The next day at dawn.
After Shin had finished preparing by outfitting himself, someone knocked on the door. Schnee, who was in disguise, Tiera, Yuzuha, and Kagerou were waiting outside. It seemed like they wanted to have breakfast together.
Shin went downstairs with Yuzuha on his head. Though he casually looked in Schnee’s direction, he didn’t see anything unusual about her appearance.
“What will you do today?”
Tiera asked while eating breakfast.
It seemed that the ‘Flood’ had already been widely announced, as the residents’ evacuation had started.
Although adventurers had been recruited to help out at places where help was needed, there was not much work left to be done.
“I’ll go to the feudal lord’s castle. Because I have said that I’d bring you there, please come with me today, Shin.”
“Ah-Yeah, I understand.”
Had she forgotten to tell him yesterday? Since Shin hadn’t thought about his plans for today either, he agreed.
When he looked at Schnee, whose attitude hadn’t changed, Shin thought, ‘Am I strange for worrying about what happened?’.
What did a man often worry about at such times? He thought about trivial things.
“Then, I’ll go to the training center. I can’t go to the frontlines, but you never know what will happen.”
“Yes, that would be nice. If I have time, shall we spar again?”
“…yes, thank you in advance.”
While hearing the answer from Tiera, who paused at the delicate situation, Shin prayed for her in his mind.
Shin had seen the two training when they had been travelling together, but from what he had seen, Schnee’s training was very hard. It was at the level where, without the remodeled wagon and the bed specially made by Shin, Tiera wouldn’t have been able to move due to the fatigue accumulated from training. It seemed that she couldn’t help but answer obediently.
She could fight adequately if she wanted to go to the frontline because she would be accompanied by Kagerou, but that didn’t mean that her own fighting power had increased. Thus, the training was unexpectedly effective.
When one only stuck to gaining levels, they couldn’t get really strong.
They entrusted their key to the innkeeper after they had finished their meal and departed.
Though Schnee and Tiera always attracted people’s eyes, with the ‘Flood’ monsters approaching, no one catcalled them.
Tiera and Kagerou headed to the guild on the way back, separating from Shin, Schnee, and Yuzuha who walked toward the castle.
“What will we be doing today?”
“We’ll be discussing cooperation and meeting with the Chosen Ones who will be dispatched. Actually, it’s also to see how much we can cooperate.”
Though he had already met Hibineko and the others, Shin had not yet met the rest of the dispatch group. Perhaps Rionne would be introduced too. Even though Chosen Ones had excellent individual ability, it was absurd to cooperate without preparing.
Because the fate of the city depended on them, it could be said it was only natural to do so.
“If I remember correctly, are we meeting Guile and Liege?”
“You already knew about them?”
“I heard about them in the guild. I heard we’ll attack with Guile’s magic skills, is he a mage?”
“Yes, his full name is Guile Serget. He is a mage who excels in flame system magic skills. The other one is Liege Latreia, who is a magic swordswoman like Rionne-sama.”
It appeared that Guile was a Lord, and Liege was a Dragnil. Schnee seemed to have had the opportunity to fight together with both of them several times before, as she seemed to know their personalities well.
While Shin was listening to Schnee talk about Guile and Liege’s combat styles and abilities, they arrived at the feudal lord’s castle.
Just before they entered the castle, Schnee canceled her disguise and walked to the gate with her original appearance. Though the change had been sudden, no one noticed the magic skill.
“Schnee Raizar-sama! Thank you for coming here!”
The gatekeeper who noticed them approaching saluted perfectly.
With the gatekeeper’s eyes fixed on Schnee, Shin’s presence wasn’t even noticed.
“Um, we would like to enter inside…”
“Huh?! Pardon me! Please show your permit!”
The gatekeeper really seemed to be unaware of Shin. The gatekeeper said in a hurry when Shin called out.
Schnee handed over a permit to the too enthusiastic gatekeeper. She seemed to have had received it beforehand.
Two people and an animal passed through the door opened by the gatekeeper, who confirmed their permit, and entered the castle.
