I returned to the mansion, and after carrying Ina to a room, I headed to the living room. The gazes of everyone there gathered onto me.
Ringo looked up at me with a more anxious face than normal.
Mitsuki looked at me with a calm face and her ears standing upright.
The Bear was wearing the red cloak of before and tilting backwards from the weight while still looking at me.
Maki is simply directing her gaze at me while eating the famed maple honey pudding from Dust.
Sazan, who had curled up in a corner because of the group of strangers, stood up with energy the moment he saw me .
It is a vexing group of misfits, but there’s no doubt each one of them excels in their area of expertise.
Especially for the last one. There’s a lot of things I want to say to him, but he must have come here prepared for that.
I swallowed my complaints.
In exchange, I voiced out something more important.
“Let me say this first. The one who brought upon the Curse of the Demon Lord that is pushing this city…no, this country into chaos…was me.
I provoked the Demon Lord knowing that this would happen.” (Souma)
Hearing that confession of mine…
“W-What did you say?!” (Sazan)
The only one who reacted heavily was Sazan.
Ringo and Mitsuki most likely were aware a long time ago.
Ringo looked even more worried at me, and Mitsuki’s cat ears simply twitched once but stayed calm. Maki seemed to have already guessed that and simply nodded with an ‘I knew it’ and continued eating her pudding.
Also, the moment I finished speaking, the Bear finally fell behind over the weight -though that probably has nothing to do with what I said.
Not being blamed to this extent is instead a bit unsettling, but the best way to repent for this is not by apologizing here.
That’s why I speak out the next words.
“And so, I have decided… I will defeat the Demon Lord. I want the cooperation of everyone for the sake of this.” (Souma)
When I said this…
“…That’s a given.” (Ringo)
“That was my intention from the very beginning.” (Mitsuki)
Ringo and Mitsuki were the first ones to stand up and show their will.
Right after, the Bear had finally stood back up and made a wicked grin.
“Well, it is an enemy that we had to defeat originally anyways. If it is something that Souma wants to do, I will help out with anything.” (Maki)
Maki declared this as she finished eating her pudding.
The last remaining one…
“Just this once… It can’t be helped, so just this once, I will help you out.” (Sazan)
He averted his masked face while saying this with a slightly clouded voice.
“I don’t really want to cooperate with the very culprit that caused this situation, but I joined forces with Alex in the first place because he said we would defeat the Demon Lord. The Demon Lord is involved with my sealed right arm… You could basically say it is my sworn enemy.
Also, it is not like…I don’t want to cure my slaves…” (Sazan)
I push out a reminder to Sazan towards his half-baked words.
“Listen here. This time around, I won’t have the leeway to show tact or consideration towards you. If you say you are going to cooperate, I will be working you to your bones.” (Souma)
I am certain Sazan smiled below that iron mask of his.
“Hmph, don’t belittle me! I am the famed mage, Sazan! That’s why I won’t mix trifle matters in the face of important moments. Just for this instance, I shall allow you to command me for the noble endeavor of executing the Demon Lord.” (Sazan)
Sazan voices this out loudly.
It is vexing, but just at that moment, he really did look like a great mage.
“…Then, that’s settled.” (Souma)
The powerful speech that I can’t believe came from Sazan’s mouth made me leak out a smile.
I tightened my fist and declared with strengthened resolve.
“We will definitely defeat the Demon Lord with our own hands!!” (Souma)
Now that we have united our wills, it is finally time to move to reality.
The first one to speak was Maki who can keep tabs on the Knight Order.
“Ah, I thought you would be worried about it, so I heard about the situation revolving around the Curse of the Demon Lord. The frozen people will be safeguarded at the castle, and it seems like people who can’t move outside the city as well, so the Knight Order has arranged so those people are also carried into the city too.” (Maki)
“Have there been people who have…died from having their comrades stopped in place?” (Souma)
Maki shook her head to the sides at my question.
“Hmm, there were people who hurriedly returned after having their comrades frozen, but it seems like the adventurers of this city that haven’t been frozen are fine. It seems like there’s still no information about the situation in other cities though.” (Maki)
“I see. That’s a relief for now. With this, we can concentrate on defeating the Demon Lord without any worries.” (Souma)
What I feared the most was a party being wiped out from a party member freezing in the middle of their adventure. It means that there’s no increase in deaths for now.
Can’t be relieved about that just yet, but judging from what Maki said, there’s nothing of the sort as of yet.
“But do you have a plan? Defeating the Demon Lord is the dearest wish of the people in this world. Subjugation raids have been formed numerous times, but not only defeating the Demon Lord, there hasn’t been anyone who has successfully arrived at the Demon Lord Castle.” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki spoke as she let her cat ears rest.
That worry of hers is natural.
“About that…we should be able to manage somehow. At the very least, I have the information that can allow us to.” (Souma)
Even if it is an unknown endeavor for Mitsuki and the others, this is something that I have experienced a number of times in the game.
If there’s no changes in how it works, there’s no doubt we can clear this depending on how we do it.
“The problem is the time limit. I am thinking about defeating the Demon Lord in 10 days.” (Souma)
When I said this, everyone obviously made a surprised expression.
