Volume 2 Chapter 3 Part 1
Shin and Schnee ran Indian file across the Plains and into the forest.
Detouring around the adventurers heading towards the Plains, they set a course straight for Tsuki no Hokora. Along the way, they came upon the base that had been left untouched, and retrieved everything, including the interception items. Apparently, Wilhelm and Rashia had decided to prioritize escaping. Which was not surprising, as Wilhelm would not have been foolish enough to waste time on the items in that situation, so everything was still where they had left it.
For Shin, leaving the items where they were would have been no loss at all, but then the place posed the danger of being utilized as a fort or fixed artillery battery, so the two of them took care to completely dismantle everything. There were traces of the interception magic having activated, which proved that several Skull Faces had actually been sacrificed to the contraption. As the base wasn’t that far removed from the Plains, several of them had made it all the way over here.
“Oh by the way, didn’t you accept some work? Are you done with that?”
Shin asked Schnee when he was almost done with collecting the items.
“I’m not completely done, but my role is pretty much over.”
“What is your role?”
“The safekeeping and redistribution of items. The current job involved an international unit formed by several countries, so I was assigned the role to prevent countries from stealing a march on the others.”
“...... Is it perhaps related to the uproar just now?”
“Are you serious ......”
Shin sighed at how he had just stuck his nose into another large incident, unintended though it had been. Not knowing that it was something big enough for countries to make a concerted move against, he had impulsively went all out. He was regretting it a bit now, but hindsight was 20/20.
While asking Schnee for the full details behind the current situation, he wracked his mind trying to remember if there had been any eyewitnesses of the battle. After making conversational noises for a while, he finally concluded that to the best of his knowledge, there hadn’t been anyone else aside from Schnee who had been close enough. There were those knights and adventurers that he had helped out with the fireballs, but they should only be able to confirm the direction from which the fireballs had come from.
“Getting back on topic, don’t you have to go distribute those items? Since your role is over, it might be appropriate to head back to wherever their base of operations or meetup point is.”
“I’ll be fine for a while. Though I’m supposed to split everything fairly and evenly, if I start early then it’ll become a case of first-come-first-served. That’s why I’m waiting for all the squads to get back first. Considering the distance of deployment, it would take roughly a whole week for everyone to reconvene. There is not much need for me to hurry.”
Deciding to give up on the issue of the eyewitnesses, as there was nothing that he could do about it at this point, Shin asked Schnee about her schedule. If Schnee ran at full speed, she would arrive much earlier than the agreed upon time, so she could afford to spend this time with Shin.
Both Shin and Schnee had so much to ask each other about. While heading towards Tsuki no Hokora, the two of them continued filling each other in on their own current situations.
“I have a ton of stuff to ask you, so it might be better if you went first. It’s not like I’ve a whole lot to say anyways.”
In light of the amount of time that they have together, they decided that Shin would be the one to answer questions first. In actuality, Shin had been in this world less than a month, so there wasn’t much to talk about.
“Understood. In that case, please allow me to go straight into asking several things on my mind.”
Schnee asked Shin three things.
Firstly, where he had been up to now.
Secondly, why his battle power was so much higher.
Thirdly, what his plans are from now on.
She wanted him to go into detail for each and every question.
“Alright, let’s start with number one. Though you ask me where I’ve been up to now, to be honest, for me it’s been less than a month since I left for that last dungeon.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“As it sounds. You remember when everyone saw me off and I set off to defeat Origin, right?”
“After that, I defeated Origin. Everything was supposed to have ended then, but there was this gigantic door in the boss room at the lowest level of【Gate of the Otherworld】, you see. It opened after Origin died.”
Explaining everything to Schnee brought his memories of that time to the surface. How the door that he had thought was just decoration had opened with a heavy, grinding sound, and the scene beyond it.
“The door ...... you say.”
“Yea. Then that’s where I lost consciousness. When I came to, I was lying in the middle of a really big meadow. After that, I went to Tsuki no Hokora and heard a bit about the current times. I was so surprised when I realized that more than 500 years had passed since my time! So in summary, I haven’t actually been anywhere these past 500 years.”
“I see, so that’s how it was.”
Schnee looked like she believed what Shin was saying. A look that spoke of a reassurance that had not been present during heir initial reunion came over her face.
“Fufu, it’s nothing.”
Question marks were dancing above Shin’s head as to why Schnee was in a strangely good mood, but he didn’t want to pour water on her parade, so he decided to not press further.
“Well then, the next one. My battle power, or to be specific, my stats, have risen because of the Gifts that I received from defeating Origin.”
“Gifts, you say? What kind of Gifts are they?”
“There were three in total:【Limit Breaker】,【Accomplished One】, and【Liberator】. The boost to my stats is because of the first two. It was my first time coming across these Gifts, but have you perhaps any knowledge of them?”
“No, all three are Gifts that I have never heard of before. What effects do they have?”
Shin explained the Gifts succinctly and briefly.【Liberator】was not relevant to his stats, but he explained it as well, feeling that there was also some sort of significance to it.
“...... That sounds crazy.”
“I know right. When I first saw my stats I thought it was some kind of a joke.”
Shin understood completely the current feelings of the Schnee who had just interrupted him. If a Chosen One got their hands on even one of these Gifts, the power balance of the entire world would be destroyed.
“However, I don’t think there is much to worry about on that count.”
“Because of the achievement requirements. Though monsters do exist in this world, there has never been the phenomenon of the exact same monster spawning in the exact same location. There will probably never be another Origin again, so it would be impossible for anyone else to defeat it. In addition, the dungeon that Master went to has completely disappeared.”
“I see. Then that would be impossible, you’re right.”
From Schnee’s point of view, after Shin had left for the dungeon but failed to return even after several days, all of Shin’s support characters had headed together to the dungeon themselves. However, when they reached the place, the place was completely barren, and there wasn’t even a single trace of anything having been there previously.
When they later decided to temporarily halt the search and returned to Tsuki no Hokora, they heard reports from other support characters of their own masters disappearing too, and realized that Shin most likely had been successful in clearing the dungeon. That led to the question why they themselves had not disappeared, as was the plan. They decided to split up to investigate. Some held out hope that the fact that they had not disappeared as proof that Shin might still be in this world.
However, the changes in the earth’s crust had thrown all of the continents into chaos and confusion, so they turned their efforts towards helping those in need. Gradually, with the exception of Schnee, who decided to remain at Tsuki no Hokora, the rest of the support characters split into two groups, one which decided to continue searching for Shin and the other which decided to go back home to help and protect their own race.
Somehow, Shin was able to visualize who went to which group.
“But then, wait a second. Does this mean that the Dusk of the Majesty did not occur right after me defeating Origin?”
“Master, considering where Tsuki no Hokora was placed at that time, it wasn’t strange at all that the information didn’t get to us immediately. Do you remember where we were?”
Shin had noticed a strange time interval before the ruckus caused by the support characters, but as Schnee then pointed out, Tsuki no Hokora had been set up right next to a boss monster area in a remote region. As the support characters were incapable of using the Chat function, it was normal for some time to have passed before information made its way over.
“Thus, I don’t believe anyone else possesses the same Gifts that Master mentioned. But in the off chance that I’m wrong, please take care of them, Master.”
“Gonna shove it all on me, huh.”
“Naturally. If someone as strong as us came into possession of those Gifts, Master would be the only one who could stand a chance against them. Therefore, please allow us to leave it all to you if it ever happens.”
“Well, you do have a point.”
The greater a person’s original strength, the more effective doubling their stats would be.【Limit Breaker】aside, if a Chosen One with high stats got their hands on【Accomplished One】, even several Schnees working together might still not be enough to oppose them.
With all this said, with the achievement requirements being as impossible as they are and Shin being someone who had already maxed all his stats before the Gifts, Schnee did not believe that anyone strong enough to be a threat to the two of them would ever appear.
“By the way, Schnee.”
“Yes, what is it?”
“Umm, the way you keep calling me ‘Master,’ can you change that somehow?”
Though it was completely unrelated to the conversation so far, it was something that was really bothering Shin. It was alright back during the game because there was a clear distinction of her being an NPC, but it was extremely embarrassing being addressed so in the current circumstances.
“What’s wrong with calling Master ‘Master’?”
“I mean, it’s not exactly a problem ...... OK yea it’s a problem. Schnee is someone pretty famous in this world, right? If someone like you calls me ‘Master,’ there will definitely be a huge commotion.”
“Mu, I see your point.”
Even Shin fully understood the influence of the name of Tsuki no Hokora. The reason for that was undoubtedly Schnee herself. If someone suddenly appears that she would revere as ‘Master’ appears, there’s no way it wouldn’t cause waves in the world.
“Right? I would like to avoid being the center of attention if possible. Therefore, please stop calling me ‘Master.’”
“But then what should I call you by?”
“Eh? Can’t you just call me by name like normal?”
“?! Th-That’s ......”
For some reason, Schnee was looking downward and squirming about while opening and closing her mouth silently. After a while, she looked like she had readied herself for something and raised her face to look straight at Shin.
“Th-Then ...... ‘Shin.’”
Schnee said it almost as a whisper. Her cheeks were a faint shade of pink, and her ears were completely red.
On Shin’s part, he was thinking “Eh, what is up with this reaction?!” while embarrassment filled him from head to toe.
Schnee’s reaction was something very commonly seen in manga and games. Shin was very familiar with this kind of situation, but his ability to handle it was a different issue altogether.
