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“Ah, you are finally here!! Souma, you are late!”
The moment we entered the mansion, the shout of my cousin entered my ears.
When I looked there, Sazan, the Bear, and Mitsuki were by her side.
I had returned slightly sooner than planned, but it looks like we are the last ones here.
When I checked the time, it was 11:56.
After that, I picked up the last drop items of the Butcher, cleaned up the chairs and other stuff, covered the spawn point of the rock again, and after taking more time than expected in cleaning up, we returned later than planned.
While we were taking it easy here…
Sazan suddenly began laughing like a villain.
“Kuku! Since that catastrophe, days of servitude and submission passed. Yeah, just how long have I waited for this day…for this moment!” (Sazan)
When I thought he had suddenly begun talking about something weird here…
He rushed onto me as if he had met the killer of his parents.
But well, it is Sazan, so there’s no issues.
I calmly dealt with it by kicking him.
But Sazan showed sharp movements that I didn’t expect.
He avoided my kick by a paper-thin difference, and grabbed my leg as if his arms were a snake that wrapped around it.
“P-Please! That’s your plushie, right?! Tear that demon away from me already!!” (Sazan)
He clung onto my leg just like that and pleaded.
“Uhm…by demon…do you mean that?” (Souma)
I pointed at the Bear who is dumbfounded and tilting its head cutely, and Sazan nodded his head profusely.
“That’s right! Do you see any other demons around?!” (Sazan)
“No, but…” (Souma)
Sazan is excessively scared of the Bear, but the Bear simply has a bit of a scary smile and its raison d’etre is to scare people, but I think it is just a nice plushie though…
No well, being able to move on its own already removes it from being just a plushie, but even with that…
I spun the gears in my head, but it looks like my opinion is completely different from that of Sazan.
“You have only seen its shell! That’s why you can say that! Y-You still don’t know that bastards t-true form.” (Sazan)
“What’s with that? Are you telling me an alien is going to come out from inside?” (Souma)
I said that, finding all this a pain, but Sazan moved his masked face violently to deny it.
He glanced at the Bear at the back and continued speaking with a lowered volume.
“…A few days ago, when I stayed at the house of Alex -which is always unlocked- without permission in order to skimp on paying lodging…” (Sazan)
“What’s with that self-report as if it is nothing.” (Souma)
Or more like, you are really careless, Alex.
Does he think no one aside from heroes rummage around houses?
Well, he does give the vibe that he doesn’t lock his house though.
“That day, I had a grieving economic war against the clerk in the shop that deals with items tainted in heresy, so I was tired and fell asleep really quickly… The problem is the next morning. When I woke up the next day, near my pillow, there it was…the Bear…-sama standing there with knife in hand!” (Sazan)
“That’s scary!” (Souma)
I feel like that’s a prank that can’t be wrapped up as a joke.
Sazan shook his head again and continued.
“That’s not all! If it had ended with that, I wouldn’t be making this much of a ruckus! I was scared of the Bear-sama that had knife in hand, and reflexively decided to play dead, but…I noticed…” (Sazan)
“W-What did you notice?” (Souma)
Is there something scarier than a plushie holding a knife near your pillow?
Sazan said this while I was gulping.
“…That breakfast was already prepared on the table!!” (Sazan)
“Ain’t that a moving tale?!” (Souma)
I would even say that’s so dedicated, like a wife.
“Y-You idiot! A plushie is making food! Moreover, better than me!! I even asked for seconds, so there’s no doubt about it!!” (Sazan)
“You were eating your damn fill there!!” (Souma)
What a baffling guy.
“W-Wait! The supernatural phenomena didn’t end there! Even the clothes that I took off and just scattered around had been folded nicely!!” (Sazan)
“As I said, isn’t that good?!!” (Souma)
When I said this, exasperated, Sazan writhed as if saying I don’t get it.
“Don’t talk as if it is nothing! I-I even had underwear! I-Isn’t that embarrassing?!” (Sazan)
“Isn’t the root of the problem here that you took off that embarrassing underwear and just threw it wherever?” (Souma)
“M-My underwear is not embarrassing!” (Sazan)
Sazan shouted this with his face beet red, but I can’t go wasting more time with him.
I called the Bear and it made a nihilistic smile which scared Sazan.
I wasted precious time indulging an idiot.
I looked at the others, and Ringo had gone to where Maki was while I was talking with Sazan.
