Important: Please read this Side Story!
Author: Side Stories are supplementary and are made in a way that can be skimmed.
For the people that are not good with slightly dark stuff, please wait for the next chapter.
TLN: Hey guys, Reigokai here!
Personal opinion about this side story? It is actually pretty good!
I highly recommend reading this though since it sets the stakes and provides important details as well as adds to the mood in later chapters. It is important enough to make me question why it is called a Side Story (that goes the same for the previous side story).
Now, remember what I said in the previous side story? That I didn’t consider that one dark? Well…in my book, this one is dark.
I lifted the ban for the Godstep Cancel that I planned on not using as much as possible in a settlement and hurried to the bar.
In Nekomimi Neko, there’s quests that disappear with the passing of time, and there’s also several quests that progress without the player participating.
If that happened, it would be irreversible.
I head to the bar at full speed without caring if I leave the two behind.
I was on the verge of crashing onto people a number of times on my way, but I managed to safely reach the bar.
When I looked back, the 2 girls were barely following behind.
I want to wait for them, but securing the parchment is the biggest priority.
I immediately put a hand on the door and jumped into the bar.
(How is it?!) (Souma)
I throw my gaze to the bulletin board as if in prayer.
I see that there’s…still 2 parchments remaining, and I let out a big sigh of relief.
The parchment posted there are things that call for participants for the quests.
One of them is for the monster subjugation quest: Ghost Dungeon.
The other one is the NPC rescue quest: Sacrifice Girl.
I take the Sacrifice Girl quest without hesitation and bring it to the counter.
Quest: Sacrifice Girl.
I have the policy of not researching on the net for events and quests I have not cleared yet, but I have a certain degree of knowledge about this quest.
When New Communicate Online was still advertised as a true online game, the Sacrifice Dungeon (Tentative Name) quest was introduced.
You dive into an underground dungeon, save the kidnapped girl from the cultists that are about to sacrifice her for their evil ritual…or something like that.
The name has been changed, but judging from the contents, it must refer to this Sacrifice Girl.
The excitement when I saw the video about the underground dungeon, which couldn’t be described as historic ruins or a cave, still remains inside of me.
What bothers me is the one other memory.
It is what was written in the introduction of the quest: ‘You won’t be able to survive by just being strong!! If the conditions are fulfilled, it is a forced Game Over?!’.
I don’t have the confidence to remember the exact words, but there’s no doubt there are forced Game Overs in this game.
There’s also one other piece of info about this quest I know.
I accidentally saw a thread related to the Sacrifice Dungeon on the net.
If I remember correctly, it went: ‘I have not seen a more hopeless story than this one’, ‘this quest is worse than trash’; but there were also: ‘this story is well made…the story’, ‘I enjoyed it quite a bit’.
There were conflicting comments like this, and I think it technically wrapped up with the conclusion of ‘I hope the developer that made this quest drops to hell’.
The conclusion was pretty extreme, but this is par for the course in this game.
Anyways, I can’t ignore a quest that forces a Game Over.
“Sorry, I am taking this one.” (Souma)
I showed the scary-looking bartender the parchment for Sacrifice Girl.
“Sacrifice Girl, huh. It is fixed to 3 people for this one. If possible, I would like you to register with 3 people—”
I cut off the words of the hardboiled bartender.
“It is okay. Please register me…and these girls.” (Souma)
I pointed at the two girls that arrived at the bar later.
I wrote the name of the 3 people and the quest participation is done.
I remember that both quests have a fixed party of 3, so it was the right choice to leave one comrade behind.
Judging from the way the bartender said it, I might not have been able to accept it unless we had 3 people.
(With this, I can rest at ease for now.) (Souma)
At the very least, the chances of this quest advancing on its own are gone.
A game that forcefully throws you a Game Over at a place where the player is not aware of is normally not found in a game, but I can’t really say for sure in this game.
I want to destroy any dangerous factors as soon as possible.
I wanted to take the other quest ‘Ghost Dungeon’ as well if possible, but…
“Bartender, we will do this quest!”
