“Since you defeated the devil, it’s only fair for you to keep the item, Sir Shin.”
While Shin was still wondering what he should do when they returned to Erkunt, Sherlene requested that they head directly to the king’s audience chambers and report on the mission.
Because of the magnitude of the incident, they would report directly to the king.
Shin expected to have to give a very formal report in the throne room, but once again they were shown to the usual room. Once he heard about the defeat of Avaritia, King Kreunzuit approved of Shin’s claim to the drop item. Shin was taken aback by the king’s immediate and frank reply.
“Is it really alright? This is a very rare item.”
“That is precisely the reason. If the rumor that devils drop very valuable items spreads, lady Luxuria will be the next target. Even with anti-devil weapons, I am sure that Deadly Sin devils are not an easy target to fell. Sir Shin would never cooperate with anyone to take down Lady Luxuria. Sherlene, could you and your knights take down a devil?”
“Frankly speaking, without Sir Shin and Lady Yuki’s prowess it would have not been possible to produce such results. If Fagall and I had gone to the dungeon, we would have fled in the best case or killed in the worst. After witnessing the battle with my own eyes, I realized how naive I was.”
There was probably another report from Shin’s. King Kreunzeit nodded while listening to Sherlene.
“Lady Sherlene has actually witnessed the battle: I do not have reason to doubt her words. Sir Shin, you have saved our countrymen; we owe you a debt of gratitude. If we said that the item will be used to exterminate other devils, no one will have reason to protest.”
The king wished to hold a grand ceremony to honor Shin’s exploits, but Shin would likely request not to. Instead, he would obtain possession of the item and a financial reward.
The king and his close aides had probably discussed and reached this conclusion.
“We also considered granting you land and a court title, but surely you would not accept, yes?”
“Even if I did, I wouldn’t know what to do with them. Honestly…if I received a court title, I would become a subordinate of Erkunt.”
That I cannot do, is what Shin’s words implied.
Receiving items or money was not a problem. However, land and court titles were a completely different matter: they would generate unwanted ties. If Shin was the type to accept such things, he would already belong to another country.
“That is a pity, but I understand there is no other way. Among the nobles there will probably be those who will try to secure you in their faction. I shall forbid it in my name, but if anyone tries to contact you about such matters, let me know. They shall be dealt with.”
“Thank you very much.”
King Kreunzeit’s proposal was something Shin was extremely grateful for. If the king personally expressed such an order, only an utter fool would try to hire Shin. On top of that, Shin had also obtained the item he coveted.
Shin thought for a moment that it was all going too well, but then considered that Erkunt had also gained valuable assets: a connection with powerful warriors, the elimination of a catastrophic threat, and a large amount of monster parts.
“Sir Shin, what will you do next? Will you depart immediately?”
“No, I am in fact waiting for my comrades, I plan to stay here until then.”
“I see. If you have any spare time, would you train our soldiers? The officer in charge of training has reported that the soldiers trained by Lady Yuki have grown clearly stronger than the others. We do not know when such a threat might appear again, after all.”
“If we have time until our departure from Erkunt. If you accept these conditions, then I will.”
Shin made eye contact with Schnee, then replied. They already started doing it anyway, so it wasn’t a big problem.
Shin and Schnee were told about the time the reward would be given and asked to contact the royal palace when they would leave Erkunt. After this, they left the royal palace.
“What should we do now?”
“Let’s pass by the institute. There’s something I want to confirm about Avaritia.”
Shin had a bad feeling about Luxuria’s statement that Avaritia’s presence was still far away. It would be troublesome if the typical “If only I had checked that out…” development that is so common in fiction, was lying in wait.
There was still some time until dusk. Shin and Schnee headed towards the institute: their decision to visit was sudden, but they were sure they would not be turned away.
Thanks to the lessons with Lecus’ party, they had grown acquainted with the gate guards, who contacted Hilamee right away. They were soon allowed inside and went straight to the infirmary. Normally, they would go to the headmistress’ office or a meeting room, but this time they were told to go to the infirmary.
“Hello there, what brings you here at this hour?”
Shin knocked and entered as Luxuria turned on her chair towards them. She was wearing a sweater and tight skirt, as per her usual style. She had her legs crossed, thus making the skirt appear even shorter. Shin thought that a gesture like that would be too stimulating for the boys.
“We have something about Avaritia to confirm with you. I thought it would be risky to put this off until later.”
