The small crowd naturally separated, revealing a single man’s figure. The blue-eyed, blonde-haired young man, wearing — of course — impossibly gorgeous armor, glared at Ilan and Shin from several mel away.
In stark contrast with his former attitude, Ilan was now deathly quiet.
Shin, on the other hand, seeing the parting crowd inadvertently mumbled “Moses…?” to himself.
“I thought I said not to let anyone inside?”
“My deepest apologies, lord Russt!”
Judging from Ilan’s immediate bowing, Shin supposed that the man must have been of rather a high standing.
Without sparing another glance to the prostrating Ilan, Russt walked closer to Shin, his eyes clearly looked down on Shin.
(Whoa, this guy looks even more of a pain than Ilan…)
Unaware of Shin’s thoughts, Russt approached Shin with heavy, clanging steps, finally standing right in front of him.
Shin cocked his head to the side, looking puzzled at Russt’s prolonged silence. Just then, Ilan yelled.
“You!! How dare you just stand there!! You are in lord Russt’s presence, name yourself!!”
Apparently, the reason why Russt was silently glaring at Shin was that he was waiting for Shin to introduce himself.
“My apologies. My name is Shin, I am a wanderer.”
Thinking that it wouldn’t be good to make an enemy of someone of high social standing, Shin lowered his head and obliged. This kind of person is usually satisfied if you just act respectfully towards them.
“Hmph, what poor manners. Not that a wanderer can be expected to be educated.”
Letting Russt’s arrogant words wash over himself, Shin laughed bitterly internally, thinking how something like that worked in other worlds too.
“Our business is done. Let’s go.”
Russt started walking away. Shin slid to the left as Russt was about to bump into him.
His quick movement did not go unnoticed by the blonde young man and several others, who looked at Shin suspiciously.
Including Ilan, who clicked his tongue while leaving, all of Russt’s subordinates followed him outside the store. Only three people, Shin excluded, remained inside.
“Allow me to apologize for Ilan’s uncouthness.”
The blonde man that had first approached Shin when he entered spoke again. The other two present also looked apologetic.
“There is no need to, no one has been hurt after all.”
“I am glad to hear you say that. My name is Aldy, Aldy Cheir. If you will ever have need of the Knights, please contact me.”
“I am Shin. I will take on your offer, if the occasion arises.”
Shin answered while shaking Aldy’s extended hand.
Looks like the group was part of a band of Knights. Russt and Ilan had given Shin a negative impression, but judging from Aldy’s behavior, it seemed that arrogance was not a trait they all shared.
After Aldy left, the other two bowed slightly to Shin and exited in tow.
As the knights left, the store felt much larger. Shin looked at the racks and the items they housed, which he couldn’t see before.
(The weapons are all bronze and iron, silver at most. The armor is leather, bronze, iron, silver only. For items, they have low-grade Potions and Ethers, a few status-restoring pills. No materials anywhere.)
Looking at the items, Shin felt dejected at how low their level was compared to before. They were all items only beginners would use.
(Doesn’t look like it’s doing better than the game era…)
The situation was so desperate that Shin started worrying about the store’s management.
“—-what are you mumbling about all this time?”
Shin emitted a somewhat lame response after the sudden approach.
He had been voicing his thoughts unconsciously, or so it seemed.
Shin looked at the voice calling to him, from behind the counter: his eyes met with a pair of golden ones, looking at him.
They belonged to an elf girl: long ears poked out of her black lacquer-like hair, so it was very likely that she was one.
Just like most elves, a race characterized by their handsome features, the girl that was now looking puzzled at Shin was of rare beauty: 10 out of 10 people would definitely be charmed by her looks.
She was one head shorter than Shin, about 160 cemel. Her skin was a healthy white, her physique slender as a whole, but her breasts firmly showed their presence from under her robe.
Her looks suggested that she could be 17 or 18 years old, but with elves, a long-lived species, appearance was rarely related to actual age. This girl too was very likely to be a few centuries old.
“…I was just looking at what was on sale.”
