Chapter 4 – Rise, Hero

Chapter 4 – Rise, Hero

Unedited

The last day of Muaotef’s deadline and the duel between me and the patriarch of the Ss’rak. If I win, I will live and then I will get the water of the Heißquellen-shrine, return to Esse and get rid of the cursed ring. If I lose, then I’m dead, but I would be dead either way, when I disappoint Muaotef. So nothing changes.

Even though I can’t be sure that the dragon won’t kill me regardless after I slay the patriarch. But this is my only chance.

This time, I will not hesitate to take someone’s life. Even though this thought is supposed to make me feel sick. Ugh, when I close my eyes, I can still see the one, Kyou-san killed. Maybe this picture is much more present, than my own murders, since it was that brutally gruesome.

Kyou-san seems to be fine with it, but maybe she’s tormented on the inside. Not that I should bother myself with her worries, I have enough to deal with myself.

For now, it would be the coming duel. But I have several advantages.

I’ll have my backpack, which gives me access to a variety of consumables and my weapons, so my equipment overall should be superior. My battle-senses are sharpened due the time in the chasm, while my opponent doesn’t seem to fight that much anymore. And finally, I’ve the power of heroes, so I’m especially powerful for a human due the class-system.

My opponent on the other hand might be from a physically superior race, which has scales as armor and claws plus a tail as weapons, but in the end, it’s still an old lizard. His experience might be a bother, but in the end I should win the fight, as long as the fighting ground won’t be too disadvantageous.

So it comes down to the arena, but since the patriarch chose his great sword, this is most likely no climbing challenge. Maybe just a simple platform like in the coliseum.

I’m ready to go. I change to [Pikeman].

Kyou-san and I already collected all the WP we could, but we’re still short a few to get one of the cheap bonuses. I would like to enlarge the area of the attribute-bonuses we gain by being near each other, but it would still be only 5 meters with the cheapest one.

We both are brought to the arena ring and the yelling and cheering crowd of Ss’raks is welcoming us. I was stripped to my underwear beforehand. The arena itself is just a simple platform, so everyone can watch the fight from the stands.

Kyou-san is being sent to the sidelines. I could walk up to her in battle, if I want to, even though none of us is supposed to cross the line, which is drawn there. On the other end of the battle area is a Ss’rak, probably the wife of the patriarch.

The patriarch himself is kneeing at the inner circle which is drawn in the middle of the ring and in the center of the circle stands the matriarch. I join them and knee down across the patriarch.

Then the ceremony begins.

The matriarch is speaking in a loud clear voice in the strange pronunciation the Ss’rak share, but I was focused on the patriarch, who seems to be as tensed as I.

This is good.

I try to imagine myself killing him, to prepare myself to do the deed. I’m still mostly calm, just a bit of excitement is building up. But my mind remains clear.

The matriarch finishes her speech and gives each of us an item: The patriarch gets his black sword and I the backpack.

“Beginn!”

I push myself back with my arms to jump back and on my feet and see, how the patriarch is slowly getting up. I should better end it quickly! I just have to open my backpack, take out my spear and use [Speedthrust] once or twice to dominate this duel early on.

So I open my backpack and… it’s an empty backpack. No inventory-screen is seen. What’s going on? I equip the backpack with a bad feeling and check its status.

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

[Heroes Backpack]

Description: This is a backpack of a hero, a gift from the gods which allows the heroes to gain access to a pocket dimension, known as [Inventory], to store and retrieve large amounts of items. Each such backpack is aligned to one specific hero.

Status: Gain the [Inventory]-skill; Momokawa Kyou only

Value: 0 Newgold

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“This is the wrong one!!!”

“Of course, kekeke.” The patriarch is standing and lifts his sword sluggishly, while hissing his words, which were nearly swallowed by the roaring crowd. “Because I switched them. For a hero to use the inventory for this kind of duel is shameless. So duel with a backpack, like you wanted to.”

Shit! I hate it! Die in a drain, old fart!

So the patriarch has some insight of heroes and I’m practically  unarmed now. But at least he can’t use the sword that well with his old body, so I just need to keep myself mobile and try to think of another action.

The patriarch lifts his left hand. “[Flaming Sphere]!”

A ball of fire is flying towards me, I panicky dodged that one barely. So he’s a mage? I see, the sword is to catch me off guard, it’s a strategy. Or maybe he learned some spells, after being to old to wield his weapon efficiently.

But his spell doesn’t seem to be that powerful. Do normal people have MP? Can I let him use up all of them and then attack?

No, I have to be quick. I change class to [Scout] to get the most of my mobility. I sprint towards the patriarch.

“Fool.” He swings his sword, but I was easily able to dodge it and get into point-blank distance. I will smack him for good!

Suddenly, a was thrown back and my ears are ringing. What was that? Ah, of course, it’s like that roar of the bear. I didn’t know that Ss’rak can use that, too.

