A lone man carefully approached a large tree.
There was a large tree in front of him, and there was a mother and her child crouched at its shadow, trying to hide between its roots.
At first, the mother trembled hearing the man's steps.
"Hey, it's me."
"Sweetie How was it"
The three of them were a family, whispering to each other, afraid of making much noise.
The village was destroyed.
That priest was telling the truth."
The father answered in a murmur, his voice filled with regret as he carefully scanned their surroundings.
What should we do then"
"The priest shouted to go south, so let's just go south if there's no monsters there."
"But it'll be dark soon."
"There were a bunch of monsters.
If we stay they'll find us, we need to hurry."
The child was still very young, but the father insisted on them leaving.
"We have no choice...
I'll carry Maira."
The three were carrying a large amount of baggage, as they had been on their way back from buying supplies in a bigger city.
A priest mounted on a horse had passed by them earlier, who shouted loudly that monsters were attacking their village.
He told them to run south.
Slightly dubious, the father left his family hiding between the roots of a large tree, and went to check the village, only to discover that the priest was telling the truth.
Monsters were swarming the village, and there was no one left alive.
If they had believed the priest right away, they might have been in a much safer place already.
The city they had visited was not even half a day of travel away, and they had bought a considerable amount of supplies, so the parents felt lucky for that.
They also were grateful to their God Elmea for their child who had just turned 5, and wished to see the bigger city that day.
Thanks to that the family had been spared.
The sun was already starting to set as they stood up and began walking away from that place.
When they left the tree, the father felt a hideous stench attack his nose.
He had felt that smell earlier when he went to check on the village.
There was a weird groan, and when the father hesitantly turned in that direction, he saw a Troll standing nearby with a club ready to strike.
Its jaw hung open, drool dripping out after finding its next meal.
Slowly it took a step forward, ready to catch its prey.
"Ah! We have to run!!"
The Troll seemed to smile seeing food, its five meters tall body making the ground shake with each step it took in pursuit.
They ran, but the Troll closed in, barely twenty meters separating them anymore.
The Troll's movements looked sluggish, but accounting for its size, each step it took was many times larger than that of a human.
The distance between them would only continue shrinking.
"Y-you can't do that!"
"We have no choice, take Maira and run!!"
The father decided to sacrifice himself to let his wife and child escape.
He unsheathed his self-defense sword, but he knew it would be of little use.
He looked forward to guiding his family one last time, but despaired at what he saw.
A gigantic silver wolf was watching them from a distance.
It was around fifty meters away, but somehow his sense of perspective seemed warped, as the wolf's head looked as tall as the trees growing nearby.
"N-no, please Elmea..."
The mother hugged her child in distress, praying to God that her child would not suffer before dying.
It was impossible to imagine a situation where any of the three would survive this.
The Troll extended its arm, trying to grab the father that had turned to face the monster.
But the result was different to what the Troll expected, leaving it confused.
Its eyes were forced to look up at the sky, before feeling like the world turned over and the ground fell on its head.
The Troll was too dumb to realize its head had been severed from its body.
The Troll's body went limp, before collapsing on the ground with a heavy sound.
"Huh Wh-what happened..."
The father did not understand what had happened.
He just stared in a daze at the decapitated Troll in front of him.
"You humans, are you safe"
Overtaken by fear, the mother started screaming, the child crying, and the father struggled to form any words.
The silver wolf, fresh blood dripping from its jaws, spoke with a human voice.
They had seen the wolf far away, but in the blink of an eye it had leapt to tear off the Troll's head.
'There's more of them...'
The gigantic silver wolf turned away from the family.
Pagan Worshippers had heard the sound of the Troll falling over, and had started gathering by the dozens.
'That's because you made too much noise.
You just drew their attention, kekeke.'
Could you keep them at bay'
'Of course, kekeke.'
A woman wearing white clothes rode on top of the silver wolf.
Her beauty caught the father's eyes for a moment, but he was struck with fear soon after.
