Soon after Schnee had left, since he couldn’t just remain there forever, Shin left and stored Tsuki no Hokora.
The night wind chilled the small traces of passion that still lingered.
“…First, should I head back?”
After climbing the rampart with 【Hiding】, he went back inside the castle without being noticed by anyone.
As he went back to the inn, he bought a light snack at a street stall and sat on an empty bench.
Information regarding the ‘Flood’ seemed to have spread well already, as he noticed people that appeared to be preparing for the war here and there. There was no sense of urgency. Was it because they had experienced the ‘Flood’ several times before?
While he was watching the pedestrian traffic, he was suddenly called out to. When Shin turned around, Holly was walking toward him with Shadow right behind her.
“Are you heading back now?”
“Yes, and I’m going shopping while I’m at it. What are you doing in a place like this, Shin-kun?”
“I finished the weapon reinforcement, and I’m a bit hungry now.”
Shin had met them at just the right time, and since he had already finished, he gave the two back the weapons he had strengthened.
Holly was pleased with the result, while Shadow stiffened in surprise.
“Reinforcement can’t result in this kind of level.”
“Don’t worry about trivial things. Shin-kun did his best, so I’ve also decided to *whack* in the battle.”
“…Right. I’ll use them gratefully.”
Shadow nodded in agreement to Holly, who was positive wherever she went.
As there was still time to spare before the war, they also had enough time to practice with their weapons.
“I’d like to ask you something, is it okay?”
“What do you want to ask?”
“It’s about your daughter.”
When he had used 【Analyze】 on Kaede, there had been a small static interference running through the race indication.
According to what he had heard from Schnee, it was likely that the interference occurred when the child was a person of mixed parentage.
“Do-Don’t tell me Shin-kun, that you would even take a beautiful child away, even though it’s our Kaede?!”
“Wait a- what is with that manga-like reaction? Shadow-san, please don’t take Holly’s joke seriously!”
While Holly’s joke could be called clichéd, Shadow emitted a dangerous aura.
Shin had intended to have a serious talk, but it had lost its tension almost immediately.
“Good grief, please keep the joking within bounds…”
“But you brought up Kaede so suddenly. I don’t think I should be saying something like this as a parent, but it’s popular phrase, is it not?”
Shadow agreed with Holly’s remark. They seemed to have acquired the title of “doting parents” after having a daughter.
“For now, let’s leave the joking aside. What I want to ask is, what…is Kaede-chan??”
When Shin said this, the two changed completely from their playful mood immediately.
“If possible, let’s talk about this at a place with no one around.”
“Well, it isn’t a story that I would like to tell people much.”
“I don’t mind. That was my intention from the beginning.”
Shin didn’t intend to keep talking there, so they moved to a better place like the two had suggested.
They went to the bar ‘Nyan Da Land,’ which was located next to the cafe ‘B&W’.
“For the three of you to gather at a time like this, did something happen?”
“I want to borrow the back room…it’s about our daughter.”
Shadow said a few words to Hibineko and borrowed a private room in the back. With that last remark, Hibineko had understood what Shadow wanted to talk about.
“What do you want to drink?”
“I’ll take whatever you recommend.”
When they entered the private room, Shadow and Holly sat across from Shin with a serious posture.
Naturally, Shin too corrected his posture.
“Getting straight to the point, Shin, how much do you know about Halfs?”
“Based on what I heard from Schnee, it’s a child that has either inherited the special characteristics of both parents, or inherited neither of them. There’s also the kind that has almost no changes from one parent.”
“There’s no mistake in what you know. Also, if anything, the first one is often called critical, and the second one is called fumble.”
“Aren’t those gambling terms?”
“Once, there was a group of people who tried to give birth to Halfs intentionally. The names they used back then seem to have remained. It isn’t just the names that are from gambling, the probability involving it should be called gambling too.”
The probability of a person with mixed parentage being born was extremely low. The ones that were called critical had even lower chances.
Almost all of the ones born were born as ordinary children that were “Halfs” in name only. It’s something that no one was able to predict the outcome of.
“It’s a fact that a critical is quite superior in terms of fighting power, you know?”