One of the gatekeepers guided them with a happy expression. However, if one looked at the despairing faces of the other remaining gatekeepers, who continued working, it was obvious that a fierce fight had unfolded over this role.
(It seems excessive.)
When they walked inside the castle, it was inevitable that they would pass by a lot of people. Most of them stopped walking; was it because they were fascinated by Schnee? They bowed politely.
The feeling that a number of people were following them increased as time passed; it was probably not just Shin’s imagination.
“(Is Schnee popular?)”
“(Yeah, she is a strong and beautiful woman of a superior race. It’s a given that she’s popular.)”
While answering Yuzuha’s telepathy, Shin felt depressed as he looked at himself.
The people who passed by mostly noticed Shin and Yuzuha after they had looked at Schnee. Also, about 90% of them had a “Who is that guy walking along with Schnee-sama?!” look on their face.
Though only a few of them had directed hostility at him, it didn’t change that it was a pain in the ass. Shin regretted underestimating Schnee’s popularity.
Had no one call out to her because everyone knew why she had come here? Shin felt relieved that as no one could openly ask who Schnee’s companion was.
After a few minutes, the gatekeeper stopped in the front of a certain room. Apparently this was the location of the meeting.
“Raizar-sama. I wish to express my gratitude for your coming here.”
“Don’t worry about it. Are we late?”
“No, there is a person who has yet to come.”
When the two entered the room, someone who was wearing the clothes of the highest quality among the people seated at the table stood up and gave Schnee words of gratitude.
The figure with eyes that conveyed a strong sense of purpose and hair that was trimmed short was probably in his mid-40s. The body without flabbiness reflected his character.
“Shin-dono, your participation in defending our city together with Rionne-sama is indeed reassuring.”
“Ah, no, you don’t have to worry about it.”
When he had exchanged light greetings with Schnee, Taul also called out to Shin promptly. Though his speech was polite, his sharp eyes seemed to see through the character called Shin; perhaps this was what one would expect of the feudal lord of Balmel.
“There is still a little time before the discussion begins. I’ll ask someone to prepare drinks, so please make yourself at home.”
Taul said, and left his seat to step outside. Neither the dispatch group nor Rionne had come yet.
As they spoke to Hibineko and the others while waiting for a while, in addition to Taul and Rionne, two men and one woman entered.
“Then, now that all the members are present, I’d like to start the meeting by introducing the new members. As it’s their first meeting, let’s us all introduce ourselves briefly.”
Once he saw that everyone had been seated, Taul began to speak.
Starting from Shin and Rionne, who were participating on the spur of the moment, the self-introduction advanced in an orderly fashion.
“I’m Guile Serget. Mage. I’m in charge of first strike together with Raizar-dono this time. Nice to meet you.”
Although Guile had said he was a mage, due to his appearance, it would have been convincing if he had said he was a warrior. He had a refreshing visage of dark pupils and moderately long brown hair. His height was almost the same as Shin’s, but Guile had more muscle mass. Although he was a lord, his appearance was no different from a human’s. Perhaps it was because they would be testing their cooperation, but he had also brought a staff and a cloak.
“I’m Liege Latreia. I’m a magic swordswoman. This time I’ll be assisting this guy with Rionne-sama. Let’s get along well.”
Liege was a woman who had a red hair like a burning wave and crimson eyes. She talked like a man, possibly due to her warrior class, but she was a curvaceous, well-proportioned woman who was 170 cemels tall.
Except for the small scales on the area around her eyes, she had no other characteristics of a dragnil. Unlike Shibaid, whom Shin had met before, her appearance seemed almost like a human’s.
“So there are actually people who wear that here.”
“Hmm? Is there something wrong?”
Liege asked. She seemed to have heard Shin muttering.
“Ah, no, I was thinking, is that a magic armor that Liege-san is wearing?”
Like Guile, Liege had also put on equipment meant for actual combat. However, what she was wearing was commonly called bikini armor. It had appeared in a part of the game, and was equipment that had questionable functionality as armor.
Shin, of course, knew what kind of equipment it was. Its official name was the ‘Magic Armor of Dragon Ball,’ and was medium rank 《Legend》 grade armor that used the jewel removed from a monster of dragon lineage.
