— 5 —
With a shout, I swung Shiranui at the monster in front of me, the famous yet weakest monster in Nekomimineko, the Zlime.
As expected of a mid game weapon. Shiranui sliced through the Zlime as if it was butter, rendering it incapable of combat.
But, during that instant, another Zlime approached me from the side.
I intercepted the jumping Zlime with Shiranui, and its body split perfectly in two while it was still in the air.
Even when split in two, the Zlime’s tackle did not stop. It hit me, causing me to stagger slightly.
Losing its momentum, the pieces of the Zlime fell to the ground. Confirming that they were starting to disappear, I finally lowered Shiranui.
“I was a bit careless at the end.”
In Nekomimineko, when a monster starts their attack, even if you defeat it and reduce its HP to 0, it will still continue the attack. This was a strange feature of Nekomimineko, and at the same time something anyone playing this game needed to always keep in mind.
I had intended to be calm, but it seemed like I may have become rather tense without realizing it.
(…Still, it didn’t hurt at all.)
Looks like the armor that I generously bought was doing its job. I took no damage from the Zlime’s tackle.
By the way, even though I defeated two enemies just now, there were no item drops. One could double the drop rate by striking the killing blow to weak points known as critical points, but I had no need for any of Zlime’s drops, so I didn’t really bother.
“Next, let’s fight something a bit stronger.”
Nodding to myself, I headed off towards a different field.
After having my spirit completely broken by that young girl, I decided to head out into the fields to recover my lost confidence.
Dashing into the armor store, I bought a set of mithril light armor, the strongest armor sold in Ramlich’s shops.
Finally, after lots of things happening like having the store clerk give me a weird look when I said I wanted to buy mithril armor while wearing beginner’s equipment, or like having the clerk help me put on the armor I just bought because I had no idea how to put on armor, or like making small adjustments such as stuffing paper in the cracks between the armor to improve my chances of survival, or like striking a cool pose in front of the mirror after I was done changing, I was able to finish my shopping trip without any major problems.
With this equipment, there wasn’t much of a chance of me dying around here. Wanting to try the armor out as soon as possible, I ran straight towards the fields without bothering to get accessories or recovery items or any such things.
In the northern plains near the town, I fought the weakest monster in Nekomimineko, the Zlime, and its relative, the Ugly Zlime, but they were way too weak.
One strike with Shiranui and the enemy was defeated. What’s more, though store-bought, mithril armor was a high-class item for the early game and absorbed the Zlime’s attacks like it was nothing.
Attack and it was a one-hit KO, be attacked and take no damage. This was as one-sided as it could get.
As a result, though I learned that even in this world I was able to slay monsters without feeling conscientious, I would not be able to learn just how well I would be able to act during times of crisis from only fighting monsters that pose absolutely no threat.
I should probably head towards an area with slightly stronger monsters and try fighting for real. Right now, I was in the weakest area in the game, the field north of Ramlich called the Beginner’s Plains, where enemies around level 3 appeared. West of here was the Forest of Beginnings where level 5-6 monsters appeared, but from the looks of it even that wouldn’t be much of a challenge.
I crossed to the other side of town, heading towards the Plateau of Sealing south of town where level 25 enemies appeared.
Right now, my level and weapon mastery were both low, but the quality of my equipment was high. By my instincts, I would say that my attacks were as strong as a level 40 even without using skills, and my defense should be around the same as that of an adventurer around level 20. Level 25 monsters were by no means out of my league.
That being said, it wouldn’t be funny if I was too careless and got killed. I decided to try to only fight mobs that seemed easy to defeat but…
“Dang, I already got spotted!”
Just after leaving town, my eyes met with those of a group of 2 monsters. They wore a red hat on their head – the demi-human monster Redcap.
Redcaps are a member of the Goblin family, but compared with the level 5 Goblins, they are much more combative, and their level was also much higher. If I remember correctly… They were level 24.
(I’m sorry that you have to be my first targets.)
I hesitated slightly, but determined that I still stood a reasonable chance since it’s just the two of them, and decided to fight.
It would be disadvantageous to have to fight both of them at the same time. Before they could rush over to me, I set my sights on the Redcap on the right and activated Step. Long cancelling that Step, I linked it with a short cancel Slash into another Step.
The Redcap finally reacted, but it was too late.
At that moment, the Redcap was already within Slash’s range.
Together with my shout, Slash activated.
The Redcap wasn’t even given the time to scream as Shiranui effortlessly sliced its body into two.
From the back of my throat, a sound that I was unable to stifle leaked out.
In the end, I felt a slight reluctance in killing a humanoid being. The only saving grace was that the feeling of slicing an enemy was closer to that from a game than from reality.
Still, this was no time to be calmly reflecting on my mental state. Before the other Redcap could strike, I once again Step-cancelled towards the right. Hiding behind the defeated Redcap, I waited for the after-cast stun to pass.
When the after-cast stun ended and I was able to freely move again, the first Redcap’s body just happened to disappear, leaving me and the other Redcap face-to-face.
(Next, let’s try to fight without using skills.)