I can barely stand, since my sense of balance is off, but I will be able to dodge another of these [Flaming Spheres]. I lock my eyes on the patriarch, as a [Scout] I have the [Focus]-skill, which will make it much easier to dodge projectiles, magical or not.

But instead of using fire magic, the patriarch becomes… bulky. Each of his limbs grows twice as large and the torso seems to be ready to explode of power. This is like a certain perverted hermit in a well-known manga.

“[Blade Tornado]!”

The patriarch rises his sword and a whirlwind begins to surround him, the air pressure pushes me back again. This time, I got some cuts on my body.

Can it be, that I’m actually at a huge disadvantage?

The patriarch uses fire, roaring, whirlwinds and have grown muscles. Even before I ended flying, the patriarch is already dashing towards to me in an amazingly speed, ready to strike. I don’t have time to think of anything or react!

… wait! [Distraction]!

One second is enough to throw his aiming off, the sword missed me by a hair width and I could feel the cold black metal rubbing my skin. Who called this skill useless, huh!?

The impact of my landing let me roll over the floor and I feel slightly dizzy. This was close and I don’t know, if I can rescue myself next time.

This isn’t good.

―○●○―

My name is Momokawa Kyou.

I stand at the sideline of an arena and watching a duel, which determines my future. But the one I have to entrust this future to is losing. Badly.

His name is Katsuragi Kenta and I despised him once, since he is a disgusting, corpulent boy who looks constantly down on others, even though he has no reason to.

But after coming to this world, everything changed. Suddenly, we had to take on an unreasonable request or we won’t be able to return later. Ken disappeared after a few days. We only realized it after we wanted to form permanent parties, and the numbers didn’t add up. But nobody really cared for him. He has no friends in class or school. Or at all, I think.

I started my party with Masahiko-kun and the others. We decided, that each of us should specialize in one aspect, since it makes sense to be the best in what you do. I wanted to be the supporter, since then nobody would force me to be too active on the battlefield.

We found out, that you can learn classes, if you’re with someone who actually do the profession. So I started at the church, the priests there uses herbs and magic to heal the needy. And I got access to the [Healer]-class and chose it without hesitation.

My first mistake, the [Healer]-class is only using herbs. No magic.

Then I learned the [Priest]-class and was able to use magic. This was great, I could magically close any wound, even though the effect differs between hero and non-hero. Heroes are able to fight again, as long as their HP and SP are replenished, a non-hero will recover faster, but it’s not like you can simply rejoin an ongoing battle.

Finally, I was able to do the role I imagined, but then Masahiko-kun had the idea, that each of us should bring skills, which would be useful while camping. So I learned the [Cook]-class, my second mistake.

All of my class-slots were used up and I didn’t have any offensive potential left. None of my classes grants me a significant [Strength]-boost and I don’t have any offensive spells. And in this world you have to kill, to become stronger. And I did realized it too late.

Even though I was able to kill a monster sometimes, Masahiko-kun and the others grew impatient. We fought and when the heroes were about to go to the border to level up faster, I was left behind. I was angry. Angry at Masahiko-kun and the others, since they left me, even though they actually cared for my well-being. And angry at myself, since I didn’t thought it through, before I used up all my class-slots.

I had the option to go to the teachers and become part of the non-combat group, but I hated that idea. I wanted to show everyone, what I’m capable of. I’m the class-president after all and I wanted to be with my friends and instead of the shame, I felt at that time. So I hunted monsters every day.

But it was difficult to do it alone, even though I could heal myself, the groups of monsters were too large or too strong, so I practically walked around all day with one or two kills per day. And the anger became despair.

I had to help the church a few times to earn my life-expenses. A useless hero like me would be a burden, otherwise. I felt like a part-time worker who had trouble to make ends meet, even though I had some money, my whole lifestyle was hanging on a thread.

After the chancellor told me, that they won’t support me much longer, if I don’t get results, I was outraged. And scared. Even though I could still sleep in the temple, I would have to pay for food and other life-expenses. Even though I saved money, it wouldn’t be enough in the long run, if I continue to hunt monsters like before.

And then Ken returned. He was the same boy as before, but while I couldn’t adapt to this world, he easily did so. Although it wasn’t kind to him, too. He was cursed and needed help and suggested a team-up, so we could aid one another. The despair and frustration I until now, were the reasons I consented to his proposal. My fourth mistake.

Although it started out fine, in the end he put me through danger after danger and his own curse got even struck on me. But somehow I gave in to all of this. Maybe because I’m so sick of everything, that I don’t even care anymore.

I still dislike Ken, he’s also not fond of me. But somehow it’s better than back in school. Maybe because he has grown. Not physically, even though his body changes when he switch between classes, but I think he somehow got a bit more doable.