“Really? You had a pretty strict look in your eyes just now, though.”
“I didn’t mean to, though…”
“Anyway, that nasty bunch is gone, so you may look all you want.”
The elven girl then sat down on the chair set behind the counter.
“Nasty bunch? The people that were just here?”
“Yes, they come awfully often, asking when master will be back. They’re really persistent.”
They had to come really often: the girl’s tone clearly showed that she must have been fed up with them.
“That’s tough…oh, I hadn’t introduced myself yet. My name is Shin, as you can see I’m a wanderer.”
“Do you introduce yourself to all store clerks you meet? You’re a real serious type. My name is Tiera Lucent, just call me Tiera. I’m the disciple of the substitute owner of this store and also act as clerk. If you have items or materials, we’ll buy them.”
“Thank you, I’ll remember that. For a band of knights to come so often, though, must mean that your master is a pretty awesome person, huh?”
“What are you saying? Tsuki no Hokora’s substitute owner, Schnee Raizar, is a name that even kids know.”
“Oh, that famous, huh. But…substitute owner?”
“That’s what she calls herself. The actual owner is another person, apparently.”
“So there’s someone above even such a famous person, huh…”
Then the store’s management should be fine, was Shin’s next -kind of busybody-like- thought. But the name of that substitute owner was nagging at him.
“Schnee Raizar, huh…Schnee Raizar. Schnee…SCHNEE RAIZAR??”
“W-What’s gotten into you all of a sudden!?”
Shin’s sudden yell had taken Tiera by surprise. She stood up without thinking, the chair she was sitting on falling backward with a thud.
“Aah, I’m sorry. I was just surprised.”
The sound of the falling chair brought Shin back to his senses and he apologized.
Of course he thought he heard the name before. During the game, Shin had entrusted the management of Tsuki no Hokora to one of the support characters he had created: Schnee Raizar.
“Listen, there’s something I’d like to confirm about your master, can I ask you some questions?”
“Y-Yes, if it’s something I can answer.”
Tiera unconsciously took a step back because of Shin’s deadly serious tone and expression.
Shin, however, was too taken by this unexpected coincidence and paid no mind to her reaction.
“This Schnee Raizar…is a High Elf with waist-length silver hair. Clear, almost transparent blue eyes. 166 cemel tall, and to top it all a super gorgeous lady, right?”
“Yes, that’s right…are you a fan or something?”
Tiera’s gaze towards Shin had turned rather cold, but he still hadn’t noticed anything.
“No, that’s not it. You could say…that we’re acquaintances. (In the game we were store owner and clerk, though)”
“An acquaintance of master’s? Is that really true?”
Tiera sent a look full of suspicion to Shin.
“I don’t know if she still remembers me, though.”
Shin was well aware that a man that appeared all of a sudden, claiming to be the owner’s acquaintance, couldn’t be trusted. The real problem was that Schnee could have forgotten about him.
“Where is Schnee now, by the way? Judging from what you said before, looks like she’s been away for a long while.”
“Sorry, but that I can’t say. I didn’t say it to the Knights, so why would I tell you?”
Shin didn’t know how this world’s social structure was made, the previous encounter clearly showed that the Knights’ social standing was relatively high.
A mere wanderer couldn’t be trusted, thought Shin while his shoulders dejectedly dropped.
“If you have a message for her, you can tell me. Taking messages for master is pretty much half of my job anyway.”
“Half…? Just how many does she get?”
“They mostly come from governments or the guilds’ top brass. Requests, pretty much.”
That message system consisted mainly of requesting Schnee for assistance when natural disasters happened or monsters appeared in great quantity. Schnee had no intention of affiliating with any group, so she accepted requests secretly in the guise of messages.
Over the years, that system had become a staple known to the public, so there was no problem in talking about it even to someone who visited the store for the first time like Shin.
“Wow, that’s…incredible. I have no other words.”
Receiving requests straight from the government…that’s insane, thought Shin.
“Master rarely accepts any, though. So, will you leave a message?”
“Yeah, I guess I will.”
