After confirming the dungeon’s situation, Shin and the party quickly returned to the Black Priestess Shrine guildhouse.
“We can bring her. I’d like to talk about how we’re going to work together then.”
Until now, Shin had been fighting with Schnee and Shibaid, companions he knew very well, and Tiera, who solely focused on rear support, so they never practiced seriously how to fight as a team.
Munechika and Mitsuyo were originally veterans of close combat, so they found it simple to fight alongside others. Shin also knew their fighting styles well, so coordinating with them was not a problem.
The new member, Suzune, was an Onmyouji, a rather tricky job.
They needed to know her fighting style, what she could do and what she couldn’t, before starting the exploration.
“I know. Please wait a moment.”
Kuchinashi gave orders to summon Suzune, and after a few minutes a knock was heard at the door. After obtaining permission, Suzune stepped inside.
“Lady Kuchinashi, if you summoned me here does it mean that I am allowed to accompany them?”
Suzune saw the members present in the room and understood the reason behind the summoning. Kuchinashi nodded and started talking.
“Correct. I will have you go with them. But you are forbidden from acting on your own.”
“I know that well, you do not need to tell me.”
“Oh my, what is the young lady who tried to sneak inside just 8 days ago saying now?”
Suzune answered with a grimace, but Kuchinashi’s retort struck her down. She had already once done what she was being warned of.
While listening to their conversation, Shin regretted a little to have decided so quickly.
He understood her tendency to run ahead on her own for her sibling’s sake. But to act on one’s accord in a dungeon would cause trouble to all other party members.
Thinking that he had to make that clear, Shin focused even more and prepared for the discussion.
After doing introductions, Shin inquired about Suzune’s fighting style.
“In general, I use one spirit each for attacking and defending. I can also use enchanted charms for support.”
“Also, she can also perform “Spirit Possession” for a short time.”
“I understand that you’d rather keep your trump card hidden, but he already knows pretty much all Onmyoji skills, dear. It’s pretty much pointless to hide.”
Kuchinashi put a hand on Suzune’s shoulder, advising her to give up, much to the young girl’s dismay.
“Eh, you aren’t a samurai?”
“Kuchinashi is the one who told me about them though. I use a katana in close combat, but I can also use magic on par with a mage. You can count on me when the need arises.”
“What!? What are you…lady Kuchinashi, they are Chosen Ones too?”
Suzune’s disbelief was very natural: what Shin had just plainly stated was something next to impossible in the current world. She, however, quickly realized what it had to mean.
“Well, something like that. Schnee over there is a jack of all trades like Shin too. Mitsuyo is a close combat type, as you can see by her appearance. Tiera, you’re a Hunter, I suppose?”
“Ehm, to be precise I’m a Tamer. This is my partner, Kagerou.”
As they were indoors, Kagerou came out of Tiera’s shadow in wolf pup mode.
“That’s bizarre though, I never heard that it was possible to tame divine beasts.”
“I can’t see the stats…”
“Er, he’s a good boy, you know? He won’t get angry even if you do this.”
To Kuchinashi’s surprise and Suzune’s caution, Tiera picked up Kagerou with her left hand and, with her right, moved its front right paw up and down.
Thinking that she was going to play with him, Kagerou licked Tiera’s cheek.
Appearance-wise, Kagerou was just like any puppy dog.
“Your party members are outside the norm as usual, Shin…”
“I don’t think that’s a sufficient explanation though…”
“He’s smart and understands perfectly what we say and mean. I personally mainly support with my bow. Though, I also have some skill with short swords and hand-to-hand combat.”
Tiera described her abilities with humility, but as she had undergone Schnee’s training, she couldn’t possess just “some” skill.
“There is one last thing I need to confirm.”
“What might that be?”
Shin waited for the moment when the conversation ended to talk.
In contrast to the peaceful mood, his expression was now deadly serious as he looked at Suzune.
Suzune unconsciously took a step back and returned Shin’s stern gaze when she noticed his stare.
“I’ve heard that the current boss of the dungeon is Suzune’s elder sister, Kotone. I mean to save her and will move with the intention of doing so. But if it becomes impossible to save her, can you swear that you will not stand in our way?”
