When Dark Summoners are spawned, they are always accompanied by monsters named Shadow Stalkers, which have the ability of “swimming” in shadows, as if these shadows were bodies of water. Shadow Stalkers thus had the ability to freely move through the darkness created by Dark Summoners, from which they also received stat boosts.
They were an annoying combination to combat, since, without a suitable strategy or sufficient stats, it would take a long time to defeat them.
“There’s something huge too.”
After cutting down a hideous Shadow Stalker, shaped like a wingless bird fused with a praying mantis’ scythes, Shin noticed a sort of pitch-black puddle of darkness, much larger than the other monsters. It was an indication that a Shadow Stalker was lying in wait: the shadow’s size directly correlated to its strength. While such puddles were normally about 60 cemel in diameter, the one Shin discovered was easily over 1 mel wide.
“A Dark Stalker, huh.”
Two red lights glowed in the puddle of darkness. Those were a Dark Stalker’s blood red eyes. In front of Shin’s party, the darkness inside the circle swelled and took shape.
The Dark Stalker’s upper body rose from the pool of darkness. While shaped like a Shadow Stalker, its body was covered by a sort of black metallic exoskeleton and it had four arms, each shaped like sharp blades. Unlike the Shadow Stalkers, which always attacked from the shadows, Dark Stalkers were powerful enough to face players head on.
【Dark Stalker Level 649】
Judging from the fact the monsters the party was fighting were around level 200, this new enemy was a significantly higher threat.
The Dark Stalker’s blades sparkled under the globes of light, as the monster observed its prey. It had no time, however, to even attempt to swing its weapons. No matter how much stronger the Dark Stalker was compared to the Shadow Stalkers, it was still far inferior to Shin and his party.
“….out of the way.”
Shin’s katana, 『Moonless』 traced an arc in the air, which effortlessly cleaved the Dark Stalker in two. He then pulled back the blade, cutting off the monster’s head in the process, and its HP reached zero.
“Shin! Looks like the evil deity’s getting serious!”
“So it seems.”
Shin looked at the Dark Summoners’ candles being shattered by Tiera’s arrows, then beyond the monsters, when Shibaid called to him.
A large number of monster icons appeared both on Shin’s map and his detection range. More and more red dots filled a previously empty area. Before Shin, many Dark Summoners appeared. In the darkness around them, the crimson eyes of Dark Stalkers and Shadow Stalkers glowed menacingly.
Tiera too noticed the large group of monsters prowling in a corner where the globes’ light did not reach. The darkness extended over the floor, walls, ceiling, the entirety of the corridor. The Dark Stalkers within it dotted every part of the corridor as well.
“Looks like we’ve found their nest.”
Looking at the map, Shin detected that a similar gathering was also present behind Shibaid. It was not clear if the monsters were under the evil deity’s command, but it was obvious that they were targeting Shin’s party. If so, the party’s response was obvious too.
“Shibaid, don’t let the ones behind us get any closer! Sety, keep the globes lit and support the front line with Tiera! Yuzuha, Kagerou, keep guarding Tiera and the others!”
“Oh? What about me?”
“You don’t need me to tell you, do you?”
After Tiera and the others replied to Shin’s orders, Filma too inquired about her orders, tilting her head on purpose. Shin looked at her and answered with a sigh.
“We’re taking the pack head on! After me!”
“Hehe, loud and clear!”
Shin stepped forward after making sure that Shibaid was luring away the mixed pack behind them. Sety’s light globes canceled the Dark Summoners’ darkness caused the monsters to falter, only to be cut down by Filma and Shin.
“We’ll go ahead and clean up the room, you get rid of any stragglers and catch up!”
Shin and Filma rushed beyond the area illuminated by Sety’s lights, into a larger clearing formed by several corridors joining together.
“What!? Hey, Shin!!”
Tiera shouted at the two as they plunged headfirst into danger. Before she could even finish her sentence, however, they had already reached the hall.
“I’ll go right, you take the left, Filma.”
Even in complete darkness, Shin and Filma’s exchange was very casual. Their attacks, on the other hand, were simply ferocious.
Shin moved first, thrusting his unarmed left hand forward to activate a skill.
Light-type magic skill 【Sunlight Embrace】.
A 10-cemel wide ball of light, with a different atmosphere from the ones created by Sety, formed in front of Shin’s palm. It emitted a warm, gentle light. It was a skill that raised allies’ LUC, often learned by priests.
The moment Shin activated this skill, with apparently no offensive qualities whatsoever, the monsters surrounding him unleashed terrified screams. The Dark Summoners and Shadow Stalkers illuminated by the light burned to ashes, as if consumed by fire.
It would be a bewildering sight for anyone not familiar with the skill.
For monsters specialized in the Dark element, like Dark Summoners, the globe’s light burned more harshly than any flame. With Shin as its caster, the range of 【Sunlight Embrace】 was also much wider than normal. Shin had told Filma that he would take care of the right side of the hall, but even some monsters on the left side were affected and melted away.
“Looks like I won’t have much left to do!”
Unwilling to let Shin completely steal the scene, Filma quickly activated a skill too.
