Vol. 2 Chapter 2 – Part 3

The blue marker, that showed Schnee, approached the green markers. It was likely that they were told to leave, as the green markers left the plains immediately. And then, the blue marker instantly changed direction towards Shin. It pushed forward in a straight line.

Though she was slower than Shin, almost all of the Skull Faces that bumped into her were instantly killed.

Silently killing and cutting the approaching Skull Faces, Shin also went toward Schnee. However, his steps were heavy. There was a hint that she remembered him in the letter from Tiera, but he didn’t know what to say when they met again.

Schnee, in the game era, didn’t converse more than what she was programmed to.  As a support character, although he had raised her charm setting to the max, he had no idea if that had affected her personality.

If he thought about it, the store had been left neglected.  As it was, there hadn’t even been any news from him for 500 years. What did she think of Shin? It was impossible to guess. Instead, it would not be strange if she was angry and hated him.

But without thinking about it too much, Schnee arrived at Shin’s position.

――――While a black skeleton squirmed, the two people had their reunion.

Whether it sensed something or not, the Skull Faces’ movements stopped.

Even if it tried to move right away, it couldn’t move forward; as if it was blocked by a totally invisible wall. Though Shin, while perplexed, also noticed the surroundings, he was hit lightly by paws on his forehead as some kind of interaction. Judging from the thoughts that flowed to him, Yuzuha seemed to have erected a barrier somehow. It didn’t seem like it would be able to hold for a long time, but it was not the situation for a lengthy reunion, so it was not a problem.

When he conveyed “Sorry”, the feeling of the thought “It’s all right” was returned. The fox could indeed read the atmosphere.

That exchange of thoughts was finished in an instant, and Shin changed his attention to Schnee again.

While her silver hair swayed from the wind, Schnee stared right at Shin.

Seeing that, Shin thought, ‘She hasn’t changed at all’ which was indeed an ordinary impression. The silver, shining hair, the transparent blue eyes, and even the clothes she wore; not one thing had changed from the last time they parted.

“…Have you been well?”

Though he thought he should say something else, only those words came out from his mouth.

Those were foolish words, he thought to himself. If the game had been over though, he wouldn’t have met her again, an NPC. So he had been curious.

In a sense, she was the longest-lasting friend he had in the game, and the one he held the most affection for. She was totally similar to a player even if he only saw her because of the VR(Virtual Reality). Therefore, in the VR-world, where the SF(Science Fiction) was excellent, the AI could be equipped with a conversation function…and so on, he thought.

“…………”

Schnee didn’t answer.

Her eyes became watery, and her lips pressed together tightly, as if to suppress something. Seeing the figure which was desperately enduring tears, Shin panicked.

“Schnee…tsu!?”

The moment he called out her name, the flash of silver flickered.

He was embraced affectionately by Schnee, and Shin received an impact that was far stronger than expected. It seems that the outstanding stats, even among his support characters, was not for show. As expected, he almost yelled out “Gofuu!!” but barely endured it.

“Sc-Schnee?”

“Don’t you have something to say?”

Embraced tightly, Shin’s spine almost screamed in pain. Even if the question was asked abruptly, in this situation where he was surrounded by enemies, he couldn’t think of anything.

“Um, sorry for neglecting you until nowAaa!?”

“That’s not it.”

“Gisiri” sound was made, as the force emitted by her arms intensified.

“T-Thank you for protecting the store!?”

“That’s not it.”

The force from her arms grew further. It was not an apology, nor even gratitude.

What was it then? What does he need to say?

Shin frantically ran through his memories.

He recalled back to when he came into this world, the last thing that came into his mind was the expression of Schnee weeping and the place everyone once spent time together called ‘Tsuki no Hokora’, which she continued to protect.

(Ah..I see)

From there, it became simple.

What was he really thinking about before, he wanted to laugh at himself.

These were words that he would say in the game, and he had to say them now.

He left the store, disappeared, and then came back.

The first thing he should have said――――

“…I’m home.”

“Welcome back.”

◆◆◆◆

“I’m home.”

Schnee ended the hug with Shin after hearing these words.

There were no tears anymore in her eyes. It was the usual calm expression, that Shin knew well.

