TNG Vol. 18 Chapter 1 Part 2

 

“(Are you really going? The Sacred Place is a Guardian’s home ground, they could have prepared traps too.)”

Schnee sent a Mind Chat immediately after hearing Shin’s decision.

Their past encounters with the Guardians had been unplanned, but this time things were different. The fact that the Guardian sent a subordinate to negotiate with Shin was clear proof.

Shin and his party did not even know if it was really true that the Guardians were fighting each other.

Schnee’s worries were not unfounded: in the worst-case scenario, Shin could end up fighting three or more Guardians at the same time.

“(I know that. But I think that I can’t stay ignorant about this world any longer.)”

Shin did not even know why he arrived in this world in the first place.

What exactly was the reason, if there was one? He thought about it a lot at first, but recently it barely crossed his mind.

He was much more occupied with thinking about how to live in this world and other more immediate problems.

Gelganger stated that differently from other Players, Shin was regarded as an abnormality.

Shin assumed it was because he came to this world without dying. Or maybe because he defeated Origin, the previous world’s “final boss”.

He did not know if the reason was one of these, or something else entirely.

“(Hmm, it’s not exactly that, I guess.)”

He replied with a seemingly proper reason, but thinking about it seriously, something else came to mind.

If the wall across the continent was completed, there would be no reason to worry about the monsters’ invasions anymore, even if Gelganger’s master and the other Guardians started fighting again and new hordes spawned.

The land would remain unusable, but there was no way to know if negotiating with monsters was even possible, much less successful. If the Guardians couldn’t leave their territory, they just needed to leave them alone.

It was definitely the easiest, most convenient solution. No matter what the Guardians said, Shin would live in this world as he wished.

He had no plans of ruling over any territory or using his strength selfishly, after all.

He simply wished for a normal life: as of now, he could settle down somewhere and make a living as a skilled adventurer. With his skills, hiding his true identity would be simple.

Why not simply do that, then? Why go all the way to meet face to face with a Guardian?

There were various reasons, but more than anything, Shin wanted them to approve of him.

He wanted to show that he harbored no hostility towards this world. That he wanted to live in it. And for the Guardians to concede he could.

“I shall send a messenger to my master. Do you plan to depart now, Lord Shin?”

“I have to let some people know first, but is it possible to wait?”

As the master could not move, there was no choice but to wait for Shin, but he didn’t want to be too late and cause the appearance of a second Selcikeus or Heltoros.

“Large spawns of monsters such as these cannot be created so frequently, even by a Guardian. In human terms, I believe you have one month of leeway.”

Monsters understood human concepts of time, apparently. Shin expected them to use terms related to the movements of the sun, but that was not the case.

“Very well, then let us meet again two days from now, at…no, wait. Can you monsters measure time?”

“On a day to day basis, yes, but it will be difficult for us if you set a specific time. We do not have the ability to measure time as precisely as you humans.”

Shin, the other players and support characters could use their status window’s clock display.

Other human beings, if they had a high enough social status or finances, often owned clocks. They were not easily accessible for monsters, however.

“I’ll give you this, then. Do you know how to read it?”

“I have never seen one before. Could you please tell me how to use it?”

What Shin had picked from his item box and given to Gelganger was a pocket watch. He had made it in the game era, but it didn’t have any special functions. He taught Gelganger how to use it, then told it to come back two days later at the same time.

“Okay then, first let’s see what happened to the monsters, then I’ll have to report what Gelganger said to the people in charge…”

Gelganger sent a messenger to the master, while it would stand by there.

Shin and the others rejoined Shibaid and Sety, then warped close to the wall. Gelganger already knew that they possessed such an ability, so they didn’t bother hiding it.

“Is that all really true?”

“It feels very sudden, honestly…”

Sety and Filma had been quiet while Gelganger talked: after the party reunited, they actively expressed their opinions.

“Are you really going to go? If it happens like the time with Ishkar, and you get isolated and it turns out they’re hostile, we can’t do anything to help.”

Unlike Gryphon, Ishkar used a unique barrier that restricted the movement of all of Shin’s support characters, including Schnee.

Sety thus hypothesized that Gelganger’s invitation could be a trap.

“That technique, or should I say power, is something completely beyond our knowledge. To be honest, even if we knew about it we have no way to counter it. Even if it’s true that the Guardians can’t leave the Sacred Places, it might not be the case for all of them. Gelganger only said what it knew. The barrier…wall…or whatever Ishkar used came up in a particular situation, but it was still a dungeon. We know that the Guardians can use their powers even outside Sacred Places.”

