“I hope you are prepared!”
“There’s no way I’d have!”
After they reached the hard surface of the sixth level, like a man-eating fiend Emera beat the hell out of Zeff. Although she did not have fear of heights, she was still as bad with them as much as any other person, and this was the result of Zeff continuing to tease her.
“You are really busy folks, aren’t you.”
Smiling bitterly, Mira saw the two off from behind with amusement before turning her gaze to the towering pure white castle. If Soul Howl was living somewhere, then there was no place more fitting than this castle. That’s what she guessed right from the start.
“Maybe we should just leave them be and go to the castle, mm?”
She said to the remaining members before starting to walk on the raw rock beneath their feet. Although it was hard, it was not enough to make them slip.
“We’re off to the castleee!”
Asbar nodded in response to Mira’s words and then shouted towards the two merrily playing tag near the lake. But it was unknown if they heard due to the screams that sounded from time to time.
(“Now then, I wonder what are those ruins.”)
On the way to the castle, there was leftover debris that looked like something was burned down. While Mira thought that they must have been something related to Soul Howl’s experiments, she felt some kind of indescribable presence and looked around.
“While there is nothing here, this sight itself is splendid.”
That moment, Asbar who was right behind her had been overwhelmed by the castle’s enormous size when seen from up close. As for Takuto, he had sparkles in his eyes as he looked around restlessly.
“Indeed it is, mm.”
With its great size, this castle which had no visible weak points would have been a famous sightseeing spot if it was on the surface rather than on the lowest level of the underground. Although, depending on where it was it could also turn into bandits’ nest.
After Mira had returned her gaze towards the front of the castle, she agreed with Asbar, then entered the wide-open gate.
In the middle of the entrance there was a large staircase and embedded in the walls here and there could be seen shining crystals. Other than that, it was all undecorated walls and floors of raw stone that continued endlessly.
“Now, could you guys wait here? Ahead of here I have some secret business to do.”
This was the furthest she could go together with them. Ahead of there, she was supposed to meet with one of the Nine Sages on the king’s secret orders, so she could not let anyone know of this.
Knowing Soul Howl’s personality, Mira thought that he would have left golems around the castle to protect it. However, since they already entered the castle it meant that there should be no golems appearing. If there were undead girls inside, there would be no golems outside. That’s the kind of person Soul Howl was.
Of course, all of that was based on the assumption Soul Howl made this place his base, which Mira believed without doubt.
“Hmm, secret, huh.”
Although Asbar was interest in knowing what kind of business was that, being told straight like that he could not just say that he will go as well. It was the same for Fricca, but her fantasy went in completely different direction as she muttered “Mira-chan’s SE-CRE-T" and squirmed.
“Sorry, but take care of Takuto for now.”
Mira said and passed Takuto’s hand to Fricca. Most likely thanks to that, Fricca was able to hold herself back despite being on the verge of going berserk.
“All right, understood.”
“Mira-oneechan, please take care.”
“Mm-hm, I’m off.”
After waving her hand back to Takuto, Mira went up the stairs that were in the entrance.
Once he had seen her off, Asbar decided that if the secret is above, then there was no problem searching the first floor and started investigating it.
Right after Mira to the upper floors of the castle, she started searching for a room with a certain installation.
Running in a trot, she moved around the castle for a while before she found what looked like what she sought.
“Hmm...this looks good enough.”
After Mira had entered the room, then looked inside the hole in the middle of it and muttered. It looked similar in shape to a Japanese-style toilet.
Inside the room with no doors, Mira lowered her underwear and raised her skirt as she crouched. Looking to the side she could see the long corridor, so if someone was here, she would immediately be in the line of sight.
While still nervous, Mira finally let out a sigh of relief.
Afterwards there were no problems, Mira took out paper from the pouch. She learned her lesson from the poisonous flower so was now mindful to always carry paper with her, just in case.
With both her heart and body in perfect state, Mira activated 【Daoist Skill: Life Sensing】 as she raised her panties.
