After learning Emily-san's identity, along with the two beginners we have created a party of four and played together for a few days on hunting spots with few players in it.
At times I accompanied them in hunting, I remade pound cakes or played with Ryui and Zakuro. I enjoyed activities no different from ones I enjoyed in the 【Atelier】.
Eh? I don't think this is what 'disappearing' means, maybe.
『"So, Yun, what's your current situation?"』
"Oh, for the time being I partnered up with a player I met during the disappearance and we stay in a place with few people."
『"On this side we're doings lots of stuff to finish the matter of guild solicitation. We'll probably manage to settle it before the event."』
"Well, I'll be waiting patiently then."
It was a friend call from Cloude. Since I was currently hiding and couldn't meet him directly, I was contacting with 【Crafting Guild】 members this way to exchange information.
Last time it was Magi, and before that, Lyly.
"After I come back to 【Atelier】 I plan to craft 【Fireworks】 and 【Insect Repelling Incense】, want to hear about the progress?"
"I thought that the 【Fireworks】 have to be coloured beforehand, but I can just deliver 【Exploding Balls】 and you can decide yourself what kind of fireworks you want. How about it?"
『"Hmm. Certainly, rather than have you decide all the fireworks alone, leaving it to a number of crafters will be more interesting. Let's do that then."』
"Then, I'll deliver the 【Exploding Balls】 colourless. Also, the 【Insect Repelling Incense】 is progressing well so far."
"It'll take some time until it's complete."
The procedure of crafting 【Insect Repelling Incense】 was to crush 【Bark of the Fragrant Moss Wood】 into powder and mix it with dried 【Pyrethrum】.
It was simple so far, but it has become similar to wood chips so far and had yet to be compacted and moulded with thermal compression.
After moulding is finished it has to be dried in the shade, currently, I was waiting for this last step to complete.
"——So, I'll make for the delivery date, but it'll take time."
『"I see. Then there's no problems. Well, take care."』
"Sure, you too."
Slightly worried about each other, we disconnected from the chat.
Fuu, I sighed and spoke towards the sky.
"Settling the matter of guild solicitation... heck, what are they doing! I was too scared to ask."
During the chat with Magi-san and Lyly they said the same thing, I thought of asking Cloude, but the conversation centred on the order and I didn't have a chance.
"Yun-kun, were you called by someone again?'
Emily-san who was close by asked the moment I closed the friend communication with Cloude.
"Ah, yeah... this time it was about the item delivery."
Other than that, there were people who contacted me worried by the fact I don't appear in the store. In those cases, I have politely responded to each person explaining that I'm in the middle of laying low.
"You're really loved by everyone, Yun-kun."
In response to Emily-san's mutter, I went "is that so?" and tilted my head.
The twins, Lyna and Al didn't have interest in it, instead, they were nearby, reflecting on potion replenishment and cooperation during battle.
And when I was about to speak to Emily-san, once again a friend communication has come. I checked who was the caller.
"What on earth. Just a moment passed... ah, it's from Taku."
In response to my murmur, the gently smiling expression Emily-san had so far stiffened. Lyna and Al also looked my way curiously.
"Yun-kun, I think you know already but..."
"I won't leak anything about Emily-san."
Exactly, thanks. While looking at still anxious Emily-san I connected to the chat with Taku.
"What is it? For you to contact me... you know that I'm in middle of disappearance right?"
『"I'll tell you my request straight up. I want you to process 【Wisteria Peach Petals】."』
"...hey, they're a revival item right? Why do I have to process it?"
『"Oh, I see. So you still don't know."』
As I heard Taku talk as if he was all-knowing, I recalled the harm done to me by the low level video of his and once again resolved myself to punch him.
"So, what is it. If you've nothing then I'm ending the call here."
『"Ah, sorry. Earlier I've heard that some revival medicine was made with 【Wisteria Peach Petals】. Well, they're incomplete low quality stuff though."』
"About that, can you tell me in more details?"
So far I've heard only half of what Taku had to say, but I got immediately fired up.
『"I thought you'd be interested. That being said, the recovery amount of the reviving medicine is unchangingly 1 HP."』
"Wait a second. If I'm not wrong Wisteria Peach Petals also revive at 1 HP. There's no difference at all right?"
Eh? Didn't I explain you in detail? And so Taku tilted his head on the other side of the friend chat.
『"There's a big difference between petals and reviving medicine."』
"No, I don't understand what you mean here..."
Since one way or another I couldn't get a grasp, Taku gave me a simple example.
In the case of Wisteria Peach Petals, if a Player A falls, Player B can use them to revive Player A, but the Player A can't use his own petals from the inventory to revive himself. It's a type of item that allows you to revive others.
On the other hand, in case of revival medicines, if Player A falls, he can revive himself by using a revival medicine in his inventory. Moreover, just like petals it can be used on other players.
『"That's why, to use petals multiple people are required."』
"I see. Well, that's a huge difference. Rather than that, why do you need it all of a sudden?"
『"Oh, I thought of joining the crafter's event's PvP tournament! For that, I intend to secure as much reviving medicine as possible."』
"That, do rules even allow it? Doing such a thing in a PvP tournament."
If they allow revival drugs like that, it won't matter how hard it is...
『"About that, if things like items for throwing, HP recovery and MP Potions get restricted, power balance will crumble. That's why they'll be allowed."』
For real? Even though I thought like that, I guess it's certainly unavoidable.
"Got it. If I have an answer I'll call you back. Gonna disconnect now."
『"Yeah, I leave it to you."』
I turned off the chat and turned towards Emily-san, Lyna and Al.
But, what should I say. In order to punch Taku at least once I need to meet him, but leaving in the middle of helping out beginners...
"What are you bothered about. You were called out right? And by that Taku-san no less."
"Yeah, that's true but..."
"Please go on! And bring some stories about Taku-san back!"
Pure gazes of Lyna and Al were brilliantly dazzling.
Saying "leave this to me" with a wry smile, Emily-san pushed my back. "But don't say anything about me", her eyes weren't laughing at all as she said that.
"Got it. But before that..."
I needed to properly support the beginners, Lyna and Al.
"All right, it might be a bit early but I'll pass you Potions that are above Beginner's Potions. Also, I'll make you some simple bronze rings from the ore we've collected. And, as for the stones we've gathered, I'll make some Enchant Stones out of them. You can ask Emily-san about the method of use. Also..."
"Yun-san! It's fine, just go!"
Seeing me take out items one after another to support the beginners, Lyna yelled. And then, with a slightly irritated tone of voice she pressed on my back, trying to send me away by force.
"Yun-san, we're not children."
"it's fine, go! There's no need to worry!"
"If something happens contact me immediately!"
"Are you our guardian or what?! There's no need to worry, we won't cause people any more trouble!"
"So Lyn-chan knows she's causing people to worry."
Well, if Al is there to retort then it'll be fine I guess.
"Really. Like this, it's no wonder you got a nickname like 【Nanny】."
I made an unconvinced expression in response to Emily-san's words and sighed.
However, unable to remain on spot forever, I left the party.
In order to secretly return to the 【Atelier】 I logged out once, then used the starting point I had set in the workshop.
Usually I used the Mini Portal to go out like this, by doing this procedure I could move around without using either the 【Atelier】's entrance or normal portals.
After coming to the 【Atelier】 I made preparations to meet Taku and called back to him.
The reply has come soon enough and I was able to invite Taku into the workshop part before long.
"Yo, I was waiting."
