The night grew deeper and the bustling city started to dye in silent darkness. On the other hand, countless stars shining in the sky became more lively at this time.
Mira who finished saying her farewells with Emera and others, left the inn and started walking through Karnack’s streets at night. There were sporadic people walking the streets and about half of them were Patrol Knights.
“I will escort you, Mira-san.”
It was Celo who called out to her like that. He was standing under a lantern in front of the inn and the moment Mira came out, he smiled and walked up to her.
“I’ll pass, is what I would like to say, but I also had something to talk with you about.”
The Écarlate Carillon’s guild leader, Celo. Since Mira was unable to 《Inspect》 him, there was a high possibility he was the same as Mira and Solomon, an ex-player. And Celo must have thought the same, too.
Discerning that Celo’s real intention was not what he said, Mira nodded in agreement and smiled.
With the two’s intentions matching, they started walking the night street together.
The regularly-placed lanterns were filled with faint light and showed the contours of the main street. Most likely because of the earlier turmoil, in some places lanterns were broken which caused the mountains of zombie corpses to stand out and look even more creepy.
However, Mira and Celo were not bothered by that in the least as they walked.
“Now then, it seems like you have already noticed the real reason I said I will escort you.”
After they walked down the main street for some time, Celo said so and turned his face towards Mira. The tone of his voice suggested he was enjoying himself and his expression was like that of someone reminiscing about an old friend.
Although involuntarily Mira had to look up at his face, she puffed her chest as if to say “of course".
“It’s clearly because both you and I used to be players.”
“Yes, that is the reason. And so, by all means I would like to talk a little.”
Celo nodded slightly and affirmed with a carefree smile. With his androgynous and extremely-well ordered features, this smile was charming enough to make most women swoon.
But, Mira was completely unconcerned with it, she made a confident expression and responded with “very well".
“Mira-san, how much time has passed since you came to this world?”
“About a week I guess, hmm.”
Most likely thanks to Celo’s presence there was no Patrol Knight who would call out to Mira, she continued to walk calmly down the street at night.
“So it was very recently, as I thought..”
Celo had anticipated that Mira’s transfer must have been recent and he muttered as if convinced. The reason for that, was because the majority of ex-players in this world excelled at something and Celo had a good grasp on who they are. And among them, there were even fewer who were capable of overwhelming a Devil.
Over these thirty years, it was a confirmed fact that many ex-players suddenly appeared in this world. This was the reason he thought it would be more reliable to think in this direction, and which allowed him to conjecture this.
“And yet, you appear unexpectedly calm. Back then, I desperately did my best to look for a way to return to our original world.”
He made a somewhat lonely, faint smile, as if he was talking about something embarrassing that happened when he was still a child.
“Well. If the situation was different I might have been the same.”
As Mira squinted, in the back of her mind appeared the image of her friends.
The way to come back to their original world. Mira also thought about it. However, after a while she gave up on thinking about it. The reason for that were Solomon and Luminaria.
When she was speaking with the two, she once asked them about it. The answer she received to that was “as you can see".
Even after thirty years, the way to return to their original world still had yet be found. Otherwise, Solomon would not continue to live for thirty years, and Luminaria twenty years in this world.
“It’s thanks to my friends being there.”
The two were there, she spoke with the two, and if she was not taught many things by them she would still be confused right now. While Mira felt very thankful to the two, she was also very bashful of her own words and made a bitter smile as if to hide it.
“Friends, is it. You mean friends who came to this world before you, yes? That must have been very reassuring. I understand that very well.”
He too seemed to have such experience deep inside his heart, and when Celo agreed with her in voice suddenly overcome with emotion,
“Well, now I’m being worked hard by that friend of mine, however.” Mira joked around and snorted.
“Still, to meet a friend within a week of coming here, you must have been very lucky. In my case a lot happened and it took a year.”
“That long? I guess it’s because when I came to this world the tower was very close by. I found my friend’s location right away.”
The place her life in this world had started. If it happened to be somewhere else, somewhere deep inside a forest, it could have been troublesome even getting to the closest town.
“Tower, you say? Speaking of towers, you must mean the Silver Towers. Ahh, speaking of which, you were Danbulf-san’s disciple, was it. So that was why it was close.”
When Celo had mentioned her title, Mira’s expression stiffened slightly as she answered.
As an ex-player, Celo might have known Danbulf himself. There was a concern that Mira said something she should not, her identity might be found out and Danbulf’s dignity could sink low. Wanting to avoid that at all costs, Mira immediately thought of that and came up with several excuses she lined up in her mind.