Ringo doesn’t seem to really get it, Mitsuki’s cat ears were twitching, and Maki was making an honest shocked expression.
As for Sazan, he was looking at me with eyes as if saying ‘What’s with this dude? Is this guy the most delusional person of the century?’.
He is the last person I would want to be looked at like that, but it is not like I don’t understand how he feels.
However, there’s a reason why I must solve this within 10 days.
According to the 7743 Reports compiled by the players of Nekomimi Neko, the players only have a mere 10 days remaining after the Blessing of the Demon Lord.
Also known as Anonymous Reports**. It is the biggest data of the massive number of victims from the Blessing of the Demon Lord, and it is also linked in the Nekomimi Neko Wiki. <Anonymous is Nanashi in japanese. This is a wordplay of Nana (7) Shi (4) San (3) combined into Nanashi-san Reports.>
Most of the reports encapsulate the players that have had their data forcefully saved by the Blessing of the Demon Lord and have tried to aim for a game clear.
Putting it simply, it is a playthrough diary.
There would be theories and confirmations added to this, and it was at some point in time called with an exaggerated name like 7743 Reports.
There’s an ocean of things reported there, but within those, the most important one is that: after the Blessing of the Demon Lord happens, the only remaining playtime you have is 10 days.
In this game, even if deaths happen, you can still continue playing like normal, but Nekomimi Neko is industrious when it comes to detriments. Actually, when characters die, a few cons happen.
When an adventurer dies, the Monster Invasion Progress bar around the areas will increase faster; when a merchant dies, the price for commodities increases and the prices of items make a sudden jump; when a knight dies, public order worsens and bandit related events occur more often; when a famous person dies, the city will lose energy, and it will be harder for events to happen.
Each of them individually don’t cause much effect, but if it is dozens of them, the story changes.
The ones who are hit by the Blessing of the Demon Lord will have the cons of a dead person applied to them.
This game allows the marriage with people of the same gender, so almost all the characters that you can marry should have had their time stopped regardless of the player’s gender.
Also, those marriageable characters are mostly characters with high power, so their cons are comparably bigger than when others die.
Due to the loss of chief characters, the nation will visibly decline, and once it has reached a critical state, a variety of problems will explode. That is the 10 day countdown of the Blessing of the Demon Lord.
In this world, events happen without me getting involved.
If a fatal event happens somewhere I am not in…or even if it is not that big of an event, once 10 days pass, it will be impossible to avoid casualties from popping out because of this.
That’s why I want to finish this within 10 days at all costs.
No, I must.
You might think, who do you think you are after causing all of this?
But I definitely don’t want any deaths to come out from this matter.
This is not for the sake of the people that might die from this, but for a much selfish reason.
“Hmm, I know that Souma is versed in those areas, but…will you really be able to defeat the Demon Lord in 10 days?” (Maki)
Maki went straight to the core of the topic as if cutting off my self-deprecating thoughts.
If I had to choose between one or the other, I would say she is an idiot, but the gears in her brain do turn well.
Before, when I talked to Maki about clearing the game, I postponed that and prioritized searching for the method to return.
If I had been sure that I could defeat the Demon Lord in 10 days at that time, I would have headed to defeat the Demon Lord first before searching for the method to return.
And the reality is that I did think it would be impossible to defeat the Demon Lord within 10 days at that time.
But right now the situation is a bit different from then.
“We will be thinking about whether we can do that from here on.” (Souma)
I say that and drop my gaze to the table.
You could say it is in theory possible to go to the Demon Lord Castle and defeat the Demon Lord even at level 1.
However, even if the Demon Lord Castle itself exists since the beginning of the game, it is still the base of the last boss.
You can’t just reach that place by regular means.
What will help us solve that is…
“These are…the items we got this time around, huh…” (Mitsuki)
The numerous quest items that are lined up on top of the table.
Aside from the Golden Key, there’s also many keys of varied forms and sizes, colorful gems and jewels, a gray relief, a miniature model of a city that’s inside a glass case with water in it, a silver sake cup of pristine color, and even a toy duck and a rubber ball. There really are a wide variety of items here.
“It really is difficult…” (Souma)
This still isn’t reassuring for our objective of reaching the Demon Lord in 10 days.
No, putting it bluntly, it would be impossible.
It is not that we are lacking the items, but the fact that there’s way too many events we have to achieve from here on.
You could even say the amount of quest items we have right now is way too little in order to go to the Demon Lord Castle.
Just like the key of Raiden and the silver sake cup, there’s a lot of key items that will be necessary for the next event.
With these many items, we can do all the Demon Lord related events, but 10 days is not enough at all.
In order to challenge the Demon Lord in perfect condition, you need to finish more than 120 events.
We have obtained a number of quest items ahead of time and understand most of the ways to clear the events, so we can take a pretty good amount of shortcuts, but 10 days is still too tight of a deadline.
What I should be thinking about first is what events I should be doing to fight the Demon Lord in the shortest required amount of time.
In the game days, regardless of parameters, skills, and exploits, you had to take countermeasures in order to challenge the Demon Lord Castle. Basically, there were 3 walls you had to overcome no matter how strong you were.
