“If you’re feeling out of it, you could rest at the inn, you know.”
Yuzuha, curled in a ball on Shin’s shoulder, expressed that she was okay, so he just lightly patted her on the head.
Since their battle with the demons that attempted to sacrifice the Holy Woman Hermie, Yuzuha would sometimes lean on his shoulders, maybe because she was not feeling too well.
“Your companion does not seem to be feeling well.”
“She’s saying she’s OK, though. It doesn’t look like she has a fever either, so I’ll just keep an eye on her for now.”
Leaving Hermie to Wilhelm’s care, Shin and Schnee had gone to meet Berett at Balmel’s Golden Company, as they needed a ship to return to Sigurd.
Many of the ships leaving Balmel’s port headed towards the northern part of the continent (Est). Travel by land would take too much time, so they decided to head by sea to a port town near Sigurd and then reach the city by land.
Using the dragons to travel by air was a last resort, so the party would not use them this time.
“So, how are the arrangements for the ship going?”
At Schnee’s question, Berett lowered his head apologetically.
“I would love to help you, but unfortunately our guild’s ships are all out. There is, however, one ship heading towards Est. It will stop by another port for supplies on the way there, but it will certainly allow you to reach your destination faster than waiting for one of our ships. What do you say?”
It was a ship that carried both trade goods and people. A relatively high social status was required to board it, but with Berett’s introduction the party would have been able to board it easily.
“Using Tsuki no Hokora’s introduction or revealing our members’ identity would have been troublesome, so this really helps.”
An introduction letter from Tsuki no Hokora would have been more than enough proof of status. Using Hermie’s name too would have probably made it easy to board the ship. But both methods would have created trouble down the line, so they wanted to avoid them as much as possible.
An introduction letter from Berett, Golden Company deputy manager, had the same worth, but saying that they were business partners made it easier to use in their situation.
Having an A-rank adventurer (Wilhelm) and a Church knight (Konig) with them, saying that they planned to do item transactions would make their travel more believable.
“The ship’s departure is scheduled for tomorrow, would that be alright?”
“Yes, we don’t have a lot of time to waste, so that’s perfect.”
“I will contact you later about the current available cabins.”
“I would prefer a private one. There are some members that wouldn’t like their faces to be seen.”
“Understood. Please wait a while.”
Berett opened a drawer and began to write quickly on a piece of paper. He then inserted it into an envelope marked with the Golden Company’s logo and sealed it with wax.
“Please show this to the captain. I will let them know.”
“Thank you, and sorry for the trouble.”
“It is a joy and an honor for me to be of help to High Humans. Do not worry.”
Berett’s smiling expression as he bowed was honest and pure. There wasn’t the single trace of malice within it.
Shin thanked the man again and left the Golden Company.
While Shin’s entourage was at the Golden Company, Tiera, Filma and Shibaid were buying foodstuffs and items. Kagerou, as usual, stayed within Tiera’s shadow.
Filma, who had awoken after a 500-year long sleep, was excited to see the streets’ hustle and bustle.
“As expected of a town based on trade, there’s so many people here. They also look pretty happy too, it’s a relief to see.”
Filma’s words caused Tiera’s puzzled question. After a chuckle, Filma answered.
“I only remember until the era of reconstruction after the natural disasters. At the time, even a small earthquake was enough to send everyone into a panic.”
There was no sorrow in Filma’s tone.
“As the generations changed, they probably forgot about what happened then. But the present was born on the efforts of many people. Now and then, people are much more resilient than one would expect.”
Shibaid, who was accompanying them to prevent Filma from going too wild, commented with a smile.
Not finding any words to say, Tiera kept quiet.
“Yes, I feel that clearly. Anyway, that was nice of you to leave Shin and Schnee by themselves, Shibaid. You’ve become more perceptive, haven’t you?”
“To be precise, there’s someone else with them. But I didn’t do it for a particular reason. I just made the decision that letting you go unattended was far more dangerous.”
“And what would you mean by that?”
“I’m speaking from past experience. Try to think about it and you’ll understand.”
Shibaid was looking at Filma with half-opened eyes, clearly showing his disbelief at her last question.
“Don’t treat me like a troublemaker now. Well, I’ve gone a little overboard sometimes in the past, I’ll admit.”
Maybe because she recalled what Shibaid was talking about, Filma avoided looking directly at him.