He could not feel any vitality coming from her, making him wonder if she was a type of monster.
Most of the villagers of that region had never seen something like that.
She had two candles tied with a band to her head, a large knife on her right hand, and her left held a wooden hammer.
Slowly, she climbed down from the wolf's back.
The Pagan Worshippers jumped in to attack her.
In response, she calmly lifted her wooden hammer.
The woman in white clothes struck the hammer against the ground.
Shockwaves spread like ripples away from her, and something sprouted out of the ground, which drained all color from the family's faces.
Ghosts shaped like skulls or decomposed torsos crawled out of the ground and held onto the feet of the Pagan Worshippers.
Anyone would be driven insane witnessing that.
But thanks to that, the many Pagan Worshippers approaching them were stopped by the ghosts, unable to move forward or backward.
With a grunt, the silver wolf began shredding through the immobile Pagan Worshippers.
The woman in white clothes also stabbed them repeatedly with her knife.
Mere moments later the only ones left standing were the family.
'I guess that takes care of it, kekeke.'
The family could not understand what had just happened.
Trembling, they noticed yet another change above them.
"So the monsters got all the way here already.
Is it because they have no consistency in their movements"
"I guess that could be it."
A couple was talking while riding on a winged beast with four legs that looked like a monster.
The gigantic wolf seemed to bow to the monster in the air, then the woman in white clothes climbed onto its back and they ran off somewhere.
"So they already took over the village."
"...Yes, they did."
Allen descended from Bird B in front of the family.
He spoke to the father.
Are any of you wounded"
"Ah, we're fine.
Did you rescue us"
Allen tried to calm the family.
They went to an open area without trees, not too far from there, until Tam-Tam Mode Eagle arrived.
When the family entered inside, they saw there were already many other villagers, travelers, and priests, who had gotten rescued like them.
Tam-Tam was taking them all to Niel so they could be safe there.
Three days had passed since Allen's party arrived at Niel.
The large stampede of Pagan Worshippers and giant type monsters that had spread out from Theomenia, the capital of the Holy Land, had left no city, or village untouched.
Anyone who was found alive, was let onto Tam-Tam to be taken to Niel.
If they were able to rescue an entire city or village, they would plant Gold Beans around it, erecting a barrier to deter monsters, and then give the people Aromatic Vegetables to stop any of them from becoming Pagan Worshippers.
During those three days, no one who had been exposed to the Aromatic Vegetable's scent had turned into a Pagan Worshipper.
In Niel, those who had the black shadow come out of them when exposed to the Aromatic Vegetable remained isolated.
There had been too many to put them in prison, as there were nearly five thousand of them.
One corner of the city had been prepared to house the former cultists.
There was a reason to quarantine them that way.
From what they had seen, those who were bitten by Pagan Worshippers would get infected, turning into monsters themselves.
It would take one day for the transformation to happen, which reminded Allen of the zombie movies he watched in the past.
There was no definite confirmation that one day was the incubation period, it was simply their best guess when listening to the stories from the villagers and priests they rescued in the last three days.
The Aromatic Vegetables' effect lasted for 24 hours, protecting those exposed to it from any debuffs or status effects, so they should be safe.
But since so many people's lives depended on it, it was hard to rely just on that without actual proof.
In the end, the only way to know for sure if they were safe was to resolve the entire conflict.
A few hours later, Allen arrived back to Niel, together with the family that had practically been pushed into the flying Golem since they were too afraid.
"Thanks for your help, Master Kiel."
"Don't mention it, everyone here did their part too."
Nicolai always addressed Kiel with the utmost respect.
Kiel had insisted he was just a saint, but when it was found out he had the Venerable Talent, everyone was shocked as it had been a century since a Venerable was born.
The Talent Changes had already started, so Kiel said it was nothing so impressive, but the priest Nicolai had witnessed Kiel in action, so he changed the way he addressed Kiel.
