I somehow managed to capture Maki who ran away after saying something that didn’t make sense, and we talked about our plans from here on.
The surprising thing was…
“Hmm, this world will be in big trouble if left be, right? In that case, I would like to do something about this world before returning, if that’s okay with you, that is. The people in the castle were all nice people compared to the people in that game. I don’t want them to die or be injured.” (Maki)
Maki prioritized clearing the game than returning home.
Of course, I also agree completely with her opinion here.
Actually, I was thinking about how to convince her if she wanted to return immediately.
“But is that okay?” (Souma)
Even if she says that, she should have her own lifestyle.
She should have more friends in our world than here, and different from college where you can still recover to a certain degree even if you were to take a break, I know how big of a deal it is to leave a blank in your high school life.
“That’s of course not okay. But I have tried out being an adventurer to search for Souma, and I learned that the people in this world truly live with their all. They are putting their lives on the line in circumstances where it wouldn’t be strange for them to die at any moment.” (Maki)
Maki said this as if gazing at something far away.
But I also understand that.
This world is always brushing death.
You could say the extreme words of Mitsuki display that view in a way.
The reality is that people can die from just a small mistake in this world of Nekomimi Neko, destroying cities, and bringing the downfall of humanity.
And the one that can stop that is…
“This may sound really conceited, but we are strong, right? That’s why I think there should be something we could do.” (Maki)
Since when did Maki grow able to say such respectable things?
…Well, if she hadn’t been robbing the ‘people that must be protected’ inside the game and killing them no questions asked, this would have been more moving.
“Alright, got it!” (Souma)
But if Maki is that resolved here, there’s no reason for me to object.
“Let’s move for the sake of this world’s peace. I would like to defeat as many monsters as possible, and then defeat the Demon Lord at the end.” (Souma)
Maki responded energetically.
“The thing is, the event managing to defeat the Demon Lord is pretty rough. You have to do almost all the story events, and that takes a massive amount of time and effort. Also, there’s the chance I can take shortcuts on a number of them.” (Souma)
“Hmm? What do you mean?” (Maki)
Maki couldn’t keep up with the conversation and tilted her head.
It can’t be helped.
I lacked the details there.
“Aah, in other words, I need to do a lot of preparation in order to defeat the Demon Lord. Or more like, the main line of this game is connected to defeating the Demon Lord.” (Souma)
Defeating the Demon Lord is the clear condition of this game.
Then, does that mean I will be able to clear the game at any moment if I had enough power? No.
System restrictions that can’t be overcome with plain power and level stand in the way of the player.
For example; the black clouds that are the manifestation of the Demon Lord’s power which hangs in the air of the Demon Lord Castle.
If the player gets close to the Demon Lord Castle without any countermeasures, the dark lightning bolts that come from the dark clouds will drop the HP of the player to 0 in an instant.
Or the blood pool that’s around the Demon Lord Castle.
Even if you somehow manage to overcome the dark lightnings, the player can’t go over the pool around the castle because of the system, and you can’t even get over to the castle until you get specific quest items.
There’s also stuff like a stone required to get through the dungeon of the castle, a mirror in order to find a hidden stair, and a gem that weakens the Demon Lord.
It is said that it is impossible to defeat the Demon Lord unless you obtain all these various items.
And the only way to obtain those quest items is to finish the story quests.
(But this world is already no different from reality.) (Souma)
Your freedom of action expands, and the unreasonable limitations on the player are gone.
I might be able to blow away the clouds with a strong wind, and cross the blood pool with Air Hammer.
I could destroy the walls for the castle’s gimmicks, and defeating the Demon Lord when it is not weakened wasn’t impossible from the very beginning.
Which ones I can take a shortcut with and which ones are necessary; I have to think with that mindset, or I might end up doing pointless work.
“I will think about it for a bit more. That’s why I also want to lay the groundwork so we can use the method that…might bring us back to our world.” (Souma)
“There’s a way to go back?!” (Maki)
Maki also bit hard on that.
It figures that she really wants to return.
I want to tell her with confidence here, but…
“…I don’t know if we really can return with this, and if it doesn’t go well, we could die at worst, but I do at least have an idea.” (Souma)
It is far from being certain, and it is dangerous.
I kept my answer to that.
“No, that’s plenty impressive! And, how do we do it?” (Maki)
Even so, Maki’s eyes were sparkling at having found hope.
