— 5 —
The experiment on the plains had cleared up the specifics of Train Mode quite a bit.
I had planned on trying something new using those results, but we needed to venture into a high-level area for that. However, doing so without any preparation would only be suicide.
For the time being, Train Girl and I decided to visit the town’s item shop and gather some essentials.
“Ohh, isn’t this…”
The first thing that caught my eye was the Status Sticker.
It was an item that displayed the name and level of whatever it was stuck to, and, quite frankly, it was a completely useless garbage item in the game. But, in this world where the menu couldn’t be opened, it seemed like it would be quite useful.
Not to mention that it was marked at a mere 10E. Quite economical.
Even though it had nothing to do with the upcoming experiment, I bought around ten of them and, after getting permission from the clerk, tried using one on myself.
Upon sticking the piece of paper on my arm, words quickly formed on it.
【Souma Sagara : LV 13 】
Apparently I was only level 13. I had fought for quite a bit at the Plateau of Sealing, but I guess I couldn’t expect to gain too many levels from just killing small fries for an hour or two, even with the level difference.
In which case, it was quite likely that Train Mode would be the key to leveling up safely and efficiently. My anticipation for the upcoming experiment grew even more.
Still, what surprised me the most from looking at the Status Sticker was the name that was written on it.
I hadn’t told anyone my full name since coming to this world, but even then the system had recognized me.
“Souma, what are you doing? Gems are over here.”
As I was looking at the Status Sticker, Train Girl, accompanying me, sent a puzzled look.
(Whoops, that was dangerous.)
It was probably a good idea to keep the fact that I was level 13 hidden.
I stuffed the rest of the Status Stickers in my bag and trotted over to Train Girl.
Browsing around the shop, in addition to the Status Stickers, I also bought the items that were the purpose of this trip: magic gems, darts, and emergency recovery potions. I also picked up a pocket watch and a shovel while I was at it.
The gems and darts were for the experiments, the pocket watch was for myself, and the shovel was for the inn owner.
But man, I didn’t expect to find pocket watches and shovels in this shop.
It did feel like they carried more random things than in the game… Now that I took a closer look, it felt more like the town’s general shop rather than an item shop.
Either way, we were done with our preparations.
Honestly, I would’ve wanted to take a look at the accessory shop and weapon shop nearby as well, but I should be prioritizing Train Girl right now. Holding my urges in, we left the town.
Our destination was northeast. The setting of our next experiment will be what was widely called “Nekomimineko’s Premier Ghost Dungeon”, The Cave of Trials.
The Cave of Trials was a dungeon near Ramlich where unusually high-leveled monsters appeared. Their levels were said to be over 70.
It contained no events or treasures, and the monsters there were all knights made of empty suits of armor, called Armor Knights.
Armor Knights didn’t move that fast, but they were strong and sturdy, and extremely hard to defeat. But, in return, they boasted an exceptional experience multiplier rate.
Thus, while being a challenge for players, they also offered a great chance for growth. This was indeed a tough dungeon that, when overcome, granted players a large development in their abilities.
It was indeed a cave of trials.
Or, that is what it should have been…
“Uhm, is this really the right place? This dungeon is pretty famous for having nothing at all inside…”
In reality, this Cave of Trials did not contribute to a player’s development at all.
Calling this a “ghost dungeon” was also out of sarcasm, since due to some slight miscalculations in the setting, whenever one arrived at the area pretty much all of the monsters were dead. What’s more, the respawn time for the monsters in this dungeon was the longest out of all of the monsters in the game, at 255 hours. Nobody would want to wait over 10 days here, so people gave up trying to find any mobs here.
That said, now, I had Train Girl with me. Choosing my words carefully, I started to explain.
“That’s why it’s an experiment. Uhh, actually, I’ve heard that monsters start appearing when certain conditions are met. So, I wanted to test if that was true…”
If Train Girl were to find out that she had the power to call forth monsters, she would probably be really depressed.
It hurts me to have to keep lying to her, but I continued my explanation while skirting around that fact.
But, well, leave it to Training Girl to accept it all without a shred of doubt as she bought into the plan, eyes glowing with unexpected interest.
“Ah, so that’s why those Goblins suddenly appeared in those plains! Souma, that’s amazing! Is it be some kind of hidden knowledge passed down only to Protectors of Seals?!”