This partnership of convenience isn’t so bad in the end. Even though it brings trouble. I even had to kill someone, but seeing him die would be worse. Rather killing a stranger than losing someone you care about.

Care about?

Strange, maybe there is more to it than I thought. Maybe there is something like a feeling of actual partnership in this. Only a little.

That must be the reason, why I’m so unnerved at the moment. Because I see him getting his ass handed to him, again, and know that this will inevitably lead to his death. And there is nothing I could do at the moment.

Even Ken seems to be out of ideas, he barely dodged this last attack by using his strange [Distraction]-skill. Why don’t he use the backpack? Is it broken?

Wait, isn’t it mine? That embroidery on the front side was made by Teru-chan! But he definitely handed over his own backpack, so… someone replaced them! Was it the patriarch or the matriarch? I was about to object, but the rules… Cheating is allowed, as long the item makes it into the fight. We wanted to use that to our advantage and now the shoe is on the other foot.

Ken, you idiot, should have realized it sooner!

I check his status menu, his HP are at 62%, his SP at 48%. [Distraction] costs some SP, but I guess the strain consumes a lot more. Every evasive movement is using up his SP and he makes some desperate ones.

Should I cast magic? No, at least the patriarch knows magic and it will be noticed if the wounds disappeared on Ken’s half-naked body without him doing something. I can’t cheat that way, without getting both of us killed.

The patriarch changes his bulky body-form back to the skinny one again and attacked with magic from a distance, but this time he doesn’t aim for Ken himself, but the surrounding.

“[Fire Pillar], [Fire Pillar], [Fire Pillar]!”

Each shot makes a fire pillar, which emanates fire and heat to the surrounding. Ken’s SP begin to drop continually, it’s the same as the chasm.

Wait… he only uses magic, when he have the skinny form… might he be… No, it must be!

“KEN!” I don’t like to shout, but since the spectators are too loud with their cheering and booing, I had to: “HE HAS TO BE A HERO!”

Ken looks shocked, but he turns his head to the patriarch and I saw the patriarch moving his lizard-lips. And I knew, what he said: “She is right.”

This is not good. I didn’t even know that there are non-human heroes. Is he from another world, too?

But there is no moment of rest for Ken, since the patriarch changes class again and becomes a warrior, who attacks with his greatsword. Since the patriarch is a hero himself, he surely knows how to defeat one.

There is barely a chance to win this fight. I look over the status menu of Ken over and over again, but there is nothing, that would help for long.

Ken’s SP are falling quickly. Is that what the patriarch wants? To tire Ken out and then kill him afterwards?

And I realized, that there are two things which might increase the chances. One would be the attribute-bonuses we get, if we’re next to each other. “KEN, COME HERE!” And the other would be… This is within the rules, but I hate Ken for the fact, that I’m going to do that!

But my own life depends on it, too.

―○●○―

I don’t know why Kyou-san wants me to come to her, but appearantly I need to relocate the whole duel to do so. Well, it’s simpler than it sounds, I just have to decide in which direction I’m pushed around.

Or I’m simply punched in that direction, while coughing blood, seeing red and being unable to stand up, like right now. The punch hit my face directly, just after the patriarch changed into his warrior-class. Somehow I get the feeling of karma.

But at least I’m closer to my target destination. I crawl the rest of the distance quickly and now, in front of Kyou-san, the pain eases. Ah, the attribute-bonuses. My increased [Vitality] make it easier to ignore the damage. I also change class to [Pikeman] to enhance my [Vitality] even further, since moving around is not possible in that state.

With shaky movements I stand up and face the patriarch, who approaches slowly and carefully. Maybe he thinks, something is off. He’s careful, since Kyou-san called out for me, but there is no real need. I just got a minor buff. And it only lasts, as long as I’m withing 1 meter of Kyou-san.

“No Ken, face me, you idiot!”

“Who are you calling a- hrmph!!!”

I turn my head and was silenced. In a manner, I never would have thought possible.

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

You gain 50 WP!!!

Who would have thought, that none of you ever kissed before, it’s romantic, it’s unthinkable! I never considered this, so I just made up this entry and since it will never come again, don’t even try to exploit it! But you can still get 1 WP a day by kissing each other or 5 WP by kissing only once per week, which is a bit more romantic, but less effective than confirm each other feelings each day.

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

A girl’s lips are… warm and soft. And moist and is it me, or are they a bit blistered? Maybe due our time in the chasm… Wait, what am I thinking about?!

And why are all Ss’rak cheering loud enough to make me deaf? Are they thinking, this is a cheap soap opera? It’s not like any of us have feelings for each other. On the other hand it’s my first kiss, so having it with someone I don’t care about, is a bit disappointing.

Wait… the pop-up said, none of us have kissed before, so… Kyou-san never kissed before, too!? But she… but she… she’s a bitch! Or is she not?!

