◆ Ikana Village ◆
It was a nostalgic scene with greenery and fields everywhere. In front of my house, my mother is beckoning me. No matter how much I wanted to, I could not get back to those days, but now they are here. When lunch is ready, and she stops me from playing, she is always wearing an apron.
「 What’s the matter, Ryua, come here. 」
「 Mom… 」
Tears streamed down my cheeks as the voice I had heard ten years ago called me softly. Every time I took a step closer to the house, my mom smiled.
「 Mom, you’re alive… 」
「 Mmmm, come here. 」
I thought I would never hear that voice again, let alone touch it. I could see my mother, whom I thought I would never see again. That alone gave me the urge to break down and cry. Just standing here now is all I can do. I want to go there and be hugged with all my might.
But I was satisfied with just hearing her voice. I can’t give in to such temptation.
Because this is not Ikana Village.
◆ Mist Village Abandoned Village ◆
I clapped my hands as hard as I could on my cheeks, and the surrounding scenery changed completely. To be precise, nothing has changed since the beginning, but I was the only one who could see it. Originally, there was no mother. There is no Ikana village. All that’s left are ruins that were destroyed by floods.
I wondered if this Fog, which Shinbu had referred to as a man-eating Fog, was the one that had shown me those things. Of course, I understand the meaning of the analogy. Right now, in front of me is a wall of a house that looks like it’s about to rot away, and a bottomless swamp ahead of it. If I had continued on my way, I would have been stuck in the swamp and would have died without waking up from my hallucination.
I have no intention of dying for that, but the hallucination I just had accurately reflected my memories. I wondered if this Fog was a natural occurrence.
「 Ryua-chan, where did you go? 」
Roel was calling me from the other side of the fog. The reason why Roel seemed to have disappeared on the way was because I didn’t see her anymore. I want to say that I’m glad that she’s okay, but for a moment, I’m disoriented by this fog.
If something happened to Roel during that time, it would be too late. I can’t underestimate the power of a dungeon like this. I have to be more and more cautious. I must become stronger, stronger, stronger, stronger, stronger, stronger, stronger so that I will never be fooled by this Fog again.
「 There you are! Thank God…I couldn’t catch up with you because you suddenly started running…Ryua-chan, were you crying? 」
「 No, I’m not crying. 」
「 Why are your eyes are all red, though?」
「 I’m not crying! 」
I was so upset that I turned my head away. It would have made me look even more suspicious, but I felt so embarrassed that I didn’t want Roel to see my face. But Roel was still kind enough to hug me from behind without asking me about the details. I don’t know why she was doing this, but she was kind to me like always.
「 If you’re not crying, and we need to get out of here right now. 」
「 Yeah, we’re in the middle of an exam! 」
The only reason we were left in this gloomy place was because of the exam. This fog is not only giving me hallucinations, but it’s also blocking my vision. If it gets any worse, we’ll be in trouble, so we decide to get out of this abandoned village.
By the way, I wonder if Roel has been shown any illusions by Fog.
◆ Mist Village Forest Area ◆
We avoided the swampy areas and looked for a place where it would be easy to walk. There were more zombies walking at a slower pace from the depths of the Fog than I expected, which probably meant that more people had lost their lives here.
It wasn’t so much a forest as it was not covered with trees, but more like a woodland. Thanks to the sparse trees, it was easy to walk. The question was whether we were actually heading for the exit of the forest. There was originally a village where people lived, so there must be a path somewhere. It was Roel who said so. But the floods have changed the topography of the forest itself, making it difficult to find.
Maybe I should carry Roel on my back and make a dash for it. Just as I was thinking this, I heard a scream from inside the Fog.
「 Ryua-chan, did you hear that? 」
「 Yeah, it’s that way. Let’s go there. 」
That wasn’t an illusion. Thanks to the deception of the fake Ikana village, I was able to distinguish between what was an illusion and what was not. If I recall, this is how I adapted to many things when I was in the Cave of the Abyss.
No, it’s not about that, it’s about that scream now. Either someone is being attacked by a demon, or I just can’t leave it alone.
【 Fog’s tracker appears, HP 3670 】
【 Bobs’ explosive punch deals 61 damage to Fog’s Tracker! 】
「 Hey, are you okay? I think it was Josh or something. 」
「 Bo, Bobs…san. 」
「 No, no, no, run. Even you can’t beat that floor monster… 」
「 Fog’s Tracker… once he sees you, he’ll chase you until you escape out of the forest! I’m not stupid enough to know that a fast Thief would be a nuisance to be caught like this! 」
There they were, Bobs, Josh, and a cockroach-like creature with 20 legs. The unbalanced appearance of its long, thin legs and elliptical torso was a little weird.
No matter how you look at it, Bobs doesn’t stand a chance. It looks slender and not very defensive, but it’s covered with a hard shell that makes it impossible to inflict a fatal wound with a half-hearted attack. But even though he was the first to strike, Bobs’ fists were still not weak enough to not inflict even the slightest damage on it. This is not the time to be analyzing the situation.
