TNG Vol. 17 Chapter 2 Part 4

 

The presences detected by Shin and Yuzuha belonged to soldiers stationed in the fort.

Shin stated he was a scout for the reinforcements sent to the 9th fort and the soldiers, relieved, lowered their weapons. They were rather tense when they first noticed someone was coming.

“So you weren’t attacked by Wolfreet…I mean, a wolf monster surrounded in red flames?”

One of the soldiers was a company commander, someone in charge of several platoons, so Shin immediately asked him what happened.

He also showed the soldiers proof that he was one of the adventurers hired for the anti-flood efforts, just in case.

The certificate serving as proof given to special cases such as Shin and Shibaid was signed by the Dragon Emperor.

In Kilmont there would be no higher proof, so the company commander answered Shin’s questions without any hesitation.

“That’s right. At first, we were attacked by a few giant centipedes and many bee-like monsters. The bee ones flew right over the fort walls and attacked. While we were dealing with those, the centipede monsters broke through the walls. We could have taken care of the bees somehow, but the centipedes were too much for us. Our weapons just bounced off of them and it didn’t look like our magic affected them either.”

The company commander added that they had requested reinforcements, but likely could not hold until they arrived.

The monsters’ offensive continued relentlessly: as soon as the fort’s commander realized they were doomed he ordered all troops to withdraw, while he stayed inside the fort.

Shin had heard from Milt that the forts were equipped with a special barrier used in case monsters overwhelmed them.

It was a very useful barrier that would prevent all monsters inside from going out, while also barring people outside from going in: it was to be used in case of emergency, after allowing as many soldiers as possible to escape.

The switch for the barrier was inside the fort, however, so those who pressed it had little chance to flee. The fort’s commander had decided to let the troops flee in exchange for his own life.

The problem was what happened afterward.

“The barrier can’t endure monster attacks forever. Even if it was possible to trap a good number of them inside, some of them had enough intelligence to figure out that there was a strange wall, so they would often give up on the fort and chase the fleeing soldiers instead. It happened this time too: three of the centipedes chased the soldiers running from the fort. The bees were too numerous to count.”

The bees could be defeated with two or three Flame magic Arts, but their numbers were great: the centipedes, on the other hand, were at levels too high for the soldiers to damage.

The ballistae in the fort could damage them to an extent, but the soldiers escaping the fort had no way of using them.

“We were resigned to die, but just then a monster wrapped in blue flames appeared. It looked like a wolf, but the flames weren’t red like you said.”

It suddenly appeared in the center of the fort. The company commander was desperately fighting the centipedes, so he had no idea how it appeared there out of the blue.

The wolf roared, summoning a heatwave that burned all bees to a crisp and set the centipedes on fire as well.

Naturally, there were casualties among the soldiers as well. The ones who had fled far enough from the fort used their shields or the monsters to protect themselves from the heat.

The soldiers who were still inside or too close to the fort, however, turned to ashes in mere seconds or burned to a crisp.

“The fort, the ground, everything was melting down because of the heat, but that thing just walked out as if it was nothing. At that point, it was like a natural disaster. Well, we could survive thanks to it.”

The heatwave caused casualties among the soldiers too, but, considering that it eliminated all monsters and some soldiers survived it, they were saved by the wolf monster’s sudden appearance. The company commander was aware of what would have happened if they just continued fighting the bees and centipedes like that, as he admitted with a sour look on his face.

The wolf monster walked around the fort for a while, then vanished as suddenly as it had appeared, as if melting into thin air.

The company commander ordered most of the surviving soldiers to head to the 8th fort, the closest one, and remained to inform the approaching reinforcements about what happened.

They were going to wait for a while more, but if no one came they planned to head to the 8th fort too.

“I will report to the church forces myself. On behalf of them, thank you for the information.”

Shin and Yuzuha parted from the soldiers and headed towards the fort to look for any clues about the wolf monster. He already sent the information gained by the company commander to Reiner via Milt.

“Yeah, I can see why they thought the fort had disappeared.”

If someone who didn’t know of the fort’s presence saw the current scenery, they wouldn’t have imagined anything had been built there before.

