TNG Vol. 16 Chapter 4 Part 1

“(Multiple responses coming from the north. The sky looks abnormal. Dark clouds are gradually covering it. Can everyone confirm?)”

Schnee sent a Mind Chat to the party.

Shin looked up at the sky and saw dark clouds covering it.

It wasn’t the type of darkness one could see on cloudy days. It looked like someone was painting the sky with tar.

The speed at which the sky was turning dark was unnatural too. It was spreading all over.

Anyone recognizing clouds drifting through the sky would realize this was a completely different phenomenon.

The clouds were progressively increasing, like a carpet being rolled over a surface. Once they appeared, they stayed in place, heavy, unmoving.

No one would think it was a natural phenomenon.

The height of the clouds was a bit above the castle Shin was in: it was far too low for them to be real clouds.

Shin could clearly see that the black clouds were dividing the earth from the sky, where white clouds hung.

Filma and the others too reported seeing the same phenomenon.

“(Multiple responses are heading our way. They are…)”

Shin boosted his detection range and detected multiple presences heading towards Passner. He also reinforced his eyesight with【Clairvoyance】and uncovered their identity.

The first thing he noticed was a gigantic dragon in the lead.

It was smaller than the one Shin saw in Baomultan’s area, but still larger than Shin remembered. Its appearance was just as Shin recalled.

— Durgin – Level 703

— Brainwash VIII

【Analyze】 showed the name of the rotten dragon, Durgin.

Its name, however, was followed by a word Shin never wanted to see.

【Brainwash】.

It was the most powerful of all mental manipulation status ailments.

Its effect was simple: for a limited period of time, it was possible to command the target to “Attack”, “Defend” or “Move”.

In the case of “Attack”, it was also possible to set the target to attack.

In the case of “Defend”, just as the name said, the brainwashed target would take a defensive stance.

In the case of “Move”, if the brainwashed target was ordered to move to its current location, it would simply stand there, defenseless.

It was a skill superior to 【Confusion】, which forced the affected target to attack randomly, or 【Charm】, which inhibited the target from attacking the opposite gender. Players had to be especially careful with it.

The reason was that 【Brainwash】 was mainly used by PKs.

Despite the name, it was still limited by the game’s settings. The affected player’s body would just move on its own, there was no actual interference with their mind.

It felt unpleasant to feel one’s limbs move on their own, but the same could be said for all mental manipulation skills.

【Brainwash】 was more powerful than other mental manipulation skills but also had a higher failure rate. Even if the caster leveled up its duration would not extend much, in the game it was pretty much just an annoying skill.

Yes, *in the game*.

“Divine beasts and similar monsters shouldn’t be affected by mental manipulation skills, though.”

Yuzuha and Kagutsuchi were divine beasts, while Baomultan and Durgin were monsters similar to them.

In the game era, players had tried using such skills against them, so it was recorded that they didn’t work.

It was also definitely proved that Durgin couldn’t be affected by 【Brainwash】 or other mental manipulation skills.

“That’s right. But unless 【Analyze】 is wrong, Durgin is unmistakably under the effect of 【Brainwash】 right now. I wonder what happened…”

“Things have changed from the game era, that’s what. We’ve seen other examples before, but if mental manipulation has become reality it’s really bad.”

The duration was probably different too. A normal skill would have already worn out, even if it was maxed out. However, the Durgin approaching Passner did not show any signs of being released from 【Brainwash】.

“Those don’t seem to be controlled, but they’re dangerous for Passner nonetheless.”

Shin turned towards the shadows under the black clouds trailing behind Durgin.

Running on the ground as if following the black clouds were four-legged monsters with crocodile-like mouths, Garmag.

Together with them there also were insect-like monsters with four thin wings and long straw-like mouths. Kikiuz.

They were both monsters that appeared in polluted areas which Baomultan and Durgin often visited.

Garmag disposed of flesh, bones, and other solid materials, while Kikiuz disposed of blood and other liquids. In the game, they were called “sweepers”.

“(The area under the clouds is turning into a polluted area?)”

