Shin’s party had ventured into the Kuwain marine area to search for the second Assault Ship Celciutos, one of Rokuten’s guild houses.
The group managed to find the guildhouse, but found that miasma had transformed the surrounding seas into an extremely dangerous area.
Shin’s party discovered that the cause lay in the underwater dungeon “Castle of the Depths.” They hurried into the dungeon and fought against the miasma-corrupted Sea King Dragon Ishkar, ultimately achieving victory…
After the battle against Ishkar, the group returned to the entrance of the dungeon. The group’s adventure had experienced several unexpected events, so, as soon as they materialized their magic-powered vessel and rode in, they decided to take a rest.
Maybe adrenaline existed in the new world too: when the group left the “Castle of the Depths”, their tension was replaced by fatigue.
After each member had taken a shower, they retreated to their respective quarters for some rest: they decided to leave the Kuwain matter to its own devices.
How long had he been sleeping?
Shin woke up, puzzled by the sensation of someone hugging him.
Looking at the ceiling, Shin remembered that sometimes Yuzuha would come sleep with him. She used to lie on top of him, maybe to look at his sleeping face.
He mumbled “you again?”, and then tried to move Yuzuha away. He then noticed.
The presence of something terribly soft pressing on his stomach.
No, it wasn’t Yuzuha. This was Shin’s conclusion, in the utter silence of the room.
His senses remembered his partner’s weight. Yuzuha had grown, but she should still have some childish features left. Shin’s senses told him that the body now on him was different from Yuzuha’s. It was wearing a tracksuit as pajamas, so it was easy to tell.
In more concrete terms, the soft, freely shapeshifting twin mounds that clearly made their presence felt against Shin’s body were definitely not Yuzuha’s.
Shin turned his neck, trying to raise his head as much as possible. He looked towards his lower body and could see the head of the person now lying on top of him.
The room was dark, but thanks to 【Night Vision】 he could clearly tell the hair color of his “guest”.
Fluffy-looking silver hair, pointy fox ears. Shoulders poking out of fur. The first two were Yuzuha’s characteristics, as Shin remembered.
——【Yuzuha level 871 Element Tail】
“Wait a second, how much power did you absorb back there…?”
Before fighting Ishkar, Yuzuha was still below level 700. Yet now, she was closer to 900.
Shin didn’t know exactly how much power Yuzuha had taken from Ishkar, but it had to be a considerable amount.
“You’ve grown even more than last time.”
Her appearance had changed from a 6th-8th grader to a high school student. Shin couldn’t see her whole silhouette yet, but her current weight made him think so.
He looked at the clock: he had slept for about two hours, as it was almost 1 PM.
He didn’t feel physically tired, so Shin decided that he might as well get out of bed and tried to wake Yuzuha.
“Hey, Yuzuha. Wake up.”
“Hey, you heard me.”
“Just five more minutes…”
Shin shook Yuzuha’s body through the covers, just to hear a classic reply.
“If you’re tired, you can rest some more, but get off me first.”
“Just five more minutes…let me enjoy this..”
“Enjoy what!? You’re awake, aren’t you!?”
Yuzuha surprised Shin with a completely unexpected line. He looked at Yuzuha rubbing her head on his chest, reflecting that her personality must have changed again.
“…you got me.”
She probably realized that she couldn’t continue like that. Yuzuha pulled herself up and the blanket fell off, revealing her body.
It was completely different from two hours ago. Shin covered his eyes as not to see her very feminine curves.
“Wear something, now.”
“Want to enjoy?”
Still completely naked, Yuzuha asked the question to Shin while sitting near his thighs.
While she was as expressionless as before, that was due to her inability to express emotion. However, now she belonged to the completely relaxed or unimpressed category.
Shin looked at Yuzuha between his fingers and saw her there, not attempting to cover her naked body at all, tilting her head at him. She did not seem to have any sense of shame.
“Yet another weird personality…how did you become like this?”
“There have always been several personality patterns within me…the personality you all know is the total sum of the characters housed inside me. Even as I am now, I am still one side of the being known as Yuzuha. Ultimately, I will become like the complete form you already know.”
Yuzuha said all of this with a lazy tone, then fell again on top of Shin.
Shin stopped her fall as well as he could, and Yuzuha’s budding breasts ended up right in front of his eyes. Despite his will, he ended up in an embrace with Yuzuha.
“Why did you fall on top of me again…”
“I get tired if I talk a lot.”
That was probably the truth. Her tone of voice clearly showed how tired she was.
“That’s one amazing reason…anyway, putting that aside, get off me. And wear something already.”
The situation could be easily misunderstood by anyone, so Shin prodded her more strongly.
He couldn’t tell how she would react, as her personality had changed, but if she persisted he would have to move her by force.
“…that’s not nice.”
Yuzuha probably guessed what Shin was thinking, because she finally got off him.
While he was raising his body, Yuzuha went to a corner of the room and turned on the light device.
“Wear something first.”
Shin covered his eyes again and scolded Yuzuha. Even with the room fully lit, she made no attempt to conceal her body. Every part was completely visible.
“If it’s Shin, I don’t mind.”
Yuzuha stood proudly, puffing her chest out without restraint. Shin could swear he heard a bounce-like noise.
“What are you acting smug for!”
Shin, always making sure not to look at her, picked up an item card near the bed.
“Here, your usual clothes.”
“That’s fine, but something sexier would be nice too, no?”
Yuzuha replied, the priestess clothing Shin gave her in hand.
“Stop being silly.”
Shin, making sure only to look at Yuzuha’s face, gave her a light chop on the head and left the room.
There were priestess clothes with more skin exposure, as Yuzuha hinted, but Shin had no intention of having her wear anything like that.
In terms of stats, there were plenty superior options. But with Yuzuha’s stats, while she couldn’t take a Ishkar-class enemy on her own, she generally wouldn’t have any trouble as she was now.
The situation was different from Tiera, who had to wear certain outfits to boost her stats.
If he had Yuzuha wear a skimpy priestess outfit, Shin knew that Schnee and the others would look at him in a way he couldn’t bear for long.
Shin’s train of thought reached this point and he sighed again.
“Sorry for the wait.”
“Good, you wore it.”
Shin voiced his surprise, as he didn’t expect Yuzuha to really wear the outfit properly, which prompted a question from Yuzuha.
“…should I wear it more loosely?”
Yuzuha’s hand headed towards her chest area, all too naturally, but Shin grabbed it midway. It was easy enough to guess what she was going to do.
“Not at all…more than that, you remember what happened before now, right? The others must be up too, let’s go to the kitchen. If you still feel tired, you can just go back to sleep.”
“My body will get used to it soon enough.”
Her strength had returned, but apparently her body hadn’t adjusted to it yet. Her fatigue, however, was mostly gone. For an instant, Shin thought about asking her why she said she was tired just moments ago.
“Anyway, don’t act like that when Schnee and the others are around.”
“Don’t worry. My services are for Shin and Shin only.”
“….what did I do to deserve this…”
Shin sighed yet again because of Yuzuha’s radical change.
He could tell from their presences that Schnee and the others already started moving inside the vessel. Shin warned Yuzuha again, then started walking.
“Oh, Shin you’re awa….who is that?”
Shin and Yuzuha entered the room and Filma greeted them, although she stopped when she saw Yuzuha.
“It’s Yuzuha, she gained power from Ishkar and grew up.”
“Hey there. I felt Yuzuha’s presence all right, but she sure changed a lot. I was surprised.”
Yuzuha had changed quite a lot, so Shin understood well what Filma meant.
“Shin, you’re up. Hm? Oh, it’s Yuzuha. You sure got bigger.”
Shibaid, who was helping in setting the table, came closer. He could tell it was Yuzuha right away and acted very much like an uncle.
“You caught on quick.”
“For me, Human and Beast children, just like Yuzuha here, grow up really fast. So my eyes got pretty good at that. Well, I’m just used to it.”
“You got a nifty new ability while I was sleeping.”
Shibaid said it like it was nothing, provoking a wide-eyed reaction from Filma, who then turned again towards Yuzuha.
“Your atmosphere sure changed a lot too, huh?”
“Relaxing type, I guess? I’ll go back to small fox mode later though.”
“So Shin won’t scold me even if I stick to him.”
“Well, honest aren’t we?”
Filma smiled at Yuzuha’s clear and concise words. A smile that surely concealed nasty plotting.
“So only Tiera is still asleep.”
“Indeed, we do not know how taxing miasma purification can be. We only prepared the food. Instead, shouldn’t you stop them?”
Shin tried to pretend not to hear what Filma and Yuzuha were talking about, but Shibaid pointed it out.
“Even if they’re plotting something, they won’t stop even if I say anything…”
“Yuzuha seems to have changed a lot, but she’s always liked you, Shin.”
“I won’t deny that, but I don’t think what she feels is what we call love or a crush…”
Thanks to Marino’s existence, Shin felt the difference in what Yuzuha expressed towards him.
When she looked like a child, it was fine just saying that she was attached to him, but that didn’t work anymore. Even so, it was different from the affection that Marino or Schnee had shown towards him.
“How can I explain, it’s like a mix of affection towards a parent and a friend. That’s how I see it at least.”
“Hmm, if so, there’s non-romantic affection within. The Element Tails I saw in the past tested, trained, and treated humans with affection.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
Shin remembered the Element Tails in the game era and nodded.
Personality changes with growth. He had to decide how to handle her.
“Well, guess I’ll wait and see for now.”
As Shin said so, Tiera and Kagerou entered the room.
“Oh, I’m the last one?”
“Oh, you’re up. We just finished preparing the meal.”
The timing was just right, so the party started eating.
“By the way, Shin. What are you going to do about Celciutos, since now the merfolk are using it as their home?”