If one was being objective, this situation could be glossed over with a “Ah, this always happens, I know this,” but it was very hard to do that when it actually happens. It wasn’t that Shin didn’t have any experience with love, but he didn’t have so much of it to be unaffected by this.
In additional, Schnee’s expression had rarely changed back during the game, so this gesture of being so obviously embarrassed while looking at himself with upturned eyes and calling his name so softly was extremely, exceedingly, exceptionally ———— moe.
“Such ...... destructive power ......”
“Ah, don’t mind me. Un, really, don’t mind me. So yea, let’s go with ‘Shin’ from now on.”
“Understood. From now on, I will be calling you by ‘Sh-Shin.’”
Schnee was trying really hard to act calm, but the blush in her cheeks and ears betrayed her. Being so familiar with her normal calm self, this sharp contrast was causing a very intense agony in Shin’s chest.
(So this is the famous ‘gap moe.’ I get it ...... because I am so familiar with her normal self, this is proving so much more powerful than when Selica-san does it.)
For a while afterwards, neither of them said anything, busy trying to calm themselves down. The one having the most trouble with it was Schnee, though.
After confirming at the corner of his eye that Schnee’s ears had returned to their normal color, Shin resumed the conversation from before.
“Ah, we kind of digressed quite a bit, shall we return to the questions from just now?”
“Yes, let’s. I apologize for showing you such an unsightly side of myself. I’m fine now.”
Shin felt that her voice was still a bit on the squeaky side, but he let it go in order to continue the conversation.
“So, I was pretty much done explaining about my battle strength. So, the last question. For now, I plan on just going to different places and prioritizing information gathering.”
“Yep, before I do anything else, I need to know more about this world first. I’m going to do some more research at the kingdom’s library, but I do also want to try going to one of those Holy Sites. Have you been to one yet, Schnee?”
“Yes. However, it was a shallow investigative mission, so I still don’t know what the center of it is like.”
He didn’t know if the key to returning to his former world laid inside those Holy Sites or not. The only way to make sure was to go there in person.
“Umm ...... Shin.”
Schnee called out to Shin as he was thinking about going to Holy Sites. Slightly different from before, her voice was now a bit stiff.
“If you really do find the way ............ Are you really going to go back?”
“............ Yes, I am.”
He was silent for a while before finally answering. He had noticed how Schnee was, and had been pondering over how to best answer her, but covering it up here was not going to change anything. As long as the possibility existed, he did not intend on giving up.
There would be no meaning in giving a vague answer.
As for lying ...... there was no way he could lie to her.
“...... I see, yes. That makes sense, I suppose.”
“Please don’t be. From the way you were talking just now, I had already sort of realized that that is what you had decided.”
Schnee nodded with an understanding smile on her face. Though it greatly resembled the reassured look from just now, Shin felt a twinge of something being off.
“So, Schnee. How much do you remember from before, from back when this was still a game?”
Shin asked this to put his finger on the sense of unease. Based on several words that Schnee had used in the conversation just now, he kind of saw it coming.
“Everything ...... ?”
“Yes. From when I first came into that place with you by my side. Starting from that time.”
All the way up to the current moment.
Volume 2 Chapter 3 Part 2
Running through the beginner areas.
Being depressed after getting his butt kicked in PVP.
His eagerness to raise his stats.
All his nakama from the guild.
Laughing loudly while sending entire armies flying.
Risking his life to clear dungeons.
Shedding tears for those who he failed to save.
Wielding an assassin’s dagger.
The promise with that person.
The sight of his back as he left for the last time.
Schnee replied softly, pressing her hand to her heart.
“Even if you tell me to forget, I will remember.”
“No way I would tell you to forget.”
The smile that she was directing his way was so dazzling that he unintentionally responded in a brusque manner. As she had not been able to make this expression back when she was an NPC, Shin was secretly a little glad that she could now make a face like that.
“Wait a moment. Does this mean that you were saying those programmed lines despite having self-consciousness?”
“Not exactly. Though I did have a self, it was when the death game began that I became fully aware. Before then, it felt like I was watching a movie. Like having an overhead view of myself without feeling any particular emotions.”
In other words, Schnee was saying that though it was her own memory, it felt like it was someone else’s. It was a very subjective experience, so Shin could not empathize. However, he perceived the situation of being fully conscious but completely unable to control one’s body as a painful experience, and thus decided to not press the topic any further.
“I see. In other words, you also know about the logging out, and everything beyond that.”
The true meaning behind the words “going back.” Shin had his suspicions from the way Schnee was talking earlier, and apparently he had guessed right. If she had memories of the game era, then everything makes sense.
“Yes. That time, when dying had turned into a real concern, it came to the lips of many adventurers every once in a while. That there was another world different from this one, one that they called ‘real.’”
“Yea ............ Oh, I see now, that’s why those who set off to look for me split off from those who decided to wait.”
Schnee affirmed his deduction with a troubled smile.
The last battle in the death game. If Shin wins, then Schnee and the rest would disappear. If Shin loses, then they would lose their Master. Whichever way the coin fell, there would be no happy ending. When faced with the baffling situation where Shin had clearly won, but they still continued to exist, it was understandable that each of them reached a different answer to the question of what path they were to take next.
“‘You all should have consulted me beforehand’ is not really something that I should say, huh.”
“If we did, then it would only have served to unnecessarily worry Shin. What we did was the best course of action back then.”
“Even if you say so ......”
When he had left Tsuki no Hokora, he had done so with full intention of ending things. However, if he had known about this hidden problem of his support characters, it might have caused him to hesitate at a critical moment.
In addition, it wasn’t like he could have done anything about it even if he had known.
“At that time, we were not yet fully autonomous. We had only a small degree of control, and were incapable of speaking like we are doing right now. So it was impossible anyways.”
“Well, come to think of it, I did feel like the NPCs were acting strangely human-like after the death game started. Hearing that you guys were self-aware is making me think about all sorts of things.”
“Your personality is still as difficult as ever, eh, Shin?”
“Oh, shut up ...... Leave me alone.”
Shin responded gruffly to Schnee, who was grinning wryly with a troubled face. When he had learned that the support characters had been self-aware, the first thing that came into his mind was the question “Did I treat them right?” Schnee’s remark had been right on the mark.
“Even if you knew it, though, you would have gone off to fight.”
“...... That’s true, yea.”
Several tens of thousands of human lives weighed against a bunch of 0’s and 1’s. Even if the data had a bit of self-awareness, the question of which is worth more was a no-brainer.
“And on top of that, you made that promise, didn’t you?
“............ Yes. Yes I did.”
To help as many people as possible go home.
That was the promise that Shin had made.
It was precisely because they knew of that promise that Schnee and the other support characters couldn’t say anything.
“Alright, how about let’s wrap up this solemn atmosphere. It’s our long-awaited reunion, after all.”
“...... Good call. Whatever we say now is too late anyways, so let’s call it quits with the dark reminiscing. No more!”
Schnee clapped her hands together loudly and adopted a more cheerful stance before the mood got any more depressing. Going along with it, Shin decided to raise his voice too.
“First of all, we’re going back to Tsuki no Hokora and having a big party to celebrate our reunion. Don’t worry about the ingredients, I’ve got a ton of them stored away in my inventory.”
“Good idea! I’m going to unveil the results of the many years that I’ve poured into my Cooking skill!”
“So, what level is it at now?”
“About a month ago, I finally got it to level IX.”
“Are you serious?!”
Now she could cook even high level monsters. At this level, even a simple, low-leveled soup made by her would turn into an amazing dish that grants bonus buffs. In the majority of guilds, chefs were valued as highly as blacksmiths. Making dishes out of rare ingredients could give unbelievable buffs. If two players with the exact same level, profession, and skillset were to fight, the one who ate something beforehand would win, hands down.
One of the reasons why Rokuten had been so great, aside from the members and their stats, was because they had a level X chef in the guild. Through eating, maxed out stats could be boosted slightly beyond the cap for a limited period of time.
Incidentally, the only people who knew this fact was only Shin, who had maxed out all his stats, and the other members of Rokuten. It was they who had noticed that Shin’s damage output was different from usual due to the food. No one else in the game knew because no one else had been fully capped.
“Though I’m not as good as Cook-sama, you may keep your expectations up!”
“Hell yeah! You can count on me for the ingredients!”
His eyes swept over the rows of ingredients in his inventory as a “fu fu fu” escaped from his mouth. They had been in there since the game, but he had already confirmed that everything was still fine to eat.
“By the way, Shin. There’s something completely unrelated to the questions just now that I wish to ask about.”
“Nn? What is it?”
Just as the conversation was taking a lighthearted turn, Schnee asked a question while looking above Shin’s head.
“May I inquire after the identity of the one over there?”
“Over there? ...... Oh.”
After repeating a bit of her question, he quickly understood.
She was talking about Yuzuha, who was sound asleep on top of his head.
“I can only see its name and level. Does that mean you Tamed it?”
“Yea, due to certain circumstances, I ended up contracting it as a partner. Its name is Yuzuha. I’ll tell you this only because it’s you, but its race is Elemental Tail.”
“............ When I saw the tails, I thought that it was just a demon fox, but I see. So it’s an Elemental Tail, huh.”
Schnee had frozen for a split second after hearing Yuzuha’s race. However, she went back to normal almost immediately, as if saying “Well, it’s Shin after all.”
“? Shin, could it be that you haven’t realized it yet?”
Shin tilted his head in confusion, not fully understanding what Schnee was talking about. He didn’t remember Yuzuha’s tail having such noticeable characteristics. Moreover, plural form?