Shin organized all information available while running towards the north gate.

Garmag and Kikiuz also appeared in uncontaminated areas, so regardless of the reason, it was not strange for them to be there. It was very strange, however, that the woods and plains turned black after their passing.

Garmag and Kikiuz dwelled in polluted areas but did not scatter pollution from their bodies themselves.

The pollution was spreading only in the area under the black clouds.

The black clouds spread in Durgin’s wake; Shin thus thought that Durgin was the cause and sent instructions to Schnee as he proceeded.

“(We can’t let it fly over Passner. The target to attack is Durgin. If possible, let’s blow away the clouds behind it too.)”

Shin looked at Schnee activate 【Blue Judgement】, the skill that annihilated the monster hordes approaching Balmel, and prepared a magic skill himself.

The sky dotted with white clouds was covered with grey ones and blue thunderbolts started raining down.

The thunderbolts couldn’t focus on Durgin, but they struck the Garmag and the clouds, so they weren’t ineffective.

“The thunderbolts deviated…there’s something up there.”

The thunderbolts pierced the clouds, scattering them, and fell on the ground.

Garmag and Kikiuz weren’t especially weak to lightning, but did not resist it either.

Their levels varied but were all-around 400-500, so unless other monsters happened to act as a shield, they would die on the spot if struck.

The thunderbolts pierced any monsters they hit, so even if not hit directly they would be severely wounded all the same.

Only Durgin remained almost untouched by 【Blue Judgement】’s furious attacks.

It wasn’t avoiding the thunderbolts: as Shin said, something had deflected them away from the dragon.

Deflecting powerful magic spells instead of blocking them was a tactic used not only by players, so Shin and Schnee were not surprised by this.

“I’ll target it directly, then.”

Sety, who had moved to the north gate too, wielded her exclusive staff, 『Dusk Moon』.

She had already prepared to launch the spell: a two-layered magic circle appeared over the tip of her staff.

The magic circles started rotating slowly: after a few seconds, a beam of light wider than the magic circles was unleashed.

Light-type Magic skill 【Valtar Rem】.

The beam of light proceeded in a straight line, then about 1000 mel from the target split in countless threads of light, which attacked Durgin from all directions.

The beam’s afterimages made it look like Durgin was being enveloped in a globe of light.

【Valtar Rem】, like 【Blue Judgement】, was a magic skill ideal to cause a wide range of destruction.

Originally, it would cause arrows of light to rain on the enemy. Sety had modified it to aim all arrows at Durgin.

“It resisted even that? I’ve never seen an ability like that.”

“But it looks like it can’t fly anymore. It won’t be able to enter the city, at least.”

Considering the skill’s power and Sety’s stats, the Durgin should have been turned into mincemeat by now.

Durgin, however, defended itself as if it knew that 【Valtar Rem】 was coming.

The black clouds forming behind Durgin enveloped its body, functioning as a shield against the arrows of light.

They couldn’t protect it completely. The clouds that surrounded Durgin were mostly gone.

Durgin itself seemed to have suffered some damage, as it was descending at high speed. The few remaining clouds trailing behind the dragon made it look like an airplane about to crash.

“The clouds won’t form unless Durgin flies, then?”

Shin confirmed that Durgin landed and noticed that the black clouds, spreading so quickly until moments before, were now still in the air.

“If it was a normal monster, the basic strategy would be defeating it without letting it come any closer…”

Going any closer would be pointless, but this time it wouldn’t be so easy.

Durgin might have been attacking Passner, not on its own volition, but because it was being controlled.

Items like the 『Subjugation Collar』, used to control people, existed. It wouldn’t be strange if an item that could control monsters existed too.

There were also beings like Devils and Demons, which could manipulate others to do their bidding. If they defeated Durgin from a distance, they would lose any potential clues too.

Durgin was also a monster necessary for the world’s sustenance. They didn’t want to kill it, if possible.

“I knew it already, but looking at them like this, they truly are terrifying…”

“We’re lucky that they’re on our side, really.”