After the meal, Schnee mentioned a doubt that resurfaced in her mind.
That magic-powered vessel was not Shin’s guildhouse, but at present the only Rokuten member in the new world was Shin. Schnee’s expression indicated that he should be the one to own the ship.
“We can’t leave it like that…personally, I’d entrust it to Zazie and the others.”
Celciutos was their master, Cook’s guildhouse, so Shin would like them to manage it.
“It wouldn’t be difficult to set a teleportation point from Shigureya to Celciutos. For the merfolk, we could set up a barrier and a substitute housing.”
“Would they accept it?”
“They’ll have to. It won’t be easy for them to agree, since they’ve lived there for a long time, but it’s too dangerous to just leave it there as a safe place to live. We’ll give a quick look if there aren’t any immediate problems, but then I plan to have Raster come.”
Celciutos had already been used for more than 500 years, without any maintenance. The residents only used the undamaged sections, but if they somehow accessed the armory or stockroom, there could be trouble.
Celciutos, like Reed’s third Moving Base Miraltrea and Cashmere’s sixth Sky Castle Rashugum, was a guildhouse designed for combat. If it malfunctioned, it could bring about unimaginable damage.
That was one more reason why Shin didn’t want to leave things as they were.
“Is that so dangerous?”
“Fantasy weapons are sometimes even more lethal than real ones…more than that, I’m having a hard time piloting, so would you mind getting off my lap?”
Shin moved the small fox-mode Yuzuha to his shoulder and returned to looking into the distance.
Real life battleships couldn’t shoot explosive ammo from rapid-fire weapons like gatling guns, nor did they have any barriers equipped. They couldn’t neutralize torpedoes by themselves either.
Thanks to the technology provided by the supernatural power called magic, they could only be called supernatural weapons.
“The ship we’re boarding now too could be pretty dangerous with the right equipment. Come on, Yuzuha, here. Or Schnee’s thunder’s going to strike soon.”
“Filma? What do you think I am?”
Filma and Yuzuha backed away from Shin, as to escape from Schnee’s look. They had suddenly become very friendly, for unknown reasons.
Schnee whispered a question to Shin.
“Well, she’s just learned to show affection, I think.”
“That’s pretty different from what Filma and Shibaid said.”
Schnee seemed to understand how Yuzuha felt.
“We’re alike, that’s all. All I can tell is what concerns you though.”
Shin stuttered in response of Schnee’s confident reply. He still wasn’t fully decided about many things, so he was almost envious of Schnee’s confidence.
As they were talking, the surroundings of the ship grew gradually brighter: they were closer to the sea surface. As they proceeded upwards, merfolk and fishpeople gathered around the ship. Among them there was also the adventurers’ guild receptionist, the mermaid Arno.
Shin’s group waved at her with a smile and she waved back, relieved.
“I’m glad to see you’ve returned safely!”
“Thanks. I’d like to tell you what happened, so could you call Lierno and the others in the room we talked in before?”
“Understood, I will make preparations right away.”
The group got down from the ship and headed towards Celciutos, surrounded by many merpeople and fishpeople, who had probably been waiting for the group to return. Zazie and the others quickly joined them.
The group arrived in the room at the same time as Lierno and the other people involved in decision-making for the merpeople and fishpeople.
“Well, let us report the results of our exploration of the Seafloor Sanctuary…which actually was the Castle of the Depths.”
Shin heard the sound of someone swallowing their breath. Some looked expectant, others doubtful, others again looked uneasy: all sorts of expressions decorated the faces of the people present.
“Ishkar had been corrupted by miasma. We have purified it however, and now it should be nearly restored to normal. We have also been assured that the Three Sea Beasts should calm down too. I believe that the monsters will quiet down as well.”
“Oh, Is that the truth?”
“Yes, Ishkar told us itself, so there should not be any mistakes.”
“Oh my…you have spoken with Ishkar directly?”
Most members looked terribly surprised that Shin managed to exchange words with a divine beast. For this world’s inhabitants, divine beasts were truly special beings.
“We shall never forget the gratitude we owe you. If you are ever in need of our assistance, please say so anytime.”
“Well…about that, we do have a request now, something we’d like you to do, actually.”
When Lierno and the others raised their heads, Shin explained about moving out of Celciutos, setting up another barrier and moving to a new settlement.
Lierno and the others seemed confused and apprehensive at first, but as Shin continued talking, they became surprised by the fact that he would go so far for them.
“I’m asking you to get out after all, so the least I can do is to provide you with a new place to live.”
“No, we have been borrowing this place after all…as long as the seas are safe, we can live even without Celciutos. It will be more than enough if you could just set up a barrier.”
Originally, fishpeople and merpeople did not build houses, but lived in caves, a lifestyle suited for underwater creatures.
The sea inhabitants here, however, had lived on Celciutos since they were born: they were probably very attached to it.
Shin was thinking that since he was asking them to leave such a place, he should give all the support he could.
Lierno looked extremely apologetic while listening to Shin’s proposal. After some moments of silence, he nodded.
“…understood. If you say you will do so much for us, we cannot reject your kindness. As you say, for me and everyone born here, Celciutos is a place of guaranteed safety, our hearts’ pillar.”
In this world, living alongside monsters brought with it an always present danger. Even in cities or villages, one never knew when there was going to be a monster attack, and underwater settlements were no exception. That was the reason why Celciutos, equipped with a barrier that even high-level monsters couldn’t break through, was treasured by all who lived on it.
“I was concerned about what could happen while we moved to Barbatos, but thanks to you there’s nothing to worry about, sir Shin.”
“You will move, then?”
“Yes. Our numbers have decreased, you see. If we start moving in small numbers, I do not think there will be any risk of needless friction arising.”
While the decision did not appear to be final, the other members did not express any objections.
There was also the proposal of erecting a memorial monument in the spot where Shin would create the barrier. Lierno added that they would deal with all the details after Jesta’s funeral ceremony was over.
“For now, I plan to move it to some place where it won’t stand out and have Raster perform maintenance.”
After changing locations, Shin talked with Zazie and her group about what he planned to do with Celciutos. They had not discussed this topic during the talk with Lierno and the other leaders.
“Sir Shin, I know this is a difficult request, but allow me to ask. I would like you to leave Celciutos to us.”
Zazie mentioned the matter of managing Celciutos before Shin brought it up. In terms of administration hierarchy, Shin was above Zazie and the other former support characters. If Shin didn’t allow it, they could not even move Celciutos.
Standing behind Zazie, the other support characters — Lapwing, Bell, and Shell — watched Shin with a pleading expression.
“Rest easy, I planned to leave it to you from the start. This is Cook’s guildhouse after all, and I’m sure you wouldn’t do anything weird with it.”
“Thank you very much.”
Zazie lowered her head, her serious expression still on her face. Lapwing and the other two followed suit.
With Shin’s authorization, they would be able to pilot Celciutos now. First of all they wanted to make it possible to come and go between Shigureya and Celciutos, so the four went to the operation room.
“OK, I’m going to give Celciutos a general check-up then. What are you going to do, everybody?”
“I do not possess any skills about such technology or maintenance, thus I will go assist with the preparations for Jesta’s funerals.”
“Same as Shibaid, I’m just no good with creation-type skills.”
Shibaid and Filma replied in similar ways to Shin’s question.
Girard was the same too: Shin’s front-line support characters were specialized in combat, so they had not acquired enough techniques related to creating things to be useful.
Because of their jobs, they could perform simple disassembling and cooking, but they couldn’t do anything in terms of maintenance of a large ship like Celciutos.
“I’ll go help with the funeral too.”
Tiera likewise said she would go with Shibaid and Filma. Her abilities as a priestess had returned, so she could probably be useful there, she said.
“I’ll stay and help Shin.”
Schnee would assist Shin instead, using her knowledge of alchemy.
“Kuu, I want to watch.”
Still in fox mode, Yuzuha rode on Shin’s shoulder.
“Okay, it’s decided then.”
Shin headed to Celciutos’ engine room, with Schnee and Yuzuha. If he wanted to move Celciutos, that was the first location to check.
The ship’s engine room was built using a combination of blacksmithing, alchemy, and magic. Shin and Hecate had created it together, so he knew how it worked and how to perform maintenance on it.
“It’s as amazing as I remembered.”
“Kuu, so much magic power.”
Shin’s group passed through several rooms, finally reaching the room beyond Celciutos’ engine room, where the ship’s power source was held.
The 3-mel wide transparent, round container in the room was supported above and below by four mechanical arms. Inside the container was an off-white light, which would sometimes show glimpses of aurora-like lights.
“No changes in color, and it doesn’t look damaged either.”
Drawing on all of his knowledge from the game, Shin inspected every part of the room. The guildhouse’s engine room was normally maintenance-free, but after 500 years of neglect due to abandonment, something could have gone wrong. Shin told Schnee to let him know if she found anything concerning, then resumed his inspection.
“Because we used a large ‘Drop of Erathem’. It created a semi-permanent engine, or at least that’s what we called it. We haven’t actually tested it though.”
The light emitted by the power source glowed gently and did not hurt the eyes, even if looked at directly. Also, because of the seven-colored lights that sometimes appeared within it, no one would have guessed that it was Celciutos’ giant power source.
Yuzuha seemed to have grown fond of it, and watched it intently, full of childish wonder.
“Ok, no problem here. Onto the next, come on Yuzuha.”
Confirming that there were no irregularities, Shin quickly finished the check-up of every part of the room. Some parts needed changing or maintenance: he took care of parts where specialized knowledge or techniques were needed and let Schnee take care of the rest.
After completing the maintenance Shin went back outside. In a square-like open space he found a pile of 2-mel long wooden logs stacked on top of each other to form a hexagon-shaped structure. He was first reminded of a campfire, but then he saw harpoons and decorations around the structure and realized that it was something ritualistic.
