TNG Vol. 1 Chapter 2 – Part 2

“The staff told me about you, see, so I just had to meet you.”

Completely oblivious to Shin’s reaction, the guildmaster kept talking, a big smile on his face.

“Lord Barlux, I would have preferred if you waited just a little more.”

“Don’t say that, I was really curious…your name is Shin, right? I’m Barlux. Apologies, but could you come over to my office?”

Shin imagined guildmasters to be generally old men, so he was pretty surprised: Barlux looked in his late thirties, early forties at most.

The large scar on his face, coupled with his massive physique, gave Barlux an aura of intimidation. An aura that his warm and endearing smile completely destroyed.

The most guildmaster-like characteristic he had was without a doubt his level, 228.

“Aah…yes, that’s alright, but could I just finish eating first?”

“Of course, I forced you to accept after all. I’ll be waiting over there, then.”

Barlux then headed inside a room in the back of the guild.

Shin thought that he let him go surprisingly easily, but thinking about what would happen after the meal, he couldn’t help but feeling depressed.

“Anyway, the guildmaster here is pretty young. I thought that places like this were managed only by super experienced elders.” 

“What you say isn’t usually wrong, sir Shin. In other cities, guildmasters are usually quite advanced in age. Lord Barlux is a former S-rank adventurer, though, and he does not lose to other guildmasters in terms of experience or connections either.”

“Former S-rank, huh?”

Shin was still not very familiar with this world’s common sense, but judging from Celica’s words, S-rank adventurers could not be too frequent. Barlux must have been a man of serious skill.

Shin finished his meal and, under the many gazes concentrated on him after the guildmaster had appeared, was guided to the back of the guild by Celica.

There were several rooms in the back; Shin was guided to what seemed like a reception room, which -other than a desk and bookshelves-contained also furniture such as a sofa and a table.

Shin didn’t know how much they could cost, but they all looked like high-quality items. Even so, there was a certain harmony in the room, as to be probably expected from the guildmaster’s office. 

“Welcome to the Adventurers’ Guild. I apologize for my rudeness before. Let me introduce myself formally, I am the guildmaster, Barlux Heim.”

As Shin entered the room, Barlux introduced himself while extending his right hand.

“My name’s Shin, nice to meet you.”

Shin too said his name and extended his right hand himself. Barlux’ hand was tough and rugged, with a strength well-fitting the hand of a warrior.

“Please.”

Shin was invited to sit down and did so on the sofa. As he did, Celica -who had accompanied him inside- served tea with perfect timing.

Thinking again about how unbelievably fast she was, Shin took a sip, then Barlux started talking.

“Shin, sorry to ask this right away, but could you show me the letter from Tsuki no Hokora?”

“Here you go.”

Shin took the letter out of the item box and handed it to Barlux. Barlux rolled it open and put another piece of paper next to it. As he did so, the crescent moon-shaped symbol on the letter started glowing silver.

“That’s…”

“Letters of introduction from Tsuki no Hokora are a bit peculiar, you see. Putting two letters together makes the magic imbued within them resonate and the rune symbol light up. In other words, this is authentic.”

Barlux then added that there were other methods to confirm the letter’s authenticity: all methods could determine fakes immediately.

“Who knew that there was a trick like this…”

Shin was surprised, but at the same time pictured Tiera in his mind and, sighed thinking that he would have liked her to tell him that much.

“You didn’t know?”

“I was just told that it was a freebie, you see.”

“A freebie…? Did you receive it from Schnee? Or maybe Tiera?”

“Tiera gave it to me. Schnee was out when I went.”

“Tiera, is it…but for her to forget to explain something is pretty rare…she has a very good eye for people. I too am fairly confident in mine, but I can’t compete with her.”

Barlux laughed, saying that he would very much like it if she joined the guild too.

Tiera had seen the curse afflicting her for over 100 years disappear, after all: it was not unnatural that she would forget to explain something.

Her keen eye in judging people was something born from her long life, probably.

“!!”

As soon as Shin thought about Tiera’s age, cold chills ran down his spine. For some reason, an intimidatingly smiling Tiera -with flames burning behind her- appeared in his mind.

(Better stop thinking about her age, or I might be in serious danger…)

Shin felt a very bad omen and decided to stop thinking.

“Hm? Something wrong?”

“No, nothing…”

“Really? Let’s go on, then. We got a bit off-topic.”

Barlux then sat more properly. The main topic was about to start, apparently.

