Arc 26: What can be done for tomorrow
Chapter 265: The Burned City, and the Crystal Skeletons
I’ve found the kunoichi trio in an area at the desert away from Astal, the second city of Sandora.
For now, I’ve applied [Recovery] on all of them and have sent them to the quarantine room in the medical office of Brunhild castle — I’ve asked Flora and Tica to examine them.
That’s because if it’s a virus of some sort, the situation will turn grave. Though I think they’ll be okay.
As I pass by Moroha-nee-san and Karina-nee-san, I ask them to come with me since they’re free. Things like viruses won’t matter to people who can use divinity, myself included.
Since the day has already started to set, I fly to Astal at once with the two of them using the magic carpet.
On our way there, we pass by several coaches and other vehicles which look like they’re running away from the city.
We’re using concealment magic, so they shouldn’t have noticed us at all, but they look like traveling merchants. According to the map search, there are no survivors in the city, so they are probably running away after they have seen the disaster in Astal during their visit.
Eventually, a fortress city standing alone within the slowly darkening desert comes into view. So this is Astal, the second city of Sandora, huh?
Its protective wall, which has been built with reddish-brown brick-looking stones, is supposed to be protecting the town and preventing invaders from entering the city, yet the gates that serve as the entrance into the city have been left open, preventing the walls from fulfilling its intended role.
There are several lying dead people in front of the gates. Looking at the armor they’re wearing, they must’ve been the gatekeepers.
All of their faces have been warped in anguish, making them look like dried-up parched mummies. I can see six-edged crystallized prisms, that look like small rock crystals, sprouting from all over their bodies, piercing them from the inside.
I try poking those crystals with the edge of Brynhildr, and they fall off flopping down along with their root that has been inside the dead body.
As I pick up a fallen crystal to take a look at it, I conclude that it’s way too fragile for it to be the crystal materials constituting the physical makeup of the frazes. When I apply a bit of strength, it easily breaks like a candy.
「What the heck? What happened in this city…? 」(Touya)
While I mutter to myself, the two standing beside me, Moroha-nee-san and Karina-nee-san, show difficult expressions while looking at the collapsed bodies
「As I thought. This is…」(Moroha)
「There’s no mistake about this」(Karina)
The two exchange glances and nod to each other. What is it?
「Did you notice something out of the ordinary?」(Touya)
「I suppose so. I don’t know what happened, but the souls of the people lying around here have been eaten」(Moroha)
「Their souls have been eaten?」(Touya)
What’s the meaning of this? I’ve heard of a phenomena wherein the soul of a person exits his or her body when it falls into a stupor, but not something like this.
「In layman’s terms, when a person dies, his soul leaves the body and goes toward heaven located below the divine realm where we (Gods) live. The soul is going to be cleansed there and will be sent out to a new body in order for it to be reborn anew. It’s the thing called the circle of life」(Karina)
「Well, the souls who have committed too many crimes will require a powerful purification, so those souls become whittled down, preventing them from reincarnating into anything but a beast, but they’re still included in the circle of reincarnation. However… 」(Moroha)
「The souls of the people over here won’t rise up to the heavens. Touya, concentrate your divine eye… meaning, you apply divine power on both of your eyes and try to look at those bodies」(Karina)
Following what Karina-nee-san said, I try concentrating my sight on the corpses, after applying divine power on my eyes.
Upon doing so, I can then see something that resembles a frail shining sphere inside the bodies. Is that a soul?
However, I suddenly notice that this soul is chipped here and there as if it has been eaten by a worm and that its light is becoming weaker bit by bit.
「Do you see it? This is an [Eaten soul]. At this point in time, it’ll only disappear and separate from the circle of reincarnation, never to be born again. It’s disappearance in a literal and genuine sense」
A complete and literal disappearance. A being disappears from both this world and other worlds. My body shivers just by thinking about it.
「A method to somehow save even just the soul…」(Touya)
「There’s a way, but it’s within the realm of divine miracles. We can’t really use that leisurely while we’re on the ground. You too. Don’t attempt to do it, okay? The burden will be way too heavy for a newcomer.」(Karina)
Karina-nee-san stabs my hope with a nail.