The moment Taku appeared I took a step forward. I twisted my waist and strongly sank low gathering my entire body's energy to hit Taku's amused face with a right straight.
"Woah, what's this. A sudden greeting."
Because of his strange video, I've had to deal with the aftermath of beginner players trying to imitate him, thus I punched him to repay for that, but he lightly caught my fist with his hand.
I have sank into a bad mood, displeased at my own low stats and being easily stopped. I immediately released strength in my arm and Taku let me go.
"Sorry, made you wait. So, let's talk in details now."
When I spoke as if nothing happened, Taku tilted his head in wonder and joined in.
"As I said through the friend chat, I want you to make revival medicine from the 【Wisteria Peach Petals】."
"With that said, I need quite a few of them."
"That's why let's go and pick some up! Rather than alone, we'll pick up more the two of us, I'll leave all I get with you for research purposes!"
"Don't be unreasonable. Do you think I could make it so easily without a recipe or information on other materials?"
"That's why I'm relying on your intuition and Senses."
As Taku come at me with such baseless confidence, half of me wanted to live up to it and the other half felt a bit oppressed. Well, this time his timing was good.
"I don't know who's the one to make the reviving medicine, but I was already examining the unfinished recipe."
"Why didn't you say anything."
"I thought that a request for revival medicine will come sooner or later so I was making preparations. I thought of telling the first person who approached me about the recipe."
It was one of the recipes not even Magi-san and the others knew about.
I took out notes I gathered by using 【Linguistics】 Sense. OSO's mixing recipes are something that summarize blending ratios and couldn't be readily shown to others. It was one of my advantages.
"Yun, just where did you gather that information."
"I'm a crafter. My home ground is the entire town including this store and material field. Well, it's a by-product of searching for another recipe in the library and I don't know the procedure yet."
"That's why it's an unfinished recipe. So, what are the materials?"
"Trade secret. Well, honestly speaking, I'm short on the materials. I can't find one of the four. That's why, look for the material in question in parallel with 【Wisteria Peach Flower】 gathering."
I had two materials on hand and had 【Wisteria Peach Flower】 collection scheduled now. However, as for the last material, I didn't know anything about it other than its name.
"The item I want you to look for is——the 【Water of Life】."
"Roger that. Then, let's go gather the peach petals later... ohh right, you still haven't passed through the Horror Cave haven't you, you need to go through it at least once."
"I didn't say a single word about going there myself to collect materials."
"Well, it's fine isn't it. On the other side of the cave there's a portal for transition."
I glared at Taku, and was stared at with half-closed eyes in response.
"Why are you so reluctant in the first place, Yun."
"Horror Cave's mobs aren't that strong."
"Uhh... so, that 'horror' name is what I hate!"
"What is it, snapping all of a sudden."
"Khhh... it's not sudden. I don't want to go to that Horia Cave."
I really didn't want to, but it was true that I had to pass through there sooner or later.
It's official name was 'Horia Cave', but since ghost-type mobs appeared in there it was called 'Horror Cave'.
To reach the Wisteria Peach Tree, players had to move on a road from the Second Town and go to the branching in the middle of it to enter the Horia Cave. Then, after going through an abandoned village the portal was in, there was a tree growing on top of the hill.
Taku should have known that I'm not good with ghosts.
"Give up. I'll be there as an escort. Also, if you get to the abandoned village, you won't have to pass through there again. It's just once. And, taking your level into account it should be easy. No problem."
"Got it, but I'm still doubtful about it. I'll be going off for a while, I'll contact you after I eat."
"Roger. I'll take a break as well, I'll come to 【Atelier】 in the afternoon again."
With that said, we logged out and returned our consciousness to real.
After logging out, I got up from the bed and with a heavy feeling I prepared lunch.
Today's lunch was meat spaghetti, instant corn soup and raw vegetable salad.
Since onions remained from the last time I made gratin with tomatoes and minced meat, I added it together to white wine I used instead of cooking wine, tomato ketchup and placed plenty of it on top of the pasta. Then I added some parsley, mixed and it was complete.
The soup and salad were simple to make and could be easily prepared while pasta was being boiled.
As I was preparing the lunch, a certain person came down from the second floor.
"Good morning〜, Onii-chan."
"Good morning. Hey, it's already lunch. You're lazing around just because it's a holiday? Didn't you sleep too much?"
"It's okay it's okay. Sleep time's same as always... about four hours. I just went to sleep late."
Heyhey, your lifestyle's madness. It was more or less noon when she woke up. Normally Miu's sleep time varied from six to seven hours. That means she usually goes to sleep at four or five o'clock. Until then she's probably endlessly hunting in the night.
It's not something that impresses me as her brother.
"Try living in proper hours, you're missing breakfasts too..."
"But you know, during the weekdays there isn't any people late at night so I adventured until late with acquaintances. Playing in a party is more efficient when aiming for higher levels."
"Good grief... worry about your health before efficiency. Hurry up wash your face and dress yourself."
When Miu disappeared into the washroom making loud sounds with her slippers I let out a sigh and snuck in a generous amount of spaghetti to compensate for the breakfast.
After a while, together with Miu who washed her face and was refreshed we sat down by the table.
"Yaay! Meat spaghetti! There's a lot of cheese powder so it's delicious. Can I ask for carbonara tomorrow?"
"Maybe next time. I have ingredients for tomorrow already stocked up."
"What are you doing in the afternoon Onii-chan? If you're still in the hiding, then how about going to an unpopular area with me? Like, to a mine dungeon with orc-type mobs, it's moderately hard."
"Ah, no can do. I've got a prior engagement."
When I said that, Miu narrowed her eyes and her gaze turned sharp.
"Oh-hoh. A prior engagement huh... hmm, with whom?"
"No, just for a little while——in the game..."Wait a moment. I'll guess it."...okay."
Is it that? But... considering the circumstances... Like that, Miu tilted her head and tried to predict with whom I'm meeting.
"There's a low probability of Onii-chan extending the circle of his friends. That would mean... from the people who're on holiday today——the favourite would be Takumi-san. Runner up, would be crafting activities you want to prioritize. For the black horse, Cloude-san, maybe?"
"...correct. I was invited by Takumi."
"Hmm hmm. Can I join? It seems more fun than looking for a party."
"Ahh, I'll be calling Takumi after the meal, so I'll ask for his consent."
We talked about silly things the two of us, and after the lunch I mailed Takumi to ask and got "by all means" as a reply.
Since Takumi and Miu have apparently occasionally teamed up together in the game, their cooperation could serve as a reference. Also, Miu not only would become a strong escort, but her brightness could be a little bit calming in a dark cave.
In that meaning, I was very grateful to Miu for coming with us.
After I logged in through the unchanging OSO's introduction screen, I stood in the 【Atelier】.
"Sorry, I'm late."
"No, I was about to explain everything in details to Myu-chan."
"Onee-chan wouldn't tell me this interesting stuff no matter what!"
"No, it's part business so..."
"Well then, call Ryui and Zakuro, come on, hurry."
"It can't be helped."
I muttered and when I summoned the two young beasts, Myu embraced the two that appeared enjoying herself.
Every time they appeared, she pat and hugged them.
At first they resisted and sought my help, but as I was unable to save them from Myu's devil hands they have accepted the current situation and gave up.
Let's pretend I didn't see them look into the distance as they were stroked.
"Haafuu... it's unfair after all! But I'm satisfied."
While Myu made a wonderful smile, Ryui and Zakuro slipped away tiredly.