“I thought you wouldn’t come home anymore.”

“…Indeed. I also thought that I wouldn’t meet you again.”

He had understood this at the time he left the shop. If the death game was cleared, the data for both Tsuki no Hokora and the support characters would be deleted. He would never be able to meet Schnee, or her real side again if that had happened.

Even though NPC’s could only receive it in the program as an example, Shin felt that it was the parting that was painful.

It was very difficult to express it in words.

No love and affection. The friendship would also be different.

More data, it could be said she was less than a human being. It was too complex, and personally Shin didn’t properly understand it either.

“Kyuu~”

A cry that lost strength, for the two people, resounded in the serious atmosphere. When Shin turned his eyes upward, he saw the figure of an exhausted Yuzuha above his head.

Apparently, by keeping the barrier up, it seemed to have reached its limit somehow. The barrier shattered, and they noticed the Skull Faces pouring in toward them.

“Though there is a lot to talk about, let’s get this situation under control for the time being.”

“Well. I had forgotten about it a little because of our reunion after such a long time.”

“Kuu~”

While smiling wryly at Yuzuha’s bark that said, “I will leave the rest to you~”, the two people faced the Skull Faces.

“The first blow. I want to execute something big.”

“Let’s do it. Now is just the right time.”

Shin said with a broad grin, and Schnee, with a pleasant smile, laughed. Then they held their hands up toward the sky.

“The manifestation for one to become pure.”

“The manifestation for one that becomes eternal.”

They invoked a magic system skill that was exclusive to cooperation.

Only 2 or more players, or support characters, were able to use it.

The name was ――――

“Sanctuary!!”

The chant melted the darkness.

And immediately the effect was visible in the sky above the whole area of the plains.

An enormous magic formation was drawn in the night sky.

Shin and Schnee. It could be said that no one in this world could rival these two people’s cooperation skills. That effect was more than enough to exceed the usage of skills of ordinary skill users by far.

Before the Skull Faces reached Shin, light shined from the heavens.

It cut the darkness, illuminated the earth, and the light cleared away the world’s impurity in the plains as the ones that were wriggling were purified without mercy. That light spread temporarily even into the veil of night, and it shone upon the whole plains as if the sun had suddenly appeared.

“AAaaaaa――――…”

Although various individual Skull Faces were hit by the light, most became sparkling demon essences and vanished. But as expected, the Lord wasn’t killed it seems. Though the unpleasant voice resounded throughout the plains, the moment the Skull Faces sprang out from the ground, they were exposed to the light of purification and disappeared instantly.

The two people’s magic power, which fueled the magic formation, kept pouring out as it was maintained for several seconds without fading away, it continued shining upon the ground with a powerful and gentle light. Under such conditions, it seemed that the Skull Faces couldn’t even act properly. The red markers that were swept away from the map were reflected in Shin’s field of vision, and a beautiful field was able to be perceived.

“Now then, since the nuisances are all gone, let’s move onto the elimination of the main culprit.”

“Does Master know the cause of this phenomenon?”

“Ah, it was caused by the monster named Lord Skull Face. Though I saw it for the first time just now, do you know anything about it?”

“…No, I too just heard of it now for the first time.”

Shin thought Schnee, who spent a long time in this world, would know something, but Schnee didn’t have any idea someway or another.

Since the Skull Faces disappeared, there was nothing that blocked the way to the Lord anymore.

They checked their equipment quickly and ran toward the target. Yuzuha had become completely energetic due to the recovery effect of 【Sanctuary】, and watched their surroundings while on top of Shin’s head.

Shin would have liked to hand over 『Blue Moon』 to Schnee, but it was already given over to Tiera, so instead a powerful anti-Lord ninja katana and dagger were handed over. Though the main job of Schnee was a Kunoichi(a female version of a ninja), she was able to equip any weapon she liked such as a ninja katana and dagger, because there was no equipment restriction on weapons due to her job. Most players were satisfied if their support character could use at most 2 or 3 types. However, Schnee was the support character of Shin, so unfortunately only 2 or 3 types of weapon mastery was out of the question.

She held the ninja katana in her right hand, the dagger in her left, and ran at full speed alongside Shin towards the Lord.

