Chapter 29:

The Lost City and Zombie

Hour Empty Child


The sixth sun of the event rose from the horizon as usual, and the PlusFire were, of course, getting up early as usual.

The party members woke up with a stride as they felt energetic. After all, it was their final day collecting monster parts before they are done with their objectives. The party member said their greetings and planned their day as it was the final day.

“Alright, let’s recap. Hinota, which zones we went through so far this week?”

“We went through the withered trees zone, the wasteland zone, the savannah, snowy field, swamplands and a temple. We went through quite a bit of zones here…”

“I see,” Kudo nodded as he listened. “What else is left?”

“The only places left for us to go to would be the final two zones that I heard have pretty powerful exotic monsters.”

“P-powerful monsters?”

Mick stuttered as he felt his throat clogging up from the mention of powerful monsters than the ones they faced.

“Don’t worry, Mick,” Hinota placed her hand on Mick’s shoulder to comfort him. “You guys leveled nicely throughout the week. Now you guys can handle the last two zones.”

“Yep, that’s right!”

Kudo shouted in response to Hinota’s cheer, getting the three of the members to look at them in surprise.

“Did you guys planned on leveling us while we were doing the event?”

Eruda asks as it was the question that each of them held in their minds.

“Sorry, we didn’t mean to be manipulative…”

“Don’t worry, Kudo. What we did wasn’t manipulative. We were only power-leveling them.”

Hinota said as she placed her hands on her hips with a look of arrogance on her face. The other three’s sweat dropped as they heard this, amazed at how their leaders actually fit in the time to level them up even while it was during the event.

“T-That’s amazing, you two…”

“Then, let’s move forward! Ooh!”

Kudo, being the positive one, extended his hand to rally up his members, which actually worked, as they extended their fists into the air to go along with the flow.

The PlusFire traversed the zones after picking everything up from their campsite to head towards the final zones.

Throughout the traverse, the group started in a conversation to pass the time as Hinota led them towards the final zones with her incredible memory.

“You know, instead of calling them the final two… how about we give them a name? Like ‘Double Trouble’!”

Lailah spoke up in the midst of their conversation as she caught the attention of the other members.

“Double Trouble?”

“Yeah! There’s two of them, and they are sure to bring in lots of trouble!”

Lailah made this simple conclusion as Mick felt oddly embarrassed as he heaved a small sigh.

“Mmh, I can’t find anything wrong about that.”

“Oh! If Hinota likes it, then it’s perfect! She’s great with names.”

Mick’s eyes opened wide to hear the two leaders agreeing to the name change.

“Then, we’ll call the final zones ‘Double Trouble’ from now on?” Eruda spoke up as Hinota nodded.

“Yeah, it’ll be an interesting memory.”

“Yay! I got to name something!”

Lailah extended both her arms as she gained a glorious victory in her mind.

“Geez, Nee-chan, you always get excited for no reason.”

“Eh… what’s wrong with that?! Lots of guys like this kind of attitude.”

“Nee-chan, the fact that you do this to get guys is a bad fault already…”

“No way! I mean, Kudo is totally falling for me, right, Kudo~?”

Lailah suddenly grabs Kudo’s arm in a flirty grab, shocking most of the members with her sudden close contact, especially Kudo as his face glows bright red.

“Eh?! Ah… well…”

His voice stuttered as her sudden tone made him flustered.

“Nee-chan, don’t do that. You’re bothering him.”

“Tch, you always cramp my style, Micky.”

Lailah clicked her tongue as she lets go of Kudo’s arm, getting him to breath out of relief.

“You know that Hinota might get angry for that!”

Mick’s sudden claim rang out, reaching to the ears of Hinota and Kudo.

“Yeah, I know. I was just joking~! Kudo knows that and so does Hinota.”

“But don’t do that anyways! What if Hinota feels uncomfortable from that?”

“That’s right, Lailah. You should think about Hinota’s feelings regarding Kudo.”

“Ah… I suppose I have been a little forward…”

Eruda included herself in Lailah’s chiding as Lailah gazed downwards and realized that her actions were unfavorable. The rest of the conversation made Hinota finally speak up.

“H-Hey, why do you think I would be bothered by that?”

“Well, in the end, you two are like dating, right?”

Hearing so suddenly the words ‘dating’ left the two to nearly stumble and fall forward, nearly catching themselves in time as they turned on their heels and shouted:

“W-We’re not! Like I said, we’re just close friends!”

“Y-Yeah! That’s right!”

The way the two of them flustered as they assured their actual relationship brought the members to glare at them suspiciously, leaving them to be pressured by their intense staring.

“ “Right…” ” Eruda and Lailah spoke up in unison.

“Even if you told me before, after this week, I just can’t believe it, Kudo…” Mick said his own words regarding the first night they spent together.

