A while after the Demon Lord’s voice could not be heard anymore, I couldn’t move a single finger from the lethargy, and was just standing still there.
I can’t hear the voice of Ina in my ears anymore.
But the fact that I heard the voice of the Demon Lord must mean that the marriage proposal event has safely succeeded.
At the very least, that’s the only thing I can believe in.
After recognizing the current situation, I finally have leeway to give a bit of attention to the surroundings.
I look back and call her name.
Ringo was okay.
But even when I called her, she for some reason was still hanging her head down and wasn’t moving at all.
When I tilted my head at that reaction, something approached us at astounding speed.
“That’s a relief. So everyone was okay.” (Mitsuki)
It is Mitsuki who went to protect Ina.
Mitsuki let out a sigh of relief after seeing us, but that’s actually what I should be saying.
“More importantly, was your side okay, Mitsuki? That lightning fell at your place…” (Souma)
“No problem. There’s a special technique in the Hisame Style called Raikiri <Lightning Cut>.” (Mitsuki)
“…I see.” (Souma)
Looks like she cut the lightning of the curse.
I couldn’t help but question if that’s how it works, but we are talking about Nekomimi here, so she might have gotten preferential treatment from the developers.
Mitsuki could get away from the time stop in the game too despite being a marriageable character, so I thought she must have had some sort of countermeasure.
But well, I didn’t expect her solution was to cut it though.
But with this matter, my strength has left me nicely.
You can call me selfish here, but it is in part because I am relieved after confirming that my comrades are okay.
The Blessing of the Demon Lord is an event where the marriage partner and all the marriageable characters are hit with the time stop curse.
The Bear…would be out of the question.
Princess Shermia wasn’t a marriageable character to begin with, and Ringo has been separated from the game system.
Mitsuki, who is a marriageable character wasn’t affected by the event.
I have managed to confirm the safety of these two.
As for Maki who is in the position of Princess Shermia, she should most likely be fine.
But as for the other people…
“…Gotta confirm.” (Souma)
That’s the least I can do as the one that caused this.
“What happened? I came back thinking an abnormality had occurred, but could it be…” (Mitsuki)
“Let’s leave the talk for later. Let’s go inside the city for now.” (Souma)
I stop Mitsuki, who had her cat ears raised as if trying to intimidate, open up the way through the merchants, and head to the entrance of the city…
For some reason, Ringo was not coming along.
When I looked back, Ringo wasn’t moving a step from her original position, and was looking down at her own hand as if melancholic.
Even though the Bear was poking her face while riding her shoulder, she wasn’t reacting at all.
She finally raised her head when I shouted.
Our eyes made contact, and Ringo hid her left hand on her back as if she had come back to her senses.
I don’t really get it, but it seems like there’s some sort of problem.
I walk back and ask her.
“Ringo, are you okay? Could it be that something happened…?” (Souma)
But the face of the usually expressionless Ringo was clearly stiff.
“I see? If there’s any issues—” (Souma)
“None… I’m okay.” (Ringo)
Even when I asked again, she simply answered back with that.
When I was wondering if I should say something more…
“…Are you going…to the city?” (Ringo)
“Eh? Y-Yeah.” (Souma)
“…Then, we should hurry.” (Ringo)
Ringo took my hand and began walking ahead.
“Ah, oi, no need to pull that hard…” (Souma)
I speak to her, but she doesn’t stop.
She grabbed my hand tightly as if saying there’s no way she would let go, as she walked further and further ahead.
But, is it my imagination?
The hand of Ringo that’s holding mine tightly…felt like it was trembling faintly.
Of course, we soon regrouped with Mitsuki and…
“I see, that’s why you returned at that time.” (Souma)
“Yes, I wasn’t sure if to, but I thought it was of utmost importance to confirm your safety.” (Mitsuki)
I managed to hear a bit about the circumstances from Mitsuki.
On her way to save Ina, Mitsuki also heard the voice of the Demon Lord.
She got vigilant at the ominous words and lightning suddenly came down.
She somehow managed to overcome that, but she had judged that something strange was happening, and decided to return for now.
“Also, the reaction of Ina-san from the Explorer Ring is strange.
Even though it is certainly detecting the person, the response is weak…” (Mitsuki)
The response being weak is most likely because the time of Ina has been stopped.
That’s why this most likely confirms that I have succeeded.
But I don’t know what kind of face I should be making in response to that.
Fortunately, the time for that soon came to an end.
“What is that?” (Souma)
We found a crowd at the front.
That’s most likely what I am searching for.
“I will check it out for a bit.” (Mitsuki)
Saying this, Mitsuki weaved through the crowd and advanced.
It didn’t take long for her to disappear inside it.
A display of skill that I can only say is as expected. We wouldn’t be able to copy that.
I thought about chasing after her, but before that, I looked back.
When we regrouped with Mitsuki, Ringo soon let go of my hand, and she has been walking a few steps behind us the whole time since then.
Even when I asked her if something happened, she simply shook her head with a downcast look and didn’t answer me at all.
