“….how do you feel?”
“It seems like it didn’t work. I feel as if I can almost remember something, but only mere fragments of the memory.”
Schnee lightly shook her head while speaking. There was a slight effect, but overall the experiment had apparently failed.
“No good, huh…will something happen if we try to use it one more time?”
Shin was disappointed, but quickly thought that they could try to use more blessed tags, since they had spares anyway.
“I never tried, so I couldn’t say. Wait a moment, let me ask them first.”
Sety then spoke to the Tsumugins. Some of the floating creatures nodded at Sety. Shin couldn’t tell, but she was apparently able to communicate with them.
After a while, the Tsumugins shook their heads.
“Seems like it won’t work. According to the Tsumugins, the negative forces present now are stronger, so if it fails once it won’t work anymore.”
“Which means, the only other way is to defeat the evil deity?”
“Does this ‘evil deity’ really exist?”
Tiera had a difficult time believing such a being actually existed.
In this world there were monsters acting as gods, but normally were never spotted. In the game period, players would venture into remote and dangerous areas for items or fame. Now, however, people were far less likely to perform such dangerous activities, so such adventurers and areas were currently parts of tales and legends…
“Yes, it’s called Adetropos. It looks…well, really creepy.”
Shin recalled Adetropos and grimaced. Adetropos had its upper-half appearing as a human and its lower-half the body of a snake.
Its bald, earless face was covered by a mask, white with three holes, standing for its eyes and mouth. The holes were fully black, so it was impossible to tell where it was looking.
Its right arm was extremely short from the shoulder to the elbow and the elbow to the wrist, while the fingers were 10 times longer. Its left arm was split in two from the elbow, with multiple human eyes covering it.
The upper half of its body was also covered by tattoos that looked like they could be used for magic rituals.
Its lower half was simply snake-like, but with erected scales; from the gaps between them insect and crustacean-like legs grew out, allowing it to move at high speed.
It was a monster famous for making first-time players, both male and female, freeze at how disgusting it looked.
“As a single boss it’s not that strong, but it gets stronger the more it absorbs memories. I don’t know how much it has absorbed now, so we should go all out from the start to defeat it.”
The evil deity Adetropos’ strength depended on the memories it had accumulated.
In the game era it had accumulated more than 100 or 200 memories, so its power was heavily boosted. With Shin’s current level, it shouldn’t be a problem to take care of it. Letting his guard down was a risk, but it would hardly be a difficult fight.
“They’re also saying that big sis is part of the problem.”
Sety, after talking with the Tsumugins, added this statement apologetically.
The situation had been caused by Hameln’s attack, none of it was Schnee’s fault. No one, herself included, had any idea how she could be part of the problem.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“The Tsumugins saw the blessed tag and the cursed tag’s powers clash, when you used it. In the end, though, it was something else than the cursed tag…big sis’ own power that repelled the blessed tag’s effect. That’s why it failed.”
The Tsumugins also said that the blessed tag would have worked, had it not been for that.
“So, I myself have repelled the blessed tag’s effect. I have no recollection of doing anything, though.”
“They said they only felt that, but can’t determine the reason why it happened.”
Schnee shouldn’t have had any reason to resist. Sety looked at the Tsumugins, hoping they could provide more information. However most of them were caressing Schnee’s hair, attached to her shoulders and arms, apparently trying to console her. Shin understood that there was nothing to gain in questioning them further.
“Well, I guess all we can do is gather whatever info we have and start looking everywhere, huh? I have no idea where the Kishimi could have enshrined the evil deity in this world after all.”
If the geography was the same as the game world, Shin would have an idea, but that didn’t apply anymore. If the Kishimi tribe was targeting Shin’s group, they could wait for them to strike and draw the information out of them, but Hameln stated that he had destroyed their settlement.
He had no reason to lie, so that was probably the truth.
Even if he was lying, he had no reason to come in contact with Shin’s group in the first place. Even if they waited, the solution would not come.
