“…hey, Milt, are you okay!?”
“Eh? What’s with you, all of a sudden?”
Milt replied as if she had no idea what Shin was talking about.
She was probably being sincere: Shin took a handkerchief from his item box and put it against her cheek, without a word.
“It really looks like you didn’t realize…Milt, you’re crying.”
Milt’s eyes were glazed with tears. They started trickling down her cheeks, so Shin wiped them gently.
“Eh…? No, why…haha, it’s too weird…why…why…?”
Even after Milt realized it, her tears wouldn’t stop. Thinking that she wanted no one else to see her, Shin gently pushed her inside the smithy.
When he closed the door and looked at her again, he felt a light impact: Milt had hugged him, her shoulder exposed again.
“I’m sorry…just for a little bit.”
Her voice was faint, shaking. It happened so suddenly that Shin didn’t know how to react.
After about 10 minutes, Milt seemed to calm down. She let go of Shin.
Her face was bright red, out of embarrassment and awkwardness. Shin pulled up a chair and motioned at her to use it.
“Do you feel better?”
“Yes…ehm…sorry about that…crying all of a sudden…”
“I was surprised, sure, but you don’t have to apologize. Actually, I felt something was wrong with you on the way here.”
Shin wasn’t sure if he should ask what was wrong. Even if they knew each other since the game era, he didn’t know Milt all that well.
They often talked and laughed about silly stuff, other video games, manga or the like, but barely ever talked about their real life circumstances.
Shin now knew one of the reasons why, but even so he had no idea why she would start crying all of a sudden.
“It’s like…I remembered.”
After a brief silence, Milt muttered those words.
“What did you remember?”
“When we were playing THE NEW GATE… just having fun.”
When THE NEW GATE was just a VRMMORPG, before the death game started. Milt seemed to feel the same way as Shin.
“After coming here, I’ve traveled all over too…since you saved me, and I started working at the church, so I could visit many more places.”
Shin quietly listened to Milt. He felt he shouldn’t interrupt her for the time being.
“I met other ex players too. Some of them knew my name, but they didn’t know me personally. Well, that’s better, of course…”
THE NEW GATE was said to have tens of thousands of players, and no one knew how many were actually caught in the death game.
Even if a player had an in-game friend list of over 1000 people, it was but a small part of the whole. The chances of meeting again in this world were definitely not high.
Shadow and Holly, a married couple who managed to meet again. Hibineko and the others, who started a shop together. Their cases were akin to miracles.
“Like I told you before…I’m not as strong as you, but in this world, I’m still one of the strongest. Because of that, I got connected to all sorts of people, but…there’s no one I can talk to about stuff like this with.”
Some respected strength, others feared it. Maybe because Milt was a High Pixie, even other Pixies kept their distance from her apparently.
“I don’t think requesting that to you, at that time, was a mistake…and I also think I’m lucky I could come to this world. But…no, because of that, sometimes I remember…when I was simply enjoying this game, as a player.”
In real life she was stuck on her hospital bed, but in the game no one pitied her. She could talk and laugh with others like a normal person.
In the game world, everyone was equal.
Milt could forget about her endlessly worrying family and forget about her loneliness.
“I wanted someone I could talk with at that time, without status, social standing, or race getting in the way. I thought it could be possible with other ex players…but it didn’t go well. I almost gave up, to be honest. I knew from the start that this world is different from the game.”
Milt thought she had gotten over it.
Talking with Shin, however, revived the memories within her.
“This is so fun, I thought…just like old times. And then no words would come out anymore.”
Shin too could understand how she felt. How she sought someone who looked at her without prejudice.
In this world, Shin was a very special existence too. It wouldn’t have been strange if he ended up in a position like Milt’s.
The reason why he didn’t was that he met Schnee and the others, people who did not put him on a pedestal.
If he hadn’t reunited with them, he would be thinking the same things, feeling the same emotions as Milt, or so Shin thought.
“If things get really bad, call me anytime. You can vent as much as you want with me.”
“Eeh? Isn’t this the part where you say “I’ll always be at your side”?”
Milt sounded mildly disappointed, but clearly wasn’t completely serious. After having a good cry, she had recovered enough to make jokes.
“Like I’d ever say something so corny?”
“You could have given me a bit of hope, you know!”
Shin responded by joking in turn and Milt pouted back at him. Her dark mood seemed to be completely gone.
“I guess the only way is to convince Schnee first…hmm, maybe I could say that Shin told me to stay at his side? That he suddenly started to seduce me and…”
“Stop, stop, I can already see the carnage that’s going to happen.”
Shin could easily imagine the glacial smile on Schnee’s lips and a chill ran down his spine.
“Aah, it’s always fun to tease you, Shin…”
“Honestly…anyway, don’t bottle up too much, okay? When you feel like you can’t take it anymore, you can really call me anytime.”
Milt smiled faintly. Shin wondered if there wasn’t anything else he could do.
Things could be different if she had a Creation-type job, but battle-oriented jobs would often end up in the situations she described in this world.
The reason why Shin thought things were different for Creation-type jobs was that in Erkunt he had engaged in passionate discussions with the Dwarf blacksmith Vulcan about their craft.
Vulcan said that craftsmen normally kept their precious techniques secret, but the joy of meeting someone who pursued the same path probably won over that.
In the same vein, battle-oriented job holders could establish a positive relationship by pushing each other to new heights, but Milt was an advanced Chosen One. It was not easy at all to find someone on her level.
