Vol. 12 Chapter 4 – Part 3

A straightforward assault, with all of his Limiters removed. Shin had neither the time nor intention to assess the situation. Faster than a speeding bullet, he closed the 50-mel distance between his initial position and Adetropos in a couple of steps.

Shin’s initial target was the monster’s left arm, the symbol of the boss monster’s heavy use of mental-affecting skills and magic skills. His 『Moonless』 carved through it easily.

Divine/Katana Combination Skill 【Scourge Divide – Morning Star】

In the candle-lit room, a white-hot flash of metal sparkled for an instant.

The Divine/Katana skill unleashed by Shin, which would cause massive damage to evil-type monsters such as demons, devils, and the undead, cut off Adetropos’ left arm. Meanwhile, it was not clear where Adetropos was looking or if it had even realized it was under attack.

The ability that activated after the boss received damage, however, did not rely on its perceptions. Before Shin could use the Movement-type Martial skill 【Flying Shadow】 to continue attacking, the severed arm, right before hitting the ground, erupted into black smoke.

“Tch!”

Shin instantly changed directions. He moved behind Adetropos’ body, using the monster’s large body as a shield. A few seconds later, the chamber was filled by a grey light: it was 【Netherlight】, a skill that caused all status effects at once. Shin could have probably resisted its effects, but decided to dodge it just in case. 【Netherlight】 did not affect Adetropos’ body and its shadow.

“You’re going to move now, huh?”

Shin planned to attack as soon as the light disappeared, but Adetropos raised its snake-like body, supported by countless insect-like legs. The crawling monster was a really disgusting sight. Adetropos moved extremely quickly, though it was difficult to imagine from its snake-like, centipede-like lower body. In addition, it could easily travel not only on the ground, but also the walls and ceiling. It climbed up the walls, attached itself on the ceiling and spewed a deluge of status effects.

Its aptitude to easily avoid the players’ attacks, affect them with negative statuses, and torture them was another reason why Adetropos was hated by the players.

However—

“You thought I couldn’t reach?”

Shin could run on the walls and even on midair: he was a completely different opponent from the players that Adetropos had probably defeated until now.

Shin, as he was now, could easily reach the ceiling, using a combination of 【Flying Shadow】 and jumping. Against Adetropos, who had to use the walls, he would never lose in speed.

“Schnee isn’t damaged, right?”

Shin checked Schnee’s HP gauge while the monster climbed the wall. If she wasn’t there, he would have targeted the boss’ neck from the first blow.

“I’m takInG heR bAck.”

Shin’s words reverberated through the chamber. In the echo there was also another voice, not Shin’s or the evil deity’s.

Shin did not notice it, however, and leapt in front of Adetropos’ eyes as it hung from the ceiling.

The instant Shin’s 『Moonless』, bright with 【Scourge Divide – Morning Star】’s glow, swung down on Adetropos, the blade was also adorned by purple crystals.

Adetropos, however, was still one of the toughest bosses: it used its right arm’s claws to block the attack. The ice claws, though not present in the game, were not enough to stop Shin’s attack.

『Moonless』’s slash cut off the claws, while the resulting shockwave separated the monster’s hand from its elbow.

“Get lost alre—-!?!”

Shin had slipped close to the monster, ready to slice its head off with 『Moonless』.

Just as the blade was about to reach the monster’s body, the blue crystal containing Schnee appeared in front of Shin.

Shin didn’t know how resistant the crystal was. If 『Moonless』’s strike was more powerful, however, the slash would end up cutting Schnee too.

Shin used 【Flying Shadow】 to create a temporary foothold and focused his strength on swinging his blade in the opposite direction. Thanks to his strength, 『Moonless』 stopped just before touching the blue crystal.

Adetropos was probably waiting for this instant: its silver hair started moving as if it had a will of its own, squirming towards Shin, attempting to grab him. The attack’s range was wide, but it was slow. Shin jumped out of the way and stood on the same wall as Adetropos.

“Hey…”

Anger-filled words escaped Shin’s mouth.