“What happens specifically?”
“Fumu, though there are a lot of individual variations, the child can use the two different race’s native skills and bonuses. There is a famous beast that can remain in【Beast Form】 while using the dragnil’s【Breath】, and a lord that can use both 【Devil Eyes】 and the elves’ 【Soul Technique】simultaneously.”
“What’s with that cheat?”
Shin, after hearing about the ability of the criticals, said unintentionally.
Each of the seven races that existed in this world had their own abilities which could be called unique skills and bonuses.
Things like the humans’ high magic resistance, the beasts’ bestial form, and the elves’ soul techniques were examples of the unique skills that each race had.
How was it not a cheat to have more than one of them?
Shin wasn’t in a position to say anything, but even he couldn’t use the unique skills and bonuses of other races.
In this world in which the existence of individuals became reality, there would be individuals who is Halfs.
“By the way, our Kaede-chan is a critical, you know?”
“She can use both 【Soul Technique】 and 【Devil Eyes】. I don’t know if it’s because she’s a critical, but her stats also average out at around 400.”
“I thought so. Isn’t that just a natural cheat?”
From the viewpoint of a commoner, a critical was an existence that could make fun of even the upper class Chosen Ones.
“So please don’t spread it in the public, okay?”
“I won’t. Come to think of it, if she is that strong, why wasn’t she chosen as one of the front-line members?”
“The coming of age for elves is 20 years old. I can’t send a minor off to the battlefield. Because it’s certain that she will become part of the battle force, she will be placed in the reserves in case of an emergency.”
This time, since Shin was around, Kaede didn’t have to participate in the war and could remain on standby in the castle.
The reason for this was because she was too young and inexperienced in controlling her power on the battlefield during the last ‘Flood’. But, as a result of Shadow and Holly’s continued training, there would no longer be any problem even if she was counted as part of the fighting power now.
“By the way, Shin, I have a question, is it okay with you?”
“I don’t mind. What do you want to ask?”
“What did you do after ‘that’, Shin?”
To Shin, who was thinking about what kind of question was coming, Shadow’s question was quite unexpected.
Certainly, because time had been limited earlier, he didn’t get to tell Shadow and the others.
“Right, not much changed as for what I did. I was hunting PKs every day. But, after ‘that,’ there was a small incident. I was going to return to dungeon capturing, but――”
As for that incident, it was also something that was related to Marino.
Without it, Shin wouldn’t be here today.
Shadow listened to Shin’s story without saying anything. His expression was somewhat melancholic.
“――that’s why I crushed the big PK guilds first, before setting out on a quest and dungeon assault. Because the last boss was a solo-type, I somehow managed to defeat it.”
“I see. No matter how powerful it is, if it’s a solo-type, you can defeat it.”
Shadow, who had finished hearing the story looked amazed.
The fact that Shin had defeated the last monster Origin all by himself, even if it wasn’t reckless, it was absurd.
You could say the premise of MMOs was to cooperate with other people. Though there were also active solo players, most gained the social disposition of either forming a party with somebody or entering a guild.
Above all, party cooperation was essential, as the real thrill of adventure was in killing the boss. Basically, a boss monster wasn’t an opponent that could be challenged solo.
Parties formed, cooperated, and backed each other up to win against monsters that couldn’t be defeated by a single person.
Among the high-level boss monsters in THE NEW GATE, bosses who could be defeated by a single person were called solo-type, and bosses who could only be defeated by a party were called raid-type.
Though Origin, which Shin fought at the end, was a solo-type, it had originally been a raid-type boss.
“That’s because I did every kind of reinforcement I could think of: foods, items, equipment and so forth. One might say that if the opponent was a raid-type, I would normally lose.”
Even if it was Shin, if the opponent monster was impossible to be conquered without a party, he wouldn’t think of challenging it solo. He would only challenge it if he knew that the opponent was a solo-type.
As for a solo-type, even if it was a boss, from the size and the attack method and so on, defeating it was possible depending on the luck, equipment, skills, and level of the player alone. Of course, it goes without saying that normally, even if a player was defeated, they still had the choice to return.
