Record.3 Ancestral Spirit of Earth (Gnome)
Water dripped down from the ceiling.
It was raining outside. The rain water seeped into the earth, guided by the walls of the temple, and reemerged from the ceiling of the passage.
Due to the dripping water, the ground turned into sludge. Several indentations on the ground had accumulated water, taking on the appearance of a swamp.
At this very passage of the temple——
“Hmm. So there is no rain in Underworld then?”
“Yup. It’s ‘under’ after all. So I was shocked when I first came up. I even panicked since I thought I was being attacked by someone’s spell.”
“In just the environment, there are differences between Earth and Underworld, as expected.”
Elise was in a pleasant mood, she advanced forward with skipping steps.
She lightly made her way over the muddy ground, Ren chased after her and made a shocked voice.
——After they had overcome all the traps.
There were no other obstacles along the passage, they didn’t run into any monsters either. Even so, the party still progressed with caution. Elise, after watching water droplets fall from the ceiling, was somehow moved and started chatting with Ren.
On Earth’s surface, there were devices called “Trial Gate”, passing through one would lead to the realm underneath.
Due to its special airflow, the place was scorching hot during the day, while during the night its chilling air froze everything. The ones who ruled such world were the Demons, and the one who ruled the Demons was Elise.
“Ren, if you do visit the Underworld, I can be your tour guide. Besides, my home is extraordinarily huge; no matter how many people you bring, it can accommodate them all.”
“……W-well, yes. If I get the chance to.”
Even first-class parties would have second thoughts about visiting Underworld. Everyone knew the tales, tales of the many parties in the past that entered Underworld to learn more about it, only to pitifully flee from there one after another.
“Oh my, that sure does bring back memories. Three hundred years ago, Eleline single handedly fought his way in. He travelled through Underworld all alone, defeated the Demons that attacked him, and made them guide him to my castle. My subordinates too, he beat them to a pulp. And then he said to me: ‘Hey, stop this fight with Heaven right this moment’.”
“He sure had an unexpected way of doing this…”
“Right? That’s what I thought too. Then he said: ‘before I came here, I already discussed this with the Goddess of Heaven’. Can you believe that? Him, a mere human? Back then in Heaven, the Goddess Resflaze was pretty strong, but there was also this Archangel berserker who was even more dangerous than the Goddess. That was common knowledge even in Underworld.”
Elise then delicately turned around.
“Same with you. Didn’t you also lose miserably to Eleline?”
The former Demon King retaliated with a meaningful glance and tone.
The blonde Archangel easily faced her glance and replied with a serene smile.
“However, when you think about it, only Eleline could come up with something like that. No one would have imagined him bringing Goddess Resflaze-sama down to Earth and having her shake hands with the Demon Imperial Princess who ruled Underworld.”
“Seriously. At first I thought: this isn’t funny. But Eleline was watching over us from behind, and my subjects who lost to him have no choice but to obey. More importantly, because of that hand shake, my hand received the Goddess’s blessing for about a year. During that year my entire hand was plagued by constant stabbing pain.”
“Resflaze-sama had to go through the same thing as well. She always complained about how her hand was drenched in the miasma from the Demon Imperial Princess. For a while her hand was all red and swollen.”
Heaven and Underworld. Angels and Demons.
The dispute between the realms continued for centuries; because Earth was situated between them, it served as the battleground.
Human societies suffered grievous damages in the crossfire.
Even so, humans couldn’t intervene in this conflict, their only option was to flee. In the end, the war was put to an end by one person, none other than Brave Hero Sword Emperor Eleline.
“Oh yes. Ren, forget about Underworld for now, let me take you to Heaven first.”
“Heaven… Huh? I can actually go!?”
Heaven was a world believed by humans to be difficult to step foot in. Unlike Underworld, it was difficult to enter for a different reason.
With Underworld, once the hidden Trial Gate was found, anyone can enter. The problem was that the level of danger presented by its ecosystem was simply unmatched. Furthermore, it was a world filled with miasma.
On the contrary.
If one were to reach Heaven, just passing through the gate presented a daunting dilemma.
Angels’ judgement—only a few people on record succeeded in reaching Heaven, but Angels had set a myriad of conditions for those trying to enter. Perhaps it was due to the Angels’ fickleness, or it was to adjust to each particular party, the conditions kept on changing. From their standpoint, the humans were unable to see the reason in doing so.
“I do recall people saying if I want to go to Heaven I must fulfill several conditions set by the Angels.”
“On that you need not to worry, because you’ll be with me.”
Rather than nodding at Ren, Fear gave him a crafty wink.
“Heaven is a wonderful place, not like Underworld at all. It’s a paradise full of beautiful scenery.”
“Ah, Fear is a liar! Underworld is nice too. Even if you do go to Heaven you’ll only get bored, while Underworld is filled with all sorts of excitements!”
“Wrong, Ren must first receive the blessing from Goddess-sama—”
“No no no, he must first enjoy himself in Underworld—”
“Go to Valley of the Dragon first.”
The Archangel and the former Demon King were in a stare-down with neither of them showing the intention of backing off.
One sentence from the Dragon Princess made them stop abruptly.
“Oh, that’s rare. Kyelse, do you want to tour Ren around Valley of the Dragon?”
“If I don’t lead the way, Ren will likely be surrounded by Dragons who has no idea of what’s going on, he might even get chased out.”
Kyelse explained as she raised her hand to shield herself from the falling water droplets.
“Ren, no need to worry. Since the Dragon Princess is accompanying you, you can enter even Valley of the Dragon with swagger.”
“…… The way you say it is only making me more nervous.”
The unexplored region of Re Inferiel.
Dragons were the rulers of Earth, and this valley was named Valley of the Dragon. Among the many unexplored regions, every famous party had dreamed of conquering it, but in reality only a few had actually explored this place.
——All of them got chased away.
Regardless of how skillfully they projected their barriers, or tried to sneak in by masking their presence, they were caught immediately, enraging the Dragons. How terrifying would that be? Well, according to legend, when the Angels and Demons waged their war on Earth, at one point both sides agreed to not to let the destruction spread to the unexplored region of Re Inferiel.
Such was the extraordinary threat posed by the Dragons.
“The last sanctuary Eleline visited was this Valley of the Dragon, right?”