“You!! Bastard!! What did you just try to make me do!?”

Shin shouted, overwhelmed by rage.

It was just an angry shout, not accompanied by any skill. Shin’s roar, however, caused the flames on the chamber’s candles to flicker violently. A crack also appeared on the crystal trapping Schnee.

Shin had stopped 『Moonless』 before it touched the crystal, but Ancient-grade weapons could cause damage even with just air pressure, as proved by the crack in the crystal.

Make the person coming to save a prisoner kill them instead. Adetropos’ actions had positively enraged Shin.

“Your deaTh won’T be painLEss.”

Shin kicked the wall, breaking it apart behind him, and rushed towards the monster. Adetropos shot ice arrows, something it could not do in the game, but Shin simply knocked away the ones in his path and instantly approached the monster.

He targeted the monster’s insect legs this time, with which it could crawl on the walls and ceiling. Making sure to be ready to react even if the blue crystal was again teleported in front, Shin swung 『Moonless』, cutting down the monster’s legs from the left side. Thanks to 『Moonless』, it made no real difference whether the legs were covered by a protective shell or not.

While avoiding or knocking away all obstacles, Shin continued cutting off the monster’s legs.

“Time tO tRy thAt.”

After slicing off ⅔ of the legs on the left side, Adetropos’ lower body had grown rather unstable. Shin then stabbed the monster’s snake lower body with 『Moonless』 without hesitation.

It was a much smaller attack than the ones before: Adetropos did not seem to react at all.

“BurN frOm inSIde aNd sUFFer!!”

『Moonless』, having piercing the monster up to the hilt, was engulfed in flames.

Katana/Flame Combination Skill 【Garuda’s Flame】.

The skill Shin activated enveloped the katana in red and gold flames, that were capable of melting even Adamantine. These flames were now burning Adetropos’ body from inside.

Crimson and golden light seeped through from where 『Moonless』 stabbed the monster, then its flesh started falling out. Adetropos’ body could not withstand the heat released by the blade.

“Looks like you can’t move the crystal inside youR bOdy!!”

Shin stabbed 『Moonless』 in another location and ran on the monster’s tail, with the flames following him along the monster’s body. Shin managed to run almost completely around Adetropos’ tail, enough for it to be close to falling off. Shin then changed directions, running up the monster’s back in a zig-zag pattern to avoid its attacks.

“xpr&r”&%#s!!”

An intelligible wail-like sound was produced by what probably was Adetropos’ mouth. Its body then turned black.

“Tch, so it’s just like the event now!!”

Because of the game settings, it was not possible to completely defeat Adetropos. It was an enemy boss, but still categorized as a deity. Even if its body was destroyed, it would eventually resurrect. Maybe because of such a setting, some of those monsters tried to surprise players with their last resort attacks.

In Adetropos’ case, when its HP went below a certain level, it had the nasty habit of trying to take the player down with it.

When Adetropos’ body turned completely black, it would start crumbling into a blob. In the game, if the player was still alive after Adetropos had completely melted away, the mission was considered complete.

“You’re not taking Schnee with you!!!”

Shin shouted and ran into Adetropos’ melting body. There was still the possibility of the crystal being teleported again, so he just held 『Moonless』 without swinging it. If he did not do anything he would be swept away by the turbid stream, so Shin activated 【Thunder God Cloth】 to break through Adetropos’ former body and reach Schnee.

“There’s, something.”

The black stream did not touch him directly, but even so Shin’s HP gauge was gradually decreasing. In the game, being engulfed by the black stream was the end: it caused instant death, no matter how much HP the player had left. The black liquid that was trying to swallow Shin and the crystal probably had similar effects.

“If I was together with Schnee, well…I even thought.”

Shin talked to himself when he reached the crystal and saw Schnee’s face. He had decided: as long as he was together with Schnee, no matter where he ended, he would have no regrets.

“—but I’m not easy enough to be taken down by the likes of you!!”

