“OK, now that we’ve decided on a course of action, let’s get moving. There’s no time to waste.”
Saying so, Shin looked towards the entrance.
They used the only entrance into the room where Filma was held. As their first objective was to rescue Hermie, they no longer needed to stay there.
“Hey, Shin. I wonder if there are any secret passages in this room? Like an emergency escape route…maybe it’s better to destroy them if we find any.”
“I tried searching too, but couldn’t find anything. What about you, Yuki?”
“I didn’t find anything either. The sacrifice room is next anyway, maybe they limited the number of entrances to prevent unexpected visits?”
Shin and Schnee inspected the surroundings again before answering Milt’s question. As they confirmed there wasn’t anything worth noting in the room, they decided to leave.
Upon leaving, Shin closed the door and attached one of his specially made locks. Now it could only be opened either by injecting a specific amount of magic power or by forcing it open.
“OK then, for our route…above us, there’s a passageway other than the one we took.”
Shin spoke while pointing at the upper part of the room, which looked like a space reserved for spectator seats.
“The passageway leads to a seating area to watch the area below. There’s also a rather large room on the other side too.”
“That makes it sound like a boss room.”
“Yes. I can also feel Wilhelm’s presence from that room.”
Shin nodded to Filma’s words and shared what he had detected.
The map showed 5 dots in the large room past the passageway. Alongside one of them Wilhelm’s name was displayed.
“If Wilhelm is there, it’s possible that Hermie is close too.”
“But if they’re gathered in the same place, there must be something behind it.”
Everyone seemed to share Schnee’s and Filma’s predictions, so there was no objection to start moving again right away.
The spectator seats were at a height far beyond the abilities of a normal person, but Shin, the rest of the Tsuki no Hokora team and Milt reached them easily with 1 jump.
The problem was only Konig’s lack in jumping power, but it was solved quickly.
“Ehm, I’m sorry.”
“….no, he’s a divine beast after all. There is no other way.”
Tiera spoke to Konig in an apologetic tone, but he replied seriously and nodded.
Just as he thought that he would climb the rope that Shin hung down from above, Kagerou jumped upstairs…with Konig in his mouth.
Tiera or Shin wouldn’t have been a problem, but for the moment it seemed that letting Konig ride on his back was not a possibility.
The image of Konig talking seriously while in Kagerou’s mouth and Tiera riding Kagerou would have been very surreal if one didn’t consider the context.
The slightly bizarre atmosphere that formed was then broken by a serious question from Milt.
“….I feel something evil from the next room.”
Her eyes were fixed towards the passageway leading deeper into the cave.
“Yes, it’s more than clear.”
Shin understood the meaning of Milt’s words.
Probably because of the lack of any lighting, the farthest part of the passageway was pitch black. The evil presence Milt talked about emanated from the deepest reaches of the corridor.
There was nothing visible to their eyes, but they could still feel an unpleasant sensation crawling on their skin.
“I feel sick…the miasma is too thick.”
Tiera was holding herself up, barely managing to stand straight. Her sharper senses were not working in her favor this time.
“There are demons ahead.”
“A presence this strong could mean that they’re of Grand Duke class too.”
“Yes. If we don’t take back Hermie before they get serious…the situation could turn really ugly.”
Using presence detection, Shin had the most accurate detection range of the group.
The map displayed to Shin’s eyes showed Wilhelm’s name among the marks present in the room beyond the doorway. Wilhelm’s mark was colored green, which meant “neutral”.
There was another green mark besides Wilhelm’s, then 2 red ones.
The last remaining mark was colored red and black.
“I detect the presence of one demon. There are 3 human presences, Wilhelm included. One of those is probably Hermie, I think.”
If it was Hermie, her name should have been displayed too, but it wasn’t. So Shin related it as a simple hypothesis.
“Could they be manipulated as I was?”
“I couldn’t say. It previously happened that the markers stayed green until we were attacked.”
As Shin replied to Milt, Konig interjected.
“Should we wait?”
“Considering Hermie’s rescue, that’s probably a good idea, but I think it would be bad to just wait like this.”
What Konig said was not wrong. Waiting until the demons created an opening and using it to steal back Hermie would have been the best course of action to prioritize her rescue.
