We had Shizun-san lift his head, and just before we left the barrier room…
“Ah, wait for a moment.” (Souma)
I suddenly thought of something. I scratched a corner of the floor with my sword to create a mark.
I took the trouble of moving Shiranui in a careful manner, and succeeded in writing ‘not yet’ even if it wasn’t the best looking.
I pumped my fist lightly at the completion of this.
Ringo turned around with a questioning look in front of the door. I simply shook my head, telling her it is nothing, and was the last one to leave the room.
The one waiting for me when I exited the room was Mitsuki with eyes filled with suspicion.
“…What were you doing?” (Mitsuki)
“Eh? A-Aah, I was leaving a mark in the corner of the room. Just a bit of an idea. There’s no big meaning behind it, you know.” (Souma)
“I see. A mark, huh.” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki nodded once as if convinced, but her eyes were still glaring at me coldly.
That state continued on for a while, and after making me feel uncomfortable for a while, Mitsuki spoke.
“That Immortal Oath ring apparently has resistance to instant death.” (Mitsuki)
“Y-Yeah. So it seems.” (Souma)
“In other words, as long as you have that ring, you wouldn’t have to fear Leila. Don’t tell me…you are thinking about stealing it since it is going to be stolen by someone else anyways…” (Mitsuki)
“D-Don’t bring up such accusations!” (Souma)
I hurriedly stopped Mitsuki who was about to say something dangerous.
Shizun-san looked back in wonder, but I played it off with a smile.
After confirming that Shizun-san was facing the front again, I protested to Mitsuki.
“For your information, you can’t block the attack of Leila even with that ring!” (Souma)
Leila’s Death to the Infidel!! Is not a special attack or a skill, but more of a system kind of thing.
If you could block it by making your resistance of instant death perfect, it wouldn’t be feared that much.
“Also, if I were to take the ring from there and make it mine, that’s already normal theft, right? Don’t worry, I won’t do something that stupid.” (Souma)
To be honest, I want that ring.
It is not impossible that it can now block the instant death attack of Leila now that the world has become real, and even without that, it would be great to block instant death.
It is painful that you lose the resistances to other status ailments, but now that I have more leeway in the other accessory slots, it is not impossible to remedy it.
For example; the most dangerous status ailment to prioritize aside from instant death is petrification.
Not only can you not move at all, it is hard to recover naturally. But even if you get petrified, you can solve it without issues by just having a single piece of equipment called the Gargoyle’s Circle which allows you to move normally even in a petrified state.
That’s why I want the ring.
I do, but…
There’s something more important than that.
“If I did that, that ring would become a stolen item!!” (Souma)
If you steal something from someone else, that item will get the stolen mark.
And if it is discovered that you have an item with the stolen mark, you go straight to the criminal route.
I can’t take such a pointless risk.
“…I am finally convinced.” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki nodded with her cat ears flapping as if finding this hard to swallow.
I sigh in relief after being freed from the asphyxiating gaze.
Maybe that’s why…
“In other words, even if you had the will to steal the ring, it is impossible because of the restriction of the ‘game’, right?” (Mitsuki)
“Eh? Ah, no. There’s the trick of taking it away from the culprit once it has been stolen by them.” (Souma)
I ended up letting my tongue slip at the confirmation of Mitsuki that followed.
“I knew it. You…” (Mitsuki)
She once again directed eyes of suspicion at me.
“No no no no! I am really prioritizing the completion of the request!” (Souma)
It is true that at the very very beginning, a Nekomimi Neko player would have prioritized the ring rather than a crest that you don’t know what the use is for. They would purposely not solve the crime, then steal the ring away from the culprit, and escape just like that.
But that’s at the very beginning.
The moment it was discovered that the crest opens a hidden dungeon, the importance of the two items did a reversal.
There were no people who chose the cursed ring that is hard to find uses for.
I don’t have any immediate need to go to the hidden dungeon, but the crest has a lot more importance when speaking of priorities.
Also, the core of the issue is not in that part.
I looked straight at the eyes of Mitsuki instead of the top of her head and protested earnestly.
