TNG Vol. 18 Chapter 2 Part 3
“Let’s prep the equipment then. Schnee and the others’ equipment just needs checking, so let’s take care of yours first, Tiera.”
Shin headed to the smithy, followed by Tiera and the rest.
He didn’t need to be in the smithy to perform enchantments, but it was always the ideal place for him to work on equipment. In this world, the craftsman’s mental state greatly influenced the results of their work, which was probably a reason as well.
Shin thought of explaining the enchantments while he applied them, so he chose Tiera as the first “subject”.
“It’s so dangerous that you have to make specialized equipment?”
“Yeah. Like Filma said, if you fall into the sand sea with normal equipment, you’re as good as dead. That’s how hard it is to escape. We could probably brute force our way out with skills, but if we fall into the sand, it means that we’re fighting: it’s very likely that even if you can get out, the monsters’ attacks will hit you and make you fall in again. Or that you can’t reach land or the ship even after getting out.”
Most player deaths in the sand sea were monster attacks causing them to sink.
Shin too had experienced falling into the sands, managing to escape, just to be knocked back in by monsters: he knew it was very possible. The monsters were naturally dangerous, but the greatest enemy in that area was probably the environment.
“To adapt to this environment, we have to give up on using equipment sets, so the overall quality will drop a bit. I’ll power up the mantle I gave you when we entered the desert, to regulate your body temperature, as well as the support magic enchantments. Finally, an emergency escape skill in case you fall in.”
The skill in question would teleport the user to the nearest firm foothold, a ship, or actual land. It only worked if there was such an area in its radius, but it would make a great difference nevertheless.
“Oh…I want that. Definitely.”
Tiera heard the explanation and nodded vigorously. The terrifying sinking experience she had heard from Filma sounded positively traumatic.
“About the equipment, I’d like you to try Schnee’s spare gear first. If that works, we just need to adjust it a little. If not, I have to make new ones. Your stats are higher now, so you might be able to wear it.”
Schnee’s spare gear was all Ancient grade.
Even within the same grade, some weapons or armor had slightly different requirements.
The more advanced the equipment, the higher the stats required: Tiera and Milt could have incurred penalties when wearing it.
“…Shin…you’re joking, right?”
“Since they’re just spares, I didn’t change the design: it’s all official, standard sand sea gear. Let me say it again: I didn’t edit even one detail.”
Tiera looked at the materialized equipment, then glared at Shin, who painstakingly explained he had no part in it.
“Arabian style, I suppose? Though calling it like that would probably piss off the people from those countries…female players had a love/hate relationship with this.”
Milt laughed wryly: she couldn’t defend it either.
The gear featured loose-fitting trousers, but the upper body only had a thin, semi-transparent veil covering the mouth, a piece of cloth over the chest and a pair of bracelets: it was rather stereotypical. There was even a sexier version for dancers.
The male version was similar: the same kind of trousers, a light jacket and a turban-like hat.
“Some people had this mixed with the Amazoness series gear, if I recall.”
“That too has only one piece of cloth for the upper body, after all. At least it covers a little more.”
It was nonetheless quite alluring. It stood out even more if the wearer was a woman with developed physique, such as Milt and Tiera were.
“If you let me fiddle with the design, I can make it more conversative, though.”
It would not be difficult to reduce the skin exposure: change the upper body design to a t-shirt, add something to drape over the shoulders, and so on.
It was just a spare, so Shin left the default design; if he made a new one from scratch, however, he could modify the visuals with relatively high freedom.
“It’s fine like this for me. No one other than this party is going to see, anyway. I bet you’d like this one better too, right Shin?”
So said Milt, a smirk on her face.
Some players did look forward to seeing female players wear sexy equipment, so Milt wasn’t surely spouting nonsense.
“Schnee’s going to do that cold smile of hers, so please don’t. Or I’m going to change it into a mummy design and wrap you in bandages from head to toe.”
While Shin used the word mummy, this design would mean being wrapped like a package, so it certainly wasn’t a pretty sight. Even in the game era, it was only used as a joke.
“Ah, that one…I wore it once, it was easier to move in than I expected, actually.”
“The appearance is the only thing that actually changes, after all. So, what do you want to do, Tiera? You don’t like this kind of design, right?”
When Shin changed the Heat Haze equipment series, Tiera was concerned about the amount of skin exposure. He was sure that she would say something about the sand sea gear.