Garon and Risha, who happened to be close by, looked at Schnee and Sety’s magic with a mixture of surprise, confusion, fear and various other feelings.

Shin took advantage of the situation to ask them how long Passner’s knights could resist against such an attack.

“Against that horde, it would be like sending them to a slaughter.”

“Maybe they could handle one or two monsters, but there are just too many. We wouldn’t last long either. The walls surrounding the city wouldn’t give in right away, but they don’t mean much against flying monsters. Even the gates wouldn’t be able to resist long if those Garmags or whatever charged them. They could withstand one or two attacks, but if they came in large numbers, I cannot say.”

The gates were made of orichalcum mixed with magic steel and other metals enhanced with magic.

Apparently they could resist the Garmags’ attacks for a while. As Garon said, however, the monsters’ numbers were very large.

If they rushed the gates and charged them, they couldn’t resist for long.

The Kikiuz were a whole nother problem. Unlike birds, they could quickly change direction mid-flight, so they would be very difficult to hit with arrows. Arrows shot by average people wouldn’t be able to pierce their shell either. Their mosquito-like bodies were small but very sturdy nonetheless.

“Schnee, Sety, Yuzuha, bombard the monsters with magic from the walls, so they can’t get closer. Even a single Kikiuz would cause mayhem against normal people.”

“Understood.”

“Leave it to us!”

“(Kuu!)”

Schnee replied calmly, while Sety puffed up her chest and nodded. Yuzuha had not reached their location yet, so she replied via Mind Chat.

“I’m going to charge them with Filma. We’ll check Durgin’s state from up close.”

“I can finally do something too.”

Filma clenched her 『Scarlet Moon』 and her smile widened. Among all the support characters, she was the most specialized in one-on-one battles.

Shibaid would lure in the enemy, Girard would disorient them, Filma would deliver the coup de grace. That was the usual strategy of the frontline members.

Of course, she could fight without problems against multiple enemies too. Depending on the situation, Shin could leave Durgin to Filma and act as support.

“Don’t get too excited and slice Durgin in half, okay?”

“I know that much!”

Both of them weren’t concerned at all having to face the horde of monsters alone. In the game era, it was quite common for the number of enemies to be superior to the number of allies.

“We’ll check Durgin’s state first. I told you that there are items that can control people, right? It could even control Chosen Ones. I’ve never seen it myself, but Durgin might be affected by the monster version of that item. It could also be a Tamer’s 【Forced Subjugation】 or an item that lures or manipulates others, so please check that carefully. Look for any clues like that.”

Since Durgin was controlled, dispelling that meant that they didn’t need to defeat it.

Shin knew that it wouldn’t be easy at all, but as long as they had a chance, he didn’t want to give up.

He wanted to think that there were options other than killing it.

“Garon, we ask that you and your party please stand by the gate. I hope such an emergency never happens, but whoever scattered the poison in the castle might make a move.”

They could cause a commotion inside the castle or open the gates. There were many ways they could create confusion in the current situation.

Things would go south quickly if the enemy took advantage of the lack of manpower on Shin’s side, one of their current weaknesses, so he decided to ask Garon’s party for assistance since they were the most powerful assets available outside of Shin’s party.

“Mavlov and the others will be here soon, so it’s no problem, of course. Even if we went with you we’d only get in your way, I suppose.”

Leaving the rest to the apologetic Garon, Shin and Filma jumped down from the castle gates.

After their bodies drew a smooth arc in the air, they were dragged downwards by gravity. After using a skill to land lightly on the ground, they sprinted towards Durgin.

They gained great distance during the leap from the castle walls, so with their stats, they would reach Durgin in no time.

Durgin looked in Shin and Filma’s direction, spread its wings, and roared.

The spreading wings did not show signs of injury. It had crashed on the ground, but any damage was apparently already healed.

Though, tt didn’t try to soar again immediately. It was probably wary of any attacks that could shoot it down again.

When Shin and Filma approached Durgin enough, they could see something that wasn’t visible while it was flying.

“A collar…Durgin’s status doesn’t display subjugation, but it’s unnatural for Durgin to wear one.”

