Chapter 3-1

Chapter 3 – The Etna, the Fourbirds and the Separation

Unedited

I regain consciousness and realize, I must be alive. But even though I should be grateful, I couldn’t. Since I’m in so much pain, I want to die.

“You’re back!” An excited and relieved outcry and something, which could be a hug. Or an iron maiden, for what I care, it hurts so much, that I couldn’t even muster a sound of pain. “I almost thought…” Sobbing.

I slowly open my eyes and see a crying Rine, who is full of dirt. She’s bending over my body, but already out of the embrace. She just chant one healing spell after another, all aimed at me.

My max HP are pretty bad, maybe because of all the major injuries I received by falling. But my current HP are full to that measly account and healing magic doesn’t change anything. Maybe I’m broken.

DON’T WORRY, BOY. THIS MIGHT HURT, BUT YOU CAN LEAVE THE REST TO ME.” Somehow a deep, echoing voice could be heard. I try to locate it.

“Ah, that’s Etna. It saved us.” Rine is pointing in a direction, but all I can see is-

“That’s a mountain.”

“It’s Etna.”

NOT QUITE. I’M AN ETNA. BUT YOU MAY CALL ME SIMPLY ETNA.” Did this mountain just moved? And is that cleft a mouth? And these glittering holes, are they eyes? Even though it doesn’t even have a head and rather three legs and seven arms?

I try to focus on it, but there is something in the way. A message box.

=======================================================================

You’re separated from Momokawa Kyou.

The curse will come back, step-by-step, coming over you and your beloved wife. After 47 hours the curse will be at its full potency, so let your love overcome this trial!

=======================================================================

… …

“Aaaaaahhhhhh!”

“It’s alright, Kenta. Etna isn’t an enemy.”

“AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!” I double the volume, since I totally forgot about that mountain-creature.

“YOU SHOULDN’T EXERT YOURSELF BY SCREAMING, BOY. I’LL MOST LIKELY NOT HARM YOU ANY FURTHER.”

“WHY DON’T YOU KILL ME ALREADY!” This isn’t addressed to anyone particular, except life.

“ME, WAKING UP, HARMED YOU, BUT IT WAS NOT MY INTENTION.”

“DAMN IT! I HATE IT, I HATE IT, I HATE IT!!!”

―○●○―

Inoue Masahiko and his party is currently in the same mountain-range. They thought, maybe the princess returned there to capture some more bandits. The path Kyou pointed them was full of traps and it was very unnerving to navigate through it.

“What is Kyou thinking?”, he mumbled for about the twentieth time. If he could just talk to her, to ascertain what exactly the traps are about. He and his friends thought continuous about it and even though there are a few ideas, there is no way to be sure.

He thought so much about it the last days, that he just imagined hearing Kyou’s voice in these mountains. This… wait a minute, it is Kyou’s voice!

“STUPID BIRD, JUST DIE AND LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY!”

It’s a faint scream, coming from above. Masahiko could see giant, flying creatures in the direction the voice comes from. Is Kyou kidnapped by these creatures!?

“Masa?” Eri asks Masahiko.

“We need to save her. She’s one of us.” Everyone nodded. There was no hesitation.

―○●○―

Let’s summarize the last hour. First, while I was barely able to move, Rine constantly cast healing spells on me, even though I already told her to stop. She kept it up, until her MP (if she have those) were exhausted and she continues, after she recovered enough for another spell. Stop-and-cast. I broke every rip and have partial fractures in my whole body, which can’t be quite counteracted with Rine’s spells alone.

Etna, on the other side, did a lot of exposition, so much, it would kill any game. Too much story in a short amount of time, especially since most of it was boring.

So I abbreviate it: Etnas are an old race of living mountains and sleep most of the time. But this one woke up, after it took too much boak-crawler-guts. Etna is already about to sleep again, but since it’s sorry about what happened, it wanted to help us a bit.

The four-winged creatures are called fourbirds, which are roughly as intelligent as humans. They are vicious and cunning and invent new ways to hunt for their new environment. Normally, they’re living in the lands of demons, but somehow a clan got a hold here. Well, it’s just behind the borderlands, so it can happen.

Etna also perceived, that one of our kind, a human, was taken by one of these fourbirds. This has to be Kyou-san, who surely fell into another hissyfit and wishes unreasonable things again. Most likely my death, since whenever things go wrong, she blames me for it.

“YOU WANT TO RESCUE THAT HUMAN?”

“Yes”, while Rine is full of vigor, I just shrug my shoulders.

