Chapter 5 – Finish-up!
Proofreader: Orion Dye
After I splinted Rine-chan’s arm and made her an arm sling, I took a look at Arako, who was as unable to move around as Ken.
As I was not able to put her staff in the [Inventory] -the staff is still somewhat living- I bound it to her back. Ken’s spear, also alfr-made though he declined the living variant, wandered into the backpack.
Now Arako is leaning on me, while Rine-chan supports Ken as much as possible. Good that both of them are about the same height.
Ken also switched to [Ranger], which made him a bit lighter, but Rine can currently only use her right arm, which makes things strenuous.
Staying here would be suicide, but transporting Ken and Arako will be difficult.
I could probably carry the alfr girl on my back for a while, but I’m the one who will surely get the [Worn Out]-condition next, so I have to save as much of my stamina as possible.
Furthermore, Rine-chan is just not able to carry Ken with her broken arm, so there is no point to putting Arako on my back in the first place.
We’re only as fast as the slowest member; carrying one won’t change that.
So in the end, Rine-chan and I are slowly trying to get these two away. They can’t even stand by themselves anymore, and their walking speed is sluggish even with support, but we have little choice.
“Are you alright, Arako?” At times I ask her that.
She looks at me then and answers in between ragged breaths. “No… but I… will manage…”
Seeing her in such a pitiful state is painful. Her eyes are unfocused, and she has a fever that the cold medicine doesn’t work on. It still can suppress the actual cold, but this fever has another source: Strain.
The same goes for Ken, but he’s doesn’t tire of cursing almost every step. Mentally he seems to be okay, while Arako is about to pass out.
Maybe he’s just cursing to try to stay awake?
We leave the forest. Without the help of these two, it’ll be too hard to move in there. According to Ken, the mercenaries might follow us after they regroup, since they might have some good trackers that will pick up our trace.
South is the direction we’re aiming at. We can only roughly estimate where that is, since the sky is cloudy again, blocking the sun. It might even rain again.
No, it will.
I’m sure of it, even though I can’t tell why.
I check the status of everyone. Rine is stable, her Max HP decreased, same goes for her Max SP. This is because of her broken arm.
Despite that handicap, she still might be the healthiest out of us four.
Arako’s and Ken’s statuses are grave. The [Worn Out]-condition is decreasing most [Attributes] substantially, but there is nothing I can do. Even Arako doesn’t know a single way to remove that condition except for a day of rest, and Arako knows a lot.
Leaving any one of them here was not an option. Well, except maybe Ken.
No, just kidding, but there is no harm imagining it. Ah, I’m about to giggle, even though it’s not the time for that, even though it is only fun thinking about it.
I may be harsh on him at times, he might be a big idiot, and sometimes I have the urge to kill him, but that’s because of his behavior and a bit of my own immaturity, plus other issues.
Considering what I have had to live through since I met him, it’s reasonable.
I met Ken in high school. We were in the same class. The only people I knew from middle school were Teru-chan, Harada-kun, and Kuga-kun, which I knew from parallel classes.
My other acquaintances were in other classes, and most of the other students in mine were from different middle schools.
Since I wanted to become class president again for my report card, I decided to befriend as many people as possible to get voted in.
I have already abandoned the idea to join a club again this year. I did dancing in elementary and middle school, but that was out of a childish obsession.
It was fun while it lasted, but I wanted to become an adult, so I aimed for the student council this time.
Befriending my classmates wasn’t exactly much of a challenge. Some were easy, like Masahiko-kun, who just gathers other people around him.
Even I was drawn to him, but it’s because he’s just such a pleasant person.
After I was friends with him, I had two-thirds of the class on my side. Enough to get voted as class president.
I didn’t want to stop there though. I wanted to have a perfect victory, and have as much support as possible for becoming school council president.
Most of the rest weren’t hard to convey, even though being as good-looking and popular as I am always causes some contempt, especially with other girls.
However, those jealous bitches were at least superficially friendly to me, especially since being against me would destroy their chances with Masahiko-kun.
That left three people out of the whole class who were especially hard.
Hoshibashi Takashi-kun, someone who would later become a delinquent, was a challenge of endurance. Maybe he started with a bit of a crush on me, or he is just that bad with girls, but he was uncooperative at first. I had to show a bit of care over the course of two months, and after putting a little bit of effort over a long time, he would grudgingly help me whenever I asked.