“Just think about it. Even if it is the root of conflict, I would be stealing an important heirloom for those people. Do I look like a person that would be able to use an item like that with my chest held out while carrying such regrets?” (Souma)
Mitsuki is probably misunderstanding who I am as a person.
I am on the peaceful side even within the Nekomimi Neko players that don’t choose their means for the sake of their objective.
I am not such a deplorable person that would gleefully perform actions that would hurt others.
“…Right. Truly persuasive words.” (Mitsuki)
But Mitsuki responded with her usual cold voice and slid her gaze to the side.
Ringo tilted her head at the gaze directed at her, and at her waist there’s the Wakizashi (which on the inside is the heirloom of the Hisame household, the Gouging Vajra).
Cold sweat flowed down my forehead.
“N-No, that time could be considered an exception of sorts, but I normally do my best for the sake of everyone’s happiness, you know? Even at the time when I was at your home, I did my utmost best so that no deaths would happen and…” (Souma)
I desperately tried to explain myself, and Mitsuki suddenly laughed with a ‘fufu!’ and softened her expression.
I was unable to follow that sudden change of hers, and Mitsuki lowered her head.
“I am sorry. The situation was just too perfect, so I ended up distrusting you. But I know better than anyone that you are someone that would work hard to get the best results in any situation.” (Mitsuki)
Looks like Mitsuki also didn’t think I would do something like that and just tried to confirm it.
I sighed in relief.
“That’s a relief. If you were thinking about doing something that deviated you from the right path, I was considering using whatever means to stop you from doing so.” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki was brushing the scabbard of her katana for some reason as she said this, and the cold sweat gushed out again.
“I-I am glad that you are feeling at peace now.” (Souma)
Now that I think about it, even when her father was killed, even when the whole world turned into your enemy, Mitsuki was someone who would stay as an ally of the player.
I don’t think I will be killed like with Leila if I were to mess up, but it wouldn’t be easy to escape from her.
Mitsuki has far more searching ability, fighting power, connections, assets, and cat ears than Leila.
…The strongest hidden yandere might have been close to me.
“Uhm, what’s the matter, you two? Shizun-san said that he would be going ahead to tell the other people of the house about the situation.” (Ina)
While I was trembling at a fearsome future, Ina and the others who were walking ahead had come back worried.
“I see. We might have worried Shizun-san there.” (Souma)
He probably left thinking that we have some sort of secret discussion between us.
If that’s the case, I feel bad about it, but I will be using this opportunity.
“I plan on not placing any restrictions in your actions this time around. But there’s one thing I want to warn you about at all costs.” (Souma)
My emotions must have transmitted when I began speaking with a serious tone, everyone moved to listen to me seriously.
Even Maki, who was thinking for a while now and not saying a single word, raised her head.
I begin speaking after confirming this.
“Try not to stay for long in that room. Especially if you are trying to wait for the culprit to show up. If you do something like that and you are unlucky…” (Souma)
“I-If you are unlucky…?” (Ina)
I looked at the eyes of Ina who asked scared, and I declared clearly.
“…You will disappear. From this world.” (Souma)
The moment I said this, Ina went ‘hiiih!’, Maki frowned, Sazan went ‘Banishment this World?!’, and the usually expressionless Ringo and Mitsuki made slight surprised looks.
But this is not a lie.
This is the…danger…that was added later in this super easy and safe quest of the Aken Family’s Ring: the sudden death room.
Actually, this quest has very few cons and the solution is easy.
A seasoned Nekomimi Neko player wouldn’t search for the culprit in their own arena.
The flow of the events does make it so that you can’t enter the room at the time of the crime, and the room is locked, but that’s powerless in the face of the wall jump bug.
You could easily slip into the room with Infinite Mirage Prison, use a random stealth skill, and wait for the culprit until the time of the crime, which most players did to solve this.
There’s also those who would set recording devices before leaving the room to record the moment of the crime, others who would set traps or monsters to kill the culprit, set skulls so it is impossible to traverse in it; players could do what they pleased.
It is not like everything bore fruit, but even in the Wiki, this quest was looked down upon to the point that it was written on the quest: this quest is the easiest in this game.
The developers of Nekomimi Neko raged at this.