“I told you, it’s not like that!”

After walking for what felt like an hour, they have reached one of the Double Trouble zones, and they were astounded, to say the least.

What they have found was an abandoned city. A city that the Adventurers could tell that it prospered, but clearly that time ended badly.

The buildings were tarnished, the streets dirty and filled with gods knows what. The air filled with dust and particles that invaded their breathing with mal intent.

“Khh!” Kudo coughs a bit after breathing in the dusty air.

“Kudo, you OK?”

“Y-Yeah… I’m just not used to this dirty place.”

Kudo has lived his entire life living in the fresh air of Arkhem. Being in this city which air has been abandoned and could be treated as lethal, Kudo’s body couldn’t take it.

“Kudo, this place might be bad for you. For someone who was raised in a village filled with clean air, this might be poison to you.”

“D-Don’t worry!” Kudo waved his hands to assure Hinota. “If I can’t even handle this place, I can’t call myself an Adventurer. I’ll be fine!”

“…Adventurers are not all-mighty, you know.”

Eruda spoke up which caught Kudo’s attention as well as everyone else.

“A-Ah… I know that.”

Kudo remembered what happened to Eruda as she spoke these words, remembering the time where she almost died trying to save her friends from a failed hunting quest. Kudo felt a small guilt in his heart as he made Eruda remember that terrible time.

“Eruda, you sound so dreary! Kudo was just trying to hype himself up!”

Lailah grabbed on to Eruda’s arm as she made her claim. Eruda’s eyes perked up as she realized what she said.

“Ah… I’m so sorry! I sounded so condescending.”

“I-It’s fine! There’s no problem!” Kudo waved his hands frantically as he tried to help her feel better. “What you said is true too. We need to be careful in this place.”

Kudo furrowed his eyes as he realizes the situation he is in. Hinota nodded in agreement as the PlusFire headed towards the town’s center, looking for the exotic beast lurking within its borders.

As they walk, Kudo was reminded of a town like this in one of the books that he has bought before.

“Hey… could this town be Azuria?”

“Azuria?”

Hinota and the rest looked up to Kudo for his knowledge about this town. Kudo hesitated, but then he cleared his throat as he continued on.

“I heard about a town that lived near dangerous areas filled with powerful monsters, so I thought this might be it. If I remember correctly…” Kudo looked up as he remembered the words from the book. “This town was filled with powerful [Warriors] and [Mages] since they kept fighting off the invading monsters of the other areas.”

“Oh, sounds powerful…”

Hinota sounded impressed of a town that kept fighting and living all this time.

“But then something happened. A famous magician decided to end all the invasions, by creating his own plague.”

“A-A plague!?”

Lailah spoke up loudly as the other two were taken aback as well. Hinota asked next:

“What happened next?”

“Well, normally, it should have been used to kill off the monsters. The effect of this plague was causing the monsters to have deteriorating bodies, so they should be easier to kill. However, the magician supposedly made a mistake. The plague spread around the city, but it didn’t affect the monsters. It affected the other people living here instead.”

“T-That’s so terrible! One mistake and everyone suffers…” Mick’s body shook at the thought of hurting so many people. “W-Wait, doesn’t that mean that the plague is still here?!”

“Of course not. It happened over a hundred years ago—it’s long gone by now.”

Kudo waved his hand to wipe off the worries in their hearts. Then, Eruda asked:

“Then, what happened to the human beings here?”

“In the book, the humans died off one by one. But supposedly, something else appeared and took down the invading monsters that ran in.”

“Then…”

“The plague worked, just not at how the magician wanted it to…”

Mick and Eruda spoke in a dispirited tone. After hearing about their unfortunate deaths, Hinota stopped the group from moving forward, leaving Kudo to look at Hinota.

“Kudo, were the humans… really dead? Because I think I can tell what came afterward to fight off the monsters.”

Hinota pointed her index finger towards the front, getting Kudo to turn his sight.

A creature coming out of hiding from a nearby building slowly crept up outside. The creature seemed human, but its skin deteriorated and its eyes were sunken. Raspy groaning was heard out of the creatures’ mouth. It trudged along slowly outside, then faced its rotten body towards to the PlusFire.

GRAAHH…

The creature, known as a Zombie, stretched its decaying arms at the PlusFire.

“UWWAAHHH!!”

Kudo did not take this down. He screamed so loudly that it shocked the other four to the point of screaming themselves.

“Ahh! Kudo, what the hell?! Don’t scare me like that!”

“T-T-That’s…”

“A Zombie,” Hinota answered the quivering Kudo’s question as she unsheathes her katana. “This must be the result of the plague.”

“Ah… it’s so gross and scary…”

Kudo whined as he hastily brandished his sword out to face against the lethargic zombie closing in on them.

