After quelling the revolt in Hinomoto, Shin headed towards the Sacred Mountain Fuji to fulfill his promise with Mikazuki Munechika, one of the Five Supreme Blades.
Once outside Kujou territory, Shin’s party proceeded to their destination with a horse carriage. Running on foot would have been faster, but they didn’t have any particular reason to hurry.
They were traveling at a lower speed than when they had traveled to the Futaba and Shijou territories to suppress the revolt, but their carriage was still much faster than average.
“—–so why does this Supreme Blade lady, with a name that screams nothing but danger, want to talk to you?”
Filma asked Shin, who was sitting on the coachman’s seat.
In the game era, support characters could not fight the Five Supreme Blades, so not only Filma, but also Schnee and Shibaid didn’t know how powerful Munechika was.
However, hearing from Shin about her level and equipment, they could measure the level of danger she posed.
Above level 900 and equipped with Ancient-grade gear. Even for Schnee and the others, who possessed overwhelming strength by this world’s standards, she was not an opponent they could afford to face without preparation.
“I don’t know the reason why, to be honest. But she’s been around ever since before the “Dusk of the Majesty”, she could have something important to say, no?”
“Won’t there be any danger?”
“We talked and crossed swords in a match, but there was nothing particularly suspicious. Even if she was hungry for a serious battle, she was keeping herself under control.”
Shin answered Schnee’s question while remembering how Munechika had withdrawn her wooden sword before getting completely serious.
It could not be said that she did not desire to fight, but Munechika was not the type to only talk via battle.
Even if Karin and Kanade had visited her by themselves, she would have probably requested something else in exchange for the herb, or nothing at all.
“I’m asking just in case, but she isn’t going to say she fell for you like Karin did, right?”
“Come on, Filma, the arranged marriage thing was something Karin’s mother pushed by herself…”
“I heard that already. But her eyes were those of a maiden in love, you know? You aren’t going to tell me that you had no idea now, are you?”
“I kind of…noticed, yeah.”
Any normal person would have noticed if she expressed it that clearly. Shin was no exception, but at the same time he found it strange.
“Karin’s behavior changed after I refused the arranged marriage thing. I don’t really understand why that happened. Why do you act like you’re in love after you’ve been refused? Isn’t it the opposite usually?”
Shin couldn’t wrap his mind around it.
“I bet she didn’t realize her feelings until late. She had this “I live for the sword” aura and all.”
“…..I don’t get it after all.”
Shin knew how it felt to like someone, but he couldn’t understand Karin’s circumstances.
“Let’s stop talking about past things. So, what kind of person is this Munechika?”
“I don’t really know her well myself. The first time I met her was—-”
Shin talked about how he brought Karin and Kanade to the peak of Fuji and how he fought Munechika for the medicinal herb.
“She was strong.”
“Yes, as Yuzuha said, her sword arm was something else. I couldn’t win in a pure match of sword skills. If everything was allowed though, it would be different.”
Shin talked while remembering his match against Munechika. If he could use magic and skills, there was no way he could lose.
“Hmm, yes, an unshackled Shin would surely find a way to win, even if inferior in sword ability.”
“Shin never loses after all.”
In contrast to Shibaid’s rational analysis of Shin’s strength, Schnee retorted as if she found the very consideration of Shin losing preposterous. She looked so adamant that Tiera couldn’t help reacting.
“…ahem. We’re almost at Fuji.”
After coughing to change the subject, Schnee noted they had reached their destination.
Fuji stood imposingly before the horse carriage..
As always, a thick fog laid heavily all around the peak.
“I heard that the fog doesn’t disappear, but the woods appear to be pretty quiet.”
Tiera whispered after looking at the mists, then the forest.
“We’re close to the World Tree forest. I suppose mysterious forces are at work.”
Schnee answered Shin’s question while looking at the forest extending at the foot of Fuji, just like Tiera.
“I heard there are high-level monsters around here too, but is it true?”
“On average monsters are at level 500, the same as before. But the Eight-Headed Orochi on the peak is a whole other category. Level 833.”
Shibaid grumbled after hearing Shin’s reply.
“It might be lower than Munechika, but still it’s not an opponent we can underestimate.”
“We’re not going to fight, so I think it will be all right. When I visited Fuji last time it wasn’t belligerent either.”
Some heads looked at Shin with curiosity, others were even sleeping: it looked like each head had a distinct personality. It was a powerful monster, but as Shin had only seen such behavior, to him it seemed more cute than dangerous.
“Anyway, let’s start climbing. We don’t have to worry about the monsters with the members we have here, but don’t let your guard down.”
“Well then, I’ll take the lead going up.”
Schnee was walking in the lead, with Shin and the others behind her. Looking at the party from above, Tiera was in the center, Shin on the right, Filma on the left and Shibaid took up the rear. Yuzuha was riding on Shin’s left shoulder.
With Kagerou around, there was no need to focus on protecting Tiera, but they assumed that formation naturally.
Tiera equipped a bow as main weapon. Taking a formation focused on rear support had become almost second nature for Shin’s party.
“We’re entering the mists.”
The group penetrated the area hidden by the fog, their formation unbroken.
Differently from when Shin had come with Karin and Kanade, they didn’t move stealthily this time; but thanks to Schnee’s precise guidance, they passed the fog area without encountering any monsters.
Maybe because it had sensed the approach of Shin’s party, after emerging from the mist they found Orochi’s heads awaiting them.
Tiera couldn’t hide her surprise at the monster’s towering figure. Just like last time, Eight-Headed Orochi was looking at Shin’s group with curiosity.
Maybe because they were many, or because it had felt their high levels, this time all 8 heads were fixated on them.
“It’s true, I feel no intimidation or hostility from it.”
“Hmm, I suppose we do not need to be wary.”
Schnee and Shibaid relaxed their stances after looking at Orochi.
“Rather, I’m more concerned about over there.”
Differently from Schnee and the others, Filma was looking towards the interior of the small shrine.
