TNG Vol. 20 Chapter 2 Part 3

𑁋And then, three days later.

In the center of the restricted area, the entrance to the dungeon appeared.

The door was about 5-mel high and 3-mel wide, with precisely carved plant vines and flowers on the frame, and a rough spiral pattern in the center. 

It was different in design from the doors leading to the abandoned city of Arkhan that Shin knew.

“This is, I believe, the Gate of Kardamia, is it not?”

“Yes, I think so too.”

Shin, who recognized the carving on the door that was the entrance to the dungeon that appeared in the restricted area, nodded in agreement with Milt.

A door for entering a dungeon that only appeared for a certain period of time. At the event, there were pictures of various weapons drawn on it.

However, what was depicted on the door that stood in front of Shin and the others was a ‘spiral pattern’ engraving. Shin and Milt were all too familiar with it.

Although it did not seem to exist here, in the days of the game, it was an elaborate construction in which light magic was given to the pillars to make it look as if a drill was carving the gate.

He remembered the decorations on the door frame well, so he was sure of it.

That’s right, it’s clearly a piece of work created by a player that had some humor in it.

Kardamia, as Shin called it, was one of the cities where many of the production players were based, a magical city where prototypes, experimental works, and sometimes even artifacts were lined up together. It was what today would be called a Sacred Place.

“Conditions-wise, it’s an abandoned city in Arkhan, but what’s inside is Kardamia?”

That would make things very easy.

After all, Shin knew the streets of Kardamia well, and he had a good idea of where Hades was most likely to be. 

“If we can walk around freely, I wonder if we will be able to see Hades soon.”

“It’s easier that way,” Filma said.

Shin concurred, but he had a feeling that it wouldn’t work out that way. If it were that easy, Hades wouldn’t go to the trouble of appearing like this. 

“Is everyone ready?”

Shin turned around and asked everyone. After making sure everyone nodded, he put his hand on the door.

As soon as the door moved inward, a high-pitched squeaking or grinding sound could be heard.

“Since there was no visual movement, I thought it was just a regular door, but it wasn’t…”

“This one seems to be a gimmick using the movement of the door.”

Shin nodded to Milt, who said in dismay as the serious atmosphere was gone.

The way the door moved inward, combined with the echoing sound, as if a drill was scraping the door and prying it open. Had the accompanying magic worked, it would have made the experience more realistic. It was a wasteful cosmetic technology made possible because it was a game.

Tiera, who was the only one who did not know about this gimmick, was startled by the high-pitched sound, which did not usually occur just by opening a door.

“Is this normal…?”

“Unfortunately, it is…”

Shin had no idea why such a ridiculous specification was approved.

If one were to say that it was just a joke for the sake of the game, he wouldn’t be able to accept it.

“Is the person who made it sane…?”

“Unfortunately, yes…”

The bizarre specifications, which would not be possible in this world, made Tiera, a local resident, doubt the sanity of the creator.

“Now, I feel like I’m off to a bad start, but I’m going to focus from here on out.”

Shin said this, also as a reminder to himself.

The internal structure was only a prediction. Until he saw it with his own eyes, he would not know what was going on.

While Shin and the others were talking, the doors were opening.

Eventually, a passageway the same width as the door appeared. It was a cave like a hollowed-out rock.

“Inside the door must belong to Arkhan.”

The group proceeded through the cave, wary of the traps.

Using the 【Magic Sonar】, they found a cylindrical space leading underground about 10 mels ahead. When they were investigating on the ground, there should have been no such space here, but no one had an answer when it was pointed out.

After descending the tubular space and proceeding underground, there was a large open area.

This was the same structure as the abandoned city of Arkhan.

However, there were no detailed descriptions of the open space.

Perhaps detection was blocked, or the area was blurred as to how large it was and what kind of structures were there. It was as if the camera was out of focus, giving only vague and ambiguous information.

“I guess we have no choice but to go and check it out.”

In any case, there was only one way to the basement. There may be a time limit set just like the event, so he proceeded without hesitation.

When the group reached the end of the passage, part of the wall opened to the left and right. This too happened according to their knowledge.

The cylindrical space was like an elevator in reality. When Shin and the others entered the tube, the rock wall closed and a magic circle appeared at their feet.

“(…this is going to be okay, right?)”

In a situation where it seemed like they were trapped, Tiera asked with 【Mind Chat】.