Shin asked the fishman Marshill, who happened to be nearby, about the structure. The wooden structure would be burnt alongside the deceased, to return the soul to the heavens and the body to the sea. It was the same as the Barbatos ritual, which Zazie had talked about.
“The funeral will be held tomorrow. If there is something you want to burn with the deceased, please let me know.”
Things dear to the deceased or things they liked, provided they were flammable, would be burnt with the body, to send them off together.
Shin replied that Zazie or Lapwing would know more about that than him, and Marshill replied that he had already told them about it.
The next day, under a clear blue sky, the funeral ceremony started in a very serious and formal tone.
Before the vividly burning flames, Lierno and Arno, wearing what looked like tribal clothing, chanted words Shin’s group could not understand. They couldn’t understand the meaning, but could somehow feel that the chant was praying for those passing into the otherworld.
Perhaps the timing had been calculated, but, as soon as Lierno and Arno finished chanting, the burning logs crumbled. Tiera, who had been standing next to them, splashed water on the embers.
The fire went out, producing billows of white smoke, which all present gazed at as it rose towards the sky.
After a while, the smoke vanished and Lierno and Arno cast a spell. The water created by their magic surrounded the remains and transported them to the sea.
As the ashes melted away in the seawater, the charred logs sank to the bottom.
With some final words by Lierno, the funeral ceremony was concluded.
“I will move Celciutos, then build a settlement in its former space, okay?”
After Jesta’s funeral, Shin went to move Celciutos right away.
As Shin would provide a new barrier and settlement, there was almost no objection about taking Celciutos from its inhabitants.
“I expected more people to protest though.”
“No one here would dare protest to a High Human’s words. Everyone knows that Marshill could barely fight against you too.”
“Ah…was I maybe too violent?”
“Not at all, I think it was a good thing that everyone witnessed your strength. Marshill is by far the strongest of our tribe: seeing him overwhelmed like that, everyone will have to just accept the reality. No matter how fond they are of Celciutos, they surely understood how terrifying it would be to have its legitimate owner as an enemy.”
“Hmm? You make it sound like I’m threatening you…”
Shin had no such intention, but the way Arno spoke, it appeared like he was trying to strong-arm Celciutos from them. In their first encounter with Marshill, the atmosphere had gotten rather tense, so it would be difficult to deny it completely.
“That’s the best way to convince those who would oppose without an actual reason. Celciutos was something we had borrowed. In effect, we have been enjoying all the advantages it offers very one-sidedly. Many have forgotten this, however, so I believe that even a harsh reminder could be necessary. If the owner says to give it back, it must be done. The immediate danger we have been facing has been solved too: to repay such kindness with spite would be simply unthinkable!”
Arno maintained that the situation was improving from before: there was no risk of the merpeople and fishpeople losing everything with Celciutos gone, as Marshill had said before. Shin offered to create a new barrier and a settlement, so what were they really unhappy with? Arno frowned.
There was also the fact that fishpeople and merpeople could not, in effect, do anything with Celciutos. Even if Jesta had entrusted them with it, they were only able to “watch over it” rather than actually “make use” of the ship.
The barrier itself was fueled by Celciutos’ magic power. In case the barrier was breached, Celciutos was set up to escape.
The barrier had been preserved without problems until now, so even if Jesta hadn’t met the merpeople, leaving it deserted, it would have probably managed to hold back the miasma until Shin’s group found it.
“Well, even if they understand it in their heads, their hearts might lead them to protest the change all the same.”
No matter how reasonable something might sound, emotions aren’t settled so easily: Shin had experienced this himself, so he thought that it was something inevitable.
On the bridge, Shin switched the engine from the current low-output mode, which maintained the barrier, self-purifying systems, and a few other functions, into the high-output mode for navigation.
Celciutos’ hull trembled slightly before starting its first voyage in 500 years.
After making sure that there were no merpeople or fishpeople in the surroundings, Shin moved Celciutos.
As the ship had been anchored to the surrounding rocks and coral, Shin pulled in the anchor, levitated Celciutos, and slowly moved towards the open sea. In sea stages, ships often got stuck on coral reefs, so game era ships, big and small alike, were equipped with short-duration levitation functions.
A ship of Ceciutos’ level could travel, levitating above land, for about an hour. They say that some players, after witnessing this feat, tried to build an airship.
“OK then, I’ll make the settlement first.”
Shin used his architect skills to start building prefab homes in the cleared space after moving Celciutos. He could have created more comfortable housing but, according to Lierno, it was more than enough. The fishpeople and merpeople, albeit slowly and gradually, would soon start move to Barbatos after all.
The former Celciutos residents were surprised to see the houses ready in less than 30 minutes, but no one expressed dissatisfaction. The reason was probably because they usually lived in water and would frequently move. They moved into the temporary houses with a speed that left Shin surprised too; Then he went to find a place to hide Celciutos.
“Looks like it can sail just fine, at least for now. Good thing only the cannons seem to have problems.”
Shin mumbled to himself while looking at a map of the Kuwain area and its surroundings on the ship’s bridge.
Since Shin and his party were around, it was not a problem even if Celciutos’ offensive equipment did not work: it would have been much worse if there was trouble with the engine or the power source. Jesta had chosen to keep the miasma sealed because he didn’t know if Celciutos’ reduced offensive power was enough to repel miasma-corrupted monsters, or so Shin guessed.
Celciutos was a powerful weapon, but — barring rare exceptions — it was only used offensively in battles between guilds.
In the game era, it was not possible to fight dungeon boss monsters like Ishkar with a guildhouse.
Now, however, things were different.
For example, when Shin faced the Skullface Lord in the Wraith Plains, it was possible for dungeons that were supposed to be underground to emerge above. The possibility of dungeon bosses appearing above ground was thus not zero.
If used effectively, Celciutos could even destroy Ishkar without giving it a chance to retaliate; at present, its main artillery — main cannon, sub cannons, etcetera — were not working, so in the worst case it could even sink.
Jesta probably considered all this when he decided to seal in the miasma.
“In this area, we could hide Celciutos…here, I guess.”
Shin found a suitable location from the map saved in the database. There was a location with massive rocks jutting out of the sea surface. If the data was correct, they were large enough to hide Celciutos.
When they arrived at the location, they indeed found a group of large rocks towering over the sea. With a combination of building and Earth skills, Shin carved the rocks, reinforced them, and then hid Celciutos among them.
Shin also attached Crystal Stones, a barrier, and an illusion skill that camouflaged the barrier with its surrounding environment, thus hiding the rocks. In case anyone came dangerously close to it, Shin also placed a Crystal Stone with a magic attachment that drove away both monsters and people.
With Celciutos as its power source, the magic attachments could last semi-permanently.
“Sir Shin, you have acquired many production-related skills other than blacksmithing ones, but have you never thought of mastering them?”
Zazie’s question came after the preparations for Celciutos’ concealment were completed. Just as she said, Shin could have raised one or two other skills, like building or farming, as high as blacksmithing.
“If you master blacksmithing, related skills like alchemy are also at rather high levels too though. It’s not like we never discussed it, but in general we never touched the skills other members were specialized in. Except if it was needed to perfect our own specialization.”
To be able to handle anything production-related was an attractive prospect, but to do the same thing as others was not at all.
It was a coincidence that all Rokuten members headed in different directions with their specializations, and also that all of them shared a dislike for doing the same thing as others.
Rokuten members had sometimes spoken to each other about it in casual conversation.
“Everyone also felt differently about to what extent they would perfect their skills. Since it’s related to blacksmithing, I did a lot of alchemy in my time, even though it was Hecate’s specialty. About Cook’s farming or Reed’s doll making, however, I might know something about it but my skills are beginner-level at best.”
Shin’s farming skill level for example was just II.
“Why did you ask that, anyway?”
“I was wondering if Rokuten members did not aspire to cover all aspects of creation, by cooperating with each other. I could never ask my master, you see.”
Shin thought that Zazie would have surely wanted to ask Cook about something like that.
In the game, she couldn’t express her own will. For a support character, a better understanding of her master was surely a dream.
So thought Shin, who could now spend time with his support characters, like Schnee and Girard.
After hiding Celciutos and setting the teleportation point, Shin’s group rode the magic-powered vessel and returned to Barbatos.
They had told Zigma that they didn’t know when they would be back, so they used 【Hiding】 on the ship close to the port, then swam to land, with the ship safely stored in Shin’s item box.
They had concealed their presences when they reached land, so there was no risk of anyone seeing them and finding them suspicious.
Their first destination was Shigureya.
“Where do you want me to set it up?”
“There are a few rooms for the staff in the back. Let’s prepare a dedicated room.”
Guided by Lapwing, Shin arrived at a room in the back of the restaurant, which was also used as living space. Shin set up the teleport point and connected it to the one placed on Celciutos: now it was possible to freely move between Shigureya and the ship.
“Finally, let’s place a magic-powered lock on the door…there.”
Shin locked the room with the unique key he also used for Tsuki no Hokora’s storeroom, setting it so that only Shin himself and the support characters of Rokuten members could open it. No one else could enter the room this way.
“Thank you for doing so much for us.”
“It’s nothing, really. Besides, now I have one less weight on my shoulders too.”
Finding and securing the lost guildhouse had been quite the lucky happenstance. Shin’s group would also have had trouble managing Celciutos during their travels, so having Lapwing and the others take care of it was yet another stroke of good fortune.
The group had no intention of going anywhere that day, of course, so they had dinner at Shigureya and stayed in the inn they had used before departing.
The next day, Shin’s group split up to do their own things.
Shin had to visit the guild and report about his actions in the Kuwain area, but the other members didn’t have any pressing matters to attend to.
Arno was supposed to have returned to the guild already: Shin had already arranged with her to report that they had not made any significant discoveries.