“As Tiera seems to have forgotten to, let me explain the effects of this letter. First, having it in your possession would allow you to enter almost all of the world’s countries without inspection. It can also be used to obtain various kinds of assistance in all guilds, as well as garner their trust. Furthermore, in the kingdom of Bayreuth and a few other countries, you can even use it to have an audience with the king. In a way, there is no better guarantee of status than this.”

Shin did not doubt Beid, but apparently all he had said was true. The treatment received in the guild and information received now were really exceptional.

“That’s the power this one letter possesses. If the holder becomes known, people will definitely come out to steal it.”

“Definitely…I see.”

Having the letter meant that smuggling dangerous substances, terrorism and assassinations would become much easier to do. Any criminal would do anything to have one, undoubtedly.

“Precisely because of that, I must ask you. If you have enough power to protect this letter. If you don’t, I strongly recommend disposing of it right away.”

“……”

Shin reflected—-upon the advantages and disadvantages in holding onto the letter.

The advantages were traveling between countries without hassle and being more easily trusted by them.

The disadvantage was that if information about him having the letter leaked, he risked being attacked.

The advantages were something that Shin, as of now, did not find necessary. He had heard that having the guild card would facilitate the entrance in other countries, plus he thought that he would not get involved with countries or governments easily.

On the other hand, the disadvantage was not a huge problem either. 

It was true that, on his way to the guild, the gatekeepers learned already that he had the letter, and it was possible that some of the people in the queue noticed it too. He had also reported as much to the guild.

Shin didn’t know how classified information was handled in this country, but it wouldn’t be strange if an indefinite number of strangers already knew about Shin having the letter.

Even so, he just needed to keep it in the item box’s “Key Items” and not take it out unless necessary. As long as he did so, even the former Rokuten members could not lay a hand on it.

Even if he was told to hand it over, if he said that he didn’t have it there was no way for the other person to prove the contrary.

“I can protect it.”

Shin thought for a while, then stated his conclusion.

“That is your final decision?”

“Yes.”

“You won’t regret it?”

“I will not. I learned just now of the letter’s power, but having something that, with a single misstep, could damage the store’s reputation—-something so important, meant that she trusted me enough to do so. I have to respond in kind, then.”

Shin attempted a fearless laugh.

In the end, it wasn’t about advantages or disadvantages; the answer had already been decided.

Others could think that he was underestimating the danger involved, but unfortunately Shin was not new to having his life targeted.

He had spent one year in THE NEW GATE which had transformed to a death game, a period long enough to accumulate plenty of experience in dealing with ambushes and assassination attempts.

Of course, it wasn’t something he enjoyed accumulating.

“Heh, well said. That’s what I’d expect from someone holding that letter.”

“I can’t do anything too special, though.”

“No need to be humble. You thought about it for a while, but you weren’t actually undecided, were you?”

“How can you tell?”

Barlux had apparently seen through Shin: he wasn’t someone to be underestimated.

“Anyway, let me ask, just for reference, what level are you? I’ve survived my share of gruesome battles myself, I can tell you are a valid warrior.”

As expected of a former S rank adventurer. Barlux could tell others’ battle prowess even without using skills such as 【Analyze】. 

“….do I have to say it?”

“As a guild too, we need to know our adventurers’ level to an extent. We have everyone tell us their approximate levels, we can’t have low-leveled adventurers take on dangerous requests after all.”

Barlux was not moved by just curiosity: even if he could tell others’ ability, it was information that needed to be shared by the whole guild.

“Understood. My level is more than 150.”

“Hmm…Shin, I thought I told you that you don’t need to be humble.”

Barlux furrowed his brow at Shin’s answer. Saying he was 100 levels below his actual level would be quickly found out as a lie, after all.

“No good, sir?”

“No good. The level you just said is much lower than your actual ability, isn’t it?”

Shin had heard that the country’s number 2 warrior was level 158, so he hoped that the lie would work, and yet—-

“Impressive for you to tell without using 【Analyze】. ”

“As a guildmaster, I haven’t observed many adventurers for nothing.”

“Aah, well…if it can’t be helped…my level is higher than 200.”

Even so, Shin persisted in not saying his exact level. Thinking “how about this, then?”, he stated a level 50 levels higher than before.

“Ooh.”

Barlux grinned, as if impressed.

“Incredible…”

Celica, who was standing near the wall, was speechless from the surprise.

“Is that so shocking?”

“Aren’t you over 200 too?” thought Shin, but Barlux’ expression had changed for a different reason.

“Just to confirm, you are 21 years old, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Youngsters like you exceeding level 200 aren’t common at all, my boy. You could even go toe to toe with this country’s number 1.”

150 was too low, but 200 was maybe too high.