I now knew I was able to gain the initiative and even defeat them with one hit when I used skills. In that case, with that as backup, I might as well take this opportunity to test my own limits.
The Redcap’s knife approached with a screeching noise, and I evaded it by backing off, purposely not using any skills. I felt a tiny shiver when the violently swung knife passed by, but I successfully dodged it.
I even avoided the vertical slash and the jumping strike that followed without using skills.
(I can do this!)
Though I felt slightly nervous and fearful since everything seemed more realistic than the game, I was able to move like I had while in game. Attacks this slow were well within what I could react to, and more than anything, the attack patterns were exceedingly simple.
(It would seem that Goblins’ Two Moves is still true here!!)
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Goblin-type monsters in Nekomimineko only had two types of attack patterns, either to approach and swing their weapon vertically, or to leap at the target.
I had been slightly worried because the female bandit NPC had behaved differently from within the game, but it looks like at least the movement patterns for monsters were the same. This was likely to be a very important piece of information for future planning.
It wasn’t just Goblins in particular. In the first place, most monsters in Nekomimineko had a pretty limited set of motions.
Compared to human motions and AIs and such that were used throughout VR apps and were easy to obtain through a standard package and customize, motions and AIs for monsters that only appeared in fantasy games were usually created from scratch in order to fit each game individually.
Lacking completely in the techniques and know-how of VR game development, Nekomimineko’s monsters were quite a mess, but I was rather thankful for that at the moment.
Seeing the Redcap begin its jumping motion, I leapt to the side, and, while dodging its attack, I struck its defenseless head with Shiranui.
A clean hit!
Even then, I backed away, keeping in mind what happened with the Zlime earlier, but the Redcap did not attempt to strike me back and merely vanished, as if melting into thin air.
Finally, the only thing left in the place where the Redcap had been was its trademark red hat.
My first drop item. It was a scrap item that Redcaps drop at a low rate which could be sold for money. As expected, stuff like this seemed to function like in the game.
Furthermore, from defeating a tough enemy, I could feel power swelling up inside my body.
“It seems like I should be able to just treat this like the game.”
Picking up the red hat from the ground, my eyes searched for the next prey.
For a while longer, I stuck around the Plateau of Sealing, confirming that I was able to fight with no problems in this field.
That being said, I would actually feel pain when an attack hit me in this world, and if I took too much damage and my HP fell to 0, there was a chance that I would actually die for real. I can’t be too complacent.
What taught me that was a dog shaped monster called a Mad Hound. Taking a hit due to its high agility, I was surprised by the heavy impact and pain I felt. Still, it was only the level of a momentary wince and it didn’t affect my ability to continue the battle, but if I were to treat this as being the same as the game where taking a burst of near-fatal damage felt no more painful than a slight numbness, then I would be in for a world of pain.
It had been awhile since then, and while I became accustomed to fighting in this world, I had also gained quite a few levels. Even the battle senses that I had developed in the game were slowly coming back to me, and I was able to determine that in addition to Slash, I could also properly use another basic skill, Sideswipe.
However, the biggest part of my current strength would probably have to be attributed to this weapon I had.
“Ahhh, Shiranui is the best.”
Its attack power was obviously great, but more than anything, the fact that I was used to it was also highly important. In the game, I had mainly been using sword type weapons, so Shiranui, being of the same length, felt very natural in my hands.
Weapons were separated into categories such as swords, spears, etc., and the weapon class determined the weapon length. The main reason for this was because, in a Nekomimineko-like fashion, the effect range of skills were set at fixed values and had nothing to do with the actual reach of the weapon.
It might not be immediately obvious what this means, but if you think about what would happen if you use the same skill with two similar weapons of different lengths, then the logic becomes clear.
For example, let’s imagine that there was a really long sword and a really short sword.
Normally, the long sword would have a vastly superior reach compared to the short sword, but due to the Nekomimineko’s shenanigans, when you use a skill, the effective range of the two swords became the same.
What this means is when using a skill, there may be inconsistencies like an enemy that the long sword appeared to hit may end up taking no damage, and an enemy that the short sword appeared to miss may end up taking damage. That’s why it was decided that swords would all be this length, spears would all be this other length, and so on.
Now, on the other hand, many weapon classes had a corresponding advanced version. For example, there was the ninja sword for the dagger, the lance for the spear, and the katana for the sword.
Each of the advanced weapon classes were also classified as their base classes, so every ninja sword was also a dagger, and could use both ninja sword and dagger skills. Of course, that weapon’s reach would also be set to the value of a dagger.
Thus, designed as a katana, Shiranui possessed the same reach as a sword, and could use sword skills.
“As long as I have this sword, I’m… whoa whoa whoa!?”
Trying to walk while immersed in my thoughts, I stumbled on a lump on the ground.
I involuntarily collapsed to my knees…
And found myself face to face with a glaring Demon God.
Fear shot up my spine.
“This is… a sculpture of the Demon God.”
The thing that I stumbled over was a sculpture of the Demon God, and it was frequently found in areas controlled by demons.
