“Yes. Cook’s subordinates -Zazie, Lapwing, Bell and Shell- should be here. But this is….unexpected.”
While heading toward Eltnia, Shin decided to stop by Barbatos because “Shigureya,” Rokuten member Cook’s home, was located there. Apparently, it still functioned as a restaurant.
Four of Cook’s subordinates, being long-lived races, were still active: the restaurant received guests from outside Barbatos too, or so said Aral.
Just as they had heard, Shin’s party found an incredibly long queue before them. People from all ages, genders, and species were neatly queued in one line.
“It doesn’t look like it’s just a one hour wait, huh.”
“I sent a message, so there should be some action soon.”
Shin spoke while looking at the queue and Schnee replied to him.
After a while, two young girls ran out of the doors. They had very similar faces, horns on their heads, membranous wings on their backs, and scaly tails poking out from under their clothes.
These two girls were Bell and Shell. Both had eyes deep red in color, but Bell’s silver hair covered the right half of her face, while Shell’s black hair covered the left side of her face.
“They look just the same, even now.”
Shin referred to Bell’s kitchen frock and Shell’s maid uniform. Based on this, the remaining two of the four were likely wearing one a cook’s uniform, the other a kimono.
Bell and Shell pointed in the direction of Shin’s party and shouted cheerfully. They mentioned Schnee’s name, but as she was camouflaged, no one recognized her.
“Girls? Aren’t you a bit too noisy?”
Schnee interrupted as they were about to shout Shin’s name. The girls instantly froze, just like frogs facing a snake’s glare.
Shin and the others all thought the same thing: ah, she’s angry.
“My message to Lapwing clearly stated not to create a fuss, did it not?”
They probably ran out without listening until the end. The two apologized and quickly returned inside the store.
“This sort of commotion feels nostalgic too…”
“Though, having our names shouted like that in public is pretty troublesome.”
Because of the exchange with Bell & Shell, Shin’s group had attracted some attention.
As they thought that it would probably be better to come back some other time, Schnee suggested entering the restaurant from the back door. Lapwing had replied to her message, apparently.
The group left the store’s front and entered a backstreet that had little traffic. When they reached Shigureya’s back door, they found a woman waiting.
She was Lapwing, who had been communicating with Schnee via message.
Black hair tied behind her head and a kimono designed with ease of movement in mind.
Her green eyes had a gentle light within them, just as Shin remembered.
“I was waiting for you. I apologize for the trouble Bell and Shell caused.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’m glad to see that nothing seems to have changed.”
Led by Lapwing, the group entered Shigureya and was led to a special private room.
The restaurant, having exhausted their ingredient stock for the day, had just closed. Only those customers who were still eating were inside.
“Your meal will be ready soon, please wait.”
After hearing that the group planned to eat lunch at Shigureya, Lapwing said “leave it to us” and accepted the request with enthusiasm. There were still ingredients left for the staff, apparently.
“Here is your water.”
“Please use these handkerchiefs.”
As Lapwing left, Bell and Shell appeared inside. Their movements indicated that they still felt guilty in front of Schnee, but when she forgave them, they smiled while announcing today’s menu.
“By the way, Zazie’s cooking, right?”
“Zazie’s focusing on cooking!!”
“When she gets like that nothing can stop her!”
Bell and Shell replied to Shin’s question, their expressions suggesting “She’s a helpless one, that girl!”
“Should I go call her?”
“No, I just wanted to say hi. We’ll probably meet her later anyway, it’s fine.”
Shin shook his head to Bell and Shell’s simultaneous question. He didn’t feel like interrupting her cooking just for a greeting. In the past, Shigureya’s boss and thus the head chef, was naturally Cook.
Zazie and Lapwing were both vice-head chefs. Their cooking skills were on the same level. While in battle, Lapwing excelled in land combat and Zazie in sea encounters.
Bell and Shell, the waitresses, did not excel in cooking but in terms of fighting power were both above Zazie and Lapwing.
“Thanks for the meal.”
Zazie and Lapwing came after the party finished eating, as if they had been waiting for the right timing. Next to the kimono-clad Lapwing stood the slender yet muscular figure of Zazie, wearing her chef’s frock. At first glance, it would be hard to tell that they worked in the same restaurant.