“Er, can I try wearing it once?”
“Sure, I’ll leave the room then. Call me when you’re done.”
Tiera’s reply was unexpected, but Shin thought it would be weird for him to insist on changing the design, so he simply nodded and left the smithy. A short while later, he was called back in: Tiera and Milt had both changed into the sand sea equipment.
“The automatic fitting function is really convenient…it suppresses jiggling too. You really are the best at these attachments, Shin.”
“If you learn it with a Secret Book and raise your proficiency, you can do it too, you know that. It’d be enough to apply attachments to normal clothes.”
Shin replied, looking away from the cleavage Milt was pushing up with both arms. She definitely did it on purpose to make him look, but if he pointed it out she would just tease him more.
Immediately after learning the automatic fitting enchantment skill, it was only possible to use it on equipment up to Rare grade. Shin thought that would be enough for normal clothes, but Milt apparently had no desire to learn it herself.
“The important thing is to have you do it for me, Shin. Because it makes me feel like I’m in your embrace.”
“Is that so.”
Shin recalled that one of the Seven Deadly Sins had said something similar, but kept it to himself.
“My body feels a little heavy, though. I guess that’s the penalty.”
Milt’s stats had improved, but it was probably not enough.
Checking the status revealed that she lacked VIT. It was only one parameter, so the penalty was small.
“Penalties used to be pretty heavy even if part of your stats were lacking, but I guess things are different now.”
“Probably. It’s the first time I get a penalty after coming here, so I don’t really know for sure.”
In the game era, incurring a penalty felt like your body suddenly became heavier too. There were no degrees in the extent of the penalty, however: no matter if you missed the stat threshold by 1 point or 100, the resulting penalty was the same, or so Shin recalled.
“Ah!! If you have to remake the equipment from scratch, does it mean you have to measure my whole body? Every nook and cranny??”
The automatic fitting function would make the equipment fit regardless of the wearer’s height or size. Equipment made for a tall woman would fit a young girl without problems…
…which also meant that equipment made for a young boy could fit a large, burly man too.
Normally, crafting equipment required measurements, but that was not the case for Shin.
“How is it, Tiera?”
Shin ignored Milt, huffing and puffing at his dry reply, and turned toward Tiera.
The automatic fitting function adjusted the size, so the only remaining issues were mobility and visuals.
“It feels easy to move in, like all equipment you’ve given me until now. I feel a bit heavy too, though.”
Since Milt reported the feeling of heaviness, Shin thought of a possible cause: as expected, Tiera reported the same sensation.
Her stats were very close to game-era Schnee, however. The required stats shouldn’t be that high, but if the penalty was there, he had to remake the equipment from scratch.
Shin was thinking that since he had to remake the equipment, he could change the visuals too. At the same time, Tiera was fidgeting, staring at the floor.
She looked like she wanted to say something, so Shin waited.
After about 10 seconds of mumbling and murmuring, Tiera gathered her courage and spoke up.
“How do…I look?”
Tiera’s cheeks were bright red. She held her left elbow with her right hand, as she leaned a bit forward and looked up at Shin.
Both the outfit and expression were different from the usual Tiera: Shin felt his heart skip a beat. It was clear what she wanted to know.
“I think…it looks good on you.”
Shin thought it would be bad to just say nothing, so he complimented her. Tiera turned bright red, almost steaming.
Shin was at a loss about what to do next, when Milt suddenly hugged him from behind. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, sticking to him as much as she could.
“You ignore me, but get all lovey-dovey with Tiera, huh?”
“That’s not what…anyway, how about you get off me first?”
Milt put her head on Shin’s shoulder and whispered into his ear.
It felt ticklish. More stimulating than that, however, was the soft, plump weights he felt on his back. Milt was wearing the sand sea equipment too, so her breasts were squished against Shin’s back.
Before it stopped being just a prank, Shin announced the activation of a non-lethal Skill. Milt’s body all too easily slipped away, spun once in the air, then landed in Shin’s arms.
“…I wouldn’t have expected to end up in your arms from that pose.”
The Skill used by Shin normally smacked the target on the ground, but he couldn’t do that to Milt, so he caught her: which made things more awkward, however.
“Enough jokes, all right? Anyway, since you got a penalty I have to redo the equipment from scratch: what kind of design do you want? The default one is the easiest, but it’s not a problem to make modifications. If you have any requests, I’m all ears.”