“I will tell you the details once I have made the preparations. But there’s something I want you to do for the sake of that.” (Souma)
I averted my gaze from those eyes of hers and avoided giving details about that method.
I don’t want to tell her about it when it is still uncertain, and we are talking about Maki here. There’s the chance she will get ahead of herself and who knows what she would do if I were to tell her about it.
At worst, she might say ‘I can’t let Souma do something that dangerous!’ and go experiment on her own.
This method isn’t something you can just find blindly unless you have information about the game beforehand.
I decided to not tell Maki until it is really close to the moment.
“I need two things in order to test this method. The first one is something that I have obtained in the game. The other one is something I was thinking of obtaining. Neither of them are easy to obtain, but I am thinking about getting the one I have already gotten before. That’s why…” (Souma)
“Got it.” (Maki)
Maki understood what I was trying to get at and nodded with confidence.
“I will come with you and support you with everything I’ve got!!” (Maki)
“No, that ain’t it!!” (Souma)
She didn’t understand at all.
“No, what I am saying is that you are a princess right now, Maki, so you can use your contacts as you please, right? I want you to get the remaining one by using that power of yours!” (Souma)
Maki let out a dissatisfied voice.
But I can’t go for that one.
There’s a reason for why I don’t want to.
“It is an item you obtain from an event of a character named Leila, who is in this city, but it is a whole lot of pain. That’s why I want to avoid going there directly.” (Souma)
I have never cleared it before, but I have learned with my own body that that is a terribly dangerous event.
No, I don’t know if to call it an event, but…anyways, it is dangerous.
“But that’s an event exclusive for male PCs, so there should be no problems if it is you, Maki. But if possible, try to not make direct contact with that person. Negotiate with her through the Knight Order, and obtain the necessary item somehow.” (Souma)
“I don’t know what you mean with PC and whatever, but if you want me to, I will do it…” (Maki)
It seems like she will be doing it despite not looking that happy about it.
“I will write all cautionary points, so once that’s over, let’s move separately! Right, I have to call Ringo and the others over!” (Souma)
I told this to Maki right away before she changed her mind, and brought out paper and pen from the bag.
Mitsuki and Ringo came soon after.
“Finally time to depart? I was tired of waiting.” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki kept her attitude of this has nothing to do with her and is looking calm and composed, but her cat ears were twitching, facing me and Maki, and showing full on curiosity.
I don’t know what’s bothering her here, but if she wants to say something, she should just say it.
On the other hand, Ringo was…
“Eh? D-Do you have any business with me?” (Maki)
She wasn’t hiding her curiosity at all and was staring intently at Maki.
But even when Maki asked, Ringo wasn’t answering at all.
She simply stared, and stared at Maki.
Tension spread in the place for some reason.
It was like commanders glaring at each other on the battlefield.
It was a choking atmosphere, but…
It was broken by Ringo herself.
Ringo’s emotionless face showed shock for a second and…
“…Split hair.” (Ringo)
She said familiar words.
But her mood was completely opposite to her usual one.
When she found split hairs on me, she would speak with a tone that had delight in it, but this one even felt as if there was a sense of defeat.
“Eh, what? What’s the matter?” (Maki)
Maki couldn’t understand the sudden change in the situation, and as for Ringo, her shoulders were slumped, dejected, and she hid behind my back.
When I spoke to her, she looked at me as if clinging onto me.
(No, even if you look at me like that…) (Souma)
I may think like that, but I can’t just brush her off.
While I was wondering what to do…
I don’t know what Ringo thought, but she pushed her head out to me.
A sudden headbutt attack from the confused Ringo! -is of course not what happened.
“Could it be that you are telling me to search for split hairs?” (Souma)
When I asked this, Ringo nodded.
Game characters have no split hairs, so there’s no way I will find one even if I look.
I looked at the other two, seeking help, but…
Maki can’t understand the situation at all, and…
“…Bear is late…” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki was looking the other way as if saying ‘I don’t notice anything’.
Even her cat ears are facing the other way as if desperately appealing ‘I-I have seen nothing!’.
It instead makes it obvious, but it doesn’t look like I will be getting any help here.
“Well, don’t get your hopes up, okay?” (Souma)
I look intently at the hair of Ringo and search for split hairs.
But there’s no way Ringo would have split hairs to begin with.