Kita Katsuo-kun, I befriended later. He didn’t mingle with others and always had the air of someone who already failed at life. He did talk to me when I initiated it, but he also put distance between himself and everyone else. Saegusa-sensei asked me to try to include him in class, but I had no chance. In the end, it was Masahiko-kun who somehow had an event with Katsuo-kun, and the two of them became friends. Then, that friendship extended to me as one of Masahiko-kun’s friends. After becoming friends with Masahiko-kun, he joined the Kyuujutsu club in our high school, which he had avoided previously. Later on, I learned that there was an incident regarding Kyuujutsu in middle school. Katsuo-kun aimed to become a pro, but this incident made him change his mind.
The last one of my hurdles was Katsuragi Kenta. Well, he still is.
While Katsuo-kun merely put up a barrier, and Hoshibashi-kun was uncooperative, Ken smashed his own barrier into everyone’s faces. His face always had the same expression, as if he’s suffering from constipation, and his eyes looked at everyone with hostility. He wouldn’t even maintain eye contact while talking with someone.
My first exchange with Ken…
It was still spring. I think it was on the third day of the school year, when I spotted him on the way to school. “Good morning, Katsuragi-kun.” My sweet smile, my friendly voice, everything was supposed to go well.
But it didn’t. “…are you pressing me for money?”
“You’re pressing me for money, right? I don’t have any. Scram.”
Unable to muster an answer, I was left behind by him. That was our very first conversation.
I even remembered his full name, despite only hearing it four times!
If I consider his self-introduction: “Katsuragi Kenta, Kitakou.” He didn’t even stand up, he just said his name and his former middle-school in a bored voice, as if it was the biggest annoyance ever.
I decided to befriend the others first. I thought he might need more time.
The week after our first exchange, I talked to him during recess. “Katsuragi-kun, can I take a look at your notes? I think I missed something.” I saw how he wrote them diligently, so I thought that might be a good way to start a conversation. This would also make him feel smart, another plus.
That was within expectations. “Then could you help me with the last equation? Taniguchi-sensei was a bit fast there.” Sensei really was, most of the girls weren’t able to understand it, so it was a perfect opportunity for Ken to show off.
To show off an arrogant smirk, that is: “You didn’t even understand something on that level?” That was the first time he even made eye contact with me, looking down on me, like I was some retard.
I spent my time with others, mostly, and started to hang out around Masahiko-kun more, but it’s not like there was no time to talk with the rest of my classmates. While I still had trouble with Hoshibashi-kun, Katsuo-kun, and Ken, I got along with most others by that time. So I observed these three to learn about them.
Ken was often playing some handheld console during recess and lunch break, not even caring about who would see him. During lunch, he ate some bento with one hand, while his other played. A boy with the same game system tried to open a conversation, but from what I observed, it didn’t end well. He rushed out the classroom, almost in tears, while Ken didn’t even look at him during the entire conversation. So I never dared to ask him about his games.
Two weeks into high school, the class president was voted. I won by a landslide, being friends with Masahiko-kun and being friendly to my classmates by showing them my notes, helping them wherever possible, and taking charge, was more than enough to accomplish it.
Then, I had to collect some papers, so I asked Ken: “Katsuragi-kun, do you have a minute?”
“Why are you ‘-kun’ing me!? When did I ever give you my permission? Whatever your name is.”
He didn’t even remember my name! So hard to keep that smile!
“Katsuragi… My name is Momokawa Kyou. You can also call me class president.”
“I didn’t vote for you, Sekozawa.” I was already sure that he was the one who put the vote into the box, which made Saeguchi-sensei cringe and void it after she drew it.
“Katsuragi, you’re mistaken. It’s Momokawa. Written as peach river.”
“Peach, sweet on the outside, poisonous on the inside. … How about I call you ‘Fake #2’?”
I was about to hurt him. I didn’t even know how, but at that point, I wanted to make him feel pain.
Summer came, everyone in class except Ken accepted me. “Katsuragi, you didn’t apply to any event in the sports festival. Follow me and finally write your name on the list!” This wasn’t the first time I reminded him.
“Why don’t you just write my name on that damn list? You like to decide everything anyway, Fake #2, why should I even make the effort to try to play along?”
“Just shut up!” I was very frustrated at this point. I was in the sports festival committee, and the preparations were numerous and difficult and then I still have to keep after Ken, who didn’t even do his basic obligations. “And don’t call me Fake #2!”
“What did you call me?!”
“Bitch, or how do you call someone who whores herself out to almost every boy in class to get votes for the student council? Well, maybe ‘slut’ would be better.”
Oh, his face. I wanted to punch it so hard, that his teeth fly out. He is like that to everyone in class, but unlike my classmates, I can’t just avoid him at every opportunity. I’m class-president!
