We wiped the water that flew around, and after leaving the luggage at the place that looks like the living room, we began our exploration in the big mansion with key in hand.
The first floor has the dining room and the kitchen, and also the indoor pool and bath, and also a whole ton of bedrooms.
Even if I call them bedrooms, each room has their clear distinctive feature. There’s a room with all its furniture stuck at the ceiling; other one with all the wallpapers bright red; a room that is plastered full of photos from a woman to the point that you can’t even see the walls; there’s even a room that like a trompe l’oeil**, unable to tell where you are just by entering it. There were a whole ton of rooms that would be interesting as a joke, but definitely wouldn’t want to stay in.
These types of jokes are the ones that anyone can think of, but your common sense gets in the way and you can’t do it. And yet, here they are. You could say it is very Nekomimi Neko-like.
Not a single place was decent, but within all of those, I chose the one that seemed the most decent in comparison. A retro room with a clear old style TV and phone.
From the looks of it, it completely destroys the fantasy setting of the world, but the TV and phone are just decoration, and you can’t actually use them.
It seems like the Nekomimi Neko developers had a shred of common sense left, which relieved me a bit.
When I decided on my room, Ringo immediately decided her room to be the room that has all the things inside heart shaped.
It is all pink and an unexpectedly liveable-looking room, but the only worry I had was that the bed is also heart shaped which would make it hard to sleep with your legs stretched out.
I asked Ringo just in case if she was okay with this, and she said with confidence: “…It is okay.”
I am sure it will be okay.
Normally, I would pursue the matter further, but at that time, there was a place I wanted to go to no matter what, so I was impatient here.
“Now that we have decided on the rooms, there’s a place I would want to go for a bit. Is that okay?” (Souma)
When I opened up with this, Ringo gave a short response, and tried to follow me.
I hurriedly stopped her.
“No, wait for a moment. I am sorry, but I want to go to this place alone.” (Souma)
Why, you ask?
Isn’t that obvious?
“That’s because I am going to the bathroom right now!” (Souma)
And so, I head to the giant bath.
In the game, you couldn’t take off your clothes, so it was completely a bathroom for aesthetics, but that’s different in this world.
I somehow managed to convince Ringo who was going to follow me because she was worried, and I quickly took off my clothes at the dressing room, and arrived at the massive bathtub.
Since the time I was exploring…no, since way way back, I have had my eyes on this.
I have not bought this house before, so I obviously haven’t been to this bath before, but this place was popular even when it was a game. Getting high praises like: ‘It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I bought this house for this’, ‘You definitely wouldn’t be able to enjoy a bath in real life like this’, ‘the place most fitting to be called paradise’, ‘a bathtub you can dive into is so novel’, ‘I learned that feeling your soul leave your body must mean this’, ‘Even when I thought about quitting it, I always end up there again. In a way, you could call it the bath of the Devil’.
Because I kept the policy that I don’t need a house this big, I never bought this house, but I have been interested in this bathroom since way before.
“That said, it really does feel like a massive bath-house.” (Souma)
When I muttered this to myself, that voice of mine echoed slightly in the vast bathroom.
It is a room of around 10 meters squared, around half of it is all the bath.
It is already a bath-house or a hot spring at this point.
“Alright, then let’s go!” (Souma)
I suddenly jumped into the bath.
The setting in this world is that, apparently, thanks to the automatic clean water device that moves with magic in this world’s baths, baths never get dirty.
They probably found it a pain to animate the water getting dirtier, so they just thought up some random lore for it, but I am now grateful for their half-assed attitude.
(Eh? It is not as hot as I thought…) (Souma)
It looked like a hot spring, so I imagined hot water, but the temperature of the water isn’t that big of a deal.
That said, it is not like it is lukewarm. That warmth gradually transmitted to my whole body.
I ended up leaking out a loose voice.
I have been tense the whole time since coming to this world, so it has been a while since I have been at a place where I can just let go and relax like this.
After enjoying the warmth of the bath for a while, I move to the main event.
I take a deep breath and dive into the bath in one go.
I hesitantly opened my eyes inside the water.
What was there was an ethereal sight.
There was a crystal releasing light in the center of the bath, and was spreading light all around like a crystal ball, creating a piece of art from light inside the water.
Moreover, because this crystal was distorted slightly by the water, there wasn’t an instance where the light was exactly the same as before.
That world of light and water that changed by the second was stealing away my words.
(I see. This is a sight that can only be seen in this world exactly because it is a game world.) (Souma)
When my initial excitement calmed down, the leeway to analyze that beauty came with it.
I have not used a single tool, and yet, I can see this sight clearly inside the water mostly because of the underwater system of Nekomimi Neko.
The shocking thing is that, in the game of Nekomimi Neko, there’s no ‘you will feel pain if you run out of breath inside the water’, even if you open your eyes in the water, your eyes won’t hurt, and you can even talk normally in it.
That’s because being inside water is difficult to replicate with the VR machine, and there’s underwater dungeons and underwater battles in Nekomimi Neko.
There will be a slight debuff in speed, and to reproduce the effect of not being able to breath, your HP slowly drops, but you basically can act pretty much the same way you do on land.
(So this is what they meant about definitely impossible to experience this in real life.) (Souma)
It is hard whether to call this world a game or reality, but it technically means that, it is exactly because systems of the game still remain that there are things you can enjoy exclusively because of it.
(It is about time I resurface.) (Souma)
I won’t be running out of breath here, and because the water isn’t that hot, I feel like I could dive indefinitely, but if I dive completely, I will end up losing HP little by little.
I endure the reluctance of parting with it, and bring my head out of the water for now.
I entrust my head onto the edge of the bathtub and have my body float willfully on the water.