As for why the armor was red in color, was because the jewel of a Red Dragon had been used. It nullified damage received under certain value, had an effect that further reduced damage, and couldn’t be equipped with VIT less than 500. The part where skin was exposed had the damage decrease effect, so it was possible to say that she could catch a knife with her bare arm depending on her stats.
However, though its performance was high, it was not a very popular equipment in the game era. Because the game had been a VRMMO, where avatars acted as the players’ actual bodies, not many women had wanted to wear it.
“Oh my, were you that fascinated by my armor? I felt your eyes on my chest.”
Liege emphasized her chest after she said that. Although it was true that Shin had glanced at her chest, which was fully covered by her armor, he hadn’t done so with ill intentions.
“Please pardon me…”
While thinking, ‘don’t tease me’, Shin also wondered whether she was wearing that armor because of her character.
“Liege, leave the teasing behind. I’ll continue introducing myself, I’m Elgin Schlafer. I’m the leader of knights of Balmel. This time, I’ll take command of the army. I don’t have the intention to relax because Raizar-dono is here. I hope to get along with you.”
As a way of interrupting the banter between Shin and Liege, the next man introduced himself.
Perhaps it was because his work required him to shout often, but his voice resounded well. Since Shin had been troubled on how to respond to Liege, he thanked Elgin in his heart.
Elgin was a large man about 2 mels tall. His arms and legs doubled the thickness of Shin’s. His figure was encased in a custom-designed armor which dominated the surroundings just by standing up. Shin didn’t know if he was a Chosen One or not, but Elgin had a high level of 212. Was he in his late 30s or early 40s? There was a sharp glint toward Shin, also in a different sense from Taul.
Without stopping, Schnee, Hibineko, and the others also introduced themselves.
“Well then, let’s discuss the ‘Flood’ at once. Though you may have already heard, I’d like you to hear this again for confirmation.”
After the self-introductions were over, Taul began to talk.
Taul laid out a map on the table once he had everyone’s attention. It was a rough map that showed both Balmel and Kalkia.
“As a result of examining the information brought by Rionne-sama and Shin-dono, it was confirmed that large hordes of monsters are coming here. Judging from their travelling speed, they are expected to arrive at Balmel in approximately 4 days. The core of the horde is comprised of humanoid monsters, such as goblins, orcs, ogres and so forth.”
While presenting the information, Taul placed a troop marker down on the map to represent the group of monsters. In addition, he placed two markers in Balmel and four big markers behind them.
“Here are Shin-dono, Shadow-dono, Holly-dono, and Nekomata-dono of the first group. Schnee-sama, Rionne-sama, Guile-dono, and Liege-dono of the second group are here. You’ll wait 5 kemels in front of Balmel, while the knight squadron will spread out in the rear. After attracting the monsters to some extent, Schnee-sama and Guile-dono will attack with wide area magic. Meanwhile, because a lot of monsters are expected to remain near the the first group side, they will intercept them. While reducing their numbers, please also let some monsters pass to the rear in moderation.”
Taul re-explained his strategy verbally with the markers afterwards.
Defeating high-leveled individuals took first priority, defense was a primary concern and training was an additional bonus, Taul told them as he finished explaining.
“So, the first group will form a party and have cooperation training. Because the main duty of second group is to guard Guile-dono, you will train against Schnee-sama.”
Guile stiffened at what Elgin had said, and Liege raised her voice almost to the point of screaming.
“Schn-nya-san is famous for her harsh training, you know?”
Hibineko whispered to Shin, who was looking dubiously at their reactions..
Apparently, hard mode was the standard even if the people Schnee trained weren’t her friends.
Only Rionne looked like she was looking forward to Schnee’s training; was it because she didn’t know how severe it would be? Or was it because she felt honored to be trained by Schnee?
They would have time to recover even if they became exhausted. Schnee would surely work them to their very limits. Shin thought as he cheered them on.
“Then, we will go train as well.”
Following Schnee’s second group, Shin and his group also start moving.