But whenever I talked with Ken, I deeply regretted being one. “Just call me by my name.”
“Phew… Momokawa, just write my name down wherever.” By the way, during the whole conversation there was no eye contact, but the way he looked out of the window, it was clear as day that he thought of me as a pain in the neck.
There is not one single positive memory about Ken in my whole high school life. He was often called by the teachers and the principle, since his behavior caused many problems. Not major ones, but people don’t like being called names, students and teachers alike.
However, for some reason he never got suspended or anything; maybe his demeanor wasn’t bad enough. Rumors spread that Ken’s parents are rich and donating to the school. Even Katsuo-kun, who was in the same middle school as him, didn’t know the truth;, it was hard to get any intel about Ken from him. Maybe Katsuo-kun was so fed up with him already, that he didn’t even want to talk about him.
At some point even I stopped trying to be nice to Ken, I was only annoyed to see him offending everyone whenever he opened his mouth. It was clear as day that this one would never fit in with the rest of the class, and soon nobody actually cared about him anymore. Most just tried to ignore him as much as possible.
Then we were transported into this fantasy world, and I was abandoned by my friends.
Feeling frustrated about myself, about the situation with my life-expenses, about the future perspectives, I was slowly tormented.
In this torture, I met Ken again.
He was kinda dejected. Since it was two months since I saw him last time, I talked to him. A known face, for a moment I even forgot how furious he made me in school.
He was cursed, and he offered to help me level up if I help him with that curse. It was an attractive offer, even though I was skeptical. It was Ken, after all.
The first part of the journey to Heißquellen was fine, although a bit unnerving. Ken did actually put some effort into working together with me. If he had done that back in school, my whole school life would have been blissful.
Do you know how infuriating it was? I tried for months to get him to treat me a bit like that, but now, in a fantasy world, he suddenly did it as if it was an easy task!
He was also reliable! He was cursed, but he was someone who could fight these monsters, knew about camping outside, and how to become a better hero. While I degenerated to some helpless girl in an unknown land, he actually grew from a jerk to a jerk with useful skills!
But the moment we were caught in Heißquellen by the ss’rak, he went on a rampage and made them really mad at us. Which made them throwing us into the chasm.
I was at a loss. Everything went wrong, and it seemed that we’d die. I had to do something, I didn’t want to die, but everything seemed pointless.
While I was trapped in this cycle, Ken took charge. I let him, since I was unable to bring up much motivation. I concentrated on how to stay alive, while Ken’s eyes were always focused on something else.
Without Ken, I would die. I had to keep him around.
I hated how much I needed him, but this hate kept me from thinking about our certain doom. I was afraid of him going somewhere, so I wouldn’t let him go away, putting my hand on his while sleeping in that cave, keeping him nearby when I took a bath in that hot spring…
He didn’t let me go. When we were chased by the birds with the saber-beaks, he didn’t let me go.
He didn’t let me fall.
Being so near to death made me feel alive, ironically. Pure panic. Then I got infected with his curse. Another thing that kept me from thinking about our doom, a marriage curse. He didn’t know about that, but I blamed him, because it was easy to hate him.
He deserved some of it, but not because of the curse. Rationally, it was nobody’s fault, but I wasn’t rational back then. I felt played with. I felt like the whole world was against me, laughing at me by marrying me off to the one person I despised the most.
Without him, though, I would die, I had to keep him alive. Even when he attacked the crimson bear. Even after he was almost killed by ss’rak when he realized that he just committed murder.
I had to keep him alive. So I murdered the one, who almost killed him.
I’m fine with it. I could say, I did it to save him. I could say it was necessary. Really, I was afraid of what would happen if Ken died. I was dependent on him, even though I hated it.
In the chasm, I saw many sides of Ken that I didn’t even know about. He was selfish, but reliable, and vulnerable. He needed me as much as I needed him, not only because of my spells, but because I was another person.
It could have been anyone, but it was me.
We really didn’t used to get along. Back then we fought almost every day, now he doesn’t fight back as much as before.
It’s a bit lonely.
He defeated the patriarch and I gave him my first kiss. This alone makes me cringe, whenever I think about it I usually push that memory aside, only to remember it whenever he’s away.
Ken is no hero. He didn’t look like one when he fought the patriarch, but, in the end, I kissed him. Now I can accept it, but that irritated me for so long.
After all that, I was seeing him in a better light. He was still a jerk, but at least he was a jerk I could put up with. I even planned to ask him to stay with me for a while, so that we can raise my level, while I would somehow find something he also wanted. At that point, I really was ready to work with him, after we got rid of the curse, as real partners.
A hope which got betrayed.