However, in the same way as he felt there was still time when he faced Milt, Shin felt confident that letting the demons go here would have put them at a fatal disadvantage.
Shibaid turned towards him and asked.
“Is there something on your mind?”
“Actually, it also happened when I met Milt before…I have a strangely sharp hunch. Something makes me feel that waiting here is definitely not a good idea.”
“I see, that’s probably the effect of 【Intuition】. I have had similar experiences in the past. We must go then.”
“I agree. The 【Intuition】 of those with high abilities is often correct.”
“Yes, I agree too.”
Shibaid and Schnee, who had fought in this world, as well as the former player Milt all agreed with Shin. They all possessed the skill 【Intuition】, so they knew where he was coming from. While she kept silent, Yuzuha also expressed her agreement.
“I wanted to prioritize Lady Hermie’s safety, but if it means for more danger I shall be prepared.”
“Exactly, it’s also better not to stay long in a place filled with thick miasma like this.”
Konig, Tiera and Kagerou did not pose any objections either and looked at Shin, their weapons in hand.
“First, Yuki and I will try to grab Hermie before the enemy notices us, then it all depends on what happens next. The demons are probably of Named class. Myself, Yuki, Shibaid, and Filma will deal with them. Sir Konig, I want you to take Lady Hermie to safety. Tiera, you will take care of the remaining forces with Yuzuha and Kagerou.
“Hey? What about me?”
“Milt, I’d like you to take care of Wilhelm. He’s probably in the same state you were before. One-on-one is what you’re best at, right?”
“That’s fine, but I don’t know what this Wilhelm guy looks like.”
“That’s not a problem…this is him.”
After giving each member their orders, Shin pulled out a photo from the item box.
“Oh, a screenshot. OK, got it.”
The photo was a materialized screenshot. In the game it would be saved in data, but in this world one just needed to think “take a screenshot” and, with a small MP expense, a photo would be created.
Shin had found out about this as he tested all sorts of things when he taught 【Purification】to Rashia.
“Is everyone ready? ….let’s go.”
Shin made sure everyone was prepared and led the party forward.
At his waist hung one of the katanas he tempered while creating 『True Moon』.
Both the sheath and the blade were pure white. It also lacked any decoration, and while resting inside the sheath it looked like a wooden sword like those used for practice. It was a superior ancient-class katana, 『Moonless Sky』.
Shin cast the magic version of 【Hiding】on the whole party; they walked through the darkness, invisible.
To Tiera and Konig, who did not possess【Night Vision】, Shin had used an item that temporarily granted similar effects.
They walked onwards slowly, checking for any traps, then Shin noticed a small light peeking through the darkness. He focused and found that the light source was set next to the door.
“Looks like we reached our destination.”
A heavy door stood before them, dimly lit within the darkness. They drew closer to examine it, but apparently it wasn’t armed with any traps.
According to Shin’s map, in this room were Wilhelm, Hermie, a demon, and two other humans. Maybe because of the now reduced distance, Hermie’s name was now displayed.
Shin saw through the door with 【Through Sight】 and found Hermie sitting down in the center of the room, with a white haired man-looking demon standing before her.
Wilhelm and the two other humans, possibly guards, stood like statues at the edges of the room.
“The demon and Lady Hermie are too close…..hm?”
Shin was reflecting on a situation that made it hard to act, when the white-haired demon moved.
His right hand, enveloped in miasma, was drawing closer to Hermie’s head.
The thickness of the miasma was easily visible even inside the dimly lit room. Seeing the sludge-like substance, Shin unsheathed『Moonless Sky』before even thinking.
A slash hissed through the air, following the arc drawn by the blade.
The long-distance powered slash emitted by the Katana martial skill【Void Cutter】cut through the door that separated the corridor and the room without resistance. Slicing through the air instantaneously, it slashed off the demon’s right arm.
“What!? M-my arm!?”
As the demon’s shocked voice reached his ears, Shin kicked the door down and barged into the room.
“Not so fast!!”
The demon squarely blocked Shin’s next slash, aimed at his left arm.
It was not visible on his clothing, but he seemed to have something equipped there. With a sharp sound and sparks flying about, the blade sank into the left arm.
What was surprising though, was that the blade stopped before severing the arm.
Before Shin could ready the next strike, the demon expelled miasma from his whole body.