“Come on, both of you, that’s enough. Since we’re out in town and all, why don’t we check out the stores?”
“That’s true too. We have the list of what we need, so let’s wrap that up quickly. ”
Filma welcomed Tiera’s proposal, while Shibaid gave a wry laugh. He didn’t want to fight either, after all.
Filma quickly went to buy foodstuffs.
“Tiera, are you good at picking the good from the bad here?”
“More or less. I’ve been trained by master, after all. How about you, Filma?”
“I can cook if it gets down to it, but I make no promises about the taste. So, the choice of the groceries is up to you.”
Shibaid wasn’t one to be fussy about food either, so the only one among them who could tell the good groceries from the bad ones was Tiera.
The huge load of foodstuffs they bought was then carried by Shibaid.
“We really bought a huge amount…will you be all right?”
Tiera was worried about Shibaid carrying the large bag of groceries by himself, but Filma casually brushed away her concerns.
“No need to worry, he’s not the type of guy to buckle under this much weight.”
“No problem, I will place them in the item box as soon as we reach a place without people around.”
Shibaid was in fact holding the bag without the least bit of difficulty.
“By the way, Tiera, there’s something I wanted to ask you…”
“Yes, what is it?”
“What’s your reason for traveling with Shin?”
“Hmm, I have been wondering that too. And the divine beast you have with you is clearly superior to your abilities as a tamer, too.”
Shibaid also joined in questioning Tiera.
“Uhm, do I have to talk about that here?”
“On the contrary, this is the ideal situation to. Crowded places are the best to talk about secrets.”
In a noisy and bustling street, as Filma said, it would be impossible to understand who was talking about what. Furthermore, neither Konig the Church knight nor Wilhelm the White Lion Lancer were around.
“Shin and Schnee are close to me, that’s why I want to know.”
Both Filma and Shibaid served directly under Shin, thus they wondered why Tiera, who was not under Shin’s command, was part of the entourage.
Tiera understood that they didn’t just ask her on a whim, and nodded seriously.
“I understand. Everything started when my master, Schnee, saved me.”
Tiera than explained briefly what happened until Shin removed her curse.
“….I see. It’s true that the “Cursed Gift” was usually removed in town before, so there was nothing else to do.”
“Indeed. I too have attempted to research it, but could not find anything.”
“Shin seemed to know about it, but both of you didn’t?”
Tiera was surprised to know that, Schnee included, no one knew how to acquire the skill of 【Purification】.
“I knew that Shin had learned it though. I helped looking for the items needed to learn it, but the last part was done by Shin alone, so I don’t know the details. It wasn’t a skill used often to begin with, so it was enough for only Shin to learn it. I think it’s similar for the other people we know too.”
“That’s right. That time, even if you did not learn it yourself you could have curses removed easily in the cities now called ‘Sacred Places’. It was not something to spend effort to learn.”
“What can I say…it’s incredible.”
The existence of cities where cursed people could freely enter and leave and easily be purified was something Tiera was not able to imagine.
Shibaid and Filma, who knew how the world changed after the “Dusk of the Majesty”, understood Tiera’s surprise.
“By the way, Tiera, what do you think about Shin?”
Tiera couldn’t help but voice her surprise at the sudden question.
“I mean, you thought you wouldn’t ever leave that shop and he pops out of nowhere and dispels your curse without a single explanation. I honestly doubt that you aren’t the least bit interested in him, with all that happened.”
Filma spoke with confidence and a strange gleam in her eyes. She couldn’t help pointing it out.
“It wouldn’t be exaggerated to call him “a prince who saved the damsel just as she was about to give into despair”, right?”
“Well, um…of course I am thankful! But, er, you know it! Shin has master with him!”
“Polygamy is the norm in this world, isn’t it? Elves don’t seem to like that too much though. But do you really feel only gratitude for him?”
Tiera couldn’t find the words to answer Filma’s dead serious look. But her floundering for words without denying the allegations was an answer in itself.
“Filma. It’s not proper to poke about in people’s love affairs.”
“I know, and I’ll stop now. But Tiera, let me say just one thing.”
Filma wasn’t grinning anymore now, and talked with a very serious tone.
“It’s better to make your feelings clear. If you do after you feel regret, it’s too late.”
Tiera found herself swallow her breath, feeling that Filma had seen right through her.
“I’m sorry. I know this is none of my business.”
