It happened just after Marino saw Shin off and started helping at the orphanage.
“I’m sorry for making you accompany me.”
“No, escorting is one of our duties. Nothing to worry about.”
As the person in charge had forgotten to stock up on ingredients, Marino brought Luca, who had begged to tag along, with her to town.
Being escorted by Shadow, Marino shopped around while holding hands with Luca. Though, the shopping itself did not take much time.
“Go for a walk! Walk!”
Walking outside the orphanage was thrilling for Luca. It also helped that Shadow had the good idea of taking a slightly longer route.
“(It would be nice to let the other kids go out too, other than when they help out with our jobs)”
“(That’s true. Most of the kids secretly play together outside anyway)”
Marino noted while chatting with Shadow that only the smaller children like Luca needed protection. Since there were so few of them now, it wouldn’t be too troublesome to organize supervised outings for them.
Just as Marino thought of inviting other children next time, the alarm signaling a monster invasion blared throughout Kalkia.
“Looks like monsters are coming. Let’s hurry back to the orphanage.”
“Yes! Luca, that’s all for today’s walk. Let’s go back to the orphanage before the scary monsters arrive, okay?”
“Don’t worry. The guilds are protecting the town.”
Marino tried talking as brightly as she could to comfort Luca, who was frightened by the alarm. All defenses, since the first failed monster repulsion, had succeeded. Thanks to such results, the nearby players were not too shaken.
“See, the people around us are also calm, right? Let’s go back to everyone now.”
Marino tried to walk as calmly as possible, so Luca would not panic. Even then, she had to periodically slow down at times after noticing her pace had started to quicken.
“I’m sorry, I would like a word with you…”
Then, as if aiming for that timing, Robin appeared.
Afraid of the slowly approaching Robin, Luca hid behind Marino.
“We’re in an emergency situation. Save that for later. ”
Shadow stood between Marino and Robin. He glared at Robin sternly, ready to react in case of any suspicious movements.
“I have no business with you. I came to talk with the young lady. Please stay out of this.”
“I refuse. There are monsters approaching the town right now. Everyone’s returning to their homes. Come again after the threat passes.”
Shadow spoke with a firmer tone. He would not allow any exceptions.
“I have to take the girl with me. You’re in the way!!”
Robin suddenly shouted, spread his mantle and threw a ball the size of a golf ball.
Without losing his cool, Shadow pierced the flying ball with a knife.
The ball was easily severed in two, emitting a large quantity of white smoke at the same time, making it impossible to see.
“I’m alright, I can see. Please look after Luca.”
Marino gripped Luca’s hand again. Being a seasoned fighter, Shadow would not be confused by a mere smokescreen. Or so Marino had assumed, when suddenly, a shadow appeared behind her.
Marino quickly turned around, only to find a pair of glowing eyes just beyond the smoke. Judging by the height and size, they couldn’t belong to a player.
Marino was standing there in a daze when Shadow’s scream of pain reached her ears. Looking in his direction, Marino saw something cut through the fog and blow Shadow away.
“Monsters!? The defenses have been breached!? Tch, I’ll hold them back here, take Luca and run!!”
Since Marino could not use 【Through Sight】, she was unable to see what was going on due to the smoke. However, hearing the sounds of clashing blades and seeing the light of the sparks through the smoke, she could guess.
Not much time had passed since the alarm was sounded, but one could hear screams and monster roars in the distance.
As the chat system was restricted during invasion events, Marino could not contact Shin for help.
“Don’t worry, Shadow is strong, he won’t lose to some monsters. It’s dangerous here, so let’s go back quickly.”
Marino beamed the best smile she could muster at Luca and started walking away. Luckily she found a building’s wall, so they could proceed along it to an area unclouded by the smoke.
“OK, we’re finally in the main stre—-!?”
After desperately running through the back alleys, they arrived in the large street Marino often passed.
What she saw there however, was a scenery completely different from the one she was used to.
Most of the stores and stalls that lined the street were engulfed in flames. The screams of fleeing people could be heard everywhere.
Some buildings were partially destroyed due to the fighting, while the undamaged ones were struck by players being flung around.
“We have to get away…”
Borderline paralyzed, Marino’s body could move only because of the warmth coming from Luca’s hand.
I can’t let go of her hand. I have to protect her.
