TNG Vol. 16 Chapter 3 Part 2

Shin’s party reached Passner less than a day after they left Baomultan’s area.

They had left after noon, so, when they arrived, the sun had already set, but, considering that with a normal carriage it would have taken days of travel, the speed of their arrival was incredible.

Garon’s party had also prepared a carriage, but the speed was too different so they let the horses go and recovered only their luggage and the carriage itself. The horses were trained to return to Passner on their own, apparently.

Acting as Schnee’s party also allowed them to use the item box freely, so they turned all the luggage into cards.

“I did think we were going fast, but to think we’re already here…”

“It’s definitely faster than us running. Even if the carriage was drawn by a tamed monster, this speed is truly incredible.”

Kagerou had stayed back with Tiera in Baomultan’s area, so this time the carriage was drawn by Yuzuha. She accepted the task because it was an emergency along with the condition that Shin did one thing she asked too.

Her size was about three mel, smaller than her original form, but she was strong enough to be able to go faster than any other animal suited to pulling carriages.

If she pulled a normal carriage with the same strength, everything other than the pulling ropes would surely break into pieces. That’s how much strength she had.

Shin’s carriage was much more durable and stable than a normal one because he modified it in various ways.

“We can’t enter at night, I suppose?”

“It’s alright, we asked to be let in even after they closed the gates at night. I’m sure the sentinels noticed our arrival too. I will go talk to them, please wait.”

At least, it seemed that Durgin did not attack the country while they were away. The walls and watchtowers stood tall, and they could see soldiers protecting them too.

The soldiers had noticed the group’s arrival; Garon approached them while waving and several of them hurried closer to him.

There were bonfires alight, but in this world the darkness of the night was very deep. They had lit some light globes to prevent monsters from approaching the carriage, so the soldiers probably understood who had arrived pretty quickly.

“Usually, doing this makes monsters more prone to attack.”

Risha recalled the trip and sighed. The night was the time of monsters: many animals were also more active during the night. Normal travelers used animals to avoid monsters and stood guard throughout the night. When traveling at night, they used as little light as possible, erased their presence as much as possible, and proceeded while avoiding being spotted as much as they could.

Advanced Chosen Ones could also travel as Shin’s party did, but traveling at breakneck speed while being surrounded by lights was completely insane by this world’s standards.

“With a partner monster like that pulling the carriage, I bet even a dungeon boss would get out of its path.”

After listening to Risha’s words, Agarj spoke while looking at Yuzuha.

When the wolf beast Agarj saw Yuzuha transform from small fox mode to her current form, in order to pull the carriage, he shook like he had been struck by lightning, kneeled down and shed warm tears.

He probably felt something deeply in that sight. Yuzuha’s power was gradually recovering to her original level, so similar monsters and Beasts might be able to feel something special in her aura.

Though, Shin made him stop immediately.

“Ah, looks like everything went well.”

Garon was heading back towards the party while waving his hands and Sety waved in return.

“I apologize for the wait. We are going to explain the situation to the king, so please come with us. He doesn’t doubt our words, but he would like to see us all in person.”

Garon had an item that allowed him to communicate over long distances, so he had informed the kingdom of their return ahead of time.

Since they returned much earlier than expected, the king of Passner was worried that an accident had occurred. Garon had already sent a brief explanation, but meeting people in an area of deadly poison was not normal, so he wanted someone to come.

Shin thought that, if they used Schnee Raizar’s name, they wouldn’t be thought of as suspicious, but still they couldn’t leave everything to Garon’s party and move on their own.

Shin knew that they would probably have to meet with the king directly to explain the situation, so he quickly agreed to Garon’s request. The group was not very large, so they decided to go all together.

“I also heard that there were no attacks while we were away.”

Seven days had passed since Garon’s party left Passner. During the last attack, Durgin had not been wounded, so Shin wondered why it would do nothing for all that time, but could not come up with an answer.

