135-To the Oni-no-Sato

'Hmm, this is quite something.'

Isn't it? It's a game, so it won't make you gasp, but it's hard work, isn't it?

 Mori. No, at this point, it's the Sea of Trees.
 Meguru and I were making our way along the road to nowhere.

 The top players of the demon tribe, or rather, the most dedicated players of the first group.
 I'd forgotten that they, led by Meguru, were hanging out in the Onin tribal forums and had reached the Onin village as a matter of course, but the Onin village is a so-called 'hidden village'.

 What we're walking through now is a large sea of trees called the "Lost Forest," which can be reached by traveling about five kilometers to the east of Griffith.
 This forest, which is reminiscent of the Sea of Trees in Fuji, is the exact opposite of its name: it is absolutely impossible to get lost.
 If you stay in the forest for a certain amount of time, you will be enveloped in fog and forcibly returned to the place where you entered the forest.

 The time is 12 hours. Those who wander in the forest for half a day will be thrown out of the forest.
 Thanks to this, no traveler starves to death while lost, but many still die in this forest. And most of them are due to monster attacks.

 As the forest is called the Lost Forest, all detection and mapping skills are disabled here, so you can only deal with monsters' surprise attacks by sight or sound.
 Although you can use a map as an item, it's almost useless in this pathless forest, and even if you know the way, you may deviate from the path you were on while fighting.
 If you only think about moving forward, you will not be careful, and if you are only careful, you will get lost and have to start over.
 If you're careful, it's not too difficult to survive, but it's still difficult to get to where you want to go in this forest.

 So far, it seems impossible to reach the destination in this forest where maps are useless and there is no map.
 However, Meguru-san, who is leading me now, is trudging through this mapless forest with unhurried steps.
 Of course, he wasn't just guessing, but he was aiming for the demon village based on proper evidence.

'The demon village can be reached by completing the quests of the NPCs of the demon tribe staying in Griffith, and having them create a "leading stone" as a reward. On the other hand, once you have it, you can reach the village just by following the light.

 This is how Meguru explained it to us as we passed through Griffith.
 It seems that the real thing is a kind of mysterious stone that always points in the direction of the destination, and only those who have it can reach the demon village.
 In other words, this item called the "leading stone" is an essential key item in the Lost Forest.
 Regardless of which destination you aim for in the Forest of the Lost, you'll need to have the corresponding leading stone to get there.

 It seems that the quest to get this stone is not so difficult if you are a demon tribe member. .......
 Even so, it's not as easy as just completing it in an hour! But still, it's not so easy that you can complete it in an hour.

 The reason Meguru was waiting for me in the depths of the ancient ruins earlier was to ask for my help in defeating the boss.
 But he also said that one of the reasons was to guide me to the demon village in the shortest time possible, as I would be at a loss after coming to Griffith.
 In fact, he was planning to guide me even if I refused to fight the boss, so I'm glad that we were able to make it a give-and-take.
 Meguru-san is happy to have defeated the boss, and I am happy to have been able to visit the demon village. This is what I call a win-win relationship.

'But there are so few monsters. Normally they'd just keep coming at us.

 It's been about two hours since we entered the forest.
 Suddenly, Mr. Meguru muttered in wonder.

'Well, why is that?

'I have no idea why, but ...... well, the sooner we get there, the better.

'Hmm, that's true.

 I agree with the idea of getting there quickly.
 I don't think it would be a big time loss even if we were attacked, but right now, a little time loss is too much.
 What's regrettable is that I don't want to have to log out of the game without having a chance to look around even though I've arrived at the demon village.

 However, the anomalies related to the appearance of monsters bring back some unpleasant memories.
 When the lizards stopped appearing in the marshes of Lores near Dualis, we were attacked by the true dragon Apocalypse.
 I was completely defeated. Thanks to the help of a drunkard, I didn't die, but it was all I could do to give Apocalypse a scratch at that time.
 I also crushed the Kugelschreiber, which I've been thinking about a lot lately, with my finisher that time.

 Yeah, remembering the memory of that defeat makes me a little queasy, so I'll stop.
 If it's true that the rate of appearance of monsters is changing to the extent that Meguru has gone out of her way to mention it, then there's nothing we can do about it, and the right thing to do is to keep going.

'Besides, the demon village is already in front of us. Look, the light of the leading stone is getting stronger, isn't it?

'Oh, yes, the light is getting stronger.

'That's what happens when you're close to your destination. It's probably about five minutes away.

'Even though there weren't many monsters, isn't it faster than expected?

 I thought you said it would take about four hours with the monster attacks.
 When I asked him about it, Meguru said with a wry smile.

'Because I followed a straight line towards the light. It's been a rough road so far, hasn't it? Normally, I would have chosen a gentler route, but I thought Skuna-san would have no problem with this one.

'You mean because it was the shortest route?

'That's what I meant. It's more difficult, but even if you take monsters into account, you can usually get there in about three hours from here. As long as there were no monster attacks, it's only logical that we can get there in a little over two hours.

 Could it be that the reason there was no road at all was because of the route Meguru had chosen?
 I thought that I would die without a leading stone if the road was all like this, but isn't a map really a meaningless item?
 No, it's my request to arrive as soon as possible. Meguru-san only responded to my request, and I just misunderstood the leading stone.

'I see. But next time, just say something and tell him that you're going to the more difficult one.

'I'm sorry, I'll be careful. But I thought you might like this kind of road better.

'Well, you know me too well to say anything.

 It's more fun to go through such a rough road than a flat one.
 I'm just grateful for Meguru's thoughtfulness.

'Oh, the light from the stone is gone.

'We're here, aren't we?

'We're here, where's ......?

 As soon as he said it was about time, the light from Meguru's lead stone went out.
 Hmmm, even though the visibility is not good due to the trees, it still feels like we are in a dense forest, and we can't even see the open space.
 Could the demon village be a subterranean city?

'Haha, you can't see it, can you? The village is protected by a ward of cognitive inhibition.

'It's like a cognitive blocking ...... illusion?

'Yes, something like that. So if you just go on like this, you can ......'

 As soon as Meguru took three steps forward, his body disappeared as if it had been erased with an eraser.
 I wonder if this means that there is a ward around that line. When I reached out my hand fearfully, I found that although my hand had apparently disappeared, I could still feel it.
 As I thought, it seems that I am only invisible in the boundary between the wards.
 It may be that it only has the effect of inhibiting recognition, but it doesn't seem to have any particular effect on me. After confirming various things, I passed through the warding with peace of mind.

 The sun was shining brightly.
 The place was so wide open that it was hard to believe it was in the Lost Forest.
 There, the hidden village of the demon tribe existed.

'This is the home of the demons......'

 It's not much of a town, but it's still a much bigger village than I thought it would be.
 The whole village is covered with a fence, and there is a deep moat surrounding the fence. Inside the moat, there were not only weapons but also monsters like insects wriggling around, making it unlikely that we would survive if we fell in.
 It seemed to me that this was a very proper village.

'Mr. Sukuna, over here.

'Oh, yeah. I'm coming.

 I said to Mr. Meguru, who was beckoning me, and started walking.
 It's my first time here, so there's no way I'm going to miss it.

 I felt a slight tingle in the cracks of the curse running through my body.