— 3 —
The fourth day of my life in a game.
This morning had already started in the worst possible way, but Train Girl arriving after hearing my scream added even more trouble to the mix.
“Eh? Souma, you have sore muscles? Leave it to me! I’m really good at giving massages!”
Train Girl slid cheerfully towards me. I couldn’t even run away because of my sore muscles.
“It’s okay it’s okay you don’t need to!”
“There’s nothing to worry about! Even my mother complimented my massages, like ‘your massages have always been your only strong point. You’re so good at giving them that it’s a bit… lewd.’…”
“For a frail sickly character your mom’s much more open than I’d expected! After hearing something like that I really don’t need it! Seriously!”
Luckily, the appearance of the inn owner who decided to come see what the commotion in the room was cut short this exchange that some would probably refuse to accept as not flirtatious.
“Huh, sore muscles? Then why aren’t you using a potion?”
With a single sentence, he closed the curtains on the topic.
At that time, I did not miss Train Girl turning nonchalantly away from me.
–This girl, she knew!
After using a potion, my sore muscles healed completely.
After presenting both the inn owner with a shovel and Train Girl with the Iron Claw as thanks, I set out for town.
“Even though my muscles aren’t sore anymore, I’m going to spend today leisurely exploring town and shopping. I don’t have anything in particular planned, so you don’t need to…”
“I’m coming with you!”
Being interrupted with so much vigor, I lost my words of argument.
Seeing Train Girl walking so happily beside me, I found myself with mixed feelings.
There were two reasons why I prioritized Train Girl’s training.
As I said before, one of the reasons was that I wanted to rid myself of her. In other words, making sure that she would be alright by herself when I leave was half of the reason. The other half was from my wish of making sure she wouldn’t be the only one to die while the both of us were still together.
I didn’t have any grand inclination like wanting to protect everyone in this world, but neither did I have nor want the mental strength to be able to overlook the death of someone I knew.
There’s no way I would want to live with the guilt that someone died because of me, and no matter how troublesome or annoying someone is, it’s a given that I would rather they be alive than dead.
Ideally, I would rather they be able to live peacefully even without me around, but I decided to, at the very least, try to ensure that they don’t die while I’m around.
It was quite a short-sighted determination, but it was what the current me seriously believed in.
(But, I don’t really need to anymore…)
Fundamentally, Nekomimineko’s party system did not have any kind of bonus.
Like I once explained, the system was such that all the experience goes to whoever deals the final blow, so trying to speed level a low-levelled person was rather difficult.
Through Train Girl’s special Train Mode, we were able to rapidly raise her level to 57, but even this had its limits. Train Mode only activates when I spend a set amount of time in a field near Ramlich. Obviously the Sealed Demon’s Labyrinth was out of the question, and the place around Ramlich where the next highest levelled monsters appears was the Cave of Trials.
It would probably still be relatively easy to level up to 75 or 76, but once a character’s level exceeded the enemy’s level, the amount of experience obtained was vastly reduced.
This reduction became substantial especially when there’s more than a five-level difference. It would probably be difficult to level up further than that, even with Train Mode. In order to level up past that we would have to leave Ramlich, but Train Girl’s Train Mode only activates near Ramlich.
However, without Train Mode, Train Girl was really no more than a mere adventurer.
And, in the first place, there was no need to level up any further in order to live here at Ramlich.
(I really don’t think I can bring her along…)
Even I hadn’t started out as a solo player. For my first playthrough, I had formed parties with low level NPCs right from the start of the game, and played through while trying to keep the levels of both the NPCs and myself around the same.
At that time, not only had I not considered playing solo, I generally hadn’t even thought about switching out the members of my party. It could be said that that period was when I had most innocently enjoyed playing Nekomimineko, but, at the same time, it was the period where either my party members or I had died most frequently.
In this world without save and load, if a normal character was to adventure with me, it wouldn’t be anything but an act of suicide.
(Well, that leaves the question of who can travel with me without dying…)
At the very least, with my current strength, there were many characters who fit that criteria.