Shin activated the creation-type skill 【Alteration】 and buried his arms in the crystal. After making sure he had a firm grip, he activated the skill again. Purple lines formed a magic circle, with Shin and the crystal at its center. Several complex patterns appeared in the 5-mel wide circle.

The magic circle, glowing brighter and fainter, pushed away the black stream surrounding Shin and the crystal as soon as it appeared, as if it had a barrier that did not allow anything to pass through it.

“DisapPEaR!!!”

The magic circle’s light grew stronger with Shin’s shout. 6 purple flames, about 60-cemel tall, appeared on the outer side of the circle, spinning along it, all in different directions. The purple flames formed different circles and, after a few seconds, grew exponentially in size.

The black stream that had tried to swallow Shin gradually disappeared, as if it was erased out of existence. No matter if it was touched directly or not, the flames erased it all.

Flame-type Magic skill 【Purging Flame of Obliteration】

It was a wide range skill that caused great damage to anyone, enemies and allies alike, in a set radius, with the exception of the user. In a closed room with no way of escape, it was extremely lethal. Its effects covered the whole boss room, so Adetropos’ black stream could not escape anywhere.

“…there’s no response anymore.”

After the skill’s effects wore off, Shin scanned the area with his detection skills, looking for Adetropos’ presence, then removed his arms from the crystal. He had grabbed it firmly to avoid it being affected by 【Purging Flame of Obliteration】 , so it suffered no other cracks or damage than the one inflicted in the beginning.

“It’s the same as the time with Filma…”

It could just be a coincidence, or maybe there was a reason behind it, but the crystal trapping Schnee was actually a 『Drop of Erathem』. This one was in harmony with Schnee’s magic power and emitted a blue light. As it had happened with Filma, it would not be absorbed by Schnee.

Nothing was in the way anymore, so Shin decided to free Schnee first of all. He activated 【Alteration】 and changed the crystal into an item card. Even the tough 『Drop of Erathem』 was like putty before 【Alteration】: it wasn’t long before Schnee was freed.

“Schnee. Hey, Schnee.”

Shin checked her breath and pulse, then shook her lightly to wake her up. After a while, Schnee started moving.

“…..? …..hn…Shi…n…?”

Her eyelids opened slowly, then her sky blue eyes met Shin’s gaze. Her expression was still lost, as she probably hadn’t fully woken up yet. Shin looked at her gently. The boss had been defeated, so her memories should return too.

“Do you recognize me?”

“What in the world—eh? Er, ehm, why are we…like this?”

Schnee was currently being held by Shin, his arms supporting her back and knees.

“Do you remember everything? Are there any gaps?”

“—-ah.”

Shin’s words caused Schnee to turn pale.

“I, I do. Or, I should say that I remember everything now. What happened until I fought Hameln, and also after that.”

“You remember everything, then? What happened during the game, and also after I returned?”

“Yes, I also remember about fighting against you all, while under the evil deity’s control.”

Schnee spoke in a feeble yet confident tone. She could have said that she did not remember anything about the time she was controlled, but didn’t. She had turned pale because she had realized what she had done: the weight of her guilt tormented her.

“I, I am truly sor—”

“Aaaahh!!! I’m so glad…!!”

Shin’s sudden shout cut off Schnee’s apology. He then fell sitting on the ground, relieved. Schnee, on the other hand, floated for a second.

“Wah!”

“Oops.”

While sitting, Shin deftly caught Schnee’s fall, then hugged her close.

“Eh, er, Shin…?”

“I’m glad….I’m so glad. I didn’t know what to do if you had disappeared because I couldn’t make up my mind.”

Even if he remembered info about the event, there was no assurance that Schnee would be all right. Even if she was physically okay, mentally she could have become another person.

She’s still alive, she’s going to be okay. Shin had continued to repeat these words to himself while on the way here. After realizing that Schnee was really alright, it was obvious for his outburst of joy.

“You didn’t do anything wrong. I just let down my guard.”

“No, that’s my fault. If I had decided earlier and told you, things would have gone differently.”