“Just the fact that there are three tails erases any possibility of it being a normal demon fox.”
“Three, you say?”
It registered all of a sudden. He realized that he had been feeling a tail hitting him from both behind his head and near his ears for a while already.
He raised his right hand and grasped a tail. It was fluffy.
Next, he raised his left hand and grasped a tail. This, too, was fluffy.
Lastly, he focused his senses on the back of his head. There was indeed a slight perception of fluffiness.
For now, he let go of the tails, held Yuzuha by its torso, and brought it in front of his face.
“Indeed, there are three.”
Yuzuha woke up from being moved. As it did so, its three tails began to wave to and fro lazily.
When Shin checked its level, he discovered to his surprise that it was now over level 400.
“...... No way, it can’t have gone up that much!”
Considering that its level had been slightly above 200 earlier, the change was too abrupt. The monsters that they had defeated while raising Rashia’s level had not been enough to level Yuzuha up even once. With that as a reference, it was ridiculous to think that the fight with the Skull Face Lord afterwards had made Yuzuha’s level jump up by almost 200.
“All I can think of is that something else must have happened.”
Shin was convinced that something must have happened without him knowing about it. He had previously heard about the average leveling up rate of partner monsters from Cashmere, another member of Rokuten. That’s why he was so sure. This ridiculous growth spurt was impossible.
The first probably explanation that came into Shin’s mind was that conditions had been cleared for a hidden quest. It had happened to him many times during the game, so he was extremely familiar with it. If his memory served him right, there were indeed quests related to partner monsters.
“Schnee, how are hidden quests treated in this world?”
“To the extent of my knowledge, I have never heard of any quests activating. Also, after Shin disappeared, I have never again heard the voice from the sky. I haven’t heard anyone mention anything even remotely similar to it.”
The ‘voice from the sky’ that Schnee was talking about was most likely the system announcements.
There were quite a lot of hidden quests in THE NEW GATE that activated when certain conditions were met. Unlike the quests that could be picked up at the Guild, when the activation conditions were cleared, there would be an announcement informing the player of the details of the quest that had just been activated.
Originally, this was what Shin thought had happened, but there had been no announcement, so he hadn’t even noticed Yuzuha’s new level. In the first place, according to what Schnee said, the probability that the system was still around was extremely low.
“At any rate, is the fact that there are more tails now because of the higher level?”
Shin just threw that question out there while looking at Yuzuha.
There had been no young Elemental Tails back in the game, so he was completely clueless in regards to how they grow.
Unexpectedly, all this could be happening as a natural part of growing, instead of some quest or something else.
“Kuu~ ...... Good morning, Master.”
Having failed to pick up on Shin’s mental state, Yuzuha yawned widely and gave his greetings like it was the most natural thing in the world.
“Wait a minute, Yuzuha. You’re able to speak now?”
“Kuu? I think when the black thing went away, my head cleared up.”
When Shin heard ‘black,’ the first thing that came to mind was the core of the Skull Face Lord that he had split in half just now. When he thought back, he remembered that he had met Yuzuha amid a sea of Skull Faces too. It somehow did not feel strange to think of the Lord as the head of those Skull Faces too.
“The black and round thing inside the bones. The thing that Master cut apart.”
“That sounds like the core of the Skull Face Lord to me.”
Apparently, Shin’s guess had been on the dot. Shin’s gamer instincts were telling him that there was some connection between Yuzuha and the Lord after all.
Either Yuzuha had absorbed some of the Lord’s power, or some seal on Yuzuha had been released. Unfortunately, with the Lord dead and gone, there was no way to confirm which it was.
“For now, you’re forbidden from speaking in front of other people. Normal demon foxes can’t speak, after all.”
“If it’s just us, then it’s fine. This applies only when there are other people around.”
“Nn, can I still speak inside my head?”
“Oh, telepathy? That’s totally fine.”
Even if speaking out loud was NG, they still had telepathy, so it wasn’t like they had to maintain complete radio silence. Yuzuha seemed to have instinctively understood that it was the more important of the two, so Shin nodded immediately.
“But Shin, with three tails, there’s no way it could pass off as a Little Fox.”
“Can we do something about that? There are some sub-species of demon foxes that have more than one tail, right?”
In actuality, there were many different kinds of demon foxes, and indeed there were those with multiple tails. Rather, it could be said that those with a single tail are in the minority. The problem lay elsewhere. All of those demon foxes with multiple tails had a higher level that normal people might consider dangerous.
Some examples of demon foxes with three tails included Flame Tails and Tail Leaders, but even the weakest of those were above level 250. In this world, it would be hard to bring such monsters around freely.
“Perhaps we could try it pass it off as ‘it is only a kid’?”
“But it would eventually become full-grown. Let’s see ............ Hey, Yuzuha. Do you know how to shapeshift, by any chance?”
“Kuu? Some forms I can take, and some forms I can’t.”
“Can you make it so you only have one tail?”
So saying, the three tails turned into one tail with a ‘pon.’
It wasn’t an illusion passing off three tails as one; there really was only one tail now. It also didn’t feel strange.
“Is this good?”
“It’s perfect. Is it tiring?”
“In that case, can you make it so that you only have one tail whenever we are in a place where other people can see? It would be really helpful if you could.”
Yuzuha easily agreed. It did not seem at all opposed to the subterfuge.
“...... That somehow got resolved quite quickly.”
“Yes it did. With this, the secret would no longer be easily exposed.”
Schnee also gave her seal of approval.
For a split second, it felt to Shin like the matter was fully resolved only after Schnee’s endorsement.
“Ou, very great, very great.”
Clasping Yuzuha to his chest, he stroked its head for a job well done. Yuzuha basked in the praise.
“............ so cute.”
“Ah! Nothing, that was nothing.”
“...... Do you want to pet it?”
Though she was strong, Schnee was still a girl. She apparently really loves cute things.
Yuzuha also looked like it was really enjoying being in her hands.
“All things considered, Shin, you still continue to surprise me, like you always have.”
“No one has ever successfully Tamed an Elemental Tail before.”
Stopping her hand, Schnee spoke with a tinge of wry resignedness in her voice. In the first place, back in the game the settings did not allow any players to tame Elemental Tails. Schnee’s surprise was understandable. The reason why there was resignedness mixed in was because she knew all the crazy things that he had done during the game era.
“Though you say that, you don’t sound very surprised, though.”
“Well, I was surprised for a bit, but then I felt like if anyone could do it, it would be you. And it’s not the high level version that we fought against in the past anyways.”
“True that. That one was so strong that even Rokuten didn’t have the leisure of going easy on it.”
Shin remembered that fight. Employing magic of all elements and dealing powerful physical attacks with its fangs and claws while moving with an agility that belied its huge body, it was a monster that even players with maxed out stats could not let down their guard against. That was the true form of an Elemental Tail.
The menace of a fully-grown Elemental Tail could not be seen at all from the Yuzuha that was curled up in Shin’s arms.
“Well then, I think it might be about time for us to start running in earnest. Actually, I have some companions who’ve gone on ahead. They might be raising a fuss.”
“If that is the case, then let’s hurry. Looking at the time, we might be able to catch up to them yet.”
Considering Shin and Schnee’s movement speed and the fact that Wilhelm was on foot and not riding a horse, they could easily catch up. However, Wilhelm’s physical capabilities had been boosted by the buff that Shin had cast on him earlier. The situation being what it is, Wilhelm and Rashia would probably have gotten quite far away by now. If they manage to reach the Kingdom and tell people about what happened on the Plains, things would get quite troublesome for Shin in several different ways.
“Let’s go at full speed. I really don’t want to draw anymore of the Guild’s attention.”
“If you had told me this earlier, I would have been fine with waiting to do the explanations later, you know.”
“This and that are two separate matters.”
Seeing her make the face that she did, there was no way that he could have asked to do it later. But he couldn’t just say that, of course.
“Alright, off we go!”
After making sure that Yuzuha was comfortably settled on his head, he took off with Schnee by his side.
It didn’t take long for the two of them to catch up with Wilhelm and Rashia.
Soon after the sun’s face peeked out from beyond the horizon, scattering the last few wisps of morning fog in their way, the two figures ran abreast of each other.
Shin and Schnee had been running together for about half a day. That was all the time they needed to come into Wilhelm’s detection range.
“Now that you’re here, I’m going to make you spit out everything.”
“Why do you sound so belligerent even though we just got here?!”
Wilhelm had been keeping a sharp eye on the surrounding area while protecting Rashia, who was currently napping. When Shin and Schnee arrived, even though they had joined up safely, Wilhelm flared up at Shin in a threatening tone almost immediately.
Rashia was fast asleep, probably due to fatigue.
“Well, pretty much Schnee just showed up and took down the Skull Face Lord by herself.”
The response to Shin’s words was an attack with a demon spear. The sound of the attack was not very sharp, but there was still a significant amount of strength behind it.
“Dude! That’s dangerous!!”
“After letting off that crazy amount of magical power, the hell you pretending like it’s all someone else’s achievement. You probably rampaged all over the place, didn’t you?”
“How did you know?!”
“Of course I do!! More like, are you trying to insinuate something by catching up so quickly after sending us off with a freaking flashy move like that? You were pulling your punches? You could afford to pull your punches against something like that, ah? Gimme back the years I lost from desperation, damn you!”
“Wait, wait, wait, calm down! It’s my bad for making a joke like that but isn’t using Venom going a bit too far?!”
Though Wilhelm was attacking Shin, he was not fully serious, of course. It was more like a rougher sort of playing around.
