— 4 —
Having obtained Shiranui without any hiccups, I was walking around in an ecstatic mood while swinging it around when suddenly an important thought hit me, and I stopped.
“Wait a second, how exactly do I equip this thing?”
Since arriving in this world, I had been unable to open the menu. That not only applied to the system menu which contained the calling functionalities and the current time, but also to game menus like the status menu and save/load menus.
In Nekomimineko, equipment was managed with an equipment menu, and one could change the equipment of their character using that menu.
Due to that, it was impossible to forcibly remove another person’s equipment, and while holding a weapon that’s not equipped, it was not possible to use the weapon’s skills, and even if you hit something with it, the effects from the weapon did not apply, so there was not much point in it.
This was because, for some reason or another, this game’s NPCs were set to include even their private parts.
If it was possible to forcibly remove equipment, then there will undoubtedly be some perverted people who would think of trying to strip female NPCs. But, this game was supposed to be rated PG, so it would be problematic if that were possible…
Oh, and even for your own character, if you had nothing equipped then it was set to show you in your underwear, so it was not possible to become fully naked.
In this case, does that mean even if I managed to obtain Shiranui, I couldn’t actually use it to its full potential…?
“…But wait a moment. Does that mean this ring also has no effect?”
I had intended to equip it by wearing it on my finger, but as long as the game’s rules were being followed, this shouldn’t count as actually having it equipped.
“But then again, the ring is only supposed to change in size to fit your finger when you equip it. So does that mean I was able to properly equip it?”
I suddenly felt very confused.
“Guess I’ll give it a quick test.”
Walking through random back alleys, I searched for a secluded, yet decently spacious location.
“…This looks good.”
In the space between the houses, there was an area big enough for a group to comfortably play catch.
At the far edge of the space, there was a bunch of flowers growing in an area cordoned off with rocks, and the words “Flower Garden” written with shaky handwriting brought a faint smile to my face.
(I should be careful not to step on those flowers.)
With the thought in mind, I readied my sword – not Shiranui, but the beginner weapon, Rusty Longsword. Then…
I won’t make the same mistake twice. If I were to say the skill’s name out loud, then it would be hard to make excuses if someone saw me comboing skills. That’s why I merely ordered skills in my mind.
A sudden acceleration.
During that brief yet deeply familiar feeling of surpassing the laws of physics, I clenched my teeth.
Then, during the split second when my two feet touched the ground,
Not missing the timing, I activated Slash. Pondering for a bit, I decided to wait for the swing,
and once again, activated Step.
Of course, I succeeded.
During the previous battle, I didn’t have the leisure to do so, but right now, I was at least able to check on the condition of my body. I can still go on.
Again, I cancelled into Slash at the end of the skill.
Up to now was the combo that I had used to defeat the female bandit. At that time, before wearing the ring, I was completely out of breath and could not continue the chain, but…
(I can, still do this! Step!)
From there, I took another step.
The Slash cancelled into a Step.
My vision blurred.
A slight pain hit my chest. That was the warning that my stamina was about to run out.
But, even then, it wasn’t as bad as the pain from last time.
The pain in my chest was making it hard to focus, but the timing had already become something like a reflex action.
Just like the tens of thousands of times I had practiced in-game, I cancelled Step, and followed up with a slash.
At last, I reached my limit.
As my swing finished and the after-cast stun ended, I exhaled deeply and collapsed onto the ground.
“Haa, haa…, huuu, haaaaa.”
Controlling my panting with deep breaths, I looked back on what just happened.
Without a doubt, the number of times I was able to chain skills had increased. The amount of stamina a skill consumed would decrease with skill mastery, but this couldn’t be explained with just that.
(The ring’s effect is working!)
Now that I know this, it was obvious what the next thing to test was.
Almost stumbling, I got up. I placed the Rusty Longsword in my bag and took Shiranui out. Equipping Shiranui, I…
Ordered a skill. When I did so, my body automatically moved, raising Shiranui, and swung it downwards!
I even thought I heard a sharp sound of something slicing through the air.
This truly is a high level weapon. Even though it’s the exact same skill, its power was incomparable.
“…The skill, worked.”
I was able to use a skill while holding Shiranui. This meant that it was possible to equip a weapon even without the menu.
“Could it be that menus were replaced with a more realistic method because the game world became reality?”
It was just a sudden thought, but I thought it wasn’t such a bad hypothesis.
At the same time, I felt something nagging at the back of my mind, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
“Oh well, whatever.”
I was honestly relieved that it was possible to freely change my equipment. Now that my immediate concerns were addressed, and since this seemed just like the perfect place, I decided to try out a few more things.