What we must solve here first are these 3 things.
The 1st one are the dark clouds around the Demon Lord Castle.
If you approach the Demon Lord Castle without countermeasures, you will get hit by lightning coming from the clouds and die instantly no matter how high your defense is. You must protect your body by obtaining a specific item.
However, we have that item within the items we got.
We can greatly decrease the damage from the lightning with this, so we should be able to manage somehow.
The 2nd one is the seal of the large gates at the Demon Lord Castle.
The castle gates of the Demon Lord Castle have a number of gimmicks to keep them locked, but if you are heading there solo, you can get through most of them with the Mirage Prison Wall Jump.
However, the last door before the Demon Lord is a safe zone, and you can’t use skills.
For that door alone, you need to do something about it without relying on bugs.
Undoing the seal of this door is a pain, and I doubt we will make it in time within the 10 days we have.
That said, there’s actually a hidden trick to open that last door without doing the event.
There’s an event where you have to input keywords totalling 4 syllables in order to open the large gate.
If you write Open The Gates here, you can safely open the large gate of the Demon Lord Castle, but if you input There Is A Fire, for some reason, all the doors of the Demon Lord Castle open up.
By using this, you can easily open the door before the Demon Lord too.
But this hidden trick is a double-edged sword.
Because once you do this, the monsters that were at the other side of those doors will be attacking you all at the same time, so the clear difficulty will jump up by several times more.
There were many reports of people who have suddenly gotten surrounded by dozens of monsters the instant they step into the Demon Lord Castle after using this trick and, when that happens, you won’t even be able to prove a match unless you have an overwhelming difference in ability.
However, having to be reckless is something I was already aware of when I signed up for this.
And it is also true that you will require at least the power to deal with those if you are planning on challenging a Demon Lord that hasn’t been weakened.
Even if the battle will be more difficult, there’s no other way but that one to open the door.
I am thinking of challenging the Demon Lord Castle using this hidden trick.
And so, the 3rd and most troublesome obstacle is the blood pond around the Demon Lord Castle.
At the bottom of the volcano crater where the Demon Lord Castle is in, there’s a blood pond that is accumulated at the bottommost part of the mortar shaped terrain. It is said those are the remains of the people that have challenged the Demon Lord until now.
This point that is boiling with the heat of the volcano is an impregnable zone that blocks the path of the player in system terms.
The Demon Lord Castle is surrounded by this blood pond, so you of course need to overcome that pond in order to get to the castle.
However, in order to achieve this, you need an item called the Moon Bridge, but in order to obtain that, you need to perform a ritual in full moon, crescent moon, half-moon, and new moon with the First Moon Sake Cup to gather the power of the moon.
This is most likely the biggest bottleneck in the quests of Nekomimi Neko. Because of the order of the ritual and the phases of the moon, it will take 1 month no matter what.
And I of course can’t afford that amount of time.
For this one, I will have to ignore the knowledge in my game days and somehow manage to clear that pond without the Moon Bridge.
Fortunately, this world doesn’t have action restrictions towards the player contrary to its game days.
If I use Air Hammer and Instant Charge, I should be able to cross that pond alone.
That said, if I am thinking of bringing my comrades, I have to eliminate the pond or climb over it through a bridge or something.
(Maybe I really should use some random items to create footing? No, if I take too much time, the lightning will…) (Souma)
The lightning can be mitigated with the quest item, but a certain degree of damage will still get through.
I think it is damage that will prove no issues to run through, but it will be a bit rough if it is to stop your feet and do manual labor.
(Then, maybe we should create a hole somewhere to drain the blood pond?
…That won’t work.
It is accumulated at the very bottom of the crater, so it is impossible to dra—hm?) (Souma)
For some reason, my own words bothered me.
Even if it has a peculiar aspect, it is still liquid without doubt.
When I thought that, an idea to clear this appeared in my head.
Just turn your perspective around.
Getting rid of it or going around it is not the only way to deal with it.
“Alright, I have decided!” (Souma)
Saying this, I punched the palm of my hand and looked at everyone gathered here.
“We will now be heading to the underwater city and get the underwater aptitude item.” (Souma)
Sazan froze at my sudden words, but my decision won’t change.
It is currently 11:52 PM.
We should be able to make it in time even from here on.
I don’t know when we will be able to gather all the members next time.
If we are going to move, it has to be now.
Everyone was looking at me with bewildered looks as I put the quest items in the bag and rummaged through it. Mitsuki eventually came to the front to represent them.
“I have certainly heard rumors that, at the very depths of the underwater city, in the treasury room of the chimera being, Poseidal, there’s a treasure that allows you to live freely inside the water.
But we are heading out from here on?
It is said that the location of the underwater city has been unknown for several decades. It is already late in the night, so departing at this time is a bit…” (Mitsuki)
I bring the items out as I give a bold answer to that.
“I plan on returning here after 2 hours, and there’s no need to worry about the traversal underwater.” (Souma)
“What do you mean by that?” (Mitsuki)
I picked up an item.
The miniature city model that’s inside a glass case full of water.
“The underwater city is right here.” (Souma)