「Now then, we have to burn all the bodies here to ashes. If a soul doesn’t ascend to heaven, it’ll establish itself in a corpse. If that happens, they will surely turn to become undead; they’ll end up roaming the land as zombies, looking for those who are still alive.」(Moroha)
According to Moroha-nee-san, being undead seems to be a condition wherein the soul establishes itself in a dead body after it has died regardless if the soul is chipped or not. For the undead, there are those whose purpose comes from their attachment in life or their hatred against someone or something, but that undead whose souls are damaged have no purpose.
Usually, the soul of an undead will be released from its body and will go to heaven after purification. However, a damaged soul cannot go to heaven. It will only vanish along with the body.
It will really be detached from the circle of samsara, huh?
As I enter the city and look around, I then discover that it’s not just the humans who have grown crystals from the bodies and died. Even horses, dogs, and small birds have had their souls devoured. As I feared. This must be a move made by the frazes.
After considering various things, I believe it’s better to burn the whole town. There should still be commodities and money inside the houses and shops, but the thoughts “Isn’t it wasteful?” or “Should I collect all of it” doesn’t sit well me. I don’t want to behave like a graverobber.
On the other hand, those items will probably end up becoming the possessions of thieves or heartless people if I leave them as they are. I guess it’s better for them to disappear completely along with their owners from the ground.
I am thinking of passing the belongings to the Sandora Kingdom, but there’s still the possibility of a virus causing this phenomenon. It’ll also be troublesome if the money here will be used to mass produce the [Subordination Collars].
After confirming that there are no living things through search magic, I burn the city with a temperature capable of melting even metals such as gold or silver coins.
This includes the souls who have become disconnected from the circle of samsara.
「Oh Flame, go mad, Hell Fire of Purgatory, Prominence」(Touya)
The whole city is being wrapped with magic flames that I have invoked. Blazing hellfire, bright to the degree of scorching the sky, burns down every single object in the darkness of an already sunken day.
The house walls collapse, roofs fall down, and they all melt down while being wrapped in flames.
I gaze at the sight before me, and a feeling of utter helplessness washes over me.
「Does this incident of souls being eaten happen often? 」(Touya)
「It’s likely so in case of spiritual apparitions like wraths, phantoms, or specters. Monsters that belong in the [Soul Eater] category are often attracted by the negative thoughts of people. Souls dyed in the colors of dark emotions are the greatest feast for those guys」(Moroha)
「The easiest target for them is [Fear]. Those souls dyed in feelings of anxiety, panic or despair are their favorite food. That’s why they don’t show themselves and corner their opponents with mental dread. After all, [Fear of the unknown], which is the fear due to things someone doesn’t understand or can’t explain, is inherent to everyone」(Karina)
That reminds me, I’ve heard something about the fear of darkness as the only fear inherent to humans. They tend to imagine that [Something] is in the dark, and this stirs up the feeling of [Fear]. It’s said that [Fear of the Unknown] is due to a person’s power of imagination.
Well, I’ve understood that there are spiritual apparitions who eat souls. However, I cannot bring myself to think that all of it has been their work.
It’s the same for those crystals. It feels like there’s no way that something will prey on such a large number of people. Well, it wouldn’t be an unbelievable story if the city was attacked by several thousands of wraiths.
Something… something unknown is moving.
「There’s one thing that I remember though」(Moroha)
Moroha-nee-san mutters while gazing at the blazing city.
「The thing that eats souls and grows… Maybe an evil god is trying to be born」(Moroha)
「Aah~, I see. That might be it. There are no sacred treasures in this world aside from Touya’s [Smartphone], so… is this the work of that guy, the subordination god?」(Karina)
They say it’s due to an “evil god”, but is that really the case? A failure of a god who’s born after gathering evil intentions from objects like sacred treasures, which have the power of gods dwelling in them. They say that he’s below the subordinate gods, so he shouldn’t be a big deal to the gods. But it’s a serious issue for humanity.
An evil god is not really a god even if it’s called as such, and gods seem to basically take a non-interference policy for this issue since it’s something that’s born on the ground. However, it’s certain that the power of the gods is related to him being born, so I guess they won’t leave it alone irresponsibly and handle it by bestowing something like a holy sword or divine sword to a hero.
Is the subordination god scheming to produce a sacred treasure and give birth to an evil god?
