After about 5 minutes, Tiera finally raised her head from the towel. There were no more tears on her face, but her eyes were still red.
“I’m sorry, I’m okay now.”
“Oh, is that so, m-miss?”
“Well, you know, I made all that ruckus, but in the end your hair barely changed color, so I felt guilty, I mean…”
Shin had felt like sitting on needles while Tiera was crying.
Tiera didn’t seem to be angry. What was going on…? It was Shin’s turn to shudder now: their positions were reversed.
“Don’t call me miss or whatever for something like that…never mind my hair. I’ve had this color for over 100 years, I’m happy that it turned back at least a little.”
Tiera really looked happy. Her peaceful smile showed her joy at having taken back something important. She was completely different from the intimidated, terrified girl from before.
“Well, I’m kind of relieved to hear you say that.”
Even so…thought Shin. Hair is something especially important for girls, so he had heard often from his mother, little sister and female friends. He couldn’t exactly feel completely relieved.
“If I say it’s okay, it’s okay. Rather, is it really true that the curse is gone?”
If she says so, I have no reason to protest: so Shin tried to convince himself.
“Yes, no doubt about it. You’ll see if you go out of the store.”
Tiera’s curse was “Increased encounters with unique monsters”; If she didn’t leave the store, an area which protected by a barrier, she couldn’t verify that it was gone.
The barrier around the store had been erected by Shin. It was so powerful that not even high level unique monsters could breach it.
THE NEW GATE was a game that pursued a high degree of realism.
Because of this, it was possible to destroy almost all objects within the game: there were thus burglar players who targeted players that owned stores, like Shin did. In order to counter this, there were many barrier skills to prevent uninvited guests from trespassing.
“Honestly, I’m a little scared…if I think that the curse could be still there, I…”
“Don’t worry. I’ve been affected by the same curse too, you know.”
“Eh? Eeeh!? You’ve been cursed too!?”
“Yeah, mine too was the curse of high-level monsters encounters. With 【Purification】, the curse definitely disappears.”
Shin had been cursed when his stats already exceeded 800. He could then make short work of any unique monsters that appeared: for him, the curse had only been an easier method to level up. He could also gather rare materials and weapons at the same time, so the curse was a rather lucky occurrence for him.
“What was the strongest monster that attacked you until now?”
“The strongest was probably a Horn Dragon. It was around level 200, I think.”
“The stronger version of the Lesser Dragon, huh.”
“You know about it?”
“Well, everyone does. No problem at all.”
The Horn Dragon was the species superior to the Lesser Dragon (a small, wingless dragon): its body was two times the size of a lesser dragon and had a horn protruding from its forehead.
The Lesser Dragon was normally around level 100, but the Horn Dragon was much higher: most were around level 200. As Shin had confirmed before, Tiera’s level was 57, so she had no chance of winning.
In THE NEW GATE, the level cap for players and support characters was 255, but for monsters it was 1000: roughly 4 times more than players.
It was a system implemented to counter advanced players who performed resurrection multiple times, like Shin.
In order to prevent advanced players like Rokuten members from growing bored of easily defeating bosses, level 1000 monsters had been placed within the game too. They were opponents that not even Shin could lower his guard against: for normal players, they were a lost cause.
For Shin, who had fought and won against such foes, a level 200 unique monster was nothing special. Even if they left the barrier-protected aura with the curse still active, Tiera’s safety would be completely insured.
“….if a Horn Dragon appears, the Knights’ elite platoon comes to deal with it, though.”
“Elites? Why do you need a tough sounding bunch like that?”
“They don’t just “sound” tough, they are true elites. You saw the castle walls coming here, right?”
“Yeah, they had all sorts of defensive effects attached to them.”
“Those are the reinforced walls protecting the kingdom of Bayreuth. The captain of the elite platoon of the kingdom’s Knights is level 158. The Horn Dragon is level 200, so at least 40 levels higher than the captain. If you say you can defeat a beast like that so easily, either you have a few screws loose, or you’re just spouting lies, that’s what everyone would think.”
“Yes. A Horn Dragon is an opponent that not even the second strongest warrior in the kingdom would fight on their own, you know.”
Tiera apparently thought that Shin was surprised to know how high the captain’s level was.
Shin had actually frozen for a second because of the shock he received to learn how pitifully low the captain’s level was.
For Shin’s standards, level 158 was barely a middle player. If 2 or 3 monsters stronger than the Horn Dragon appeared, would it mean the end for the kingdom? Shin thought, but chose not to say it out loud. If it had existed for so long, there must be a reason.
“…well, I really meant it when I said that there’s no problem. Let’s go out.”
“Wait a second, you didn’t hear what I said?”
“I did. It made me confident that there was no way for problems to arise, honestly.”
“No way for…what? You don’t mean to say that the Horn Dragon is nothing to you?”
“….hey, let me ask, what level are you anyway?”
Tiera fell silent. Shin had just answered honestly, but she seemed utterly shocked.