Even so, I would sometimes part her hair in order to appeal that I am seriously searching.
(But this is kinda…dangerous!) (Souma)
I don’t know what’s dangerous about it, but anyways, it is dangerous.
How to say it…it is way too soft.
When I put a finger in to part it, it would flow with almost no resistance.
I don’t really get it, but something about it is incredible.
I don’t know if it is Ringo who is special here, or this is how it is with everyone from this game world.
No, from what I remember, Ina’s hair had a lot of peculiarities that really suit that of an energetic person, so my fingers would get caught up in it if I were to brush it with my hand.
A former princess really is on a whole other level.
Ringo also was fidgeting as if ticklish and that made my heart race.
“Alright, I will be checking behind too.” (Souma)
I moved to the back of Ringo and began checking her hair.
(Aah, knew it.) (Souma)
What’s impressive about this hair is not only the touch of it. Even though it is blue hair that’s impossible to find in reality, it doesn’t feel cheap.
It instead looks extremely beautiful when the light trails onto her hair when I scoop it.
I have never seen top class silk thread, but I feel like it doesn’t lose at all to those kinds of stuff.
I feel like you could easily make a water railment if you were to use this.
No, the charm of Ringo’s hair isn’t only that.
Can you tell? It is…
“…What have you been doing for a while now?”
At that moment, for some reason, Mitsuki got angry at me.
But I came back to my senses thanks to that.
When I looked down, I saw Ringo facing back with her cheeks slightly flushed.
I hurriedly moved away from Ringo.
“When Souma gets into something, he immediately forgets about his common sense and surroundings.” (Maki)
Maki says that as if baffled.
No, leaving aside my surroundings, common sense isn’t something you just forget, but I feel like it would be pointless to argue about that here, so I just shut my mouth and endured.
Mitsuki seemed to be even more mad than Maki, and…
“Weren’t we supposed to head to the next objective? In the first place, it felt like you had forgotten about your objective in the middle of it. Also, if it is about hair, I won’t lose either.” (Mitsuki)
She said this with a harsher tone than usual.
Her cat ears went ‘how’s this?!’ with the tip of their hairs standing, appealing their superiority.
I want to ask where her competitive nature is burning at.
“Even if you tell me that, the Bear isn’t coming yet, so it can’t be helped, right? Good grief, just where did it—” (Souma)
“…It is here.” (Ringo)
It seems like the Bear had come back right at the time I said that, and Ringo pulled my sleeve.
“You are finally here, huh. Bear, you…Bear?!” (Souma)
I was shocked the moment I saw it.
The Bear that had appeared at the stairs…
That figure was completely different from before.
A whole lot of dolls at the back, wearing a bright red cloak, standing at the very top of the stairs; that sight of the Bear even felt like that of a monarch.
When the Bear found us, it went…
It showed a ghastly smile and began going down the stairs.
It missed the first step and rolled down to the very bottom of the stairs.
Moreover, the big cloak got tangled up in the middle, and by the time the Bear had finished falling to the floor, it had already become a mysterious object covered in a red cloth.
The bright red cloth that had fallen on the ground was desperately struggling.
Ringo raised her voice lightly after seeing that.
“What’s the matter?” (Souma)
“…That’s the bed sheet of the red room.” (Ringo)
Now that she mentions it, it is true that the sheets of the bed in the red room were bright red.
It is no surprise that the Bear would fall into a situation like this if it were to put such a big thing around its body.
It must have gone that far to act cool.
I looked at the red cloth with complicated emotions, and Maki, who came to my side, asked me dumbfounded.
“…Uhm, Souma, what’s…this?” (Maki)
“My comrade…I guess?” (Souma)
Maki nodded at my unconfident words and…
“Aah, so it is true that birds of a feather flock together.” (Maki)
“Please don’t include me in that.” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki’s cat ears stood up as she pointed this out.
After helping the Bear, we immediately departed from the mansion.
Once we got outside, Maki asked.
“What will you be doing from now on, Souma?” (Maki)
“Or more like, why are you still following us?” (Souma)
When I asked her back instead, Maki looked at me as if saying she wants to become a party member.
“Now now, it should be okay to be together for a bit, right?” (Maki)
“Hmm, then, just midway, okay?” (Souma)
It is not like I yielded to the eyes of Maki, but it is not that urgent of a matter.