A few moments after her comment, something sparkled from within the shrine.
“You came earlier than expected, Shin.”
“I said I would not make you wait.”
The source of the light was the armor Munechika was clad in. She was walking towards the party, holding her helmet with her left hand.
“There is no need to act so formal, considering our relationship.”
Munechika laid a hand on Shin’s shoulder, her face coming closer to his. Surprisingly close.
“Well…I only remember we crossed swords once, that’s it.”
Shin had no idea why she would act so intimate with him, and squeezed out a response despite his confusion. He had recently assisted her in defeating the demon foxes, but he didn’t think that was enough to cause her to act so affectionately.
“Ah, now that I think about it I had not talked about it yet. “You made me fall a lot, I won’t let you say that I won by chance”…you said things like these before our last match, right? After you left, I thought about those words. It took me a few days, but I clearly remembered.”
“Could it be that you recalled the memories from the game era?”
It was something from more than 500 years before. It wasn’t something one would normally remember.
“It would probably be impossible without some trigger. I did not think I could recall them so clearly either.”
Munechika explained how she had not recalled just by looking at him during their match. Shin’s words were what acted as trigger.
“That day, I said that I wanted to talk to you again…maybe because I had unconsciously remembered.”
“How much do you know of me?”
“I didn’t know a lot about you personally from the start. But I remember how burning hot your blade was when we fought, you know?”
The hand resting on Shin’s shoulder moved towards his face.
“There are people other than you that defeated me. But no one challenged me as many times as you did. The more I remembered, the more my chest felt hot and…well, isn’t this quite uncouth of you?”
Munechika’s last words, directed at the person who had suddenly appeared before her, were spoken as her shoulders dropped.
The person cutting in the progressively decreasing distance between Shin and Munechika was Schnee.
“My apologies, but it will be a problem if you come any closer to Shin.”
“A problem, hmm. Don’t you mean to say that you’d be envious?”.
Munechika’s taunting words were met by a sharper look from Schnee.
“Okay, okay, stop, stop I say! Schnee, you calm down too, she’s not serious anyway. Munechika, enough with the jokes!”
“Hehe, you know how it is. I had just put a hand on your shoulder, but I felt such a fearful look from over there…of course I would want to tease a little. And now your formal tone disappeared too, right?”
“Give me a break…”
Shin sighed, his hands on Schnee’s shoulders to calm her. He wholeheartedly wished for them to stop making the mood dangerous.
“Well, I have to say she’s pretty different from what I expected.”
“Indeed, this is not what Shin’s words suggested.”
Witnessing the scene, Filma and Shibaid were puzzled.
They had confirmed her level and were positive that she had to be really strong. But the feeling of intimidation often associated with powerful warriors was nowhere to be found, hence their comments.
“Ehm, Shin? I think you should have taken your hands off by now.”
“Hm? Ah, aah! I’m sorry!”
Shin looked in front of himself after hearing Tiera’s remark, only to find Schnee frozen in place, completely red.
“….that’s not, a problem.”
Maybe embarrassed to be seen blushing like that, Schnee mumbled while keeping her head down.
“Haha, you folks are never boring to look at.”
“And whose fault is it? Well, let me hear the rest of the story.”
“Apologies, it had been a while since I had so much fun. Let us get to the point, Shin. I believe I know both your original fighting power and personality. As such, there is something I wish to ask of you.”
Munechika was smiling at the start, but as she approached the heart of the topic her expression turned completely serious.
“Is that something my companions can hear too?”
“Yes, not a problem. After all, as you command an Element Tail, you are not completely unrelated to this.”
Munechika spoke while looking at Yuzuha. Hearing that it was something related to Element Tails, Shin imagined it was related to Ley lines.
“Come. There is something I wish to show you.”
Following Munechika, who had turned around, the group entered the shrine.
After about 5 minutes, a red light entered their field of sight.
“This is Fuji’s original master, Kagutsuchi.”
Looking at the source of the light, everyone became speechless.
The red light came from a phoenix-shaped red crystal.
The crystallized Kagutsuchi, wings spread as if protecting something, emitted a red light that brightly illuminated the room.
“What’s going on here?”
“In the past, miasma seeped in the Ley lines. In order to restore balance to the Ley lines, it turned like this. Despite the appearance, Kagutsuchi isn’t dead. You can come out now! These people aren’t dangerous!”
Munechika shouted towards the crystal. Shin was wondering what she was doing, when something moved from the shadows behind the crystal.
A small creature the size of a fist jumped down from the crystal, flapping earnestly its small wings, and landed on Munechika’s head.
“Bad! Land on my shoulder, not my head, how many times have I told you?”
Spreading its wings declaring its presence on Munechika’s head was a little bird with red plumage.
It was a bit big for a baby bird, but it was like a slightly larger chick painted red, very fluffy-looking.
““Welcome, o fellow Element Tail” is what it said. 2 times.”
To Shin’s party it only sounded like it was crying, but according to Yuzuha the two “Pii” had said the same thing.
“You understand what it says?”
“More or less.”
Yuzuha explained that maybe because they both can influence Ley lines, they can also communicate.
“It might look like this now, but this is Kagutsuchi. At least, a part of it.”
“It can do something like that?”
“It retains little strength, though. It can just communicate, that’s it.”
The baby Kagutsuchi poked Munechika with its rounded beak. Munechika didn’t look like she was hurt in the least.
“I know. More than that, what happened to Tsunetsugu and Mitsuyo? We should talk to them too.”
It appeared that Munechika also understood Kagutsuchi’s speech.
The names mentioned by Munechika, Tsunetsugu and Mitsuyo, were the names of Supreme Blades like her.
“There are others from the Five Supreme Blades?”
“Only two, though.I’ll explain. —–Here they are.”
2 silhouettes appeared from the corridor next to the crystallized Kagutsuchi.
The first was an old man probably over 60 years old, judging from his appearance.
His slicked back hair was a silvery grey. He was observing Shin’s party while stroking his unkempt beard, but did not show a single opening. He wore samurai-like protective gear on his shoulders, legs and around his waist.