Almost all female players that requested Shin to craft that equipment for them also asked for design modifications.
A very small number of them asked to keep the default design or to make it even sexier, so he had several samples of designs with less exposure.
“Hmm, let’s see…oh, what kind of design did you make for Schnee and the others’ sand sea outfit?”
“Hm? Okay, wait a moment.”
The sea sand equipment was not something they used often, so Shin didn’t remember the designs in detail. He picked up the cards from the item box, looked at the picture — and froze.
The sand sea outfit for Schnee and Filma consisted of a thin veil covering the head and back, a bikini and another thin veil wrapped around the waist. Nothing else. The sexy dancer type, basically.
Shin had no idea why he chose such a design: since no one else was going to see them anyway, he probably let his more carnal emotions take over.
That was probably the reason why Sety’s equipment had the default design.
“My, my, quite the bold design we have here…”
“Gh…I have no excuses…”
Milt grinned and nudged at Shin, who could not defend himself this time.
The other Rokuten members couldn’t have changed the design without his knowledge: he was definitely the author of those “scandalous” designs.
“I’ll use this too, then.”
Shin was sure Schnee and the others were going to complain, so he asked Milt if she was really sure.
“I mean, this is the style you like, right?”
“Gah…I can’t deny it, with these cards in front of me…”
Milt’s understanding glance felt painful.
The unusually quiet Yuzuha’s gaze felt stinging too, as did Tiera’s eyes throwing daggers on Shin’s back. Shin had to ask her too, however, so he timidly turned around.
“Er, so, Tiera, you want a more, let’s say, modest design, right? I have a few samples, you can take a look at them and choose freely…”
Shin carefully chose his words, as Tiera’s stare was fixated on the pictures depicting the designs for Schnee and Filma.
Milt was joking, but Tiera seemed to be sincerely disgusted, which terrified Shin. He felt cold sweats run down his back.
“I want this too.”
Tiera plainly pointed at the sexy dancer-type sand sea wear, without the slightest change in her expression.
With just those words, Tiera turned around and left the smithy.
The automatic fitting function made any measurement unnecessary: since the design was the same, Shin could make Tiera’s even without her presence. It wasn’t like her to just make a request and leave like that.
“Even her ears were red.”
She had managed to return her expression back to normal, but not her ears. The door was closed, but Shin and the others knew that Tiera was just behind it.
The Listen Skill picked up a feeble “what am I even doing…!” Tiera was surely blushing fiercely again.
“Let’s pretend we didn’t hear anything.”
They could imagine Tiera’s reaction if she knew they heard, so they decided to keep quiet.
“So Milt, why do you think she acted like that?”
“Hmm, I’m afraid it was my fault.”
“Hey…you haven’t teased her too much again, have you?”
Shin glared at Milt, accusing her of provoking Tiera. That would explain why she asked Shin how she looked.
“I didn’t, actually. That’s just how it went, but…I didn’t expect her to be so proactive.”
“She told you something, didn’t she?”
“Ah, just about the thing of you removing her curse.”
When Shin told Tiera about his past, he mentioned Milt too: that was probably the reason why Tiera felt comfortable enough to talk about her curse.
“Looking at Tiera, I get the impression that you also did other things to her too…didn’t you?”
“Why do you think that?”
Shin did his best to hide the surprise in his voice.
“I get the feeling of being interested or getting a crush on the person that freed you from the curse that trapped you for such a long time. But her rival is Schnee, right? And you two became a couple already. Unlike Players, the Elves here are monogamous, so normally they’d just give up.”
Elves were people too: to fall in love with someone already taken, or snatch away someone’s lover were not unknown things to them.
In this world, however, most Elves simply gave up when their loved one formed a relationship of mutual affection with another person. Tiera too was raised in such a culture, until she was exiled from her village.
Milt thus guessed that there had to be something more than just falling in love with the person that saved her from a curse.
“Well, I can’t say that…nothing happened.”
“Yes, yes, go on.”
“Oh, come on, we’re basically longtime friends at this point.”
Milt’s tone was light, but the pressure she emanated was not.
“Well, I can just go ask Tiera, I guess.”
“Fine, fine, I’ll talk, all right?”
It also involved Marino, Milt’s closest friend. Shin thus decided to reveal what happened in Hinomoto.
“I see…she’s interested in you, but not to the point of thinking of taking you for herself.”
Milt, resting her chin on her hand, voiced her opinion on the situation.