Shin went closer and examined the hardened molten rock. There he realized that there were traces of lingering magic power on the cold, hardened lava.

“A monster similar to the wolf wrapped in blue flames, capable of producing heat strong enough to melt the walls of a fort reinforced by skills…could it be a 『Blessed』 one?”

Monsters sometimes left traces of their magic power behind when they attacked.

Shin had not actually seen the monster yet, so he couldn’t be sure, but he had an idea of what it could be.

Certain monsters, called 『Blessed』, spawned with special god-given powers.

The actual conditions were a mystery, but players speculated that it was either because the monsters in question had a good affinity with certain gods or they exceeded a certain level.

Wolfreet matched both of these conditions: Shin had actually seen 『Blessed』 Wolfreets in the game era too.

Shin had yet to meet gods in this world, but judging from his experiences until now, he was sure that they existed.

While incomplete, a true monster like Reforgerer existed, after all. There was no reason to doubt the existence of divine beings.

“But, the scout man said the flames were red.”

“Yeah…the people here said they were blue, and I can’t imagine a professional scout making a mistake like that.”

It was impossible to mistake the difference in the color of the flames between a『Blessed』Wolfreet and a regular one.

The Wolfreet that appeared in the fort might not have been the one that was first spotted. Or maybe it became 『Blessed』 after it was spotted the first time.

There was also the possibility that it was a completely different monster, so it was difficult to draw a conclusion.

“I guess we should contact the others.”

Shin related the information he obtained to Schnee via Mind Chat. He hadn’t seen the Wolfreet yet, so he mentioned it simply as a possibility.

“I cannot believe it…the 9th fort…”

Shin rejoined the church forces and told Reiner and the others about what he saw at the 9th fort. Reiner had a tense expression on his face as he listened.

“Sir Shin, do you think the other forts might have been attacked as well?”

“I have not heard any such reports from the other members yet. If they really were attacked, I believe we would be informed by the army.”

“We did not hear anything about the 9th fort either, though. It might be impossible to send emergency communications at the moment. The soldiers will surely send a report when they arrive at the 8th fort, but we should send communication too. Based on what you told me, even if the flood monsters hadn’t attacked, the monster that appeared last would have taken down the fort by itself, surely.”

As Reiner said, Wolfreet — 『Blessed』 or not — just needed to walk around the fort to destroy it. That’s how powerful it was.

The fort’s defenses had been bolstered by skills, but judging from how everything was melted, they definitely weren’t enough to stop the destruction.

“I wonder why it attacked the fort…or if it really attacked it in the first place.”

“What do you…oh, I see.”

Shin didn’t understand what Milt meant at first but grasped the meaning after thinking a little.

“Ehm, what are you talking about?”

“According to the soldiers’ report, the fort was first attacked by a large horde of monsters. Large enough to make them decide to abandon the fort. The Wolfreet appeared when the soldiers were fleeing: it unleashed an attack strong enough to eliminate all monsters at once, but it didn’t attack the soldiers directly. The Wolfreet’s goal could have been not to take down the fort, but the monsters instead.”

Shin hypothesized that the monster clad in blue flames was Wolfreet for his theory.

He continued explaining to the puzzled Tiera by saying that Wolfreet could have decided to come out because the monsters had conveniently gathered in one place.

“I see, that would also explain why it didn’t attack the soldiers that survived.”

Reiner nodded to Shin’s theory.

A rather numerous group of soldiers had managed to escape into the forest near the fort. If Wolfreet’s goal was to destroy the fort, it would have gone after them as well.

There were no Chosen Ones among the soldiers: Wolfreet would have simply needed to run past them to turn them into cinders. Considering their stats, it would have taken mere minutes.

It might have also spared them for whatever reason, but, at the moment, they could only try to guess Wolfreet’s goal. Even if they had some convincing leads, all they could do was make hypotheses.

“What in the world is going on with this flood, anyway? The scale is far too large.”

Reiner said that while floods often happened in Kilmont, this time the number of monsters was far higher than usual.

Shin had experienced the so-called “Great Flood” in Balmel, but this flood had apparently exceeded the scope of a regular Great Flood.

