The next morning, I was feeling a bit groggy. Waking up every two hours to recast a spell while my loved ones are sleeping, hah… this must be how new parents feel after staying up all night with the baby. Well, the girls looked refreshed, so it was time for us to head out. I used my heat vision, but it wasn’t as good under the hot sun as it was at night. I guess that was why ghost groups always did all their investigations at night. That or they liked walking around a spooky place in the dark.
“Lydia, do you see any ghosts?” I asked her, although Miki looked pouty considering I could just have easily asked her.
“No, Master, they seem to be avoiding this block since we last fought them,” Lydia explained.
I nodded. “Good. I know we want to completely clear out this block, but before we go to that extent, I’d like to try to hit up the general goods store.”
The two girls nodded. I had already mentioned it to them once, but that didn’t really matter. They were both following me at this point and doing whatever I asked. I had complicated feelings when it came to slavery, but I had to admit that it was nice to be in charge.
We headed down the street. The place was just as silent and eerie as the first time Lydia and I walked down these streets. However, the mood was completely different now.
“See one!” Miki cried out, throwing a Spirit Fire.
It flew into an alley, and there was a shriek as a ghost died. While ghosts couldn’t be seen, they could attack your spirit, and they were not harmed by normal weapons, these advantages were swept away by their ease of death. If you could get a direct strike on a ghost, they almost always perished quickly. At least, that was for the ghosts out here. As we approached the mansion on the other side of the town, I suspected the difficulty would increase. That was another reason we were starting over here and letting Miki’s abilities level up.
“No fair!” Lydia spoke tearfully, “Quick, use fusion!”
She was holding out her sword excitedly. Since Miki was getting kills, Lydia also wanted to show her usefulness. Of course, that usefulness only came if she could fuse with Miki’s spirit flame. Lydia by herself had no means of attacking the ghosts. It likely depressed her a little. Well, ghosts aren’t even a usual monster in this world. Perhaps a lone ghost, but they were usually weak and not much of a threat. A lone priest could expel or destroy one with ease. A hotbed of ghosts like this town was exceptionally rare in this world, or so I heard. There was a reason the town was overwhelmed and abandoned in a single night.
“Found it.” I pointed at the general store. “Once we get supplies, we’ll be able to hold out almost indefinitely.”
That wasn’t completely true. I didn’t expect most of the food to be edible at all. All the ingredients in here would be over a decade old. I wasn’t keen on eating anything that has been sitting in the dust for that long. I actually had a few thoughts on getting food, but that would have to wait until after we had reclaimed a block or two. I wanted a good foothold in the city before we started worrying about long term stuff.
I cast a magic circle, and then we went about sanctifying the entrances and windows with the rosary powder. Only after the general store was sealed tight did we finally start looking around. The shop in front was small, with a big storage area which had a lock. I couldn’t break the lock easily. Perhaps if I got a tool from the blacksmith. This was really starting to feel like an RPG now. One quest creates another quest.
The general store looked in far worse shape than the alchemist’s shop. I theorized that the sage helped keep the ghosts from wrecking the place. Most other locations would look like this one. That meant there wasn’t a single surface that hadn’t been disturbed by the ghosts at some point over the last decade. The floor was covered with stuff. The furniture was all overturned or stacked in weird ways.
We got to work taking inventory and seeing what we gained by coming here.
After about an hour of picking up stuff, I had a clearer picture of the stuff we had gained. I still didn’t have access to the back room. If there was a key, the original owner took it with him. They probably had hopes that one day they would return to this city and regain their supplies, and this never happened. Lydia had Thief, so I wondered how many levels she’d have to gain before she unlocked some kind of lockpicking skill. No, it’d be easier to just pry it open when we had the time.
The cash register was similarly empty. I still had my debts to pay to Figuro, regardless of my relationship with the people of Chalm. I had hopes of finding some money in the shops here. It looked like whoever lived here had also thought to clear out the till before taking off. Their lives might have been in danger, but money is money.
“Ink and paper, Master,” Miki said, pulling out a pile of stuff.
Some of the ink was dried up, but those that were wax sealed still seemed to be good. We also managed to find firewood. It was in the back, and there were piles and piles of it. We managed to find oil too. There was a town map, which was useful. Beyond that, there were various odds and ends. We gathered up everything we wanted to take on this trip. I had left the contents of my bag at our home base, so the bag was completely empty.
We managed to fill it to the brim, and still had more stuff to bring. We quickly realized we could only just carry it all if we all pitched in. Furthermore, Miki had the most trouble, and would never be able to make the distance with max capacity. That also ignored the possibility of the ghosts causing trouble.