It was the same as the miasma that was wrapped around his right arm, clearly a different color from normal miasma.
Before touching the miasma, Shin withdrew 『Moonless Sky』and put some distance between himself and the demon.
“Damn, I couldn’t reach her.”
Shin planned to step back while carrying Hermie with him, but the demon was in the way and he couldn’t reach her.
The miasma hadn’t touched her directly, but maybe because of its influence Hermie’s expression was distorted, in pain.
One step behind Shin’s exchange with the demon, Schnee and the others also made their move.
Shin’s sudden attack had left his allies surprised too. Their reactions were mainly two: Schnee, Shibaid, Filma, and Milt immediately analyzed the situation and followed suit, while Tiera and Konig stopped in their tracks.
Filma and Shibaid entered the room right after Shin. Schnee used 【Hiding】and, without a word, erased her presence.
“!! Sir Konig, let’s go!!”
“Kh, we’re one step behind…?”
Tiera followed after Yuzuha and Kagerou’s instigation. Konig, who had regained his senses after Tiera’s call, moved in last.
“Well now, talk about unexpected. I knew you would come sooner or later, but this is some incredible speed.”
“I couldn’t care less about your predictions.”
Probably because he had overcome the shock of losing an arm, the demon spoke in a petulant tone, a jaded expression on his face.
Behind such a behavior, however, he paid close attention to Shibaid and Filma, who had come in after Shin.
“Wow, stronger than I thought!”
“Are they chosen ones too!?”
Wilhelm and the other humans near the walls had moved, probably. Shin heard the voices of Milt and Tiera, who had begun fighting behind him.
“My my, what a large company. It’s a shame that we aren’t ready to welcome you yet.”
“We’re going back as soon as we do what we have to. No need to bother.”
Wielding 『Moonless Sky』and not lowering his guard one second, Shin faced off against the demon.
To his right stood Filma, 『Red Moon』in hand, to his left Shibaid with 『Placid Moon』; both of them pointed their blades at the demon.
“Oh dear, what impatience. Well, since you came all the way here and all, allow me to introduce myself. ”
Saying so, the demon placed his left arm on his chest in a showy gesture and struck a pose.
“I am named Scoruas, one of the Grand Dukes and a follower of Miasma Lord Meahelga.”
After his introduction, Scoruas glared at Shin’s party, as a predator eyeing his prey.
“Unfortunately, I have no intention of doing the same.”
“That is fine. I am not interested in you after all, but in the lady next to you.”
Scoruas looked towards Filma.
“It is a honor to meet you, Lady Filma Tolmeya. For you, who I could not touch inside the Drop of Erathem, to come meet me on your own, is truly convenient for me. I heard Schnee Raizar would be present as well, but I suppose I will keep that enjoyment for later.”
Filma’s eyebrows moved at Scoruas’ words. They could be interpreted as if she was nothing more than an appetizer before Schnee, and she couldn’t help being affected by them.
“So you think that if I just came out you could do anything you please with me? I’m afraid you’re looking down on me a bit too much, you know?”
“I apologize if I offended you. But yes, as you say, watching you sleep within the crystal was enjoyable in itself, but humans shine the most through their emotions, after all. I just can’t wait to see how delectable the taste of your despair is.”
Maybe because he felt he had nothing to hide, Scoruas answered Filma’s question in a completely casual tone.
His lustful eyes did not leave Filma one second.
“(It looks like we don’t even exist in his eyes.)”
“(That’s just perfect. If he creates an opening for us it’ll be easier to rescue Hermie.)”
While talking with Shibaid via Mind Chat, Shin was thinking of a way to draw Scoruas’ attention away from Hermie.
As the invisible Schnee was drawing closer to Hermie, Shin gradually shifted his position too.
“Oh, he’s here.”
As if answering Filma’s whispered words, a vibration shook the entire room.
“The room’s shaking?”
“An earthquake, now!?”
Milt and Tiera both focused on the possible danger, the first while parrying 『Vakira』 with her twin swords, the second while shooting the two humans’ legs with her arrows.
“(This is bad, Schnee!! Hurry!!)”
While charging at Scoruas, who was still focused on Filma, Shin called to Schnee via Mind Chat.