“…no, honestly speaking, I can’t find the answer yet myself.”
Tiera spoke with a small, wry laugh.
Filma was looking at her with a kind smile.
(I wonder what Shin’s answer will be, then.)
That was what Shibaid was thinking, apart from the two women.
“First, we’ve secured a means of transport.”
Shin’s entourage, back from the Golden Company, explained to the others about the ship to Sigurd.
Not only Tiera, Filma and Shibaid, but also Hermie and Wilhelm, who had stayed back at the inn, plus Milt, who had gone out with Konig, were listening.
“When will we depart?”
“Tomorrow morning, in the ship called the Mediel. How were things on your end?”
“I contacted the Church. As I said before, they should come meet us at the town called Leshelle.”
Konig nodded to Shin’s inquiry.
Most members of the group coming to meet them, however, would be heading to the “Summit Faction” base.
The group, composed of Chosen Ones, was made to subdue the base in one fell swoop. It was a strategy possible only because Shin’s party had defeated the more powerful demons.
“Aw, I wanted to go with Shin too…”
“Didn’t you say that you would pay for the trouble you caused? You’ll have to work hard volunteering for a while.”
Milt’s complaints were quickly shut down by Shin.
Even if she had been manipulated, it was a fact that she had kidnapped Hermie. For this reason, it was decided that Milt would serve the Church for a period. Starting, of course, from this base capture mission.
“Well, is there anything else that needs to be said? If not, we have an early start tomorrow, so let’s go rest.”
As no one had anything in particular to add, all members proceeded to their assigned rooms.
The room division was Shin with Yuzuha and Shibaid, Schnee and Filma, Konig and Wilhelm, Tiera with Milt and Hermie.
The bright and cheerful Milt had become good friends with Tiera and Hermie and could also act as bodyguard, so she was put in the same room. Kagerou was, as always, in Tiera’s shadow too, so the fighting power was more than sufficient.
“Anyway Yuzuha, you’re still sick?”
“Monsters get sick too, huh. It’s not a status ailment, so I really have no idea what it could be…”
Shibaid was worried too, but Yuzuha kept mentally signaling that she was all right.
Shin told her again to let him know if her condition got worse and went to sleep.
The next day, Shin’s eyes opened earlier than expected. The reason was a weight of unknown origins on his right arm.
“I think this happened before…Yuzuha, is that you?”
After confirming the situation with 【Analyze】, Shin looked at the young girl sleeping next to him.
She was Yuzuha, transformed in human form. But her appearance was not the “small girl mode” Shin knew.
She looked like she could be in her early teens. Her height was around 150 cemels, and her body now showed budding feminine curves. Her silver hair, stretched until her waist, sparkled in the sunlight coming in through the window.
Her ears and tail were the same as before.
“Your feeling sick was because of this, then.”
Shin pulled out the arm that Yuzuha was hugging and, with his free hand, laid a blanket over her. As he did so, Yuzuha slowly opened her eyes.
Staring at where Shin’s arm used to be, Yuzuha’s hands fumbled around in the now empty space. Maybe because she wasn’t fully awake yet, she hadn’t noticed that Shin had just slightly moved away.
Her expression was just like a lost child looking for her parents.
As she clumsily propped her body up, the blanket over her fell down, revealing her naked figure.
Mornings in Balmel are slightly cold. Shin picked up the fallen blanket and wrapped Yuzuha with it.
Yuzuha didn’t even glance at the blanket; with a mumble, she laid her head on Shin’s lap and quickly slipped into slumber. Her expression was one of simple bliss.
“Wait, you’re going back to sleep!?”
It would be a problem to just leave her like that, so Shin wanted her to put some clothes on first of all. Previously she had turned in fox mode with clothes on, and when she had turned into a small girl again she had them still on, but for some reason it didn’t happen this time.
Yuzuha’s clothes were on the ground next to her, in card form, so there was no need to pull them out.
“Tell me what’s going on, first.”
“Your looks, I mean. Is it because your power returned?”
“Yes. I’m still not used to it, so this is my limit for now.”
According to Yuzuha, she had been feeling sick because alongside the recovery of her powers, a lot of new knowledge returned to her too. A large quantity of memories had returned to her as well, so her head felt overloaded.
Her powers apparently returned to 60% of their original state; if she got used to her newly recovered strength and more memories returned, her appearance would also grow some more.