“Wait, wait, I announced my marriage with Schnee, you know? She wouldn’t think she has a chance.”
The biggest reason for Tiera’s actions was definitely what happened in Hinomoto. Or so Shin thought.
Those events, however, were strongly influenced by Marino’s presence within Tiera. A presence that was now gone: she shouldn’t have any influence on Tiera anymore.
There shouldn’t be anything powerful enough to change the views and morals Tiera had grown up with.
“Hahaha, Shin, you just don’t get it…”
“I don’t get what.”
Milt smiled at Shin’s helplessness, so he asked back. He tried to think about any sign he could have missed but came up with nothing.
“Having a crush on someone or falling in love can blow away any racial differences, morals, or common sense. Maybe not in the exact same way, but I think you’ve experienced it too, haven’t you? Something that can motivate you to do what is normally taboo.”
“…yeah, I can see it now.”
Shin couldn’t protest. He too had drenched his hands in blood for love.
“In that case, should I clearly tell her that I can’t accept her feelings?”
“Hmm, I don’t know exactly how serious Tiera is about it…she might be trying to give up already, who knows.”
Her feelings might be not intense enough to destroy her morals, but not fickle enough to simply give up on either. That was Milt’s guess.
Tiera’s actions did not express everything she felt, after all.
“If she’s serious, though, it means I have a new ally, so it’s all good for me.”
“Only for you!!”
To Shin’s chagrin, Milt apparently hadn’t given up her wish to be his “number 2” either.
“I’m a Pixie, but I don’t really care for the values they have in this world. No problem! Let’s get this harem started!”
“I said no way!!”
Milt’s enthusiastic encouragement was countered by a chop to the head. He had no intention of increasing the number of lovers.
“You know, I’ve been thinking, why are you so focused on that? There are other possible relationships a man and a woman can have, right?”
Shin, thinking about Milt’s actions since they met again in this world, asked her for an explanation.
It felt different from love or a crush — the types of affection Milt herself had just mentioned.
Even if she wanted to be with the only person she shared a past with, there was no need to build a harem.
“I’ve talked about it before, but the values of the people here are a bit…I mean, someone very strong, not arrogant or narcissistic, who would take good care of his partner, excellent at his craft too…someone like that would be super popular in this world, no? You’ve had offers before, haven’t you?”
So said Milt, while rubbing the sore spot on her head. She thought that Shin probably had had similar experiences to her.
“In this world, strength is one of the most important traits, after all. If you put it like that, I guess I did have offers, but being popular because of that is kinda…”
Shin had indeed experienced something like that. He didn’t agree with that type of thinking, however.
“So you’ve gone through the same things too. The first reason why I’m so “focused” is Marino. You won’t imagine how many times I had to hear about her love for you.”
Shin was very curious to know exactly what Milt had heard.
“I’d love to show you how head over heels she was, really. So anyway, because of that I knew that you were definitely a good guy. Then we went on quests together and I realized it was all true.”
“When we did stuff together, I was in a pretty dangerous phase, though.”
Shin’s appearance might have been the same as before, but what he did was simply murder. Certainly not an activity a “good guy” would engage in.
“What I feel is for me to decide, after all. Anyway, the final touch was that you granted my wish. You helped my cowardly self meet her end.”
Milt’s tone became fully serious. Her calm voice suggested her current state of mind.
“Doesn’t sound like a reason to fall in love with someone to me.”
“The reasons why you love someone are always hard for other people to understand. You didn’t tell meaningless nonsense, like “if you live good things will definitely happen to you”. You knew I would really die, but did it all the same. That was enough for me.”
In stark contrast with the grim nature of the event she recalled, Milt had the brightest smile on her face. It really looked like she sincerely thought what she said.
“You kill someone, and they fall in love with you…I wonder if anyone other than me ever had this happen to them.”
“Ahaha, right? To be alive again after death is just fantasy.”
Shin sighed helplessly and Milt laughed. She then dramatically pointed at him.
“You’ll have to take responsibility for killing me!”
“Don’t say it like that, I did it because I wanted to!!”
After Milt said her original version of that cliched line, Shin pushed her out of the smithy. Since she wanted the default design for the equipment too, there was no need for measurements.
Shin sighed again. She joked again in the end, so he couldn’t be sure that she was really being serious with her declaration. It did feel like she confessed her true feelings, but he decided to not think about it for the moment.