Shoulder-length hair with a color between red and violet, the same color as the eyes of this High Lord.
However, that color could not be seen now as her eyes were closed.
Maybe because of her race’s longevity, or the special effect of the crystal might have possessed, she did not look at all different than how Shin remembered her, despite the fact that 500 years had passed.
Her chest, on par with Schnee’s, and the magical armor adorned in black and violet around her waist were shining as they did in the past.
“This is a crystal of…Drop of Erathem?”
Shin gazed at the crystal entrapping Filma, an expression of utter surprise.
In the game, he thought it was a simple magic crystal, but after using 【Analyze】 he had realized it was actually an ancient-class material named Drop of Erathem.
“Does this mean that she was hit by a burst of magical power of insane proportions?”
Depending on the size, this material would be polished and used as a weapon. If one ended up trapped in it, not even Filma could have broken out by herself.
Considering the fact that her appearance hadn’t changed and that『Exvaine』 no longer recognized Filma, the original owner, Shin speculated that the Drop of Erathem’s magical power had cast a strong seal on Filma.
“Do you know her?”
“Yes, she’s the comrade we weren’t able to contact.”
Shin answered with a nod to Konig’s question.
In this state, it was obviously impossible to communicate.
“Hey, Shin. The demons started being active recently, right?”
“So it seems. We don’t know if it was because they couldn’t act, or they simply didn’t.”
Shin answered Milt’s question based on the information he had gotten from Schnee.
“Do you think that this could be related somehow?”
Milt spoke while pointing at the crystal which imprisoned Filma. It appeared that Milt too felt something coming from it.
“….it’s possible. Same for the miasma too, but a crystal as large as this found on top of the Ley line…it wouldn’t be weird for a connection to be there, right?”
“That’s right, I don’t think there were any quests where you could find Drop of Erathem near Ley lines either.”
Drop of Erathem would form in locations where magical power accumulated. Places like Ley lines, where energy would always flow, were not suitable.
“Regarding miasma and Ley lines, though, something similar happened in another place.”
Shin remembered what happened at the shrine where he met Yuzuha. What Shin now knew is that the demons had a certain reason to meddle with the Ley lines.
“(Kuu, I feel something powerful from under that rock. But that rock is yucky too.)”
Thanks to her deep connection with the Ley lines, Yuzuha could apparently clearly feel the power sealed under the crystal. She did not seem to know what a crystal was. Even such a precious item was a rock in Yuzuha’s eyes.
The usually curious Yuzuha wouldn’t move from Shin’s shoulder this time.
“Hey Shin, just what is this…?”
Tiera drew closer to Shin, who was lost in thought.
“It’s a peculiar item called Drop of Erathem. I’ve never seen one this large, though…”
Shin gave a simple explanation to Tiera, who looked at the crystal as if she saw an incredible thing. Even after hearing Shin’s words however, her expression remained clouded.
“The magic power trapped here…it’s tainted. Uugh…why…is this…”
Shin was concerned as Tiera’s behavior was rather unusual.
As if answering his doubts, Tiera put her right hand over her mouth and sat down. She held her own body with her left arm and, while it was shaking violently, tears started falling from her eyes.
“Wh-hey Tiera! What happened to you?”
Thinking that Tiera’s sudden change had been caused by a Mind-type skill, Shin quickly checked her status. There was no change, however, nothing to explain why Tiera had suddenly burst into tears.
“Tiera, please be strong. You must not lend them your ears.”
Schnee had noticed Tiera’s abnormal state, ran close to her and spoke to her in a calm, clear tone. She took Tiera’s head and turned it towards her, looking at her straight in the eyes.
“Master…this is, this is…”
“What have you felt?”
“I heard…screams. “Stop it, please save me…”. And another voice who heard them, and laughed…”
Tiera stringed words together, her body stiff, immobile.
Noticing the unusual situation, Shibaid and Konig too stopped searching the surroundings and listened to Tiera’s words.
“Sch…Yuki, what’s going on?”
“I suppose she heard the voices of the people that were killed here.”
Schnee spoke as she was calming Tiera, focusing on listening to their surroundings.