“Yeah. First Heaven, then Underworld. He said something about the valley being the last. At the time, I did hear of tales of humans who had forced Heaven and Underworld on their knees. Even so, I was genuinely surprised, never thought someone would be bold enough to challenge me.”
The water accumulating on the ground had pooled into the size of a pond. The Dragon maiden soared over it unhurriedly as she turned around.
Suddenly, she chuckled.
Those jade-green eyes vaguely hid a state of mind that was both mischievous and full of expectations
“You should become stronger quickly. Valley of the Dragon is difficult to venture into, the same goes for Heaven and Underworld, not to mention on Earth there are still many unexplored regions and sanctuaries unknown to man. Suppose you do find one of those places after going through many hardships, wouldn’t it be pointless to get chased out by the local guardian?”
“Ah, you’re right.”
Ren clenched his fist tightly and nodded.
…… Kyelse is right.
…… That is precisely why I followed this party.
Unknown worlds he never even heard of.
To roam all over the world, never ceasing. In the future, what will he see at his destination? What events will he encounter? Such were the thoughts Ren had since he was only a child.
“By the way, from your current level, before you master the sword style of Eleline, it is more important for you to strengthen your body as a whole.”
“Stamina, strength, and endurance. By the way, Eleline can floor a wyvern with a single punch. What’s more, even if other Dragon-species were to trample him as hard as they could, his body can withstand it.”
“Shouldn’t there be a limit to such absurdity?”
“It’s not like I’m going to force you to accomplish the same thing. Indeed, something like that is a bit ridiculous.”
Kyelse was serious as can be.
“But he himself had credited it as the result of his vigor and hard work.”
“…… No, how can something like that be achieved with only hard work?”
“I don’t know either. But I can guarantee that he worked harder than any other human in the world. Even during our journey, never once did I see him getting adequate sleep. At night, when I, Fear, or Elise were sleeping, he still persistently swung his sword to train his body. Perhaps… Now that I think about it, perhaps he had foreseen his final days, that might be why he was so hasty to make his life burn as brightly as he could before he dies. His resilience was without a doubt the result cultivated by his training, that is what I think about him.”
“…… I see.”
Sword Emperor Eleline.
Representing the epitome of mankind, an outstanding knight whose swordsmanship stood at the very peak.
He was the Brave Hero recorded by ancient texts, and yet there were untold stories of him like these. Perhaps that was the true side of Eleline, and in all likelihood, only the Three Great Princesses who traveled with him knew of it.
…… Maybe he had the talent for swordsmanship. Maybe he was a genius.
…… And yet, even though the Sword Emperor was so formidable, he never slacked off in his efforts.
Even Eleline was born from human parents and raised by them.
A human by birth, in order to break through the limit of strength set upon his race, just exactly how much determination and perseverance must he put forth?
“I think you’ve realized it yourself, you can’t depend on your strength to win, you’re a skill-oriented swordsman. Finding weaknesses and striking down your foes with a single blow—sounds great in theory, but when comparing Sword Emperor to you, that’s a crucial part of him you’re lacking.”
Pure physical capabilities.
That was what embarrassed Ren the most during his days at St. Fiora Journey Academy, when compared to his peer student knights.
His reflexes and agility were on par with everyone else’s.
But if he were to encounter a swordsman with superior physique, a clash of blades will always present a disadvantageous situation for him. With the passage of time, for Ren who lost in physicality by default, he found himself gradually being pushed into those situations. In fact, this became a common occurrence during training.
“…… What you just said, were all true.”
As a swordsman, his physique was far from excellent.
In order to compensate, Ren continuously honed his sword skills, but using such a method he’ll eventually run into a choke point.
“Ren, there’s no need for you to be so depressed.”
“Like what Kyelse said, the direction you’re pushing yourself towards is not wrong. But Eleline’s swordsmanship are extraordinary skills, in other words, if you want to learn his godlike swordsmanship, there’s going to be at least some basic requirements on your physical capabilities. That’s what she meant. Right, Kyelse?”
“Correct. That’s what I meant to say.”
Towards Fear’s supplementary points, the Dragon girl nodded to show her satisfaction.
“The miasma emitted by Demons, the multiple defensive barriers projected by Angels, and the scales of Dragons which are tougher than steel. Even those have their weaknesses, even barriers have fragile areas. To give you a simple example… Ah, I got one, you know about a Dragon’s reverse scale, right?”
“Oh…… I heard it’s the Dragon’s weakness.”
Reverse scale—among the surrounding tough scales, the only one that grows in the opposite direction.
On the body surface of a Dragon, that region has the highest concentration of nerve receptors for pain. Supposedly, if that reverse scale were to be cut off, all Dragons, regardless how strong, will be rendered unconscious from the pain.
“There’s a twisted trend among the human society, saying that a Dragon can be defeated by destroying the reverse scale, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Regular swordsmen can hack away all they want, but they won’t even be able to scratch the reverse scale of a hatchling, their swords will break first.”
“…… So it’s not that simple.”
“For a human to battle a Dragon, not counting oddballs like Eleline who can simply finish the fight with their fists, being able to use sword skills is a necessity, and there won’t be a lack of power attacks either, power is needed to destroy the reverse scale. If you want an example other than Dragons, same logic applies to the large wandering beasts, or the true beasts and divine beasts that guard the sanctuaries.”
“Spirits too, huh?”
The one who said it was Elise.
She had been silently listening until now.
“For Ren, perhaps his impression of Spirits is that of a harmless one like his (SALAMANDER)Ancestral Spirit of Fire, maybe they love to be pampered just as much. That kind of reaction, however, is rare.”
“Yeah, I was taught that too by the instructors at the Academy.”
The temperament of Spirits varied drastically.
For example, the (SPIRIT)Spiriters utilized armaments imbued with the abilities of Spirits, but the Spirits themselves will not willingly offer their help.
There were Spirits that enjoyed fighting.
There were mischievous Spirits, and there were cowardly Spirits.
For a Spirit to imbue its power to human armaments, the humans must first seek out its habitat, and then communicate with it appropriately depending on its mood and temperament. If successful, they would obtain a special equipment known as Spirit armament.
“Elise, did you learn these facts about Spirits from someone?”
