Vol. 6 Chapter 2 – Part 3

Meanwhile, apart from Shin, Schnee and Lilishila…

Shibaid and Tiera were touring the inside of Sigurd.

However, it wasn’t as if they were simply walking about.

“As expected, there are a few Chosen Ones stationed in the major spots of the city.”

“Is that so?”

“At first glance you might not spot them, but one or two of the guards on duty are clearly above average in terms of their movements. Look at the two coming in front of us. Can you see the guy on the right?”

“Yes…Um. Mitos Click. Level 201… you mean him?”

Tiera checked over the guards as she was told.

She could only analyze as far as the guard’s name and level.

The fact that she couldn’t see further than ‘occupation’ was a clear sign that his status was superior. But it was hard for Tiera to tell if that was because of the difference in levels, or the fact that he was Chosen One.

“…what a surprise. You can actually see that?”

“Huh? Oh, yes. I wasn’t able to see his occupation though. Was I wrong?”

Shibaid could not hide his surprise at Tiera’s observations.

“No. You’re not wrong. No offense, it’s not that I looked down on you but it’s a shocker that you, Tiera-dono, can tell a Chosen One’s strengths despite your level difference. I’m sorry if I offended you at all.”

“Eh!? No, there’s no need to. I am weak when you compare me to everyone surrounding me.”

Tiera stopped Shibaid from apologizing.

Tiera was aware that she was less capable than others. From Shibaid’s point of view Tiera and the Chosen One coming from the front were similar in capability.

As Shibaid had said, how she was able to discern the Chosen One’s name and level, even Tiera didn’t know.

“Should we continue wandering the city then?”

“Yes. I think it’d be wise to have Sigurd mapped out. Once that’s over, even if they were to escape from Palmirack to the inner city, we can easily follow them.”

Given the current situation, the only way that someone could escape Shin and Schnee were if that person teleported or flew. Just in case though, it was necessary to map out Sigurd to understand its nooks and crannies. Since a support character’s map could be shared with their master, with Shin inside Palmirack and Shibaid mapping the city, they could cover all of Sigurd.

“How far along are we?”

“I’d say about 10% of the mapping is done. It takes quite some effort when you’re up against a city this big.”

“Is ‘mapping’ considered to be a skill?”

“No, I wouldn’t call it that. It’s hard to explain though, let me see. I can see a slightly transparent map in my periphery, but I’d have to show it for you to understand.”

For Tiera, who doesn’t understand game elements, it’s difficult to even imagine the map. It’s an otherworldly experience to try to picture something you’ve never seen.

“If I could do it too, perhaps we could split into two and the task would be done quicker.”

“That’s alright. Aside from filling up the map, information gathering is also our objective.”

Even if Shin and the Golden Company were the main focus of this plot, Tiera and Shibaid still had roles as information gatherers.

Besides, with the two characters’ low stealth abilities they would easily give Shin and Schnee away. That’s why it was better for them to be in public.

“Shibaid-san. Where are we now?”

“It seems this city has a complicated layout. I’m sure it’s a defense strategy for if this city were ever under siege.”

Turning a corner was enough to bring a pedestrian into a totally new neighborhood. The stores were drastically different, and so were the people. Tiera was losing sight of herself.

Although Tiera’s directional senses is on the better side, Sigurd really tested her abilities.

She questioned how the locals from Sigurd were able to get back to their homes.

“They designed this city quite well.”

“Do you think so?”

For Tiera, it was so confusing that she assumed the architect was a mad man. Or mad woman.

“It might be hard for you to see, but there are several secret corridors here and there. I haven’t gotten to all of them yet, and I have a good hunch that they all connect to Palmirack. I know that Shin had mentioned how all churches have secret passageways. This goes above and beyond that though.”

Shibaid’s map was also accounting for the routes that you couldn’t see from outside. If they’re really all connected to the church, then there are several escape routes.

“Does that mean that it’s easier to attack and defend the city?”

“Yes. It’s also possible to wage wars and immediately safely return, before the enemy has a chance to respond. The layout of this city is so complex, it would also be difficult to plan your next move. I’m sure that’s why Sigurd is considered to be such a stronghold. Guerrilla tactics would not work against the city’s army and the Chosen Ones.”

According to Shibaid, the city that was seemingly built on top of another had multiple layers of defense strategies.

The most disconcerting for Tiera was – how many attacks did this city endure for these kinds of security measure to come into play.