Wilhelm was an A rank adventurer. He fully understood how dangerous the thing that they had met was.
———— If he fought, he would die.
Even putting aside the fact that Rashia had been there, that was what Wilhelm had felt with every fiber of his being. All the tough spots and dangers that he had been in could not hold a candle to the presence of death in that place. The army of undead had given him the impression that they were ready to march to war against entire countries.
In spite of all that. He had been running so desperately to reach the Kingdom and ask for reinforcements, and had decided to take a short break to keep his strength up. When he did so, the person who had supposedly stayed behind to fight actually caught up with himself. He was more than a little concerned with what had happened to the army that had made him so apprehensive.
The sudden sense of exhaustion that followed his desperation and the relieve that he felt upon hearing that the entire incident was resolved mixed together uncomfortably in his chest. Therefore, he was using Shin to vent off some of the irritation and vexation that he was feeling against the unfairness of the world, thinking that there probably wouldn’t be any divine retribution even if he managed to dump off some of these negative feelings onto Shin.
Needless to say, not a single one of the attacks landed on Shin.
“Did you just blatantly click your tongue at me?! It was just a joke, man!”
“A ‘joke’ my ass. You totally had a “I didn’t do anything” look on your face. Stop screwing around and give me a proper explanation.”
Shin had apparently gone a little too far with the messing around.
The loose atmosphere from before dissipated as Wilhelm glared at the two of them.
“Shin, it’s about time to get to the main topic.”
After watching the exchange between Shin and Wilhelm, Schnee stepped forward.
“Oh, it’s you. So, he’s the one?”
“Long time no see. It appears that you have fully grasped the situation already. Do you still want further explanation?”
Wilhelm’s words seemed to have some deeper meaning behind them. Clearly, some sort of meaningful exchange had just taken place.
“Guys, can you put things in a way that I can understand?”
Shin had no clue why Wilhelm had been so easily appeased.
“Don’t you know? The name ‘Schnee Raizar’ is famous for being someone who never yields, never gets won over, and never kneels, be it to kings or the Pope.”
What firmness of character.
“Isn’t that just a disrespectful person?”
“I will never kneel to anyone other than Master.”
He had only knowledge from light novels to go on, but Shin felt that it might not be a great idea to take such an attitude with royalty. However, for Schnee, it was a policy that she would never concede on.
“Well, in the first place, there isn’t anyone who values their life so little as to pick a fight with her.”
“So that’s the reason why she gets away with it, huh.”
Even if someone wanted to punish Schnee, no one could touch her if she got serious.
Of course, that was just the more trivial reason. Both her way of speaking and her attitude is respectful, she lends her strength whenever strong monsters appear, and she maintains a neutral stance by not being affiliated with any faction or organizations — these are the real reasons why no one wants to fight her. More like, anyone who wished her harm would get showered with blows from all sides with a “What do you think you’re doing!!”.
A powerful entity who would lend her strength in times of trouble. The list of achievements that she had built up over 500 years was not merely for show.
As a natural consequence of being who she was, many people had approached her in secret to try to convince her to join their camp, but no one has ever succeeded.
“I can completely understand why they would want to win her over as an ally.”
“Anyways, for someone like that to be obediently following you, well ......”
“Ahh, so from that ......”
So he had already been seen through. He didn’t know how familiar Schnee and Wilhelm were with each other, but when put like that, he understood that anyone could have come to that conclusion.
“So you’re a high human?”
“And also my Master.”
“For all it’s worth, yea.”
“Don’t you ‘for all it’s worth’ me. But if it’s like that, then I finally understand. That amount of magical power was seriously no joke.”
“Sorry, that was still me holding back.”
“...... The master of Schnee Raizar, huh. I see, you are much more than I had expected from the stories ...... Oi, then the fox sitting on a high human’s head is most likely not a normal fox either, is it?”
While shrugging his shoulders with a “gimme a break” kind of feeling, Wilhelm’s eyes fell on Yuzuha. Mixed inside his tone was a sense of resignation that had gone beyond surprise. The reason why there was no fear in his voice was most likely because he had gotten to know Shin without being influenced by any preconceptions.
“Yea, it’s not a Little Fox. Its level just broke 400 after that last battle.”
“...... I don’t even feel surprised anymore.”
Wilhelm looked intently at Yuzuha with a sigh. It wasn’t that he was not surprised at this little creature being more than level 400, but it’s just that what he had learned a while ago had been that much more shocking.
“So this is why your answer was so vague when I asked whether you were a Chosen One.”
“Yea. In my case, I am much stronger than Chosen Ones, but I didn’t start out this strong. There are very few people like me in this world, right? That’s why I decided to just pass myself off as a Chosen One.”
“I see, I see. But well, if you two are going to move together all the time, then it’s only a matter of time before other people find out.”
What Wilhelm was saying had merit. Schnee and Tsuki no Hokora were famous. If a man was to sudden appear by her side in a seemingly close relationship, those with good ears would start digging around.
“I was hoping to deal with it somehow with magical skills. Time can be bought by making good use of illusion magic.”
“I have a feeling that the illusion magic you are thinking of is not exactly the one that I have in mind. I’m not going to be surprised even if you transform into a monster.”
“What do you think I am ......”
“You’re pretty much a walking cataclysm. Don’t be strolling around the place, Mr. “Oh I Can Raze a Country to the Ground When I Wake Up On the Wrong Side of the Bed.” I wouldn’t be able to rest easy if I was a lord.”
Only when Shin retorted with “I won’t rampage around for no reason” did Wilhelm lower himself to the ground. It was not exactly comfortable to both talk while standing up and fix Rashia’s bedding every once in a while as it slips off, so Shin and Schnee urged him to sit down.
Rashia was sleeping so soundly that she did not appear affected at all by all the ruckus happening around her. Wilhelm had calmed her down by pointing out that he himself, a high rank adventurer, was around. And on the topic of Shin, he had pointed out that someone who could use so much magical power wouldn’t go down easily. As she had witnessed firsthand Shin using skills, those words were enough to alleviate her worries. Though she had combat experience, she still couldn’t tell the difference between power levels, so she didn’t actually fully understand the situation.
“Speaking of, are there any records about us left behind?”
The last time he was at the library, he didn’t finish looking everything up, so all he knew was only what Tiera had told him. He was willing to admit that there was most likely a part of himself that had unconsciously steered away from that topic. No one would enjoy looking up their own dark history on their own accord.
“To some degree, yea. Well, all I know is that you guys were strong as heck and that each one of you had an ridiculously high proficiency in a different profession. Some people in those professions still treat you guys like gods.”
“There are still anecdotes and legends of the others being passed down.”
“Uweh, that sounds like another annoying thing I have to deal with. But then again, we did start off as a crafting guild, so we would never let anyone surpass us in our respective fields.”
“Hah? Didn’t you guys get bored of being the strongest and then start making things to kill time? That sounds more reasonable.”
“Wilhelm, I haven’t been training my Cooking skill only to kill time!”
So it turns out that indeed some discrepancies had risen from the stories. Though it was true that all members of Rokuten had ridiculously high stats, the main reason why they had gotten together was because of crafting.
“That’s wrong. See, even when the levels are the same, humans are the weaker race. In my case, I got into Blacksmithing as a way to make up for that. It was unbelievably hard work to raise my level and my Blacksmithing together at the same time.”
“Most of the time you spent as a beginner was just running away, wasn’t it?”
Shin nodded. At the beginning, he had been so weak that the present him could not even imagine it anymore.
The difficulty of purposely raising one’s combat level and crafting level at the same pace was something that people without experience in playing online games could not understand. Due to the game system and the level of difficulty being what they were, each profession required a ton of work to master.
“No normal person could do that.”
“Those who could were called high players.”
“Well, you could also just call them game addicts.”
“High p- ...... What?”
“Anyways, I kept on making weapons to make it easier to level up. I then equipped those weapons, went out, and defeated strong enemies to level up. I then took the materials dropped by those guys to make even stronger weapons. Then stronger enemies, and so on went the cycle.”
The person who had just casually used a word that only players would know was Schnee.
As question marks floated above Wilhelm’s head from hearing a word not of this world, Shin matter-of-factly described something that residents of this world could not do.
In the first place, this world was not so lenient as to allow someone to make higher tier weapons as easily as Shin made it sound. Taking Blacksmithing as an example, crafting skills were slightly easier to level up than attack skills, but THE NEW GATE was not indulgent enough to let any half-hearted player cap anything.
Therefore, players made a distinction between combat-oriented guilds and crafting-oriented guilds. Most people who tried to be a part of both at the same time either gave up almost immediately or somewhere in the middle. Almost nobody stuck with it to the end.
On the system side, most combat-oriented players could only make low level recovery items like Potion X, while a lot of crafting-oriented players had a little bit of experience with fighting. However, most of it was on the level of “better than nothing.”
Rokuten’s fame was indeed partly due to the member’s fighting power, but also partly due to their crafting prowess.
“I give up. You are what normal people would call an idiot.”
“How rude of you.”
“Do you know about absurd it sounds? No sane person would even think of doing what you did.”
“Probably the only ones who could consider it are the long-lived races likes elves and pixies. Not that they would, though.”
Just as Schnee said, only long-lived races like the elves and pixies could consider it in earnest, but neither of those races had any affinity towards Blacksmithing.
To residents on this world, the very idea was madness. The only reason why Shin had been able to accomplish it was because it had been a game. Using items to boost xp gain and reading Books of Secrets to learn skills, it was his single-minded pursuit of strength that made Shin into what he was today.
