Chapter 2 – The Chasm

Chapter 2 – The Chasm

Artist: MioChin
Proofreaders: Yite, General Phone

Next day, Momokawa and I arrive at the shrine of Heißquellen.

We’re standing in front of something like a gateway, which is the only way to get pass the shrine’s walls. There are few buildings inside these walls.

But something is strange about it, it’s a gut feeling. And the fact, that the shrine looks abandoned. I can’t see or hear any activity, plus there was no one at the somewhat gatehouse.

Even Momokawa is suspicious. “Are you sure, that this is the right one?”

“You heard the directions? Then, this has to be the place.”

“Seems… scorched.” She’s right, these marks look and smell like that.

“Maybe it burned down? We only need the hot spring water, it doesn’t matter much.”

“But this is a shrine, too. You have to pray here.”

Again she’s right and I don’t like it. “Well… let’s get inside. And keep your weapon ready.”

Since using a spear in a building won’t be easy, I put it in the backpack and draw my steel knife. Momokawa is using a dagger as a weapon. Fast and short weapons, perfect for buildings.

There were three buildings here. Most likely quarters, praying hall and a building for the hot spring itself. The one ahead should be the praying hall, so I take a peek.

“Bad news.”, I whisper back to Momokawa.

“What?”

“Lizardmen. Or something like that.”

“We’ll retreat.”

“OK.”

Momokawa gives the call and I agree. We don’t know if the lizardmen are hostile, but no risks here.

We can wait some days if needed. We have that timeframe.

One of the first things I taught her was not to attack an unknown enemy. And there are at least seven of them inside the praying hall.

…Plus four more who just spotted us while coming from another building. They tilt their heads, wondering what they just found, but there is only a fraction of hesitation before they draw near.

“Run!”

With that command, Momokawa and I run as fast as we could. We might still outrun them!

Suddenly, a fire blast appears right in front of us. The heat is intense and I can practically see my HP and SP drop before my eyes.

The blast is bright and dazzling. I cover my eyes and try to think about the next step. The exit should be right in front of us, the-

“We surrender!”

Momokawa speaks loudly.

“What?!”

“We don’t have a choice and I’m in command!”

“Argh…”

Anger wells up. This is humiliating! Especially, since she’s right. I can’t see much, they seem to have magic-users and I’m weakened. Also, Momokawa is weak in the first place.

More of the lizardmen are coming from the praying hall. Our situation is pretty bad.

I hate it.

I hate it, I hate it, hate it, hate-it, hate-it-hate-it-hate-it-hate-it-hate-it-hate-it-hate-it-hate-it-hate-it!

This is frustrating.

I… I lost!

I don’t lose!

Running away is winning! But I can’t guarantee a safe escape, someone is able to cast fire-spells!

Defeating your enemies is also winning! But this is risky.

Surrendering is losing…

“I will not!”

Be it stupidity or something else, but I don’t want to admit defeat.

“Idiot!”

Without caring about Momokawa, I swing my knife at the barely detectable shapes of the Lizardmen, my eyes are still dazzled, and feel some scales, skin and flesh cutting apart. Take that!

Then I get a blow to the stomach. And another one. Something trips me and after some additional hits, my whole body is covered in pain.

Everything turns black. Ah. So this is how it feels to pass out…

 

―○●○―

 

“Idiot.”

“Sorry.”

I lost my cool back then. I want to load my save file! I know I can’t, this is real life!

Momokawa and I are in a shed. There are no ropes or shackles, but the shed is locked. No illumination. Momokawa tells me, the lizardmen will decide our fate later. They took our equipment, including backpacks, belt pouches, weapons and armor, just our clothes are left.

“But maybe it doesn’t matter. We might be killed either way.”

I’m negative again.

“Maybe. Or you just killed us.”

“Ugh…”

That hurts. Also, she’s totally right. I hate it.

If I have to guess the strength of the enemy… “We have to presume, that a Lizardman is stronger than you and about as strong as me right now.”

Since I don’t recover HP or SP, I could simply check my status to guess their power level. I seriously hurt one with the knife and they needed some blows to knock me out.

In my weakened condition, I should still be on a level of a common soldier, at least in terms of raw strength. It’s just a wild guess, but overall these lizardmen are probably along those lines.

But there is another problem: “Additionally, they have magic-users. Fire doesn’t appear out of nowhere.”

Momokawa, who actually had something of a conversation with our captors, added: “We can communicate, but they don’t like warmbloods.”

“What did they say?”

“Something like: ‘The warmbloods are stupid to think, that they can fight us.’ And something about someone who will decide our fate. And some other stuff, that doesn’t make sense.”

Of course, she didn’t select her [Student]-class back then. So no [Fast Learner], huh? But is it that hard to remember some details on your own!? Our lives might depend on it!

“Phew…” No reason to count on her in the first place. “We might escape from the shed.”

“And you think it’s not guarded?”

“… You’re right.”

“I’m right again.”

Women really love to be right.

“There has to be a way. I’m looking for a secret door.”

“Game-knowledge?”

Momokawa is full of despise.

“The only thing I have in mind right now.”

“I shouldn’t have agreed to come with you.”

“Well, level-5-san, I nearly doubled your level in just four days. And how long did you need to reach level 5? Two months.”

“But at least I wasn’t part of the menu!”

“Sometimes risks are needed. This simply didn’t pay off this time. It’s not my fault.”

“Oh, it is! You’re the one, who got me into this mess! Actually, it’s all your fault.”

“And I try to get us out of here, so shut up and think about a plan, class rep!”

“Now you’re calling me class rep? This is the first time, you ever called me that!”

“For I don’t care!”

“You stupid…”

She slaps me. I was about to do the same, but in the end, she’s still a girl.

“Bitch!”

“Nerd!”

“Fake!”

“Loser!”

“Whore!”

“What did you say?!”

“I see through your facade! You’re just an easy girl, who will use her looks to make people do what she wants them to!”

“You…”

“You act nice, but you’re just after getting records! A perfect fake!”

“I…”

“And do you know, why your friends dumped you? Because they’re all the same, all are egotistical jerks, who only act nice to get what they want, while looking down on everyone else!”

“…”

Momokawa’s eyes are full of hate. I hit a nerve.

But there are tears as well.

Damn it!

Now I’m feeling almost guilty. Crying is unfair!

“And what about you?!” Her screams are shrill. “You hate other people. If someone is nice to you, you assume that he wants to exploit you! Every time something doesn’t go your way, you’re throwing tantrums and destroys everything!” What did she say!? And it doesn’t stop there! “You’re the one, looking down on others! You ignore people because you’re thinking, that they’re not worth your time. You disdain everyone who doesn’t agree with you and you’re the worst person I’ve ever met!”

My blood is boiling. She definitely didn’t hit a nerve, because what she says is not true! She’s just a bitch, which doesn’t know what she’s talking about!

“Let me go!”

I realize, that I grabbed her wrist. My head is burning and I was about to do something, even though I don’t know what.

But- “Eskuse us. Bud we chall bring you to Muaotef.”

Two lizardmen are standing awkwardly at the now open doorstep. When did they open the door?

“Zis be mating ritual?”

And now my face was burning for a different reason. I let go of Momokawa and look down to earth.

“Bring us there.”

Momokawa, on the other hand, regains her cool, but every look she gives me hurts.