“Me? I learned them myself. I’m interested in the Spirits’ wavelengths from the start, and also because back in Underworld there was no one who would come and challenge the Demon King, so I’d just waste time if I don’t occupy myself. It was also during that time I trained myself to be able to detect a Spirit’s scent.”
Elise replied in delight.
“Which is why I have high expectations of this place. What kind of Spirit dwells in this temple? What will happen at the end?”
“Hopefully it’ll be a Sprit that would cooperate.”
Elise showed a meaningful smile at Ren, who shrugged at her.
The party had walked for over an hour. Relying on the faint glow of moss to progress through this narrow underground path, this was a battle which sapped away their mental strength and drained even more of their stamina.
…… Neither traps nor wandering beasts.
…… But this cannot guarantee nothing will happen to us if we keep going.
There was still the problem with the Spirit.
If it indeed dwelled here, it would probably be at the deepest parts of this temple. But since they didn’t know their current location, there was no way for them to tell where the deepest part would be.
“Say, we walked a lot, didn’t we? Counting yesterday, we’ve walked for over a day.”
“You’re right. Actually, there’s a Spirit-like scent around here.”
“Eh, when did you start to notice?”
“Just a moment ago, when Kyelse was talking, didn’t I stay quiet? There was~ a reason for that.”
The dark-skinned girl said with a complacent face.
“Anyway, we should soon be coming across a joyful scene—”
As soon as she finished her sentence.
The ground started shaking.
“Wh-, what’s happening? This shaking…”
A booming noise.
The sound of objects crashing echoed over, drowning out Elise’s voice. It sounded like a large-scale cave-in.
This disturbance was not constant like that of an earthquake. Sounds of explosions kept erupting from the depth at irregular intervals, as if there was a huge amount of explosive material.
“…… This wavelength…… Should be human spells.”
“Huh, the origin is a bit further ahead of us. I’m guessing something major happened, this is a rare chance, let’s take advantage of it.”
The Archangel and the former Demon King looked at each other happily.
Kyelse side-eyed their conversation—
“Ren, time to go.”
“No problem, I’m ready anytime.”
Kyelse ran to the forefront, Ren chased after her brandishing his sword.
…… For a spell to generate such powerful explosions.
…… Some party is battling a wandering beast. Must be a strong foe too.
Ren suddenly imagined such a scenario.
Rock lizards like the one they fought at the beginning? No, there shouldn’t be any need to cast such powerful spells on rock lizards, even if fighting a horde of them.
With that said, the party’s opponent was—
“The waves from the spell came from the depths around that corner. Ren, careful.”
Ren was dashing forward. Towards Elise’s advice he only returned one word.
He arrived at an immense space, filled with blinding light.
This place was brightly illuminated by artificial magical lights and glowing moss, with an area of roughly twenty square meters. A huge square of worship.
At the center of the worship square, a massive black shadow emerged under the light with its fists raised up high.
——There was an enormous earthen golem.
Ren looked up at the heavy golem, which was probably ten times his weight, and shouted.
…… My first time seeing the real thing.
Essentially animated dolls, they can be made from a wide variety of materials, sometimes rock, other times metal. From the ancient times, they’d been placed in tombs or temples, serving as guardians.
They can change their composition in response to the type of spells of the enemy spellcasters. They would not cease moving until they’d eliminated the invaders.
“You, you guys are?”
“You guys are still here…… At a time like this…”
The (FULLTYPE)Fighter serving as vanguard and the spellcaster behind him both turned around almost simultaneously.
Party name “Sacred Vessel of Canaan Pilgrimage”. At the moment, there were only two members here. But the footsteps of several other people can be heard approaching.
“You, you guys…… Where did you come from?”
“Premier, do you think anyone else would be looking left and right in the middle of a battle?”
The blonde girl momentarily forgot her current situation.
The shadow of the mineral golem approached her—
Thyrus ducked directly under the golem’s arm. With one hand, he propped up the limb, which was the size of a wooden pillar, presenting himself with its defenseless body. All that can be seen was him closing in with fluid footwork and slamming his right elbow into the side of the enemy’s abdomen.
A splitting aura.
At the that moment, upon receiving this elbow strike, the mineral golem stopped rigid.
“Eh? Fear-senpai, that move was?”
——Right at the moment of the clash, it looked as though he had a doppelgänger behind him.
“By switching his footwork, he cleverly shifted his center of mass, then he took alternating steps and cut in with efficient movements, carrying out that beautiful optical illusion we just saw. An ultimate skill—not only did he incorporate logical tactics, he also refined his own unique series of extreme skills. Without question, that is the wonder of his footwork. To achieve such a degree of fluidity, how much time and training must have been put into it?”
As a martial artist, Fear appeared to be somewhat moved.
Even Ren could tell Fear was passionate from her voice, which was rare for her.
“Y-yes, Instructor Thyrus!”
The blonde girl nodded and then immediately closed her eyes.
A magic circle. A dazzling ring which locked into a seal around the golem’s arms. It then exploded, releasing violent gusts of wind.
Thyrus had first completely nullified the enemy’s attack and exposed its weakness, Premier followed up with a counterattack.
This kind of mutual trust and cooperation was not something that can be accomplished in a short period of time.
“This, this time really…!”
The earthen golem lost both of its arms below the elbow, it also stopped moving.
But as the young girl stared in front of her—the scattered chunks of reddish-brown earth began to move sluggishly as if having a will of their own and restored themselves in the blink of an eye.
“This, this won’t do, Instructor! This golem…… It just keeps restoring itself!”
Premier was screaming.
In contrast, the bald (FULLTYPE)Fighter kept a calm and collective expression.
“The combination attack wasn’t bad at all. But our opponent’s unique ability is tough to overcome. My strikes are weak against its body made from earth. If damaged by spells it can regenerate, in that case…”
“In-, Instructor, what should we do!?”
“This won’t be a problem. Right, Remi, Neskaren.”
Two female spellcasters gathered at the square.
Thyrus kept his eyes on the golem and continued in an emotionless tone.
“I’ll draw that guardian’s attention. At the same time, gather the other six from the deeper areas. Then, Neskaren, use your barrier to strengthen the spell of Premier and Remi”
“As you wish.”
“Remi, time for you to bring out your Spirit armament. Integrating with Premier’s spell, can you do it?”
