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171 You Can Walk Without Three-Stage Sliding Slashes?

 When Mufasa and the children were still running around the hunting grounds, the other Players led by Marni had already arrived at the Seira Marshes.

Occupying a major chunk of the Valla Empire's territories, the Seira Marshes were uninhabited like the Trinia Forest up north, being an inhospitable place for humans that was overflowing with beasts and magical beasts. In fact, whenever Valla's Emperor bore ill will towards any noble, the most common solution was to award them a piece of land out of those two regions while urging them to hurry towards their fief with all pomp and ceremony...

Of course, such a solution was just useless to important nobles like Duke Horan who already owned vast tracts of land.

And just as its name suggests, the Seira Marshes was a wetland that would not freeze or catch snow even during winter, and the marshes within stretched on infinitely. As such, any inexperienced person would never be able to tell what was in front of them: whether it was a dry, firm piece of moss or floating algae over endlessly deep waters.

Aside from magical creatures and all manner of vicious beasts, it was said that there were witches living within the marches. Either way, it was a place of danger and no one should approach it.

In contrast, the Trinia Forest was much safer despite being another notably dangerous location-humans at least wouldn't have to worry about tumbling and drowning in the marshes just for missing a step.

As a matter of fact, the Seira Marshes were not friendly towards the Players either.

While resurrection spells could save them, a Player who had dropped beneath the surface was no different to having no corpse to revive them with-all they could do is wait in confinement at the little black hut for three days before being brought back to life.

That being said, the Players were a more adventurous bunch than most.

Although normal humans might never successfully map a corner of the marshes even after sacrificing thousands, the Players were different-they did not have to die that many times to feel out a path.

Because none of them were actually doing any walking.

***

Marni was issuing orders in an orderly manner.

"Right flank, hit the ground with mountain strikes, and don't spare even an inch of ground. Relax, the Seafood Clerics would drag you out. Left flank, cast three stage slashes-remember to slash backwards on the third step, and run as soon as you lit up the map, and be careful not to fall. Leave mid to my Divine Earthsplit Blade, and all of you keep an eye out for where the water is!"

"Hey! Care to mention who the Seafood Clerics are again?" Some of the Aquatic Angels were protesting angrily.

At the same time, the minimap was almost fully explored.

After all, the Players had been rampantly laying waste to the ecosystem and landscape of the marshes while steadily-or indeed rapidly-pushing inward.

Their progress would leave every past expedition here sighing in awe.

However, the Players were left baffled because they had been wrecking a sizeable portion of the marshes. Logically speaking, some magical creature like the Rutiodon should be showing up right now, but all they had faced so far were swamp fishmen, swamp fishmen, and more swamp fishmen.

Therefore, almost every Player participating in the operation had the same question in mind: could it be that there were only swamp fishmen in these marshes?

But their hunches were proved wrong soon enough: aside from swamp fishmen, there were human-faced fish monsters.

Having seen and learned much as a former travelling merchant, Marni had initially assumed that those grotesque monsters he never heard of before were not natives to these marshes. After all, their sizes did not appear to agree with life in these wetlands, and their bodies closely resembled saltwater fish species...

But as those human-faced fish monsters kept increasing in number, even Marni started having doubts.

Could there really have been some major phenomenon that occurred in these marshes? He thought, doubting his existence when a Ranger returned from scouting up front.

"Mister Wilf, I think I found something and it doesn't look good."

One should also note that there had been twelve Rangers scouting ahead, but the others were now dead.

It only made it evident how scary the marshes were.

"What did you see?"

The Ranger did not answer, however, and instead led Marni and a handful of Players with him to a nearby spot.

There was a distinctly wider lagoon, and Marni was shocked to find almost thousands of swamp fishmen gathered closely beside the water with more coming to join them.

At the center of the lagoon was a swamp fishman high priest, wearing a ritual mask while performing some sort of ritual dance.

Although Marni and the others couldn't tell how the priest kept himself from sinking, what happened next shocked them even more.

As the swamp fishman high priest continued its otherworldly dance, a globe of water that resembled an egg over two meters wide rose out of the water-the water was crystal clear as well, with no impurities inside.

That was when the many swamp fishmen that had been happy with standing aside and watch the show all jumped into the lagoon and swam towards the globe as if called upon, and then bounding headlong within.

Hence, in spite of its crystalline appearance, the water in the globe melted any swamp fishmen that had entered whole within seconds, reducing them to cheese as if they were acid.

And as the corpses in the globe increased, the cheese-shaped corpse changed further, fusing together like cotton wads and rapidly growing organs and skins.

Then, when the last piece of scale took form and every piece of organ ready, the dozens of fishmen corpses would have been cultured into one human-faced fish monster within minutes. Hence, with a deafening cry and a frightening horn, it would then break out of the globe!

After being born, those human-faced fish monsters would feed upon what the swamp fishmen brought from their hunt to grow into massive sizes, their scales slowly darkening and hardening.

Having witnessed all that, Marni was beside himself in shock.

The swamp fishmen which showed such emotions and made him doubt his existence was actually the same creature as that bizarre human-faced fish monster? If he had to describe it, it was a growth process similar to how caterpillars would metamorphose into butterflies.

Moreover, he remembered something else in the surprise.

So, there were no other creatures aside from swamp fishmen in these marshes... or at least this zone?

Moreover, the fishman priest's dance must be some ritual, but it didn't resemble an offering to the Ocean Goddess and was full of such mystery that no one would forget it. At the same time, the globe of water with which the swamp fishman turned into the human-faced fish monster must be the effect of the ritual dance, similar to a divine power.

And this sinister but alluring power certainly wasn't the power of any deities of the light. These fishmen had to be followers of some evil god!