Under the gaze of the gate guards and the night shift soldiers, Shin’s party entered Passner. The king was already waiting in the royal palace, so they headed there immediately, led by Garon and his party.

“It’s so dark. Are they keeping the street lights down to be ready in case Durgin attacks?”

“Unless you’re in a big city, it’s like this everywhere at night. What are those…street lights? you talked about, young lady? Contraptions that emit light, I suppose…?”

Based on what Garon said, there were no devices to illuminate the streets at night in Passner.

Sety was lighting the party’s path with globes of light, but the only other lights were the ones faintly filtering from the houses. When the people turned in for the night, the streets would turn even darker.

Shin recalled that it was like this in most cities he had visited.

The only illuminated areas were around shops that were open until late at night. It wasn’t uncommon for certain alleys or areas to be pitch black.

In this world, people rarely left their house at night. It sometimes happened, but going out in near total darkness entailed various risks.

Sety explained that street lights were magic tools installed on the streets at fixed distances, used to illuminate the night. Not only was Garon surprised, but the other party members were as well.

“They’re lit all night? They must consume an incredible quantity of magic power…”

“And they’re all over the city…I can’t even begin to imagine how many mages they need to power them.”

In the game era there was no need to worry about such magic power supply, so whole cities were illuminated just like the real world. Back alleys far away from the main streets were darker, but still pretty well lit when compared to this world of total darkness.

“The world before the Dusk of Majesty…if I could see it I would want to see it, but it’s all fairy tales for us.”

Naturally, only a few members of the long-living species knew what the players’ hometowns looked like.

Many NPCs also lived in the hometowns, but most of them lost their lives in the tumult after the Dusk of Majesty, and, even for members of long-living species, it wasn’t uncommon to not know how the world was then. Naturally, no members of short-living species did.

Even if they heard about how things were 500 years before, it was difficult to believe it was true.

“There are many things I would like to talk about, but let’s keep quiet for now. We’re going to have an audience with the king, I guess.”

“You guess…?”

“You’re Schnee Raizar’s party, aren’t you? In terms of rank, you’re higher than he is.”

As Garon said, both in terms of fighting prowess and contributions to various countries, Schnee was superior to the king of a small country like Passner. Garon continued saying that, since they would save the country from a great crisis, they would be welcomed with all honors.

“Is it really fine to do this, though? It won’t have grave effects, maybe, but there’s still poison in the air.”

“The king is thinking about what happens after the battle, yes?”

“Correct. Besides if, by any chance, your temper turns sour, this country is finished, you know? If I was in his position, I would have done the same.”

Garon agreed to Schnee’s words and continued.

“We have come here with our own goals, so there’s no need to do so much, though.”

“Yes, I know. I did tell them that you would probably say something like that, but it looks like they have to do something. In the future, we will have to tell people of a certain rank that Lady Raizar has visited the country. There are people connected with other countries too. I know that you wouldn’t mind, but if others hear that Schnee Raizar came here and nothing was done to welcome her, they would surely interpret it in the worst way possible.”

Since Schnee offered her assistance to defeat Durgin, the king was already looking at the future beyond the battle. Based on her abilities, it was pretty obvious for him to do so. If the Durgin was as powerful as Shin expected, not even a horde of them could stand up to Schnee. Because of this, they had to think about what would happen after the battle.

“All politics, then.”

“If I could spare you this, I would. I hope you’ll understand.”

From the king’s standpoint, it was an inevitable step. Shin and his party had quite a few acquaintances among royalty too: he could understand what Garon meant.

Eventually the group arrived at the royal palace’s gates and Garon spoke to a guard. They had already been informed, so they passed through smoothly. They had not publicly announced the arrival of Shin’s party, however, so they entered through a small entrance, reserved for the gate guards.

“…hey, Schnee…isn’t the poison getting thicker?”

“Yes. The more we approach the royal palace, the thicker the poison becomes.”

“What did you say!?”

Schnee replied to Shin’s question by agreeing with him.