The Church Warband arrived at the 8th fort in an atmosphere of disquiet. Reiner and the other immediately went to meet the commander in charge of the fort.

“There’s the flag of the royal guards, the 2nd division must be stationed here too.”

“Really?”

“That’s the flag, the one with two dragons drawn from the side. The number of dragons stands for the number of the division.”

Reiner pointed to a flag showing two dragon heads baring their fangs. As fitting for the flag of one of the divisions representing the country, the dragons were depicted in intricate detail.

Information about the 9th fort had already circulated: Shin and the others were immediately led to a meeting room where the people in charge of each group had gathered.

“First, let me thank you all for coming all the way here. I am Raig Fa Kilmont, the commander in charge of this 8th fort.”

Reiner greeted Raig first, then Shin and the others introduced himself. Raig, a Dragnil with red and black scales, stepped forward and shook hands with them one by one.

He had a dragon-like face, similar to Zaikuin or Shibaid, but the white beard growing from his chin suggested that he was much older than them. Raig apparently guessed such a thought crossed their mind and started talking.

“Some of you might not be aware, but I am Zaikuin’s father. I don’t have a shred of royal authority though, so don’t start trying to butter me up, all right?”

“Sir Raig, please. Your jokes are going to confuse Sir Shin and his companions.”

A Dragnil officer, closer to Humans in appearance, rebuked Raig with a slightly tired expression on his face. He was probably in charge of keeping the old general in check.

“Hahaha! I always enjoy surprising people with this. I’m old enough to get away with this much, right?”

Raig’s air of a serious commander quickly changed to a pleasant old man.

Shin wondered how a member of the royal family could be so close to the frontlines, but, looking at Raig, he thought that he surely wasn’t the type to quietly stay away from the fighting.

“Well then, now that the stiff mood in the room has eased a bit, let’s start the meeting by explaining the current situation to Sir Shin and his companions.”

The atmosphere changed again.

Raig’s tone too changed, assuming the firm speech style of a hardened warrior.

The air in the room felt very tense when Shin and the others entered, but now, while it was tense, there was no restlessness to be felt.

This could not be said for all present, however: most had stiff expressions on their faces.

“Let me confirm one thing first: Sir Shin, how much do you know about the current situation of the flood?”

“Yes, even after we departed from the capital we constantly receive information about the situation at the frontlines and the monsters’ attacks, thanks to the people accompanying us. Looking at you all, however, I have the feeling this is not what you plan to talk about.”

Shin expected Raig to talk to Reiner, so he was a bit surprised, but he knew that he couldn’t tell him he asked the wrong person, so he replied.

“We have just received an emergency report, about the 9th fort. The capital seems to be in a rather confused state too. Which is no surprise, after the appearance of a monster capable of melting an entire fort. Another piece of information, however, is more troubling for us.”

“Another one, sir?”

Raig said that the incident at the 9th fort was definitely not to be treated lightly, then continued.

“Monsters have spawned again. This time, it is an army larger than ever before.”

All floods had a fixed number of monster spawns.

The flood in Kilmont was caused by magic power leaking from the Sacred Place, but, since they were beyond the sea, the numbers were smaller than floods created on land, like in Balmel.

Things were different this time, however. Not only the monster spawns were much more frequent, the number of monsters created in each spawn was also incredibly high.

“I won’t go as far as to say they covered the whole land, but the numbers of the monsters exceed any recorded flood. According to the scouts, they were ten times the usual. And apparently, it hasn’t stopped yet.”

Raig added that even the scouts, who should be used to observing large groups of monsters, couldn’t help but be shocked and distressed by the situation.

“It hasn’t stopped yet? Do you mean that the monsters are increasing as we speak?”

“I gave orders to send a report when they stopped increasing…and no word has come yet. They could appear at any time. The only good news, if you can call it that, is that the monsters’ numbers are so high that they can’t even walk without getting in each other’s way, so they still haven’t advanced this way.”

“Aren’t they fighting among themselves, though? We have found high-level monsters on our way here, which were surrounded by monster corpses, apparently defeated by them.”

Shin recalled the monster corpses strewn all around Dylebion.