The collar was the same color as Durgin and was hard to see, but it was definitely there.

The 『Subjugation Collar』, an item used to control Millie and the Soothsaying Holy Woman. Durgin was wearing something very similar around its neck.

If it was the real one, Durgin’s status would show the subjugation status ailment, so it was probably something very similar. Shin had examined the 『Subjugation Collar』 closely in order to remove it, however, so he thought that Durgin’s collar couldn’t be unrelated to it.

It was also strange for Durgin to be wearing an accessory. The suspicion that it was being manipulated grew even stronger.

“Take care of the monsters around it, please.”

“Gotcha!”

Shin asked Filma to dispose of the Garmags and Kikiuz that zoned in on them and continued running towards Durgin.

If Durgin was only manipulated by a status ailment or the collar, Shin just needed to remove them.

He could deactivate even the real 『Subjugation Collar』, so he thought he could do something about the collar, which was likely to have similar effects.

As Shin approached Durgin, the dragon, which was standing on its hind legs to intimidate him and put down its front claws on the ground. It was clearly extremely wary of Shin.

“….a person?”

Shin noticed it for the first time.

Durgin’s body was massive: if it was standing, its back was not visible from the front.

Even so, if someone was riding it the person’s legs would be seen, and when Shin used analysis skills on Durgin the rider would have been targeted as well.

No such thing was displayed before.

If he was only looking at the map, the rider’s icon would overlap with Durgin’s, hiding it from sight.

Shin’s detection, however, did not rely only on the map.

At the very least, he had not detected any presences on Durgin’s back until now.

“(It felt like it appeared all of a sudden.)”

“(You too, Filma? So I didn’t just fail to notice it.)”

After a Mind Chat exchange with Filma, Shin looked at the man riding on Durgin’s back.

— Mister XXX – Level 233 – Tamer

— Possessed – #S#%$#

【Analyze】 did its job. It displayed a name quite bizarre for this world’s denizens and a unique status ailment. 

【Possession】 was a unique enchantment certain jobs could cause or the state of being possessed by certain monsters without material form, like Ghosts or Wraiths.

The unique enchantment was caused by a skill that only jobs such as Summoner and Necromancer acquired, which mainly reinforced the user’s body.

【Possession】 caused by monsters, on the other hand, was a nasty status ailment said to be even superior to 【Brainwash】. Possessed players would start attacking other players with skills.

【Possession】 could be removed either by skills or items or defeating the affected player, but even if the possessed player was defeated the monster that caused the possession wouldn’t be affected.

In a way, players feared it more than mental manipulation skills.

“Wait, this guy is a player!?”

The mysterious tamer had a joke-like name, the likes of which were pretty common in online games. The moment Shin saw it, he became much more alert.

Some players chose to embrace the “evil” in their playstyle.

Mister XXX had appeared out of the blue and had a name that people in this world would never give to their children. If he had lived long in this world, he might have created skills or techniques that didn’t exist in the game era.

It was more than enough reason to tread carefully.

“(Could he be using a skill we’re not aware of?)”

“(Who can say…I, for one, don’t recall anything like that.)”

Filma came to Shin’s side.

She left the Garmags and Kikiuz alone, but they were probably scared of Shin and Filma’s presence or were terrified by Filma’s rampage, as they stopped their advance.

They couldn’t risk talking normally in front of the enemy, so they continued using Mind Chat to communicate, while keeping their guard up.

Mister XXX, still riding on Durgin’s back, did not move at all. He was wearing a hooded robe, completely hiding his appearance.

“(He’s not moving.)”

“(But he’s looking at me.)”

Shin could feel the man’s eyes on him, despite his obscured face. The hood probably had an enchantment that hid the user’s face, but it didn’t work on Shin.

Since he was a player, Mister XXX had handsome facial features.

Some players had very feminine features, but Mister XXX was clearly a man.

His wide-open blue eyes stared at Shin. His complexion was sickly pale, so his eyes looked like they were glowing.