“One message is 10 bronze Jul coins. 1000 Jul.”
“Whoa, it’s not free…? What’s a Jul by the way?”
Hearing the name of a currency completely new to him, Shin tilted his head to the side.
The currency in THE NEW GATE was only the Geyl.
“Are you serious? You’re traveling and you don’t even know the currency in use?”
“No, it’s that there was another one in use before.”
“Before? The currency hasn’t changed for at least 400 years, though…can you show it to me?”
Four hundred years…Shin froze when he heard those words. Not knowing a currency used for such a long time made him feel like he had woken up after sleeping for centuries.
“Well, it’s this…”
Shin took out one Geyl from the item box and placed it on the counter.
A round, golden coin around three cemel wide, with an eight-winged dragon carrying a maiden carved in its center.
“….hey, what did you take this out of?”
Tiera looked incredulous at the coin that popped out of an apparently empty space.
“What? The item box, what else?”
Those words seemed to shock Tiera even more.
“Ah, er, what?”
“Well, I mean, you looked really surprised, is something wrong?”
“Something? It’s not just something! Of course I’m surprised that you can use the item box!”
“? Really now?”
Tiera’s shoulders dropped for some unknown reason.
“In this day and age, only royals and long-living species like High Lords, High Elves and High Pixies can use the item box. It’s not something people normally even have. But here I see you, popping out of nowhere, who not only have the item box but can also use it, of course I’m surprised. You aren’t a member of a royal family somewhere, are you?”
“Not at all. It’d be trouble for someone like me to be a royal.”
Shin himself was surprised to know that. The item box, something any player used, had become something that only very special people used…it was a completely unexpected development.
Incidentally, the “High” before the species name signaled a superior species that became selectable only after resurrecting in the same species for 10 times or more.
Several species existed in THE NEW GATE, but the seven basic ones were Human, Beast, Dragnil, Dwarf, Elf, Lord and Pixie.
Humans were humanlike, Beasts were half human half beast, Dragnils were half human half dragon, Lords were half human half mystical creature, Pixies were fairies.
“It’s pretty normal for me though…”
“What? Normal? Give me a break. What’s your species, anyway? You look like a Human, but your magic feels like there’s all sorts of things mixed in it, it feels really ambiguous. Elf, Lord, Dragnil, others too…what’s up with that?”
“I don’t know how to answer that either. Anyway, I’m a High Human.”
It was displayed in the status window, so there was no doubt about that: Shin thus revealed his species.
High Human was the superior species to Human: its characteristic of resistance to status effects and magic was boosted even more.
Humans were a balanced type, but since their stats were the lowest of all species, they weren’t any popular among solo or group players.
In THE NEW GATE’s lore, Humans had absorbed much of the magic power in the atmosphere, thus developing high resistance to negative statuses and magic.
This could have made them natural enemies for magic users, but this species’ lore wasn’t only this: focusing too much on resistance meant that their other abilities were incomplete.
In this way, Humans had conquered the unshakable position of “useless characters”.
Even wearing sturdy armor and attacking magic users from the frontlines, letting their resistance do its job, Humans still couldn’t hold a candle to other frontline species and ended up beaten to a pulp.
Even fighting as magic users, they couldn’t compete with magic-oriented species such as Elves or Pixies in MP or INT; in case of a clash of spells, even Lords — another balanced species — would easily overwhelm Humans.
They could only be used as meat shields against magic or to scatter status effects, as thieves or hunters.
(Well, in a way that was a good thing for me.)
Humans were thus a species full of disadvantages. For Shin, however, maxing all stats made the species’ unique traits shine even more.
That was something only very few hardcore players could say, though.
Thinking back on Humans’ position in the game, Shin remembered how he went around beating down everyone who made fun of them.
“Hm? Yeah, so?”
On the other hand, Tiera was positively flabbergasted by Shin’s revelation, which surprised him even more.
Extinct. That’s the word Tiera used.
The High Human species was extinct.
“…so there aren’t any Humans anymore either?”
