TNG Vol. 19 Chapter 2 Part 7
“It’s strange. Even though everything is covered in such transparent ice, there are still signs of life.”
Tiera murmured in admiration as she looked at the ice-covered ground and trees.
Normally, this would be a land of the dead where everything is frozen over, but in fact, the trees, plants, and flowers were thriving. They were not trapped in the ice, but protected.
This phenomenon had been observed in some dominion fields, and some medicinal herbs would have special effects when collected in this state.
“There are some things you just can’t get unless you go to a place like this. If only I wasn’t occupied right now, I’d be out there collecting them.”
Some of the items that grew in the dominion field or that could be collected would be impossible to make with even the generator that automatically creates items in the Moon Shrine.
Although he had no need for them at the moment, these items would not be readily available when he eventually did. It’s in the nature of a creator to want to stock as many of these items as possible.
“It’s strange that they can grow even though they’re covered in ice. And they don’t give off any bad vibe, too.”
“Some medicinal herbs take on completely different final forms depending on the dominion field in which they grow. The dominion field must be special, to a varying degree.”
Since they had to slow down their pace in order to remain vigilant against the monsters, they had time to observe their surroundings.
Schnee was going through the trouble of explaining things to Tiera, who had been very talkative, probably because she had been moving in silence for a while. The blizzard had made it impossible for them to make any proper observations.
“They’re keeping their distance, but aren’t making any moves.”
“But they’re growing in numbers.”
Without moving her face much, Filma mentioned the signs she felt.
Just as Sety said, the two reactions that had popped up when they started moving had now grown to seven.
Since they were a bit too far away to start a fight, Shin and his party would not initiate one. It would be enough if they could pass through without incident.
“Choraltus, huh? Mid-sized pack from the looks of it.”
Choraltus, white saber tiger-like monsters with ice fangs.
Their white fur provides camouflage in snowy fields, and somewhat interferes with detection skills.
They fight in packs and could even defeat higher-ranking monsters in some situations. They were the kind of monster one would need to watch out for in icy and snowy areas.
“I can only make out four of them.”
“Choraltus can slip through detection skills. Some of them have skills that interfere with detection skills. Maybe the other three do.”
There were occasions of having detected their surprise attack and then lying in wait, only to be attacked from a completely unexpected angle and forced to respawn. Shin had also suffered a dreadful experience with another monster, and he made it a top priority to raise his detection skills.
“…Looks like there are more of them out there.”
Shin noticed a new reaction within his detection range. While it wasn’t exactly nearby, it was the closest anything had come undetected since he arrived in this world.
Since coming to this world, Shin had explosively expanded his detection range by using multiple detection skills in combination, but not all of them were infallible.
The closer the target with him at the center, the more accurate the detection. And should the target happen to be too far away, it would sometimes only inform of its presence, even if it were within the detection range.
This time, however, the target was within the range of high accuracy in terms of distance. And not a position that could be so easily missed. It probably had to do with the weakening of skills that they had been experiencing since entering the mountains.
The reaction was coming from a large rock covered with ice.
As Shin turned his gaze, the source of the reaction slowly appeared. A huge body covered in white fur looked down at Shin and the others. It was at least two times larger than the Choraltus in Shin’s memory.
Its fangs were sharp, like a single-edged sword. The claws extending from its paws gripping the rock were sharper and tougher, due to the ice covering them from above.
“Could be the one leading the pack? Looks like a named one, Crimson Blizzard.”
Its level was 785. Which was fairly above the limits of its race, since the level range of Choraltus was between 600 and 700.
Unlike subspecies which have acquired abilities they didn’t originally have or have had parts of their bodies altered, the named ones that Shin was referring to were simply special specimens with increased combat ability.
Back in the game era, they offered some really rare drops or materials for premium-spec gears.
And it goes without saying, they were pretty strong. Incomparably so to the monster they were supposed to be.
According to the plot, the named Choraltus were called Crimson Blizzard, which referred to a veteran and skilled Choraltus with a great deal of combat experience accumulated over a considerable amount of time.
The Choraltus in front of him had scars all over its body, giving off the impression of one who had seen a fair amount of combat.
“…Why isn’t it making any move?”
About three minutes after confronting it. Sety, who was ready for battle with her staff at the ready, looked at Choraltus, which remained still and yet to make a move.
It just stood on the rock as if observing Shin and the others, not threatening or jumping at them.
“I don’t sense any hostility coming from it. Could it be that it didn’t come here to attack us?”
Shibaid also wondered, unsure of the Choraltus’s intentions. Still, he kept his ‘Placid Moon’ at the ready without letting his guard down.
After another minute or so, the Choraltus turned around and disappeared behind the rock.
From the way it had been acting, he didn’t think it would attack from the shadows, but just to be sure, he followed its presence.
However, the reaction moved away, seemingly oblivious to Shin and the others’ vigilance.
“What was that about?”
“Beats me. Though it’s pretty clear that it wasn’t looking for a confrontation.”
Shin answered Schnee’s question, looking in the direction in which the Choraltus had left.