He was surprised, maybe. He looked like he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“You…what’s your name…?”

A faint, raspy voice. It would be difficult to hear normally, but Shin’s enhanced hearing caught the words easily.

His tone suggested that he hoped Shin was the person he thought, that he strongly wished Shin was the person he expected.

In the game era too possessed players could talk. Shin didn’t know why he didn’t attack them, but since he might be a source of information, Shin decided to continue the conversation.

“You can’t tell with 【Analyze】?”

“Not with…mine…please…tell me…”

The man’s expression was getting progressively more and more twisted.

Shin thought he probably looked in pain because he was resisting the 【Possession】.

Depending on the stats gap between possessing monster and possessed player, it was possible to resist to an extent.

Durgin looked like it was leading a horde of monsters to assault Passner. Then a man appeared on its back. It might seem like the mastermind controlling Durgin had finally shown himself, but the man did not look like he had planned such a thing.

His face, twisted in pain, was not the face of whoever planned the assault on Passner. It was almost certain that he had been forced to act via 【Possession】.

“My name is Shin. They called me a Hero or God of Death. I used to be pretty famous among players.”

Schnee and the others were in Passner, a few hours from Shin and Filma’s current location.

Even if the man was a decoy or was painstakingly acting, any situation could still be handled. Based on this, Shin decided to reveal his name.

Mister XXX’s reaction was nothing short of dramatic.

“Aaah…! Aaah…aaah!! I was…wasn’t wrong…finally…finally!!”

Joy.

The man was still clearly in pain, but he also expressed pure joy, as if he had finally found the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

His eyes welled up with tears, his arms stretched towards the sky.

With such dramatic gestures, it looked like he was expressing an uncontrollable wave of emotion.

“I answered your question. Now it’s your turn.”

Shin, his weapon still in hand, called to the man.

Shin wasn’t sure the man was capable of proper conversation, but after a while, the latter’s expression turned serious.

“I’m…I’m sorry…I forgot…myself. Yes…I must…tell you…some…thing.”

Sweat ran down the man’s cheeks. He was enduring the pain, squeezing out word afterword.

“…manip..ulating…monsters…to atta…ack…count…ries…play…ers…too…mani…pu…ggh!!!” 

He was clearly trying to say something important, but when it came to the most important part, he looked like he was gasping for air and no words came out.

The man realized he couldn’t say it in words and tried ripping off his robe.

After ripping about 10 cemel of his robe, the man’s hands stopped. He was probably limited by some kind of restriction.

The ripped robe revealed the man’s neck: Shin clearly saw what was around it.

“That collar is…!”

“It’s not…only…this…but…this is the…most…danger…ous…”

The man noticed by Shin’s reaction that he knew what it was.

The man moved the ripped part of his robe, to show his neck as much as possible.

His eyes wanted them to look, implored them never to forget what they were seeing.

“Don’t worry. I can remove both 【Possession】 and the 『Subjugation Collar』.”

If he was only being manipulated, he could be saved. So thought Shin as he spoke to the man, but the latter shook his head.

“Not…just…that…”

The man talked while pressing his chest. Maybe he couldn’t support himself on Durgin’s back anymore, because he fell down on the ground.

He did not even try breaking his fall, dropped headfirst, and did not budge. His HP did not decrease, so he shouldn’t have suffered any damage, but his state was clearly abnormal.

“Hey!”

Shin immediately used a skill to heal his status ailments. The 『Subjugation Collar』 had to be touched directly, but status ailments could be healed from a distance.

From the status display, however, 【Brainwash】 would not disappear.

Durgin wasn’t moving. Shin, wondering if it was because the man was suffering, approached them with caution.

“Filma, please make sure the other monsters don’t move.”

“Don’t do anything reckless, okay?”

Shin nodded to Filma and went closer to the man. When he arrived at a distance of about 10 mel, the man moved.

“Gh…gaah…AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!”

Screams.

The man, still lying on the ground, screamed in terrible agony.

“What’s happening now…?”

Shin stopped in his tracks.

The man looked like he was struggling with something, then stopped shouting.

