Arifureta - Chapter 137
The last of the seven great labyrinths, The Cave of Ice and Snow... was like a house of mirrors.
The passage inside this large labyrinth was a considerable area, large enough for ten people to stand side by side. The walls made from ice possessed the transparency of crystal. Thanks to the reflections you could easily become confused as to the number of people present. The end result... a mysterious internal structure.
Although another thing could be said to contribute to this mysterious feeling. Within the cave... snow was always falling. Naturally, since it's a cave, it doesn't fall from the sky. The snow is blown through the cave, moving along the wind. However, it wasn't blown in from the entrance, but blown out from within the recesses of the cave.
In addition, it couldn't be called normal snow.
’’I-a... I did it again.’’
’’Ryuutaro... you were told not to go out of the range of the magical barrier!’’
A piece of snow was sticking to Ryuutaro's cheek, causing it to swell and become red. So, this snow possessed a temperature as low as dry ice, causing immediate frostbite if it touched you.
With the wind blowing against them, even though Suzu had dispersed the snow with her barrier, the distractions caused by the ice wall reflections resulted in people requiring treatments several times.
’’A cave made of ice, with snow that causes frostbite, in a labyrinth named the Cave of Ice and Snow... I shudder to think what would happen without this artifact.’’
’’You wouldn't have drinking water, that's for sure.’’
Shizuku muttered while taking out the small stone artifact that protected them from cold out of her pocket while Kaori agreed, splashing some water outside of the barrier. It froze as soon as it touched the air, making a bikibiki sound as it impacted into the wall. The flask would have already been frozen if they were entering normally.
’’Certainly, though you could melt ice to make water, fire magic seems to be obstructed in this space, and would take considerable magic consumption to activate.’’
’’... But, that doesn't apply to us.’’
When Tio answered Kaori's comment with a wry smile, Yue shook the pendant and ring at her chest while giving a shrug.
As Tio remarked, this Ice and Snow cave remarkably weakened the effect of fire magic. It would be a considerable hardship to use fire as a method to secure water by melting snow.
This didn't apply to Hajime's party thanks to the treasure warehouse where they stored all their supplies without being affected by temperature as well as the cold protection artifact that kept the surrounding area at a comfortable temperature.
’’It's extremely useful, as cooking would become problematic.’’
While agreeing with Yue's comment, Hajime turned his gaze to the front.
Yue followed his gaze ahead, seeing a man buried among the wall of ice with closed eyes like he was sleeping. He seemed to have sat down after becoming tired with his back to the wall and then become frozen there. With no visible injury, perhaps it was exhaustion from the cold?
’’Hajime, somehow that corpse... doesn't it seem strange?’’
’’Nn? ...Ah... now that you mention it, isn't he buried perfectly in the wall.’’
’’Yeah, but did the wall of ice form over him while he was sitting there, or was he taken into the wall?’’
Shia's neck was tilted as she eyed the corpse buried in the ice wall with a suspicious look. Shia made a good point. Did the wall expand to cover him, or did it pull him into it?
’’... There is no reaction to magic from the ice or the corpse, just to be sure, should we destroy it?’’
They could have left it the way it was, because there was no reason not to. Hajime pulled out Donner, aimed it at the corpse, and pulled the trigger.
A vivid brilliant red flash shot from Hajime through the forehead and heart of the man. It was even more brilliant than usual as a result of the sublimation magic.
Towards desecrating the dead, Kouki opened his mouth to complain, but then shut it again, having learned it was unproductive to try to complain.
After a few seconds of watching the corpse and the ice wall, there was no reaction. Hajime holstered Donner and urged the party to move ahead. ... Hajime and the party disappeared into the recesses of the cave after a moment.
’’Goo, Gao, gigi.’’
A sound like a groaning voice came out as the ice formed cracks.
Not noticing what was happening behind them, Hajime and the party continued to traverse the labyrinth in silence.
Though the Ice and Snow cave had many branching paths, they didn't hesitate at any given intersection thanks to the compass. On their way along, the walls were littered with a lot more corpses trapped into the ice wall, but after a 1/3 the distance of the labyrinth, they had yet to see a single monster attack.
Another corpse was discovered buried in the ice wall in the passage ahead. With pointed ears and dark skin... it was a person from the demon country.
’’... 50 people so far, most demons.’’
’’Perhaps there were a large number of people that attempted to capture it with Freed?’’ Hajime answered Yue, who was standing alone and muttering to herself.
They couldn't tell from the clothing how long they had been there, but at least ten of the ones they had found wore service uniforms that matched the ones they saw during the attack on the capital.
’’Fumu... though they were able to beat this labyrinth, it appears they didn't do it with ease. When thinking about the other routes, how many people challenged it?’’
