I kept waiting for Nei to wake up.
Kaede and Frau are sitting next to each other in the room.
Panda had his eye closed and was floating in the air.
Nei woke up.
I immediately rushed to speak to her.
"Are you in any pain, are you fully conscious!?"
"Yes. It's me, Toru."
She looked around with lazy eyes.
She stood up a little and sat on the bed.
"I was abandoned."
"Yes, he was about to die fighting against the demon general, so I rushed to his defense. Then he left and told me to die here."
My fists were shaking.
From one moment to the next my anger turned into a killer instinct.
Nei was looking at me confusedly.
"Why are you dressed like that? Hey, maybe Sain can let you join the party again, friends fight and break up, but... There's always the option to come back."
"Nei, Sain brainwashed you."
Her reaction was totally unexpected.
I thought she would try to deny the facts.
She laughed a little and then became sad.
This attitude is not normal.
Being in a brainwashed state does not erase your past memories.
There is an emotional conflict within her.
I pulled my chair closer to the bed and sat down.
"I like Sain. But there's something wrong with my feelings, something wrong with my thoughts, and something much worse inside me.... Before... I liked someone else."
Tears slid down her face.
A drop had fallen on the ring on her right hand.
I felt like my heart was going to break into a thousand pieces seeing her again.
Nei, a girl who was cheerful and full of energy, was crying in front of me.
I have no doubt now that Sain brainwashed him. I never imagined that my once best friend would become human scum.
And I'm also a nauseatingly obtuse idiot.
I never realized all that was unfolding behind my back, even though I had the answer right in front of me.
"There is a way to break the brainwashing."
I took a small bottle out of my pocket.
This is a high grade spell potion I found in the ruins.
According to doctors, brainwashing is a kind of curse.
Fortunately, I have a way to free her from it.
However, the doctor also said:
"Whenever you regain control of your thoughts and emotions, there will be repercussions. If your actions during brainwashing deviate too much from your original intentions, it can lead to collapse."
Doing this comes with a great risk.
But no matter what this situation looks like, I can't leave her in that state.
So I will let her decide.
"Drink this and the brainwashing will stop. In return, you will suffer mental anguish, so I'll let you decide. If you don't want to do it, give it back to me."
"...I want to give it some thought."
After grabbing the bottle, Nei lay down and turned her back to me.
She wrapped herself from head to toe in the futon.
"I'll be in the next room, if you need me, call me."
I left the room.
I woke up to a sudden scream.
That scream was Nei's.
I left my room and hurried quickly to Nei's room.
"Are you okay?"
"He-hee-hee-hee-hee! Agh! Agh!"
Nei was in agony in bed.
I held her face with both hands, her back bent like a bow.
Then she fell off the bed and squatted down.
"Fugi, ugiiiiiiiiiiiii! Ehii!"
It was a very hard situation to watch. She was scratching the floor with her fingernails.
Her body kept shaking.
At first I thought she was in agony of pain from the blows she received.
But when I looked at the floor, there was an empty bottle rolling around nearby.
"Nei-San, don't give up, we are here with you, you are not alone."
Kaede casts healing magic on Nei to relieve her mental pain.
The screams of agony were diminishing.
"Toru, don't look at me... I'm dirty..."
"You're not dirty, Nei, you're still the same old girl to me."
“... I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I said horrible things to you, I've done horrible things. I betrayed my heart, my feelings, I did a lot to Toru. I'm an idiot."
"Sain brainwashed you. It wasn't something you did at your will. Don't think about that, concentrate on getting out of that state, Kaede, Frau and I will be here to support you."
As I turned to leave the room, I heard the sound of metal clanging against the wall.
Nei had taken off Sain's ring and thrown it away.
After that I heard a loud scream.
It's not a good idea for me to be around her right now, so I'll let her handle this situation on her own.
When I left the inn, I sat down on a bench.
"I am amazed at the mental fortitude some people have despite everything that happened.
Little by little the people who fled were returning to the site.
Many people worked together to fix the buildings that were destroyed by the demons.
Some looked depressed, but managed to try to smile.
I would like to think that Nei is just as strong as those people.
If she doesn't make it, I am willing to take care of her for the rest of my life.
Nei is my childhood friend.
She is a very nice girl.
She has taken care of me more times than I can count, and it is because of her that I was able to stay at the party when I was a burden.
She has been my savior.
"Oh, hi guys, how are you?"
Some children I had met in the last few days approached me.
In the city they treat me as if I were a hero for having defeated the demons.
No, actually, I am the real hero... I'm still not used to this.
Thanks to this, I am able to rent a place for free, and the things I need for my daily life are given to me immediately when I ask for them.
I was told that when the city is completely restored, they will create a stone statue resembling my image.
Of course I refused, but the residents were so enthusiastic that I had no choice but to accept.
"Show me that again."
"Ugh, well I'll do it."
I pulled out my knife and the boy handed me a piece of firewood he had.
The image of the Red Dragon I defeated earlier popped into my head.
I carved the wood quickly and accurately, and it became a sculpture in a few seconds.
The children were thrilled.
After that, they started bringing me a lot of firewood. There was a great demand from the children who wanted me to make them a lot of things.
The most popular statues I get requests for are Rosuke and Kaede. Then there are the ones of Panda and Frau.
Apparently I'm not very popular with the kids. What a pity.
I got up and said goodbye to the children. I headed towards a group of men who were working.
"Hi, can I help you with the job?"
"You are the hero who saved the city. It grieves me that such a person is working with us."
"Don't worry about it. I'd like to keep my mind busy."
"... So, can you bring the logs from the forest?"
The rest of the day was spent helping with construction work in the city.
Three days had passed and Nei was able to get to the point where she could hold a decent conversation with me. However, if I mentioned anything that dredged up her memory, she would immediately apologize and become very depressed.
Though thanks to Kaede's skills, she seemed to be recovering, albeit slowly.
"Toru is kind."
"What's up with that?"
Nei looked tired as she said that.
I feel that she has lost a lot of weight in the last few days.
"I know you're trying to help me. But that kindness really hurts."
"I went through the same thing when I was with you, too."
"I was a burden to the whole party. but you never gave up, thanks to you I was able to stay. Your high expectations of me and your kindness weighed heavily on me."
Nei made a puzzled face.
Why that look?
It makes me feel like I'm saying something weird.
"I'm sure you're right, Toru was trying his best, and in a way, he's like me."
"Exactly. You have to try and get over it."
Nei let go of the fork.
"I'm thinking of returning to the village."
"Are you going to retire as an adventurer?"
"Yes. My heart is broken. I'm tired of adventures, of falling in love and of life. I want a quiet life in the country with my mother and father."
'I was tired of life'... I had a bad feeling when I heard those words.
I hope you're not talking about committing suicide, are you?
She is finally free from Sain's spell and I don't want it to end like this.
"Can I at least have the best memories at the end?
She placed her hand on mine.
At that moment I realized what she was thinking.
He says he wants to return to the village, but the truth is that she is going to commit suicide on the way.
I grabbed her hand tightly and we left the inn.
I went straight to the store of a slaver who was in town.
"I want to record a master-slave contract with this woman."
You will return to the village. But as my slave.
I will not let you take your life. You will live the rest of your life obeying me.
That will be your punishment.