“I haven’t heard before of not only Danbulf-san, but also other Sages having a disciple, but… Can it be that you were real friends (who know each other in real)?”
Although there were fakes who named themselves Sage’s disciples, this was a first time someone appeared who had Mira’s considerable level of strength and who also used Danbulf’s own fighting style. With that said, back when it was still a game there was absolutely no information in regards to a disciple’s existence.
A Summoner and Daoist. Based on what he heard from Emera and others, Celo knew that Mira had acquired the special ability called 《Second Class》 which allowed to use 《Spells》 and 《Skills》 of these two completely different classes.
The more powerful the ability, the more likely it was for someone to take the measure of keeping it to themselves to stay ahead of others. Celo knew this from experience.
What kind of relationship would they need to be in to share such a technique? Thinking so, Celo came up with the connection in their original world. If they were strongly connected in their original world, it would make sense that she fought this way.
“Ah. But it could be that Mira-san is actually Danbulf-san.”
Celo half-jokingly spoke something as if he had just came up with it. However, his smiling face was serious and it seemed as if he could see right through Mira’s inner thoughts.
(“He’s spot ooon! What do I do?! No, wait, I’m sure he was trying to joke. In such case, should I laugh it off as a joke? Or maybe I should say he’s correct, and if he laughs it would be taken as a joke? ...What is the correct answeeer?!”)
Having suddenly the truth pointed out, Mira took out Apple au Lait in silence and sipped some and pretending to be calm, she did her best to maintain a smile. While restraining the impulse, she opened up a huge dispute in her mind before resolving herself.
"...Of course not. We’re real friends, I was taught a lot in the real world, too. In game we mainly played separately and my log times were irregular, so it’s no wonder you don’t know me.”
While she was aware that this was quite a forced excuse, Mira pretended to be calm as she said her improvised setting.
“I see, so that’s how it was.”
Celo did not probe any further and accepted Mira’s explanation.
(“Was he...convinced by that…?”)
Mira fearfully peeked at Celo’s expression, but there was no sign of contempt on it. Based on that, she was relieved that the excuse must have worked. Celo stared at Mira’s such blatant attitude with a gentle look in his eyes.
“Let's put my topic aside, could you tell me about yourself? I want to know how are players living in this world.”
Feeling that if she speaks any more about herself she would end up slipping up somewhere, Mira attempted to change the topic. The thing she proposed instead, was something she was incredibly curious about.
Solomon and Luminaria could be said to be living in very peculiar environment. What Mira was curious was a different life from that, one of an “adventurer" who walked all across this enormous world.
“Well. First, I started ten days after the day of beginning.”
“Hmm. What is this “day of beginning”?”
“So you still haven’t heard of it. The day of beginning is the day the game became reality, the 14th October of 2116. Apparently, all players who are here, were logged in back then.”
“Fourteenth of October, huh. Certainly, It happened to me on that day, too.”
Tracing back his cloudy memory, Mira recalled the date that was on the mail notification about web money expiration. The date on the mail was 13th. In other words, one day before the beginning.
“So even those who come thirty years late are the same. Even though the day everyone played is the same, the time we appear in this world can by off by a large margin, I wonder what does that margin mean.”
“Certainly, I wonder what.”
Mira responded and for a moment she wondered about this time difference. However, there was no way for her to resolve this question no one has resolved for thirty years, and as such she quickly gave up on thinking.
“See, at first I was very confused. Suddenly the air started to feel very fresh and the pain from wounds I received from monsters were hard to endure. Not understanding the situation I tried to log out, but the option was gone. I really panicked back then.”
Recalling what happened back in the day, Celo squinted his eyes as if looking somewhere far into the distance.
“After that, I quickly ran off to a village nearby and stood there astonished. There was no acquaintance nearby, and I was at a loss on what to do all alone. But at that time, there was a woman who called out to me. It was not any of my friends nor a player who was in the same situation as me. That woman was one of NPCs whom I ignored up until now as I passed by her.”
Celo said, then continued nostalgically.
Back then, due to either deep confusion or tiredness, Celo made a fairly horrible expression which was what made the woman worried and call out to him.
Although Celo was surprised at the NPC doing an action unheard of before, since his spirit was at the lowest he depended on the woman’s kindness and started freeloading in her house.
