TNG Vol. 18 Chapter 4 Part 2
Yuzuha’s ears suddenly stretched. She looked at the lava as if scanning it for something, her ears twitching.
“(I thought there might be magma inside, and I guess I was right.)”
“(I know we’re equipped against the heat, but I would’ve been happier if you were wrong…)”
The magma spread in all directions, scorching the ground in its wake, even swallowing the Red Core Pillars. Its temperature had to be extremely high: the pillars toppled and sank in it in mere seconds.
The magma continued spreading wider and wider, but for the time being it was damaging the Red Core Pillars more than Shin’s party.
“(I doubt we can enter from there. From the looks of it, going inside from underground would be impossible too.)”
“(I guess we have to climb over the walls.)”
Shin had prepared other plans in case they couldn’t destroy the walls or couldn’t get inside even if they did. Based on the presence of overflowing magma inside the Sacred Place, going inside from underground would surely be dangerous, Schnee pointed out.
The remaining plan was to climb over the walls.
Shin and the others, staying far from the spreading magma, started circling the walls. As the Red Core Pillars sank one after the other, their barrage of beams was dwindling.
Shin, still protected by Yuzuha, shot a magic spell over the walls.
Light-type Magic Skill 【Ray Line】.
It was the Light elemental version of 【Thunder Line】 — a spell that allowed the user to freely manipulate lightning — as used by the Elf Lecus, one of the three students of Erkunt’s magic academy that Shin had trained.
Shin simply sent the spell upwards, then bent it to cross over the walls. He sent 20 such light bullets: some of them were shot down by the Red Core Pillars’ beams, but more than half of them still managed to go over the walls and disappear inside.
Shin put the bare minimum magic power in them, so they vanished quickly.
“(Looks like there aren’t invisible barriers over the walls. Let’s get inside.)”
In the Sacred Place where Shin was transported to when he visited Bayreuth, the outer walls were protected by an invisible barrier which were said to not allow anyone inside or outside.
Shin thus tested this possibility with magic, but things were apparently different here. The light beams were struck down by the Red Core Pillars, but nothing attacked them from inside, nor did they hit anything on their way in.
(Could it be that there’s only magma inside? It can’t be, though…)
As Shin considered such thoughts, the party started climbing the walls. The Red Core Pillars’ barrage, however, did not stop.
Using climbing skills, the party quickly moved up the walls.
Tiera and Sety did not have wall climbing skills, but Kagerou easily lifted them over.
As they arrived on top of the 20 mel tall walls, the burning beams stopped targeting them.
The walls were more than 5 mel wide: as long as they didn’t stand on the outer edges, Shin and the others couldn’t be seen by the Red Core Pillars.
Their beams could only shoot straight, so it could be said that they had finally overcome that obstacle.
Shin suspected that their arrival was already known by the enemy, but he used 【Hiding】 on the whole party all the same.
“When lava started pouring out of the hole, I knew it’d be a mess inside, but this…”
Shin carefully approached the inner edge of the walls and looked inside the Sacred Place.
As expected, magma was everywhere.
What he didn’t expect, however, was to see buildings still standing. They were not normal buildings anymore of course.
Even if they were built before the Dusk of Majesty, no buildings could survive in molten lava.
Even if they were generally sturdy, most buildings could be destroyed by monsters. There was no way they wouldn’t melt in lava.
What surprised Shin was that all the buildings were encased in a transparent crystal-like material.
From the smallest trade shop to the guilds where Players undertook quests, there was no exception: all the buildings were in the same state.
If the Sacred Place was overflowing with water, the scenery would look quite magical.
The liquid currently filling the premises, however, was colored red and yellow and was of rather sticky quality, compared to water.
Shin and the party were standing on the tall castle walls, but could still feel the heat trying to burn their skin. If they got too close they would surely end up in flames.
Their stats and equipment were their only protection from a fiery death. In the real world, this environment could only be survived with fireproof wear and heavy protective gear.
“(Looks like we’ll find only monsters that can survive in lava here. I wonder what happened to the buildings though.)”
“(The monsters here will be like other high-temperature areas, I suppose. But yeah, those buildings are just weird. It’s like they’re encased in 『Drops of Erathem』.)”
Shin and Schnee exchanged words via Mind Chat.
As Shin said, the buildings encased in crystal seemed to retain high magic power.
They appeared to be just like 『Drop of Erathem』, but were not exactly the same thing. At the moment, they were closer to magic stones.