Shin did not ask Suzune if she can kill Kotone or not. He didn’t want to force her to kill a family, and there was a large difference in fighting power between Kotone and Suzune.
He thought that either he or Schnee would give her the final blow, in that case.
Hence the question. If it turns impossible to save Kotone, do you swear that you will not attack us from behind?
“….I swear. I will not stand by and watch my sister turned into a monster by the miasma.”
Suzune was completely silent for a few seconds after Shin’s question, then answered, her pupils trembling slightly.
There was still doubt in her heart. So the answer suggested, but Shin replied that he understood and closed the conversation. They would know if Suzune was truly prepared or not only when that moment came.
There was meaning, however, behind asking such a question at that time.
Shin couldn’t know what would happen if she had to face her own sister’s death. But it was important to think about it now.
If Suzune had to face such a situation unprepared and ended up not being able to move because of indecision, her life would be in danger.
“OK, let’s do a sparring match on the training grounds then.”
In order to change the mood, Shin spoke in an overly bright tone.
The group headed to the facility’s training grounds, led by Kuchinashi. The priestess posted before the guildmaster’s quarters also came with them, as an “escort”.
After several practice matches, performed in order to grasp each other’s prowess, the group called it a day.
The next day, the group gathered all information they had about the dungeon and prepared rations and equipment.
As it was possible to use the cheat-level useful ability called Item Box, the preparations were complete in a flash.
They used the remaining time to rest at leisure, to prepare for the exploration starting the next day.
“Well, we’re off. If anything happens on your end, just send a message.”
“Shin, please take care of Suzune.”
“Don’t just understand like that!”
Suzune had somehow become a teasing target, and as such reacted to Kuchinashi and Shin’s exchange.
Mitsuyo and Tiera looked at the three, silently wondering what they were doing.
“You’re feeling less nervous now, aren’t you? Kuchinashi’s worried too, you know.”
“Oh my, you found me out.”
“Kh…I understand. I will be careful.”
Suzune was aware that she was feeling nervous, so she looked the other way, her cheeks flushed.
“Kuu, standby, again…”
Yuzuha muttered a lonely sigh while looking at the three.
The guild was equipped with countermeasures against monsters and miasma, but there was no Kagutsuchi there.
Because of that, if anything happened Yuzuha and her ability to influence Ley lines was vital.
“Sorry, Yuzuha. I’m going to make it up to you when I come back.”
Shin made a promise to Yuzuha, thinking that this time brushing wouldn’t be enough.
“Take care. Come back soon, kuu.”
“Yes, I await good news.”
Sent off by Yuzuha, Kuchinashi, and the escorting priestess, Shin’s group stepped inside “Cadaver Realm”.
“Cadaver Realm”, just like Fuji’s “Depths of Hellfire”, was a cave-like dungeon full of craggy rocks and boulders.
The greatest difference was its lack of steam and heat waves.
The cave’s walls and ceiling were studded with bright gemstones, so lighting and sight were assured too.
“There’s better visibility than I expected.”
Shin and Mitsuyo acted as the group’s front guard, while Suzune and Tiera were in the center and Schnee took the rear.
Suzune activated her spirits as soon as they entered the dungeon. A doll-like spirit around 30 cemels in height floated near her shoulders, while a spirit like a wolf made of origami was next to her feet, keeping track of the surroundings.
About 5 minutes after they entered the dungeon, Shin’s detection field reported the presence of monsters.
The cave was 6 mels wide and 5 mels tall, posing no problems for battle in a team of 4.
The first encounter was with bat-like monsters, always present in cave dungeons.
The monsters’ name was Edge Shade.
Its appearance was like darkness in a bat-like shape, with a glowing red core located on the forehead. Its large wings spread to almost 1 mel and its level was also relatively high at 422.
The monster possessed two main methods of attack: slash-like attacks with wings or spells causing abnormal statuses, launched while flying over the player’s head.
Its HP was rather low, but unless they were defeated through a spell with wide area of effect they could prove to be troublesome opponents.
“It’s not in Invader form. I heard that the whole dungeon is heavily affected by miasma though?”
“It does look like a normal dungeon for now. I suppose it was a darkness-type dungeon originally. The gemstones that sometimes drop are all of the darkness type, and Edge Shades only appear in locations with strong darkness affinity.”