Without hesitation Kyou-san separates from me and wiped of her lips with one of her blood-soiled sleeves, while mumbling “I was about to get the 5 WP, but…”

This is much better! I mean, the WP, not getting her first kiss, which is kinda disturbing, actually.

But with 50 more WP, we could… “[Shared Inventory]!” I won’t be able to actually buy that, since I’m in the middle of a duel and not able to operate the status screen…

Wait. Why is the patriarch waiting patiently with a cheesy grin on his face? Why didn’t he cut me in two pieces while I was still being kissed by Kyou-san? And why is he smirking? Is he enjoying this kind of soap opera as well? Damn it! I’ll show him!

I open up the status menu, select the WP-store and buy the [Shared Inventory]. I confirm the message and it says, I have to wait for my spouse to confirm, too.

Kyou-san confirms and I try to take out something from the backpack. The [Inventory]-menu appears and I see all the items I had in my backpack before plus the ones which obviously belongs to Kyou-san’s. I retrieve a potion and my spear.

Finally, I have my weapon back. With this, the chasm wouldn’t have been as unnerving, since managing single-use-weapons sucks!

Retrieving items from the backpack leaves most Ss’rak shocked, but I gulped down the SP-potion, right before the patriarch slashes at me. “How could you do this! This is impossible, human!” His confidence waned the moment I could use my equipment and rage is distorting his lizard-features. As far as I can see, he’s losing his temper, since I foiled his plan.

I block his attack with my spear, but I already feel how it is about to break: “Spouses share everything, no?” That’s for smirking at me for being kissed! “Fall back, Kyou-san! [Whirlwind]!”

This skill is actually a melee AoE, but can knock back single enemies as easily as multiple ones. While the patriarch is still out of balance, I will take that chance to damage him. “[Speedthrust]!”

But my skill is blocked: “[Iron Defense]!” The tip of my spear is hitting him and the sound of metal on metal rings through the area, the force of the impact almost let me go of my weapon. He uses his shoulder to push me back, he’s got obviously more [Strength] than I do.

I used a HP-potion, the matriarch is still not saying anything about me using items. So since it’s in-battle and Kyou-san didn’t cheat in an obvious way, it’s still legit. I was concerned because a kiss is obvious, but well, it’s not like this and me pulling items from my backpack is obviously related.

Now finally the real fight can begin! And I’m still at a disadvantage, since the patriarch’s level is probably higher than mine.

This was already clear as day, seeing how old he is. He might even lost some of his [Attribute]-values, since he’s grown old. But even though his magic wasn’t that impressive so far, his skills as a warrior are way above mine.

He could probably kill me with one skill, if I let my guard down. From now on, it might be better to draw everything out. I still have some consumables, so I’ll hopefully outlast him. Let’s think about it as a boss fight in a raid, they’re simply too hard to defeat without brains, endurance and resource-management.

Yes, if I change my mindset like that, my situation isn’t that bad at all.

Both of us are eyeing each other. He probably waits for an opportunity, while I just try to figure out a plan. With my [Inventory], I have multiple possible strategies and my aim is to deplete the patriarch’s SP, like he did with mine.

Battle of attrition, I must pressure him, while avoiding his lethal strikes.

My hand wanders to the backpack, but before I could grab an item, the patriarch is already rushing at me again, his heavy blade comes in an wide arc: “[Full Moon]!”

Before his attack, I already stepped back, but I’m still cut! And not just once, several minor cuts are all over my body. And even the floor. Damn it, skill!

I’m bleeding in my half-naked state and before anything else, I grab a HP-pot and drink it. I regain my HP, the cuts on my body closes, but I still lost some blood, my MaxSP are reduced as a result.

So this is his aim. He knows exactly, how the hero-system works, so he can exploit its weak spots.

But with the potion, I got another item. I throw my smoke bomb.

Smoke fills the arena and I change to [Scout]. My senses are enhanced, so I got the edge here and with my [Sneak]-skill, I’m able to move nearly soundless. Time to bring out some other items.

Or so I thought. “[Gust]!” The smoke disperse and a skinny patriarch smiles at me.

I hate heroes.

This time I try my stink bombs. I retrieved them, thinking that it would be great to land a bullseye point blank, while being hidden in the smoke, but now it’s just the item I have on hand.

I throw two of these little spheres, but the patriarch is just smiling liplessly. “[Gust].”

The bombs are deflected, right in my direction. The stench tears my eyes, but since it isn’t a direct hit, it doesn’t do much to me. Except burning some SP, which I better recover, when I have the time.

This is a misfit. If I try to be crafty, he’s using his magic to counter me. If I try to be brave, he’s overpowering me with his warrior-skills.

But as long as I remain distant and use tricks, the patriarch will stay in his magic-using-class, which isn’t his strong suit. I hope I have enough combat-items. My quantity of bombs isn’t that great, since I try to not rely on them. They’re expensive!

