TNG Vol. 1 Chapter 2 – Part 9

Shin finally arrived near the eastern gate, when he noticed some sort of commotion.

“Something happened?”

There wasn’t a crowd like the day before, but the guards seemed to be interrogating the people passing by, apparently focusing on who was entering the kingdom.

Normally, adventurers just needed to show their guild cards to be admitted inside with barely no wait time, but now each one was being questioned, so a queue had formed. There was nothing else to do, so Shin too got in line and waited for his turn.

As he neared the head of the queue, he heard what the soldiers and adventurers were talking about.

“Northern forest…eastern forest…flying…shadow…?”

The fragments of conversation Shin picked up included the location he had come from. He had an idea of what they could be talking about, so he couldn’t shake away a bad feeling about the situation.

Apparently, several eyewitnesses spotted a mysterious flying object, which had fallen in the royal castle. The direction it had flown from was the northern or eastern forest, so the soldiers were asking if anyone had seen or knew anything about it.

(A mysterious flying object…it’s got to be the Skullface’s sword…)

Shin remembered about the broadsword he blasted away. He was focusing on the battle and did not register in which direction it flew, but the possibility was there.

Shin felt his mood grow heavier and heavier.

“Hey, Shin.”

“Oh, Beid, what happened this time?”

Shin replied to Beid, who addressed him ever so casually.

Shin still held onto a sliver of hope. Some would call it “trying to run away from reality”.

“Actually, we received a report that a sword came flying into the royal castle, so we’re trying to see if anyone knows anything about it. You went to the eastern forest too, right? Did you see anything?” 

“…no, nothing. Did it cause any damage?”

“They say that the sword got stuck in a wall, so no one was hurt. Still, throwing a sword over the castle walls? What dumbass are we dealing with here?”

“Well, at least no one got hurt.”

Shin was relieved to hear that there were no human casualties. If the sword had hit someone, he would feel too bad to show his face.

“I have to at least check which way they fly in the future.”

Shin meant to make a mental note of it, but ended up whispering loud enough for Beid to hear.

“Hm? What?”

“Nothing. Can I go now?”

“Sure. If you remember anything, just let one of our guys on patrol know.”

“Understood.”

Shin did his best to keep a poker face on as he quickly passed through the gate. Once he was far enough, he slowed down and let out a sigh.

“Of all places to fly off to…why the royal castle…?”

His third day in the new world, Shin felt that he was already going to have a kingdom as an enemy.

If they thought it was a terrorist attack, they were likely to look for the culprit using the kingdom’s total manpower. Simply put, things were really bad.

There was no proof to tie Shin to the deed, but if he reported about his battle with the Skullface to the guild, he was sure that people would suspect him.

“Why did it have to turn out like this…”

There was no point in thinking about it, though, so Shin headed to the guild.

The rumor that Skullfaces were on the loose was true, but there was no information about “how many” they were. Even if there was only one Jack, they usually led groups of Pawns with them, so it was too early to say that things were safe now.

Shin had scanned the area for monsters after the fight, but detected no response.

Either they weren’t around or they too had fallen victim to the Jack’s dance.

The latter possibility was more likely: those movements couldn’t separate friend from foe.

Shin couldn’t find an answer at the moment, anyway. He thought it best to consult Els or Celica, and entered the guild.

Inside it was more chaotic than the usual: seeing it filled with individuals armed with swords and spears, donning robes and armor, Shin realized again that it was the place where adventurers gathered.

Something that intrigued him was how most people inside seemed eager to fight. Even those who weren’t appeared to be strangely restless.

“Looks like something’s going to happen.”

Despite the crowd, the receptions were empty, so Shin decided to make his report right away.

Luckily, Celica was there. Considering what he had to say, Shin was glad that he could talk with someone that he knew at least a little.

“Hello, there is something I wish to report.”

“Hello, sir Shin. A report, you say?”

“It’s about the Skullface matter, how much do you know about it?”

“!….we know that the Skullface that appeared is a Jack, that it wields a weapon much stronger than normal Skullfaces, as it was reported by the adventurers who returned alive. Only one has been reported, with no trace of Pawns under its command. At present an extermination request has been issued, at highest priority considering its proximity to the kingdom. Rank S and A adventurers are on the move, they are preparing to fight together with parties of rank B and lower.”