Not only the leader of the pack, but also those surrounding them disappeared as if they were following it.
Shin had thought they were gathering to hunt, so he readied his weapon, but now that they were nowhere to be seen, he sheathed his ‘Scorching Blade’.
“Looks like the Choraltus went in the same direction as where we are headed.”
Berett, who was looking at the map, confirmed the direction.
Berett wasn’t really good with detection skills, but apparently he was able to track it even after it disappeared. Considering that the Choraltus had come so close without attacking, and left after staring at Shin and his party, it seemed like it deliberately informed them of its whereabouts.
“I don’t know what its intentions were, but for now let’s keep moving.”
In the first place, they didn’t come here to fight the monsters that live on this land. And if they could go on about their business without having to do so, all the better, Shin urged them to move on.
They proceeded down an uncharted path with their guards up.
They kept going, going, and going————until they were sure.
“No sign of monsters.”
Everyone nodded to Shin’s words.
At first, he thought that the weakened effectiveness of detection skills combined with the lack of monsters in the domain was probably the reason why they didn’t encounter any.
However, it was indeed strange that they couldn’t even detect any monsters other than the Choraltus, even though they had trudged through a 6,000-mel-high mountain.
It wasn’t like the detection skills were completely disabled.
“Still, it’s way too deserted, not even a shadow.”
Shin looked around as he exhaled a misty cold breath.
He was at the summit of a 6,000-mel-high mountain, after all.
The scenery below would have been spectacular if only he could enjoy it without any worries. However, even though he used every one of his vision-enhancing skills, he couldn’t make out a single monster.
Just like with detection skills, visual skills were also less effective, still, it was a little strange that he couldn’t sense any.
When they entered into the domain, there were other presences besides the Zhen Guo and the Choraltus.
Although weakened, Shin’s detection range was still wide. And should be more than capable of picking up a presence even from outside the detection range.
But that was far from being the case at the moment. There was literally no sign of them.
“Maybe they got scared of Shin and made a run for it?”
“Maybe if I was leaking out killing intent or hostility in full force, but as you can see, I am not, no?”
There were quite a lot of things he had learned since coming here, such as controlling his magic power or suppressing his presence.
And ever since, he couldn’t think of one instance where his magic power or presence had made anyone skittish.
Instead, he’d been attacked by monsters and animals alike. Now that he’d become even more proficient at suppressing his presence than he did back then, Filma’s opinion that they may have fled in fear of Shin was quite unlikely.
“But with everything being so eerily quiet, we may want to look out for traps.”
“Yeah, sure. But, we’re not in any way hostile to the Lord of this place, okay?”
If they were enemies, it could be a trap to lure Shin and his party.
However, they were not acquainted with the divine beast, the lord of the Grandmost mountains, nor with the gods. There was no reason to be wary of traps.
“We have no choice but to keep going. If it turns out to be a trap, we’ll just have to deal with it.”
“I agree. Right now, our priority should be to make contact with either the Miraltrea or the EX-Series.”
Knowing that they would eventually find out, Shin and his party proceeded deeper into the mountains.
They didn’t increase their pace, but kept a steady pace as much as possible.
Even though Chosen Ones were less prone to altitude sickness, it didn’t mean that they were completely immune to it.
It was also a first for Shin, since he had only ever seen it on TV in the real world, so he opted to take it easy as he climbed.
They walked on ice-covered ground, stepped over rocks, crossed ridges, following the uncharted path.
They relied on their physical prowess to gain distance, but it still took them three days to reach the location where the EX series had been sighted.
“Sure enough, I didn’t expect it to stick around.”
They came here because it was a stopover spot on their way to where Miraltrea was stationed, but there was no sign that it had returned. The ice covering the ground was hard and there were no footprints.
Shin and his party were in a huge fissure.
The Grandmost Mountains were covered in all kinds of terrains that looked like widening cracks in the ground, and this was one of them.
“But, looks like there’s another reaction.”
Shin also turned his head in the direction Schnee was facing.
Since there had been no reaction on the map nor any presence all the way here, he immediately noticed the appearance of a reaction that indicated an approaching presence.
There were two reactions. Heading straight toward Shin and his party.
One man and one woman jumped from the mountain slope into the fissure.
They landed a short distance away from Shin and the others, hardly making a sound as they landed.
The man had dark hair and dark eyes, his hair was pulled back all the way and he wore a monocle. He was very large, perhaps two-mels tall.
The woman had white hair and blue eyes, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail. She was very petite, and alongside the man, they were like an adult and a child.
Amidst the extreme cold, the man was wearing a butler uniform, and the woman, a maid uniform.
More to the point, the maid uniform was very similar in design to Schnee’s ‘Moonlight Silver Maid Uniform’.
However, these were no surprise to Shin.
Since the same person came up with those designs.
“It’s you guys.”
“It’s been a long time. Master Shin.”
The man in the butler’s uniform bowed quietly. The woman in the maid’s uniform next to him also bowed her head.
They weren’t human. They were the all-purpose α Series, the primeras.
They were the humanoid dolls that Reed had granted the authority to activate Miraltrea.