Vol. 7 Chapter 3 – Part 1

“I have a question, does anyone know where exactly the coastal cave is supposed to be?”

A few days had passed since they left Sigurd.

While driving the carriage and using the skill Clairvoyance to see the road ahead, Shin looked at the coastline and asked this question to the other passengers.

The map only offered vague indications about the place, so Shin asked for more precise directions from Schnee or Shibaid, who were likely to know.

“The lay of the land looks different from the last time I came. There should be a crag in the vicinity.”

“I remember it too. I cannot see any crags around here though…”

Shibaid and Schnee, who were also using Clairvoyance to inspect the surroundings, gave their answers.

Shin too was looking intently, but he could only see the coast extending further, with no trace of any place resembling a cave entrance.

“Can you remember if there was any landmark?”

“No, I can’t say I do.”

“Nor do I. Nothing stood out in particular.”

“….by the way, when did you last see it?”

Shin expressed this question after remembering the two’s longevity.

“I think it was roughly 300 years ago.”

“As for me, it was probably 400 years ago.”

“I see….”

Hearing this, Shin reflected that the cave as a whole could have very well disappeared.

On land, in the seas, in the skies; monsters were everywhere in this world. There were more than enough monsters capable of destroying caves as well.

Even without monster intervention, it wouldn’t be weird for the cave to disappear naturally and the geography to change, after 300 whole years.

“Hmm….”

“(Yuzuha, what response are you getting?)”

“(It’s close, but something’s weird.)”

Shin asked Yuzuha for help, trusting her tracking technique, but received an unclear answer.

After inquiring further via Mind Chat, Shin learned that Yuzuha could detect the presence nearby, but couldn’t tell in which direction.

It seemed Yuzuha couldn’t express herself well because of her young age; Shin arrived at the conclusion that something was interfering with her tracking ability.

“(What do you think about what Yuzuha said?)”

“(A possible cause is miasma. After all, it can disrupt people’s senses, so it could be influencing Yuzuha’s skill negatively.)”

Shibaid speculated that the cause was miasma. High-level Demons are more resistant to magic skills, so Yuzuha’s skill could have been affected too.

“(I agree. Yuzuha’s powers have not fully matured yet, and there’s a possibility of a barrier being erected around the ritual site.)”

Schnee expressed a valid point of view too.

The demons and the faction members would likely try to eliminate the smallest chance of being found. It was natural to think that they had set up concealment mechanisms to distance people and keep the location hidden.

“The demons must be close, no doubt about it.”

Tiera spoke while Shin and Schnee were completely silent, talking through Mind Chat.

“You can tell?”

“The demons’ miasma is slightly different from the one born from human emotion. It’s something I felt when I directly faced with a demon, so I am positive of it.”

“This means that there’s a high chance of this being the right place. That already is great news. Let’s try running along the coast, first. I will go to the left, you take the right, Yuki.”

After listening to Tiera, Shin voiced his thoughts.

“Understood. We can cover considerable distance even in a short time, so…let’s run for 30 minutes, and if we don’t find anything we come back here, what do you say?”

“That sounds good. We aren’t certain that the cave lies alongside the coast, after all.”

Shin nodded to Schnee’s proposal.

If Shin and Schnee ran at their full speed, they could easily outmatch even a sports car. They cannot perform detailed inspections while running, but their boosted dynamic vision would not miss something as large as the entrance to a cave.

Even if it had been concealed, Shin and Schnee both have skills to detect traps set by scouting units as well as hidden doors. It would be easier, on the contrary, to find if something had been tampered with.

“It looks like I can’t be of much help in a search like this.”

Konig’s tone was slightly frustrated.

“We’ll be back in under one hour, even if we can’t find anything. We are already close to the ritual site, so there’s the possibility of being attacked; please keep watch.”

“Understood. Be careful, then.”

The carriage was stopped just before the coast, then Shin and Schnee ran off in opposite directions.

Shin was running at a certain distance from the waves, sand rising up in his wake.

The seaside scenery continued unchanging, while on the other side trees and plants were blowing past him.

“No difference in the response?”

“Kuu, I don’t know…”

Shin talked to Yuzuha, riding on his shoulder, while trying to detect any suspicious signs. He had brought her along to check if the response would change along the way.

“It doesn’t feel like we’re getting farther either?”