"Since Myu-chan's already satisfied, let's confirm everything. We have two goals today. Successfully deliver Yun to the abandoned village's portal and search for the material Yun needs for revival medicine. No problems so far right?"
"No problem! Let's go!!"
Myu swung her fist grandly. On the other hand, I already thought of the Horia Cave and was disheartened.
Exhausted Ryui and Zakuro comforted each other as if they were licking each other's wounds.
During the journey up to the cave, there was nothing in out of order.
We jumped to the portal in the Second Town and advanced while defeating mobs that appeared on the road.
Mobs that appeared on the main road were Fairy Panthers and Furball Demons that had a setting of plundering fields, we defeated them but...
Since Myu with a kill-on-sight attitude lightly cut everything down together with Taku, I was able to journey safe and comfortably.
"Ahahaha, you're too strong and we proceed really fast... I wonder if I'm really needed here."
"Then at least put enchants on yourself. Also, protect yourself."
"In the first place, Yun will be useless from the moment we enter the cave... right from the beginning, you weren't counted as part of fighting force."
A dry laughter spilled out from me naturally. Ahh, as I thought. Oh dear, my existence is really thin at the moment...
"They're so weak〜. Mine dungeon's orcs or normal dungeon's second floor is closer to being adequate to our level I guess?"
"That would be the case if we were solo, with me and Myu-chan we could go a bit deeper, right. Next time let's choose an area with higher difficulty, how about it?"
"Then, please. Fufufu, I look forward to it."
My best friend and little sister sure do get along well. When it's the three of us, one always can't enter the conversation, and that would be me.
"Can I go back after all? I feel like making some bombs. Also, I hate ghosts."
"Hey! Onee-chan, come back here! You're not a child!"
"It's fine, come on! Don't throw tantrums and complicate this!"
"I don't want to! I'm going back!"
I resisted to a rare extent even if I say so myself, but Myu grabbed my left hand to stop me from escaping.
"Come on, look. We don't know what'll appear so probably put on defence."
"Uuu, I'll remember this. 《Enchant》 ——Defence."
After taking a look if I put on an enchant, Taku dragged me into the cave's interior as if I was a police suspect.
Inside of the Horia Cave, it was dark and there was a spine-chilling cold. The cold caused goosebumps on my skin and every breath felt cold, painful and heavy.
And above all——
"Uwaaaa! Ghost's voice wailed just now."
"It's okay. It was just the wind. Think of it as of sound effect inside of a haunted house."
"Lookkk, there's a soull..."
"That's Zakuro's ball of fire isn't it."
When I saw the fireball float around us, I froze on spot. Zakuro whom I was embracing in the front created a light a ball of fire for additional light which moved together with it, but its flickering has stirred up fear inside of me instead.
"Tch, they came out immediately because Yun made noise."
I didn't even think of asking what has come out.
The sound of wind has mixed with groans and sound of rattling as if something hard collided with the ground. Myu's magic was illuminating depths of the cave and what I saw through the darkness with my 【Hawk Eyes】 were red, eerily shining eyes.
"It's not that scary, right. This kind of thing..."
The undead-type mobs, Zombies and skeletons have crossed the boundary of the light and darkness, moving closer to us.
Taku spoke as if nothing and hit the approaching skeleton with his knuckle guard, the skull noisily rolled down on the ground. Next was a Zombie, Taku slashed sharply which made its upper and lower half bid an eternal farewell.
The Zombie's upper and lower half that fell to the ground moved by themselves, that sight alone caused my spirit to be scrapped off bit by bit. The skeleton also moved even without its head.
Both of the Zombie's halves crawled around on the ground.
Seeing them unfazed by being cut and hit, looming towards us without putting up a guard despite being attacked has fuelled my fear.
Unlike the Wisp, I was unable to communicate with them, they one-sidedly attacked.
Moreover, after being defeated they were strangely realistic and scary. Why are they dying after having parts of their bodies like arms cut off?
"Affirmative. Ryui, you can do it too right! ——《Sol Ray》!"
The blazing light beam of Myu's extended in a straight line towards the back of the cave and caused the undead to burn in intense flames, then turn into particles of light. Ryui's purification caused the undead to gradually crumble like sand as they floated peaceful expressions.
"Undead's weakness is stuff like light and purification, so Ryui will contribute much more than Yun. Still, they were burned clean, Zombies and skeletons that is."
"Look Onee-chan. No need to be afraid, don't be scared. They all disappeared and it's all clean."
Just how grateful I was for Myu's presence who held my hand the entire time ever since we entered the cave without letting go.
However, on the contrary, it also meant I was unable to run away from Horia Cave.
"I want to leave this place, and fast."
"Okay okay. Taku-san is in the front and I"m nearby with Ryui. Don't worry."
"Yun, steel yourself. If you don't, you'll become a burden in this cave."
Indeed, I didn't want to become a burden, but I also knew that I don't bring in any strength into the party.
My fear of humanoid horror-like monsters was fading. But even though it was fading, cold and chills didn't change and continued to wrap around me.
If anything, it felt like it's gotten worse compared to when I entered the cave.
It felt as if someone was watching me.
Rather than a single gaze, it felt as if multiple gazes were directed towards me from the entire cave, wrapping around my body heavily.
"Come on, Onee-chan. The more you walk the more we progress."
"I said... I can't."
Every time I tried to take a step forward, my movements have turned sluggish from fear. Being hurried made me further step on brakes and I've become stuck.
That's when the light source Myu made with her light magic started to blink and the luminosity began to weaken.
"Taku-san! A Spectre came!"
"Got it. Safety measures then."
Slipping through the wall, appeared a translucent spirit body called Spectre. Eroding the light in the cave it floated in the air.
My eyes were bound by the figure that swayed like a willow and my heart started to beat powerfully.
And, the moment my enchant has expired an invisible darkness approached me.
"——I'm going back! I don't want to be here!"
I shook off Myu's hand and hid my head with both my arms. Zakuro whom I was holding with one hand jumped out at the same time and ran up Ryui's back.
"Taku-san! Onee-chan got caught completely!"
"Tch, got caught huh. He forgot to put on an enchant. Myu-chan, I leave the spirit Spectre to you. I'll take a look at Yun."
Myu's and Taku's conversation felt distant to me.
Now, I was regretting letting go of Myu's hand and holding my head.
My fingers are cold, very cold. No, don't let go. Scary, it's scary, scary... that's right, I'm safe beside Ryui and Zakuro.
I tried blindly feeling through the darkness in front of me and strongly hugged the two animals.
I felt the two's warmth, but that has also made my hands and cheek feel surprisingly cold. My limbs grew numb and crouching on spot, I shivered.
Gazes I was entangled with that came from all directions were scary.
Feeling fear from not being able to see anything and viscous malice, I swallowed saliva from tension.
It felt like my ice cold body was about to be eaten by the darkness.
And, while thinking of things I didn't want to think of, I noticed something I didn't wanted to notice. In this cave——there were bodies of living beings.
The malice that had no source felt like a thick mucus.
Warmth escaped from my own body, I felt as if I was being digested.
In the end, I'll be eaten out by those Zombies, won't I.
I imagined it for an instant and my fear was roused, my teeth chattered and were grit strongly.
In response to the coldness that felt as if I was thrown into a refrigerator and sound of my own teeth resounding in my skull, I started seeing an illusion of becoming a skeleton myself.
I have already melted away and became a skeleton.
"Tch, 【Confusion】's level is growing fast. Come back to your senses with the Awareness medicine!"
I don't want to hear anything. I don't want to know anything. Cold entered my body and I was being filled with fear alone. When a cold liquid was poured over me it felt relieving for some reason.