The other sword was a young girl in her late teens who, like Munechika, wore armor on her whole body, helmet excluded.
She was not very tall and looked rather thin as well. Her twin pigtails and pretty features made her seem very cute, but her sharp, cold stare destroyed this impression.
Despite looking young, she seemed eager to fight; her yellow-bordered black armor had a design different from Munechika’s.
“Hoho, we just came because of Kagutsuchi’s call, who knew we had guests too.”
“Munechika? You allowed people here without our permission?”
“Because it involves Yasutsuna and Kunitsuna. And suppress that killing intent a little, Mitsuyo. If they were dangerous, whether I was here or not, Kagutsuchi wouldn’t have come out, would it?”
Right after her appearance, the young girl created a tense mood. Shin’s 【Analyze】 displayed her name as Oodenta Mitsuyo.
The old man who appeared with the girl was Juzumaru Tsunetsugu.
Mitsuyo’s level was 908, Tsunetsugu’s 941. Both their names came from the swords they were based on.
“Look at the Element Tail on this man——on Shin’s shoulder. No Element Tail would ever follow someone who disrupted the flow of the Ley lines. They are the people I talked about before, that we could request to help us. Further, in regards to Shin, this is not your first time meeting him. Mitsuyo, you even lost to him once. Try to remember.”
Munechika had already talked about Shin’s party to them, apparently. She looked at the Element Tail as Munechika said and, with a growl-like grumble, suppressed her killing intent.
Munechika’s last words, however, prompted her to look at Shin even more sharply.
“As they do not have impure thoughts, they might indeed be worthy of trust. Kagutsuchi said the same too, so I’ll believe that. But there is one thing that I cannot just accept. I have lost!? What exactly do you mean!?”
“Do not raise your voice, Mitsuyo. Good grief, the only one among us who did not lose is Tsunetsugu.”
“An old man like me? It is true that I can count the times I lost on the fingers of one hand…hmm. Young man, try to show me your killing intent.”
Shin was dumbfounded at the sudden request to release his killing intent.
“You see, this old man here is bad at remembering names and faces.”
“I see, I understand then. Here I go.”
Shin looked at Tsunetsugu with some killing intent. Other than Tsunetsugu’s reaction, Mitsuyo too opened her eyes wide.
“Hoho, I see, I see. I felt this killing intent a very long time ago. I did not lose, but I did not win either. I don’t remember killing you.”
“That’s because I felt I couldn’t match you and ran away right away.”
In the battles against the anthropomorphized swords, if moving was possible fleeing was possible too, as the swords could not leave a specified battle range.
Losing to a weapon and dying would naturally mean to receive a penalty for dying, so many players fled rather than risk it. Few managed to flee successfully, though.
“Kahah! That was some mighty fine running!”
In the game era, Shin had managed to obtain four of the Five Supreme Blades.
He had obtained 『Mikazuki Munechika』shortly before the event ended, and time ran out on 『Juzumaru Tsunetsugu』. The 『Juzumaru Tsunetsugu』Shin now carried was something he had obtained in a revival event.
Judging from the three swords’ conversation, they did not have memories of the revival event.
“What! You say you defeated me, and you didn’t defeat Tsunetsugu!? Beat us all properly!!”
“Don’t be ridiculous! I barely managed to take Munechika down before time ran out. I could have fought a few times, but there wasn’t enough time.”
Mitsuyo, dissatisfied that the person who had defeated her didn’t defeat Tsunetsugu, a Supreme Blade like her, complained to Shin.
Shin had attempted to study his attack patterns, like when fighting a boss, but he didn’t have enough time to carry it out.
Considering his stats and equipment at the time, even if he had plenty of time it would have probably been difficult. Shin did not yet possess his current power.
“So, did you remember? Mitsuyo.”
“Hngh, well, I think we fought before…”
Mitsuyo nodded while mumbling something. She did not mention having lost, but frustration was clearly visible on her expression.
“But! Maybe that happened in the past, but it doesn’t mean he must be strong now too. It happened 500 years ago, after all.”
“I made sure to check that by crossing swords with him. His sharpness increased and I didn’t feel impurities that would lead him to be contaminated by miasma. If anything strange had happened to Shin, I doubt they would just sit by and do nothing too.”
Munechika answered Mitsuyo’s remark by looking over towards Shin’s group.
What her eyes found were a slightly blushing Schnee, silently observing Filma and Shibaid, then Tiera, who was intently trying to keep up with the conversation.
“Ehm, so in the end, what is it that you want us to do? You said I’m not unrelated?”
“Yes, I’m sorry. It’s my fault that we were not exactly of the same page on my side.”
“Well, if Munechika says there are no problems, then I believe so too. Mitsuyo, you should stop sulking.”
Next to the apologizing Munechika, Tsunetsugu nodded in acceptance. At the same time, however, he added an unnecessary comment, met by an angry shout by Mitsuyo.
“Hnngh….I get it. Go on.”
Because of baby Kagutsuchi’s reproach, Mitsuyo reluctantly urged Munechika to continue talking.
“I’ll continue, then. What I wished to request to Shin and his group was to help us look for two of our fellow Supreme Blades.”
“All 5 swords…no, 5 people…aren’t here?”
Shin had not expressed it in words, but was wondering why only 2 of them, Mitsuyo and Tsunetsugu, had come out.
The answer was, because they were not there in the first place.
“I think that your Element Tail probably knows. It happened roughly 500 years ago, when the crust shifted. In that period, miasma suddenly seeped into the Ley lines.”
Munechika explained that the demons probably did something when the Ley lines were in a state of chaos.
“Great multitudes of monsters appeared, peculiar areas formed too, maybe?”
“Exactly. We were dragged in it too.”
The contamination of Ley lines and corruption of Sacred Places via the miasma was also an event in the game era. In the game it was sufficient to defeat the monsters and demons causing the phenomenon, but in this world things would not be that simple.
