The sky without a single cloud in it, dyed completely in blue color was so clear, that it was almost oppressive. Only transparent wind and birds were capable of traveling it. The vivid greenery covering the land received the falling light of the sun and budded gloriously all at once.
Beneath this sky which was filled with the bright and merry light, there was a forest. The sky seen from a single road inside that forest, appeared like a glittering starry sky in the middle of a meteor shower every time the branches shook and the filtered light entered from between them.
The wind passing between the trees carried a vibrant breath of fresh verdure, in no time filling the entire region with the presence of spring.
It was afternoon on a day like that, perfect for an outing and making one believe something good might happen if they do.
In the middle of the road stopped a single carriage. Right beside it, looking dumbfounded, stood a single young man wearing a military uniform and a girl clad a goth loli-like outfit.
The rustling wind stroked the girl’s head, making her long silver hair flutter. The girl, Mira, not only had a stiff expression, but also was pale and stared at one place. The young man standing next to her, Galet, closed his mouth tightly and stared at the object lying on the ground.
The road made with leveled and hardened earth was wide enough for two carriages to pass by one another and there were sunny spots here and there, so the visibility on it was not bad.
And yet, it happened. Mira turned around towards the carriage with a twirl. Ahead of where she looked, on the carriage’s frame there was a sticky and moist dark red stain.
Feeling panic that couldn’t be put into words, Mira once again turned towards the front.
There, a person wearing rags lied on the ground and did not move in the least.
He had a head, torso and legs. However, all of his limbs were facing impossible directions and furthermore, one of his arms was ripped off and blown far ahead of the carriage.
No matter who and how looked at it, it appeared to be death by running over.
“You’ve finally went and done it…"
If only I insisted more strongly on sending Galet on a driving course, Mira thought with regret as she squeezed out those heavy words.
“P-please wait, Mira-sama. This person suddenly jumped in from the side and I had no way of stopping, you see.”
The road was only a little dim and the carriage was not as large as to look on a person from above. However, right beside the road spread forest dense enough to hide a person or a monster. Even Galet who as a coachman had seen everything from start to end, did not fully understand what happened and unable to hide he was perturbed, was only able to make an excuse.
While he acted like that, looking at him with cold - or rather - pitiful look inside her eyes, Mira nodded lightly as if to say she understands, and started walking ahead.
Taking her nod as affirmation that she believes him, Galet was relieved to have gained a strong ally. At the same time, he could feel the menacing and oppressive aura disperse.
With that said, an accident was an accident. Reporting it was natural, it had to be reported to the country and there was a need to think of how to deal with the body. Heaving a sigh, he looked forward towards the arm that was ripped off from the main body. That instant.
“Mira-sama, where are you going?!”
Ahead of Galet’s line of sight. Calmly passing by the arm that lied on the road, Mira continued to walk ahead. Since he initially thought that she went to pick up the arm, Galet reflexively raised his voice.
“I leave this place to you I said, haven’t I.”
“Nono, I do not remember hearing anything like that.”
“But you nodded to me saying “leave it to me", didn’t you.”
“So that’s what that nod meant?!”
It appeared that the two were not close enough to understand each other with eye contact or had a tacit understanding of each other.
“Did something happen?”
While the two spoke back and forth, an unfamiliar voice entered from the side. When they turned around, a big man wearing a metallic light armor stood there. Further ahead, several dozens of meters away there was a carriage that looked like that of a peddler’s.
It seemed like the man was the peddler’s guard. Galet noticed that first, and raised his eyes to the sky with a bitter smile. He thought that thanks to the peddler’s information network, the information about this incident would spread in no time.
Mira was already stupefied by what happened. With a stiff smile glued to her face, she stared at the guard.
Seeing such behavior of the two, the guard scowled and then seeing the body lying beneath their feet he realized something and returning Galet’s gaze, spoke.
“I see, you sure had bad luck.”
The man raised his voice with pity, before laughing in a mean manner.
The one they thought to have killed by running over, was a zombie. Furthermore, this zombie was not normal. The body under the robe that looked like a rotten tree bark, had weathered bones that looked like they covered with rust, and had earth and grass that was sticking to them instead of meat.