“If anything urgent happens, just send a message via Mind Chat.”
Shin left the inn and went towards the guild, accompanied by Yuzuha who was half dozing on his shoulder.
He thought Schnee would have wanted to go as well, but unexpectedly said she wanted to go gather food for the journey.
The other three, Shibaid, Filma, and Tiera, said they would go train on Celciutos. Shibaid and Filma would act as instructors for Tiera’s combat training. The poor elf will probably be put through the wringer.
“It’s been a while since I went out on my own.”
Shin realized that lately there was always someone else with him. Yuzuha was with him, but partner monsters were considered as one with their master, so he felt like he was acting on his own.
“So, Miss Arno, then.”
Shin arrived at the guild and looked for Arno at the reception.
“….she’s not around.”
He thought she used the teleport to return, but unexpectedly Arno wasn’t behind the reception counter. It would have been a pain to come again later, so Shin went to the closest open counter he saw. If his memory was correct, behind the counter was the female worker who was next to Arno when he first visited the guild. Animal-like ears poked from her semi-long brown hair, so she was highly likely a Beast.
“Excuse me, I went to the Kuwain area, so I would like to make my report.”
“The Kuwain area? Oh, you must be from the group Arno was in charge of. She’s on leave today, so I will handle your report in her place.”
Shin followed the receptionist to a private room and gave his report as planned.
“I see, you have been to the shallow part of the Kuwain area. I can understand how you could return safe and sound. You didn’t notice anything else in particular?”
The receptionist nodded. The girl, who said her name was Mizet, had joined the guild at the same time as Arno and was apparently good friends with her.
“No, nothing in particular. The rain, wind, and waves were much fiercer than expected, so it was impossible to voyage further. It wouldn’t make sense to lose our lives just to risk that, so we came back.”
“A sound decision. By the way, I apologize for changing the topic, but did something happen to Arno?”
Shin asked what she meant: apparently, Arno had been strangely restless after checking Shin’s ship. Some receptionists were attracted by dangerous-looking adventurers, so they were worried that the same thing happened to Arno.
Shin said that nothing in particular had happened, and Mizet stared at him for several seconds. She probably realized that he was hiding something. Shin was thinking about how to get out of the situation, when Yuzuha cried.
“I’m sorry for boring your little friend. We haven’t got much information about the Kuwain area, so if you remember anything, we would be grateful if you reported again. If you ever go on another expedition you will need to submit the request again, so please be careful. If you don’t, the patrol ships will stop you.”
Only Shin could hear Yuzuha’s words: Mizet probably took her cry as meant to make Shin hurry up. She probably thought that Yuzuha was the small fox-type monster often kept as a pet.
“Just one more thing. Unrelated to the Kuwain area expedition, there is a request for you from the shipwright Zigma.”
“A request for me?”
Shin took a look at the request form, wondering why it was necessary to go through all the work of submitting a request specifically for him. The request was for Shin’s cooperation in building a new ship.
There was no mention of magic-powered vessels inside. Since the guild didn’t know the circumstances, it was probably viewed as a request for the adventurer to look for necessary parts.
However, Shin knew Zigma, and immediately understood that something else was being asked of him.
“Sir Zigma apparently vehemently insisted that this request be given to you when you came. I wonder what happened to him?”
Shin tried not to show it, but mentally wondered what had gotten over the shipwright.
“Anyway, I planned to go the shipyard later, so I’ll ask him directly. I’ll decide then whether to take the request or not.”
“Very well, please take the request form with you then. That is all, thank you for your time.”
“I’ll be on my way, then.”
Shin nodded to Mizet and left the guild. Thinking that he might find Schnee, he decided to pass through the market on his way back.
While Shin was talking in the guild, Schnee was shopping alone in the market. She was using her usual illusion skill, so no one could find her true identity, but people would turn and look at her rather often. Schnee remembered that Shin once told her that she was beautiful even when transformed, and a small smile appeared on her lips.
That smile, however, did not last long.
A sigh escaped her mouth. She had done her best not to show it in front of Shin. Because of that, whenever she was alone she would suddenly feel down. It had happened before, albeit very rarely. Lately, or to be precise, from the previous day, it happened much more frequently. The reason was clear: the barrier that had stopped her during the fight against Ishkar.
Tiera, Kagerou, and Yuzuha could go help Shin: Schnee could not break the barrier until Ishkar was defeated.
It was like trying to pierce through the earth itself, a barrier so sturdy that it was impossible to even think it could be broken through. Schnee could not do anything.
There was no way for her to be able to do something against a barrier that easily repelled even Shiden martial skills. There was also a high chance that similar barriers would separate her from Shin again. In such a case, she would not be counted among the members that could help Shin.
Schnee silently did her shopping, putting the items in the item box without being seen. She kept thinking throughout the process. However, her train of thought was elsewhere. There were also other things that she couldn’t help being concerned about.
Those were Ishkar’s words about an “undesired return”. They pointed to Shin’s return to the real world, did they not?
Shin must have realized that possibility too.
When she met him again in the Wraith Plains, Shin answered Schnee’s “Would you go back to your world if you could?” with a yes.
Not to rely too much on Ishkar’s words, but if they found a safe way for Shin to go back to his world, what would he choose to do?
“Shin has reasons to return.”
Marino’s last words. The family and friends left behind, all the other people connected to him.
The other side is Shin’s homeland, the place he belongs to. Schnee understood that his presence in this world was an irregularity.
“Does he have reasons to stay here…?”
So she was trying to say.
Shin has reasons to stay in this world. Something important enough to compare it with the other world.
I will be that reason. So she wanted to say.
Schnee’s mouth, however, could not pronounce those words. Only sighs escaped her lips.
Like you. Very much.
I can say with confidence that I love you.
But what about you?
What do you think of me?
Schnee expressed her emotions clearly, but on the other hand Shin rarely expressed such things in words. Unfortunately enough, he often just laughed apologetically.
—-All you can do is to make him fall for you hard enough that he won’t feel like going back anymore.
Filma’s words troubled Schnee.
Her appearance was all decided by Shin. Judging from his initial reaction, it was clear that it was just as he idealized. His look going to her chest area couldn’t be her imagination either. Being shown affection by her shouldn’t be unpleasant for him.
The strategy Filma had proposed, half joking – to approach him asking him to take her – might succeed too. Even if it did though, would it be enough to hold Shin down?
In the game era, physical interactions with his lover, Marino, were limited by the system. In Schnee’s eyes, however, they truly loved each other.
The appearance of the physical body called avatar could be changed, apparently. It was not something you could rely on to decide whether opening your heart or not.
What connected them, however, was not the body but the heart. A deep place that could not be easily touched, that was where they truly sought each other.
Even if she offered him her body, even if her face was to his liking, her body was better, Schnee did not think it would be enough to keep Shin back.
What do I want to do?
What do I want Shin to do?
I have more than enough wishes.
I wish for him to be happy.
I wish to see his smile.
I wish for him to hold me.
For him to kiss me.
I wish for him to look at me and me only.
To want me and me only.
Maybe they were more desires than wishes. But they were Schnee’s true feelings.
Maybe because she felt uneasy, the desire to have her loved one all for herself grew stronger. At the same time, she was reminded of Shin’s lover, Marino.
She wanted to be like her. That’s what Marino was to Schnee.
Schnee thought about Marino, who became Shin’s mutual lover. She thought, thought harder, finally understood.
The person closest to Marino was Tiera.
Maybe Shin had also realized that, somewhere within Tiera, Marino’s shadow was present.
The kiss back at Black Priestess Shrine, the bypassed barrier during Ishkar’s fight. Something else that Schnee didn’t know about might have happened too. It probably did.
If Marino cooperated with Tiera, Shin’s heart could be led to her. Looking at Tiera, it was clear she didn’t dislike Shin, with or without Marino.
Whether she was aware of it or not, Tiera’s gaze went towards Shin as frequently as Schnee.
Schnee was aware enough of her surroundings to notice it.
“….what am I even thinking about now.”
Her train of thought had completely derailed, her thoughts scattered. Schnee realized it and sighed again.
She had probably been walking absorbed in her thoughts: before realizing it, she had arrived on top of a hill overlooking the city of Barbatos. It was probably set to be a place to enjoy the view from: there were some toys for children and benches.
“No one else is around though.”
A place with such a nice view, deserted before lunch time.
It was Schnee’s first time there, so she could not be completely sure, but it felt strange for no one else to be there at this time of the day. As she was wondering about the suspicious situation, she caught a presence heading towards the hill. Someone walking calmly. Schnee looked in that direction.
“Am I being watched?”
The person was probably using 【Through Sight】. Schnee clearly felt the unseen stranger’s gaze on her.
Schnee used 【Through Sight】 herself and looked at the mysterious observer.
“It can’t be…!?”
Schnee was surprised to see who was walking up the hill.
Gentlemanly clothing with dazzling decorations, white hair with a gold-rimmed silk hat. White gloves holding a stick, the appearance of a true gentleman.
A handsome looking face with an innocent, boyish smile. Schnee noticed, however, how his light brown eyes were not smiling at all.
Without disguising himself or paying any attention to the surroundings, the criminal wanted throughout the continent, Hameln was leisurely strolling up the hill.
As soon as Schnee realized the man’s identity, she sent a Mind Chat to Shin and the rest of the party.
“(I saw Hameln. We will come in contact soon.)”
Schnee also relayed the location to the surprised group. There were no monsters around, as far as she could see. If possible, she wanted to bring him down then and there.
She was concerned, however, about the reason why he would appear before her like that, in the middle of the day.
Scouting jobs like Hunters and Ninjas were said to possess high ability in visual detection skills. Players had even performed various tests to see if there weren’t hidden stats based on race and job.