“Who can blame them. Following the ‘Dusk of the Majesty’, riots got so bad they needed at least this to feel safe. Not to mention, they’re right on the border with other countries that are constantly trying to expand. I’m sure the majority of this city’s population is made up of war refugees, war veterans, and those who were forced to flee their homes.”

“I get it now. This city also tries to keep its residents safe.”

“It’s a roundabout way though.”

Shibaid’s sights focused on something far away, as he recalled the battles after the ‘Dusk of the Majesty’.

Shibaid himself was somewhat responsible for rounding up the neighboring Dragnil. He didn’t know about the specifics of the churches here, but he could imagine that it must have been a similar ordeal.

Kilmont had also thrived after taking in refugees.

“As someone a bit sheltered, I can’t really relate to the disputes between men. When it comes to the scourges between monsters of course, I have experienced that in Balmel.”

“I’m sure that today their biggest concerns are thieves. I hope that another big war doesn’t happen for a while. It’s nothing like the battles between monsters.”

Shibaid had the air of someone who had seen it all.

Tiera had once killed a thief. Based on Shibaid’s mood, she assumed that it couldn’t compare to what he had gone through.

“Well this is just depressing.”

“No. I’m glad I heard it.”

Shibaid had the weight of someone who had survived and seen war firsthand.

It certainly was depressing. But there’s nothing funny or hopeful about war to begin with.

“…were there really that many refugees?”

“No. But they weren’t a rare sight. And there were those that came here for silly reasons.”

Shibaid answered Tiera’s abrupt question indifferently.

“I’ve heard of someone moving to avoid a curse.”

“!? Errr, what curse was it…”

“This person had been cursed to attract high level monsters. There are very few of them. I’ve yet to meet anyone like that person since the ‘Dusk of the Majesty’.”

Tiera was fast learning that there was someone else out there like her, with the ‘cursed kid’ title. She recalled her own experiences, and thought about how difficult that person’s life must have also been. Shibaid didn’t seem to be taking this matter seriously enough.

“What happened to them?”

“Oh? We asked the said person to cooperate with us to level up our own soldiers. We’re very grateful.”

“…What?”

Tiera might have already heard this one.

The conversation was audibly shifting.

“Yes. It’s a difficult status to stomach. But depending on your outlook, it can be quite useful. In return for trying to find the cure, we had this person aid us in bringing monsters. Leveling up back then was a more efficient process. The soldiers were screaming with joy.”

No. They were screaming because they were screaming.

That was Tiera’s initial reaction.

He was Shin’s follower after all. She should have known that he’d think differently and go against present common sense.

Still, it was a relief to hear that the cursed person was treated humanely. It could have gone either way.

“I knew that you and my master come from the same path.”

“No. Not nearly as much as Schnee honestly.”

Shibaid was quick to deny, after his thoughts ran to Schnee’s intense training regimens.

But from Tiera’s standing point, Shibaid was just like Schnee for forcing people to beat high level monsters.

(Is everyone near Shin like this?)

When she thought about the other characters she hasn’t met yet, she started to harbor deeper concerns.

 

“Alright. Playtime is over. Tiera-dono I’m sorry, but on the next corner let’s make a right.”

“Is it time already?”

They lowered their voices.

Tiera instantly understood what he meant.

Tiera was quite sensitive to others looking at her. It didn’t take her long to realize that after leaving the inn, someone started following them.

“Tiera-dono, I think you’re the specific target here. Can you think of any reason why?”

“No. This is my first time in Sigurd so I can’t really think of anyone after me here. I don’t even know that many people anyways.”

Until recently, Tiera had been holed up in Tsuki no Hokora. On top of that, she was always in disguise, so she really couldn’t think of why anyone would come after her.

After she finished saying “I don’t even know what many people…”, she felt a bit lonely.

“Through listening, it seems they are in the immediate vicinity too.”

“I think there are…4 of them?”

“No, 6, Tiera-dono. There are 2 who are keeping their cover quite well. I think that the 4 are the main muscle. The 2 are more like backup if things didn’t go as planned.”

“I can’t tell. Is it a skill?”

“No. To be honest, my detection skills are not that great. I couldn’t possibly compete with Shin or Schnee on that front. However, I am able to detect a presence. They’re doing a good job maintaining cover, but it is extremely difficult to hide murderous intent.”

Shibaid is able to grasp the number of people in a party based on presence, not skill. Once you’ve gained enough experience as a soldier, this was a logical forward step.

Tiera still didn’t understand the amount of presence that one could have.

“Given the number of people and their presences, I don’t believe that they’re simple thieves.”

“Yes. Not to mention how they seem to have singled me out.”