There was no report about the monster’s peculiar fighting style, apparently. More than that, however, Shin was interested in information about the weapon.

“It wields a powerful weapon?”

“Not a normal longsword, but something twice as large.”

“….a broadsword, I guess. Do you know anything else about that sword?”

“No, I told you all we know at present.”

Even while fleeing, the adventurers did not forget to check the opponent’s equipment.

The Skullface’s broadsword was Light-elemental, however. Why was there no information about that?

“What about the level?”

“It is expected to be over 200.”

“……”

Shin reflected.

He wanted to confirm if the broadsword was enchanted with white magic power or not, but enchanted weapons were probably rare in this world.

If he asked too much about it, they could suspect a link between the sword that fell in the castle and the Jack. 

The possibility of it being another Skullface Jack was not zero, but it was hard to think that two monsters capable of creating such a commotion could appear, wielding the same kind of weapon to boot.

“Ehm, sir Shin?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I was just thinking.”

Celica had worried a bit after seeing Shin clam up, a grave expression on his face.

For her, Shin was a rare fighter, capable of standing toe to toe with S-rank adventurers. If such a person asked information about Skullfaces with a serious look on his face, it was no wonder for her to worry, since all she could do was to be protected.

“Just…thinking?”

“Yeah, I was trying to remember what items Skullfaces dropped, you see.”

Shin made up on the spot that he was thinking about Skullface drops.

“The items they drop…? If I remember well, gems and the weapon and armor they have all fetch a decent price…”

“Oh, right, I had completely forgot, hahaha.”

Shin acted jolly to prevent her from seeing through his lie, but he was completely suspicious.

Celica, however, did not expect Shin to think about the items dropped by a powerful enemy like a Skullface Jack, so she was surprised and did not notice Shin’s strange behaviour.

Thanks to this, in the very tense guild, a strange scene was created, by a laughing man and a perplexed woman.

“By the way, what is it that you wanted to report, sir Shin?”

“Oops, I’m sorry. I almost forgot the most important thing. I defeated the Skullface Jack in the northern forest, so I wanted to report it. This is the gem I picked up then.”

“I see, the Skullface….Skull….eh? Ehm, a Pawn….maybe?”

Celica was prepared to take out the paperwork as usual, but her movements became awkward. Wondering if she heard wrong, she asked Shin for confirmation, but was flatly denied.

“No, a Jack. It had a broadsword too.”

“…….”

“……”

“…….”

“Er, Celica?”

“Eh? Ah, S-sorry! I was just so surprised!”

Celica apologized, but in her panic forgot her usual polite speech.

“Was that so surprising?”

“If it was!? Defeating a Skullface Jack solo requires at least A-rank battle prowess, you know!? Please don’t state it like you just ran an errand or something!”

Celica reacted more loudly than she expected, despite knowing that Shin’s fighting ability was higher than A-rank, close to S.

“Er, I’m sorry?”

“I knew that you were skilled, but…to complete an extermination mission on the day it was posted is just unheard of.”

“I just encountered it by accident, so…”

“Even so, normally adventurers return and report it to the guild. They go fighting after being fully ready. At least I don’t think that anyone would just fight like that.”

“Is that so. Well, it’s true that my weapon turned like this.”

Shin showed his katana, now reduced to little more than a handle. He had equipped it, predicting that she would ask about the battle. The barely remaining blade was cracked, making it completely useless.

“What!? It’s in pieces!!”

“Happened when I gave the last blow.”

“What crazy things did you do!?”

“Hey!? Celica, you’re close! Too close!”

Celica, pale as a sheet, had leaned over the counter, but Shin pushed her shoulders back, stopping her. She had come closer so suddenly that their faces were about 20 cemel from one another.

Shin was torn whether to praise or scold himself for reacting so readily to Celica’s unexpected reaction, but let’s leave that aside. No man would dislike being approached that way by a beautiful lady, after all.

“Eh..aaah, I’m sorry!! I assure you I didn’t mean to do anything strange! I was just worried that you had been wounded, I got kind of excited…aah, what am I saying!?”