Using 【Through Sight】 with no other countermeasures on a Kunoichi -the female version of the Ninja- like Schnee was just like publicly displaying one’s location.
Hameln was surely aware of that: he must have been definitely plotting something.
“Oh my, you graciously waited for me. Surprising. I was sure you would ambush me, you see.”
Hameln affected surprise with his whole body.
Seeing through Schnee’s disguise like nothing was expected of a former player like Shin.
“You know well that it would be pointless, as I have captured your position. I’ll ask just in case, what is your aim?”
Schnee engaged Hameln in conversation to buy time until Shin and the others arrived. Shibaid and Filma would probably take some time, but Shin should arrive in a few minutes.
“My aim, you say. I suppose that would be you.”
“Yes, you did come to this world too after all. I was thinking of testing something that has been bugging me, you see.”
Opposite to Hameln’s stick wielding left hand, a card appeared on his previously empty right hand.
As soon as she saw it, Schnee grabbed the hilt of her 『Blue Moon』 and put more distance between them.
Other than item cards, there were also offensive cards that sealed magic spells.
“Please, do not be wary of me, there is no need to worry. This is just a little trick, I have no intention of harming you. That would be ‘meaningless’.”
Schnee’s suspicion made Hameln’s smile deepen. He pointed the card towards Schnee.
As he did, the card disappeared and Schnee’s body started glowing.
Schnee noticed her body’s sudden glow and started moving even before thinking. She instantly dashed next to Hameln and swung her 『Blue Moon』 without hesitation.
“My, oh my, your speed has improved tremendously. Your weapon has been reinforced too.”
Hameln, who had escaped the full brunt of Schnee’s attack, retreated a few steps while clutching the spot where his left arm used to be. The stick he had tried to use to defend himself was on the ground, cut in half.
“If the item hadn’t shown its effect, I would already be down for the count. I suppose I underestimated you. I shall reflect on it for the future.”
Hameln spoke in a tone hardly fitting someone who had just lost an arm.
In the game era, because of freedom of movement and AI performance, he was probably superior. From this exchange, however, Schnee realized that she could defeat him now. That was, however, beyond what she could do in her current condition.
“What did you…do to me…!”
Schnee felt her strength leave her body. Not only that, she could also feel something different, something irreplaceable, disappearing. Something she couldn’t put in words. She could not ignore it either.
More than Hameln, this unknown sensation enveloping her whole body was far more terrifying.
“Only players could tell what this is, pretty much. I have no intention of keeping secrets, so let me tell you what is happening. Maybe you have experienced it once, but this is an item that resets support characters’ affection level to zero. In the game, it only affected one’s support characters, but it appears that restriction does not exist anymore in this world.”
Schnee had never heard of the item mentioned by Hameln. She instinctively understood, however, how it would be a fatal weakness for her.
Her body glowed for several seconds. She could not speak another word though.
Schnee’s hand let go of 『Blue Moon』.
Before the clanging sound of the blade hitting some stones could get her attention, she felt a dull shock behind her head. She then noticed that she had collapsed on the ground.
“Well well, mission complete. Oh yes, I should ————- that too. ——-me effect on the other ———port characters…”
She caught bits and pieces of Hameln’s words.
Her consciousness was fading. Her eyes wouldn’t stay open.
Right before completely losing consciousness, she heard someone’s voice.
Some time prior to Schnee’s encounter with Hameln, Shin and Yuzuha had gone to the market, after finishing their business at the guild.
All sorts of people and species filled the market: a human girl was negotiating prices with a vendor, a male fishman was inspecting wares, a Mermaid was calling out to the passing crowd, a Beast frowning because of the pungent fish smell.
Shin looked around aimlessly, recognizing fish he knew from the game era and others he had never seen before. The great variety of foodstuffs on display also included seaweed, seafood, dried food: a collection of typical marine goods packed on the racks, a true feast for the eyes.
“(All look, so tasty)”
“(There’s some amazing looking stuff too. Can you really eat that?)”
In this world, there were many creatures with appearances barely matching their flavor, especially if they came from the sea. If they were on sale, they were surely edible, though.
“(It’s still a bit too early for lunch. Be patient.)”
Yuzuha, mostly drained of all her energy, lay powerless on Shin’s head. Her front paws covered his eyes, so Shin gently grabbed her by the waist and moved her to his right shoulder.
“We took some time back at the guild, I guess Schnee’s already gone?”
Shin checked the map while walking down a street near the center of the market. If Schnee was close, he would see her name near her marker. All the markers he could see, however, were colored green, as in, neutral. No sign of Schnee.
He could probably find her if he expanded the map’s range, but if she wasn’t in the market she was probably back at Shigureya, so Shin did not search further.
Here and there, however, Shin heard men commenting things like “I saw a crazy gorgeous blonde just now” or “That was one smoking hot body!”.
He couldn’t be 100% sure, but Shin felt positive that they were talking about Schnee’s camouflaged form. Despite always trying his best not to glance at Schnee’s chest, Shin couldn’t help sneaking peeks from time to time. According to Filma, she had grown even more from the game era. It wasn’t something Shin could forget or ignore.
“…what the heck am I thinking about, anyway.”
A men’s impure thoughts had probably affected him. Shin firmly shook his head to drive such delusions away.
The embrace at Black Priestess Shrine, the kiss at Fuji, her swimsuit figure at the Castle of the Depths.
Shin too was a man, after all: thinking of the softness of the female body and the voluptuous swimsuit figure he saw in the dungeon, he couldn’t exactly keep his cool.
“(Kuu, Shin, pervert.)”
“What!? Yu, Yuzuha, what did you just..!?”
It was like Yuzuha had read Shin’s thoughts: surprised, he forgot about Mind Chat and reacted loudly.
“(Schnee, beautiful. Just take her.)”
“That’s….not so simple.”
There wasn’t anything he disliked about Schnee. His objective, however, was to return to his former world: he felt it wasn’t right to lay his hands on her.
He knew it was cruel of him to let her have hopes about him. Even so, he did not refuse Schnee’s direct shows of affection.
On the other hand, if he gave up on going back and settled in this world, the dilemma with Schnee would be resolved.
In his current situation, however, it wasn’t even clear why he had been transported to the current world. If he gave up and then was somehow transported to the former world, it would be simply unbearable.
“(Shin, you like Schnee?)”
Shin was about to say “of course”, when he noticed various sets of eyes looking at him as if he were weird. From other people’s standpoint, it looked like he was walking while mumbling to himself.
“(….of course I do. But you know, in the game there was this thing called affection level…if that is still influencing Schnee’s feelings, you could say that it’s like I have her under mind control…)”
Shin switched back to Mind Chat and continued talking.
The same could be said for Shibaid, Filma and the other support characters. At the time of their creation, support characters only have the bare minimum level of loyalty.
That wouldn’t be a problem if the player just wanted them to act as clerks, but if they were to fight alongside the player, as Shin’s support characters did, things were very different.
If the affection level was low, the range of available commands was limited.
Acting together and using items to raise affection level gradually removed such limitations.
When affection level is maxed, as proof of such bonds the player obtains a 『Drop of Erathem』 fragment. One per support character for a maximum of five, so five support characters total.
When put together, they were still not enough to forge an Ancient-grade weapon, but they were still very rare items. Some players turned them into earrings or rings and gave them to their support characters.
“(Could I be twisting Schnee’s feelings? …is what I think, sometimes.)”
In the past, he had given her great quantities of affection-raising items at once, in order to increase it quickly.
In the game, it was just a stat going up, so nothing to worry about. To remove the command range limitations, to gain rare items. It was all for himself.
But this world was real. If Schnee was influenced by his actions during the game era or from the game…
Looking at Schnee, Shin was starting to have doubts.
“(Schnee likes Shin. She’s not controlled.)”
“(Well, I sure hope so.)”
Shin answered Yuzuha without much conviction, his shoulders dropping. Whether he returned to his former world or not, he wanted to make that clear.
“(No matter what happens, Yuzuha is with Shin.)”
“(You can’t be sure of that. If I go back to reality, you won’t be able to…)”
“(Yes. I come with you.)”
Shin objected, stating something he thought was obvious, but Yuzuha interrupted him, fully confident.
“(Yuzuha wants to be with Shin, so I do. I didn’t get any items. Kuu!)”
Yuzuha wrapped her tails around Shin’s neck and pecked at his cheeks with her front paws. Her light, padded strikes tapped him repeatedly.
Yuzuha expressed that she wasn’t with Shin because she was manipulated.
“(…well, do as you want. It’s not like I have proof or anything.)”
There was no way of finding out if someone was influenced or not by affection level.
Schnee said that she even remembered the first day that Shin logged in THE NEW GATE.
If so, it wouldn’t be weird that she really liked him. There was the possibility that her present affection level was true affection.
It was a problem that couldn’t be solved, no matter how long he thought about it.
“Well, enough wandering around. Time to go back, I guess.”
No sign of Schnee. As soon as Shin turned around, towards Shigureya, he received a Mind Chat message from her.
“(I saw Hameln. We will come in contact soon.)”
Schnee’s voice echoed from afar. It was a mass transmission, a message sent to all registered users.
“Hameln? He can’t be trying to unleash a pack of monsters here, can he!?”
Shin slipped in a nearby back alley, activated 【Hiding】 and kicked the ground hard. Jumping straight above the buildings, enlarged the map, confirmed in which direction Schnee was and started running.
Contrary to his predictions, Schnee was on top of a hill near the town. Near her there was just one more marker, colored neutral green. It had to be Hameln.
“There are presences of monsters around Barbatos, but it’s not a pack large enough to attack the city. So I guess that it’s not his objective this time?”
Shin ran, slicing through the wind.