「 Take this, Fire Rod! 」
【 Roel swings his Fire Rod, dealing 640 damage to Fog’s Tracker! HP 2969/3670 】
Roel has taken the initiative in attacking that cockroach. The cockroach was engulfed in intense flames, but it wasn’t that deadly. Maybe it’s magic, or maybe it’s resistant to fire, but that cockroach is much sturdier than I thought it would be, able to withstand the flames of a Level 67 Roel.
I hadn’t expected Roel to move before me, so I took a look.
【 Fog’s Tracker’s multi-legged dance! 】
【 Ryua attacked Fog’s Tracker, dealing 439566 damage! HP 0/3670 】
If I had left it alone, some of its legs would have extended and started spinning, damaging a wide area. It would have been fatal to Bobs and Josh if they had been hit by it. It was surprisingly quick to attack, and if Fog Tracker was anything like its name, it was a serious threat to the adventurers.
A normal adventurer would not be able to save himself if he was chased at that speed. On the contrary, they would be caught before they could even attempt to escape.
For now, I was impressed, but the cockroach disappeared without leaving a trace. Apparently, when I swing my sword, most of my opponents are obliterated by wind pressure alone.
「 Fueee~, no matter how many times I see it, Ryua-chan’s blows are brutal. 」
「 I don’t want to be told by Roel, who vaporized Poison Zombies with a Fire Rod… 」
「 What was that… an added effect of that sword? 」
「 Nonsense, this is just a normal sword… 」
The two of them were stunned for a while, Josh was looking at the sword I was holding obsessively, as if he thought it had a trick. But it’s a cheap bastard sword. With 150,000 gold in my pocket, I should be able to afford a little luxury.
Josh turned to Bobs, finally coming to terms with the reality before him.
「 Bo, Bobs-san, I…I… 」
「 I don’t care anymore that you tried to steal my money. For now you need to work on your bad habits. 」
It was me and Roel who took down Fog’s tracker, but it was Bobs who was trying to protect Josh in the first place, and I know he wanted to thank me in his own way, but I don’t think he got the message.
「 Thanks, mate. Honestly, I thought we were done here. I’m Bobs, knuckle fighter. I’d like to hear your name if you don’t mind. 」
「 I’m Ryua, and this is Roel. 」
「 Maybe you’re… the one who won the tournament and played a role in defeating the Demon Lord’s army. I see, that’s why she’s so strong. 」
More than that, is the existence of the newborn Demon Lord Army known after all? I’m sure Greyman knew about it, too. It’s called the fact that the hero’s sword was suddenly released to the public, and it seems like it’s somehow connected to a lot of things, but not necessarily.
「 Better yet, we should get the heck out of here. 」
Josh scurried to look around. I wondered what he was so cautious about, but I soon found out. One cockroach, two cockroaches, three cockroaches. One, two, three cockroaches approaching at high speed, their legs moving busily.
【 Three of Fog’s Trackers appeared, HP 3670.】
「 Besides Fog, this is one of the reasons why the Danger Level in this forest has been raised… 」
Even one of them is a threat to an ordinary adventurer, but with this many of them around makes it even more dangerous. It looks like everyone acted independently, but I wonder if they are okay. I’m sorry, but I don’t think any of them are good enough to compete with these guys. I wonder how everyone is dealing with a monster that can even catch up to Josh, who appears to be very fast with his feet.
In the first place, the village was originally inhabited, so why are there so many of these things around? If by any chance there was a cause other than flood damage, it would be this.
「 Everyone, stay back. I’ll clean it up again. 」
「 No, wait! Rather than completely wiping them out like before, it’s their shells! As I recall, it’s traded for a good amount of money, and maybe we can use it as proof of clearing the test! 」
Everyone agreed with Josh’s statement. Come to think of it, it’s not enough to just get out. Surely, if we had the ability to defeat these guys, Shinbu might approve.
That’s fine, but who’s going to defeat them while leaving only their shells behind? I’m not sure what to do. With a sigh, I had no choice but to clean them all up without destroying them.
◆ Mist Village near the Exit ◆
The Fog illusion is such that if there are more than one of us, we can stop each other from going to strange places. I’m fine now, but Josh and Bobs are in danger. I wondered how they were able to stay safe while they were on their own. Since then, thanks to Josh’s comments, I’ve collected a lot of stuff, including some Marsh Snake fangs that are being sold for a reasonable price, so it’s not a bad idea to have them around.
Josh has been kind enough to share some of the items he stole from the monsters with us, so maybe he’s a better person than we thought.
「 Wow, we’ve gathered so many shells, thanks to Ryua-chan. 」
「 Mou, I didn’t think they’d like that… 」
「 Even an A Rank party would be in danger if they got swarmed… what level are you at? 」
I can kill a Fog Tracker in the blink of an eye, and I’m apparently extraordinary. But in my opinion, it’s the people who tried to get through such dangerous monsters roaming around by themselves that are more amazing.
But from what I’ve heard, it seems that most people went through with a party, and very few people went through alone. That being the case, I haven’t seen any other parties since then. I wonder if they got out safely or not.
By the way, when I showed them my adventurer’s card because they wanted to know my Level, they repeatedly rubbed their eyes. I was a little annoyed when Josh made a snide remark about it being fake.