She seemed to be withered even now and won’t make eye contact.
That’s why I…
“Let’s go.” (Souma)
This time around, I was the one who took the hand of Ringo.
Her beautiful blue eyes looked at me in surprise.
My tongue suddenly stiffened.
“Ah, uhm, you know…can you follow me?” (Souma)
Hearing my words that sounded like an excuse, Ringo once again opened her eyes wide.
“…No matter what happens…” (Ringo)
Her eyes that were downcast the whole time until now showed a strong light and…
“…I will always follow you, Souma.” (Ringo)
She grabbed back my hand tightly.
I fell forward and let out a strange noise.
We desperately pushed our way through the crowd and, suddenly, there were no people around us.
Ringo and I jumped out from the extra momentum.
But that surprise grew hazy and disappeared at what I witnessed at the front.
What was there was a perfected work of art depending on your perspective.
That burly and muscular figure with both arms upwards as if displaying his body reminiscent of Greco-Roman statues…was by no means a mere sculpture.
That figure of his was like that of a life-like wax doll. The face of this half-naked man was familiar…
“Could it possibly be…” (Souma)
While I was frozen in front of ‘that’, Mitsuki, who had arrived first, came to my side and nodded.
“Yeah, there’s no doubt. This is…” (Mitsuki)
And then, as if supporting my conviction, she said confidently…
“This is…the double frontal biceps.” (Mitsuki)
“Excuse me?!” (Souma)
Receiving my questioning look, Mitsuki’s cat ears got surprised.
“This unpleasant pose that my father made often after finishing a bath, if I remember correctly, he called it the double frontal biceps. Was it wrong?” (Mitsuki)
“Who asked you about the pose?!!” (Souma)
The shock or grim emotions of seeing an acquaintance cursed were all blown away with that.
“Good grief…” (Souma)
I leaked that out and Mitsuki twitched her cat ears as if satisfied.
“A grim look really doesn’t suit you. I don’t know the circumstances, but even if you are feeling down, the situation won’t be resolving itself, right?” (Mitsuki)
Looks like Mitsuki saw through my conflicts and tried to cheer me up in her own way.
I find it questionable that her way of doing so was a body-building joke, but that also raised the question of whether there’s body-building in this world. Anyways, my gloom was blown away.
This time around, I face the cursed Baccarat in a composed manner.
Baccarat’s body is completely stiffened up, and no matter where I touch him, the only thing I can feel is as if I am touching a cold rock.
I may not be able to change the pose, but it is possible to move him from his position.
When I pushed him hard, his body moved slightly backwards.
In science fiction, things normally get complicated when time freezing or time stop comes into play, but this is a fantasy world.
It is a time stop that is more rough on the edges. In magic terms, it is more like a state where their body functions have been stopped.
As if pulled by my actions, Ringo nervously touched the body of Baccarat while Mitsuki did so reluctantly.
“He is completely stiffened. He might serve as a shield.” (Mitsuki)
And then said something rude.
I looked around and saw Alex deep in too.
This one had his sword up and was frozen in a pose that was truly like that of a hero’s statue.
I am a bit worried that the children will be doodling on his body.
A bit further away, there’s Raiden who is looking back with an exasperated look and a wry smile as he kindly watches over Alex and the others.
But that Raiden is also frozen in place and isn’t moving.
Even when I was prepared for this, my chest hurt a bit.
And then, I look even further to the side, and there’s a comparatively smaller figure there.
That mage boy was not taking a peculiar pose like his other comrades.
It was as if he was watching his comrades, spaced out, and was simply standing there.
I wonder why.
Even though I said I hate Sazan, my chest felt like it was squeezed harder than when I saw the others.
I slowly approached Sazan.
I spoke to him while looking at his mask that wasn’t moving an inch.
“Hey, Sazan, I thought of you as the worst kind of guy and hated you in the game, but maybe in this world, I could have…” (Souma)
While I was saying this, I placed a hand on his shoulder and…
The next moment I opened my eyes wide at the warm and soft feeling of a human…
“W-What are you doing all of a sudden, you bastard!” (Sazan)
Sazan, who had not moved an inch until now, shook off my hand.
“What were you trying to do by taking advantage that my comrades—I mean, my slaves have been hit by a curse?! I-If I get serious, I can turn you into dust with the strongest of spells, you know?! I-It is the truth!!” (Sazan)
He seems to be shouting something, but it is barely registering in my ears.
What took over my mind right now was that Sazan is moving.
“S-Sazan? You…what about the curse of the Demon Lord…?” (Souma)
When I asked this, Sazan shrugged his shoulders.
“It is true that mine slaves have fallen from the magic of this fellow called Demon Lord. But me who houses great darkness in my body and am called the heaven-sent child of the darkness, something of that degree—” (Sazan)
“I see! There’s no way it would be possible to get married with someone like you after all! Man, I am glad you can’t be married!!” (Souma)
Now that I think about it, I have never heard of a marriage event with Sazan.
Even if it did exist, I definitely wouldn’t do it, but if I have never heard about it, it must mean that it doesn’t exist.