We arrive at the praying hall, where the leader is waiting for us. A normal lizardman is about 1,9 meters (6’3) tall, this one was much larger, about 2,3 meters (7’7).

“Me be Voice of Muaotef. The Great One will noaw talk to you.”

The eyes of the lizardman begin to glow in a strong orange light, almost like fire. His voice changes from deep to strange, which seems to resonate with the whole room. This voice is also burning if this makes any sense.

«We’re Muaotef, the Great One, the Flame of the Earth and Bringer of Decay.»

I’m definitely scared. Something about this voice makes me all chilly, despite feeling the fires of hell.

«We see. So you’re the ones. Something is unusual about you, but We know what you are. The so-called heroes. It will be a pleasure to see you dead… But wait… Not only heroes, you bear a great amount of divine power.»

We do what?

Wait, wasn’t the whole thing about the pilgrimage to collect a bunch of divine power on the way? And now it backfires?!

«You will not be killed. Yet. Bring them to Our chasm.»

The tenseness in the air vanishes. The light in the eyes of the large lizardman subsides. Is that… sweat on his scales? He looks like he just ran a marathon.

“Muaotef spoke.” His voice is back to normal.

It could be only my game-knowledge, but it seems that this lizardman is not Muaotef, only some kind of medium. Might Muaotef be an actual god?

At least this way of talking is familiar, not caring about the recipient at all, a typical villain monologue. And similar to the one, who brought us here, even though the voice was clearly masculine, instead of unisex.

But we are lucky so far.

As long we don’t count getting captured in.

 

―○●○―

 

Great. Simply great.

Momokawa and I are bound and led by five lizardmen. We don’t talk, but somehow she manages to burn me with stares of hatred along the whole way. As if everything is my fault.

Maybe it is. Or maybe she’s just bitching around. Most likely just bitching.

So I take the liberty to repay those stares with sneering and other gestures. Somehow I feel guilty for making our guards feeling awkward all the time.

“You know, wen wanting mating wiz female, you show you strong!”

“Beat up someone.”

“Or lifding a big rock.”

“Slaying rockinger aloone.”

I just wish, our guards would remain quiet. But maybe they think it would be easier to give me advice than enduring the mood between Momokawa and me silently.

The last one is most likely female, and she talks to Momokawa. “Your male stronghearted. Fight against ss’rak even alone, despait the hopelezznezz.”

Ha! Even that lizardwoman is on my side! Wait, this is not the point!

But they acknowledged my resistance, even though it was futile.

This is the chance to learn something. “Do we really have to go to this… Muaotef?”

“Ss’rak do what Great One says.”

It seems that the lizardmen are called ss’rak. And they follow someone named Muaotef.

“What is Muaotef. Another ss’rak?”

Oh, they want to kill me with their eyes!

“Muaotef be god! No mortal!”

So he really is a god… or maybe just referred as one. In both cases bad news. But I expected it, after seeing him taking over this large liza… ss’rak. The so-called voice of Muaotef.

How do I get us out of here? My SP are quite low, Momokawa didn’t replenish them. I’ll probably collapse if I fight now.

Well, that girl is pissed.

I have to apologize later. To please her, of course. I’m not wrong, but if a cheap apology can increase her mood, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Especially as I need her spells.

But not now. We’re under observation and the ss’rak are serious about it. Even though they give me advice about mating rituals, which I don’t want to hear at all.

The journey doesn’t last that long, maybe two hours. Now we’re standing above a giant hole in the mountain range, it’s so gigantic, that it looks like the mountains were wounded and a part had to be amputated. The other side of this cleft is far away and since it’s so misshapen, it’s hard to guess its expanse.

It’s windy or more like gusts of hot air flies up from the bottom of that pit.

“This is the chasm?”

“Yes. You be on my back.”

I’m bound on the back of one ss’rak and nimbly he climbs down. These cliffs are steep! But this doesn’t seem to be a problem for the ss’rak. They climb fast and surefooted on all fours, which makes me realize, that I couldn’t climb back alone. Not without proper equipment.

After reaching the ground level, I’m released. Completely, no ropes left.

Even though I still don’t have my backpack and other equipment back, only clothes. And the cursed ring on my left ring finger, of course.

The same for Momokawa, just without the ring thing. She rubs her neck as if she’s missing her scarf.

She should be glad to not have it right now, it’s really hot down here, it’s like a hot summer day in the south.

Are volcanoes here? They should exist in this mountain range, so that might be the reason for that unreasonable temperature.

“You now down. Ss’rak go back.”

“Wait… you’re leaving us in that chasm? What if we escape?”

“All cliffs in chasm be too steep for humans. No escape.”

And we are left behind. But let’s stay calm. First, we need to plan out, what to do.

“Momokawa, we should… Momokawa?”

Without a word, Momokawa walks in a random direction.

“Where are you going?”

She remains quiet.

“Momokawa, we should stay together.”

No reaction. Should I already apologize? Seems to be too early. I just have to follow her.

And now she runs. No choice but to start running as well.

The air feels heavy, it’s hard to breathe, the temperature in this chasm is getting me.

This…

Shit, my SP are drained. And I have only few left!

I have to apologize.

“Momokawa, I’m sorry.” No reaction. “Really.” We both know that I’m lying, but at least she can pretend to forgive me! “Momo-”

My SP.

The last time I had so little left was at the training with the instructor, back in Esse. I’m panting and coughing, my running speed drops and I get dizzy. If this keeps on, I will die!

“Momokawa! Please, forgive me! If you do not…”

“Like I care!”

That’s not the answer I want to hear!

“Momokawa…”

My legs are softening and I trip. I try to catch myself with my arms, but they are like made out of lead. Ah, I’m finally dead.

“I hate it…”

Blackness.

 

―○●○―

 

This has to be hell. I regain consciousness, but it’s hot and heavy and I’m sweating like crazy. With these pieces of information, I recognize hell even before opening my eyes.

Only one question remains: “Is this the hell of the fantasy world or the hell of my world?”

“Neither. This is just a hot chasm.”

This is Momokawa’s voice. So she’s here, too.

“Ah, of course. If I go to hell, you will, too!”

“You’re not dead!”

I open my eyes and find myself at the point where I blacked out. Momokawa sits on her heels beside me, her elbow on her knees and her head in her hands.

“How long?”

“About an hour.”

I check my SP. Momokawa has replenished some.

“…It could be more.”

“Excuse me?”

There is a hint of danger in her words.

“Thanks?”

“Good boy. But it’s this place. This has to be almost 40 degrees (Celsius, 104 Fahrenheit). Even I lose SP continually.”

So she restored all of them, but the heat drained some over time? No, she restored most likely only something like half.

“How are your MP?”

“I can keep myself alive, as long as I don’t move.”

So she regains enough MP to cast the [Stamina]-spell often enough to replenish her own SP, but it won’t work as long as she has me as a dead-weight.

I hate it!

And I have no Mana Potions stored since I don’t have skills that use MP. Wait, I don’t have my backpack right now anyway, so I don’t even have any pots or other means of restoring my HP or SP myself, in the first place.

I’m totally at her mercy! I really hate it!

But why did she save me? “You replenished my SP.”

“After seeing mobs here.”

“I see. What kind?”

“Magslugs and a weird looking bear, which eats them.”

So we are back to square one. To survive, we need each other. Even though this time there is no alternative.

She may survive on her own. It’s risky but possible. When she includes me, she will run out of MP and SP at some point. So I have to be sure.