“Please leave it to me. The members in deeper areas will be called over soon. I had originally had them on standby awaiting orders, shouldn’t take too long.
The two female members wore priest robes decorated by golden embroidery. They turned around gracefully.
“It is already in ‘checkmate’. Now we only need to gain time and wait for all the members to gather. Primer, be confident. You and your friends have powerful spells, even against this mineral golem they are still effective. You were chosen by ‘Sacred Vessel of Canaan Pilgrimage’, believe in yourself.”
The blonde girl tightly gripped the hem of her priest robe and nodded.
“Very good. Then you back off. Before the reinforcements get here, leave this cumbersome golem to me—”
“Tsk, what are you going to do? Since you can’t beat it, shall we lend you our help?”
As the (FULLTYPE)Fighter and mineral golem were confronting each other.
Elise inserted herself between them.
“It is a mineral golem after all. Even though it’s rather fragile compared to rock or metal, no matter how you destroy it, it’ll just gather itself and regenerate. Assuming you have a way to defeat it, it feels like it’ll take a long time. And unfortunately, we can’t afford to loiter around. Can I finish it off?”
“…… What did you say?”
The veteran (FULLTYPE)Fighter looked down at the little dark-skinned girl out of the corner of his eye.
“You lots saw for yourselves, how fast it can regenerate. The only way to defeat it is to use spells to destroy its entire body and expose the nucleus. Any other methods would not work.”
“Eeh~ there is a simpler method.”
“Nonsense, I’ve never heard of such a thing—”
“Language of destruction”
The Demon in form of a young girl waved her hands like a conductor signaling with a baton.
“Holy voice of eternal sleep (Dream of destruction, come forth), Black Dream (Enter the black cradle), Absolute silence (and cease your existence).”
A magic circle emitted dark-colored glow.
The mineral golem was illuminated by its light…… By the time the people at the scene realized this, the body of the golem had already turned to mush, reduced into a reddish-brown liquid mud and gradually disintegrated.
“…… How can that be? You got to be joking…”
“Unbelievable, what did you do?”
The blonde girl stared at the disappearing golem in a daze.
On the contrary, the brawny man kept his usual calm, his gaze directed straight at Elise.
“What spellcraft was that just now? That kind of magic circle, I have never even seen—”
“I can tell you, but it’ll be pointless. That’s a destruction curse exclusive to Demons. The one I just casted was the most basic of the basic, you may spend your entire life trying, but you will never be able to use it.”
“Forget it, after all that, I finally saved you from peril, do you not have anything to say to me?”
The former Demon King let out a sneering grin, her evil nature permeating from both eyes.
The two looked at her demeanor in shock. But this awkward silence only lasted a moment, with the high and mighty (FULLTYPE)Fighter being the first to bow his head.
“…… I see. Although we did not request it, we certainly received help. In regard to my belated gratitude, I apologize.”
“Oh, that’s a good child. Remember, it’s important to be sincere.”
The whole time her gaze permeated a sense of singlehanded domination.
Elise nodded in satisfaction, showing a smile that was as innocent as can be.
“I’m satisfied. Ren, your turn.”
“Tsk, now you call me out, it’s embarrassing…”
The two from “Sacred Vessel of Canaan Pilgrimage” looked at Ren weirdly.
The same thing happened when they first met, and now that they’ve seen Elise’s spellcraft, they were still being suspicious.
——They were thinking, this young knight with three young girls, just exactly who are they?
“By your looks, you’re the most normal one.”
“Yes. You, young man.”
Thyrus nodded and took a quick glance at the three people behind Ren.
Dragon Princess, Archangel, former Demon King.
All three of them did not reveal their identities, but he, as a seasoned adventurer, can tell from experience that the atmosphere surrounding them was different from Ren’s.
…… I’m the only human in my party after all.
…… Goes without saying only my aura gives off a “normal” atmosphere.
“Let me ask again, and this time please do tell. Who exactly are you, what are you doing in this ruin? Yesterday you said this place is not your final destination…”
“At the beginning, yeah. But Elise…… Ah, this girl with black hair, didn’t she mention? She said there is a Sprit somewhere in this temple.”
“Since ‘Sacred Vessel of Canaan Pilgrimage’ is here, that’s a logical deduction.”
World’s largest city of Spirit-worship, Holy Land Canaan.
Its representative party went through the trouble of crossing the seas to visit this faraway temple, that alone was a clear sign of a Spirit’s existence here.
“…… I see, I see, that’s true.”
Thyrus chuckled as if he had been holding back his laughter.
His sight suddenly shifted to the square’s entrance. His party members had already gathered there.
Thyrus and Premier, two people.
Six others arrived as reinforcements, bringing the total to eight. There was a young girl with a Spirit armament, looking like a (SPIRIT)Spiriter; there was also a female who appeared to be a (HEALER)Curer. Another held a measuring chart, she should be the (THIEF)Searcher.
“Thyrus-sama, where is the mineral golem? Another thing I’ve been wanting to ask, who are they?”
Six people gathered at the entrance.
Each one had a look of surprise.
“As you see, the golem was eliminated. These four are…… A party here to explore the ruin. Now, for the time being, allow me to make an announcement. Neskaren, everybody, although I’ve alarmed you all, our original plan remains unchanged. Return to your earlier positions, continue investigating.”
“As you wish.”
The woman looking like a (ENCHANTER)Barrier Setter saluted in respect and led the other five out of the square.
With them disappearing into the distance—
“Okay, let us continue. To be honest, we have only one task. And that is to investigate all the known Spirits of the world, and then confirm their status. We were assigned to investigate here, Isquercel Basement Temple.”
“Instructor? This is a special order issued by Saint Elies-sama herself! And the name of this underground temple, it’s the newest bit of information deciphered by our investigation team…”
“No need to worry. Investigating the lairs of Spirits is just routine business for us parties. And the name itself contained no special secrets. There’s no harm even if we talked openly about it. It’s just that—”
Thyrus, wearing shoes made from hide, kicked at the hard stone floor.
“The Spirit we’re trying to find, it was still here during the investigation two year ago. But this time when we came, it had apparently disappeared. Instead there were an increased number of guardians like the golem earlier.”
“It’s gone since two years ago…?”