With that said, he had truly poured an enormous amount of time into the game. It was impossible for someone who lives and breathes in this world to imitate what he had done.
“Well, it’s not like we didn’t know we were abnormal. Every member of Rokuten was remarkable. If it wasn’t for my Blacksmithing, I couldn’t even compare to them. Kain could build an entire castle in a day, Cook would prepare and cook dragons, Cashmere would be making monster farms left and right if you took your eyes off her, and Hecate would mass produce Elixirs and Philosopher’s Stones like they were low level potions. Leid’s dolls could even fight toe to toe with holy beasts.”
“Shin also forged many holy swords and demon swords, didn’t you? And if you didn’t like it, you would melt down even Ancient grade swords and reforge them. Filma shrieked when she saw you do that.”
Schnee grinned wryly as she reminisced about the past. Indeed, Shin had frequently melted down and reforged weapons that he wasn’t satisfied with, even if they were Ancient grade or Mythology grade.
Incidentally, Filma was number 2 among Shin’s support characters, and she was a greatsword user. Shin finally understood why she had been so despondent for a while.
“Each and every one of you sounds like a freaking monster. More like, your specialty was Blacksmithing, huh.”
“Ou. By the way, do you want me to upgrade Venom a little?”
Wilhelm immediately shut down the Shin who was grinning sleazily and laughing like a suspicious merchant. He had no doubts that Shin would indeed make Venom better, but the strange way that Shin was speaking gave him pause. To be blunt, he was sure beyond a doubt that there was no way Shin would stop at a normal upgrade.
“When you feel that it’s not enough for you anymore, just give me the word. Since it’s you, I’ll strengthen it for you at a really low price.”
“Why do you have the look of an unscrupulous merchant, huh?!”
“Oh don’t worry about it, it’s just my Blacksmithing blood coming awake, you see?”
“............ Okay, okay, I concede that your main profession is definitely a craftsman. Come to think of it, you’re making the exact same face those gambling old timers make.”
People of the same occupation tend to speak and do things the same way in every world. The faces of the dwarven craftsmen that he had shown Venom to came into Wilhelm’s mind.
What he had seen blazing fiercely in those eyes was a mixture of the innocence of a child who has found a new toy and the fighting spirit of a warrior who has found a worthy adversary. When he took another look at Shin, he realized that Shin had the same eyes too.
“Anyways, don’t you dare start showing off your techniques at the smithy. Since it’s you, you’d probably be using mystery somethings or long-lost secret arts to make your weapons.”
“I’m not going to do anything flashy like that! I was just thinking that it has been a while since I’ve held a hammer in Tsuki no Hokora!”
“If I let you do it, I have no idea what’s gonna happen. The craftsmen that helped me were telling stories about Rokuten’s blacksmith making longswords that could exchange blows with Legend grade weapons.”
Originally, the performance ability between Normal grade and Legend grade weapons was so great that even if you bunched up a lot of Normal grade ones together, a single blow from a Legend grade would shatter them all. Of course, Wilhelm was not gullible enough to believe those stories.
“Oh come on, that’s a bit ...... wait a second. Wasn’t there that experiment where we tried to find out how far we could enhance a Normal grade weapon?”
“Oi ...... that’s a joke, right?”
When Wilhelm was about to say that it really was impossible after all, Shin closed his eyes like he was trying to remember something. If the story just now was truth, it would shatter the common sense of Blacksmithing. That’s why Wilhelm had been so sure that it was just exaggeration. But the sight of Shin wracking his brains started to erode his confidence.
“Are you perhaps referring to the experiment suggested by Leid-sama and Hecate-sama?”
“Oh right! So that no one could ever complain again about low quality materials, we took a random piece of iron and slapped every enchantment we could onto it. Then we used the best facilities that we could find to forge it into a longsword. Well, after that we accidentally placed it onto the shelf in the store and someone bought it. He was so shocked that he came back and asked us about it afterwards.”
“...... What the hell.”
Incidentally, the person who had bought the sword had intended it as a gift to another beginner player. Later, he discovered the other guy one-shotting monsters that were supposed to be out of his league. The one who received the present just thought that the monsters were weak. The player who had bought the present did not check the stats when he bought it, thinking that it was a normal longsword.
“That time, everyone was so shocked at what we had managed to do. But then again, it really was just made of iron, so its durability was really low. We made several of them and tested them against actual Legend grade longswords, and they only lasted 10 or 20 blows.”
“Please listen to your own words and realize how crazy you sound.”
Realizing that Shin was a prime example of someone who does not understand common sense, Wilhelm pressed a hand to his head. Blacksmithing was not so lenient that the grade of the weapons could be decided solely by the blacksmith’s skill. But so what. Even though it was common sense for a Normal grade sword to shatter immediately when exchanging blows with a Legend grade sword, Shin had made several ones that could last around 20 blows. Thinking of the chaos that would happen if swords like that were to start circulating around in the market, Wilhelm could not help but let out a huge sigh.
“Okay, okay, I get it, I fully get it now. I have no more doubts about you being a high human. What I know to be common sense is now lying at my feet in shreds, all thanks to you.”
“He’s my Master, after all. He can’t be bound by today’s common sense.”
“It wasn’t a compliment!”
Wilhelm retorted at the Schnee who was looking really proud for some reason and the Yuzuha who was nodding approvingly. He was likely still a bit shaken, as he failed to notice that Yuzuha was responding like as if it could actually understand the conversation going on.
As for Schnee, she was looking so proud because of how widespread this legend about Shin was.
“Nn ...... Nnnn?”
Just as Wilhelm was thinking “Oh man, these guys are hopeless” and letting out another sigh, Rashia, who had been sleeping at his side, woke up. They had apparently been making a little too much noise. It must have been hard to continue sleeping.
“Eh ...... Shin ... -san?”
“Ah, good morn- ...... Wait, no, why are you here?!”
She was still half-asleep, but when she saw who was sitting in front of her, she unconsciously shouted in surprise. He was supposed to have stayed behind after helping them escape that crowd of monsters, but her eyes were telling her that he was here. And Yuzuha was still riding on his head as usual.
“Things somehow worked out.”
“Eh ...... ?”
Rashia looked towards Wilhelm for help, as if she was asking “What is he saying?”. Her eyes were filled with disbelief.
Wilhelm caught the glance and returned it.
“He said that someone who just happened to pass by helped him out.”
Wilhelm’s gaze shifted to Shin and Schnee as he explained. His eyes were saying “We can’t tell her.”
With a barely perceptible nod, Shin also agreed to keep the fact that he was a high human concealed from Rashia. Different from Wilhelm and some royals who were acquainted with Schnee, Rashia was not familiar enough with her to deduce Shin’s identity through Schnee’s attitude. It wasn’t really a problem for Shin if she found out, but she might come into danger for possessing valuable information. There was no guarantee that a possible information leak in the future would not drag her into trouble.
Therefore, the three of them decided to pass it off as Schnee just passing by.
As for Wilhelm, Schnee was the one who had given him his letter of introduction, so she already knew that she could trust him.
“Nice to meet you. My name is Schnee Raizar. I have the honor of serving as the Acting Manager of Tsuki no Hokora.”
“Thank you for the courteous introduction. My name is Rashia Luzel. I ............ Excuse me, what did you just say?”
Rashia asked Schnee to repeat herself, looking like she had heard something unbelievable.
Of course, it wasn’t that she had misheard. It was simply that she could not believe what she had heard.
“She said she’s Schnee Raizar. You know of her too, right? She’s that one.”
“............ That one?”
“Yea, that one.”
“Why does it sound like you two are making fun of me?”
Being called “that one” so many times in a row made her sound like some weird person, for some inexplicable reason. In this case, it was being used with a positive connotation, though.
“Don’t worry about the details. Oi, don’t just freeze up, Rashia. Get your act together.”
“U-Um, I’m Rashia! It’s an honor to meetuh ............ owww.”
“Nice to meet you. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”
Schnee continued on as if Rashia had not bit herself at all. So mature.
“Thanks to Schnee’s help, we managed to kill all of the monsters. Everything’s fine now.”
“You two defeated all of those monsters?! As-As expected of the『Saint』-sama.”
Shin had been ready to begin extolling on Schnee’s strength and achievements, but question marks suddenly appeared above his head at the term that he had never heard before.
“Ah, I’m so sorry! Even though Schnee-sama has not accepted it, I unintentionally ......”
“Not accepted it?”
“Before, I got a notice from the headquarters of the Church expressing their intention of acknowledging me by granting me sainthood. I turned it down, though.”
“Was it bad to accept it?”
“Yes. As someone who had the honor of serving high humans, I have no intention of affiliating myself with any powers that be. However, accepting the position of sainthood would naturally cause everyone else to think that I’ve allied myself with the Church. This was something that had happened more than a hundred years ago, though. So they haven’t given up on it yet, have they?”
She sighed in a long-suffering manner at the unexpected revelation.
Even though the Church wanted to acknowledge her as a Saint, if she herself refused to accept the position, then the Church can’t make claims on their own accord about her joining their camp.
As he was currently involved with a dispute inside the Church, Shin worried that Schnee’s help could be interpreted as her affiliating herself with the Church. Religious organizations were troublesome everywhere and throughout all ages.
“You can just call me ‘Schnee,’ I’m fine with it.”
“How-How could I? The honor is too great for me.”
“You’re way too freaking tense.”
“And you should take this more seriously!”
Though a bit exaggerated, Shin actually thought Rashia’s reaction to meeting Schnee the more normal one.
