It is a busy day in Gantz city. People go by fulfilling the streets with hundreds of noises coming from their footsteps. Soldiers stand guard on each gate in three different sides of the city walls. Visitors—mostly merchants—go by selling their goods to the city with profitable price. Adventurers went out of the city to fulfill quests by the guild master.
It is just like any normal day. The city is just a small city compared to its neighbors. Even though being small, Gantz is one of the powerful running economy systems in the kingdom. Their strategic location near the Golden Road made them a perfect place for merchants to stop by before continuing their journey. Because of that as well, they get plenty of goods from them.
Golden Road is network of trade routes spanning between five kingdoms. It is used by both adventurers and merchants. The former would also fulfill quests by the latter to protect their carriage from lurking monsters and bandits.
And now... a group of five adventurers, known as the Pitbulls, are protecting a merchant’s wagon until their next stop. Once accomplished, they will receive 10 gold coins. A payment that was insanely high just for an escort mission. Other merchants would only pay 5000 copper coins. That’s why it sounded like a limited offer that should not be left out. No adventurers would let this chance go by.
Among those five adventurers, there are:
A warrior class adventurer, Axel
A thief class adventurer, Rob
Priest class, Ril
And their captain, a crusader class, Raz
“Whew... we are so lucky, are we not?”
“Haha, yeah, right, we are. Just three hours trip to Razel village and we’re gonna be super rich!”
“I really can’t wait. I wonder what shall I buy once we’re done here, he-he~. New staves, powerful mage robe, and more! Ooooohhh, I’m itching to get one of those!”
“You guys are too noisy. I can’t even read peacefully.”
Raz is the only one who’s silent on the road. He finds it odd that someone would put such a high pay for a mission that can be done easily by beginners.
“Why would it, though...”
“Cap’n Raz, don’t get too sweaty, will ya? It’s just an hour trip and then we’re done!”
“Shuddap, Rob. I can’t read with your banging voice all over the place.”
“Sheesh, Falis, why so cold~? No men would like to marry you if you’re like that—OW!”
Falis kicked him in the legs.
“What is that for?!”
“Hush-shushh! I want to read.”
Raz watches the road behind them as Gantz city begin to fade away as they got further. His concern increases greatly, yet his comrades don’t matter it at all.
“Obviously, they wouldn’t feel troubled at all. This road we’re taking is the safest route to Razel village. Even newbies can walk through this path without trouble. The only monster is just slimes. Just one bash at them, the slime would melt and disappear into thin air. It’s like a grinding ground for new adventurers that wanted to increase their level.
I should feel nothing. I should have felt secured. But what is this bad feeling I have...? My holy magic is also reacting strangely.”
One hour later, they are still not in action. Falis, the archmage casts barrier to the wagon, causing it to be completely invulnerable to small fry creatures like slimes. They just have to simply wait until they reach their destination.
Rob, the thief naps on the carriage, while Axel talks to the merchant to kill time. Falis still reads her book while Ril spends her time wiping her beloved cane.
“Hahaha, is that so? I also love that fruit!” said Axel.
“Oh, you do? Sir, you gotta go check out that city if you have the time! They sell those fruits in a really cheap price!” the merchant stated.
“Well, then, someday perhaps I will go visit that city.”
“You have to. I also have a stand in that city, might as well stop by, heheh.”
“I will. By the way, mister, it got me curious though... why are you so willingly to pay us expensively? I mean, 10 gold coins is about the same amount as ten million copper coins, right?”
“That’s right,” Raz’s head suddenly popped out of the window behind Axel. “Why though? I can’t stop thinking about it.”
“Well... how am I supposed to put it, eh... it’s just that I have heard lately, that there’s a group of powerful bandits lurking in the Golden Road. If they ever raid my carriage, I’m done for. Just as so you know this wagon carries highly demanded goods in the capital city. I can’t let this one fail to reach its destination, or else my company will risk of losing profit.”
“Powerful bandits, huh...?”
“Well, we are roughly at Level 40. We’ve fought a Salamander and battled the Slug Dungeon. We also helped in defeating the wizard that threatens the kingdom. So, you don’t have to worry about it, mister. We will make sure this trip will go smoothly.”
Axel stated it with such confidence that he comforted the merchant. Meanwhile, Raz is more concerned now.
“Powerful bandits, are there even one? The strongest bandit I’ve heard of is the Iron Claw, but even he was not even close to my strength. His minions are mostly small fry. None of them can beat trained soldiers. Even new adventurers can beat them with some effort.”
“Captain,” Axel called his leader. “Don’t worry. If they’re that strong, we will unite our strength and beat the shit out of them. We’re the Pitbulls, right?”
“...hmf, you’re right, Axel. I guess I’m overly worrying things. Sorry. Let us stay cautious and defend Mr. Merchant with our lives!”
“Mm!” Axel nodded. “We’ll have a drink in Razel. I know a good place, hehe!”
And with that, Raz and his party members increase their wariness. But even with that, they still have the time to laze off.
Another hour has passed. The Pitbulls have crossed a forest, known as the Red Forest. The forest has oak trees with red leaves, hence the name of Red Forest. They fought some bony wolves in there, but even that doesn’t make them hindered. The Pitbulls are really powerful.
Another ten minutes has passed, and now they’re crossing a wide open field with only a single dirt road in sight. The party begins to get bored.
“...I guess I was concerning things, after all. We’re nearly there. There’s no trouble so far, so I guess we’ll be alright.”
But suddenly, the wagon drifts sideways and nearly tripped over. Raz is incredibly shocked, and so does his comrades. He quickly looks outside and notices that the horses halted, soon to notice that a pool of blood fills beneath the wagon.