“Correct. We have no idea who could be behind this, but the reports from two years ago mentioned no such guardians. They should be set not too long ago.”
The Spirit that should be here disappeared.
Temple guardians which were nonexistent during the previous investigation showed up.
“So that’s the gist of the situation. No wonder you were fighting in a panicked manner.”
“That, that was pathetic of us…”
The blonde girl named Premier looked as though traumatized.
There were no problems in her upbringing as a spellcaster. However, due to a strong enemy appearing at an unexpected time, she was shaken and rendered unable to utilize her full potential. This could explain why she had a difficult time fighting.
“So, after saying this much, you guys should realize it by now.”
“You’re saying you don’t know where the Spirit is, right? Well you did tell Neskaren and other subordinates to keep investigating. But unfortunately, we were drawn here by the explosions from earlier…… Elise, what do you say?”
Ren turned his head and saw Elise quietly observing the surrounding walls.
“The Spirit’s scent should be coming from here, right?”
“Of course. I got rid of that golem also because its smell was getting in the way. Now that’s gone, I can sense the Spirit’s presence better. In other words—”
“Next is a certain someone’s turn to shine.”
“I’ve been waiting for this.”
Elise, Kyelse, and Fear directed their gaze towards Ren at the same time. Their eyes half-filled with curiosity, half-filled with anticipation.
“It’s your turn, isn’t this great?”
“I’m expecting great things.”
“So it is me……”
Ren sighed, he looked around at the square again.
——Harken the voice of the Spirit.
——A mysterious wavelength grasped by neither Dragon, Angel, nor Demon.
In the distant past, only a few humans were capable of doing so. In the modern era, people believed the Holy Maiden of Holy Land Canaan, Saint Elies, to be the only legitimate (ANCIENTER)Ancient Caster.
“Huh? Excuse me, what are you doing?”
“I want to test something out. Sorry, but could you be quiet for a moment?”
Said Ren to a confused Premier. He then immediately closed his eyes.
…… Should be somewhere in this room.
A worshipping square of roughly twenty square meters.
Other than chunks of earth left from the golem situated at the middle, there were no other irregularities on the ground which was paved with stone slabs.
There was nothing special on the ceiling and the walls either.
[…… Come…… Play…… Come…… Here……]
Soft and light. Ren heard a sound that was soft and light. If he hadn’t been careful, he would have mistaken it for the sound of wind.
“Did you hear? Where?”
“I think…… I think it’s coming from this wall.”
From Ren’s point of view, the left most corner.
He walked past where the golem once stood, directly towards a wall which appeared to be perfectly normal.
As he reached out the hand to touch that wall.
“Ren, wait, we don’t know what’s there, so be careful. Only humans can enter a Spirit’s lair. We can’t get in.”
Kyelse gave out a straightforward warning.
But Ren’s hand already touched the wall—
The surroundings began to wobble as if they were looking at a mirage.
“The space distorted?”
“I knew it! Ren, lift your hand off that wall, you’ll get dragged in!”
Kyelse reached out her hand to Ren.
But that sight was soon extinguished by blinding rays of light. Ren was dragged into the distorting space, with no power to resist.
A world of sand.
There was only yellow sand as far as the eye can see. The horizon spread out without boundary. A soundless space.
There was not a single tree, there was not a single blade of grass.
There was no oasis.
“……. This place is?”
All he could see was sand.
The sky was absolutely devoid of clouds, with only the blinding and scalding sun casting its rays onto the vast ground.
And on this vast ground stood Ren, who gazed at the sand dunes in the distance.
“Not the worshipping square earlier? What is this place? This desert…?
“This is the Spirit’s lair. We were forcefully transferred here.”
“Woah!? You scared me.”
In this desolated space suddenly appeared the two from “Sacred Vessel of Canaan Pilgrimage” members.
The blonde girl Premier.
And her brawny teacher who was tanned bronze.
“Premier, stand up, quickly.”
“Yes, yes Instructor Thyrus…… Ah, ow ow ow…… I bumped my waist.”
Premier took a big tumble as she entered the desert, now she stood up while holding her waist.
Thyrus, on the other hand, landed with style, perhaps he had predicted this would happen.
“So this is the Spirit’s lair? But what about the temple? Where did we get send to?”
“This is probably located at the deepest place of the temple. Spirits have the ability to manipulate space, they can change their surroundings to their liking. For Ancestral Spirit of Earth which dwells here, this desert is probably the environment he loves the most.”
The (FULLTYPE)Fighter scanned his surroundings, he wasn’t letting down his guard at all.
But he didn’t do it for long, he shifted his focus to Ren.
“I want to ask you. You, who didn’t understand some of the most basic things, how could you discover the Spirit’s lair? Even for high-ranked (SPIRIT)Spiriters, they must start by looking at potential places.”
“That, that’s right! The entrance was on the wall, and you found it without any clues. What kind of searching spell did you use?”
“I did have clues.”
Premier half opened her mouth as if in a trance.
“Although I only had a faint feeling, but there was a strange voice coming from that wall. So I walked towards that voice, and here we are.”
“…… Hold it right there. What did you just say?”
Thyrus couldn’t hide his astonishment and rushed forward. He always kept his cool, and for the first time he was visibly shaken.
“Voice? Don’t tell me you can hear the voice of Spirits? You and those girls also said some strange things back then. Something about them can’t enter because only humans are allowed inside a Spirit’s lair. What does that mean? It couldn’t be—”
“Wait, wait a moment! I can’t answer you if you ask so much at once!”
“…… You’re right. That was improper of me, to think I would forget how to conduct myself.”
The (FULLTYPE)Fighter was originally up in Ren’s face, now he backed down in embarrassment.
“Let’s hold the questioning for now. Our priority is to find the Spirit, and if all goes well we ask him to imbue us Spirit armament. How about that, Premier?”
“No, no can do. I’ve been searching, but as much as I look, there’s only sand. He’s not responding to my summoning either.”
Ren called the attention of his two companions.
He pointed at his feet.
“That Ancestral Spirit of Earth you were talking about, is this him?”
There stood a small person wearing a brown long coat with a hood, looking surreal, just like how a Spirit would.
This Spirit was about the size of a small cat, he only grabbed Ren’s ankle, looking up with unease.
