TNG Vol. 17 Chapter 3 Part 2

“Looks like we’re done here.”

There were still some spots where monsters remained: Shin checked where Yuzuha and Tiera were providing support and headed in the direction farthest from them.

The monsters’ numbers had been severely reduced through the intervention of Shin’s party; the soldiers’ counterattack thus quickly exterminated the rest of the pack.

“You have my gratitude for assisting my troops. There are many things I’d like to ask, but please let me know about the message first.”

If they lingered too long they might be attacked by monsters again. Gunoit seemed intent to begin the teleportation immediately.

“That’s a great help. I have been informed of the numbers of squads in the 1st fort: if the troops gather according to their squad, we can start transporting them right away.”

“That’s no problem then. The troops were fighting the monsters in groups according to their squads just now. Some might be mixed in larger companies to cooperate, but it won’t take much time to reassemble the squads.”

“Let us start immediately then. The destination has already been secured.”

The troops were grouped by squad, leaving 10 mel open between each. It was done pretty quickly, as Gunoit said.

Shin stood in the center of the squad to be transported and infused magic power into the teleportation crystal. The scenery surrounding them twisted and turned, and the next instant they were in the wastelands Shin registered as the teleportation destination.

“…that’s the item setting division?”

After the teleportation, Shin heard one of the soldiers close to him whisper to himself. The soldiers of the item setting division, whom Shin’s party had spoken to some time before, were now in front of them.

It was obvious from Shin’s standpoint, but it was nothing but shocking for the transported soldiers, who stood there speechless.

“I will go back to transport the other squads. Please stand by here.”

“Ah, yes. Understood.”

So Shin addressed the still awed squad leader, then teleported away. As he did, the soldiers’ gazes all focused on him.

“He’s back. They really teleported…”

“Seems like they’re going to teleport all of us like that.”

“So that is the strength of those chosen by Lord Shibaid…”

Shin’s hearing skills brought various whispers to his ears.

Teleportation was not exactly an unknown technique.

What remained of it at present, however, was only an adaptation of the teleportation devices from the ruins or guild houses of old, as used in the adventurers’ guild and royal castle in Bayreuth.

The technology to create teleportation devices and place them anywhere was said to be lost.

The soldiers’ reactions reminded Shin of how Tiera acted when Shin first used a teleportation crystal in this world.

“There are no remaining presences: all soldiers have been transported. I will head to the 2nd fort now.”

“Thank you for your service.”

Shin transported the last remaining squad, then returned.

“Off to the 2nd fort then. Let’s get this done quickly.”

“Yes, let’s go.”

Shin and Tiera climbed on the wyvern. He made sure Tiera had firmly wrapped her arms around his stomach, then they soared.

“Hm? Is it just me, or is the wyvern shining?”

As soon as they flew up, the wyvern started glowing faintly with a green light.

“Kuu! Movement speed up!!”

Yuzuha gloated while wagging her tails. Apparently, she was behind it.

She had modified a skill that boosted movement speed to affect the wyvern’s flight speed.

It was something that no player would have easily come up with, as they could not fly in the sky by themselves. Summoners and Tamers were more likely to think of such a technique, maybe.

Yuzuha didn’t use it when they first left the 9th fort because she wasn’t sure she could control it sufficiently: she didn’t want to risk a crash landing.

She had perfected her control of the skill during the previous battle.

During the battle, they flew at low altitude and speed, did not face many enemies at once, and, even if they crashed, remained safe since Tiera could save herself and the wyvern wouldn’t suffer lethal wounds; it still sounded impossible to pull off to Shin’s ears though.

“It’s impressive that you could support the soldiers in a situation like that.”

“I could somehow feel when we were going to speed up. Besides it’s not like the wyvern accelerated abruptly, so I didn’t risk falling off.”

So Tiera, who had assisted the soldiers by firing her bow from the wyvern, answered Shin’s question. Shin thought that her proficiency as a Tamer had probably increased.

“You could also ask Kagerou for more riding practice.”

Kagerou probably heard the conversation too: he emerged from Tiera’s shadow and looked at her as if asking “I wonder if Tiera will ride on me too…?”, so Shin gave him an assist.

He had been supporting Tiera from inside the shadow so that he wouldn’t be mistaken for a monster.

“It should be in sight already…”

Thanks to Yuzuha’s support skill, they could reach the 2nd fort area in less than 30 minutes.

They planned to go to the 2nd fort first, then switch to the direction the soldiers moved.

“Hey, can I ask something?”

“Eh? W-what’s up?” 

