Beneath the sky that had recovered the sparkle of tiny stardust, the countless stalls standing by the city’s main street started recovering their liveliness.
Since it was apparently common sense to hold a party after completing an adventure, Emera and others would be holding one in an inn called “Spring Snowfall".
After being forced to make a promise she would join them later, Mira together with Takuto came to the Spellcasters’ Union.
It was very lively under the brightly shining lights inside the union. To take care of the remains of zombies and also with formalities of adventurers, the union’s employees were running all over.
“This looks busy…"
After seeing this hustling and bustling scenery, Mira and Takuto looked into each others’ faces.
Pulling Takuto’s hand, Mira headed to the corner of the building that had relatively few people in it. Placed there was the recycle box and since she was already there, Mira threw the used-up permit inside.
『”Thank you, you are very kind.”』
A very cutely voice of a girl sounded from the recycle box, and while it was unknown how did it work, a hand-sized girl appeared on top of the box, then smiled before then disappearing as if nothing happened.
“What was that…?"
While Takuto happily looked at the recycle box with interest from various angles, Mira only muttered with a wry smile.
Mira turned her gaze towards a merry female voice, there, she saw Yuurika holding some documents.
“Ohh, it’s you.”
After a moment, Mira turned towards the acquainted face.
“Can it be that you already entered the ancient temple?”
“Mm-hm. My business is done so I recycled.”
“Is that so, thank you very much. By the way, who is this child with you?”
Said Yuurika and pointed with her gaze towards Takuto who was all over the recycle box.
“I met him the other day, it seems like he wants to become a Summoner! I heard you can check this spellcaster aptitude thing for him, so I brought him with me.”
Mira explained, hearing those words Takuto stood in front of Yuurika and bowed slightly.
“Please take care of me. My name is Takuto, I want to become strong like Mira-oneechan.”
He said and raised his face with, he made a serious expression filled with expectation.
“Takuto-kun, is it. I’m Yuurika-oneechan, let’s get along.”
While saying so, Yuurika smiled gently towards Takuto.
“If you are Mira-san’s acquaintance, then I guess we can examine you right away. Also, the thing we spoke of the other day has been prepared, will you receive it today?”
For just a moment, Mira wondered what is this about. But after a moment, she recalled that when she was registering as an adventurer, they said they have to pass something Solomon-related to her.
“Mm-hm, I guess. I will take it.”
Mira tensed her expression into a serious one and nodded.
“Then, this way please.”
Still holding the documents, Yuurika started walking ahead of them. Mira held Takuto’s hand and as to make sure they did not notice that she forgot all about it, she followed Yuurika as naturally as possible.
“I brought Mira-san.”
“Ohh, come on in.”
When Yuurika knocked on the union chief’s door spoke, a lively voice responded from the inside.
“Now then, Takuto-kun comes this way. Let’s examine your aptitude while Mira-oneechan is talking.”
Yuurika leaned forward to match Takuto’s height and extender her hand to him.
There, Takuto glanced towards Mira to confirm what should he do.
“I might take some time, go on.”
Mira let go of his hand and with her now free hand, she lightly pushed his back.
Takuto nodded lively and pulled by Yuurika’s hand, he headed off to have his aptitude examined.
After saying so, Mira opened the door to stare suspiciously at the union chief who was tilting a glass in great mood.
“What’s this? You look like you have really good mood.”
Mira said and sat down on the chair in front of Leonil. Then, in no time, Leonil’s secretary placed tea and cake on top of the table.
When Mira came the other day, the two chatted and hit it off well. As such, they learned that both of them are bad with formalities and have decided not to care about such things. Also, Mira shrewdly requested the secretary to serve some cake and tea whenever she comes.
“Well, take this for now.”
While Mira stuffed herself with cake, she only glanced at the two things Leonil put on the table. One thing was a black card, the other one was a sealed letter.
“Is this the thing you said was related to Solomon?”
She placed the fork beside the plate, took the card in her hand and asked. The card was black and slippery like glass, engraved on the back there were complicated symbols and magic circles.
“This is what they call a permit pass for a forbidden area.”
“Forbidden area, you say?”
Mira raised her head and asked the question. In response, Leonil picked up a folded map and spread it on the table. It was the map of one of Ark-Ars Online regions, Shmegoofe region and islands surrounding it.
“Do you know of dungeons called Heavenly-Demon Mazes?”
“Mm-hm. I do.”
Heavenly-Demons’ Maze. That was the nickname of multiple dungeons existing in this continent which had very peculiar nature. Mira has visited them countless times, so she naturally nodded.
“That makes things quick. Although that place was very mysterious for a long time, but for some time now the number of mysteries concerning it has increased. And now, they’ve been set as specially designated forbidden area.”