Such feelings supported her trembling knees.
“Just a little more, be patient dear.”
Holding Luca’s hand, Marino continued walking along the walls, careful not to let the monsters spot her.
However, on a battlefield where monsters and players were engaged in furious battle, it was impossible to pass by unnoticed without stealth abilities.
A sudden explosion shook the building next to her; it had been caused by a 5-mels large dinosaur-like monster, which had smashed through the building to reach the main avenue.
Marino instinctively protected Luca with her body.
Fragments of the destroyed building rained all around them. These fragments were of unknown materials and could have much more offensive power than one would expect. One of them, unfortunately, ended up striking Marino’s back.
Thanks to an item she received from Shin, Marino’s HP did not decrease. But due to the difference in mass between Marino and the fragment that hit her, they both were flung into the air spinning across the ground several times before stopping.
Marino stood up right away and searched for Luca.
In this world, as long as an avatar still had HP left and was not affected by status conditions, even if struck by an attack that would normally cause a large wound, it could still move.
Marino looked at her surroundings and found Luca who, like her, was trying to stand back up.
It was too soon to feel relieved though.
Luca had already been caught by Robin, who had appeared out of nowhere.
Marino thought she managed to lose him but Robin, who had a scouting-type job specialization, had easily tracked them. His expression was eerily cold and distant, ill suited considering the current situation, with monsters rampaging around town.
“You’ve made me waste enough time.”
“You’re protected by Shin’s items. Because you won’t just follow me quietly, I had to resort to this, you know?”
His former polite speech was no more.
He had apparently discovered the fact that Marino had received a protective item from Shin.
“If you don’t want the girl to be hurt…you know what to do, right?”
“…yes. So let her go right now!!”
Marino removed the protective item and put it on the ground. Robin took the item and tied Marino up.
The freed Luca, while afraid, stretched a hand towards Marino. But Robin had loaded Marino on his shoulders, far from Luca’s hands.
“I’m alright. Go back to the orphanage Luca!!”
Robin’s paralyzing poison robbed Marino of her ability to move.
Carrying Marino on his shoulders, Robin looked at Luca.
“Give Marino back.”
“If you want her back, tell the player called Shin to come to this place.”
Robin threw a small piece of paper to Luca.
Luca desperately lunged at the piece of paper, to prevent it from flying away. When she finally managed to grab it, Robin and Marino had already disappeared.
“What the hell is going on here?!”
In front of the chaos of roaring monsters and screaming players, Aldo stood dazed and confused. As he rarely left his home, he had no idea why there were monsters rampaging in the town, nor why the players were taking damage. Actually, few players knew the town defense corps had been attacked by PKs and that non-event monsters had infiltrated the town.
“S-Shit!! What equipment should I use!?”
Thanks to his avatar’s abilities, Aldo could tell the monsters’ names and levels. With his high stats and powerful gear, it would not be too difficult for him to protect himself.
Due to his lack of knowledge of the game, however, he didn’t know what weapons or effects would be useful. It took him around 10 minutes to realize that the basic equipment of Arthur Pendragon, the basis for his avatar, was the strongest available.
When he finally finished equipping it and started thinking about what to do next, something unexpected happened.
His home’s ceiling suddenly collapsed. Something must have fallen on it. The booming sound and the falling debris made Aldo scream in surprise.
“Hey there. Still alive?”
“A person!? W-what? What are you doing, you bastard!?”
Realizing that the person speaking to him was one of the two visitors who had come to his home just a couple days before, Aldo forgot the terror he had just felt and furiously yelled at the man.
He had no idea what the man was thinking, but to think that he would do something so insane.
“What am I doing? What any other PK does, man.”
Paying little attention to the destruction, Gargalla walked closer to Aldo, a savage smile on his face.
“What are you saying?! What’s going on here?!”
“Hey now, are you for real? You didn’t see the monsters busting through town? You were holed up in your house in this situation? Just because you have 【Wall】 and 【Barrier】 up…man, you’re so done.”
While looking at the man with contempt, Gargalla lifted his main weapon, different from the one he had carried during his visits to Aldo’s home.
It was the lower Ancient-grade 『Giant Slayer』, a battleaxe with a black handle and flame-like patterns.
