Alfina’s fluttering hair reflected brilliantly even in artificial light as she sprinted aiming deeper underground like wind itself.
After seeing her off, Mira thought there was no more problems left and blinking strongly, removed the sight of the Ghoul earlier from her mind.
“Now, we should be going.”
She said and when she turned her gaze towards the direction they were progressing in, Takuto trotted up to her side and held her hand. Fricca too, followed him and like it was natural she leaned towards Mira.
On the other hand, Emera, Asbar and Zeff still turned in the direction Alfina headed to, frozen stiff.
“You two, did you see that?”
“Yeah, I saw it. That was tremendous.”
“But I think that too, is wonderful.”
What the three had seen with their eyes, was the fighting spirit overflowing from Alfina. It was enormous and bigger than any other they have seen before.
Although it could vary between people, fighting spirit was a type of energy that anyone was clad in during combat and its size grew proportionally to the fighter’s skill. And just like spellcasters were able to sense and see spirits, warrior classes could see fighting spirit with their eyes.
Emera looked towards Mira who puffed her chest with pride and satisfaction. She wondered just who on earth was Mira, whom Alfina, an owner of such strength called her master.
“Summoning is truly amazing. It was my first time seeing it, but I have been greatly surprised.”
"...Who the hell are you…?”
Mira stared at Fricca, who spoke to her in such a way. The atmosphere Fricca was giving off was way too different from before. Where did her expression from when she teased Mira because of her cuteness go to? Currently, Fricca turned her eyes, sparkling like starry sky, towards Mira. This intellectual appearance of hers might as well have been a complete stranger.
“We were together all this time, you sure say the oddest of things.”
Fricca responded along with a gesture of raising her glasses.
“Emera, EMERAA. Fricca is being weird!”
Feeling something unfathomable within Fricca’s attitude as she reservedly pat her head, Mira sought help from Emera.
“Um, what happened?”
Absentminded Emera’s consciousness returned when she heard her name called and she walked up to Mira while still in daze.
“Fricca is acting strange. She’s overly calm, or should I say, acting intellectual. In any case, weird.”
“Ahhh. You mean THAT.”
After grasping the situation, Emera mischievously smiled and saying “I love you" she suddenly hugged Fricca.
“What is it? Emera. Don’t screw around.”
Fricca had lightly brushed such Emera away and slipped out from her arms. As for Emera, she stuck out her tongue and saying “I was dumped" she laughed.
“So, what’s with her?”
“Mira-chan, do the same thing I did just now.”
“Why would I do something like…"
Mira was clearly shaken. Of course, there was no wonder because what Emera told her to do, was to cling onto Fricca. Although Mira would love to do it if she could, the embarrassment still won over.
“Come on, you’ll understand once you try it.”
Unable to just watch like that, Emera grasped Mira’s hands from behind and made her cling onto Fricca from the front.
“Whapp, what are you doiNG EMERa….AaAAaa?!”
“Oh Mira-chan, you’re such a spoiled giirl. It can’t be helped, come on, I’ll give you a squeeeze!”
It was sudden. Suddenly Fricca’s cool and intellectual expression broke and she hugged Mira who was thrown onto her chest, almost so strongly she almost pushed Mira down. And then she started rubbing her own cheeks against Mira’s to enjoy the softness.
“Mira-chan, I love youuu!”
“What is going oooooooooon?!!”
This sudden and complete change made Mira flustered. Although at first she had been cautious of Fricca because of her impression, she was completely deceived by this calm behavior and let her guard down.
“As you probably realized already, Fricca is a sucker for cute girls. Normally she’s calm and collected, a reliable rear guard. But as you can see, if there’s an opportunity she falls in such a state.”
“It was enough to explain with your words!”
Being stroked all over her body by Fricca, Mira desperately raised her voice as she resisted.
“I thought it would be faster to see it yourself. Tehee.”
Mira’s scream vainly reverberated in the ancient temple which has recovered its calmness.
Écarlate Carillon’s members only looked at her with looks saying “my condolences" and smiled wryly. Only Takuto alone, squeezed Mira’s hand, self-asserting himself.
Once Fricca finished replenishing her supplement of cute, Mira was finally released. Five minutes has passed since she was constrained. In the meanwhile, Zeff had checked the remnants of Ghouls for items characteristic to the monster. To Zeff, who was unintimidated by anything, classifying monster-dropped materials was easy.
And so, after a while they resumed their progress forward. It was a dark passage inside which their footsteps and some metallic sounds reverberated. On her guard from the heavy breathing of Fricca behind her, Mira continued to walk forward.