The territory around Fuji repeatedly moved up and down because of the crust shifts, causing the Five Supreme Blades, normally always apart from each other, to gather in one place.
Munechika continued by recounting how, thanks to Kagutsuchi’s power, they managed to restore balance to the Ley lines, but then the incident happened.
“The Ley lines were supposed to have calmed down, when suddenly thick miasma entered them. To restore them again, Kagutsuchi took this current form, but Yasutsuna and Kunitsuna were swallowed by the miasma and disappeared.”
“That’s incredible…it’s true that Yuzuha also suffered because of the miasma, but…”
“Kuu, maybe it happened, all around the world.”
Yuzuha, who like Kagutsuchi used her powers to suppress the crust shifts, talked with some restlessness in her voice.
“In that case, however, I can’t just accept it easily. Do you have any clues?”
“We didn’t exactly do nothing all this time. We Five Supreme Blades can sense each other’s presence. It took a while because of the miasma, but we have found the general location they should be in.”
Munechika answered Shin’s doubts. That information was more than what he expected.
“Let me ask just for confirmation, but it wasn’t possible for one of you to go meet them, or rather, bring them back?”
“We wouldn’t be asking you if we could!!”
“Easy, Mitsuyo. Don’t start biting at any chance you get. I understand what the boy means, though. We cannot, however, move beyond a determined radius. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you boy?”
“….I see, that’s why you said that the Supreme Blades, which would normally never be together, have gathered.”
The Five Supreme Blades not being able to move beyond a certain radius was one of the event’s rules. Unrelated to the developers’ intentions, this had been applied to the current world too, as Shin understood from Tsunetsugu’s words.
“Fuji is also different from the game era. We are bound to the land. Because of that, we cannot go look for Yasutsuna and Kunitsuna. But because we are bound to the land, we could gather together because of the land’s movements. If we had been suddenly released from such bonds, we probably would not have come all the way to the region ruled by Kagutsuchi. In that case, no one could have protected this place: Fuji would have become a den of monsters. Whether it was fortune or misfortune, in the end, I cannot say.”
Tsunetsugu spoke while fiddling with his unkempt beard.
“Can’t say, that is true.”
“Well in any case, we can only do what we can now. Apologies for cutting in. Munechika, continue.”
“Yes, so…we have more or less traced Yasutsuna and Kunitsuna’s location. We would like to ask you to go pick them up.”
“I see. I understand that it’s something you can’t ask to the people here.”
The Five Supreme Blades were opponents that even Schnee and the others would have a rough time facing one-on-one.
Now that Shin had renewed their equipment and they had powered up they might be able to go toe to toe with them, but for Shin’s former support characters, as they were in the past, it would be a very dangerous battle.
At the same time, for the denizens of the current world it was a nearly impossible request.
Even former players that could get on par with them were limited in numbers.
“I would cooperate if we know the location, what do you think everybody?”
“I’ll follow you, Shin.”
“What Schnee said.”
“Hmm, if miasma is involved I couldn’t leave it alone.”
“I too think it’s better to accept it.”
The whole party answered positively to Shin’s question, albeit with different reasons.
Kagerou would follow Tiera, so everyone agreed naturally.
“It’s decided then. The closest one first…no, which one should be picked up the soonest?”
Shin changed his question halfway through.
If they were corrupted by miasma, it was better to prioritize whichever was tainted more.
“That I do not know. I was thinking of having you go toward the closest one.”
Munechika stated again that all they could tell was the general distance and direction.
“That can’t be helped. Where is the closer one, then?”
“Closer, well, it’s in the depths of the dungeon below this very mountain. I suppose that saying “secret dungeon” will make it easy for you to understand.”
Munechika’s words took Shin by surprise. He had heard rumors of a hidden dungeon beneath Fuji, but no one had actually ever gone there or even seen it.
There was also the possibility that whoever found it had hidden it.
“You were a player, so you should know that much, no?”
“So the rumors were true. But then you could go save—-oh, I see. The dungeon is considered a different area.”
“Correct. It lies at our very feet, yet we could do nothing…that was truly vexating.”
Just like Munechika as she spoke these words, Mitsuyo and Tsunetsugu’s expressions became clouded too. Their pain of not being able to go save their companions was clear even if they didn’t put it in words.
“Got it. The depths of the dungeon, then?”
“Yes. As long as my and Kagutsuchi’s perceptions are not wrong, Yasutsuna is somewhere in the lower floors of the dungeon. The hidden dungeon too, however, is affected by the miasma. It could be hidden somewhere, so if you go to the deepest part but still find nothing, we will have to think about what else to do.”
The Fuji dungeon was originally under Kagutsuchi’s control, so it knew of its internal structure, albeit not completely.
However, they could not discard the possibility that it had been warped by the miasma: thus even Kagutsuchi’s usually energetic “pii!” cries now sounded like a feeble “pii…”.
“Roger. This time, we’ll have to explore as if we wanted to map the whole dungeon. If we use detection-type skills, it might take some time but it’s possible, after all.”
“I apologize for burdening you with this. If I could go personally, I would be able to detect a more precise position.”
Munechika stated that if they could get closer to the target, the precision of their detection would increase too. If only they could bring Munechika, who was bound to the present location, with them… thinking this, a question popped up in Shin’s mind.
“Say, Munechika. Your original form is the sword 『Mikazuki Munechika』, right?”
“That it is. The sword I carry is, while very similar to it, a fake. Even so, its stats and effects are the same. If I release my human form, the real sword appears. That’s my original form”
“Pretty much as I expected. Then I ask, can the one I have take human form?”
Shin took an item from the item box. The item was one of the Five Supreme Blades, 『Mikazuki Munechika』.
“Why do you have something like that!?”
“Why of course, 500 years ago you won against me. There’s nothing strange in you having it.”
“Yes, I’m going to say something a bit weird, but I was thinking if this couldn’t be used as a substitute.”