After a while, he stood up.

He did not do so normally, by using his hands to raise himself up, however.

Not his hands nor his legs moved. Despite it, his body assumed an erect posture, without making a sound.

It was like he was a doll set in standing position, lifted up unnaturally like a marionette.

“Ple…ase…”

The man’s complexion was beyond pale, almost the color of the earth. He looked straight at Shin and moved his mouth. Only his mouth moved, his arms and legs did not budge an inch.

“Kill…me.”

He barely managed to emit a sound.

As if that was a signal, his body started changing.

Part of the black clouds hanging in the sky gathered around him.

The black clouds swirled around the man and formed a two mel wide globe, then disappeared.

The man continued to simply stand, still.

It was like the clouds had become part of him: even his clothes turned black. His eyes, his mouth, everything turned black. Then the man moved.

His body started swelling, with grinding, gnashing noises.

His arms, his legs, his chest—even his head.

His arms and legs stretched, then split in two. His chest swelled too in response.

His clothes changed as well: the trousers and shirt the man was wearing fused together with his robe.

The man’s chest and head were swelling as well.

The head wasn’t simply growing larger. It looked like it was swelling from the inside.

It was like a balloon with a human face drawn on it. That was the only way to describe it.

When the swelling stopped, the man’s facial parts melted away.

Just like they were just pieces glued on the balloon, the man’s eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and hair slipped off his face and fell, leaving a black oval shape as if suspended above his neck.

— Hellscream – Level 804

The information displayed by 【Analyze】 turned Shin’s expression very stern.

At the same time, a crescent-shaped line appeared on the formerly empty oval face. A mouth.

A grin that would inspire disgust in anyone who saw it. Since no other parts were present on the monster’s face, it stood out even more.

The evil laugh monster. Its appearance and fighting power inspired the players to give it such a nickname.

Hellscreams were one of the most powerful Ghost-type monsters and at the same time one of the monsters that players hated the most.

Despite having a corporeal body, it could move in midair like a ghost and used spells too.

If that was all it could do, it wouldn’t pose too much trouble. Most incorporeal monsters fought like that, as well as flying monsters.

The problem was the unique attack Hellscreams could use. The screams emitted by their large mouths could inflict 【Paralysis】, ignoring any resistance granted by equipment.

Hellscreams didn’t attack while screaming, so when facing a single one, the player just needed to attack after it stopped screaming.

When multiple Hellscreams started screaming in turns, however, only players that belonged to a species that granted high resistance to status ailments could move: the others would be attacked one-sidedly, unable to do anything.

They were basically stun-locked.

The only silver lining was that 【Paralysis】 screams could miss, but if they were used in rapid succession it was very difficult to escape them, so without a proper strategy even fleeing from the battle was an arduous feat.

If this was everything, Hellscream still couldn’t pose a threat to Shin.

High Humans were much more resistant to status ailments than other species, so they would rarely if ever be paralyzed, and he also knew how to counter it.

The enemy was also only one Hellscream. Even if it was troublesome, there was no need to fear it.

This Hellscream, however, looked different than usual. It reached towards the Durgin with a hand, and a scream followed. The source was the rotten dragon, Durgin.

Small grains of light emanated from Durgin’s body and were in turn absorbed by the Hellscream’s hand.

It all lasted mere seconds: Durgin couldn’t stand anymore and collapsed on the ground, while the Hellscream, surrounded in black aura, stood above it.

“Okay, I wouldn’t have expected this.”

Shin looked at the Hellscream, which projected a completely different kind of intimidation, and frowned.

A player transforming into a monster was unthinkable in the game era. The drain-like attack used by the Hellscream was something never seen before too.

There wasn’t such a clear gap between Durgin and the Hellscream to allow the latter to attack the dragon so easily. The cause had to be the player.

Judging from the way it transformed, rather than possessed it could be said that it was taken over. It clearly wasn’t normal 【Possession】.

“So this is the mastermind behind it all?”

“I wonder. It wouldn’t have needed cheap tricks like that.”