“It seems there are some instances of that, yes. It’d sure be a great help if they continued till the last monster standing, that’s for sure.”

“That would also mean creating a high-level monster with a great amount of experience.”

In the game, the level and stats of monsters were decided when they spawned on the map: unless they used skills or items to buff themselves, they couldn’t change.

The only exception was monsters in certain quests, *programmed* to grow stronger unless certain conditions were met.

In this world, however, it wasn’t rare for monsters to fight each other.

Monsters were also known to gain experience from fighting their kin, leveling up and growing stronger as a result. Some of them even evolved into the advanced version of their species.

“We had the same concern when we heard the monsters were fighting each other. But, as of now, their numbers are too high for us to do anything. If we ended up triggering an assault, we would be completely trampled. They’re discussing what to do in the capital too, but they haven’t come up with a good plan yet.”

The monsters’ spawn point was at the edge of the continent: there was no way to estimate how many there were at this point.

Even if the Kilmont and allied forces had superior firepower, it would take time just to move their forces.

(Should we get rid of them all with a large scale magic spell? If Schnee and Sety work together…no, even if they do, it’s too wide…)

A large scale spell specialized in destructive power, like the 【Blue Judgement】 spell used in Balmel, would be able to take down even a superior monster.

To cover a whole swath of the continent with a single person’s spell, however, was not realistic.

Not even Schnee and Shibaid could defeat all the monsters in their path: they were focusing on high-level monsters and locations with a high concentration of monsters, leaving the rest to the army.

“We’re trying to come up with a plan too, but haven’t had any luck yet. Sir Shin, Sir Reiner, your duties and requests bring you to all sorts of places, right? We thought you might have different viewpoints from us, who have always been fighting here. Could you lend us your help?”

Raig and the other officers bowed their heads. The current situation was clearly seen as critical.

The advanced high-level monster expected to appear could be the type that instinctively commanded other inferior monsters.

The soldiers could fight against large groups of monsters because they simply moved together in groups: they easily fell prey to the various illusion items scattered across the land and when they fought it was always by themselves, there was no cooperation among monsters.

If an advanced monster took control of them, however, things would change drastically. They might not be able to rely on illusions anymore. Shin could understand well where Raig and the others’ restlessness came from.

“The best way would be just charging in the middle and going all out…”

Shin had used this strategy both in the game and in this world, but this time the scope of the enemy forces was just too large.

His current energies and stats would allow him to hunt them all down: if he called Schnee and they went at it for enough time, they might be able to take them all down.

The monsters spread over such a large area, however, wouldn’t all conveniently head in Shin’s direction.

Kilmont managed to repel the flood until now because the number of monsters spawned in one place was less than other floods, the monsters scattered as they proceeded, were blocked or tricked in fighting each other via items, etc.

When Shin’s group arrived, Kilmont was already at its limits.

If the large monster horde mentioned in the most recent report started moving, the defensive lines were likely to fall.

(Is it better to use Rashugum? Considering the preparations and range of attack, though…Raster is always doing maintenance on it, but only on the facilities they use daily. Even if it can move, we don’t know the state of its weaponry.)

Shin thought that the anti-guild war machine could exterminate monsters in a very wide range. 

Rashugum, however, could not be said to move very quickly, and he didn’t know if its weapons were ready to be used.

In the game era, Shin always kept it ready to be used anytime, but since this kind of maintenance was probably not performed for over 500 years, he wasn’t sure about using it. There was no time to inspect all of its weaponry.

It was still better than nothing, however, so Shin decided to send Raster a message after the meeting.

“Our next strategy also depends a lot on how many monsters can be lured by the items in the wasteland.”

“Yes, if we have enough time we can definitely take them all down. Time, that’s what we need now more than anything.”

As someone said, war is all about numbers, and the current situation was proof that it was true. Overwhelming power was indeed a great asset, but, no matter how strong someone was, the area a single person could defend was pitifully small.

The spawned monsters might be low leveled, but even a few of them could be very dangerous for a normal resident to face.

If there were hundreds, thousands of them, with high-level monsters mixed in, it wasn’t strange for Raig and the other officers to throw away their pride and bow their heads.