’’However, considering how many people in the country that might have attempted it, there might be someone other than Freed who had managed to complete it. It might be only a matter of time before the demon country reorganizes and attacks again.’’
Kaori responded while showing a look of concern, possibly worrying for Liliana or the other classmates left in the capital.
’’It's alright Kaori, they won't be doing it soon. The invaders were crushed, their weapon was destroyed, and the magical barrier was restored. Not to mention they don't know that Hajime's laser weapon was destroyed. They won't find it that easy to attack even if they prepare a new army.’’
’’Shizuku... un, that's right.’’ Kaori gave a smile after thinking about Shizuku's prediction.
However, when they returned to Earth with Hajime, Liliana and the country would be deserted. It was only natural that it'd hurt to think about the ones left behind.
From there, Kouki entered into the conversation.
’’Be relieved Kaori, even if I have to defeat mad gods, humans, or devils, I will remain and protect Liliana. After I obtain all the Age of Gods magic, it might be possible to return by myself sooner or later, so I will not desert anyone.’’
Indeed, it was a hero-like speech, however Kouki's glance was not given towards Kaori, but Hajime, as though he was trying to insult him. Therefore, Kaori was not relieved by his words, rather, it only made her feel more uneasy.
Before, there might have been complete conviction in his words, always only meaning well. However, now they seemed to be filled with negative emotions, including envy... doubt... impatience... irritation, ect... These various feeling were mixed in to his words even though he desperately tried to suppress them, causing his words to ring with instability.
Did Hajime take notice to this look from Kouki? Hajime merely ignored it and shrugged his shoulders. Kouki frowned over their ideals running on parallel tracks.
Shizuku's gaze wandered towards those that were giving an uneasy mood, namely Kouki, however, Hajime spoke instead.
’’Oh well... it's not like we're strangers... if the princess requested it, I could probably provide her with intercontinental ballistic missiles, high speed orbital tanks, and fighters that ignore inertia and gravity...?’’
’’Nagumo? Isn't it too dangerous to give those to that woman? The power of balance for this world would collapse.’’
’’Is that so? Oh well, I could put on some user restrictions so they only work and can be operated by the royal family. At that level, nearly anything could be repulsed, even if more like Nointo came.’’
Shizuku's gaze wavered as Hajime gave a slightly dangerous speech while Kouki watched Hajime with dark eyes. Meanwhile, Kaori wore a somewhat happy expression.
Though Hajime was trying to avoid living a ’’lonely way of life’’, there was no reason for him to be involved in this world's problems, unless it was for Yue and the others. With the exception of perhaps Myuu and Remia, no one in this world could equal the balance of their importance in his heart.
Because Liliana is someone he knew, he'd be willing to lend his power if she requested it. Afterwards though, he had no intentions past spending the remainder of his life with Yue and the others at his home.
When considering the possibility that he'd lose the ones important to him, he felt no guilt and saw no important reason to risk his own life.
With his efforts, he had decided to give Yue and the rest's smiles his priority, and could discard anything outside of that.
Because they understood this, Yue, and the others snuggled up to Hajime. Shia and Kaori's path took them away from their family and important childhood friends.
Moreover, this extremely dangerous present for Liliana could be said to be the very limit of consideration he could offer her.
’’Yaegashi (Shizuku), you and the rest also must decide what you'll do once you return from the demon country. Will you remain in this world? Will you return with us? Because I won't wait for you to decide.’’
’’... Yes. Understood.’’
’’Yes. It'll depend on my conversation with Eri...’’ Suzu said.
’’I'll stick with Kouki.’’ Ryuutaro added.
Everyone responded to Hajime's words, each of the three in their own way.
With a sensitive mood hanging in the air, Hajime advanced along the passage until they came to a 4-way intersection with a ten meter width and height.
Upon halting, Hajime confirmed the direction the compass pointed. Suddenly, Shia's rabbit ears began to twitch.
’’Hajime... something is coming.’’
’’A monster, they finally appeared? Where?’’
’’All four sides...’’
’’Even from behind?’’
Though everyone readied themselves for an attack, they stiffened when they heard that monsters were approaching from the path they had taken, because it would mean that they were able to conceal themselves from Hajime's Magic Eye.
In the center of the cross roads, Hajime and the party were back to back. After an interval a voice like a groan could be heard in the darkness of the passage. (TN: Not to be a nag here, but if you just moved 10-15 meters down any direction, you'd bottleneck the baddies and turn a 4 way battle into a two way).
A fairly terrifying voice not quite like a beast's groan gave off unpleasant feelings. As the darkness in the passage also seemed to have deepened, the sound of someone swallowing their saliva with a gulp was heard through the silence.
And then it appeared.
It was the figure of a person wearing a service uniform, with most of their skin having lost their coloring and a thick layer of frost over their entire body.