I wonder why? My ears that refused to hear anything started to pick up sounds, although my thinking was hazed, I was able to properly hear.
"...Yun! Get a hold of yourself"
My disfocused eyes saw the two.
There was Myu releasing bullets of light from her hand as she faced a semi-transparent ghost drifting in the air.
Dozens of Spectres were staring towards us, they looked as if they were about to cover the entire cave. However, they didn't attack all at once, a few of them attacked at once and they were all taken out by Myu in a single blow.
"Come on, one more. Awareness drug!"
A glass container was pushed into my mouth forcefully and a liquid has flowed down my throat.
As not to let me choke, it was poured down my throat and then moved away from my mouth to let me breathe. Spilled liquid flowed down my chin and to my throat before being drawn into the clothes on my chest.
And then, at the same time as I realized how shameful I appeared, my thinking has cleared up.
"Fuhaa, it's enough. I'm okay now."
"Let's hurry and leave the area with Spectres then, that'll be the end."
"Taku-san! Take Onee-chan and go ahead!"
While I was still sitting down, Taku pulled my hand and started running through the cave.
I just continued to proceed being pulled by hand. I tried to look behind worried about Myu and Ryui who were the rearguards, but I was stopped by Taku.
"Don't look behind! Just focus on the front!"
I obediently followed Taku's instructions and looked away from the back.
Ahead of us we could see the end of the cave from which light was entering.
Just like that, we slipped away from the undead stretching their hands towards us and jumped out of the cave.
Ahead of the Horia Cave's exit spread out an abandoned village. Modest houses built of stone with decayed wooden roofs, a slight feeling of life coming from the abandoned tools.
Of course, it wasn't as dark as the cave. I slowly walked through the abandoned village that had a peaceful vibe, then withered and exhausted I squat down by the portal installed near the fountain.
"...that was scary."
"Been hard on you. I didn't think you would 'catch' it so simply."
"What's up with that 'catching' of yours. Also, what was that back then? What did you make me swallow there."
I stared at Taku, but I didn't notice that since I was looking up at him while crouching down I made upturned eyes.
Laughing he pat my head in a rough manner.
"W-what is it?!"
"Well, I'll explain in order. First, I asked you to increase your defence to protect you from bad statuses."
After I made a reply that implied I more or less understood, Taku continued.
"The bad status you received was 【Confusion】. At first it was 【Confusion 1】, but after receiving bad status attacks many times you got 2, then it raised to 3, and when I saw it, it was 4."
Thanks to that, it wouldn't go off unless a cure for confusion was used, is what he was saying.
"Was the one who attacked with a BS that semi-transparent Spectre mob?"
"There's that, but going from the start, it's a terrain effect of the Horia Cave."
A terrain effect, simply speaking, it's nature and characteristic of a terrain.
Forests and plains didn't have any nature in particular and not having any characteristics, they were standard.
Taking plains as a basis and to compare them to wetlands, it was slightly difficult to walk through the wetlands and often your legs could sink in. If you think of it as of a terrain effect it would probably be——【SPEED Decrease】 I guess.
Other than that, a normal dungeon had variety of traps placed inside, and since it's a cave there was no source of light inside of it, so it was dark by nature.
The difference between day and night can also be considered a natural property.
Although such things could be casually considered terrain effects——
"For Horia Cave's effects, in addition to darkness, there's granting of 【Confusion】 bad status. With that said, since it's a spirit-type bad status, if one raises their MIND it's quite difficult to catch it..."
"So I was unlucky and caught it, have I?"
"No, it was blocked by the defence enchant, but since you received 【Confusion】 immediately after it has expired it means you simply don't have enough MIND."
Disappointed with the fact that I bothered Myu and Taku because of the cave, I slumped.
"Well, depending on one's state of mind it can be difficult to catch it."
"You mean, fighting spirit and guts?"
"Things like that. Well, this time it was quite easy since your movements stopped and you didn't go on a rampage. Also, you were hit by the Spectre's apparition wave attack which increased the speed at which 【Confusion】 grew."
I was told that I won't be of any use, but in fact I became a burden.
If I knew about the cave's nature I might have prepared one or two safety measures in advance, it was a punishment for neglecting information collection.
Before throwing tantrums like "don't want to" "no way", I should have asked about it, possibly avoiding this outcome...
For example, I could acquire a 【Confusion Resistance】 Sense in advance. If I acted level-headed the results might have been a little bit better.
"W-well, don't be so disheartened. Even I didn't think you would catch it. I should have explained it in advance."
My memories were hazy and I couldn't recall either my miserable, distraught appearance back then and the thinking that became a mess, empty white blank. Just vague fear remained and a discomfort of being unable to recall what I was afraid of.
Because of my naivety and the discomfort, my mood has turned bad.
"I told you, don't go feeling so down. Looking at it from a different perspective, having people like you who could catch it is a good a thing. Game creators want players to feel a realistic atmosphere of a haunted house and a test of courage. For that, people like you who can catch confusion and get stuck are necessary. If anything, it was a rare and delicious experience."
"...Taku. Are you trying to comfort me, or maybe you're trying to make me angry?"
Laughing at someone else for being bad with something, I'll shoot this guy in the back one day.
"Ohh, your usual expression is back. That's it, that's the expression you should have."
"What is it, what 'expression'."
Even as I grimaced in dissatisfaction, I placed my hand on my face to check. It seemed like my facial muscles have loosened, but I couldn't tell too well.
"Well then, it seems like you have come back to your usual self. It seems like you're all right."
"I want to think I'm all right... hey, wait a sec. I was in a daze up until now so I didn't notice, but Myu isn't here. Ryui too."
One human and one animal who have a valid means of attack towards undead still haven't caught up.
They would let themselves get done in so there was no sense of crisis. I turned my gaze towards the cave's entrance and waited for them to come.
Zakuro too, anxiously turned in the same direction I have.
"Well, Myu-chan must be having fun right? I mean, shooting beams of light at attacking Zombies and Spectres."
"No no no, it's not a theme park attraction or a horror FPS, is it..."
However, seeing as they weren't coming out for quite a while, I gradually started to worry.
I was unable to see through the gaping vacant entrance of the cave even with the 【Hawk Eyes】.
"Oh, it seems like Myu-chan has come"
"No, rather than come... how do I say it..."
At first I thought a person came, but gradually the sound of footsteps multiplied, echoing inside of the cave. I furrowed my brows as the dissonance between voices and footsteps grew.
Myu and Ryui came out of the cave jumping, able to visually recognize the two I sighed with relief. Behind them, there were several dozens of monsters.
Evil spirits of mountains and rivers. Seeing a sight similar to a Hyakki Yakou, my face that had its complexion recovered has started to pale once again.
At the same time as Myu raised a not-so-feminine yell, the undead chasing her were assaulted by the daylight and suffering agony they gradually burned down.
I faintly recalled Myu coming back while pulling monsters with her before.
However, this time was different as the undead who tried to return to the cave caused a major traffic jam and the undead in the back pushed them outside of the entrance.
After being pushed outside, the undead who lost their refuge from the sunlight have let out agonizing cries, making a hellish sight.
Groaning Zombies, screaming Spectres, Skeletons who twisted around to expression their pain.
In response to the sight, Myu made a guts pose as she received a massive amount of drops all at once. Together with Myu, Ryui let out an aura of confidence.
This made the undead seem pitiful instead.
"Somehow, rather than scary, this makes them look pitiful instead."