“Kuu? It kind of feels like we’re getting farther…kind of feels like it’s the same…”

The disruption was still having effect, apparently.

Judging from Yuzuha’s words, Shin thought that there might be nothing in this direction, but he decided to keep going forward some more, to be sure.

“Kuu!! We’re far now!!”

After roughly 10 minutes, Yuzuha spoke up. The change in the response caused by the increased distance could not be disrupted, apparently.

“So Schnee had the right direction. Let’s go back, hold on tight!”

Shin rushed back, kicking up storms of sand behind him. Supporting Yuzuha, dragged and blown around by the wind pressure, with his left arm, Shin retraced his steps to the starting point.

“Kuu!! So fast!”

“I don’t have to inspect the surroundings now!! And I’ll go faster still!”

Shin had already confirmed that there was nothing to note on the path, so he increased the speed of his return.

As the sand made it hard to run, he proceeded where the terrain was harder. While running, he contacted Schnee via Mind Chat.

“(Shin here. It looks like the direction you took was the right one. As I ran, the enemy’s response grew farther. There’s the possibility of the enemy being on the move too, so better pay attention to the sky too.)”

“(Understood. If they have been moving, I will track them down.)”

“(I’m counting on you. I’ll tell Shibaid and the others to head your way. Contact me if anything happens.)”

Shin then closed the Mind Chat for the time being.

To track down someone without being noticed, Schnee’s job, “Kunoichi”, is the ideal one. It combines mobility, secrecy and a rich variety of tracking skills.

Even if she were to be found out, defeating Schnee and the reinforced Blue Moon she was equipped with was a feat for few. Even if she were to face an opponent stronger than her, she had the right skills and items to ensure she could escape.

“The problem is how many demons we’ll have to deal with.”

After informing Shibaid of the situation via Mind Chat, Shin thought about the enemy forces.

Demons become more and more human-like the higher their rank is, and their power grows accordingly. Judging from the silhouette Tiera saw at Palmirack, it was safe to assume that there was at least one Duke or higher class demon.

Duke class demons possessed intellect on par with humans. They would not appear by themselves without making contact with other demons, as it would happen in a game.

As there were former players too, it wouldn’t be strange if they cooperated with other demons, based on the information they had acquired.

“If they still operated per the game’s settings, we’d only have to deal with the one Tiera saw…based on what Schnee said, it seems the demons became active recently, so maybe the ones active are still few?”

At the very least, Shin was positive that the three demons called Lords had not awakened. The Miasma Lords release intense miasma around them from the very moment of their awakening, then start immediately raising their armies.

During the game era, Shin had seen several guilds pooling their forces to fight against the Miasma Lords’ armies’.

If such a thing had already happened, the continent he was in now wouldn’t have been left intact.

There was the possibility that they had awakened in other continents, but the Golden Company’s Berett wouldn’t have forgotten to mention something so important; it was a possibility they could rule out.

“In any case, we can’t do anything if we don’t find the entrance first.”

Shin saw the carriage rushing on the beach and stopped thinking for the moment.

He caught up to the carriage, avoiding the sand it was kicking up in its wake. While running alongside it, Shin waved to Tiera, the current coachman.

“Eh!? You’re back already?”

“Yeah, I’m getting on.”

Shin casually replied to the surprised Tiera and hopped on the carriage.

The carriage was running at high-speed despite the difficulty of the terrain, but inside no vibration could be felt, a quiet in deep contrast to its wild run. Its speed capabilities were so incredible that, at this point, the only thing the carriage had in common with other similar vehicles was the shape.

“OK, things will get serious now. Tiera, let me check, you are equipping your accessories, right?”

“Of course. Armor, weapons, everything is powered up as much as my stats allow, right? Well, I’m the weakest of the group, so I understand if you’re worried.”

The party didn’t know exactly how powerful their opponents would be this time, and Tiera’s level had increased, so her equipment had been renewed.

She wore a corset-like leather armor with a dark green jacket draped over it, brown hot pants and combat boots adorned with silver feathers. On her arms, arm protectors made with lustrous beast skin were equipped.

The added bonuses had boosted Tiera’s stats much higher than before.

Tiera was a bit concerned that the current equipment emphasized her chest area more than the old one, but it was the best piece of equipment she could wear at the moment, so she couldn’t really complain.

Her weapons too, obviously, were different.