Tiera had been quiet during the flight but finally broke her silence. Shin used a skill to decrease the wind pressure around them, so they didn’t need to speak loudly to understand each other.

Shin’s awkward pause and his reaction were caused by the way they were sitting, Tiera talked right next to his ear. She also spoke up suddenly, so Shin was caught off guard.

“It might be just my imagination, but from the place you transported the 1st fort soldiers until here, the monsters’ presences felt kind of weird.”

“Weird?”

Shin scanned the monsters’ presences as they flew, but they felt the same as always to him.

As far as Shin could tell, regardless of whether monsters spawned due to the flood or not, their presence felt the same.

“What exactly is weird about them? I detected monsters here and there too, but they didn’t feel weird.”

“I feel that there are monsters that are hostile and monsters that aren’t…it’s not clear, though, that’s why I said it felt weird.”

It wasn’t as clear to state it outright, but also not faint enough to treat it as just her imagination.

“Yuzuha, can you feel anything?”

“…lots of hostility. But something else is mixed in?”

So said Yuzuha while cocking her head to the side. It was a faint sensation for her too.

“…let’s see if we can confirm it after we’ve transported the 2nd fort soldiers.”

Something that Shin couldn’t feel, but Tiera and Yuzuha did. It was a matter of senses, but Shin thought that even something as small as that shouldn’t be ignored.

The 『World Rift Wall』 project would be realized very soon: he couldn’t rule out the possibility that this might be a hint that something unexpected was going to happen.

They were simply going to land and approach one of the presences to analyze it more closely. Even if nothing came up, it wouldn’t be much of a loss of time.

“Can you focus on searching for the presences around us? If you can find one clearly different, we’ll land and analyze it from up close.”

“Kuu, I’ll do my best!”

“Yes, I will try.”

Yuzuha sat on the wyvern’s head, her ears and tails springing right up. Shin could understand why her ears would do so, but it was a mystery if there was a point to the tails standing up too.

On the other hand, Shin felt Tiera’s arms around his stomach tighten. She also leaned more closely against him: even through the clothes, he could clearly feel the softness of her body.

“Er…Tiera…?”

“I can keep my body more stable like this. I’ll tell you when I find something, so let me stay like this for a while.”

“Got it, I’ll leave it to you.”

Tiera’s tone was completely serious: Shin could tell she wasn’t joking at all, even without looking at her.

It would be wrong to think of it in a weird way, so Shin also focused on scanning the monsters’ presences. Ignoring the sensations pushing against his back.

“Sorry to break your concentration, but we’ve arrived at the 2nd fort.”

They were already close in the first place, so it only took minutes to arrive at the 2nd fort. There were no silhouettes to be seen, no presences to be felt. The map did not show anything either, so they assumed the soldiers might have left already, like in the 1st fort.

Shin then spread his detection field in Kilmont’s direction.

As there were no hits yet, the troops had to have moved a considerable distance already. Because of the great number of soldiers involved, tracks of their passage clearly remained on the soil. They weren’t going to have trouble catching up to them.

“Let’s go after the soldiers. If you catch anything on the way, let me know.”

The wyvern’s flight route was directed towards Kilmont. After about five minutes, Shin picked up on a group of presences, likely the soldiers.

“Looks like they haven’t encountered monsters this time.”

Shin took out and waved the flag as they approached the soldiers. They waved their own Kilmont flag in response.

Shin flew over the troops once to let themselves be seen, then landed in a nearby clearing.

The soldiers followed them to the wyvern’s landing spot. They separated into two files and a man on horseback, probably the commander, approached through the middle path.

“My name is Shin, I came at Sir Raig’s request to transport you to a safe location. Have you received the message?”

“I am Ahd Dey Kilmont, the commander in charge of the 2nd fort. We have received a communication, yes. Please go ahead with the transportation as soon as you’re ready.”

The commander bore the surname Kilmont; he was either part of the royal family or shared a connection with them.

The troops were already separated in squads, so it was simple to transport them. After the 2nd fort soldiers, the next troops to be transported were the 2nd royal guards division and the Church Warband, stationed in the 9th fort.

“I will start the transportation now.”

“Yes, please do.”

A Dragnil clad in full armor nodded and Shin activated the teleportation. The 2nd royal guards division was transported first.

“Teleportation makes it all so much easier.”

Milt said so to Shin after he finished transporting the 2nd division. She was going to be transported together with the Church Warband.

“Want to learn it?”

“I honestly would, but I’m afraid it’d make things more troublesome in the end, so I’ll pass.”