I’M MOVED. FOR A SPECIES OUTSIDE THE ETNA TO CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER, IT’S GREAT!” Could you please not cry sand? A big sand cloud is forming and I like to not choke to death. “I CAN’T HELP YOU MUCH. I CAN ONLY GIVE YOU MY BLESSING.”

“That’s more than enough, Etna.” Rine answers with a broad smile. I’m rolling my eyes. What good could this blessing do.

Oh, another message window.

=======================================================================

You gained the Etna’s Blessing!

Regeneration greatly boosted

Max HP +100%

Max SP +100%

Max MP +100%

Vitality +50%

=======================================================================

Yep, I like being blessed. Please bless me more!

It might be a side-effect, but my Max HP rapidly returned to normal or more like double than normal. I can actually feel how my broken rips are mending.  The pain dulls, that’s great!

TAKE MY BLESSING AND RESCUE YOUR FRIEND. I’M… TIRED… WILL SLEEP…” And it nodded off.

“Will it really sleep until the final confrontation between the gods and the end of the world are about to begin?” Rine took into all the stories Etna told like a sponge.

“Is that important? It’s not like we’ll live that long. And it will probably be disturbed a few times again, before that happens. I mean, about a dozen gutting boak-crawlers in short intervals were enough to wake it up in the first place!” I try to stand up. It works. “We have to rescue Kyou-san first.”

“Oh, now you’re talking.” Rine is getting ready, too. “You are friends, after all. We all are.”

“No.” I’ll work with her, but I have enough of all that.

I’m not so stupid to charge an enemy like the fourbirds alone with so little information. Especially, when she can use healing magic, while at a certain point my own recovery rate will cease to work.

But that doesn’t mean that I have to continue this pretend game. “We do it, because I’ll die otherwise.”

“Huh?”

“And afterwards we’ll see. Maybe back to Esse.”

“I don’t want to. If father gets me, he’ll make me do boring work.”

“And he’ll give me quite the reward, so just shut up.”

“Re-Reward!?” After a second of shock, Rine’s mood darkens, but then it brightened up like a rising sun: “Ah, I see! You want to keep me safe, afterwards, since we almost died. But don’t worry, we’re friends, so we’ll stick together. Risking you life for each other is normal.”

This isn’t naivety! It’s stupidity! “Please spare me! Just shut up, Etna told us the rough direction and I will try to [Track] it, even though I don’t think that flying creatures are leaving behind anything usable in flight!”

“Oh, you’re shy, Kenta.”

“And you’re annoying!” But I need her murder-skills to get to Kyou-san… Damn it! I hate it! I hate it!!!

This is so much like the chasm: I can’t split from a crazy girl, which object anything I say, while everything out here is trying to kill us!

―○●○―

Etna’s movements were destructive. The dirt and plants that covered him over probably centuries of sleep has been spread all around the area and even if these fourbirds have left any tracks, they’re all gone now.

So the only lead we have is the direction they were flying to. I’d really prefer something like a flying pet or mount or at least a goat to pursue them, but since we don’t own some, Rine and I have to do it on foot, until I get some sort of hint, where the fourbirds are.

Well, climbing mountains is tiring, but I already are somewhat used to it. Rine, on the other hand, is something I’m not used to and just becomes more annoying every minute. “’If I don’t rescue Kyou-san, I’ll die!’ Kenta, that’s so cool!”

“I already told you, we’re cursed.”

“Bound to be together, cursed when separated. It’s romantic.”

“It’s horrible. You don’t know Kyou-san at all. She just wearing a facade around others. Before becoming lovers, I would rather date a… erm… how about…” A cat? A dog? An otaku-girl? I just have no idea. “Doesn’t matter…” I think its futile to explain Rine the facts.

Even though she’s really annoying me.

“Phew…” One foot after another. Searching for clues, finding a track. Maybe a fallen feather. Maybe a place, where the fourbirds rested. But the chances to find those are microscopic. Most likely the curse will return in full strength and I’ll die in the end.

The fourbirds will probably eat Kyou-san before the day is over. And then I’ll see, what becomes of the curse when one of us is death. Maybe it will just reset. Maybe it’ll kill me off right away. Damn it, that’s so depressing, that I don’t see any point in searching for Kyou-san in the first place.

And in these negative thoughts, a voice chimes in: “Don’t worry.” Of course, it’s Rine. “We’ll find her. Trust me.”

And I hate myself for being reassured by it.

If I look at the whole Rine-thing objectively, there is only one conclusion to draw: Katarine von Stolzherz is a cheater-character. She was brought up in royalty, but instead of confronting any responsibilities, she’s now here, doing what’s fun for her.

