— 2 —
Frighteningly, Ringo’s full speed dash was faster than mine, so, when taking into account the breaks I needed to take, she was able to keep up with the Rapid Cancel Dash, and we progressed smoothly.
As we moved towards the southeast like that, we saw a group of adventurers coming from in front of us. It was a group of three, but all of the members had the same tired look on their face. From their steps and their appearance, it seemed like they were about to pull back.
“Hello. Are you heading back?”
If they were pulling back then there was no harm in reaching out to them. While we didn’t have much time, there might have still been some information we could gain. I proactively approached them and called out.
As I did so, the three of them looked over amongst themselves as dry smiles drifted over their faces.
“Yeah. Even though there’s still time left…”
“But after seeing something like that…”
“It really takes away your motivation…”
Then, after a short conversation that only the three of them could understand, their tired look took over again.
I had no idea what had happened, but it seemed like they had seen something quite shocking.
“Hey, you guys, if you’re gonna go any further then you’d better make sure you prepare yourselves.”
In the end, the man who seemed like the representative for the group left behind those words as the group was leaving.
“Jeez, I can’t believe anyone would do something so horrible.”
“Who knows, it might be the work of Dark Cultists.”
While the encounter ended without any trouble, the words I heard behind me made me feel strangely restless.
“Mm. …Let’s keep going.”
Still, we could only continue onwards.
I responded to Ringo’s uncertain voice, and picked up the pace.
“W-What is, that?”
Even from a distance, that strange sight was obviously bizarre, leading me to unconsciously raise my voice.
Smack in the middle of the plains was a wriggling golden mass, seemingly surrounded by small black spots.
An ominous object that brought unease just by looking at it had appeared in the plains.
“Wait, no way, could that be…”
But, as we approached, its true identity made me inhale deeply.
The golden thing squirming in the middle was a large gathering of Golden Wild Zlimes, and the black things surrounding it were…
They were the event items made to use as markings that I had scattered around the spawn points before the Extermination Fest had started, the pure black skulls that I had retrieved from around the item shop employee’s house.
No NPC would approach those fashionable skulls, the Kull Skulls. Actually, not just NPCs, but even monsters wouldn’t. In that case, what would happen if we used that special property and surrounded a monster with skulls? The answer to that lay right in front of our eyes.
The Goldens that spawned inside the circle of skulls, unable to break through, ran back and forth within that small circle. Looking at it carefully, they were all trying to go towards the center of the circle to get as far away from the skulls as possible, but were repeatedly pushed out by other Goldens. As this continued, it appeared as though a large golden mass was writhing around.
Watching this scene from behind me, Ringo called my name, seemingly wanting to say something. I didn’t answer her, but I could understand very well how she was feeling right now.
It would have been a different matter if they had any ranged attacks, but for Goldens who only had melee attacks, they had no way of breaking through this circle of skulls. Being surrounded by skulls, the only area in which the Goldens were allowed to roam was a circle with a radius of around merely 2 meters. The sight of close to ten Goldens desperately trying to escape really made you pity them.
If it was going to be like this, not being able to move at all would have still been better. While they were monsters, I regretted having done such a cruel thing.
I silently approached, but the Goldens had no way to run. Having exhausted all options, all of the Goldens looked up at me while their golden bodies trembled, as their round eyes tried their hardest to say “I’m not a bad Zlime!”.
I didn’t mean to have done this so half-heartedly. At the very least, as I said to myself, I carefully picked up a skull and, fully intent on repenting, I pushed the skull forwards.
As the skulls moved closer, the space that was available to the Goldens decreased until there was only enough space for a single Golden to stand in. Losing ground, the Goldens escaped to the only safe place left for them, on top of the heads of their companions, and, as a result, the Goldens brilliantly stacked up vertically, forming a golden Zlime Tower.
Seeing this scene…
“Hell yeah! Now they can’t move anymore! All your EXP are belong to me!!”
I raised a cheer at the completed Zlime Tower, and began the challenge of crashing the tower with high spirits.