“I can tell if we get close, but I have no idea how much it would take, even within only this continent.”
“Can you recognize the evil deity’s presence?”
“They taught me how to. Maintaining this place is difficult, but just wasting time would be boring, right?”
Sety had learned that thanks to her ability of being able to communicate with the Tsumugins. Now her detection ability had grown enough to be on their level, apparently.
“Is that presence different from miasma?”
Tiera timidly asked a question. If miasma was involved, she could probably be of some assistance.
“The evil deity takes away all memories, both happy and sad ones. There is no reason for that, neither ill nor good intentions in its actions. So its presence is not necessarily evil, like miasma. I too know what miasma feels like, and I am positive that they are completely different.”
Sety said that she became able to tell after living for a long time with the Tsumugins.
“In the old times, people with terribly sad memories offered them to the deity, in order to not be tortured by them anymore. That changed gradually over time though. According to the Tsumugins, the venerated evil deity wasn’t actually evil from the start.”
“First time I heard that. So there was a backstory we weren’t aware of, huh.”
The event presented the Kishimi as an evil tribe, their deity a foe to be defeated. There was some story behind it, but in the end, the evil deity was just a monster, with no story explaining the process behind its birth.
”Does that mean that it won’t be enough just to defeat it then?”
“No, it looks like it’s fine to do that. It’s not just a matter of “turning back” anymore, after all.”
Sety answered Shin’s question without any hesitation. The Tsumugins had already explained the details to her.
“It’s helpful that we can go ahead and defeat it without reservations, but we have to find it first. The shrine where the evil deity was venerated wasn’t a big place either…if only we could restrict the range a little.”
The shrine was probably about as big as Tsuki no Hokora: even if they asked for Tzaobath and the Elder Dragons’ help and searched from the sky, there was no way to tell how much time it would take. If it had sank underground, for example, it would be impossible to find from above.
Shin was thinking about the next move, when Tzaobath spoke to him.
“O Shin, I have an idea where the settlement of the annihilated Kishimi tribe could be. I cannot say with absolute certainty, but there may be some clues remaining.”
Tzaobath did not remember the locations of all the Kishimi settlements, but in a situation where they had no idea where to go, the information alone was very helpful.
“That’s definitely better than searching aimlessly. Could you guide us there?”
“I would not come here with no intention to do anything. Leave it to me.”
The locations, four in all, were not scattered throughout the continent, but concentrated in the upper region, to the west of Est. There were no other settlements in the vicinity, so Tzaobath had destroyed them from the air with breath attacks.
“That makes me think that any clues might have been blown away too…”
“Apologies, I did not expect something like this to happen.”
“No, it will be worth going nevertheless. Can we leave tomorrow morning?”
“Certainly. Ready for battle and rest well.”
Traveling to Rashugum and then to their current location had already used a lot of time. Tzaobath’s speed would have allowed the group to reach their destination before night, but it would be dangerous to spend the night where the evil deity might be residing.
“That’s decided then. What are your plans for dinner? There are plenty of ingredients, so you’re more than welcome to join us.”
“You wish to feed me? I consume as much as many humans.”
Tzaobath probably meant it as a joke, as it grinned while saying it, but Shin replied with a smile.
“We have enough food for one century.”
Thanks to the generator producing materials over time, they had more than enough food items in store. Shin’s party used them for cooking, but the quantity was so large that there was no risk of running out anytime soon.
“….that is impressive. I wonder why you would have so much, but let us not inquire further. Then, I would enjoy eating a sea monster for the first time in a long while.”
“How about Leviathan meat then? The volume and quantity should be enough, I think.”
“That giant sea dragon? While not as impressive as me, I hear it is supposed to be quite powerful. Is it delicious?”
“I guarantee it is. It is a highly valuable ingredient after all: it is good grilled, boiled, even raw.”
“Hmm, then please do serve me some. I would need this much.”
Tzaobath then drew a circle in the air, probably enough quantity to feed thousands of people.
The generator had been active for 500 years, though: even using that much food wouldn’t cause a dent in Shin’s inventory.
