TNG Vol. 19 Chapter 2 Part 4

“Well, we’ve finally made it to town. And I can only say that, there’s a whole world of difference between what I’m seeing and what I’ve heard.”

After a long night, Shin and his party arrived at the town at the foot of the Grandmost Mountains.

The name of the town was Meatra, which, in Elvish, meant pure.

The place was not too large and surrounded by a wall about five or six mel tall.

Shin was impressed because the townscape and its surroundings were tinged with white.

The cause was the snow. At a distance, they could still afford to be aware of the majesty of the mountains. However, as they got closer, this was no longer the case.

In the beginning, there was only a light cover of snow on the ground, and then the amount increased exponentially as they advanced.

And not just a few cemels or dozens of cemels.

The sheer amount of snowfall reminded Shin of the heavy snowfalls he had seen on TV.

In addition to that, there was a terrible blizzard. Shin possessed a skill that improved visibility and a map function, so he could tell that he had arrived at Meatra, but otherwise it was difficult to see straight ahead.

He checked with Berett to see if this was normal, and he replied that it usually piled up to about 1 mel.

“I rushed over here after I got your message, but wow.”

“Long-time residents of the town said that it is not unusual for it to continue snowing for several days, but they were surprised by the amount of snowfall and the prolonged blizzard. It is a region with a lot of snow to begin with, so that explains why there has not been any major damage yet.”

It’s snowing quite heavily. The message came three days before Shin and his party arrived.

The message said that it had started four days earlier.

At first, no one seemed to mind, thinking it was just the usual. Even the investigators who had been in town for an extended period of time paid it no mind.

They only sensed that something was wrong when the blizzard gradually started to pick up while still snowing. That in itself was nothing out of the ordinary.

However, not only was it snowing and blowing, but even thunderstorms began to form, and the temperature was said to be much colder than usual.

Should the blizzard persist, it would only be a matter of time before either the people freeze to death or their houses collapse.

Shin and his party rushed to the town, wondering if the battle had begun.

Fortunately, the streets were deserted as they approached the town, and there were no bystanders as they kicked away the piles of snow and proceeded. Even if there had been, it wasn’t the best of conditions to be making inquiries.

“The gate is locked.”

Yuzuha, in her fox cub mode, looked toward the gate, which was still closed. Having grown up quite a bit, she now seemed to be able to use her [Through Sight] and [Far Sight] abilities.

And there was no reason for the gate to be left open under the circumstances.

Thus, Shin and his party were stranded outside of the city gates.

“Sure enough, even the gatekeepers are nowhere to be seen. Or anyone that can open it for that matter. Wait, looks like there’s someone on the wall.”

Shin looked over the wall and saw two men in coats in a building that looked like a rest station for the guards.

It would be difficult for them to keep watch out here under the circumstances, so they were probably standing by there.

“I’ve sent a message to the investigators inside, but I can’t say for certain that they’ll open it in this situation.” 

“There’s probably snow on the ground inside the city, too. Imagine going through all that trouble just to open the gate for our little old party.”

It wasn’t even noon yet, but the sky was covered with thick clouds while the snow and wind were blowing intensely. They wouldn’t even want to step outside, let alone open the gate.

“Why don’t we clear the snow around the gate? Since it opens outward. Without the snow in the way, they might give it some thought, or what do you think?”

“I agree. It won’t even be much of a challenge for us anyway.”

The piled-up snow wouldn’t even serve as a warm-up for Shin and his party, even though it almost doubled their heights. A single punch with a little force would blow away a few mels of snow in an instant.

“We already stand out enough getting here the way we did. Let’s use this.”

Shin materialized a snow shoveling weapon from his item box. 

The shovel was made by Shin. About 1.3 mel long. It was one of the weapons that were considered a necessity in the snowy mountain area.

The sharp edge of the blade could pierce the outer hull of a monster. The thin but easy-to-hold thick handle and hilt could easily withstand even a golem’s blow.

The shoulder width of the dirt scooping part was 25 cemels, and the specifications would allow it to scoop more snow than shovels using a barricade.

Only when one could dig through the snow with it and slice through and beat down monsters could one venture into the snowy mountains. There was even a saying to that effect at one point. Of course, half of it was made up.

“It would be quite the labor on a normal day, but hey! Might as well.”

Shin and Shibaid cleared the snow away from the walls surrounding the city.

The amount of snow they dug out in one go would have been too much for the average person to lift. Although the snow was reasonably heavy, for Shin and the others it was like picking up a pebble and throwing it.

They quickly thrust the shovel into the piles of snow and tossed it right away.

With the force of what was practically a human snowplow, a path was made for the carriage to pass.

Even though they had arrived in the city, the carriage had stopped at an open area leading to the gate, a little distance away.

Shin and Shibaid went on and cleared away the snow that had also piled up in front of the gate. The blizzard would probably make the same pile up again in a short while, but it would last at least until they could get inside.

“Hello, is anyone there?”

Shin shouted loudly to alert the guards, knowing they were there.

After repeating it a few times, he could see the guards start to move. They must have realized they weren’t hearing things.

“There really are people out there!”

“How come there’s no snow around there?”

The voice of the guard who appeared from the top of the wall, reached Shin’s ears.

He had activated his [Listen] skill so he could hear them on the other side.

“Please let us in!”

Considering the possibility that they might not have heard him clearly, Shin made gestures to convey his intentions.

He heard the guard’s voice telling them to hold on for a while, and while they did, the small pedestrian gate opened and a man who looked like a gatekeeper inside the cabin came out.

He was wearing a thick coat, gloves, and boots designed for snowy countries* to shield from the cold. Underneath the coat, he was wearing leather armor and a sword at his waist. The other man was on the other side of the gate. 