After he spend a year helping out with the housework and exterminating monsters that appeared at the road to city and around the village, Celo understood from the bottom of his heart that he was living in reality.
At the same time, a small light appeared in his chest. Although it was very small, Celo felt it was something very important.
Ever since that day, Celo did his best teaching the youngsters how to fight in order to decrease the casualties caused by monsters.
It took quite some time until what he started without prior knowledge, had taken shape. But, it was worth it, as thanks to the monster subjugation squad he formed, the human casualties disappeared.
Then once his life in the village calmed down, Celo left for a journey. Although searching players under the same circumstances was one of the objectives, above all he wanted to be of use to people, that is what he has come to think.
It was the result of his life in the village and the villagers’ kindness moving his heart.
After saying this much, Celo paused and recalling the night sky in his memory, he looked up to the sky. His story was something like a monologue, but it felt like it was full of burning emotions which reached Mira.
“I started my journey for such self-complacent reason, but I ended up finding out the situation of other players laughably fast. The village I was in seemed to be quite the sticks. After I passed the mountains and arrived at a moderately big city I found Adventurers’ Joint Union and when I entered it, by chance I found a friend of mine. I was really surprised back then.
This friend of mine taught me a lot of things. As a result of hearing about many changes and things that happened, I understood that the Adventurers’ Union was the place I could do what I wanted to do. I was really happy as I registered.
After that, I received many requests and started a travel to return the favor. Then, along the way I met people who shared similar feelings. Mira-san, it’s the two you already know, Asbar and Emera. For a while after the three of us traveled together, but eventually the number of people who related to us started increasing. Then, I resolved myself and I started the guild we are now.”
As he said this, Celo spilled a happy smile and from his pocket he took out a small bell he rang.
“I see. This might come from me who had a friend close by, but I think you also had great luck to meet someone who saved you, and to find people who related to you.”
The feelings Celo had arrived at after many hardships were not wrong. Mira said so as to praise him highly and raised the corners of her mouth in a smile.
“I...guess. It seems that both back then and now, I was and am, blessed with wonderful people.”
Straightening his back with confidence, Celo smiled with pride.
Formation of Écarlate Carillon. That event was entirely result of people naturally gathering by Celo’s side after being deeply impressed by his conviction. He himself said with a bitter smile it was for his self-satisfaction, but it was not something that just anyone could do.
Impressed by Celo’s conviction, Mira responded affirmatively. At the same time, she started to realize the reason why he spoke with this much detail.
“Right now, the number of members increased and so has the number of things we can do. However, the only ones we can save are people who are within our reach. No matter how desperately we extend our hands, there were many times when we were unable reach and they slipped from our grasp. I was so vexed, so frustrated, I wished so many times to have hands that could reach even wider, even further.”
Frustrated from the bottom of his heart, Celo looked at the bell in his hand, then resolving himself he spoke his true intention.
“Mira-san, would you please join my guild?”
Celo spoke those words very simply, but putting all his feelings into them.
(“Hmm, so that was it after all.”)
Under the light of lanterns, the expression Mira had stared back at was showing just how incredibly serious he was. It said all about just how deeply he regretted not being able to save those people.
“Sorry. Despite how I look, I’m in a very busy position right now. I can’t allow myself to join any group.”
However, Mira had a promise which she gave to Solomon, to search their past comrades. And also, she had the position as part of Arkite Kingdom’s strongest fighting power, one of the “Nine Sages”.
Hearing his story, Mira thought that Celo’s actions were praiseworthy, which was the reason why others who felt similar to him had become his comrades. However, Mira was shouldering an even more important wish of her close friend.
“Is that so… I could somehow tell I would be refused, but I tried since I have nothing to lose. You are busy in relation to the dates you mentioned earlier, aren’t you?”
Although Celo was disappointed, he did not show it and smiled instead.
“Mm-hm, indeed. Well, I won’t enter your guild, but if I hear a voice seeking help during my travels, I promise you that I will help them with all I have. How about it?”
Mira put a finger on her chin, and while saying so she peeked up at Celo.
Although she was looking up at him, her words were full of composure. “Thank you" Celo answered and smiled broadly..
The two continued to walk down the main street while talking about their memories from the time it was a game, until they suddenly stopped in front of a mountain of zombies. This pile was the closest one to the center of the city and was far bigger than others.
“Still, your exploits today were amazing. I was very surprised when Valkyrie sisters suddenly appeared.”