I got excited here and unconsciously grabbed the hand of Sazan and waved it.
“I can’t believe I am this happy about you being okay! Man, seriously, thanks! Thanks for not being someone that can be married!!” (Souma)
“…You bastard, do you have a grudge against me?” (Sazan)
As for Sazan himself, he is saying nonsense with a reproachful tone, but I couldn’t lower my rising excitement here.
Also, if we are talking about having grudges, I of course have.
“F-For how long are you going to be doing this?!” (Sazan)
Unfortunately, Sazan soon shook off our held hands.
“More importantly, do you know what happened here? I heard the voice of the Demon Lord too, but even with my exemplary brain, I can’t understand the situation. What should I do in order to cure these…these guys?” (Sazan)
I was speechless for a moment at the unexpected emotions that Sazan showed.
But I reached a conclusion with that.
Let’s stop the mourning and brooding of what I myself did.
It is not too late to do that after everything is done.
Right now I should be moving for the sake of the people that have been cursed by the Demon Lord because of me.
As the first step for that, I run to the place of Raiden.
“Ah, oi!” (Sazan)
I ignore Sazan and run close to where Raiden is.
“That’s a relief. It is here.” (Souma)
I picked up the key that was at his feet.
This is a quest item: the Golden Key.
In Nekomimi Neko, when the main characters die or are frozen by the curse of the Demon Lord, you won’t be able to continue the quests that are involved with them.
Because that would make it impossible to clear the game like that, the people that have died or are cursed will drop the necessary quest items.
“Y-You bastard, that’s a possession of Raiden’s, right?! How dare you brazenly steal in broad daylight—” (Sazan)
“Mitsuki, Ringo!” (Souma)
I ignored Sazan who was making a fuss and called my two comrades.
At the same time, I picture the characters that have been hit by the Demon Lord’s curse, and the quest items those characters hold.
I think about the quests that I will be needing from now on, and count from there what is the minimum that I need.
Someone might pick up the quest items on the ground as time passes.
I must act as fast as possible.
I ordered the two who came running to me at once.
“We are moving. We have to gather items first.” (Souma)
Ringo, Mitsuki, the Bear, and for some reason Sazan -who was still complaining- joined in the search, and we gathered the minimum required quest items…I think.
We went around in priority order, but at the end, there really were items that others must have taken.
But in this world where freedom has increased, even if we are missing some items, we can compensate by managing something.
After we finished going around, I announced the end of the search.
The surroundings were already dark.
I want to go back and sleep, but can’t do that.
“I am sorry, but I would like you to do one more job. Ringo, I would like you to bring the bodies of Raiden and the others to the mansion together with Sazan. It would be pitiful to just leave them in the open like that.” (Souma)
“…Okay, got it.” (Ringo)
Done with Ringo, I faced Mitsuki this time around.
“Mitsuki, you go with the Bear to talk with Maki. Explain what has happened, and set a time we can meet.” (Souma)
Mitsuki nodded too and we were supposed to scatter, but for some reason, the gazes of everyone were still on me.
I made a dubious look at this, and Sazan stepped to the front representing everyone and asked me.
“And what will you be doing in that time?” (Sazan)
“Me? I…” (Souma)
I could feel the gazes moving south naturally as I answered.
What I will be doing is something that I actually wanted to do immediately, but was holding back the whole time on.
In other words…
“I will go meet that person.” (Souma)
I can surpass Mitsuki in speed when it comes to level ground, but when it comes to terrain with a lot of curves and in super long distances, I lose to Mitsuki by one or two steps.
The path that Mitsuki said would take her 2 hours, I got there in 3 hours, and so, I arrived at the Lizamisu Wasteland.
Beast monsters would occasionally attack me in the darkness, but…
([Step], [Side Slash]!) (Souma)
With enemies of this level, there’s no need for tricks.
I literally swept through the enemies with a hit of Shiranui and searched for her.
A tall tree that only few exist in the field.
She was on one of them.
“There we go.” (Souma)
I climb the tree.
With my enhanced physical strength, I smoothly climbed up the tree and approached Ina.
How many days has it been since I separated from her in Lamurick.
Even though it has been a while, she hasn’t changed.
Ina was covering the Communication Ring on her left hand with her right as if it were the most precious thing in the world, and had a posture as if she were praying.
I peeked at her face, and looking at her closely, I could see a tear rolling down her face -that must have been judged as part of her body- frozen in time together with Ina.
Right now I have no means of knowing if those are tears of sadness or happiness.
“Ina, I am sorry.” (Souma)
Even though I knew it was pointless, I still tried to wipe off that tear.
My hand was obviously stopped by the hard sensation, yet I had to try despite knowing this would happen.
But I pushed off those feelings of mine and…
“I am sorry, but please wait for only 10 days. Within 10 days, I will definitely…” (Souma)
Below the brilliant shining moon, I declared this with strong will towards Ina who didn’t answer…who couldn’t answer.
“…Defeat the Demon Lord.” (Souma)