“Someone to honestly talk with…by the way, what kind of people do you know here? You might ask them to look for someone suitable, maybe?”
“I have some friends from the game era, but if you say someone I could really trust and talk with about anything, I can only think of Marino. You know my real life situation, right?”
“Right…so that’s not a possibility.”
Marino was no more: resurrecting the dead was obviously not possible even for Shin.
Shin had learned that Milt was confined to a hospital bed in real life, but only after the death game started. It was rare to speak of such private matters with in-game friends.
“You also have to consider that, as you can see, I’m a pretty shy girl.”
“You are what now?”
Shin poked Milt.
“I feel better, thanks to you, so I guess I’ll be fine for a while. I plan to use this topic as an excuse to get closer and closer to you, by the way.”
“Great, now I feel relieved…”
Shin punished Milt with a relatively fierce forehead flick for joking again. The “victim” reacted dramatically, but seemed happy at the same time.
“I’ve got plenty of energy already, you can go back to your work, Shin.”
“What, you’re going already?”
There was still plenty of time until dinner: the reasons that made Milt cry were another issue, but casually talking with her was a good mood changer for Shin, so she didn’t have to show restraint about that.
“I’m glad to hear you say that, but I’d feel bad if your work didn’t progress…”
“I’ll wrap things up quickly then.”
Shin told Milt not to get too close, then took out some item cards: Schnee and the others’ equipment. In order to avoid any unexpected trouble, he checked them all carefully.
“I can understand you checking weapons and armor, but Schnee’s maid uniform too?”
“It’s outside a blacksmith’s expertise, but crafting equipment requires knowledge about cloth and monster materials too, so I learned the necessary related skills too. You can make all sorts of combinations like that, it’s pretty fun.”
In the end, the most interesting craft was still blacksmithing, added Shin.
“There’s barely any wear…a touch of maintenance and we’re done.”
The equipment was barely even damaged, so Shin’s maintenance could hardly even be called as such.
The weapons, which had come in direct contact with the monsters’ hide, fangs etc were barely damaged: in less than a hour, the party’s equipment was like new.
“Your equipment is next, Milt. Get it out, come on.”
“You just upgraded it, can it be damaged so easily?”
“You fought against a Dylebion, after all. The sharpness is…a little lower.”
Shin took Milt’s 『Ordgand』 and 『Flowing Grace Garb』 and checked their condition.
As he stated, Milt’s weapon had lost some of its sharpness, but it was a minimal difference. He only needed seconds to restore it.
As for the 『Flowing Grace Garb』, he quickly examined the metal parts, but the cloth needed a more careful inspection. It was probably related to his Job or Skills. In any case, it took more time to check cloth than metal.
“Looking at you, it seems like you are inspecting every inch of my body…it’s kind of embarrassing.”
“Don’t say it like that then…”
Milt held her body and blushed. Shin remembered that Schnee had reacted the same way before too.
“I guess it bothers you, huh.”
“Compared to armor, for me and Schnee this equipment feels more like clothes, after all. The fact that the automatic fitting function always lets you know our actual size is kind of bothersome too. Especially around the stomach and upper arms…”
According to Milt, those were a much more delicate matter than breast size.
The points they were concerned about were different from the average man: nevertheless, Shin couldn’t properly perform maintenance without checking those parts, so he asked her to be patient.
“Okay, done. Let me see your subweapons next, might as well upgrade them too.”
Milt originally equipped a set of twin daggers, 『Mirbal』, as subweapons. She did not use them often, so Shin had forgotten to upgrade them during the most recent upgrade.
In mere minutes, Milt’s twin daggers had transformed into the inferior Ancient grade weapons 『Marcusta』. Stupefied, she laughed wryly.
“If a blacksmith from this world saw these, their jaws would hit the floor.”
“There are all sorts of limitations, after all. Anyway, work’s done. Go get some rest and be ready for tomorrow.”
Shin quickly put his tools in order, then pushed Milt out of the smithy. He knew they wouldn’t have much time to rest for a while, so he wanted to do so as much as possible, while he still could.
“Oh, I almost forgot. Attach the automatic fitting function on my underwear, okay?”
Shin had completely forgotten about it. He decided to get the attachment done immediately.
“Finally, I won’t have to feel cramped anymore.”
“Female underwear isn’t common here, is it…I wonder why, maybe there isn’t enough demand?”
Shin had once experienced the utterly unexpected situation of having to pick underwear for Schnee, so he felt something unconvincing about what Milt said.
“You have to go to the right places, like large towns, I guess. But very few are close to real world underwear. I had a hard time finding even these, you know. But the design…don’t you think they could have made them cuter?”
Milt waved her bra item card in front of Shin’s eyes. The latter, however, knew nothing about what made bras cute or not.
Shin felt he shouldn’t say that out loud, so he gave an ambiguous reply.
“…hey, Shin. Since you can craft things with cloth too…”
“No, I’m not making any.”
Milt held her chin, deep in thought, but Shin refused before she could finish her sentence. He knew what Milt was going to ask.
“Come oooon, why not? I can give you a peek when I try it on too…”
Attaching the automatic fitting function was one thing, but making underwear from scratch was definitely a no go for Shin.
“I can attach the fitting function and give you some cloth if you need it, but you’ll have to find someone else to make it.”
“You’re so stingy…”
They could joke around like this because they knew each other well: so thought Shin as he pushed Milt into her room.