, using the highest grade crystal allowed the user to exit, but it would not work in demon dungeons. There were only two ways to leave: clear it or die.
“(It seems that Tiera is not under attack at the moment.)”
“(Even if it’s corrupted by impurity, it’s still the World Tree’s zone after all. It might not have enough power to appear as a boss. If there are multiple demons, however, it’s just a matter of time until she is attacked.)”
The current world did not completely abide by the game’s rules. Phenomena impossible in the game era could happen anytime. Shin nodded to Schnee and kicked the air with even more strength. Advancing as if flying through the air, it took them less than 10 minutes to reach the holy area, now transformed into a dungeon.
Shin landed on a nearby roof and observed the situation. As Tiera had written in her message, the mist had taken the shape of a dungeon. The mist extended from the ground until high in the sky, so it was not possible to leap over it and reach the World Tree.
Shin considered circling around it, but the area around the World Tree was completely white, save for the presence of Tiera’s group. The map showing the town around the World Tree had been erased. Apparently, the entrance was the only way inside.
The entrance was about 10 mel tall and 20 mel wide. Armed elves were standing in a fan-like formation in front of it, fighting against a monster that had just emerged from the dungeon.
The monster in question was a rhino-like monster with green rocks sprouting from its body, a level 344 Radseya.
It could not perform long-distance attacks and moved rather slowly, but its exceptional defense made it very hard to damage. In terms of defense only, it was in the same league as level 400+ monsters.
The elves’ arrow and magic attacks had little to no effect. On the other hand, the attacking elves were growing more and more apprehensive.
“This is bad…the charge is almost maxed out.”
Many players thought that a Radseya was to be defeated with long-range attacks while kiting. However, it wouldn’t be called a monster, if it was eliminated so easily.
The “charge” Shin mentioned increased as Radseya was attacked: when it maxed out the monster’s movement speed increased exponentially and it used its defensive power to trample its enemies. Many players got too excited attacking it, only to end up squashed by the monster’s charge.
Apparently there were already casualties; there were monster corpses and other puddles of blood at the dungeon’s entrance, as well as limbs scattered here and there.
“There’s no time to waste talking, we’re going in.”
Shin kicked the roof to jump in mid-air, then accelerated via 【Flying Shadow】. That very instant, Radseya’s whole body glowed bright green.
One of the elves shouted after seeing the shining Radseya. One second later, the monster’s massive 3 mel body launched into an explosive acceleration. Most of the elves couldn’t react in time to the sudden change. Just a few of the elves on Radseya’s path managed to crouch and prepared to defend themselves with their shields.
Elves as a species had low physical resistance and VIT. As long as they weren’t high-level Chosen Ones specialized in defense, no shield would prevent them from being crushed to pieces. The elves’ desperate expressions clearly showed that they did not expect to survive the monster’s offensive.
Radseya charged towards the dumbfounded elves. Moments before it could trample the shield elves, Shin’s kick firmly landed on the monster’s cranium.
“Off you go!”
With a snap-like sound, Radseya flew even faster than before-but in the opposite direction, straight into the dungeon. One second later, the dull sound of raw meat crashing into a hard surface echoed.
The shield elves let out a hapless grunt, unable to comprehend what happened. Their eyes were directed at Shin, but it wasn’t clear if they had really grasped who had just kicked Radseya back where it came from.
“Hey, did any other monsters come out of the dungeon?”
“Eh? N-No…that was the last one.”
“Gotcha. We’re going to rescue the priestesses. We will defeat as many monsters as possible, but some might get out of the dungeon. Those are all yours.”
“What are you s- L-Lady Schnee!?”
The elf noticed that Schnee was standing next to Shin: his surprised shout shook all the other elves back into their senses and they stared fixedly at them.
“The dungeon is likely filled with monsters such as that one. We’re going to find the priestesses, so I would ask you to stand guard and prevent any monsters to leave the dungeon.”
“If Lady Schnee goes, there is nothing to worry about, but that human…”
Because of the difference in species, Shin couldn’t be trusted as Schnee was, apparently.
“He’s my companion. If he can keep up with me, you understand that he is strong enough, do you not?”
