— 4 —
Now then, today’s experiment will test Train Girl’s train power, commonly referred to as Train Mode.
The location was the northern plains near the town where the enemies were the weakest.
To start with, the two of us worked together to clear the area of monsters, and then, to ensure that there wasn’t any chance of a bad accident happening, I had her put on one of the sets of mythril equipment I had. Then, with her consent, I tied together her wrists and ankles, and the preparation was complete.
“If anything happens then yell loudly.”
Leaving behind the still utterly confused Train Girl, I positioned myself just barely within the range where I would hear her if she yelled.
There were no signs of monsters nearby, yet I could still clearly see the bound Train Girl.
It was the a setup for this experiment.
Around an hour in, there weren’t any problems, nor any kind of development.
The tied up Train Girl rolled around out of boredom, and would sometimes inquire from me the current time.
When that happened, I would answer using the watch I had borrowed from Train Girl, but other than that I spent all my time whacking at the torch.
As expected of Master Torch, it quickly regenerated the damage it had taken, and as expected of the game, it didn’t spawn new monsters near a player.
This peaceful, uneventful time continued to flow by.
The first sign of change happened about 1 hour and 50 minutes into the experiment.
Having even gotten bored of rolling around, Train Girl had quietly sunk into a slumber in the fields, but her demeanor started becoming increasingly unnatural.
As if unable to stay still, she would start swinging her legs or rolling around, becoming very restless.
Then, at exactly 2 hours since the start of the experiment, an unmistakeable irregularity occurred.
Particles of light gathered some tens of meters from Train Girl, and there, abruptly, Goblins appeared.
“A monster spawn…”
Though it was something I had expected, seeing this absurdly unrealistic scene, I let out a groan.
Monster spawn, or in the case of something that had already been defeated once, a respawn, was the phenomenon controlling the emergence of monsters.
The monsters in fields and dungeons would usually respawn after a fixed time, but normally, players will not witness those moments.
According to the setting, monsters were made from clumps of Elements, in other words magic power, so it wouldn’t be weird for monsters to appear of seemingly nowhere, but it seemed to have been determined that seeing the moment of monsters popping out destroyed the feeling of a fantasy world.
Thus, within Nekomimineko, other than during special events, the spawning of monsters near a player, especially within line of sight, would generally not happen.
However, right now, in front of my eyes was a situation that went against those rules.
On the internet, there had been comments that Train Girl seemed to bring along too many monsters.
Even in areas where all the monsters had been defeated, or in areas where the respawn time was long, she would still manage to appear with a large number of enemies, so it was theorized that during Train Mode, Train Girl had the power to forcibly spawn monsters.
That theory had now, at this very moment, been proven.
However, I quickly realized that it wasn’t the time to leisurely think about such things. The Goblins were gleefully approaching Train Girl while licking their lips.
With the level difference and the mythril armor, she should be alright, but in front of me, the situation was becoming like one right before certain scenes in slightly erotic fantasy manga.
(Well, let’s quickly save her!)
With that in mind, I started running towards Train Girl, but instead I ended up witnessing something completely unexpected and unbelievable.
Noticing the Goblins approaching, Train Girl let out a scream,
“You’re kidding me!”
and began escaping by rolling along the ground, while still bound.
What’s more, she was fast! She quickly left the Goblins behind, rolling off into the distance.
But, I can’t say that I blame her.
Goblins were level 5 monsters. Their status values were only barely above that of Zlimes, but their appearance was what gave them the nickname “Beginner’s Wall”. Especially in this world where monsters had become real, they were scary enough to give one trauma.
If I had to give a comparison, they were about as scary as lizardmen. …Ah, sorry, Reinhart.
Anyways, to see something like that suddenly appear out of nowhere, it’s no surprise that Train Girl was startled.
“Wait! Wait up!”
However, she was escaping towards a bad direction. For some reason, Train Girl was rolling at full speed away from both the town and me.
“How can she be so fast even when rolling?!”
Of course, it wasn’t enough to lose me, but it was an abnormal speed.
It could be that she had received a speed boost for entering Train Mode.
(I thought that if I bound her, then even if she was to enter Train Mode she wouldn’t be able to move, but maybe it had the opposite effect? I shouldn’t have been so careless with this!)
I started regretting this, but what’s past is past. Actually, even if she wasn’t bound she might have still panicked, and if that happened she would be running away at an even faster speed.
It wasn’t the time to debate what-ifs. Either way, I must catch up.
(Damn, this is annoying!)
What’s even more troublesome was that as Train Girl kept rolling, small fries kept appearing from nearby. It would seem that her power to forcibly spawn monsters during Train Mode applied even while she was rolling. The number of monsters that she dragged along quickly increased.
“If this keeps going… huh?”
Just as I was beginning to feel anxious, all of a sudden Train Girl’s movements started becoming dull. Her body that had been able to produce that much speed suddenly became sluggish.
I quickly realized what was happening.
“Of course, if you roll around that much, you’d get dizzy.”
Rather, it was a miracle that she had been able to last until now. I wonder if she has a strong inner ear.