Milt answered Shin’s question after glancing at Reiner and sighing. The 2nd royal guards division had also invited her to join their ranks after they learned of her upgraded weapons.

The Dragnil commander of the 2nd royal knights division was equipped with Legend gear, but it was all either mid or inferior grade.

That was impressive in its own regard, but Milt’s equipment was much superior to that, and she also had enough ability to use it.

Milt couldn’t use her full strength before because of her equipment, but now that she had a weapon capable of withstanding her strength, her fighting ability was higher than before. It would be strange if they didn’t try to get her to join their ranks.

“In any case, I wish you will give a proper and fair consideration to the marriage issue.”

“You have my heartfelt wishes that you will find your special someone in the future.”

Shin had gotten relatively used to Milt’s teasing, so he answered with a very serious look on his face. 

“Aah, Shin is being mean!”

“Stop joking around then.”

Milt dramatically fell to her knees and pretended to cry, so Shin gave her a light chop over the head. It reminded him of their exchanges in the game era and he felt a wave of nostalgia.

“Hmm, this is fun in its own way, but seeing you get used to it makes me feel complicated too. I have to think of something more amazing after this mission is over.”

“You’re going to jinx it if you say it like that. Let’s go, come on.”

Milt might be an acquaintance, but it wasn’t the right time to be chatting.

Shin activated the teleportation and transported the Church Warband. After transporting all of its members, he once again reminded Milt to be careful, then joined with Tiera and Yuzuha again.

“Tiera, Yuzuha, please go help the soldiers in charge of the items. I’ll set down some traps in the direction the monsters are coming from, just in case.”

Shin thought of helping the item setting division, depending on the situation.

Based on the speed at which they were advancing, they were definitely going to cross the wall line before all the items could be placed and the wall activated. They would be forced to activate the items with a hole in the wall.

The hole would be formed where Shin and the others were, so he thought of setting traps there to slow down the monsters’ advance.

The most important trap was an item that created smaller walls, which Shin had crafted while working on 『End Wall』. Its size was rather small, but it was more than enough to serve as an obstacle.

He also thought of testing various trap items he made during the game era, which were now lying unused in his storage.

He could detect where he set the items, so recovering them later would be easy. He wasn’t going to create a landmine situation, where he knew the items were buried but did not know exactly where.

“Okay, my good wyvern friend, you have one more job to do.”

Shin’s traps could be simply scattered from the sky; it was faster to do so while flying on the wyvern than while running.

The wyvern cried loudly, expressing that it was ready and willing to go.

“Around here should work.”

After 20 minutes of flight, once they were far enough from the wall creation line, Shin took out the traps from his item box.

“You can only do something like this because no one lives around here.”

Shin tossed the item cards while shifting the wyvern’s course. The materialized items fell on the ground.

They didn’t crash with loud sounds, raise dust or smoke, however: they sank into the ground like pebbles in water.

It was a function created for items to be buried more easily, often present in items used by scattering them on the terrain.

It wasn’t possible to aim at specific spots while dropping them, however, so this method couldn’t be used with the 『End Wall』 items.

The items Shin scattered were traps that, when monsters got close enough, caused the soil to spike upwards. The shape these ground protrusions took was random: Sometimes they were sharp lances, sometimes strange statues, etc.

They were very large and not even Shin, who set them, knew what shape they were going to have, so the monsters were definitely going to be confused. The ground protrusions would also work as physical obstacles.

When these traps were used to protect an allied facility the function to distinguish friend from foe was added too, but it was not needed this time: they were too many to do so. The traps were going to activate even if a normal person walked too close to them.

Luckily, no one lived in the area so there was no risk of such a thing happening.

After the operation, if Shin reported to the authorities about the traps they could make it possible for no one to get closer until all of them were removed.

“Let’s turn around now. Go back about one kemel, then start flying in the same way as now.”

The wyvern Shin borrowed was very intelligent and understood his words completely.

Maybe because of his riding skills as well, he only needed to say what he wanted to and pull the reins a little for the wyvern to comply.

Thanks to that, Shin could concentrate on dropping the items. The next types of traps he scattered were exploding or freezing ones. They would cause confusion or delays, allowing the monsters to be finished off more easily.

“I’d liked to have scatter some more, but it can’t be helped, I guess.”

Shin had prepared a considerable quantity of items, expecting to scatter them from the sky, but there was a limit to how many he could prepare on his own. He dropped the traps as widely as he could, but, after about one hour, he had no more left.

“Now it’s just a fight against time.”

He was going to help with setting the wall items in the remaining time. They split into small groups and set down as many items as possible.

