Author’s Note: Writing this one in a detailed manner would end up being pretty heavy in Nekomimi Neko terms.
There’s people who would get in a depressed mood because of it, so if you are bad with dark stories, please skim through it.
I will supplement this story in the next chapter, so there will be no problems in your understanding of the story.
TLN: This is a long chapter. I personally didn’t find it as dark and depressing really, so there’s no need to fear.
It has already been 1 month since I came to the capital of Richter in game time.
We leveled up smoothly, and we have become strong enough to be called mid rank adventurers with pride.
This applies to the level as well, but most of all, my player skill increased too.
The biggest one is that I learned how to do the Short Cancel timing of Step.
I now can connect the Short Cancel Step with skills other than Slash.
I have the confidence I would be able to defeat the monsters that I had a hard time fighting with at the time I was in Lamurick without getting hit once.
Speaking of which, even my comrades have increased.
At first, I was adventuring with only 2 people for a while, but right now it is a party of 4.
In the beginning, I thought that teamwork in a party wasn’t for me, but I got pretty good in my coordination with these guys, and fighting together with these 4 has become natural.
I have slowly gotten a grasp of the personality of my two new comrades and now, not only their quirks in battle, I can even recite every single thing they monolog when they are not doing anything.
One of them is the heavy warrior Edy who is a frontliner.
His role in the party is tank and dps.
Edy is a rare greatsword user in this New Communicate Online, and his specialty is more in his attack than his defense.
But he wouldn’t be able to maintain himself most of the time, so I forcefully gave him sturdy armor so that he would serve as the tank in the team.
On the other hand, Merlin is the opposite of Edy, the backline type.
She is a character that’s outright specialized in firepower, and she unfortunately can only shoot attack magic from the back. I have no expectations of her for anything aside from that.
She is incredibly weak to physical attacks and turns into a complete good-for-nothing once her MP runs out, but she is the strongest dps in our party.
Our leveling has doubled in efficiency thanks to her.
And the last one is…
My first comrade and the character I like the most in this game.
The first comrade is special for everyone, and that applies for me as well.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that half of the reason why I am into this world is because of her.
“Souma-san, is something the matter?”
She spoke to me while I was spacing out.
Of course, she is in the end simply an NPC.
She is not a real human. I know that she is simply saying that because the AI noticed that I am staying in place without saying anything, but even when I knew that, my heart jumped.
“No, it is nothing.” (Souma)
I endured that feeling and acted tough as I responded.
“Then, let’s go…Thiel.” (Souma)
She is the first comrade I made in this game, Thiel Rentia.
I have been helped a lot by her taking the role of healer in the party.
There were a lot of occasions when we would be wiped out if she wasn’t there.
For the party and for me as well, her existence has become big.
My relationship with her might make a turning point here.
—Today is supposed to be a congratulatory day for me and Thiel.
Thiel is an NPC you can make your comrade in Lamurick, and she is a healer apprentice.
You can recover your HP and MP by resting in the town, but you can’t go hunting countless times in one day.
That’s where a healer is useful.
By paying Element, you can recover your HP and MP in a short timespan.
Thiel is an apprentice healer there, and if you go there at specific times, she would heal you instead of her teacher.
Her healing isn’t that different from that of the teacher, but you enter an event that’s like peeking at her inner thoughts.
If you ask for a healer when you don’t have money, the usual teacher will kick you out, but Thiel would ask for an item instead or would heal you for free.
You will understand once you get along with her but, at those times, she would pay the money for the treatment from her own pocket.
On top of treating a stranger, she even paid for them; that’s kindness on an unbelievable level.
Thiel-san is truly a saint.
You would think ‘why are you getting so into a made-up character?’, but I think that’s wrong.
In the end, the biggest winners in games are the ones who have the most fun.
For me, rather than thinking of them as NPCs, I think it is a whole lot more fun to get attached to them as if they were actually humans.
Even if her mind and body are fake, me being happy when Thiel speaks kind words to me are the real deal.
But, even though Thiel is such a wonderful character, she isn’t that popular when looking at the general picture of the game.