Celica too was shaken to the point that Shin found it funny, enough not to interrupt her and just look at her reaction.

Felling a Skullface Jack one-on-one was that big an accomplishment, apparently.

“Seeing an intellectual woman, always calm and collected, act so awkward and embarrassed…sure is something else!”

“Anything it is, that’s fine, but calm down already. You’re standing out too much.”

“Hm? Oh, Els.”

So…this is “moe”? Thought Shin, nodding to himself, when Els approached him from behind.

Shin and Celica’s conversation had gradually gathered attention.

“I’m sorry. Celica was really cute, embarrassed like that, so…”

“C-cute!?”

“I’ll agree to that, but don’t bully my co-workers too much, all right?”

“Agree!?”

“I’m sorry. But let me say that it wasn’t on purpose.”

“I know, I was watching too.”

“You could have come earlier then…”

Els and Shin continued talking while completely ignoring Celica’s words. Shin was so sure that if Els was there from the start, things wouldn’t have turned like that.

“Please don’t be like that. I was gathering info and making preparations on my part too.”

Els was indeed wearing not the receptionist’s uniform, but easy to move in hunting equipment. 

A rather long, sturdy-looking leather jacket. A pouch to store miscellaneous items inside. Spats and, just under them, long boots up to her knees.

She carried a bow on her back and had a dagger strapped to her right thigh.

Maybe because her long hair was now tied, her atmosphere was fairly different from before: she was a hunter aiming for its prey.

“Is this about the Skullface?”

“Yes, the one they say appeared in the northern forest. Some time has passed since the rumors started spreading. This is the first time there were casualties, but it looks like it wields a weapon more powerful than normal Jacks…”

“Yeah, I saw that too. It was a broadsword, I think.”

“I guessed as much from Celica’s surprise, but I suppose that means you crossed swords with it?”

“Well, more than just crossed swords, I finished it off.”

Shin pronounced the “finished it off” part as quietly as he could. The atmosphere didn’t feel right to say it loudly, so he kept his voice down.

Els had only planned to tease him, but Shin’s reply made her freeze.

“….if that is true, I understand why Celica lost her composure.”

The now calm Celica nodded to Els’ strained response.

“That’s right. There’s nothing weird with me.”

“….I apologize for doubting you, but do you have proof? Without any, it would be difficult to believe that you took down the monster.”

“I picked up a gem, but the…proof I defeated the monster? I don’t even know what that is in a Skullface’s case.”

As was his habit from the game era, Shin didn’t pick up items that weren’t unique. He had completely realized that without the proof part he couldn’t prove he had exterminated the monster.

“You didn’t pick up its armor or sword? Jacks should have decent equipment, so people sell them for profit or use them for themselves, even.”

Shin didn’t know how to answer Els’ surprised question.

He had hundreds of the types of items Skullfaces dropped in the item box, after all. They couldn’t be used for anything special nor had high stats, so they were nothing but item box fodder.

Putting the flying broadsword aside, he had no intention to go retrieve the monster’s helmet or armor.

“No point in hoarding stuff like that…”

Els and Celica understood from Shin’s expression that the words he mumbled were the truth and stood speechless again.

“I can’t believe an adventurer just said that…”

“Really…”

Els had actually held back: in this world, obtaining a Skullface Jack’s equipment required a hefty sum of money. Only B or A rank adventurers could hope to put their hands on it.

It was obvious that calling such equipment “stuff like that” would attract weird looks. It was just like saying that he didn’t need them, something unthinkable for any adventurer.

“Well, the gem should be enough as proof. Gems contain the magic power of the monster that dropped them, so we should know if it’s a Skullface’s.”

Thinking it pointless to press the matter further, Els changed the topic.

“Really?”

For Shin, the drawback was that it would take more time than checking the proof part, but he wasn’t in a hurry anyway, so it wasn’t a real problem.

“We will have to keep the gem to examine it, though. If you will sell it to us, we can do it right away.”

Celica answered in Els’ place: she had gone back to her “work mode” perfectly.

“Why does it take time?”