“The ss’rak said there is no way out. Are you sure to risk everything to prove them wrong?”

Momokawa nods. We both understand. They told us there is no way, but we don’t want to die. So we have to find one.

“Let’s take a look at that bear. Change to [Cook], so you can see if it’s edible. We need as much nourishment as possible.”

If we can kill the bear and eat it, it might give us enough SP to survive a day or two. But in the end, my curse will kill me, if I don’t get rid of it. My Max SP drops every day, after all.

“And we have to study it.” Important rule: Study a mob before attacking it.

We approach the bear, which is at the end of some twists and corners, and watch it from afar. The bear has crimson fur and yellow eyes. It is twice as tall as a normal bear and it eats magslugs like these poisonous molluscans are delicious.

“Katsuragi, it’s edible.”

Momokawa eyes are full of greed and hunger. I guess my own eyes are the same. This might be the first time, both of us are facing death. Of course, there has been always a chance to die, especially when I was out there soloing. But seeing your SP falling and knowing that we have little means to regain those, we are experiencing a death clock.

When it gets to zero, it’s over. A final countdown.

“We have to watch it. See how strong it is. And if it’s too strong… it will sleep at one point!”

We need this walking food, but we have to kill it fast and without wasting much HP, SP and MP. But sadly, our impatience is leaking out. The bear turns its head to us and lets out a big growl. It stands up on its hind legs and spread its arms.

We don’t have weapons and no attack spells or skills. Retreat is no option, due to the hotness of the chasm, we can’t run as long as we want and need to. Especially Momokawa, as her Max SP are still quite low.

No choice.

“Momokawa, be ready.”

I step forward and spread my arms as well.

“AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!”

I yell as loud as I can and put every ounce of spirit into my battle cry. And the bear… flinches.

“I SEE!”

I laugh. That bear is big. A big coward!

“WE’RE HUNGRY!”

Maybe it can understand my words. The bear backs off and ran away.

“WAIT, FOOD!”

I was about to chase it, but Momokawa holds my arm with both hands. She is right, I should not waste SP. Especially, since the bear is running fast.

“Phew.”

“You do it a lot.”

“What?”

“That *phew* sound.”

A faint snicker escaped my mouth.

“Maybe.”

I just feel good right now. Even though we remain hungry and exhausted, but at least I’m relieved that I don’t have to fight a bear barehanded.

 

―○●○―

 

Nighttime.

We found some rockingers along the way and even though they didn’t have much meat, we could eat them. This time Momokawa approved of being the decoy. I flipped the rockingers and she dealt the final blow with a heavy rock we found.

I broke some of their bones to get something like weapons. But they weren’t steady, so most likely one or two hits, before they’d break.

We couldn’t start a fire without something to burn, we ate the rockingers raw and even though we could use their bones to remove the guts, it wasn’t too pleasant.

At the end, we got some SP back without magical healing.

I guess, it will take some days before the first one of us dies, as long as we keep hunting rockingers. And of course, it’ll be me, who will die first. Momokawa can concentrate on herself afterward and will be most likely be eaten by a mob within the same day. Precious.

But now we need to sleep. We found a cave, but it’s most likely one which is already known to the dwellers of this chasm. We have no light source, we can’t see anything in this cave. To not lose each other, we hold each other at the shirt.

“At least we don’t need blankets.”

Even at night, it’s still hot here. Are we maybe on top of a volcano? Additionally, the cliffs we found so far are really too steep to climb. The ss’rak are right!

“What about night-watch, Katsuragi?”

Normally we should take turns like always, but we don’t have time to waste, so sleeping in shifts might be a bad idea in the long run.

“What do you think, Momokawa?”

She wants to be in charge, so I let her decide.

“I… what do you think?”

Cheap!

“If we hide well enough, we might not be spotted. Or have at least enough chances to wake up, before they ambush us.”

“Idiot. We can’t find a good hiding spot if we can’t see.”

“Right… Then we should at least lean on the wall.”

“Guess there is no point in staying awake if you can’t see.”

“Guess so.”

“Katsuragi? Put your hand on the ground.”

“Hm?”

I do as she tells me.

And I feel something warm, which lays on top.

“So I can tell if you run away.”

“As if I would.” She’s the one who keeps me alive. Without her, I would run out of SP soon.

But feeling her hand is relieving. I guess, sometimes it is good to know someone else is there for you. Maybe I begin to feel a bit guilty for bringing her to this place.

Well, rather than that, I feel sorry for myself.

“Katsuragi, are you awake?”

“Yes.”

“Are we dying here?”

“Probably.”

“You suck at comforting.”

“I know.”

“You should say something like: ‘Of course not, I’m here to protect you.’”.

“Would you be pleased, to hear that from me?”

“No, rather disgusted.”

“Because it’s so corny?”

“Because it’s you.”

“I see. Only your face is pretty.”

“Huh?”

“Your personality is as wicked as mine.”

“It’s not.”

“You only are talking sweet to me so I will not leave you behind.”

“You call that sweet?”

“It has to be some tactic to manipulate men.”

“That’s stupid.”

“I will not fall into your traps, like a thousand guys before.”

“I don’t do that.”

“Of course you do. But don’t worry.”

“Huh?”

“I won’t leave you.”

“Katsuragi?”

“Because I need you.”

“Because of my healing spells.”

“Exactly.”

“…at least you’re honest. And a terrible person.”

“And you’re dishonest and a terrible person.”

“Idiot.”

“You too.”

We are both exhausted, but still arguing each other. Even though the voices are powerless.

“Goodnight, Katsuragi.”

“… Goodnight, Momokawa.”

This is the first time, we say ‘Goodnight’ to each other.

 

―○●○―

 

Next day.

We weren’t night attacked by any mobs during our sleep, but I feel more exhausted after sleeping than before. Only the drowsiness is gone. There is also the strangeness of waking up beside Momokawa, even though we camped before, we slept apart of each other so far.

Momokawa cast [Stamina] on me, but she looks terrible herself. Her hair’s a mess and her face dirty. Maybe I’m the same.

“Where are we going, Katsuragi?” Her voice is hoarse, she’s as thirsty as I am.

It seems that Momokawa is sick of being in charge. Even though it doesn’t really matter who give the calls at that point.

“I don’t think, that the ss’rak were lying. We won’t be able to climb the cliff by ourselves. So we have to explore the chasm. Maybe there is a tunnel or such they don’t know of.”

The whole area is full of rocks and fissures, some large enough for humans to descend. There are several paths and the only way of orienteering was the sun.

“We should try to get to the inner area. It’s risky, but we will die here in a few days otherwise.”

“I see.”

Without objection Momokawa consents. That’s unusual.

“Why are you so… complying? Didn’t you want to be the leader?”

“I don’t care anymore. I guess, I don’t really like leading.”

“Aren’t you the class-president?”

“There is less leading and more complying.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t. Let’s move on.”

Something inside of her may be broken. Or it’s just the exhaustion. I really wouldn’t care to follow anyone, who had an idea what to do, but since it’s only the two of us and she’s in that condition…

Strange.

Normally I would think, that Momokawa is just used to let other do the work, while she reaps the benefits. But somehow I do not. At least this time.

Fatigue?

“Do you have your stones and bones, Katsuragi?”

“Yes.”

Each of us is equipped with 4 bones with splintered ends and some stones for throwing. If we need a larger rock for smashing, there are a lot laying around.