’’These guys... they're the corpses we saw in the ice walls?’’ Hajime muttered as members of the demon country poured into the passage one after another.
’’... Also the guy we saw earlier.’’
’’Are they alive... no, that's not it. They're like zombies?’’
While watching the frozen people that showed up down the passage way, Yue and the other faced the demons and adventurers, who groaned and held out their arms loosely lowered. As Kaori said, they looked like frozen zombies.
Frost zombies began to pour out of each of the four roads of the intersection, surrounding Hajime, Kouki, and the others.
’’In any case, even if they were former people, those that stand in our way will be slaughtered.’’
Hajime's words acted like a signal, and the frost zombie's dull movements suddenly became fierce.
An extremely unpleasant grown echoes to through the many passages in the cave. Did they say you will be eaten here? It's like they were straight from Resident Evil (Biohazard), though they weren't as gross thanks to the layer of frost preventing them from decaying, but an ugly thing is still ugly.
’’Please stay away! Barrier Burst!’’
To real biohazards, a somewhat panicked Suzu released the Barrier burst. It goes down the passage, and any Frost zombies who were struck by it were hurled away, but the next moment... They exploded magnificently into pieces with a roar.
They splintered apart, like pieces of meat dispersed by a bomb. It was like the scene when the Terminator in liquid nitrogen was smashed.
At almost the same time, all the other party members began to shoot out their attacks. Hajime's Schlag spouted fire, Yue and Tio sent out wind magic, Kaori's silver feathers flew, Shizuku and Kouki's blades drew deadly lines through the air, and strong impacts were released from Ryuutaro's fists.
To those attacks filled with the full destructive power colliding with the front ranks fo the frost zombies, those who didn't manage to evade shattered to the sound of crystal breaking.
’’They're fairly fragile...’’ though Hajime mutters suspiciously, another second his eyes narrow.
’’You're kidding, they're repairing themselves?’’
Kaori seemed to have said this instinctively, but it was exactly that. The splinters began to gather, reforming their bodies in no time at all. The one's decomposed by Kaori's silver feathers assembled slightly differently, fathering the missing parts from nearby walls of ice.
’’... Hajime, a demon stone?’’
’’... It isn't that. Though the magic is similar, they don't seem to have a demon stone.’’
’’Eeh? They're like those golems from the labyrinth in the canyon?’’ (TN: They're talking about Milidi's labyrinth all those chapters ago)
Hajime wore a grim expression while Shia looked on with a disgusted look when she recalled the powerful and infinitely respawning enemies that repaired themselves no matter how much they destroyed them. They also didn't have a demon stone core and were destroyed only by Hajime's quick thinking.
’’Just how many are there? There must be some trick.’’
While continuously firing, Hajime took out the compass with one hand to seek out the source of the demon core, which must be concealed in some way that his magic eye couldn't detect.
’’Oo? It's nearby?’’
The compass indicated a location that wasn't within the frost demon's body. The location was in the left passage, about 500 meters or so away.
Yue gave Hajime a look. ’’... Hajime?’’
’’... Apparently, the demon stone or whatever peculiar magic that moves these guys seems to be placed left from here. They must be controlled remotely.’’
Fumu... Anyway, if we don't get to the source somehow, this fight will never end.
’’Then, let's go!’’
Everyone gave off a determined air while knocking down the advancing Frost zombies. All four passaged were crowded with the zombies that had sprung up, perhaps extending as far as the eye could see?
’’I've destroy the group ahead, everyone don't fall behind!’’
Hajime ordered while taking Orkan (the rocket launcher) out of the treasure warehouse. After hearing their response, he pointed the rocket launcher towards one corner and released an overwhelming power.
Orange trails flew out behind a warhead.
With a thunderous roar that resounded through the passage, they ran past the gap Hajime had made.
With Yue and rest behind him, Hajime thanked Orkan for clearing away the frost zombies like they were nothing. Even without being able to use fire or water magic, they kept being pulverized again and again, no matter how many times they regenerated.
Thanks to Hajime's continuous fire pulverizing the frost zombies, they had no trouble moving forward. As they passed by, those that were destroyed reformed themselves. Generally, the expressions of all the party members except Yue and Tio were cramped.
’’Fueee... No a real life biohazard (resident evil)!’’
’’Suzu, get a hold of yourself, if you don't look too closely it's not that bad.’’
’’No, that's bad!... Uuu... Don't come near me! Barrier Burst!’’
’’Suzu, please don't lose it! Do not waste your magical power.... Kyaaa! That's an arm!’’
’’Hiiii... Kaori, watch where you're aiming. That arm that just flew by touched me!’’
Though it is said it is noisy when women gather, these four were in full-blown zombie panic and it was indeed noisy. It seemed like they challenged a certain famous horror house in Japan while noisily running through the passage and talking.