She can murder about everything in her way, she can use [Divine Magic] and she got an attractive appearance. Everything about her, even her idiocy, is just making her look more beautiful and because she’s beautiful, she’s even charming me, who can’t stand her.

All my life, I thought my classmates were cheaters in life, but they’re just trying to be a shade of Rine. I hate her! I hate her!

Half an hour after our farewell from the Etna. We climbed up another mountain and are looking around the area. The vast mountain range around us made me dizzy. It’s so much to cover.

Wait, what’s that? “Aren’t these fourbirds?” They are so far away, even my [Farsight]-skill have problems discerning them, aside of the four wings per creature. “There are a bunch of them flying around that peak. About a day, I guess.”

“Hm…” Rine is looking around. “Isn’t there a faster way?”

“How? Did you grew wings, while I wasn’t paying attention?” On second thought, with Rine it was very possible, that she’s actually hiding a pair of angle-like wings, just because she’s already too much of an imba-character.

“Sadly no. But look.”

I look where Rine is pointing to. And now my mouth is agape. “What… what is that?”

“Don’t know, but it’ll help us, either by choice or by force.” Rine is drawing her sword.

Below us is a furrow and in there a dragonfly-like-creature, bigger than a horse, is sleeping there. Instead of chitin, it have fur all around it’s body, but the gigantic wings are insect-like.

A hundreds of questions are brimming my head, like: ‘What is this?’ or ‘How comes it’s right there when we could need it?’, but in the end the answer was probably something along the line like: Because Rine is a cheater!

Without further hesitation, I change into the [Pikeman]-class. Rine and I exchanges looks and she begins to descend the furrow slowly, while I’m ready to charge in at any time.

Then she calls out: “Hello? My name is Katarine von Stolzherz and I want to ask you something.”

The sleeping creature slowly awakes and look at Rine in confusion. But it doesn’t attack. Maybe it can understand the human language.

Rine, excited about the success so far, asks her question: “My companion and I are in trouble and we want to appeal to you, if you’re willing to let us ride on your back for a bit.”

The creature tilts its head and after a second, it nods. It’s… helping? Can it be? Can it be, that there is actually a creature out there, which is willing to help us? Wait… it have to be Rine’s cheat-charisma!

“Great, um… I don’t know your name, sorry. How about we call you… Winger?” I’m pretty sure, it’s because it flies and has wings. And Winger nods. So Rine got another friend. Yay, a cheer for the princess. I’m being sarcastic, you know?

Winger bends its insect-like legs and Rine mounts him. Of course, she does so gracefully. I climb down the furrow as well and sweet princess is reaching out her hand for me.

And I put my spear into her hand. “Nah, I want to sit in front.” With that, I clumsily climb on Winger myself, it took a while, but in the end I sit right behind his neck and take my weapon back. The left hand is grabbing some fur, so I won’t fall.

“Are you ready, Winger?” Rine exclaims. “Take off!” And with this, Winger began to rise into the air. “Kenta, give the directions!”

“More left. Right, see that summit? We’re going there.” Winger nods and begin to fly to the summit, higher and higher.

“It’s great, I fly! I’m really flying, Winger, you’re great.” As if fired up, Winger began to ascend even further and further, Rine is laughing at full strength. Like me, she feels how we glide through the sky, unbound from the shackles of gravity.

Even I smile. But for another reason. “You’re smart.” With a swift movement, I put the spear-pole in choking position, right below the larynx of Winger. “You’re flying quite high, even though there is no need.”

“Kenta, what are you doing?”

“Don’t worry, trust me, Rine.”

“OK.” So gullible.

“So Winger, you thought that you can trick us, huh?”

“Winger wouldn’t do something like that!”

“Be quiet, Rine!”

“…ok…” So obedient.

“Trying to fly as high as you can, then one turn and we fall into our deaths, crushed into bite-size pieces, right?” Oh, Winger is trembling and sweating. Or something like that.  It doesn’t exactly sweat, but it’s close enough. “Sadly, I trust no one. And I have more than enough strength to crush your windpipe in this position. So either all of us live or die, isn’t that great? If you understand, turn right.”

And Winger turns right.

“Good. Do you see the plateau there? You will fly there and then we go our separate ways.” The plateau is about an one hour walk away from the mountain. I guess about three hours of climbing to reach the summit. But I can’t fight while keeping Winger in check, since I trust him. Trust him to kill us off at the first available opportunity. Don’t fuck with me, Winger!

“Wait…” Rine is beginning to understand, that she was tricked. “Why, Winger?”