Unlike the second group where Schnee acted as the opponent, Shin and his group went outside the ramparts of Balmel. They would train against the monsters that roamed outside during times of peace that were unrelated to the ‘Flood’.
Although the difference in abilities between Shin’s group and the monsters was too large to be a proper fight, there was no problem since they were simply practicing their cooperation.
“Shin, it’s been a long time since you and I formed a party.”
Shadow muttered a few words.
“Yeah. But in my case, perhaps I should say it’s been a long time since I joined a party.”
This was also the result of an excessive difference in ability. Shin rejected the party system because it was more efficient for him to challenge an enemy alone than it was for him to join a party and adjust to their level.
“There was no other way. It would have been too time consuming for you to train other players, right?”
“I don’t think I’d be very happy if it was that easy for others to catch up to me”
Shin just said few words in response to Shadow’s remark.
While it was a good thing for other players to become stronger, Shin could not be honestly pleased with the prospect because he had already sacrificed so much to become strong himself.
Then Hibineko interjected.
“Leave the idle talk for later. We need to deal with these monsters seriously, even if they’re low ranked. You have to be on your guard!”
“…Right. Sorry, I was a little too excited.”
Shadow and Shin obediently apologized for being too excited about forming a party. Frankly speaking, they would remain unhurt even if they received a critical hit from the monsters to the face.
Hibineko also understood, so he wasn’t offended.
Then, Holly smiled wryly and began to talk.
“Hibineko-san is just as high-spirited, though.”
“An adult must have self-control.”
“So why is your tail moving more than usual?”
“…It’s to keep my b-balance!”
When walking on two legs, the tail has almost no effect in keeping balance. In the end, Hibineko was just as excited as Shin and Shadow.
Holly watched Hibineko with heartwarming eyes.
“By the way, we’re at the place where the monsters will appear.”
“As for me being in high spirits…Well, you’re right about that. A lot of wolf-type monsters should have appeared around here.”
Holly was making fun of Hibineko, but she didn’t forget to search for enemies in their surroundings.
While everyone had been having a playful conversation and moving at a high speed befitting of their status as Chosen Ones, they had already set foot in the area where monsters spawned.
However, not a shadow of monsters could be seen, even if they looked around.
“That strange. Not one monster in my perception range.”
“Not even one, you say?”
Shin’s perception range had been greatly expanded through multiple skills such as 【Search】 and 【Sign Perception】. Therefore, he could perceive places where Shadow and Hibineko couldn’t reach, but he still couldn’t find a single monster.
Shadow and the others, who knew of his perception range, had puzzled expressions on their face.
“Does something like this usually occur during the ‘Flood’?”
“No. Though I have experienced the ‘Flood’ several times, even if the number of monsters may decrease a little, they didn’t disappear completely.”
“The number of monster decreased?”
“The monsters spawned in the ‘Flood’ indiscriminately attack other monsters. It is known that monsters will leave their territory when they sense danger.”
“I see. But something seems different this time.”
“Yeah, in the first place, even if I said their numbers decreased, it didn’t suddenly decrease like this. This is clearly abnormal.”
Shin and the other’s expressions sharpened at Hibineko’s remarks.
They had no problem dealing with the ‘Flood’, but now the monsters were mysteriously disappearing too. Everyone unanimously agreed that it was dangerous to be too optimistic.
“It’s not the time to train leisurely. Let’s return at once.”
“That’s right. We don’t know the cause, so it would be better to report it.”
Holly agreed with Shadow’s suggestion. Shin and Hibineko had no objections either, so they ran back to Balmel making full use of the speed of the Chosen Ones.
They searched for the presence of monsters all the the way back, but still didn’t detect anything.
“Shin? You’ve been silent for a while, do you have any ideas?”
“Yeah, a few.”
Shin replied to Shadow’s question with a bitter face. There was something that flashed in Shin’s memory.
There had been a war event in the game where hordes of monsters would attack a city. It had not been a particularly unusual event.
However, the sheer number of monsters had been a problem. The monsters in the surrounding area would temporarily stop spawning and a large swarm of monsters would close in on the city simultaneously like black waves.