「Well, this world has Touya so there’s no reason to worry even if an evil god tries to be born 」(Karina)
「Either way, it’s not a god in spite of it having the power of one. However, this imitation which has been created by a subordination god, the lowest type of god, will be facing a dependent of the most supreme almighty god. It won’t even be a battle…」(Moroha)
「…… Then I guess there’s nothing to worry about…」(Karina)
I would like them to excuse me from doing something like fighting against an evil god though. Oh well, if it’s even lower than that neet god, I feel like I’ll be able to do something about it.
Putting that matter aside, I’m more worried about the symptoms regarding those crystals. Don’t tell me… Has the subordination god joined forces with the frazes?
That’s idiotic… is what I want to think, but this feeling of doubt won’t disappear.
I feel that the birth of an evil god is also linked to the frazes. It’s only my intuition so far, but…
「… Hm? Something is wrong. There’s something… moving?」(Moroha)
I raise my face while looking dubious toward Moroha-nee-san, who is looking at the hellfire of the blazing hell. Wh-what?
There are shadows swaying in the flame. No way. It’s a fire capable of melting even iron, you know?!
A crystal skeleton body that jumps out from the fire surprises me.
Karina-nee-san shoots an arrow made from crystal materials at the head of a skeleton that’s about to attack.
Having its head destroyed, the skeleton immediately falls down, but his smashed head regenerates to its original form with a snap. This ability is the same with the Frazes…!
After regenerating it’s damaged part, the crystal skeleton stands up while swaying. A red shining sphere the size of a golf ball is in the area of the chest where the heart is supposed to be located.
Unsheathing Brynhildr, I pull the trigger, aiming at the core. When the shot bullet pierces it, the whole body of the skeleton crumbles into pieces.
So it’s a regeneration ability, huh? Its movements stop upon the destruction of the core. It’s surely the same ability with the frazes. Then, magic is likely ineffective against them as well. Otherwise, it couldn’t have passed through those flames.
This is… is that because of those crystal growing from their bodies?!
「It looks like they’re coming again. The dead bodies in the city have apparently been turned into frazes…」(Moroha)
「It’ll be difficult to fight them in here! Go to the desert!」(Touya)
Both of them retreat upon my order. One by one, the crystal skeletons crawl out from the gates of the blazing city. When they do, Karina-nee-san and I shoot them with bullets and arrows while we distance ourselves from the city and to the desert.
There are also small skeletons among them, which could only belong to children. Having suppressed the unbearable feeling, I then shoot their cores.
Their souls can no longer be saved. They won’t die peacefully if they don’t reach heaven, so there’s no other choice but for them to disappear.
Moroha-nee-san moves forward and cuts down the core of a skeleton fraze. The skeletons aren’t strong by themselves, but it’s troublesome when there are so many of them.
They are just at the level wherein they can be brought down even with an ordinary sword. In that case————.
「Oh Darkness, come forth, what I seek is the bone-shelled soldier, Skeleton Warrior 」(Touya)
Pure white skeletons crawl out one after another from the summoning formation I have opened up on the ground. These skeleton warriors are holding a sword in their right hands, and a shield in their left.
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. A skeleton for a skeleton.
「Defeat the crystal skeletons coming out from the castle gates! Stab the cores in their chests!」(Touya)
Being different from other frazes, those crystal skeletons have their cores exposed, making it possible to aim at it from the gaps in their ribcage. It’s also possible to smash it alongside the cage by applying strength. They aren’t a special threat or so.
I then call out thousands of skeleton warriors one by one. I’m able to pull through in this battle thanks to my vast amount of magic power.
It’s a battle between an army of skeleton warriors and an army of crystal skeletons crawling out from the flames. It seems like those crystal skeletons attack humans with pure instinct, same as other frazes — They’re all coming here even if there are other gates out of Astal.
While blocking crystal skeletons, the skeleton warriors also break them indifferently. How should I say it…? It’s their duty.
It’s a mystery that nothing else aside from humans, like horses or dogs, has turned into frazes. There’s probably some sort of condition to it.
「A battle between skeletons…. It’s just like a picture of hell itself」(Touya)
To make matters worse, there’s a burning city behind them. It seems like it may not necessarily be that different.
After two hours have passed, all the crystal skeletons have been exterminated by the skeleton warriors, and the flames of the burning city have started to die out as well. Even after I try searching for crystal skeletons, I find that not a single one of them has moved.
Thus the second city of Sandora Kingdom, Astal, has disappeared.
ED: Blackswordsman, Empress