Garon heard their exchange and turned pale. If the poison grew stronger as they proceeded towards the castle, it was normal to think that the source of the poison was inside.

If the place where the king and the other individuals in charge of leading the country gathered every day was the source of the poison, they had a grave emergency on their hands.

“The gate guards did not look sick, though. If the castle was filled with poison the people inside would surely suffer from its effects, so the gate guards would be affected too. It can’t be that they didn’t notice anything, can it?”

“Something was done for them not to notice. You can feel it in the air.”

After Sety’s observation, Shin looked at the castle with more focus. Even if it was filled with poison, it looked like any other castle. Despite this, Shin could feel goosebumps on his skin.

“A mental manipulation skill…it’s a weak one, set to make small changes feel like they were your imagination, but it could surely trick anyone other than Chosen Ones.”

“I see, so that’s how it feels to resist a mental manipulation skill…it’s a bit different than before.”

Sety added that since she had lived in a Faerie Village for most of her time, it was her first time to be targeted by a mental manipulation skill after the Dusk of Majesty. It felt in a different way compared to the game era.

“Why are you people so carefree? Aren’t you even a little anxious?”

Garon couldn’t keep quiet while looking at Shin and his companions’ reaction.

He didn’t start hurrying towards the castle either. He knew well how dangerous it could be to act carelessly during an emergency.

“I’m scanning the situation inside. Looks like most people aren’t moving.”

Shin could tell what was happening inside the castle even while still outside, thanks to the map and his detection skills.

A few presences were moving, albeit very slowly. Their bodies probably couldn’t move well because of the poison.

Even so, there was one reason why Shin was not especially concerned.

The poison filling the castle was not lethal: it was a type that limited the target’s movements via paralysis.

When his stats were still low he too used this kind of poison often, so he knew it well.

“Paralysis poison, I see. I can’t feel anything either, is this equipment protecting us from that poison too?”

Shin explained about the poison and Garon’s party nodded in understanding, as it wouldn’t outright kill anyone affected.

If anyone with ill intentions had infiltrated the castle, not being able to move was naturally dangerous, but Shin could not spot any monsters or presences moving normally.

“The equipment I gave you is specialized against poison, so if the opponent uses magic or skills that cause paralysis, it won’t have any effect. Since this paralysis comes from poison,  the equipment can prevent it.”

The poison status ailment simply decreased HP. As an item, however, poison was slightly different.

The status ailment-causing attacks Hydro and Oxygen used were closer to that: the effects they caused and the countermeasures against them were different from regular status ailments.

In this case, to prevent paralysis, it was necessary to adopt countermeasures against poison.

On the contrary, even if one had taken countermeasures to avoid paralysis, they would be affected by this paralysis, at least to a certain degree. That was one reason why status ailment-causing attacks were so hated.

Shin, who used poison himself, did not understand what the game creators had in mind when he first read the explanation and grumbled to himself “I just don’t get why it doesn’t prevent it!”.

“Let’s go see the king first. If we find anyone affected by the poison on the way there we’ll help them. Is this okay with you?”

“I feel bad for the others, but we have to prioritize the king. Any objections?”

All party members shook their head at Garon’s question.

Shin took the lead and, soon enough, they found a collapsed soldier. They erased the poison in the surroundings with a skill, healed the little energy he had lost due to the poison and woke him up.

According to the soldier, he had been feeling unwell since last night and this morning as soon as he started his shift, his limbs were paralyzed. He lost consciousness, so he didn’t know what happened afterwards.

“Considering the time, it must have been after I sent my message.”

“I suppose so. It’s a slow-acting poison, so the symptoms probably vary from person to person. Even so, the soldiers being unable to move should be the perfect situation for the culprit to do whatever they were planning, but it doesn’t look like anything happened…what is going on here?”

Shin gave the soldier an item that temporarily subdued the poison’s effects, then told him to leave the castle. They couldn’t take the soldiers they helped along with them, after all.