While they couldn’t jump to conclusions that the assailants will lead to Millie, it didn’t hurt to find out directly from the culprits as to why they were targeted.

Any bit of information could help at this stage. If they were from the city’s underbelly, they could potentially obtain information from them.

The two pretended that they didn’t notice anything, and nonchalantly turned the corner.

They had come across an alleyway no wider than 2 mels.

4 figures emerged from behind, as if they were waiting for the two to stumble in. Tiera turned to realize that 2 others were coming from the front.

They seemed to have climbed the wall and circled around on the roof. They were much more agile than the average man.

“We should wait and see first.”

“Yes.”

The alley was dark despite it being the middle of the day. The wall was just the right height and placed at such an angle, that it would be hard to see what’s happening in the alley.

The truth was, the road was so bright that it’d be difficult to see into the dark alleyway.

Tiera and Shibaid were walking slowly, as they were being attacked from the front and back by two figures on each side. Yet, they could not be seen.

“? Whoa!”

Because a suspicious object was coming towards Tiera she squinted her eyes, a throwing knife was coming her way.

However, Tiera had known that there was malicious intent ahead of them, and so in response to the knife that produced a chime as it cut through the air, she wielded a short sword in her right hand.

Without hesitation, Tiera relied on her short sword and sent the throwing knife flying elsewhere.

“Tsk.”

Tiera having heard the assailant was dissatisfied, also heard another sound, similar to sand crushed underneath one’s feet. With that, beyond Tiera she could glimpse a slight fog of distorted reality.

“!!”

She did not miss a beat.

She took in a deep breath, and returning the favor she threw a knife of her own. She had it ready beneath her left hand, all while she brought the dagger in her right hand to about half way up her body.

The knife that Shin had made for her was made out of steel and quite sharp. The knife went straight into the direction where there had been a bit of a mirage. A small thump could be heard as the knife struck something.

“Ugh!”

The thump was the quietest noise in comparison to what would follow. You could hear a man groaning in pain and fall to the ground, causing dirt to fly up. What came into sharper focus was a man, lying on the ground with his hands on his leg. The thigh of his pants were a deep crimson red, where the knife had gone through. What was even more of a sight to behold was the other man lying in the background, with Shin’s knife to his back. It seemed that the knife had gone straight through the thigh!

But, that didn’t stop the oncoming attack.

A mirage appeared to be coming closer towards Tiera.

“Shh!”

“!”

A short sword appeared out of thin air.

Tiera looked closely at the blade of the sword. She had determined where the swordsman was and had also deciphered that he must be right handed.

In that split second, Tiera managed to draw her short sword and split the swordsman’s sword in half.

“!”

It was audibly clear that the only one left out of the four was taken aback.

Tiera took a step towards this man. And with that step, powerful magic was flowing through her body. Tiera’s body hastened, from the power of her magic. She understood where her opponent stood in relation to his allies, stepped into his zone, and struck him with her left hand, which had also been strengthened by magic.

She struck quicker than he could defend, penetrated his armor until his bare skin felt the thrust, and the man fell to the ground.

“Gah.”

The man drew short breaths as he lost consciousness. His hand had covered where he was wounded – which was in the middle of his gut. It was a critical hit.

“Phew.”

Tiera made sure that no one was awake, as she went around to check on the others who had fallen. Tiera tried calming herself down, as she let her arms loose.

You could look at Tiera and see that all her stats were average. Yet the damages that she inflicted didn’t seem possible from her slender arms. However, she had managed to combine her magic into improving her bodily performances – this was a technique that combined the assets of the defensive martial arts ‘operation’ and applied the foundations of ‘activity’ and ‘alchemy’.

While it wouldn’t dramatically improve one’s stats, it was enough to place emphasis on specific body parts – such as the hand. This improved close combat too – something elves were notoriously weaker at.

Schnee had been teaching Tiera, just in case.

“What is that.”

Tiera turned to see the two other attackers, their heads caught in Shibaid’s arms. She had not cared for the two in the back, because even she had known about them. So Tiera had assumed that Shibaid would handle it. Still, it was a sight to behold and certainly one that raised a lot of questions.

The attackers were struggling until Shibaid put a little more strength into his arms. They eventually ran out of air and lost consciousness. It really was a surreal scene to witness, with two grown men dangling from his arms.

Tiera tried to go towards Shibaid, but immediately jumped back instead.

“…that was a close one.”

A thin blade had zoomed past her head.

She had been able to understand that there were others in the vicinity. But had it not been for the fact that she had already warmed up with the other attackers, and how she had been informed of those in the distance, it’s possible Tiera would have been killed at that moment.