[…… Voice, can hear…………?]
“Oh. Looks like a yes to me. Can I call you Ancestral Spirit of Earth?”
The Spirit was ecstatic and repeatedly nodded.
[Come play…… I make again…… From…… Earlier……]
[Eeh ~ play with me…… I’ve been…… Waiting…… Waiting for you……]
The desert was quaking.
Violent tremors shook the sand dunes, the ground beneath the feet of the Ancestral Spirit of Fire rose. A hill was forming, with large amounts of sand falling off it, and out emerged a copper-red golem, glistening under the sun.
“A mineral golem? How…… So it’s like this!”
“Then, the guardian from earlier has got to be the handiwork of the Ancestral Spirit of Earth.”
Premier and Thyrus suddenly took their stances.
Seeing their stances, Ren couldn’t help but take a step back.
The mineral golem’s fist fell, blasting a huge crater into the place Ren was standing originally.
The impact stirred up large amounts of sand.
Just like a powerful bomb, with the mineral golem at the epicenter, a large bowl-shaped crater appeared in the desert.
“Wait a moment! How in the world is this playing?”
Thyrus leaned over from the side.
“I’m having a hard time believing this, young man, are you saying you can hear the voice of a Spirit? And this Ancestral Spirit of Earth said he’s playing with you? Is this true?”
“Is that so. Looks like we won’t be entertaining a deity, but a Spirit. I have heard from Saint Elies, that to humans who can hear their voice, the Spirits harbor an excessive amount of curiosity towards them.”
Thyrus looked up at the approaching golem, and Ancestral Spirit of Earth riding on top of its head.
“Just as the Spirit said, this should be how they show their affection. Through the golems, he might be trying to say [come play with dolls]. Because they are so innocent they can be petulant. I believe unless we can somehow satisfy Ancestral Spirit of Earth, or make him get bored of this game, we can’t escape from here.”
Entertainment for deities.
Powerful Spirits were worshipped as gods since the ancient times. Humans would gather at places Spirits inhabited and appease the Spirits with song or dance.
Maybe that worshipping square was for such rituals.
…… Since I came here.
…… Could this be the unique way of welcome from Ancestral Spirit of Earth?
“Defeat the doll, then it’s game over, am I right?”
“You can think of it that way. But we have comrades waiting back at the temple. Since we have confirmed the Spirit’s safety, we have no intentions to play with him for too long.
Ren and Premier.
Thyrus stood between them. He took a step toward the copper-red golem.
“Better finish this early. Premier, and you, your name is Ren, right? I’ll be the golem’s opponent. You two support me.”
“Is that really alright? To leave you with such a dangerous task.”
Thyrus clenched his fists and cracked his knuckles loudly, this was immediately followed by him lightly bending his body.
——By the time Ren noticed.
This (FULLTYPE)Fighter was already gone, he zoomed towards the golem in a flash.
The way he dashed was akin to gliding on ice, giving the illusion that sand dunes were easy terrain to travel across.
Utter amazement leaked out from the throat.
…… That, is a true(FULLTYPE)Fighter.
…… During that moment, I lost myself watching him.
Not only did he train his body to the limit. His running posture, breathing, everything. Everything was calculated perfectly to logic, creating the most ideal running form.
Not only was he fast, he also had total control over his pace, enabling him to utilize afterimages and other optical illusions.
Just the fact that “running”.
In other words, footwork itself was already a mystery. Ren couldn’t help but feel that way.
——This is the party “Sacred Vessel of Canaan Pilgrimage”.
——He is one of its members.
“That’s the Instructor for you!”
Seeing Thyrus’s figure flanking behind the golem in an instant, Premier expressed her admiration.
The giant golem sluggishly turned its body in silence.
Its exceptional weight slowed it down.
Moreover, the ground was not solid rock, but sand. On such terrain, just raising its arms took considerable effort.
That was what Ren almost believed.
A giant arm.
The wordless golem’s falling fist disappeared.
From above came a punch at high speed, even faster than the sound of the wind it generated.
Thyruslaunched himself out of the way by a hair’s breadth, the golem’s fist pierced deeply into the sandy ground, stirring up sand with a quaking boom.
Its bulk made it slow and clumsy.
Except for its punches, which were not only nimble but also precise.
“What a nice jab. There was no loss of power, everything was concentrated into one spot.”
There was praise in the (FULLTYPE)Fighter’s words.
“However, by comparison, the torso is full of openings.”
Thyrus’s right foot took off into the air.
Tough and powerful like a whip, the kick looked as though it could split the heavens, soaring towards the golem’s ankles.
There was a thunderous crash.
Then, the oppressive sound of silence echoed throughout the desert. The (FULLTYPE)Fighter showed a strained expression on his face.
“It’s harder than I imagined. Heavier too.”
The golem was completely defenseless when it was struck by Thyrus, who put his entire body weight into his attack. And yet there was no visible damage on the golem.
“As I suspected, this time it’s not earth. Premier!”
“Yes! This time definitely…!”
The spellcaster drew a magic circle. The circle then materialized into a physical ring, which locked itself around the golem. Violent winds churned up a sandstorm, and finally, an explosion.
Despite all that…
“…… How can this be? Not even a scratch?”
The spell created large amounts of fire and smoke.
After the fire died down and the smoke cleared, the golem was unfazed and at ease.
“It worked on the golem from earlier…”
“There’s a difference in body composition. That one was made from earth. It’s good at regeneration but easy to damage. This one is the opposite, all about hardness, extremely difficult to damage.”
A body formed from metal ores condensed deep underground.
Leaving out the outrageous evil fire from the Demon General of Blaze, flames of human spellcasters can’t even scratch its metal body, much less melt it. And unsurprisingly, Ren’s sword won’t do anything either.
“Another troublesome body composition. There’s basically only one way to defeat it.”
The (FULLTYPE)Fighter jumped back create some separation.
“The central nucleus keeping the golem together must be destroyed, there is no other choice.”
“…… That crack in the middle portion?”
Ren gazed at the region Thyrus pointed out.
On the massive body standing before them, there was a strange crack at its throat.
All golems shared the same weakness. Each one of them was kept together by a central nucleus, any damage to the nucleus would be disastrous for the golem.