We are as ready as possible.

I lead the way back to the place, I scared off the bear yesterday. I want to try to follow his trail. If there are so many mobs living here, there has to be water somewhere. This is the second priority.

The first would be finding a way out of here.

We are back and the trail of the bear is easy to track in the dirt, even without any skills. I learned a lot from Meldorn. I really have to thank him, if I get back to Esse.

If.

The trail leads further into the rocky area. We encountered some rockingers and magslugs, but magslugs had a weakness: Big rocks. There is no finesse there, but it works. After throwing two or three on one, Momokawa will kill it off with her splintered bone.

It’s exhausting as hell, but since we couldn’t kill them in one shot, I could let Momokawa get those XP.

Even though we don’t really care at this point. But doing this keeps us optimistic. Makes us actually think that we would survive. Comforting.

At midday we finally find something.

“A hot spring.”

Of course, we drink the water right out of the spring. It is hot, filthy and most delicious.

After quenching the thirst, Momokawa take a look at the spring.

“It seems to be deep enough to bath.”

As Japanese it seems to be appropriate to take a dip into the spring, but I’m hesitating.

“We don’t have time for this.”

“But check your SP.”

I take a look at my status screen… and all my SP are back! Except those MaxSP I lost due the curse over the days.

“I don’t know why, but this spring is revitalizing. As long as we have this, we can survive indefinitely.”

“Except food and the fact, that the curse will kill me in some weeks.”

“But we do have those weeks now!”

She has a point.

“And what have bathing to do with this?”

“Because I want to.”

“Alright, alright.”

I give up. At least I can rinse my sweat and take a short dip.

Momokawa glances at me.

“…Go away.”

“Why? If you take a bath, I want to take one too then.”

“You want to bath with me?”

Her eyes are condemning.

“Why are you complaining about this.”

“You… you’re a boy!”

“Of course I am. What do you… Oh.”

“You forgot?”

“Erm…”

“You forgot, that I’m a girl?!”

“…No.”

“You’re lying.”

She’s right. Since it wasn’t important, I didn’t really think of Momokawa as a girl before. There were some points where it was obvious, like the scene when she was crying, but her sex didn’t had much on an impact so far.

I like to take a piss without someone looking at me and grant the same favor to other boys, so bathroom breaks in the past days weren’t that impactful.

Also, I don’t like to be seen when changing and of course would leave, if another boy wants to change. Since I don’t interact with others much, it’s just natural.

But now, when I’m mentally exhausted and can’t stop worrying, I wouldn’t care anymore, if a boy watches me changing or taking a bathroom break. And I wouldn’t care about their privacy either.

But Momokawa is a girl. And there is a line, between boys and girls.

“You got twenty minutes, I will patrol around here. Scream if something is up.”

“No, you will just go behind that boulder and wait.”

“Why?”

“Because I say so!”

And now she’s bitching around again. I guess with her SP, she got her spirit back, too.

But in the end, I comply. I sit down behind a huge boulder and lean back. The noises of the bathing Momokawa are… stimulating. Especially if I swap her face with one of my favorite female game-characters in my mind.

“You’re there, Katsuragi?”

“I am.”

“Any signs of mobs?”

“None, can’t search for them, if I don’t take a look around.”

“Don’t move. Just wait.”

This sucks.

And I couldn’t even relieve myself. She’s just doing it to force me into submission. I’m sure of it. The moment I peek, I lose. I have to endure it.

After about 20 minutes of mental and physical torture.

“Katsuragi, you can go in.”

“Finally.”

I take a peek behind the boulder, Momokawa have already her clothes on. The clothes are damp and emphasizing her body lines, her wet hair made her look especially sensual.

Too much stimulus. I keep hiding behind the boulder.

“Now you have to give me privacy.”

“I don’t want to.”

“How am I supposed to take a bath, then?”

“I could turn around?”

This is so unfair!

“Keep watch, please.”

“I will just go behind the boulder now. Fair dos.”

Shit, if she sees me now, she will know, that her plan to manipulate me using sexual charms have almost succeeded. I have to time it right, so she won’t see the uprising god. If she walks around the boulder, I will walk around the other side and she will never catch a glimpse.

Not yet. Not yet… Go!

With a swift movement, I walk pass her, undress quickly and dip into the hot spring.

“Did you want to get into the hot spring that much, Katsuragi?”

“…”

Now I feel like a fool. But at least it’s comfortable inside the spring.

I take my glasses off, since they are fogged. Only the [Scout]-class have heightened senses, normally I need those glasses, since I’m nearsighted. For battle I can take them off, so it won’t hurt much, if I switch from [Scout] to [Pikeman]-class, but right now there is no reason to not wear them.

Without glasses, without clothes, and without worries for the moment, I enjoy my first bath in a while.

I begin to sink in and blowing bubbles underwater.

“Katsuragi, are you drinking my bathwater?” Her voice is full of disgust.

“*Prrrrr…* *Cough, cough*”

 

―○●○―

 

“This hot spring seems to be part of an underground river.”

It’s hard to see in the water, but after some swimming, I can tell that much.

“Does it help?”

“Probably not.”

Even though it may lead to an underground river, the tunnel might be too small for a human to swim through and I might suffocate whilst down there.

“But maybe it’s an actual part of the Heißquellen? Because water that recovers all SP sounds pretty holy to me.”

“We can’t transport it.”

“Right.”

We have no spare waterskin, nor bottle, nor any other type of container. We could hunt a rockinger and use its shell, but that would be too cumbersome.

Survival comes first and for survival, mobility is the key.

“Well, let’s take a look… around.”

“What’s wrong, Katsura-”

While we were inspecting the spring, we had totally dropped our guard. Having just had a bath, we were too relaxed and didn’t notice that ostrich-like birds with long, curved beaks were in the middle of surrounding us.

They have a camouflage pattern in reddish-brown and gray on their feathers, so they fit well in this rocky area. There are at least thirty of them.

““Retreat.””

Without any prior arrangement, both of us are running towards the only spot that the birds haven’t covered yet.

They begin to chirp loudly the moment we passed them and we hear more chirping coming from in front of us as a response.

This is like a pack of hunting wolves!

“Quick! To the right!”

We enter a trench that was there, and hear a strange galloping sound from behind us. Like ostriches, these mobs are running birds!

Dammit!

There has to be a way out of this situation. There’s more chirping from in front of us. Have they cut us off? How many of them are around here?

The trench is branching! Left or right? Where is the chirping coming from?

We have to decide quickly. But Momokawa is already exhausted. Even though she has still her natural SP-regeneration, my max should be still quite higher and both of us started at full SP. So, of course, she will be the one who will hit the wall first.

But I need her to regain my spent SP later! Shitty curse!

“Sorry.”

I reach out and grab her hand to pull her along with me as I run down the path on the right. She doesn’t resist. We have no choice but to be as fast as possible.

But hope is fickle. Because after a minute of dashing we arrive at a cliff. Inside this trench is a cliff leading to an underground cave!

We don’t have light sources and no valid alternative. We could try to climb up the trench, but this just seems to be impossible.

But looking back… We don’t know how many ostrich-like birds there are but based on their chirping, there are a lot of them. We don’t even know how strong they are, but their numbers alone will be more than enough to crush us in battle in our current state.

Nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. Except underground that is. By climbing down a cliff.

Precious!

“Momokawa, we have to climb down.”