“The king’s chambers are up ahead. He’s probably waiting there, but can you detect his presence?”

“Supposing the presences in the corridor are guards or attendants, there are five presences two rooms ahead and two in the room next to it. I’m guessing the king is in one of these rooms.”

To locate someone they had never met before using only the map and detection skills was rather difficult. Shin searched the room where the king was more likely to be, in order to find him as quickly as possible.

Shin’s prediction turned out to be correct: when they entered the room with five presences, they found all of them collapsed on the floor. Garon quickly approached a man dressed clearly more elegantly than the others and helped him up. He was the king of Passner: the other presences were the queen and their personal guards.

After administering the antidote and healing them, all five quickly regained their consciousness.

“Garon, is that you…? Looks like you have saved us yet again.”

“No, this time I have done nothing to deserve your thanks. If it wasn’t for them, we would have been done in.”

After the king stood up, Garon explained again the situation.

“So you people are the allies Garon spoke about?”

The king first looked at Schnee, who was leading the group, then the other members behind her. He then slowly kneeled down.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance. I am Graffior Passner, king of Passner. Lady Schnee Raizar, I have heard much about your exploits. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for helping my friend.”

A country’s king was kneeling to a normal person. It was something normally unthinkable.

In Schnee’s case, not so much. Her position was equal, or maybe superior, to the king of a small country like Passner.

“Please, that will be enough as a greeting. Rather, could you let us know what happened before you lost consciousness?”

“Of course. I fear I cannot give you any valuable information, though. At first my body felt somewhat heavy, but I did not notice anything else. I did not notice any intruders before I collapsed, nor can I recall anyone forcing me to take any drugs or poison.”

Graffior added that it all happened suddenly.

The soldiers had said the same. The only difference was that Graffior might have collapsed later than them. There were few clues.

“In the end, the people in the castle were just paralyzed? What is the culprit thinking?”

“A reason to force everyone inside the royal castle to immobility…maybe they wanted to kidnap an important person? But in that case they would just need to use a stronger poison on this person and take them away. Maybe they wanted to steal a valuable item…or paralyze the country’s ruling powers…hmm…”

Shin voiced all the possibilities he could come up with.

“Are there any rare items of materials that other countries might not have here?”

“Not that I can think of…we have many precious items in our treasury, but nothing that could warrant such a large-scale plan to steal. The equipment Garon’s party is wearing right now seems more precious to me.”

Graffior said that they had items other than gear, but nothing extremely precious.

“There might be items with yet undiscovered effects. Could we take a look at the treasury?”

“Please do.”

In other countries it wouldn’t be so simple, but Graffior gave them permission as they were Schnee Raizar’s party.

“Shin, Schnee, I’ll leave that to you two then. Sety and I will go take care of anyone in need of healing.”

“Understood. We’ll also heal anyone if we find them.”

Schnee and Sety often acted as the party’s healers: having them act independently would be more effective.

The poison filling the castle was something even Filma could heal without trouble, so Sety’s burden would be smaller.

“Yuzuha, you stay here to protect them. Whoever scattered the poison might still be around.”

“Kuu!”

Small fox mode Yuzuha cried, then turned into her two mel size. Graffior and the others were surprised, but were convinced when Shin said that she was his partner monster. She could use healing skills too, so even if other kinds of poison appeared, there was nothing to worry about.

“Do you have an inventory list or something similar?”

“I believe the person in charge of our resources does, but if they aren’t in the department, I don’t know where they could be.”

Graffior, considering that Shin was a member of Schnee’s party, answered his question politely.

Shin and Schnee thus decided to check the department the king told them about first; if they couldn’t find the functionaries in charge, they would just check the treasury for any traces of intrusion.

While heading towards their destination, they healed and gave antidotes to any soldiers and functionaries affected by paralysis.

According to the words of one of the soldiers they helped, they learned that luckily the functionary in charge of storage and preservation were present.