Leviathan meat would become large meat weighing hundreds of kegums when materialized, so Tzaobath’s request would be easily satisfied.
“Hmm, eating by ourselves would be kind of strange, so why don’t we do a barbecue today? With the Tsumugins too.”
“Nice idea, big sis Filma!”
Sety happily agreed to Filma’s proposal, maybe also because it would have been a pain to cook again, considering what she had spilled from her frying pan. No one opposed Filma’s proposal, so dinner would be a barbecue in front of the log house.
Shin prepared the tools, with Schnee cooking, helped by Tiera and Sety.
Sety had trained her cooking skill to a certain extent, but she had stopped to the point of being able to cook satisfactorily. When she heard that Schnee’s cooking skill was level IX, she quickly stated that she would assist her.
“By the way, big sis Filma is always the same, huh?”
“Indeed, her cooking is edible…but that’s about it.”
“What are we talking about?”
Sety and Shibaid chatted while looking at Filma, so Shin wondered what they were saying, though he could more or less guess.
“I’m in charge of eating, anyway.”
“I’m sure it’d be better if you learned to, even a little, you know? Anyway, I’ll go help out.”
Sety addressed Filma and left to go help Schnee and Tiera.
“After joining up with Schnee and the rest, the food’s always been really good, so…”
“I agree, but there’s nothing to lose in learning.”
“What about you two, then? Are you going to say that I should learn to cook because I’m a woman?”
Shin’s comment must have irritated Filma, as she turned to her two male companions and glared at them.
“As long as it isn’t complicated stuff, I can cook, actually. I used to live by myself, after all.”
“I myself was the leader of my tribe, so I have some expertise.”
“Kh, why do you both have this feminine side now…?”
Both Shin and Shibaid were forced to learn by outside circumstances. Shin was also helped by other skills, but still compared to Sety or Schnee his cooking was pretty much nothing.
Thinking they shouldn’t tease her too much, Shin changed topic and asked Shibaid and Filma what they did after the Dusk of Majesty.
“Ah, I’m smelling something really good, I guess the food is almost ready?”
Not only Filma, but also Shin and Shibaid were caught by the delicious smell, mid-conversation, and looked towards its source. The sizzling of vegetables, meat, and fish skewers cooking on the grill could be heard.
Sety and Tiera were in charge of them, while Schnee had skewered the Leviathan meat Shin had given her and was roasting it with the 【Fire】 spell.
Tzaobath’s nose twitched at the sight. Even the most powerful monsters were vulnerable to good food, apparently.
Yuzuha had been quietly sitting on Shin’s shoulder, but her patience was now at its limits: she started tugging on his clothes with her front paws.
“I know, I know.”
Shin nodded and walked towards Tiera and Sety.
“Hmm~~yes, it’s better for me to let Schnee cook, after all~~”
“Filma, that is quite the convenient stance, is it not.”
Shibaid rebuked Filma, who had wasted no time in filling her mouth.
Pretending not to hear, Filma quickly hid behind Tiera’s back.
“Well, let her off the hook for today. Let’s eat too.”
Shin thanked Tiera and Sety for the food, then started picking up skewers too.
The juicy flavor of the meat spread throughout his mouth after the first bite, mixed with the sweet & sour sauce it had been dipped in, making it even more delicious.
“No need to hoard, Yuzuha, there’s still plenty left”
Being in small fox mode probably made it hard to eat: Yuzuha changed into human form and wolfed down the food, holding as many skewers as she could. Shin thought that in human form, her contrasting looks and actions produced a jarring impression.
A bit far from them, Tzaobath swallowed the Leviathan meat Schnee cooked. While it didn’t look like it could taste it as it ate, the dragon seemed very satisfied. The mountain-like mass of cooked meat disappeared at an incredible speed.
“I’d love to help too, but there’s too big of a difference in skill level between me and Schnee…”
Shin could cook meat too, but with skill effects kicking in, even if the finished product looked the same, the taste would be completely different.