Dungeons could have several affinities. “Depths of Hellfire”, through its name and interior, was a clear example of a fire-type dungeon.
“The lack of miasma influence is intriguing, but in any case we need to defeat them to proceed. There’s a lot of them too, as usual…I’ll wipe them out myself.”
There were members with low resistance to status effects in the current party, namely Suzune and Tiera, so Shin decided to eliminate the monsters with magic.
The spell he chose was one often used against darkness-type monsters, the Light-type magic skill 【Flash Bomb】.
As he activated the spell, light started gathering on Shin’s palms.
After the light formed a full globe, Shin shot the light bullet towards the monsters’ pack.
The light globe aimed straight at the center of the pack, releasing a white visual effect soon after. The transparently white light spread for about 5 mels, erasing the Edge Shades in its wake.
The light gradually grew fainter and disappeared, but its effects remained: the Edge Shades that charged in before the light disappeared were also erased.
The light would persist for 5 seconds: Shin, who had noticed another pack of Edge Shades beyond the 【Flash Bomb】, shot another light bullet, which took care of the new pack.
A decent quantity of drops and treasures piled up before Shin’s group.
“Item drops….? Wait, this didn’t happen in “Depths of Hellfire”, right?”
In dungeons, monsters disappear immediately after being defeated and drop items at a set rate.
Shin heard that this rule remained in the current world, but asked confirmation from Schnee about it not happening in Fuji’s dungeon.
“Kagutsuchi said that it was because of the miasma. I’m sorry, I heard it while you were focusing on crafting, so I forgot to tell you.”
“Aah, I see. Well, nothing changes anyway. It doesn’t really affect us now whether items drop or not.”
Shin started to not really care, as he was not expecting anything from item drops.
As their exchange ended, Suzune started talking.
“There were no drops here before either. This is just my opinion, but I think that the miasma might be concentrated where my sister is.”
“Miasma concentrated? What do you mean?”
“I heard from the survivor that this dungeon’s original boss was a menace because of its numbers. Meaning that each unit’s strength was not much. As such, I doubt it could generate miasma forever: after my sister defeated it, there was not enough miasma to taint both my sister and the dungeon at the same time.”
Shin nodded in deep thought as he listened to Suzune’s theory.
Maybe for the sake of preserving the game’s balance, in “THE NEW GATE”, in case of bosses composed of many units, each unit’s strength was not very high. There were also exceptions, but they mainly consisted in the defeated units turning into a boss, not to fight both at the same time.
“My sister is a very strong Chosen One. The stronger one’s will is, the harder is it for miasma to taint it. In order to keep her as a boss in place of the defeated one, there wasn’t miasma to be spared to affect the dungeon too.”
“I see, you might have a point. In that case, if we could get rid of the miasma somehow it wouldn’t be impossible to save Kotone too, I suppose.”
Shin had seen monsters changed by miasma, but had never known of them becoming dungeon bosses. If there was a chance to save Kotone though, he wanted to prioritize it above anything else.
Shin’s group quickly recovered some of the treasures, then proceeded onwards.
“Cadaver Realm”’s structure contained the corridor Shin’s group was located in and large hall-like clearings, about 50 mels wide. The halls were connected by a series of corridors like the one Shin and the others were exploring.
Watched from the side, it would likely resemble an anthill.
Every large hall was connected to many corridors, so choosing the wrong path would make it difficult to return to the surface.
“Hey, I’m sure that you know this already, but don’t use too much magic power so early, okay?”
Just as Shin thought they were advancing smoothly. Suzune’s reprimand came after Shin defeated a 20-strong pack of Black Hounds, wolf-like monsters, in their fifth hall after entering the dungeon.
“Er, what exactly do you mean?”
“I was watching you fight from behind you, but you’re always using skills and never arts. You use skills even in close combat, so if you keep using spells like crazy you’ll run out of magic power in no time.”
Shin was lost, unable to grasp what she meant, and Suzune continued. She was worried about his pace of magic usage.
“I see. But I get back the magic power used via natural recovery, so you don’t need to worry.”
“Whaat? You’re a Human, aren’t you? You’re not a Pixie or an Elf, so if you keep using magic like that there’s no way for natural recovery to catch up to your magic consumption. In dungeons, using skills against bosses or strong enemies only and dealing with weaker enemies with arts, to save MP, is the basic among basics. I thought you were using only skills on purpose during practice, but…this isn’t your first dungeon, right?”
