We weren’t night attacked by any mobs, but I felt more exhausted after sleeping than before. Only the drowsiness left. And there is 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 is 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.”
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…
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.
“Do you have your stones and bones, Katsuragi?”
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.
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.
“But what have bathing to do with this?”
“Because I want to.”
I give up. At least I can rinse my sweat and take a short dip.
Momokawa glances at me.
“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, that I’m a girl?!”
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 weren’t that impactful.
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.”
“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 complied. I sat down behind a huge boulder and leaned 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?”
“Any signs of mobs?”
“None, can’t search for them, if I don’t take a look around.”
“Don’t move. Just wait.”
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.”
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 actually part of an underground river.”
It is hard to see in the water, but after some swimming, I could tell that much.
“Does it help?”
Even though it may be lead to an underground river, it might be to small for a human to swim through and there is still the problem with oxygen.
“But maybe it’s actual part of the Heißquellen? Because water that recover all SP sounds pretty holy to me.”
“We can’t transport it.”
No waterskin, no bottle, no other container. We could hunt and use a rockinger-shell, but this would be too cumbersome. Survial comes first and for survival, mobility is the key.
“Well, let’s take a look… around.”
“What’s wrong, Katsura-”
While we inspected the spring, we totally let our guard drop. Just after a bath we were too relaxed. And didn’t saw how ostrich-like birds with long, curved beaks have almost surrounded 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.
Without any prior arrangement, both of us are running through the only spot, the birds couldn’t cover yet.
They begin to chirp loudly, the moment we passed them. And we hear other chirping in front of us as an answer. This is like a pack of hunting wolfs!
“Quick! To the right!”
We enter the trench there and hear a strange galloping behind us. Like ostrichs, they’re running birds. Damn! There have to be a way out of this situation. More chirping in front of us. Have they cut us off? How many of them are 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!
I reach out to grab her hand and pull her with me, while I run to the right path. 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 seems impossible.
We don’t know how many ostrich-like birds are there, but based on their chirping, they’re many. We don’t know how strong they are, but their mass alone will be more than enough to crush our current selves. No way to hide, no way to run. Except underground, climbing down a cliff.
“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 ostrich-like birds don’t follow us down there, we might survive.
Both of us approaches the cliff. But the birds have already caught up. About a hundred, I guess. Hard to count, if there are so many.
The first ones pushes forward and I used my splintered bone to attack one of them. It is wounded, but the bone broke in the process.
I draw the next bone weapon.
The birds aren’t hard enemies, I guess. Even without using my weapon, I can even kick them quite far, but the numbers are the problem.
Momokawa and I fight side-by-side, but sadly, our teamwork still needs improvement. Means that most we could manage is to tag-team. So whenever I get into problems, Momokawa comes in and helps me out, while I regain my stance and take over, again.
She is not used to fighting. We are pressed back. Ten birds later, we’re already cornered at the cliff.
“Momokawa, look for a ledge down there. I will keep them off.”
The last line of defense. Me against about twenty angry birds, while enemy reinforcement is still waiting right behind. I feel like an action hero, only with less heroics, but more urge to piss my pants.
I’m already wounded at several places and bleeding. Maybe five more seconds, before I’m overwhelmed by them.
“There is one, Katsuragi.”
I look to the place Momokawa is pointing to.
She nods. We take each others free, left hands and we jumps together.
The ledge is small. I land on it, while Momokawa does not.
I feel the pull of another body, drop the bone in my right hand and push against this weight. No falling here!
Momokawa is in panic. I could see her clearly, how she is hanging on my arm, while under her feet are several meters of free-falling.
“Please, don’t let go!”
“Don’t let go. Please!”
She doesn’t hear me. She doesn’t even look at me, but the abyss under her feet.
“Please! Don’t let me go, don’t leave me behind!”
After yelling her name, she finally reacts.
“Look at me, Momokawa!”
She lifts her head to look up to me instead 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 safety. >
“You and I, we will conquer all what comes!” < So we can survive. >
“And we will defy death itself!” < Who likes dying? >
While we encourages 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.
Cursed temporary lifted.
And without hesitation I change my class to [Pikeman]. My arms begin to grow thicker and stronger and I lift Momokawa easily up onto the ledge. It’s a small ledge and above there are a bunch of angry birds…
Which jumps down and try to attack us!
“Wait a minute.”, I declare.
Momokawas 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.
Momokawa takes cover, as I lift the bone to unleash a [Spear]-skill.
[Whirlwind] is a sweeping blow, a melee AoE.
It’s weak but pushes back enemies. The birds are flying away from the ledge and before the next one could try, I better climb up that cliff. With an athletic body like this, it’s not a problem.
Ah, they are waiting. Fine. Let’s begin the massacre.
It took ten minutes until the angry birds understood, that they will be wiped out by me. I broke my bone early, but even though my level 37 body was more than enough to take care of those feather dusters.
They relentlessly attacked, but I only got scratches. And one punch of me is enough to break their avian bones. This is too unbalanced.
Before they could retreat, I killed about half of them.
“Phew. That was close.” I take a look over the cliff to see a open-eyed Momokawa on a small 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 it up yet.
“No idea, but I got the message, that the curse is temporarily lifted, so I changed classes.”
I opened my status window and… I’m getting SP back! Slowly and I lose them again due the hot climate here, but I got normal regeneration rate!
And my Max SP is back to normal! Even though it’s only temporarily, it’s still wonderful.
Welcome back, [Attributes], [Abilities], [Skills], HP, SP, MP and WP.
Momokawa shows me her hand.
“What about it.”
In fact, Momokawa is wearing a copper ring. Did she took over the curse, instead?
I look at my left hand and there is still the cursed ring. Momokawa’s ring is similar, but the engraving is different.
Mine have a male lion. She has a lioness. Are these a matching pair?
“Katsuragi… don’t they look like wedding rings?”
“Come on, that’s stupid.”
But something new pops up.
You just wed Momokawa Kyou.
As long as your married live is fulfilling, the curse will remain dormant.
Additionally, you will be granted various bonuses as a wedding gift.
The more you deepen the relationship, the more WP (Wedding Points) you get and the more bonuses follows.
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 react in an over a top way to this. Like crying out with a ‘Hueeeeh!?’-sound or something like that. Or they would lose it, constantly asking questions like ‘why, how, what’.
I, on the other hand, am too shocked to react in any 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 we’re flattened by surprise and shock.
“Katsuragi? My level increased.”
“Yes, I got two more.”
The interesting part is, that it doesn’t surprise me. Because nothing will surprise me for a while.
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