Elves had sharp senses, which apparently included their sixth sense as well.
“I cannot speak in detail, but Tiera’s sixth sense is more sensitive than other elves. I am not particularly sensitive to such influences, but still I can hear whispers. I suppose that a great number of people have been killed here.”
Schnee, her brow furrowed, caressed Tiera’s back.
“The presence that permeated the other room seems to be focused in this crystal. The magic circle that we changed before contained this mechanism too.”
“I see…even I feel there’s something wrong with this crystal. It could be the central point that’s casting an influence on the Ley lines.”
Listening to Yuzuha and Schnee, Shin started viewing the crystal’s brilliance as something ominous.
“I suppose it is best not to touch it without the necessary preparations?”
“That’s right. You can feel why if you go closer, the miasma stench is overwhelming.”
Shin entrusted Tiera to Schnee and walked closer to the crystal, then nodded at Shibaid’s words.
The crystal wouldn’t originally be affected by the miasma, but if the latter’s density was high, things would be different.
“If the Ley lines are tainted the miasma must be connected to it, I suppose it’s better to purify it?”
Shin recalled the black mist that enveloped Milt’s body during their battle. He now understood that the mist too was a kind of miasma.
“Please….! This is too cruel…”
Yuzuha howled, her fur straight, and Tiera pleaded, her eyes brimming with tears.
“Konig, I give you my apologies. We came here to save Lady Hermie, so giving priority to a comrade of mine could be truly disrespectful…but please, allow me to solve this situation first.”
“…no, you do not need to apologize. Please do as you wish. If I overlooked something like this for her own sake, my Lady would not forgive herself, even if we could save her.”
Shin mentioned his proposal to Konig, thinking that the latter would probably be opposed.
Contrary to Shin’s expectations, Konig agreed to Shin’s proposal after just a brief silence.
“Are you sure? The demons could notice our presence.”
“If it happens, it happens. I am Lady Hermie’s personal guard, but I also am a knight. I have a duty to protect the people. I do not possess any special sense, but I too feel something abnormal emanating from this crystal. They can’t be possibly plotting anything good with something like this. To save many, sacrificing the few is sometimes…necessary.”
He could not ignore such a source of misfortune for the sake of Hermie herself.
Konig spoke frankly, but Shin felt that he was forcing himself.
“Understood. I shall begin, then.”
Shin gave a small nod towards Konig and cast the Divine-type skill 【High Cure】 towards the crystal. It was the superior version of the 【Cure】 skill he had used on Milt, and it could heal multiple status ailments at once.
As it had happened to Milt, the miasma was overwhelmed by the light that Shin released and grew thinner.
“I guess it’s thicker here…then how about this!”
Shin decided that using only one hand would have taken too much time, so as he kept casting High Cure with his right hand, he raised his left hand towards the crystal and cast the Divine-type skill 【Purification】.
The lights emitted by the two divine skills shone bright, as if filling the whole underground space.
In response, the miasma was pulsating in an eerie manner as if to resist the light.
Shin felt the rising of resistance, also increase the magical power in his both hands; the light emitted grew stronger.
Roughly 5 minutes later, the miasma had apparently finally reached its limits, and melted away in midair.
The crystal, free of the miasma’s clutches, regained its original brilliance, and the whole party sighed in relief.
“The miasma vanished, right…?”
“Yes, it’s okay. No one is suffering anymore.”
Tiera and Yuzuha replied to the words muttered by Shin.
The miasma that had tainted the crystal seemed to be completely gone.
Shin, while looking at the crystal, raised his voice.
The crystal’s surface was being gradually enveloped in red light.
“…did I do something wrong?”
“It’s alright. The light covering the crystal is the light coming from the magical power of the person trapped inside.”
Shin was concerned, but Tiera, who had come next to him, spoke with conviction.
Tiera continued by explaining how highly dense magical power appeared as if shining.
“I believe that as Filma was inside the crystal for a long time, the affinity between her magical power and the crystal grew. As the miasma disappeared, it became easier to see.”