Since they could be technically classified as minerals, 【Appraisal】 revealed their details. There was no explanation as to why buildings were transforming into 『Drop of Erathem』.
“(There’s a Ley Line here.)”
Yuzuha spoke while looking at the town under them. Players had little to do with Ley Lines or such topics, so very few of them learned any related Skills. Shin was no exception.
Places located over Ley Lines, however, tended to produce valuable items. If they also had mineral veins, it was even possible to find — albeit rarely — pieces of 『Drop of Erathem』.
“(Did the Ley Line cause this?)”
“(Definitely. But the Ley Line here is strange…it has gathered so much energy, yet I couldn’t notice it immediately. In this situation, I would normally feel something was strange even if I was far away.)”
Shin asked Yuzuha for confirmation and she replied, her eyes sharpened in concentration.
Her tail also waved rhythmically. That was the reason why her ears perked up when the wall crumbled apparently.
“(It’s probably because of these walls. They’re keeping all of this accumulating energy from leaking out.)”
Sety, who was tapping the walls with her 『Dusk Moon』, answered Yuzuha’s doubt. When the wall was ruptured, she reported feeling a surge of magic power.
“(I agree with Sety. This Guardian is definitely attempting something different from the rest.)”
Schnee expressed agreement with Sety’s assessment. Tiera too had felt something unusual from the area, though not as clearly as them.
“(Just to confirm, are we sure that this Ley Line is not in a normal state? Or these walls are just accumulating magic power?)”
If the walls were acting as a dam, preventing magic power from flowing freely, all they had to do was to break them down.
“(The Ley Line is twisted. If it’s left alone, soon more and more strong monsters will come out of here, I think.)”
Yuzuha added that, because of the size of the area, the resulting monsters would be much more dangerous than those born in other pools of magic power.
Shin wondered if that wasn’t the Guardian’s true plan. If it could gain control over such powerful monsters, it could easily take over Number 37 and Eleven’s Sacred Places.
Based on the information they gathered up till now, it sounded plausible. The Red Core Pillars set around the Sacred Place could have been born the same way.
“(Basically, if we can find the Guardian, we can solve the whole situation.)”
There were not many buildings scattered across the burning town and few things of note. Because of this, Shin failed to recall any game era city that could match it.
Even if he couldn’t use his memories as a hint, they could just head for the building most similar to the enemy’s stronghold, but there was no such place.
Shin was familiar with all of the monsters in the area, but none of them were the species or rank to possess precious items.
“(Did you notice anything useful?)”
“(It is quite bizarre…the presence of the core is very vague. It is definitely inside this Sacred Place, but I cannot locate it with precision.)”
Gelganger, which had turned its body smaller and returned to human form, was now riding on Kagerou’s shoulder. It replied to Shin’s question with a frown: it seemed to be sincerely bewildered by its inability to find the core.
“(I guess we just have to search inside.)”
Shin considered using the Skills he had saved up during the battles with the Red Mounds and Red Core Pillars.
There were no enemies on the walls and the Red Core Pillars’ beams could not pierce them, so there was no risk of being shot. They had some time to think.
Using water to freeze the magma would surely be advantageous for the party. Even if they were equipped with countermeasures for the heat, exploring the town as it was burning was too dangerous.
“(Um, may I say something?)”
While Shin and the others exchanged opinions, Tiera raised her hand.
“(It’s really thin, but I feel there’s some miasma over there. Isn’t it strange, though?)”
The word “miasma” compelled everyone to look in the direction Tiera pointed to.
From their position, it was slightly to the right of the center of the Sacred Place.
The magma covered more than half of the area, making it difficult to see clearly, but it seemed completely normal — the only difference from the rest of the town was that the concentration of buildings was slightly higher.
“(Kuu, check it out more.)”
Yuzuha took Tiera’s hand, which was apparently enough to enhance her ability to detect miasma.
After about 30 seconds of staring at the location in question, Tiera nodded.
“(Thanks to Yuzuha, I’m completely sure now. The miasma is coming up from under that building.)”
Tiera couldn’t tell if the miasma came from “something” or “someone” yet, but she was positive about its origin.
Yuzuha nodded as well.
Shin tried using 【Through Sight】 to check the location, since it was underground, but the skill was blocked by a sort of veil.
“(Hmm, we can’t see what’s inside from here…but we don’t have any other clues, do we.)”