(“Looks like Emera and Zeff joined up with them.”)
Although they were a little away of each other, she could sense the pulsation of five people. However, she could not feel any presence in the upper floor.
With that said, Life Sensing’s reception differed depending on distance and objects in between. The castle was large and there were walls in between, so at this point she could not say with certainty that there was no one on the upper floors.
And so, Mira headed straight up on the stairs. They said that something and smoke like high places, and thus she had acted in accordance to that.
In the middle of it she thought of raising her voice and calling Soul Howl’s name, but realizing the possibility of everyone below hearing her, she gave up on the thought. The names of Nine Sages were widely known as those of heroes. The moment they heard it, the secret would no longer be a secret. Instead, Mira thought of using some nicknames they thought up for him among friends, like “Undead Girls Prof" or “Perverter of Samsara” or “Gentleman’s Dregs" but they were not something she could just go around shouting, so that was rejected.
As a result, she concluded it was the fastest to search by her own eyes.
After arriving at the top floor, Mira immediately used 《Life Sensing》 to check the surroundings.
“Nhm, this is…"
That moment, in the very edge of her search range there was a response. However, it was very, very small and she was only able to realize it after concentrating on that spot, a life so weak it was about to disappear.
It was hard to think that anyone else but the guy whom she was searching for would be here. However, the pulsation she could feel was overly weak.
Sensing that to be very enigmatic, Mira killed her presence and started approaching that response. It was located on the front side of the castle, in a large room in the middle of the corridor there. The throne room.
Sticking to the wall right next to the entrance to the throne room which had no door, she peeked inside to check what was there.
“This is, beyond words…"
What appeared in Mira’s sight, was a mysterious scenery that went far above what she expected to see. Still, seeing the almost-insane state of the throne room, she smiled wryly and without hesitation walked inside.
Inside the throne room, there were countless chairs lined up all the way to the throne. Mira approached one of them and moved her head closer as if to peek in.
“Are they not functioning…?”
Mira touched the cheek of the woman wearing maid clothes. It was cold and no warmth of life could be felt from her. Both her closed eyes and lips showed absolutely no expression, they just were there.
“Looks like his perversion is evolving.”
She took a sweeping look over the surroundings. On all the chairs in the throne room there were corpses of women made wear a great variety of clothes that could be categorized as “maid clothes" of both Western and Eastern types. It appeared they were all treated perfectly with preservatives to stop them from decay, and looked like they just died.
No matter who and how one thought it could only be Soul Howl’s work, said Mira’s intuition.
However, all of what lined up here were corpses which would not show any response to Life Sensing. Suspicious about that point, Mira had once again concentrated her consciousness.
Then, she could feel a response from the back, around the throne. When Mira turned her gaze in that direction, she saw a clearly different existence there. There were two thrones lined up. Seeing a woman on one of the thrones, the one for the queen, Mira gasped.
Aged about seventeen, eighteen years old and was clad in a beautiful, elegant dress. A beauty with ephemeral but distinct facial features. She had clear indigo blue hair reaching her waist and skin so white it felt very sickly.
Although she was a very attractive woman, the reason for Mira’s gasp was somewhere else. It was that despite the fact she could sense life from the woman, she did not appear to be alive at all.
The woman’s eyes were closed and she was faintly smiling, it was a smile devoid of any emotions to the point she could be described as expressionless.
However, it was not a corpse. Wanting to learn what is going on, Mira extended her hand to touch her skin.
The living woman’s skin, was cold as ice.
“Soul Howl, are you here?!”
As expected, completely unable to grasp the situation she decided to call out the name of the one she searched. However, even as ten, twenty seconds passed there was no response. Giving up after thirty seconds, she decided that he was not home and started to searching for hints.
To start with, she entered the room behind the throne room and immediately found what she looked for. Inside the room she found a large amount of papers and books scattered. On top of the table located in the middle, there were resources such as encyclopedias or ancient manuscripts, and on the pieces of paper scattered from on top of the table were countless hastily-written notes.
