Chapter 2-1

Chapter 2 – The Chasm

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.

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