Schnee completed Tiera’s explanation. Elves have high magic perception abilities, so they quickly realized what was happening.
After calming down, Shin could also faintly feel the presence of Filma’s magic power.
“Shin, you sure have moments of panic sometimes. You didn’t understand right away because deep down you are really angry that your support character was used like this, right?”
“In this world, NPCs are people too after all. To be angry because the support characters, or should I say people, that you care so much about have been used is perfectly normal, I think.”
Being a former player herself, Milt understood what he felt. She nodded and whispered “That’s the Shin I know…” with a smile.
“You never change, do you…”
His head now cooled off, Shin sighed. He knew full well that he was mentally under pressure.
“No one would feel nothing after seeing others lay hands on one’s companions.”
Schnee spoke as if to defend him, but Shin silently shook his head.
“No, that was completely unexpected, but I should have at least inspected a little more. I’m sorry.”
Shin regretted the false step he took. No matter what happened, he had to keep his cool.
“(Kuu? It’s coming!!)”
“Whoa! What? What’s happening?”
Just when he regained some calm, Yuzuha suddenly shouted from Shin’s shoulder.
Paying no mind to Shin’s surprise, Yuzuha headed straight to the crystal.
Yuzuha flew to the point where the crystal made contact with the ground and growled. Just then, a light glowing in golden and silver hues sprang forth, to be absorbed by Yuzuha’s body.
The light wrapped around Yuzuha, and after several seconds it disappeared, completely absorbed by her.
“Yuzuha? What just happened..?”
“(Kuu! Yuzuha, Power UP!)”
Yuzuha sat straight and howled. Shin looked at her closer and noticed that she had grown larger, her tails increasing from 3 to 6.
Apparently, she had regained part of her strength.
“(Did your power come back because what was tainting the Ley lines disappeared?)”
“(Yep, I guess!)”
…her intelligence hadn’t changed much, it seems.
“Well then, this isn’t like Yuzuha’s power up, but let’s free Filma.”
Standing next to the cheerful Yuzuha, Shin activated 【Crafting】, a skill common to all production-related jobs.
All production-related jobs require learning this skill, which is exclusively used to craft Drop of Erathem.
“Please wait a moment.”
After saying this, Shin touched the crystal. As he activated the skill, a rainbow-colored light spread from Shin’s hands, gradually covering the crystal.
After the crystal had been sufficiently covered, Shin grabbed it. His fingers penetrated the hard crystal quickly, as if it was made of clay.
Shin focused more strength on his fingers and pulled. With a sharp, clear sound, the crystal cracked.
“Looking at Shin work, you’d think the Drop of Erathem was soft.”
“But it’s actually a material that not even Ancient-class weapons can chip…wait, what’s happening now?”
Shin voiced his surprise while he was trying to turn the crystal into an item card.
The crystal in his hands suddenly floated in midair, as if responding to it, the giant crystal imprisoning Filma also floated upwards.
Yuzuha was looking at the scene, puzzled but without feeling any particular sense of danger or trying to run away.
The crystal shone more brightly, then broke up as if it was liquid, turning into 5 globes of light.
Filma, maybe due to the effects of such a phenomenon, floated in midair, enveloped in silver and red light.
Shin was increasingly wary of this phenomenon he had never seen before.
One of the five globes of light was absorbed in Filma’s body. Among the remaining four, three moved respectively towards, Schnee, Shibaid, and Tiera.
The globes showed no sign of stopping, so the 3 readied their weapons. Additionally, Kagerou stood before Tiera as to protect her.
The globes would not stop, so the three swung their weapons. Yet the globes simply passed through them, to be absorbed within their bodies. Tiera’s globe even passed through Kagerou.
As the globes penetrated them, Schnee’s, Shibaid’s, and Tiera’s bodies started glowing.
Schnee emitted a silver and blue glow, Shibaid a silver and black one, Tiera a mixture of silver, green, and yellow. After several seconds, all the lights disappeared together.
“Are you alright….w-whoa!”
Shin was rushing to the three’s side as the globes of light were vanishing, but as the light holding Filma in midair vanished too, he rapidly changed directions to catch her as she was falling. He caught her in his arms, then looked back at Schnee and the others.