Allen's party ate dinner at the dining hall of Niel, then entered the meeting room they had borrowed from the priests.
"Allen, I guess it's safe to assume we're almost done rescuing the cities and villages now"
Though having to extract people took longer than I hoped."
It was taking them a while to exterminate all the Pagan Worshippers that had spread out from Theomenia.
The Pagan Worshippers' movements were erratic, some would desperately go as far as they could, others would just stay in place, and some would advance and stop randomly.
It would have been easier if they moved like a cohesive army, but there did not seem to be any order or reason to their movements.
It was hard to imagine just what the Demon King's Army hoped to accomplish with them.
Meanwhile, Kiel looked like he was lost in thought the entire time.
"Kiel, mourning those who passed is important, but things like this happen all the time."
"I just can't accept it as easily as you."
Kiel stared at the table as he replied.
(Yeah, I guess it's always been like this.)
It was a heavy burden for Kiel, but Allen knew this was nothing new.
There had been a genocide that took the lives of nearly three million people in Rosenheim the year prior.
Half of them were eaten by the hungry monsters of the Demon King's Army.
Almost every year after Allen had been born, there was a clash between the Demon King's Army and the Five Continents Alliance in the north side of the Central Continent.
And every year the Alliance suffered losses numbering at least one hundred thousand.
Even with a three year military term, thirty percent of the conscripts would perish.
It was fifty percent before the Hero Helmios appeared.
Even if Allen distributed Heaven's Blessings and sent his summons to support the army, not all the soldiers would survive.
If a monster similar to an A Rank Dragon appeared in the front lines, Heaven's Blessings would be of little help to the soldiers who died instantly.
The Demon King's Army had been a constant threat to humanity.
(Not to mention that the monsters are all one rank higher after the Great Calamity.)
It was said that after the Demon King caused the Great Calamity, all monsters had gotten one rank more powerful.
The monsters had always been a danger to humanity.
One could only wonder how many lives had been snatched away by them.
"The truth of the matter is that we can only help those within reach, and we can't do anything for the rest.
We aren't omnipotent beings."
"Yeah, you're right."
Kiel answered that way, but he and some others in the party continued being in a miserable mood.
You weren't able to find any survivors in the end then"
Allen summoned Melus and asked about Theomenia.
Nicolai and the other priests were not present there.
If they knew the First Angel Melus was there, things could get really bothersome.
That was why Allen was told to not summon him around priests.
Melus had been a powerful figure of authority in the past, so they would need to rely on his influence if they ever needed to order people around, but as things were, the priests were already cooperating happily with Kiel's presence.
That meant there was no reason for the priests to know that Melus was there.
Melus had been defeated by the Demon General in Theomenia.
There appeared to be some sort of altar inside of the temple in Theomenia, and a Demon General was there to defend it.
'Yes, they were all killed.
I tried looking for that Shea you mentioned as well, but I couldn't find her.'
Shea, the Beast Princess was not there either.
"I guess Nicolai was right."
They had not come to the Holy Land only to rescue Princess Shea.
But Prince Zew had asked them to look for her, though according to Nicolai she had not been in Theomenia when it happened.
She had said something to the effect of "I don't want to see a prisoner executed" and left Theomenia since she had other things to do.
The one curious fact was a Demon General was warding the altar, and not the cult leader.
Melus had fought it, but it was not the Cult Leader Gushara.
"So we have to defeat that Demon General and rescue Theomenia!!"
Kurena tightened her fists and exclaimed that, breathing heavily.
"Yeah, that's pretty much it."
Allen believed that whenever Kurena actually put some thought into things, she immediately identified the main goal.
"Alright, let's go kill that Demon General tomorrow then, let's go wild!"
The party all shouted together.
If things went smoothly, Allen would be able to stall the Demon King's Army.
No matter what the Demon King's Army was trying to accomplish there, it would be good if Allen's party took the initiative for once, so he told them to rest well in preparation for the next day.