“Hello. I’m not sure if you heard me before, so I’ll say it again, uh, could you please let us in? We don’t want to spend the night out here.”

“Yeah, I’d like to do that too, but I’m sure this area was covered in snow just a while ago. Who are you guys?”

Given the situation, the man asked before checking their adventurer’s card.

Shin explained that they had excavated the snow with the special shovel, and then went on to demonstrate by scooping up a large pile of snow and tossed it away.

“Oh, I see. I can see how this could make a path in no time at all. Now I just need to see if you have any identification.”

“Yes, of course.”

“Of course you guys are adventurers, I knew it…hmm, A-rank?!”

The guard received the card offered to him, and his eyes widened as he saw the rank listed on it.

“Explains why they’re able to move about in this snow.”

The man mumbled and adjusted his posture.

“Welcome to Meatra. Decent adventurers are always welcome.”

The man signaled to the small gate from which he himself had emerged, and the main gate, which was closed shut, began to open.

As soon as Shin and the others entered, the gate was closed. It wasn’t possible to leave the gate open, and Shin and his party were pretty much the only ones who would dare visit on a day like this.

Inside the city, the wind and snow were milder than outside. The roofs were covered with snow, but the main streets had been cleared of snow and were passable.

“The atmosphere here is calmer than outside, I suppose it’s only natural since it’s inside the city. But, it seems that the residents are also confused, as expected.”

Although the environment was calmer than outside, few people were out and about.

Meanwhile, a certain man was running toward Shin and the others. The blond-haired, blue-eyed young elf slowed down and came to an abrupt halt when he saw Berett.

“I’m sorry for arriving late to pick you up.”

“Nah, we did arrive much earlier than we discussed. But more importantly, anything unusual?”

Berett had the young man raise his head and urged him to get into the carriage.

The only introduction was his name Reccoa, and he immediately asked how the situation was developing.

“As you all just came in from outside, I’m sure you need no explanation, the ongoing blizzard has prevented supplies from coming in. It’s pretty common here for traffic to be totally shut down due to blizzards, so everyone is consuming their stockpiles to get by. However, if things continue as they are, they will eventually run out of food and fuel. I don’t want to think too much about which will come first, whether it be hoarding or rioting.”

Most people in Meatra still seemed to think that the blizzard was only somewhat prolonged, so there had yet to be any major disruptions.

But some merchants, and those with good instincts, had begun buying up supplies little by little.

“How are things up in the mountains?”

“The blizzard up there seems to be even stronger than it is here. When the investigator couldn’t find their way back, they climbed up to a certain extent and immediately turned back. I have them waiting at the branch so that you can talk to them directly.”

So far, the situation didn’t seem to have changed much since Berett got the message. When they arrived at the branch, they left the carriage behind and were immediately shown to the room where the investigator was waiting.

Inside was a woman wearing leather armor. She seemed to be a Chosen One with a hunter job.

While making introductions, Reccoa said that she was also the one who had sighted the EX series in the mountains.

“Nice to meet you. My name is Millea Nizza, and I am in charge of environmental surveys at the Golden Company.”

Investigators are often out and about, more like adventurers than merchants. Even so, she seemed to have been well-trained in etiquette, as the manner in which she expressed courtesy looked very natural.

“So, how’s the situation up in the mountains?”

“It’s several times the scale of what we’re experiencing here in Meatra. I can still see way ahead to a certain degree down here, but I couldn’t even see one mel ahead up the mountain after an hour of climbing. I would have retreated much earlier if not for the gear and items I had borrowed.”

The hunter’s job afforded skills that would allow the bearer to keep track of monsters and players in thick forests and blizzards, and to project a treadable path in their field of vision.

So a hunter getting lost would be as rare an occurrence as it gets.

Only this happened to be one of those rare times.

According to Millea, the effect of her skills seemed to have weakened. In fact, she almost lost track of the path she had traveled.

“So, we can be sure that this is not a natural phenomenon.”

“Yeah, it isn’t. We have encountered a similar situation in the dominion field of a Divine Beast. There is no doubt about it.”

Shin was convinced after hearing Millea’s report. Schnee had apparently encountered a similar situation in the dominion field of Goabulls, a boar-shaped divine beast with lightning discharging out of its body.

Those hunter’s skills are classified as a search-and-rescue skill. They would sometimes be disrupted in and around a monster’s dominion field. Especially in the middle of a battle or some kind of distressing situation.

“Could be that they’re in the middle of a battle.”

Shibaid said, looking out the window at the mountain range.

“That’s the most likely scenario.”

Filma nodded in agreement. The battle between the EX series and Maganna was affecting the surroundings in the form of a blizzard. It was entirely plausible.

“Anything else going on, besides the blizzard?”

“No, nothing else. There are no sounds like from a battle or strong vibrations. Then again, it is possible that the sound is just not reaching us because of this blizzard. The barrier on the outer walls not only soothes the inner environment, but also has the effect of dampening loud sounds.”

Millea answered briskly, as if she had been informed of the identities of Shin and his party.

Thinking back on their experience coming here, Shin thought it was a possibility.

The inner city aside, It was quite hard to hear even one mel away outside the city because of the wind and snow. He could hardly hear the conversation in the carriage from the driver’s seat.

With a skill, it would have been possible to listen in, but it was an impossible feat for the average person.

As for the sound, it was apparently intended to prevent residents from panicking from a monster’s roar should any appear.

“We’ll just have to go up there and see for ourselves.”

They didn’t really learn anything new.

Besides the bit they got from the on-site investigator. The only thing left to do was to see for themselves.

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