— 1 —
“Now then, I’ll teach you how to explore a dungeon solo!”
In just a few hours, Train Girl had leveled up to level 57, but Nekomimineko wasn’t the type of game that you could beat just by having a high level.
Until I leave for the capital, I must pass on the methods of surviving in this world to Train Girl, and raise her into a first rate Nekomimineko player… I mean, first rate adventurer. That was why, right after having leveled up, we refilled our items in town, and immediately headed towards a different dungeon, but…
“W-Wait a moment!”
As I was about to step into the dungeon, Train Girl hurriedly stopped me.
On the way she was all cheery like, “It’s my first time going to a dungeon together with someone!”. What a quick change in attitude.
“A-Are you really planning on challenging this dungeon, with just the two of us?”
Where we arrived at was the dungeon, The Black Mine, where enemies averaged level 40. There wasn’t too much in the sense of variety, but this was a place filled with peculiar monsters.
“What are you talking about? Of course not.”
“Haha, of course.”
With my response, Train Girl appeared to be relieved…
“I said we’re doing solo adventuring training. So you’re going to try your best at this. Alone, of course.”
But, her eyes opened wide after I continued my sentence, and she started protesting loudly.
“N-No way! I heard that this dungeon is especially hard among the dungeons of Ramlich! Apparently even a level 50 party had been sent running right away…”
“Isn’t that exactly why it’s worth a challenge?”
At the very least, Train Girl was level 57. Even if she messes up, she wouldn’t die immediately.
Shaking off Train Girl’s protests, I was once again about to step into the dungeon, when I suddenly turned around.
“Oh, right. I forgot to tell you earlier, but please take off the mithril armor and change back into what you had before entering the dungeon.”
With Train Girl’s wail, the curtains opened on today’s second dungeon exploration.
After hesitantly changing her equipment, Train Girl caught up to me.
Even then, she fearfully tried to change my mind with a wavering voice.
“S-Souma, it really is dangerous here! There’s the Skeleton Knight whose defense is like an iron wall, and there’s the fast and powerful Dark Wolfman here. The monsters here are so strong that the EXP isn’t even worth it…”
“It’s okay, don’t worry.”
I replied lightheartedly and headed further and further in along the narrow passageway. Before long, a small chamber of space appeared in front of us.
“Y-You don’t mean–”
I covered Train Girl’s mouth before she could say any more.
“Don’t say a word from here on. I’ll go ahead, come when I give the signal.”
Confirming that Train Girl had nodded her head, I advanced carefully.
What was there was indeed the skeletal warrior equipped with sword and shield, the level 42 Skeleton Knight.
Seeing that, I walked brazenly in front of it.
I saw Train Girl let out a silent scream from the corner of my eye. Even now she was waving her arms with a frantic expression trying to stop me, but I made a gesture for her to stay silent, and casually came to a stop in front of the Skeleton Knight. …There was no reaction.
I raised a single hand in the air, as if saying, “Hey there”. …There was no reaction.
I gave a little twirl in front of that body made of bones. …There was still no reaction.
Picking up my courage, I tried waving my hand in front of its sunken white face. …Even then, there was no reaction.
It seems like the rules of the game were effective here as well. I beckoned to Train Girl, and she gingerly edged to my side. …As expected, the Skeleton Knight gave no reaction.
Having Train Girl, scared to the verge of tears, wait on standby, I took out a single gem from my pouch.
The spell that it contained was Firewall. It was a spell that conjured up a small wall of flames for a period of time.
I threw the gem towards the other side of the skeleton. Landing on the ground, the gem’s magic activated and a crackling wall of flames appeared.
As that happened, the Skeleton Knight, which had shown no reaction whatsoever until now, suddenly started to move.
With unsteady steps, it headed towards the wall of flames and stopped right in front of the fire. It was as if the Skeleton Knight was just staring at the burning flames.
I pointed at the back of the Skeleton Knight’s defenseless head while looking at Train Girl, who had been watching the situation with a dumbfounded expression. She was probably not even thinking anymore at this point, as she followed my directions and hit the Skeleton Knight on the head with her dagger. …Still, the Skeleton Knight watched the flames.