“No, there’s plenty of Humans. The knights here just now were Human too, no?”
“Aah, so they still exist!!”
Shin had misunderstood Tiera’s words to mean that humanity had gone extinct, so he couldn’t help but loudly voice his relief.
“Only the High Humans are extinct, not the Humans.”
“What’s the difference?”
“There’s a big difference. There were only six High Humans once, legendary figures who ruled over the four continents. Not even groups of tens of thousands of Humans could defeat them in battle. Their power was just of another level.”
“Six people ruled over the continents?”
A group of six people ruling over the continents…this too reminded Shin of something. He felt like something like this had happened before.
“Could you tell me more?”
“Most people know about this though…but okay, I’ll tell you. In the distant past, around 500 years ago, High Humans ruled over this continent. They were only six, but their power was so overwhelming that other species could not do anything to stop them.”
“But one day, their rule suddenly ended.”
“Yes, it ended. Not only the High Humans, but also long-living species like High Elves and High Lords, short-living species like High Beasts and High Dwarves…many royals, elders, heroes and generals, members of all species revered for their strength, disappeared. I heard that they all disappeared out of the blue. According to master, not only such powerful people, but many others disappeared too. The day they disappeared is now called “Dusk of Majesty”.”
“Dusk of Majesty…huh.”
“All High Humans disappeared that day, that’s why they say that they went extinct. There were only six of them anyway.”
A sudden disappearance…Shin had an idea about what that could be.
(It’s the day I defeated Origin and everyone logged out. I have no concrete proof, but that’s probably the truth behind this “Dusk of Majesty”.)
Elders, royals and heroes probably referred to the guildmasters.
That day, the players who finally gained freedom probably numbered in the tens of thousands. Shin didn’t know the exact number, but there was no doubt that many players had been trapped in the game.
For the inhabitants of this world, it must have looked like a mass disappearance.
(Which means, those High Humans who ruled over the continents are…)
Shin finally realized what they reminded him of.
The six High Humans. They had to be…
Yes, before THE NEW GATE turned into a death game, when it was just like any other VRMMORPG. Within it, there was an invincible guild.
A guild formed by six High Humans, called “Rokuten”.
A guild that, in less than one month, took down all major guilds and made itself known to all players. It was said that all players who showed hostility to it would be PK’d.
Shin too was one of its members, once. When he first played he chose to be a Human and was mocked heavily for it; in order to dispel this irritation, he had rampaged for a while, eager to show that other species weren’t all that after all. It was a sort of skeleton in Shin’s closet, something he didn’t want others to know.
All members were fierce warriors, players with most stats maxed out.
Even the member with the lowest stats had maxed out HP and MP, with all other stats over 900: a monster, basically.
In guild battles, they one-sidedly challenged major guilds to battles without number limitations, fighting in a series of absolutely insane conflicts, like battles of six VS 1000 players. They would use large-scale magic spells to turn whole fields to scorched wastelands, then turn the shocked enemy leader into a punching bag to conclude the battle.
The first month after the guild was formed, it had become a High Human VS all other species situation.
The solo players who witnessed Rokuten’s rampage, setting fire to fields and cities, called that period “30 days of fire”, in reference to a certain anime movie.
After that, very few dared to challenge Rokuten, and even fewer people mocked Humans. All had learned of Humans’ fighting potential and their resistance to magic and status effects.
Magic had barely any effect. Poison, Paralysis, Confusion, Charm, Burns, Freezing, High Confusion, Petrification, Curses…they also resisted such status effects: essentially, they were untouchable.
Incidentally, the only Rokuten member trapped in the death game was Shin.
Was that good, or bad luck? If at least one more of them had been around, Shin thought that the game could have been cleared at least three months earlier.
“What’s wrong? You’re all quiet all of a sudden.”
“No, it’s nothing. Can we go back to the currency topic, instead?”
Shin felt that continuing to talk about High Humans would be like digging his own grave, so he tried to revert to the original topic.
“Fine for me…so this is the currency you used?”