“Don’t you know? Because he likes humans. As food, that is!” So again, my suspecting nature saves the day. Now I need to save Kyou-san, too, or I’m done for.

―○●○―

“Katsuo, aim at its wings. Try to only grace it. Eri, be prepared to soften Kyou’s fall with magic if our plan fails. Daichi and Teruko, we three will engage it, if necessary.” Inoue Masahiko gives the orders to make that four-winged-creature land, even though he’s also prepared for the other outcomes.

Don’t worry, Kyou. We’ll rescue you!

Katsuo is an [Archer] and he used the [Quadruple Shot]-skill to grace every wing of that strange bird-like creature. The bird cries out and flaps its wings a few times. It can’t hold itself to the air, so it drops weight. In other words, Kyou.

“Eri!”

“Right! [Wind Pillow].” Eri cast a spell, which creates a puffer of air, mostly used to break falls, soften impacts and it can be used as stepping stone once.

With a very unfeminine groan, Kyou falls into the pillow, which deflates immediately and even though most of the momentum of the fall is broken, it’s still not soft, Masahiko presumes. She doesn’t move, she seems to have lost consciousness.

Unloaded, the bird-creature flies away, even though its slowly. Katsuo and I exchange looks and he used another skill to ground that creature. “Engage!” We move out to finish the wounded creature.

But there is another bird-monster, which turns to engage us in return. But arrows and wind blades are flying at it, so it had to stop its nosedive. “Teruko and the others, please keep the flying one at bay, we finish off the grounded one.“ With a spear, Teruko should have a much easier time than Masahiko or Daichi, when it comes to stalling time against a flying enemy. “Daichi, I will weaken it, you finish it off!”

“Ossu!”

Learning from the time, Masahiko and his friends had to leave Kyou, they had established a killing schedule. As long it’s possible, the person whose turn it is will deal the final blow. While traveling to the border, they decided upon that. There were also suggestions to travel back and help Kyou to level up, but in the end Kyou is smart and they had to become stronger as fast as possible.

With a swift motion, Masahiko draws his two swords and uses a skill: “[Dual Thrust]!” With both swords in thrust-position, he rushes at the opponent. It seems that most weapon-abilities have such a rush-skill at the low levels. Maybe because it’s that useful to shorten the distance between you and your opponent as fast as possible.

Both of his swords are stabbing the grounded bird’s torso and he yanks both blades to the right, opening deep wounds. Since the creature is so big, he needs to deal more damage, since Daichi is preparing for the final strike. Most likely his [Earthcleaver], to decapitate it. So Masahiko has to bring its head down.

“[Steel Wolf]!” Like fangs, his swords are biting into the leg of the bird, it’s a skill to trip the enemy, while dealing quite some damage. Its tripping effect works against everything so far, so even though it’s a large monster, it’s now prone.

“[Earthcleaver]!” It’s a mighty [Axe]-skill, which needs some charging time, but since Daichi was only waiting for an opportunity, it’s already fully charged. The head of the creature is chopped off. The next on schedule is Teruko.

“[Speedthrust!]” Ah, she’s already stabbing it, using a [Wind Pillow] as a stepping stone to connect to the flying creature. So you can use it even for a rush-skill. Masahiko is impressed by the resourcefulness of his friends.

[Speedthrust] is a strong rush-skill, if the user can take a run-up. The bird is crashing to the ground, while Teruko is caught by another [Wind Pillow].

The rest of the fight was easy, it took seconds for the five of them to deal enough damage, so that Teruko could deal the finishing blow. But instead of bathing in their victory, Masahiko’s party is checking on Kyou.

Eri takes a look at her. “She’s sleeping. It may be the relief.” Who knows how long Kyou was carried by this creature, it must have been a very stressful experience.

“Let her rest. I’ll carry her.”

“Masa. I’m the tallest one here. It would be more comfortable for her, if I carry her.”

Daichi is right. He trains in judo, since childhood and would be able to carry her well due his training and tall build. “I leave it to you.”

“Ossu!”

Eri seems to be hesitant. Maybe she’s still worried about the traps from before and how Kyou is involved in them.

“We need to head to a safe location. When Kyou wakes up, I’m sure, she can explain everything!” Masahiko is worried about Kyou, since they’re friends and he fears that Kyou is in trouble.

―○●○―

Winger lands on the plateau. “Great job, Winger.” Of course I’m complimenting it.

I wait for Rine to dismount. She doesn’t seem happy. “I can’t believe, that Winger would do such a thing.”