The moment they learned it was a zombie, they had no longer any need worry about anything. He did not spill even a drop of blood, if they looked properly at the body, they would realize right away that it was not a living human. Calming down at this point, Mira smiled wryly as if to hide something.
“His looks aside, that’s one weird zombie to come out at this hour.”
Released from the feelings of guilt, Galet was back to himself and stared suspiciously at the zombie lying on the ground. Although it was a dim forest road, there was sunlight overflowing from behind the branches that covered the sky.
“Certainly, that is true.”
Mira put a finger against her chin and stared at a small sunny spot on the road.
“You two, you look like you just came here. No wonder then.”
The guard stared at Mira and Galet, then at their carriage.
“If I’m not wrong, it was about a month ago that these strange zombies started to appear. Well, they’re weak zombies but the reason for them appearing is still unknown, so it’s best to be on alert.”
After continuing such words, the guard concisely explained to them of a certain abnormality that has been happening in the neighborhood of this area.
According to him, when night comes zombies start wandering around, but what’s most mysterious is that he did not hear of them attacking anyone.
With that said, it was not like there was no damage at all, as they did stomp all over fields.
Also, for some reason they appeared even during the day hiding in places poorly lit by sun like forests, so incidents like this one happened from time to time.
Once he finished explaining this much, the guard man heaved a sigh and this time, continued with a grumbly expression.
“And so, because of that there has been a subjugation squad organised the other day. The reward was quite good so I also participated...but they didn’t fight back at all. That was more creepy than anything.”
While saying so, he glanced, then stared at the zombie that was lying on the ground.
“They don’t attack people and they don’t resist when attacked, do they. I wonder what is their objective.”
“He clearly is abnormal, hmm.”
Mira and Galet too, stared at the zombie and muttered.
This zombie is abnormal. There was a reason why Mira said so.
First, aside from dungeons where sunlight does not reach and night after the sun sinks, not only zombies but also other undead monsters do not spawn. That was something taught by the tutorial from when it was still a game, it was knowledge that could be said to be foundation of this world.
Yes, the world they were in was originally a game world. However, for some reason the game became reality and Danbulf, one Nine Sages who were the top of all spellcasters, had for certain reasons become a girl called Mira and was now in the middle of a journey to search her past comrades.
Therefore, Mira’s knowledge was deep, which included this world’s basic knowledge.
This knowledge said that the zombie in front of her was abnormal. Although it was hiding in the forest to avoid sunlight, that too was already strange. They did not appear unless it was night so there was a problem bigger than them hiding in shadow.
And the guard man also said that they did not know anything about these enigmatic zombies, either.
After that, with the guard’s help the two were able to move this creepy happening to the corner of their head and had resumed their journey.
It had been three days since they left Arkite Kingdom’s capital, Lunatic Lake. In the middle of the travel they stopped by villages to smack their lips on some tasty cuisine made with mountain vegetables, and it was about time Mira started to get used to the carriage. About that time the carriage carrying Mira passed through the gate leading to the city which was next to the “Ancient Temple Nevrapolis” and entered the main street.
The Soul-Calming City of Karnack. It was a city with long history, build around a monument created as prayer for the heroic souls that had once played a big role in a great battle of the past. Nearby there were many dungeons, and for that sake a large numbers of adventurers gathered in here.
Most likely because red color had spread in the sky and the signs of night started to close in, the city was fairly quiet and somewhat gloomy.
As she chased with her eyes a few citizens who passed by, the carriage suddenly stopped and Mira fell forward and off the seat.
“Good grief, what’s happening?’
Pursing her lips she peeked out her face towards the coachman’s seat. That moment, what had been reflected in her eyes was Galet’s head and the horses that pulled the carriage, as well as an old man lying on the ground ahead.
(“No matter how you look at it, it’s accident scene!”)
Opening her eyes wide upon seeing this situation. This time he really did it, Mira thought and her face stiffened up.
“My apologies, are you alright?”