Schnee heard Shin’s words and moved towards rescuing Hermie. Before she could do it, however, a shadow broke through the ceiling and landed right between Hermie and Schnee.
Without losing her pace because of the unexpected situation, Schnee swung her 『Blue Moon』.
“That won’t work!!”
As if Schnee’s movements were visible, two longswords swung towards her. The deep green double-edged long swords clashed with 『Blue Moon』, sending sparks flying all around.
“Gah! This isn’t an elf’s muscle power!!”
His swords in a cross, the shadow–Adara shouted while laughing.
Maybe because he wasn’t in his original form, he was being slightly pushed back. 『Blue Moon』 was also eating into the longswords he wielded.
Even though his appearance was not his true one, he was still a demon.
Maybe because of a special ability of his, suddenly two swords just like the ones he was wielding floated in midair. Their blades then pointed at Hermie.
“You know what I’m about to say, right? Don’t you move either, big guy. She can die right now for all we care, you hear?”
The arrival of the second demon had made it more difficult for Shin’s party to move.
Using 【Analyze】 to examine their new opponent only confirmed how powerful he was.
“That’s praise for demons like us. But instead of saying that withdraw your weapon already, you didn’t even drop an ounce of strength!”
While speaking, Adara infused more strength in his arms. Adara’s longswords and 『Blue Moon』 were still in a clash of sparks, but Adara was being pushed back.
As she had moved on the offensive, Schnee’s 【Hiding】 had already disappeared.
“If you cast a single wound on her, I will cut you down here and now.”
“Oh wow, so scary. Who’s threatening who now?”
Adara jeered with unchanged composure.
“Well, that could be fun too.”
It happened just as the blades floating in midair received Adara’s orders and moved to pierce Hermie.
“Waah!! Shin, dodge!!”
One second after Milt’s call, a jet black flash flew through the room.
And one more second later, Adara’s scream filled it.
The flash had squeezed through the space between the members of Shin’s party and hit Adara. As he was still parrying Schnee’s 『Blue Moon』, he had no way of defending himself.
“What the hell!? My strength is leaving me!”
Adara had been blown away; his stomach was pierced by a jet black spear adorned with designs resembling running blood. The spear, which pulsated as if alive, was 『Vakira』, the weapon Wilhelm was supposed to be equipped with.
Wilhelm’s consciousness was confined to the deepest reaches of his heart.
In a drowsy state, as if it could fall into slumber any moment, it responded lazily to a voice coming from somewhere.
His consciousness was about to fall completely. It would be a sleep he would never awaken from.
The surroundings were enveloped in deep darkness, a blackness that seemed as if it could devour everything.
Just ignore it. That’s what he thought to do, but every time he heard that voice, Wilhelm’s spirit was shaken.
It was desperately trying to stop Wilhelm’s consciousness from sinking.
Like a single thread hanging within the darkness, it kept Wilhelm tied, keeping him from crossing the last line. As if it was telling him to listen to the voice.
(Aaah…I’m…I am…? Who am I…?)
The first thing he thought about was his name. The symbol expressing his identity. His title.
But it wouldn’t come out.
As if something was preventing him to, something was trying to remove his consciousness.
(What am…what am, I…?)
In that utter darkness, Wilhelm stirred. But his arms and legs wouldn’t answer his commands.
Moving even just one arm felt as if he was sinking in mud, with weights attached all over his body.
(Damn, can’t hear…)
He couldn’t help but feel that he was failing to hear something very important.
(Why is it so hard to move…what is this…?)
Wilhelm grew more and more irritated towards his unresponding body.
He felt a certain disgust, as if some unknown force was doing what it pleased with him. That emotion, rising from his chest, fueled his rebellious spirit.
At the same time, his hazy consciousness became clearer and clearer.
(Not yet…it’s not enough…)
As if crawling in the darkness, Wilhelm tried to rouse more strength in his body, which he still couldn’t feel clearly.
It wouldn’t normally be possible to visualize one’s body when in a state of mere consciousness, but for some reason Wilhelm was in the darkness, stark naked.
He opened his eyes only to find utter darkness before him. He could barely see 1 mel in front of him.
Yet Wilhelm understood clearly that he himself was now existing there.
He felt as if he was holding something. Looking down towards his right hand, he found his partner, morphed into something ominous.