“Hmm, if you can pull out something this precious so easily, maybe you being a High Human isn’t a lie either…”
Tiera sighed and looked carefully at the coin. She was trying to see if it was authentic or not.
Shin found strange the usage of the word “precious”.
“That’s precious? It’s just one Geyl, though?”
One Geyl was the game’s smallest unit. In real money, it wasn’t worth more than 1/1000 Yen. Shin had hundreds of millions of Geyl in his item box, incidentally.
“Geyl coins aren’t that easy to come by now. Maybe you don’t know, but Geyls are magical items that have the power to amplify one’s magic power. They’re sometimes found in ruins and sold in auctions, but they’re at least worth 10 platinum Jul, or more than one billion Jul. That Jul is the common currency nowadays.”
“Just one of these is worth hundreds of millions…”
“Magic users would do anything to get their hands on one. Master showed me one once, but I have never seen another…until now. Oh and also, the one billion Jul I mentioned before is the lowest price: if you wanted one right away, you’d have to pay at least 10 times that, I’m sure.”
“Just one of these is worth that much, huh…how often are they found, by the way?”
“Very rarely, that’s all I can say…even if new ruins are found, not every time they find these coins too.”
“I see…have to be careful when exchanging them, or I’ll attract attention…”
Shin thought to sell them somewhere to get some funds, but concluded that it wouldn’t be wise to sell many at the same time, considering how rare they were.
“That’s a smart choice. You don’t look like you could handle things like that either.”
“Hey, that’s uncalled for…but if I can’t exchange, I have pretty much nothing.”
“Don’t you have anything else you could sell? Like I said before, if you have items or materials we can buy them.”
Shin opened the item box and took some of the item cards he had picked up on his way.
In this world too, when items were stored in the item box they were automatically turned into cards.
The cards also showed a drawing of the item they housed, which could be materialized at will.
What Shin placed on the counter were materials such as fangs, claws, fur, and meat of the Tetra Grizzly, Twinhead Snake and Flame Boar he had fought, along with the item card of a brown gem.
Materials could be crafted or sold and had a variety of uses, so in the game transactions were made everywhere. Gems were item that monsters dropped rarely; blacksmiths would use them to apply elements or other effects to weapons and armor. They were thus relatively more valuable than materials.
The gem that Shin had presented was of the lowest rank, 7.
“Yes? What’s wrong?”
“No, I should say it’s obvious, since you have an item box. Item cards are pretty valuable too, you shouldn’t take them out so easily.”
“What a pain, you tell me I should bring in the materials as is?”
“That’s normal!! You’re the weird one here!!”
“O-Okay, I get it, really, so calm down.”
“It’s a surprise after the other with you…”
Even while saying so, Tiera materialized the items in the cards without hesitation and started appraising them. She knew how to use them apparently.
“Tetra Grizzly, Twinhead Snake, Flame Boar. All materials from feral monsters that dwell in the depths of the forest. Who or what are you, really?”
“I’m not sure what to say to that…I beat them on my way here, they didn’t seem feral at all though.”
“They’re all monsters that knights fight in groups, though…whatever, it’s pointless to get surprised at every turn.”
Shin remembered them as monsters for beginners, but in this world they were regarded as dangerous enemies. Shin, who had defeated most of them in one blow, worried that the knights — who fought these monsters in groups — must have been seriously weak.
“Never mind that. How about the appraisal, instead?”
“Let’s see, they’re in good condition and can be turned into cards, so I can buy all materials for one gold Jul coin and 27 silver Jul coins, 1,270,000 Jul in all. The gem is grade 7 but it’s highly pure, so I can give you 25 gold Jul coins, or 25 million Jul.”
“Hmm, it’s completely different from the units I was used to, I can’t tell if it’s a little or a lot…”
“Usually it’s less than this, and gems depend on the market price, but lately they’re worth more than the usual.”
“This grade and purity normally nets you between 20-23 million Jul.”
“Oh, that’s good! Two million more than usual!”
“So? If that works for you, I’ll buy them.”