He tried to guess what Hameln would be trying to do, but in the end Shin did not have enough information about him. In the game, Shin had exterminated the monsters and delivered the final blow, but until the end he did not learn exactly what it was Hameln wanted to do.
A few seconds before Shin reached the hill, Hameln’s marker changed to red.
“What’s going on now?”
The map couldn’t show the markers’ behaviour in detail. What was clear is that Schnee had brushed right next to Hameln, then stopped.
Schnee and Hameln were on a hill of moderate height. Thinking it would be a waste of time to go around, Shin jumped down from the roof, then kicked the ground again to boost himself up, hard enough to leave a crevice.
What Shin saw on the hill was Schnee collapsing and Hameln missing an arm.
As soon as he saw her, Shin found himself screaming.
His desperate call managed to barely reach her before she fell.
Smoothly, Schnee’s body rose again, and without a sound moved behind Hameln. Her hands gripped 『Blue Moon』, the weapon she had dropped moments before.
Hameln had been distracted by Shin’s shout and noticed Schnee’s approach only at the last moment, moving away instinctively.
She had apparently been damaged enough to cause her to collapse. Schnee’s attack lacked sharpness: it only managed to wound Hameln’s chest.
Hameln, now at a certain distance from Schnee, saw his coat tear in half. There was no blood, though: the slash likely failed to reach his body.
“Schnee!! Are you all right!?”
“Yes, no problem.”
Shin checked Schnee’s condition, while glaring at Hameln. She did not appear injured anywhere. Her level and status were the same as always too.
“Quite the speedy arrival, my friend. I must say I did not think we would meet again, though.”
Hameln spoke to Shin in a cheerful tone.
“I couldn’t care less. What did you do to Schnee?”
“Oh, it’s hardly something worth mentioning, really. I just used an affection-resetting item. Honestly speaking, I doubted it would actually work, you know. I thought you would have reset it already during that event, to collect items. It only works once, as you know.”
“….the 『Cursed Tag of Crippling』!”
Hameln’s smile widened and Shin materialized 『Moonless』. He was worried about Schnee’s condition, but it would have been much more troublesome to let Hameln go.
“Where did you get it? It should be impossible for players to create them.”
“The Kishimi clan, was it? They’re in this world too, you see. The item I used is something I found in their settlement, after wiping them out. Oh, do not worry: the one I used on Schnee was the last one I had. I have no other items to reset affection level.”
Hameln continued talking in a whimsical tone, but Shin did not hesitate and attacked him with 『Moonless』.
He would not kill him, as there was information to be extracted.
Before Shin could strike, however, a shadow appeared between them.
Shin clicked his tongue as he swung down 『Moonless』 and cut the intruding shadow in two. Because of the unexpected mass of the target, however, Shin’s sword slash did not have its usual speed.
The shadow’s identity was a monster with damage-reducing capabilities, Mad Shadow.
As the name said, its damage reduction ability allowed it to decrease the damage it received to one third, and worked both on physical and magic attacks. In addition, it could also wrap itself around swords and lances to make it more difficult to fight.
As it just happened to Shin, the monster could also slow down attack speed: it was hated by players especially when encountered in time attack events.
Its level was fixed at 100 and it had no offensive capabilities at all: on the other hand, its VIT was said to be over 800.
The Mad Shadow didn’t manage to completely wrap Shin’s 『Moonless』, but lowering Shin’s attack speed allowed Hameln to move away from his attack range.
“You probably wanted to capture and draw information out of me, but I had no intention of hiding anything from the beginning, so I guess I’ll have my say and go. It’s possible to make items to return affection level to what it was. Whether the item works or not, however, is all up to luck. Of all the times I’ve tried it on support characters until now, it worked about half the time. Other choices would be event bosses that are not confirmed to exist here too, but you could always try looking for them, I suppose.”
“….why did you tell me all this?”
“What effect would it have on a High Human’s support characters? Will it really go back? That’s what I’d like to see. I did not have the smallest inkling of wanting to erase Lady Schnee. The exchange just now took me by surprise, but it would have been boring to continue. I am sure you will understand that I am speaking the truth, dear Shin?”
Just as he said, Hameln probably just wanted to see the results of using the item. His words and actions seemed exactly the same as they were during the game.
For better or worse, Hameln did not seem to particularly care about anything other than his own objectives.
He frequently acted as MPK (Monster Player Killer) because he enjoyed looking at people struggle: whether his targets survived or died as a result, it was of no concern to him.
Considering his past, it did not seem like he was lying.
“Well then, I shall take my leave now. I’m looking forward to the next time we meet.”
Hameln had been talking behind a large quantity of Mad Shadows he had summoned as a barrier, but his presence now vanished. His way of disappearing did not make it look like he had used high-speed movement or 【Hiding】: he had probably used teleportation. Without a marker, there was no way of tracking a teleported target.
Shin took care of the remaining Mad Shadows, then talked to Schnee.
“What exactly happened here?”
“I do not know anything more than what Hameln said. He said he used a Cursed Tag, but I do not feel anything wrong with my condition.”
Schnee answered matter-of-factly to Shin’s question. She did not seem to be in a serious condition, nor to be enduring anything. It was probably true that there was nothing wrong with her.
Her matter-of-fact behavior, however, was a stark contrast with the usual Schnee. She was far too expressionless when talking about her condition.
“….do you remember me?”
“I remember that you are my creator and the lord whom I should serve.”
“It has been less than an hour since I appeared on this location and begun my activities, so I would say that there is nothing more to add.”
Schnee answered Shin’s somewhat upset question without changing her expression a bit.
Her gaze did not have the usual warmth anymore: it was simply observing the being known as Shin. Shin felt his blood turn cold.
“Like that I left you in charge of Tsuki no Hokora for all that time.”
“Do you mean the base?”
“We went to Falnido, Hinomoto, lots of other places too, didn’t we?”
“I do not remember, but…”
“….even Filma and Shibaid?”
“Who would they be?”
Schnee’s expressions clouded after Shin’s barrage of questions. It was not an act, she really did not know.
“Are you serious….?”
Finally, Shin sighed.
Judging from her words, it looked like Schnee had returned to the stage just after a support character has been created, her memories reset. She could use her equipment without problems, so her level and stats must be unchanged.
Affection level rose little by little as the player stays logged in: if the support characters acted alongside the player or certain items are used, it can increase by large amounts.
If affection level is reset, related memories and memories experienced when affection level was high are probably erased along with it.
Schnee was Shin’s first support character. They were together most of the time since he started playing, so her affection level was pretty much constantly growing.
Thing would have probably been different if he just had her manage the store, but it was likely that for Schnee resetting affection level also meant erasing all her memories.
“Do you have any other questions?”
“Well, let’s wait for Filma and the others to arrive first. Let me tell you first that Filma is a support character, like Shibaid.”
“Support characters other than me? I am supposed to be the first in order of creation, though.”
Schnee seemed puzzled to know about other support characters being created all of a sudden.
With her memories reset, it was no wonder that she did not remember about the support characters created after her.
For Schnee, the time spent in that world was almost zero. She probably found it bizarre for multiple support characters to exist.
“I don’t know if you will believe me, but you have actually lost your memories. Once Filma and the others learn about it, they will probably ask you the same questions I just did, but please bear with it.”
“Understood. I will be on standby, then.”
Schnee said nothing else and fell in complete silence. It seemed she had no intention of actively engaging in conversation.
She stood upright, her hands lightly resting on her skirt, not the smallest movement. If she didn’t blink, she could be passed for a very well done doll.
Yuzuha, to whom Schnee had not paid the slightest bit of attention, emitted a lonely growl.
(Memories disappear, huh.)
Shin could have asked more questions to grasp Schnee’s current situation, but he didn’t find himself able to. He was more shocked than expected at hearing Schnee call him “lord” with that blank tone and expression.
He could feel a sort of respect from her, but nothing more. The smile she had just a few hours before was nowhere to be seen.
(The 『Cursed Tag of Crippling』. To reverse its effects, I need the 『Blessed Tag of Bonding』, if memory serves me right.)
The item that resets affection level, officially named 『Cursed Tag of Crippling』, had been implemented in the game during the 『Depths of Oblivion』 event.
It was used by enemies which targeted not players, but support characters, forcing their affection levels back to zero.
In more precise terms, however, their memories were not lost, but only taken away.
During this event, alongside with the 『Cursed Tag of Crippling』 an item called 『Blessed Tag of Bonding』 was implemented as well. Using it would restore the lost affection level.
If something disappears, it can’t be brought back. But if it’s taken away, it can be taken back, and memories will return too…or so the event’s description said.
Other than using the Blessed Tag, the way to restore memories was to defeat the evil god the Kishimi clan venerated, the event’s boss. In the game, the tags had 100% success rate, but if Hameln had been speaking the truth, it was now a gamble.
During this event, many players reset their support characters’ affection levels on purpose, to then raise them again and obtain more 『Drops of Erathem』. The Cursed Tags could reset affection levels only once per character. Considering the reward, it wasn’t a big loss.
Shin too was no different: he had reset the affection levels of all his support characters from number 2 – Filma – onwards. Schnee, however, was different.
Clearing the event with a support character not affected by the Cursed Tag awarded a special reward. Shin thus did so with Schnee, his strongest support character at the time.
(Shit!! How could I have expected this!?)
Schnee, the only one among Shin’s support characters that could be affected by the Cursed Tag, encountered Hameln and had the Cursed Tag used on her. Shin could have never fathomed such a possibility.
Shin knew what materials were needed to create the Blessed Tag, but the Cursed Tag was not something players could create. Shin scratched his head, desperately trying to recover any useful information. He could not come up with anything, however, and eventually Filma and the others arrived.
Even after looking at Shibaid and Filma, support characters like her, or Tiera, with whom she used to manage Tsuki no Hokora, Schnee’s behavior did not change at all.