“What the hell is this?”
Wilhelm couldn’t help but speak those words aloud.
His beloved spear, which Shin had forged anew, was supposed to be Holy Spear 『Beinot』with its platinum-like sparkle. What his right hand was holding, however, was a jet black spear enveloped in a dark purple aura.
Geometrical symbols of unknown meaning decorated its surface, dyed in a blood-red hue.
“Hell Spear… Vakira?”
For some reason, the name of the spear surfaced in his mind. It was a name Wilhelm didn’t remember ever hearing before.
“….I can still hear it.”
He could understand that the sound whispered near his ears was someone’s voice. But he couldn’t understand what it was saying.
“Tch, I can’t make it out!”
Wilhelm voiced his frustration.
No matter how much he tried, the voice would always vanish just before he could understand it.
And every time the voice vanished, the feeling of missing something important grew more and more within him.
The direction the voice came from was not fixed and seemed irregular. He didn’t know where to move, his frustration only increasing.
“I’m feeling sick…where the hell am I, anyway.”
Wilhelm suppressed the growing feelings in his chest and tried to regain his cool.
Nothing positive would happen if he acted out of frustration in a situation he didn’t fully understand.
His consciousness had returned enough to be able to think in this manner.
“I have a weapon, I don’t know where I am. What was I doing before coming here, anyway?”
Wilhelm searched his memories while analyzing his current situation.
But no matter how much he tried to recover his past memories, nothing would come out.
What he could barely visualize was himself fighting against a monster. He was defeating undead monsters, when he felt something and entered some woods, where he met something.
His memories from then were hazy. He felt like he had seen some sort of light.
“It’s too fragmented. And I can’t even remember my own name yet…what the hell’s going on.”
Even if but a fragment, his memory of fighting against monsters was clear. However, he couldn’t remember anything about the most important thing, himself.
Just then, Wilhelm felt his right hand vibrate.
He tried raising his right arm slightly, and noticed that 『Vakira』was slightly trembling. Part of the weapon’s deep purple aura was burning red, occasionally emitting sparks.
“What’s going on now…?”
Wilhelm let out a hoarse grunt. Because the right arm grasping 『Vakira』was not the one he recognized as his.
The arm was covered in scales, his nails were sharper too…just like a Dragnil’s.
“No, wait, this can’t…I’m supposed to be a Lord.”
“(That is both right and wrong.)”
“!?! Who is this?”
Wilhelm didn’t expect his mumbling to receive a reply, and instantaneously pointed Vakira at the direction the voice came from.
“(Hey there, me.)”
That casual greeting had come from a Dragnil-like man.
“(Hey now, don’t tell me you don’t recognize me? Well, normally we wouldn’t ever speak face-to-face like this. It’s really amazing though…weapons made by a High Human can even pick up people’s emotions, huh.)”
The man kept talking to Wilhelm, who furrowed his brows.
When he heard the words High Human, the silhouette of a man appeared in his mind.
“(I told you, didn’t I? I am “me”. In other words, I guess I could say I’m another you? But no, not a split personality or something. I am power itself, one of the powers you possess. I gained this form because of the High Human’s techniques and the feelings poured by the brats in your spear.)”
“What the hell are you going on about?”
“(Its form is different now, but 『Beinot』 can only be created by infusing people’s hopes and prayers. There were ridiculously pure prayers imbued in the Venom spear you used before. Incredible how so many could be gathered in it, really.)”
The man continued talking nonchalantly.
Brats, prayers, Beinot. Every time one of those words reached his ears, Wilhelm was reminded of people connected to him.
“(I’m surprised how the brats don’t get scared of a face like this, really.)”
“What? What’s that, all of a sudden?”
“(Acting all rough like that is just a way to attract attention. Well, maybe half of it is the honest you though. You make others dislike you on purpose to not let them see the more important sides of you. That’s also the reason why you rarely go to the orphanage.)”
“(Remember. You haven’t forgotten, have you? That’s the place where you first became a “person”.)”
In reaction to the word “orphanage”, a storm of memories and flashbacks burst inside Wilhelm.
“Gh…aah, shit……..I remembered.”
Wilhelm, who had been holding his head, looked again at the man. As if those words were the key to open the last lock, all his memories had come back.