While I’m considering my options, the patriarch doesn’t hesitate. “[Flaming Sphere]!” As a scout, it’s easy to dodge with my [Focus] on the patriarch. “[Fire Pillar]! [Fire Pillar]!” Ah, he’s using that spell again.

It creates a pillar of fire, which burns for around 30 seconds. They’re obstructing my path, being near them is bad for my SP, since they’re hot, and touching them will definitely hurt me. But he’s just trying to starve my SP again, this is no problem, if I… “[Ember Arrows]!”

I could foresee the effect of this spell with [Focus], every movement made it clear. It’s a barrage of small fire projectiles, which covers an area densely. But the area itself isn’t that big, so… Shit!

The [Fire Pillars]! They’re blocking my escape!

I try to evade the [Ember Arrows] as good as possible, without [Focus] I would surely get more than three clean hits and several graces, but this attack series isn’t over. The patriarch changes class and rushes with the sword at me: “[Quicksword]!”

Without the [Scout]’s agility and [Distraction], I would have been stabbed. So I just got a nasty cut at my side, while the patriarch regains his stance, I drink another HP-pot. My HP-bar was almost gone for a moment!

Is this the difference actual fighting experience!? Hunting monsters isn’t anything like that! I should have the upper edge with my [Inventory], but I feel helpless. I’m getting more damage than I can recover in time!

As a [Scout] I can’t directly fight back efficiently, but then I miss out [Distraction], which might only to be able to divert the attention enough to throw off his aiming a bit, but is still vital for my survival.

I throw another smoke bomb, mixed with a stench bomb. It won’t last long, but I need any moment I can get. There has to be something I can do. I look at the spear in my hand, which is currently doing nothing and change back to [Pikeman].

The patriarch is about to use another [Gust], I’m sure. So I just have to [Speedthrust] him, while he cast the spell.

And here it comes: “[Gu-]”

“[Speedthrust]!”

“[-st]!” Damn it, it’s aimed for me!

So [Gust] is strong enough to knock me back, while I use my skill. Even though the fog is only blown away on my pathway, this is another failed strategy.

Smoke bombs just buys time.

Stink bombs are useless.

Fire bombs are only damaging at hit and [Gust] would also be able to deflect it. That spell is annoying! So bombs in general aren’t that effective.

I still have a stash of recovery potions, so if I can survive long enough, I should be able to win, like my original strategy proposed. But I don’t know how many tricks are up to that lizard’s sleeve. This is risky and there is no room for mistakes.

And as I have to buy time and am in constant need to recover my HP, my SP are in danger. What should I do? And why is Kyou-san not cheating!?

OK, she’s probably looking for a way, but doesn’s see one. She’s trapped in city full of Ss’rak, so she won’t make any move, that might turn the whole city against her.

I got an idea!

Jumping into the remaining smoke cloud, I change to [Scout]-class again.

The patriarch uses another [Gust] to blow my cover away, but I already activated [Camouflage]. But with only a slight delay, the patriarch changes again for some serious sword action. “[Quicksword]!”

Since I used [Camouflage] in the smoke, my whole body is now in a smokey blaze of colors. After the smoke dispersed, it was obvious were I stand. A fatal mistake, you might think.

But as the patriarch is rushing at me with unprecedented speed, he stumbles right in front of me and falls over, I change to [Pikeman] and used a new item: The make-shift spear, made of a broomstick and a Ss’rak knife and “[Speedthrust]!” stabbed him.

I had another skill all along. [Set Trap], which allows me to quickly put up a trap I have and enhances its effects. Like that foothold trap, used to hunt larger prey. Suitable for Ss’rak, too. With this skill, I was able to set it up within two seconds, but it wasn’t hidden. So I used [Camouflage] while holding the trap, so it becomes smoky, too and laid it in front of me.

As he was recognizing me, he just oversaw the trap, which had the same pattern. He was too keen on taking advantage of my ‘mistake’, that he didn’t take a good look beforehand. And now I stabbed the make-shift spear in his side, which does a lot of damage on an unmoving target. The impact of the fall due his own skill’s momentum rendered him still for a short while, fulfilling that requirement.

This is a clean hit!

But my skill is too strong for that self-made weapon. The broomstick broke into two halfs, the knife still in the patriarch’s side. At least I still have my real spear and without mercy, I stabbed at the lying Ss’rak repeatedly.

Finally, the patriarch got the first blood. But after my third stab, he used [Iron Defense] again and his scales became as hard as metal, like a real armor, so further damage lessened. He stands up again and for me it’s time to retreat for now.

Before he can escape from the trap, I should be able to drink potions and recover my HP and SP. Or so I thought.

Instead, the patriarch didn’t even tried to escape, he rather changed class again and hurls one [Flaming Sphere] after another at me. I can dodge them, but it’s hard to drink a potion meanwhile.