From what I saw in the official page, according to the last popularity poll after the game sale, Train-chan had taken the tops of the popular and unpopular rankings as a joke character.
I was on the verge of getting traumatized by her train event the first time I experienced it, so of course a character with that much impact would take over the popularity.
There’s no doubt her ranking will drop by 10 or 20 spots in the next popularity poll.
That said, I think it would be difficult for Thiel to take 1st place.
Thiel was ranked 7th.
The players will advance in the game, so more characters will be showing up. It would be tough to aim for 1st place.
When I look at the comments, they would say stuff like her character overlaps with that of sister Mariel-san, that she is an inferior version of Mariel-san, or that she can’t win against Mariel-san in both abilities and boobs. It seems like she is being compared with the sister at the church, but they all have no eye for quality.
Her charm point is her benevolent heart that wraps up everything. Most of all, she has a trait that no other character has.
Her aesthetic sense being so nonexistent is a big plus!
This game has an affection meter set for the characters, and if it gets higher, their friendly lines will increase, and their special events are easier to happen.
As part of this, when their affection meter reaches a certain threshold, they will tell you what they like, but Thiel would say that she likes the Magic Wand Guernica of all things…
The Magic Wand Guernica is a magic wand that has a design as if it were the materialization of all the pain and hatred of the world, and there’s only one at the magic store of Lamurick.
Even if the design is like that, if Thiel wants it, I didn’t mind buying it, but its price was 49,000E. We didn’t even have money to take the Magic Airship to get to the capital. We are broke adventurers, so it wasn’t something I could buy.
I made a one-sided promise like ‘I will definitely buy it for you once we return to this town’ and then rode the carriage, leaving Lamurick and arriving at the capital of Richter.
Of course, now that we are mid rank adventurers with momentum, 49,000E is chump change…well, I wouldn’t go that far, but it is by no means a price I can’t afford.
I am thinking of definitely gifting it to her if we go back to Lamurick, but I am about to make a big move before that.
(I will propose to Thiel today!!) (Souma)
This is the reason why I called only Thiel outside.
I am thinking of proposing to Thiel.
According to the official announcement, they tell you the things they like when they reach 80 in their affection.
And then, once their affection meter reaches more than 100, the character will accept the marriage proposal of the player.
That’s right, this is the marriage event.
The marriage event is a selling point of New Communicate Online, and you apparently can marry most of the major characters of this game.
I say marriage here, but this game is for all ages, so you can’t do much, but it is natural to want to try marrying a character you like since it is possible.
By the way, according to official sources, this country is gender free, so as long as there’s characters with marriage flags, whether it is a man, woman, children, elderly, slugs, or whatever, you can marry them.
I feel like that goes beyond gender already, but that also means that no matter how much you try, characters with no marriage flags cannot be married to. However, I already know Thiel is a marriable character.
By the way, Edy, Merlin, and Train-chan are characters you can marry to as well.
I have no intentions of marrying anyone aside from Thiel, but it seems like there’s no problem with poligamy according to the game setting, so you can trigger marriage events with as many characters as you want.
According to a developer’s comment: “There’s a bit of stuff similar to adultery prevention events, but it is mostly free. Marry with anyone, with as many as you want, and create as much of a harem as you wish (lol)”.
I do feel like that’s way too much freedom.
But there’s also a clear merit to marriage events in game terms. Players can use a part of the abilities and skills of the marriage partner.
It was written at the official site that ‘there might be skills you can’t obtain if you don’t do the proposal event’.
Poligamy is possible in this game, so you would end up missing out if you don’t marry.
But there’s always a dark side to tasty deals.
When it comes to this game that has a lot of bugs and has malicious events enough to stir up the world, this is even more true.
Especially considering the maliciousness in the quest I did recently, The Blue Bird of Michael, and the quest Dungeon of Sacrifice, there’s no way such a tasty and straightforward event has been prepared.
From what I can see, this marriage event has a big risk.
Judging from the explanation of this marriage event, there’s the chance it is a one try challenge, moreover, you can’t try it ever again.