Shin himself had a long relationship with Schnee, and Wilhelm was a person who is rarely reserved. That’s why the two of them were able to talk freely and not freeze up. However, any normal person would be nervous in this situation. Tiera had said that even children in this world knew Schnee’s name, so he can imagine how famous she must be.
When meeting such a famous person, the usual reaction is what Rashia is doing.
“Come on, stop fidgeting around suspiciously and get ready to leave. Whatever the reason, we’ve shortened our traveling time, but that’s no reason to start taking things easy.”
Shin and Schnee didn’t get much rest from this break, but Wilhelm now fully understood that they didn’t even need the rest anyways.
“Good idea, let’s get going.”
So saying, Shin and Schnee also stood up. As Wilhelm had said, their trip back had been shortened after great trouble. There was the orphanage to return to, so they shouldn’t go out of their way to take things slowly.
As everyone began their own preparations, Rashia turned around in a fluster and began to pack away her bedding. To be fully honest, Rashia still didn’t understand exactly what had happened, but she was satisfied just knowing that Schnee had taken care of everything. It wasn’t that she had forgotten the fear that she had felt when surrounded by rows and rows of enemies. Rather, it was that she believed in Schnee that much.
“This has turned into something much bigger than I had expected.”
Seeing the look of trust that Rashia was directing towards Schnee, Shin muttered to himself. It was not hard to imagine what a fuss it would cause when he began traveling together with Schnee. Just going out to buy something could turn into a commotion.
With a sigh, he decided to make an elaborate and thorough disguise.
Volume 2 Chapter 3 Part 3
Volume 2 Chapter 3 Part 3
You can grab the PDF here.
Shin and Schnee ran briskly, consciously maintaining a pace that Wilhelm could keep up with even while carrying Rashia. Though she had leveled up so much, it was determined that running as fast as the other three would still cause too great a burden on her.
With that said, their current speed was incomparable to that of horses. Despite taking breaks on the way, the four of them (and the one animal) had already gotten close enough to see the kingdom by sundown.
It would be problematic to catch unnecessary attention, so they slowed to a walk when they were still too far away to be seen by other people.
“Uu, I feel sick ......”
“Come on, I’ll piggyback you, so just endure it.”
Unused to high-speed travel while being carried by someone else, Rashia’s face was pale, looking almost like she was carsick. It would be too much to ask to have her walk in such a state, so Wilhelm decided to carry her on his back.
“Are you alright?”
“So sorry ugh, for causing you worry ......”
“We have a seriously wounded patient here!”
There were no potions that were effective against carsickness, so the group simply continued as they were.
To remain discreet, Schnee had already used a magical skill to change her appearance. Her blue eyes were now red, and her silver hair was now blond and tied in a ponytail. Naturally, other skills had also been applied, all to lower the possibility of people catching on.
Shin had been quite liberal with his skills, so she would not be easily seen through, short of anything major. In the first place, a girl’s appearance changes drastically with a different hairstyle. Having changed even the color of her eyes and hair, even people familiar with Schnee would not be able to recognize her quickly.
“For confirmation’s sake, we are splitting up in front of the gates, is that correct?”
“That sounds good. The request was just for acquiring the skill, anyways. Therefore, there’s no need to even see us all the way back to the church. Even if there’s something happening at the church, that’ll be our own problem to deal with.”
“Just as always, you’re surprisingly conscientious, despite your usual rough way of speaking.”
“Leave me damn alone.”
Exchanging light banter, the party drew towards the gate. Despite what Wilhelm was saying, Shin had already reached his detection skills towards the orphanage, and had confirmed that everyone had gathered there. Of course, there was no indication of any unwanted guests. It was unlikely that anything untoward would occur within the short amount of time that they were on the streets.
“In that case, then this is as far as we’ll go. Just in case, take this. If anything happens, contact me.”
So saying, Shin held out a message card and writing paper.
However, seeing that, Wilhelm did not immediately reach out to take it.
“It’s an item to send a message, huh. If things ever come to a place where I’d use it, I would not choose my methods. When that happens, you’ll most likely be pulled into unnecessary trouble, you know.”
If Shin was truly offering it, he would have to be prepared to be involved in troubles that he otherwise would not have to be involved in. This action would only bring him inconvenience. Though it was left unsaid, Wilhelm’s gaze was telling Shin to mind his own business.
Even though they were both Chosen Ones, and they were both people recognized by Tsuki no Hokora, just having taken one request together was not enough to give Wilhelm the right to draw Shin into his own troubles. Shin may have already drawn a few eyes by helping with this purification request, so if he was to be drawn into an incident serious enough to warrant using the message card, a few eyes would not be the extent of what he would have to deal with. Wilhelm’s words were alluding to all this.
Because Wilhelm knew Shin’s abilities, soliciting Shin’s help might help to clean up the incident quicker, and with fewer casualties. Despite this, Wilhelm chose to ask Shin for confirmation instead.
Rashia also understood, so she stayed silent on Wilhelm’s back.
With their measly strength, they were going against someone who held authority and money and power. Nobody could fault them for accepting any help that was offered.
Schnee Raizar and her Master. It would not be unseemly to rely on these two, whose names held authority and power without compare in this world. However, the two people before Shin did not do so. Their problem was theirs alone.
They had posted the【Purification】request. And that request has been fulfilled. Therefore, they will take care of everything afterwards. That conviction now stood as a wall separating Shin and Wilhelm.
“Just take it.”
Shin thrust the message card towards Wilhelm. It was as if he was purposely ignoring the existence of the wall between them.
“We’ve come all this way. Abandoning you guys at this point in time would only leave me with an uneasy conscience.”
Cutting off Wilhelm, who was still trying to say something, Shin pressed on.
“The first friend that I made after coming here, and the kids that he’s trying to protect. I can’t very well leave such people, can I. That’s why, if something happens, involve me. I’ll lend you my strength.”
“You ...... What are you saying ......”
“Contact me without reserve. Seriously man, just take this! You’ve gone and made me say really embarrassing things!!”
Saying lines that he had never spoken in his original world made him really embarrassed. Whenever he thought back again on this moment, he would invariably roll around the floor with mortification. “Have I always been such a passionate person?,” he wondered.
However, regret, he did not.
Even though this world was a different one from his own, there was no way that this choice was wrong. Shin was pressing the item on Wilhelm because he believed so. The entire time, he felt like the promise that he had made long ago was now softly pushing his back.
“I won’t hold back, you know.”
“Just the way I want it.”
Grinning broadly, Wilhelm finally accepted the message card.
“You’re the same as ever, Shin.”
“Is that so?”
Schnee commented as the two of them saw off Wilhelm and Rashia to the gate. Her words invoked memories of similar occurrences in the past.
Though Shin’s reaction seemed to say that he had no idea what she was talking about, she remembered vividly the numerous strangers that Shin had helped.
There had been that girl who had been crying her eyes out, that boy who had been in a daze, that elder who had been about to sacrifice himself, and that young man who had been so desperately moving forward. Schnee saw these people in her mind almost as if they were still before her eyes.
———— It is impossible for me to save everyone and everything. I do not know how far I can go.
He always said that.
He was not so arrogant as to believe that he was omnipotent, but every time, he still held out his hand to whoever needed it.
“What’s wrong, Schnee? Gonna leave you behind, you know?”
“I’m sorry, I was just thinking about something. I’m coming now.”
Watching Shin’s back, Schnee resumed walking. After catching up, she naturally fell into pace beside him.
Shin shot sidelong glances at Schnee and tilted his head quizzically, but the two of them continued making their way towards Tsuki no Hokora without exchanging anymore words.
The face that Shin saw at the edge of his vision was a kind, gentle smile.
Walking for a while after separating from Wilhelm and Rashia, Shin and Schnee finally found themselves in front of a familiar sight. Needless to say, it was Tsuki no Hokora.
The plaque hung on the door said『Owner Currently Out』, which meant that the shop was closed. The door was locked, but Shin was the Owner, and Schnee was the Acting Manager. Therefore, when Shin laid his hands on the door, the lock turned by itself.
The interior of the shop was the same as the last time that he had been here. A faint smell of food hung in the air.
“Oh no, my stomach is rumbling.”
“It’s just the right time, let’s have dinner, shall we?”
Shin pressed his hand to his stomach, prompting Yuzuha to also speak up. Reading the atmosphere, it had remained quiet the entire time when they had been with Rashia, and must have been really bored. Now, it was being held in Shin’s arms.
Nodding to Schnee’s proposal, they turned towards the door behind the counter that led to the main house. As they did so, however, they heard a flurry of steps drawing closer from the other side.
Naturally, it was Tiera. She had most likely heard the bell that reacts to someone entering the shop.
She had apparently been in the middle of cooking, so she showed up in the slightly alarming state of panting while holding a knife in her hand.
“Calm down. You’re too flustered.”
“S-Sorry. But you see, like I wrote on the message card, someone who claimed to know Shishou came, and he left something amazing before he took off again!!”
The person himself was standing in front of the door, but she was too agitated to notice.
“Would that be this person here?”
“Ah! In-Indeed it is, but ...... Eh? Wait a second, why is Shishou and Shin together?”
When Schnee turned sideways and drew herself back, Tiera finally noticed Shin. However, now she was confused as to why either of them were here.
The Master that was supposed to have been busy eradicating monsters, and the Shin that was supposed to have been heading towards the Wraith Plains. Tiera could not imagine why both of them were now here in the shop. Going by this world’s common sense, her Master side, at least Shin was still supposed to be in the Wraith Plains.