Despite this equipment power-up however, she couldn’t help thinking about that her own abilities were much lower than the others.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. Among high-rank demons, there are plenty that even chosen ones have no hope of defeating. I told Schnee to not fight unless necessary because there is the possibility she might lose too.”

Shin’s voice was a whisper when he mentioned the part about Schnee.

“Master could…lose?”

Tiera was watching forward, but couldn’t help turning a surprised look towards Shin.

Schnee, after recovering Blue Moon, her exclusive weapon, was much stronger than any average boss monster. She could also use the magic skills for wide-range destruction, now that their usage limitations had been partially lifted. It was hard to think of someone less fitting for the word “defeat”.

Even so, demons are not to be underestimated.

“Well, with me and Shibaid around too I doubt we’ll easily fall in that much danger. We have Kagerou too.”

Saying this, Shin looked at Kagerou, who was pulling the carriage.

In a way, Shin had something much more dangerous than Kagerou or the demons resting on his shoulder, saying “kuu kuu”…but no one seemed to worry for now.

“Sir Shin, if you have returned it means the enemy response is on Lady Yuki’s side?”

Konig waited for Shin and Tiera to finish their conversation before talking. He had already heard from Shibaid the reason for the carriage’s wild speed, so he was not concerned.

“That’s correct. We don’t know if it’s the ritual site, but we will definitely find the silhouette Tiera saw at Palmirack.”

“I see, hopefully she’s all right.”

Konig whispered the words to himself.

 

◆◆◆◆

 

“(Schnee here. I found the entrance to the cave.)”

It happened less than 5 minutes since they started running.

The awaited communication came from Schnee.

“(Great! What does the entrance’s surroundings look like?)”

“(I cannot tell clearly without going closer, but it’s bizarre. It is not concealed in any way, there aren’t any of the usual traps that signal the presence of intruders, nor anyone standing guard. I checked with Magic Sonar, so I am positive it leads inside.)”

The joy of the discovery did not last long. After hearing Schnee’s words, Shin wondered if it wasn’t a totally unrelated, normal cave.

But the information he received after that placated his doubts.

Magic Sonar was originally used to detect buried items and ore, but it could be adapted to search for hidden underground pathways and maps never visited before.

That was how Schnee could inspect the cave’s interior.

“We found the enemy’s hideout. It looks like the response’s target was heading back to base, then.”

After listening to Schnee’s report, Shin relayed the information to the other members in the carriage.

Konig was surprised at how easily they performed long-distance communication, but he seemed to know about Mind Chat, so he nodded in agreement.

Few adventurers are capable of using Mind Chat, but it wasn’t unusual for Shin’s party to be able to, or so concluded Konig.

“Are you sure about that!?”

“Yes, from Yuki’s observations, I think there’s no mistake. So please…stand back a little.”

Shin answered after pushing back Konig, who had unconsciously walked up a bit too close to him, a terribly stern look on his face.

Considering that there was a player among the enemies, they couldn’t completely discard the possibility of an illusory trap that could deceive even Schnee; but if such a thing happened, they’d just have to praise the user’s skill.

The work of an artisan who poured everything into trap making is something that not even those with scout as main job can see through easily.

“It doesn’t look like there are traps set around the entrance, but just in case, in a little while we’ll get off the carriage and walk. Konig, please take this.”

Shin materialized a green cloak from an item card and passed it to Konig.

“What is this?”

“A magic item specialized in concealment effects. Please be aware that in exchange, its defensive capabilities are almost non-existent.”

The item Shin had materialized was made with the thread produced by the larvae of the monster Mirage Butterfly, its name “Cloak of Hidden Threads”.

The cloak was made with the threads of a monster which couldn’t even be spotted without high level enemy detection or presence detection skills. True to such origins, simply wearing the cloak would render the user indistinguishable from their surroundings.

The equipment worn under it could be detected via sound or vibration, but if the enemy relied on visual information, it would have been difficult to find.

The carriage was stopped after a while and the party descended. Before starting to walk, Shin handed the same cloak to Tiera.

“This is yours. Kagerou…doesn’t need it, I suppose.”

“That’s right. Kagerou can hide by himself, after all.”

“Gruu.”

As they looked at Kagerou, he growled once, then slipped into the shadows. As Tiera said, there was nothing to worry about.

Shin and Shibaid could also take care of it by themselves.