It was a weapon that increased in power the larger the difference in stats between the user and the target: a weapon designed to literally slay those greater than the user. The stronger the opponent was, the more powerful it became. However, because it did not work on those weaker than the user, it could easily lead to a disadvantage if it wasn’t used with attention.
For the current situation, however, there could be no better weapon.
Aldo, who was a total beginner with nothing but high stats going for himself, could never hope to match someone who, despite his stats being lower, had grown stronger through PvP battles.
“In order to get here, I had to deal with many persistent and hard-to-kill monsters, so I’m feeling damn stressed right now. Your avatar is better though, so I really hope you’ll let me have some fun!”
As he finished uttering these words, Gargalla attacked the armored Aldo with his battleaxe. The latter did not expect in the least to be attacked and received the blow squarely, without defending in any way.
With a metallic sound, like iron pipes striking against each other, Aldo flew across his home, bursting through the wall and landing on the adjacent block’s moat.
Thanks to his stats and equipment the blow wasn’t fatal, but the suddenness of the situation had left Aldo unable to think straight. He tried to push the rubble away and get up, only to notice a blade swinging down towards him.
A critical hit, and Aldo’s helmet was removed from his head. Overwhelmed by confusion, Aldo didn’t even realize that his head was completely uncovered now.
“Hey, hand over all your items, now. It’d be a shame to have them all disappear, right?”
Aldo’s mouth could only utter a lame reply. Gargalla hit the man’s dazed face with a strong punch, to help him regain awareness of the situation.
Grasping the situation, Aldo quickly scattered the items in his possession.
“T-This is all I have! It’s all here!! So please don’t—-”
“No more use for you then.”
Gargalla stepped on Aldo to keep him pinned to the ground, then swung down his axe.
Leaving no time for last words, the booming strike wiped out Aldo’s upper body. After a few moments, his lower body disappeared too.
“So pathetic it was almost depressing.”
Receiving a blow from 『Giant Slayer』 on his helmet-less head was enough to ensure that Aldo would die. In THE NEW GATE, critical parts like the neck and the heart were set as the players’ weak points. The head and heart were especially weak; hitting them could cause instant death.
Gargalla confirmed that Aldo had disappeared from under his feet and relaxed his stance, sighing.
Before the instant death strike brought Aldo’s HP to zero, the damage caused by previous strikes was not too high. The avatar’s stats should have been high enough for any mid-level player to not be killed so quickly and easily.
While he was not expecting much, Gargalla still felt his frustration mounting.
“…hmm, might as well add some more reasons here to fuel him up.”
Gargalla’s lips formed a grin, with an evil streak that would have made anyone present shiver.
After collecting the dropped items, Gargalla checked the direction and started moving towards the orphanage.
Shin reached the orphanage around the same time Luca did.
Seeing Luca teeter back on her own, Shin felt even more worried. The monster invasion event limited chat use temporarily, so he still didn’t have a grasp on the situation.
Luca’s eyes were filled with large tears. Shin grabbed her as she was about to fall, and the little girl broke out in tears.
Hearing her cry, Emil rushed out of the orphanage.
Seeing that she wouldn’t stop crying, Emil’s expression became clouded.
Shin had a bad feeling about the situation.
“First of all, let’s go inside. Thanks to your barriers the monsters haven’t come inside, Shin.”
“That’s right. Let’s go, Luca.”
Shin took Luca in his arms and was about to walk towards the orphanage, when Luca -who had regained some composure in her sadness- thrusted a piece of paper in front of Shin’s eyes.
The piece of paper she had gripped desperately, so as not to lose it, showed the coordinates of a location within Kalkia.
“They took Marino away…all because I said I wanted to go on a walk…!!”
Luca kept crying, her face warped by the tears. Despite her young age, she was tormented by the guilt of having caused Marino’s kidnapping.
“It’s all right, I’ll go save her. Luca, you wait here with Emil and the others.”
Shin wiped Luca’s tears and entrusted her to Emil.
“Marino…will be okay?”
“Yeah, leave it to me.”
Shin flashed the biggest smile he could, so that Luca would not worry. After patting her head, he turned his back to her and walked away.
As soon as he exited Luca’s field of view, the mild expression peeled off Shin’s face. More than someone who was going to save somebody, he looked like a man who was going to start a massacre.
Shin started running towards the location signaled by the coordinates, the anger he felt clearly visible on his face.