“M-master…” Lydia said nervously as she looked out the window.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Ghosts… lots of ghosts.”
I looked out and sighed. “More dolls, huh?”
Lined up a distance away from the shop was a row of dolls. In fact, there seemed to be about twice as many as the last time we had fought them. It looked like the creatures of this town wanted to ambush us again while we were away from home. However, this time they were smarter. Even standing at the edge of the magic circle, they were outside my Sanctify Land range. I’m not sure a fireball from Miki could hit them either. In other words, all of our strongest weapons were useless. These monsters were learning, apparently.
Miki joined us, and then gasped, her expression turning white.
“No… Master…” Lydia’s voice was shaking, “The dolls are a small part of the army.”
“Small part?” I said, but then the more important word popped up. “Wait, army?”
I switched to my heat vision and then looked outside. Although the ghost’s individual shapes couldn’t be seen, even I could see the black hole of cold spread out in front of us. Hundreds and hundreds of ghosts had gotten together and were now waiting outside just for us.
“So, they’re going for broke, huh?”
“Master, there is no way we can fight that off,” Lydia said tearfully.
“My Spirit Fire couldn’t handle that much,” Miki added.
I shook my head. “No… they’ve drawn a line in the sand. If we back down or flee now, besides being very difficult, we’ll basically be throwing away our chances of taking this city. This is our chance. We have to go forward.
“M-master… what are you saying?” Lydia asked, her voice shaking unsteadily.
“We’re going on the offensive.” I declared. “We’re going to make these ghosts realize their time left in this world is limited!”
“Are we ready to go?” I asked.
“Okay, all of the windows covered? They won’t see anything?”
Miki shrugged. “They should be able to see the mana, but they don’t know what it is. I don’t think they’re smart enough even if they do know.”
She said that, but they did prepare a trap for us twice. They may not be individually intelligent, but they at least had the ability to surround us. Well, calling it surrounding was pretty relative, wasn’t it?
“Portal.” I created a portal leading us back to our house. We grabbed all the supplies we carried and leaped on through.
Once we were back in the alchemist store, we dropped everything and I asked Lydia and Miki to look for ghosts. Thankfully, there were none watching outside. I didn’t recast the magic circle. If I did, there was a chance the ghosts would know we had moved. Rather, if we were going to take on a bunch of ghosts, I wanted to attack them from the side. They thought they had us pinned in the general store. This was a so-called surprise attack.
“If we create a circle of rosary dust around us, can we create a seal against ghosts?” I asked.
Miki shrugged. “I do not know. It may repel and weaken, but it shouldn’t stop them completely. We’ll need to be prepared.”
“How about dust bombs? If we can get a bag to explode out in a group of them and it spreads as a fine powder…”
Miki gave a wry smile. “Master is very smart. I’m sorry, I only know what the book said.”
I decided to prepare a couple of things anyway. I wanted this ambush done properly. No mistakes. This was the first battle where there was truly a chance of danger.
Pulling out a map of the city we had acquired from the general store, I triangulated our position and created a path that would have the least chance of being seen.
“We will enter this building here. We will spread out and purify it. It can be our fallback position should things go south. That way, we’ll be extra safe.”
The two girls nodded, only speaking up when it came to what they felt they were capable of doing. When it was all said and done, we only had a few hours of daylight left.
“Let’s get a move on. They’re stronger at night.”
Although I could see ghosts better at night, that didn’t matter to the slaves, and they’d be the primary method of attack. I just needed to worry about supporting them and keeping them healthy. I equipped White Mage and Hero, but after my first attack, I planned to switch to Slave Master. I wanted to get a few levels in it. I already felt like Slave Master benefitted the slaves simply by having the job equipped, but if I gained levels, I imagined I would get more slave specific skills.
We quickly made our way down the quiet streets, keeping low. We had no Portal to escape this time if things went south, or the only option was the Return skill. Would it even work now that I gave up the Hero job? Perhaps I could mentally set the location of my Return. It was too late to think of that now. Returning to Chalm, even briefly, would be quite embarrassing, so hopefully, it didn’t come to that.
We snuck into a small house and quickly covered the place with the rosary. Looking outside, the ghosts were staring at the general goods shop. A few more had gathered and now their army looked quite impressive. The goal was to hit them hard and keep hitting. This would be the first real test of our strength since Mina’s dungeon.
“Are you both ready?” I whispered, peering out the window.
The two girls nodded, even though Lydia was shaking slightly.
“Then… let’s go!”