Even when there were still a lot of bugs left to fix, they did a patch where they were ‘increasing the difficulty of quests’ which you would question their sanity for.
They prohibited the use of skills inside the residence in order to block the wall jump bug and many other things, but the biggest change was the sudden death room.
This is a post that had become a topic of conversation for a period of time right after the patch was implemented. A certain player camped the room, and it suddenly got pitch black without any sign of it, and then, he was standing at the Monolith at some point in time.
This is clearly the animation of when you die, but the reason was unknown.
There were no monsters or anything around, and no NPC or trap coming to kill the player.
Then, why did the player in the barrier room die?
The answer was in the patch history.
-The subquest [the Aken Family’s Ring] has been adjusted so that abnormal behaviors that hinder the progress of the event will get reset.
It was hard to pinpoint what this was trying to say, but by using this as a hint to verify, the truth was revealed.
To everyone’s surprise, just before the culprit acts, all the foreign objects in the barrier room had been adjusted to…be eliminated.
To be more precise, it would be that the map is recreated to its initial state. Because all things in that room that have been changed or were not there to begin with are reset, the things that the Nekomimi Neko players did that were like hidden tricks had been rendered pointless.
This is especially fatal if the player is personally inside the room.
The player has no means to fight back against this system process.
No matter how strong of a character you have, no matter if you have resistance to instant death, you are left with nothing if you are hit by a delete.
And so, the players that were camping at that room would be met with the bitter experience of instant death.
“That’s why make sure you definitely don’t do a stakeout in that room.” (Souma)
I finished my detailed explanation and looked at everyone’s faces, and they all nodded obediently.
I was worried whether they would accept it since that’s game talk here, but this concerns their life, so they all listened properly.
By the way, this is a bit of an aside, but this change that could be called detrimental obviously angered the Nekomimi Neko players.
…Or so you would think, but maybe because they tinkered with the quest too much and missed some triggers for the events, after the patch, if you had already cleared the quest, you could take that same quest again which was baptized as the Forgetful Knight Captain Bug. This was met with delight by the players.
Unfortunately, there were no means to deal with the patch. In the first place, this world that reflects the latest patch can’t take advantage of this bug, but if this quest can be taken two times, we could steal the ring from the culprit in our first run, and then solve it normally in the second run to get the crest.
The change that was created to make players suffer brought benefits to the players instead. You could say that’s just like Nekomimi Neko.
“It is okay! There’s no need to worry that much!”
The one who spoke a cheerful statement in this heavy atmosphere after being suddenly told about the threat to their lives was Maki.
She began to talk a whole ton as if it had been a lie that she was quiet until now.
“Also, this is a mystery, so I think those players(?) are the ones in the wrong for using such insulting means to solve it! Let’s find the culprit fair and square!!” (Maki)
Saying this, Maki tightened her fists and showed her motivation.
“R-Right. You must not cheat. No cheating!” (Ina)
“Hmph. Even without using such underhanded means, there’s nothing my Demonic Eye can’t see through.” (Sazan)
Ina and Sazan both agreed with this.
And Mitsuki was the one who gathered up this motivation into a clear objective.
“Let’s see. About the method to find the culprit, there’s 6 people that might be the culprit, and we also have 6 people. How about we each stick to the one we suspect the most, and keep an eye on them one on one?” (Mitsuki)
This is the first practical opinion that was given since coming here.
The one who agreed instantly to this was unexpectedly Ringo.
“…Got it. I won’t miss a single instant.” (Ringo)
She said with a stronger tone than usual and…
—She grabbed my arm tightly.
Uhm…what’s going on?
When I directed Ringo this questioning look, Ringo also looked at me.
“…The most suspicious one is Souma.” (Ringo)
She said that all so naturally.
No, more importantly…
“W-Wait wait wait! No, that’s just weird! This is an actual case and the culprit is—” (Souma)
I was desperately protesting here, but Ringo looked at me with eyes more serious than me and stated this firmly.
“…I will make Souma a decent human being!” (Ringo)
I don’t know if I should be vexed about being called a deadbeat, or be relieved that I am finally being treated as a human being.
But before I could come up with the answer…
Maki came and tore me away from Ringo.