In contrast with Lapwing’s mellow, gentle manner, Zazie was the “wild” type, well fitting her short red hair. She looked much more like an adventurer than a cook.
“Did you get even better at cooking?”
“If you truly think so, then my efforts have paid off.”
Lapwing nodded with a smile.
“So, what brought you here today?”
Zazie finally spoke, with a low-pitched voice well fitting her appearance. Her brown eyes gave an intense look, just an inch short of glaring.
“I thought of paying you a visit, since we were in the area and all. Sorry to have you set a private room for us.”
“No, it would not do to inconvenience a friend of lord Cook.”
Despite her words, Zazie’s expression suggested that she found it all a pain in the butt.
If one didn’t know that her sour expression was something she was born with, it would look like she was really irritated.
“…let me ask one thing. Mr. Shin, have you not come because of that rumor?”
“Zazie, please. It’s ‘lord’ Shin.”
“No, that’s fine. Rather, what’s this about a rumor?”
Shin appeased Lapwing and asked for further details about the rumor.
“In Barbatos’ seas, there’s an area called Kuwain. A sailor claims to have seen a gigantic ship there. He is an elf, who knew what Celciutos looks like too.”
“You mean to say that the ship in question was Celciutos?”
Zazie looked at Shin with a sharp glare.
The light in her eyes came from the strong resolve of looking for and finding Celciutos — the Guildhouse of her master, Cook.
“Change of plans then. Tell us more about the current situation. If possible, we’ll secure it.”
The ghost ship mentioned by Aral…Shin thought that it could be what they were looking for.
Apparently, the elf who had seen the mysterious ship was not in Barbatos anymore: he had come to report to Zazie and the others that he had seen Celciutos several years before.
“Is that elf someone’s support character?”
“No, to put it in simple terms for you, he’s just an NPC. He used to work in Erculus harbor and had the chance to see Celciutos several times, so he remembered its appearance.”
“It’s true that it stopped a few times in Erculus. The probability that he had just made a mistake is pretty low then.”
Erculus was a hometown that prospered as a port in the game era. Other than ships of all sizes, ship-shaped guildhouses could anchor there too.
Even without dropping anchor at a port, all Rokuten members could teleport directly from their guildhouses or homes. There also was a support character set exclusively to refill supplies, so no one else had to do that.
However, as it was a ship, they would occasionally use ports temporarily. One reason was to show off the grand, luxurious vessel that Celciutos was.
“Where exactly is this Kuwain area?”
“According to fishermen and sailors of trade ships, it’s the area above Hinomoto when departing from Barbatos. It’s not sealed, but it’s designated as a dangerous marine zone, so the guild forbids entering it.”
Zazie answered with a grimace, which Lapwing explained to be due to the guild’s refusal to allow them entry in the Kuwain area when they requested it.
“What exactly does “Dangerous Marine Zone” mean?”
“The Kuwain area is surrounded by three powerful currents, as if forming a triangle. Each corner of this triangle has also become the home of monsters which protect their respective territories. Until a few years back, the monsters just scared away those who tried to enter their zone, but now people say that they started attacking and destroying ships: even in areas that were previously peaceful. Now there are frequent storms violent enough to overthrow even large-size ships.”
Lapwing continued Zazie’s explanation, finishing by putting a hand to her cheek and sighing.
Storms alone would be enough of a problem, but with monsters involved too, it was not wrong for the guild to seal off the area to inspect it, or so Shin thought.
There were three monsters guarding the Kuwain area, called the Three Sea Beasts.
In the northwest, a giant squid with 20-mels limbs and magic-unleashing gems, “Mascurda”.
In the southeast, a shark with razor-sharp fins and poisonous needles growing all over its body, “Eolios”.
In the southwest, a sea snake with body hair and compound eyes as tough as steel and even crab-like pincers, “Keseldran”.
These three monsters, commanding their minions, constantly fought to expand their territories, so very few returned from the Kuwain area alive, added Lapwing.
The elf who had spotted Celciutos had nearly died there himself: his ship overthrown, he was carried by the currents and ended up inside the Kuwain area. He was prepared to meet his end, or so he said.
After spotting Celciutos, he exhausted his energy and sank beneath the waves, but when he woke up again he found himself floating near the Barbatos coast, hanging onto a wooden plank like a floating tube. A passing ship then rescued him, so he had barely survived.