“Time…hmm, well, there is a way, but…”

“Is there a problem?”

There was a way to supplement for a lack of time. So suggested Raig, but it looked like something was troubling him. Shin asked what that was and he nodded.

“The monsters’ spawn point, the Sacred Place, is beyond the sea. There are no towns or inhabited areas in the surroundings. They don’t even offer useful materials. So someone suggested raising a barrier all around it, to keep them from coming inland.”

Shin thought he read a very similar concept in a manga or novel once.

He also recalled various works where dangerous areas were sealed off with high walls, so the area outside was safe for living. It didn’t look like a bad idea to him.

Many countries actually surrounded their cities with tall walls to ensure their safety. It was the same concept, for the opposite reason: to keep the dangerous elements confined inside the walls.

The location where the monsters appeared was also on a peninsula, so it would be unnecessary to build a wall on the northern and western sides.

If the parts connected to the continent could be blocked, the sea would act as a natural barrier. It would also let them save the resources and materials needed to build a wall completely surrounding the area.

“It’s a simple plan in theory, but executing it is a whole different matter. How far from the Sacred Place will the wall be built? How wide? How tall? How sturdy? Considering that high-level monsters could spawn too, it had to be extremely strong, or it would all be pointless. Even if the sea can act as half of the wall, the other half was still a large distance to cover.”

When the proposal was first made, it was treated as absurd.

The person who came up with it, however, did not give up.

Many ideas were considered and some of them implemented, such as the usage of items to lure the monsters.

During experiments, it was discovered that if the monster’s advance was blocked by a wall, the monsters would continue moving along the wall, without attacking it.

Furthermore, if the monsters were led to a location surrounded by walls and the sea, they would continue walking till they fell into the water.

“We’ve gone over this many times, but I’ll spare you the details. In the end, the 『World Rift Wall』 project was approved.”

The project involved using items that created gigantic walls instantly, placing them at fixed intervals, and activating them all at the same time to instantly create the wall, without the risk of monsters getting in the way.

“Implementation of the project started 252 years ago.”

“So much time has passed already!?”

The plan hinged on the Dragnils’ long lifespan.

Shin thought that building a normal wall might have been faster, but the wall building technology of this world was not very advanced.

Using skills would have improved things a bit, but, since they wanted to build a permanent, instead of temporary, line of defense, they needed a very long time.

Every time a flood manifested there was the risk to be attacked by monsters and for the wall to be destroyed.

Gathering materials and manpower was surely not easy either. In the end, they reached the conclusion that using items to create walls instantly and activating them all at the same time was cheaper and less work.

The walls would be made with Earth magic, 60 mel tall and 40 mel wide, so they would be very difficult to cross.

The walls would be reinforced via automatic skills immediately after their creation, so they wouldn’t crack even if attacked by a level 700 monster.

“It’s impressive that you can build something like that. I didn’t think that the current technology was so advanced.”

Even in the game era, a project like this would have been deemed impossible. There was something that bothered Shin, however, about the fact that the plan involved building a wall.

“There were engineers alive since before the Dusk of Majesty at that time, after all. It would probably be impossible to make the same thing now. The walls are based on an item called 『Drop of Erathem』, have you ever heard about it, sir Shin?”

“I see, so you use that as a medium for the wall. Now I can see how it would work.”

The size and type of processing were different, but it was also used to power the 6th Sky Castle Rashugum.

Using a large quantity of 『Drop of Erathem』 could indeed make it possible to build the massive wall Raig talked about, equipped with reinforcement skills.

“The placement of the items is almost complete: if we succeed, we should be able to narrow down the monsters’ advance routes to very limited areas. I would have preferred to activate it when it was complete, but we can’t afford to wait any longer, can we.”

“If we go take a position where there are gaps in the wall…even so, it’s still too wide…”

Even if the wall was 90% complete, the remaining 10% was still an area over 500 kemel. It was impossible for Shin’s party to cover it completely.

“Can’t you place the remaining items faster? Looks like we have some time before the large monster horde starts moving and they’re still at the edge of the continent, even if they start moving now it’ll take time before they arrive, right? The empire’s troops can handle the ones who spawned first, except the high-level ones. If we place the remaining items at full speed, we can reduce the gaps in the wall to an area Shin and the others can cover, no?”