She looks into my eyes and nods. She already knows what little chance we have. As long as the strange birds don’t follow us down there we might still survive.

Both of us run towards the cliff, but the birds have already caught up. About a hundred I would have to guess.

As the first ones push forward, I use my splintered bone to attack one of them. It is wounded, but the bone breaks in the process.

I draw the next bone weapon.

These birds aren’t hard enemies by themselves, I guess. I kick one of them and it’s flying some distance.

But there are too many, and that’s the problem.

Momokawa and I fight side-by-side, but sadly, our teamwork still needs improvement. The most we can manage is a tag team where Momokawa helps me out while I regain my stance after a struggle and ready myself to take over again.

She isn’t used to fighting. And we’re pushed back. Ten birds later, we have been driven to the edge of the cliff.

“Momokawa, look for a ledge down there. I’ll hold them off.”

The last line of defense. Me versus around twenty angry birds, not to mention that the enemy reinforcements are still waiting right behind them. I feel like an action hero, only less heroic but more of an urge to piss my pants.

I’m already wounded in several places and I’m bleeding. Maybe five more seconds before I’m overwhelmed by them.

“There is one, Katsuragi.”

I look to the place Momokawa is pointing to.

“Let’s jump.”

She nods. We take each other’s free, left hands and jump together.

The ledge is small. However, I land on it.

Momokawa doesn’t.

I feel the pull of of another body, so I drop the bone in my right hand and push myself against this weight. No falling here!

“Katsuragi!”

Momokawa is panicking. I could see her clearly, how she is hanging on my arm, while under her dangling feet are several meters of free-falling. Seeing the bottom makes it really scary!

“Please, don’t let go!”

“I won’t!”

“Don’t let go. Please!”

“I won’t!”

She doesn’t hear me. She’s not even looking at me but rather at the abyss under her feet.

“Please! Don’t let me go, don’t leave me behind!”

“MOMOKAWA!!!”

After yelling her name, she finally reacts.

“Look at me, Momokawa!”

She lifts her head to look up to me instead of down to her doom.

“I won’t let you go. I won’t leave you behind. I need you.” < To heal me and keep my alive. >

“I need you, too, Katsuragi!” < To pull me up the ledge. >

“We will do all what comes, together!” < Until my curse is lifted. >

“Nothing shall separate us!” < Until we’re back in town safely. >

“You and I, we will conquer all what comes!” < So we can survive. >

“And we will defy death itself!” < Who likes dying? >

While we encourage each other, our looks reveal our real intentions. But something is strange. My left hand, which is holding Momokawa, begins to glow. Or more precise, the cursed ring.

The following message pops up.

Curse temporary lifted.

Without hesitation, I change my class to [Pikeman]. My arms begin to grow thicker and stronger and I easily lift Momokawa up onto the ledge. It’s a small ledge and above there are a bunch of angry birds…

And now the angry birds jump down and try to attack us!

“Wait a minute,” I declare.

Momokawa’s mouth is gaping open, while she looks at me. I pick up the splintered bone I dropped earlier and even though it was more like a bad parody of a spear, I seem to be able to use [Spear]-skills with it.

“Duck!”

Momokawa takes cover, as I lift the bone to unleash a [Spear]-skill.

“[Whirlwind]!”

[Whirlwind] is a sweeping blow, a melee AoE.

It’s weak but it pushes enemies back. The birds are flying away from the ledge and before the next one could try, I climb up the cliff. With an athletic body like this, it’s not a problem.

Ah, they’re waiting. Fine with me.

Let’s begin the slaughter.

It took ten minutes before the angry birds finally understood that they would be wiped out by me. I may have broken my bone weapon earlier, but my level 37 body was more than enough to take care of those feather dusters.

They attacked me relentlessly but despite that, they could only give me scratches. As for me, a single strike was enough to break their avian bones. This is too unbalanced.

Before they could retreat, I had killed around half of them.

“Phew. That was close.” I take a look over the cliff and see an open-eyed Momokawa on the ledge. “Momokawa, are you alright?”

“Katsuragi, is that you?” I guess my buffed self in the [Pikeman]-class gives off a different vibe than usual.

“Of course. I’m coming down.”

Even though the ledge is small, there is no need for Momokawa to climb up yet.

“What happened?”

“No idea, but I got a message saying that the curse was temporarily lifted, so I did a [Class Change].”

I open my status window and… I’m getting SP back! Slowly and I lose them again due to the hot climate here, but I’ve got my normal regeneration rate back!

And my Max SP is back to normal! Even though it may be only temporarily, it’s still wonderful.

Welcome back, [Attributes], [Abilities], [Skills], HP, SP, MP and WP.

Wait, WP?

“Katsuragi!”

“What?”

“Look.”

Momokawa shows me her hand.

“What about it.”

“A ring.”

“Huh?”

Momokawa was in fact wearing a copper ring . Did she take over the curse, instead?

I look at my left hand and the cursed ring is still there. Momokawa’s ring is similar, but the design is a bit different.

Mine has a male lion. Hers, a lioness. Are they a matching pair?

“Katsuragi… don’t they look like wedding rings?”

“Come on, that’s stupid.”

But as I say that, something new pops up.

 

Congratulations! You have just wed Momokawa Kyou.
As long as your married life is fulfilling, the curse will remain dormant. Additionally, you will be granted various bonuses as wedding gifts!

The more you deepen the relationship, the more WP (Wedding Points) you’ll acquire and more bonuses as well. Check out your new status window, which contains a WP-bar, a list of actions which will increase your WP and a menu to buy bonuses with your WP.

You lucky bastard!

 

In games, the characters would usually react in an over the top way to this. Like crying out with a ‘Hueeeeh!?’-sound or something like that. That or they would lose it, constantly asking questions like ‘why, how, what’.

I, on the other hand, am too shocked to react in such a way.

“Katsuragi… I have some strange pop up in my status screen… Katsuragi?”

“… Give me a minute.”

“I see, Then give me two.”

Under normal circumstances, we should be relieved to be alive after being chased by a horde of strange and aggressive birds. But instead, we’ve been dumbstrucked by the surprise and shock.

“Katsuragi? My level increased.”

“Did it?”

“Yes, I got two more levels.”

“Since yesterday?”

“Since bathing.”

“I see.”

The interesting thing is that, it doesn’t surprise me. Because nothing will surprise me for a while.

Character-design Momokawa Kyou

 

―○●○―

I, Katsuragi Kenta, and Momokawa Kyou were married unintentionally, but neither of us know how. Only that that the cursed ring is at fault, and Momokawa can’t remove her ring either.

So now she blames me and wants a divorce.

“At least until we’re out of here. My curse will be lifted for as long it continues.”

And there are already some other bonuses to it.

For one, we can check out each other statuses like they’re our own, which will come in handy. So Momokawa doesn’t need to ask me how hurt I am and I can get an idea how to best manage our healing.

Additionally, as long as we stand next to each other, we get some small [Attribute]-bonuses, which will also help Momokawa primarily.

And quite obviously, we get shared XP.

Yes, we actually have a party system now.

Whenever I kill something, Momokawa will gain some XP for it. That’s the reason why she leveled up after I defeated those birds, I don’t know the ratio yet, but it might be 50/50.

“You see, it’s not all bad. And since we’re about to lift the curse anyways, we only have to deal with it until then. Plus, we don’t even know if we can simply divorce.”