Of course, the players stood up to it and succeeded in defending the city. Most of the monsters had been blown away by the magic skills of advanced level players like Shin. However, due to the monsters that invaded the city from underground, the damage caused during the event was not small either.
Monsters had disappeared before the event had begun. If this was supposedly the same indication, would the same thing happen in the ‘Flood’? If so, the new surging wave of monsters would exceed the normal scale of the ‘Flood’.
“Supposing it’s the same as a war event, we need to report it.”
“Indeed, I think I’ll ask Schnee to do that.”
Shin answered Hibineko’s words while nodding.
Schnee could explain the story as an event from the past. If she did that, Shin didn’t have to stand out.
“There’s no sign of monsters, you say?”
The four people who returned to the feudal lord’s castle got in contact with Taul immediately, and reported about the monsters. Everyone in the second group, Schnee and the others, also came to the reception room.
Taul who had listened to the report for a while, contemplated as he searched through his memory. However, he let out a small sigh, possibly because he could not think of anything.
Elgin and the others who were sitting together also shook their heads.
“As far as I know, there should be no records of this kind of battle. An investigation is needed.”
“The monsters sensed danger and ran away, then it couldn’t be explained with that.”
Judging from their attitude, they were very cautious about this matter circulating.
“Does anybody have any ideas?”
All members except Schnee shook their head at Taul’s words.
“Schnee-sama, do you have any ideas?”
“Yes, I recall something similar happened in the past.”
Schnee nodded at Taul’s question. The story had already been conveyed to Schnee by Mind Chat.
It was only a story of the game from Shin’s memory, but it wasn’t strange to think that it could have occurred in this world.
“Could you tell me? Even the smallest amount of information is necessary.”
“Of course. Though it happened quite a while before――”
Schnee explained while smudging the facts here and there.
Everyone who heard the story had stiffened their expressions.
When they heard that level of monsters that would be attacking would also be high, Taul and Elgin’s expressions became heavy.
The current defense called for a specialized force composed of Chosen Ones and ordinary soldiers to kill off the enemies as they came because there were simply too many of them.
If the monsters hordes became too much for ordinary soldiers to handle, they could expect that total collateral damage would be astronomical.
“Because the situation is only similar to what I know from the past, it’s not clear whether it will turn out that way or not.”
“No, it would be better to assume that it will. Now is not the time to talk about training and such.”
Elgin replied to Schnee’s remark with a serious expression. It would be too dangerous if Schnee’s prediction was on the mark.
“I thought it would be an easy win this time.”
“Good grief. Things have never gone smoothly.”
Guile and Liege shrugged their shoulders as if they were saying “Give me a break!”.
Though they had non-serious attitudes, it was hard to say that they had bright expressions, either.
“However, there’s no need to be so pessimistic. We have Schnee Raizar and two additional Chosen Ones with us as reinforcements. We should be able to survive these critical times as long as we don’t make any mistakes.”
“Indeed, we don’t know how many monsters there will be, but we are blessed with allies this time around. The battle may end unexpectedly quickly.”
Hibineko and Shadow called out to Taul and the others who were only thinking about the enemy.
Their eager voices lightened the mood which was about to sink. They were composed because Shin and Schnee were there. In a sense, Shin and Schnee were far more dangerous than the approaching monsters.
“Of course, I’ll do whatever I can to help.”
“…That’s right, I should be thankful you’re here. Let’s change the strategy, then. Schnee-sama, do you know which direction that the monsters will be attacking from?”
“No, I don’t know to that extent…”
It was obviously dangerous to think the monsters would all attack from the same direction, so Schnee answered honestly.
Additionally, because they didn’t know when the monsters would attack, they settled the discussion by agreeing to send scouts in the directions that were most likely to be attacked.
Each station was contacted when the discussion was over. This was done so the soldiers would be prepared in case the monsters from the war event spawned at any time.
“Hey, Schnee, I’m asking just to make sure, but have you ever used the large-scale magic for any anti-guild wars while I was gone?”
“No, I have never fought against such a large army before, since most enemies can be handled with a normal wide area magic.”
Shin and the others who had left the castle had separated briefly before meeting up again.