“If we go ourselves, huh…do you need any particular skills to set the items?”

“No, the items must be set at a certain depth, but any magic user of a certain level can do it, even if they aren’t Chosen Ones. It would be easy for Sir Shin, I’m sure.”

Raig and the other officers seriously considered Milt’s idea. Both the items’ placement and the subsequent counterattack relied on Shin’s party, but the current situation didn’t give them other choices.

Shin was curious about who created the items in the first place but decided to ask about it later and continue with the plan.

“Can I discuss it with Schnee and the others first?”

“We would be grateful if you did. Please go ahead.”

Raig and the other officers nodded, so Shin immediately opened Mind Chat. None of the other pairs were currently engaged in battle, so they answered right away.

“(I have just heard the same information. I see, the 『World Rift Wall』 project. I can understand why Raig wishes to wait for it to be complete, but considering the monsters’ numbers, it cannot be helped, I suppose.)”

“(However, even if that will stop the current flood, will the wall resist in the future too? Unlike now, the monsters would all gather into that hole in the wall.)”

Shibaid heard about the plan and agreed that it was a valid one.

Schnee worried about what would happen after the wall was created, though. Floods would continue as long as there was magic power in the sacred place: the goal was not to stop only the current one.

“(If they set more illusion items and gather the previously scattered troops in one place, won’t it work out somehow?)”

“(I remember that in some battles they put ballistae, magic cannons, and stuff on the walls, together with magic users. What was the size of the wall again?)”

Filma and Sety continued by suggesting some countermeasures.

Shin was thinking of the same thing too.

Climbing the wall would be terribly difficult, so unless they used teleportation devices placing troops and cannons or other weaponry on the wall was pretty much impossible. They could lend them temporarily, using Schnee’s name.

“Ehm, Shin…I’ve thought of something, but I’m not sure if it can work out, can I say it?”

Shin felt his sleeve was being pulled and turned around to find Tiera. She did not seem completely confident, so she hesitated a bit.

“Hm? Sure, we have to throw out ideas first, we’ll think later if we can put them into practice or not. So, what did you think of?”

“Those items that will create the wall, they say they’re going to be activated all at the same time, but I thought that you could activate them also by themselves. So that when we’re finished dealing with this flood, you can fill the gaps in the wall.”

“…oh yeah, that couldn work too.”

Thinking about it, it didn’t seem impossible. Shin had a creation-type job, if he knew the details of the item in question he might be able to do something about it.

“To change the timing of the items’ activation? Is it possible?”

Raig heard Shin and Tiera’s conversation, so he joined in.

“I cannot say for sure without dismantling the item, but if it’s the one I’m thinking about, it might be possible. Can you take a look at this?”

“Is that an item card?”

Shin took a card out of his item box and materialized it: it was a transparent sphere the size of a table tennis ball.

The item’s name was 『Space Rift Crystal』. It could be used to cast the Earth magic spell 【Soil Wall X】.

Its effect was simple: throwing it on the ground created a barrier of earth.

It was normally used to stop chasing monsters or to block enemy attacks.

Shin’s item had greater effectiveness, however: the 【Soil Wall】 it created was sturdier and lasted longer than normal.

Shin took it out because, while hearing about the wall and how it was conceived, a certain person came to mind.

So he took out that item card to verify his supposition.

“…hmm, I see Sir Shin is very knowledgeable about items as well. Please follow me. The items used in the project are a military secret, I cannot talk about them here.”

Raig took a little while before answering, probably because he read the information about Shin’s item first. He had unlocked it, so it could be accessed via【Appraisal】.

Raig shot a wave of intimidation that made the other officers in the room tremble.

“Men, I must apologize, for we have to leave for a while. Proceed with the meeting while we are gone.”

Raig then motioned for Shin and the others to go with him.

The officer charged with continuing the meeting looked at Raig with “again?” written all over his face. He was the same human-like Dragnil who had scolded Raig at the beginning.

The officers realized the gravity of the situation, so no one raised any objections or expressed disappointment.

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