It would be troubling to act together with Maki for too long since she is a princess, but there should be no problem as long as we don’t go out of the city.
“And so, what will you be doing from now on, Souma?” (Maki)
I answered that question with a face so bitter even I can tell I am making it.
“Didn’t I tell you? I will do what I can. I don’t really like it, but I will probably have to meet that person again.” (Souma)
“That person?” (Maki)
I nodded with heavy feelings at the question of Maki.
“The user of the strongest spell of the world, and the world’s most annoying mage. The strongest idiotic genius mage, Sazan.” (Souma)
It unfortunately seems like Mitsuki is not acquainted with Sazan.
I instead had her check where Raiden is since he is probably together with Sazan, but…
“Right now…he is really far northwest from the city, and he might still be on the move here.” (Mitsuki)
It seems like Raiden is out of the capital.
Is he together with Sazan?
The Demon Lord Castle is north, so if he is going northwest, I doubt he is heading to defeat the Demon Lord.
In that case, he might have taken a quest.
That in itself is pretty troublesome.
The members of that party may have abysmal teamwork, but their individual strength is abnormally high.
They will probably be able to return safe and alive no matter the situation.
I can rest easy in that sense, but there’s the chance that we will have to deal with it differently depending on the event they are getting involved in.
With members that stand out that much, the people of the city may know something about it.
I decided to gather information about Raiden and the others before chasing after them.
When talking about gathering information in this city, it is obviously…
“Oba-chan, 3 apples!” (Souma)
The greengrocer Oba-chan.
“You really come here often! Every time!”
I pay 150E, receive 3 apples, and give the apples to Ringo and the others.
Yeah, such a pain.
“Of course, since you have been helping us out so much. And so, there’s something I would like to know today too. Do you know about Sazan?” (Souma)
“Sazan… Ah! The mage wearing a creepy mask in the adventurer party that stands out like a sore thumb? Of course I know!”
As expected of the Oba-chan. Her ears are everywhere.
Moreover, it seems like she already knows Sazan is in a party with Alex and the others.
“Then, do you know where that party has gone?” (Souma)
The Oba-chan answered my next question without missing a beat.
“There’s apparently a big job north. Guess they went there for that. There’s a lot of rumors going around like ‘there’s a monster rampaging underground in a settlement north of here’, ‘a girl that has been kidnapped by cultists’ and all other things.”
“A settlement north, underground, cultists, and a girl kidnapped…?” (Souma)
The chain of familiar terms made the alarms in my head ring.
Oba-chan didn’t pay any mind to my state.
“I don’t know in much detail though. If you are so bothered by it, how about going to the bar on the main street?”
She pointed at the biggest bar in this city that could be faintly seen from here.
The moment I saw that, I felt like a piece of the puzzle just clicked.
What surfaced in my mind were the many adventurers around when we were going to get the medal of honor.
Why didn’t I notice?
The reason why the city was overflowing with adventurers wasn’t because of the shockwave of the Attack on the Capital event.
At the very least, not the group that was heading to the west gate.
They are adventurers that are challenging a certain ‘big quest’ that starts from that bar.
“I see. Thanks.” (Souma)
My mouth just let out those words by themselves, but my brain was already away from this place, and was thinking about the moves from here on.
Anyways, I can’t waste a single second anymore.
I left the Oba-chan with unsteady steps and returned to my comrades.
“Ah, Souma, did you find that Sazan person?” (Maki)
I answered with a clear tense tone towards the carefree question of Maki.
“…Maki, return to the castle at once and dispatch the Knight Order to the place I am going to be telling you.” (Souma)
Maki’s voice carried worry.
But I have no time to explain here.
“I am sorry, but playtime is over. We fooled around too much. It might already be too late, but we have no choice but to move at full force from here on.” (Souma)
The quest they have headed to is the Sacrifice Dungeon.
That quest that’s as vicious as the Blue Bird of Michael has a glaring difference from it.
It is the danger level of the quest.
“We have to hurry or things will turn horrible. The quest they headed to…” (Souma)
Different from the Blue Bird of Michael that technically doesn’t bring danger to the player, the Sacrifice Dungeon has a high Game Over risk.
Because it is a quest that has battles, it is possible for the player and NPCs to die, and most of all, that quest…
“…Has the chance for a forced Game Over due to things aside from the player’s death!” (Souma)