After tasting Schnee’s meat, Shin’s cooking would surely taste flavorless.
“Bis sis’ cooking can even please the strongest of monsters!”
Sety looked on proudly at Schnee’s cooking results. Next to her, Tiera added new ingredients on the skewers, with a troubled look on her face.
“What’s wrong, Tiera?”
“I knew it already, but…the difference in skill level, huh…”
Before going to serve Tzaobath, Schnee had cooked a few skewers herself. Tiera had tasted them, but having helped Schnee since their Tsuki no Hokora days, the difference in taste made her almost feel ashamed.
Shin decided to try the meat and vegetables cooked by Tiera. The taste and texture might have been inferior to Schnee’s, but despite her lack of skill, they were very delicious.
“….yeah, the taste is not as good, but they’re still pretty good, I think?”
“No need for compliments. I’ll stick to cutting the ingredients.”
“I didn’t mean it like that, really. Filma, guys, you try them too.”
Shin asked Filma, Shibaid, and Yuzuha to try Tiera’s skewers too.
“No, stop, I’ll just get more depressed~!”
Tiera’s plea fell on deaf ears: Shin was not in the mood for joking around, after all.
She had not grilled many skewers, so they shared the ingredients between them. After a brief silence, Yuzuha was the first to talk.
“It’s not better than Schnee’s.”
The merciless comment inflicted damage to Tiera’s confidence.
“It’s as good as Sety’s, though.”
It was Sety’s turn to be surprised now.
“I have the cooking skill, though…and you say that it’s the same level as mine?”
“That can’t be, I haven’t acquired that skill after all.”
Yuzuha’s evaluation confused both Sety and Tiera. Filma and Shibaid, however, agreed with her.
“That’s a shocker. It means that Tiera’s good enough to rival someone with the actual skill?”
“Can that even happen?”
Tiera and Sety tasted the skewers and had to agree that what Shin had said was true, but there were still doubts left.
“Could it be that Tiera actually knows the skill? She cooked at Tsuki no Hokora too after all, and after joining our travels, she’s used all sorts of ingredients.”
“Is it even possible to learn skills without knowing, like that?”
Sety countered Shin’s hypothesis with a question. Newly acquired skills had “NEW” displayed next to them on the menu, so it would be hard not to notice.
“Tiera was a normal person at first…okay, I’m not sure if it’s the best way to say it, but her menu couldn’t be seen. Now it’s possible though, so why don’t we check?”
“That’s right, just a sec.”
Checking the menu was a habit of players and support characters, who lived in the game era, and Chosen Ones, beings similar to players.
Tiera did not belong to such categories, so she was not used to doing so. In her home village, she had learned that she possessed the Priestess job just because there was someone with 【Analyze】.
Tiera checked her skills, only to look like she had seen something preposterous. She looked left and right, probably because she was looking at the list.
“How is it now?”
Tiera was supposed to have just a few skills: Shin thought that was taking too much time to check her supposedly short list, so he asked her.
“This is weird. My Cooking skill is at IV, there are also some whip skills I never used, and the dagger skills leveled up too. I can also see magic skills I never used before.”
Shin couldn’t help being surprised at the fact that Tiera had learned so many skills she had no recollection of. Shibaid and Filma too, of course.
It was a fairly bizarre situation, so they decided to talk about it after the meal.
“Hmm, this elven maiden, is she not an inheritor?”
The group explained the situation to Schnee and Tzaobath too, and the dragon mentioned a term that Shin had not heard before. It appeared to share the same meaning as Chosen One.
“I have been told that those you call “Chosen One” have an aptitude for learning skills. Maybe the skills she has no memory of were in her possession all along?”
“No, when Shin taught me 【Analyze】 I checked my skills and I didn’t have so many. I have never used them during our travels either.”
What made it all more confusing was the presence of skills difficult to learn naturally, such as the Whip skills.
“So if we write them all down, it’s like this…hmm?”
“Is something wrong?”