“(That’s good. We can’t stay here long, after all.)”
“What do you mean by that?”
“(Just look behind me.)”
With some suspicion, Wilhelm looked beyond the man’s shoulders. There he saw an even deeper patch of darkness, shaped like a hole.
Wilhelm had been looking towards the man all this time, but only now realized its presence.
“(You don’t need me explaining, right? If you fall here, you’re not going back anymore.)”
“Yeah, I figured as much.”
“(I’m telling you because you almost fell in. You have your spear to thank for that. The prayers inside it kept you out.)”
“They kept me, huh…and? Your role was also to wake me up?”
“(No, what I have to do is to teach you how to use the power. Because even though you’re a ‘Critical’ and all, you don’t even use half of it. That’s why you were done in by some untransformed demon.)”
The man shrugged, almost disappointed.
“There’s power in me that I’m not using yet?”
“(You can use maybe one-third of it now. Usually one has 2 species bonuses, but a ‘Critical’ has 3, even 4. Yours are especially powerful too. But that’s one reason why you’re not using your powers to the fullest. Your evil eye’s ability of gathering magical power to increase your physical abilities too, you aren’t using it efficiently at all)”
You’re too sloppy, the man said.
The man spoke normally of things Wilhelm was completely unaware of.
“I’d like to know why you know all that, but maybe later. If you’re another me, then tell me. How can I use that power?”
“(It’s simple, you just need to accept me. The body knows how to use that power. You just need to realize it later.)”
“You…? I don’t think I ever denied my Dragnil powers.”
“(That’s not what I mean. I told you, right? You can probably use one-third at best. If you fully manifest your Dragnil powers, you won’t get away with just your eye changing a little.)”
The man meant that Wilhelm would become closer to a Dragnil.
“(You still fear your power. They call you a ‘Critical’, but you’re afraid you might be a ‘Miscelal’*, something that could lose control any moment.)” (T/N: a hybrid species)
“Tch, looks like you really are me…can’t hide anything, huh.”
“(Well, yeah. I know what happened to make you think like that too. But I can tell you for sure, that you’re not. You’re not a fake like that.)”
The man’s words brimmed with confidence.
“(Really. And so. Use everything you can. This world is jam-packed with strong people. If you keep fearing you’ll just lose it all.)”
The man didn’t specify what exactly.
It was something he didn’t need to express in words.
“(Come on, make your decision already. Keeping you here isn’t hard, but the flow of time here is different. They don’t have much time left.)”
“What does that mean.”
“(Can’t you hear a voice?)”
Wilhelm could think of one thing only.
“(Listen well. You should be able to hear it. It should be more than enough to light yourself on fire, I’m sure.)”
“What are you…”
—–Save me…or, rather…kill me.
What are you saying?
Wilhelm was about to ask this question, but his words died halfway.
He heard it. All too clearly.
It was a faint voice, an extremely weak tone, as if it was going to disappear any moment.
“Tch! So this is what it was! Do it already!!”
He knew that voice.
They only spoke a few times. But Wilhelm knew her.
The girl with the same power as Millie. The power that caused her to be targeted by Bulk, and now she was begging him to kill her…it was that girl’s voice.
“(That’s what I was waiting for!!)”
As if he was waiting for nothing else than those words, the man standing before Wilhelm started glowing bright red, gradually losing shape. As if trembling in the wind, it entered Wilhelm’s body.
At the same time, power burst forth from deep within him.
Was this the feeling of having molten iron poured into your veins? That’s how powerful the scorching heat rushing through Wilhelm was.
Feeling this burst of power, the geometrical patterns running on Vakira’s surface started flashing.
His clenched teeth produced a grinding sound.
That woman is saying the same thing as before…anger was building inside him.
“Saying I’m going to die, kill me, so easily…”
The words that escaped his mouth expressed bitterness towards his other self, who had offered no explanations, and anger towards the resignation to despair in the voice that had reached his ears.
“GIVE ME A DAMN BREAAAAKKKKK!!!!”
The red-hot blood coursing through his body made Wilhelm roar.
As if in answer, Vakira’s flashing turned into a glow, dispelling the surrounding darkness.
As if pushed by the light, Wilhelm’s consciousness suddenly returned.