Feeling a different kind of nervousness from the usual dungeon delving nervousness, Mira arrived at the next hall all languid. Inside there was absolutely no signs of presence, instead, here and there piles of ash could be seen.
“There’s nothing heereee.”
Zeff who peeked inside the hall to check it just in case, had shook his right hand and announced it was safe.
Moving in front of Mira and others, Zeff searched the surroundings. Then standing in front of the pile of ash, he found something shiny inside of it.
“Oh, it’s a Magic Stone.”
He said and picked up a purple, bead-sized stone. Seeing that, Asbar used the hammer’s hilt to break up a pile of ash. Then confirming there was a magic stone inside, he raised his lantern and took a look at the hall with monsters completely wiped out.
“Can it be that all of these piles of ash are monster remains…?”
Around them within this about twenty meters-large room, there were over ten piles of ash.
From among them, Mira took out a Magic Stone.
(“Hmm, looks like they drop like they should.”)
Magic Stones were one of materials that could be obtained mainly from undead monsters. They were holding the magic power required for moving their bodies, and that magic power could be used in various fields, which is why there was a demand for them. Mira now confirmed that the monsters properly dropped Magic Stones in this underground cemetery, like they should have.
In the past, players who aimed for these drops over-hunted monsters in this underground cemetery. It went so far, that among the players the term “grave visiting" meant excessive hunting in this dungeon.
While Mira recalled such a thing, Zeff ran around from a pile of ash to a pile of ash and recovered Magic Stones. There were 14 of them in total.
“I just thought, but, was all of this done by that Alfina-san? From earlier?”
“Considering the circumstances, looks like it.”
“But why did they all turn into ash? I think she was holding a sword. Maybe she uses flame Wizardry or something like that?”
Just as Zeff said, what Alfina was holding was a sword. If she had cut them down, there would be corpses with slash wounds remaining, but all of what appeared to be corpses have turned into piles of ash.
“It would have to be a fairly high class Wizardry spell to turn them into ash without a trace like this. However, there appears to be no residue of high class spells here so it probably wasn’t Wizardry.”
Unless it was a fairly high level flame attack, it would be impossible to turn entire bodies into ash.
It was possible for Wizardry to do such a thing. The only spells that could deal this much firepower were high class ones, but when such spells are used, residues after their usage remain. Unable to find such residues, Fricca decided that was not the case.
The difference between the current situation and the reality made everyone puzzled, and after a moment everyone's gazes turned towards Mira.
“Then, Mira-chan. What is the actual answer?”
Zeff winked and requested an explanation, so Mira said “It can’t be helped" and putting on airs, answered. She also mentioned it was also the main reason why he choose Alfina from among countless summoning spells she had.
“The sword Alfina uses is forged from converged light, it’s an exorcising sword. At the same time it slashes evil, it releases a flash of light that burns them down. All monsters here are undead so there is nothing that can stop Alfina.”
With a finger on her chin, Mira puffed her chest cockily as she boasted.
“So a sword like that exists…"
Emera looked towards the piles of ash with a sparkle in her eyes. Although she asked Écarlate Carillon’s leader and borrowed his Spirit Sword, it could be said that half of the reason she did that was just because she wanted to try using it. Emera had a weakness for any kinds of rare swords.
“I see, to think that you were able to summon someone holding such a sword, I’m amazed.”
Just as Mira planned, Asbar appeared to have revised his recognition of Summoning for the better.
The completion of the C-rank dungeon, Ancient Temple Nevrapolis, was far simpler than Emera thought it would be. Rather, it could be said to be as fast as it was possible.
The number one thing to be wary of in the dungeon, were monsters, which have all been replaced with piles of ash that Zeff had rummaged through in high spirits. The only adventurer-like thing they did, was most likely just Emera confirming the direction they went by consulting with the map.
“Why did we even come here again? Free Magic Stones?”
Zeff who recovered items from piles of ash suddenly leaked out such words. From his perspective they were insignificant words, but Emera who stood in the middle went “Ugh…", as her breath was taken away.
Escorting Takuto to the Dark Aid’s hall. That was the objective. But judging from the current situation, Mira was more than enough capable accomplishing that alone.
A C-rank dungeon was a dangerous place even for high-rank adventurers if they did not prepare properly, so she couldn’t let a young boy and a young girl go there alone. Declaring so, she partly by force accompanied them. Having swung the Spirit Sword just once up until now, Emera smiled bitterly.
“DON’T SAY IIIITTTT!!!”
The words that gouged her heart and drilled inside made Emera anguish at her wits’ end.