“What the heck...? Mr. Merchant!”
“W-W-W-Who a-a-a-a-are y-y-you?!” the merchant screamed out loud.
“—Sir Merchant, quick go inside the wagon, we’ll defend you!”
Raz looks up front, and witnesses a girl in complete white blocking the path.
“Who is that girl? It can’t be. Is she one of the powerful bandits?! Kh—!”
Raz quickly arranges his party to fight. They bring their weapons and shields, ready to fight the little girl. Raz takes a glance at the collapsed horses. He then noticed that their front feet have been torn apart.
“How cruel...! Who are you? Why did you do this?”
“...” the girl in white does not answer. Her eyes are not even looking.
The girl wears a white hooded robe. Her face is mostly covered with a mask that has a theta symbol on it while leaving her a partial of her hair exposed. Her hair is pale pink with her skin being ghostly white. She appears calm and composed, yet her very presence is already enough to create an ominous aura to those who saw her.
“Raz, what should we do?” Ril asked. Her grip slightly wobbles before the horror in front of her.
“What are you talking about, Ril? Let’s just strike her down!” Rob stated in confidence.
“Idiot! She just killed those horses without even moving,” Falis replied.
“Not only that... she also penetrated my barrier without me even noticing it. She’s not to be taken lightly!” said Falis. “Raz, give your command!”
“Our priority is to defend the merchant and his goods. Lure her away! Get her as far as possible from the cart!” said Raz while pointing his holy sword at the demonic being.
The rest of the party members affirms his order, “Roger, that!”
Rob throws five knives to the dirt around the girl. He then clasps his hands and casts a magic. Soon, a magic circle emerges, connecting a line to those five knives and eventually forming a star shape.
“Take this! Thunder Flash!”
The girl is struck by a large thunder. Streaks of electricity sparkles around her, dancing madly as it tries to bring her harm. But... the girl did not move an inch.
“How scary of her...! She’s unaffected by my magic?! Even a salamander would be stunned if it gets hit by it! Fine then...! I will not falter. Wind magic will push you aside!”
Rob casts a magic from his hands. The wind around him gets wilder, forming around his arm, and then massing on his palm. Finally, Rob sends his magic.
The girl got blown by an intense wind. The tree just beside the road got flung away by the wind, yet the girl did not tremble even slightly. She still stands there like a statue.
“Not moving yet? Fine, then! I’ll crank up the power!”
Finally, the relentless blow of wind moved her off the ground. Not because she’s pushed back, but it’s because of the ground breaking because of Rob’s magic. Once far enough, someone shouted from behind.
“Step aside, Rob!” Falis shouted. As Rob jumped aside, Falis starts her incantation. Three orange magic circles form around her, spinning faster and faster as she chants the spell.
“O’ fire of the underworld, engulf me in your flames. Protect me from the evil to its roots, burn my foes to ashes. Unleash hell on earth, Purgatory!”
A massive fireball strikes at the girl in great speed. But upon impact, a hexagonal barrier becomes visible surrounding the girl. That barrier completely diminished the powerful fire magic.
Falis becomes scared as her most powerful magic did not even scratch her. She falls on her knees, failing to withstand the heinous aura the girl gives.
“Im-impossible... my magic... it’s...”
Suddenly, a soft voice sounded to the party’s ears.
“Are you... done...?”
It was the girl who spoke through her mask. She stared at the party for a moment. Then, she looked at the cart on the road and thus approaches it.
Raz realizes the merchant is in trouble. He quickly dashes through the field along with Axel and strikes her with a combined technique. Raz swings his holy sword at her, yet she avoided his attacks easily. Axel tries to sneak up behind her and attack her with his axe. But surprisingly, the girl clenches her right hand and crushes the incoming axe swing, breaking Axel’s weapon completely.
“N-No... no way...!”
“Axel! Hang in there, I will—
The girl suddenly pointed her right hand to Axel without looking at him. Her fingers reshaped into claws. She then swings it to the air. Suddenly, Axel’s body got slashed, completely knocking him out. Blood gurgles out of his injury.
Raz’s eyes become sharp. He readies his sword with a firmer grip. “How could you do that to him? You... monster!”
“Monster... you say... huh...” the girl spoke back softly. She walks closer to Raz. The crusader tries to slash her, but suddenly, the girl warped past him in a blinding speed. She climbed the cart, finding the merchant.
With a delicate voice, she tells the merchant.
“Go on. I’ve no need for you. Forget what has happened here. Goodbye.”
The merchant could not move his body at all due to a crazy fright he felt crawling in his entire body. In a trembling motion, he nods to her.
The girl jumps off the cart and looks at the Pitbulls. Ril tries to heal Axel, whose got heavily injured. Rob stands steadily with Raz, ready to fight the girl.
“What have you done to him?” Raz asked roughly.
She answers, “Nothing. I only told him to go away. I do not need him.”
“Then, why did you attack us?!”
“...Do you really forget who I am...? Master... Raz...?”
Raz’s eyes got wide instantly. His heart thumps faster than ever. “T-That voice...” he said as he sweats profusely.
“You are... i-it can’t be... how did you...?”
She giggles softly, “So you do remember me...”
“Do you know her, cap’n?” Rob asked.
“Y-Yeah... she’s the worst person that we could ever face... I can’t believe she’s still alive. You, why are you here...?”
“...You don’t have to know,” she replied. “...because you... are already dead.”
Three days later...
Reports from the Pitbulls were grim. Their captain and their friend were killed. In that moment as well, the Pitbulls disbanded. But... when they’re asked who attacked them, they could not say a word about it.
They’re mentally broken after that day. They only say... that they’ve witnessed...
...the White Nightmare.