"Well, small fry mobs are like that."
I welcomed the amount of drops that appeared in my inventory with a melancholic mood.
The undead who avoided being bathed in the sunlight moved away and were stuck in the cave's entrance until the turmoil has subsided.
"I'm back! Also, I brought lots of souvenirs!"
As a result, I acquired a large amount of drops.
The drops from Zombies were rusty, there were Iron Swords and Bronze Sword with 'rusty' attached to their names.
Their performance and durability was lower since they were rusted, but by using 【Smithing】 and 【Engraving】 they can be used to craft ingots. The ratio was roughly two rusted items for an ingot. These were often called hidden mines or mob mines by crafters.
The drops from Skeletons was Bone Powder which could be used as a fertilizer. If it was mixed together with wild grass and soil then spread regularly on the field, the quality of items that can be harvested would grow.
In regards to this, after crafting fertilizer I left it to Kyouko-san and synthetic mobs who put it in when it was appropriate time.
Finally, the Spectre's drops were Tears of Soul's Repose.
In exchange for the fact that Zombies and Skeletons did not have any rare drops, Spectre's dropped only rare items. However, the probability of items dropping from them was overwhelmingly low.
This time, thanks to Myu's excessive farming two of them have appeared in my inventory.
It was used as a strengthening material for the equipment items, using it on the weapons added 【Undead Slayer】 effect and using it on the armour granted 【Undead Resistance】 effect.
"Good grief, Myu, you're too reckless."
"Ehehe, well. High risk high return is really nice isn't it. Also, buy items I don't need from me."
"Yes yes. Ryui, you did really well to watch over Myu. So admirable."
When I stroked Ryui's mane, it squinted feeling comfortable and acted spoiled, rubbing its neck against me.
"Not fair! I did my best too!"
"Yes yes. You did well, you did your best."
When I pat Myu's head in the same manner, she made a sloppy, smiling expression.
"Ha! Right, I almost forgot! I picked up souvenirs for Onee-chan while at it."
"Ahahaha, so you even picked up the stones in the cave. So that's why you were late to come back."
Suddenly remembering, Myu took out gemstones, ore and stones from the inventory making a mess. Taku picked them up and laughed.
"Taku, don't try to hide it with laughter. Geez, Myu sure loves to worry people."
" "Onee-chan isYou're one to talk." "
Being told a just argument by both Myu and Taku I fell silent. Soon enough Myu clapped her hands, wiping away the atmosphere of self-reflection, I picked up the items taken out by Myu to appraise them.
Half of the stones picked up in the caves were normal stones, but the other half was lucky.
"It's mostly gemstones and ore. I won't know in detail unless I polish them. Is it really fine if I take it?"
"C'mon c'mon, let's look for revival medicine materials instead of talking. There isn't any enemies appearing around here, other than under the Wisteria Peach Tree."
"Then, how about there?"
In the direction I was pointing to, there was a path between the trees that continued towards the mountain. It was the opposite direction from the one we could see cherry-coloured blossoms dance in.
"Over there's impossible. It's clearly too high level, if you go you'll die for sure. Even I had no idea what was happening and could only run away."
"E-even you couldn't do it, Myu?"
"That's how it is. That's why, unless we approach the mountain or hill, no enemies will appear."
I was convinced with that, and started to search in the middle of the abandoned village and its woods.
That being said, I didn't know the area at all.
"Hey, is there a prominent symbol or object in this area? I feel it might be in a place like that..."
"True. After coming for the first time you won't know what's what so——in the 【Basement】 there's a tapestry with the village's map."
"Speaking of which, there's that. I didn't leave any image data of so I remember it only faintly, but certainly, despite there being a basement under the mayor's house it seems like there's nothing there."
Look, in that house. In the direction Myu was pointing to, there were rotten houses spreading between the portal and the fountain in a semi-circular shape. The biggest house built with stone that had a slightly original form seemed to be the mayor's house.
The two guided me to the mayor's house, while its outside appearance made it seem like it was severely damaged, the inside was surprisingly clean. Although there was dust on the furniture, it was either very strongly made or the house held out better than the others.
"If I'm not wrong, if you go into the room in the back and remove flooring, there should be a basement there."
"Got it. I'll take a look."
I used the 【See-Through】 Sense to examine the location for reactions. When I quickly removed rotten wooden floor parts, a thick wooden door with framework of iron has appeared.
When I opened it by lifting it up, a mouldy stench and dust entered my nose and caused the young beasts to escape mayor's house and flee outside, Myu and Taku held their noses.
A rotten air flowed out from the basement, attacking my nasal cavities and in reverse, fresh air flowed inside from the room.
"Myu, I leave the light to you."
"Got that. ——《Light》"
Myu lowered a sphere of light into the dark basement. Peeking in from the entrance I confirmed it's safe and went down using a ladder that was left in there.
In the basement's wide space there were bookshelves and desks, on the wall there was a large tapestry-like embroidered picture map. There was an atmosphere that made it seem like something could be there.
"This is the tapestry map. Can you tell anything?"
"Wait a moment."
Tracing the tapestry map on the wall with my finger, I checked the locations.
In the centre there was the fountain and the mayor's house, there was a road that connected houses in the village which were spread radially.
Other than that, the Horia Cave route we used to come here and the road between the trees towards the mountain were also detailed.
And on the hill with Wisteria Peach Tree, although the colours were fading, there was an embroidery of light pink flowers.
"I see. I've got a grasp on how the village looks like. Also, I'm curious about this mark here, the last material might be there."
While I was checking the tapestry alone, bored Myu ransacked the basement and held out one of the items that were on the bookshelf towards me.
It were wooden strips used as a recording medium, there were a holes in it and a linen string passing through them. They made a clattery sound as I was taking a look at them.
"This, it's one of objects that can't be taken out of this basement. It can't be put in the inventory either, if you try to leave with it, it's going to transfer back into this basement by itself."
"If I'm not wrong, it says 『If you can read this, make sure not to involve yourself with that monster——』."
Taku tried to recite the passage of text from his memory, but it seemed like he didn't remember it in detail.
I switched a Sense with the 【Linguistics】 and looked through the wooden strips.
"Wait, that's wrong."
I read the contents of the wood strip aloud.
What was written on the strips, were words of the village's mayor and fortune teller.
The village's origins. The relationship between the god of land, a giant wolf and the sacrifices. Also, the survival and the crisis of the village. Increasing sacrifices and flowers continuing to bloom.
In spite of the soil being very rich, the village's population decreased. In the end, there were deaths of the young people who stood up against it and a stream of the spectres appearing with them.
At the end of was a warning written by the village's fortune teller.
"——『Don't get involved. He is the underworld's gatekeeper』 and that's it."
—— 【R Quest: Subjugate Wisteria Peach Tree's Giant Wolf】 has been started.
In that moment, we have started an unknown quest.
" " "......?!!" " "
The three of us were startled by the sudden appearance of quest information.
"Hey, Taku. Why did a quest start?"
"I've no idea, there must've been some condition. We did something no one did before."
"Um, not done before. That'd be, deciphering the words left by the mayor? But it was done before. However, deciphering it from a screenshoot..."
"Maybe deciphering the object that cannot be taken away in this place is a condition?"
I organized the quest conditions pointed out by Myu.
『Deciphering』 the 『Object』 in the 『Basement』. If the location, target and action conditions are fulfilled it starts up, that's convincing.
There's only a few players who would have 【Linguistics】 to decipher it and even less would come to this place directly.