“Mysteries? What do you mean by that?”
Heavenly-Demon Mazes were different from a regular dungeons. All monsters that appeared inside were subspecies and they were stronger than their basic counterparts. Also, from the treasure boxes or the boss in the deepest part of those, sometimes one could receive items that had “heavenly-demon" in the name. This is the reason why they have been been called Heavenly-Demons’ Mazes.
Why did powerful subspecies appear in them? Why did heavenly-demon equipment drop in them? It was unknown why was it, but if the mysteries increased it meant that there was something more to them now. Mira displayed interest in this new mystery that Leonil mentioned.
“Apparently, treasures inside this dungeon reappear after some time passes.”
So what? Is what Mira was about to say, but desisted from it.
In a game it was natural that a dungeon’s treasure has reappeared. If that was not the case, the unique items that could be acquired in that dungeon would be limited to a single one, and a fight over such an item would break out. However, to Leonil that seemed to be a mystery. In other words, in this real-turned world it was common sense that a treasure box was a one-time thing, and realistically thinking that was normal, too.
As a result, one could infer that Heavenly-Demon Mazes were abnormal.
“So... did something happen over the ever-recovering treasure?”
Although it was abnormal, it was also a chance to get a fortune. In which case it would be natural for people to flood there, and when people gather, problems happen.
“As expected of Danbulf-sama’s disciple. As you say, the scramble over treasure has grown to an intolerable scale, so to prevent it, the areas have been sealed as forbidden. Well, there was a fairly strong backlash to this, of course.”
Leonil smiled bitterly and, finished speaking and pointed at one location on the map. It was the center of the forest spreading Southwest of Arkite Kingdom.
“This permit is for the “Primal Forest" Heavenly-Demons’ Maze. I don’t know why Solomon-sama has requested me to give it to you, but I had a really hard time issuing it.”
Is what he said, but for some reason he looked to be in very good mood.
“From the look of things, you must have charged him well for this.”
“Well, I just requested some financing, that’s all.”
The two’s line of sight crossed, and “He’s already got plenty of trouble on his head, don’t bully him too much.” Mira said, worried about her friend and brought the topic to a finish. Then, she put down the card and next, picked up the sealed letter.
“And what is this one?”
There was no way she could see through it, but Mira raised it up as if she tried to.
“This is a wyvern mail which came addressed to you this morning. It was sent by someone called Lily, sounds familiar?”
Hearing these words Mira traced her memory and soon reached a certain woman. The maid who came to wake Mira up in the morning in Arkite Castle. At the same time, a chill ran down Mira’s spine.
“M-...mm-hm. I know her.”
“What, you don’t look too happy. A woman Danbulf-sama’s disciple is bad with, huh, this makes me curious.”
Leonil said and raised ends of his lips in a grin. Although Mira had no idea why did Lily go out of her way to send the letter, she had a hunch it was nothing good and decided not to read it here, instead throwing it inside the item box.
“To change the topic, tell me, do you think Devils have been wiped out?”
Although Devils are said not to exist anymore, one did appear on the sixth level. Mira’s words had a purpose of probing what Leonil, who seemed well informed, knew about it.
"...Looks like you saw something.”
After a few seconds of silence, Leonil spoke. It appeared like he knew something. Based on his expression and the way he spoke, it could be inferred that it was very serious matter.
“There was one of those Devils in the deepest part of ancient temple.”
Mira swallowed the cream in her mouth along with tea, then spoke. It was the report of the investigation she had promised Leonil to do when she had registered as adventurer.
“A Devil...you say? Not Lesser Demon, but an actual Devil?!”
“Mm-hm, it was an earl of 3rd rank.”
Devils have been treated as extinct after the Defense of Three Gods’ Countries, and in fact, there has been no official report of any Devil appearing since then. However, Leonil’s information network caught a shadow here and there of something that looked like them.
Can it be that they were still alive? Is what he thought before, and now in fact he was told that a Devil had appeared. If it was not Mira but some other adventurer who reported this, Leonil would only put this information in the corner of his mind. There have been multiple incidents that did smell like a Devil’s doing, but investigation into every one of them ended up as either being a mistake or a an appearance of a new monster subtype that looked similar to a Devil.
However, this time was different. The person who reported it was Sage Danbulf’s disciple and someone trusted by Arkite Kingdom’s King Solomon. She also knew as much as the Devil’s rank. Her credibility was extremely high.
“It can’t be… No, I see. In such case, the cause of that failure was…”
Hearing that fact, Leonil made a surprised expression at first, but a Devil who held great power was a piece to fit the puzzle in his mind.
“It seems like you have something in mind?”