“255…? The same as master…?”
“Yeah, I’m level 255, like Schnee, that’s right.”
“Really really real—”
“Wait, how many times are we doing this!?”
Shin hurriedly put a stop to Tiera, or the “really really” battle would have continued maybe forever.
“You can’t use 【Analyze】, Tiera? I’ll disable my restrictions, so you check my status and see for yourself.”
“Of course I can’t use it. Only skill inheritors can do things like that.”
“Skill inheritors? What’s that?”
“….I’m beginning to wonder just how much you don’t know…”
It was something that everyone knew in that world, apparently. But for Shin, to be expected to know that world’s basic knowledge was an impossibly tall order.
He had decided to ask about anything he wasn’t familiar with, so he didn’t mind even if Tiera looked disappointed.
“Well, maybe it’s common knowledge for you, but I’ve always lived away from people, so I just don’t know about that stuff.”
He couldn’t say that he had come from the game world, so he put it as if he had lived as a hermit. It wouldn’t be weird that he wasn’t familiar with the world like this.
“Fine, I’ll tell you everything you don’t know. Ask me anything.”
“Thank you very much.”
Thankful to Tiera for offering to explain, after all, Shin lowered his head.
“First, about skill inheritors…as the name says, they are people who inherited the now lost skills -also called sacred techniques. I don’t know much about it, but it seems that a great quantity of skills was lost after the Dusk of Majesty: they say that the skills in existence now are less than 100.”
“Less than 100…”
Shin couldn’t hide his surprise at hearing such a number: THE NEW GATE was a game known for its large quantity of skills. The number Tiera mentioned was less than 1/10 of the number of skills Shin could use.
“Nowadays, just being able to use skills gives you preferential treatment. It’s simply impossible for normal people. Even adventurers and knights, people that make a living by fighting, use a weakened version of skills, called Arts. The names and effects are the same as the skills they are based on, but their power and effects are around 1/3 of the original skills. I use magic too, but the magic skills master uses are a lot more powerful than my magic arts.”
“I see, so Arts are weaker Skills. Do Arts have levels, by the way?”
Some skills had levels too: Shin’s 【Analyze X】 was one of them. A number from ‘I’ to ‘X’ would follow the skill name, ‘I’ being the lowest and ‘X’ the highest. This system was present mostly in Support skills.
“I know that some Skills have levels, but Arts don’t.”
“Having to fight with Arts must be pretty harsh, huh.”
Shin was blessed with the ability of using Skills, so he knew how painful it would be to be weakened.
“You can use skills, right? What can you use? Judging from what you said, I suppose it’s not only 1. 2? Maybe 3? Don’t tell me that you can use 4??”
“That’s way too few! I’m pretty sure that I have at least more than 1000. I have never counted them, so I don’t know the exact number though.”
Shin laughed, mentioning that there were skills that he didn’t use at all, but Tiera looked at him puzzled, thinking that she must have heard wrong.
“What? 1000? Did I hear wrong?”
Tiera had heard perfectly, actually, but she thought it was a joke because it was something completely absurd by this world’s standards. Her surprise was so great that she doubted her own ears.
“We need 【Analyze】, after all. But at skill level I, you can’t see my level even if I remove the restrictions…well, it won’t hurt for you to have it. OK, so I’ll use 【Secret Book Creation】…”
Tiera looked at Shin’s hands, again moving in mid-air, a blank look on her face.
“Done. Here you go.”
Shin handed a book to Tiera.
When a skill’s proficiency was leveled up, the skill would become more powerful, or in some cases derivative skills could be learned.
A particular example was the creation of items called 『Secret Book』.
Creating Secret Books would materialize a scroll: using it would transmit to other players the skill written in it. Naturally, the number of Secret Books per skill is limited; the player who learned a skill through a Secret Book could not create a Secret Book of it themselves until they fulfilled the acquisition conditions of that skill. There were also other restrictions as well.
The more powerful a skill was, the fewer Secret Books could be created: there also were skills that could not be made into Secret Books. In addition, many skills have level restrictions: at low levels it was not possible to use advanced skills, even using Secret Books.
【Analyze】 was a skill that pretty much all players had and was not particularly restricted: players could create as many Secret Books as they wanted, so Shin made one right away.
“This is 【Analyze】’s Secret Book. If you read this you should be able to use it.”
Support characters could use Secret Books too, so it should work. If it didn’t, Shin would have honestly apologized. In cases like this, it was always worth trying.
“This will let me use a skill? But I don’t have anything on me worthy enough to pay for this.”
Shin thought of giving Tiera the scroll for free, but she didn’t just accept it like that.
“I told you, didn’t I? Skills are really valuable. If you want to learn one you either have to pay huge sums of money, become that person’s disciple, or…anyway, it’s really hard. You won’t just give it away for free, right?”
“That was exactly my intention, though. Is that bad?”