…Cooldown. One of his skills can’t be used repeatedly, so he tries to overcome this time frame with offense. Some KIs of bosses are like that. That’s what my guts are telling me, my gamer instinct. And only one skill seems to fit the bill: [Iron Defense].

It’s most likely a defense buff, which is strong, but short-lasting plus a long cooldown. This would be the reason why he didn’t rely on it much and explain his whole combat tactics.

“Phew…” I exhale, I need to be brave now. This is no game, but now the next attack have to count. I only have one [Spear]-skill, which could land a killing blow, [Speedthrust]. But to use it, I need some space to build up momentum. And the movement has to be a straight line.

I will be hit. I will lose HP. And I will feel pain. I could even die. This is not a game.

But I’m a coward. Deep inside I’m afraid to continue the battle for much longer. Even though it’s scary to put everything in a final assault, it’ll be over soon. It’s more frightening to imagine to fight on, hanging on a glance of hope.

I’m really doing it.

I’m an idiot.

I take aim. “[Speedthrust]!”

“[Fire Pillar]!” Guessing my move by my stance right before, the patriarch is using his [Fire Pillar] to cut off my path. I have still the time to cancel my skill.

But I proceed.

Fires are burning my half-naked body, it really hurts all over and my HP are dropping at a dangerous speed, but I already know what I wanted to hit: The Ss’rak knife in the body of the patriarch.

The spears tip stabbed into the rest of the broomstick and with a unsavory sound, the knife pierces through the body of the patriarch. There is a hole in his side! He coughs blood, while I feel dizzy, since I took a large amount of damage.

I take my spear in both hands and, using the blunt side, knock the patriarch down. With a fluent movement, I stab him again. And again. My emotions are in a swirl of pain, anger and panic. Just stay down! This is the only thought I’m currently capable of.

I’m exhausted. I stabbed him numerous times by now. He have to be dead.

But he isn’t. He’s wounded all over his aged body, but he turns around, so he can lie on his back. He’s not much more than a bloody mess.

He’s not looking at me. He’s looking at his wife, saying farewell with just a glance.

Then he closes his eyes, accepting his death. And I’m the one who have to do it. “Sorry…” It’s the only way. I truly believe it.

“Don’t be.”

A final stab through the heart. My hands are trembling and I feel a strange sense of guilt and relief at the same time. I can practically feel how the life before me is extinguished.

I think I can kill people now. That’s what I truly believe.

―○●○―

I don’t really know what happened afterwards. I collapsed after the adrenaline of combat subsided. And when I woke up, Kyou-san and I were already outside the Ss’rak city. Supposedly we were carried blindfolded by two of the lizard people by the order of the matriarch. Most likely so we won’t know the exact location of their home.

Kyou-san is plainly looking at me, who needed some rest to ease the mental exhaustion. No words, no gestures, just a look. Even eye-contact is seldom.

What might she think? Why isn’t she saying anything? Maybe she’s reached a new level of disgust for me, who seems to have no qualm over killing someone anymore.

That’s right, I can accept the deaths I brought. Maybe it’s because they’re Ss’rak, who are still quite different from humans. Or maybe I’m still in shock. But the feeling of terror I got when I killed the Ss’rak guards, spurred by Muaotef’s presence, is gone now.

I still think it’s a shame, but I can easily live with it, I suppose. Something changed within me when I killed the patriarch, whose name I still don’t know. And I don’t even care, how he was called, he’s dead.

I killed the patriarch and they let me go, as if everything was fine. No retribution, no blaming, it’s their strange sense of honor. It’s anti-climatic, but I like it that way. Boring is the best! Even though the human race lost as a sentient life form.

“I’m fine now. Let’s go.” The Ss’rak who carried us explained the way to the Heißquellen-shrine. It’s not that far off. About two hours from the city to this place and it should us take another hour to the shrine, that makes 3 hours between the city and the shrine. At least for Ss’rak, I felt how they climbed some cliffs while carrying us.

We walk down the path and Kyou-san is still not saying anything. It’s kinda like before, when we were traveling to this shrine the first time. It’s almost as if the time in the chasm never happened.

To think we actually grew closer there. It’s only back to normal.

An hour without any talking later.

We’re at the Heißquellen-shrine. It’s time to end this stupid pilgrimage! We only need the water and go back to the capital. We should probably tell the king about this Ss’rak city and Muaotef or more like, Kyou-san should. Well, I may support her on this, if she asks nicely.

Anyhow, it’s time to fetch some water. The shrine is still laid to waste, but this time, we won’t be disturbed and overpowered by Ss’rak.

“Wait.” Kyou-san is finally saying something, but her voice is suspecting. “Something is wrong.”

“Fine, fine, let me check.” I use my enhanced senses and run every [Perception]-skill I know, but there is nothing suspicious here. “You’re just imagining it.”

“No.”

“…” I hate that stubbornness. “Why?”

“Female intuition.”