Their expressions showed surprise, but not pain or discomfort.
“What happened? Are you alright?”
“Yes, I cannot feel anything wrong with my body. How should I say it…my stats increased.”
“The same goes for me. My stats have increased as a whole.”
“Ehm, yes, I think the same happened to me too.”
Shin too was surprised to know about their stats increase.
In THE NEW GATE, the only way to increase stats was to level up, perform reincarnation, or use stat-up items.
Stats would also increase thanks to titles, but there were few ways to permanently increase stats.
The Drop of Erathem were also supposed to be items unrelated to stat increases.
“I suppose this means that it happened to Filma too, as she was in the same state as you.”
“It’s very possible. I can’t detect any other change in particular. How is Filma’s condition?”
Schnee inquired about Filma’s condition, whom Shin was still carrying in his arms. As if to answer her, Filma moved slightly and opened her eyes.
What her deep red and violet eyes -the same color as her hair- saw was Shin’s face.
“….Master? Eh? What? Why?”
Still drowsy, Filma saw Shin’s face in a blur.
It took a little for her to recognize him, but when she did she instantly recovered from her half asleep state and looked around frantically, while still in Shin’s arms.
“Ah! Schnee! Please tell me what’s going on!!”
Filma shouted after seeing Schnee.
The fact that she was still holding onto Shin was proof that she was still confused.
“First of all, can you stand?”
“Er, yes, I think.”
Seeing Filma this meek was unusual in Shin’s eyes. In the game, he had set her personality as frank and open.
“But more than that!! Someone explain!!”
Filma apparently came back to her senses and raised her voice again.
Shin thought that it was pretty unusual for Filma to act like that.
“I see, now I’ve grasped the situation.”
As the party explained their mission to rescue Hermie, Filma nodded in understanding.
Together with the oral explanation, they explained to her what they didn’t want Konig to know via Mind Chat.
They only gave her a very basic explanation for the moment, planning to go in more detail later.
“I will help too, then. I’ve awakened and there’s nothing wrong with my body, so I’m returning to the battlefield right away.”
Filma announced her return as if it was a completely natural development. She had checked her condition, but didn’t find anything unusual. Her stats, however, had increased as expected.
The one globe not absorbed by anyone had returned to the crystal, so Shin turned it into an item card and collected it.
“And now that we’re all set, pull that out Shin, come on.”
Shin, acting as if he was pulling it out from his chest pocket, took a card out of the item box and gave it to Filma.
As Filma materialized it, a deep red greatsword with a 2 mels blade appeared.
It was a double-edged sword; the deep red at its center would gradually grow fainter towards the edges, turning silver on the blade itself. Bright gemstones shaped like square pyramids were embedded on the base of the blade, from which originated geometrical patterns which decorated the whole body of the weapon.
The blade was roughly 15 cemels wide, so compared to a wide greatsword like Rionne’s 『Muspelm』, it seemed very thin.
It was Filma’s main weapon, the superior ancient-class greatsword 『Red Moon』.
“This is the sword I’m most comfortable with after all…but wait, it’s more powerful than before?”
“Well, lots of things happened while you weren’t around. I’ll tell you more later.”
“Alright then! Let’s go and save that poor Hermie, shall we?”
As should have been expected, Filma didn’t appreciate at all the enemy’s ways, so she was more than eager to act right after joining the party.
“….in the end, we basically have more fighting power now?”
Too many unexpected developments had left Konig unable to keep up; all he managed to mutter was this one comment.
He didn’t react to Filma shouting Schnee’s name, so he had probably not heard it or not recognized it.
“I think it’s better not to think too hard about it. We ended up using a lot of time for this unexpected event, so let us leave other explanations for later.”
”Yes, that’s…right. We should think about rescuing Lady Hermie right now.”
Shin started walking away, and Konig followed while shaking his head.
“Hey Milt! Get a move on or we’ll leave you behind!!”
Milt was crouching where the crystal was, but she stood up and joined the party after Shin’s call.
“What were you up to?”