If Munechika and the 『Mikazuki Munechika』 in Shin’s possession were one and the same, Shin thought that maybe the latter could enter the dungeon in place of Munechika, who couldn’t move from Fuji.
If the consciousness dwelling within this 『Mikazuki Munechika』 also wished to save her companions, that is.
“I see. It is true that if I am bound to a master, I can go where the master goes. But my master now is Kagutsuchi, so I cannot come alongside you, Shin. Further, I cannot perceive any aura from the 『Mikazuki Munechika』 you hold. Even if it is the same sword as I am, the moment it became the possession of a player, it probably completely became just a weapon.”
“I see…if you could come with us, we would be able to move with more precision, is what I thought.”
“Wait, though. That line of thinking could hold some truth.”
“It could? What do you mean?”
Shin was about to put 『Mikazuki Munechika』 back in the item box, as it didn’t look like it could be of use, but Munechika stopped him. She was looking at 『Mikazuki Munechika』, now in card form.
“Can you let me have that for a moment? There is something I wish to try.”
Munechika received the item card from Shin and materialized the blade. She then closed her eyes to focus.
“…hmm, as I thought. Rejoice, Shin. It appears I can accompany you.”
Roughly 3 minutes had passed.
Munechika opened her eyes and made this declaration.
“Er, what does that mean exactly?”
“This sword does not host a consciousness. But I can transfer mine into it. Leaving my original form here.”
“Is it alright to do something like that?”
Listening to Munechika’s explanation, Shin was reminded of a videogame’s VR technology.
To leave the real body behind and move with only one’s consciousness as a VR avatar was similar to Munechika’s proposal of transferring her consciousness to another sword, he thought.
“T-that’s right. Isn’t it dangerous to do something like transferring your consciousness?”
“No, it doesn’t seem like there would be any trouble. Because this too is 『Mikazuki Munechika』. I know that even before trying.”
Munechika firmly nodded to Shin and Mitsuyo’s questions.
“Let me confirm, just in case. What would happen if you were defeated after transferring your consciousness?”
“If the host disappears, my original form would simply awaken. Of course, my original form would be defenseless while my consciousness is transferred elsewhere, though.”
“What if the host was contaminated by miasma?”
“I would not be able to transfer my consciousness anymore, or I would be trapped by it, I suppose. I cannot say with certainty unless that actually happens.”
What she knew was simply that she could transfer her consciousness into Shin’s 『Mikazuki Munechika』. That even after transferring her consciousness she could detect Yasutsuna and Kunitsuna’s presences. Lastly, that if the host body was broken her consciousness would return to the original one.
Shin tried to ask her the tricky question of how she could know all that, but Munechika simply replied “somehow”.
“This is just a hypothesis, but the sword you hold is also me, in a way. I do not know if we can consider it and me as one and the same, but I don’t think it’s wrong to consider it as something born from myself.”
“In other words, there are multiple containers for you?”
“That could be a way to put it. To inhabit them, though, I would need permission from the holder. I could not inhabit just any unknown stranger’s 『Mikazuki Munechika』.”
To inhabit a weapon, first it was necessary to align one’s wavelength with it, explains Munechika. She could not just inhabit any weapon as she pleased.
“It’s turned into something huge.”
Tiera was listening silently, but in the end blurted out a comment. Filma nodded in agreement.
“To inhabit other bodies with one’s consciousness…anthropomorphized weapons sure can do amazing stuff.”
“We are aware that we are unusual beings. We can also alter our appearance to a degree.”
“Indeed, we might be weapons but we also host a soul. I don’t imagine such bizarre creatures exist anywhere else.”
Munechika spoke seriously, while Tsunetsugu commented while laughing.Their reactions were different, but they both seemed to comprehend what kind of beings they were.
“Hm? Why the sudden silence, Shin?”
“No, I just wanted to ask something else. Could you inhabit this weapon even if it had been reinforced?”
“Yes, being an event item it doesn’t have many capacity slots, but 『Mikazuki Munechika』can still be reinforced. I thought that since we’re going to use it, it’d be better to boost it up while we’re at it.”
Shin thought that if the weapon Munechika carries in human form has the same stats and effects as her original form, if the original weapon was powered up maybe the human form would be strengthened as well.
“Wait just a moment there. You are aware that 『Mikazuki Munechika』 is one of the Five Supreme Blades, right? Maybe Munechika recognized your ability, maybe you’re an incredible guy, but don’t just say you can “reinforce” it so casually!”
“No, I mean that it’s not a proble—-don’t glare like that, please.”
Shin could only laugh wryly before Mitsuyo’s accusing stare.
“Calm down, Mitsuyo. That’s true, something unexpected might happen, I cannot refuse to be reinforced. I do not know what would happen if you fiddle with my main body, but I have no objections. As long as I can keep my form as the weapon 『Mikazuki Munechika』, being reinforced is not a problem.”
“I see. The sun will set soon, so we will leave the exploration for tomorrow and do the reinforcing today. Do you have any requests in what way you would like to be reinforced, by the way?”
Weapon reinforcement contained many options: sturdiness boost, attack power increase, attack range extension, element attachment, etcetera.
The times a weapon could be reinforced too had different patterns: depending on the strength of the effect applied, many different ones could be added, or it was also possible to focus on a single element.
Based on how it was reinforced, a weapon could change to the point of becoming like a completely different one.
“Hmm. Personally, I would favor sharpness and sturdiness. Because the ideal katana never breaks, never bends, and slices well. Besides, adding unique effects could make me feel weird when I return to my original body.”
“I see, roger then. I’ll use the clearing in front of the shrine for a while.”
After obtaining permission, Shin materialized Tsuki no Hokora. Shin headed straight to the smithy, but for some reason, behind Shin’s group, the 3 Supreme Blades and the baby Kagutsuchi were following.
“Wait, why are you all coming?”
“What? Is that a problem or something?”
“Well now, is that not the place where weapons, what we would call a part of ourselves, are tempered? It is not something we can see every day. It is not strange for our interest to be piqued. Or are women forbidden to enter a smithy?”
