— 4 —
“It’s so high…”
It was at least 3 meters to the hole in the ceiling. It would probably be impossible to climb up.
“Do you happen to have tools of any kind?”
Just to make sure, I asked Train Girl, but she shook her head and replied flatly, “If I had something like that then I wouldn’t have been so troubled.”
Once again, I looked upwards.
It really seemed impossible to climb up without any tools. I wondered if I could somehow make it with the skills that I currently had, but that was definitely impossible.
It was possible to climb slopes with Step, but it could not be used to move vertically.
As a result, there was currently no way of leaving this cave.
“Is there nothing you can do about this, Souma?”
As if grasping at straws, Train Girl asked with a discouraged voice.
“…I guess in the worst-case scenario, we would have to dig a tunnel to the surface horizontally from the stairs by the entrance.”
I wanted to say something more reassuring, but this was the best I could do right now.
“So you have something that can be used to dig?”
I silently let this question filled with anticipation slip by.
I mean, my shovel broke.
(It’s not like I didn’t have something that could be used to dig either.)
It’s just that I wasn’t able to think of anything that wouldn’t end up taking a really long time.
For the time being, let’s do what we can.
“It’s a bit dark for us to start digging here. Let’s try to bring back some torches first.”
Leading the thoroughly disheartened Train Girl, we returned to the sealed door.
There were two torches on the sides of the door. It would probably be fine even if we took one.
I tried to pull out the torch on the right… Huh?
“I-it won’t budge…”
I wonder if this world held a grudge against me.
In the game, torches were fixed to the walls and it was not possible to dislodge or move them, but I had thought that now that this was reality, it should be easy to pick up.
Even when I tried using all of my strength, it wouldn’t move at all.
It would appear that the torches weren’t simply just inserted into the fixtures, but were rather fused with the fixtures..
…This was a problem.
After the hassle of getting all the way here, I couldn’t even bring back a single torch.
(Wait, there is a way.)
Having come up with a great idea, I quickly pulled out Shiranui.
“Eh!? W-what are you doing, Souma!”
Train Girl shouted in shock, thinking I had gone mad.
But, there was a proper reason for this.
“If I can’t pull it out, then I should just cut it off.”
This was the sort of brilliance that had helped me find the smallest chances when I was in the biggest trouble. It might take some time, but that was probably the most realistic option.
The only question is whether the torch could still be useable after being cut off. Well, in the worst-case there was still another torch available. If it works then we would have a torch, and even if it doesn’t work there was not much to lose. It was definitely worth a try.
With a carefree attitude, I readied Shiranui, and took a swing…
With a sharp clunk, a sound that one wouldn’t expect wood to make, Shiranui bounced off.
I couldn’t really tell whether the torch had even been scratched.
“C’mon, one more time.”
While slightly concerned, once again, this time with all my power, I swung my sword towards the torch.
This time, with a thunk, my blow stopped at the surface of the torch. How was it? Did I successfully damage it?
I couldn’t tell.
“…Doesn’t look like it’s working at all.”
From behind, I heard a quiet grumble. It was time to get a little more serious.
After making her move back, I also took some distance from the torch.
Of course, there was only one reason for this. It was so I could unleash the strongest attack I could use right now.
Holding Shiranui at the ready, I struck with a loud shout.
Feeling an extremely solid response, Shiranui stopped mid-swing.
It wasn’t that the skill failed to activate. The skill had activated, but the target was too hard, so the skill was forcibly interrupted.
“…Doesn’t look like it’s working at all.”
Once again, Train Girl muttered from behind.
But it was working!
That blow had indeed cut into the wooded torch. It was a slight dent that couldn’t be seen without close examination, but the torch had been damaged!
That small cut was signaling my victory. If I just keep doing this, eventually even this torch could be cut off.
“Uhm, if you just want a light, then I have an item that I’d be willing to use, so let’s go already?”
Ignoring Train Girl who was saying something from behind, I swung Shiranui again.
I swung Shiranui with a yell, but it was stopped by the torch.
I must have done this dozens of times already. Finally, the crack in the torch had become pronounced enough that it could be easily seen. My efforts were definitely paying off. Patch 1.09 was quite the patch.
Even Train Girl, who had been slightly annoying at the start muttering complaints had stopped saying anything, perhaps having given up.
I was actually thankful for that. However, a new problem had come up.
(I might have gone a little too far with this.)
Having used my full strength each time, though I had managed to damage the torch, Shiranui was showing just a slight amount of accumulated damage as well. If I continued at this pace, then both of them would probably end up breaking.
After a short break, I decided to stop using skills from then on.
What’s important was to continue dealing damage, no matter how little. There was no need to use fancy skills to increase the power of each single strike.
Luckily, this world was based off of a game, so I don’t feel tired no matter how much I swung my sword. Well, it’s not as if the stamina gauge didn’t decrease, but that was more than compensated for by the automatic recovery rate.
Having started silently swinging my sword again, this time with normal strikes, I once again heard a voice call out from behind me.
“I think you’re probably wasting your time with that.”
It was from Train Girl, who hadn’t said anything for a while.
“No, I don’t think so.”
I immediately replied, but Train Girl just shook her head.
“The damage that you did with skills has already vanished. That torch automatically regenerates HP.”
…I had noticed that a long time ago.
It was true that the crack I had made with my Invisible Blades had already been filled. The damage I was inflicting without using skills was so small that the moment I hit it, the torch would have already healed up the damage.