“Ah, Ringo-chan, it has been a while~.” (Maki)
“…Hn, it has been a while.” (Ringo)
But Ringo didn’t break her stiff expression at the greeting of Maki.
She seemed nervous as if she were a child on her first day of class. She took distance awkwardly from Maki and said:
What Ringo did shortly after saying this was…
*Hyun Hyun Suuu~!*
The flowing movement skill of Step, High Step, and Air Hammer!
“…Something like that.” (Ringo)
Despite being almost completely expressionless, she seemed somewhat proud and smug!
Maki looked at me as if saying ‘w-what should I do about this?’, but I acted as if I didn’t see anything.
“…Good grief, they are always lively.”
However, there was one person who didn’t break its iron face.
“I am impressed that everyone can make such a ruckus just from not seeing each other for a few days. Is this a sign of how happy your comrades are to see you?”
…It is Mitsuki.
She came to my side with a cold face as if she had no interest in all this stupid ruckus.
“Eh, y-yeah… Well, we might be a bit feisty here.” (Souma)
I directed my gaze up while answering as if feigning ignorance here.
Honestly speaking, I find it hard to react when Mitsuki says that.
Mitsuki noticed I was flustered here, and loosened her serious expression a bit.
She said this as if chuckling.
“No need to worry. It is not like I am criticizing them. Despite appearances, I myself am also happy about this reunion.” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki was saying all this with warmth and a bit of self-derision.
“No, it is okay! I am not doubting that at all.” (Souma)
I denied that with all I had.
“Yeah, totally! Not a single shred of doubt!!” (Souma)
Mitsuki seemed to be doubtful, so I strengthened my tone.
Cause you know…at the top of Mitsuki’s head, the familiar cat ears-chan were flapping feistily as if saying ‘I am so happy!’ so there’s no way I would have that opinion.
“Fufu, I am happy that you say that with such confidence… Right, if I were a bit better at showing my emotions, I might have unexpectedly been feisty even if not on their level.” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki smiled lightly and said that.
As if matching those words, the cat ears on top of her head switched from ‘I am so happy!’ to ‘dance of wild joy!!’.
Seeing those cat ears that were flailing even harder than the tail of a dog…
“No, you know, your head…” (Souma)
“My head?” (Mitsuki)
I somehow managed to swallow those words that were right at the tip of my tongue.
That’s probably some sort of involuntary reaction from her muscles?
The person herself doesn’t notice, so let’s just leave it be.
“More importantly, we can’t take too much of our time here. Everyone, it’s about time we end our chatting. Please gather in the living room! Let’s begin our last meeting.” (Souma)
The strategy meeting began, but there were more bad reports than I expected.
What was especially unexpected was the state of the city.
According to Maki and Sazan’s report, the situation of the areas has become worse than I assumed.
10 days may be just barely in the time limit, but Sazan used the Yellow Slimes to lower the Monster Invasion Progress, so I thought that it wouldn’t get into that bad of a situation compared to normal, but…I was too naive.
Different from game NPCs, real people get stressed and uneasy in a situation where they feel isolated.
That has worsened the public order of the cities.
According to Maki, the Knight Order has tried to quell it, but a revolt was on the verge of happening yesterday in the capital.
Meaning that there really is no time to waste anymore.
However, there’s also a piece of information that makes me hesitant to act at once.
It seems like the weakening of the Demon Lord is a bit further behind than expected.
Within those, the one that hurts the most is that we haven’t been able to seal what’s called the Serious Mode that the Demon Lord shows when in a critical state.
If you don’t do a special quest and seal that, the Demon Lord will have its attack and defense increase dramatically when its HP hits 10%, and its attack pattern will change.
I have been killed once by that in the game, so I remember it clearly.
The plan I had made beforehand went well, and the moment I thought that I was really close to defeating the Demon Lord, I felt a shockwave resembling that of killing intent.
I don’t know if that was produced by the system for dramatic effect, or my instinct itself, but the way the Demon Lord fought after that moment was on a whole other level from before.
My attacks at full power were easily blocked, and attacks that were unbelievably heavy came back at me.
And that’s not all.
The Demon Lord began doing the long range attacks against the backline at the same time even though it shouldn’t do it when you are within 3 meters of distance.
I myself may have somehow endured the fierce barrage of the Demon Lord, but that wasn’t the same for the other members I brought with me.