Depending on the age, some locations were forbidden to women. Munechika’s question to Shin was probably because she knew this fact.
“No, I don’t particularly care about things like that. I understand Munechika, but I didn’t think that Mitsuyo and Tsunetsugu, and even Kagutsuchi would come.”
“I don’t mean to boast, but we are not weapons that average blacksmiths can handle. I cannot deny I am interested.”
Tsunetsugu spoke with an innocent smile.
In the game era, Shin had very rarely let others see him work in the smithy.
The residential area and smithy of the Tsuki no Hokora weren’t accessible to any player outside the Rokuten members; keeping one’s ideas and methods hidden was also common practice.
Furthermore, having people watching made him feel a little awkward too.
(Maybe because of the people present, it feels pretty different from the time at Falnido.)
Probably because of the presence of Munechika’s group, weapons with a consciousness, it was different from having Girard’s attendants or Tiera watching. Shin felt a kind of nervousness he couldn’t quite put into words.
Munechika especially, was completely serious. Even the baby Kagutsuchi resting on her head, which would normally brighten the mood, had a deadly serious expression now.
“Then, I’m starting.”
With these words, Shin started the fire in the furnace.
He checked the appearance of the magic power-imbued flames, impossible to generate in reality, then took out ingots of Orihalcum and Scarletite from the item box.
He placed them in the furnace and waited several minutes. A mineral sparkling with a mix of silver and red was formed.
Mitsuyo commented, impressed.
“Something we call Chimeradite.”
“Hmm, it hasn’t become a weapon yet, but I already feel a peculiar intimidation from it…”
“Is it something you can use without problems?”
Tsunetsugu and Munechika both stared intently at the Chimeradite ingot, after feeling its magical power.
“No problem at all. I have already used ingots like this to reinforce weapons.”
Shin understood their feelings, now that the world had become reality. Normal minerals do not possess magical power, and even unique minerals for blacksmithing would not emit unusual magical energies like Chimeradite does.
“I will focus on tempering now. I don’t think I’ll be able to answer anything even if you ask me, so please keep it in mind.”
Everyone in the smithy felt the atmosphere changed after Shin spoke these words using a serious tone.
Shin first took 『Mikazuki Munechika』 out of the item box and removed its hilt from the blade. Holding it with tongs, Shin heated the blade over the furnace, turning it gradually whiter.
The magic power-imbued flames depended on the magic power of the blacksmith that had ignited them. Because of this, they could have various effects, depending on the blacksmith’s will.
This time the weapon was gradually reaching the most suitable temperature for reinforcing it.
After about 20 seconds, Shin silently removed the blade from the furnace and placed it on top of the Chimeradite ingot atop the anvil.
The white hot blade, with the sharp side pointing down, cut through the Chimeradite like a knife through butter. When the blade reached the center of the ingot, Shin lowered his hammer.
The hammer swung down on the ingot.
Every time the hammer struck, a long, bright sound of struck metal echoed in the smithy. At the same time, like ripples in a lake, the magic power imbued in the hammer spread through the ingot and the blade.
“Whoa, what’s this magic power…?”
“Hmm, now this is impressive.”
Looking at Shin performing blacksmith work, feeling the echoing sounds and the magic’s ripple, Mitsuyo and Tsunetsugu couldn’t help but to voice their surprise and admiration.
Munechika simply stared at Shin, without a word.
“As usual, Shin is really amazing when he does blacksmith work.”
“Of course he is, blacksmith is his second name after all.”
“That’s true. His strength stands out more, but originally this is what Shin is best at.”
Following Tiera’s words, spoken while her body trembled because of the ripples of magic power, Filma replied jokingly, while Schnee did with pride.
“It looks like it will be complete soon.”
Shibaid, who had been nodding silently, commented too.
As Schnee and the others turned their eyes back on Shin, the Chimeradite on the tip of Shin’s hammer had become very small, as it had been gradually absorbed into the blade, and had mostly disappeared.
The metallic echoes resounded one more time, stronger than before. With this last blow, the Chimeradite was completely absorbed by the blade.
Supported by the tongs, the blade was not touching the anvil and was held in midair. The silver aura surrounding the katana was clearly denser than before the reinforcement.
“Phew, it’s complete.”
With a small sigh, Shin reattached the hilt to the blade.
The katana’s appearance had barely changed, but he understood that its attack power and resilience had grown by 20%. The name had also changed to 『Mikazuki Munechika – Shinuchi』.
“Here we are. Just in case, check if everything’s all right.”
“Yes, I will…it’s all right.”
Munechika closed her eyes holding the sheathed 『Mikazuki Munechika – Shinuchi』, then nodded with conviction. A small grin on her lips suggested her excitement.
“I will try to transfer my consciousness right away. Mitsuyo, take care of my body.”
“Leave it to me.”
“Here I go.”
Munechika’s body glowed silver, then after a few seconds turned into light itself, vanishing in the air. From inside the light, a katana just like 『Mikazuki Munechika』 before the reinforcement appeared.
As Mitsuyo grabbed the katana that appeared in midair, it fell in her hands, as if it had lost whatever was supporting it.
On the other hand 『Mikazuki Munechika – Shinuchi』 was floating, in the same position as when Munechika was holding it. At the same time as Mitsuyo had grabbed the materialized 『Mikazuki Munechika』, 『Mikazuki Munechika – Shinuchi』 started to glow.
Silver light gathered around the reinforced katana, gradually forming a human-like silhouette.
After a while, it morphed completely into a human.
“….phew, looks like there really are no problems.”
“Mitsuyo, Tsunetsugu, why are you surprised? Hmm? Shin, you all too?”
Not only Mitsuyo and Tsunetsugu were surprised to see Munechika as she appeared again in human form.
Their reactions, though, were a mixture of awkwardness and looking pointedly at Shin.
“If no one talks, I don’t know how I’m supposed to react.”
“Well, er…yes, I think it’s faster if you take a look yourself.”
Shin materialized a hand mirror from the item box and gave it to Munechika.