“…Uhm, could you please forget about that title.”
Why does this girl keep digging up my dark history! Though I did bring it upon myself…
While facepalming, I continued.
“Anyway, since the experiment in the plains was a success, I wanted to test it with the enemies here too.”
“Ahh, I get it! This time, instead of a field, you want to test it in a dungeon right?! This feels kinda exciting!”
While trying to calm Train Girl down, I explained the plan.
The dungeon should be empty to begin with, so we should be able to just stroll into it. Then, if we wait 2 hours, Train Mode should activate.
“If my hypothesis is correct, enemies should start appearing then. They’re strong, but slow. You should be able to run from them with your speed. I want you to run deeper into the back of the dungeon, and if possible, try to hit each enemy once with a dart.”
“I see, so you want me to count the number of monsters with darts.”
A dart is an offensive item. It deals a fixed 1 damage to an enemy, no matter what kind of enemy, so against tough enemies like metal-type enemies it becomes a trump card, and when many of the same enemies appear it can also be used as a marker. For this experiment, I had bought 50 of them.
“But don’t focus too much on trying to hit the darts. Your opponents are over level 70. You should prioritize running away, and everything else is only if you find a chance.”
It was quite a spirited response, but I was still slightly worried.
The enemies were over level 70, and even compared with other enemies of the same level they had a higher attack stat. Though I had lent Train Girl some mithril armor, it was ultimately still equipment sold in a shop in Ramlich. It was definitely insufficient when dealing with Armor Knights.
I ended up voicing my concerns. I had started to think that maybe it was better to not do this after all.
“To tell the truth, the experiment this time is quite dangerous. If you don’t want to…”
“I’ll do it. There’s a big level gap, but I’ve fought an Armor Knight before. If I only need to run away, that’s a piece of cake!”
In contrast to me, Train Girl was full of motivation. As I became more reluctant, she looked me straight in the eyes and said:
“I mean, this is something that needs to be done, right?”
Hearing those words, just for a moment, I forgot to breathe.
“…Yeah. It needs to be done.”
I gave in and nodded. Seeing that, Train Girl smiled.
“Then, I’ll do my best. …For Souma’s sake.”
I thought about correcting her words, but decided against it.
There’s no need to pour cold water on her determination.
“This Cave of Trials is shaped like a donut. The entrance, which is where we are, is connected to the deepest part of the cave. That’s why, if you keep going forward… you’ll come out there.”
Saying that, I pointed towards the top of the cliff in front of us.
It was hard to tell just how tall the cliff was. From where we were standing, one could only roughly tell where the top was.
“At that time, it’ll all come down to this.”
I took out a gem containing a magic called Featherfall.
It was only for a single use, but it was possible to activate the magic imbued into the gem.
Featherfall was a spell that decreased the user’s falling speed. Within the span of one minute, the user’s weight became as light as a bird’s feather, reducing both the speed and the impact upon falling. I had already passed an identical gem to Train Girl.
“Descending the cliff makes the return trip a lot simpler. While escaping from the monsters, use that when you reach the top of the cliff and jump down. Then, meet back here where I’ll be waiting, and the experiment will be a success.”
As always, her replies were very energetic, but I still felt uneasy.
“Are you sure? You do know how to use the gem right? You won’t try to jump down without using it or something?”
Towards my questions, Train Girl replied with a smile.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll be okay. Rather, it’d be impossible to jump down such a tall cliff without thinking.”
She herself did not seem too fazed by the task. Maybe I’m worrying too much.
After going over the key points once more, passing her the recovery items that we just bought, and telling her not to overdo it, finally, it was time.
“Well then, here I go!”
“Mm. Take care.”
Watching her gallantly walk away, I still couldn’t soothe the anxiety within me.
I passed the next two hours restlessly.
Actually, experiments involving using Train Girl to revive the enemies in this dungeon had already been tested before in the game. Many ways of using Train Girl for leveling had been tested, and it was found that if one stuck around in this dungeon, Train Girl did indeed appear.
However, unfortunately, those experiments did not attain favorable results.
–That was because almost every single time while pulling the monsters, Train Girl would fall off the cliff to her death.
Of course, that was the NPC Train Girl from within the game, but since it happened in the game, there’s no guarantee that it won’t happen here too.
That was exactly the reason why I went ahead and prepared two magic gems.