Tiera and Shibaid had both agreed that if they encountered any enemies that were beyond Tiera’s skill levels, then Shibaid would take over. Shibaid would probably have been able to do something for Tiera just a second ago, had she not been the first to take a lead.

Still, Tiera didn’t want to be the damsel in distress.

She turned towards where the blade had come from. She could not find the blade’s owner. Given how there weren’t any mirages either, their cover skills far exceeded that of the others from the pack.

(They’re coming for me. But I can’t see from where!)

She knew that she would be under attack. Yet, she was totally at a loss at how to predict their move.

She tried to snap out of it, as she began to move when suddenly, a red arm went whooshing past Tiera’s head.

“!?”

It was Shibaid’s arm. And in his arm was another person, who was struggling to breathe.

“Fumu, that’s a good reaction.”

“…Yes.”

Tiera felt calmer once she confirmed that the attacker had lost consciousness.

She turned around and realized that another man was dangling from Shibaid’s other arm.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to draw it out.”

“No, it’s fine. I’m used to it.”

“Really? I thought that this was an opponent you would have considered ‘more powerful than you’.”

“I said I’m used to it.”

She tried to smile.

Shibaid didn’t bother asking “what” she was used to and “why”. He had his soft spots. He probably figured as much, after hearing so much about Schnee from Tiera herself.

“These men can take a break and nap. It’s far too crowded here to question them.”

With that, Shibaid cast magic onto the men and put them into a deeper slumber.

It felt like they had already been damaged enough, that they wouldn’t be able to wake up for a while. Still, it was better to be safe rather than sorry so Tiera didn’t say anything.

Shibaid took out a 2 mels long wooden box from his item box. He unequipped all of the men, tied their arms and feet together and threw them into the box. When he held onto the wood box on his shoulder, Shibaid also looked like a carrier, on his way to a delivery.

In fact, many of the carriers they had passed carried luggage in a similar manner, so Shibaid would not stand out.

“…so that’s how we’ll carry them.”

Tiera had wondered how they would be able to carry 6 men. While they handled the men rather roughly, it really didn’t make sense to show them any other courtesy.

“Let’s go now. Shin seems to have found a clue. He says that he’ll be back shortly.”

“I was really hopeful that he would go on and get Millie back in one go.”

“I mean, think about where we are. This is the base for High Humans. Even he would be cautious.”

“Is it really that big of a deal?”

She only knew one base, and it didn’t give her an appreciation of the bigger picture.

Tsuki no Hokora was protected by a “wall” and “barrier”. Even Tsuki no Hokora was built out of the finest materials, had very little else going for it. There was no special defense mechanism in place.

“Palmirack is definitely a different case. They’ve built the kind of fortress that could withstand a party of upper class Chosen Ones’ adventurers, and not only that, but annihilate all of us if need be.”

“Haha… right…”

She tried her best to cough out a laugh.

It was one thing to try to lure people into the center and trap them.

He was right though – it was a one of a kind fortress.

“Why would they build a city around it then…”

“Perhaps it is not fully functional. I think that it’s built in a way that the whole area can blow up from the center out.”

“I mean. High Humans are just insane, really.”

Tiera mumbled, but she meant it in terms of Shin having no common sense.

She wanted to believe that even he was ‘out there’ amongst High Humans.

Otherwise, she would go crazy too.

(Listening to him talk, I had almost normalized the whole situation. No, I need to keep reminding myself that this is a little bit nutty. Although it may be too late for me…)

Maybe it’s both a good thing and a bad thing that Tiera didn’t know how she had stopped ‘acting and thinking’ like a normal person for a long, long time now.

Every day, people change and every person is allowed to change.

 

◆◆◆◆

 

(Still. Why were they after me?)

Tiera could not stop thinking about the attackers in the box, while they walked back towards the inn.

Tiera became well-known in Balmel. She was known at this point not only by soldiers and adventurers, but common people as well.

But she shouldn’t know anyone in Sigurd.

While she was in the storefront of Tsuki no Hokora, adventurers had told Tiera how there are some thieves who kidnap beautiful people. Perhaps that would be the case, if they also had the gall to attack a person accompanied by a powerful Dragnil.

If Tiera were a simple target, then they would have come for her when she was alone.

 

“We’re here.”

“Oh sorry, I’ll open the door.”

Tiera went ahead towards the door and opened it. She had assumed that it would be a tad difficult, what with carrying a 2 mels wide wooden box on your shoulders and all.

“Welcome back.”