Even if still puzzled, Munechika took it in her hands.
“Oh? I see, so this is the reason.”
Looking at herself in the mirror, Munechika nodded in understanding.
“What!? Is that it!?! Why are you more beautiful than before anyway!?”
Mitsuyo loudly voiced what everyone other than Munechika was thinking.
Munechika was already considerably good-looking, but her beauty seemed to have been upgraded too.
Her waist-length black hair had acquired an even shinier gloss, making her pale skin stand out even more. Her well-defined eyes expressed a proud elegance blooming from her beauty.
It seemed that even her chest, pushing up her armor, had become more ample than before.
“It looks like being reinforced also influenced my appearance.”
“Hey, Munechika!! Why are you so calm and collected!! This is just weird!! Not only did you get prettier, but your curves improved too!?”
She might be a weapon, but now she was a woman. She apparently harbored the desire to be prettier, so Mitsuyo questioned Munechika.
“Wait, Mitsuyo, that’s not something I can answer. Shin, do you know what could have caused this?”
Shin was the author of the reinforcement, but even he could not explain this phenomenon.
“Of course I don’t. If you transfer your consciousness to a reinforced weapon you can become more beautiful…I had no idea this would happen!”
“Maybe you put in even more effort because Munechika is a beautiful lady?”
“He-hey now, Tiera! Stop saying things that could cause misunderstandings. I really, really don’t know why this happened!”
Shin desperately explained himself to Tiera’s suspecting gaze.
Next to her, Schnee was looking at him with eyes clearly saying “that’s not the case at all, is it?” To Shin, this was the bigger menace.
“This too must be a feat the “Dark Blacksmith” can do, I suppose?”
“It could be. The quality has improved after all, it would be difficult to say they are unrelated.”
In contrast with the commotion that broke out on Shin’s side, Filma and Shibaid nodded to each other in understanding, while Yuzuha and Tsunetsugu were simply impressed.
“Kuu, Shin, amazing!”
“Amazing indeed. Even more than expected.”
“Anyway! The reinforcement is complete! Tomorrow morning we’re exploring the dungeon. Let’s get some rest!”
Shin shouted to forcefully end the conversation.
Tiera also let it go, maybe because she didn’t feel like pressing him further. Schnee sighed in relief.
“Yes, Shin is right.”
“But I just can’t accept it.”
“Hehe, Mitsuyo is a bit lacking in that kind of growth after all.
“….what did you say?”
“Hoho, my my, so scary.”
Mitsuyo’s killing intent leaked towards Tsunetsugu’s s direction.
She still seemed dissatisfied, but had not forgotten their primary goal. She knew that today they wouldn’t push themselves into exploring the dungeon. That’s one reason behind her reactions.
“Yes, I’ll do the necessary preparations.”
After seeing Munechika’s group off, Shin called Filma and Shibaid.
He meant to let the other members rest first, but as they were interested, Tiera and Yuzuha remained too.
Only Schnee, who understood the situation, went to make preparations for dinner.
“Do you still have something to do?”
“I already had Schnee do it, but please look at this.”
Shin pulled out 『True Moon』 from the item box and showed it to the two.
“『True Moon』 was broken!? Who the heck did you fight against?”
Filma looked at 『True Moon』, her eyes wide open in surprise. She knew well how sturdy it was, so she couldn’t believe that it had been broken.
“Could that be…”
“Shibaid can probably guess the cause. This happened when I fought Girard and it clashed against 『Crushing Moon』.”
Shin explained how he tried to fix it multiple times, and how he felt that a piece was restored when Schnee poured her magic power in the katana.
“Schnee and us, meaning it’s the number of those who serve under you?”
Shibaid made his guess after hearing that 3 pieces were missing.
The pieces Shin vaguely felt to be missing and the former support characters who had not poured their magic power in 『True Moon』 were the same number.
“Probably. That’s what I felt when Schnee infused her magic power in it. If this wasn’t tied with my support characters, then I would have no idea what else it could be.”
“Pour magic power in it, right? Let’s get it done then.”
After listening to Shin, Filma received 『True Moon』 from him and closed her eyes to concentrate. As she did so, the glow emitted by 『True Moon』 changed from violet to red.
As the red light was absorbed by 『True Moon』, Filma let out a sigh.
“My part is done. This sure takes a good chunk out of you.”
“Then my turn is next.”
Shibaid took 『True Moon』 from Filma and concentrated. The katana started glowing in a black light mixed with silver.
The light shone a little longer than Filma’s, but when it disappeared Shibaid too let out a small sigh.
“I can’t do it as Filma did. But my magic power is definitely within it too now. There’s only one remaining now.”
“There’s still someone?”
Shibaid’s words provoked a question from Tiera.
Schnee, Filma and Shibaid, then Girard. With so many powerful members already present, she was surprised that there was still someone else.
“A party could contain up to 6 members, after all. Shin had 5 support characters. The last one is a girl called Sety. She was born a bit later than us, so she was like a little sister. You can’t get ahold of her now, right?”
The Sety Filma talked about was the last one of Shin’s entourage. Support character no. 5, High Pixie Sety Lumiere.
Different from the close combat-type Filma and Girard, the wall-type Shibaid and the all-rounder Schnee, she was a rear support type mainly specialized in magic.
“Yes, completely lost. I don’t have a single clue.”
Shin answered making a gesture of surrender.
Just like Filma, Sety was acting freely on her own. She had not become famous like Schnee or Shibaid, so they did not have any idea where she could be.
“Shibaid, haven’t you or Schnee ever managed to reach her?”
“We haven’t. Just like with you.”
Shibaid looked at Filma with a certain tired annoyance in his eyes.
“I couldn’t help it, could I?”
Like Filma, she might be in need of help, so Shin had already made a search request to the Golden Company through Berett.
“Either she’s stuck somewhere like Filma was, or she has no intention of answering, I guess.”
“That’s right…but isn’t there also the possibility that she’s sleeping?”
