The next day, Shin woke up earlier than usual and went to practice behind the lodging.
Thanks to his continued practice, which he started in order to gauge his physical abilities, he had recently learned to adjust his strength even with 【Limit】 removed.
Swinging his weapon at full strength would cause a catastrophe, so he had focused on controlling and limiting his power.
“You’re working hard early this morning.”
“I woke up pretty early too, maybe because we turned in early yesterday.”
Having also awoken early, Shibaid approached Shin, who was swinging 『Kakura』.
“There’s still some time, why don’t we spar a little?”
“As long as we make sure we don’t destroy the surroundings.”
Both cast 【Limit】, equipped sponge blades and lances for training, then faced each other.
Shin moved first. Sliding along the ground without a sound, he stepped closer to Shibaid. In response, Shibaid thrust his weapon at Shin. As he used a halberd, which had the properties of both lances and axes, Shibaid’s thrusts were fast and sharp. Even a mere wooden spear could have caused considerable damage.
Sponge-series weapons were characterized by their inability to cause damage, but Shin would have gone forward anyway. If he could dodge the thrust, he would be inside Shibaid’s guard.
“….if our stats are the same, I can’t get into range, huh.”
Shin had stepped in diagonally, and Shibaid’s sponge lance passed right by him. Faster than Shin could step in, however, came the second thrust from Shibaid’s weapon.
Knowing that it would be dodged, he thrust his lance in such a way to be able to quickly pull it back.
“I haven’t continued fighting for 500 years for nothing, after all. I have never neglected my training.”
Shibaid, as the party’s shield, was a warrior with rich battle experience. Even if defense was his strongest asset, it didn’t mean that his attacks could be underestimated.
He specialized in facing multiple enemies while drawing their attacks away from his allies.
Shin too had fought in such battles, but mainly against monsters. In regards to taking the right distance and strategies against human opponents, Shibaid was still relatively ahead of him.
“My attacks do not seem to hit squarely either, though!”
With renewed vigor, Shibaid attacked again. The repeated strikes were thoroughly blocked by Shin’s blade; if he focused on defense, Shin could avoid clean hits from Shibaid.
Shin, too, had fought many battles to the death. In a one-on-one frontal bout, even if he couldn’t read Shibaid as well as he should, there would not be a large gap between them.
After a while, Shin sensed presences moving about in the lodge and made a proposal.
“…I guess we should go eat.”
“…indeed. We risk standing out too much.”
People had begun walking around in the premises. Shibaid looked a bit dissatisfied by the early conclusion, but rested his weapon. Their weapons put away, the two returned to the room, only to find Yuzuha, in human form, standing with arms crossed.
“Shin ditched Yuzuha!!”
“You were sleeping so soundly, that’s why. It felt bad to wake you up.”
Yuzuha pursed her lips and pouted, but her dangling tail showed that she was aware of Shin’s kindness and that she slept like a log.
Shin didn’t know what else to do, and Yuzuha looked down sad.
“….don’t leave me.”
Yuzuha then grabbed Shin’s sleeve. Maybe she remembered her days in the shrine. Even if her powers were returning, being alone was still one of her fears.
“Got it, I’ll wake you up next time.”
Shin patted Yuzuha’s head while saying so, and she raised her head as to rub it more against his hand. In fox mode as well as human mode, Yuzuha seemed to love having her head rubbed.
Shin knew it too, so he often rubbed her head without restraint.
“Hmm, to think that a divine beast would look like a mere child like this.”
Shibaid laughed wryly.
“A lot of things must have happened to Yuzuha too. If she hadn’t been weakened at the time, she wouldn’t have bound a contract with me either, I guess.”
Element Tails in their complete forms were creatures that not even Shin could have handled by himself. Now that his stats had increased, he could surely fight them much better than before, but there still was no guarantee that he would win.
“Mph! Yuzuha stays with Shin!”
Yuzuha didn’t seem to appreciate Shin’s words, and hugged him tightly.
“Shin, I cannot say I appreciate such words either.”
“Ah…you’re right. I’m sorry, Yuzuha. You’re my partner.”
A happy yelp and Yuzuha’s tail started swinging left and right. Shin thought that it was sometimes too easy to make her happy.
Shin and the others then had their breakfast and, after killing some time, joined Zazie and the others heading back to the shipyard.
“….is he okay?”
Shin inquired to Zazie as soon as they stepped inside.
The reason was Zigma, who was fervently writing down notes on his papers, a ghoulish look on his face.