While Mira was worrying, Galet called out from the coachman’s seat, got off the carriage and extended a hand to the old man. That moment, the body lying on the ground slowly started to move.
“Dear me, it’s me who is sorry for suddenly jumping out on the road.”
The old man raised his head and said so, then grasped the extended hand and stood up. His body was splendidly trained and if one ignored the fact had very few hairs, it was very unlike an old man.
“It appears you are hurrying somewhere quite a bit, did something happen?”
“My grandchild isn’t coming back so I have been searching for him. After all, recently it’s been dangerous at night.”
As the old man was absorbed in searching for his grandchild and moved in from a side road, he was surprised by the carriage and only fell over. Mira took a look at the old man’s entire body was relieved after confirming he was in perfectly good health. Rather, with such a splendid physique, even if he was hit, there would be no need to worry about him.
“At night… Are you maybe talking about the rumored zombies?”
“Yes, indeed. And so, I told him to come back before evening. Yet, I still can’t remain calm.”
The old man said and his voice was filled with sadness.
“I heard that there was no harm done to people, but I understand being worried.”
The rumored zombies had yet to assault a person. Still, from a guardian’s perspective it was worrying.
After this, they exchanged a few words and the old man said “Sorry to have troubled you, I’ll excuse myself now." and after bowing, returned to searching in a place popular among kids.
“I wondered why the town felt so gloomy, but it appears that it’s because there is no children in the sight.”
Mira took a look around the city that had become quieter than it should have, and said so.
“Surely, just like the old man from earlier they instructed their children to return before evening.”
Galet who returned to the coachman’s seat had similarly taken look around and answered. Once his gaze stopped on Mira, he found himself puzzled. Although she was incredibly cute, a pretty girl no matter who looked at her, he was puzzled why wasn’t he worried in the least when imaging her walking alone at night.
Along with a light sound of horse hooves, the carriage carrying Mira had entered inside the grounds belonging to a large, three-floored building.
After moving a little, it reached a wooden stable and Galet stopped the carriage at one of the designated locations. At the same time, the inn’s employee who managed the stables had approached Galet.
“Welcome. Are you going to stay at the inn?”
“Understood. I shall ask about managing the carriage and horses afterwards, so please take care of me.”
The manager passed a single card to Galet, took a step back and bowed.
“Now then, Mira-sama, let’s check in first.”
Galet had peeked from the coachman’s seat to inside the carriage to call out to Mira and leaped off with a smooth movement. Furthermore, his next movement was quick too, when Mira was stretching on the seat he already opened the carriage’s door.
After getting off from the carriage, Mira headed to the inn’s reception, guided by Galet. engraved on a large marble by the entrance was the name of the inn, Summer Lantern.
When Galet opened the door and entered inside, it appeared to be like an interior of a high-class hotel. There was a front reception and employees wearing uniforms calmly went back and forth. Sitting on chairs by the window in a place that appeared to be a resting space, was a group of adventurers getting along, wearing splendid armors and robes, which was a very otherworldly sight. The sight of high fantasy mixed with the Eastern-style hotel’s interior had created a strange atmosphere.
Outside of the window there was the courtyard in which pruned trees and a flower field swayed in the wind, and seen there could be children running around.
“This place looks very luxurious.”
Although it could not compare with the king’s castle, it was very clean, the employees’ behavior and movements were experienced, and the interior was well-arranged. Even to Mira who spent a few nights at the castle, it looked just as gaudy.
“This is Karnack’s number one inn, after all.”
“But isn’t it expensive? I don’t have all that much on me.”
When it came to cities larger than Karnack, the only one nearby was Arkite Kingdom’s Lunatic Lake, so the number one inn in such a city must have been fairly costly. Mira put a hand on the black waist pouch and furrowed her eyebrows anxiously. This waist pouch was something that was inside the bag given to her by the maid, and had matched well with the white and black-based clothes. Inside of it, she threw the bag with money she received as reward.
“Of course, there is no need to worry. All expenses in regards to Mira-sama’s travel are covered by Solomon-sama.”
After saying so, Galet made a broad smile,
“I wanted to stay here just once.”
and whispered in high spirits.