There were countless OP characters in this world who could join your party. If you manage to recruit one of them early on, you may be able to comfortably progress in your adventures.
The highest leveled NPC in this game was said to be “The Phantom Hero Alex”.
Donning golden armor and possessing unrivaled swordsmanship, he was a bold and fearless level 200 hero. His specs were at a level that made one think that he would be fine as the protagonist, but, unfortunately, I had never met him even in game.
It seemed that his thoughts were filled with nothing but “defeat the Demon Lord”, so he set out alone for the Demon Lord’s Castle right at the start of the game, and was defeated before players could even meet him. He was a good example that there was a time and place even for being bold and fearless.
His suicidal endeavor was as famous as that of the Armor Knights of the Cave of Trials, and in a sense he could be said to be a pretty rare character. However, he seemed to be the production’s go-to character as there was close to ten exclusive events pertaining to him, but of course nobody seems to have cleared them yet.
Really, everything about him was phantom-like.
Both in the sense of the game and in an ordinary sense, I would’ve liked him to stay alive if possible, but three days had already passed since the start of the game. It wouldn’t be strange if he had long since bit the dust already, so it was probably pointless trying to rely on him.
Let’s think a little more realistically.
If we’re talking about strong characters that one could encounter around these parts, then it would have to be “The Helping Cheeter”. She was a helpful character that would randomly appear while you were doing a quest, and was famous as the strongest female adventurer in Nekomimineko. She was a swordstress who massacred enemies with cheating-level agility, giving birth to the catchphrase “the only character who moves slower when using Step”, and a double meaning to her nickname Cheeter.
She would suddenly pop up and help clear a single quest, but the chain of quests resulting from that encounter could eventually result in her officially joining your party.
Though her frightening maneuverability and offensive abilities demolished enemies, the opinion of her as a party member was quite mixed.
She was too strong and too quick, killing all of the enemies and making it impossible for the player to gain any experience.
Her settings meant that she would not help in defeating the Demon Lord, but her overwhelming strength was such that she was thought to be able to solo kill even the Demon Lord.
Her personality was whimsical and cold… But her exclusive events were mostly clichéd romcom events in a lapse of character.
But, well, if I told you that my level 300+ character was killed ten times over within those clichéd romcom events, then you should have a rough idea of how strong she was.
In any case, she wasn’t really someone I would want to rely on in this world.
Other than her, there were also men like “Perverted Fighter Jane”, “Tea Drinking Ryden”, or “Frighteningly Blasphemous Hole Digging Rose Piercer Whose Name I Hesitate to Say”, who could be a force to be relied on, if you overlooked their eccentricities.
But, if you asked me whether I would like any of them to be my companions, I would be a little… Well, I honestly don’t even want to see the last one.
Otherwise, I might as well try for one of the members of the royalty that only appeared during events.
From the event battles within the game, it seemed that the royalty of the country of Licht, the king, queen, and princess, were all quite OP. They were strong enough that made one want to say, “why don’t you all just go defeat the Demon Lord yourselves?”. In particular, the princess Shelmia was one of the most popular characters even within the game, and in the past few popularity rankings she had never failed to make it into the top ten.
Unfortunately, you could not team up with them in game, and you couldn’t even meet them outside of events, but it might be possible in this world depending on how I went about it. Of course, in order to do so I had to at least make my way to the capital, so it wasn’t someone that I could add to my party right this moment.
Mmm, I inadvertently let out a hum.
Was it just my imagination that character strengths seemed to be inversely correlated to their normalcy? After all, the surprising lack of decent characters was enough to make me accept playing solo.
(Inverse to their power… Now that I think about it…)
Going just by power, I should probably also consider “The Strongest Genius Idiot Magician Sazaan”.
Well… I’ll only consider it.
You might have imagined it just from hearing his name, but there were rumors that “your survival chance decreases by half” or “your death chance increases by 500%” just by adding this character to your party. He was the strongest character in a negative sense, suited only for the most masochistic of players.