Thinking they might become a hint, Mira started picking the countless notes and passed her eyes through them.
“Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree...huh.”
Mira spoke the answer she had come to based on the resources.
Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree. It was capable of recovering any and all abnormal status, heal any wounds, remove all evil, even push death aside and remove any kinds of penalties received during combat, furthermore, it was the ultimate defense against Devils who were the enemy of humanity. A legendary-class rare item.
However, there was not even a rumor of anyone acquiring it. It was even unknown whether it was a drop from monsters, a crafted item, or an item acquired from some place in dungeon. Which is why between players it was treated as an unimplemented item existing only as data.
An item that only existed as information, that was the Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree.
(“Why did that guy investigate something like this?”)
Certainly it had unprecedented effectiveness. However, Mira had no idea why would he desire it so much that he would gather this much documentation for it.
Being one of the Nine Sages, it was hard to fall in a situation where they required the Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree.
Then why? As she thought so, in the back of Mira’s mind appeared the frozen woman from earlier.
Leaving the room, Mira returned to the throne room and started investigating the woman from her toes to up to the top of her head. Ogling the young woman’s body all over as if licking it with her gaze, Mira was a pervert not much different from Soul Howl. Realizing that mid-way, Mira told her an excuse that it was for the sake of discovering the truth.
“Can’t see anything.”
After a round of investigation and especially careful checking of the skirt part of the dress, she returned it back to the normal state and took a step behind to capture her in sight all at once.
First of all, the woman’s state was too abnormal and there was no way of judging what was going on.
However, looking at her from the front Mira noticed. Because the woman in a sitting position, her back was still unchecked.
Slowly and carefully moving the woman forward, Mira checked the state of her back and was shocked.
The back of the dress was widely-open and there was not a single scar on it. However, there was a dark, noxiously looking blood directly leaking out from the skin to create a hexagram shape.
And Mira had a memory of the state the woman’s back was in.
There were shapes and symbols around the hexagram, and engraved inside were the letters XV. These odd circles on the woman’s back were a seal. Called the Curse of Underworld or Devil’s Blessing, it meant certain death.
Among quests related to this seal was one called “Shadow of Dark Wings". The content of it was to save a knight who received a seal, but it ended with the knight dying to the seal anyway.
That bad impression was what made Mira to remember it well even now.
And this memory she had recalled connected with the Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree. Soul Howl must have been trying to remove this seal with the power of the chalice. Because it used to be a part of the event, it was impossible to remove the seal with spells or medicine.
If a player was asked for the one thing that had the possibility of removing it, any of them would respond with the Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree’s name. Mira also thought there was no other thing that could do it.
Once again Mira looked at the woman. She was cold like ice, but there was a response to Life Sensing so it could be concluded that she was still alive.
Frozen while remaining still alive. Although Mira had no knowledge of such a spell, but she recalled some of the documents she rummaged through earlier. Other than things regarding the Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree, there also were many entries regarding Necromancy.
Soul Howl used Necromancy to put her in a state where the progress of the seal was slowed down. Then, searching for a solution he left on a journey. This was Mira’s conjecture.
“For a living woman, huh. Looks like even he changed a little.”
Recalling how Soul Howl went around saying “Undead girls are moeee!” , Mira said farewell to the woman on the throne and left the throne room.
Although one of the Nine Sages was not there in the ancient temple, there was evidence he did exist in this world. With that said, if he was searching for a legendary item such as Brilliant Chalice of Divine Decree, it was unknown when would he come back.
Mira walked around the castle recovering documents that could act as hints for his destination.
“Ohh, this is niiice.”
While she walked around gathering notes on his experiments and studies of Necromancy, Mira encountered what was Soul Howl’s room with clothes.
Although they could never come to an understanding in regards to fetishes, the only thing that Mira, or rather, Danbulf and Soul Howl had a little common was their taste in clothes. Inside the rough-looking stone room, there was a mirror so large it reached the ceiling and several hangers lined up one next to another. And they were packed with robes just to Mira’s liking.