In this world, elevators that use magic circles were not common, so it was no wonder she was confused.

“(It’s all right. Well, just watch.)”

A few seconds after the magic circle appeared, the rock that Shin and his group were on began to slowly descend. After a slight floating sensation, there was a period of silence. 

“(It’s going down… right?)”

“(Yeah, it’s a little hard to see because of the unevenness of the wall, but it’s going down at a pretty good pace.)”

Only the cylindrical part inside the elevator was almost even, as if the surface had been hardened with concrete. If one looked closely, one could see that they were moving from the bottom to the top – to be exact, it was Shin and the others who were moving.

Kagerou, too, was looking out of the shadow and fidgeting, as if the unfamiliarity of the ride was making him feel uncomfortable.

The ride must have lasted a few minutes. There was a sensation of slowing down, and a little later the magic circle disappeared.

Finally, the rock wall on the opposite side from where Shin and the others boarded opened.

Beyond the door, there was a small plaza. The pavement spread out in a fan shape around the spot where Shin and the others were standing. 

The radius of the area was about 30 mel.

“It seems 【Magic Sonar】 is useless here.”

There were no enemies within visual range. Shin released a magic wave while searching for any response other than his own, and muttered when he felt no response.

This lack of response was probably the reason why they couldn’t get the whole picture when they were above ground. Since the map function was still active, it seemed that the only way to get a complete picture was to steadily explore the map.

“There’s no reaction from monsters.”

Said Schnee, who was searching for signs around her, just like Shin.

Shin pondered if she, who has the job of a Kunoichi (a woman who also has the ability to act as a scout), came to the same conclusion, meaning that they could conclude that the area was free of monsters.

In the abandoned city of Arkhan, there was a rest stop where one could replenish items before moving on to the next stage. Perhaps it was a remnant of this. 

“The monster’s, or rather, lack of a reaction from anything, right?”

There was no reaction from the NPCs who sold the items or the small animals that were supposed to be living in the city. Only the buildings remained. That’s their impression.

“We won’t learn anything if we stay here. We have no choice but to move forward.”

“That’s right. Let’s not keep our guard down and look out for enemies.”

Shibaid urged them on, and the group set out on foot.

Shin and Schnee were in the lead, with Filma and Milt on the left and right, Shibaid standing behind them, and Sety and Tiera in the center.

Yuzuha was on Shin’s shoulder in fox cub mode, while Kagerou was lurking in Tiera’s shadow.

They took a straight path from the plaza, being careful not to hurry or be too cautious.

Normally, the halfway point would only be about 50 mel. However, even after traveling halfway, 25 mel, there was no sign of the road ending, and they were convinced that it was not hidden by illusion.

It certainly appeared to be different from the original plan of the event.

“Can you see inside the store? I wonder if my detection skills are also effective.”

Shin knew that the 【Magic Sonar】 didn’t work, but after actually using it, he found that skills that work on the sense of sight, such as the 【Through Sight】, also didn’t work.

Based on this fact, it suggested that the detection skills were not functioning, rather than the monsters not reacting. Filma said to Shin, who had voiced this doubt.

“No one reacts except for us. I wonder if we should consider the danger of relying on our detection skills.”

“Maybe that would be better. Then how about offensive skills?”

Shin lightly fired his magic skill at the ground.

This activated smoothly, and the stone pavement shattered, scattering fragments. There was no discomfort in the feeling of use or the magical power consumed.

“Is the attack system still the same?”

“I feel like it hasn’t changed.”

Schnee watched Shin use her magic skills, but she tried using her martial arts skills herself and gave her own impressions. It was a basic and simple skill, but her movements weren’t awkward.

They also tried several body enhancement systems and barriers, and these were also activated without problems.

“Only the detection system is obstructed. In the event, we didn’t have this limitation, did we?”

Shin agreed with Milt’s confirmation.

“That should be it. Even so, I didn’t use any detection skills at the rest stop in the first place.”

The main purpose of the rest stop was to replenish supplies, and no monsters appeared. If there was going to be a battle, the opponent would be 100% player killers (PK).

However, it was nothing more than harassment to have a PK here during the game, and the PK, perhaps reading the atmosphere as expected, did not attack the players.

Therefore, for players, not just Shin, the midway point has no meaning other than a refueling spot. So they did not bother to use their detection skills.