Those nucleuses can have many shapes, such as gemstones or talismans, just to list a few. For this golem, its central nucleus should be where it received power from the Ancestral Spirit of Earth.
“Did you see Premier’s spell? She directed it towards that crack on its throat, and the golem suddenly raised its arms, probably to protect that region.”
“Yes, I saw it too.”
But now they must deal with the problem of reaching there.
With the crack located at the throat of the golem’s towering body, even if Ren stood directly in front of the golem, the tip of his sword could not reach the target.
…… Can it be reached if I jump up?
…… No, even if I do, I’ll just get smacked back into the ground.
The golem’s lower body was slow to react, but it swung its fists with extraordinary speed. Magic attacks from a distance will only be blocked.
“Hey, hey! Those girls with you… The kid with the black hair that beat the mineral golem, the girl with silver hair, and the one with the pretty blonde hair, where are they? Why are you the only one here, why aren’t they coming to help?”
What Premier just asked was what bothered Thyrus at first.
“If they are here…”
They will not come. “They cannot enter a Spirit’s lair, because they are not human”—Ren held back those words, which almost escaped his mouth, with great difficulty.
Against former Demon King Elise, this golem will just be like the one earlier, taken care of using magic.
Archangel Fear would simply send this huge golem flying into the distance with one punch.
As for Dragon Princess Kyelse, it wouldn’t matter what she does, Ren can only imagine the golem being pummeled deep into the ground.
“Because this is my battle.”
The blonde girl hung her mouth open and asked. Ren turned his face and nodded in response.
From the beginning, he believed he will encounter many more situations like this in the future.
——The bitter feelings from when he fought the Demon General of Blazeled him to this conclusion.
Lonely battles, without the girls’ help. If such was the case of this Spirit battle, there might not be another opponent more appropriate for him.
“I have a request.”
Gradually holding his sword level to the ground, Ren approached the other two.
“I will distract the golem. Meanwhile I must trouble you to cast a spell at it again. Thyrus, assist Premier in casting the spell.”
“But, but, just doing that, wouldn’t the result be the same as earlier?”
“You only have to attack its legs. Just damaging the feet will be enough, no need to aim for the throat. Well then, I’m counting on you, Premier.”
“Wait, Ren. What are you—”
Ren got away from the bald (FULLTYPE)Fighter’s attempt to stop him and started running in this world of sand.
Sprinting straight ahead like an arrow.
He looked up at the golem, with Ancestral Spirit of Earth riding on its head, laughing joyfully.
“Alright, watch closely. I will get right in front of you!”
“Hey, that won’t work! You’re a swordsman, fighting a golem head-on is too reckless!”
Ren single-mindedly kept running.
Only about ten more meters. Ren covered the remaining distance in an instant, arriving at the feet of the golem.
At the same time, its huge arm came swinging from Ren’s side.
Perhaps due to Thyrus dodging its last attack, it switched to swinging side to side, sweeping horizontally in a wide arc.
——Simplicity had come at the right time.
——This attack was exactly what Ren wanted, he had been waiting for this exact moment.
The giant fist closed in along with intense wind pressure, aiming to smash Ren to pieces.
To the young girl’s cry, Ren only jumped in silence.
Neither did he jump forward to get closer to the golem, nor did he jump back to avoid its fist.
Instead, he jumped up.
He leapt towards the sky, which, in this sand world created by the Ancestral Spirit of Earth, was the only place not tinted by the color of sand.
And his landing spot…
“…… He jumped onto the golem’s arm?”
The young spellcaster exclaimed in bewilderment.
“Although not knightly, tricks like this are a piece of cake for me.”
Compared to his fellow student knights of excellent physique, Ren lacked arm strength and stamina.
To compensate for these conspicuous differences, Ren persevered through rigorous training, resulting in him being able to wield his sword with high precision, and also the ability to boost his reaction speed to the limit in a momentary burst.
—— Agility(speed) that overcomes brute-strength(power).
——No matter when and where, Ren would do fine if he just be a swordsman that doesn’t act like a swordsman.
When he attended St. Fiora Journey Academy, he trained diligently every sing day.
“Until now, I’m so experienced with fighting bigger opponents that it’s starting get boring. But then again, there really weren’t any student knights as huge as this.”
Ren was dashing on the golem’s copper-red arm.
It was an extremely unstable place to set foot upon. The golem attempted to shake him off its arm, but not only did Ren predicted the direction of its swing, he did not slow down at all. In one breath, he forced his way from the golem’s elbow towards its shoulder.
Unable to put up with Ren, the semi-autonomous golem swung at itself.
Ren locked his eyes on this split-second opening.
“Nice footwork, young man. In your unique and yet crude movements, I can see signs of persistent training.”
Thyrus made his way to the golem’s knees.
Channeling all the strength in his body, he simultaneously struck both knees. Even a super heavyweight golem would shake from this. The copper-red golem buckled at its knees and began to fall forward.
“Rite of fire and wind, release!”
Premier let out a desperate cry.
A deafening explosion with violent, raging wind.
The golem had no time to change its posture before it was met by the fire of the spellcaster. Flames fanned by wind, this combination spell started to expand, as if wanting to blow the golem into the sky direct from below.
Ancestral Spirit of Earth riding on the golem’s head cheered.
As if responding to the Spirit’s voice, the golem of copper-red metal increased in girth.
“Instructor Thyrus! No, no good… The flames will get suppressed!”
The golem was attempting to use its increased mass to stomp out the fiery storm by its feet. Just before Premier’s spell was about to be extinguished.
“Go, (SALAMANDER)Ancestral Spirit of Fire.”
The flames rekindled.
Flames that were about to be stomped out grew into a fireball big enough to engulf the golem whole, which burst after a brief moment.
Intervention by (SALAMANDER)Ancestral Spirit of Fire.
The flames expanded under the Spirit’s power. The golem’s hulking body became airborne.
“Yeah, nice work.”
Was it a psychological effect? The glowing-hot fire lizard appeared to be flapping its wings in pure joy.
“How is this possible? A Spirit?”
“That’s not a Spirit armament! Instructor, that’s (SALAMANDER)Ancestral Spirit of Fire, the real thing!”
Said the duo from “Sacred Vessel of Canaan Pilgrimage” at the same time.