Shin tried writing down the skills and noticed something, prompting his exclamation. Schnee inquired about it, but he shook his head, implying it was nothing. He needed to be sure before making a statement.
“I just don’t get it. Tiera, you were Priestess of the World Tree, or something, right? Maybe that’s related somehow?”
“I don’t think so…I didn’t use magic or weapons often for that job after all.”
All members tried presenting likely theories, but could not reach a conclusion. Tiera tried using the skills, and they activated normally. They were not displayed erroneously, because of bugs or glitches, as might have happened in the game.
“What remains as a possibility, is that, I guess.”
Shin took out a fragment of the『Drop of Erathem』Filma had been sealed in for hundreds of years.
“Oh yeah, we didn’t tell Sety yet. When we rescued Filma, a piece of this entered Tiera and the others’ bodies. That time, their stats improved too, it…seems.”
Just as Shin finished speaking, the materialized fragment turned into the light and entered Sety’s body. Sety tried avoiding it out of reflex, but for some reason the Tsumugins pulled on her clothes to stop her. Sety’s body glowed in gold and silver light.
“….my stats went up. I could even pull off close combat now. Isn’t this, like, cheating?”
Sety was confused by the sudden event, then checked her status and frowned at her boosted stats. In the game, it was a boost comparable to two resurrection bonuses.
According to the Tsumugins, the light was something that would help Sety. They did not know exactly what it was, so they could not explain where it came from, however.
As far as Sety could tell, however, she had not acquired any new skills.
Shin had Schnee and the others check too, just in case, but they had not acquired any new skills either.
“It’s annoying not to know for sure, but Tiera got stronger after all, so isn’t that a good thing?”
Tiera was concerned, but Filma tried to take the situation in a positive light.
“It’s just all happening without me knowing, so it’s kind of scary.”
“Well, the Tsumugins said it isn’t something evil, so don’t worry too much. Better use them to your benefit instead.”
Shin also tried to relieve Tiera’s fears. If what he had noticed looking at the list was true, Tiera would surely benefit of the skills.
After a while, the group dispersed.
Sety then said that in times like these they needed a change of pace. Tiera asked what she meant, and Sety replied that they should take a bath.
“Just behind this loghouse there’s an open air bath, actually. It’s not a hot spring, but it does feel good.”
“That does sound nice. Let’s go then!”
“But wait, we still haven’t cleaned up…”
Tiera protested that they still had work to do, but Sety and Filma forcefully pulled her away. Shin and Shibaid agreed to clean up, so that the girls could go take a bath together.
“You too Schnee, go ahead.”
“We can at least clean up here. Take care of Tiera.”
She was not as enthusiastic, but Schnee followed Tiera and the others.
“You too, Yuzuha.”
“Kuu, I go with Shin.”
“Go with Schnee and the others.”
“No mewling either.”
Schnee and the other girls’ looks hurt when Shin had let child Yuzuha in the bath with him. If he let her grown up form in, he would surely meet retribution later.
After Yuzuha had run off, Tzaobath spoke to Shin.
“She seems quite attached…very different from the Element Tails I know.”
“I saved her when she was in trouble, maybe that’s the reason.”
Shin laughed wryly while washing the grill.
“I doubt that is the only reason.”
“Well, I guess I’ll know once she gets to her complete form. Normally she’s like you, a being superior to us players and—–”
Element Tails were originally programmed not to follow players. When she recovered her memories and power, she would probably leave Shin’s side. When Shin mentioned this possibility, however, both Shibaid and Tzaobath flatly refused to consider it.
“It might be strange for me to say this, as I joined later, but I doubt that will happen.”
“And I agree.”
Both of their looks seemed to mean “what the heck are you saying, man?”
“Come on, it’s embarrassing to think that she might have feelings for me.”
“I can tell. That is the face of a female that desires you.”
“What’s with your choice of words!? ”
Shin couldn’t help but reacting to Tzaobath’s all too honest evaluation.
That night, both males and females deepened their relationships.