After hearing Avaritia’s name, Luxuria’s eyes narrowed. She uncrossed her legs and took a more proper posture.
“I thought that something must have happened, but…did he make a move? It was supposed to take some more time before he arrived…”
It did not seem like she was faking. Luxuria probably really felt that Avaritia’s presence was still far.
“Some more time, huh. Which means, what we fought wasn’t the main body.”
“What do you mean?”
“We fought against Avaritia. Today.”
“What!? How can that be!?”
Luxuria stood up and quickly approached Shin. He stopped her and pushed her back on the chair. At the same time, another knock was heard on the door. Hilamee entered afterward.
“Excuse me…I heard your voice from outside, did something happen?”
“Perfect timing, I wanted to ask your opinion too.”
Hilamee cocked her head to the side, failing to grasp the situation. Shin’s expression turned more serious, as he prepared to talk in detail about what happened.
“You found the drop item, right? It couldn’t have been a total fake, then, I think.”
“That’s right, this is strange. Like I said before, Avaritia isn’t supposed to be here yet. My senses can’t reach inside the dungeon, so it’s no wonder I didn’t realize, but…if that was him, than what is this familiar sensation I’m having even now?”
Luxuria had followed that sensation and met other devils in the past, so she was positive that it was correct.
“Could you be mistaking it for another devil?”
“All devils have unique presences. At the very least, this never changed until now.”
“Would it be impossible for two Greed devils to exist at the same time? Avaritia’s level was 750. It had absorbed other devils, that’s for sure.”
Shin was trying to recollect all of his memories about the game to figure out the situation, when Schnee proposed a new possibility. It was a fact that devils could use the abilities of other devils they had absorbed.
“It could be Sloth’s splitting ability.”
“Yes. I have a few concerns about that, but it would the most convincing explanation for the presence of two Avaritia auras.”
Shin mentioned Sloth because during his recent fight against the Spirit of Pigritis he had directly witnessed this ability. Sloth was the weakest of all devils by itself, but it was one of the more annoying to fight, because it could create copies of itself, with the same powers.
Even if it was the weakest, depending on its growth it meant that players had to battle several boss-class monsters at the same time. This made it a threatening foe.
Moreover, Sloth’s main body and copies had to be defeated all together within a certain time period. Players had to lower all of their HP to a certain point, then deliver the final blow to all of them at the same time. This was the ideal way to defeat Sloth.
“If Greed just absorbed Sloth’s ability, it shouldn’t be necessary to defeat the main body and all copies at the same time. The one we defeated was one of those, I guess.”
Shin’s instincts whispered that what he fought wasn’t Sloth’s* main body.
(T/N: I think that maybe the author meant to write Greed here…)
“Do you have any proof?”
“No, nothing to be honest. But wouldn’t it be weird for the main body to just be hiding there like that?”
“Well, that’s true…”
“Well, regardless of my instincts being right or not, Avaritia’s threat still hasn’t disappeared.”
“I think you might be right. Instincts of players like you get it right pretty often here.”
Luxuria said that it was likely to be a byproduct of skills. Players who had learned instincts-related skills often had incredibly sharp perception.
“I heard from the royal palace that Avaritia had been slain and thought it was probably Shin…but to learn the very same day that nothing was over yet…”
“I would have liked to finish it then and there too, believe me. It just went all too smoothly, though.”
Hilamee sighed as Shin replied, recalling how it felt to fight Avaritia. It was the first time for him to fight against Avaritia’s final form, but the battle had been too one-sided. He wondered how it would turn out based on the level and equipment, but the opponent had been too weak.
“What do you think, Schnee?”
“Personally, it felt like it didn’t put up much resistance. Though the equipment Shin forges are extremely powerful and I myself have powered up quite a bit, so it might be just a feeling.”
“I did reinforce the anti-devil equipment even more than before. I guess that would change things.”
Schnee said that she could have even defeated the devil on her own: that’s how little resistance she felt from Avaritia. The excessive power of equipment was a concern too.
“I don’t know what Avaritia is trying to do, but if it’s easier to fight than before, then it’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
“That’s right. What’s left to verify is how many copies it made and what other manpower it commands.”
Shin nodded to Schnee’s optimistic opinion and mentioned the remaining issues.
In the game era, copies were a maximum of two. Greed’s mastery of the ability had to be less than Sloth’s, so the possible copies probably decreased by one too. Shin’s party had defeated one copy, so what was left were the main body and one more copy.