“I was wondering if there was no way to know why the Drop of Erathem was on top of the Ley line…well, I’m bad at Analyze-type skills, so I didn’t understand much though.”
Milt’s job was a pure fighting one. She barely learned any Analyze-type skills.
“It is unnatural for it to be here, yes.”
“Could they have brought it here from somewhere else?”
“That’s the most acceptable explanation, I think.”
Drop of Erathem like the one that had trapped Filma only formed as a product of natural magic power.
Not even demons or High Humans like Shin, could create Drop of Erathem artificially.
The demons had only tainted the crystal with miasma, through the magic circle in the other room, and used the magic power within it.
Shin possessed a creation machine that allowed him to create materials, but he couldn’t create a large crystal like the one that had imprisoned Filma.
“They might have used it after they found it by chance. In the end, all they could do with it was place it here though.”
Drop of Erathem were so hard that only blacksmiths or alchemists of the highest level were able to craft with it. The fact that they left Filma inside it instead of controlling her through the Collar of Submission was proof that even the demons couldn’t do anything to it.
The number of the support characters expressed the order they had been created during the game. Filma was number 2.
As she had been created roughly at the same time as Schnee, her stats were slightly superior to Girard’s.
If she had been under enemy control, they would have had to deal with her as soon as possible.
“Well, we should ask that to the person directly involved. We will have to meet them one way or the other, after all.”
It was no more than a hunch, but Shin felt that it would definitely become reality.
At the same time as Shin’s party departed from Sigurd, in the room within the cave where Hermie was held.
Standing guard were Wilhelm, brought there by Adara, and 2 of the Summit Faction’s most capable soldiers.
Wilhelm stood with an expression void of all emotion, it was unclear if he was conscious at all. Even if he was aware of his surroundings, it was not possible for him to think of something by himself.
What he was now was just a doll that would attack anyone who came too close without permission.
“….why is this happening…?”
“Because you’re a Holy Woman.”
Looking at Wilhelm, Hermie let out a weak whisper. The answer came from Scoruas, who was standing near Wilhelm.
“Oh, my apologies for not introducing myself earlier. My name is Scoruas, it is an honor to meet you.”
Scoruas introduced himself with affected politeness. Hermie, feeling an endless indescribable something hidden behind his smile, felt a chill down her spine.
“Where is this place..?”
She was supposed to be sleeping in her quarters in Palmirack, but when she woke up she found herself in a completely different room. The room was adequately furnished and allowed her to rest without problems. Yet at the same time, it made her feel severely cold chills.
Knowing that Eline, the head of Bulk’s followers, had been defeated, and all other collaborators had been caught one after the other, Hermie thought all danger was over. She would have never imagined something like the current situation could happen.
“It would be meaningless to tell you. There is something I wish to show you, so I will have you come with me.”
Saying this, Scoruas pulled out a black collar.
The collar, which looked an even darker black than before, was burned into Hermie’s memories.
“You know this well, don’t you? I don’t know how you removed the previous one, but this new collar is a bit special. I think it will fit you wonderfully.”
Scoruas equipped the collar on Hermie without even giving her the chance to resist.
The very instant the collar was attached to her neck, all strength abandoned Hermie’s body. Her body, which was attempting to resists, suddenly became immobile; it didn’t obey her will anymore.
“This way, then.”
She could not refuse the satisfied-looking Scoruas’ gesture of invitation. Untied to her will, her body followed Scoruas. Somehow, it seemed that only her mouth was still under her control.
Probably because they had been ordered to guard her, Wilhelm and the 2 other guards followed as well, in total silence.
After they walked for roughly 10 minutes they arrived in a larger area and Scoruas stopped.
“Come, in front of me.”
As Hermie stepped forward, she noticed something shining in the corner of her eye. She was standing in what seemed to be a gallery for spectators, above a large magic circle with several people standing in it.
What she had noticed shining was the magic circle drawn on the floor of the room below.
The people inside the magic circle were trying to leave, but the barrier erected at the circle’s edges prevented them to.
“This is all in preparation for your turn.”
Hermie couldn’t understand the situation, but Scoruas forced her to keep looking below.