“Yuki should be in the woods up ahead. Let’s go there first.”

For added security, Shin increased their stealth capabilities with the skills Hiding and Silent Domain. Walking on the sand would leave clear footprints, so they walked on hardened ground, far from the sea.

At this point, one could worry about the carriage’s tracks; but maybe because the speed it moved at was not something normal for a carriage on sand, they were impossible to distinguish. It looked like the sand it kicked up in its wake had covered the tracks.

After storing the carriage and hiding the tracks left by its weight, they were done.

(I guess I should run a check.)

To be sure, Shin activated his full range of detection-type skills on the surroundings: Search, Sign Perception, and trap detection skills.

He couldn’t find any sign of traps or monsters, but he felt a certain chill in the air.

Something not caused by a skill, a sensation he couldn’t quite put into words.

(I can’t make it clear, either because it’s something caused by a technique different than a skill, or my ability isn’t high enough.)

Yet again, the concern that occupied his thoughts so often surfaced to mind.

No matter how high his stats might be, fighting in a game would not allow him to hide his presence or detect others’ presence like real masters can.

As for Shin, the only moment when he can do it is when engaged in a battle to the death with other humans.

For monsters’ presence, he can only rely on skills.

“Once this is over, I have to train again thoroughly…”

Shin wasn’t sure why he thought something like that at a time like this. But he felt that he couldn’t just leave things the way they were.

“Did you say something?”

“No, nothing.”

Inside Silent Domain, normally all sound is canceled, but it is also possible to prevent all inside sound to leak outside. Nothing prevented normal conversation while inside the area of effect.

 

“Now then, the woods where Yuki is waiting should be in sight any moment…over there?”

Looking at Schnee’s response as displayed on the map, Shin changed directions and proceeded. After five minutes, trees started appearing here and there, and around ten minutes later, they arrived in an area of thick vegetation.

“There she is.”

Schnee too, had detected Shin’s presence, so she had sent them a signal from the woods. Members of the same party could still see and hear each other, even if others couldn’t.

“Did anything happen before we arrived?”

“No, no one came out or went inside. The entrance is over there.”

Everyone looked in the direction Schnee pointed at.

“I see, so this is why we couldn’t see it. Maybe it’s an entrance they aren’t aware of? It does look like they’re using the coastal cave though.”

“That would explain why no one is standing guard.”

What the party was looking at was the sea. But Shin and Shibaid could see a cave entrance, of roughly 3 mels, under the water.

As Schnee said, there was no sign of guards or traps.

“Er, all I can see is the sea…?”

“Same for me.”

“It looks like the entrance is underwater. It’s located around 20 mels from the coastline, no mistake. In that exact point, the sea becomes suddenly much deeper. Rather than entrance, I supposed it’s better to call it a 3 mels hole.”

Shin related what he had seen to Tiera and Konig, who lacked the ability to see through water.

No one would come swimming or fishing in a beach infested by monsters, so normally it would have probably never been found.

“Under the sea?”

“Yes. The regular entrance is probably somewhere else. This is clearly a hidden entrance, perfect for our infiltration plan.”

If Shin’s prediction was correct, it was a great stroke of luck for the party. Finding a route the enemy wasn’t aware of didn’t happen often.

“But could the enemy really be unaware of it? They probably thoroughly searched the area that they’re going to use as a base…”

“I agree with her.”

Tiera and Konig voiced their opinion.

“Yuki is inspecting the interior of the cave with a magic skill. It looks like the water will gradually recede as you proceed inside. We also have the means to fight underwater, so don’t worry. Rather, you’re already pretty much ready, Tiera.”

“Oh, so that’s what “it” was for.”

Tiera seemed to realize something after hearing Shin’s words. As they were going to a location near the sea, a certain enchantment was placed on her equipment.

“What is this “it”, Lady Tiera?”

“Among all armor enchantments, there’s one that changes the armor’s shape, to allow the user to act underwater. It’s attached to Tiera’s armor, and I checked that it was working.”

There are skills that boost the user’s movement underwater, but in case the user is wearing heavy full-body armor, they aren’t exactly useful.

The user would not have difficulty swimming, but simply sink.

As long as the skills are active, the user wouldn’t drown. But that’s the whole extent of what they can do.

Even if the user was wearing light gear, stat debuffs would be applied to movement, attack and defense.