Filma added one option to the possibilities Shin thought about Sety’s lack of a response.
“Sleeping? Ah, that’s true.”
Long-living species such as Elves and Pixies sometimes slept for dozens of years at a time. It was one of the game’s features. There also was a quest about waking up a NPC Pixie, so it wasn’t impossible.
“That makes it hard to join with her, though.”
“Right. We found Filma purely by chance too. For Sety, all I know is that she could maybe be in a faerie village.”
Faerie villages, home bases for Pixies, existed in several locations. Some were open to contact with the outside world, while others weren’t; if Sety was in one of the latter type, it would have been difficult to look for her.
The barrier protecting faerie villages was something not even Shin could detect without being very close.
“If she is in one of the villages that communicate with the outside world, there would be at least some information coming in. But only those with high rank know the location of those sleeping, supposedly. We can only go directly and make sure.”
“In any case, we can just wait for information from Berett. If we don’t learn anything by the time this mission is done with, I’m planning to go to Garden first. ”
Shin replied to Shibaid. After meeting Girard again he was always involved in some trouble and had not had time, but he knew that he needed to make the time for this.
Inside it there should be Oxygen and Hydro, a High Pixie-High Lord duo serving under the Red Alchemist Hecate.
They were both research maniacs who would not take a step outside for years at a time, had completely different attitudes depending if they were interested in something or not…when Shin heard of the characteristics Hecate had created them with, he couldn’t help being perplexed as to why she would create them like that.
“Those two, if we’re lucky, are just immersed in their research. I looked at it from far away, but Garden didn’t appear to be damaged.”
“I’d like to object to that line, but I really can’t.”
“I understand that I should be worrying, really.”
Shin’s words were said in a joking manner to hide his worry, but Shibaid and Filma did not understand them like that.
They could not imagine Oxygen and Hydro, inside Garden, to be in any sort of trouble.
Shin only knew them from the game era, so he did not know how their personalities were now that the game had become reality. Looking at Filma and Shibaid’s reactions gave him an idea though.
If they didn’t change from the game era, they were likely still pursuing their research: they could probably even say that they didn’t notice the Dusk of Majesty had happened.
Abundant food and supplies, ample research material and facilities, combined with the high protection of being a Guild house. They had all they needed to shut themselves in it, so Shin wasn’t too worried either.
If they used the items within Garden, they could even deal with the powerful poisons surrounding it. Shin thought that they could have come out if they wanted.
“Well, no use talking about that here and now. Let’s settle this Supreme Blades business first.”
Their opponent was someone that, based only on strength, could rival Schnee.
As Shin’s party was superior both in numbers and ability, they had no risk of losing, but it was already a situation that was not present in the game. To be ready for any situation, he decided to review items and equipment before sleeping.
“OK, let’s recover our energy with Schnee’s dinner now. We can really look forward to her cooking.”
Everyone present knew of Schnee’s cooking skills.
As they entered the dining room, the food was already ready, while the table was being prepared.
“And…why are you here?”
“Because Kagutsuchi said it wanted to eat here. The High Elf there gave us her permission, by the way.”
Mitsuyo answered Shin’s question while pouting.
She was looking at the baby Kagutsuchi, sitting in the middle of the table.
“It’s saying, I shall grant you the honor of feeding me.”
“Very high and mighty, but still a chick…”
These words would feel appropriate if said by Kagutsuchi’s original form, but the current fluffy chick had little authority to show. They had no reason to chase it out, however, so Schnee made dinner for Mitsuyo too.
“Truly a delicacy. You have my praise”, it said.”
“Hehe, I’m honored.”
Kagutsuchi cried while pecking happily at the food, and Schnee answered with a smile.
Kagutsuchi was not the only one lost in the pleasure of Schnee’s food. Mitsuyo too, who had accompanied Kagutsuchi and sat at the table almost against her will, had been relentlessly and silently serving herself since the start of the meal.
Looking at the smile her lips formed, there was no need to ask for her impressions.
The dinner with such unusual guests continued: after it ended, Kagutsuchi and Mitsuyo returned to the small shrine.
After dinner all members proceeded to their respective rooms and prepared for the next day.
After everyone else had fallen asleep, Yuzuha cried softly on the bed.
She was remembering Filma and Shibaid pouring their magic power in 『True Moon』.
Shin said that there were 3 pieces missing: after Filma and Shibaid, just another one.
Even in its broken state, 『True Moon』 was a superior Ancient-grade weapon. If more magic power than just the last missing person’s part was poured in, it could surpass any other existing weapon.
Even if her knowledge was still limited, the Element Tail Yuzuha knew that.
What Yuzuha was concerned about was whether 『True Moon』 had capacity for her to pour magic power in or not.
Being his partner, Yuzuha also wanted to be of help to Shin. But if 『True Moon』 didn’t have room, there was nothing she could do.
I want to be stronger. So Yuzuha thought.
If she recovered all her powers and used all of her knowledge, she might be able to do something.
These were the thoughts that started to sprout in Yuzuha’s mind.
At the same time, Tiera was still awake.
Sharing similar emotions as Yuzuha, she was thinking of Filma and Shibaid.
She could only sigh.
She had become unmistakably stronger. Yet she was still far from matching Schnee and the others. Even if she poured magic power in 『True Moon』like them, the resulting boost would surely be minimal.
Her thoughts spilled into her words.
Tiera was aware she was the least powerful of the current members.
But even so, she wanted to be useful to Shin.
Tiera couldn’t yet decide if that desire came for the gratitude to him for dispelling her curse or for another feeling that was slowly taking shape within her.
She hated not being able to do anything though.
“I want to…be stronger…”
She didn’t want to be a burden.
She didn’t want them to keep looking out for her.
She knew that it was an arrogant wish, but as of now they were not on equal standing.
I want to stand…at his side.
Her feelings were strong. But reality wasn’t that easy.
The difference in strength was overwhelming, she did not know what she should do.
But even so, her feelings remained.
It would take a while before she could sleep that night.