“I’m sorry for all our commotion. We’ll head straight up.”

Shibaid had caused quite a stir walking through the front with the box. Tiera went straight up to the waitress, who was immune to being phased by Shibaid, chatted enthusiastically and led Shibaid in.

It was hard not to step aside for a beautiful girl like Tiera. All of the adventurers coming from the front would move gracefully.

“We wait for Shin now.”

Shibaid took a seat after putting the wooden box into a corner of the room.

“Are you going to leave the box like that?”

“It shouldn’t be a problem. They couldn’t even put a dent in the box.”

It looks like an ordinary box, but go figure. There’s some magic in its material.

Tiera knew as much. She could sense the magic reeking out of it. In fact, it gave her the same sensation that the tree of life that grew in the middle of the garden where she had lived before.

(No. It can’t be.)

The tree of life was vital to elves and high elves. Since the ‘Dusk of the Majesty’, these trees had become fewer and fewer in numbers. Even taking a single branch from the tree of life could be an act of war against elves.

Yet, even someone whose master was Shin, would be hard to stomach, if they had cut down a tree of life for materials.

“What…is that box made of?”

“Oh, that? It’s from some of the leftovers when Tsuki no Hokora was being built. I believe it’s from the trunk of the tree of life.”

“………”

It was the impossible.

It’s not to the level of orichalcum, but the tree of life has the same amount of strength, and can even be used as a cure against curses and alchemy.

“H-How did you come across such a box?”

Even asking the question is terrifying. She didn’t know what to do if the truth was that the materials were extracted in an unpleasant way.

“I grew it. Before the ‘Dusk of the Majesty’, I grew it at the base that Hecate-dono guarded – she was one of Shin’s allies.”

Shibaid looked nostalgic.

Hecate’s base was the ‘5th Daze Garden Romenun’. It was the site that Shin had once mentioned how Berett couldn’t go near.

“Growing…a tree of life.”

In contrast to the calm Shibaid, Tiera felt as if she was being tricked, and was growing livid.

Only the head of the High Elves, or their sires, knew how to grow the tree of life. It was not common knowledge.

Hearing Shibaid spread lies like ‘growing the tree of life to build a building,’ was really upsetting. For elves in general, the tree of life was a symbol of their faith. The tree of life was also a part of the ritual for elves when their magic was mature. They were highly valued by elves, and even the leaves of the tree of life were treated with respect.

There were also moments when the tree of life would serve useful purposes when equipped, such as for medicine. Other races outside of elves also regarded the tree of life with a moderate amount of interest – although never as much as the elves.

“It’s difficult to do these days.”

“Well of course. To even consider growing it is obscene.”

Shibaid grinned. Shibaid must have found it hilarious, because it was part of his story. But for an outsider like Tiera, it was impossibly foolish.

“I think that that’s something that would improve if Shin stayed around.”

“I can’t deny that….”

As one of the Rokuten, it wouldn’t be surprising if he knew the tricks.

“Even that has to wait until the current matter is settled. Shin and Schnee are here. Wilhelm-dono hasn’t responded yet, which is disconcerting, but for now we should exchange information.”

Shibaid went towards the entrance of the room, feeling Shin and Schnee.

Eventually, Shin and Schnee arrived, with Yuzuha on Shin’s shoulder.

“…where’s Wilhelm?”

Shin looked around the room and asked.

“No. He hasn’t responded either.”

Shibaid was quick to send a message to Wilhelm after contacting Shin. It had been a few hours, and still no response.

“…could he be talking right now?”

“Perhaps. Messages aren’t immediate like telepathy.”

If he were in the middle of a conversation, he might not be able to open his messages.

It was impossible to find out or wait, so they decided to go ahead and share information.

“Lilishila says that the assailants may be involved in some way with the present situation.”

Shin added that bit after repeating everything Lilishila had told him.

He had also shared Shibaid’s message with Lilishila upon receiving. Lilishila had been the one who had made the connection.

“It’s still alarming how they were only after Tiera. It’s another thing if they’re after Shin, but they came straight for us.”

Shin nodded.

It hasn’t been long since Shibaid joined the party.

Perhaps they can’t tell that it is Shibaid, but regardless, if a new member joined the party, you would be more cautious before launching aggressive combat against them.

Even if they had known that it was him, who would just attack without a better plan?

“I don’t know what their motives are. It’s possible that Wilhelm was also attacked.”

“That’s possible. I doubt that he would lose easily, but I don’t know what would happen if say, there were a hostage situation of some sort.”

Schnee agrees with Shin.