“There’s definitely something strange going on there.”
“Yes. Based on the sea environment, it’s probably Beasts, maybe mermen or fishmen.”
Shin also agreed with Lapwing’s hypothesis.
In THE NEW GATE, human-like sea creatures were called “Mermen”, while the ones more similar to fish were called “Fishmen”. Both categories were variations of the Beast group, specialized in underwater combat: they could dive without limits and all their stats grew by 10% while underwater. In exchange, their stats decreased by 10% when on land.
Underwater, all obstacles to their movement disappeared, so they boasted peerless strength at sea.
Some players employed strategies such as using this unlimited diving ability to drown other players and win. Having unusual names and statuses, they had a unique position within the Beast category.
“Based on what that elf said, even if entry is forbidden it’s not like there are walls or anything, right? Couldn’t we just sneak in?”
“I think it’s possible, but to inspect the area we’d need a ship of fairly large size, so it would be difficult to enter without the guild’s permission, I suppose.”
Lapwing and the others could not procure an inspection ship of sufficient size, so their request was refused.
In the game, Shin had experienced the sea during a storm. Waves large enough to knock over even large ships, unless they had magic enchantments to prevent it, were common in this world. Average ships wouldn’t stand a chance.
“I guess that means we should get permission first. Do you know what the conditions are?”
“To own a ship equal or superior to a certain size. The presence of an adventurer rank A or above. To have equipment suitable for fighting underwater. Those three should be all the conditions. Naturally, there isn’t any compensation in case of death or injury. Going to that area is seen as having a death wish, after all.”
“Yeah, I can see that.”
Shin agreed to Lapwing’s words. Even excluding the three Sea Beasts, the Kuwain zone was rife with monsters. Just by hearing what Zazie and Lapwing said, Shin could tell how troublesome the area could be.
Originally, sea monsters appeared in the ocean much more frequently than monsters did on land. Footing was not stable and attacks could come from any direction. Additionally, if the enemy is underwater attacking then options become limited.
In the game era, there were plenty of tales of players who had made a name for themselves on land, but then died as soon as they challenged the seas.
The three Sea Beasts were powerful monsters around level 800, so their minions would obviously be quite threatening as well. Zazie and her comrades had been raised focusing more on creation skills such as cooking rather than fighting, so it would have been difficult for them to return alive.
“First of all, what we need is a ship.”
“Mr. Shin, do you have anything in mind?”
Zazie looked at Shin with an expression full of anticipation.
“Well actually, I have the parts. If I can have a place to put them together, I can make a ship.”
Celciutos was extremely large and powerful even among all other magic-powered warships: in THE NEW GATE, it was one of the best super dreadnoughts existing. Its maintenance parts were in absurd quantities, most of them being made by the blacksmith, Shin. A large quantity of prototype and spare parts for ships thus rested in Shin’s item box.
Shin kept the parts in separate folders, according to the size of the ship they were for. He could exchange parts and customize ships, as long as the sizes were the same.
“As expected of Lord Shin!! Let us make preparations right away!!”
The overjoyed Lapwing was ready to burst out of the room.
“Can you really have a place ready that easily? I can’t just build it anywhere, you know?”
In the game all one had to do was to go to the port’s management office and register to build a ship, but in reality things could not surely be that easy.
“We are having a ship built in an acquaintance’s shipyard. I feel bad for the carpenters, but we will borrow that space.”
“Is that alright? I mean, in terms of your relationship with them.”
If there was a place available, they wanted to start right away, but saying that they didn’t need the requested ship anymore could be a problem.
“I think it will be alright. That carpenter wouldn’t care about small things if it meant honing their techniques. Rather, I’m sure he will look at the ship you make and try to steal your techniques.”
Zazie added that the carpenter would probably want to watch as the ship was made in place of his.
“Can you take me there right away, then? I want to make preparations and go to Kuwain as soon as possible.”
The two girls nodded at Shin’s words and stood up. Having left the dishwashing to Bell and Shell, Zazie and Lapwing guided Shin’s group towards a large avenue. They had not changed before leaving, as their clothing had magic enchantments that kept them and their equipment clean at all times. It wasn’t something useful in battle, but Cook stated that it was absolutely necessary. Shin reminisced about making them with Cashmere and Hecate’s help.