The functionary was surprised and wary of Shin and Schnee’s sudden visit, but the royal guard that accompanied them explained that they had obtained permission directly from the king, so they could act right away.

“I apologize in advance for the rude question, but can you confirm that this is the castle’s treasury?”

“Yes, it is. Is there anything that troubles you…?”

“Well, actually…”

Shin gave a vague reply to the functionary in charge, who led them to the treasury.

If Shin’s senses weren’t betraying him, the poison grew stronger the more they proceeded. The source of the poison had to be close by.

Shin had given the royal guard an item that nullified all poison under a certain threshold, so he would be safe.

Shin informed the functionary of his findings. Since the latter was within the radius of the item’s effects, he wouldn’t notice that the poison was growing thicker.

Shin proceeded while removing the poison, leaving a safe path in their wake.

“Looks like it’s here.”

“Yes. In a place like this there wouldn’t be a risk of anyone finding it by chance. There are traces that the lock was opened.”

Shin’s eyes could clearly see the traces — red handprints — that a skill was used to open the lock. Schnee should be able to see them too.

“Traces, sir…?”

The royal guard and the functionary could not see the handprints, so they looked at the lock with stern expressions.

Thanks to their skills, Shin and Schnee could see the fingerprints on the lock, so without using anything it would naturally look like any other lock.

“Since we can see them so clearly, I guess the culprit was confident no one would ever find out?”

“Or they didn’t have any methods to erase the traces, I would say.”

Most players with thief-related jobs would learn such skills. In a case like this, which involved more than just opening a lock, skills to remove any traces of unlocking were necessary too.

Most players who used such skills were PKs or those who stole from other players.

There were many players who specialized in lockpicking, but even so, it felt unnatural for the traces to remain so clearly on the lock.

The more skilled the user was, the fewer traces would remain. Shin’s experience told him that only beginners would leave so many clear traces.

“The treasury is structured as to contain more valuable items the further you advance. Weapons and related gear are on the right, while all other items are on the left.”

The group opened the lock and entered the treasury. Shin advanced in the direction the poison felt stronger, while listening to the functionary’s explanations.

The treasury was a rectangle-shaped room, extending deeper and deeper.

Shin stopped when they reached the middle of the room. He approached a display of precious jewels, grabbed the edges of a stand housing a necklace decorated with purple gems and moved it.

“This is…”

The royal guard and the functionary swallowed their breaths. The stand concealed a stone-like object that could only be described as solid poison.

The octagonal object was the size of a fist and, upon closer inspection, revealed that it could filter light. It was probably a gemstone originally.

Shin picked it up and used his analysis skills. He knew there were no traps and the poison could not affect him.

“This gem is enchanted with a poison that causes paralysis. But that’s it.”

It wasn’t enough to spread poison throughout the castle. Shin analyzed the base of the necklace on a whim and discovered that it was enchanted with a spell to spread the poison.

“Let’s take these with us. If they are turned into cards, the poison won’t be able to spread anymore.”

Schnee stored the gem and the necklace base in the item box. They looked for any other such contraptions, but did not find any.

“(What did the culprit want to do with this…?)”

Shin asked Schnee a question via Mind Chat. The timing had been perfect to do something, but no action was taken. Extremely visible traces. Something felt definitely wrong in the whole affair.

“(The gemstone enchanted with poison couldn’t be analyzed, so this might just be an experiment.)”

Shin tried to analyze the gemstone enchanted with poison, but couldn’t tell exactly what type it was. It looked like a gemstone, but it could also be a mineral.

Shin thought it resembled the gem Baomultan gave him, but he couldn’t start comparing them when the royal guard and the functionary were still around. Thinking they should make their report first, Shin’s group headed back to the king’s room.

“An item producing poison? Why would such a thing be in the treasury…?”

Graffior’s expression was grave.

“(Do you think demons might be involved in this?)”

Graffior was deep in thought, so Shin connected a Mind Chat to Schnee and the others. Since they were in the same party, the message would reach Shibaid and the others too, even if they were far apart.