“In order to have the answer right away, we need to damage the gem, thus lowering its value. We can’t damage it if we return to you later, so it takes more time to examine it.”

“I see. Well, I guess I’ll give up on that, I don’t want to sell it for now.”

“Understood. I will contact you at the inn when the results are ready. You are staying at the Bear Point Pavilion, correct?”

“Yes. Thank you then…oh, by the way, do Skullfaces appear frequently in the northern forest? The rumor has been circulating for a while, you said.”

Els answered Shin’s question.

“Undead monsters are born where human spite and regret blend together with magic, after all. The northern forest has always been home for violent monsters, but valuable plants and materials can be found there, so many people step foot in it: many of them are attacked by monsters and never come back. That’s why it’s a hotbed for undead monsters. There’s not enough magic there for a powerful monster like a Skullface Jack to appear, however, so usually by Skullfaces in the northern forest we refer to Pawns.”

Els also added that the Jack that Shin defeated could have been mistaken for a Pawn too.

One reason was that no one fought it until there were casualties: no one had gone to check if the rumors were really true.

“What was the Jack’s level range, by the way?”

“The ones we know go from 150 to 250. Higher than that, they are categorized as Queen or King.”

The monsters’ level caps seemed to be the same as before.

“Which means, that was an exception…”

“What do you mean?”

Celica and Els didn’t fail to react to Shin’s words, as expected of a guild worker and an adventurer.

“The Jack I fought was more than 250 in level.”

“Are you serious?”

“I checked with 【Analyze】, so there’s no mistake. It was probably an Unique, a particular kind of monster. Differently from the normal Jacks, it didn’t have Pawns with it either.”

After Celica, Els inquired too.

“Let me check, what level was it, exactly?”

“359. If I remember well, it’s a level that would normally classify it as King.”

Shin thought that it had to be an Unique.

【Analyze】 showed it was a Jack, and its equipment and weapon were different than Kings and Queens anyway.

Level, weapon and fighting style were non-standard, but the rest was typical Jack.

“359!?”

Shin’s words froze the two once again.

“What, did I say something bad?”

“Rather than bad…no, wait. I must be confused. Celica, examining the gem can also tell us more or less how strong the monster was, right? Why don’t we do that right now?”

“! That’s right, I’ll have it examined as soon as possible. Excuse me, Els, I’ll leave the rest to you.”

Celica bowed quickly to Shin and took the gem to a room in the back.

Shin, on the other hand, was just impressed that they had such convenient techniques.

“You’re really something…”

Els sighed loudly.

“What?”

“If the level you said is true, it means that by yourself you’re as strong as an A-rank party. If it isn’t, you’re a huge liar.”

“Well, if it isn’t like that I must have seen wrong. Besides, I’m rank G, you know? No one’s going to believe I defeated a Skullface Jack, really.”

“If they don’t know the circumstances, I guess so…”

“It’s fine like that, then. I know it’s weird to say now, but it’s not like I want to stand out.”

Shin was aware that his words and actions were contradictory, but it would have been a pain if he stood out too much and troublesome people got their eyes on him.

His goal was to go back to his original world: he joined the guild mostly because it could be useful to gather information. At present, his main focus was to learn more about the new world, so not having the slightest hint about how to go back was a problem in itself.

“It would be dangerous for monsters like that to prowl around, that’s why I made my report. If possible, I’d like you not to spread around that it was me that took it down.”

“I would gladly grant your request, but people will surely research the matter. Usually, such feats are always claimed, after all.”

“Yeah, I should have guessed…”

Shin thought that things could turn out like that, but being told so clearly dashed any hope remaining in him.

The monster had already caused a commotion: the adventurer that defeated it could give a serious boost to his or her fame. If no one claimed the kill, people wanting to find out more about it would surely appear. If it was known that Shin did it, however, the amount of attention generated would be much more, as his rank was G. No matter which path he chose, things were likely to turn troublesome.

“I’m really sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t help you this time.”

“I didn’t mean to bother you that much, so never mind really. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I’ll go get something to eat for now.”

Worrying and fretting about it would lead to no conclusion. Shin decided to feed himself, also as a change of pace. The guild was crowded and there didn’t seem to be any empty tables, so he went outside.

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