After Schnee’s words, the elf who objected swallowed his breath. He apparently finally realized what Shin had just done. A level of strength high enough to stop Radseya’s charge with a single kick.
“I leave the rest to you, then.”
“P-Please take care.”
They were allowing someone from another species into their holy area -even if it currently was a dungeon- but no elf said anything. As they fought against the monsters from the dungeon, they gradually understood that it definitely was not the case to talk about permissions or foreign species. The elves thus simply watched Shin and Schnee enter the dungeon.
Looking at the floor and walls, they noticed that the dungeon was made out of mist, as Tiera had written. It felt more akin to metal than a stone to the touch.
Shin told Schnee to wait a moment and activated 【Magic Sonar】. He wanted to reach Tiera as soon as possible, so filling in the map little by little was out of the question.
The goal was clear and the dungeon was above ground, unlike the ones they cleared until now, they could use more forceful methods.
Shin’s map displayed the dungeon’s maze-like structure. It was very complex: even seen from above, it was difficult to find the path that would lead to the exit. The World Tree was also farther than the actual distance, as if space was warped inside the dungeon.
Normally it would be just 500 mel from their location to the World Tree, but it was over 5 kemel inside the dungeon. Walking inside the dungeon’s tortuous paths would make it even longer.
“How did it get this big?”
“Surely they want to buy time. All other routes are unusable, after all.”
“What a troublesome bunch…”
Shin muttered his irritation as he glared at the depths of the dungeon. He checked for Tiera’s presence one more time and detected hostile presences right next to her. The presence moving around and in front of Tiera and the others was probably Kagerou.
“Enemies appeared. I guess they wouldn’t just sit and wait…let’s hurry.”
Kagerou was not an average Gruefago. No demon could easily defeat a mutated Divine Beast, and a very powerful one at that, paired with Tiera.
After a while, Shin and Schnee found the Radseya he had kicked inside. Its head was crushed, its body squashed as if pressed from both ends.
Shin stopped in front of Radseya’s body and Schnee called out to him. He gestured her to wait a moment, moved Radseya’s body and looked at the wall behind.
As he expected, the wall was dented. In the game, dungeon floor, walls, and roof were indestructible, barring a few exceptions.
In this world, Shin had yet to see something that could not be destroyed. Everything had a set resilience and durability. In that case, hitting it with superior strength should make it possible to destroy it.
“We’re taking the shortest path to the goal.”
Shin then punched the wall. He didn’t use skills, but his fists alone were powerful enough to smash orichalcum into pieces. What he felt on his fist was the sensation of having punched a cotton-like substance. The wall felt metallic to the touch, but against Shin’s punches it had the same resistance as paper. With a poof-like sound, a large hole opened up in the wall.
“I see, a shortcut.”
“It’s more brittle than I thought. We’re above ground this time, so even if we go on a bit of a rampage, there’s no danger it will come down on us. It’s faster if we go straight ahead.”
As he talked, red and yellow globes of light formed around Shin. The 8 globes circling around him glowed in a white-hot light when he pointed forward. Each globe, measuring about 20 cemel, let out a thick laser-like beam of white-hot light. The floor, walls and roof of the dungeon melted away before the beams.
Boosted by Shin’s magic power, the beams pierced through wall after wall.
Light and flame combination skill 【Flare Blaster】.
Normally, this skill would create one globe of light and one beam, resulting in a red hot beam with piercing powers, but the current Shin could simultaneously cast multiple instances of the same skill.
Shin and Schnee advanced through the melted walls. There were monsters inside the dungeon, but they ignored them all.
Demon Dungeons were a category of instant dungeons: if the boss was defeated, the dungeon would disappear along with the monsters inside. Fighting them was just a waste of time.
“It’s recovering. Guess I should have expected it.”
Shin and Schnee advanced through the gaps in the walls, directly heading towards the World Tree. They could just continue, but the Demon Dungeon wouldn’t just let them. Shin saw on the map that the melted walls were gradually repairing themselves. Not just as they were, but stronger than before.
“Shin, will you destroy the walls again? I will try to cover the hole with ice, to delay the recovery.”
Shin answered Schnee and launched another array of 【Flare Blaster】. The burning beams shot straight forward, piercing the walls as if they were nothing. Schnee then activated a skill herself.