“The number 1? Around what level are they?”

“230. It’s her majesty, the princess of this country.”

“Are you serious….”

(The princess’s that strong!? A princess stronger than the captain of the Knights…..?)

Shin found himself lost because of the unexpected identity of the country’s number 1: he had imagined it to be the prince or one of his close guards, who could have expected it to be the princess?

“Why so much higher than the Knights? Tiera told me that the captain of the elite squad was number 2 and his level was 158…”

“The captain of the elite squad? Ah, the captain of the Knights. He’s level 188 now. Tiera must have told you about him a while ago, so she didn’t know.”

“Even so, the princess is still higher.”

“Our second princess is a fighter type, after all. She comes down to town often too, she’s pretty popular.”

“A member of the royal family coming to town often? Is that okay?”

“The ruffians around here do not match against her, after all.”

Strongest in the country was not just a title, then. Shin then learned that the princess once even defeated a Horn Dragon, the monster that had attacked Tiera in the past. Way too aggressive…sighed Shin.

“Well then, Shin. There’s one more thing I’d like to confirm, if that’s okay with you.”

“….it depends.”

Shin’s bad feeling was right, as it turned out.

“Don’t worry, it’s simple enough. I want you to fight with me.”

“I’m sorry, may I go home?”

“Unfortunately not.”

“Do I have a say in this?”

“Apologies again, but you have no right to refuse.”

Barlux firmly refused. He probably wanted to see Shin’s actual strength for himself: he knew that even if the level was high, it didn’t mean that the actual fighting prowess was.

“I kind of expected that things would turn out like this.”

“I’m sorry, really. But as a guild, and personally too, I want to make sure…no, I must make sure.”

His expectation fully becoming reality, Shin frowned.

Barlux had kept his eyes on Shin ever since the latter had come to the reception, but deep within his gaze there was a kind of belligerent spirit. He was definitely the type of person who spoke with their fists.

Shin was not too pleased to have his will completely ignored, but he started thinking that he wouldn’t have minded knowing how much an S-ranked adventurer of this world was capable of.

Judging from Barlux’ expression, despite his position as guildmaster, the desire to fight stemmed from him personally.

It would have been easy to refuse, but if he opposed the guild it could mean that he wouldn’t receive his card anymore, thus inviting unneeded trouble.

“…..as you wish. I can understand that you wouldn’t feel at ease unless you tested my ability, after all.”

Once Shin’s possession of the letter of introduction became widely known, if his fighting ability was public knowledge too there would be fewer people making foolish attempts on his life: so thought Shin, though he did not say it out loud.

“Where do we go?”

“There’s a training space that only guild members can use, so let’s do it there. Do you need some time to prepare?”

“No, not really.”

“Let’s go right away, then.”

Led by Barlux, Shin left the guest reception room, walked through a long corridor and finally arrived in a room similar in size to the one they were in before. There was not a single piece of furniture inside: a crystal ball-like object the size of a soccer ball floated in the center of the room, but nothing else.

It was very similar to a teleportation point, like the ones Shin had often seen in the game.

“The training grounds are underground, you see. We can go there using this teleportation point.”

The name had remained the same too, apparently. It was used the same way as in the game, just touching the crystal ball activated the teleportation.

The place Barlux and Shin teleported to was a much larger space, similar to a coliseum. The plaza at the center was used for training, the spectator seats for resting or for other adventurers to observe the training.

Shin hoped he did not have to fight in front of a crowd, and luckily his wish had been granted: there was no one else in the plaza.

“It’s pretty deserted, is it always like this?”

“No, actually this is the 2nd training ground, which is only used for special sessions. Normally adventurers use the first one. This place can’t be used without special permission, so there’s no risk of uninvited guests sneaking in.”

“Is that so.”

It was an environment that allowed fighting without minding other people’s presence. For Shin, who did not want to stand out, it was a great help.

“Shall we start, then?”

As he spoke, Barlux’ whole body started gleaming blue. Just one second later the light vanished, revealing Barlux now wearing blue light armor and armguards.

The light armor allowed Barlux to move easily, as it was clearly thinner than normal armor. The armguards, on the other hand, were very thick: they protected the arm from the elbow up to the fingers.

The game’s system classified protective gear worn on the arms in two ways: as “armguard” if it was Western-styled or “gauntlet” if it was Eastern-style. There were no great differences between them, but gauntlets granted AGI bonuses, while armguards boosted VIT.  

Barlux was wearing armguards probably to compensate for the lower DEF due to his light armor.