“I saw it.”

They ran through the plains with overwhelming speed, and the two arrived at the place where the Lord was. Now, due to the downpour of the light, demon essence flickered from the whole body of the Lord. It was kneeling on one knee, and the armor, which covered its whole body, was cracked in several places. Its HP gauge was about half-full. Great damage was already dealt to it even though they hadn’t attacked it directly, due to the powerful skill Shin and Schnee released together, which at the same time was its weak point.

“GGUUUuuuuu…”

It looked down at the two people while roaring. The demon-flames that lit up the interior of the skeleton, now in this situation, emitted an ominous light. As expected from a monster whose level exceeded 800, the pressure it exerted could not be neglected.

“I wanted to ask it various questions, but it seems that it can’t talk.”

Shin muttered in front of the Lord again. From the beginning, he didn’t expect that he could talk to it directly, but the monster itself didn’t exist in the game, so he observed its whole body in the hope that it might shed some light on information that he didn’t know.

Its appearance gave off the impression of an upgraded King class Skull Face, although it was tattered. Including the information from 【Analyze】, it was still of the higher kind of Skull Face.

“Either way, since the start, it was an opponent that must be defeated.”

“Indeed…I’m about to begin.”

“Roger.”

Following Schnee’s response, the Lord, which was preparing a counter attack, was attacked.

The Lord’s hand reached out and grasped a deep dark-colored greatsword out of thin air, and unleashed a powerful slash at the two people who broke through the front. Towards the blow that cut through the air, Shin stepped forward and readied the long katana to cross blades.

Due to the sudden acceleration and weight of the long katana, combined with Shin’s flashy physical strength, the middle part of the Lord’s greatsword collided and clashed against his katana.

When the steel frames collided, a thunderous sound was emitted.  The Lord barely managed to keep its hand on the greatsword, which had bent backwards as a result of the clash.  Schnee, who held two blades, prepared to approach the almost defenseless body of the Lord.

Sword system martial arts skill 【Blade Breaker】, suddenly appeared.

It was a skill that was highly effective against an opponent that was resistant to slashing attacks.  Shin gave Schnee the 《Mythology》 grade ninja katana 『Lazuline Flame』, and the dagger 『Scarlet Flame』. Two flame colors, red and blue, left a trail while the two blades drew an arc through the air. Every time the armor of the Lord was smashed, the interior was exposed.

Inside, the broken armor was filled with a tar-like black liquid. It pulsated as if the thing itself had purpose. At the same time, as she was crushing the armor, it stretched toward Schnee.

“Uh!”

Schnee, who sensed the impending crisis in the form of a black tentacle, gave up the chase and retreated momentarily. The black tentacle that approached her was repelled by the two swords, and she withdrew from the tentacle range.

“Its attack is like the Gel Bison’s.”

When he saw the black tentacle emerging from the Skull Face, Shin was reminded of the monster in the plains, the Gel Bison. Was this because the Gel Bison was turned into demon essence and absorbed by the black orb? It immediately came into his mind.

(Don’t tell me, it’s able to use the abilities of all the monsters it absorbed?)

It was an assumption that he didn’t want to be correct, if possible. Undead monsters had many things that resembled a unique characteristic, and almost none of them relied on endurance to fight. Gel Bison did not really have much of a special attack, but Shin was worried about the monster that was absorbed first, the Pecker Hollow.

“No need to hold back.”

Confirming that Schnee had withdrawn, he gathered magic power in his left hand.

In the following moment, crimson flames were fired toward the Lord from Shin’s hand.

It was fired without chanting, flame system magic skill 【Flare Volcano】.

A roaring flame that exceeded the Lord’s height by dozens of mels ran through it in a flash, as it directly hit the Lord who couldn’t even properly move anymore.

It was burnt by two different kinds; the light of purification and the crimson flame, and the Lord was destroyed soon after it raised a death cry. The flames were extinguished after a while, and they left a trace of muddy melted earth from the high temperature that extended horizontally in a straight line.

“Is it over?”

He fired it with the intention of defeating it. However, Shin felt a strong sense of something being wrong, for the ‘strangely too quick’ end of the act.