Sword/Flame Combination Skill 【Scorching Flames – Wildfire】
Golden flames erupted from Filma’s 『Red Moon』, as high as the hall’s ceiling, purifying flames capable of dispelling the darkness and burning the shadow monsters to cinders. While being a Flame-type skill, it was similar to the Light element. Just touching one of the skills’ sparks would cause Shadow Stalkers and similar monsters to go up in flames and vanish instantly.
Filma’s 『Red Moon』, now transformed into a giant fiery sword, swept through the monsters in the left side of the hall. The golden flames erupting from the sword ran across the floor and walls, turning all Dark Summoners and Dark Stalkers they found to ashes.
Being undead, the Dark Summoners , received as much damage as that of Shin’s 【Sunlight Embrace】.
“That’s about it, I guess?”
“Looks like there are more and more coming, though.”
The monsters in the corridor and hall had been wiped out, but Shin and Filma detected that large swarms of monsters still remained outside the skills’ range. The area behind the party, kept under control by Shibaid, was also riddled with red dots.
“It’s always the same type of monsters, though. Is it because the Kishimi are involved?”
In the game event too, the only monsters present were Dark Summoners, Shadow Stalkers and Dark Stalkers. The game had set these three types of monsters as the ones the Kishimi could transform to.
“Who knows, that’s not important right now.”
Shin too wondered the same thing as Filma, but he had other things to think about at the moment.
“Let’s fill up the hole first.”
Shin then created several 【Sunlight Embrace】 light globes. Shin took the globes, each of them capable of erasing more than half of the Dark Summoners in the hall, and pitched them like baseballs into the corridor. The anguished screams of the monsters, who had likely been lying in wait there, echoed through the hall.
The globes would keep shining until the magic concentrated in them ran out, so the monsters could not come closer to the hall for a good while.
Tiera and the rest of the party then caught up with Shin and Filma.
“….I feel dumb for worrying now.”
“What’s with you, all of a sudden?”
“To barge into a location without visibility and filled with monsters…we worried and hurried here, but it’s already over?”
Next to Tiera, sighing because of her wasted worries, Sety laughed.
“Shin, Fil, you haven’t changed a bit.”
During the party outings in the game era, Shibaid would gather the enemies in one place for Shin, Filma and Girard to destroy physically or Shin, Schnee and Sety to blast away with magic. Shin, of course, never failed to be part of either group.
“Once you know their weakness, these guys aren’t anything special.”
The problem was their numbers, but Shin’s party could make do somehow. Even if their assault seemed reckless, none of what Tiera feared could have happened.
“Did you wait long?”
“No, not much. Let’s go on ahead.”
Shin lobbed 【Sunlight Embrace】 balls in the corridor Shibaid had guarded too. No monsters would be able to follow after them for a while.
The group proceeded forward and deeper, finding resistance time and again, but always by the same 3 types of monsters.
“There aren’t any other monsters?”
“It’s hard to keep being tense like this.”
The monsters never changed: their levels slightly did, but the party’s strategies remained the same. It was easy to proceed like this, but if the evil deity had gained Schnee’s memories, it had to know that Shin’s party could not be exhausted by this level of opposition.
“Oh, is it coming now?”
“Shin? What are you—wahh!”
Suddenly, sparks flew over Tiera’s head.
Shin and Filma had moved at the same time, turning around and swinging their weapons to repel the blade aiming at Tiera.
Shibaid too had moved at the same time: after confirming that Shin and Filma blocked the attack aimed at Tiera, he swung his 『Placid Moon』 towards the source of the attack.
“It dodged that?”
There was nothing, however, where Shibaid thrusted his halberd. The moment its attack had been parried, It had jumped away, almost weightlessly, putting distance between itself and Shin’s group.
“The evil deity’s doing, right? I kind of expected for something like this to happen, but actually seeing it is really irritating!!”
Shin’s eyes narrowed at the sight at the attacker. Next to him, Filma grumbled.
The reason was that the culprit behind the attempted attack towards Tiera had Schnee’s appearance.
“Fil, calm down.”
“It doesn’t look like it has the same abilities as her, though.”
“A Shadow of Desire, huh.”
Shin’s 【Analyze】 had revealed the true nature of the assailant. It was a monster created by the evil deity, copying players or support characters. In the game era, it was generated at random from the memories stolen by the evil deity, but this time it was, obviously enough, only Schnee.
The generated monster was not a perfect copy appearance-wise, only looking like a solid shadow. The silhouette, however, was without a doubt Schnee’s.
The monster that had its attack parried by Shin and Filma used a weapon shaped like 『Blue Moon』. The weapon vanished after being blocked, as it probably could not sustain any more damage.
“As expected…it wasn’t only one.”
After the failed surprise attack, many other Shadows rose from the ground. The new monsters, 6 in all, pointed their weapons at Tiera, Filma, Shibaid, Sety, Yuzuha and Kagerou respectively.
“No one wants to face me?”
The Shadows were ready to attack, but for some reason none tried to aim at Shin: they focused on the other party members, almost as if they could not see him. No one in the group was wounded, but being Schnee’s copies, the Shadows could not be defeated easily.