’’Uumu... It's good to be young. Being able to make a racket like that while facing monsters...’’
While looking over her shoulder at Kaori and the others, Tio responds fairly calmly. This caused Yue to give Tio an amazed look.
’’... Tio, smells like an old woman.’’
’’That's a terrible thing to say. Well, I'm older... but isn't Yue also?’’
’’... I'm not. I'll be 17 forever.’’
’’What? I'm sure you were 20 when you were imprisoned...’’
While hearing something unexpected, a shiver went up Hajime's spine in response to a crisis, causing him to say something to break the tension.
’’... That's right! Yue is always 17!’’
’’... Nn. The same as Hajime.’’
’’To be completely dominated by Yue...’’
Tio wore an amazed expression, with the noisy group of girls in the rear, while Hajime is being led by the nose by Yue. Kouki and Ryuutaro looked at each other... in spite of being chased by frost zombies, their minds seemed to be playing out an impossible scene.
After dashing for five minutes, the sound where Hajime and party running, with a Zudodo from behind, the frost zombies continued to chase with screams and roars that caused the tunnel to shake.
Hajime and the group finally arrived at a large space which seemed to be about the size of the Tokyo Dome.
Hajime rechecked the compass in his hand. The area where the demon stone that controlled the zombie horde was definitely indicated to be in this room. To be accurate, it was incased in a certain ice wall facing the entrance they had just passed through.
’’I found it. Here, I see it.’’
Hajime could see deep into the ice wall with his Magic eye. Even the improved donner wouldn't be able to penetrate deep enough to reach it, so Hajime took out Schlagen (TN: Schlag is one of his revolvers, Schlagen is his anti-material rifle) from his treasure warehouse.
Naturally, Schlagen had also been improved thanks to sublimation magic, which greatly increased its specs. It would surely pierce the armor that had protected Miledi's golem now.
Electricity intensely discharged as the anti-material rifle that specialized in penetration scatters a vivid bright red light. Hajime held Shlagen with one hand while catching it to the side. Just as he went to pull the trigger...
At the same time as Yue's warning, a large eagle that unfurled its wings from overhead began to assault the party.
It was not simply a large eagle, but it was transparent, and appeared to be bade of the same material as the ice wall, more were falling down like a downpour of ice.
Hajime momentarily fired overhead, and a flash went into the sky. At the moment of impact, it pierced the Frost eagle and the shock wave shattered it with a red ripple into two frost eagles.
The improved bullet with impact conversion was empowered with sublimation magic, increasing the power by more than three times that of Donners.
As a shimmering rain of ice came down from above, right after pulling the trigger, Hajime re-aimed the muzzle back towards the demon stone.
The demon stone in the wall began to move all of a sudden, moving out of the line of fire of Schlagen.
’’Apparently, it's similar to the creature we faced in the oasis, so I should think all the surrounding ice is its territory. Make note of that.’’
Prompt advice came from Tio, who was dealing with a frost zombie and another frost eagle.
That advice was proven correct immediately.
Next from the surrounding ice wall, a large amount of two-legged wolves were created as well as frost eagles. They had large dark red eyes, were two meters all, with sharp teeth and claws, groaning with a bestial voice. Frost werewolves.
The large space was suddenly buried with large amounts of these three types of demons, and like those before, as soon as they were smashed, they reformed.
A frost zombie from the rear let out a large groaning voice at the party, overflowing with something.
From the surrounding walls, ridiculous amounts of frost werewolves appeared to encircle the party.
With suck sound effects, the demon stone in the ice wall let out an amazing amount of power, increasing every second.
A roar, followed by a large shock wave.
At once, Yue created a barrier by distorted space which warded off the effects of the earthquake.
Opposite of that barrier, the creature that held the demon stone finally showed itself. It was like the turtle-like demonic beings who had attacked the capital before, but its body was mostly composed of ice and the shell had icicles like a pin cushion over twenty meters in length.
’’Apparently, the trial is to pierce the demon stone in that guy while dealing with all of these demons?’’
Hajime took a guess while smiling scornfully - a normal party in such a cold place after wondering for so long would probably despair having to fight like this. Unfortunately for these monsters, they weren't a normal party, and thanks to Hajime's artifacts the temperature wasn't a problem either.
The cold and the pressure that the frost turtle gave off caused Kouki and his party to pale, but Hajime only glared at it with scornful eyes.
At the same time, Hajime let loose his immense killing intent and pressure. A wave of red magic hit the surrounding monsters and immediately broken them to pieces. Somehow, even the frost turtle flinched at that.
Hajime took a single step forward.
The frost turtle let out a roar as if to deny that it flinched from a mere human, and all the surrounding demons began to move together.
The Ice and snow cave... the first trial started here. (Tn: First trial! I thought we were nearly done! :O )