Seeing the robes all being in colors and shapes that gave off dark impression, Mira’s eyes sparkled.
“I guess there will be no problem if I take one or two of them.”
Saying an excuse to no one in particular, as she started to search through robes, Mira thought she can give it back some day. There was no need to remain dressed according to maids’ preferences, it was best to dress according to one’s own preferences, is the thinking Mira came to.
After taking off the gothic lolita-like clothes, she took various robes and put them on. However, but of course, the size did not fit, and every time she put one of the robes on she was disappointed.
Still, she did not give up and as she continued to rummage through the clothes, until she arrived at a hanger with short robes. Because they were short, if she turned the sleeves to the inside they would fit her.
Flipping the barely-enough long hem she looked at the mirror, once again confirming her own attractiveness and muttered with a satisfied look.
A short robe was a basic equipment which required both top and bottom parts of the outfit. Although Mira was no longer dragging the hem behind her, it now looked no different than a miniskirt. Looking at how her own panties peeked out she thought it was real nice, but also realized this is was not the thing she looked for, and with great pain gave up on changing clothes.
Clad again in a goth loli-like outfit, Mira returned to the first floor of the castle where everyone was waiting.
By the castle’s entrance, Emera and Fricca snuggled up to one another with pale faces. Asbar’s face also didn’t have the best color. As for Zeff, he was playing cards with Takuto and when he noticed Mira walk down the stairs, he lightly welcomed her by waving his hand.
“You guys, what happened?”
In response to Mira’s question, Emera and Fricca returned empty gazes.
“Really, what happened…?”
With a wry smile, Mira looked away from them and immediately after, received Takuto who rushed at her.
“Welcome back, Mira-oneechan.”
Compared to the two, Takuto had a carefree smile to which Mira gently smiled back.
“Were you a good boy?”
Takuto responded lively and nodded with a smile. Mira said “I see, I see" and pat his head.
“Mira-chan...what is this place…wasn’t it supposed to be empty…?”
With a very uneasy look on her face, Emera completely ignored the difference in their age and clung onto Mira.
“What is it, did something happen?”
“There were dead maids, a lot of maids…"
While being shaken wildly, Mira realized everything from Emera’s words. Emera and others must have seen female bodies just like those in the throne room. And a lot of them, too. Looking from the side, Soul Howl’s actions were insane. For a person who thinks normally, it was something that could even damage their mentality. However, Mira who gained some resistance to it due to acquaintance with Soul Howl, only thought that it has gone worse, but was not bothered by it.
“There is no need to worry. It’s all related to Necromancy.”
When Mira answered looking knowledgeable, in daze Emera said “Necromancy?” and tilted her head.
“Does that mean there’s a Necromancer in here?”
Looking completely exhausted, Asbar turned his gaze to Mira while still sitting down. Beside him, Fricca appeared to look for answer too as she nodded.
“There is evidence that he was here, but it looks like he isn’t right now.”
“From your way of speaking it appears like you had business with that Necromancer, is that right, Mira-chan?”
“Well, that’s how it is. So, there’s no need to be particularly concerned about. His hobbies are like you can see, but he’s not a bad guy.”
Despite what Mira said, neither Emera nor anyone else had any intention of nodding.
To be precise, Necromancy was not a branch of magic manipulating bodies, but one that manipulated souls. And that soul itself was the pure positive energy, which through a spell could be poured into stone dolls or corpses.
And Necromancy itself was officially one of the nine great spellcasting schools. This was the reason that the people around the world did not hold an image of it being heretical, heartless or immoral. With that said, it did have a dark and creepy impression.
Thanks to Mira’s words everyone found out that Necromancy was the reason behind it, and as expected, Emera and Fricca, as well as Asbar did not try to probe any further. However, Zeff was an exception.
“Necromancy...I wonder how do you get about to using it.”
Having his heart shaken by beauties and beautiful girls, Zeff leaked such half-serious words.