I was confused by the sudden outburst of Maki and…
“I-It is not that you can’t stick to Souma right now. That’s not good either, but uhm…I can’t agree with the idea of Mitsuki-san!!” (Maki)
Maki said this with her eyes swirling as she pointed at Mitsuki.
As for Mitsuki herself, she opened her eyes wide as if saying ‘Eh? Me?’.
Maki coughed, and after making sure Ringo was separated from me once again, she began to talk like a machine gun.
“I hesitated for a bit myself, but I think a plan like this is not good. Cause you know, solving the case would be simple. Mitsuki-san can simply grab everyone in the residence, and have them forcefully be removed from the place for today, or bring that ring out of the barrier room and have Mitsuki-san just swallow it to keep it in her stomach or something.
It goes the same with catching the culprit. Mitsuki-san could discipline them in a bit of a nasty manner, and have them confess at once.
But that’s not a mystery at all, right?!” (Maki)
“Leaving aside the details, why am I the one doing all the dirty work in those examples?” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki was indignant at how she was brought up for reference, and the others were all shocked by this, but Maki, who had her mystery-loving blood boiling here, didn’t stop.
She began to disclose her personal opinion as if the protest of Mitsuki didn’t happen.
“You see, Mitsuki-san, there would be times in mystery novels where there would be people who would suggest to hold hands and make a circle around the item that will be stolen as if saying ‘please pull off a trick’. Why do you think that is?” (Maki)
“That’s…it would be hard for me to say.” (Mitsuki)
Looks like even Mitsuki doesn’t know how to deal with people like this.
Maki nodded as if saying ‘I got my confirmation there’ at the confusion of Mitsuki.
“It is the fair play spirit!!” (Maki)
She said this nonsense with full confidence.
“Even you, Mitsuki-san, would want the other party to do their everything when you are fighting, right? It is the same as that! It is only after you stand in the arena of the opponent and they do their trick that you then crush them!! That’s the best essence of mysteries which has held on since ancient times!” (Maki)
“I-Is…that so?” (Mitsuki)
No, I am sure it is not so.
There’s no way they could hear my mind, so Maki’s speech continued.
“That’s why, even when detectives know that there’s a high chance the one who proposed this unnatural countermeasure is the culprit, they would still go with it. And yet, to use such underhanded means that are akin to a round-robin…that’s not like you, Mitsuki-san!
That’s petty!! Unfair!!” (Maki)
She went all in at trying to convince Mitsuki with her berserk passion.
“Uhm, am I underhanded…?” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki showed a rare sight of being flustered, and sought help from me with her eyes alone.
But I shook my head to the sides.
Stopping Maki when she is like this is not easy.
“…Got it.” (Mitsuki)
My response must have been the finishing blow.
Mitsuki’s cat ears withered and drooped.
“…Then, let’s scrap this plan.” (Mitsuki)
She declared her defeat.
Looks like even Mitsuki can’t win against crying children and Maki.
I watch this rare sight of Mitsuki with her shoulders drooped down and Maki celebrating while making a grin.
And then, after deciding that our basic policy here will be to ‘observe and let things flow’ which you could hardly say is a clear plan, we finally returned to the living room that was the first room we were brought to at the beginning.
—The ones who welcomed us were 7 people.
“Oh, what took you so long? We are all gathered up here already.” (Shizun)
The owner of the residence and a middle-aged man with good physique, Shizun-san.
A butler at the prime of his life, who was keeping watch on the barrier room just a few moments ago, bowed in silence.
“E-E-Excuse me! I am truly honored that you have blessed us with your presence, honored guests…”
The maid was panicking all over as she poured tea.
“Tch! You guys are the representatives of Spark Hawk-san? Are you really useful?”
A bright red-haired man who doesn’t look friendly.
“I am counting on you all. That ring is destined to be mine after all.”
A woman with long deep blue hair flowing behind her who seems to have a lot of pride.
“Eeeh?! Don’t joke around! That ring is mine!!”
A selfish-looking young man with blonde hair spiked up.
“U-Uhm…I don’t think fighting is good…”
And then there’s a slender girl with short black hair timidly waving.
A whole bunch of quirky suspects that you could say are the very definition of an unstable family.