“Good morning. The sun’s up, rise and shine.”
“Hn….? Ah, good morning.”
A gentle voice and hands shook Shin mostly awake. He got up from the bed and noticed that Schnee had already changed.
“Ever since we were teleported here, you’re always waking me up.”
“Is that so?”
Shin cocked his head to one side, wondering if he found it harder to wake up. Usually they would have breakfast right away, but today was a rest day, so they could take it easy.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you sleeping when I wake up…”
“Why such a serious expression? That’s perfectly fine, isn’t it. I can see your sleeping face, after all.”
“No, I must protest! I too want to see your sleeping face!”
“What protest is that…really…”
Shin’s childish retort left Schnee almost at a loss for words, but her expression was very peaceful.
“At night I can see your sleeping face more though.”
“T-that’s because you’re always so—aah, what are you making me say!?”
“My my, I just meant to say that you always sleep early and wake up early. Whatever were you thinking about, dear Schnee?”
Schnee was probably not used to such jokes yet: Shin’s little trap made her blush to her ears. He smiled, thinking of how adorable she was.
“Kh…euh….if you keep saying things like that, I won’t cook you breakfast anymore!!”
“I’m sorry!! Please forgive me!!”
Shin’s advantage lasted mere seconds. The room they were staying in was equipped with a kitchen, so it was possible to make simple dishes. Before, they used to have breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, but Shin started to miss Schnee’s cooking, so she would prepare breakfast every day now.
With his weakness — the stomach — struck, Shin surrendered immediately. He was bowing to Schnee on the bed, a sight no one would believe a High Human would produce.
“Do you realize your mistakes?”
“Yes ma’am, I most surely do.”
“…good grief. You should think a little more before teasing me.”
“How do I say it? I never get tired of seeing you embarrassed.”
“Yes! I’m sorry! I said too much!”
Feeling that the mood was not one for jokes, Shin quickly bowed his head again. A few days had passed since they became one, but Schnee’s way of addressing Shin was starting to become less and less courteous, reducing the distance between them.
Coupled with their reciprocated feelings, being alone together allowed their relationship to change from master and servant to man and woman very quickly.
“Enough about that, what will we do today? There’s no training, so we can take it easy.”
Schnee’s tone suggested that she wanted them to spend a relaxing day together. Shin had no objections, but since they had an entire day, he would like to do some sightseeing.
The Erkunt Institute of Magic engaged in studies in various fields: items to improve people’s lifestyle, techniques to improve production technologies, etc. They did not, however, study real world sciences. They considered it dangerous to further studies in such disciplines in a world where magic existed.
More realistically speaking, Hilamee and Masakado were only junior high school students in the real world, so their knowledge only reached a certain extent.
As far as Shin could remember, that world always tended to explore different directions than the original world’s technologies, so he was interested in taking a look at what they were studying.
“Ah, sorry, I was just thinking.”
Shin apologized, then told Schnee what he was thinking about.
“I see. We can take it easy here whenever we want, so we might as well go out today.”
“Is that really okay with you? We can always do this another time.”
“No problem. For me, the most important thing now is to be with you.”
Schnee’s words warmed Shin’s heart. For a brief instant, he saw Marino’s silhouette overlapping Schnee’s, but that disappeared quickly. She wasn’t Marino’s replacement. Shin hadn’t forgotten his former lover, but seeing her in Schnee was wrong, or so he thought.
“Thank you, let’s do that then.”
Shin and Schnee hadn’t gone sightseeing since they were in Hinomoto. Schnee changed into a pink sweater and white long skirt with an accessory bag slung over her shoulder. Her hair was held with the hairpin bought in Hinomoto.
She would stand out in a town crowded by adventurers, but in shopping and residential districts, there were many people dressed in a similar way: it was a relic of the game era, when all sorts of clothing were on sale.
Clothes were classified as accessories, but there were many examples that were difficult to imagine existing in a fantasy world, such as bunny girl costumes or nurse attires.
The clothes chosen by Schnee were categorized by the system as “townsfolk clothing”.
Normally, their defensive powers would be next to zero but bizarrely enough, they boasted resistance to bladed weapons, fire, and thunder on par with iron armor, since they had been made by Rokuten’s Cashmere.
Being much sturdier than they looked was a common characteristic in Rokuten-made equipment.
Incidentally, the reason why they were not equipped with water resistance was that Cashmere claimed: “wet clothes sticking to the body is just so sexy”, to Shin and Hecate’s enthusiastic approval.
In the game era, such a pointless effect (clothes sticking to the body) did not exist, so Cashmere’s choice was nothing short of meaningless.
“Do you think it’s okay if I go out like this?”
“Yes, that looks nice on you.”
Shin wore navy blue pants, a white shirt and jacket, clothing more modern than fantasy-like, in order not to let Schnee stand out too much. It was a kind of outfit he had seen in a fashion magazine before.
“I thought we’d stand out more.”
“Players spread their clothing styles extensively after all.”
The town of Erkunt was just like a western Europe town, similar to ones Shin had seen on TV. Leaving science and technology aside, clothing and everyday items were not difficult to recreate, so many wore designer clothing just like Shin’s attire that day.
Maybe it was because the institute’s head of research & development, Hilamee, was a former player, but many people in the city wore clothing very close to modern fashion.
“It wasn’t like this in Bayreuth or Falnido though.”
“This type of clothing is not always popular, after all. They’re not appreciated at all in certain locations. This town’s people seem to like it quite a bit.”
“You have a point. The textile industry is more advanced than I thought here. The institute’s uniforms could easily pass as real world ones, well, you’d only find them in manga or light novels though…”
The uniforms could easily be confused for cosplay costumes.
“So, where are we going?”