“The elf that Shin met also knew that Shin was in Sigurd. Therefore, it’s fair to assume that they know Wilhelm-dono is here too. We’re losing time – we need to head immediately to the church, and you need to get more information out of those attackers.”

“Yes. We should head out now.”

Shibaid carried the box and followed as the rest of the party headed for Palmirack.

They were concerned about Wilhelm as well, but if they are not responding then there’s nothing more you can do.

Normally, even if they are at a place that hasn’t been fully mapped, they should be able to seek out and feel the presence of certain individuals. Even that was difficult here because of Palmirack.

 

◆◆◆◆

 

Perhaps it was because they had already attacked and failed. The route to Palmirack was quiet and peaceful. Once they arrived, a knight that was waiting invited them inside. They’re brought into the living quarters. This knight was one of the three that had accompanied Lilishila. He must be a member of her guard.

They continued to walk by other priests who would give frightened looks at the wooden box. They said nothing because of the church guard that walked alongside them. Perhaps they assumed that there was some official business.

The other 2 guards waited outside of the room.

“Lady Lilishila is waiting.”

And with that, one of the guards opened the door.

The 3 had already been briefed by Lilishila.

Perhaps they trusted Shin because of Lilishila’s faith in him. They did not look ill by the slightest, with Shibaid and Tiera also in the party.

“Thank you for your wait. These two are Shibaid and Tiera.”

Shin introduces them.

Shibaid had actually said his real name, but he looked too different from the ‘real Shibaid’. They assumed that he was one of Shibaid’s fans, or someone with the same exact name – nonetheless he was assumed to be a different person.

“And what’s that?”

“All in all there are 6 of them. There are 4 that are above average, and 2 that are Chosen Ones.”

“Sure. I have a room secured. Follow me.”

She nodded, and led the party towards the back of the room. Then, she made a secret maneuver which opened up the floor to a secret passageway.

(Cain loved stuff like this.)

Shin reminisced fondly, looking down at the stairs that emerged.

“The rest of you, please wait.”

“No, I should go too. I don’t plan on getting your hands dirty, if I’m involved.”

“This won’t be pleasant.”

“I am used to it.”

Lilishila looked closely into Shin’s eyes, after hearing him say that he was ‘used to it’.

“…Alright. The rest of you, please wait. Rick, please.”

“Yes my lady.”

She hesitated, but agreed to letting Shin accompany her. Lilishila called on one of her guards, and they went down the stairs.

“I won’t be gone long. They might have something up their sleeves – be on guard.”

There was no point in all of them going down. Schnee was told to wait.

“Shin…”

“It’s fine. Don’t worry.”

Schnee looked deeply concerned, and Shin calmed her down.

Perhaps she recalls the moment that Shin had become unrecognizable, and she didn’t want to experience that again.

“Yuki. He says it’s fine. Then it’s fine.”

“…Yes.”

Shibaid chimed in, and Schnee (Yuki) took a step back. With that, Shin turned towards Lilishila.

 

Shin and Shibaid continued after Lilishila down the stairs. In a few minutes, there were no more stairs to climb down, and a door about 3 mels wide was visible.

Lilishila opened the door easily.

There was nothing in the room.

However, Shin could sense the presence of several, unforgivable traps that were placed all over the room. These traps, courtesy of Cain, were meant to kill.

It seemed that Lilishila and the church had been using this room as a torture chamber. It was also meant to be a room that would deter thieves from stealing. It was a trap room at its finest.

During the game era, no one ever made it this far. Shin had never seen the traps go off.

If the functions of this room were not disabled, they would have met a terrible fate.

“Here is?”

It didn’t hurt to play coy. Shin asks Lilishila.

“We found this by accident one day when we were cleaning the room directly above it. I don’t know why it exists.”

“Didn’t the person who occupied the room before you explain?”

“Nothing. It’s useful, because this room doesn’t allow any noise to leak. We generally hold our secret meetings here.”

Shin responded to Lilishila, saying “I see.”

He looked around at the room – the traps in the room only went off once. It didn’t seem though as if the person who had come into the room before had been the unfortunate sacrifice.

“Please let them out.”

“Sure.”

They made sure that the doors were closed, and opened the wooden box. Shibaid turned the box over, as 6 grown men fell out one by one.

It didn’t seem that they were able to wake up, because of the spell cast on them.

“Restrain them.”

One by one, Rick carried the men over and assembled them into a line. He put a cloth over their eyes, and made it hard for them to resist.

Everything was ready.

“Shall we begin.”

She nodded at what Shin said, and they used their skills to wake the men up.

