After leaving Tsuki no Hokora, Shin went straight to the northern forest. Since encountering the guild’s staff that came to investigate the Skull Face would be troublesome, he advanced while confirming that there was no one in the surrounding area.
He didn’t have the direction, so he depended mostly on his instinct. But he aimed at the depths of the forest first, because the depths of the forest felt somehow suspicious. Still, because he thought that the encounter with the investigators could not be avoided when he went to the place where the Skull Face appeared, he advanced toward the opposite direction of where the Skull Face was. It was the direction he did not walk when he came here before.
The position where the Skull Face existed was the southeast of the northern forest. Since Shin was aiming to advance to the depths of the forest, he took the west route near the center part of the northern forest. Trees grew thicker and shut out the daylight as he advanced farther into the forest. The darkness was like the night, and could not be compared to the eastern forest. The heights of the trees alone eclipsed those in the eastern forest, and with the dark and thick atmosphere he felt like it was refusing a person to advance to the its depths.
In fact, the deeper he advanced into the forest, the more Shin thought about not approaching in his mind. It was not perception or foresight. More precisely, there was something that was affecting his consciousness in this place.
(This, is this a barrier?)
Though he was not certain, the more Shin moved forward, the stronger he sensed the intention to obstruct him. It was some kind of protection barrier that was erected.
But the barrier or something was nothing to Shin as he moved rapidly. Even though he was going ahead like it was nothing, to begin with, if it were normal humans, it would not be possible for them to approach the barrier, as the feeling of avoidance increased as they got closer. However, the barrier was not effective against Shin, especially after he put some effort to strengthen against the mind interference system. Rather, it was notifying him ‘There is something ahead!’.
Shin walked earnestly toward the direction where the sense was getting stronger while observing his surroundings. None of the monsters appeared because of the effect of the barrier.
He continued walking for a while, and the moment he passed the side of a particularly big tree, the darkness was cleared before his eyes and a soft light gently shined upon Shin.
There was an open space with a diameter of about 30 mels as if it was cut into the ground in a circle. And a bright cinnabar red torii* and a cozy Shinto shrine were built there. (T/N: a Japanese gateway of light construction commonly built at the approach to a Shinto shrine)
“This place is the center of the barrier?”
Because of the mental interference that had been received when he first entered the forest abruptly ended when he set foot in the shrine, he guessed that it was likely he had come off from the barrier effect. Still, he did not think that there would be a Shinto shrine.
“Hmm～?…This Shinto shrine, I think I’ve seen it somewhere before.”
He felt like he remembered that he saw it somewhere before, and tilted his head. The Japanese style architecture was not rare at the time of the game, but there were not many enthusiasts who built a Shinto shrine. He thought that he could remember it instantly, but couldn’t, no matter what.
“For the time being, should I enter first?”
Because it was absurd to agree by himself, he passed through the torii at once and entered the Shinto shrine.
There was a road from the torii, straight to the main shrine. The only buildings were the torii and the main shrine, not even one of the essential parts of a Shinto shrine like guardian lion-dogs, a purifying basin and offertory box were present.
“Did the air change?”
However, the moment he passed through the torii, the air which surrounded Shin changed completely to show that this was a holy place, although the building was only a main shrine.
Shin’s cheek was brushed by a refreshing wind that could make him forget that he was in the middle of a forest. Shin noticed much stronger mixed scents of various creatures that came through the middle of the forest. It made one realize that this was a special place.
Inside the Shinto shrine, it seemed to be well managed as it was not particularly rough. The main shrine had a higher floor, and few decorations. If seen by people who only knew a general Shinto shrine, they would feel uncomfortable.
A moment before Shin arrived at the main shrine, a “pishiri” sound reached his ears.
“What is that?”
It was the sound of something like glass cracking. There was a possibility that a barrier was cracked, he thought. And it was not a nice foreboding.
Is it probably because of me? He looked around, but there was no change in particular in the vicinity. The clear atmosphere didn’t change and the sacred air had not weakened either. To begin with, Shin hadn’t done anything.
The door of the main shrine was slightly open.