Schnee might also have felt the same, as she didn’t let her guard down.

Shin, who carried 『Hamon Hirumaki』 on his shoulder, activated the detection system skill to the max. The demon essence in the atmosphere became dense as a result of the battle, and they concentrated on the flow of demon essence that they didn’t sense until now. Thereupon, they noticed the unnatural flow of the surrounding demon essence. The demon essence of the Skull Faces that had fallen didn’t dissolve in the air, but was absorbed into the earth. Not just one or two bodies, but it could be said that it was almost all of them.

“…Beneath us!”

The moment Shin turned his attention to the underground, a large shaking hit the 2 people.

A small red marker appeared on the map at the same time that Shin looked at it. It’s size increased along with the earthquake, until finally, it’s size exceeded that of the Lord.

“Master.”

“Ah, it looks like this is it’s true form.”

A black orb pierced through the ground and appeared simultaneously with Shin’s words. Unlike the time when he saw it earlier, this black orb had red lines drawn upon it; traveling like blood vessels and pulsating like a heart.

“The one that came up a while ago was just an empty shell, huh?”

That explained why the Lord fell so quickly. Apparently, the empty shell was just a decoy so it could gather the demon essences in the entire plains for the main body.

After the appearance of the black orb, a noticeably larger shake occurred. Gigantic arms emerged in sequence, with which it was even possible to grab a King class Skull Face. 3 pairs, or 6 arms, gripped the ground and dragged its main body out.

Its head was decorated with twisted horns, its body was a collection of Skull Faces, its lower body had the impression of a crustacean with 4 pairs of legs, and it had 5 scorpion-like tails.

It might still have obtained the ability of the Pecker Hollow, too. Its total length exceeded 20 mels, so judging from that standard, it was different from a conventional Skull Face.

As the orb was absorbed and it fused with the gigantic body, a demon-fire lit-up inside its eye sockets.

“GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA――――――――!!!!!!!”

The roar emitted was also accompanied by a shock-wave. Though Shin and Schnee were exceptions, it would not be strange if whole bodies of average adventurers were blown away just from the wind pressure.

“Seriously?”

“It’s look like it.”

“If that’s the case, we should get serious too.”

Facing the Lord who issued its roar, Shin also changed his equipment. He selected the same equipment from when he challenged Origin before, using the shortcut system which registered a specific set, and changed his equipment instantaneously.

Deep crimson arm guards and leg guards covered his hands and legs, and a fluttering black long coat that had a muffler with red lightning streaks going down it appeared.

The scabbard of the 《Ancient》 grade  katana,『True Moon』 was removed from its clasp, and the thumb of his left hand flexed out slightly so he could instantly draw out the katana.

With the change of equipment, Shin’s presence also changed with the new appearance.

Was it the equipment’s effect or that his focus changed? It gave off an overpowering feeling that wasn’t there  a short while ago, due to the figure that was wrapped in red and black body armor.

The demon-flames, upon seeing Shin’s appearance and the glare from the two people, momentarily flickered in a big way. An intimidating feeling was given off by Shin, which was doubled due to the pressure received from his presence as well as from his new equipment set.

“…Let’s go.”

Loosening his katana for immediate use, his right hand was affixed to the handle.

He invoked 【Shukuchi】* silently, and instantly rushed into the Lord’s proximity. (T/N: teleportation power that’s capable of moving vast distances in a single step.)

The four arms swung toward Shin. Each held a jet black greatsword that was like solid darkness. It was clear that they possessed a heavy mass, and that was not a false impression as  they each created a tornado in their wake.

The greatswords reached Shin first. The moment the greatswords entered the katana’s proximity, the handle vanished from the sheath and a red trail drew an arc in the air.

The four greatswords were intercepted despite only one sound reverberating. Shin jumped onto the Lord’s chest, as all the greatswords were repelled by the katana’s power.

The Lord was going to defend itself with its two remaining arms, but it felt a slight chill and right away re-routed one of its arms to over its head. Without any pause, metals clashed, and a sound reverberated as large sparks instantly flew.