Somehow it’s strange to talk about divorce as a high school student. But in a sense, I’m a married man now.

“You seem oddly calm about it, Katsuragi.”

“It’s not my first marriage.”

“It’s not?”

“Of course not. Marrying is a normal thing in games.”

“I should have known it.”

“Just think of me like a boyfriend you took out of convenience.”

“That’s even worse. You enjoy this, right!?”

“Kinda. There are a lot of benefits, so we can simply declare it as a partnership of convenience.”

“So you think so lowly about me.”

“Come on, this is just a means to an end. But you should take a look at your [Divine Magic]-ability of the [Priest]-class. You got a new skill, [Torch]. This might be a way to explore this underground passage.”

“Don’t look at my status menu!”

“You can take a look at me if you want.”

A vein pops up on her temple. She’s pissed!

“Momokawa, I’m against domestic violence.”

Saying these words, I get a slap across my cheek.

You gain 1 WP.
Teasing your wife is a fun thing to do, but don’t get carried away.

That is strange.

I have to check the lists at a later time, but maybe there are still some things which can be exploited there.

I’ll just ignore the ‘marriage’-part for now.

After some time of calming down, we climb down the cliff and Momokawa used her brand new [Torch]-spell. A white ball of light appears on her palm. It’s as bright as a real torch.

I switch to [Scout]-class.

“Katsuragi, your entire body seems to reshape whenever you switch classes.”

“That’s normal. Since [Scout] has much more [Strength] than [Student] and [Pikeman] even more than [Scout], my muscles have to adapt to this. It’s all in the manual.” Actually, it depends on the stat-boosts of these classes, and their [Attribute]-growths, but it’s easier to explain it like that.

“But our classmates doesn’t change much.”

“Maybe because they’re all choosing what they’re used to? I’m not very athletic, you know. So if I change to a fighting class, of course, I will get muscles. I’m sure that the Judo Musclebrain took something like [Grappler] as a class and so on.”

“That… might be right.”

“See. But let’s concentrate on what lies before us. I will lead. I have the [Darksight]-skill, so I will be able to see well in the dark. We still don’t have weapons aside from rocks and one bone each, so it’s better to let me handle everything.”

“I was going to, If I get XP by doing nothing, I won’t even think about meddling in your fights.”

“… Let’s see about the ratio first. If you get only 10%, we should rather proceed with our standard tactic as long as possible. If the ratio is on the higher side, we might fare better with actual teamwork.”

Saying that, we explore the underground passage. It’s big enough so that two people could walk next to each other most of the time, but we stay in line. There’s nothing that interesting, just a stone tunnel. I have already seen some while soloing, but Momokawa sticks close to me. Maybe the narrowness is getting her.

Then I heard something. “I hear rushing water ahead.”

“The underground river?”

“Not sure. Look out, there is a crack here. Wait a moment.”

I use my [Sneak]-skill and look from behind the corner. There are several bats hanging upside-down on the ceiling. Or at least they look like bats. Since they’re coated by their wings, they could be anything.

I return to Momokawa.

“Several creatures with bat-wings ahead. How are your… wait.”

I can simply check Momokawa’s MP myself. No need to ask anymore.

Not good. Her MP are about half, and she has to cast [Stamina] for us regularly and even though our natural SP-regeneration lengthens the time until it’s needed, we should be really careful with every activity which would cost HP and SP.

The use of [Perception]-skills costs a little SP every time, but it heightens our chances of survival greatly. A needless battle on the other hand…

Even though, I, as a gamer, don’t like to ignore it. But without decent weapons…

“Katsuragi, what are you thinking about?”

“I’m considering whether we should search for another path or climb back up. If we get to the hot spring again, we can rest due to the SP-recovery water until you get all of your MP back. But if this path leads to the underground river, we can still use its water and search for a way out of this chasm. I don’t know anything about these bat-thingies and we might be under-equipped to deal with them.”

Momokawa thinks about my words, while her right hand plays with the ring on her left. She often looks at the ring in disbelief. She doesn’t accept it that easily.

“Are they sleeping?”

“Huh?”

“Are those bats sleeping?”

“I guess. Let me check again.”

I sneak back and strain my ears. A rhythmic sound of breathing.

“They are.”

“Can you sneak up to one of them, grab it and break its neck before it can make a noise?”

“… I could try the sneaking first. But it’s around the corner, so the light won’t reach far enough for me to see clearly.”

“I could move to the corner.”

“That might wake the bats.”

“If they’re bats, they should already know we’re here because of our voices.”

Good point.

I use [Sneak] to get to the bats and Momokawa slowly go to the corner. These aren’t bats, but a kind of mob. About as big as a child, these creatures have a greenish humanoid body. Maybe they’re actually intelligent and friendly.

Most likely, they’re not.

Quickly I grab one’s head with both of my hands, twist it in a fast manner and break its neck. Even as a [Scout] my [Strength] is enough to do this, these guys are frail!

The other bat-gnomes aren’t alarmed. Maybe their hearing isn’t any good. Easy victims.

Seven broken necks later, Momokawa and I checked our status menu.

“We get the same amount of XP. I don’t know if it’s 50/50, 100/100 or anything else, unless we kill something I know.” Remembering the amount of XP you get from what monster is the basis for efficient grinding.

“I see. At least I don’t need to take part in killing anymore.” Says the girl who suggested to break the necks of several creatures in their sleep.

And not only that… “Katsuragi, these guys are edible. Let’s take one with us, until we find something better.” The [Cook]-class comes in handy here. I would say, this girl is already as much of a cold-blooded hunter as I am.

We continue our cave exploration. The deeper we go, the hotter it becomes. But this should be a sign, that we’ve come close to the hot spring underground river… let’s try to stay positive.

Half an hour after the bat encounter, we come to a big cave.

Sunlight is shining through a crack at the top, too small for a human to squeeze through. At the bottom is another part of the hot spring, but since the cave is spacious and some ventilation is ensured by the crack at the ceiling, it’s most likely the most tempered place we found so far in the chasm. At the shore of the hot spring, there are even some trees!

“Momokawa, this seem too good to be true, We should watch out, I’m sure something already made this place its territory.”

“Right.”

We approach the hot spring, but this time Momokawa goes ahead, while I keep watch. There is no one here at the moment.

Both of us drink some of the water to replenish our SP and agree, that we would stay here for a while. As long as I have my [Perception]-ability, we are as ready as possible. Of course, it’s dangerous, but this is the best place to take a rest.

Maybe there are other places like this in the chasm. Somehow the mobs have to survive here.

“Maybe the mobs who uses this place are diurnal. But there is no reason for both of us to be on guard. Take a nap, Momokawa. We need your MP.”

We didn’t sleep well, yesterday in that dark cavern, so she’s probably tired enough.

“Yes.”

We move to the trees and Momokawa sits down at one, leans herself against it and closes her eyes. The [Torch]-spell disappeared, but since there is a bit of daylight in this cave, my [Darksight] is still working well.

The shadows outside my 50 meters (164 feet) range make it hard to figure out where other entrances lie, so I try to stay focused. Usually, I would take a nap, too, since I have the [Dormunal]-skill, but after breaking necks of sleeping mobs I somehow have problems to think of the area as safe.

Staying focused on watch is hard. But it will be for an hour at most.