“(Waah!? Eh? W-why can I hear Shin’s voice!?)”

Before anyone could reply, however, they heard Tiera’s confused voice.

The chat function he used belonged to the “old generation” of the game era, so Tiera, a member of the “new generation”, wasn’t supposed to be able to hear it.

The chat message sent to the whole party, however, reached Tiera too.

Shin heard her surprised voice and wondered if it was an after-effect of her fusion with Marino.

He had never sent personal messages to Tiera, so he wouldn’t know when she could start hearing them.

Nevertheless, the fusion with Marino was the only trigger he could think of.

“(T-this is so embarrassing…)”

Even if only Shin and the party would hear, Tiera was subjected to the embarrassment of all her thoughts being displayed publicly until she got used to the Mind Chat.

According to Shibaid, she was blushing so hard you would expect steam to come out of her head. Even Baomultan was looking at her with concern.

“(Er…I’m sorry.)”

Shin didn’t think the Mind Chat would connect to Tiera, but he was the cause nonetheless, so he honestly apologized.

“(Don’t talk about that anymore, please…)”

“(Got it. So, about the demons…what do you think, everybody?)”

Tiera feebly implored Shin to change the topic and he promptly complied, thinking of making amends to her in some way later.

King Graffior and the others were talking about what countermeasures they could take, so Shin continued the conversation while paying attention not to show any unnatural response.

“(It does feel like something’s off. The demons we’ve seen up till now wouldn’t let a chance go like that.)”

If Shin’s party didn’t come, no one in the castle would have been able to move. Even if it was just a preparation for something, it was odd that there was no action at all after the poisoning.

Furthermore, no miasma could be found in the gem and base that Shin collected.

“(Whoever infiltrated the treasury was probably controlled. It would explain why we didn’t find any miasma. We still don’t know the extent of what they could have done though.)”

Schnee recalled cardinal Greyl, who had teleported Shin, Schnee, and second princess Rionne from Bayreuth to a Sacred Place.

He had been affected by various status ailments and cooperated with the demons unbeknownst to him.

“(This time the plan seems more complex, if there really is a demon behind this, it must be a pretty smart one, no? But in that case, why would it set up something like this in the first place?)”

“(Since it has a high degree of intellect, it’s using it to make people suffer?)”

Sety answered Filma’s question with a theory. Something like that had happened in the past.

The demon who kidnapped the church’s holy woman crafted a plan to make people suffer.

It could easily have killed them at any given time, but didn’t. Shin and the others learned directly that such demons existed too.

“(Based on the demons we have faced up until now, we can say that their methods have changed a little. It’s also safe to say that they might have abilities we aren’t aware of. There’s not much we can do, but let’s keep each other informed about anything we notice.)”

If they continued the Mind Chat too long they wouldn’t be able to follow Graffior and the others’ conversation, so Shin cut it for the time being.

Schnee looked like she could keep up without trouble, but Shin was struggling to keep up with two conversations at once. Especially this time, there were many things to think about, so he was afraid of saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.

Schnee had taken the lead in the conversation with Graffior and the others, so it had worked out until now.

“Let’s use items and purify the poison in groups. The demons might do something, but if we go individually the castle and its functions will remain paralyzed. There might be some who could die because of the poison.”

“I suppose that is inevitable. If the enemy is planning something outside the castle, spending too much time here would play right into their hands. This is quite a difficult decision. To think there might really be demons, though. I honestly thought they only existed in old tales.”

Shin’s party had faced them various times, but few people in this world were aware of the demons’ activities.

Even kings like Graffior were no exception.

Shin thought that they should inform their connections that the demons were on the move again, once the current situation was resolved.

After the conversation, they began purifying the castle of poison. The affected area was wide, but the poison itself was not very strong.

Shin quickly crafted antitoxin items with his skills and gave them to the healed soldiers. He also asked Sety and Filma to continue removing the poison and administering antidotes.