“Naming a creature doesn’t mean it’ll be important.” By the way, I hate most mascot characters. They’re annoying as hell!

Finally, it’s time to say goodbye to Winger. I loose the spear around its neck. Then I grab the spear near the tip with both hands, change into [Pikeman]-class and thrust the spear through Winger’s cervix. Gamer Rule: Don’t waste any XP.

“AH!” Rine shouts loudly. “Winger! You… you killed Winger!”

“Didn’t I already explained? Heroes have to kill to become stronger.”

“But…” Tears are welling up in Rine’s eyes.

“Phew…” I sigh. Why is that girl so difficult? “What’s your problem?”

“You… *sniff* Winger and I couldn’t become friends and…”

“He tried to eat you. There was no chance to begin with.”

“But…”

“Come on. Before we get spotted by fourbirds.”

Redundantly, Rine follows me. While shedding tears and sniveling.

This girl… is annoying.

Maybe its because of genetic make-up as a male, but I can’t endure it, when a girl cries like that. Damn you, genes!

“…Come on.” I’ve no idea what to say in this situation, so I’m a bit clumsy. Or more like: A lot. “I’m sorry, OK?” Only sorry to make her cry. Winger’s death, on the other side, was appropriate.

“…sometimes I think, you don’t like me.”

…Huh!? Didn’t I already say that I hate her, right in her face?

But I can’t repeat that now. Because she’s crying. I’m a wuss. “…I’m bad at words. So let me say it straight: I need you!” I need you to rescue Kyou-san, so I won’t be set under the curse’s effects again and die at the end.

Her tears stopped but she’s still upset, looking down. “You’re only saying it. Maybe you’re lying…”

I hate it! Why are girls so complicated? What does she want?

Something snaps in me and I take her face in both hands and forcefully turn her to me: “I’m not lying, I need you and now shut up and follow me!”

“Y…yes!” Look at her face, all flustered with that crying. Does she want to appeal me? Don’t look like that, if you don’t want to be violated!

Damn it!

I’m a healthy, young man. So even though I’m relieving myself sometimes, I should still be normal. But I get the feeling, I have a boner all day long, since my reunion with Kyou-san in Esse!

Is that because I’m around defenseless girls my age the whole time? Or is it the curse? Please say, that I’m still normal, since I can’t stand the thought, that I may become so perverted, that I’d even jump on Kyou-san or Rine!

“Kenta, why are you walking slightly bend over?”

Don’t point that out!

Wait a minute. It feels like a small devil is whispering to my ear. Rine is naive, right? So I might be able to convince her to ‘help’ me, right?

Wait, wait, wait, what I’m thinking? It’s Rine, Miss Killer! What would happen to me, if I let her handle ‘that’? She might crush it!

Oh. My boner is gone.

Imagining Rine ‘handle that’ is a boner-killer. Yes, Rine can even kill boners. She’s that deadly.

Good thing I had that thought before I did something like that with this monster in a girl’s disguise.

And by the way, deceiving her to do such acts would be criminal.

I straighten out and finally answer Rine’s questions, without even looking back: “Just checking if I’m sore from riding Winger.”

“Ah I see. I got some ache in my inner tights. When we rest, I have to check, if I have a chafing there.”

Why is she… “Rine. Would you please not bring my attention to your inner tights?”

“Why’s that?”

“Because it sounds like you’re trying to seduce me.”

“What does have seduction to do with my inner tights?”

I facepalm. This time I face Rine. “What do you think is right next to it.”

“…” She’s really pondering? “Ah! My v*****! Ah, I mean, eh…”

This is too much! First, a pretty girl who says v*****! Second, the embarrassed face she makes! The little devil on my shoulder is telling me, that jumping on her might be the only way to deal with that emotion and I’m about to listen to him.

But Rine draws her sword, before I could even make a move. Then she looks in every direction. Are enemies here? I snap out of my sexual desires and use about every [Perception]-skill I know.

No enemies. Strange.

“Rine? Why did you draw your sword?”

“Erm… I somehow felt danger. As if someone is looking at me like prey.”

Ah, her instinct told her, that a wolf was about to attack her. While her instincts are sharp, her brain is not.

Maybe it’s for the better. No, definitely it’s for the better. Everything might be better than to assault Rine. Except assaulting Kyou-san. Ah, the worst would still be dying. And now we wasted time by doing nonsense…

“Rine, I guess it’s because we’re near the fourbird’s base. We should better concentrate, so no talking, unless it’s crucial. No crying, no laughing and other things that would distract me, OK?”

“Yes!” She nods earnestly.

Finally, some calm.

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