“Avaritia was gathering monsters, right? If it leads to high level monsters to attack, what would happen, considering the fighting force we have at the moment?”
Shin had heard that there was a relatively high number of battle-oriented Chosen Ones in Erkunt, Hilamee included. Very few of them could handle high level monsters -as in, over level 500-, however.
Even in the worst circumstances, Shin and Schnee could take down Avaritia. However, it was possible that the rest of the fighters, the heroes, and leader of the knights could not handle Avaritia’s monster army.
“Masakado will be back soon, so our fighting power will increase a bit more, but…”
“If Avaritia isn’t around, I can help too. People would panic if I turn into devil form, so I can’t go all out, though.”
“Even so, it would be a big difference.”
Hilamee didn’t seem to be aware that the monsters would come equipped with weapons and armor. The flow of information was apparently being controlled. Shin decided to let her know, just in case.
“Then, oh right. We could ask Tzaobath to pick up Filma and the others and bring them here.”
“That could be the best option we have, yes.”
Shin could contact the ancient dragon Tzaobath with a message card. He mentioned this option because he thought that Tzaobath would probably accept to do a favor this one time.
Depending on their situation, he couldn’t tell for sure that this would work, but it was worth considering.
“Even without Shin’s party members, if the ‘Silver Moon Reaper’ helps us, the monsters would be annihilated in seconds…”
“Right, it can bombard deadly beams from above after all…if you were on the receiving end, it would be nothing but a nightmare.”
Luxuria and Hilamee, who knew how powerful Tzaobath was, thought that in such a case the monsters would be almost pitiful.
After the alliance was established, the two had become quite friendly with each other. Their reactions were almost synchronized.
“In any case, let us know right away if you feel Avaritia approaching. We’ll take care of it. Hilamee, please tell the royal palace that we might have not defeated Avaritia completely. We don’t go to the castle often, after all.”
Shin and Schnee would sometimes go, for Schnee’s training sessions or assistance in battle, but both were not scheduled regularly.
Only a small part of the army knew Shin’s name and face at the moment, and he did not have anything to prove his connections to the king or the heroes, so there was the possibility to be refused entry in the royal palace. It was a more surefire option for Hilamee to relate the news.
“I don’t think you would have trouble getting inside, but it’s not a place where you want to go so often. Understood, I will let the palace know.”
“That’s all we came to talk about. Oh, take this too. It’s an anti-devil weapon.”
Shin took advantage of the opportunity to give Hilamee the anti-devil weapon he had prepared for her.
“Even without the anti-devil attribute, it has higher stats than my usual equipment…”
“Because it’s specially made. It’s probably the reason why its stats are higher than weapons of the same grade.”
“If the dwarves notice it, they’ll start nagging me to let them analyze it.”
Dwarves were the most apt at analyzing unknown weapons and armor. Because of this, dwarf NPCs were always eager to learn about techniques they did not know. On the other hand, Vulcan and Vaal were very quiet examples.
“Don’t take that out in front of me!”
Hilamee materialized the weapon to check its stats, much to Luxuria’s dismay. She covered her eyes and stepped back, as if she was looking at an extremely bright light.
“It’s that hard?”
“It’s not like I suffer actual damage, but I feel like my skin is being burned…if I touched it I would get scalded, no doubt.”
According to Luxuria, it was like the weapon itself was hostile towards her. She slid behind Shin to use him as a shield, showing that she really hated being in the presence of the weapon.
“I’m thinking that if I created an anti-devil weapon form in the shape of restraining rope, it would be possible to catch devils in human form too.”
“The scariest part is that I bet you could pull that off…if you want to restrain me, use normal rope, please. Don’t you try with her, okay?”
Luxuria replied while looking at Schnee.
“I’m not going to—no, the best way to test it would be to tie you up, but…wait, what am I even saying?”
“Maybe you’re inclined to enjoy such peculiar hobbies?”
“No way!? Who said anything about that?? I just wanted to say that catching Avaritia in human form would limit the damage caused.”
Unlike demons, devils counted as slain even if they were defeated in human form, or so Shin had seen in a website once. It was possible to defeat them in human form.
There were no details and the information was posted just once, so Shin wasn’t sure it could work with all devils.
If Avaritia managed to enter the castle in human form, it would cause greater impact when reverting to its original form. If possible Shin wanted to intercept and defeat it while it still was in human form.