Most of the reason why being that those members were all just riff-raff that I gathered in order to not have the Demon Lord get buffed.
There’s no way companions like that would be able to endure the attacks of the Demon Lord, and they easily crumbled on all fronts.
(I definitely cannot let the Demon Lord hit the critical state!) (Souma)
That’s an absolute condition in order to not let a single death happen within my companions.
Fortunately, I have an ‘ultimate technique’ that I didn’t have in my game days.
It shouldn’t be impossible to defeat the Demon Lord in one go without having it hit the 10% HP mark.
(In that case, there’s no choice of not using the Incarnation of Fury.) (Souma)
Thinking this, I glanced at Ringo.
Seeing Ringo tilt her head at suddenly being looked at, I felt a little bad.
I might make her worry again, but it can’t be helped.
(With that reason in mind, I have to definitely…with my own hands…finish the Demon Lord!!) (Souma)
There really is that desire of wanting to put an end to everything with my own hands.
I know that this is stupid and nothing good comes out from this selfishness.
But I am the one who turned Ina into that, so I also want to be the one who cures her.
“…Want to…postpone it?” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki must have taken my conundrum as hesitation, she asked me that.
The cat ears on her head were shaking uneasily as if asking ‘are you going to quit?’.
It is true that I want to postpone it a bit in order to secure safer preparations.
However, I declare this as if shaking off my lingering emotions.
“…No, we will do this today. At once.” (Souma)
I state this clearly.
I won’t say there’s no hesitation.
If this lack of preparation leads to us being defeated by the Demon Lord, I can’t say I won’t regret this decision at that time.
However, I also don’t think we can’t defeat the Demon Lord in our current state.
After all the preparations, playing the cards we could in the limited time we had, we are now moving into action.
I believe that our chances of winning are not low.
And having decided that, there’s a lot of things that must be discussed, and a lot of things that must be done.
First, the routes and plans will change depending on how much the Demon Lord and the Demon Lord Castle have been weakened, so I still haven’t told everyone the plan on how we are going to subjugate the Demon Lord.
I haven’t made that complicated of a plan, but we can’t really go without explaining beforehand, and I want to practice our coordination for the Demon Lord battle.
Also, I have decided not to do the castle gate opening until the last moment so it doesn’t end up in a situation where they go ‘the monsters from the Demon Lord Castle have suddenly begun rushing out from the opened door!’.
In the end, I can’t open the last door with the normal method anyways, so I have to open all the doors from the Demon Lord Castle by inputting ‘There is a Fire’.
“I will be explaining the details of the Demon Lord subjugation! After that, we will all go undo the seal of the castle gate from the Demon Lord Castle, and then—” (Souma)
“Please wait.” (Mitsuki)
But Mitsuki cut me off in the middle of my explanation.
“Time is precious. I will go open the castle gate. Let’s regroup at the site.” (Mitsuki)
“No, but…” (Souma)
I was going to speak out against this, but Mitsuki shook her head to the sides, slightly sad.
“Unfortunately, from what I have heard of the plan, I don’t know if I will be able to fight to a satisfactory extent at the Demon Lord Castle. That’s why I want to do my all in what I can.” (Mitsuki)
In the game, Mitsuki would withdraw from the party when you go close to the Demon Lord Castle.
She said the reason was because she didn’t want to subjugate the Demon Lord for the sake of her father which isn’t that big of a deal, but it seems like -regardless of the reason- there’s a strong feeling of not wanting to be there when approaching the Demon Lord Castle.
The reality is that it is questionable whether Mitsuki can overcome that limitation once we go into the Demon Lord Castle.
I had a hard time finding the words, and Mitsuki came by my side and smiled faintly and feebly.
“…Please don’t make that face. Even with that, I will definitely fight by your side. Also, if danger comes to you, I will definitely…” (Mitsuki)
I was flustered by the sudden change in the atmosphere of Mitsuki, and she immediately came back to her usual cool expression.
“…It is nothing. More importantly, please don’t forget the promise.” (Mitsuki)
Saying this, she gallantly began walking to the outside.
“H-Hey, Souma, what’s this about a promise?!” (Maki)
Maki got bothered by a strange point which I lightly brushed off.
I slammed the table with force.
There’s no way we can waste the time Mitsuki is trying to get us here.
“I will now be explaining the strategy to defeat the Demon Lord!” (Souma)
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