(If worst comes to worst, I’ll use Featherfall myself!)
I’ve never tried casting magic on a falling person, but it should be fine. I was accustomed to targeting fast moving things in the game.
Even in the worst case, I did not intend to fail.
At last, my watch’s minute hand had made two full revolutions.
(It should be soon, I think?)
I waited, bracing myself for Train Girl to come falling any moment.
It was around ten minutes later. Just when my anxiety had reached its peak, and I had started wondering if something had happened…
I looked up towards the voice, and spotted Train Girl. Due to the distance she was only as large as a pea, but the figure who jumped off the cliff in order to shake off the shadows chasing could only be her.
My heart still skipped a beat upon witnessing her body leaping off the cliff even though everything was according to plan. The scene of Train Girl, caught by gravity and mercilessly slammed onto the ground resurfaced in my mind.
With the possibility of the worst conclusion in mind, I unconsciously squeezed the gem in my hand.
(I guess I didn’t need to worry that much.)
My imaginations did not become reality. Train Girl’s body was floating slowly downwards. It looks like she had properly used Featherfall.
“Souma, I did it!”
She was waving her hands as she headed towards the ground, and, as I was waving back to her, I noticed something.
I yelled, but, I was too late.
By the time Train Girl had looked back, it was already too late.
One of the Armor Knights that jumped off the cliff chasing her had, by coincidence, ended up falling close to her.
The spear of the falling Armor Knight struck her!
Letting out a silent scream, Train Girl’s body twisted in pain.
With that strike from the spear, and possibly also because of Featherfall making her lighter, she was blown sideways with an amazing force.
She was already close to the ground. I immediately started activating skills.
Closing the gap with Rapid Cancel Dash, I caught her before she fell to the ground. It must have been because of the magic, but her body was as light as a feather.
For some reason, that just served to fan my agitation.
“! That’s right, recovery items!”
Unseemingly, I was dazed for a moment. But, I quickly came back to my senses and retrieved a recovery potion from my pouch.
There was no time to do something as slow as having her drink it, so, hesitating only briefly, I smashed the potion against her body.
There was a lighting effect, and a slightly delayed sound effect.
Her HP had recovered. At least, it should have.
“Hey, are you okay!? Answer me!!”
But, she didn’t reply when I called to her. I became flustered.
(You gotta be kidding me! How could this…!)
I hastily took out another recovery potion from the pouch, and as I was about to throw it…
A small hand stopped me.
Lowering my gaze, I saw that Train Girl had opened her eyes and was looking this way.
Her complexion was also not that bad. It didn’t seem like she was going to just off and die like this.
This might’ve been the most terrifying thing that I’ve experienced since coming to this world.
I let out a huge breath. There was a lot that I wanted to say and ask, but it would be troublesome if another Armor Knight were to come falling down from above.
Completely ignoring the thundering noises coming from behind, I picked her up in the princess carry that had already become familiar to me, and quickly left the area.
Since then, I had tried to use more recovery potions on her, but Train Girl had stubbornly rejected it, saying that it’d be a waste.
Not only that, but ignoring my protests, she even slipped out from my arms to stand on the ground with her own two feet. Facing me, she smiled proudly.
“At the very end, I was a bit careless, but still, I did it.”
In that way, she asked me like a little puppy waiting for a reward from its owner.
“Souma, was I useful?”
Hearing those words, I was dumbfounded.
After being made to do something as unreasonable as charging into a high level dungeon alone, and even actually ending up almost dead, she still did not doubt me one bit, and genuinely only cared whether she was of use to me.
I can’t believe her. While thinking that, I also felt glad from the bottom of my heart that I had brought Train Girl here.
Her inquiring eyes contained a slight amount of nervousness, but above that, it shone with anticipation. She must be overjoyed at being able to help her comrades. One can tell that she was waiting to be told “you were useful” just by looking at her.
…However, this time, I was unable to respond to those expectations.
Slowly, I shook my head from side to side.
“Sorry, but this experiment was actually not for my sake.”
She froze on hearing those unexpected words, as I then proceeded to stick a small piece of paper on her arm.
I then waited for words to appear on that piece of paper, and said:
“Congratulations on leveling up.”
On the piece of paper that I had stuck on the stunned Train Girl was, simply:
[Ina Traille: LV 57]
As of today, Train Girl had graduated from being a beginner adventurer.