Awe beyond astonishment.
Holy Land Canaan—the largest place of Spirit-worship. Supposedly it was rare for even the native (SPIRIT)Spiriters to catch a glimpse of the Ancestral Spirits. And now two appeared at the same time, a miraculous moment indeed.
The golem crashed down still ablaze.
Ren launched himself into the air. Gripping the hilt of his sword with both hands, he directed his most powerful strike down towards the golem’s defenseless body.
The golem’s central nucleus shattered.
There was a flash of Ren’s sword, even a body made of metal can only hold for a moment.
“Have you played enough?”
The golem crumbled and fell apart, becoming countless fragments.
The Ancestral Spirit of Fire that had perched on its head landed delicately, and then—
[…… Very, happy.]
He suddenly stuck around Ren’s feet.
[Play next time…… Summon me whenever.]
A dizzy sensation.
The surrounding desert scene started to waver like a mirage, then it gradually faded away.
Although everything was blurry, the image of Ancestral Spirit of Earth burned into Ren’s memory until the very end, with his eyes still fixated on him.
“Ah! Ren is back! Hey, Kyelse, Fear, he’s back!”
The same old worshipping square.
“Thanks for your hard work. Hey, hey, how was it? Did you make a Spirit friend?”
Elise skipped up to Ren, watching his expression. Ren knelt on the dusty floor and replied to her with a shrug of his shoulders.
“Probably, that’s all I can say.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? We can’t go with you, what did you do over there, it’s making me curious. Right, Kyelse?”
“Of course. We won’t know unless he explains everything.”
The Dragon girl leaned against the wall. From her expression, she probably got tired of waiting.
“But I can guess. Looks like you were forced to [play] with the Spirit, were you not?”
“…… Correct. The game was really intense, I’m tired to death.”
“This time, being well-liked by Spirits attracted misfortune. Maybe there really is such trouble as being too popular?”
Kyelse parted from the wall, forcing a smile.
At this moment…
“Sorry. We also have things to ask him.”
The bald (FULLTYPE)Fighter interrupted.
The blonde girl behind him faced towards Ren.
“That’s right… I think there’s no more need to probe around at this point. I’ll cut right to the point, looks like you can hear the Spirits.”
He did not ask if Ren could hear the Spirits.
He believed Ren could hear them. Thyrus had spoken with certainty.
“It’s as you saw during the battle with the Spirit.”
“Then, that means, it was you who summoned (SALAMANDER)Ancestral Spirit of Fire!?”
Premier came jogging over.
“Y-, y-you, you, how did you do it?”
“It’s not something I can answer easily… It felt like, before I knew it, I learned how. Is it really something remarkable?”
“I’m so shocked precisely because it’s so remarkable!”
The blonde girl raised her voice in excitement.
“A-, after all… Um… Not only can you hear the Spirits, you can summon them too. Currently, Saint Elies-sama should be the only person capable of that.”
“Hence, you’re the world’s second successor.”
Thyrus appeared to be sighing.
“Young man, did you ever visit Holy Land Canaan and receive the Holy Maiden’s guidance?”
“This Holy Maiden you just mentioned, do you mean Saint Elies? How can that be? I’m just an ordinary commoner.”
The Holy Maiden was the leader of Holy Land Canaan. Allegedly, she was the only person in the world who can hear the voice of Spirits, and her reputation as the last (ANCIENTER)Ancient Caster of the present era spread far and wide.
It was said that she usually immersed herself in prayer, very rarely appearing in front of people.
“I heard that a commoner would wait for several years just to seek an audience with her.”
“Exactly. However, if you wish, I can arrange a visit for you to see Saint Elies-sama. Although not worth mentioning, I am still a trained specialist of this party. Just by using my name, we can schedule you first to tour our temple.
“You seem to be quite intrigued by Ren.”
Fear had been keeping quiet, and now she took a step forward.
“By simply having Saint Elies meet with Ren, you can tell clearly whether or not Ren is truly qualified to be an (ANCIENTER)Ancient Caster. If he proves to be real, it’ll be convenient to invite him to join ‘Sacred Vessel of Canaan Pilgrimage’. Is that what you are thinking?”
“You can’t do that. Ren belongs to our party.”
Fear grabbed Ren’s hand and embraced him tightly against her chest.
“…… More or less, but you were thinking too much with the invitation part.”
Premier stood beside Thyrus.
The man looked down towards her, then shook his head.
“After all, we are disciples from Holy Land Canaan. Knowing there’s someone who can summon the Spirits we worship, it’s impossible for us to not be interested. In addition, the identities of you three. When we were trapped in the space created by Ancestral Spirit of Earth, your presence was nowhere to be felt. If human, you should be able to enter. This shows—”
“Hmm? We had no intention to hide our identities from the very beginning; besides, there was no obligation for us to willingly answer you while you were full of suspicion, was there?”
The blonde Archangel returned a graceful smile.
“No need to be impatient. There’s still the opportunity for us to meet again. Next time it will be on the journey to find the Encore, not Spirits. Don’t you feel the same way?”
The seasoned (FULLTYPE)Fighter returned a smile of his own, profound and meaningful.
“I’ll repeat myself one more time, when passing through Holy Land Canaan please pay a visit to Elies-sama. I look forward to it… Premier, we’re leaving. Even though we couldn’t obtain any Spirit armaments, but we fulfilled our objective of confirming the Spirit’s existence. We must go back as soon as possible.”
“Y-yes, Instructor! I’ll go call the other members right now!”
The young girl ran off in a hurry.
The bronzed strongman followed with soundless steps, the two of them took their leave along the passage.
Their figures grew more and more distant. Finally—
“Ren, you’re so popular. Isn’t it great?”
“…… Give me a break.”
Elise energetically patted Ren on the back, only to see him full of fatigue, shaking his head.
“More importantly, Kyelse…”
“Yes. Now that we took care of the Spirit business which had been on our minds the whole time. Now all that’s left is to pass through this temple, the path straight to Valley of the Dragon is right in front of our eyes.”
She seemed to be shouting at herself.
The Dragon Princess with silver hair grabbed Ren’s hand and picked up her pace.
“Ren, we’re going. If we’re currently at the center of this temple, we should reach the exit after one more day of walking. Let’s get through this in one stretch.”