According to 【Analyze】, Barlux’s job was Fist Fighter, so his equipment too was as expected. Shin was surprised to see him equip armor and armguards by transforming like a superhero, though.

In THE NEW GATE, when gear was equipped, light streaks appeared -on the body for armor, on the arms for armguards- then the actual gear materialized. It happened to read the avatar’s physique and change to the most fitting size. “Showy” scenes like Barlux’ transformation did not happen, however.

(……did motions like that exist?)

“Something wrong?”

“No, nothing.”

Transforming like Barlux did could have been common in this world, so Shin chose not to say anything. On the other hand, Shin did not need to equip anything in particular.

He did not know how much power he could use, so he chose not to equip weapons. It might sound strange to say, but using weapons could have caused Barlux’ death.

“If so…here I go!!”

The very next instant, Barlux’ body became a blur, charging straight towards Shin. There were originally 10 mel between them, but just the first step had covered 5.

“Good gear can sure make you fast.”

Normally, a Human without resurrection bonuses could not achieve such speed. Shin noticed that Barlux’ gear was what made it possible.

“Hngh!”

“This is nothing!”

Shin avoided Barlux’ wind-slicing fist and checked the details of his gear. The light armor was 【Blue Crystal Light Armor】, the armguards 【Blue Fang Armguards】. Shin had sold both in his shop in the past, so he was sure there was no mistake.

“You’ve got pretty good gear on you!”

“I busted! My ass off! To obtain it!”

Shin dodged all of Barlux’ attacks, a frown on his face.

The 【Blue Crystal Light Armor】 was a Rare gear which gave a large bonus to AGI. 

The 【Blue Fang Armguards】 were a Unique weapon with high ATK which also had an ability other weapons normally didn’t. They were made using material from a level 600 monster, the Blue Mitts Hound, a rather dangerous foe if faced in close combat. Advanced players who attacked mainly with Barehanded martial skills would hunt it often.

“Guess it won’t be easy to hit you, huh.”

“I did my share of boasting, after all. It’s only natural.”

Maybe wary of Shin constantly dodging his attacks, Barlux stepped back and put some distance between them. He talked with a wry laugh, but his eyes were sharply focused on Shin, trying to gauge his ability.

Shin didn’t attack actively because he was wary of a certain ability the 【Blue Fang Armguards】 had. This ability consisted in 【When the opponent’s attack is parried with the armguards, 1/10 of the damage received if unguarded is reflected back to the opponent】.

The condition for the ability to activate was for an attack to hit the armguards directly, it only worked with physical attacks and had other restrictions. When facing an opponent around one’s level of skill, it allows them to gradually inflict damage.

The ability didn’t activate if the attacker’s STR was 100 points higher than the wearer, though: so for Shin they were nothing more than offensive power-increasing gear.

Shin was more worried of Barlux realizing that the【Blue Fang Armguards】’ ability did not activate.

(He probably knows well his own equipment, after all. If the ability doesn’t activate, he’ll find out that my STR is 100 points higher than his. That depends on factors other than level, so…it’ll be a pain if they start asking questions again, so I have to finish this in one blow, somehow.)

Considering the difference in level between Shin and Barlux, their difference in STR would normally be less than 100. But thanks to the 【Limit Breaker】 Gift, the difference was now more than 1000 points.

Shin had no intention of talking about everything, even to a guildmaster.

Barlux had already figured out that Shin was an able warrior; Shin thus tried to think of a way to show that he indeed was a powerful fighter, while also keeping his power in check, all the while avoiding Barlux’ fierce attacks.

That was the reason behind his frown.

“What are you thinking about, hmm?”

“You’re powerful, so I was thinking of the best way to attack.”

“Heh. Judging from how you acted, it looks like you know my equipment’s effects. This doesn’t happen often.”

“I’m not sure what you mean, sir.”

Even during these casual exchanges, Shin never stopped thinking.

Fist Fighters have limited range, but excel in attacking speed, so Barlux’ fighting style was perfectly matching his job.

The problem was the speed boost granted by the 【Blue Crystal Light Armor】, which further increased his attacking speed. It would be not easy to defeat him while holding back.

(Only the armguards are a real pain here….okay, let’s give it a try.)

Shin checked a skill that could be used in this situation and prepared to use it. Before Barlux could react to his movements, Shin stepped forward.

Shin quickly approached Barlux, leaving after-images behind. Where Shin was standing before, fragments of the floor danced in the air, shattered when he kicked the ground to propel himself forward.

“Shhah!”

Shin draws closer instantly and unleashes his right fist.

It was a simple, straight attack without feints, but at this speed Barlux could barely react in time: instinctively, he raised his arms to protect his upper body.