Celo looked up at the mountain in front of them and spoke a little enviously. In no time the seven battle maidens decimated zombies who went berserk in the town and created an opportunity for a counter-attack. And it was Mira who commanded that strength. Celo both admired it and was envious of this power, which was on a level far above his own.
“Indeed! And that’s not all the power Summoning has to offer.”
Mira’s eyes sparkled at the ideal reaction he has shown and suddenly grew haughty.
“As expected of Danbulf-san...’s disciple.”
“Mm-hm, I haven’t heard any good opinion about it this entire week, but now that I’m here everything will be fine!”
Glowing with self-satisfaction, Mira did not notice the nuance in Celo’s words as she smiled proudly.
“Nevertheless, I wonder what was this turmoil today. Although they were same zombies made with soil and plants, they were completely different aside from that. It has been about half a month since we started investigating this incident, but this is the first time something like this happened.”
Looking at the mountain of zombies again, Celo spoke as if to consult with her. Hearing that, Mira recalled the conversation she had with Leonil earlier.
“In regards to this matter, we thought about this with Spellcasters’ Union’s boss and——"
Mira turned her gaze towards the mountain of zombies and started explaining to Celo about the relation between the Devil and zombies that she discussed in the union chief’s office.
The malfunction of the barrier device and the appearance of zombies happened at very similar time, and that it has been thought that the barrier device malfunctioned due to some kind of great power. In addition to that, she mentioned that the Devil in the ancient temple’s deepest level possessed enough power to break the barrier.
As a result of arranging of these information, Mira conjectured that this Devil who was lurking in the ancient temple’s was the one who caused this turmoil.
After he finished listening to the explanation, while surprised by the fact that a Devil was involved, “I see" he said and agreed that this theory had very high credibility.
“If it was a Devil’s doing, we should not let our guard down. This result might have some other meaning behind it.”
Whenever Devils were involved, most of the events end with a tragedy. That was the common recognition among players and everyone had bitter memories of it. Moreover, among them there were cases where a supposedly happy ending was suddenly turned around to become the worst one possible. The moment they resolved the problems and let their guard down, something fatal happened.
They cleaned up the zombies going rampant in the city, but it was possible that this was just a preparation for something else. Thinking so, Celo glared at the mountain of zombies vigilantly.
“That is possible. But then again, what kind of meaning can it have?”
Among high-level quests there were many related to Devils, and Mira had experienced them more than others due to her strength. This was why she made an irritated expression now as she turned towards the main street that had mountains of zombies scattered all over.
(“Still, there’s a lot of them. This is no thousand or two. More like ten thousands.”)
Mira counted the number of piles as she thought so, but then suddenly stopped looking around. She turned around again, looked up at the biggest pile of zombies and recalled.
“Influence death has on land, huh…"
About what happened a few days earlier. The invasion of monster herds and monster corpse-filled flower field. As well as Lesser Demons who arranged that.
If that Devil schemed the same thing those Lesser Demons have… Thinking so, Mira suddenly felt a vague discomfort.
“Influence death has on land? What do you mean by that?”
Celo asked with interest when hearing the mutter Mira spilled,
“Hmm, well. I guess it might be better if you knew this.”
Mira heard from Emera and others that Lesser Demons appeared not only in Arkite Kingdom, but in other places as well. She could conjecture that they were doing the same thing in other places as well. To give Celo heads-up and put him on alert, Mira told him everything she knew.
That there was the hypothesis that due to countless death overflowing in one place, the land could change and become a Mournful Swamp of Undead.
A land holding power, a large amount of corpses and loss of large amount of lives. These three factors were said to be necessary.
And that the Lesser Demon had brought large number of monsters to fight one another on the field, then as if to prove that theory, he laughed with irritating voice.
After finishing her rough explanation, Mira boasted that the second invasion has been completely prevented so there was no effect.
“I heard of Lesser Demons appearing, but I did not think they were doing such things.”
While arranging the information inside his head, Celo compared the things that happened so far. In the middle of that, he spoke as if he recalled something.
“Speaking of which, it was about two months ago. A friend of mine made a racket that he saw a Lesser Demon. And the place it happened was in Symbios Spirit Garden’s mass grave cemetery. Moreover, he said that the Lesser Demon was digging out a large number of corpses. My friend said he cut down the Lesser Demon on spot, so the goal remained unknown, but is it really a coincidence that these cases are connected by corpses?”