Afterwards they continued to move forward until the third level’s middle hall. Inside of it, in the middle there was a large pile of ash. The monster that was there, was the one Mira didn’t want to meet no matter what and caused her to use Summoning, a Giant Ghoul. It had become a pile of ash and was scattered with a kick from Zeff.
“Whoaa! A Magic Crystal!”
Finding a stone as big as a fist inside the pile of ash, Zeff raised his voice loudly. That moment, Écarlate Carillon members who haven’t shown much interest, had changed the look on their faces all at once.
It was no wonder, Magic Crystal was a rare drop from large monsters that were difficult to beat.
“Amaazing! Show me, show me!”
“Heey, you serious?”
“We are really lucky.”
After seeing off Emera and Zeff who completely snapped and charged in, Asbar looked at the gem-like thing inside Zeff’s hands with a distant look in his eyes. As for Fricca, she did not change her expression, but her cheeks were flushed.
Faced with such a group, Takuto had no idea what was happening, but seeing the fun atmosphere he smiled. In Mira’s case, she only looked at the Magic Crystal thinking that it sure was a rare drop, as if this did not concern her at all.
Then they continued to progress forward until they finally arrived at the Dark Aid’s halls on the fifth level.
There too, everything was the same as everywhere else and completely devoid of monsters, with just piles of ash continuing endlessly. However, their numbers and size clearly increased, speaking of Alfina’s valor, making Emera and Asbar gasp even if they were not able to actually see it. After all, normally, it would have been them who bore the full brunt of those monsters’ attacks.
“Extermination is complete.”
Meanwhile, Alfina was waiting in the hall. She did not appear to be out of breath and there was not a single scratch on her armor. She looked the same as when she had first appeared.
“Mm-hm, good work. As expected of you, Alfina.”
“It is an honour to receive such words of praise.”
As Alfina knelt and reported, Mira said words of appreciation and raised her hand.
“Make sure to rest well.”
Instructed to return like so, Alfina was enveloped by a magic circle that appeared and as if turning hazy, was dismissed.
This somewhat solemn and respectful sight made everyone only be able to look, unable to interject anything. Just Zeff alone appeared very disappointed.
The fifth level’s structure was extremely simple. After going down the stairs and passing through a corridor, they reached a large square-shaped hall which had four passages, one in front and one in the back, and two on both sides. Excluding the passage that led back to the fourth floor, there were three passages. The left one was leading to a storage and the one in front led to the lowest floor. In other words, the Dark Aid’s hall Takuto wanted to go to was in the passage to the right.
Once Emera confirmed that on the map, she started guiding them towards the passage on the right. Zeff who was rummaging through ash was a little late to chase after the party.
“Looks like this is the Dark Aid’s hall.”
At the end of the passage they opened door crafted from copper and entered, they arrived at a room with enigmatic shapes drawn on the walls. Mira did not forget this abnormal scenery and stared at the familiar antique seen in the back.
After taking a look around the room, Emera and Asbar saw that there was not only no monsters but also no piles of ash inside. All there was, was a single mirror.
Faintly lit up by the light of lanterns, the mirror that creepily emerged from the darkness had not only the effect of showing the dead, but was also surrounded by the aura that said there was something more about it.
A quiet sound of someone catching their breath was erased by the silence. As the abnormal nervousness grew in there, Mira said “now then" and walked up to the mirror, took out Holy Water and sprinkled some on the mirror.
Remembering a quest where a Lesser Demon had cursed the Dark Aid’s Mirror which led to a tragic result, Mira first attempted the method of dealing with that.
“Mm-hm, looks all right.”
After confirming it was not cursed, Mira turned around and walked up to Takuto.
“Eh, what? What happened?”
Seeing Mira’s sudden action, Emera made an astonished expression and asked. If Mira was to explain in detail it would take time.
“Mm, well, it’s something like a lucky charm.”
Which is why she responded vaguely, dodging the question.
With water trickling from the surface, the Dark Aid’s Mirror grew even more creepy than before. Looking at it timidly, Emera wondered what kind of lucky charm was that. Then suddenly, the door opened behind them along with a loud sound.
“Ohhhies. Why are you stuck in a place like this? Did you find what we came here for?”
When Zeff caught up with them and called out, Emera twitched, surprised by the sudden sound.
“W-we found it. It’s that, THAT!”
After responding like that, Emera blushed with shame and pointed at the mirror in front.
“We did it, Takuto. With this you’ll be able to meet your pops and mom.”
“Yes, it’s all thanks to everyone. Thank you very much!”
After confirming the Dark Aid’s Mirror, Zeff rejoiced as if it was for himself and put a hand on Takuto’s shoulder. Takuto responded with a smile and tears in his eyes.