“….it really looks like you forgot all about us.”
“So it seems. All I have is the impression of meeting you all for the first time.”
“Looks like you act and speak a bit different too.”
Ever since Shin came to this world, Schnee always had a warm atmosphere, so as Filma said, her personality could have changed too.
“I have no recollection of ever taking any disciples.”
“You simply forgot. Please remember!”
Tiera kept pressing, with tears in her eyes, but Schnee was simply confused.
If Schnee hadn’t saved her, Tiera wouldn’t be who she is now. Having lived for so long together, it was a real shock for her to be forgotten.
“Calm down, Tiera. It’s not like there’s no way to bring Schnee back to the way she was.”
Shin told the others the information he received from Hameln. The source was an enemy, but concerning the Blessed Tag, Shin had used them too during the event, so there was no mistake.
The problem was that even using the Blessed Tag, there was just a 50% chance of it working.
In case it failed, they would have to go look for the event boss, which they were not even sure existed.
“Is it really true that I have lost my memories?”
“Yeah. According to your memory, you just woke up in this world and fought Hameln, right? If so, it would be weird that your non-combat skills are leveled up too. Your Cooking skill is as high as IX, isn’t it?”
“…indeed, I do possess many skills that I have no recollection training. So it is true that I lost my memory.”
Schnee checked her status and nodded, convinced.
Her expression barely changed, just like before, so Shin was not sure if she was really convinced or not. At the same time, he wondered if she always was so deadpan.
Filma then asked him a question.
“So, do you have the item that could recover her memory?”
“….I don’t have all the materials. I’m missing something called 『White Scent Nectar』, anyone heard of it?”
Shin checked his item box, then replied to Filma’s question.
Event item materials normally couldn’t be used to make other items, so there was no point in gathering them in large quantities. He had something remaining from when he made Blessed Tags for Filma and the others, but it wasn’t enough to make another one.
“Why don’t you try contacting the Golden Company’s Berett, first? I suppose that’s our best chance for finding it.”
“Yeah, that’s right. I’ll ask anyone I can contact first. Players like Hibineko could be carrying some too. Filma, guys, you’ve never heard of this item, right?”
“Nor have I.”
“I would have said it already if I had.”
Filma, Tiera and Shibaid did not seem to know either.
Filma and Shibaid, however, seemed to remember about the event, so they knew what kind of item it was.
“In Tsuki no Hokora…wasn’t there a box materials come out of? Couldn’t there be some there?”
“That doesn’t create event-only materials. Checking the storehouse is a good idea, though. Let’s take a look in Celciutos’ and Rashugum’s store too.”
Thanks to Tiera’s mention of the material creation device, Shin decided what they would go next. He would only go visit Zigma at a later time.
They opted to explain what happened to Zazie and the others, saying that they would leave for the moment.
First, they went to check Celciutos, using a teleport stone prepared for themselves, different from the one placed in Shigureya. The group arrived in the ship and quickly proceeded to its stockroom.
Shin unlocked the 5-mel tall door, which slid effortlessly to the side.
The stockroom contained items in both card and materialized forms. Some items were kept in materialized form simply because keeping stacks of cards in such a large storeroom would give it a bleak atmosphere: a pretty meaningless reason, honestly.
Keeping the items in card form allowed one to store them more efficiently: in each of the room’s sections, one for each member, piles of cards were stacked.
One of the storeroom’s functions prevented the stacks from collapsing, as all cards kept there were rare items and parts.
Despite the apparent lack of care in the way the item cards were stacked, they were actually piles and piles of treasures.
“This is impressive…even if they’re all in card form, I feel kind of overwhelmed.”
The memory-deprived Schnee commented after looking around the storeroom.
If any person skilled in detecting magic power, other than a player or someone related to one, entered in a room like this, they would either be completely charmed or run away as fast as they could.
“The storeroom in Tsuki no Hokora was also unbelievable. It even had cursed weapons on display, just like that.”
“Is that not dangerous?”
Tiera commented with a sigh, but Schnee replied to her seriously.
“It’s fine as long as you don’t touch them. All accessories that can create mental interference are blocked from doing anything too. If any weapon gets a bit too daring, I just melt them and send them back to the forge.”
Shin clearly stated that there was nothing to worry about, as he had done with Kuchinashi at Hinomoto, when he showed her his storeroom.
“I see, our lord is well acquainted with the usage of weapons.”
“Er…not just weapons, blacksmithing in general. Leather, threads…I’ve also raised my skills in handling materials other than metals. ”
Shin momentarily found himself at a loss of words because of Schnee’s impressed comment. Her words and expressions showed that she was simply saying what she thought.
When he first started playing, Shin tempered iron and Schnee poured her magic power in it, to forge swords. Though she did not remember her experience now.
“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to check the list.”
Shin returned to the mission, and, after checking the item cards in his section, asked for “permission” and started checking the stocked items’ list of the other Rokuten members.
He scrolled through the long list of item names, looking for the 『White Scent Nectar』. He checks each list twice, to be sure not to miss it.
First, he looked through Hecate’s and Cook’s lists, rich in vegetal-related ingredients. He then went to the other sections in order from the closest: Cain, Cashmere and Reed.
Contrary to his expectations, however, Shin could not find the 『White Scent Nectar』 anywhere.
“I didn’t expect much, but to not even find one…I wonder if we’ll be luckier in the other places.”
“We have no choice but to make an attempt, though.”
“Yeah, off to Rashugum then.”
Shin nodded to Shibaid and announced their next destination. The fastest way would be to teleport directly from Celciutos, but as it had happened when they tried from Tsuki no Hokora, it was not possible.
“Where is Rashugum now, by the way?”
“We’ll have to check with Vizzy about that. I’ll have her prepare some transportation too. If the Elder Dragons we used before are still available, there’s no need to make Rashugum come down either.”
Rashugum was always flying in the air, so if it was not possible to fly or teleport there, it would be necessary to make it land and start from the lowest floor.
It wasn’t impossible for Shin, but thanks to Vizzy and the Elder Dragons they could avoid such a troublesome method.
“I’ll send Vizzy a message and ask where they are. I’ll try to get her to come here or to Barbatos, whichever is closer.”
“As you, my lord, are the only High Human, I doubt she would refuse your orders.”
Schnee continued, saying that even if a member of Rokuten other than Shin had come to this world, she would surely obey.
Vizzy and Berett collaborated with Shin because they shared Schnee’s sentiments, maybe.
“I’m trying not to force people like that. And you can just call me Shin.”
“I cannot address my lord in such a manner.”
“Before losing your memory, you called me Shin, you know?”
“I have no such recollection.”
Schnee was steadfast. She wanted to clearly draw the line in their master-servant relationship.
Even when they left Barbatos, Schnee reproached Filma for her much too familiar manner of speaking with Shin.
“Schnee was pretty stubborn in this period, huh.”
“I don’t think she was so stiff, though.”
“What about me?”
Shin and Filma answered Schnee’s expressionless stare, laughing and saying it was nothing.
“By the way, my lord, will we spend the night here?”
“It depends on what Vizzy and Berett tell us. I was planning on thinking about it after lunch.”
He hadn’t chosen where to eat yet. Schnee said that she would like him to materialize Tsuki no Hokora.
“I’ll go ahead and prepare lunch, then.”
“Okay, got it.”
Spurred on by Schnee, who was eager to do the housework herself, Shin materialized Tsuki no Hokora in an open space. Tiera noticed and said she would help, so she followed Schnee inside.
Shin went to his room to write messages for the support characters Vizzy and Berett, as well as the former players Hibineko and Shadow. Afterwards, he went to the kitchen to check on Schnee.
“Even without her memories, I guess her skills are intact.”
Schnee and Tiera were making preparations for the meal.
Schnee had taught Tiera not only how to fight, but also skills useful for living, such as basic alchemy and cooking.
Probably because they lived together for a long time, Schnee and Tiera worked together swiftly and efficiently, without bumping or inconveniencing each other.
“Master, you once said that for cooking technique and feelings are what’s important.”
Tiera, not noticing Shin’s presence, started talking with Schnee.
“I can understand why technique would, but…feelings…?”
“Yes. You told me that dishes prepared with feelings for someone and dishes prepared with just technique had different flavor.”
“Is there an unknown ingredient to be added…?”
“No, that’s completely not the way to think about it…”
Schnee seriously reflected…in the wrong direction, and Tiera stopped her, disappointed.
Shin too nodded, hidden in the shadow of the corridor.
“Master…no, Schnee, what you put into your cooking were your feelings for Shin.”
Tiera stopped her hands for a moment and talked while looking at Schnee. On her face was a slight frown, as if she was enduring something painful.
“My feelings for my lord?”
“Yes. Shin disappeared, and even if you were told that he might not return anymore, you continued to wait for him. Ever since he returned, you were always looking at him. I am sure many things that I am not aware of happened between you, too.”
Tiera continued, frankly.
Thinking about it, Shin and Schnee were alone together rather often. Tiera had probably noticed it too.
“Back at the village, I was often told that I was slow when it came to romance…but even I could tell how you felt about Shin. That’s how important he is for you.”
“That’s beyond what I…I do not find it unbelievable that I might harbor feelings for my lord, but our difference of status is too great. I am but a mere servant, would my lord ever look at me?”
Schnee closed her eyes and talked with her hands resting on her chest.
It was simply preposterous: so suggested Schnee’s behavior.
“Oh, you were quite open in showing each other your affection. Despite……..what others might feel.”
Tiera thought to talk in a light, casual way, but probably couldn’t hold back anymore, and blurted out a complaint. She had said it almost in a whisper, but it had reached Schnee’s ears.
“Is that so. I do not feel that way as of now, but…it is the same for you, yes?”
“Ah! Er, I…….yes….”