That is what would happen if one acted underwater with above-ground equipment in THE NEW GATE.

In order to swim like a fish, specific preparations and training were required; first of all, applying the enchantment Shapeshift to the equipment.

“Along with the shape, do mass and defense power change as well?”

“There’s often more skin exposure, in your case, Konig, a special membrane with the same defense power and durability as your armor would envelop your body, so there’s no actual change of defensive power. As for the mass…well, it becomes absurdly lighter. I don’t really know the reason why, though.”

To put it simply, armor enchanted with Shapeshift would turn into swimwear.

A defensive membrane would then cover the exposed parts, protecting the user from enemy attacks.

In this state, attack speed with weapons would be nearly the same as on land, so it was possible to fight as well as on ground, after getting used to it.

Those who become used to fighting underwater can swim freely, like penguins or even mermaids.

However, a problem that during the game era could be explained with “that’s just how it works” can’t be taken care of so easily, now that the game has become reality. Why does armor turn into swimwear only? What happens to the mass? Shin had no explanation to offer.

Incidentally, the type of swimwear the armor changes into is decided automatically when the enchantment is placed on the armor, and randomly too.

There were myriads of possible results; most of them were orthodox types, the risqué ones were so rare they were considered jokes.

“Generally, the armor changes into swimwear as one enters the water. It’s also possible to change shape at will. I can explain more once the enchantment is placed on your armor, Konig.”

“By the way, what is this “swimwear” you mentioned? Equipment for underwater use?”

“Yes, well, something like that. It looks like plain clothes, though.”

“Clothes? Hmm…the world of skills is complex indeed…”

Konig didn’t seem to understand well what the words “clothes to use in water” meant. He rubbed his chin, lost in thought.

“You’ll understand once you wear it. This enchantment can be applied immediately, so please stay still for a moment.”

Having said this, Shin applied Shapeshift to Konig’s armor, which shone brightly and transformed into a pair of swimming trunks. Only 『Haufer』 didn’t change shape and was resting at Konig’s waist as before.

“Th, this…does this really have any defensive power!?”

“Don’t worry. I was the one to propose this, so I’ll show you in practice; please try to slash me.”

“I, I see.”

Shin changed his equipment’s shape. His swimwear was similar to what an athlete would wear, tightly fitting and with little water resistance.

As Shin put his arm forward, Konig -with some hesitation- did as he was told, and lightly swung 『Haufer』 towards Shin’s arm.

Before colliding with Shin’s arm, however, it was stopped by something; the blade could not reach the skin.

“I see, despite how it may look, there’s no reason to worry about defense.”

Konig tried on his own arms, verifying again the presence of the protective film.

“Shin and I shall go on a first inspection. We have to factor in the underwater sea currents as well, there could be unexpected dangers.”

Schnee talked when she had judged Shin and the party’s preparations to be complete.

As they had already discussed what to do beforehand, no one had objections to raise.

“I’m going first. Keep watching the surroundings and follow me.”

“Yes.”

As Schnee stepped on the beach, her equipment changed shape.

The white sunlight was now shining on her candid skin.

Schnee’s swimsuits shape was a light blue bikini and a pareo, covering her left leg up to the knee. The pareo was longer on the left leg’s side, while the right leg was almost completely bare.

They were on a mission in enemy territory, to rescue the victim of kidnapping, so no one’s eyes were overly stolen by the elf’s swaying chest.

(If only the circumstances were different, I’d have enjoyed a swim in the sea…)

You blasted demons…! With this slight feeling of resentment, Shin dove against the waves under water.

Schnee followed him immediately.

They could see several mels ahead, thanks to the water’s transparency. It was Shin’s first time swimming after the game had become reality, so he took his time to get used to the water.

(Nothing feels off, for now.)

He had fought several times in his current body, and he had become quite apt at controlling its strength too.

He didn’t feel like he was borrowing someone else’s body and could swim as easily as he could during the game era. It was not a mysterious sensation as the one born by magical power, so he assumed it was him getting used to the body.

“No problem breathing either. Schnee, can you hear me?”

After activating Dive X, Shin talked to Schnee.

It was a support skill for underwater movement, which if leveled up would lessen the negative stat changes derived from underwater action. It made it possible to breathe and talk too, thus allowing normal communication.

At low levels it would only last for roughly 10 minutes, but at the highest level, X, it allowed the user to spend a full day in water, without breaks.