Currently, they were heading toward the guild to meet Tiera. Though they could not fight against monsters for cooperation practice, they had tested their cooperation with a training dummy at the training grounds in the castle.
Because they had to fight against a considerable number of monsters this time, Shin wanted to confirm the power of anti-guild war magic skills with Schnee. But Schnee had not fought against a battalion since the ‘Dusk of the Majesty’, so she didn’t know how strong they were, either.
“Then, would it be bad to use them thoughtlessly? Will you try to use one during the first strike?”
“Yes, if I was to use it, that timing would be my only chance.”
Depending on the numbers of the enemy and the scale of the magic, it was possible for everything to end with just that one hit. Because it was not a bad thing in its own right, he decided to take the opportunity to confirm the power of large-scale magic.
“Schnee-chan’s large-scale magic, huh?~. I wonder if we’ll get a turn.”
“If it doesn’t cause any additional damage, then there would be nothing better than that.”
Shadow gave his opinion and agreed with Holly’s words. Hibineko did the same. Shin was neither optimistic nor excited about it.
“Well, we won’t know what happens until the time comes, right? I have to be prepared just in case.”
“Did you do something?”
“There was perfect equipment to fight against numerous enemies, wasn’t there? I intend to upgrade it before it’s too late. There shouldn’t be any problem if I go on a rampage since my face will be covered.”
Shin answered Schnee’s question with a slightly wicked smile on his face.
Apparently, his blacksmith’s blood was excited.
“…I won’t have any problem even if multiple enemies come at me the same time.”
Shadow and Holly watched the exchange between Shin and Schnee while smiling wryly.
Hibineko didn’t say a word, but nodded in agreement.
When they had arrived at the guild, the party went to visit the training grounds after receiving permission from the receptionist.
The training grounds had various spaces designated for different activities, such as space where one could practice with the bow or with throwing knives, or space where one could receive combat instruction.
Shin had entered an empty training ground back in Bayreuth when he had fought Barlux the Guild Master, so this was the first time he saw others inside it.
Apart from that, Shin looked for Tiera.
“Oh, there she is.”
At a corner of the plaza where a lot of adventurers did cooperation and individual training, was Tiera. She was doing one on one combat training with someone.
“Is that Kaede-chan?”
“It’s seems so.”
Holly and the others also noticed Kaede and Tiera exchanging blows after Shin had spoken.
Both of their weapons were daggers. They seemed to be using weapons rented from the training grounds. Kagerou was on standby as he sat down next to a nearby wall.
“It’s one-sided, huh?”
“It’s rather a commendable thing for Tiera to keep up with her.”
Ahead of Shin’s line of sight, Tiera was on the defensive even though it appeared as if she were exchanging blows with Kaede.
If you thought about the difference between Kaede and Tiera’s stats, it was a commendable thing for Tiera to be able to defend against Kaede, just as Schnee had said.
Though Kaede probably wasn’t being serious, Tiera shouldn’t have been able to keep up with her for so long. Schnee’s training seemed to have properly increased Tiera’s combat ability.
Tiera’s dagger was repelled before Shin could call out to her. Looking at the dagger pointed at the scruff of her neck, Tiera stopped moving.
“Having a match, huh?”
“Ah, Shin-san, Sch, no, Yuki-san is here too.”
Kaede, who noticed Shin and the others, raised her voice. Tiera, too, turned her face toward the direction of Kaede’s voice, but she couldn’t move immediately because she was out of breath.
By the way, Yuki was Schnee’s name when disguised. Her guild card was also registered under the name Yuki.
“Did you guys train together?”
“Yes, though we met by chance.”
At first, Kaede had restricted her stats to train Tiera, but they decided to spar with their stat differences in the end. Then, Shin and the others had arrived.
“Are you alright?”
Shin called out to Tiera, who was completely drenched in sweat, while handing her a towel.
He waited for a while until Tiera’s breathing settled down.
“Your training seems to have paid off.”
“Well, I’m going to cry if this was all for naught.”
“Is that so? For the time being, good work.”
Kagerou also came near and showed Tiera some appreciation. Tiera laughed as Kagerou licked her face.