“A bunch of things happened. Can we get into the details over dinner?”
“Quite a lot was packed into yesterday, so the telling is going to take a lot of time.”
“I ...... see. Eh, Shin is going to eat together with us too?”
When Shin took charge naturally, Tiera became even more confused, as she didn’t know what was going on.
“Eh? It’s ...... natural?”
“...... Come to think of it, I haven’t told Tiera yet, have I. You have already met him, but this is Shin, Tsuki no Hokora’s ‘Owner.’”
Schnee smoothly dropped the bomb.
“Own,er? ...... I see, ‘Owner,’ so ...... Owneerrrr?!”
It took a while for the letters ‘Owner’ to translate into the word『Owner』inside Tiera’s mind.
When she finally understood what Schnee was saying, her response was the most cliché one in the book for expressing surprise. Her eyes became round, her mouth became fixed in the shape of the letter ‘o,’ and she almost dropped the knife that was in her hand. What an easy to read reaction.
“Aren’t you a bit too surprised?”
“Well, the general knowledge is that your race no longer exists anymore, so we can’t fault her for being surprised.”
“How can I not be surprised?! By ‘Manager,’ you mean, you mean ...... The legendary ......?!”
“Eh? Wait, what? People call me the ‘Legendary Owner’?”
“That’s not it!! I meant, you being a high human!!”
“I remember telling you so when we first met, though.”
“No one would just take that at face value ......”
Shin was playing the boke while Schnee remained calm. Being all flustered by herself, the flow of the conversation seemed to be framing Tiera as the crazy one, but she insisted that she was the normal one, and that her reaction was still among the milder ones.
Just as Tiera had said, in most cases, no one would take seriously someone who claimed to be a high human. However, Schnee Raizar, the most informed witness in this matter, was currently present. It was unthinkable for her to mistake someone that she had personally served before, so her testimony was the best evidence to confirm that Shin was indeed a real high human.
“(Oh no, what am I supposed to do? I seem to remember talking to him in a really superior way because I didn’t know who he was!?)”
Tiera vividly recalled their first meeting.
Remembering that at that time, she had been looking at him like he was a country buffoon, Tiera’s face grew pale. Now that she thought about it, Shin had been too ignorant about this world’s common sense, even for someone coming from the countryside. Additionally, there was a strange magical aura around him, and he had so easily given her something as rare and valuable as a Geyl gold coin. Including how he took out an Ancient grade weapon so casually, there were really so many pointers that she should have caught.
Because it was so widely accepted that high humans = legendary and extinct, Tiera’s mind never succeeded in drawing the connection that Shin = high human. The person himself also did not strongly insist on the matter, and eventually the conversation had moved onto something else.
“I-I didn’t know you were the Owner! I’m terribly sorry for my extremely rude behavior from before!!”
A complete about face fueled by fright. Tiera lowered her head with great vigor.
Now it was Shin’s turn to be surprised.
For some reason, Yuzuha reached out with a paw and patted Tiera’s lowered head with a ‘pon.’ Shin immediately stopped it.
(This is ...... ‘that,’ isn’t it. That state of mind when you’ve been talking to a stranger in casual speech and then suddenly learn that he’s your boss. When it happened to me, it had been a prank, but it still gave me such a fright.)
Shin, who had experience getting along really well with someone from a part-time job only to learn that it had been the store manager, could understand what Tiera was currently feeling. There might be some disparity in the status gap of the two situations, but they were the same in that a personage who was supposed to have been addressed with honorific speech had instead been addressed without the respect they were due. The more diligent and serious someone was, the more flustered and confused they would be in such a situation.
Seeing Tiera’s condition, Shin could not help but to empathize.
“Don’t worry about it. I know how you feel.”
“Eh? Ah, yes sir.”
Shin placed his hand on Tiera’s shoulder while nodding ‘un, un.’
Of course, Tiera had no idea what was going on in Shin’s head, so when Shin looked at her with a “I totally understand you” expression, it only confused her even further.
“Anyways, there’s really no need to worry about it. Rather, I would find it troublesome if you suddenly get all formal with me after all this time.”
“Is, is that so? You won’t kick me out of the shop?”
Shin could not help retorting “What kind of unreasonable person am I supposed to be?!”
After talking together a bit more, all involved parties eventually decided to just continue talking the same way from before. When the fact that Shin was Schnee’s master was brought up, the exact same conversation was repeated, but that will be omitted here.
“Well then, shall we start digging in?”
A little while after the catching up, the three people and one animal were gathered around the dining table. Of course, they had already taken a bath to get rid of all the dust and dirt from traveling.
Everyone brought their hands together and said『itadakimasu』. Elves did not have such a custom, but Schnee was doing it, so Tiera did it too.
Needless to say, Schnee was doing it because Shin did it.
“However, as expected of Schnee. Each and every dish looks absolutely scrumptious.”
It was only natural that Shin was so liberal with his praise. All of the dishes lined up on the table were ones that even Shin had rarely seen.
Even though Cook had reached the pinnacle of the cooking world, even he wouldn’t make top-class dishes for every single meal. Menu items truly worthy of being called Level X were not things that they could eat whenever they wanted. And every once in a while, they were also forced to eat experimental dishes that turned out to be complete failures.
However, even though the food currently in front of Shin was still incomparable to what Cook could make, it was not far behind. In this world where skill levels significantly contribute to the deliciousness of food, what he was seeing was undoubtedly of an extremely high quality. And such dishes were all lined up in a row.
In the face of cuisine that even royalty in this world could not get their hands on, the audible sound of gulping could be heard in the room.
“Kuu~, a feast, a feast!”
“All these dishes that I’ve never seen before, all lined up ...... Shishou, you really did put in a lot of effort.”
“Of course I did.”
Seeing the large spread, Yuzuha was in high spirits.
Even Tiera, who had lived together with Schnee for so long, was amazed at how enthusiastic Schnee had been in making this meal. There were so many dishes that Tiera had never seen before in her life. In her eyes, the cooking was even giving off some sort of aura.
Elves and pixies have a unique sensitivity, which was why Tiera had commented on Shin’s magical strength in their first meeting. With that said, she had never seen food with an aura.
“Seeing all this incredible food lined up makes me feel that it was worth it providing the ingredients.”
“Nee, I’m just asking, but exactly what ingredients did you provide? The cooking is giving off this really weird aura.”
Shin froze up at hearing that the food was giving off an aura. Yuzuha tilted its head quizzically.
Though there were no unusual indicators in Shin’s view, but since it was an elf who was saying this, it would not be strange if something was really being emanated. So thinking, Shin thought back to the ingredients that he had handed to Schnee.
“Hmm, let’s see. The meat is mainly Thermal Leo, Orc King, and various parts of Elmora. The vegetables was something along the lines of Blood Radish, Karima Onion, and Vulture Potato. As for the fruits, it’s mostly Fruit of Edea and Topaz Pear. There were a few other random things. For the rest, you just used what we had in stock, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did. Since it’s such a rare opportunity, I went ahead and used the high tier ingredients. But just saying, due to the lack of time, I couldn’t make anything complicated.”
Implying that she still hadn’t shown everything that she was capable of.
As for Tiera, who heard the names of the ingredients ......
“Wha-Wha-Whaaatt?! Almost all of them are super rare, high class ingredients!! There are a few that I’ve never even heard of. Furthermore, Fruit of Edea is a phantom fruit that ripens only once every hundred years. It is said that none of it exists anymore ......”
Tiera held her head after hearing the list coming out from Shin’s mouth. Almost all of the ingredients were dangerous monsters or plants that were extremely hard to cultivate. It was a lineup that no one else would even dream of gathering.
Both Thermal Leo and Orc King were classified as Calamity-class monsters. They were so dangerous that the very moment one is found, the Guild would issue an emergency summons. Tiera had never heard of Elmora, but since it was listed together with the previous two, she assumed that it was most likely a similarly ridiculous monsters.
Blood Radish was a half-monster, half-plant that floated in midair and absorbed the surrounding magical energy to grow. Vulture Potato was a plant tuber that would explode if it took more than a certain amount of damage, just like a landmine.
Topaz Pear was a pear that shone like a jewel, and Fruit of Edea, well, there’s probably no need to go on any further.
In summary, none of them were things that other people would even think of cooking.
“Hey, Schnee. What is this aura that Tiera is talking about?”
“It is something similar to the ingredients’ leftover magical power and life force. Us elves and pixies possess a special sensitivity that other races do not have which allows us to sense such things. Powerful monsters and rare plants tend to leave stronger residues, so that is what Tiera is seeing.”
“So that’s what it was.”
Elves and pixies were races with heightened sensitivities in the first place, so this piece of information did not sound strange to Shin. If he had not been a high human, though, then he might have felt bewildered by this disparity in sensitivity.
“Rather than all that, let’s start eating, shall we? All this food is going to get cold. As for Tiera, just calm down first, alright?”
“Well said. Without further ado, itadakimasu.”
“ “Itadakimasu.” ”
After joining his hands together, Shin took up the soup.
There were hamburger patties, potato salad, soup, rice, and bread spread out on the table. As for drinks, everyone had a glass of Schnee’s prized『Moonlight Sake』, which had been brought out for the sake of this celebrated occasion.
Putting aside the drink, the fare looked very similar to the standard menu from a family restaurant. However, the great familiarity that Shin had with the dishes only served to bring out Schnee’s skills even more.