“Good grief, really you.”
Astounded, Mira smiled back, influenced by him.
While Galet headed to deal with formalities, Mira decided to kill time by looking at furnishings, paintings and such that were in the entrance hall. However, she did not notice that in a similar fashion she herself was being visually appreciated. As expected of an expensive inn, inside of it there were high-ranked adventurers. It was easy for them to gaze at her while hiding that fact.
Once the formalities were over, she was guided by an employee to a room. Since the best rooms were full at the moment, it was a room of the second best class. Still, it would be what a best-class room would be in a normal inn. By the way, it did not even compare to Danbulf’s apartment in the Silver Towers.
Galet was staying at this inn’s common room, so his room was on a lower floor.
Once she entered the room, she saw a note placed on top of the table. Written on it, were pointers and information in regards to the offered service. When leaving, entrust the key to the reception in the front, room service is called by ringing the bell by the entrance, as well as diverse amount of information in regards to breakfast, lunch and dinner.
After she finished reading the memo, she turned her gaze at a large wall clock.
It was six p.m.. The sky color seen from the window had almost completely been dyed with black with just a little of red in the distance.
(“Mm-hm, I guess I’ll pass for today. Let’s begin the mission tomorrow.”)
Mira immediately decided so and holding a prepared drink, she sat down on the sofa.
It was one thing that she was tired after traveling several days in a carriage, but she also wanted to enjoy a first-class inn. Right away Mira picked up the menu that was part of the room service, and looking at the prices she rang the bell.
On the next day, Mira headed to the dining hall to have breakfast, she passed by Galet who just finished enjoying his after-meal coffee.
“Ah, Mira-sama. Good morning.”
“Mm-hm, good morning.”
Mira yawned lightly and responded to him, then sat down on a seat nearby.
“If I’m not wrong, you are going to the Spellcasters’ Union to do formalities, right? Mira-sama.”
She nodded while looking over the breakfast menu, then suddenly recalled something and raised her head. Inside the carriage there was a securely locked box and Mira was curious what was it.
“By the way, what are you going to do after this? It’s not like you will be seeing me off, right?”
“Yes. I will be going to Karnack Fort for a different task.”
While saying so, Galet lightly waved correspondence he held in his hand. It appeared he was on a mission to deliver it.
“Hooh, so that is what was inside the box that sat next to me.”
“Yes indeed it is. It could be said to be an official letter in regards to the last incident and the mission I have went on with Mira-sama the other day. I hear it’s a call for raising alert and exchange of information, and it also includes information on coping with the incidents from here on.”
“Mm-hm, I see.”
The last incident. In other words, it was about Lesser Demons’ actions behind the scenes. Although Mira was curious about what this case will turn into, it was also a case she left completely to Solomon. Mira had her own important mission she undertook, after all.
“Oh. By the way, do you know maybe where the Spellcasters’ Union is in this city?”
But she did not know where was the place that was the first step of this important mission.
“To get to Spellcasters’ Union you need to go left and then straight ahead after leaving this inn, you’ll find it right away.”
“Mm-hm, to the left and straight ahead it is.”
Galet pointed the direction the union was with the letter and Mira chased his movement with her eyes, then repeated.
“If you get lost, ask a Patrol Knight...the person in white and blue armor about the city’s number one inn and they’ll teach you how to get here.”
“No need to worry.”
Mira said and pursed her lips, then holding the menu in her hands she showed it to Galet and pointed at “Croque Monsieur Set" with her finger.
“Yes, Croque Monsieur Set it is. What about the drink?”
“Banana au Lait sounds nice.”
Galet made a somewhat happy smile and headed to the counter to pass on Mira’s order.
“Now then, Mira-sama. Until the dinner.”
“Mm-hm, please be careful.”
“Yes. Mira-sama too, please be careful not to get lost.”
Right after saying so, Galet quickly left the dining hall.
“Good grief, I’m not going to get lost.”
Mira glared in the direction Galet left, and muttered.
Twenty minutes later, after plenty enjoying the breakfast, Mira headed towards the Spellcasters’ Union with light gait.