You can only do a proposal event when the player is close to the monolith.
It was written in the instruction manual that it is ‘in order to do your marriage oath to God’, but that’s definitely a lie.
Because this is written a few lines after.
[Your data will be saved automatically when you begin a proposal event. You won’t be able to retry regardless of the result of the event, so be careful].
I don’t know if it is a remnant of when they were developing this as an MMO, but there’s only one save slot in the game aside from the quick save.
Moreover, when you save, the quick save is also updated, so it is technically impossible to make a backup.
Of course, you might be able to manage somehow if you tinker with the VR machine itself, but I don’t use those kinds of underhanded tricks.
In that case, this proposal event really will become a one try challenge.
This game demands a save in the proposal event because ‘there will be an irreversible event that you would want to reset when you fail’, or at least that’s what I can deduce from all this.
There’s 3 conditions to make a proposal event succeed.
First, present a ring type accessory and put it on them.
When you do, you have to speak out a set keyword which will activate the confession phase.
If you say the confession and the partner’s affection meter is more than 100, the confession succeeds.
Making it possible to marry them.
But that also means your confession will fail if it is not higher than 100.
I think there’s probably a big pitfall there.
In a normal game, you can challenge it as many times as you want even if you fail.
The penalty I can think of would be that their affection will decrease.
However, there’s no way such a lukewarm penalty will happen in New Communicate Online.
There’s the chance it is a simple ‘you can’t do it again if you fail’, and the worst I can think of is ‘if you fail, the character won’t be your comrade anymore’. It is possible in New Communicate Online.
As long as that possibility remains, I definitely cannot fail this event.
It has already been 3 weeks since I was told the things Thiel likes by the person herself.
If the affection meter has been rising at the same pace, it should have gone over 100 a long time ago.
I want to believe it won’t fail.
We arrived in front of the monolith while I was having an internal conflict here.
“What’s the matter, bringing me all the way here?” (Thiel)
Thiel said with a gentle expression that reflects her personality perfectly.
Her long black hair sways with the wind.
Even though she is a game character…no, it is exactly because she is a game character that I thought she was beautiful.
…That made me make up my mind.
“I have something important to tell you.” (Souma)
I take a deep breath and speak out the keywords.
There was no special reaction from Thiel.
Did I mistake the keyword?
I was about to panic for a second there, but I noticed my mistake soon after.
I made a mistake in the order.
I have to give her the ring before saying this.
(Calm down, calm down. This is just a game.) (Souma)
I fix my breathing and loosen up the trembling of my body.
And then, I bring out the ring.
“This is…?” (Thiel)
“A present.” (Souma)
I splurged a bit here and bought the most expensive ring in a store in the capital.
I put that on her ring finger.
I actually took off one of her rings beforehand for the sake of this moment.
“Present? Oh my, thank you very much!” (Thiel)
“No, it is okay.” (Souma)
The human-like reaction Thiel makes in set circumstances by her AI made me gulp.
“Thiel, I have something important to tell you.” (Souma)
I once again speak out the keywords for the proposal.
This time around, she raised her head as if she were surprised.
“Why are you so formal all of a sudden?” (Thiel)
The same gentle smile.
I finally said towards that smile…
“Thiel, I love you. Please marry me.” (Souma)
This love and marry me are both keywords. The sentences with that will all become proposals.
There’s already nothing I can do.
Only pray and wait for her response.
(…How’s that?) (Souma)
An asphyxiating silence passed.
And then, her mouth slowly moved.
The answer was…
“Yes, gladly!” (Thiel)
A big wide smile of hers.
The strength in my body left in one go after confirming this.
I was so on edge in a lot of things, but it looks like it was needless worry.
But this is not the time to relax.
I may have passed the biggest mountain, but this is only half of the marriage event.
We will be doing our marriage oaths to God from here on.
“Then, I will say the oath.” (Souma)
We exchanged gazes for a moment, and then we faced each other straight on, and we began our oaths naturally.
“Sagara Souma and…” (Souma)
“Thiel Rentia…” (Thiel)
““Swear eternal love under the name of the Only God, Ledistas-sama.””