The item setting division troops and Tiera worked on the areas closer to the sea, while Shin flew inland with the wyvern and took over from the point until which the items had been set already.

He had practiced what to do to the point of memorization while working on the items: in the game era Shin and Barakia had done similar things together, so he could work faster and more precisely than the item setting division.

Even so, there was not enough time.

The monsters did not stop moving.

“Tomorrow?”

A few days after the operation started, the word finally came. The 『End Wall』 was going to be activated.

The messenger from the scout division contacted the field commander, so Shin and the others — the heart of the operation — were informed immediately.

“According to the scouts’ report, the monsters are expected to arrive 3 days from now, at noon, as long as nothing unexpected happens.”

The commander’s expression was grave. The report finalized the 『End Wall』’s activation date. The gap that would be formed in the wall was approximately 10 kemel wide. A gap that they could fill if they had just 5 more days.

“We couldn’t make it, in the end.”

“Can’t be helped. We knew it from the start after all.”

Shibaid glared at the map and one of the blocks placed on it, which marked the monsters’ position. Filma shook her head lightly and replied.

Together with Schnee, they had rejoined with Shin in the last few days. While Shin and Schnee were helping the item setting division, Filma and Shibaid used the wyvern to scout the monsters’ activities. They also set more traps and helped the imperial forces and the Church Warband to build a defensive line.

They also had Rashugum move towards Kilmont, for added safety, but because of the flying fortress’ speed and its initial location, it hadn’t arrived yet.

Without proper maintenance of its armaments, it would be difficult to use on the front lines anyway.

According to Raster, there didn’t seem to be any major problems with it. He had performed maintenance on Rashugum for many years, so his words definitely had credibility, but in any case, there was no way to use it if it was still so far away.

“What’s the condition of the monster packs?”

“It looks like each pack is starting to behave differently. The monsters led by Heltoros have formed many smaller packs. Heltoros is still the supreme ruler, but now it has servants ruling each smaller group.”

Schnee replied to Sety’s question while looking at the documents she received. Because of Heltoros’ commanding abilities, its pack was well organized. Their movement speed was also the fastest.

“Selcikeus is moving with monsters all around it. It probably intends to use them as a shield. They are all matching its pace, so they’re not very fast. We might be able to completely eliminate Heltoros’ pack before they even arrive. While their methods are different, we can say that this pack is also tightly organized.”

Some of the monsters surrounding Selcikeus normally acted independently, but this time none apparently strayed from the pack.

“Their intellect is lower than normal, so maybe they’re obeying the strongest monster of their kind?”

“That could be. For monsters, the leader is always the strongest.”

The monsters had clearly been fighting each other.

It wasn’t clear if leveling up also boosted their intellect, but it was enough to establish a power relationship.

Even if they were insect types, they still belonged to the “monster” category above all. They did not share all of the characteristics of normal insects.

As far as Shin knew, the monster hierarchy was determined completely by individual ability. Subjugation by force, as Sety and Filma suggested, was very possible.

If the two packs attacked together, with Heltoros’ herd attacking directly and Selcikeus bombarding from afar, the Kilmont allied forces would certainly suffer many more casualties.

Shin and the others all thought that it would definitely be better to fight the two packs separately.

“Then there’s Gelganger.”

The identity of the shapeshifter monster was confirmed as soon as they saw it.

Gelganger was a type of slime, a monster completely focused on defense.

It was a top-class monster in terms of ways of mitigating damage: it could minimize blunt damage to a tenth, reflect magic, and more.

On the other hand, its offensive power was extremely low: in the game, players often ended up in a situation where they couldn’t defeat Gelganger, but the monster couldn’t defeat them either.

It was a non-active type of monster: it never did anything as long as players didn’t attack it. Even if other monsters around it were attacked, Gelganger would just slime away, unfazed.

Shin fought it in the past too: his sword attacks simply bounced back on the slime monster’s elastic skin. Like many other slimes, it didn’t seem interested at all in fighting.

It even let players ride on top of it (on its back?), so it was regarded as a very unusual kind of monster.

“Does this one attack?”

“I think it’s likely, yes. All monsters spawned by the flood tend to be aggressive, even if they aren’t normally. It might be dangerous to consider it an exception.”

“…well, it’s easy to defeat as long as we have more attack power at least.”

It was a foe difficult to fight against, but it had a clear weakness.

It was the weak point all monsters focused on defense had: they had no way to defend themselves from attacks that exceeded their defensive powers. It was enough to make Shin feel optimistic.