“Guess I’ll give that a try.”
The act of skill cancelling was to cast a skill while another was still active, but that didn’t mean this could be done whenever. The new command would only work during cancel points, which were preset timing windows that differed for each skill.
The difficulty of skill cancelling was said to be especially high in Nekomimineko due to the rather strict timings, but there was actually more than that.
The vast majority of Nekomimineko’s skills had two or more cancel points, and cancelling at the first cancel point was called a short cancel while cancelling at later cancel points was called a long cancel.
I had only used the simpler long cancel until now. If I was able to short cancel as well, there were lots more interesting things that could be done in exchange for its high difficulty.
I confirmed that there was plenty of open space ahead of me.
The effect of long cancelling Step and Slash was that the after-cast stun could be avoided, but when those two skills were short cancelled, a completely different effect occurs.
The skill Step sent you flying towards the indicated direction at a high speed, gradually slowing down while in the air before landing. The second cancel point was right when you touch the ground, but the first cancel point was during the moment you start decelerating from maximum speed.
Therefore, short cancelling meant that only half the total distance was covered, but, as a result, it was possible to cut out the slow moving second half.
On the other hand, Slash’s short cancel was even more extreme.
The second cancel point of Slash was when the sword’s swing finished, but, surprisingly, the first cancel point was right after you start swinging the sword, before the attack was even performed!
You might think that this would make casting the skill pointless, but there was actually one way to exploit this.
Being able to almost instantly cancel the skill meant that it could be chained into the next skill almost instantly. In other words, by squeezing in a short cancelled Slash, the same skill could be used twice in quick succession!
Combining the short cancels of Step and Slash, it was possible to move at phenomenal speeds.
It was so powerful that right after a video showing the phenomenon appeared on the internet, most of the people who saw it immediately muttered “Wow, another bug…”
However, when it was proved not to be a bug but rather a proper technique, words of surprise and admiration filled the comment section.
After that, everyone who watched the videos tried to learn those movements.
But, like I mentioned before, it was difficult to perform short cancels, and this was even more so right after cancelling from Step into Slash, as one had to almost immediately cancel again from Slash back to Step. Miss the timing by even a fraction of a second and the next skill would not activate.
Many players gave up trying to master the strict timings, labelling this short cancelling of Step and Slash as an advanced technique of Nekomimineko.
Combining the super rapid chaining of cancels with the remarkably high movement speed when successfully executed, this technique became known as Rapid Cancel Dash.
Through a long, long time spent practicing (AKA playing the game all day), I was able to make this Rapid Cancel Dash my own.
It was the fastest method of moving during early game, and as an added benefit, it was possible to chain it into another skill at any time. If even this technique could be used in this world, then it would probably be of great use to me going forward.
(I haven’t been using it much recently after learning other more convenient skills, but my body should still remember the timing!)
It was a combo that boasted one of the highest difficulties, but I believed that I would be able to pull this off.
Now was the time to show off what I’ve gained from spending my bland university life on Nekomimineko!
I confirmed that my stamina had completely recovered.
Readying my sword… I took off!
Speed enveloped my body, but there was no time to immerse myself in that.
One after another, I quickly alternated between the orders.
(SlashStep… SlashStep… Slash!!)
My body moved forward with exceptional speed, and I let just the final Slash continue through without cancelling…
I heard the wind rushing past my ears.
Next thing I knew, I had stopped on the opposite side of the open space with my sword at full swing.
(…I did it!)
Overwhelmed with excitement, ignoring even my ragged breathing, I tightly clenched my fist, and… noticed something.
On one of the small paths between two houses, there was a small figure watching me with a dumbfounded expression.
It was a young girl, probably from one of the nearby houses.
From the watering can she held in her hand, she was probably the owner of the small flower garden.
Blood drained from my face.
Could she have seen what I was doing?
At the pinnacle of skill cancelling, the speed of Rapid Cancel Dash was leagues ahead of that of any normal skill. Even if it was a child who saw me, or rather, because it was a child with no preconceptions that saw me, it was possible that my secret could be discovered.
It would be really problematic if a rumor started to spread in the town. Should I silence her? But wait, she’s just a kid, so maybe I should just come up with some excuse…
However, before my jumbled thoughts could reach a decision, the girl opened her mouth.
“Mister, your movements are like, kinda gross.”
Giggling to herself, the girl walked away, leaving me frozen in place.
I watched her leave with a blank expression on my face. It wasn’t until quite a while after she vanished from sight that I managed to mutter a sore reply.
“W-What do you mean, gross. I hope you’re properly watering those flowers…”
–Thus, Souma Sagara faced his first defeat after arriving in the game world.