It was an attack from Schnee’s 『Lazuline Flame』, an attack that hit the Lord’s blind spot. It made use of a strong point of ninjas, as the highest rank of assassins, as it was not easy to exchange attacks from the blind spot. However, undead monsters originally didn’t depend on senses. That reaction couldn’t have existed without the Lord’s perception skill that was strengthened outside of specifications. Though Schnee objectively understood the ability itself from that movement, it was also enough to understand just how much the Lord deviated from the standard of monsters called Skull Face.

“After all, it really is different from the existing monsters, huh?”

She landed using the recoil from the blow exchange, and analyzed the opponent’s ability while exchanging blows with the tails from the blind spot.

The pursuit of Schnee was slow due to Shin who landed on its chest. Though the Lord tried to intercept Shin with its other arm, the previous four arms and the one greatsword left couldn’t catch or do anything to Shin. The remaining greatsword was broken by a single blow from 【Blade Breaker】, and the Lord retreated several mels from that aftermath. The single blow from Shin, who was no longer going easy, became an unbelievable offensive power that corresponding to the stats that rose, showed the overwhelming force difference.

Even Schnee, who knew of Shin’s ability well, was astonished at that power.

“Swish!!”

The Lord, which while retreating earlier prepared its posture began a pursuit of Shin. The Lord, which had lost its weapons earlier, crossed its arms in a defense posture. When the katana swung down toward the Lord with its arms guarded, it created sparks as all of the arms were cut off and were blown away.

“GURUAAAAAAAA!!!!”

The tails approached with a war cry, and began attacking Shin in earnest. The four tails had saw-like blades attached, and although they struck out from every direction, Shin jumped toward the Lord before the pointed ends arrived.

A strike from its arm was unleashed in desperation, but Shin evaded it with the martial arts movement skill 【Flying Shadow】 that enabled double jumps in the air, and so Shin came closer to the Lord. The destination, while he evaded, was the Lord’s body; the location of the solar plexus in a human.

It could be said that the distance between the two was almost zero, the splendid gap for Shin was partly due to the differences in physique. And it was the place where the core of the Skull Face had just been absorbed. The Lord tried to gain some distance, but Shin had already prepared his attack prior to its action, and everything was too late.

“――――tsu!!”

A sharp exhale together with the katana swinging downward.

He unleashed the katana system martial art skill 【Mountain Cleaver】.

Even though he didn’t have any firm footing in the air, the stroke from Shin showed perfection and thorough power.

The visual sword trails were a mix between red and black lines that penetrated the Lord’s left shoulder from the air, went through the body, cut through one of the right legs that flew off, and left a deep cut in the ground from the aftermath.

“GIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The Lord screamed at the excessive damage.  The slanted slash line had traveled through its body, and the black liquid along with its armor were torn as well. Although it was diverted from its core, Shin saw that about 1/5 of the black orb was cut.

“It retreated, huh?”

The core vanished from view immediately.  Somehow, it seemed to be able to move freely inside the body to some extent.  As he promptly thought about a countermeasure, ignoring the Lord who screamed, he landed on the ground and moved in pursuit without mercy.

He slashed at the Lord’s right legs consecutively to destroy its posture.

The slashing storm was done with a speed that left an afterimage. In addition, whenever Shin’s katana left a flash, different parts of the Lord’s body fell.

Katana system martial art skill 【Kasane Dachi】.

This skill generated, at random, multiple slashing attacks that each possessed a similar power as the individual slashes.  It cut the internal parts of the Lord, which also caused the armor to fall off in pieces.

This skill was able to attack several enemies at the same time, as the larger the offensive ability the user possessed, the more its power increased altogether.  It seemed like he had already gained total control of the skill, 【Kasane Dachi】, as each of the internal slashing attacks were already at a fatal offensive power.

“GI…A…aa…”

Destructive power was put into each of the slashing attacks that one by one were rampaging inside the Lord. The Lord was barely alive at the time it received the 【Mountain Cleaver】 and it also did not have enough power remaining to support itself.

All of the tails had already been cut off by Schnee and were blown away, leaving no possibility of resistance.

The body of the Lord swelled with the rising internal pressure. As additional invisible slashing attacks were generated inside the body due to【Kasane Dachi】, that ‘energy’ wanted to exit.