Even then, I continued to incessantly swing my sword. Seeing me like this, Train Girl approached.
“Hey, Souma. Why don’t we give up and return to the entrance? Maybe we’ll think of something by the time we get there. What do you say?”
She tried to persuade me with a sweet, angelic smile, but, naturally, I acted as if I hadn’t heard her.
Seeing my reaction, she spouted, “Hmpf, I don’t care about you anymore!” and sat down right on the spot. Even though she said she didn’t care, it seemed like she was watching over me. But, at the very least, it seemed like she wasn’t planning on saying anything anymore.
Watching her out of the corner of my vision, I continued to quietly chip at the torch.
“I’m going to sleep…”
Stopping for a moment to turn around, Train Girl was already fast asleep, leaning against the wall.
I’m not sure if she was brave, or if she just lacked a sense of danger. While astonished by her carefreeness, what I had to do did not change.
While listening to Train Girl’s peaceful breathing behind me, I continued to swing my right hand.
I wonder how long it has been since we came underground. The motions of cutting of the torch had already become rather like second nature to me, and it now looked like I was chopping cabbage, only moving Shiranui through small distances.
I focused only on cutting the torch.
As I continued that action endlessly…
“So, you didn’t attack me while I was asleep.”
A voice rang out behind me. I turned around in surprise.
As for what I was surprised about, it was, of course, her confidence in herself.
Just how presumptuous was she to think that I would definitely assault her while she slept.
Facing backwards, my eyes drifted from Train Girl’s just awoken face… to a region slightly below it. To describe it crudely, she was definitely not a bullet train, but rather a normal train.
…I’m obviously talking about her speed.
“Th-That’s not what I meant!”
Noticing my impure gaze, Train Girl hastily hid her body with her arms and yelled out.
“I meant like as a sacrifice to the Demon God or something! You know, something like the door opening if you present it with the blood of a v… virgin, something like that!”
“Ahh, mm. I get it.”
So she still hadn’t gotten rid of the suspicion that I was a Dark Cultist. What was all that she said about trusting me then?
It also felt like something she randomly said to try to cover up her nodding off, but I suddenly felt the urge to tease her a little.
“You seem to have slept quite well in spite of that though.”
“…I-I wasn’t sleeping! I was only acting like I was asleep to see what you would do.”
Well played, Train Girl. But, unfortunately for you…
“There’s drool on the corner of your mouth…”
“What? You’re lying… Uwahh!”
Train Girl quickly wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and found her hand wet with drool.
I thought that she had no way out now, but Train Girl yelled once again.
“The drool was just an act too!”
“…I see, so the drool was an act.”
Even while holding such an incomprehensible conversation, my hand moved without rest.
Having found something to criticize, Train Girl tried to spark a comeback.
“I don’t want to be told off by someone who won’t stop doing something that they know is impossible!”
I can see why you would think that. I guess enough is enough.
“Then, let’s end this now.”
I took my distance from the torch like what I did at the start…
And unemotionally executed that same skill.
But this time, that one strike,
sliced the torch off the wall and sent it flying.
Leaving the lower half in the holder by the side of the door, the burning top-half of the torch quietly fell onto the floor.
I cheered in my head.
Excitedly, I picked up the torch.
Turning towards Train Girl as if to say, “Take that,” she replied grumpily.
“Sure, that was pretty impressive… So, how exactly are we going to get out of here?”
…Ahh, I honestly had not considered that.
–Was that what you expected me to say? Something like that was obviously not the case.
Having fulfilled my initial goal of obtaining the torch, I led Train Girl back to the entrance triumphantly.
Since we were here anyway, I raised the torch I just picked up above my head and inspected the hole in the ceiling.
“It really is quite narrow… But, well, it might be good enough.”
A sword could end up getting jammed, but, if you force it through, there should be no problem.
As I was nodding to myself looking upwards with the torch raised…
“If you just wanted to look at the hole, there’s light shining through from above ground, so I don’t think you needed a torch.”
Train Girl kept pointing out the obvious.
Where did that quiet and obedient Train Girl go?
While thinking that, I put out the torch and placed it into my bag.
“Ehh!? You’re not going to use the torch anymore!?”
Of course, I ignored Train Girl’s reaction and pulled out Shiranui.
Looking at the hole, I adjusted by position.
“Hey, can you stand back a bit?”
After Train Girl moved back, I readied Shiranui.
Now, this is where it starts.
“Let’s do this!”
Taking a deep breath, I loudly ordered a skill.
With the start of my words, I held out Shiranui.
Next, I jumped with all my might, ascending with a speed that exceeded even that of Step.
It didn’t matter that the sword caught on the edge of the hole; it just cut through it.
From the bottom of the hole, in one sweep I had jumped all the way until a few meters above ground.
After floating in place for a brief moment…
Keeping to the rhythm, I started a rapid diagonal descent meant to cut through aerial enemies. With a force that seemed like it would split the earth, I swung Shiranui downwards!
When the after-cast stun wore off, I was kneeling on the ground slightly beside the hole.
“Whew, I somehow managed to get out…”
Some might think that I once again used some cheap trick to get out, but that was not the case.
This time, I used neither cancelling nor any kind of bug, and I even used the official name of the skill. The skill itself merely let you jump a little higher, and there was nothing else special about it. It was a normal, ordinary skill.
Ultimate Sky-piercing Sword was a normal sword skill that, even without doing anything special and just raising one’s sword mastery level, one would eventually learn around the end of the game. It was the twelfth sword skill learned after Slash.