The girl calls my name happily in a maid outfit.
The maid I thought was guiding me to Maki was actually my disguised cousin.
I somehow tear Maki away from me, avoid the gazes of doubt from Ringo and Mitsuki, and for now, we head to the only place in this city where we don’t have to worry about the gazes of people. In other words, to the Nekomimi Neko mansion that made the Knight Order retreat, but…
“This is horrible…” (Souma)
When we finally got inside the residence, there was a disaster there that made me want to cover my eyes.
Maybe this is the result of the battle of the Knight Order against the mansion, but there were things scattered about on the ground, the coating had come off, and on top of that, there were strange creatures and dolls at the lobby in the first floor that were probably from the rooms of the 1st and 2nd floor.
The ones that were freed by the knights must have been pushed all the way here with their retreat.
The lobby that had a dried water fountain and spring had already become the playground of the apparitions.
The moment we entered the mansion, they all looked this way.
This is pretty scary.
I think we will be able to manage somehow even if they were to attack since we have Mitsuki, but considering the Bear, it would be a bit painful to wipe them out.
“What should we do about this…?” (Souma)
The moment I fell into thought there…
I saw a small shadow boldly standing in the way of the apparitions and us.
—It is the Bear.
The Bear raised its hand, and the dolls that were making a ruckus until now suddenly stopped moving, and hurriedly began to form rows.
And then, when the Bear lowered its hand, they all moved at the same time and began cleaning up the mansion.
“Eh? What’s this…?” (Souma)
The Bear grinned at us who were surprised, and then joined the others in the cleaning of the mansion.
My brain couldn’t keep up with the way too sudden development.
The Bear is certainly a character here, but it is simply the gimmick of one of the rooms.
I doubt it was the leader of this place.
While I tilted my head at this, Mitsuki said with both cat ears bent as if in thought.
“This is just a guess, but…maybe it has become the top one here because it raised its level outside?” (Mitsuki)
The Bear did defeat Yellow Slimes by using items, would bully cows with the Wakizashi, and defeated the Water Elementals with the skill of Gouging Vajra.
It wouldn’t be strange for its level to have increased.
The question here is if these guys are made in a way to obey the high level characters, or if there’s some sort of mental connection between them. Just how intelligent are these guys?
In Nekomimi Neko, there have been cats, birds, horses, and even cat eared dogs that could speak human language, but those were monsters that showed up from special events, or high level unique monsters that are difficult to even encounter.
Or more like, a bear and dolls that are clearly inorganic things having intelligence? How does that even work?
I feel like if I were to think too seriously in those areas, my head will end up hurting quite a lot.
“Well, it is convenient, so who cares.” (Souma)
It was a pain, so I just decided not to think about it.
I doubt there’s some proper reason readied in a place like Nekomimi Neko, and paying any mind about those things in a world that has been recreated in such a haphazard manner like this one, thinking about stuff of this degree just ain’t worth it.
I convinced myself like that and decided to talk with Maki.
Even if the disguise has not been discovered, there will definitely be talk if the princess stays out for too long.
I would like to be spared from being chased as the kidnapper of the princess.
I need to finish the talk as soon as possible.
I had Ringo and Mitsuki leave for now, which they didn’t seem to like much, and we faced each other all alone.
I once again commemorate our reunion while looking at her face.
“It has been a while, Maki.” (Souma)
Maybe because we haven’t seen each other in a while, we were finding it pretty awkward here.
“W-Well, I am glad to see you in good health.” (Souma)
“That’s what I should be saying. I am truly relieved that you are okay, Souma.” (Maki)
The awkward conversation continued.
It seems like it isn’t only me who is nervous here.
This is the first time I have felt like this with Maki, it just throws me off.
“Then, let’s talk about our situation. I think you already know, but we are…” (Souma)
I wanted to move the conversation forward even if a little brute forced, but…
“Uh, Souma, wait for a bit.” (Maki)
Maki stopped me.
And then, after going aaah and uuh for a while, she eventually nodded as if she had resolved herself.
“Sorry, Souma!” (Maki)
She lowered her head with a loud voice.
Rather than calling it lowered, it is more like she pushed her head to the ground.
“Wa, oi, Maki?” (Souma)
How to say it…this is not the type of apology she would do.
I myself didn’t expect to experience her groveling to me when I came to this world.
Maki says with her head still on the ground.
“I am really sorry, Souma. Because I told you to go to the game world… But I didn’t imagine something like this would happen at all…” (Maki)
Maki apologized in tears, but if she could have expected a situation like this, that would instead make her dangerous.
“I don’t really think this is your fault, Maki.” (Souma)
The one that caused me to fall into this world was certainly Maki.
But it is not like I hold a grudge on her because of it.
Who would even imagine that the mallet sleeping there would actually grant the wish?
“I have already acknowledged that that was an accident… Also…” (Souma)
I lifted Maki’s head and I told this straight into her damp eyes.
“I am having a good amount of fun in this world. I am actually a bit grateful to you, Maki.” (Souma)
Maki made a dumbfounded face for a moment there, but it then warped…
“Souma…you idiot…” (Maki)
Maki’s hand powerlessly hits my chest while she let out a tearful voice.
Hits that were so weak it felt like gentle caresses connected to my chest over and over.
“Souma…you are a real idiot.” (Maki)
I silently received those words of hers as she clung onto me, as if she were trying to hide her crying face.
“…But I am really glad you are okay.” (Maki)
I pat her trembling shoulders while I said this to soothe her.