Something also felt off, however. Heltoros and Selcikeus were both aggressive monsters, but Gelgengar was the complete opposite.

It was strange that such a monster was born from the conflict between other monsters. Only a monster that overwhelmed its opponents with absolute power would triumph in the end.

“What will we do about our positions? At present, the monsters led by Heltoros are expected to arrive first, but, considering Selcikeus’ presence, it would not be a good idea to fight them close to the wall.”

Schnee spoke up and Shin decided to stop thinking about that for the moment.

He had no hard evidence at the moment and drawing a counter-strategy against the monsters’ advance had higher priority.

Unlike Shin and his party, the soldiers posted behind them probably wouldn’t be able to withstand Selcikeus’ long-distance attacks.

The defensive line wasn’t going to crumble after just one shot, but if they continued being attacked from a position too far to respond in kind, they would eventually be annihilated.

“The best thing would be to make the monsters target us. In that case, Schnee and I, being the fastest, would go ahead, while Shibaid and the others stay back to defend against the bombardment. What do you think?”

“Even with your shields, Shin, we cannot defend the whole army. Fortunately, there is only one Selcikeus. If we get close enough to disrupt its line of fire, we should be able to take care of it all.”

Shin nodded to Shibaid’s proposal.

If they stayed away, they would never know where Selcikeus was going to shoot and couldn’t defend the whole allied army anyway. The only other way was to get closer themselves.

“I’ll go with Shibaid then. The monsters other than Selcikeus can’t perform attacks at that range, and even if there are some who can, we just have to torch the whole lot.”

Sety was clearly raring to go, as evidenced by her rather colorful choice of words.

She gave a bit of a reckless impression, but for Sety, the party member specialized in offensive magic, to shoot a barrage of spells from behind Shibaid, the party’s greatest shield, was not a wrong choice at all.

“Okay, so you two will head there from the start. If our calculations are correct, not even Selcikeus’ cannons should be able to bring down the wall, but we don’t need to put that to the test. If we have to crush it, I prefer doing it as soon as possible. Filma and I will go take care of Heltoros. Tiera, you and Kagerou will take down any monsters that we missed. Schnee will support Tiera and stand by in the middle between the wall and our positions, ready for any emergencies. How does it sound?”

Shin and the others did not think they could handle everything by themselves.

If the monsters’ objective was to advance inland more than anything else, many of them were likely to slip by Shin’s offensive advance. The imperial army and the Church Warband would have to deal with them.

The soldiers weren’t average citizens who would be helpless before a monster.

He told Schnee to stand back primarily to be ready to counter any unexpected situations, though she would help the soldiers if needed. She may not go as forward as Shin or Shibaid’s groups, but she was going to see her share of fighting anyway.

Furthermore, Shin didn’t mention Yuzuha’s name because it had already been decided that she would go with him.

There was the possibility that all monsters completely ignored Shin or the others and went straight towards the hole in the wall.

The fast monsters following Heltoros were the ones more likely to slip past Shin, so Yuzuha served as a countermeasure for them.

“Let’s use this strategy as a basis then.”

Shin and his party couldn’t decide the whole strategy by themselves: the conclusion would be decided through discussion with the imperial officers and the Church Warband.

Even if the result was going to be the same, they couldn’t simply decide on their own.

“I don’t think there’s any other way though.”

“Sshh, they’ll hear you!”

Shin and Milt talked while looking at Schnee and Shibaid to discuss the strategy with the officers.

The most important objectives were to minimize casualties and stop the monsters from advancing: any strategy would end up being similar to the one Shin’s party thought of.

Since level and equipment were a major factor in this case, there was a limit to how tactics or strategy could influence the outcome of the battle.

It wasn’t a battle between human creatures, so they also had to account for the monsters making unexpected moves.

“Now that I think about it, the fact that a world just like a game exists is pretty weird.”

“You’re only thinking about it…now?”

The concept of level was maybe the greatest example: in the game, it was an element meant for players to enjoy the game for a long time. In reality, however, it just became a binding chain.

Leveling up was not a simple or quick process, so if they fought normally humans would simply be routed by the monsters.

“There are things that we can do because this world is just like a game, though.”

To fight against hundreds, thousands of monsters on your own or as a small party. And be able to make an impact.

Such a fantasy became reality in this world.

“Looks like they’ve reached a conclusion.”

“Right. Okay then, time to get serious.”

Shibaid nodded in Shin’s direction: it was the sign that the talks went as they expected.

Three more days until the operation.

A monster horde larger than ever seen before was drawing closer every minute.

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