“Chief!! You need to take a rest!!”
“Look, the clients are here!”
“Nnnngghh!! A little more, just a little more tiiiimmmeee!!!”
The other workers tried to stop him, but Zigma, eyes bloodshot, did not show any sign of stopping.
“Looks like you tickled chief’s fancy more than expected.”
Bell and Shell’s shoulders dropped to Zazie’s comment.
“Well, that’s a pure artisan all right…”
Skilled artisans with particular ideals were sometimes regarded as bizarre: the way they expressed their passion was stronger than normal people, being focused on their craft and works.
No matter how much others would say enough, they wouldn’t be satisfied, and continue until they would themselves felt it was enough. Zigma, too, was one of such artisans.
“First of all, let’s tell him that there will be more time to study the ship after the test until we leave tomorrow. Or he might end up collapsing.”
He must have focused as if life depended on it: deep black bags had formed under his eyes, a level of exhaustion difficult to imagine after only one full night.
“Thank you very much. If he keeps this up, I’m afraid that even the president would go K.O”
The workers brought Zigma to the nap room to let him rest, and the female vice-president thanked Shin’s group. Her name was Milea Torseau, a mermaid with blue hair and eyes.
She had been away on other business when Shin’s group visited the day before.
“We’re going to test sail that ship now, did Zigma tell you about it?”
“Yes, you may leave whenever you want. What time will you be back?”
“Probably around noon, but it depends on the situation. We will definitely be back before dusk, though.”
“Understood. Take care, then.”
Under Milea and the other workers’ gaze, Shin and the group boarded the ship. Shin poured in his magic and the magic-powered engine activated. The propulsion device, attached in the back of the ship, pushed away the seawater and the ship slowly moved forward.
“It’s moving forward without natural or magical wind.”
“It doesn’t even have sails…how does that work?”
“I can see why the president would get so riled up.”
The ship left towards the seas, among the whispers of the head carpenters.
“Ok then, let’s check the speed first. Everyone, make sure you’re holding onto something! We’re going to seriously accelerate soon!”
Shin made sure that there were no monsters or other ships in the immediate area and then grabbed the magic vessel’s control lever.
No old-fashioned rudders could be found on this ship. The pilot seat Shin was sitting on had a control lever, pedals, and some buttons but nothing else.
Players used to say that it looked like a fighter jet pilot seat.
Shin stepped on the pedal with his right foot and the magic-powered engine roared. If the vessel wasn’t pushed down on the water surface by Shin’s magic, the acceleration would probably have flipped it over.
Like a pebble bouncing on the waves, the ship carrying Shin’s group shot forward on the sea.
“H-hey, we’re, shaking too–”
The initial vibrations were extremely powerful, so Tiera — who wasn’t used to the magic-powered engine — desperately clutched onto the closest arm rail.
Connecting his map to the ship’s sonar underwater radar, Shin maneuvered the ship while gathering information on the surroundings.
The following sharp turn, worthy of a race motorboat, was followed by an even louder shriek by Tiera.
An average ship would not only have been knocked over, but also broken into pieces beneath the water.
“Shin, Tiera will be at her limits soon.”
“Whoops, guess I overdid it a bit.”
Shin slowed down the ship and stopped it.
Tiera, still grabbing the arm rail, had turned completely pale and was holding her mouth with her hands.
Kagerou was licking her face, worried.
“Drink this, you’ll feel better.”
Schnee and the rest were already used to it; Shibaid had not even grabbed onto any support as he leisurely gazed at the seas.
“Hmm, this is indeed more refined than riding on a wyvern.”
“My head’s spinning~~”
“This so much fun~~”
Next to Shibaid, in strangely good spirits, Bell and Shell had hit peak excitement.
They probably felt like they had ridden an amusement park’s roller coaster. They were unsteady on their feet, but did not feel sick at all.
Zazie and Keritori did not create a fuss or lose their composure; nothing about their demeanor had changed.
Incidentally, Yuzuha was on top of Shin’s head, her eyes sparkling.
“We’re going underwater now.”
Shin pressed on the control lever, and the ship gradually sank underwater.
The exterior of bridge was covered by the seawater, as the light from the surface became a single column extending to the seafloor.
Still supported by Schnee, Tiera looked around and let out an exclamation of wonder. Thanks in part to the clear weather, the light shone from above and illuminated the depths of the sea, creating a magical scenery.
“Diving capabilities perfectly functional too, good.”
Shin made sure that the instruments did not report anything abnormal, then looked outside too.