“That would be fantastic, but I honestly doubt that even you could do that. If Avaritia attacks, it’ll be in devil form from the start, after all.”
“I don’t think it’ll go that well either. If it did, then all the better. Anyway, the bigger it is, the easier it’ll be for us to stop its movements, so I’ll try making both anti-devil ropes and chains.”
“And once the ropes are complete, you’ll test them on me, won’t you!? What are you going to do with me after I can’t move an inch!?”
Luxuria’s embarrassment was clearly an act. What made Shin sigh the most was that she felt almost hopeful something like that could happen.
“Will you stop changing the tone of the conversation? You’ve got the wrong idea of me, really..”
“Well, there are people who like tying others, or to be tied up, right? I don’t really care, but I guess it feels good?”
“That’s what you’re interested in…?”
“My sin is lust after all, of course I’m interested…”
Luxuria’s expression was nothing short of seductive. To stimulate human desire so much without using mental skills was literally the devil’s work.
Even Shin, who had strong resistance to mental attacks, felt goosebumps. Schnee stepped back while taking a wary stance as Hilamee blushed fiercely.
“Don’t show that face to anyone else, okay? It would only bring trouble. If the rumors about a devil doing nasty things to people spreads, you’ll lose your place.”
“I know that. I am careful about who I show it to, you know.”
Luxuria then casually took Shin’s hand in hers. It was a very natural movement, without any hostility or ill will. Because of Shin’s position, Hilamee and Schnee could not see it.
Luxuria wasn’t using any force, so Shin let her do it. If she showed even the slightest hostility, he could tear off her whole arm easily.
“You don’t need to be so wary…”
Luxuria then moved one step closer. One more step and their bodies would come in contact.
“I told you, I am very careful about who I show it to.”
With an enticing smile, Luxuria pulled Shin’s hand towards her chest, over the sweater.
Betraying Shin’s expectation that she would not actually do it, his hand was squeezed between her hands and chest.
Shin reacted not to the sensation and inexplicable situation, but to the chilling aura he detected behind him: he pulled back his hand and stepped away from Luxuria.
“What are you doing!?”
“I can’t use skills against you, so I tried using the mood. How was it? I bet it felt nice even through the sweater.”
Shin couldn’t decide whether to get angry or annoyed and let out a sigh.
He didn’t check behind his back because he already know whom the chilling aura belonged to. Shin’s detection ability was now sounding the alert of maximum danger.
“Shin? What might you be doing?”
A hand was then laid on Shin’s shoulder. The chill in the voice that followed was as powerful as Luxuria’s erotic charms.
The whisper reached Shin’s ears and made him jolt.
“That’s not good at all, you know?”
“I-I’m sor…no, I will be more careful!!”
Shin slowly turned towards the source of the voice and saw Schnee wearing very chilling smile on her lips. All he felt were chills down his spine. His speech turned more prim and proper too.
“Y-yes…I’ll be careful too.“
Luxuria too replied in the same way as Shin. She probably felt the same chill.
“If you understand, it’s fine. We have said what we had to, I believe it’s time we excuse ourselves. Hilamee, thanks for relaying the message for us.”
“Y-yes. Thank you two for letting us know so quickly. I’ll go to the caste tomorrow, so I will relay the message then.”
Influenced by the atmosphere, Hilamee stood up straight too.
“O-okay then, we’ll go now.”
“Okay…I’ll let you know as soon as I notice something.”
Shin and Schnee left the institute. The sun had already set, so magic lights were lit here and there in place of streetlights.
Shin called Schnee to change the awkward atmosphere, but received no response.
Shin started having cold sweats, realizing how bad the situation was. Nothing good happened, despite his light panic. Shin did not speak a word until they reached the hotel.
“Sit down on the sofa.”
Schnee locked the door behind them and finally spoke. Unable to resist the silent pressure, Shin obeyed immediately.
A few moments later, Schnee walked in front of the very stiff Shin, then sat on his lap, looking at him.
“Ah, er, Lady…Schnee?”
Shin was puzzled, as they were practically hugging. Schnee’s chest was exactly at the height of his eyes. He just needed to bend his upper body forward a little to bury his face in her breasts; not that he would be reckless enough to do so.
Schnee stared at Shin, still silent. Feeling her cold stare from above, Shin was even more ill at ease. It wasn’t clear if Schnee was aware of how he felt, but she took his head in her hands and pushed it towards her breasts.