I did that the whole time until she stopped crying.
It took quite a good deal of time before Maki stopped crying, and she had somehow recovered enough to have a conversation after a few minutes.
“I-I’m sorry. Even though I am the one apologizing here, I feel as if I caused you extra hassle here.” (Maki)
Maki seemed to finally be getting back in gear. She laughed shyly.
This loose atmosphere of Maki is truly her distinctive flavor.
I finally managed to explain the things that have happened until now without any worries.
About the fact that we have entered a world that is exactly like New Communicate Online.
How I somehow managed to arrive at the capital by utilizing my game knowledge, and how I did a whole lot of events.
After that, I explained to her about how she switched places with the princess of this country from the wish of her tanzaku.
“Eeh? Then, the blue haired girl from before was the real princess?” (Maki)
“Hm? Well, basically.” (Souma)
But I feel like Ringo has already established herself as an individual -as Ringo herself.
Princess Shermia is basically a different person already, and a part of my heart wishes for that to be the case.
“Well, I don’t have any proof of that switching, so it is not like that’s certainly it though…” (Souma)
When I said this…
“Ah, I have that tanzaku.” (Maki)
Maki took out the tanzaku from the apron dress’s pocket and showed it to me.
This is my first time seeing the real thing, but it certainly has written that she wants to become a princess.
“Is that the real one?! Then, if you write your wish there, after one year…” (Souma)
I leaned forward and was about to take the tanzaku, but Maki avoided my hand.
“No, it doesn’t seem to work. I haven’t been able to write anything on it since coming to this world.” (Maki)
My wish was easily crushed.
Judging from what she said, after the tanzaku granted the wish, it technically became an ‘indestructible object’ and it is now impossible to write anything new to it .
Figures it would be impossible to reutilize a convenient item like this.
“But…you coming to this world is a mystery in the first place. If it is a wish like becoming a princess, you could have become one in our original world. Was there any reason to bring you to this world too?” (Souma)
When I tilt my head at the question…
“I-Isn’t that fine? This world was probably made just recently, so maybe it was easier to make me a princess here…” (Maki)
Maki tells a transparent lie.
I thought she must know something, but before I could question her, Maki said with energy…
“Also, I would have preferred a world where Souma is in, so this is fine! I was worried the whole time when you disappeared.” (Maki)
Maki was worried when all contact was lost with me after our call, and went out of her way to come to my room to ask about me.
When she did, what she found was a room with no one in it. She then saw the VR machine with the notice that the call was cut, and actually began suspecting that I might have been thrown to the game world.
“Since then, I was thinking the whole time about going there to save you, so this worked just fine.” (Maki)
She said it as if nothing, but people who can say ‘this worked just fine’ at being thrown into an unknown world are rare.
I am a bit happy that Maki felt responsible about this in her own way.
“Or more like, you say you came here to save me, but in the monster invasion, didn’t you say something like ‘you came to save me?’?” (Souma)
When I pointed this out to hide my embarrassment, Maki’s face turned beet red.
“T-That’s…a princess is someone you come to save after all…” (Maki)
“Is that how it works?” (Souma)
I don’t understand that logic.
“A-Anyways, I was really worried! Your room was a total mess, so I thought something must have happened…” (Maki)
“W-Wait! What was that about my room?” (Souma)
I think I heard something I couldn’t let go of.
When I asked this, Maki looked away as if finding it hard to say.
“Ah, uhm…you see… Actually, let’s not talk about it. You will regret it if you hear it.” (Maki)
“No, it will bother me even more if I don’t! Just tell me!” (Souma)
Maki continued keeping silent here even when I said this, but when I asked her even more strongly…
“Got it. If you want to hear it that much, Souma…” (Maki)
She lost to my pressure and finally spoke.
Hearing that, I…
“You left the food out in the kitchen even though it is summer, right? When I checked what that black thing was at the side of the dishwasher…” (Maki)
“When I wondered what it was, a green sticky something…” (Maki)
“There was a strange rustling sound…” (Maki)
I obviously regretted it.
What should I do? I can’t return to that room anymore…
After the horror story of my room had been wrapped up…
“…Eh? What were we talking about?” (Souma)
“We were talking about how worried I was about you! Why do you forget that part?” (Maki)
We finally returned to the main topic.
Maki apparently didn’t just do a monster extermination in the kitchen of my room.
“Actually, I tried out Nia…New Communicate Online(?) after that. Since I thought you might be in the game.” (Maki)
“Eh? You tried that out?” (Souma)
I asked back in reflex at the unexpected development.
Maki is the opposite of me, an outdoor type, and is bad with electronics.
She is the type that wouldn’t use a VR machine even if by mistake.
I do feel happy that Maki tried out Nekomimi Neko for my sake, but I don’t know what to say about her first ever VR game being Nekomimi Neko.
I don’t know if Maki knew how I felt or not, but she suddenly spoke.
“Yeah, it was truly an outrageous game. I heard that games destroy your humanity, but it really made me think that’s true.” (Maki)
She speaks as if she had remembered something fearsome.
“Was it…difficult?” (Souma)
“It is not on the level of just being difficult. That was…that was the game of the devil!!” (Maki)
To think Nekomimi Neko would even cause fear to Maki.
—That’s what I thought at that time.
But a few minutes later, I would completely change my mind.
“Cause you know…” (Maki)
Cause I would hear a story about Nekomimi Neko I have never heard before from my cousin that’s tone-deaf about games.