Like that, an hour finally passed since the start of the Fest.
We had somehow managed to extend the number of kills from 22 at the 30 minute mark to triple that amount, 66. Of course, this was largely due to the effects of the skull trap.
Out of the five traps I had laid around the middle towards the southeast of the map, one of them had unfortunately been hunted clean, but the remaining four yielded a large amount of Goldens.
For some reason, Ringo was being uncooperative, but defeating the trapped Goldens with my Sextuple Stab was best anyways. Without much effort, we were able to obtain a large amount of points.
Having killed close to 30 Goldens just from the traps, we rode the momentum and started hunting the nearby spawn points.
It seemed that Hisame hadn’t come to the south edge yet. While it wasn’t possible to kill them all without missing any, unlike with the traps, we were able to defeat more Goldens than I had expected, further extending our score.
By the way, we also got an unexpected drop.
The Ninja Sword [Golden Sakura].
This was a rare drop from Golden Wild Zlimes with an estimated 0.1% drop rate. It was a strong item, but not one of the items included in the collect request.
Honestly, just this one time I would’ve preferred getting a Gold Zlime Coin instead, but I couldn’t complain about it. Statistically speaking, to get a single one after hunting this much could be said to be quite lucky.
Gratefully putting it to use, I had Ringo equip it.
Using Golden Sakura, which was markedly stronger than the Heat Knife, she was able to defeat the Goldens in one hit, and the efficiency of our hunting increased… was, of course, nothing more than a fantasy, but she seemed to have taken a liking to it.
There were really many unknowns about Ringo’s strength, and it still wasn’t clear whether or not she’d been able to surpass the strength of Princess Shelmia during the Royal Capital Invasion event.
Taking into account the properties of her lightning strikes, Ringo was quite strong, but she didn’t seem to be commanding the same kind of overwhelming strength displayed during the Royal Capital Invasion event.
The Royal Capital Invasion was a level 100 event, so Princess Shelmia had been battling bird monsters that were around level 90. I couldn’t imagine her lightnings strikes now being powerful enough to take down one of those monsters in a single hit, given how much it was doing to those boulders.
In which case, that Shelmia was either higher leveled, better equipped, or had received some kind of a powerup for the event.
Including getting that Golden Sakura, I was confident that we were able to achieve a result as close to ideal as we could with the limited amount of time and resources we had.
(It’s still, not enough…)
Considering Hisame’s attitude, 66 was just too unsafe.
We searched around to see if there were any left, but the Goldens were nowhere left to be found. On the way, we bumped into many other groups of participants in the Fest, but they weren’t having any luck either.
Even though it was just slightly past an hour into the Fest, everyone seemed to be calling it off and heading back to the city. There was such an unnatural absence of Goldens that it was hard to believe that they had all finished spawning already.
Had all of the Golden Wild Zlimes really been killed already?
Indeed, even in the game there had been situations where, when a single person defeated a large amount of monsters, the rest of the people targeted the monsters that person missed, eventually eradicating the mass spawning monster.
(Is it, impossible now…)
Thinking about it, we had reached our original goal of killing 50.
While I hadn’t expected abnormalities like Hisame, this was already more than enough of an accomplishment. It still wasn’t even guaranteed that we wouldn’t be able to take first place.
Looking at my watch, the time was 3:11pm.
It had already been more than 10 minutes since we last saw a Zlime.
All of the Zlimes had probably already been defeated now.
We’d worked more than hard enough.
It was definitely the right choice to end it here.
“Well then Ringo, should we…”
‘Go back,’ I was about to say, but my words suddenly stopped.
(…Wait, just wait, it’s not over yet.)
I remembered something.
Somehow, the Guild knows when all of the monsters have been defeated, and in that case they were supposed to make an announcement that the Extermination Fest was over.
Since that hadn’t happened yet, that meant that there were still Golden Wild Zlimes in the area.