(He fell for it!)

Confident that his strategy had worked, Shin put his plan into motion. 

His right fist stopped inches before striking Barlux’ armguards, as his left leg swept Barlux’ feet.

“Gah!”

Barlux tried to dodge by jumping to the left, but being focused on Shin’s fist delayed his response.

The lightning-quick sweep launched Barlux’ body in mid-air.

The 【Blue Fang Armguards】’s ability would not activate if the enemy attack did not hit them, so there was no need to worry about suspicion due to the damage reflecting ability not activating.

Shin grabbed the armguards of the now defenseless Barlux and immediately activated the Barehanded-type Martial skill 【Willow Throw】.

【Willow Throw】 was a skill used to capture monsters, which only inflicted very little damage. There would be no risk of inflicting lethal wounds to Barlux. It could make the opponent temporarily unconscious or paralyzed, but Shin had deactivated this effect beforehand, so he used the skill without hesitation.

Shin grabbed Barlux with 【Willow Throw】: the latter’s body drew a beautiful circle in mid-air and crashed down to the ground, unable to break the fall.

“Whew. Is this enough?”

Shin confirmed that Barlux could not move and asked. Without 【Limit Breaker】’s effects, the battle would have not been decided so easily.

”….I never thought I would be knocked down so easily. The damage was strangely low though…was the last attack a skill?”

“Let me keep that a secret. I wouldn’t like to reveal all my cards just like that.”

“Haha, you’re right about that. Okay, I lost. I’ve seen enough of what you can do. I don’t need to worry then.”

Finally freed, Barlux stood up and reached for another handshake.

“?”

“I shook hands with you as a guildmaster before. Now, I would like to shake hands as someone recognized by Tsuki no Hokora, like you.”

“I see.”

Shin nodded and shook Barlux’ hand. The handshake was the same, but it felt different from before.

“Do tell if anything happens. As a guild, and personally too, I will help you any way I can.”

“Is that okay for you to favor someone so much, though?”

“No problem. As you are part of Adventurers’ guild, it would be assisting a rank G adventurer, personally it would be lending a hand to a friend.”

Barlux’ words implied that as long as he was part of the organization, he could not give too much assistance. Being the guildmaster, that much was obvious, so Shin replied that it was more than enough.

As the two left the training grounds and returned to the room with the teleportation point, they found Celica waiting: she gave them both a Potion.

Shin, being unscathed, tried to refuse it, but Barlux said that it wouldn’t hurt to hold onto it, so Shin accepted it.

“I’m looking forward to your exploits as an adventurer. Till we meet again!”

After Barlux left, Shin and Celica walked together towards the guild’s hall.

“How was the duel with Lord Barlux?”

Thinking it strange to just walk in silence, Celica asked about Shin’s battle with Barlux. Their fight had been shorter than she expected, which might have given her concern.

“It was really difficult, I tell you. I really hope there won’t be a second time.”

“It’s not something that happens often, rest assured.”

“I can’t shake the feeling that he’ll call me again for sparring…”

Shin sighed. Even for training, Shin wanted to avoid having to fight against a guildmaster.

On the other hand, Celica found something strange about Shin’s appearance. He really didn’t look like a powerful warrior with level over 200 (actually, Shin’s level was maxed out, at 255).

Most high-level adventurers had a sort of pressuring aura about them that set them clearly apart from normal people.

Celica often had the chance to meet such people, but she still could not get used to it: her body would get tense rather often.

She could not feel anything of the sort coming from the sighing Shin, his shoulders slightly dropping. On the contrary, she felt strangely safe next to him.

(What a mysterious person…)

As Celica was lost in such thoughts, the two arrived again at the hall.

“Thank you for everything today. You may come pick up your guild card from tomorrow onwards. Please take a good rest.”

“I will. Oh, if possible, could you recommend a good place to stay the night? I just arrived today in this town, so I don’t really know my way around.”

Shin asked in case Celica knew. He didn’t really know what made lodging good or bad, but he wouldn’t have enjoyed staying in a nasty place his first day.

“In that case, I would recommend the lodging named “Bear Point Pavilion”, located in the residential district. The food is also very good there, so I am sure you will like it. Go straight down the street on the right of the guild and you will find a board with a bear paw, so look for this landmark.”

“…okay, Bear Point Pavilion, is it. Thank you very much.”

The word “Bear” had given Shin a bad feeling, but he concluded that Celica’s recommendation couldn’t be a bad place. He thanked her and left the guild.

He started walking towards the inn, idly hoping to not run into any bears.

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