“Is that also the reason why your expression is so stiff?”
Yuzuha tilted her head to the side, puzzled by Shin’s question.
Excluding her blissful expression while sleeping, her facial expressions barely changed. It was a perfect poker face.
Shin checked Yuzuha’s status again, finding that her level now exceeded 600 and her stats had increased exponentially too. Even judging from the numbers alone, she was now at Raid rank 3 strength.
“I guess we should let Schnee and the others know. Can you go back to fox mode? Some people might be surprised that you grew bigger all of a sudden, so that would be better.”
Yuzuha answered positively and transformed right in front of Shin.
After confirming her transformation, Shin contacted Schnee via Mind Chat. He told Schnee, who was already awake, to call Filma too, while Shin himself woke up Shibaid.
Tiera was with Hermie, so he decided to tell her later.
“Ooh, you really got stronger.”
Filma was impressed after seeing Yuzuha’s new level.
“I suppose that her level will be 1000 eventually.”
Schnee, her hand on her chin, was imagining Yuzuha’s final form.
“Having an Element Tail as an ally is a great asset.”
As he had battled one before, Shibaid knew what a reliable companion she could be.
“Nothing’s particularly different from before, so please treat her as you did until now.”
After finishing talking, it was now time to prepare for departure.
Shin joined the others for breakfast on the ground floor. It was still a little early when they finished eating, but they decided to head to the harbor nonetheless.
Shin was walking next to Wilhelm.
“Hermie seems to feel a little better, right.”
“So it seems. But why are you asking me?”
“Isn’t it because you two stayed back at the inn? That she smiles like that now.”
Hermie clearly looked in Wilhelm’s direction more often than before. It wasn’t hard to think that something must have happened. Next to Hermie now walked Konig and Milt, as protection.
“We just talked a little, I tell you nothing happened.”
“Looking at her tells me something else, though.”
Shin felt that it wouldn’t be good to pursue the matter further, so he dropped the topic. They kept walking, chatting casually, until they spotted the ship’s sails.
Probably because the time for departure was close, the port was full of bulky men carrying supplies inside the ships.
“It’s really packed! By the way, which one is our ship?”
Milt asked while her eyes darted all around the port.
“The largest one, over there. I confirmed it yesterday, so there’s no mistake.”
Shin pointed at one of the anchored ships. It was clearly larger than the others around it, looking like it could carry a large quantity of goods.
“It looks like there are people on board already. Shall we go too?”
“We don’t have anything else to do anyway, let’s go.”
Shin answered Tiera’s question and started to walk towards the ship. As the group drew closer, the crewmember in charge of the passengers’ check came up to them.
It was a large, muscular man, who looked like he could break in bodybuilding poses any second.
“Do you plan to board the Mediel?”
“Do you have the boarding pass or a letter of introduction?”
The man’s intimidating appearance hid a perfectly polite demeanor.
Representing the group, Shin handed the man the letter received from Berett. The man took the letter, opened it carefully and examined its contents.
“…yes, this will do. Welcome aboard the Mediel. Shall I guide you to your cabins?”
Berett said to show the letter to the captain, but apparently the crewmembers already knew of them too.
The ship’s cabins reflected the overall size of the vessel; Shin’s request for a private cabin had been granted as well.
Following the muscular man, Shin’s party proceeded through the ship and finally arrived before a room protected by a sturdy-looking door.
The cabins were divided between men and women. Hermie was camouflaged, but they picked the farthest room from the entrance for her, to avoid others’ eyes as much as possible.
“Guess I’ll go see the ship.”
Shin stood up and Yuzuha leapt on his shoulder with a small cry.
“OK, let’s go together.”
Shin called Shibaid too, then went on a walk through the ship. They checked the ship’s interior structure, what was located where, while paying attention not to get in the way of the stockers.
After they checked most places they had access to, they heard the sound of a bell, the signal that the ship was about to depart. More time had passed than expected.
Just as Shin thought that it was time to return to their cabins, they heard a voice from beyond the corner.
“Finally, my sister’s sickness will be healed!!”
“Yes, I am sure Lady Haruna will be very happy too.”
The owners of the voices could not be seen, but from their high pitch Shin assumed they belonged to a little girl and her female attendant. As the ship was very large, they had already seen several passengers accompanied by servants.
They were now close to the guest rooms and the surroundings were fairly quiet, so they could hear the conversation clearly.
