Chapter 2-3

Proofreaders: Yite, General Phone

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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