The one who appeared as if reading my mind was the group of 3 that I met at the city just recently: Abel, Beat, and Cliff.
They gave the parchment of the Ghost Dungeon to the bartender with grins in their faces.
(So that’s how it works…) (Souma)
I speak internally.
Basically, this is a choice quest.
You probably can only take either the Sacrifice Girl or the Ghost Dungeon.
If I had taken the Ghost Dungeon, they would have taken the Sacrifice Girl.
(No wonder both had way too tasty rewards.) (Souma)
You need more than level 50 to participate in this quest, but the reward for it is way above that threshold.
If I consider this as a bonus quest that you can only take one or the other, I can understand it to a certain degree.
While I was convinced on my own like that…
Abel and his group noticed us and whistled.
“Oooh, and here I was wondering who it was. Ain’t that the chick adventurer that just came out from Lamurick?!”
“Do you think a chick like you will be able to take on this quest when you still haven’t even shaken off the egg shells?”
They began to provoke me with cliche hoodlum lines.
I honestly can kick their asses with my current strength, but if that messes up the quests somehow, I would be having my priorities wrong.
I bit my lips and endured silently, but…
“Just leave it at that. Adults ganging up and acting all high-and-mighty on one boy. How annoying.”
I heard the voice of a woman from behind me, inside the bar.
(That person is…) (Souma)
The owner of that voice is a brown short haired thief-looking woman.
She is most likely a high level adventurer.
I have not spoken to her directly, but I feel like I have at least seen her.
“And who are you?!”
Beat turned around and shouted at her, but…
“My name is Pora. Don’t you know about me, boy?” (Pora)
She closed the distance in that brief instance, and pushed her nails onto the throat of Beat.
Beat was completely frozen and couldn’t move.
“Damn it, Beat!”
“What’s with this bitch?!”
Abel and Cliff put their hands on their weapons, but…
“Give it a break already!!”
A giant person appeared from even deeper in, shouting loudly, and the air around froze.
“Pora, you should also leave it at that with your frolicking. Also, you people, I can’t say I find it commendable for comrades heading to the same village to be causing trouble.”
Abel reacted to the big body adventurer who seems to be the comrade of Pora from his way of talking.
“Heading to the same village…together, you say…?”
The adventurer grinned at that.
“What, you didn’t know? The location for both quests is the same. They are both northwest, at the Saiga Village.”
We then headed to the north gate, and we rode separately on the ox carriage that the requester apparently prepared for us.
The ox carriage is a 6 person vehicle that’s pulled by a cow type monster, and so we headed there together with the group of Pora.
Well, I am glad that we didn’t have to share the same ride as Abel and his group.
Pora’s group apparently took the quest of the Ghost Dungeon, not the Sacrifice Girl, but they are both in the same place: the Saiga Village.
It was natural for us to go the same path.
The issue here is why 2 quests have appeared at the same time in the same village.
“In the first place, cultists are people that worship wicked Gods, obey the orders of demons, and control monsters. In most cases when they act, monsters often also rampage too. On this occasion, I think that they kidnapped a girl to use as a sacrifice, while the monsters were rampaging, in order to call a demon.” (Pora)
Pora explained in that way.
Even if we are going to be staying in the same village, the Ghost Dungeon quest is at the west side of the village. The Sacrifice Girl quest apparently begins at the east side of the village.
It would make sense that the Ghost Dungeon is a diversion.
“Well, I don’t think a demon that you can call from sacrificing one girl will be that big of a deal. Even so, it is not like it is okay to let a girl be killed, right?” (Pora)
I completely agree with the opinion of Pora.
But what bothers me is that…
“You know quite a lot about the cultists and demons.” (Souma)
Pora is speaking somewhat like an exposition character.
You can probably tell after playing it for a bit, but this game has a lot of nasty quests.
I end up imagining a scenario where she is actually the cultist leader.
“Ahaha. Well, I did investigate a bit about the cultists after all… My village…was attacked by cultists.” (Pora)
But it seems like that ended up with me stepping on a big landmine.
