“......Fortunately, I listened well......”
With that, Sinon lifted the fur wrapped around her body and looked out.
The plains, still very dry a few minutes ago, were now dyed white. She reached out to scoop some of the white stuff up, and small grains flowed out between her fingers. It wasn’t snow, but rather piles of ice particles.
The Ornith maiden, Fikki, when giving me this fur cloak, said, “If ℵℵ comes, use this.” The word that I couldn’t understand because of my inadequate language Skill proficiency was probably something like “Frost Storm.” It also could’ve been “extremely cold blizzard.” The possibility of a blizzard occurring out of nowhere was something that didn’t cross my mind. Even after burrowing into the depression under a rock, wrapped in the thick fur cloak, nearly 50% of my HP was shaved away.
After confirming that the cold air debuff icon no longer appeared while I was wearing the cloak, I crawled out from under the rock. As I watched the silvery world shine under the moonlight, I felt temporarily relieved.
It had been an hour since I set out from the Ornith village, and since I had to keep going as far as possible, I should’ve traveled about 20 kilometers before being swept into the icy blizzard. Seeing the ice-covered ground extend into the horizon, I worried whether the village was okay. But it was impossible to go back. Although I didn’t know many kilometers were left before I could reach the Basin village, if I didn’t arrive tonight, I’d have to log out right in the middle of the Giyol Flatlands. For the VR gaming scene, the Unital Ring incident would be the first extraordinary incident since the SAO incident in 2022, but Sinon didn’t have the kind of guts to use that as an excuse for ditching school.
Suppressing the urge to immediately set out again, I sat back under the shadow of the rock. Putting the fur cloak into my storage, I took out the hard bread that Fikki baked and bit into it little by little. It was so hard that I felt like my teeth would fall out, not to mention how it was also quite tasteless. Since it took time to build a fire, I just forced myself to keep eating so my HP and SP could slowly recover. After finally getting my HP back to 80%, I drank some water from the canteen. Having consumed so much on the run, I should find a water source soon...
“...Ah, could it be......”
Mumbling to herself, Sinon scooped up the ice particles that had piled up nearby with her hands and put them in the canteen. Soon, the ice began to melt, and her water supply began replenishing. Repeating that again and again, the bottle quickly filled back up. As the ambient temperature rose, the ice on the ground would soon melt. As long as she had a container, at least for now, she could replenish her water supply whenever she wanted... thinking this, Sinon looked around. Of course, there was neither a canteen, any other drop, nor any materials that could be used to make containers, not that Sinon had acquired the crafting skill needed to make them anyway.
Upon closer inspection of the Ornith canteen and lantern, they seemed to be made of leather and post-processed to become waterproof. Although I hadn’t paid it any attention so far, the lightweight canteens used by the Ornith might be considerably more valuable than the water inside. Whether it was machine guns or modern architecture, although I was very curious as to why they had such advanced technology, it seemed that revisiting would be something for much later.
Anyway, I drank all the cold water I’d just prepared, let my TP fully recover, and then poured more ice particles into the canteen. If I hurried and started running now, I should be able to replenish again before the ice is all gone.
Standing up off the rock, carrying the rifle behind her back, and confirming the optical gun was on her left waist, Sinon began running across the silvery-white plains.
After consuming 10 points out of the 15 Ability points she accumulated, Sinon acquired 《Long Runner》 and 《Skilled》, which were branch Abilities of 《Agility》. The effects were, for 《Agility》: long-range weapons damage, small point-blank-range weapons damage, and jump distance were increased. 《Long Runner》: when running, TP and SP depletion was decreased. 《Skilled》: long-range weapon accuracy and lock-picking success rate were increased. Of course, I also wanted 《Long Runner 》’s branch Abilities, 《Fast Runner》 and 《Acrobatics》, and 《Skilled 》’s branch Abilities, 《Vital Hitter》 and 《Dexterity》, but it took 3 points to unlock a third-level Ability, so I held back. With 5 points left, I also felt that I was being too cautious. But, I felt that there’d be scenarios where I’d need Abilities outside the 《Agility》 tree—especially the 《Strength》 tree.
All in all, 《Long Runner》 had a remarkable effect in slowing down the reduction of TP and SP; despite it only being Level 2, the depletion rate had noticeably decreased. Without this, it was probably impossible to run 20 km in an hour.