The glass on the bridge and the rest of the vessel was magically reinforced, so it could withstand the pressure even if they kept diving. There was nothing to fear even if a monster rammed the ship from outside.
“We’re going to an area of stormy seas, right? Is it possible to leave the ship even in a condition like this?”
“Yeah, anything could happen after all. I added the option to exit the ship even if it’s underwater.”
“Can I try to go out a while, then? I haven’t tried the underwater mode yet, I want to see if anything’s changed.”
Shin operated the screen tied to his menu and teleported Filma in front of the underwater propulsion hatch. Part of the menu changed and now showed Filma’s silhouette.
“(I’m flooding the room, are you ready?)”
“(Go for it.)”
Shin called to Filma, who had changed to her underwater gear, and activated the flooding.
When the process ended Shin opened the hatch and Filma swam out.
Like Shin and the rest of the party, she too had the 【Dive】 skill, so she did not need to breathe even if she was immersed in water for a while. Filma swam around the ship, checking if it felt any different from the past. After a while she waved to the ship from beyond the glass, signaling that she was finished.
Filma’s swimsuit was a red bikini, which covered relatively little of her body; skin exposure so high that Schnee and Tiera would definitely refuse to wear it. The bikini had black lines drawing flame patterns on it.
Despite being deep beneath the surface, the light from above dimly lit the sea, which made Filma’s red bikini clearly visible.
Filma swam leisurely between the brightly shining pillars of light, forming the fascinating illusion that she was freely floating, unbound from the shackles of gravity.
Looking at such scenery, which gave an almost sacred impression, Tiera sighed in awe.
“Looking at her like this, she does look graceful, doesn’t she.”
Shibaid exhaled a hopeless sigh.
Among his support characters, Shin spent the most time and effort in shaping Schnee. This did not mean, however, that he had created the other characters carelessly.
Putting her words and behavior aside, Filma’s looks were more than beautiful enough.
“(Get back inside now. After I check the diving function a bit more, we’ll go back to port for a while.)”
“(Got it…but rather than that, how does my swimsuit look? I think it’s sexier than Schnee’s at least, pretty stimulating, no?)”
Filma then struck a pose and winked, instantly destroying the poetic beauty she had expressed until then.
Shin replied as emotionlessly as possible, to let her know how he felt about her antics. Not satisfied at all, Filma’s eyes narrowed.
“(Wow, that was SO heartfelt.)”
“(Stop joking around and get back in)”
Filma had always been the joking type, so Shin rebuked her casually. She was well aware of it too, as she replied even more casually.
“OK, let’s dive a little more and wrap things up.”
After confirming that Filma was back inside the vessel, Shin headed towards the seafloor.
The light from the sea’s surface turned gradually fainter, ultimately surrounding the ship with darkness. A darkness that, different from its aboveground counterpart, instill terror into people.
Utter, pitch-black darkness which did not let one breathe without proper equipment. An unstable space where sky and ground disappeared. If one wasn’t used to it, they would be subject to a stress infinitely higher than the darkness above the sea.
“Kuh, it’s all black.”
“It’s a little scary…”
Since it was their first time deep underwater, Yuzuha and Tiera, felt shades of this fear, even if they were inside the ship.
Yuzuha was looking forward, nestled on Shin’s head, her tail wrapped around his neck.
Tiera too held Kagerou — in puppy mode — with her left arm, while her right arm touched Shin’s left. Her hand was lightly grabbing his arm. Being next to Shin and knowing that the ship was safe let her feel just this degree of nervousness.
“It’s all right, not even the Sea Beasts could easily destroy a ship like this. I agree that it’s pretty scary, though. Honestly speaking, even with underwater equipment I’d rather avoid deep sea stages.”
Deep sea stages include marine creatures other than monsters as well, which would appear suddenly from the darkness, leaving players in a state of shock.
The skill 【Night Vision】 allowed to see a little better, but even so some players would run as soon as they heard about facing deep sea stages.
Such stages, however, were treasure troves for cooks.
“I think I just saw a shark!”
“We could get some really good shark fins from something that big. I wonder about the taste, though.”
As Bell and Lapwing were talking about the shark that just passed in front of them…
“C’mon, I want to see a giant squid! Come out already!”
“Forget it! Even if we knock it out, it’s not food fit for people!”
Zazie expressed her disappointment with Shell’s comment.
Even marine creatures bizarre enough to make Tiera shriek, for the Shigureya folks, were simply separated into two categories: delicious or not.
“As expected of lord Cook’s support characters.”