Facepalm. “Look, there is nothing. You might be tense, but as long as I’m here, there is nothing to worry about.” As I turn around, Kyou-san grabs my wrist.

“Don’t go.”

“Phew… Just let’s get over this, OK!? If this makes you feel better, I’ll use my whole [Stealth]-skill repertoire, so you might feel at ease a bit. I’ll be back quickly.” I break away and use [Sneak] and [Hide Smell].

This is so stupid! I’m fully recovered, have all of my equipment back and I’m a high-level character. As long there is no Muaotef, there can’t be anything that might be dangerous for me here.

I sneak into the shrine and now I stand before the spring’s pool. Now I need only to fetch some water with a viol and we’re finished here.

Suddenly, a piercing sound passes through my body and my vision blurs. The pain is splitting my head! I stumble and fall, unable to maintain my balance. I think there is blood coming from my ears.

The HP and SP damage isn’t much, but there are some worrisome conditions. [Deaf], [Stunned] and [Dizzy]. This is a sound-based debuff.

My visions clears somewhat and I see several Ss’rak before me, one of them is over 2 meters. It’s the Voice of Muaotef. Shit, he totally slipped my mind. He leads a pack of five, the other four are bulky and seems quite adept to use these maces they’re holding.

I can’t hear what the Voice is saying, but most likely it’s just a speech about revenge, his greatness and how you could attack me without me noticing. Only the last one would be interesting.

But for now, I should concentrate on staying alive. The four thugs are surrounding me and swing their weapons.

―○●○―

I, Momokawa Kyou, sigh. There is so much, I have to tell, but somehow looking at Ken makes me not saying anything at all. It’s like my desire to tell him just vanishes.

And even if I say something, he just don’t listen. I really have a bad feeling in this shrine, it’s different from the first time, where the signs were obvious, it’s more like there’s something in the air, a malicious feeling, directed at us.

But he went, after all. Stubborn. Obstinate. Always doing what he wants, instead considering others.

I don’t want to get into another danger, so I waited, but the least I could do to confirm my suspicion is to observe his status. Even though it’s a curse, this one feature can come in handy. While the rest is a nightmare for the most part.

Called it.

A bit of damage, three conditions.

Ken’s in the building of the spring, so I can’t see him. But I should normally hear something from this distance. So it’s a silent danger.

Maybe I should just run away. The curse might be horrible, but it got me some levels. I should now be able to take on most monsters on my own, when I return to Esse. I could rejoin Masahiko-kun and my other friends, my level now should be enough.

There is no gain in helping Ken, it’s only an unnecessarily risk. There will be most likely no compensation, only more of his constant whining.

There is the curse, but who knows how it work out, if he dies.

But there is another thing. A sense of responsibility.

Ken and I are partners in this undertaking and in the end, most of the things I did so far was healing and cooking. Well, I did kill that Ss’rak back then, but that was a spur of a moment and I’m not keen to repeat that.

And Ken? He protected me, he gave me advice and when I was sick of everything, he took charge and brought us through the chasm. Even though protection and advice was part of the deal, he took most of the burdens.

I… own him.

But let’s not be crazy. I check on him and if there is no reason to get involved, I won’t be. If it’s too dangerous, then I can still flee.

Slowly I tiptoe into the building. In times like these, I wish I had the [Stealth]-ability.

Still no sounds. Most likely I just have to go straight through the building to get to the spring.

I slip through an open doorway and suddenly, like a flip of a TV-switch, voices can be heard: “-wiz magick, to zeal the zound!”

I know that voice. . The Voice of Muaotef, or more like the lizardman who’s called that. Ken really shouldn’t have hit him. Another of his rash, illogical actions. He probably just snapped for a silly reason.

I carefully look around a corner. There is the exit to the spring, which is enclosed by the shrine-building.

There lies Ken, who’s on the floor, obviously unable to move. Four lizardman are surrounding him, all of them are wielding club-like weapons with an iron head.

I think these were called maces. But the name beside, they’re surely able to break bones with ease.

I don’t know, how the hero-system works with broken bones. Would it downgrade broken bones as just HP-damage or add a [Broken Limb] condition? If it’s the latter, I won’t be able to remove it. She doesn’t have a spell for this.

Most likely the Voice used some magic to make a certain area soundproof from the outside and since Ken relies too much on his skills, he fell into their trap. This would be his fault for not obeying me, so I have no reason to help him out.

If he dies, this curse on me may be undone.

I roll my eyes and looks through my backpack. Both of us have a [Shared Inventory], so there may be some item of his, which will prove helpful.

There are still those bombs, Ken used against the patriarch. I stuff my pockets with them. They should prove useful.

I’m about to do something really stupid, aren’t I? Just let’s get over it.

I charge in, only looking at my target. Then I kick it, right into the stomach and it’s enough to let it fly a short distance, right into the spring water. Is this my higher [Strength] or am I just that good?

