Some time later.
With a thrust, I pierce a bearington to death. These suckers are really everywhere on these mountains. I got hurt again. Even though Rine is cutting the bearingtons down like grass, she’s not covering me in the slightest. So I get the same injuries as when I’m fighting alone, but not all the XP? Thank you very much!
You know, you can have too much trust into your teammates!
“Kenta! You’re hurt! Wait, I’ll heal you.”
“Wait, Rine-chan. I know, you can use [Divine Magic], too, but healing people is the only thing I’m good at. Concentrate on fighting and spare your magic for emergencies.”
You gain 1 WP.
Your wife is jealous!
“On the other hand… uh… please… heal him. *pant* I… think I’m sick.” Kyou-san’s face is green and she’s retching. She backs a bit away, maybe she’s really about to hurl and doesn’t want to have anyone see it in that case.
This hurts! You’re hurting me, Kyou-san!
“Poor Kyou. Maybe it’s altitude sickness. But first comes firsts. [Heal]!” My wounds closed up, but I’m pretty messed up over days of being cut up and having these cuts magically healed. “You really look bad. You should let me handle the battles for a while. I can’t let you go on like this.” Her ember-like eyes are full of concern. “Please think about it. Kyou, I come to you!”
Rine is leaving me here alone. “What a fake.” I hate it! She’s only nice, since she wants to be liked!
“Kenta! We found a mountain spring!” I roll my eyes and follow Rine’s voice. Kyou-san is sitting by a small waterhole, while drinking a lot. I can faintly smell the scent of vomit. Damn you, Kyou-san!
“I was so worried, since I didn’t find any water before, but look at this!” Rine is already ready to fill up her waterskin, but is patiently waiting for Kyou-san to recover. “It’s pure mountain water! I’m so glad, I thought I busted it, even though both of you are pros at camping outside…”
I can’t comment the last part in any way. “Don’t worry. But the spring is the reason the bearintons were here. We should remain careful, since other monsters might want to fetch some water.”
“…You’re a genius, Kenta! I never thought about it, but even monsters need water to live!”
I couldn’t muster any answer to such open admiration. “I will take a look, maybe I can find something before it finds us.”
“You’re like a ranger, you know, Kenta?”
“I’m just a [Scout]. And being careful keeps us alive.”
“Thanks to you, we are safe. But please, call me, if there is something to fight! That’s the only thing I’m good at and I don’t want to see you hurt anymore.”
“…” Normally, it’s a man’s job to say something like that, but damn! This girl is beautiful! I just realized it, while she was looking at me with her big ember-eyes. This might be the first time I can actually understand, why some Japanese are attracted by western women. “It’s just a bit of scouting. Don’t worry.”
I stroll around and activate several skills from the [Survival]- and [Perception]-ability. My [Track]-skill found something. These are talon marks, from very big birds of prey. This might get dangerous, since neither the girls nor I have ranged weapons.
And there are quite a few other tracks. This is a vital spring for animal-life and monsters. I return to the girls, who finished filling up the skins. “We should use the rest of today to find a place for night camp.”
“We have only a few hours left before dusk and around that time a lot of nocturnal monsters will go to the spring from all directions. For drinking and hunting. It’ll be hard to leave the perimeter in time, so I’d rather use the time to search for a cave or something. We might have to kill the inhabitants, but there are giant birds of prey around, and I don’t know if they are nocturnal, so I want to have some cover at least. And it’s less likely we’re disturbed in camp, if we’re not in the open. All of us are mentally exhausted. And Rine might be physical exhausted, too, since she can’t rely on a hero-status.”
For Kyou-san and me, physical exhaustion is measured in SP, so as long as we have some, we are fine. But Rine’s body is like a normal human girl’s… most likely at least.
“No. Even if your body is still good, mental exhaustion is as bad as physical. We need to rest in peace. We don’t have any pressure, right?” Well, Kyou-san and I have, since there are classmates on this mountain, but she doesn’t know yet and even then, its unlikely to run into them again.