It was somewhat telling him to open it quickly. Though there was no gap for him to look through inside, it was really difficult to ignore his curiosity once he was interested.
“…Should I try to open it?”
While thinking that there was nothing much to say, Shin opened the main shrine door and was exposed to a full view of a gloomy room receiving light from outside.
The letters written on the floor were the first things he saw. The Sanskrit characters-like letters were lined up to form a circle. A big circle was wrapping around several smaller ones, and the appearance of it was just like a magic formation.
And in its center. One figure lay at the middle of the various-sized circles.
It was a young fox, which had a silver coat of fur, that was lying down on the floor exhausted, while its body was exposed to light.
“Isn’t it carefree being seen like this?”
When he confirmed there was no trap, Shin rushed over to the young fox. There was no visible injury, but the HP gauge of the young fox was in the red zone. Moreover, it was suffering from abnormality states 【Poison • Ⅹ】 and 【Curse • Ⅹ】. It was only a matter of time until it ran out of vitality if it was left unattended in this state.
“The fox that Millie mentioned, is it this fox?”
It was certainly not a common fox as it was in a place like this. He would think about it later as it was not the time for it. Shin opened the Item Box from the menu screen, selected the all purpose cure ‘Elixir’ from the list of items lined in a rows and took it out directly as an item, not the item card. Then he flicked the cap open with his thumb. The full phial of golden liquid could completely restore HP, MP, loss of body parts and remove abnormalities except one portion of it. When he tried to put it to the mouth of the young fox, a crashing sound reached Shin’s ears. The loud sound was like a large amount of glasses breaking all at once occurring multiple times in succession.
“What is it now!?”
Shin promptly activated【Sign Perception】 and perceived the state of the surroundings. 【Sign Perception】 was not the same with the monsters only type of detection, 【Search】. 【Sign Perception】 was capable of determining the position of monsters and players within a certain range. The disadvantage to 【Search】 was its narrow perception range, but it was more effective to investigate an area from the shadows of buildings or obstacles.
Shin confirmed that about roughly 50 monsters or more were approaching the main shrine. Apparently the sound a little while ago looked like the barrier was broken. He could see that red markers surrounded the main shrine and that the encirclement was gradually shrinking, like ants that gathered around sugar, when he looked at the map.
(Are they aiming for this fox?)
Shin thought while looking at the fox crying “Kuu…” weakly. He made the fox drink the elixir so its abnormals state was cured, and its vitality was smoothly recovered from the red zone to yellow and then green. Though its vitality had recovered, the fox still seemed to be in a weakened state, and a lot of time had passed since Shin restored it to its normal state.
“First, activate 【Barrier • Ⅹ】!!”
Shin deployed the highest level barrier before the enemies come closer. A barrier was formed around the main shrine and blocked the march of the red markers, and the enemies crowded outside the barrier.
To be honest, Shin didn’t fully understand the situation yet, but he didn’t even consider the option of abandoning the young fox here. It raised its head while trembling as it watched Shin. The young fox was lowered on the floor where the pattern-like magic formation was drawn, and after its head was patted, Shin stood up.
“Wait here a moment. I’m about to kick those intruders.”
He said and turned his back to the young fox and opened the main shrine door to go out. After Shin exited the main shrine, he saw the figures of Skull Faces’ which crowded on the outside of the barrier. They were wearing rusted swords and armor, and the skeleton soldiers had a dim light in hollow eyes, gathering around the barrier like sleepwalkers.
Because the Skull Faces couldn’t break the barrier, Shin calmly took in a view of the whole scene.
“If their quality is bad, then their quantity is endless?”
Shin muttered while looking at the crowd of Skull Faces that extended past his field of vision. An individual with unique equipment and level like the Jack class he fought last time was not found in the crowd of the Skull Face that were surrounding Shin, it was composed of Pawn class and Jack class that similar to Shin’s knowledge.
Shin, who understood that the Skull Face’s have surrounded him from 【Sign Perception】skill activation, switched to 【Search】 skill, which could cover a wider area. With the enlarged detection range by focusing only on the monsters as targets, he could pinpoint all of the Skull Faces.