Then, after less than one minute, something changed. The people inside the magic circle started glowing, one by one, and disappeared.
Their screams echoed through the room, striking Hermie’s ears.
“Wasn’t it beautiful? The light that flickers when human life expires…the screams that adorn it too, they are so comforting.”
Scoruas spoke with nothing but glee on his face, with a tone of voice that showed he truly enjoyed what they had seen.
“I cannot believe it…! Don’t you have any regard for life!?”
“Hehe, It’s nothing more than manure that increases by itself. Or good soil to grow miasma. Did you know? Humans are the living beings that create the most miasma in this world.”
Scoruas, who found even Hermie’s angered voice pleasant, answered her in a somewhat bored tone.
He then grabbed Hermie’s face and pointed it to the people gathered below.
“Look very well. Everyone here has been gathered for you, you know?”
His face still in a smile, Scoruas kept Hermie’s face pointed downwards with his right hand and, with his left, pointed at the sources of the continuous screams.
“As we have the honor of her highness the Holy Woman’s presence among us, we had to prepare a fitting welcome, right?”
Behind his smile clearly lied malice.
“All the people suffering before you here…they suffer because of you.”
“What are you…saying…”
“That they wouldn’t have suffered if it wasn’t for you.”
Scoruas whispered in Hermie’s ears. As if in response, Hermie’s collar gave a dull glow.
“Because of you.”
Scoruas’ words were impressed in Hermie’s consciousness.
“They are suffering.”
“Those people…are suffering…”
Emotions, like thick mud, flowed into Hermie’s defenseless heart.
“It’s your fault.”
The whispers of demons lead human hearts astray. That effect was boosted by the collar, its influence stronger than normal.
“Did you think that you could have saved someone by becoming a Holy Woman? You, who can only watch these people suffer before you, without doing anything? Did you seriously think you could do something?”
“I, I did…I wanted…to be useful to…some…one…”
“Yet you can’t do anything, can you. Manipulated, kidnapped, just waiting to be helped. I wonder how many sacrificed themselves to rescue you.”
After each of Scoruas’ words, Hermie’s heart cried in despair.
There are people who were hurt, who suffered, to save her.
Hermie knew well that it was the truth, so she couldn’t deny Scoruas’ words.
“Look, they are angry at you.”
The screams were caused by the despair born from their unescapable situation, but Hermie, under the influence of the collar and Scoruas’ whispers, heard them as voices of resentment and insults towards herself.
“I didn’t… I didn’t, mean to…”
“You did not realize it yourself? Oh milady Holy Woman, I must bow before you.”
Acting like he could not believe what he just heard, Scoruas put his hand on his forehead in an exaggerated gesture.
Hermie felt that even those movements were blaming her.
“What are you saying. They are dying for you, you know? Seeing them off is your duty, is it not?”
“No, that’s not true, I did not wish for any of this!”
“Regardless of what you wish or don’t wish, all people involved with you end up suffering…or am I wrong?”
Hermie could not say anything to Scoruas’ words.
She tried with all her might to string the words together, but they dissolved into mist before taking shape.
“To bring temporary solace in order to cause suffering around you. That’s the kind of existence you are.”
Hermie’s sight trembled.
Because of the collar and the miasma’s effects, her thoughts broke and scattered into thousands of pieces, while her guilt towards the people before her and the disgust towards her own self grew larger and larger.
The feelings lying deep within Hermie’s heart grew stronger, along with her despair.
“Oh my, looks like it was more effective than I thought. What a splendid result.”
Hermie fell to her knees, whimpering. She didn’t see Scoruas anymore, looking down at her. Crushed by self loathing and despair, her heart sank into darkness.
Hermie had been corrupted by Scoruas’ malice, to the point that she was incapable of any reaction, but Wilhelm simply stood there, without moving an inch.
As before, no clear consciousness inhabited his eyes. His utter lack of any sign of life could have made him pass for an extremely intricate doll.
Gradually, the human sacrifices’ screams vanished; even if he had been ordered to guard Hermie, Wilhelm was just standing in place, motionless.