“You… Kenta, you are thinking about so many things I didn’t even considered!” Why is Rine looking at me with so much admiration? She sounds just like those newbies I trained in MMORPGs per voice chat, but her beautiful face is tipping me off. She must be trying to trick me!
“Ken, your first paranoias are acceptable. But please spare us the new one.” How comes that Kyou-san can read me so easily?
The next part was simple, I just used the [Track]-skill until I found a beast trail, followed it, until some larger game was splitting up from the trail and followed it then. “The prints are wolf-like, so it may be a few, but with a bit of luck, they have a cave.”
We are lucky. The track really led us to a cave. “I will sneak in.” I use [Hide Smell] and [Sneak] for stealthiness, while [Darkvision] made it possible to look into the dark cave. There are several wolf-like monsters, but they all have horns and are half-covered in scales. There are eight of them and those are currently sleeping.
I report back.
“These are lizalupi. They should be no problem.” Rine exclaims.
“They most likely wake up after getting a sniff out of you, right? Have they good eyes?”
“…I’m sorry, I only know the name.”
“Phew. Well, I have a strategy. But if something goes wrong, you need to rush in, Rine.”
“What are you doing?”
“I think he’s about to do something stupid.”
“Rine will position herself at the entrance, I’ll sneak in and maybe I can kill one or two, before they are awake due the stench of blood. I can mask my smell and have an optical camouflage, so I might be overseen and then they will come for Rine. Then I can attack them from behind and we have a pincer.”
“This seems dangerous, Kenta.”
“It’s efficient.” This should up my kill-count and therefore my XP. It’s frustrating seeing Rine killing all mobs, when I won’t get anything out of it. “And like I say, I’m counting on you, Rine, if anything goes wrong.”
These seem to be magic words, since Rine’s eyes are sparkling. “You can count on me.”
“Even though it’s stupid.”
I just ignore Kyou-san and sneak back. Even though I’m in my [Scout]-class, I should be able to kill one instantly, if I aim for a vital spot. With my [Stealth]-ability, the lizalupi are not noticing me. I go to the furthest one back and aim for its neck with all my might.
An ugly noise can be heard as I separated flesh and bone and a sudden rush came into the Lizalupi, so I activate [Camouflage] right away. I just have to hope, that their sense of smell compensates for bad eyes.
Ah, my luck! They looked right at me and rushed to me.
I swiftly swap to [Pikeman]-class and yelled: “Plan failed! [Whirlwind]!” I sweep the spear to knock back the incoming Lizalupi. Even though the darkness in the cave is somewhat annoying without [Darksight], I can still see their figures. This has to be enough.
“[Torch]! I’m coming!” With the sword in one hand and a magical light in the other, Rine fearlessly rushes into the cave and within seconds, two of the Lizalupi are slaughtered. She aims at their vital points with precision and her weapon might be OP too, so there was actually no need for any strategies in the first place. But I don’t want to rely solely on Rine!
Most likely I can take care of them all by myself, I’m a level 39 after all! And if I don’t kill them myself, I won’t get any XP! Kyou-san neither, but it’s about me! But I couldn’t not involve Rine, since she’s right there… Wait a minute!
“Rine, don’t kill them! I have to do it! It’s a hero-thing!”
Well, keeping the lizalupi alive is still given, after chopping of their extremities. It took about a minute, until I could deal the deathblow to the last one.
Now, that the creatures are dead, Rine asks me: “Why do you need to kill them?”
“Kyou-san and I are growing stronger, the more enemies we kill. It’s one of the things we have to do.”
“Then… then why didn’t you tell me before? We faced several monsters to this point!”
“I… I… It just dawned to me, OK!?” I couldn’t possibly say, that I never even thought of taking the Rine-bus, since I have some pride left.
“Puh!” She’s pouting!
“Could both of you please just leave it? And let me tend your wounds. Both of you!”