“Yes, it looks like we can talk normally too.”

Schnee’s words reached Shin’s ears. No noise disturbed them, it was just like speaking on ground.

“Let’s go then.”

After confirming that the skill was working properly, Shin and Schnee headed towards the entrance of the cave.

There was no sign of human or monster presence in the surroundings.

“There really isn’t anything around here…”

“This utter lack of defenses almost makes me think that they could be trying to lure us in…”

Shin acknowledged Schnee’s concern and used Magic Sonar, Search, and Sign Perception to inspect the interior of the cave more deeply and widely.

However, there was no sign of an ambush. The terrain itself was not suitable for ambushing.

“Let’s go a little bit further, if there really is nothing dangerous we’ll call the others and proceed together. We have no way of knowing if they are aware of our movements or not, after all. Let’s keep our eyes peeled and go on.”

“That’s the only way, I suppose.”

There was no end to their suspicions, so they decided to cast them away for the moment. Using precious time and risking putting Hermie in more danger was definitely not worth it.

The two entered the cavern and proceeded, wary of any traps.

“There’s someone.”

“It appears they haven’t noticed us yet.”

After roughly 10 minutes, Shin and Schnee had reached a small clearing in the cave, which housed a small lake. The path they had followed ended at the lake, but according to the map the body of water did not lead outside the cave.

Judging from the light shining on the water and the response from Sign Perception, one person was in the lake, where the water was more shallow.

Shin, who had entered the lake without noise, activated Hiding and poked his head from the surface of the lake.

There he found several globes of light floating above the lake and, with her back to Shin, a woman submerged in water up to her hips.

The light globes were produced by the Light-type magic skill Instant Light. It was a skill to create simple shining globes with no offensive or defensive capabilities, used often when exploring dark caves.

The woman was naked from her waist up. She was rather short, with white hair. Her body could not be defined easily too; it’s like a thin boy or a petite girl.

Seeing her, Shin had a hunch and used Analyze.

“Milt  –  Level 255 – Conjurer”

“Affected by : Charm X, Sleep VIII, High Confusion IX

(Just as I thought…but what’s going on here…?)

Not even Shin could have predicted the status ailments.

First of all, the Sleep status would force the affected to sleep, preventing any movement.

Yet Milt was moving normally, as if nothing was affecting her.

Shin, however, was not completely unfamiliar with such a state.

Cardinal Greyl, who had warped Shin and Rionne from Bayreuth to the Sacred Place, was affected with Charm and Confusion in the same way.

The cardinal had managed to operate the console even in such a state. Apparently, even under the effect of such status conditions, one’s consciousness partly remained.

Shin thought that the same thing was likely happening to Milt now.

That considered, what was the next step to take…? Shin reflected.

Milt was Hermie’s kidnapper. There was no doubt that she was a member of “Ouroboros’ Hollow”.

Unmistakably, she was to be considered an enemy.

Additionally, she did not have anything equipped now; her defensive powers were at their lowest levels.

If Shin attacked her by surprise, he would have certainly been able to finish her.

“(It’s Hermie’s kidnapper, correct? Do you think we can subdue her now, without causing a commotion?)”

“(We could probably capture her, but she’s a former player too. Is it possible to use Mind Chat even under paralysis?)”

“(Yes, it’s possible. If we leave her asleep, we could make sure she never contacts her allies, though.)”

“(The problem is, she’s already affected by Sleep. Since she can move in that state, it’s probably impossible to keep her asleep. It would be difficult to keep her unconscious too. If she can use Mind Chat, restraining her would be meaningless. Which means…)”

….the only way is to kill her.

Without voicing this thought, Shin looked again at Milt.

Schnee looked at Shin, but with an uneasy look in her eyes.

(This is a situation impossible in the game, and I have no solution…then, why do I feel that there’s still time…?)

Such an inexplicable sensation left Shin uncertain on how to move for several seconds.

Killing her was only in case she was an enemy. However, Milt was clearly not lucid, so Shin couldn’t decide to regard her as an enemy.

“…..who goes there?”

Just a few seconds had passed. As if she was waiting for that moment, a soprano-like voice resounded in the space previously dominated only by the sound of water.

Milt’s red eyes were unmistakably looking at Shin and Schnee. Yet even if they were looking in their direction, her gaze seemed to be lost in space.

 

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