「 Aside from Ryua’s Level, Roel’s Level already puts her at the top of the A Rank… why are you taking this exam now? 」
「 Because they say we can’t even take the exam if we don’t have any achievements… 」
I’m not going to be able to take this exam without a certain level of achievement, even at B Rank. I wonder what kind of achievements Bobs and Josh have.
We were comfortable enough to walk around talking about such trivial things. I had a pretty good idea of the monster’s Level, and the Fog was no problem. The only question was whether Shinbu would accept me as a passer with just these collected items.
Josh said we were almost at the exit. There’s a big river running nearby, and we’re walking along it now. I still don’t know where Fog or the monsters came from, though I’ve heard that the floods were caused by this river overflowing. I believe that this place was originally a difficult place for people to live in.
「 The Fog is getting thinner and thinner, so we’re getting closer to the exit… hmm? 」
What we found at the same time was an adventurer lying on his back. I could tell just by looking at him that he was dead. He had an arrow in his head.
「 Bobs-san, look out! 」
As I took control of the situation, an arrow flew out of nowhere from within the thin Fog. It was aimed straight at Bobs’ head with precise accuracy. I grabbed the arrow just before it hit, but it didn’t look like it belonged to a monster. There are some intelligent monsters that can use bows and arrows. There were some like that in the Cave of the Abyss.
But this one clearly belonged to a human. And the owner who fired the arrow aimed at Bobs.
「 Hey, what was that? 」
「 Everyone, stay in one place. It’s easier for me to protect you. 」
「 Who just shot an arrow at me? If you’re going to do this, you better come out and play fair! This Bobs will be your opponent! 」
「 That’s brave of you. 」
It was Marilyn who came out from behind the tree. I had a pretty good idea of what she was going to do from the fact that her slender sword was already covered in blood. I couldn’t find the man, but it was probably Kank who had shot that arrow at us.
「 Why are you doing this? We’re supposed to be taking exams, you and I. 」
「 Because we’re in the middle of an exam. That guy we just killed was out of it. He didn’t have anything good on him. You guys have some good stuff. That’s the hull of Fog Trackers, isn’t it? 」
Marilyn’s mouth curved up in a sneer. That’s what these guys wanted to do, kill people. It wasn’t like they were going to kick other adventurers down the road, they were just going to wait here and take what they had. The people there struggled to finally find a way out, and then they were killed by these guys.
What did the adventurer lying there do? That person must have had some kind of goal or dream in mind when he set out for A Rank. You don’t have the right to shut it down for selfish reasons. Besides, the person there had only an arrow in her hand, but Marilyn’s sword had blood on it. That means that person is not the only one she killed.
「 I’ll let you off the hook if you leave me alone. 」
「 Do you really think you’re going to get a pass for this? I’ve seen your misdeeds right here and now! 」
「 Yes, you will. This is the seat where Crusher Hekaton can sit at the top. The whole point of this test is to see who is strongest, that’s all. 」
Roel’s face turned red and shouted, but Marilyn only laughed mockingly. It’s a world where strength is all that matters, and even guys like Hekaton are accepted for that. Even people like this are allowed to get away with it.
「 Are you trying to resist, by any chance? You seem to be pleased with yourself for defeating Fog’s Tracker, but you can’ t beat us. I’m sorry, but we specialize in this, killing demons and killing humans are two different things. 」
「 Everyone, stay back. I’ll finish this. 」
「 Huh? You’re want to fight… well, you’re a Ryua, aren’t you? I see, I see… fufufu 」
「 What’s so funny? 」
「 No, it’s because you don’t seem to understand the situation you’re in. I feel sorry for you, you poor kid. By the way, have you been in any danger lately? 」
I was a little confused about what Marilyn meant by that, but it didn’t matter. All I had to do was shut them up. That’s it. I put my sword down and approached Marilyn.
「 Oh, you’re unarmed. I’ve been taken for a fool, haven’t I? Hmmm… 」
I relaxed my body and pretended to be defenseless. I haven’t been this angry with a human since Hekaton. There are many people who just can’t be helped after being left alone on their own devices, so I have to teach them a lesson.
「 You can come at me anytime, Auntie. 」
Perhaps reacting to the word 「 aunt, 」 Marilyn gritted her teeth and began to chant. And shortly after, the slender sword was covered in lightning.
Monster Information Book
【 Poison Zombie HP 644 】
A stranded human began to wander about, unable to die.
It’s an orthodox Undead-type demon, but it can be tough to kill if you’ve been around long enough.
【 Marsh Snake HP 503 】
A snake that lives in swamps. It usually preys on frogs and other animals, but when humans approach it, it will attack from the bottom of the swamp. Its size is not that big, but its speed is unusually high, and it can cause unexpected damage.
【 Fog Tracker HP 3670 】
An insect-type demon whose biology is not well understood.
It has a high level of defense that is unimaginable from its slender appearance, and it boasts a terrifying speed that makes it difficult for a human to shake off.
It reacts to sounds and the whereabouts of its friends, so it’s a nuisance whether you defeat it or not. It is an unparalleled carnivore, so if you throw it a piece of meat, it will become absorbed in eating it.