The moment we both said that…
“W-What’s going on?” (Souma)
3 things happen.
At the corner of my vision, there was the message [Your game has been saved], light came down from the sky, and a voice resonated in my head.
<<Congratulations! Truly congratulations!>>
I was congratulated with a really clear voice.
Even though I don’t feel animosity from their tone of voice, there was some sort of pressure that intimidates people and something similar to magnanimity.
<<Let me bless you two for your wonderful love.>>
Could it possibly be the voice of God?
There’s apparently a scene like this when you succeed at the marriage event.
I am impressed by how high the production is here.
<<The blessing of the Only God in this world, the familiar of the Evil God Dis Aster-sama, the Demon Lord that will bring the end of this world!>>
I was wondering about this and looked at Thiel, but everything was too late.
<<Then, let’s grant the blessing of immortality to the bride.>>
A lightning bolt falls from the sky suddenly and hits the body of Thiel.
I shout, but I can’t run to her.
When in cutscenes, you enter spectator mode, and the player can’t make actions.
But this is the first time it makes me feel this mortified.
<<And for the groom, I will give you the blessing that will make you push through your eternal love.>>
Those words made my unmoving body flinch, but it didn’t seem like anything happened.
Could it be that this blessing didn’t work on me as a player?
But I had no time to think.
<<Be grateful. It is the blessing of the lord of the demons that will never be undone by human hands! Now then, child of men! Be delighted by this one’s blessing, and work even harder for the great Dis Aster-sama!>>
After saying all that, the presence of the Demon Lord disappears with a loud laugh.
At the same time as this happened, a message showed in the corner of my eyes: You have obtained a new skill.
The sky returned to normal, and when the laughter couldn’t be heard anymore, my body could move again.
I ran to where Thiel is, who hasn’t moved one step for a while, in fear.
I forgot that she is an NPC and grabbed her body in desperation.
“Wa, this is…!” (Souma)
I was shocked by that sensation.
A hard and cold sensation as if I were touching glass.
“What? What’s going on…?” (Souma)
On top of that, even when I pulled her or hit her, she didn’t move one inch.
No reaction, as if time had stopped moving.
An ominous thought surfaced in my mind.
(Remember. What did that voice say?) (Souma)
It certainly said ‘immortal’.
A shiver ran down my back.
If she doesn’t move and there’s no change at all, that certainly would make her immortal.
But would you proudly call that a blessing?
“Right! Nectar!” (Souma)
I remember about the potion that cures any debuffs that I got in one of our adventures before.
I fortunately have it always in my poach in case of emergencies.
“Move! Please move, Thiel!” (Souma)
I smash it onto the hardened Thiel.
The Nectar certainly did activate on Thiel.
“Why…why was she not cured?!” (Souma)
Thiel was still all hardened up.
The Nectar that should cure all didn’t show any effects.
The effect of the Nectar should surpass any healing spells the player can use or any treatment methods.
If even that doesn’t work, I already have no cards I can use here.
“What’s this bullshit?! Even if it is an event, this is way too unreasonable…!” (Souma)
I shake the body of Thiel while shouting.
Her body was not moving at all.
But I could move her from her place.
“Just wait. I will cure you at once.” (Souma)
I head to the church while carrying her body.
Even if I can’t do it, other people might be able to do something.
The church can cure abnormal status effects and curses.
On top of that, the priest Gratia you find there is involved in many events, a shadow powerhouse in this game.
The detailed background story of him has still not come out yet, but I think he is a strong retired adventurer.
Sure that he will be able to do something, I opened the doors of the church with Thiel in my arms and…
“No way…” (Souma)
I was speechless at that sight.
Priest Gratia was…frozen still in a posture as if he were lecturing the believers.
I could tell in one glance that it was the same symptom as Thiel.
(Could it be that they crushed all the people that could cure her?!) (Souma)
I desperately calmed down my panicking self and dashed out from the church.
For now, I should carry Thiel to a safe place.
I know in a corner of my mind that there’s no one who can harm Thiel right now, but that’s actually just an excuse, and I was searching for a place to run away to.