Anyways, with this the situation had become a lot simpler.
While ugly and intimidating, Goblins were slow. The weakest of the weak, Zlimes and She-Zlimes, didn’t even need to be mentioned.
I quickly blew past them and picked up Train Girl in my arms.
It probably would’ve been fine to fight, but I didn’t really want to do so while holding the groggy Train Girl. So, instead, I chose to escape.
Even though I was carrying a person, unless it was a fast monster like a Mad Hound, something like a Goblin could never hope to catch me. I quickly pulled away from the monsters chasing after us.
While being carried by me, new monsters had not spawned around Train Girl. It seemed that her Train Mode only had effect when she was alone after all.
“We should be okay here.”
Seeing that the monsters chasing us had become pea-sized dots, I called out to Train Girl.
“Heyy Train Girl, are you awake? Are you okay?”
Hearing my voice, Train Girl’s eyes snapped open.
“H-huh? W-wh… Ehhh!?”
Right after coming to, she gave a nice reaction. With a bitter chuckle, I let her onto the ground and cut the ropes.
“Sorry for having you help with something like this. I guess I should’ve probably told you what was going to happen ahead of time.”
“N-no, thats… Souma!!”
Hearing a sudden urgency in her voice, I turned to look.
The monsters that I had thought we had shaken off had persistently chased us here.
It would seem that once a monster encounters Train Girl in her Train Mode, it will not change targets. It really was a system with bad taste.
If it’s like this, I have no choice.
“Sorry, let me carry you.”
I once again picked up Train Girl who seemed to still have not recovered her strength yet.
“U-umm, I can…”
“It’s fine! This is part of the experiment!”
Train Girl tried to refuse, but I forcibly convinced her.
(Still, this is making me quite nervous.)
At times like these, I really admired the denseness of harem manga protagonists.
They would be able to smoothly carry a girl in their arms without noticing that as a result the girl had fallen for them, but actually doing something like this felt quite embarrassing.
It was different a moment ago when she was barely conscious, but right now when the situation wasn’t even all that pressing, I became really mindful of the fact that I was touching a girl.
That said, this wasn’t quite the place to be having a drawn-out love comedy moment either.
“I’ll be running past the monsters, so hold on tight!”
Saying that, I started to return along the path that we had come from.
Fortunately Train Girl didn’t take too long to be knocked out by dizziness, so the number of monsters that she had pulled wasn’t all that numerous. Cutting diagonally, I managed to pass by the Goblins at the front.
The Zlimes remaining in the rear were simple matters. The difference in speed was just too immense, there wasn’t even need to pay them any attention. Without much effort I ran past the group of monsters. Backtracking our path, I ran until the entrance of the town.
The moment we took one step into the town, the monsters scattered, as if losing all interest in us, returning back to their respective areas.
(Phew, Train Mode still behaved the same as in the game.)
The effects of Train Mode were dispelled when escaping into a safe area like the town. Normally, one would be caught by the mob before they could reach the town, so this technique wasn’t all that useful, but luckily the enemies this time were all slow.
“With this, we should be fine. …Are you okay?”
I asked, and Train Girl gave a spirited nod.
“Y-yes. I’m fine. Um, I’m sorry for freaking out, but I was just so shocked…”
“No, don’t worry about that…”
Could it be because of the whole running away while being carried thing?
Both of us were acting quite awkwardly.
“Uhm, could I ask a question?”
“Y-yeah, of course.”
With a much more concerned look in her eyes than I had expected, Train Girl looked at me.
I’m sure her question was going to be about the spawning monsters. That was certainly an abnormal occurrence. If it’s not that then it’d be about when we were running from the Goblins… or so I tried to prepare myself, but the question that she asked was neither of those.
“D-did I manage to help you, Souma?”
Her words were so unexpected that I was at a lost of what to say. I’m not sure how she interpreted my reaction, but Train Girl desperately tried again.
“S-since a lot of weird stuff happened, and I ended up panicking and suddenly running away, so I was worried if maybe your experiment didn’t end up going so well or something…”
Feeling Train Girl’s anxiousness, I understood.
Rather than the abnormalities that had just occurred, or how unreasonably she was treated, or even the circumstances around the time we were escaping from the monsters, what was more important to Train Girl was the first companion she had made, whether they had successfully completed their objective, and whether she had been of any help to them.
I hoped that, as long as I was here, she would slowly become more confident in herself.
With those wishes in mind, I answered with an even bigger nod.
“You were a great help. I couldn’t have done that experiment without you.”
“I-is that true!?”
Hearing my words, it was like Train Girl’s face went into full bloom. Her face made a complete change from a downcast expression into one radiating with energy, as she tightly gripped my two hands.
“T-then, I don’t care if it’s an experiment or something else, please let me know if there’s anything I can help with! If it’s something I can do, I’ll do anything!!”
While laughing wryly at her enthusiasm, I replied cheerfully, as if answering Train Girl’s impatience.
“Sure, then let’s try bungee jumping without a rope!”
Kids, this is how you recycle a joke.