He didn’t overlook the core even though it was not found yet. The body that was hit by the tempest of slashing attacks was not a safe place anymore. The only destination the core could escape to was the head.

“It’s the end!”

He kicked the ground and jumped.

Shin and Lord

Then he took an overhead stance with 『True Moon』, with the blade clad in red lightning, above the top of the Lord’s head.

Katana technique lightning combined skill 【Moon Arc : Thunder Flash】.

First of all, lightning was formed around the red blade as it swung toward the head. Next, the lightning on the katanas main body 『True Moon』 sliced through the skull of the Lord, and lightning struck from inside of it. The red lightning spread and blew away the demon-flames from within the eye sockets. The lightning strikes destroyed the head completely, as it went along the neck and the whole body of the Lord burnt completely as if it was not enough.

“…Tsu! …tsu…”

No screaming came out though its body was roasted.

The single attack from Shin sliced the orb together with the core that escaped to the head, and completely disappeared due to the additional lightning strikes. Naturally a Skull Face without its core would vanished in a short time. The Lord though, didn’t disappear right away because of that gigantic body, but its body was already but a corpse’s mere remains.

“Tsu…tsu…tsu!!”

Despite the crumbling body of the Lord, it stretched out its remaining arm toward Shin in its final moment.

“Master!!”

“Wait.”

Schnee shouted at Shin who didn’t move while seeing the state of the Lord. Schnee, who was rushing toward Shin, stopped at his command, and Shin fixed his eyes on the Lord.

The figure had neither hostility, the thirst of blood, nor the sense of intimidation that existed when he fought it a little while ago. The Lord that was extending out its arm towards Shin, seemed to be trying to grip something that was totally out of reach.

“(So…Wo…Ni)”

“Eh!?”

The voice reached Shin’s ear. Though it was a distorted and had a twisted pitch, it was certainly the words of a person.

However, soon after having uttered it, the Lord dissolved into the atmosphere and become demon essence, just like the other Skull Faces. A huge jewel with a diameter of about 50 cemels remained at the place where the Lord had been.

“Master! Are you alright!?”

“Oh, I’m fine. It’s no problem.”

He soothed Schnee, who rushed at him in a panicked state, and thought about the words he heard just a while ago in his mind.

(In the end, I could hardly understand anything. although it was indeed an enemy.)

He paid more attention to the jewel while having a hard time not showing disappointment on his face. It was certainly the highest grade jewel of the first-class. He collected it for the time being just in case it might become a clue to something.

When he turned his attention to the map, the markers for the monsters, which had escaped from the battle with the two, that he was able to perceive, seemed to have disappeared. There was a little individual monster which escaped the purification too, but it seemed to have faded away with the Lord’s defeat. Either way, the Lord was the cause of this disturbance.

The light that illuminated the surroundings was weakened when Shin confirmed it with the map. As he might have expected, the effect of 【Sanctuary】 seemed to gradually stop. When the light completely faded away, the surroundings became dark, although it was still lit by the moonlight.

And, a big change, as a result of defeating the Lord was visible on the plains. Though he didn’t see it because of the strong light of purification, the demon essence drifted smokily up to the sky from the whole plains. With the spectacle of demon essence floating up, the light seemed to dissolve into the night sky.

The scene that happened over the whole plains caused the surrounding knights and adventurers to remain on lookout.

The demon light that soared up high at the same time as the holy light that repelled the darkness faded out into the shades of the night.

There were many people in awe of that scene, which was never seen until now.

“It seems like it’s over.”

“It looks like it. In a while, it will be returned to the original plains, I guess.”

“…Should we return home?”

“Yes.”

Without saying “To where?”, the two people began to walk as they watched the light of the demon essences disappear.

He braced himself, during the battle earlier, to talk to Schnee the same way as he did in the past or in the game, but an indescribable atmosphere settled  between the two people as soon as the tension was resolved.

The time separated was short to Shin, but long to Schnee.

They felt awkward around each other, but they gradually became talkative. In order to fill the time that had passed, they continued to talk.

As the investigation team that consisted of knights and adventurers came quickly, the two people had already left the plains.

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