 

A few seconds passed, and one of the men woke with a groan.

“What…what’s happening!?”

He realized what kind of a situation he’d woken up in, and started to show dismay.

“Be quiet.”

Lilishila orders the man to be silent. He stopped immediately.

“What do you plan to do with us?”

The man asked.

“Answer my questions honestly. If you are able to answer truthfully, we will not take your lives away.”

Lilishila spoke and with every word, the room was filled with more weight.

The man wailed back,

“Do you know who our masters are?”

“No. So, will you answer our questions?”

“…..No. We’d be killed anyways if we do.”

The man thought about it, but chose to refuse. He was more frightened of the people he knew than Lilishila.

“That’s unfortunate. You would have saved us a lot of time.”

Lilishila’s expression had not changed much. She raised her arm, and Rick came forward.

“What?! What are you doing!”

The man could hear a footstep approaching him. He stepped back farther and farther, but Rick grabbed the man’s face and activated his magic.

“!”

The man raised a yelp, but fell back silent.

Shin analyzed the situation and saw a Sleep I display. It seemed that Rick had deployed some version of Sleep. Normally it should have put one to sleep, but minor adjustments had been made, seeing how the man’s eyes were open beneath the eye mask.

Rick made sure that the man was asleep, and switched places with Lilishila.

Lilishila raised her hand in front of the man’s face.

“Ugh…gah…”

She was giving him a hallucination.

“Who am I?”

“G-Gilth, Barrot….”

“Did I order you?”

“Ye…s…”

“What was the purpose?”

“Grab the…elf….kill…the…company.”

The man continued to answer faithfully, albeit a bit stuttered.

Sleep and Hallucination as a combo had made the man believe that Lilishila was his boss.

(I learned something new.)

Shin and Shibaid watched silently, as Lilishila continued her questioning.

She was able to extract plenty more information.

The 4 men who attacked Tiera were part of the guild “Corrupt Gift,” an underworld society that had managed to gain middle-class status. He had not known about the other two Chosen Ones – they were a separate thing.

They were told to bring back the black haired elf.

It was Tiera alright. There are not that many black- haired elves.

They knew that Tiera might be accompanied. They were told to kill whoever was in the way, but did not know that it would be a strong warrior.

 

They did not know who had requested the hit.

They didn’t know about Wilhelm either.

“I don’t think it’s possible to gain anymore.”

Lilishila broke the skill and stopped her intense lines of questioning. She stood. For questions that the man did not know the answer, he remained silent. This meant that the latter half of the interrogation had a lot of awkward silences.

They put the man back to sleep.

“I’m sure it’s a similar deal with the other two.”

“Did the name of the guild ring a bell for you?”

“No, but it did confirm some of my speculations.”

Lilishila had known that the “Corrupt Gift” were associated with the Shiten. It was a guild that thrived on human trafficking, and rumor had it that a lot of the sacrifices that the Shiten made were people procured by the guild.

“Let’s try another then.”

They wake up another man.

He did not seem confused, and things went rather smoothly.

“Please answer our questions. If you answer faithfully, then we will promise you your safety.”

“How kind of you,” the man snickered.

Rick’s brows furrowed at the sight, but Lilishila ignored it.

“Will you comply?”

“….”

The man had said nothing. Perhaps that was enough of an answer.

Rick approached the man, just as he had done earlier.

“Hehe.”

The man let out a jeering cackle.

Shin could feel his blood draining.

The number 5 appeared above the man’s head.

“!? Shibaid!!”

“Yes sir!”

Even before Shin had raised his voice, Shibaid had carried Lilishila and Rick away.

Shibaid had also felt the instinctual threat of the deranged man.

They had deployed their skills as to be able to switch places immediately. They took the lid made of the tree of life and hid behind it like a shield.

Immediately, an explosion could be heard beyond their little hideout.

“!?”

The explosion was quite powerful, and the wind caused by it blew Shin’s hair back.

There were large hunks of flesh and blood all over the room.

“What in the world.”

“He set himself off.”

Shibaid removed the lid, and saw that all 6 of their assailants had been blown into smithereens.

There were legs and feet, parts of torsos, organs, large remainders of what used to be a head… You could barely make out the two Chosen Ones. Some of the pieces that more or less carelessly remained intact were the other 4 men.

“Damn it.”

While releasing his hold on Lilishila and Rick, Shin swore at himself.

The self explosion skill was not used often in the game. Few players would even bother trying to acquire it. Shin of course was one of the few, but he had never used it to this day.