“That’s right, they’re just like her in that respect.”
Shin agreed to Schnee’s comment about Zazie and the others. Even the first time they adventured in a deep sea stage, Cook was the only one not to feel any fear. Shin remembered that she even happily approached sea beasts that Shin would hesitate getting close to.
“Ok then, let’s go back to port.”
“You don’t need to test the automatic defense systems?”
“We’ll probably find some monsters on our way back, so I’ll do that then. I saw a lot of them on the way here.”
Shin answered to Schnee and changed the ship’s course to the surface. They moved at high speed not above but underwater this time, crashing into the monster groups they happened upon.
Not wanting to kill monsters without a purpose for the test, Shin only aimed at the ones that would create trouble for fishermen or kill people.
“I’m not sure what a ship really is anymore…”
“In the past, there were areas of the sea where ships would get damaged just by traveling through them. In order to successfully navigate such locations, magic-powered vessels like this were invented. For the people of this era, it probably is an unbelievable technology, though.”
Shibaid heard Tiera’s mumble and recalled the past with a certain nostalgia.
“Honestly, I didn’t really want to experience it…”
Because of the shaking caused by the ship’s high speed, Tiera had become violently seasick. She was getting better thanks to Schnee’s medicine, but at the same time probably starting to dislike sea travel.
The ship could also navigate at normal speed, but at times they would need to escape at speeds even higher than what Tiera experienced; So Shin decided to let her experience the speed and shaking while feeling sorry for her.
“It’s not good to rely on medicine to stop seasickness, isn’t it?”
“Filma is right, but we have no time to train this time, so it can’t be helped, I think.”
“When we’re done, we’ll do some special training.”
Schnee’s style was not to let weaknesses remain as such.
“As expected of someone so diligent.”
“And all despite the fact that in this world it’s harder to raise skills, too.”
Zazie and Lapwing, who knew that Schnee had raised her cooking skill to 9, nodded in understanding to her response.
“I still don’t know well about that, does it take more time to raise skills now?”
“We haven’t gathered enough data to make statistics, but it looks like that the growth of a skill’s expertise isn’t fixed anymore. Personally, I feel that it’s slower than before.”
“I agree with Lapwing. Even if I try doing the same thing as before the Dusk of Majesty, I feel that the expertise ratio accrued to the skill is smaller than before.”
Bell and Shell too nodded in agreement to Lapwing and Zazie’s words.
Apparently, in some cases expertise raised faster than usual, but the pace was generally slower than before.
Skills couldn’t be trained all the time, so their growth speed required much more time than during the game era.
For an acquaintance of Zazie and the others, who was a Lord, it took 70 years to raise a skill from five to six, or so they said. If this was true, Schnee’s effort to raise a skill to nine was something incredible.
In the game era, at the time Shin headed to the final dungeon, Schnee’s Cooking skill was just level three. Even if 500 years had passed, it could not have been easy.
“It’s impressive that you even thought of raising it so much.”
“…I just cooked to keep myself occupied.”
Schnee replied humbly to Shin’s praise. Behind her, Filma grinned.
“She obviously did her best to let you taste her handmade food when you came back, Shin!”
“Filma! What are you saying!?”
“No blushing, no blushing. You wanted him to say “that was delish—gwah?”
“Don’t speak another word.”
Schnee covered Filma’s mouth to prevent her from saying anything more about the reason she had raised her Cooking skill. She didn’t like to show openly how she had worked hard.
“Ah…well. Thank you.”
“N-no! No, well, I didn’t want to reject your thanks, I……………..yes.”
Hearing that it was for his sake, Shin was of course happy. Hearing Shin’s thanks, Schnee panicked a little, then nodded ever so slightly.
Her slightly blushing cheeks, reminiscent of a young maiden, were lovely.
“Shin, if we don’t let ship emerge soon, it’ll stand out too much.”
Warned by Shibaid, Shin changed his focus on the ship and quickly changed the route.
When the group returned to the shipyard docks, they found Zigma waiting, arms crossed. In order to start his inspection again whenever, he had prepared pen and paper and a meal that he could eat with one hand.
“We’re leaving early morning tomorrow, so you can inspect the ship only until then.”
“Got it. Can I start right away?”
“Just don’t push yourself too hard, please.”
“Don’t you worry. I can’t inspect anything if I collapse, I know that.”
Shin wondered if Zigma was really aware of that, but, as Milea was standing behind him, he didn’t say anything. She would probably stop Zigma if anything happened.