“Only one? Could this be a trap?”

“Hey, this makes it easier for us! Don’t jinx it!”

“…It’s coming.”

The other three members readied their weapons themselves. But really, fire fully armored Adventurers against one zombie caught everyone’s mind in a bundle.

“D-Do you think that we’re overdoing it?”

“Hold on, it’s doing something…”

After Kudo asked, Hinota pointed at the zombie again. The zombie then moves its slow hand towards its stomach, showing its inners. He pierces through its stomach, making the other 5 nearly retch as it pulled out something metal and sharp.

“H-He pulled out a sword out of his stomach!”

Lailah shouted in disgust as a sharp sword riddled in rotting blood appeared in the zombie’s hand as it made a stance. The zombie was then ready to fight.

“I-It looks like it’s a Warrior Zombie. That sword means that it’s capable of surviving close-combat.”

“Then, we really should be serious.”

Hinota brandishes her katana at the Warrior Zombie. The zombie, though its clothing was in tatters and couldn’t possibly offer it any defense, the zombie rushed towards Hinota with no regard to its safety.

Hinota backstepped when the zombie slashes her, making its sword miss by a wide gap. Hinota continues to sidestep, missing every one of the slow and wide attacks made by the lethargic zombie. As it attacks, Hinota quickly swung up her blade and slices its rotting stomach.

Grahhh…

The zombie groans louder, as if it was getting frustrated. Hinota and the zombie separated as the zombie felt no pain whatsoever.

Hinota was slightly surprised that her blade did not eliminate the zombie, even less managed to hurt it.

“Hinota! It’s an undead-type! It won’t feel pain unless you cut off their heads!”

Kudo shouted as the party stayed behind, knowing that Hinota can handle this.

Hinota nodded as she understood, and watched the zombie make some kind of stance. It pulled the sword back, putting it near its rotting chest as its other hand extends up to the blade’s length.

In Hinota’s eyes, the zombie was using an advanced charge technique, kicking against the ground as it aimed the sword right at Hinota’s throat.

But it was too slow.

Hinota easily sidesteps once more, missing the strike as she countered by slashing across its decomposing neck.

GRAAHH!

The zombie’s last groans rang out in the dusty air as the head separated from the body, leaving it to fall motionlessly to the ground along with the head.

“Whoo! Hinota, you’re the best!”

Lailah cheered as her brother and Eruda all clapped at her performance. Though, Kudo was the only one that looked away as watching the disembodiment was too much for him.

“Kudo! Don’t be such a pansy! It’s just an undead.”

Hinota noticed his weak moment and shouted at him, causing him to flinch as his brow twitched in frustration.

“Eh… Am I? Well, I guess to a barbarian like you, this much is nothing.”

Kudo shot back a similar insult which caused Hinota’s brow to twitch as well.

“…Is something going to happen?” Lailah whispered to Eruda as the both of them shivered as malicious aura came out of their two leaders.

“Kudo, you better take that back, before you regret it.”

“Then take back the pansy insult?”

“Take back that barbarian nonsense first!”

“You take it back first!”

The two leaders somehow entered into a heated argument over the insults which left the three other members to passively stand by as they watch their leaders fight on. They could tell what kind of aura they were both releasing:

Hinota’s aura was that of a tiger.

While Kudo’s aura resembled a bunny.

Watching this slightly apocalyptic event in front of them left Lailah to quiver in fear while the other two did the same.

“I-I don’t know, but somehow, I see them as our parents that fight every once in a while…”

Mick squinted his eyes as he vaguely recalls his parents having these lover’s quarrels before, and he could see the same thing between Kudo and Hinota.

“Y-Yeah, it really does look like that…”

“They really do seem like a mother and father. It’s really nice to see that in them.”

Though Eruda meant that in the nicest way, the two leaders heard her comment and made their own argument:

“ “We’re are not mother and father!!” ”

“Ah… now we’ve done it. Even though they stated that they weren’t dating…

“Nice going, Eruda.”

“E-Eh? W-What did I say?!”

For a short time, Kudo and Hinota were still at odds with each other, often making the other three worried over their synergy for the expedition.

However, throughout the venture into the city, the PlusFire found more zombies.

This time, there were more appropriately dressed zombies, such as the Knight Zombie that was covered in rusty heavy armor, and the Mage Zombie that wore a dirty robe.

The group of zombies charged after the five, turning into a giant group battle.

They fought hard. All five of them used their abilities to the max, fending off against the zombie menace with their skills and techniques provided by Kudo.

However, they were quite stronger than the slow zombie Hinota fought before. Kudo decided to call in a retreat, pulling back the team under the guise of the 【Plus Bomb】’s smokescreen.

After they retreated, the heat on them decreased as Kudo called the party together to make up a plan. After realizing that their levels were higher than the singular zombie, they decided to go out with a strategic start.