Honestly, there was a blind spot in the conditions, I've had tons of questions about it.
What does this R Quest's R mean? Anyway, let's confirm the quest details from the menu for now.
—— 【R Quest: Subjugate Wisteria Peach Tree's Giant Wolf 1／3 】 ——
Destroy the cornerstones. —— 0／7
Not understanding the meaning of the quest's content, I looked towards Taku and Myu for help, but they shook their heads in the same manner.
"I don't know. But let's take screenshots of the important things in here. They might get handy later."
"You're right. Let's try looking for other info and go out."
As suggested by Myu, I saved the tapestry map on a screenshot and explored the basement. I was unable to find anything else other than the tapestry map.
"Still, R Quest huh. Myu-chan, do you have any idea what this R character means?"
"Hmm. Maybe it's something like 'Rare's' R, or maybe 'Relation's' R?"
What Myu mentioned might have been possible. However, Taku shot one of them down.
"I don't really get it, but I think its not 'relation' meaning. In case of the related quests, there's already the C of the 'chain' written in front. I don't think it's rare either. Yun, does anything come to your mind?"
"There's no way I could know if two hardcore gamers don't. Before that, the quest's first challenge, a cornerstone..."
"Won't we figure it out after we go back up? I'll go ahead."
Leaving that behind, Myu escaped from the stinky basement.
Taku and I shrugged in the dim basement, feeling the same and not wanting to stay in the dim basement forever.
After we left the narrow oppressive deserted house, we were able to feel a pleasant breeze under the blue sky. I stretched my body feeling the openness and took a look around.
"The hint would be tapestry's mark, I guess."
The number of marks on the tapestry in the basement was 7 and matching the number of cornerstones, that would probably be it.
Also, cornerstones would be the stones that are put into the ground to control underground water flows and earthquakes, at times it was used to seal spirits.
If you think of it as of a spiritual symbol, then it was something that shouldn't be touched. Is what it meant. And destroying it...
"The 'cornerstone' sounds unpleasant. It seems like something that seals evil spirits..."
"Rather than that, the closest one from here would be there."
Myu proceeded forward alone. Isn't that a bit too forceful, I thought, but looking at her from behind I understood.
"Good grief, Myu can't suppress her curiosity."
"It can't be helped right. Just by knowing there's an unknown quest, she became both cautious and excited. Let's overlook this."
Myu's suppressed the desire to dash in all alone and impatience could be felt from how she was skipping towards the target. She's all fidgety, still a kid isn't she. I thought.
"Still, Subjugate the giant wolf, that'd be a boss battle... are we going to do it with the three of us?"
"Well, if it seems like we can't do it we can always run. If we don't escape and die we can always retake the quest again."
I think dying and getting a death penalty would be painful, but it wasn't like we would lose any levels.
The demerits of it would be losing half the money and decline of the stats over a period of time. Meanwhile we would have time to remake out strategy and spend some time to cool our heads.
"Look look, Taku-san, Onee-chan. Isn't that the first cornerstone?"
In the direction Myu pointed to, there was a rock we saw before when we were exploring the abandoned village. Other than that nondescript stone, there was no other object that could be the cornerstone.
"Now, let's start. Onee-chan, please."
"Me, huh. Well, what we have do won't change, so fine."
I pulled out a pickaxe from the inventory and swung it down. With a high-pitched, hard sound as a response, a small scratch appeared on the stone. Unlike it's appearance suggested, it seemed difficult to destroy.
"Hard! Won't my pickaxe break before we finish destroying them all?"
"If that happens I'll blow it away with magic."
"Then, I leave that to you. Ha!"
I swung two, three times, enlarging the scratch. And when the cornerstone was destroyed, a change has occurred.
"Yun, get back! Myu-chan."
I moved to the back, Myu and Take moved in front and set up their swords. Ryui's and Zakuro's also entered battle readiness, their hair tails and mane were raised as they stared at the broken cornerstone.
A white smoke has flowed form inside and gradually formed a shape of a person. It was a semi-transparent adult woman that looked like she was from countryside. There was no vitality in her face, she just one-sidedly spoke.
『"I'm grateful to you for releasing me. But you should go back immediately. You'll still make it."』
After leaving those words behind, she disappeared, dissolving in the air like a ghost or apparition that moved on.
"What was that just now."
"Wasn't that a quest NPC? Probably there are similar ones in the other cornerstones."
Taku responded to my question. Indeed, it was convincing if it's an event character.
"Look, the number on quest is increasing so it's properly progressing."
Despite the words of warning the woman who disappeared said, there was interest in the quest and curiosity that told us that the next cornerstone will reveal why was the village ruined.
Even if we were being stopped, the next one would bring us closer to the truth. It was as if one read about a ghastly sight but wouldn't know the truth until they continued reading, a development of a mystery novel.
"...it's gotten interesting."
"Ohh, after coming this far you've finally gotten eager, Yun. Well then, let's learn the giant wolf's identity as today's quest."
"Agreed! Next would be there! Let's go!"
We continued to destroy the cornerstones one after another.
From the destroyed cornerstones appeared a small child, dauntless youth, a girl with freckles, one-eyed hunter, a fat peddler. After hearing each of them confer, we gradually approached the core of the story.
We listened to the words of the last one, a woman wearing a robe.
『"I am a fortune teller. Well, I no longer have the power to learn things. Well then, since you are going around breaking the cornerstones, it must mean you want to fight that giant wolf. Even though I left wooden strips to stop ye. Since it's come to this, it's now too late. So, about him. He's just a ghost wolf that was entrusted the tree by a goddess. Nonetheless, he lived as a ghost for long long years, ye better remember his strength is not ordinary. If you can, I want ye to help that wolf who's obsessed with his mission. That's the last request of this old woman."』
After all the cornerstones were destroyed and all the cast finished talking, I had a rough idea of the background story.
It was a tale of a small, somewhat dark village becoming a ruin.
After a bad harvest had befallen the village, it has offered sacrifices to the giant wolf that was the land's god. Some of the rebellious villagers broke the cornerstones and rebelled, trying to defeat the giant wolf. However, the plan had failed and the village was destroyed.
The living had become sacrifices and the dead had become undead in the Horia Cave.
It was the 【Giant Wolf and the Wisteria Peach Tree】 that devoured foreign enemies, protecting people. And at the same time it was the 【Giant Wolf and the Wisteria Peach Tree】 that was being given sacrifices by the village.
In the end, they could either run away from the village or settle for the current status of the village. The giant wolf only cared about its own mission. In an attempt to overcome this fate, they incurred the giant wolves' wrath and everything has perished.
"It's a somewhat sad story. I was surprised when the children and women appeared as ghosts."
"True. Even if it's a setting, it's quite sad. Still, the quest is ongoing. If we defeat the Giant Wolf at least their souls will be saved, so we can properly give them salvation."
"It's just as Myu-chan says, the quest proceeded to the next step."
In response to Taku's words who checked the quest in the menu, I also took a look at the quest that progressed.
—— 【R Quest: Subjugate Wisteria Peach Tree's Giant Wolf 2／3 】 ——
Defeat the monsters that appear by the Wisteria Peach Tree. —— 0／1
The quest was definitely progressing.
We arrived at the quest point which was the Wisteria Peach Tree.
After we climbed up the hill we saw a normal blue sky spread out and space spread out below, but after we took a step over an invisible border we saw a different space spread out.
"Wha?! This is..."
There was a purple sky and a Wisteria Peach Tree with beautiful purple flowers. And, by the tree there was a horde of mobs awaiting us.