The healed soldiers would in turn become healers, so it didn’t take much time until all the soldiers in the castle recovered.

The menu displayed that it was still a little after 10 PM.

The group arrived in Passner a bit after 7 PM, so about three hours had passed since they started heading for the castle. The actual poison removal took about two hours.

“I thought Durgin would attack, but looks like nothing’s happening at the moment.”

“Right. Why did they spread that poison anyway? No attacks from Durgin or anyone else, nothing was taken, no one was kidnapped. It’s beginning to sound like a sick joke.”

In a room assigned to the party, Shin spoke while looking out of the window and Filma, sitting on a chair, replied while cocking her head in disbelief.

They had been assigned individual rooms, but they gathered in Shin’s room to discuss.

“If the enemy is truly intelligent, it might have noticed our presence and concealed itself…”

“The poison was spread before we arrived, though. That seems a bit far-fetched, no?”

If the demon had only average fighting power, it might have perceived how powerful Shin’s party was and fled, said Filma while thinking.

As Sety pointed out, it didn’t sound plausible.

“Even if it was an indiscriminate terrorist act, the effects are too mild. Could it be that the mastermind is not a demon after all?”

“The possibility is there. It’s not like demons are responsible for all bad things that happen.”

Shin agreed with Schnee’s hypothesis.

In this world monsters were an ever-present threat, but countries would still wage war against each other at times.

At present, because of the power relations between countries and the relations between neighboring territories, no large-scale wars were going on, but the possibility of conflict breaking out in the future still existed.

After the Dusk of Majesty smaller conflicts broke out in various regions, as Shin had learned from a document he had read earlier.

The possibility that this act was caused by a foreign agent was not zero. Even if it was, there were still many unclear points about the whole affair.

“I can’t feel miasma, but there is a strange aura here. Something like…a mixture?”

Only Shin and his party was in the room, so Yuzuha took human form and spoke. Sitting on a sofa next to Shin, she looked perplexed.

Yuzuha could also perceive miasma, but she confidently said that there wasn’t any in the surroundings. She could feel an unusual aura, though.

“A mixture? How does that feel exactly?”

Shin thought it would be difficult to explain such a sensation, but decided to ask Yuzuha all the same.

“Like a negative feeling, close to miasma…I guess?”

It was not a strong impurity, but something closer to lingering negative emotions.

Yuzuha added that Shin and Schnee couldn’t feel it because it wasn’t miasma and it was also very faint.

“Either a long time passed or it was faint from the beginning. We can’t tell for sure about this either. We do know that it’s definitely hostile towards us and that Durgin landed here for a reason.”

The causes were still unknown, but there definitely was a mastermind hiding in the shadows.

Durgin, like Baomultan, was a creature necessary for the world. If possible, Shin wanted to do something for the monster.

“Let’s keep our guard up for today. I’m thinking we should take turns sleeping, what do you all think?”

Everyone nodded to Shin’s proposal. They had all rested plenty in Romenun, so their condition was perfect.

There were items that helped a user not feel sleepy.

According to Shibaid, while convenient these items let exhaustion accumulate faster and made it easier to lose focus, so it was better to rest when possible.

Shin had never used such items after coming to this world, so he decided to follow Shibaid’s advice.

There also were skills that could alert the user if any monsters approached.

Someone would stand guard just in case while the others slept, but there was no reason for everyone to force themselves to stay awake.

“First it’ll be me and— ”

“And me.”

Schnee raised her hand before Shin could end his sentence. Filma and Sety nodded, knowing smiles on their lips.

“I will stay up too!”

Yuzuha joined in while leaning against Shin. She had recuperated most of her powers and looked almost like an adult, but many of her gestures were still childish.

She was taller than before, so her pointy fox ears could touch Shin’s. They would move sometimes, which Shin found a bit ticklish.

“My my, looks like Schnee has a rival here.”

“Not a problem. Shin is not such a fickle person.”