Like this, Train Girl landed a second hit, then a third hit with her dagger on the skeleton’s skull, and, finally, the pitiable Skeleton Knight lost all of its HP and collapsed, quickly disappearing.
Train Girl was frozen in the posture right after dealing the killing blow. I walked over and patted her on the shoulder.
“Train Girl, you did it!”
“Eh? Um, ehh? I, did it?”
Even though she had defeated the powerful Skeleton Knight, for some reason, Train Girl was still stupefied, unable to give but an absent-minded reply.
“Many skeleton type monsters rely solely on sound to find their prey.”
Walking along a narrow passageway once again, I gave Train Girl an explanation.
“That’s why it’s easy to approach and gain the initiative if you wear cloth or leather equipment which doesn’t make much sound. What’s more, since undeads don’t react to damage, if you place something noisy nearby, they won’t notice anything until they’re already defeated. That said, there aren’t many monsters that rely only on sound, and as soon as you are targetted, as soon as you’re discovered by them, they will still chase after you even if you remain silent, so this can only be used at the very beginning.”
“I get the logic now, but to not notice anything until they have already been defeated is a bit…”
It seemed that Train Girl was still not fully convinced.
But, this was Nekomimineko, where such absurd situations are passed off as normal. There was no choice but to just accept it.
Train Girl brooded over this for a while, but then she seemed to have noticed something important.
“Huh? But the Dark Wolfman isn’t a skeleton type monster. Can it still be defeated using this method?”
I replied to that question with a smile.
“Of course not. You’d get beaten to a pulp if you tried something like that.”
In contrast to my smile, Train Girl’s expression stiffened, and just then…
“…Ooh. Speak of the devil, or I guess, wolfman.”
From within the passageway, the figures of three beastmen appeared.
…Dark Wolfman. As their slightly chuuni name indicated, they were all super buff wolfmen one size larger than humans. Marching down that narrow passageway, the sight of them gave off quite the aura.
“Dark Wolfman, and three of them… Let’s run away, Souma!”
Faced with Train Girl who was desperately tugging on my sleeves with a pale face, I shook my head.
“It’s too late, we’ve already been seen. They’re faster than us.”
For just a moment, a hopeless look appeared on Train Girl’s face, but she quickly forced it back with her strong willpower and stepped out in front of me.
“I-I’ll buy some time! So during that time, at least Souma should… Ahh!”
Having a heroic resolve was good and all, but this was not the right time for it. I pulled Train Girl down to the ground from behind her.
“No matter what happens, stay still and don’t stand up.”
With that warning, I moved forward. By myself, I moved towards the three Dark Wolfmen.
Focusing on their prey, the wolfmen’s eyes locked onto me.
“Souma, don’t! Run away! Ru–”
As Train Girl’s woeful scream echoed, I took yet another step forward, and the wolfmen charged at me. Right before they reached me…
“–n, aw… Eh?”
I threw myself onto the ground.
The Dark Wolfmen howled.
One unleashed an ultra-fast roundhouse kick. The blow, encompassing a frightening speed and power, sliced audibly through the air… Above my head.
Realizing that their first attack missed, the Wolfmen quickly readied a follow-up attack.
The next strike to be unleashed was a slice with their dominant arm. Those claws that looked as if they would easily tear through any armor swung by with exceptional speed… Above my head.
Even then, their stream of attacks did not end. With the blood of beasts flowing through them, the weapons of the wolfmen were not limited to just their solid arms and legs.
With a roar filled only of belligerence, the wolfmen opened their pitch black jaws and lunged forward with an unbelievable speed. Moments later, those sharp teeth clamped shut… Naturally, above my head.
“…As you see, about a third of the melee-only monsters don’t have any ground attacks. This is especially common in tall, weaponless monsters like beastmen, so it might be a good idea to just try lying down if you’re ever forced into a corner.”
As the three Wolfmen milled about above my head, I gave Train Girl an explanation while crawling along the ground like a bug.
“H-How can you be calmly explaining things at a time like this! Th-This is strange no matter how you look at it, isn’t it! Why aren’t they attacking us!? Are they idiots!!?”
“Like I said, beastmen types…”
“I get it! I get it, but…!!”