Water-type magic skill 【Clear Blizzard】.
Crystal-like light spirals followed the paths traced by 【Flare Blaster】 beams. The burning walls and ceiling were frozen instantly.
Shin monitored the gaps as they ran over the ice, but there was no sign they were recovering. The freezing was acting perfectly as an obstacle for the recovery.
Nothing else could delay their progress now: Shin and Schnee ran at full speed towards their destination. In the end, it took them just 5 minutes to approach the exit. They didn’t pierce their way out simply because the beams might have hurt Tiera’s group. Shin busted open the last remaining wall and they arrived before the World Tree.
Tiera noticed Shin and Schnee as they smashed their way out of the dungeon and reacted with joy. Before Tiera and Lymliss, Kagerou was facing a monster of similar size.
The monster, growling while baring its fangs, was named Oggbrym.
It was a beast-type monster with four limbs and tiger-like yellow fur with black patches. It had a wolf and a boar’s heads and a reptile-like scaled tail.
Its level was 712: if Kagerou was not a mutated specimen, it would have had a hard time fighting while also protecting Tiera and the others. Kagerou’s body had injuries here and there.
Tiera was assisting Kagerou with her recovery skills, but the demon was mostly unscathed. Demon Dungeons provided boosts to the stats and abilities of demons. Even if its level was higher, Kagerou had to fight while defending Tiera and the others, while the demon only had to attack; the latter was clearly at an advantage.
“This is the end for now…loathsome guardians…!!”
The Oggbrym likely perceived it was at a disadvantage; its back directed to Shin and Schnee, it ran off towards the mist, as if planning to dive into it. Being a four-limbed beast type, it had reached the mist of the dungeon in a few seconds.
In the time required to notice Shin’s arrival, make a decision, turn on its heels and flee, Shin was not just standing idly. As soon as he saw the Oggbrym turn around, Shin moved too.
The Oggbrym was indeed fast, but it could not move instantly. Shin jumped high in the air, his left and raised high in a throwing motion. In his empty left hand a 4 mel long, giant lance-like weapon appeared.
It was a superior Ancient-grade sword specially made to mow down large hordes of weaker monsters in a single strike, named 『Geatharma』.
Shin looked at the 『Geatharma』 that appeared on his hand and his movements stopped for a moment. Originally, its 2 mel long blade was wrapped in red flames, but the sword that Shin wielded was engulfed in white fire. The moment the flames changed color, the silhouette of a female elf blinked before his eyes for a second.
He did not feel anything negative from the power transmitted from the blade to his hands. On the contrary, the flames had now a sort of sacred aura to them.
His hesitation lasted but an instant. Shin’s eyes turned back to the Oggbrym as he targeted the beast. The mist forming the dungeon was changing shape, letting the Oggbrym slip through.
“You’re not getting away!!”
Using a platform created via 【Flying Shadow】, Shin managed to keep his stance, despite being in the air, and launched 『Geatharma』.
Thanks to his superhuman strength, 『Geatharma』 flew through the air leaving behind a trail like a comet. The white flaming blade disappeared inside the mist, piercing Oggbrym’s back and stabbing the ground under the monster.
The shock caused the mist around Oggbrym to disappear completely.
White flames burst forth from 『Geatharma』. As if the flames had a will of their own, they burned the beast both inside and out.
A few seconds later, the flames turned red again. What remained was 『Geatharma』, stuck in the center of a small, charred crater.
“Hey, Shin. What weapon is that?”
Shin landed on the ground and Tiera approached him. She felt that the monster had been annihilated by the weapon’s powers, rather than Shin’s strength, so she couldn’t help but be curious.
“It sure did something amazing, but normally it doesn’t have powers like that. I saw an elf-like silhouette when I was about to throw it, so I guess one of the past World Tree priestesses granted it her powers? We’re right in front of the World Tree after all.”
Shin looked at 『Geatharma』, which had turned the demon into ashes, then to the center of the room. In the center, beyond the depths of the dungeon-turned holy area, the World Tree towered over them.
Its trunk, about 5 mel wide, did not seem to grow any thinner no matter how high one looked. Its branches and leaves glowed with a golden hue, which made anyone who looked at it feel more peaceful with just a glance.
