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I was recognized as a fake by Maki because of a small misunderstanding, but I somehow managed to fix the misunderstanding after talking to her passionately.
We have known each other for more than a decade now, so calling me a fake just because I have cat ears is horrible, but well, I do understand the confusion of Maki.
Maki has the memories of the city of Rihitel falling, so I can understand that she is confused after time got rewinded without any explanation.
Most of all, if her cousin she has known since childhood were to suddenly grow cat ears, I might have said something unbecoming because of my surprise.
Anyways, the next morning after clearing the misunderstanding of Maki, we decided to go out.
The objective was to buy metal fixtures for the curtain that had broken because of a certain incident…no, that is indeed one of our objectives, but it is mostly information gathering.
I have defeated the Evil God Fragment that was going to destroy this city in 2 weeks.
You could say the immediate danger is gone.
But once you defeat the Evil God Fragment, that power is distributed to the remaining fragments and the main body.
I have destroyed two of the 4 sealed fragments.
Because of that, the power of the remaining fragments has increased, and that might have led to the breaking of the seal.
Also, I already don’t have the choice of leaving the Evil God be.
I decided that when my comrades were killed by the Evil God Fragment.
—I will definitely defeat the Evil God.
It is not for revenge, but to bring peace to the people of this world, to my comrades.
My comrades falling one after the other in the face of the revived Evil God Fragment.
Just remembering that time made something dark and muddy assail the inside of my chest.
Ringo, Mitsuki, Sazan, all the people that were involved with me in this world…I don’t plan on letting them forfeit their lives to such a guy.
I won’t say something as stingy like: All fragments.
I will kick the ass of all fragments and then crush the source that is the main body until it is dust.
That’s already a settled matter for me.
But there’s still a lot of things that I need to learn about.
Within the two remaining fragments, I still don’t know the location of one of them, and there’s a lot of other mysteries about the Evil God.
For example; in the world before the rewind, why was the Evil God Fragment bigger than the main body shown in the recording?
Was it the effect of the ritual spell? The Evil God Fragment managed to attack me right after despite having perished.
Also, in the recording of the Evil God Great War, why did Alex and his party seal the Evil God instead of killing it?
One of the heroes that sealed the Evil God, Nameless, said ‘you must definitely not fight the Evil God’ and that still bothers me.
The biggest clue to learn what this is about is the stone slate of the Evil God Great War, the last chapter of it, but Maki, who is the only person that watched it, said ‘it would be better for you to watch it yourself’ and kept silent about it.
The stone slate that had until the latest chapter was lost because of the rewind of the world.
Even if we are going to watch from chapter 1, it will take at least 2 weeks to get all the way to the last chapter.
It is not impossible, but I can’t just wait that long.
“And so, we are heading to the library again, right?!” (Ina)
“Yeah, I was thinking just about the Nekuranomikon before and didn’t properly read the books there.” (Souma)
I nodded at Ina who spoke to me from the side.
It is the place where the recording was in, and Ina also searched in the library and managed to find information about the Seal Household.
I can’t say for sure there will be results, but it should be an adequate location to search for clues.
“We are going to be searching? I will do my best!” (Ina)
“…Hn, do my best.” (Ringo)
I heard the motivated voices of Ina and Ringo from the opposite side.
I told my comrades about the details of the rewind yesterday night.
I did omit the part about Ringo, Mitsuki, and Sazan being killed, but a massive amount of people dying is a big deal.
I thought they would be more scared, but when I declared that I would defeat the Evil God before returning to my world, Ringo and Ina were instead filled with motivation as they agreed with me.
I don’t plan on losing anyone else.
I will stand in the frontlines, and I plan on fighting the Evil God by myself, but I don’t know what will happen in that battle.
I am worried about how motivated the girls are, but even so, I still am really grateful for those thoughts…
“Souma! I have been calling you for a while now! Don’t ignore me!”
My thoughts while walking were forcefully cut off by the black thing that jumped onto my back.
After noticing that that was the body of Sazan, I hurriedly shake him off.
“What’s the matter? Getting all flustered like that.” (Sazan)
“D-Don’t stick to me all of a sudden! I-It is too sweltering!” (Souma)
Sazan tilted his head in wonder, and I responded with unconvincing words.
I connected with Sazan quite a lot with the Evil God Great War recording and the trial of the Stardust Flare.
But the memories of those times are completely gone.
My relationship with Sazan has been reset with this…it should have been, but…
“Fufu, you don’t like the heat? I heard something nice there.
I actually wanted to ask you something when heading to the library, but kukuku.” (Sazan)
“Wa, hey, you…!” (Souma)
Sazan said this happily and tried to stick to me.
…Actually, the one who got happy when I announced that I would defeat the Evil God wasn’t only Ringo and Ina.
Maki was still dejected from the cat ears incident, and Leila who is staying back at the mansion was confused from the influx of information, but that wasn’t the case for Sazan.
The truth is that Sazan has inherited the blood of nobility from the mage Nameless who is one of the ultimate heroes.
He will take over the household in a few years, and will have to marry someone he doesn’t even love. In order to avoid that, he wants to defeat the Evil God Fragment, and wants his family to acknowledge his strength.