To make back lost time after being delayed by the storm, Sinon ran with all her might. Up until now, monsters went without saying, even hidden traps had to retreat by diving underground to avoid the blizzard, so Sinon could not see a single moving thing, and could only single-mindedly continue to head southeast. The layer of ice particles had piled up about 20 centimeters from the ground and made a “zakuzaku” sound when stepped on. But unlike snow, it wasn’t as much of a hindrance as one might think because it was solid.
After running for about fifteen minutes, the ice underfoot began to thin slowly. It was gradually melting as the temperature rose. Stopping and drinking the remaining water in her canteen, Sinon allowed her TP to recover and replenished her water supply with ice leftover from nearby. The surrounding ice continued to slowly evaporate while she worked, so next, it’d really be necessary to find another water source. If possible, I’d like to cross the Giyol Flatlands before then... Thinking so, Sinon looked ahead.
Then, she noticed that against the night sky, which was sprinkled with starlight, near the horizon, a pitch-black outline had appeared. Mountains... no, cliffs? The vast plains that had stretched thirty kilometers or so up to this point continued into the expanse, divided by those wall-like cliffs.
Where do the Giyol Flatlands end? Is the Basin village supposed to be near the wall?
Expectantly, Sinon surveyed the base of the cliffs from north to south. But she found nothing resembling man-made light. It was now 9:00 in the evening, and that should be too early for all the lights in the village to go out, but Sinon could only believe and continue on.
Watching as the already-melting ice continued to evaporate, the plains returned to their original state. The beasts and insects that were hiding to escape the cold would probably also get back in action. From here on, it’d be necessary to keep on the lookout for monsters—though telling that to herself, Sinon did not stop running.
Upon closer inspection, the cliff was more massive than expected.
At a height of more than fifty meters, the wall was almost completely vertical, making it impossible to climb up. Even if you wanted to go around it from the north or south, the wall extended out of sight past the viewing distance, so knowing which direction to go was also impossible.
Although Sinon didn’t have the chance to see it directly, the 《Immortal Walls》 in Underworld divided the Human Empire into four empires. It was said that, let alone noblemen, even emperors weren’t allowed to cross that wall if they wanted to. That kind of unreasonable behavior could be looked over because that world wasn’t a game, but since Unital Ring is a game, there should be a way to get past the walls.
Looking around, I noticed that there were flat rocks on top and climbed up. Making sure there were no monsters nearby, I opened my storage and materialized my beloved 《Hecate II》.
Sinon attempted to lift the anti-materiel rifle that lay across the rock, but knowing it was useless, she didn’t force it. Even though she’d reached Level 16, the gun was still too heavy for her equipment weight capacity. Panting, she adopted a prone position to view the scope. Although it was also possible to take it off the Hecate and use it as a mini telescope, if she did that, the normal axis would have to be readjusted from scratch when reinstalled. Although it’s said that the adjustment process was very much simplified compared to real-world rifles, because of the need to test fire, it couldn’t be done now.
Thus, Sinon painstakingly adjusted the entire Hecate’s orientation to carefully examine the cliff five hundred meters away. As the surface of the black walls wasn’t uneven like natural terrain, to go climbing might as well be going to commit suicide. Although small trees were growing everywhere, if you planned on using them to climb up, the number was overwhelmingly insufficient. There was nothing to be found from observing the north side, so using the Hecate’s bipod as a fulcrum, Sinon slowly turned back to look at the south side. Then—
After letting out a faint sound, Sinon cranked up the magnification. On a section of the cliff edge, there were staircase-like indentations and an access path. With a restless gaze, she noticed how the top end of the path looked as if it were swallowed up by a black hole.
Despite the excitement of finding a passage through the steep cliff, as a sniper, the unease of not wanting to hide in a narrow cavern came surging forth at this point. But anyway, there was no other option than to enter through there. Putting Hecate back into storage, I stood up. My HP had recovered, and my TP and SP bars were close to 90% full. I wanted to make effective use of the perpetually full MP bar, but I had no idea how to learn magic skills.
With the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of having inherited sniping skills, I couldn’t become a magic swordsman, but becoming a magic gunner was fine too...... Thinking that in her mind, Sinon made a break for the steep cliff as her destination.