“….first, don’t just go give them to anyone. Things would turn seriously bad. In some cases, your life might even be targeted.”
Shin couldn’t have imagined that one mere skill could have put him in mortal danger: Shin decided to create Secret Books only for people he could really trust.
“That’s really scary. Well, I’m sure it will be okay if it’s you though, won’t you try using it?”
“You’re not going to bill me after I use it, are you?”
“Of course not!!”
Do I look like a swindler?? Was Shin’s next thought. But if there really was the threat of people coming for your life, Tiera’s suspicion was justified.
“Giving skills away for free is a typical scam, you know?”
“If I was thinking of scamming you, I’d have used an advanced skill at least…”
“This is really precious too for me, though…just having more than one skill is really amazing, after all.”
“I can’t use Arts, though. I only have skills, which for me are the norm, so I can’t really understand that.”
“I wish I had problems like those…fine. If you say so, I’ll accept it.”
“Please, I created it for that. It’ll be a problem if you don’t accept it, actually.”
Shin encouraged Tiera, who finally seemed convinced, and she started looking at the Secret Book’s contents.
As she did so, her body was enveloped in pale green light, which disappeared after about 10 seconds: the effect that appeared after using a Secret Book. Tiera had apparently acquired the skill without problems.
“So, how is it?”
In the game nothing was actually written in the Secret Book: after using it the scroll would vanish and the skill would be added in the player’s repertoire. Shin was thus very curious to know how it felt in this world.
“It’s really strange…as soon as I opened the scroll, how to use 【Analyze】 and its effects just flowed into my head. But it wasn’t unpleasant.”
“Oh, is that so.”
Shin expressed interest, but was actually relieved. He would be mortified if it hadn’t worked.
“I can see your name, but the rest is covered by some weird symbols.”
“So you could see at least the name. That weird symbol is called “question mark”, it appears when the difference between your and the target’s level is too large. It’s obvious that it appears between Tiera and me, I guess.”
“Right, normally you can’t even see the name. I understood about skills, their levels and how they affect what you can see. Looking at you like this, even if I don’t see your stats I can tell that you have really high ability.”
“Can you believe it now if I say that it will be okay even if monsters appear?”
“I guess I have to, at this point…”
Receiving 【Analyze】 prompted Tiera to trust Shin, apparently. She had been attacked by powerful monsters in the past, after all, so she couldn’t just forget her anxiety.
“I’ll go out first, take a look at the surroundings and then call you. Follow me then.”
Just in case, Shin checked if there were any monsters around Tsuki no Hokora. Using 【Search】, he also made sure that there were no enemies in the surroundings either.
The game system sometimes made monsters appear out of nowhere, so he couldn’t be completely sure yet.
Tiera was peeking from behind the store door: when she heard Shin’s voice, she gathered her courage and stepped outside.
Tsuki no Hokora was protected by 【Barrier X】 and 【Wall X】.
【Barrier X】 was an invisible wall that completely prevented all monsters with level lower 900-1000 (effect depends on caster) to enter and even counterattacked if struck.
【Wall X】 too was an invisible wall that prevented players with levels lower than 230-255 (effect depends on caster) to penetrate it.
Both were maxed, so even skills like 【Pass Through】 could not be used to penetrate them.
Low-level players that roleplayed as Merchants or the like requested higher level players to create such barriers around their store.
In 【Wall X】’s case, making mistakes in the settings could prevent normal people from passing through them. The barrier set by Shin prevented players wielding weapons from entering, the usage of skills and equipping of weapons in the store: he had made all necessary adjustments.
These 2 barrier skills guarded a 20 mels radius around Tsuki no Hokora. It was impossible for monsters to go as close as the store’s door, so Tiera had no reason to shake like a leaf at the door, but considering her past trauma, it was inevitable.
Shin motioned to Tiera, who slowly walked towards him. He was standing 1 mel out of the barrier, so reaching his position meant stepping outside the barriers.
Shin was focused on the surroundings. Tiera was silent for a while because of the nervousness.
After maybe 5 minutes and no changes in the surroundings, a warm breeze swept through Shin and Tiera’s hair.
After 5 more minutes, Shin concluded that there was no problem. Cursed players would be attacked once every 10 minutes.
“No monsters coming, huh.”
The first 5 minutes Tiera was nervous, but now she felt confident enough to look around.
“The curse’s gone, see?”
“So…it looks like.”
Tiera answered while looking up at the sky. In her eyes, the sky stretched on forever, deeply blue. It was not the slice of sky she could peek at from the store windows.
She could feel the wind, the sunlight, the scent of the forest. Nostalgic feelings filled her heart.
Looking at Tiera, Shin felt deeply relieved.
Now Tiera didn’t need to worry about monster attacks or about causing trouble to the people around her. Now she could go out of the store, freely.
“The sky’s so big.”
Tiera spoke as if she had realized it for the first time.
Shin noticed something shining at the edges of Tiera’s eyes, but said nothing.