— 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 enemies were the weakest.
To start off, the two of us worked together to clear the area of monsters. Then, to ensure that there wasn’t any chance of an unfortunate accident happening, I had Train Girl put on one of the sets of mithril equipment I had. Finally, with her consent, I tied up her wrists and ankles, and that completed our preparations.
“Yell loudly if anything happens.”
Leaving behind the still utterly confused Train Girl, I positioned myself just barely within earshot of her yell.
I could still clearly see the bound Train Girl, but monsters were still nowhere to be found.
This was the set up for this experiment.
Around an hour in, nothing went wrong, nor did any kind of development happen.
The bound Train Girl rolled around out of boredom, and would sometimes ask me for the time.
When that happened, I would answer Train Girl using the watch I had borrowed from her, but, other than that, I spent all my time whacking at the torch.
As expected of the 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 period 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 sunk into a quiet slumber in the fields, but her demeanor was starting to become 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 unmistakable irregularity occurred.
Particles of light gathered some tens of meters from Train Girl, and there, abruptly, Goblins appeared.
“A monster spawn…”
Though I had expected something like that to happen, I let out a groan upon witnessing this absurdly unrealistic scene.
Monster spawn, or in the case of something that had already been defeated once, a respawn, was the phenomenon controlling the appearance of monsters.
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, which, in other words, was magical energy, so it wouldn’t be weird for monsters to appear out of seemingly nowhere. But, apparently someone decided that witnessing the moment monsters popped out of nowhere destroyed the feeling of a fantasy world.
Thus, within Nekomimineko, other than during special events, the spawning of monsters near players, especially in line-of-sight, usually did not happen.
However, right now, a situation that went against those rules happened right in front of me.
There had been comments on the Internet 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 Train Girl had the power to forcibly spawn monsters during Train Mode.
That theory had now, at this very moment, been proven true.
However, I quickly realized that this 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 mithril armor, she should be alright. But, right 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 ended up witnessing something completely unexpected and unbelievable instead.
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.
Anyway, 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 from entering Train Mode.
(I thought that she wouldn’t be able to move if I bound her even if she were to enter Train Mode, but maybe it had the opposite effect? I shouldn’t have been so careless with this!)
I started regretting this experiment, 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 the what-ifs. Either way, I must catch up to her.
(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, Train Girl’s movements started becoming dull all of a sudden. Her body which had been able to produce that much speed suddenly became sluggish.
I quickly realized what was happening.
“Of course you’d get dizzy if you roll around that much.”
Rather, it was a miracle that she had been able to last until now. I wonder if she had a strong inner ear.
Anyway, with this, the situation had become a lot simpler.
While ugly and intimidating, Goblins were slow. The weakest of the weak, Zlimes and Ugly 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 someone, 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 I was carrying her, new monsters had not spawned around Train Girl. It seemed like her Train Mode only took effect when she was alone.
“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? Wh-Wh… Ehhh!?”
Right after coming to, she gave another nice reaction. With a bitter chuckle, I placed her onto the ground and cut the ropes binding her.
“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, that’s… 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 encountered 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 my help, 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 were able to smoothly carry a girl in their arms without noticing that the girl had fallen for them as a result, but actually doing something like this felt quite embarrassing.
It was different from a moment ago when she was barely conscious, but, right now, when the situation wasn’t even all that pressing, I became painfully 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 recovered from her dizziness rather quickly, 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 to deal with. The difference in speed was just too immense that there wasn’t even the need to pay them any attention. Without much effort, I ran past the group of monsters. Backtracking, I ran until we reached the town’s entrance.
The monsters scattered the moment we took a single step into Ramlich, as if they had lost all interest in us, returning back to their respective areas.
(Phew, Train Mode still behaved the same way as it did in game.)
The effects of Train Mode were dispelled when the player escaped into a safe area like a 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.
“We should be fine now. Are you okay?”
I asked Train Girl, and received a spirited nod in reply.
“Y-Yes. I’m fine. Um, 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 was sure that her question was going to be about the spawning monsters. That was certainly an abnormal occurrence. If it wasn’t 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.
“W-Was I helpful, Souma?”
Her words were so unexpected that I was at a loss 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 that I might’ve messed up your experiment or something…”
Feeling Train Girl’s anxiousness, I understood her concerns.
Rather than the abnormalities that had just occurred, or how unreasonably she was treated, or even the circumstances when 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 she would slowly become more confident in herself as long as I was here.
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.”
It was as if Train Girl’s face went into full bloom after hearing my words. Her face made a complete change from a downcast expression into one radiating with energy, as she tightly gripped my two hands.
“Th-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, that is how you recycle a joke.