“But if nothing comes up, that’s just plain creepy.”

There was not a single sound except for Shin and the others’ footsteps and equipment rubbing against each other.

If Wilhelm and the others were right, there must be undead monsters here based on the magical power being released in Wraith Plains. The term “ghost town” was fitting in many ways.

“…! Shin.”

“Yeah, I heard you.”

Shin nodded at Schnee’s voice. The 【Listen】 skill, which Shin had activated in case he could not use his detection skills, picked up a sound different from them.

“The sound, or rather the voice. I have a very bad feeling about it.”

Milt also activated her 【Listen】 skill, and she readjusted her weapon, 『Ordgand』 with a frown.

“What is this presence?”

Tiera trembled while looking around her. Shin had no idea, but she seemed to sense something.

“Do you know which way it’s coming from?”

“It’s coming from all directions. Like the teleportation that Shin uses, the presence is getting stronger rapidly. But I wonder what it is. It’s similar to the presence I know, yet something different about it…”

Tiera looked around with a puzzled look on her face.

Kagerou also seemed to sense something and was moving his face and ears impatiently to the right and left out of the shadow.

Shin again used 【Sign Perception】and 【Search】, but he could not pick up any reactions that Tiera and the others seemed to be sensing.

The map only showed the location and surroundings where they had passed, and there was no response from anyone other than Shin and the others.

“It’s not the presence of living things. But it’s not the presence of undead either.”

“What do you mean?”

The mysterious presence seemed to be getting closer and closer. Yuzuha felt it too, but couldn’t put it into words.

“It would be faster to actually see it. I’m going to leave for a while.”

With Yuzuha on his shoulders, Shin jumped to the roof of a nearby building. According to Tiera, the creature appeared to surround them. Shin stared at the front of the building, thinking that there wouldn’t be a wrong direction.

He also used 【Far Sight】, but it had no effect. However, perhaps because he was based on an avatar, his vision was much better than in reality. 

Since there were few things blocking the view from the roof, there was a possibility that the mysterious presence could be seen.

“…It’s not smoke. It doesn’t seem like it’s a wraith or anything.”

Shin moved along the roof, being careful not to stray too far from Schnee and the others, and what he discovered was something like a white mist.

There were many of them, all about a mel or two in size. As far as he could see, they were scattered along paved pathways or in stores.

“They were changing shapes?”

At first they looked like a mass of smoke or haze, but over time they changed shape. Its color changed from white to translucent. The shape changed from a long, vertical, unrecognizable object to a human or animal form. 

It must have been about two minutes since Shin found it. The uninhabited town had been transformed into a state where translucent inhabitants were walking around.

“Are we being shown the scenes from the past?”

Maybe because of the distance, or the lack of information, 【Analyze】 was not triggered. However, he was familiar with similar scenes. 

Among the sub-quests related to history and culture in the game, there were some that allowed one to see how people in extinct civilizations lived as if they were actually there. 

“Shin, Shin.”

Yuzuha’s paw touched Shin’s cheek as he concentrated on the scene in front of him. When he asked what was going on, Yuzuha pointed behind Shin with her tail. 

“I thought you said you didn’t feel any presence of the…undead?”

“Not even now. That’s no ordinary undead.”

While listening to Yuzuha’s words, Shin was thinking about what he could see when he turned around. 

He was able to hear what appeared to be voices using his 【Listen】 skill. But from Yuzuha’s and Tiera’s words that there was no sign of undead, he thought it was a ghost or a non-corporeal type such as a wraith.

Yet, such wishful thinking vanished.

What was in front of my eyes was apparently a human corpse – albeit a little chipped and drooping – and it was a moving corpse, in other words, a zombie. 

“I don’t even know who they are, but this time they’re zombies with no presence of undead.”

The reason why nothing had happened until now was probably it’s the calm before the storm. One of the zombies was hopping around on the roof with the contents of his stomach hanging out, so Shin jumped up and saw a group of zombies walking or crawling toward him on the ground. 

Unlike the translucent people who looked as if they were going about their daily lives, the group of zombies was heading straight for Schnee and the others.

“(Listen to me! A horde of zombies is approaching from where Filma is looking!)”

Shin communicated with 【Mind Chat】 as he moved. Filma and the others seemed to have noticed the approach. Before they could even hear Shin’s voice, they were already in a state of alert.

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