I got to see something beautiful I wouldn’t have been able to see anywhere else, so that alone made me think it might have been the right idea to buy this house.
And most of all, it is nice that I can take it easy like this without worrying about anything.
(I feel like…I want to stay like this…forever…) (Souma)
The backlash of being tense the whole time must have hit me here.
The way too comfortable space was making my consciousness grow distant.
Being dragged by this, my head slowly lowered and, eventually…
Someone called my name and I woke up.
When I look, there’s Ringo desperately shaking my body, and calling me with an agitated voice that’s completely different from usual.
I was wondering why she was being so desperate here but, at that moment, I noticed the abnormality in my body.
(My body…feels heavy…?) (Souma)
If I had to put it in a gaming perspective, it would be a state where I have barely any HP left.
What in the world happened to me?
I look around unnerved and I am still inside the bathroom.
It seems I was laid down close to the bath face up.
“Just…what happened here?” (Souma)
When I asked this with my tongue that wasn’t responding well, Ringo explained to me the situation.
I wasn’t coming out from the bathroom, so she came to call me in front of the bathroom, but I didn’t respond even when she called.
She then finally got worried there and entered the bathroom, and there I was, sunk inside the bathtub.
(Could it be that I sank just like that while I was dozing off?) (Souma)
Now that I think about it, I have the faint feeling that my consciousness was growing more distant.
But how does that connect to this fatigue in my body?
(Ah, I see! When inside the water, you get percentage damage, so…) (Souma)
There was an underwater dungeon boss that never showed up no matter how many times you went in the initial bugs.
The reason for that is because they forgot to code it as an underwater boss, so because of the constant underwater damage penalty, it died.
Without the underwater attribute, even bosses die, so there’s no way a mere player with no equipment would be able to go against it.
Thinking that far, I felt chills down my back.
Different from the real world, this world lacks a lot of the feedback for when you are in the water.
It is true that falling asleep in a bath in the real world is dangerous, but if you sink inside of the water, you would wake up.
But it is a different story in this world.
Here, even when inside the water, you don’t feel suffocation, and the water isn’t that hot, so even if you dip your head all the way down, you won’t jump out from the heat.
Being inside the water is instead comfortable, and there’s no factors that would make you wake up even when you sleep in it.
On the other hand, your HP will continue lowering in accordance with the underwater penalty.
It was fine now since Ringo found me, but if no one had noticed and I continued sleeping…
(I…might have died.) (Souma)
I came to the realization that I was actually, no joke, about to die here, and I felt my blood chilling again through my whole body.
Also, now that I think about it, there’s no way the well-seasoned Nekomimi Neko players would praise a plain big bath that much.
They probably noticed the trap in it a long time ago.
You can relax more than anywhere else, and when you really do relax, you naturally sink inside the water, and eventually lose your HP and die.
That’s what they meant by ‘the place most fitting to be called paradise’, ‘your soul leaving your body must mean this’, ‘The bath of the Devil’!
(Nekomimi Neko really is unbelievable.) (Souma)
Even in your own house that’s supposed to be the safest place in the world, at the place where you can relax the most, there’s a trap. Who would even imagine that?
Just a few minutes ago, Ringo said: “I feel like you would die…if I am not with you, Souma…”
She did prove that she was right.
I was about to thank Ringo again and then…
(E-Eh? Wait a moment…
…Isn’t this the bathroom?) (Souma)
I ended up noticing something that completely slipped my mind.
I once again look at the appearance of Ringo.
She is wearing the same things as when we parted ways. Even the armor that we bought at the armory store.
Even her armor is wet most likely because she saved me, but it should be fine in this world.
You could even say it is preventing her clothes from being see-through.
…The bigger problem here is me.
(Could it be…) (Souma)
I slowly drop my gaze as if in prayer.
The next instant, I jumped up and hid my body from Ringo.
This is obvious, but my intention was to bathe, so I am completely naked!
“…Are you…okay?” (Ringo)
On the other hand, the one other related party was completely nonchalant.
It is true that there was the emergency of me being on the verge of dying there, but it looks as if she doesn’t feel anything at all about seeing my naked body.
“N-No, I am okay…I am okay!” (Souma)
If Ringo got embarrassed here too, it would be troubling, so this is good and all, but that is sad in its own way.
I knew from the very beginning that Ringo has no such shyness, and yet, here I am, feeling all sorts of complicated emotions. The heart of a man is a complicated one.
Anyways, I don’t think my heart will be able to endure if I were to continue exposing my naked body to her.
“W-Well then, I will be getting out soon, so go out first and wait for me there.” (Souma)
I asked this of her as if pleading.
In contrast, Ringo plainly went:
She simply nodded.
Without a single shred of shame, she stood up and headed to the door of the bathroom.
And then, while I was seeing her off with my bright red face from the embarrassment, Ringo, who was walking fast without any hesitation…
Making that kind of sound as she crashed onto the floor.
She may be an airhead, but she is not clumsy, but she is by no means clumsy, so it is rare to see Ringo mess up like this, but it might be because of the floor being slippery.
I tried to run her way but…
“…I’m fine.” (Ringo)
Ringo firmly stood up and stopped me from approaching her.
I put a hand on my chest in relief, but I soon noticed something strange.
Even though Ringo should have gotten up without a single wound, she never turned to look at me.
“Could it be that she hit her face when she fell just now…?” (Souma)
I got worried about that and called her again, but as if rejecting that, Ringo went:
She was vehemently refusing to show me her face.
Saying this short response, she walked off without turning her face my way once.
After that, I went to check on Ringo once I finished changing, and there were no wounds on her face contrary to my worries.
“Hey, could it be that you are angry about what happened?” (Souma)
Ringo didn’t look me in the eye properly for a while after that.