“It is not only me, everyone in my party is the same. This big man, Randy, got his daughter killed by a cultist.” (Pora)
Saying this, she pointed at the axe warrior Randy.
“Mana here had her parents killed by monsters that were controlled by cultists.” (Pora)
After that, she pointed at the mage girl, Mana, at the other side.
And at the end, she pointed at herself.
“As for me, my village was attacked by cultists, and my parents, siblings, and friends were all killed… That’s why I took this quest.” (Pora)
Being told this much, I can only apologize.
“So that’s how it was. I am sorry for asking something weird.” (Souma)
“That’s fine. We are the ones that understand the most how lowly cultists can be. Also, I don’t think it is bad to suspect first.” (Pora)
She laughed my words off, and then her face turned serious and she lowered her head.
“The monster rampage and the rescue of the girl used as a sacrifice; both will have casualties if they fail. We will take the responsibility of wiping out the monsters. That’s why…please make sure to save the kidnapped girl, okay?” (Pora)
We arrived at the village without any issues and parted ways.
Traveling in the carriage seemed to have been a part of the quest, so that conversation just now could be considered part of the quest too.
In other words, the background story and resolve of Pora and the others is simply a part of the scenario that the game developers thought of.
But even when I knew that, I could feel something welling up in my chest.
(I will definitely succeed in this quest!) (Souma)
It is not a selfish reason like wanting to avoid a forced Game Over. A clear objective had been made inside of me.
Around 20 in total are participating in the Sacrifice Girl.
We all were guided first to the house of the Village Chief, who is the foster parent of the kidnapped girl.
The village chief was a middle aged man.
He had the classic clothes of a villager in a fantasy game, and his only defining feature is that he is wearing a necklace with a red jewel.
“That girl is the memento of an adventurer from 2 years ago.”
According to him, the cultists rampaged in the vicinity of this village 2 years ago too, and the adventurers that came defeated them with their lives, and saved the village.
“Her parents died at that time. And yet, this time around, even she…”
The village chief held both of his hands, trembling and mortified.
Am I the only one who instead finds this excessive kindness as suspicious? Or is it just me who is messed up?
At that time, I moved my gaze to the surroundings, and there was a drawing at the center of the room of a person that looks like the village chief and a small girl.
This must be the village chief and the kidnapped girl.
Both of them have matching red necklaces.
They might have been made in a set to begin with.
“Sorry, I lost myself there. When they kidnapped my daughter, they secluded themselves in an underground ruin closeby. It seems like they are using that as their base and doing horrendous rituals every night.”
The village chief calmed himself down and pointed in a direction outside the village.
“The entrance of the underground ruins is there. I want you people to go there and save my kidnapped daughter.”
“It is here.”
We were guided to the outskirts of the village.
There certainly seems to be a door leading underground.
The door looks like a pretty old one, but a part of the surface is shining.
Is it magic?
It looks as if that light is creating patterns of some sort.
If I were to write them down, they would be…
I don’t really know the meaning of it, but it had a strange pressure that made me feel uneasy when looking at it.
The Village Chief spoke to me while I was staring intently at it.
“Bothered about it?”
“Ah, yes. What’s this?” (Souma)
The Village Chief smiled a bit and said: “…The decapitated head of a priest.”
“…No, it is a joke.”
I was taken aback and he simply chuckled.
This guy is unexpectedly carefree despite his daughter having been kidnapped.
“I don’t know what these symbols mean. However, it seems like there’s several of the same inside the underground ruins, so how about you investigate it?”
That’s where the Village Chief made a strangely deep smile that a plain AI wouldn’t be able to.
I wonder why….at that moment, I felt chills running down my spine and trembled.
The Village Chief continued explaining without minding my state.
“This is the entrance of the ruins, but I want to warn you about one thing. Inside this place…”
The Village Chief opens the door while saying this and…
Purple smoke bursted out.
That doesn’t look like it is good for the body at all.
“As you can see, it is filled with miasma. If you get exposed to the miasma for an extended period of time, you will slowly get your strength stolen away. This is also one of the reasons why the village has left these ruins alone the whole time. But…”
The Village Chief brings out pitch black grass wrapped in a big ring from his bag.