The target is Ken, by the way.

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

You gain 3 WP.

Even if you saved your husband’s well-being, your methods are quite questionable.

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

Shut up!

While the lizardmen are still wondering what happens, I throws a bomb right into the face of the Voice. Uh, what a nasty smell, even at this distance it gives me headache.

The Voice, on the other hand, is coughing and wailing.

I evade a swinging mace, draw my lizardman-dagger and thrust at the arm, who was attacking me. I cut it, but it’s too shallow. Like I thought, with my classes, there was no way, that I can seriously hurt them at this level.

But it’s still going better than I thought. So this happens, if you gain some levels. I was already a more athletic type, but my body is so light and moves so well, that I’m feeling like I’m walking on air.

So this is what being a hero feels like.

I throw a smoke bomb, I want some concealment, so that the guards won’t be able to attack me as a team. The henchmen aren’t important, the Voice is. How did Ken called it… boss-mob? Somehow it’s important to get rid of it.

The Voice is still stunned from the stink bomb and with a quick motion, I’m standing before it. Then I stab with my knife. A deep cut is right in its stomach. Ah, these knifes are good when you attack immobile foes.

It’s not pleased: “Yuu daaare!” And inhales.

“[Speedthrust]!” The region of the Voice’s lung is pierced by a spear. “No more sound-magic.” Ken, wet from the spring water, is standing right next to me. The coolness of the timing and angle negates his usual disgustingness. So he can look plain, when he works hard.

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

You gain 2 WP.

With perfect timing, your white knight on a horse arrives and slays the monster. You sure are lucky, to have such an reliable husband.

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

Well, there isn’t much of a knight there. But at least he’s less Ken than usual. Maybe he could earned a positive impression, if he had actually said something cool. Like ‘You won’t harm my companions!’ or ‘It’s ungentlemanly to hurt a girl.” No, with the last one, his disgusting-level would go through the roof.

“You’re late.” It’s irritating, that I’m is feeling a sense of relief that now Ken is here. He’s full of faults and won’t make anyone feel safe, but somehow he really became reliable. At least a bit and only until he does something stupid, which happens quite frequently.

“I’ve nearly drowned.” He kicks the impaled Voice from his weapon, the lizardman is breathing stertorously on the ground, out of combat. “But thanks.”

I kicked Ken into the spring well, since it has healing properties. And several other reasons, I have a lot of stress, which needs an outlet and Ken is responsible for all of it.

Maybe the healing factor was the thing, which let him recover or maybe his conditions just ran out, but in the end, he was in time. Let’s say that it was intentional. Yes, definitely. There is no doubt about it.

From out of the smoke, the four guards are approaching, but Ken knocked them back with a [Whirlwind] and follows with a [Speedthrust] to impale a single one, rendering it unable to fight. So two down, three remaining.

So strong.

But this is enough. If Ken takes out one more, it’ll be hard for them to retreat, since they can’t carry the wounded. “Ken, wait.”

He gives me a baffled look. “Why?”

“If we kill his servants, Muaotef might be displeased. Let them go.” A shudder goes through my body as I mention the dragon’s name. Muotef is like a primal force, reminding us that there are things outside our control.

Ken is shivering, too, but clenches his spear, as if he wants to assert, that he’s still in power. “But they might come back!” He’s not thinking as clearly as usual.

“Listen to me, I’m in charge.” It’s too stupid to try to argue with that idiot.

“Since when?”

“Since the beginning.” He’s too stubborn. Ignoring him, I talk to the lizard people, who are observing us with a heated expression. “Listen. We don’t want to kill you, so you may go with the wounded. Then we part ways forever. Your boss needs medical attention, so you should decide fast.”

Something changes within the attitude of the lizard people. It’s strange. The hostility recedes, and the three of them nods to each other. “Agrreeed.” I already saw something like that, back when I asked some other lizard guards, if they would disregard killing Ken and me and bring us to the Voice.

There is something, which makes them act like that. I need to know what. Maybe it’s also part of the hero-system and can be used at-will.

But the lizard people don’t leave it at this: “Yuu killed heeeero of Great One. Iz honorable fight, but Ss’rak will no forget! Yuu dangarous!” Ken’s face is shocked.

The patriarch is Muaotef’s hero? This doesn’t make any sense. Why are they telling us such obvious lies?

I keep watching Ken, so I might be able to stop him, before he does something stupid. Again.

The three able-bodied lizardmen carry the two others and climb up a cliff, from which the spring comes from. Ken is looking at them with hostility, but doesn’t attack them. “This feels wrong.”

“You can’t eliminate all of your problems. This was just payback for your actions.”

“Phew…” He avoids eye-contact. So he might feel a bit guilty about it.

I also sigh, in relief. I surely hope that I will never see reptilian monsters again, be it lizardmen or dragons.

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