The winning rate wasn’t always 100% even if Shin fought against a monster of the same solo-type more than once.
On the other hand, raid-types were different from solo-types. Their bodies were enormous, and they had many places that had to be attacked at the same time.
Shin’s partner Yuzuha, also known as an ‘Element Tail’, was a raid-type boss. Though it was different for Shin now, he didn’t know whether he could have won once in 100 rounds against one as a solo player or not in the game era. Even then, it would have taken an extreme amount of luck.
If you only thought about hunting down a raid-type ‘Element Tail’ regardless of the resulting sacrifices, you could understand just how strong it was just by saying that you would have needed at least three members of Rokuten, who were of the stat-capped class.
“I wonder why was it a solo-type.”
Shin said after remembering his fight with Origin. He thought that a raid-type of the highest difficulty would be waiting as the final boss. If the monster was at least ‘Element Tail’-level, it would have been almost impossible to clear.
Shadow shook his head calmly.
“Maybe it was intended to be cleared, or was deemed sufficient? Either way, if many people were saved, that would be fine, I suppose.”
“You’re right. That reminds me, I also wanted to ask you something else. How did Shadow-san come here? From Holly-san’s story, you don’t seem to have initially arrived here together.”
Though it was unimaginable for the present Shadow, the Shadow, when he and Shin had acted together, had been an assassin through and through.
Shin remembered Shadow crying while he disappeared after he and Holly’s enemy had killed each other at the same time.
“Oh well, as for coming here, I seem to have arrived earlier. I was surprised when I met Shadow again.”
“That’s my line!”
One couldn’t imagine the ghastly figure he had been in the past after seeing the Shadow who talked with Holly while smiling.
“I found this man in a village I was dispatched to at the request of the guild. I heard him fighting the group of monsters that had attacked the village, so I chased after him in a hurry.”
“I am indebted to that village in a lot of ways. Because the monsters had no special features aside from their numbers, I was able to stop them.”
“NO! You weren’t able to stop them. The people of the village were panicking.”
“Now, now, Holly-san. Shadow-san wouldn’t go without knowing the probability of success either.”
Shin calmed down Holly, who began to get angry after remembering those times.
Shadow was an assassin of a higher job class, a ‘Shinobi’. Moreover, his average stats were more than 600. Though he didn’t remodel his equipment randomly like Shin had, if he used the equipment he possessed, which were above the 《Legend》 grade, he could wipe out some of the tougher monsters instantly.
“Sigh, so I was looking for Shadow in a hurry, and when I found him, he was turning mountains of monster corpses into cards. The other adventurers were stunned. Because they were A ranked, they were somehow convinced of the explanation that he was a Chosen One.”
“After that, I went to visit several places together with Holly. Along the way, I received a report from Gold Company, and met Hibineko again here.”
Berett’s messenger, who was searching for former players, seemed to have had contacted him.
As Shadow and Holly had been associated with Shin in the game, they seemed to have judged that there would be no danger even if they came into contact. If it was only Shadow, they may have had chosen to wait.
“After this and that, I decided to open a shop here.”
Both of them had their cooking skill at level VII, so their business seemed to be thriving.
They also seemed to partnering up with Hibineko’s shop, and both issued coupons that could be used at each other’s shops.
“Come to think of it, how much time has passed since Holly-san came here? You said a while ago that there was a difference between when the two of you arrived.”
Shin suddenly spoke what came to his mind.
There was a time lag of approximately one month between Holly and Shadow’s deaths. Shin thought about in what way it influenced the time they arrived here.
“I’ve been here for 30 years as of this year”
“As for me, I came here about 10 years after Holly.”
“If that’s the case, is it about 10 years per month?”
“But the person who had almost the same time of death as me came here more than a decade before me. This seems to be different for each individual. Some came here more than 100 years ago, and there are people who have already reached the end of their life span, too.”
Though Shin had calculated the approximate conversion from their story, his hypothesis was denied by Holly. By the way, it had been about 40 years since Hibineko had arrived here.
“Shin, do you think Marino-chan will come here?”
Shin stopped Shadow, who tried to scold Holly.