Just unable to come to terms with this situation, Train Girl writhed about in frustration.
During my encounters in the Plateau of Sealing, I had already confirmed that the monster’s attack animations and movement patterns had not changed from when this was a game.
It was weird that the human characters now had more fighting patterns, but it could have possible that the monsters’ movement abilities had been classified as something similar to what humans called skills.
No matter the reason, the fighting techniques from the game carried over here too. I gave my next instruction to the still unsatisfied Train Girl.
“Well then, hurry and clean up these monsters.”
“Eh!? But, I can’t possibly fight them head on when it’s one versus three!”
Hearing Train Girl say something so stupid with a serious expression even while crawling on the ground, I faced her with a blank look.
“Obviously, you keep lying on the ground and just slice their legs.”
Upon hearing my words, Train Girl fell flat on her face for some reason.
Having defeated the three Dark Wolfmen spectacularly, we continued deeper into the dungeon.
“This is all wrong. The kind of adventure I imagined isn’t something like this…”
I cautioned the muttering Train Girl to be quiet.
“More Skeleton Knights. There’s two in the next room.”
Train Girl hurriedly closed her mouth, but curiosity seemed to still have gotten the better of her as she inquired in a small voice.
“U-Uhm, how could you tell?”
“From their footsteps.”
I offered an explanation to the confused Train Girl.
“In dungeons like this, footsteps tend to echo, so you can immediately tell if an enemy is approaching. Being able to grasp the direction and distance from the footsteps’ volume is one of the essential skills a solo adventurer must master.”
Just as an aside, the way Nekomimineko handled sound was quite frivolous, so there were only a few footstep patterns for monsters, and it was even possible to hear footsteps from the other side of a wall. A trained Nekomimineko player could even use footsteps as a radar for the position of enemies.
Other than that, there was also an advanced method of using the lag in viewport changes as you shake your head in order to determine enemy positions, but let’s not get too off topic.
“Of course, I also knew earlier from their footsteps that three Dark Wolfmen were about to come.”
“Ohhh. Wait, tell me that earli–Mmf!!”
I covered Train Girl’s mouth as she was about to shout. Train Girl glared at me bitterly, but even as I slowly removed my hand, she did not continue to shout. Instead, in a suppressed voice, she said:
“There’s Skeleton Knights in front of us, right? Then, what if we turned at the last intersection?”
I replied with a choice.
“Silent sneaking or crawling, which do you prefer?”
Within the dungeon, there were skeleton-types other than Skeleton Knights, and demi-humans other than Dark Wolfmen, but the basic strategy was the same. After innumerable stealth attacks and countless instances of crawling, we arrived at the deepest part of the cave.
Seeing the treasure chest enshrined in the back, Train Girl’s voice shook with excitement.
This dungeon contained neither a boss nor did it provide any event item drops, but there was a single treasure chest in the deepest part, containing a rather high-leveled item for being near Ramlich.
“Well, here’s your final job. Go open that.”
“You want me to open that? But…”
She was trying to exercise restraint, but she kept stealing glimpses at the treasure chest the whole time, and her two arms could not stay still, repeatedly rehearsing the action of opening the chest. Seeing her so obviously wanting to open it, I could only smile.
At the same time, I believed that to be something important. A necessary trait that any first-rate Nekomimineko player must have. That was to enjoy the adventures within Nekomimineko.
“Go ahead. You were the one who defeated all of the monsters, so this is obviously your right.”
“Souma… Thank you!!”
I gave her a small push on the back, and she dashed towards the treasure chest, unable to hide her delight. She must have seriously wanted to open it, I thought, as she put her hands on the lid.
Normally, I would have proceeded cautiously with the possibility that it could be a trap or a mimic, but I knew in advance that that chest was not a trap, and it would have been uncouth to interrupt her when she was so overjoyed.
With me watching over her, Train Girl cheerfully opened the treasure chest.
“Umm… It only contained this.”
With a half-smile, she pulled out a set of metal armor, polished until it sparkled.
That’s right, that was unmistakably…
“Mithril light armor, right?”
…Mm. It really is disheartening to find the item you just bought in the next dungeon, isn’t it.