Not paying any attention to Shin, however, meant that they were completely open to his attacks.
The two Shadows that tried using as the walls as trampoline to attack Sety and Tiera from above were pierced by Shin’s Flame-type Magic skill, 【Flare Arrow】.
“You got some guts to ignore me.”
Even if struck by Shin, the Shadow did not show any particular reaction: the 1 mel diameter area around the point struck by Shin’s 【Flare Arrow】 disappeared, but the remaining shadow limbs melted back into the shadows.
“What’s going on here?”
“If these things are born from Schnee, it makes sense that they can’t attack you, to me!!”
Filma answered Shin’s question while cutting down a Shadow.
“Shadows of Desire…they embody the source’s hidden wishes, don’t they?”
“The original wishes are supposed to be twisted by the evil deity, though.”
Shin remembered the event’s description and explained. Any wish ended up corrupted, in an offensive or negative manner.
“For big sis Schnee…are we in the way?”
Sety spoke with a sad tone, considering that all members other than Shin were being attacked. Even if her wish was corrupted, the Shadows’ actions suggested that Schnee did not consider anyone other than Shin to be necessary.
“I don’t think that’s it.”
Tiera expressed her dissent while shooting at the last remaining Shadow.
“I think that master simply wanted to be alone together with Shin. They were separated as soon as they met again, and after they reunited they were never by themselves.”
Tiera’s hypothesis was strangely convincing. No one could find any objections. It was true that Shin rarely acted together with only Schnee. They sometimes went shopping and such on their own, but it never lasted more than a day. In Hinomoto Schnee had joined him before the others, but even so they were not alone.
“Such a feeling too got warped negatively…”
Shibaid grunted, irritated, looking at shadows newly arising from the floor and walls.
‘I want to be with the person I like’: a feeling anyone could share. If that was their base, just the fact the Shadows were trying to hurt someone would be painful for Schnee.
“Shin, if these things won’t try to attack you, why don’t you go ahead first?”
“We won’t be defeated by monsters of this level. I also doubt that you would succumb to the evil deity either”
Shibaid spoke clearly, uncaring of the Shadows gradually surrounding them.
“That’s right, if they’ll let you right through, then make use of their kindness. Go on already, and take her back!”
“Yep, just leave the rest to me. I can’t say I’m one of your entourage if I let small fry like this beat me!”
Filma and Sety too agreed with Shibaid and urged Shin to go.
Their words implied “if you won’t go, who will?”. They were not concerned by the decrease in fighting power caused by Shin’s absence.
“Kuu, this is something Shin must do.”
Yuzuha, who had turned to a 2-mel size for fighting more easily, looked at Shin and spoke. Kagerou too growled in unison.
Tiera did not talk, but nodded in agreement.
“…got it, I’ll go first. You better catch up soon!”
Shin gripped 『Moonless』 more firmly, turned his back to Filma and the others and started running. The Shadows, oblivious, continued attacking the rest of the party.
“I’m coming, Schnee!”
Shin removed all of his stats’ 【Limiters】 and kicked the ground fiercely, causing a large crack on the floor and boosting his speed in turn.
The Dark Stalkers targeted Shin, but they were simply powerless to stop him from hurrying towards Schnee. Without slowing down one second, Shin activated a skill.
“Out of my way!”
The Dark Stalkers obstructing Shin’s path were blown away. Their scythes and exoskeletons were shattered, as well as their bodies. Shin had not attacked them, but simply ran through. The only difference from before was the golden light veiling his body.
Tri-Elemental Composite Skill 【Thunder God Cloth】.
The skill created a barrier that enveloped the user’s body, repelling physical attacks, which was covered by high-output electricity. The skill combined Barehanded, Divine, and Lightning elements.
The skill’s appearance caused some players to nickname it Super Mode or Hyper Mode, with another reason being that it was damaging enough to deserve such names.
The physical barrier’s strength and resistance depended on the user’s stats, preventing the Dark Stalkers’ scythes from approaching, while the light emitted by Shin’s body annihilated the Dark Summoners. The monsters were nothing more than air for Shin.
“The Shadows won’t come out, huh.”
Shin didn’t know what that meant. Maintaining 【Thunder God Cloth】, he proceeded deeper into the dungeon. He checked the path with 【Magic Sonar】, blew any monsters away, and crushed all traps he encountered on the shortest route to his destination.
Finally, he arrived at the deepest reaches of the dungeon, before the room where the evil deity was supposed to be.
Wary of any attacks from inside, Shin slowly opened the door. Despite the heavy decorations on the doors, they opened easily with just a touch. What Shin found inside was at first nothing but darkness. Next, he saw silver flames. Candles at both sides of the boss chamber lit up by themselves.
In the most remote part of the room, it awaited.
The Evil Deity, Adetropos.
A mask over its face, empty eyes gazing into the void, irregular limbs, body covered by tattoos, and a snake-like lower body: its appearance was the same as the game era.
In place of his hairless head, however, flowed silver hair. From his hands grew ice claws. The greatest difference, however, was the light blue crystal on his chest, with Schnee trapped within.
The moment he saw it, Shin rushed forward.