As Tiera had said, part of the tree was painted black, and its glow became fainter at times. It was probably caused by the impurity; the mist made it impossible to see the tree beyond a certain height.
“We defeated the demon, but the dungeon is still there…I guess it wasn’t created by that demon, then.”
Normally, defeating the boss demon caused the demon dungeon to disappear. However, this dungeon did not show any signs of collapse.
“Was that the only monster that attacked you?”
“Yes, it suddenly came out of the mist and attacked. We could resist only because Kagerou did his best.”
Tiera patted Kagerou’s head. After the battle, the divine beast returned to its 1 mel wolf form. Its wounds were already healed, its eyes turned into slits as it enjoyed Tiera’s head pats.
“Did you finish the purification already?”
“Not yet. It all happened when we were about to start.”
“How about trying the items I gave you while you do it, then? No matter what demons come out, I’m not going to let them get in your way.”
Schnee nodded and Kagerou howled in agreement.
“You’re right. Who knows when we’ll be interrupted again, and if the World Tree regains its power things might return to normal.”
“I m-might not be able to help much, but I’ll do my best too!”
Lymliss, despite not being able to keep up with the rapidly changing situation, was influenced by Tiera and expressed her resolve. The two priestesses started the purification, under Shin and the others’ surveillance. The World Tree recovery items had already been set up.
The two priestesses held their hands over their chest, in prayer, as they intoned a wordless melody. It was a rhythm unknown to Shin’s ears, but it somehow felt soothing.
The purification was different from what Shin and the others had witnessed before. Tiera and Lymliss’ bodies were enveloped in a gentle light as the rite began.
The light then grew fainter and floated towards the World Tree, mixing with its aura. As it did, the World Tree’s light gradually became brighter. At the same time, the parts blackened by the impurity decreased more and more.
“Schnee, could that be…”
“Yes, one of the past priestesses, surely. She must be lending her powers to them.”
After about 10 seconds from the start of the purification, a female elf with silver hair and green eyes appeared in mid-air. The silhouette floated behind Tiera and Lymliss, holding her hands as if offering a prayer. Somehow, Shin thought she looked similar to Tiera.
“The mist is changing.”
“Yes, something is bound to happen. Let’s stay on our toes.”
As the World Tree purification progressed, the mist started changing. Shin and the others prepared to be able to deal with any sudden developments as the mist gradually grew thinner.
A few seconds before the purification ended, the mist concentrated into a single point, a short distance away from the World Tree. The priestess who had appeared behind Tiera and Lymliss disappeared before they could open their eyes.
“The dungeon master finally graces us with their presence?”
Any demon dungeon had a demon as its core. If this demon wasn’t defeated, the dungeon would never disappear. Such bosses were usually located deep inside the dungeon, so it wasn’t bizarre for it to appear here. The mist changed shape, finally forming a human-sized silhouette. For unknown reasons, the silhouette had elf-like features.
“What’s going on?”
Shin looked at the name displayed by 【Analyze】 and his brow furrowed. The reason was that the human-sized demon possessed two names.
One of them was Ragoj. Its level of 802 ranked it as a Duke among the demons. Being the next rank after Grand Duke, it wasn’t strange for this demon to be able to assume human form.
The other name was Crissot Lucent. Lucent, just like Tiera. The name of a member of the World Tree caretaker clan was displayed as the identity of a demon. Shin couldn’t help but be puzzled.
“…no…it can’t be.”
While Shin was confused by the double identity, especially the Lucent part, Tiera expressed her utter disbelief. Her eyes shook, as to express her inner turmoil, as did her head, refusing to accept what she saw. Tiera stepped back.
No one expected to hear the whispered words that barely escaped Tiera’s lips. In response, the eyes of the stone-faced demon turned towards her. The moment she was reflected in his pupils, the demon’s expression contorted.
Not only the demon’s expression, but his outline itself contorted. He too looked like he had seen something absolutely shocking.
“….he ran away.”
The demon lost its outline and disappeared as if melting in the air. Its presence was no more and the dungeon was disappearing, but no one thought he had been defeated.
One of the demons had been defeated, but the whole group felt that the situation had become even more muddled and complicated.