It is not like he has told me clearly with his own words, but using past information, I can imagine that’s how the circumstances of Sazan are.
There’s no way Sazan wouldn’t be happy with my declaration to defeat the Evil God.
Since the time I said I would defeat the Evil God, the mood of Sazan got visibly better, and has been acting even more familiar with me…
“Bah! As I said, don’t stick on me!” (Souma)
“Fufufu, is it sweltering? In that case, how about you pay my entrance fee in exchange?” (Sazan)
“What are you saying?! Just get off me already!” (Souma)
Sazan himself doesn’t have memories of that because of the rewind, but I have been told that before, and also…that face…I saw right before the rewind when he took off the mask makes it impossible for me to treat him the same as before…
“Sazan-san, leave it at that.”
“Eh? O-Owa!” (Sazan)
The one who helped me out when I was getting all flustered here was an unexpected person.
“I will pay your entrance fee. You don’t mind that, right?”
“Uh…Y-Yeah. Anyone works…as long as it is paid.” (Sazan)
Sazan for some reason said this unsatisfied despite his mouth saying otherwise.
But my mind had already moved to somewhere else.
“Ah, sorry, you saved me there, Mitsuki.” (Souma)
“Don’t mind it.” (Mitsuki)
This skilled swordsman dressed in a kimono that answered me gently is one of my oldest comrades, Mitsuki.
That figure of hers brings me back to the past again.
To the return of the Evil God Fragment and the fall of the capital.
Within that situation where all of my comrades were showing surprised faces, Mitsuki…Mitsuki alone reacted differently.
Even when I told Mitsuki about the revival of the Evil God, even when I told her about the rewind of the world, she didn’t change her expression at all.
No, not only that, as the talk continued, she barely moved her trademark cat ears, and simply looked straight at me…at only me.
It is as if she has seen through everything, even what I haven’t told.
It was as if the talk about the danger the world is in and the people that were killed by the Evil God were just a minor inconvenience.
No matter what I said, she showed a perfect lack of emotion outside.
That detached attitude overlapped with the Mitsuki that learned of the revival of the Evil God Fragment and didn’t get flustered by the death of her father, and saw her own life as just a throwaway pawn in order to achieve our objective.
Mitsuki might have gone as far as seeing through the fact that the Evil God Fragment had killed our comrades and Mitsuki herself.
Mitsuki is looking at me even now with that penetrating gaze and…hm?
I noticed for the first time after getting close to her.
It feels as if, rather than looking at me, she is looking a bit higher on my head…
When I noticed where the gaze of Mitsuki was directed at…
The corner of Mitsuki’s lips suddenly loosened.
It was just for an instant, but it bent into an angle I have never seen before to form a grin.
“M-Mitsuki?! What happened?!” (Souma)
What happened to that iron face girl?
When I asked her in surprise, she looked at my face as if she had noticed just now for the first time and said this.
“No, it is nothing… I just thought…we match.” (Mitsuki)
When I asked her this, Mitsuki simply answered with a short ‘yes’.
She leaned her head against my shoulder.
The cat ears on top of her head and the ones on top of my head touched, and I flinched for a moment there.
“See? A match, right?” (Mitsuki)
Mitsuki showed a loosened smile as if making me question what the expressionless face until now was about.
That’s when I finally noticed that what I have been seeing until now was a delusion.
“I have seen a decent amount of people with similar ears to mine until now.
Even when I spoke to them and saw those ears, I didn’t think anything special about it.
…And yet…this is truly mysterious.” (Mitsuki)
The reason why they looked like clear eyes was because she was way too muddied to the point of erasing all other factors.
The reason why it felt as if she saw through everything was because she really didn’t care about it in the middle of it.
“Is it because those ears, their shape, have something that pulls my heartstrings?
Or is it really because it is you?” (Mitsuki)
I wonder since when was it.
Now that I think about it, even while I was talking, she was always looking on top of my head.
“Every time those ears wave or tremble, my heart would stir up and get merrier.
These welling up emotions, could it possibly be…” (Mitsuki)
In other words, it is that.
Mitsuki is currently…
“…This is what’s called love.” (Mitsuki)
—Has become a complete love-idiot!!
Mitsuki answered happily for some reason as if in a daze.
Even though there should be nothing dangerous here, I felt chills.
An overwhelming pressure I have never felt before.
“Ah, w-we are already close to the library! L-Let’s go for now!” (Souma)
But we fortunately arrived at the destination before I was swallowed by the pressure of Mitsuki.
I was relieved and accelerated my steps towards the building in front of us and…
“—Hey, Souma, can you stop it already?”
The one who spoke to me from behind and sewed me in place was…
My cousin that’s 2 years younger than me is always cheerful, noisy, and overflowing with energy.
But I could feel she was tired from her voice and that she was scared.
That’s when I finally noticed.
The reason why Maki was silent wasn’t because she said I was a fake.
She was worrying this whole time.
Even with that, I responded frivolously on purpose.
“Stop, you say? Don’t want to go to the library?