“Eh?” Is Rine wounded? Yes, she had a cut on her armored-covered arm. Since it’s only light armor, it doesn’t cover everything, so that mobility stays guaranteed. Did she get it while dissembling these creatures?
OK, I might be guilty of at least this.
Rine’s mood improved after dinner and now she’s as needlessly close to me as before. And prying again. “I still don’t know how holding hands is a hero-thing.”
Yes, Kyou-san and I are holding hands. I removed my right glove and took Kyou-san’s left hand, while sitting down. She explained, that holding hands has something to do with the hero-system. “It’s a normally not known fact, Rina-chan, that we heroes need to share the power we get from defeating monsters among each others due skin contact. But it takes quite some time, so hand-holding is the easiest way to do it. Right now, Ken is transferring the monster-power to me, so I can become stronger, even though I didn’t kill a single one.” If there would be something convenient as that, most of Kyou-san’s current problems would never be.
“It’s just looking like both of you are more than friends. Same as with the lap-pillow before.”
“I told you, Ken had vertigo, so I wanted him to lay down and on my lap I could observe his eyes more easily.”
“But… these are things lovers do…”
“Come on, he and I as lovers? It’s nothing like that.”
“Mmmm…” Rine grimaces. “I think it’s wrong.”
“So you’re interested in romance, Rine-chan?” What a unsubtle way to change the topic!
She blushed deeply, I never saw a face as red as this before. Maybe because she’s kinda westerner? It’s blushed in a pinkish tone, this is strange. “O-of course, I do! Even though I have no say in marriage, I can still be interested in romance!”
Ah, she’s the crown princess. So she already knows that she can’t marry the man she wants. Well, it’s a common story-line in RPGs. In games it’s custom to break that custom, but in reality you can’t, I guess. Might suck.
“Rine-chan, it’s the other way around: Since you can’t decide who to marry, you want to have some hot romance fantasies, right? Let’s have a girl’s talk.”
“Kyou-san, are you forgetting, that I’m here?”
“And why should I bother?”
“I’m a man! I have nothing to do with girl’s talk!”
“Ken, you have nothing to do with anything, so shut up.” I’m abused! My wife is abusing me! Why isn’t the law protecting me right now!? “Rine-chan, what would be your ideal man?”
Rine steals a glance at me, maybe a bit unsure how to answer with me present, but then she just joined the ‘Let’s ignore the Kenta-trash’-club. “Someone smart. I tend to be a bit thickheaded at times, so I keep to get into trouble. And someone strong! He should be able to protect me!” As if you’d need protection! “And he should be kind and even-tempered.”
“Ah, I can see it. How about looks?”
“What about it?”
“Do you like muscles, more a slender one or is a beautiful face a must?”
“Uhm… I guess something between. Too many muscles reminds me of my instructor and that’d be creepy, but if it’s too skinny, then it won’t do.”
“Ah, so a rather vague one…”
“My ideal would be Fabian Leise!”
“From… a fable. I like it since I was a child.” She seems to be embarrassed. But witnessing in this conversation is much more shameful than your fantasies!
“Ah, right. In this world, there are much less media. So a fable-hero?”
“No, it’s the husband of Miriam Leise, who… well, Fabian is… ah, why don’t you know it? I can’t explain it well!”
Kyou-san giggles: “No need, I get it. You seem to be someone who’s very devoting, right?”
“…yes…” How could Kyou-san come to this conclusion!? And how is she right!? “And you, Kyou-san? What would be your ideal?”
“Um… how about we start from the opposite of Ken?”
That… hurts! I mean, I don’t like Kyou-san much, but if she says something like that with this bluntness, it hurts my pride as a man. How little it might be.
“Well, I think it must be a handsome, after all. Caring, smart and possibly rich. He don’t need to be strong, but rather be able to avoid fights in the first place. Some kind of mindfulness is important, so he knows what I need without me saying it.”