The reason why there were many monsters in the Kingdom of Licht, the stage for Nekomimineko, was said to be because the Demon God lay sealed nearby. The setting was that in order to revive the Demon God and obtain its powers, the Demon Lord set its sight on this country and sent many monsters to conquer it.
My joyful mood was instantly shattered.
The last boss of the game, the Demon Lord Of The End, was level 250. The hidden boss, Demon God’s Fragment, was apparently over level 300.
Though it didn’t appear in the game, if this world was produced according to the game’s setting, it wouldn’t be strange if the main body of the Demon God existed somewhere in this world.
If something like that existed, would humans actually be able to defeat it?
To be overjoyed at defeating enemies that were merely level 25, I must be quite laughable.
“I really need to think carefully about what I should do from now on.”
Standing up, I muttered to myself.
In fact, it was something I probably should have thought about much earlier. However, acting like I was absorbed in this game that had become reality, I continued to avoid thinking about it.
(Even though I already knew that this was not a time for celebrating.)
There would be no problems if this world was the world of a normal game.
I would slowly raise my level, slowly become stronger, defeat the enemies in a sort of a routine, and with those earnings, lazily live out my life. Such an option would be available to me.
But, the world of Nekomimineko wouldn’t accept such a laid back playstyle and a safe and secure life.
A forced bad end when time runs out. Destruction of the town due to the invasion of monsters. Collapse of the country due to the rampage of NPC wizards. Encroachment of the world by a special monster.
There were countless events that would lead to an unrecoverable situation if left alone, and the dangers of sudden death could be found everywhere.
However, to try to get through this in the same way I did in the game was also dangerous.
The reason I had been able to clear the game was because of the save, load, and reset functionalities and the sense of security in knowing that there was no big problem even if I mess up. In this world that felt no different from reality, it was not realistic to try to clear the game.
More importantly, even if I somehow managed to defeat the Demon Lord, there was a high chance that nothing would be resolved.
Nekomimineko was a game that focused strongly on side challenges. Though defeating the Demon Lord technically counted as clearing the game, that by no means marked the end of the game. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that this game did not contain a definitive ending.
I vividly remembered it. After defeating the Demon Lord and sitting through the unskippable credits roll that lasted over five minutes, I was suddenly brought, not to the scene of a special ending event, nor to the title screen, but rather straight back to where I was. Returning back to town, there were a few follow-up events, but from then on the topic transitioned naturally towards the hidden dungeon. Even at the hidden dungeon, however, there weren’t really any new events even though I had cleared the game.
To summarize, defeating the Demon Lord and clearing the game did not ensure that this world would become any safer, and the likelihood of that being a trigger for sending me back to my old world was also low.
What’s more, even if I worked hard and defeated both the last boss, the Demon Lord, and also the hidden boss, the Demon God’s Fragment, who’s to say that the real Demon God wouldn’t be lurking somewhere in the shadows? I don’t think for one second that I would be able to defeat such an enemy that I hadn’t even seen in the game.
“I really need to find a way to get back.”
I loved games, but that didn’t mean I wanted to live in a game world. Being able to use skills and magic was very exciting, and fighting monsters was a very exhilarating experience. But, if you asked me whether I would want to live in such a world in exchange for risking my life, my answer would be absolutely not.
The many different ways I had died in the game flashed through my mind. There had been times where I had been literally smashed to a pulp by monsters; there had been times where I had been swallowed whole by a slime; and there had also been times where I had been slowly tortured to death after being paralyzed or petrified by a trap.
I didn’t mind this so much in the game. Most of the pain was blocked out, and all that meant was that I would have to try again starting from a save point. But, if I was to meet such a fate in this world…
A shiver ran through my body. The hand that was holding Shiranui trembled.
“This isn’t a joke. I should get out of this wretched place as soon as possible.”
Luckily, I had thought of one single method with which there was a possibility that I could get back to my original world.
It was not a guarantee, but rather a risky measure that could kill me in the worst case. Even then, it would give me a higher chance of survival compared to staying in this world forever.
“But to do that, I can’t spend my time lazing around here!”
In order to attempt that solution, I need more power.
Either to become more powerful myself, or to obtain powerful allies.
Neither of which could be accomplished if I holed myself up in this town.
“So, I should… Huh?”
Just as I was about to reach an answer, I noticed something strange.
“What the? Dust?”
A dust tornado? Did something like that even exist in this world? While thinking that, an even more disastrous possibility came to mind.
“Wait, wait a moment. Just how long have I been grinding here?”
I asked myself, but no answer came. The menu that would have provided me with the time before was no longer existent.
But, if the true identity of that dust storm was what I thought it was, then this was extremely bad.
I hurriedly tried to leave the place, but,
“Pl… ea…! …elp… …me…!”
When I heard that faint voice, carried by the wind, I realized that it was all too late.
The one and only character to hold the impressive achievement of dominating both the most popular NPC rankings and the least popular NPC rankings.
Her overwhelming presence brought her the affection of many players, as well as the resentment of an even larger number of players. She was…
“Train Girl is coming…!!”