Schnee blamed herself, but Shin stopped her sternly. She had been manipulated by the evil deity because there was a large enough gap in her heart for it to infiltrate. And the reason behind that was Shin. He couldn’t let that slide.

“What I couldn’t say that night…I’ll say it now.”

“….yes.”

Shin released the embrace and placed his hands on Schnee’s shoulders. Schnee understood the meaning of his words and looked straight at him, a tense expression on her face.

Shin’s answer towards Schnee’s desire for him to remain in this world. That time, the words stayed stuck in his throat, but now it was different. His heart was set. He just had to say the words.

“I’m going to stay in this world. So would you please stay with me? Not as master and servant…but as man and woman.”

“…!?! D-do you mean…?”

Schnee’s eyes opened wide.

“Well, yes, I mean…I want you to marry me.”

“!?!”

Shin’s eyes looked straight at Schnee’s. It wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t just something said to buy time.

They were words born from Shin’s honest feelings.

“Eh!? Hey, Schnee!?”

Transparent tears flowed out of Schnee’s eyes. The unexpected reaction caused a small panic in Shin.

“I’m sorry. Ever since we met again, I always…I always thought, that I really wanted this to happen…”

Schnee wiped her flowing tears and looked at Shin.

“Are, are you really sure? Someone like me—!?”

Instead of answering, Shin sealed Schnee’s lips with his, forcefully stopping her self-deprecating words. Schnee was confused at first, but as she understood what Shin was doing, she slowly put her hands around his back.

“Shi…n….!”

The light kiss grew gradually more passionate. In the game, kissing was the greatest show of affection possible between players like Shin.

I love you.

I love you too.

Exchanging feelings, words, and breaths.

Schnee knew what kissing meant. She responded passionately, much more than one would expect from her. Her tears wouldn’t stop, but Shin knew that they were not born out of sadness.

“…hah.”

After a long kiss, the two separated naturally. A string between their lips vanished, as if longing for more. Looking at it, Schnee blushed – a bit too late.

“This isn’t, a dream, right?”

“It isn’t. I can pinch your cheeks if you want.”

“Please do.”

“For real?”

Shin meant it as a joke, but Schnee closed her eyes and put her face closer to Shin’s. Despite what he said, Shin couldn’t really pinch Schnee’s cheeks, so he just poked them a little.

“That’s not enough to wake me up from a dream, you know?”

“I know I said it myself, but this isn’t easy to do…”

“Hehe, you’re so kind, Shin.”

Shin wiped the last tears remaining near Schnee’s eyes, grumbling to himself. While looking at her smile, he decided once more that he would never let her cry out of sadness again.

“Filma and the others are here too, right?”

“Yeah, they told me to go ahead.”

Shin remembered about his comrades telling him to go on and smiled. He wasn’t worried at all about the monsters getting the best of them.

“Let’s go meet them, then. I made them worry too.”

“Yeah, let’s—–!?”

Shin nodded to Schnee and was about to stand up, when the entire dungeon shook violently.

“What’s going on!?”

He looked around and noticed that several patterns had appeared in the boss room, patterns he had seen before.

“Is that a teleportation magic circle?”

“It definitely is. —now that I recall, if you don’t go out right away after defeating the boss you get teleported to a random place, I think…”

Shin didn’t remember clearly what he had heard about the secret dungeon, or even if it was all true. But one of the things he did seem to remember referred to this very situation.

“The teleport crystal…won’t work. I remember that no one was ever teleported inside a wall or something though.”

“It’s alright. I feel no malice coming from this spell.”

Schnee calmed down the restless Shin. Maybe because of her recent capture, she could tell such things now.

“Shin. Please embrace me like this.”

“All right.”

They didn’t know where they would end up. But if they remained in close proximity, they thought they would be sent to the same place.

The magic circle lit up. A bright light filled the room, and when it disappeared, there was nothing in it anymore.