“Oh, Kyou’s scale is high.”
“Where I come from, it’s normal.”
“Ohh!” Rine is easily impressed. “And Kenta, how about you?”
…What? “Don’t drag me into this!”
“But now that we shared our interests, I want to hear yours.” Stop sparkling, eyes! Please, I can’t defend myself against this!
I look at Kyou-san and she’s making a face like I should just drop dead! Between her and the sparkling eyes, I can’t decide which is worst!
“Come on, Kenta! Please!” Definitely the sparkling eyes! Ugh, don’t I have any rights? “Pretty Please?”
Men are weak creatures. Even I, who’s not that receptive for the charms of a real woman, can’t deny these begging eyes. “Well…” Wait, wouldn’t that mean, that Rine is my ideal type?
Sexually speaking, there is a physical attraction to Kyou-san as well, but it’s just me being horny. If I put Rine into these fantasies, what… Now I have the urge to leave and relieve myself, but for now I have to fight down my boner due sheer willpower.
Rine is still staring at me with sparkling eyes. I shift my eyes away to not confront her. “Come on, tell me!”
“It would be… Lita Blanchimont.” One of my first games, Atelier Iris. When I was a child, I kinda fell in love with that character. She’s thoughtful, but lively and have a tragic fate, which had to be fought. And she’s cute! The game was fun overall, even though there was about no character-customization and the story is, looking back, a bit too easy. But I was a child, so it’s OK.
“Who’s that?” While Rine is looking at me with sparkling eyes-
“…game character, of course.” -Kyou-san sighs heavily, as if I’m affected by an incurable disease.
“It’s… a character in a story, you might say.”
“Oh, then we’re the same, Kenta!”
“…why did you grab my hand?”
“Because we’re friends! And Kyou does the same!”
“…please stop.” A girl’s hand in each of mine. Kyou-san’s in my right, for WP-grinding. And Rine’s in my left for… whatever reason. Even though I still wear a glove on that hand, her heat is transmitted through it.
Rine tilts her head “?” but slowly withdraws her hand. Then her face darkens: “I’s sorry. I… I’m sorry.” Her mood worsens in a blink.
“Ouch!” Kyou-san pinched my backhand!
“He’s just nervous.” She smiles innocently. “Because he doesn’t have any friends.”
“Hm?” Even though the darkened expression on Rine’s face remains, she’s asking: “Aren’t you his friend, Kyou?”
“Well… something like that. We didn’t get along at home, but coming here all of the sudden and such made it complicated.”
“Ah…” Rine’s face darkens even more: “Of course you don’t want to be friends with someone, who is part of the world, which forced you… which practically kidnapped you!” What… why… an ominous aura of dark emotions surrounds Rine.
Even Kyou-san doesn’t know what to say anymore. She looks at me and is transmitting her thoughts with her eyes alone. ‘Come Ken, take her hand!’
‘Don’t pass it on me! You’re at fault.’
‘Because you’re so much of a wimp, that you can’t even endure holding hands a bit.’
‘I can’t handle her! Please don’t make me do it!’
‘Oh, so you’re not just drag me into that curse-thing, but can’t even endure some inconvenience to bring us out? Think of the reward! Without it, how can we remove that curse, huh? Now man up and take her hand or I’ll show you hell!’
I’m not afraid of Kyou-san, it’s just taking Rine’s hand, because Kyou-san’s arguments are good. It’s not the non-verbal threat. Really!
“Huh?” Rine is looking at her hand, which is held by mine.
“Like I said, he’s just shy, Rine-chan. See, everything is alright. He’s holding your hand.” You coerced me to!
Monsters! I’m holding hands with two monsters! One is a soul-crushing tyrant, which takes any opportunity to torture me mentally and emotional. The other one is a childish death-machine, which lives in a fantasy-world, both literally and figuratively, and uses emotional outbursts, if anything isn’t going her way.
And I’m between! Please, somebody, HELP ME!
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