Speaking of time… We had 2 weeks to complete the pilgrimage. Four days of travel from Esse to Heißquellen. This is just the second day in the chasm. If we hurry back, we most likely only need two and a half day back to Esse, once we escape this hell. But let’s count it as three days. So nine days are spent or occupied.

We still have five days left. Is it plenty, or not? I don’t know. Better to not think about it.

First, I have to keep watch. Wait, what’s this at the shore? Is that a skeleton? I approach the pile of bones.

A human skeleton. I throw a stone at it.

Why? Because it might be undead.

Even though I never saw one outside of fiction. Are there undead in this world?

At least, this skeleton doesn’t react to stones. So I have to take a look myself. This may be an adventurer or a soldier. But for me, this is a lifesaver. The clothes are racks, but the leather backpack was still usable. The clasp is broken, so it’s more of a bag now. Someone or something already searched through its content.

On the ground is a rusty knife. I take it and wield it in one hand.

[Rusty Knife]
Description:  This knife wasn’t used in years. Even though it’s rusty, it can still be used as a tool.
Status:  +2 Attack
Value:  1 Newgold

A knife. An old, rusty knife. Nothing special about it. But so valuable right now. And there is other stuff as well. A torn waterskin, a needle and some thread, a torn blanket, flint and steel and dampened torches.

If it was me three days ago, I would think of it as trash. But now I see it as a treasure, I collect everything and turn back.

I want to call out Momokawa, but I remember that she’s taking a nap. And I don’t want to wake her up. Especially after looking at her dirty self, which shows the burden of our current lifestyle.

Wait, what’s that? And why now?

I guess, I feel a lot of stress, too, since looking at a filthy girl with messed up hair and no dignity whatsoever makes me excited.

… She’s asleep, right?

Since I’m standing watch so no beasts attack one of us, I might as well… I mean, it would be bad, if some wolf would devour Momokawa out of pure instinct.

What am I even thinking about? Dammit. I hate her!

I know, that my excitement must be a survival instinct or something like that. Leaving offspring in times of danger. It’s a totally natural reaction.

It’s time to get rid of all of my frustration, stress, and irritation.

After I find a place from where I could detect most intruders while being away of Momokawa, I’ll finally relieve myself.

 

―○●○―

 

Afterward.

I cleaned myself up and made sure, that there is no smell left behind. All traces should be removed.

It’s time to wake up Momokawa. “Momokawa?”

“Hn… Good Morning. Is something wrong?”

Good Morning? Since when does she say Good Morning? Maybe taking a nap improved her mood. “Nothing. Why do you ask?”

“You seem different…”

Maybe because I’m much calmer now? “I could relax a bit.”

“Do you want to take a nap, too?”

“Not needed. But I have something to show you.”

The treasures I found are layered out in front of Momokawa.

“That will be useful.”

She smiles faintly. Why does she act so sweet? Maybe she’s still drowsy.

Well, let’s go on. “Do you know how to sew?”

“A bit. How about Katsuragi?”

“Well, every time I try to mend my pants, they’ll rip open again after five minutes.”

Ah, now she’s back to normal, rolling her eyes. “I will try. But I need a patch.”

“A patch… Wait.”

I look at the neck-broken bat-gnome we took with us.

“How about the bat-wing?”

“This might work.”

I take the knife and the bat-gnome and cut off the wings.

Momokawa gives me instructions how to cut the leathery part to make a patch.

Mending the waterskin isn’t easy, especially since she can’t use [Torch] during the sewing process. The [Torch] appears on her free hand, so sewing and lighting isn’t possible at the same time.

But Momokawa is still working on it in that dim light. It’s slow paced, but she concentrates so much, that she doesn’t even complain a lot. And when she does, it’s more about me, than the work itself.

Soon, the waterskin is repaired. It still leaks some water at the seam, but at least you could carry it around for a while.

“Good work, Momokawa, now we can- Quiet!”

I hear some heavy steps. Paw-like. A beast.

“Hide behind those trees.”

I activate the [Camouflage]-skill while laying low. My body and equipment are changing color to match the cave stone. Momokawa runs to the trees and hides behind them like I ordered.

Only the dim daylight illuminates the cave. And the master of this cave came in.

A large, red bear. Maybe even the same one we saw yesterday.

I released [Camouflage], this one is a coward. This time I have the [Scout]- and [Pikeman]-classes and able to simply kill it or scare it off without bluffing.

It senses me and turns its head around. And then it roars. Same as last time, huh? It’s easy to stay cool. I wield the knife and put a bloodthirsty grin on my face. The bear should back off any second.

Wuush!

Fast as thought, the red bear slashes at me and only my [Focus]-skill allowed me to evade the attack at the last moment.

“GROOOOOAAAR!”

This red bear is very aggressive.

I change my class to [Pikeman]. Even though I have no spear, the [Pikeman]’s [Strength] and [Vitality] is still better than a [Scout]’s. With this, I’m better off in most combat-situation.

Is it me or are the bear’s claws glowing? Six claw attacks hit me almost simultaneously. My clothes are full of holes now. And much worse, my body, too. Is that a skill? Do mobs have skills? I never saw something like that before!

But my high [Vitality]-attribute allows me to stay on my feet, even though the wounds hurt like hell. I stab the red bear with the knife, but as the red bear has twice the size of a normal one, a little knife is only hurting it a bit. One or two stabs are not that dangerous to it.

Then I punch it in the face, additionally. Won’t hurt it much either, but at least it does inflict mental damage. I already realize, that the only way to survive this is to be on offensive. Since this bear does serious damage, I have to overpower it before it can do the same to me.

I stab and punch and stab and punch like a savage. I will attack every inch of its body!

“GROOAAAAAR!”

The roar unleashes a shockwave, which throws me back several meters. Another skill, I presume.

Now I lay on the ground, I couldn’t break my fall. The red bear plants itself in front of me.

Ah, I’m dead. I’m weirdly calm about it.

A red claw is raised and about to give me eternal rest. But it never came down.

A stone flies right into an eye of the bear. It growls painfully and I use the chance to change into [Scout] and activate [Camouflage] and [Hide Smell] at the same time.

The bear looks down at me but can’t see me. And much more importantly, smell. Both of these skills aren’t good if someone knows you’re here. But bears don’t rely on sight too much and my smell is already all over the place. So my weakened smell won’t attract attention, I hope.

The red bear sniffs around… And walks right to Momokawa. Damn it!

She saved me earlier. No choice.

I stand up and jump on the bear. The knife I’m still holding pierces the back several times, while I try to reach the neck. I stab and stab at its nape, hoping to damage the vertebras.

The red bear shakes violently, trying to get rid of me. Another rock flies right into its forehead.

We both fall, my whole body is in pain. The bear is about to stand up again, but then I saw it: It’s throat.

I draw upon my last power and slice it with one powerful thrust.

The bear suffocates from its own blood and throws claw attacks in all directions, one of them hit me in the stomach. Blood splashes everywhere, I’m done for.

But at least the bear finally collapses.

“[Heal]!”

And the pain eases.

“Are you still alive?”

“…Barely.”

“I know, I know. [Heal]!”

Magic healing is great. Under normal circumstances, I would most likely die because of the wounds.

“It might leave marks and it will still hurt a while, even if all of your HP is back.”

“I see.”

“You’re stupid, Coming out of your hideout.”

“I thought it would run away again when I’m aggressive.”

“Why didn’t you flee, when you were outpowered?”

“It would have attacked you.”

“I was hidden.”

“Barely.”