Ever since it became a death game, the skill’s very existence was erased from memory. The 5 that showed before the man, was the final countdown after he had initiated self destruction. The maximum amount of time that a person has after they’ve decided to self destruct is 60 seconds. The shortest time otherwise should be 10 seconds. At 5 seconds, the remaining time appears over a character’s head.

They had just made it, but if it had just been Lilishila handling the matter, they would have all been taken down.

“This is terrible.”

“I’m sure it’s to keep themselves safe. I can’t believe that they even had an insurance plan like this ready.”

Shin scowled at the smell.

Shibaid was right. They must have had some sort of order in place, in case any of the members got caught and were to slip. In a way it was very standard practice for those from the underworld to not care for human life, and especially not for their own.

“But this is excessive.”

“We now know that the Shiten are involved.”

Lilishila showed resentment. Rick bit down bitterly at his lower lip.

“…We can’t really do anything. Shall we go back up?”

“Is it alright to leave it like this?”

“Yes. The dead bodies tend to disappear over time.”

While playing the game, characters are usually sent back to where the player started. In this world, however, it seems they are used as a source of energy to maintain the facility. It went without saying that nobody wondered how Lilishila knew such things.

 

Shin opened the doors and the party went up the stairs.

Once they returned to the room, Lilishila was the first one to enter. Schnee’s eyes stopped short.

“You’re very early. What is the matter.”

“We got duped.”

They explained the self destruction of the attacker, and everyone’s facial expression was much more grave.

“What do you mean, self destruct?”

“It stops information from leaking, and they probably wanted to take us down with them.”

Players typically use this skill for when they are trying to make a last stand as they have very little HP left. It’s also useful as a distraction against a large crowd. The death penalty on a player is a far greater toll however, and characters that self destruct will gain nothing, even after a boss or a guild battle ends.

No one dreams of some day self destructing, to put it bluntly.

“When you do it, you die right?”

“Yes. It places others surrounding you at great risk as well.”

“What use is that?”

Tiera was stunned. She couldn’t relate to her attackers one bit.

It was absurd that anyone would even consider acquiring a skill, knowing that using it would kill you.

Even back when it was just a game, very rarely did players learn this skill.

“That’s how these guilds operate. And I think that’s all the reason that I have to share.”

There were several other, sickening events that were caused by these underground guilds, like assassinations and keeping a secret society thriving. But those were ill suited answers for Tiera.

Shin didn’t have a good response.

“Self destruction. I don’t believe that it’s a difficult skill to acquire. I’m sure it’s within their means, the society that we are up against, to teach each of their followers that skill.”

“I see it happen in fiction often enough. Those that are affected have nothing to protect them.”

Shin tries to change the subject to lighten the mood.

“This is pointless. Yuki and I are going to look through the church. Lady Lilishila, please act as naturally as you possibly can.”

“Shouldn’t I help you with anything though?”

“No. If you or your guards do anything out of the ordinary Lady Lilishila, it will be obvious and cause the church to be suspicious. It’d be best for you to do as you always would. I’m painfully aware that we may be too late.”

Shin and Schnee are already recognizable. Shibaid carrying in the box was also a sight. It was obvious they were making a move.

Since they lost their source of more information, Shin had to do something to get better traction.

The guards were concerned if they were really able to get in without their help, but Shin was able to persuade them with his superior hiding skills, once he disappeared out of their sights and reappeared behind them.

He had merely moved very quickly, but they assumed that it was a skill. Had Shin really wanted to, he could have truly disappeared. Showing off however was not necessary.

Other than Shin and Schnee, Tiera would go back to the inn and Shibaid would protect Lilishila.

It seemed a bit risky to let Tiera go off on her own. However, Yuzuha and Kagerou would also be with her.

Had Shibaid not been there, Kagerou would have also been able to help Tiera earlier.

From now on, an attacker would always be knocked out, then stuffed into the wooden box, and carried discreetly by Kagerou.

In case the enemies were to make any sudden movements, Shibaid had to stay inside Palmirack. That was a given.

He’s also a holy knight by profession – this meant that he was a much better defender.

Even with no equipment, he was able to draw out rare class swords. By merely equipping the backup armor and weapons that Shin provided, Shibaid could take over all of Palmirack with relative ease.

They seemed prepared enough.

“The sun will set soon. We will act on our plan once it’s dark. Shibaid is here too, but please try not to leave your abode.”

“I’m sorry that we cannot be of more use.”

It’s precisely the fact that they are involved in the church, that prevents them from further action. They told Lilishila not to worry, as Shin and Schnee ventured into the church.

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