Shin thought that he was going to taste heaven (the sensation of Schnee’s chest) and hell (difficulty breathing) at the same time, but unexpectedly, Schnee’s chest was not pushing back with much strength.
Shin felt the softness of her breasts, changing shape as his face moved, with enough space to breathe comfortably. It was like she was embracing him, so the situation was actually very pleasant. He couldn’t figure out her intentions, though, so his hands waved helplessly in the air.
“How does it feel?”
Five seconds passed since Schnee started hugging Shin. She asked a question in a voice so feeble that Shin wouldn’t be able to catch it without his “Listen” skill.
It was a very difficult question to answer, however.
Shin didn’t have the slightest idea of what Schnee wanted to do. He felt that it would be wrong to simply say “soft and pleasant”, so he couldn’t reply.
Schnee’s chest pushed a bit harder. Shin’s face buried even deeper, making the situation even more comical.
“Well, ehm…I feel, extremely happy.”
Shin squeezed out an answer, meant to imply that he would have enjoyed it a bit longer. It wasn’t an answer much different from the one he previously discarded. Excluding the very serious matter of Schnee’s mood, it was a fact that Shin felt bliss at the moment. Hugging was nice, but to be hugged was not bad at all either.
Shin answered the following question immediately. He then finally understood Schnee’s actions.
“The greatest woman is right next to me. I wouldn’t even think of touching a devil! That caught me by surprise too, you know.”
Shin wrapped his hands behind Schnee’s back and embraced her too.
After a few moments, Schnee released him.
“You mean that?”
Shin replied as if he was stating the obvious. Luxuria was probably trying to liven the mood in her own way, but this time she only ended up stirring Schnee’s feelings.
“I would never expect you to do something so forward, though. Seeing this new side of you was great for me, personally.”
Shin moved his hands on Schnee’s hips and continued.
“You’re actually quite the jealous type, aren’t you?”
Seconds passed after Shin’s question. Schnee understood its meaning and blushed. Her actions had indeed been motivated by the jealousy she felt after seeing what Luxuria did to Shin. Schnee’s eyes wandered left and right, as she actually understood her current position: she then tried to jump away from Shin.
Shin stopped her, though, holding her hips firmly. They looked at each other in the eyes, at very close distance.
“L-let me go!”
Schnee realized that she had lost her cool.
“Request rejected. I finally have the chance to gaze at jealous Schnee! In exchange for what you did, I’m going to savor this moment!”
“What are you even saying!?”
Schnee grabbed Shin’s arms and tried to pull them away, but Shin was overwhelmingly more powerful, in terms of muscular strength et al. She wouldn’t be able to escape him, unless they damaged the surroundings. In addition, Schnee could only exert about half of her usual strength at the moment.
“Don’…don’t look at me…so much…”
Trying her hardest to escape Shin’s gaze, Schnee covered his face with her hands. It was meaningless before Shin’s 【Through Sight】, however.
Schnee, having been unusually sensitive to people’s eyes, realized that she couldn’t escape Shin’s gaze. Her already flushing face turned beet red.
“Yet another uncovered side of Schnee was thus brought to light.”
“Don’t say it!! I don’t like it!! Of course I get jealous too!!”
“But isn’t it the first time that you showed it so clearly?”
Schnee’s voice flickered out. Shin didn’t miss her “even so, I couldn’t suppress my feelings..” though.
(…I guess it’s because she held back all this time.)
If Schnee hadn’t lost her memories because of Hameln, Shin might be still undecided whether to remain in that world or not. Schnee had probably kept her emotions bottled up, especially the negative ones, thinking of Shin’s feelings.
Shin’s feelings were now aimed towards Schnee, so those shackles were gone: her original personality and feelings now surfaced freely.
Thinking about this, Shin chuckled.
“What’s so funny now…?”
“Sorry, sorry, I’m not making fun of you, believe me. I was thinking that from now on I’ll see your honest feelings more and more, so I felt kind of happy.”
Schnee was no longer Shin’s servant, instead she was his life partner. He would then see more and more of her human-like qualities, which he thought was pure happiness.
“I’m not sure I like you thinking this is happiness! It’s like I’m not the usual me, it’s so, so embarrassing…”
Shin thought that Schnee looking away like that was very cute too, but avoided saying it, lest she became angry again.
The distance separating them until minutes ago had vanished into thin air: in the end, they were flirting as usual.