Still, looking at specs alone, Sazaan could be said to be one of the strongest magician-type characters.
After all, his ability values and spell power were high. Stupidly high. But that was also what resulted in his many victims.
There were innumerable complaints about him. To begin with, Nekomimineko AIs were already not what one would call great, but Sazaan was another two levels beyond that. His AI, polished in a bad sense by what could only be called an agglomeration of the producers’ ill will, had caused many players to rediscover what rage felt like.
The least of the problems was him casting Concentrate, boosting the power of the next spell by 100%, before casting magic that has a high chance of inflicting status effects. Also,, he prioritizes waking up sleeping monsters with weak offensive spells for some reason; constantly tries to use spells that would inflict status effects on monsters with low magic defense for some reason; likes using Berzerk mainly on physical type enemies for some reason, which made them stronger instead; he sometimes yells out, “th-the seal in my right hand is…!” and acts as if he was trying to suppress his right hand from going berserk; and just when you think that he’s just looking for attention his right hand’s seal actually breaks and annihilates the party; or trying to use explosive magic to protect himself when monsters get too close, but killing himself in the process; wearing a weird mask; firing spells indiscriminately when he starts panicking; clicking his tongue at you when you try to heal him; constantly using AOE fire magic when there are more than two enemies, even if it would hit allies; using fire magic even against fire-type monsters and healing them instead; trying to use fire magic even when underwater and failing; using fire magic even in a forest and causing a large forest fire; yet when he actually encounters a monster weak to fire, he starts using wind magic, which he wasn’t even good at; randomly laughing out of nowhere, and when asked about it, just saying, “Sorry, I just remembered something funny”; thoughtlessly setting his magic to go as far as it can and aggroing distant or strong enemies and changing the tides of battle; being unpunctual; casually attacking monsters that were countering and being hit by the counterattack; always talking about probabilities; starting to talk about his past life without being prompted when doing nothing and entering idle mode, with the details changing every time, and the details weren’t even consistent; always using the highest-levelled spell regardless of the enemy’s level resulting in the overkill of not just the enemy but even the enemy’s item drops that had HP; always using the highest-levelled spell regardless of the enemy’s level resulting in the spell not being casted even after the fight was over, and, even after the fight was over, he would still continue casting his spell thus delaying the whole party, sometimes messing up the cast location which causes the offensive spell that eventually gets casted after the fight to end up killing an ally, his spell’s effects drawing new enemies; he always used the highest-levelled spell regardless of the enemy’s level, resulting in him running out of MP during critical junctures; he charged straight at the enemy after running out of MP even though he was only wearing cloth armor and would be killed immediately; he immediately blamed others for his failures; his congratulatory words were condescending; his victory pose was annoying; he had bad table manners; I don’t like how he saves his favorites for last; he would come dressed in hard to move clothing when going hiking; he complained when bitten by bugs; he always wanted to take a break; I had to piggyback him down the mountain in the end; he became unrestrained after drinking; he’s always drunk even when not drinking; he can’t talk while looking people in the eye, blaming this on his mask; somehow just remembering his name made me irritated; he caused the world to have more cases of stiff shoulders and aching backs; he caused global warming; but, even so, one of the strongest spells, “Stardust Flare” could only be obtained from one of his events so I had to have him in my party at least once; so, he really, really was the worst person ever.
You might think I’m making it up, but this was all true. As proof of that, I’m really irritated for some reason, and even though I didn’t have stiff shoulders or an aching back, I felt like I did.
It must be because I had remembered his name.
(Compared to that…)
I looked at Train Girl who was walking beside me.
“Uhm, is something wrong?”
I had been a little mad at her in the morning, but a small prank like offering to massage my sore muscles was actually rather cute in comparison.
“Train Girl, honestly, you’re like an angel.”
Watching over the visibly flustered Train Girl with a faint smile, I decided to be prudent in forming my party, even if it ended up taking some time.