“It’s okay…To be honest, it’s a fifty-fifty; I feel like I want her to be here, but I also feel like I don’t. Of course, I want to meet her again, but then I would completely lose my intention to return to the former world.”
There were many things that Shin had left behind in the real world.
His parents who had raised him, his brother and sister, his close friends; the list could go on forever.
Even though he had no relatives in this world, he wasn’t terribly unhappy.
Still, although he had come to this world that looked just like the game, the real world was not something so unimportant for Shin that he could discard it easily.
Therefore, if there was a scale between the choices of ‘Stay’ or ‘Return’, he still inclined toward ‘Return’ for now.
He must pass on the messages entrusted to him by the people who had died in the death game to their bereaved families; it was a promise he must fulfil if he returned to the real world.
But, as he spent time in this world, the scales in Shin slowly, but surely, moved. They were slowly moving away from the choice to “Return”.
There were so many charms in this world. He had overwhelming power that separated him from others, Schnee, who loved him, and former Rokuten followers who still showed him loyalty.
Even if the dangerous living conditions were extremely different from the real world, it was not a great threat to Shin.
He desired to travel freely around the world that had undergone a great change; it would be a lie if he denied that.
In addition, it was possible to reunite with the players who had died―― the more he spent time in this world, the number the bonds he had with its inhabitants increased.
If he found out that Marino was here, the scale would probably sway greatly to one side.
“Well, in the first place, there’s also the problem of whether I can return or not.”
“You’re right. But you were able to come here, so there must be a method, no?”
“As I expected, the gate of the dungeon is the matter of concern. Although it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have to pass through it again, it’s possible that you’d be able to return if you find yourself in a similar scenario.”
The two people replied seriously to Shin’s words.
From the contents of their discussion, they seemed to agree that Shin should return to the original world.
“There are stories that the Ley Lines may be related to it, but it’s still not enough information. From now on, I’ll go around looking up more information here and there.” (T/N: changed Earth Pulse to Ley Line)
“Let us help when possible.”
“I won’t be reserved then.”
Shadow and Holly expressed a gentle smile.
Afterwards, Shin left the shop after hearing the tales about the two, the countries they had been to, and so forth.
“Shin has left.”
“Yes, though we met again, Shin has completely returned to his former self.”
After Shin left the shop, Shadow answered Hibineko, who put away the glasses as he spoke, with a look that seemed somehow relieved.
“Was he that terrible?”
“Yes, though it’s not my place to say, all I can say is that he has changed. It’s because in the past he had no hesitation to cut down a person.”
“I also heard the stories…he didn’t seem like someone who would do something like that.”
Among the three people, only Shadow had known the desolate Shin. Hibineko and Holly, on the other hand, could not imagine that Shin wouldn’t have hesitated to murder like Shadow had said.
“Honestly speaking, I’m surprised, too. The last time I saw Shin, he would never have laughed with such an expression.”
When he didn’t show his power, Shin currently looked like an ordinary young man who could be found anywhere.
He had retorted to Hibineko’s and Holly’s way of calling him, and was surprised when he had heard that Shadow and Holly had a child.
That was a natural reaction.
However, he didn’t have such a natural reaction before. The Shin whom Shadow had seen at that time had hardly ever changed his expression. Even when he had killed PKs, even if he had eaten delicious food, even if the player who had assisted him had died in front of him.
He had searched and killed PKs just like an assembly-line operation. If one were to say that he was a machine of that kind of purpose, one might understand how dangerous he truly had been.
Had this person changed before coming here only by chance? This was merely what Shadow believed.
“Did something happen?”
“I’m not sure, but there something certainly might have. Something that pulled Shin here.”
The three people could only guess. However, it was a good thing, or at least, they understood it to be a good thing. It also concerned the woman whom Shin loved.
“…Marino-chan, will you come here?”
“I wonder. According to the story we heard from Shin, her circumstances seemed slightly different from ours.”
The two people didn’t know the main reason behind why they had arrived here, except that it had to do with their death in the game, so their question couldn’t be concluded.
“…If Mari-nyaa-san isn’t here, what would the two of you want Shin to do?”