Ishkar lurked in the depths of a location born from the fusion of two dungeons, the Castle of the Depths and the Seafloor Sanctuary.

Ishkar itself had been possessed by a Guardian, but its abilities were the same as the original. They couldn’t just accept everything Gelganger said as facts.

On the other hand, Gelganger clearly stated that there were limits to the information it was given.

They didn’t know if it was instructed to say so or decided to do it on its own will, but it could have been a hint for Shin and the others to realize that Gelganger’s information was not complete.

“They see us as enemies: even if we keep avoiding them, there will always be the possibility that they attack us one day. We can’t call them allies yet, but it might not be bad to speak with someone with a different stance than ours. Well…since we’ll be in the enemy’s home base, we can go all out without any restraint.”

The first Guardian they fought, Gryphon. The seafloor Guardian, Ishkar. They were both powerful opponents, though in different ways.

Gryphon’s unnatural regenerative powers made it impossible to tell when it was defeated, unless the mysterious power manifested. Ishkar’s strength, on the other hand, was vastly superior to Gryphon’s.

In the fight against Gryphon, Shin could concentrate on the enemy thanks to the presence of Rionne, a Chosen One. If she had been a normal person, things would have been much more difficult.

“If it uses that barrier again, I will come to your aid.”

Yuzuha, walking beside Shin in her four mel sized form, casually spoke.

She had taken that form because of the serious tone of the conversation: Shin wondered if her small fox mode’s childishness was all an act, but apparently while in that form her own intellect was lower.

“If the same thing happens, maybe I can help too?”

“There must be a sort of condition, something Yuzuha and Tiera have in common…”

While they could come up with some possibilities, there was no way to confirm them. It could be hasty to conclude that Schnee and the others couldn’t pass the barrier just because they were Shin’s support characters.

“There’s still so much we don’t know, huh.”

“If you think about it, that’s how things are supposed to be, though.”

Sety sighed and Shibaid replied calmly.

“We know a fair share about this world, but there’s still a lot more to learn. Especially about creatures we didn’t even know existed: it’s normal not to know almost anything. Most of what we know, we only learned because someone else faced danger to acquire such information. In the end, to obtain what you want to know you have to put your life on the line, there’s no other way.”

“Hmm, but we can’t do things like we did in the past anymore…what’s wrong in wanting to do things the easy way?”

“Listen to you…”

Sety continued grumbling, as Shibaid sighed.

He was a natural born warrior: even after Shin disappeared, he continued fighting on his own. If you wish for something, you shall earn it through battle. It was not strange for him to think it obvious to take great risks to achieve one’s goals.

Sety, on the other hand, was not as eager to do battle. She did not despise fighting and was willing to fight and destroy clear enemies, such as Demons or Devils, but she was not particularly inclined to look for trouble if she could help it.

In addition, they could not be revived like during the game era, so the strategy of taking deadly risks to gain information was not possible anymore.

Shibaid and Sety’s opinions were different, but both were correct in their own way.

“They said that they would leave us alone if we kept quiet, so to be honest I think that wouldn’t be too bad either.”

Shin wanted the Guardians to approve of his existence, but he was not eager to stick his neck into a conflict between Guardians. He knew that the situation was not so simple, though.

Shin never met or fought Gelganger’s master, but the latter somehow knew about him: it was highly likely that the Guardians exchanged information among themselves. Shin was attacked first, but he had still defeated two Guardians already. There was no guarantee that they’d leave him alone forever, even if he lived quietly somewhere.

“If you decide to go, I will simply follow you. Next time, I will definitely pass.”

Since they started talking about the barrier, Schnee was quietly brimming with fighting spirit. Shin felt her determination to break through the barrier burning brightly within her.

“I completely agree with Schnee.”

“Indeed, we cannot have them think they can use the same move every time.”

Filma and Shibaid too were frustrated by not being able to do anything before the barrier: their determination was as resolute as Schnee’s.

Shin knew that his support characters and Tiera sparred and trained whenever they had time, so he thought that they might have learned new skills he wasn’t aware of.

“Easy there, guys…look at Sety, she’s…not calm either, is she.”

Shin did not feel the same determination or fighting spirit from Sety, but she was leaking magic power instead.

Her spirit was different from Schnee and the others, but she was burning in her own way. She was faintly grinning, but her eyes brimmed with the intent to break through the barrier.

“Anyway, keep it down when we meet with the Empire people, all right? Or they’re going to soil themselves.”

Tiera, cold sweats trickling down her forehead, looked at Shin with pleading eyes.

The combined fighting spirit and magic power emanating from Schnee and the other three was more than enough to knock the average person unconscious.

 

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