“For now…for now…I should reunite with everyone…” (Souma)
I head to the inn while carrying the unmoving body of Thiel as if dragging it.
When I entered the inn, a staff member of the inn welcomed me with a dubious voice.
I normally would be irritated by that, but I was relieved after seeing that.
The people were properly moving in the inn of the capital.
(That’s a relief. The inside of the inn is still fine.) (Souma)
I was so relieved that I was about to fall into place there, but I snapped back and headed to my own room.
It is okay.
We can still do this.
It is not like it is settled that Thiel won’t be healed.
I will regroup with Edy and Merlin, form a plan, and then…
“Edy, Merlin! This is bad. Thiel has—” (Souma)
I opened the door and spoke to Edy and Merlin, and then, I finally noticed the abnormality there.
Even when I entered the room, they weren’t reacting at all.
“Why? Why is it not only Thiel but Edy and Merlin as well?” (Souma)
I don’t understand.
It makes no sense.
The ones the Demon Lord cursed in the guise of a blessing should have only been the two of us.
(Wait. That guy said ‘I will give you a blessing that will allow you to push through your eternal love’…) (Souma)
Push through eternal love…in other words, I can’t cheat.
And yet, there was no effect on me.
Then, who were the ones that were cursed?
(Could it be that he cursed all the characters that can be married to?) (Souma)
It is impossible for there to be such an inhumane event like this in a game!
And yet, my mind was already accepting that idea.
I can’t really say Edy and Merlin are major characters, but they are marriageable characters.
And, I can’t really say for sure, but priest Gratia does have a sense of presence that’s impossible to think he is a mob character.
He must have been a marriageable character as well.
“Damn it! Damn it!” (Souma)
I once again ran to the monolith but, this time, alone.
My objective is not Thiel.
No, I just want to redo this.
The unpopulated monolith came to sight.
At the same time as I ran there, I shouted at the top of my lungs.
I shouted, and chose Load from the menu screen.
It immediately loads.
My vision stabilizes and…
“Yes, gladly!” (Thiel)
Thiel was there with her usual face, and I was relieved.
But this is bad.
If I don’t do something, she will get hit by the curse of the Demon Lord once again and time will stop.
I just don’t have to say the oath, but we are talking about this ill-natured game.
That much won’t be enough to be relieved.
I should move Thiel from here as fast as possible.
I tried to tell Thiel this.
(Thiel, let’s run away immediate—) (Souma)
“Then, I will say the oath.” (Souma)
And yet, what came out from my mouth was the complete opposite.
From my mouth?
This is a recording.
It is replaying what I said before.
But Thiel nodded happily at this.
I want to stop this, but the spectator mode doesn’t allow me to move my body one inch.
Even though I haven’t said anything, the event was progressing on its own.
“Sagara Souma and…” (Souma)
“Thiel Rentia…” (Thiel)
““Swear eternal love under the name of the Only God, Ledistas-sama.””
Mine and Thiel’s voices and the echoing voice of the Demon Lord.
<<Congratulations! Truly congratulations!>>
The flow of events was the same from there on as well.
The Demon Lord reveals their identity, Thiel is frozen, and several people from the city had their time stopped as well.
I couldn’t do anything at that time and could only watch.
Everything ended and…
I finally understood.
This is…this is exactly the trap set in the marriage event of New Communicate Online.
The forced save was not to avoid the penalty from failing the marriage event.
It is so that you can’t escape from the blessing of the Demon Lord that happens when you succeed in the marriage event. The worst kind of trap thought by the developers.
Thanks to that, I lost all the party members that I passed thick and thin with.
And I can’t ask for the help of any major NPC that has marriage events.
I muttered this unconsciously.
But I am sure this shout came from my heart.
“I am going to quit this shitty game!” (Souma)
I logged out, erased the data of New Communicate Online, and fell asleep without thinking of anything.
This was around a year back since I began playing the game.
It was at the time when the nickname Nekomimi Neko didn’t even exist. The time when I was purely enjoying the game.