Leonil opened his eyes wide and his mouth twisted into a grimace. Peeking into his clearly changed expression, Mira asked.
“I-indeed. It’s about ancient temple’s barrier device, however.”
Starting like that, Leonil started explaining while sorting the information for himself as well.
“First, let’s start with basics. You’ve seen it so I guess you already know, but there’s only one entrance to ancient temple’s underground. And there, has been placed a barrier device which requires anyone to have a permit in order to enter the dungeon.”
Just like he said it was very basic information, Mira carried some of the cake to her mouth and responded affirmatively.
“This is no exception even for a Devil. However, a Devil had appeared there, hasn’t he. Then, how did he enter?”
“Hmm, the barrier did work as it should, however.”
When she was entering the ancient temple, Mira certainly had to remove the barrier with her own hand, she thought and nodded. After confirming that response, Leonil pulled out some documents from a drawer and threw them.
“You see, about a month ago the barrier device had a malfunction. The reason behind it was unknown, but your report explains it.”
Mira picked up the bundle of documents that fell in the corner of the sofa and confirmed the content written in there, grasping the situation.
These documents were a report of examination the barrier device has undergone. Since there was a lot of complicated specialist language in there, Mira skipped most of it and from the list of possible reasons for malfunction, she focused on single one of them.
In case of an abnormally strong power used on the barrier from the outside... It said.
“I see. I don’t know how strong the barrier is, but that Devil might have been able to do this.”
“Yeah, a device made to stop adventurers below C-rank wouldn’t stop an earl-class Devil. As a result, a month ago there was a device malfunction.”
Coming to such a conclusion, Leonil heaved a deep sigh and “If I only knew from the start.” he said in a voice so quiet even Mira could not hear it.
“In other words, this Devil came here a month ago.”
“Yeah, that’s right. It’s safe to assume so. ...Wait. If I’m not wrong, zombies started appear a month ago, too…"
After establishing the time when the Devil came to the city, it had overlapped with the timing that zombie trouble started. Was it really a coincidence? Leonil deliberated carefully.
As he continued to build up a theory with the information, he leaked words such as “I see.”, “So that was it.”, “Which means.”. Meanwhile, Mira stuffed her cheeks with cake and passed her eyes through a certain line in the document. Written in there was “one investigator missing".
“Yes, I don’t think zombies and that Devil are unrelated. In which case, he must have done something to make zombies overflow in the city, huh.”
Having assembled his thoughts, Leonil looked outside at the city which turned into a battlefield not so long ago.
“Speaking of which, what happened to that Devil?”
Leonil asked Mira as if he just recalled it. The appearance of the Devil was overly sudden and had connected with the zombie incident. Because of that, he forgot something even more important.
“He was a good opponent for me to grasp sense for combat.”
While recalling the sensation she felt with her body during combat, Mira only relayed the result to Leonil. Actual combat in this real-turned world. It certainly gave me a real sensation, Mira thought as she immersed herself in that experience. She did feel like this most important experience was priceless.
“As expected of a Sage’s disciple. That is something a normal person like me could never say. Really splendid.”
Just the fact of being a Devil makes it a powerful creature, even more so when it comes to an earl-ranked one. However, Mira had displayed results worthy of a hero disciple’s title.
Hearing that a problem hiding nearby was gone, Leonil was relieved from the bottom of his heart and did not spare her praise.
“Still, while we know how this happened, we don’t know why.”
Leonil said and groaned. Although he thought there was no doubt it was the Devil who caused the zombie incident, he had no idea what was the Devil trying to do.
“I thought those zombies were looking for something, but if a Devil was involved then that possibility disappears.”
“Mm-hm. If he wanted to find something, he has pawns like Devil Bats and Sealing Eyes that could do it.”
Mira spoke names of two monsters, confirming.
Devils had many underlings that they could use, including ones excelling at searching things, they were namely Devil Bats and Ceiling Eyes1Not entirely sure if it’s Sealing or Ceiling, but considering the context of searching/spying inside the city, it’s most likely some ceiling-crawling spying eye-creature., and having them there was no need to go out of his way to use zombies.
“Well in any case, there is no explanation to today’s turmoil.”
“It was quite different from what was happening up until now, too.”
Until the other day, zombies did not bring any harm to humans and only started to wander around at night. However, zombies today started appearing during the day and assaulted people indiscriminately.
The two thought deeply over the reason for that, but in the end, most likely due to lack of information, they did not find the answer.
Then, Leonil had completely lost himself in the sea of thoughts as he searched for the truth behind the zombie incidents. Since this happened often, the female secretary sincerely apologized to Mira.
Since she had many people who acted similar among her acquaintances, with a smile Mira told the secretary not to worry, then said farewell to her and left the union chief’s office.