It was the amount that became the problem this time. Thanks to 【Search】, he understood that the number of enemies was close to 3 digits. There was a possibility that the Bayreuth kingdom might received the collateral damage again, too, if he let them slip even a little.
It crossed Shin’s mind after he saw the pool of blood that spread on the ground and there were barely any human remains nearby. Though he had no intention to put on airs for justice now, it was about the disposition of trying to not deal unnecessary damage.
“You guys are evil. Not one of you will get away from this.”
While advancing one step toward them, Shin took out a new weapon from the Item Box. It was a spear which materialized in his hand. The handle shone in silver, the blade was vivid green as if a jade had been attached to the tip. Because magic had been bestowed, the whole spear was wrapped in a white radiance.
He rotated the spear with his right hand once and pointed the tip forward to the crowd of enemies, 【Limit】 was released to Ⅱ in one breath. He confirmed that his strength was released to a point where he could completely control it, furthermore, his combat abilities efficiency was risen, too. Shin kicked the ground forward and rushed at the crowd of Skull Faces.
“Here is the first blow!!”
Simultaneously, he invoked the spearmanship system martial arts skill, 【Furrow Pierce】 while dashing. The tip of the spear penetrated, by Shin’s physical strength, through several Skull Faces in a mass. An emerald green light was generated by the invocation of the skill, while at the same time forming a spiral along with the swords, armor, and Skull Faces spinning together. The Skull Faces were shattered to very small pieces by power rivaling a cannonball that had been fired in a horizontal path, and a furrow was formed made of bones and iron fragments in a straight line.
Shin was able to escape the encirclement of the Skull Faces without changing the momentum of his charge.
“Next one. 【Star Mine】!”
Dozens of light orbs appeared around Shin while he invoked the skill, it was arranged to surround the groups of Skull Face.
Light technique system magic skill, 【Star Mine】. A skill with light attribute that could set up mine-like light orbs in the sky.
The generated light orbs was located further outside of the Skull Face’s that surrounded the main shrine, it was to cut off the way of retreat so the Skull Face could not escape into the forest.
After he made sure that the installation of light orbs had been completed, Shin relaunched his attack to the Skull Faces that still gathered around the barrier.
This time it was the skill of the spearmanship system martial arts, 【Spark Blossom】was used. Needless to say, the Skull Faces were shattered when receiving the direct hit from the spear that left a trail of emerald light in a horizontal line. Furthermore, pieces of crushed armor and swords were sent toward the Skull Faces that were outside the spear’s range. Those blown off by a single blow from the extraordinary power were Pawn class and Jack class, they were pierced without any regard. The Skull Faces situation were literally like buzzing in beehive.
Although the Skull Faces of Jack class raised their swords and tried to attack Shin, they were returned by Shin’s spear and the fragments of bones and irons became impromptu bullets that pierced their allies.
Shin wielded the spear freely with unimaginable speed in one hand. Nearly ten Skull Faces nearby were defeated in one blow when he used the skill. Moreover, the fragments, like a shotgun attack, further decreased the number quickly.
The place was so completely monopolized by Shin, that not even a single Skull Face could survive.
Since Shin started the battle, the group of Skull Faces was completely wiped out in less than ten minutes. The remains of the Skull Faces were scattered in the area around the barrier and the ground couldn’t be seen. Because he didn’t have any intentions to clean up the remains, he ignored them and pretended he did not see them as he returned to the main shrine.
When he opened the main shrine door and entered inside, a young fox jumped at him as it was waiting for Shin.
“Gee! Th-that’s a dangerous thing to do, you.”
He almost lost his balance while holding the young fox in arm, he rubbed its head while stepping down from the stairs and stood on the ground. Its physical condition was completely restored, too. The exhausted appearance that had improved since a little while ago was not felt in young fox as it constantly licked Shin’s face.
“By the way, what will you do from now on?”
He looked at the surroundings that were in a pitiful state while holding the young fox. In addition, the sacred atmosphere that he sensed until a while ago was not felt. The power protecting the Shinto shrine along with the barrier that broke might have vanished.
“Come to think of it, I don’t know much about you yet.”