He puts it around his own neck without hesitation.
“This Evil Warding Grass Decoration that was tied up with a special manufacturing method can block the miasma if you have it on. We have just enough for 20 people. Please equip this before entering the ruins.”
The villagers that had come along gave the Evil Warding Grass Decoration to all the 20 participants.
I of course accepted mine too.
(So it is used as a neck accessory.) (Souma)
I am wearing the Stamina Up necklace that I got in the adventure before.
I don’t really want to take it off, but I am scared of the constant HP damage.
And most of all, I doubt I can continue the quest without equipping it judging from the contents of it.
I reluctantly take off my Stamina Up necklace and equip the Evil Warding Grass Decoration.
“Have you all put it on now? That grass decoration has an outstanding effect, but it doesn’t have much durability since it is made out of grass. Please make sure not to damage it.”
Hearing the words of the Village Chief…
(This sounds like trouble.) (Souma)
I cursed at the future pains.
Just imagining this necklace being destroyed already makes it easy to understand how bad that is.
The dungeon is already complicated as it is.
Going back all the way to the entrance wouldn’t be easy, and while you are traveling there, your HP will continue to drop.
Being killed by the miasma instead of the cultists sounds plenty possible.
Or there might even be fights breaking out between allies because of those necklaces.
It wouldn’t be funny if we end up dying from items that are supposed to save us.
On top of that, even if the enemies are cultists, they are humans that have intelligence.
If they learn that our weak points are the necklaces, there’s a high chance they will be aiming for that.
[You can’t survive just by being strong].
You could say this development proves that point.
“There’s an especially big door deep in the ruins, and inside of it, there’s apparently an altar. That’s probably the place they would be doing their ritual. My daughter might have already been taken there.”
The Village Chief said this while looking at all of us.
“I am counting on everyone to save my daughter.”
We entered the ruins.
Going down the stairs leading underground.
Purple smoke was wafting about, but there’s no damage thanks to the grass necklace, and it is not so dense that it hampers vision.
I was fearfully advancing at first, but I managed to walk normally once I got used to it.
I saw the same patterns on the walls when we got down.
The more I see it, the more I don’t understand.
(A decapitated priest, huh…) (Souma)
Thinking about it like that, it certainly could look like a person kneeling and having their head dropped.
It could also look like the face of a man closing one eye, some crest, or many other things if you try looking for it.
There’s not enough information to reach a conclusion.
(Well, if we go deeper in, we might find a hint or other patterns.) (Souma)
We decided to move further in while I was thinking that.
But contrary to my expectations, we didn’t find anything for a while.
Not only the kidnapped girl or the altar, we didn’t find cultists or new patterns either.
It is just that, at times…
“This again, huh…” (Souma)
There would be the same pattern shining at the walls.
(Maybe we should separate and search for clues? But if we are not together when cultists attack…) (Souma)
While I was deep in thought…
A voice filled with urgency rang.
When I looked that way, a black shadow was approaching the man most likely called Lucas who was at a corner of the group.
The man reacted to that voice and turned around…
“Just what is—”
Those were his last words.
A silver light shone as the shadow approached, and it cut the throat of Lucas.
A vital point was hit in one blow and Lucas slowly collapsed.
And then, the black something behind…
Raised an incomprehensible ear-piercing scream.
(This is…) (Souma)
I still haven’t met cultists in the game once.
That’s why I was imagining people wearing pointy black robes like the ones in comedies.
But I learned with a shudder…
That bizarre figure had cloth wrapped around its whole body. Its appearance easily surpassed words like dirty or filthy and could only be described as corrupt.
The sharp eyes filled with madness that could be peeked at from the opening of the reddish brown cloth, steep yellow and dirty teeth that were constantly letting out annoying sounds, and the sharp blade in both hands that were the only things letting out light within its whole dark figure.
(So this is a cultist…?) (Souma)
What was standing there is a being that only brings disgust on a physiological level.