First, Kudo heads in, catching their attention as he places several 【Plus Bombs】 onto them, and after running away in a few seconds, the bombs exploded and left them all blinded by the smoke. Eruda shot at them with her skills while Kudo was issuing the bombs.

After the smoke commenced, Lailah closed in outside of the smokescreen and cast her 【Flame Orb】, causing intense heat and damage to the blinded zombies after getting buffed up by her brother Mick’s buff.

Finally, once the smoke cleared, Hinota closed in thanks to her enchanted speed buff and slashed them apart with her favorite 【Flaming Strike】.

The battle was over. The PlusFire won this fight.

“Whaa~! That was a handful~!” Lailah extended her hands to stretch them out.

“I don’t want to go through that again…” Mick heaved a tired sigh.

“Mmh, it was quite troublesome,” Eruda muttered as she agreed with Mick.

As the other members conversed, Kudo, as always, was on looting duty—though he wishes he didn’t have to do it—as he excavated the bodies with a clear disgust showing on his face as he digs out their insides, trying to find whatever loot that they have.

“Mmh?” Kudo muttered out as he sees something shining on one Mage Zombie’s rotted finger. He sees a circular silver band, with a shining gem embedded in the middle, glimmering from the sun’s light, catching Kudo’s eyes.

“Oh… could this be?!”

Kudo hastily grabs the ring as it left the finger behind and appraised the item.

—————————————————————————————————————
Name: Ring of Mana Control
【Rare】

The ring was made by a family of well-known mages. Through a special reforming technique, this ring was forged with a special jewel that absorbs the surrounding pure mana around the user, filling up their mana pool.

【Traits】 {Lowest MP Regen}
—————————————————————————————————————

Kudo was left in awe as his mouth gaped at the effect of the item. Hinota noticed his surprised look, and then noticed his overbearing sight on the ring in his hand.

“Kudo, what’s wrong?” Hinota asked in concern as Kudo slowly turned his head, as if he was a zombie himself.

“…Hinota, I think I just found an item that will make you more awesome.”

Kudo spoke in the most serious tone he could muster which got Hinota to slowly widen her eyes, making them shimmer grandly.

“Really?!”

“Yeah!” Kudo shouted as Hinota ran to him. “You gotta wear this! This ring will help you regain [MP] much faster! It says ‘Lowest’ here, so that means that you’re [MP] recovery rate increases by 5%!”

“So, along with my passive skill, I can increase my [MP] rate even further?!” Hinota’s tone gradually became louder as her tapered eyes widened, catching onto the excitement of the mood.

“Yes!”

“Yosha~!!”

Kudo gave the ring without hesitation, getting her to quickly put it on her middle right finger. As her slender finger slowly enters the ring, she could feel a rising power deep within it. Once she put it on, she felt a sense of a spiral that sucked inwards into the vast space inside the crevice, which to her knowledge, was the ring itself. The spiral sucking everything in was the power it emitted, and what’s sucking in was the mana around the air.

“Whoa…” During her impressed muttering, she quickly checked her status screen, and saw her [MP] points rising faster than normal.

“It’s working! My [MP] is rising faster now!”

“Alright! Congrats, Hinota! You just became more dangerous to all the monsters!”

Kudo clapped as he put on a show for Hinota, getting her to feel even more badass than she did before. All the while, the other members watched the scene as the two party leaders, who just recently broke out a fight, instantly got back together in excitement over a new rare item.

“They’re really are like an old couple that fights easily and makes up easily…” Lailah extended her sigh as the rest of the party members felt the same.

“It’s like the fight never happened.”

Eruda shared a faint smile at the two, feeling grateful as they were not fighting anymore, despite that it was a childish fight.

However, her ears pricked up on instinct after having heard something malicious in the air. She quickly turned her head, looking for the source of the strange sounds that the air was emitting.

“Eruda, what’s wrong?”

Lailah noticed Eruda’s frantic change as the other members, including the leaders, checked on her condition.

“Y-Yeah…”

“Really? I don’t hear anything…” Kudo said curiously as he huddled his ears with his hand, trying to hear whatever sound she was listening, but there was no sound.

“Elves’ hearing are much stronger than humans. We can pick up even a pin drop from a mile away.” Eruda explained as she continues to listen to the strange sounds.

“Wow! That’s amazing!”

“Calm down, Kudo,” Hinota put her hand on Kudo’s shoulder to calm him. She then faced Eruda and asked for the situation. “What do you hear?”

“…I hear…”

“Hear what?”

Hinota asks again, getting everyone feeling tense as Eruda finally made out the sounds in her mind.

“…Roars.”

***********************************************************************
Eruda’s sudden claim got everyone on the edge! What in the name of Yarim is going on in this city? Find out next week!


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