“Stupid.”

We know, that we need each other. Even though the curse is lifted for now, it might come back immediately, if I let Momokawa die. And Momokawa won’t be able to survive here without me.

My HP are at max again. Momokawa’s MP, on the other hand, are depleted. The hot spring only recovers SP, so we need to have another rest. Going on without Momokawa’s MP is suicide.

“We’ll rest for today, Let’s take a look, if there’s some smaller cavern here. The bear must have a sleeping-place nearby.”

The big cavern has 4 exits, plus the rift at the ceiling. One of them leads to a small cave.

“Katsuragi, look.”

There are two cubs.

“So we killed their mother.”

These cubs are still as tall as human children. Their fur was orange, but maybe they’ll turn crimson in some years.

“They’re so cute!” I see. This is what a typical girl reaction seems to be. “And edible.”

Or not.

“… This is surprising.”

“We have the choice between the cubs, the mother bear, and the bat-thingy.”

“Let’s forget the bat-gnome, but wouldn’t the mother bear be better to eat? More meat.”

“Fair enough. She’ll be spoiled before we finish her.”

“But what do we do about the cubs?”

“What would you do in a game?”

“Kill them to get loot and XP.”

“Seems logical. Then we get mixed meat, too.”

In the end, it’s all about survival.

 

―○●○―

 

We skinned the bear-mobs and Momokawa cut them to pieces.

Being a [Cook] is very convenient.

I used my [Camping]-skill to set up the camp and start a fire. Without the skill, this could’ve taken around an hour, with [Camping] it only took a couple of minutes. Even the wet wood of the trees and the torches lit in a matter of seconds.

We used branches as skewers and grilled the meat over the fire. With [Foraging] I was able to discern some eatable herbs and mushrooms, which grows at the large cavern.

This is a feast!

““Thanks for the food!””

I gulp down every bite.

“Tasty!”

“Thank you.”

It’s really delicious.

You gain 1 WP.
Eating your wife’s home-cooked meals is a blessing of marriage.

“Phew.” I ignore the pop-up.

Looks like Momokawa also got one. She’s obviously very annoyed by it.

I just go on. “The fur might stink, but will make good sleeping mats. The cubs’ pelt can be used as pillows. Since it’s warm here, we need no blanket. This time we might sleep somewhat comfortably.”

“So, you really want to stay here for a day?”

“Without your MP, we can’t take the risk. MP is recovered over time and faster if you’re resting, so it’s obvious that you relax as much as possible, while I keep watch.”

“What about you? You will get exhausted mentally.”

“A small price to pay.”

“But your [Dormurnal]-skill makes it possible to sleep and keep watch.”

“I don’t remember telling you this.”

“I can check your status and skills anytime, too.”

“Well, it’s only sounds. So if something approaches soundless, we’re doomed.”

“This is the lair of the crimson bear. Nothing will come close to it. And I need you focused tomorrow.”

“Fine, we’ll take turns.”

“You first, you’re still hurting from the bear, right?”

“Not as long I don’t move.”

Momokawa giggles softly. I chuckle a bit. We’re already so downcast, that sarcasm becomes funny.

After finishing the meal, I lay down on the improvised bed.

“Katsuragi, Sleep well.”

“Thanks.”

It stinks, the fur feels too warm in this hot air. But I’m already falling asleep.

… … …

… … … … … … … …

… …

A part of my conscious is still active.

I hear every step Momokawa makes.

She’s stepping out of the cave. All thoughts are slow and elusive in my [Dormurnal]-state. I can’t activate other skills, like [Pitch].

I hear something, I designate the sound to an activity and can decide to wake up or not. This time, I wake up.

I use [Pitch] so I can make out Momokawa. A trickling can be heard.

Oh.

Bathroom break.

A strained exhalation, as if something big is about to come. Quickly, I deactivate [Pitch].

Even though breaks for this were made in the past, we kept our distance and didn’t speak about it. Momokawa was holding it in since arriving at the chasm. I totally forgot that she will need to do it, eventually.

I will never mention it, This is too private.

It’s better to go back to sleep.

… … …

Momokawa has returned. She’s walking up to me. And now stays still. She kneels down. I’m somewhat aware, that she takes my left hand in both of hers.

Do I care?

No.

… … …

… … … … …

She let it go and walks away.

… … … … … …

… … … … … … … … …

… … … … … …

“Katsuragi. It’s about time.”

I wake up. The information my [Dormurnal] collected are hammering my thoughts.

“Did you do something to me?”

“You know?”

“Somewhat. You took my hand.”

“I inspected your ring.”

“I see. Anything interesting?”

“Did you inspect it lately?”

“Honestly, no.”

But I better do now.

[Lion’s Wedding Ring]
Description:  This ring is a gift and a curse. It changes the ways of the world, to empower the wearer, but if not handled correctly, it will slowly kill him off. To harness the power to its fullest, you have to find someone you can trust and love completely, while sharing this gift and curse.
Status:  Unremovable. Marriage to Momokawa Kyou. Allows the usage of the WP-System.
Value:  0 Newgold

It’s different from before. What a bugged item.

“What about yours, Momokawa?”

“Here.”

She shows me her left  hand and I can inspect the ring as if it were on my own finger.

[Lioness’ Wedding Ring]
Description:  This ring was created by the Lion’s Wedding Ring and is the symbol of trust, loyalty and love. While it burdens the wearer with a powerful curse, it allows to use a power, which defies the world at the same time. As long you remain faithful, the curse won’t harm you.
Status:  Unremovable. Marriage to Katsuragi Kenta. Allows the usage of the WP-System.
Value:  0 Newgold

“The WP-system… I haven’t checked it yet.”

I open the status menu and looked at the WP-system. There are two huge lists. One with ways to get WP. Another which convert WP to special abilities and bonuses.

The ways to get WP are… flirting?

Some are sick. And others impossible. A rather harmless one would be: ‘Call each other by first name or nickname. 1 WP/day.’ A rather mediocre one would be: ‘Sleep next to each other. 1 WP/night.’ A rather hard one would be: ‘Do A in the B, C times. 10 WP/D.’

I close the WP-store-list since the last one is way too borderline. My wish to use a censor-bar made me put letters instead those special words in there.

Even a short glance at the reward list is enough to see, that the lesser benefits are at least in the double-digits.

But man, what benefits! If we could raise the WP to 80, we could get- Did someone turn on the air conditioner? I feel chills all over my body.

Wait, it’s Momokawa. A dark aura of dread is surrounding her. She looks at me, as if I had stolen and eaten her ice cream sundae and whispered: “Don’t think about it.”

“I didn-”

“Don’t! Think! About! It!”

“Yes.”

She’s smiling now. But her smile scares the shit out of me. Maybe I’m wrong and Momokawa’s true face isn’t the manipulative bitch. She may be rather a poisonous beast which is rarely unleashed.

I better close the WP-Store-list, too. And change the topic.

“You should get some real sleep, Momokawa. Tomorrow will be a long day.”

“You’re right, I have compounded some medicine with the herbs you brought me, take it. It will replenish some HP when you put it on a wound. So put one on your stomach, medicine is more efficient to prevent scars than my magic.”

It’s a herbal poultice. She made it out of herbs and the shredded blanket I found.

“Thanks, Sleep well.”

“Thanks, Katsuragi.”

After she falls asleep, I’ll take a dump, too.

The second day in the chasm ends.

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