“I’m really sorry for picking this as a date destination, but I wanted to check out a weapon store. Other than Hilamee, the close combat-oriented Masakado is here too, so I figured they must have progressed in that field too. I wanted to see how developed they are.”
Shin’s real reason was another, but he was too embarrassed to say it clearly. He was actually worried that Schnee’s mood would turn sour.
“I see, let’s go to a store that deals in armor and accessories too then. You can probably draw all sorts of information just by looking at the items on sale.”
“Oh, yes, that’d be great.”
Shin was relieved to hear a proactive proposal from Schnee. He also agreed to go to a restaurant serving unique dishes without hesitation.
Shin and Schnee left the hotel and headed towards a store in the institute district, said to be the best. They followed the map drawn by a hotel clerk and arrived at a street lined with glass shop windows.
Looking at Shin’s automatic map, they would need to make a slight detour to reach the store. They had told the hotel clerk that they weren’t in a rush, so they probably drew a longer route to let them enjoy the city’s sights.
All sorts of items were displayed inside the shop windows. Most of them were clothes worn by mannequins in various poses, just like in the real world. Shoes, bags, and accessories were laid at their feet, stimulating the shopping impulses of the people passing by.
Shin felt like he had been transported back to his former world.
“Hilamee designed this street apparently.”
“…I see. I guess she couldn’t forget.”
After a slight surprise, Shin was convinced. When Shin first met Hilamee and Masakado, they were still junior high school students in real life. In the death game, they had died while protecting players younger than them. After coming to this world, what did they feel in their hearts as they lived on? Shin could only try to imagine.
Hilamee might have become headmistress of a learning institute because she felt attached to the “school” environment, thought Shin as he felt somewhat conflicted.
“Shin, you look so deep in thought.”
“Sorry. I know nothing comes out of just thinking, but…”
Every time he met a former player, Shin couldn’t help thinking. If THE NEW GATE hadn’t become a death game, if they had returned to their everyday lives, what would have happened?
Shin was scratching his cheek when suddenly Schnee grabbed his right arm, holding it tight to make it stretch straight. Shin lost his balance a little, leaning towards Schnee.
“You were thinking about what would have changed if the Death Game never happened, right?”
Shin was shaken to know that his thoughts had been completely seen through.
“Is that not so?”
“Well, a bit.”
Shin understood that he couldn’t deceive Schnee’s pressure. He answered honestly and she hugged his arm tighter, strong enough that a normal person’s arm would have been twisted in a weird direction.
“If that never happened, I would never have touched you like this. So, for me—!?”
Shin was confused at first, but quickly caught on what Schnee was going to say and sealed her lips. He was not completely unaware of her feelings.
“I’m not going to talk about what happened or not happened, not anymore. In the death game, I also acquired many new bonds.”
If the game remained such until the end, some relationships with other players would have never become so deep. Even if it was a death game, not everything that happened was negative.
Shin’s words probably calmed Schnee, because she relaxed the grip on his arm. Calming down, however, they started noticing things they didn’t until a few moments before.
“That was too forward…”
“Shit! I want to be that guy!”
“My my, so passionate.”
Shin and Schnee had been walking down a quite crowded street. People, not knowing the circumstances, would think that Schnee pulled Shin closer to make him kiss her.
“…let’s speed up the pace.”
Laughing embarrassedly to the surrounding people, Shin quickly pushed the violently blushing Schnee forward. The surrounding whispers had colored her expression a red more violent than ever before. Schnee’s personality would never let her show her affection so clearly in front of so many people normally.
“First, let’s settle down a bit.”
Even if camouflaged, Schnee’s good looks attracted attention. The two took shelter in a narrow alley, but Schnee was still blushing hard, looking down with one hand grabbing Shin’s sleeve.
“Er, no, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have kissed you in a place like that.”
“N-no! I was the one who made you worry, and I didn’t hate, I mean, I didn’t hate it, so…”
Shin couldn’t see her expression, but the ears poking out of her hair were progressively redder.
He felt that he had seen this expression a lot the last few days. Maybe she was relieved, her worries gone, or maybe she had lowered her defenses with Shin…no matter what the reason was, Shin was more than satisfied to be able to see such adorable moments so often.
“Schnee, won’t you show me your face a little?”
Schnee expected to be scolded, but heard an unexpected question instead. Her embarrassed expression was starting to become one of his favorites.
“Nn…you’re much nastier than I thought…is it so fun to see me embarrassed!?”
Schnee buried her face in Shin’s chest, to prevent him from looking at it, but peeked up just a bit to protest. Her eyes, glazed by tears caused by the embarrassment, glared at him.
She probably meant to accuse Shin, but he just found her all the more lovely. He couldn’t help but pat her head, thinking of a random excuse to do so. One of his favorite pastimes lately was to pat her head when they were alone in their room.
“Hn…don’t think you can change the topic like that!”
“Oh, really…so I guess I can’t do it in our room either…”
“I didn’t say I don’t like it.”
Schnee silently rubbed her head against Shin’s hand, as if telling him to do it more. Yet another side of Schnee that Shin didn’t know.
He found it very pleasant to pat her too, so he was completely in favor of continuing.
They were in a narrow alley without much traffic, but from a third party’s perspective they looked just like any other flirting couple.
“…it’s a bit of a shame, but we should go.”
“Right. Let’s continue when we get back to the hotel.”
Shin was the first one to come back to his senses, realizing how other people must have been looking at them. Thinking that they couldn’t just continue flirting like that, he let go of Schnee’s hair and pointed at the street. She nodded and they headed once more towards the store.
After they walked for some time, Shin realized that what they would do once back in the hotel had been decided. When Schnee decided that she would have Shin spoil her, her usual cool demeanor always vanished.