Although he helped the young fox with the impetus of Millie’s request, unexpectedly, this young fox had a lot of mysteries. When Shin first found the young fox, he was being distracted by its low vitality, and he just noticed that he didn’t even confirm its name yet until now. He only knew that this young fox was a kind of monster, because only players and monsters had an HP gauge in the game.
“I completely forgot to check its name. After all, is it a Little Fox?”
While citing the name of the monster that was popular as a pet, he read the information about the young fox with 【Analyze】 . While being held by Shin, the young fox looked puzzled, not understanding the meaning of words.
“Uhm, name, nam…e?”
Shin’s gaze stopped at the position of the monster’s name. The name that was written there had gone far above the Shin’s imagination.
“E, Element Tail…seriously…?”
As if it totally agreed! The young fox’s reaction showed that it seemed to convey it was an Element Tail. It was no wonder that Shin became stiff. The Element Tail was a monster called Nine Tailed Fox, or Kyuubi among players, and was originally part of the highest class of monsters which boast Lv. 1000 in THE NEW GATE.
It was always in the top in the THE NEW GATE strongest monster ranking chosen by players, and Shin who did not considered the possibility that the name of such monster appeared, cannot help but to be at a loss.
“What should I do?…What should I do, seriously?”
The level of the Element Tail was 211 at the present time when he examined it in detail. It was a level already dangerous enough according to the residents of this world. It might not have a parents, as it was seen alone. If say incidentally, it was the life of Shin that was in danger. An Element Tail was an opponent that could be said was absurd to be challenged alone even if one were a maxed stats player. Shin might defeat it after releasing all 【Limit】, but at least the northern forest would be burnt down to the ground.
“What is an Element Tail doing in a place like this? Just like Arclid…that’s it!! That was Element Tail isn’t it!!”
The sensed that he had seen it somewhere before when he looked at the Shinto shrine. He remembered the cause and unintentionally raised his voice.
The quest related to the Element Tail of the Shinto shrine composed of only the main shrine and the torii, but it was a place that one went to visit in a.k.a. the Kyuubi quest. Actually there was a detached building separately from the Shinto shrine, but it might have collapsed from a natural disaster. The Shinto shrine itself was probably protected by the barrier that Shin felt. It was not strange even if the Element Tail was here if he thought about it that way.
Anyway, half of the visitors who came to Tsuki no Hokora were players who challenged the Kyuubi quest. In a sense it could be said that Shin was receiving in cooperation with the sales of the store during the game.
Shin understood that there was an Element Tail in this place, but there was the question remain, about what it would do from now on. There was only an adult form of the Element Tail that appeared in the Shinto shrine in the Kyuubi quest originally, and there was no monster such as the young fox.
“You, what do you want to do from now on?”
Though it was not possible to talk, Shin asked because somehow he felt like it understood him. Because a barrier was erected, it was safe, but the thought of leaving a young fox alone even for an Element Tail in this place was unbearable.
Though the Element Tail that had been lowered to the ground gazed at the main shrine, after a short time, it shook its body and turned around. Then, the fox jumped skillfully and climbed up Shin’s body, and placed itself comfortably on the top of Shin’s head.
“Why on top of my head?”
“No, I don’t understand it.”
The Element Tail on the head slapped him “pechipechi”. (T/N: light slap sfx) Was this fox’s resolve to leave this place?, Shin felt, it somehow was saying that.
“…Do you want to go together?”
“Is that so?…Dangerous! Claws! Your claws are painful!”
Shin somehow felt like it was saying: “I’ll go!”, but the violent behaviour of the happy young fox almost caused him to lose his balance.
Since its claws were not fully retracted, it was difficult for Shin to walk with the young fox scratching his face.
“What are you tilting your head for? You absolutely understand the meaning of my words!”
Even though it was young, it belonged to the race of the first-class monster Element Tail, there was no way it was not smart. Perhaps it was one of the young fox’s ways to distract itself from loneliness.
(You should become a full-fledged Element Tail before I return to the original world)
While thinking about that, Shin advanced toward the kingdom, while preventing scratches from its clawed paws with both of his hands.