— 6 —
“Sweeter than Garbodor’s Maple Honey Pudding, more unfortunate than the Armor Knights of the Cave of Trials.”
Such goes this phrase born from Nekomimineko, but only people who played Nekomimineko would understand its full nuance. In order to fully comprehend this, one would need to start with The Tragedy of the Knights of the Cave of Trials.
Even within VR games, there were cases of players slipping and falling to their deaths in fields surrounded by sharp cliffs. However, stories of monsters randomly falling out of the field and dying were rarely heard of.
What was the reason for that?
I don’t know about other games, but at least in Nekomimineko the reason was simple.
They just didn’t allow monsters to go near places where they might fall off. Through this one simple countermeasure, Nekomimineko prevented the monsters from falling to their deaths.
Not including when under status effects or when chasing players, the monsters in Nekomimineko usually stayed within a prespecified area, never wandering out of their region. As long as the location underneath a cliff was excluded from its movement area, monsters wouldn’t approach the cliff, and there would be no need to worry about them falling.
…But who would have thought that there was indeed a dungeon which had such an occurrence.
Of course, I’m talking about the Cave of Trials, and this was exactly the reason why this Cave of Trials came to be called a “ghost dungeon”.
The Cave of Trials was a ring shaped dungeon, and its monsters had the whole dungeon marked as their movement area, as they moved around a circular patrol routine.
In other words, the Armor Knights in the cave spent their time circling the entirety of this dungeon.
Though the ground-based AI movement routines could deal with gradual hills, they couldn’t deal with sudden changes in elevation like stairs.
Normally, that would be fine. Any half-decent game designer wouldn’t put stairs or such in the patrol routes of such monsters, and there wouldn’t be any problems.
But, since this Cave of Trials was ring shaped, the entrance and exit of the dungeon were connected. This meant that the movement area above the cliff was connected with that below the cliff, and monsters would try to walk between the two.
Monsters trying to walk from the bottom of the cliff to the top of the cliff were still okay. They would just crash into the wall, unable to proceed, and thus turn around and continue on their merry way.
However, what if they tried to walk from the top of the cliff to the bottom of the cliff?
Ground-based AIs have no concept of height. The poor Armor Knights would, since it was within their movement area, take a step off the cliff intending to walk on as normal, but nothing could stop them from falling by then.
When falling from a height, the fall damage depended on the height of the fall as well as the weight of the character. The cliff was dozens of meters high, so there was no chance that the heavyweight class of Armor Knights that fell down with no preparation would be able to survive.
What’s more, the Armor Knights were the type that would patrol the entirety of their domain.
They patrolled randomly, but since this was a dungeon with only a single path, sooner or later they would arrive at the cliff. The only difference was whether it was sooner or later. But, in the end, each Armor Knight would definitely fall off the cliff to their death.
That’s why, no more than one or two days after the start of the game, the knights in the dungeon would have all perished.
This was the truth behind the “ghost dungeon” where there were no monsters even when a player approached.
–This was indeed prime Nekomimineko quality!!
Even then, surprisingly, it was impossible to take advantage of this bug.
You don’t get any experience from a monster just falling to its death, and even drop items disappear after a while.
Not to mention that the respawn time was 255 hours, while they would die within at most 48 hours, so sitting there and waiting wasn’t very efficient.
That was where Train Girl came in.
With the existence of Train Girl, there was no need to wait out the long respawn times. Just from having Train Girl in Train Mode pass through, the Armor Knights would revive.
In addition, we already knew that as long as she stayed within the dungeon, the monsters will continue to chase after Train Girl.
The plan was to then gather up a bunch of monsters, and, after jumping off the cliff and returning to the entrance of the dungeon, the revived monsters would all throw themselves down the cliff just by us waiting around.
However, with just that, the only thing that would be accomplished is wiping out all of the revived monsters, and their experience points would be completely wasted. That’s why we used those darts.
Since version 1.28, the rule of “in cases where monsters are killed due to damage from status effects or environmental damage, all experience goes to the character that landed the last attack” had been added.
This was due to one of the earliest Nekomimineko players, a slightly deranged poison user, continuously pestering the development company, who finally gave in and changed it.
It must’ve been some extreme pestering. When the patch notice came out, surprisingly, for once, many comments sympathetic to the development company had been posted.
Though it was indeed an unfortunate situation for the customer service representatives of the development company, it was now possible to train at the Cave of Trials.
Darts inflicted a fixed 1 damage to no matter what enemy they hit.
The level 70 Armor Knights had high defense, but even Train Girl could damage them with darts. Then, by making them jump off the cliff and fall to their deaths later, the character who had attacked them last, in other words, Train Girl, would receive all of the experience.
As expected of a slow respawning yet powerful monster. Even taking into account the preparation time, to gain over 30 levels within merely around two hours was unheard of.
What’s more, there was one other benefit than just the levels…
“Souma! I’ve finished gathering up all the items!”
It was possible to collect all of the drop items from the revived Armor Knights. Drop items were generally better than the items sold in shops. The grade of these items could be said to be top-class for the early game, or maybe they could even be called lower-tier mid-game items.
“Okay, then, Train Girl…”
“U-Uhm, I’ve been wondering about this for a while, but why are you calling me ‘Train Girl’?”
“Ah, that’s um… a nickname. See, you’re Ina Traille, so, Train Girl, right? It just felt easier to call you like that, so…”
Train Girl shook vigorously. Maybe it was a bad idea to have called her Train Girl out loud, or so I thought, but that was not the case.
“I-It’s the first time someone has called me by a nickname before! Train Girl is kinda, kinda cool isn’t it!!”
She was overjoyed. Based on the results, you could say that it was a really bad idea.
“Ah, then you should have a nickname too, Souma…”
“I don’t need one!”
Since the incident in the cave, Train Girl’s affection levels had been growing rapidly.
I mean I did say that I would help her, and I wasn’t lying when I said that, but I also wasn’t lying when I said that I won’t be able to be with her for very long.
If she grows any more attached to me, it would be quite inconvenient. I had better cool her down a bit for now.
“Then, instead of a nickname, call me Master Souma…”
“Yes, Master Souma!”
It was an instant response. She had no reservation at all about calling me master. It was a complete failure.
“Sorry, that was a joke.”
I quickly withdrew my words. To be called master in front of people couldn’t be anything but a punishment.
“Anyways, I’ll be calling you Train Girl from now on, so just call me Souma or whatever you like.”
“Yes, Master Souma!”
I involuntarily scowled.
Was she doing this to annoy me? No, unfortunately her eyes were serious.
“Just call me Souma or whatever you like.”
She seemed slightly let down. Was she that into calling me master?
(How did it become like this…)
Prioritizing her training was half out of benevolence. The other half was that fulfilling my promise ahead of time would let me bid goodbye whenever, something like getting the troublesome things out of the way, but I felt like it had completely backfired.
“Is something wrong?”
Train Girl cheerfully called out to me, as I shook my head.
“Nothing. Well then, now that we’ve collected the items, let’s return to town for now.”
Silently sighing at her overly lively response, I returned to town, with Train Girl trailing right behind me like a baby spot-billed duck.