Mira’s story and his friend’s story, as well as the piles of corpses in front. They were all connected by the fact all involved large amounts of corpses. However, there were also many differences. In which case, they should be thought of as separate cases, Celo thought with a difficult look on his face as he fixed his sight on the pile of zombies.
“To think they even went as far as to dig up graves, they are real scoundrels. Still, their actions are concerning.”
“Yes, very. I wonder what on earth were they trying to do with the remains they dug up.”
After exchanging these words, the two fell silent for a while and their thoughts cycled around Lesser Demons’ enigmatic actions. With that said, the information they had was too vague and they could not think of a convincing answer.
“Still, the damage is quite severe.”
Because she stared at it for too long, Mira got fed up with the zombie mountain and turned around to look around the city. The city was damaged so much that it stood out even in the darkness of the night, it would take a lot of materials land time to repair everything.
“That is true. However, no one had died, and there were only lightly wounded.”
“Hooh, that’s great.”
“However, there is a point that doesn’t make sense.”
Celo said so and furrowed his eyebrows, then spoke of the enigmatic part about this time’s turmoil.
“First, even though there were so many zombies overflowing in the town, there were only six humanoid zombies. Moreover, as a result of holding an inquiry on the items these six were holding, it turned out that they all matched people who were on the city’s list of missing people. In addition to this, despite all that rampaging by zombies there was no one who was harmed by those humanoid zombies.”
After speaking this far, Celo looked up at the sky for a moment,
“They might have been gotten rid of before the rampage had started, though.”
and continued, to conclude. However, it seemed like Celo felt like there was something more to that.
“Even more mysteries, hmm…"
Hearing what Celo said, Mira touched her chin with her fingertip and grumbled. It appeared that while zombies were rampaging, humanoid zombies did not change compared to when they first appeared.
“Nevertheless, while there is no basis for this, I do not believe that this Devil just wanted to cause a turmoil. It is reasonable to think that just like Lesser Demons, he was aiming to use death’s influence.”
Although there were many unknowns, Celo spoke the most appropriate answer there currently was. It was a solution he would not be able to reach if not for the information about Lesser Demons.
“I guess, it might be the case.”
Mira also thought that it was a reasonable conclusion, she nodded and answered.
“But if that is the case, now that there are so many corpses in the city it would mean that this Devil’s scheme was fulfilled. It might be necessary to take measures from here on.”
In the city of Karnack there was a large amount of corpses now. It could be said that one of the conditions to transform the land has been cleared.
“First of all, these piles of corpses need to be quickly cleaned up before anything happens, mm.”
“Agreed. I will advise them to hurry with it.”
The two said as they looked up at the pile next to them, then sighed feeling dissatisfied for some reason.
Certainly the city was full of corpses. However, all of it was just gathered here and no one had died. One of the conditions was loss of life. Did zombies involved in this turmoil have “life"?
It was impossible to precisely categorize what life was. WIth that said, the Devil that was the main culprit was already dead, so nothing more than this should happen.
Although it was vague, that is what Mira felt as she looked up at the sky. There, the whole sky filled with shining stars silently covering this world. That moment, a single shooting star flashed in the night sky. It was as if it was giving an example of how fleeting lives were, appearing suddenly and disappearing in no time.
After coming up with a single answer in regards to the zombie incident, the two shared simple way of contacting each other and started to talk excitedly about their previous world. Mira mentioned that when seeing the signboard of rain gear shop, she was reminded of a famous horror game and laughed, to which Celo nostalgically mentioned that he attempted to complete it on the highest difficulty with just a knife.
And then, sound of footsteps approached the two from behind.
Wondering who is it she turned around and there, she found that Galet was the source of footsteps. It seemed that he got worried about Mira not coming back despite late hour, and came to meet her.
(“...He’s making brighter expression than ever.”)
Upon finding Mira’s appearance, Galet waved his hand and ran up to her. He must have rampaged to his heart’s content during the turmoil as his face sparkled brighter than the starry sky.
“It seems your escort is here. Now then, in regards of the request we undertook, I will contact you through the union once there is progress.”
“Mm-hm, please do.”
Mira answered while staring straight into Celo’s eyes, then she turned around with he back to him.
“See you, then.”
Turning back to him slightly, Mira said her farewell and started to walk.
“Yes, see you one day.”
Celo nodded strongly, and then cast down his eyes just faintly before starting to walk in the opposite direction of Mira’s.
Like this, the two exchanged short farewells and separated to walk on their way back. However, the direction their hearts fixed their gaze on, was the same.