Hibineko asked Shadow and Holly while skillfully wiping the table with his short paw.
“I guess he should return.”
“Agreed, I think so too.”
The two people answered the casual question with the same response.
To the reply without hesitation, Hibineko stopped wiping the table. Because there were only three people in the shop at the moment, they could afford to talk a little.
“Fumu, from our viewpoint, I think he should return if possible.”
“Why the hurry?”
“For now, Shin still wants to return to the other side. But, will he be able to make the same choice after he has spent a long time here?”
If Hibineko had came to this world without much company, he would probably have been able to return without hesitation.
However, Hibineko had already spent more than 40 years in this world. Even if he could return to the original world with Shin, he would no longer choose too.
“If he didn’t have much longer to live in real world like we do, then the choice to spend the rest of his time here is not bad even if it possible for him to return. But Shin is still young. I don’t think I want him to remain in this world where the end is unknown.”
“You’re right. If he had been here for a long time, he would likely not want to go home.”
“But unlike us, Shin is not dead. There should be something he left behind, right?”
“Still, you can also say that, unlike us, Shin is the strongest in this world. Besides, I wonder if he’ll be able to turn down the love of a woman as beautiful as Schnee.”
The current age was called the ‘stress society’. People wanted to be bound by no one, and do whatever they wanted. But at the same time, as people who lived in the real world, they also had to consider everyone else’s feelings. There were many people who wished to live while doing the things they liked and forgetting the unpleasant things.
“This world is indeed really convenient for Shin.”
Shadow and Holly couldn’t deny Hibineko’s words because what he had said also applied to themselves.
“In the end, it depends on Shin, huh?”
“Indeed. Personally, I want his parents to feel relieved.”
“It’s because he carried everyone’s expectations all by himself. I wonder how things will turn out if Mari-nyaa isn’t here.”
Since the beginning of the death game, the three knew that various unreasonable things had been forced upon Shin; they recalled Shin had suppressed himself because of that power at that time. His stats had been high by chance, but because of that, he had been forced to clear the game. It couldn’t be helped that Shin had laughed with a tired look on his face.
It might have ended up differently if everyone had begun from the same starting line. However, with the exception of Shin, the best stats of the advanced players had only just began to exceed 800 in those days. Shin’s stats was about 200 points above theirs.
200 ability differences in THE NEW GATE would only cause other players to become a hindrance to Shin, even if he made a party. The difference in damage dealt, movement speed, defense, and so on was obvious. Only a small number of players reached advanced levels in the first place.
The story was different when he fought against big armies of monsters and cooperated with multiple parties, but there was not enough space for many players to fight together in dungeons. This had especially been true in the last dungeon.
In addition, in the situation where it wasn’t possible to revive after death, it would take over a year to train other players to Shin’s level. The players who had wanted to log out as soon as possible had ganged up and demanded that Shin quickly cleared the game.
“I hope we can be of help to him in the case of an emergency.”
“It’s frustrating, right?”
They couldn’t do anything for the young man who had fought the death game in solitude.
The adults were worried.
“Now then, shall I return to the inn soon?”
Shin, who had left ‘Nyan Da Land’, muttered and headed toward the inn.
Although his talk with Shadow and the others had diverted his mind to some extent, he still didn’t know what he would do when he met Schnee.
He opened the door of the ‘Red Tail’ while feeling a little depressed, received the key, went to his room without meeting anyone on the way, and arrived at his room.
A short time later, someone knocked on his room door. When he had received the key earlier, he had also asked for water. He then received a bucket of water from a woman. The bucket looked heavy, but the woman had carried it with ease.
He soaked a towel after using magic to warm the water, and wiped down his body. Toilets were becoming popular, but baths still seemed to be difficult to reproduce. Shin, who didn’t understand the technical side of things, couldn’t do anything but hope it was built quickly.
“…I should sleep.”
He had nothing else to do in particular, so he decided to go to sleep.
Did the matter with Schnee have a lasting effect on him? He wasn’t able to bring himself to do anything.
He crawled into the futon. Shin’s consciousness faded into sleep unexpectedly smoothly.