I don’t really mind…” (Souma)
“No, that’s not it. It is not that, Souma.” (Maki)
She was telling me ‘you already know what I am saying, right?’ with her eyes shining a dim light.
“Then, what do you mean by stop?” (Souma)
A raspy voice.
I have an idea of the answer, but if so, I still tried to bring it out from Maki.
“About defeating the Evil God.” (Maki)
The answer was exactly what I thought.
(I see… It hasn’t ended…inside of Maki.) (Souma)
Just like how I still replay the death of my comrades and my chest hurts.
Maki is also dragging the memories of that hell and couldn’t escape from them.
“I know that you went outside last night, Souma!
You went to defeat the Evil God Fragment under the capital, right?!” (Maki)
“I haven’t been your cousin for more than a decade for nothing.
I can easily tell what you are thinking.” (Maki)
The stern gaze of Maki got even stronger there.
She spoke while feeling uneasy.
“In that case, it should be fine already. There won’t be any danger anymore.
The seal might break in the future, but that’s definitely in the far future, so…so…” (Maki)
I could tell that Maki was worrying about our safety…my safety, from the bottom of her heart.
But that’s why I can’t step back.
“Stopping is impossible. You should know too, Maki.
When you defeat the Evil God Fragment, their power goes back to the other remaining fragments.
We have destroyed 2 fragments already.
There’s already no path aside from defeating the main body of the Evil God all the wa—” (Souma)
“But…but the Evil God can’t be defeated.
It must not be fought. You definitely must not.” (Maki)
What in the world did Maki see in that stone slate?
Her body was trembling in fear, but she soon looked at me with an even stronger gaze and told me.
“…Hey, Souma, this is…not a game, you know?” (Maki)
And then, those unexpected determined words hit my heart.
“If it were a game, there would be a clear goal, and you can definitely arrive there if you work hard.
But this place is…what lies ahead is beyond the boundary of the game.
There’s no assurance that the goal of defeating the Evil God exists.” (Maki)
Maki does have a point -is what my mind is telling me.
The Demon Lord was made in a way to be defeated in the game.
The predestined story of the hero defeating the Demon Lord.
But in this situation where I am trying to challenge the Evil God that surpasses the Demon Lord, we have surpassed the game world.
This world isn’t assuring us that the Evil God is a being that can be defeated.
No matter how hard we work, just like how humans can’t fly in the sky with their bodies, there might not be an end where we defeat the Evil God.
But I leaked out my disagreement.
A defined goal line.
Just having to run towards the promised ending of the epic.
If this were a normal game, that would be the case.
“You are the one who doesn’t get it.” (Souma)
But that’s not it.
That game…our Nekomimi Neko is different.
There was no set epic in that game.
There were unpredictable bugs even for the developers, unpredictable random elements blocking the way, and no one knew if it was possible to clear. If unlucky, you really could end up hard locking yourself from clearing the game.
Even with all that, we moved forward.
Even if there’s nothing we could believe in, we still walked forward single-mindedly.
In that case, there’s no way…it wouldn’t be possible to achieve the same thing in this world that was born from Nekomimi Neko.
That’s why there’s only one thing I can say.
“We Nekomimi Neko players have been creating paths where there’s none.
That’s why I will simply be doing just that.” (Souma)
Maki stood there dumbfounded.
“B-But you might die if you fail!
Even though you don’t know if you can succeed…no, you don’t even know if there’s a chance of succeeding, and yet…” (Maki)
I wonder why, the flustered Maki seemed like a crying lost child.
“…In that case, should I prove it to you?” (Souma)
“I am saying if you will be fine with it if I just prove to you that I -a Nekomimi Neko Player- am a person that can create paths where there’s none.” (Souma)
Then, it is my duty to stop the tears of this crybaby.
I turned away from Maki who couldn’t answer me, and…
“It is dangerous so move away for a bit.” (Souma)
I said this shortly towards my comrades, separated from them, and walked forward alone.
And then, turned in front of the wall of the library.
At a position where the wall of the library is at my back, I bring out my favored weapon from my bag.
The katana with special powers, Shiranui, which I lost once in the Evil God Battle…is not the one I took out.
What I must use right now is not something like that.
What I took out was a normal Ninja Sword with a lot lower attack power than the synthesized Shiranui.
But that’s fine.
No, it has to be this.
“Souma? What are you doing…?” (Maki)
Maki was looking at me with what seemed to even be fear, but I acted as if I didn’t notice and moved.
I unsheathe the Ninja Sword and…
“Watch, Maki! This is the way of life of us Nekomimi Neko players!!” (Souma)
I raised it as if to show it off to Maki….to everyone there, and speak the keywords.
“—[Infinite Mirage Prison]!!” (Souma)
My figure disappears the next instant.
Leaving behind Maki, Ringo, Mitsuki, and all of my other comrades.
I took the pathless path to teleport inside the house of books with the scent of mold and history…
“—Wait, Sooooooumaaaaaaaaaaaa!!” (Maki)
Maki had noticed that she was being used as a distraction to skip the entrance fee, and chased after me in anger just 30 seconds later.