A horde of Garmag and Kikiuz would be enough to devastate Passner. There was no need for a Hellscream, or to scatter poison in the royal castle.

“No matter what the goal, we have to take this guy down first.”

Shin held his weapon firm and targeted the Hellscream.

Shin considered that the Hellscream might be different from what he knew, so he decided to strike it once without getting closer first.

What he activated was the Flame-type Magic skill 【Spear Maser】.

Six flame beams, each about 10 cemel wide, were shot towards the Hellscream.

It wasn’t a Light magic skill, but the flame beams were rather fast nonetheless.

The Hellscream that Shin knew wouldn’t be hit by all beams, but it would not be able to avoid them all. However, the Hellscream facing against Shin managed to dodge them all.

“【Mirage Step】…”

While floating in midair, the Hellscream moved as if kicking the ground.

It was awfully similar to a Movement-type skill often used by close combat players: it didn’t reduce distance instantly like 【Ground Shrink】, but allowed them to move while leaving behind an afterimage.

The afterimage would linger in the original spot for a few seconds. By moving to the side and then retreating, the user could completely hide behind it. It all fits with what Shin remembered.

There was only one bizarre thing: 【Mirage Step】 was supposed to be a player-only skill.

Some monsters had skills and attacks with similar effects, but the Hellscream’s movements were too similar to the skill in question.

The name of skills used by the opponents was not displayed, so Shin couldn’t tell for sure if Hellscream had actually used 【Mirage Step】.

Not only Shin, but any player who knew the effects of this skill well would have said that Hellscream had indeed used it.

“I guess it can use the skills of the player it took over?”

“That’s the most convincing explanation, yeah.”

Monsters and players shared many skills, but some were clearly different. 【Mirage Step】 was a player skill, but monsters had similar ones too.

Monsters who floated in midair, like Hellscream, would never use skills that implied movement using their legs in the game.

They could float, after all. They could move in all directions, even up and down, with no need to do any steps.

“I see…that was the Tamer’s 【Lifethread Offering】!”

Shin was not too knowledgeable about Tamer skills, but he could recall it because it had left an impression on him when Cashmere talked about it.

When used by a player, this skill would transfer HP from a tamed monster to its master.

In this case, it was a sort of forced HP drain, so the tamed monster’s affection level to its master would decrease.

Cashmere said that a player that treasured their tamed monsters would never use it.

Incidentally, if a tamed monster had high affection levels, they would use it spontaneously when their master was in danger.

“He was under someone’s control, after all. Can a normal monster really do this to a player, though…?”

Shin thought that only a demon or a devil could do something like that.

Undead monsters like Ghosts and Raised were thought to be born when strong grudges fused with magic essence.

This would explain why the Hellscream wanted to attack Passner or torture players.

Scattering poison via Durgin and making the area habitable for Garmags and Kikiuz too could be considered attacks to living creatures.

The royal castle incident too could be explained as a plan to make people suffer.

If scattering poison was the main objective, it would also explain why nothing else happened.

Considering the existence of someone or something that was controlling monsters and players, which the Tamer alluded to, things were probably not so simple.

“I knew that things that didn’t exist in the game or couldn’t be done in the game are possible now, but…”

Thinking back on what he saw and experienced until now, Shin whispered to himself.

At present, without resurrection bonuses, normal people could only grow to a certain point. Even Chosen Ones had an upper limit they couldn’t breakthrough.

Monsters had no such limits, however: their potential for growth was much larger. Most of them had very high levels since their birth too.

For a player like Shin, monsters having fixed levels was pretty common, or rather, it was the rule.

To offer all sorts of monsters, with different levels and characteristics, so that players would not grow bored was normal in a video game.

Monsters attacking people (NPCs) — was a common signal that an event was starting.

Spurred by such a virtual tragedy, players briskly headed to the battlefield.

Some waited for monsters to spawn to acquire rare items, others only rolled the special gacha added for the event, without participating in the event itself.

In the game, players were such creatures.

Of course, in this world that did not work anymore. Shin understood it well too.