The meat juices that spurted out from the moment he brought a knife to it and the fragrance of the sauce burning on the hotplate brought a flood of saliva to his mouth before he had even tasted anything.
When he held it in his mouth and began chewing, even more meat juices spilled out. The mixture of juices and sauce in his mouth worked in perfect tandem with the soft texture of the meat, such that the only word that he could think of was ‘delicious.’
In addition, when he left everything in his mouth as it was and also added white rice to the mix, there was nothing more to say.
Broadly grinning, with the corners of his mouth turned up. A smile of delight came unbidden to his face.
When humans eat something truly delicious, they cannot help but to smile.
Tilting his glass, the mellow fragrance of the Moonlight Sake and its full-bodied flavor only served to stimulate his appetite even further.
“...... ! ...... ! ............”
Shin and Tiera ate furiously without saying a word. As for Yuzuha, its body seemed to be the very illustration of the phrase ‘undivided attention.’
While smiling gently at the sight of the two people and single animal, Schnee herself was eating at a more stately pace.
“Oh!! I became completely engrossed in the food before I knew it?!”
“There is still enough for helpings, you know?”
“Please and thank you!!”
Including Tiera and Yuzuha, this exchange took place several more times.
Schnee had astutely predicted this large demand for helpings and had prepared accordingly.
Eventually, the pace started to drop off, and Shin and Schnee shared about what they had gone through.
“Even so, those guys have been living pretty freely, huh.”
That was the comment that Shin had unconsciously spoken after hearing about his other support characters. Becoming a king, wandering the lands, or going completely off the radar. It seems that they were still putting effort into looking for Shin, but most of it was only on the level of an aside. Knowing that they knew about the possibility that he had been left behind in this world, Shin was slightly relieved that they didn’t throw away their lives for his sake.
It wasn’t like he didn’t understand, given their personalities. It was Schnee who was the strange one.
“It was mere wishful thinking, after all. They all understood that it would not be right to be overly hung up about it.”
“From my point of view, I’m glad they made that choice. I wouldn’t want to have subjected them to a fate of endlessly searching for someone who might or might not have been there.”
“Even if there was someone who chose to do that, it would have been that person’s own decision. It’s not something for Shin to feel bad about.”
“I’m not so sure about that ......”
Isn’t it only human to be concerned when learning about it? He couldn’t help thinking this way, but it was most likely mere redundancy. When the people themselves do not mind it anymore, even though he was their Master, it would be meaningless for him to be the only one going on at length about it.
“I’m fine, I’m fine.”
“Sherioushly~ Shhin ish alwaysh too worried about thingshh~”
“...... Oi, Tiera. Are you drunk?”
Speaking with a slight drawl and blurred speech, Tiera’s white skin that stood out in contrast with her black hair was tinged slightly pink. In comparison to the usual whiteness, she was now quite significantly red.
At this sight, Shin suddenly realized how many bottles they had emptied. It seems that they had gotten a bit carried away at the delicious drink that they’ve never tasted before, and thus unwittingly gone through a large number of them.
“Hey, Schnee. How many bottles of Moonlight Sake have we drank?”
“Around 5 bottles, I believe.”
“Incidentally, what is its alcohol content?”
“Somewhere around 35%, maybe?”
The easiness with which it had gone down and its taste had lulled Shin into thinking that it was only on the level of red wine (T/N: average red wine alcohol content is 12.5%), but leave it to alcohol in a fantasy to go beyond the norm.
“Dere are TWO Shishoush~”
“This is getting pretty bad. Is Tiera weak with alcohol?”
“The last time we drank, she didn’t get this drunk, but the quantity being what it is ......”
“I don’t feel particularly intoxicated, though.”
He most likely also had resistance to alcohol, as he only had the awareness of being slightly tipsy. He could still walk straight, and his speech was not slurred, so he wasn’t really drunk in any meaning of the word. Considering the alcohol content and the quantity, his real body would have been downed ages ago, but he realized that he was now much stronger against it. There are no disadvantages to being strong against alcohol. At least, he couldn’t think of any on the spot.
“I’ve been in this body for a whole year already, I wonder how my body on the other side is doing ............ But I guess now’s not the time to be thinking about that, huh.”
As Schnee carried Tiera to her room, Shin used the time to clear up the tableware. Such a thought suddenly came to Shin’s mind as he was wiping the tableware. He didn’t even know if he could go back or not, so there was no meaning in mulling over such things.
Schnee came back when he was about done putting everything away.
“I’m kind of used to it, so, yea.”
In the real world, he had been living alone, so he had washed his tableware by himself. He hadn’t done it during the death game era, but apparently his muscle memory still remained.
“Yuzuha, sleepy ......”
“Alright then. I suppose it’s about time for us to head to bed too.”
“Let’s do that. Shin’s room is as you left it, so you can use it immediately.”
“I appreciate it.”
Leaving the living room, Shin headed towards his own room. Tsuki no Hokora had rooms for Shin, all of his support characters, and even guests. It wasn’t really necessary to build so many, but it was more like a fixation of Shin and Cain, the other member of Rokuten who had helped build the house. The finished product was the result of them carrying out their obsessions to the end, answering the call of their blood as Japanese craftsmen.
“Everything is really as I remember it ......”
Going into his room, Shin looked around. In his 16-tatami-sized room was a bed, a desk, and shelves decorated with items and trophies earned from events. There wasn’t a lot of stuff. It was a neat and clean room. It had most likely been regularly cleaned, as evidenced by the lack of any dust in it.
Originally, moonlight was supposed to be shining through the window, but the moon was currently clouded over, so the light was weak. Shin had the【Night Vision】skill, which eliminated the need to for a light source as he changed and went to bed. He didn’t have pajamas, so he was wearing the avatar costume ‘jerseys.’.
As for Yuzuha, the moment it had entered the room, it had jumped straight onto the bed, and immediately curled up into a ball next to the pillow.
“All things considered, this is the most relaxing place of all.”
He had lived here during the game, so that was a large part of it. The house was equipped with extremely heavy security, which allowed him to let down his guard and not have to set up a barrier. During the death game, there had always been the possibility of a surprise attack in the night, so tonight was probably the most relaxed that he had been for more than a year.
Of course, if there really had been an intruder, Shin would strike back without hesitation.
“Yuzuha is ...... already asleep. I don’t really have anything to do either, so I guess I’ll sleep too.”
Intending to fall asleep while still feeling good from the alcohol, Shin closed his eyes.
Spread out on the bed, his consciousness was gradually slipping away when suddenly, he felt something soft wrapping around his arm.
His consciousness returned with a snap, and he realized that rather than being wrapped around, the sensation was more like his arm was being hugged. There were only two people who could do this in Tsuki no Hokora, and one of them was currently out for the count.
There had been no response to his permanently deployed surprise attack detection skill. Shin’s own intuition also told him that there were no enemies nearby.
Somehow, just somehow, he thought “isn’t this that?”
After staying still for a while, and having felt no more movement, he slowly turned his head to look at his right arm.
There, he saw the figure of Schnee sleeping while hugging his arm. Shin’s arm was stuck between Schnee’s breasts. That was the true form of the soft feeling from the start.
(Are you serious ...... This development? Really?)
With a different connotation from the time when he had been before the food, Shin audibly gulped.
Shin was a man too. It was different when she had been an NPC, but the Schnee of this world was undeniable real. Of course, there was no way that he would feel nothing from the sight.
Rather than calling Schnee the culmination of Shin’s crafting prowess, it was more accurate to say that she was the culmination of all of his preferences. Since she was just sleeping by his bed, he could do the gentlemanly thing and bring her back to her own bed in her own room. However, the warmth and softness of her chest transmitted through his right arm was muddling his reason. Even though he knew this, he could not help reaching towards her with his left hand.
(This is ...... bad.)
Although he did not intend on blaming the alcohol, he could not tear his eyes off her defenseless sleeping face, no matter what.
Shin was aware. Indeed, he was fully aware that it was wrong.
He tried desperately to cool down his inflamed mind, but his reason didn’t kick in like he wanted.
He was thoroughly mesmerized.
Moreso because she was self-aware, her face now looked so completely defenseless, so completely pure, but tinged with sadness somehow.
“Just a little more,” thought Shin as he made excuses to himself, continuing to put off the time when he has to disengage himself.
At that moment, the moon that had been hidden behind clouds was unveiled.
The moonlight that had previously been obscured now gently lit up the inside of the room. It barely reached the edge of Shin’s bed, right where Schnee was sleeping.
Illuminated by the moonlight, Schnee’s body shone with a pale and fleeting light. Her hair, which was spread out over the bed, reflected the light and gave off a mystical glimmer. Then the sight of something glittering while flowing from her closed eyes slammed into Shin.
The glittering something was, of course, tears.
Flowing from her close eyelids, they ran in a straight line, wetting Shin’s sleeve.
The instant he saw that, the mist that had been fogging up his mind cleared up.
The eagerness that he had been wrestling with vanished without a trace.
The cause was her sad sleeping face. Because he accidentally saw it.
Shin had no idea what she was dreaming of that was causing these tears.
Were they tears of happiness at their reunion? Or were they tears of sorrow in anticipation of their eventual separation?
“Ma ...... s ...... er ......”
Shin gently wiped her tears, then softly rubbed her head.
Though he couldn’t hear it clearly, had she been trying to saw “Master” in her dream? It seems that she was still not used to calling him by name.
Entrusting his body to the bed, Shin continued to muse while feeling the sleeping Schnee through his right arm.
When his consciousness eventually sank into darkness, an answer still had not come to him.