Tiera was stuck in a long pause after Schnee’s question, but finally answered in a very feeble tone of voice.
After hearing her reply, Schnee put down the frying pan she was holding and, with a small smile on her expression-void face, hugged Tiera.
“You are very kind.”
“….eh? Er, I….”
Schnee hugged Tiera with just enough strength so that she could break free anytime she wanted, then continued to speak softly.
“After talking with Filma and Shibaid, I have concluded that I was rather…though I do not know if this is the appropriate way of saying it…well liked by my lord. If you are fond of my lord, this loss of memory would be the perfect chance for you to express your feelings and draw him to you. Despite this, you are trying to bring me back, in your own way…maybe because you are this kind of person, the past me saved you.”
“No, er, I didn’t think that far…”
Not knowing what to do, Tiera was squirming in Schnee’s arms.
“I’m sorry, my body moved on its own. Even if I forgot, it appears that my body remembers.”
“You don’t have to apologize! I’m the one who has a huge debt of gratitude to you, mas…Schnee!”
“You may call me master if you want. We must have lived together long enough for you to call me that instinctively, correct?”
“Ye, yes. Thank you, very much.”
Tiera’s last words trembled.
Shin did not know how Schnee and Tiera met. As Tiera said, she not only respected Schnee but also felt indebted to her.
After Tiera calmed down, the meal preparations continued smoothly. Schnee’s skills had not decreased in the least, so there was no delay.
The eavesdropping Shin, however, had missed the timing to leave. He only meant to check on them, but encountered an unexpected development.
“The menu is hamburg steak, right?”
“Indeed, nice smell.”
Maybe attracted by the smell of cooking meat, Shibaid and Filma too arrived and joined Shin in looking at Schnee and Tiera cook.
“Now that I think about it, the day I met Schnee again, we had hamburg steak for dinner.”
Shin mumbled under his breath.
“Hmm, might this be Tiera’s proposal?”
“I don’t know, but she was with us too, so it could be.”
“Food prepared in a special occasion…I wonder if it will trigger her memories.”
The three continued observing the cooking team while talking.
It wasn’t clear if Schnee and Tiera noticed them or not, as they continued working quietly.
Soon after, Shin received the replies to his previously sent messages.
“Guys, I’m leaving for a moment”
The former players, Hibineko et al, had not been much interested in the “Depths of Oblivion” event and did not participate in it. They added that they would research it on their own.
Berett said that they did not sell the 『White Scent Nectar』, but he would look for it.
Vizzy was back at Rashugum.
Incidentally, they had given Wilhelm a teleport crystal for the location near Bayreuth where Tsuki no Hokora was located. After bringing Hermie back, he had apparently used it to return to Bayreuth.
Vizzy and Rashugum were flying over the center of the continent: in her reply, she asked if she should head towards their location right away.
If she did so, she would arrive late at night. Flying with dragons was dangerous when it was dark, so Shin asked her to depart the following morning, while moving with Rashugum. Vizzy couldn’t see through Shin’s concealing skills, so he added that she should contact him again when she was close.
Just about that time, the hamburg steaks were cooked and ready to eat.
“Okay, I’ll go call Shin and…what are you doing?”
The meal mostly complete, Tiera started walking out to go call the others, but then she found herself face to face with Filma and Shibaid.
Filma and Shibaid were peeking inside from the corridor’s shadows, while Shin, behind them, was turning around too.
Tiera, her apron in her hands, looked at them and sighed.
“We were wondering how things were going. Hamburg steak, yeah?”
Thinking it would be weirder to just keep quiet, Shin tried asking about the menu.
“Yes, it left an impression on me too, so I thought that it could maybe trigger some response. Well, my cooking can’t quite compare with what master makes when she puts her heart in it, though.”
Due to the memory loss, Schnee’s culinary prowess had somewhat decreased. Even so, she was still an opponent beyond Tiera’s league.
Shin and the party thought that the possibility of Schnee recovering her memories through the meal were low, but still held onto this tiny ray of hope as they sat down.
“Let’s eat, then, everybody.”
Shin thought that Schnee could have forgotten about this custom of theirs, but she followed with everyone without hesitation.
When he pointed it out, Schnee looked at him puzzled.
“I’m not sure, but…I did it without thinking.”
This made Shin think she didn’t actually forget every little memory.
“How’s the taste, master?”
“Good enough, I’d say. No problem.”
Filma and Shibaid too commented about the hamburg steak’s deliciousness.
It was indeed delicious, but to Shin it seemed like something was missing. Tiera too shared his opinion.
It had been a while since they last ate Schnee’s hamburg steak, so it could be their imagination. Even so, they felt that there was something lacking in it.
“Can you remember anything?”
“…I’m sorry, not especially.”
“I see…well, I guess that’s normal. If it could return so easily, we wouldn’t need any items!”
Tiera was clearly faking a cheerful tone.
Shin then decided to comment in a joking way.
“If she came back like this, I would have to send messages to everyone all over again!”
Shin then changed to lighter topics, implying that that conversation was over.
Everyone else followed him too, successfully avoiding for the meal to continue in silence.
“Thanks for the meal.”
After eating, Shin and the party prepared for the following day. They had just finished a late lunch, however, so it was still too early to sleep: all members then spent the day freely.
Shin left the others and went to the alchemy room, located next to the smithy, to check if there were other items which could substitute the 『White Scent Nectar』.
He chose items that looked similar and were harvested in the same location, then tried the creation method of the 『Blessed Tag of Bonding』 with them. He stopped just once for dinner, but was cooped up in the room for the rest of the day.
“My lord? Are you still awake?”
Shin heard a hesitating voice call to him as he was drawing the essences he needed from the items. He turned around and saw Schnee, with a gown over her pajamas.
“What’s up? Did something happen?”
“No, but it is rather late, so I thought that it was time for you to rest…”
Shin thought that not much time passed since he started to work again, but it was past midnight already.
Similar to when he was called to dinner, when he focused time really flew by.
“I didn’t notice at all. So that’s why Yuzuha said that she was going to sleep.”
Yuzuha had been watching over Shin’s work, but then said that she was sleepy and would go to bed…as Shin just remembered.
“Please do not overexert yourself. Think of yourself before me.”
“That I can’t do.”
Shin answered immediately to Schnee’s light reproach. He wouldn’t compromise on this.
“That is not good. Please rest.”
“I will, after a couple more tests.”
“….if so, I will stay with you.”
If she left him like that, who knows how long he’d continue. Schnee realized this and sat down on a chair in a corner of the room.
She planned to not move an inch until she confirmed that Shin stopped working.
“You can go to sleep first, you know?”
“It is unthinkable for me to go to sleep before my lord.”
No matter how much Shin protested, Schnee did not budge from her chair. He eventually gave up.
“To your room, then. I will accompany you.”
“Wait, I can go to my room by myself.”
“It would not do for you to come back to this alchemy room.”
“I’m not going to…”
Shin’s words were not very believable after he forgot about the time, lost in his experiments.
“I am but one of your support characters. My lord’s health must be prioritized. I am nothing to be…”
“That’s not true!!”
Shin’s tone grew stronger.
He did not talk loudly, considering the time, but the will contained in his words did not allow Schnee to retort.
“Even if you don’t remember, even if you have forgotten everything, I remember the feelings that you expressed towards me. What you felt while you waited for me. I just want to answer those feelings. I can’t just not do anything. For you, I don’t care how much I’ll overexert myself!! For me, you are a higher priority!!”
Schnee was right too in a way, but Shin couldn’t stand it.
He knew it was one-sided, but he held her shoulders and confessed his feelings.
Maybe because there was no one else around, or because, tired from work, his sense of restraint had weakened. He wasn’t sure why, but he said exactly what he felt.
Schnee was in a corner of the room and couldn’t step backwards. He had her effectively cornered, as if he didn’t want to give her a chance of escape.
At a distance close enough that he could have stolen her lips if he wanted, after this kind of confession even Schnee couldn’t maintain her expressionless face.
“I, I…understand…you’re…too close…”
“Ah…I’m…I’m sorry. I kind of lost control there…”
Schnee blushed and whispered, looking down. Shin quickly put more distance between them.
“…ahem. My lord, I think I have fully grasped how you feel towards the past me. And because of that, I urge you to take care of yourself first. If the me before memory loss knew that you pushed yourself too hard for her sake, she would surely blame herself.”
“Yeah…you’re right. I won’t push myself too hard.”
“Please do. Well then, good night.”
Schnee bowed lightly and returned to her room. She seemed to have given up on taking Shin back to his quarters.
Shin looked at her quickly walking away, then headed to his room himself.
Schnee left Shin and returned to her room. After closing the door, she leaned on it and slowly slid down to a sitting position.
“As I thought…memories are not… all gone.”
She barely managed to complete the sentence. She held her right hand over her chest, where the heart was, and tried to calm her breathing.
The present Schnee did not feel any particular affection towards Shin. As he was her creator, she respected him and did not have doubts about obeying him, but did not have any romantic feelings.
“To feel like this even without memories…how lost was I for him before…?”
Schnee laughed a little at herself. She couldn’t know how she was before the memory loss, but if her body was this affected, there was no choice but to believe.
When Shin came up close to her, her heart started beating fast like never before. Surprise and joy swelled in her chest, large enough to make it difficult to breathe.
How happy did those words make you? Her chest had become so burning hot that she almost wanted to ask the past her this question.
And because of that, she thought.
The present her shouldn’t approach Shin any more than strictly necessary.
“The Schnee who should stand beside my lord is the one before the memory loss.”
The present her was some sort of mirage. She would eventually disappear. If so, she will be a loyal servant, obeying her lord, until the end.
“Come back soon.”
Schnee talked to the other her.
It looked like it would take a while before her body cooled down.