Illuminated by the creepy black sun, they all set up on their respective prey.
"Uwaa... impossible. This many of them."
"Wheeew... hmm. That'd be above hundred I guess? Taku-san, you think we can take them on?"
"If each of us takes 30 of them on... we'll barely manage."
"Myu, Taku! It's no time for carefree act! We're escapin...g."
I turned around, and when I attempted to take a step away from the tree, another few dozens of undead have crawled out from the ground and surrounded us.
Completely surrounded, I realized we cannot escape.
"Oh come on, we'll lose this right. Sorry Ryui, Zakuro. ——《Dismissal》"
"That's a number that'd makes even me want to run for my life, but well, let's got at them at full strength!"
I have already realized that we're going to lose and returned both Ryui and Zakuro to the summoning stones. Myu and Taku also seemed to have resolved themselves to receive a death penalty. However, we displayed the will to fight until the end.
"Yun. Give me attack. For Myu-chan, a speed enchant!."
"Roger. 《Enchant》 ——Attack, speed."
With my enchants as a starting point, the undead have assaulted us.
Forming a circle around us, they pointed their swords and spears in our direction as not to let us escape. Bodies of bone stomped on the ground with dirty leather boots they barely wore, forming a siege around us.
And jumping over the undead was someone entering the interior of the encirclement.
In the direction Taku muttered towards, there were three skeletons riding semi-transparent wolves large enough to allow a human ride on them. Each of them had a weapon and were irregularly equipped skeleton cavalry. The cavalry wolves had a semi-transparent bodies and were clad in purple flames, they had skeletons sitting in ragged saddles on top of them.
When those three came out, the surrounding undead only poised their weapons and were stuck on spot.
"First move for the win! ——《Sunlight Arrow》!"
Myu shoot multiple arrows of light from her free hand, engulfing one of the Skeleton Raiders and turning part of the undead siege into ash.
With just a single hit she sent a Skeleton Raider and a number of undead into oblivion.
What remained were undead who wouldn't attack and two Skeleton Raiders.
If it's like that then we can fight... we held onto faint expectations, however.
"Hahaha, no way. They got replenished."
My mutter has been sucked in by the purple sky.
The undead moved to close the hole that opened in the encirclement and behind them new undead have appeared, crawling out from the ground.
The undead siege simply replenished itself and once again, a Skeleton Raider has jumped in above the wall of undead.
"This seems like an event battle. We can't get away, but we won't be attacked harshly enough to be annihilated. We need to defeat a number of them and there's probably a time limit. Yun, are you ready?!"
"Well, we have to go at it until we can see the end! Onee-chan, support please!"
Myu and Taku kicked off the ground the same time and closed on the Skeleton Raiders.
Back to back with each other, Myu and Taku covered each other's blind spots, fighting against three Skeleton Raiders at once with the two of them.
After having her speed increased by the enchant Myu played around with the Skeleton Raider, inhibiting its mobility by aiming at the wolf that was responsible for it.
Using that chance Taku used an art and steadily dealt damage to the skeleton's body.
Myu led it around its nose and Taku delivered damage to it.
When the target changed to Taku, he loosened the attacks and Myu rushed at it instead to get targeted again.
I couldn't afford to just watch as the two performed a delicate hate management during combat. I attacked lightly to avoid the target changing, put on enchants on the two and used the speed cursed on the skeletons.
In addition to that, I assumed a support role of recovering HP and MP that were decreased as the two were hit or used arts.
Time after time again the two defeated Skeleton Raiders that reappeared. Even if one was defeated, another one always jumped inside of the encirclement. Alone, they were quite weak, but with no end in sight or a break our nervousness grew and we were being slowly worn out.
"Yun, a new one came out!"
Since they were late to cope with a Skeleton Raider jumping in from outside of the encirclement, its target didn't change to Myu and it came running towards me.
As expected of a raider-type mob. It approached at a considerably high speed, as it charged towards me with a strong momentum and a high reach of the spear it held in its arm, the sound of the air being cut has reached my ears.
Also, since it thrust down at me from a higher position, it was difficult to counter-attack with a kitchen knife that had a small reach and the longbow that had low manoeuvrability.
Still, even though it wasn't at level of Myu or Taku, I was capable of self-defence.
Rolling on the ground, I avoided the thrust coming from above and applied cursed on the back of the Skeleton Raider that ran by.
The Skeleton Raider turned around by the edge of the encirclement by directing the wolf and without losing momentum assaulted me again.
The two raised their voices, but there was no need to worry. I was already prepared to intercept it.
" ——《Clay Shield》!"
An earthen wall appeared between me and the Skeleton Raider.
Without reducing the momentum the Skeleton Raider grandly hit the earthen wall that suddenly appeared and the bones its body was made of have scattered grandly.
Having a cursed status applied on it, the Skeleton Raider received damage from its own charge.
The wolf stood up unsteadily and its raider barely had any bones left in its body to fight. That's when I dealt the finishing blow to it.
"——《Bow Skill - Arrow Stitching》!"
I jumped out from the side of the earthen wall and pulled the bow's string to the limit. The art released at close distance penetrated the Skeleton Raider's upper body, broke up and scattered its bones.
The Skeleton Raider's upper body turned into light particles and the wolf spirit that was carrying the remaining lower body of the skeleton has escaped outside of the encirclement while sprinkling the particles of light all around.
Before we could check if the opponent was defeated or not, a new Skeleton Raider appeared from outside the encirclement and was halted by Myu and Taku.
I turned towards the two's back and re-applied the enchants.
"《Enchant》 ——Attack, speed!"
"Thanks! Myu-chan, hold down the right one!"
We continued to fight, cooperating together the three of us without falling. However, we didn't think a fight there's no sight of end to could be this tiring.
"Enemy's levels are are fine but... just how long are we supposed to take them on for!"
"Calm down Myu-chan!"
"Ahh, can we die and go back already? I've no problems with it at all..."
"You too saying such things, Yun! C'mon, another one's coming!"
When Taku cut the Skeleton Raider, no new enemy has appeared. Instead, the two remaining have jumped over the encirclement and the skeletons surrounding us dispersed to the sides, opening a path to the tree.
"What? Did we finally progress?"
"Seems... like it."
We defeated a few dozens of Skeleton Raiders. I don't know the exact number, but there was quite a lot of them.
And, we proceeded to the final step——
—— 【R Quest: Subjugate Wisteria Peach Tree's Giant Wolf 3／3 】 ——
Defeat the Wisteria Peach Tree's Giant Wolf 【Garm Phantom】. Remaining—— 0／1.
The quest advanced to the last stage and at the same time, fog started to gush out from the base of the tree.
The gushing purple poison-like gas formed a spiral. The wolf that was formed by the semi-transparent gas was worthy being called a giant.
Its total length was about ten metres. It was about three times as tall as a human. Wolf's limbs had its sharpness despite being a spirit body, and its mouth was big enough to swallow a human all at once.
The boss was clearly on a level at which players were unable to deal with. I felt a deja vu as I looked up and saw how enormous he was.
『"So ye are ones who destroyed my cornerstones..."』
"...the boss spoke. So he has an AI."
Taku muttered with admiration. However, it was ignored and the story continued.
『"The cornerstones are key points adjusted to suck out life! It's because of ye destroying it those undead are overflowing! Ye fools! Or maybe, ye were tempted by the healing of this tree!"』
Oh, I remember. I've seen mob this big before. It's the same as the 【Great Eater of Mythical Beasts】 that appeared on the last day of the summer camp event. It was too reckless for one person, no, it was too reckless for just one party to take it on.