Status ailments still existed and people could be controlled, such as how Milt was manipulated to kidnap the church’s Holy Woman. There was no respawn anymore: being killed meant dying forever.

In the game, getting a status ailment or dying was very common. Both were obvious occurrences. Shin didn’t find it strange that such things happened in this world too.

This time, however, things were slightly different.

It wasn’t a transformation by a monster.

It wasn’t a person of this world-changing either.

A player had transformed into a monster.

This reality shocked Shin.

It was a small thing, not worth being shaken or confused by.

He felt, however, as if he was told that he wasn’t such a special existence anymore.

(I guess that somewhere in my mind, I still believed that players were special…)

When the church’s Holy Woman, Hermie, was kidnapped, the female messenger changed into a monster. People could turn into monsters: Shin already knew that.

That woman, however, wasn’t a former player. Thinking about it, Shin realized he hadn’t seen a former player die in this world.

“I want to get rid of this guy as soon as possible, are you ready to go?”

“….yes, I’m okay. We can’t allow them to get any further, after all. Let’s finish it quickly.”

Shin nodded to Filma and stopped pausing to think for the time being.

He could ponder the situation further after taking care of the current situation.

The Garmags and Kikiuz were still keeping their distance, afraid of Shin and Filma’s strength.

They weren’t opponents that could ever pose a threat to them, but it could be troublesome if they joined in the fight. Their numbers were great, and they would have to face Hellscream at the same time too.

It wouldn’t be an issue if the Hellscream was like the monster Shin remembered, but this one was very different. That was the problem.

Shin and Filma only saw it use a skill, but it could have other different abilities too.

Among the skills players could use, there were some which allowed them to reflect magic.

If Shin used a large scale spell to wipe out the Garmags and Kikiuz, but it was reflected back at them, they couldn’t remain unscathed.

The skills acquired by the player depended on their job. Jobs could be switched, however, and the skills learned in the previous job could still be used after switching.

Changing jobs was not enough to learn skills, of course: it took effort as well. It was the same thing with stats: effort made it possible to learn all skills.

Because of this, the Hellscream — who was supposed to be able to use the skills of the player it took over — could be able to use magic reflection skills.

“(Shin, couldn’t your magic wipe them all out at once?)”

“(If that thing was like a player, yeah. But the way it appeared isn’t normal. We need a lot of power to kill it in one blow, so if it was reflected back we’ll be in trouble.)”

Filma too thought of using magic to destroy all the monsters in one fell swoop.

If the Hellscream was normal, they could do it without needing to think much about it, but because of the unique situation, Shin decided to be careful and use close combat skills.

Since the Garmags and Kikiuz weren’t moving yet, now was the best time.

“(Just in case, I’ll try to turn him back.)”

“(Turn him back from that?)”

“(That’s why I said just in case.)”

To try to undo the 【Possession】 while fighting in close quarters. It was possible in the game era.

Mister XXX, however, had not been affected by the usual 【Possession】.

Shin himself didn’t think he could turn him back. A creature outside the game’s standards probably wouldn’t be affected by game methods.

Shin would try all the same, though. There was much to gain from succeeding and, even if he failed, there was nothing to lose for Shin.

Mister XXX was a former player too, but Shin had no recollection of his name or face. He might have been a relative or a friend of someone Shin knew, but there was no way for Shin to know.

Thus Shin would try to do what he could, and if nothing worked, defeat the Hellscream. Even if he thought about complex things, what he had to do was simple.

“Let’s go.”

After a faintly spoken signal, Shin approached Hellscream.

High-speed movement via the Movement-type Martial skill 【Ground Shrink】.

Thanks to Shin’s stats, he appeared right in front of the Hellscream as quickly as if he was hidden by a drop in framerate.

His sword was already unsheathed. The Ancient-grade katana 『Moonless』 sliced through the air and targeted the Hellscream.

The monster’s silhouette blurred.

What『Moonless』had sliced through was a mirage. The Hellscream used 【Mirage Step】 again, just like it did when avoiding Shin’s 【Spear Maser】.

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