It could very well be a trap, but Shin decided to attack.
The enemy was definitely already aware of their presence.
Even if the Red Core Pillars’ attacks couldn’t reach them, it was too unnatural for them to be left alone like that. It was wiser to think that the enemy had put into effect another plan against Shin’s party.
“(I’ll use 【Absolut】 and see what happens. Schnee, please do the same. Sety, in case anything comes out, prepare a big concentrated firepower kind of spell.)”
Shin, his 【Limiter】 still completely removed, started preparing the Skill. Schnee, especially proficient in Water magic, added hers too. Shin expected the results to be similar to the 【Absolut】 that caused a stir in the game era.
Filma and the others were in charge of standing guard: if the enemy realized they were preparing such a powerful attack, they might try to get in the way or attack first.
“(Let’s go on the count of three. 1,2,3!)”
Shin and Schnee activated the Skill at the same time. Their magic power turned into cold air and gathered above the building Tiera pointed to, leaving a white streak in its wake.
Water-type Magic Skill 【Absolut】.
The cold air, amassed into a sphere about 30 cemel wide, was released in a blast.
In the game era, this Skill was simply described as extremely cold air: in reality, it translated to about -200℃ (-328℉). A sphere of such cold air was going to collide with magma measuring over 1000℃ (1832℉).
This clash of extremes was followed by a sound like leaking gas, then ice cracking, then…nothing.
This was a world of magic, a phenomenon that ignored the laws of physics. The “battle” between ice and magma depends completely on the abilities of their creators.
In this instance, Shin and Schnee claimed the victory. The sphere of ice cold magic power instantly froze the target building, then stopped the magma around it.
The chilling air quickly spread in the surroundings: it was like watching a video in fast-forward. More and more of the magma became completely still, as the『Drop of Erathem』-like buildings were painted white.
The freezing effect did not stop at the magma: it extended to the outer walls and froze them in their entirety, locking all monsters they met in solid ice cages.
The castle walls were soon frozen completely, on all sides.
The chilling air, however, showed no signs of stopping: it leaked out of the breach in the walls and spread in the surroundings, covering the magma, Red Core Pillars, and the ground itself in ice.
“(I knew what was going to happen, but feeling the chills creep up to my feet is terrifying.)”
The Red Core Pillars were probably frozen to the core. Tiera voiced her feelings while hearing the sounds of the monsters’ cores slipping out of their bodies and cracking on the ground. Sety, next to her, seemed a bit relieved.
The quiet, overwhelming wave of cold air eventually reached the walls Shin and the others were standing on.
Its effects weakened because of the party’s resistance to magic, so Shibaid’s 『Great Shell Shield of Collision』 and the shields equipped by the others could protect them from any damage.
The only safe area on the walls was the space Shin and the others were standing on, plus the five mel radius around them.
“(Okay then, I’ll go with my big one now!!)”
After making sure the cold air wave had died down, Sety released the spell she had prepared.
Thin rays of light started raining on the building exuding miasma. A few seconds later, a massive 10 mel globe of light smashed through the building.
Light-type Magic Skill 【Meteolight】.
Among the group of skills dubbed “light beam type”, it boasted extremely high piercing power.
The smaller beams that preceded it were guiding lights that set the target: crosshairs that pinpointed where the larger beam would strike.
Sety shot from above this time, but the skill could be used from any direction. It depended on the targeting beams’ direction and position.
“Tiera, any changes in the miasma?”
After flashy spells like those, there was no need for Mind Chat anymore: Shin thus spoke to Tiera directly.
“I don’t feel anything at the moment…”
Tiera borrowed Yuzuha’s help one more time and scanned the area where the building used to stand. “Used to”, as it had been obliterated without a trace.
【Meteolight】 continued glowing for about 30 seconds.
After the light disappeared, there was literally nothing left.
They could only see a large hole, as wide as the beam of light was. Sety’s spell had opened a small crater into the Sacred Place.
For a moment, Shin wondered if it was already over — but then, a large response appeared in his detection range. It was inside the large hole that replaced the miasma building.
The size of the icon matched exactly the size of the hole: there had to be a reason behind it.
“There’s something underground…probably a Demon. It’s coming up slowly.”
Almost at the same time as the presence appeared on the map, a black smoke-like aura rose from the hole. Even without Tiera’s highly precise detection skills, it was clear to see what produced it.