“Come on, go, meet them.”
Mira gently hit Takuto’s back. Being pushed from behind, he took a step forward, said “yup!” and then stood in front of the Dark Aid’s Mirror to call his parents’ names.
Although it required some connection with the dead or items strongly related to them, the Dark Aid’s Mirror was extremely simple to use - it was enough to call their names while thinking of them.
Recalling the faces of his parents he faintly recalled, Takuto called out towards the mirror.
While everyone watched holding their breath, Emera was unable to bear her impatience and asked. However, she was immediately glared at by Fricca and shrugged her shoulders and backed down dejected.
“Should it be visible to us?’
Asbar was unable to bear the silence that filled the room posed a question. However, there was none to answer this, and everyone could only stare at Takuto’s back.
The first to notice the change was Mira. She ran up to him in trot and hugged his head to herself as he trembled, crying.
Seeing that, the four wondered what happened and moved forward, but Takuto had raised his voice crying, then clung to Mira seeking warmth.
Receiving his tears that gushed forth like a broken dam, Mira gently pat his back.
“What happened? Was saying farewell sad?”
Hearing his words, Takuto shook his head to the side and responded, then with tears in his eyes looked up and,
“Dad and Mom, they don’t want to meet me.”
He said and cried again.
It appeared like he was unable to meet his parents. Emera and Fricca put hands on his shoulders and tears could be faintly seen on their discouraged faces,.
Not knowing what to do, Asbar was consternated. He opened the item list and was looking for sweets and juice.
As for Zeff, he stood in front of the Dark Aid’s Mirror and stared at it with anticipation.
He muttered quietly. It was the name of his little sister who died before him due to an illness. This name spoken unconsciously was something like a prayer to him.
Immediately after that, the Dark Aid’s Mirror leaked a faint light, and a single girl appeared on the mirror’s other side. She was about fifteen, sixteen years old, was wearing a red one piece dress and had brown hair tied into two tails. She made an affable smile as she looked up at Zeff standing in front of the mirror.
Her age did not change compared to when she died, she was wearing her favourite one piece dress and had the hairstyle which she had many times pestered him to tie for her. This appearance that Zeff could recall clearly even now, was without doubt his little sister Lilika.
And this appearance was seen not only by Zeff, but also Mira, Emera and others. While consoling Takuto, Mira, Emera and Fricca had their gazes glued to the mirror.
Zeff unconsciously clung to the mirror and shouted his little sister’s name.
That moment, the girl inside the mirror responded to these words and tilted her head. After Zeff confirmed she could hear his voice, his feelings exploded.
“I’m sorry, Lilika. I wasn’t able to save you, I’m sorry! If I only came back faster, you wouldn’t——"
Zeff’s voice spinning words of apology has grown hoarse in the middle and was no longer intelligible, but he still raised his voice to repeat apologies time and time again.
“Onii-chan. Why are you apologizing? Did you do something bad?”
What stopped Zeff who spit everything that had been piling up deep inside him as his feelings dictated, was no one but Lilika herself.
“I… I didn’t save you. If I returned to the village faster you wouldn’t have died, Lilika.”
Zeff raised his voice as he hung his head in remorse. The only one here who knew the circumstances regarding this was Asbar, who scowled and started walking to Zeff’s side.
That wasn’t your fault. When Asbar was about to say so.
“It’s not your fault, Onii-chan. I died from illness. That’s why, it’s not your fault at all! The reason I came here to meet Onii-chan was not to listen to apologies, but to say “thank you”!”
The face of the girl inside the mirror turned red and she scolded her brother, Zeff. She was upset, she did not want to be apologized to for such a reason. And at her brother, who kept blaming himself for such a reason.
Lilika’s voice filled with anger made Zeff correct his stance and stand upright. The moment she saw that, Lilika’s broke into a broad smile and chuckled.
“You haven’t changed, Onii-chan.”
Back when Lilika was still alive, she would scold Zeff like this when he was acting too naughty. Although quite some time passed since then, his body still remembered Lilika’s voice.
“Onii-chan, I died because of an epidemic disease. Don’t bear any needless responsibility for that, Onii-chan.”
“Don’t “but" me. I know that you were doing your best for my sake, Onii-chan. That’s why, I just wanted to say this one thing. Thank you, Onii-chan. I love you.”
After she said this, Lilika’s figure slowly turned transparent. It looked like time was running out.
“Me too. I love you too!”
Zeff shouted towards Lilika’s disappearing shadow. The instant after that, everyone felt like they saw the girl smile faintly.