(Were they ones that escaped? No, but what if…)
What appeared in my mind all of a sudden was a small rumor that had been floating around about this place, the Deus Plains.
If that rumor were actually true…
Once again, I checked my watch.
There wasn’t much time left, but the destination was close by. It would still be possible for us to make it.
“Ringo, there might still be a chance to do something about this. We’re heading southwest!”
Shouting out, I started running without even checking for her reply.
At least, I didn’t have to worry about getting lost.
Our next destination, in the southwest part of the Deus Plains, was the biggest boulder in this area.
Even very early on, there had been plenty of reports regarding Extermination Fests in the Deus Plains where “all of the monsters should’ve been defeated, but for some reason the Fest didn’t end.”
But, since reports like that about Extermination Fests were super common and there were countless players who were saying similar things about places other than the Deus Plains, they were always met with casual responses like “I bet you just missed some. Search harder.”
However, after Nekomimineko had been out for a while and parties fully equipped with detection items and skills were seeing the same phenomenon, there started to be suspicions that this might have been the result of some kind of bug in the Deus Plains.
What started trending at that time was a rumor about “Monsters Hiding in the Giant Boulder”.
According to the rumor, if you went to the back of the giant boulder in the southwest during an Extermination Fest, that is, if you stood on the south side of it, every once in a while a strange sound could be heard coming from the boulder.
It was discovered that this sound happened every five minutes, but even after monsters stopped spawning 45 minutes later, the sound continued.
From that, it suddenly became plausible that there might have been some kind of event monster in the giant boulder that needed some kind of condition to be released, and that this was preventing the Extermination Fest from being cleared.
However, even within the uproar about this hidden event monster, there was someone who had been focusing their attention on the peculiarities of the landscape in the Deus Plains.
Generally, there were things like bushes or boulders a set distance apart from each other throughout the entire plains, but there was an area without any of that a short distance away from the giant boulder in the southwest.
While covered in grass like everywhere else, for some reason, not only were there no spawn points, but there were also no other plants or even small boulders lying around.
And, curiously, the size of that empty area just happened to be about the same as the area of the large boulder. After realizing this fact, that person hypothesized that perhaps the giant boulder had originally been sitting in that empty area, before it was moved to its current location for whatever reason.
If that were the case, then the strange occurrence during the Extermination Fests could no longer be attributed to pure imagination.
It had already been determined that, if an obstacle were placed on a spawn point, monsters would spawn slightly to the side, but if the size of the obstacle were too huge then the spawn of the monsters would actually be cancelled.
What this meant was that, due to the giant boulder being moved to the place which used to be just normal plains, a spawn point ended up being inside the boulder, making it so that there was a single spawn point in the Deus Plains where it was impossible for monsters to spawn from, or so the conjecture went.
This indeed sounded quite convincing, but if that were the case, there was no way to prove it.
After all, it was impossible to perturb landscapes like the ground or boulders in the game. They were indestructible objects, or rather, they didn’t have a destructible setting attached to them. The rumor eventually faded away, and I had completely forgotten about it until just now.
But, in this world which was a mix of game and reality, it was possible to verify this.
“Ringo, right here! Blast away at this with your full power!”
We circled around to the back of the boulder at top speed and found the place that seemed to be the location in the rumors. All that was left was to open up a hole.
Seeming to be speaking a bit more than when I first met her, Ringo shot off a lightning strike together with a quick reply.
The lightning strike, strengthened with the Golden Wild Zlime’s rare drop, Golden Sakura, visibly carved away at the boulder.
“Keep it up, keep going just like that! Try to focus on the bottom, and if you can, try to keep the boulder from collapsing.”
While giving out instructions, I looked at my watch.
It was 3:14. It was going to be 3:15 soon.
As the lightning strikes dug into the boulder and my ears filled with thundering noises, I firmly waited for the time.
“Ringo, stop there!”
Inside the billowing cloud of dust, particles of light gathered.
Inside the giant boulder that had been gouged out, a single golden Zlime appeared.