Shin assumed the little girl had obtained a precious medicine for her sister. Even a stranger like Shin could tell that the girl’s voice was brimming with joy.
“It was really hard to find it…aah!?”
The girl beyond the corner had suddenly cried, so Shin stopped moving. Before him stood the little girl, with a look of utter surprise on her face. She looked like she was in her early teens.
The girl was small in stature, around 140 cemels. Her flame-like bright red hair, extending until her waist, were her most striking feature. Her black, clear eyes looked straight at Shin.
Behind the little girl appeared a young woman who, from her clothing, resembled a Samurai. She was wearing gauntlets and shin guards, black with patterns drawn in orange lines. On her shoulders she wore large protective plates called “Osode”, while her chest was protected by a relatively small breast plate.
Her height was probably close to 170 cemels. Her waist-length black hair was tied behind her head in a ponytail.
“Do you have business with these gentlemen?”
The woman looked towards Shin with eyes as deeply black as her hair. Her sharp look eloquently signaled how she did not only look tough.
“No, it’s nothing. It appears I was a little too excited. I didn’t catch their presence. My apologies, fellows. I didn’t pay attention, kindly forget about this.”
After the woman’s question, the little girl apologized to Shin.
Even if his answer was vague, Shin was relieved to hear the girl’s words, because the woman’s eyes when looking at him appeared somewhat dangerous.
“Ehm, so, I will take my leave.”
“Yes, a good trip to you.”
Shin gave a slight nod and headed towards Schnee’s room.
As they arrived, they noticed everyone except 2 members were there.
“Where are Hermie and Konig?”
“Hermie started feeling sick as soon as the ship started moving, so Konig’s taking care of her.”
Shin’s question was answered by Milt, who was drinking a glass of water. The horse carriage hadn’t made her feel sick, but the ship apparently did.
“She wasn’t terribly sick, so she should be OK as long as she lies down.”
Schnee added to Milt’s words.
“Shin, you went looking around the ship, right? Anything caught your interest?”
“No, nothing in particular. There weren’t suspicious passengers either.”
Thanks to the map function, Shin had also verified that there wasn’t anyone hiding in places such as the ship’s hold. In the game era there was an event in which NPCs would hide there, to attack from within when the ship was attacked by pirates.
After briefly talking about the party’s next plans, all members went on their separate business.
Shin headed towards the deck to see the scenery.
“Ah, I’m coming too.”
Milt and Tiera quickly followed after Shin. Yuzuha was perched on his shoulder as usual.
Shin had already visited the deck while inspecting the ship, but he had only checked the path which led to it and had not watched the scenery.
“Coming on deck, you can feel the wind picked up.”
“It feels really nice.”
“Ah, there’s something there!”
Tiera, who was looking at the sea from the edge of the deck, had found something.
Shin and Milt went closer to the edge of the deck and looked in the direction Tiera was pointing to.
“Oh, Hero Dolphins.”
“As colorful as usual, too.”
What Tiera had spotted were Hero Dolphins, dolphin-type monsters.
Maybe they were inspired from certain superhero shows, because they always traveled in packs of 5 or 6; a red and blue one were always present, while the other colors were more varied, ranging between yellow, green, white, black or pink.
They were non-active monsters, a type that generally didn’t attack unless provoked.
“Oh, that’s rare. There’s a gold one.”
“Wow, it’s true.”
Milt pointed at a pack of Hero Dolphins, led by a red one and followed by a blue, white, black and gold one, all swimming parallel to the ship. It was really rare to witness a golden one.
“It’s shining much brighter than the others.”
“Its power should be about the same though.”
If defeated, it could drop items slightly rarer than the others. It was said that if a player found one, their luck would increase.
“Hm? Hey, Tiera, what’s wrong?”
Shin looked back at Tiera, to find her staring at the seawater.
“Nothing, I just realized that now we aren’t touching the ground with our feet…”
Apparently it was her first time on a ship, so she felt slightly uneasy.
“We won’t sink unless something really big happens, so rest easy, I tell you.”
A skill to increase resilience had been used on the ship, so even if charged by a large marine monster, it wouldn’t sink easily.
“I know that in my head, but I won’t calm down until I get used to it, I guess.”
It wasn’t something that could change instantly.
After contemplating the scenery for a while, Shin and the others returned to their cabins.