We came back to Esse, and the curse couldn’t be removed. Somehow Ken lost all that divine power he gathered. We would learn much later, that it was used up by infecting me with the curse, but at that moment, when I heard that he somehow lost it, I was only thinking about how he put me in grave danger several times for nothing!
All the positive turned into negative, completely meaningless. No! Everything was even worse.
Maybe it made me stronger as a hero, but I wasn’t given a choice if I wanted to work with him or not. Instead, I was forced, the description of my ring told me that I have to stay close or the curse would activate on me.
On top of that, I was married to him!
You can’t charge someone a kiss or being married! That’s not exactly something that you earned, but what you are granted. Seriously, I had my own plans, and they got trampled!
I knew the marriage was just a strange curse, but if you are always reminded by these stupid pop-ups, then anyone would feel like there is not much difference anymore.
Especially when you cooperated to gather these WP. It was too late to take my permission back, and it made sense, but over time it turned something special into something trivial. My whole picture of romance got shattered by this curse, and Ken was at the center of it.
I hate that curse, and I hated Ken, so putting both of them into the same bag might not have been fair, but I didn’t care at that point.
This, and other very private issues, turned me into a bitching nagger, but I was in a situation where the ground suddenly fell out underneath my feet.
I was sick of having no choices and needed an outlet. Ken was the only one available.
All the more so when we met our classmates in Wächter, where I could see how it was supposed to be. I should have been part of them, but I was isolated instead. I was different from my friends, and the reason was Ken’s curse. I felt even more lonely, and all that mountain-climbing didn’t improve my mood.
When the fourbirds took me, I was afraid. So afraid. If they let me fall, I would hit the ground and die but if they carried me to their nest, then they would eat me. At that moment, I was alone in the truest sense, and I wished that Ken would die as well, since he was the object of all my hatred. That day was the worst since waking up!
Well, thinking back, I might have been afraid to be the only one who dies, but emotions aren’t that simple. You can feel one way, think another, and come to the conclusion that you want a third thing to happen.
In that agitated state, I was saved by Masahiko-kun. I had to return to Ken, who was still alive, or the curse would affect me as well. I didn’t want to tell my friends about the curse, because… I don’t even know.
Was it embarrassment? Was it because I didn’t want them to worry? Was it because Eri-chan would have made fun of me, making it impossible to return to them, and holding it against me forever?
I still have no clarity about that, but it caused misunderstandings that I couldn’t resolve. Who besides Masahiko-kun would trust the words of someone who might be brainwashed?
So I used their misunderstanding to lead them to Ken, which ended up in the monkey spider encounter.
I was really glad, when Ken decided to help Masahiko-kun and the others, even if he was being a jerk again. As annoying as he is in general, he is still dependable when it means fighting something.
But why did he picked up that bow? Why did he forced me to run away with him? With all these misunderstandings that I should have at least tried to clear, both of us dealt a killing blow to my friendship.
So I started to befriend Rine-chan, and later on Arako. For some reason, I really became friends with them, but what about Ken?
We are not friends. Ken doesn’t want friends, because he already rejected me in Japan, because he would never say something kind to me. For him, I’m just a nagging bitch, and maybe I act like one when dealing with him. I can be very mean to others at times.
Ken and I aren’t lovers. I gave him my first kiss, we hold hands almost every day, we sleep next to each other, but we are not lovers, and I don’t want to be. I’m sure he thinks the same of me. Actually, who would want to be the boyfriend of a nagging bitch? … actually, that thought makes me angry at myself.
Maybe we’re partners. But on what basis? Partners to break the curse? Partners as this world’s heroes? Party-members?
What are we?
What is Ken to me? I still don’t know.
I hate him. I want him to at least like me. I want to keep him alive. I want him to be kind to me for a change. I want to know about him. I don’t want him to know about me.
How do I feel about Ken? … When I asked myself that question the last time, it was a bit of dislike.
I guess, now it’s a bit of like, not like a friend, not like a lover, just a bit of like, if that makes any sense.
Really, if he rescued me from the oni in a manlier way and said some cool line back then, I would have at least felt some heart-pounding excitement and relief. His way was just too creepy.
Well, he was there, that’s what counts.
Maybe I could treat him a bit better at times. Not that much, so he won’t get the wrong message, but a bit. At least if he treats me kind as well.
Ah, that’s where it will end in failure.
“Momo?” Arako, who I am still supporting, groans my name. “What… is so funny?”
“You are… giggling.”
“I see.” I smile at Arako, showing her my genuine one. “I’m thinking about good things since the situation is so dire.”
“Humans… are strange…”
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