 

◆◆◆◆

 

While Shin was telling his decision to Schnee, a few mels from the entrance of the dungeon, a black liquid-like substance appeared. The black ooze, which until minutes before had been the evil deity Adetropos, slowly begun to float towards the sky.

It had been defeated, but Adetropos was still a monster in the deity category. Thanks to having fought inside the secret dungeon, its home ground, it had managed to escape from Shin. That was the reason why bringing its HP to zero was not a condition for victory during the game event.

Adetropos would be defeated by players, resurrect, then be defeated again. That was its role in this world. The event’s background information stated that a deity that tried to ease people’s suffering had become an insane god and ended up confined to this world.

Until someone realized that Adetropos was not destroyed, and truly finished it off, the monster would not be stopped—

“This presence…you. You are the evil deity, are you not?”

Adetropos planned to leave the dungeon for a while, to regain its powers, but someone called to it from above. Shadow covered its body. Something was blocking the sunlight.

“I can feel Shin’s magic power. Seeing you in such a weakened state…you have fled.”

Adetropos felt chills running through the surface of its body. The opponent looking down on him was not an average monster.

“I do not fight weakened opponents. Just this time, however, I shall discard such a creed!”

It was not said that its end would be necessarily brought by a human.

Adetropos did not know that, outside the dungeon, there was a creature much more dangerous than Shin.

“Hm!?”

As if responding to Tzaobath’s arrival, the hidden dungeon emitted a flash of light and disappeared.

“…an escape mechanism. Shin and the others must have been teleported away.”

Tzaobath, feeling the magic power, moved its neck in 3 different directions. Shin’s party had been sent to 3 different locations, apparently.

“Shin and the others aren’t here anymore…I have no more reason to hold back.”

Tzaobath looked at Adetropos, which was trying to sneak away. Its wings spread wide, and the light blue wings started glowing. At the same time, part of the clouds covering the sky cleared up. Light came down from the sky, directly above Tzaobath, which the dragon received on its back. The light did not reach the ground and was absorbed by the dragon’s wings. The ray of sunlight made its body glow golden.

“Disappear.”

The golden glow gathered in Tzaobath’s maw, turning into a golden beam. A blow faster than a bolt of lighting and with more force than a meteor strike. There was nothing Adetropos could do. The light from the sky completely annihilated the evil deity, without giving it a single chance to avoid or defend itself against the attack.

The beam, not content with just destroying Adetropos, carved a large crater into the ground, turned trees into cinders and left another gaping wound on the recovering earth. After the light disappeared, all that was left was ground turned into glass, an enormous crater…

…and a sole dragon looking down from the skies.

“O friend. Did the memory of our days together return to your soul?”

Tzaobath looked at the crater in silence for a few moments, then uttered these words and flapped its wings. The dragon soared quickly above the heavy clouds and flew far away in the sky.

 

◆◆◆◆

 

“….The presence of Shin and the others’ disappeared…this must be teleportation. Looks like they managed to defeat Adetropos.”

At the same time as Shin’s victory over Adetropos, in a dimly lit room somewhere, Hameln was talking to no one in particular.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to check the reaction if they get teleported. Will dear Schnee’s memories be returned? Or maybe they are lost forever?”

Hameln had tracked the movements of Shin’s party after being separated from them. Shin and his comrades were fully focused on finding Schnee, so they had not realized it.

Tracking players’ movements inside dungeons was impossible, except for a handful of particular skills. Hameln’s job did not allow him to acquire them, so it should have been impossible for him. That was in the game era, however. Things were different now.

“If they do not return, what will poor Shin do?”

Hameln, who knew Shin from the game era, grinned. He had helped Shin once before, but that was all for the sake of his objective. Being a player killer, Hameln was normally an enemy for Shin.

“To think that Tzaobath existed in this world, however. Shin truly is amusing to observe. It would be a pity if he changed, but what happens, happens, I suppose.”

Hameln, who had been looking down, raised his head before talking again.

“I am looking forward to seeing you again.”

Bizarrely enough, the direction he was looking in was the one Shin and Schnee had been teleported to.

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