A raid-class boss. R meant Raid. A quest recommended to be finished by multiple parties.
『"Just ye three aren't sufficient to become sacrifices. It cannot be helped, kin of mine, call them back."』
Howls have resonated together with the giant wolf's 【Garm Phantom】 words, seven Skeleton Raiders have appeared from the ground and flew away somewhere.
『"I would be content with devouring ye here and feeding the three with ye. However, for a new sacrifice ye are too few. I'll think of it if ye endure this blow."』
The giant wolf swung its big front leg. We reacted to that action.
Taku stood in front as a vanguard and took a defensive posture. I applied double DEF and MIND enchant on him and Myu expanded a light element's defensive membrane.
『"——Ye resist huh. Then I'll show ye."』
A single swing. A shockwave was released by the front leg swung down from above, it gouged the ground, engulfed the undead and assaulted us.
We tried to resist by clinging to the ground, but our resistance was in vain and we were lifted up and unable to position ourselves we fell on our backs.
It was a flashy attack that had enough power to lift a player's body. However, the shock I felt with my five senses was weaker then the one I would receive in the reality, making me confused.
If this was the reality, I should have felt a pain similar to being ripped apart, but having pain cut off in the game caused my sensory nerves to go mad, making me imagine it caused an overflow.
Myu and Taku also fell to the ground, glaring up at the giant wolf.
『"Hmph. Ridiculous, to think ye could defeat me with just that much! If ye wish to destroy us, bring ten times this much forces with ye!"』
The voice resounded on the battlefield. As I thought, this quest is recommended for a large number of people.
Rather than there being six cornerstones for six players of a party, there was seven for seven parties. The giant wolf also said there wasn't enough sacrifices. In other words, it meant 'call more people' hasn't it.
Even so, the resounding voice was quite harsh. Heavy bass sound intermittently delivered an impact to my head.
『"Hmph. Seems like they made it in time."』
While we couldn't get up, the Skeleton Raiders that flew away earlier have come back.
In their hands, they held seven ghost of the sacrifices with chains wound around them.
Both young and old, they were screaming with both their hands and legs immobilized.
『"So we weren't saved after all."』 『"No! I can't bear it no longer!"』 『"And here I thought I could finally meet my dead wife!"』 『"Back under the dark soil... I wonder when the next time will come."』 『"O' Goddess, is this also a trial?"』 『"I had nothing to do with the village in the first place! Release me!"』 『"So it failed huh. Well, think of yourselves as lucky for not becoming human sacrifices like us, forget this."』
The sacrifices that have become ghosts were dragged back to the ground along with the Skeleton Raiders.
What we saw in the end, were the ghosts making philosophical expressions or ones that suggested they gave up, crying children begging for help and heard screams that continued seemingly forever.
『"We will be going back to sleep. There will be no next time."』
Turning back into mist, Garm Phantom disappeared. Chasing after it, the undead sank into the ground. What was left behind, were just us, rolling on the ground.
Looking up at the Wisteria Peach Tree from below, having time to watch it with leisure I thought it was beautiful and out of place.
That's what they call escaping from reality, isn't it.
"Yun, Myu-chan. Are you okay?"
"I'm alive somehow. I was furthest back so I received little damage."
"I've had it close. Damn, my armour's durability..."
Right after such a tense scene, we've had a silly conversation. However, Myu alone stood up quietly without saying a word.
"Sorry. I'm feeling kind of bad, can I drop out?'
"Y-yeah, sure. Take it easy."
"Myu, are you okay?"
"Yup. I'll drink some water and calm down. Sorry."
Myu made a delicate smile and logged out. It was just a game, but she was deprived of her usual energetic behaviour and motivation.
This event must have been too shocking, normally filled with pride and confidence Myu probably had it all shattered with one blow...
"Got it. Since it's not enough with just us, I'll talk with some acquaintances."
"Sure, I leave that to you, Taku. I'll go take a look how's Myu."
I got worried about Myu who logged out and kind of lightly ignored what Taku said.
"Myu-chan's isn't feeling the best. It can't be helped. Hurry up and go."
"What are you saying. Both Myu-chan and you are important companions of mine. It's a given."
I thanked Taku in my mind. Accepting his encouragement, I also logged out.
After logging out, I went to Miu's room to check up on her and knocked on the door.
"Miu? How are you feeling? Can I enter?"
I've heard a sound come from inside, after a while, "you can enter" I heard Miu's voice say so.
"Coming in. Are you okay?"
"Ehehe, I lost."
She made a broad smile like back when I pat her, but this time it felt devoid of energy and motivation. It felt like she was just acting strong.
I asked Miu not minding that at all.
"Was losing that much of a shock to you?"
"Hmm. I... guess so? I mean, I never lost before."
As iff〜. She made a joke, but her expression was clouded over soon enough.
"As I thought, losing in a game is normal, isn't it. Winning and losing, losing and winning. Repeating that is fun, but I might have forgotten how is it to lose."
"I hardly ever win, it's all failures. It's not something to be bothered by so much, right?"
"That's because Onii-chan knows how it is to lose. But, you see. That's why I didn't think losing in VR would be that shocking. It was my first experience..."
Miu paused in middle of the sentence. I waited for her to continue.
"...also, that quest. The last ghost quest NPC stared at me before it disappeared. It's eyes were incredibly hateful, it was scary. I've never been looked at like that."
"How unexpected, to think you think such things as well."
"Hey, that makes me mad! But, isn't that quest's objective?"
Quest's objective, I didn't understand what she meant, but there seemed to be a meaning of it for Miu.
She looked up at the room's ceiling, let out a breath grandly and answered to that.
"Games are fun right. They're exciting, thrilling and addictive making you want to play. They makes me wanna go at them hard, have fun and make an uproar. That kind of festival-like fun times seem to go on forever, right."
"Well, I think it would be nice if fun times continued forever."
"But, playing games has to end one day. The world of dreams won't be there forever. Sometimes I decrease the time I play to remind myself of the real, aren't times like this that leave a bad after-taste good for to reconsider things?"
"...an opportunity to reconsider, huh. Maybe so."
When I was passing through the Horia Cave I hated it from the bottom of my heart. Since the games were providing fun, being pulled back to reality at times was very uncomfortable. No one could tell what kind of traumas people had, what they were uncomfortable with or what would stimulate them. However, among the people with diverse personalities there will be those pulled by to reality by such things.
In order to change that unpleasant mood of theirs, they would look away from the game and would be reminded of the society existing in the real. I wonder if that was the intention behind such things.
"So, Miu, you're going to readjust yourself on the inside?"
"Yup. I might not break through it immediately, but it's okay. The greatest paladin Myu will come back without a doubt. Um... wait for it, kai?"
I extended my hand to wards Miu who acted shyly, as I pat her head she responded with a slightly embarrassed smile.
And——Miu's stomach sounded grandly. Honestly, her stomach reminded of its existence loud enough for me to hear it. Miu tried to make excuses in a hurry.
"N-no that's not it! It's not that!"
"Yes yes. Good grief, is there anything you want to eat?"
"Uuu... then, something gently-tasting."
I looked as Miu grasped the sheets of her bed and was dyed red with shame up to her ears.
"Then, I'll make rice gruel with crab and eggs. There should be a crab for a hot pot, so I'll borrow a leg or two from that."
When I was leaving Miu's room, a quiet mutter made me return a smile before I shut her room's door.
It seems like there was nothing to worry about, but it will take time.