“Please. Oh, and this is yours. Think of it as a token of friendship.”
Shin pointed at the coin he had put on the counter before.
“….are you joking?”
“Why would I!?”
“It’s obvious why!! Did you forget what I said already!? In what world would you find someone willing to give away something worth billions for free!?”
Shin pointed at himself.
“….even if you come asking for it later, I’m not giving it back, all right?”
“Rest assured, I won’t.”
Tiera still looked at Shin with suspicion in her eyes, but eventually lost to the coin’s charm: she quickly palmed it and held it tightly near her chest.
That moment, Tiera’s chest -squeezed between her arms- consolidated its already clear presence even more, and Shin couldn’t help but stare at it: man’s sad nature.
“Aah, how I longed for you, Geyl coin…”
In utter contrast with her former suspicious look, Tiera now looked dreamily at the coin. Maybe because of her slightly flushing cheeks, Shin was caught by her somewhat sensual charm. He then shook his head in denial, to remove such base thoughts from his mind.
“Well, I’m glad that you’re satisfied. I’m sure elves use magic often, so it can be useful—”
“Wait a second!”
Useful to you, is what Shin meant to say, when Tiera suddenly interrupted him. Her expression was one of utter shock, as if she had just heard something unthinkable.
“Just now…did you say elf?”
“Yeah, I did, but…? Aren’t you an elf, Tiera?”
Long, pointy ears were characteristics of Elves and High Elves.
Shin thought a bit and confirmed that what he remembered wasn’t wrong, then tilted his head to the side, thinking that there might be a new species that he didn’t know.
“I should look like a catkin with red hair and black eyes, though.”
“A catkin with red hair and black eyes?”
Catkin, or cat-like humans, were a type of Beast popular among female players and some male players, called Type Cat in the game.
There were many subgroups within the Beast species: even Type Cats were separated in many others, like Persian or Calico types. Some players’ arms or faces became completely animal-like, while others retained the animal transformation only partially, to ears, tail or wings.
Shin looked at Tiera again, puzzled, but all he could see was a female Elf with black hair and golden eyes. The Type Cat with red hair and black eyes was nowhere to be found.
“I can only see a pretty elf with black hair and golden eyes, yes.”
“It can’t be…”
Shin had stressed the “pretty” part, but Tiera seemed not to notice.
“But why? Master used her illusion magic on me…”
Illusion magic created illusions to confuse the opponent or make them fall into traps. One of Rokuten’s members was an expert in it, so it had left a deep impression on Shin.
“Aaah…I can’t…I’ve been found…”
Tiera’s face was pale and terrified, as if she had heard that the world was going to end.
Shin thought fervently about how to solve her sudden low spirits. He couldn’t think of anything, however, so he decided to honestly explain how he had seen through her disguise.
Shin approached her as gently as he could, but Tiera shuddered nonetheless.
“It’s about how I found out that you’re an elf…that’s because of my constitution.”
“Yes. Illusion magic is magic that shows illusions to your opponent to confuse them. But it doesn’t affect people that have a strong resistance to magic. That’s why I can see your real appearance.”
“But…no matter how resistant you are, to see through master’s magic is…”
Even after Shin’s explanation, Tiera looked incredulous.
If Shin’s memory was correct, Tiera’s master, Schnee Raizar was a level 255 High Elf, the superior species to the magic-oriented Elf: the spells she used must have been very powerful.
Compared to Shin, however, her level might be maxed but her stats were still in a growing process. The High Human’s resistances, coupled with Shin’s stats, completely neutralized the illusion magic.
Shin sighed, at a loss of what to do.
“You can see my real appearance, right?”
“A pretty elf with black hair and golden eyes? Yes, I can see her perfectly.”
No answer. Shin expected at least a comment to his joke…his shoulders dropped.
Shin was regretting joking in a way he wasn’t used to, when Tiera’s feeble voice reached his ears.
Just like a small child, terrified of something…
“And why would I be scared?”
Shin quickly resumed a serious tone and replied to Tiera as gently as he could.