Schnee sharply replied to Filma’s joke, smiling in return. Her behavior and words fully expressed her trust in him.

“Schnee would always panic a little in these situations, but look at her confident smile now…! They definitely did it…”

“This feels more like big sis Schnee, though. She isn’t the type to catch someone and keep them chained, but to catch someone and make them feel like they don’t want to escape. I bet Shin is already caught in all sorts of ways already. Like through his stomach.”

“You two? You do know that if you continue saying whatever you please like that, I will have to take the proper countermeasures?”

Schnee’s aura changed.

Filma and Sety understood that they were about to step in dangerous territory and quickly left, saying they would go to sleep first.

“They’re always ready to make fun of me, those two…”

“Your aura became softer, after all. I guess it’s easier to joke like that now.”

Shin was sure that they wouldn’t have said so much before.

“It’s a problem if they find me easier to make fun of.”

“They’re not just having fun at your expense, you know that. Just let them have a bit of fun.”

“You can say that because they don’t make fun of you, Shin. Besides, they ask me all sorts of embarrassing things when you’re not around.”

Schnee looked really embarrassed, as she went red up to her ears. They apparently dug really deep, probably without restraint as they belonged to the same gender.

Shibaid also wanted to know more about what happened, but, because of his personality, he would never ask intimate questions like Filma and Sety did.

“I kind of understand Filma and Sety. Shibaid never asks me anything though.”

Like Filma and Sety with Schnee, for Shibaid it would surely be easier to ask Shin about what happened while he was alone with Schnee.

Shin couldn’t recall being asked such questions, though.

“I wonder if he’s holding back?”

When they met in this world, Shin told Shibaid to be unrestrained with him, but the Dragnil clearly still felt their master-servant relationship strongly.

They belonged to the same party and entrusted each other’s backs to the other in battle. Even so, Shin felt that there may not be a wall, but a line clearly traced between them.

“In Shibaid’s case, I think it’s more due to his personality than restraint. If Girard was here, he would ask questions as brazen as Filma’s, I think.”

Shin agreed that Girard would have done just that. Even if they were both warriors, Girard and Shibaid’s personalities were quite different.

“Shibaid’s thinking has become more flexible. I suppose his time as king has been beneficial.”

“Really? I didn’t think that he changed much…no, I guess he did.”

Shin recalled what Shibaid said when they met again, words like a general meeting his king, and retracted his statement.

In the game era, Shibaid would never have casually addressed Shin unless ordered it.

“…everyone’s changed. Everyone has lived all this time. Of course they would.”

“Shin?”

Schnee, finding him different from  usual, couldn’t help but call his name.

“No, it’s just that I’ve never properly asked everyone about how they lived, what they did while I wasn’t around.”

He had talked about it with Schnee while they were alone, but apart from her, the only one Shin talked with at length was Girard.

Considering he had lived over 500 years, it was just a tiny moment, but for Shin it was something unforgettable.

He had heard very superficial things from Shibaid, Filma and Sety.

While talking with Schnee and Yuzuha, Shin thought that he should talk with those three much more.

“Let me start by speaking about them from my viewpoint, then. It’s better than just waiting, no?”

“Yes, please.”

Shin agreed to Schnee’s proposal, had the sleepy Yuzuha turn into small fox mode and picked her up in his arms. She cuddled up and quickly drifted off to dreamland.

Yuzuha said she would stay awake, but evidently succumbed to sleep.

“It’s already Yuzuha’s bed time.”

“Hard to think that she is a legendary monster…”

Yuzuha usually turned in early at night.

Except when an enemy was near, on normal days she would always sleep soundly. So maybe today there would not be enemy attacks.

Maybe she was getting accustomed to her body while she slept, so she could be doing it now too.

“You can’t go to sleep too, okay Shin?”

“Of course, I know.”

Shin placed Yuzuha on his lap, careful not to wake her up, stroking her fur as he listened to Schnee.
 

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