The ratio of magic power recovered naturally depends on one’s max MP.
In terms of races, as Suzune stated Pixies and Elves recovered faster, while Dwarves and Dragnils were slower. Humans and Lords were around the middle, while Beasts changed widely depending on their species.
“I’m telling you it’s alright, so please rest easy. You didn’t know that when someone has high basic magic power, they also recover more? Besides, there are also skills to increase recover ratio quantity and speed.”
The people Shin had met until now also used skills in rapid succession, so he hadn’t noticed how peculiar his usage was.
In addition, another fundamental problem was that Shin couldn’t use arts. Maybe because they were techniques unique to this world, he didn’t seem to be able to learn them as he wanted.
“Just how much magical power do you have? Then, maybe your main job is actually Mage?”
“Unfortunately, my main is Samurai, sub is Blacksmith. I’m going to take care of the small fry from now on, so you keep your magic usage to a level you can take back with natural recovery, Suzune.”
“I will, thank you very much. —–just for confirmation, is everyone else in your group like you?”
With a sigh, Suzune stopped supplying magic power to her wolf-like spirit. The spirit changed back to its enchanted charm form, then Suzune put it back in her robe’s pocket.
“I’ll leave that to your imagination. At the very least, the members here now won’t do something stupid like running out of magic power, rest assured.”
“Well, if you say there are no problems, then fine.”
Suzune looked towards Schnee after Shin dodged the question, but didn’t press further.
“You two, chat time is over.”
Mitsuyo’s voice called to them. A new monster was coming towards them.
They didn’t fail to notice the enemy’s arrival, though, so they quickly prepared for the encounter.
“Skullface, huh. It’s been a long time.”
“It looks much more mellow than last time. Its equipment is different too.”
Shin mumbled something at the sight of the monster and Schnee also commented, with a somewhat nostalgic tone of voice.
The time when Shin found Yuzuha and also when he reunited with Schnee, he had encountered a large quantity of Skullfaces. That was the reason why they had left a particular impression on him.
The newly appeared monsters were Skullfaces of Jack, Queen, and King variety.
As Schnee mentioned, normally they equipped European-style armor, long swords, kite or tower shields, but these wore gear reminiscent of Oriental warriors. Their weapons were spears, katana and nagamaki-like weapons: they also had changed following the armor’s example.
The area Shin’s group had reached was directly after one of the halls and was the size of a large field. It was more than 2000 mels long, with the ceiling at about 10 mels height.
It was a wide enough area for even the Skullface Kings’ gigantic bodies to move at ease.
Seeing the Skullfaces advance towards them in formation, as if they were in wait, made Suzune’s hand unconsciously reach for the spirit charms in her pocket.
“Okay then, their equipment is a bit different than the usual; because of their current armor 【Flash Bomb】 won’t have much of an effect. Me and Mitsuyo are going to cut them down, you three give us support.”
“My turn, finally. I was starting to get rusty since you destroyed all monsters in a flash with your magic.”
Mitsuyo unsheathed 『Odenta Mitsuyo – Shinuchi』, her eyes glimmering with fighting spirit.
Until this point, they had dealt with all monsters through Shin or Schnee’s magic and Tiera’s arrows. Mitsuyo, while keeping alert, had just been spectating and was rather fed up with it.
“We have to let you move a bit after all. Don’t go overboard, okay?”
“I hope it’ll be enough to qualify for a warm-up.”
Leaving her words trailing behind her, Mitsuyo instantly sped up.
It happened the instant after she leaned forward. Only Shin and Schnee could see it; even the Chosen One Suzune could only see Mitsuyo’s silhouette blur and then simply vanish.
The Skullfaces, naturally, could not register her movements.
Before the Skullface realized anything, Mitsuyo’s sword arm blurred.
A silver arc-like flash passed through the armor-clad body of the Skullface King which happened to lead the group.
An instant passed, and both the King and its heavy gear turned to pieces.
Its blade, taller than Mitsuyo herself, and its intricately decorated armor too were cleaved in half. The core inside had also been cut in two.
Leaving the pieces of its armor behind, the King disappeared.