— 3 —
“Huh, isn’t this a [communication ring]?”
Trying to break away from the delicate topic of marriage, I, with slightly exaggerated movements, pointed at the ring that I had noticed in the shop.
A communication ring was, as its name implied, a ring that was used to communicate with someone across a distance. It might sound like quite a useful item, but there was not much point in talking to NPCs from far away. And, to begin with, the NPC AIs did not come with the thought pattern of using this item.
It was probably an item that was created during the time when Nekomimineko was being developed as an MMO.
While I had known of its existence, I had never used it in the game, but in this world where NPCs have become actual humans, it might be useful.
“Do you know how to use this?”
I asked the shopkeeper, and was kindly taught how to use it.
You register yourself by placing your finger on the communication ring’s jewel and saying your name. Afterwards, when someone then touches the jewel on the ring with their other hand while wearing it and shouts the registered name, a communication link is established. It seemed like there might be another way of using the ring through orders, but there wasn’t any need to try to figure that out.
Trying it out, I said my name, and handed the ring to Train Girl. After hesitating slightly, Train Girl swapped out the ring on her right hand, and called out my name while touching the ring.
As she did so, I was able to hear Train Girl’s voice as if she was talking right by my ear, even though we were separated by a few meters.
Mm, this was neat. But, what do I do if I want to talk to her?
“Excuse me, what do I…”
Before I had finished my question, I had received my answer.
Train Girl had clasped her ears in surprise. It appears that while the link was open, she would hear my voice right beside her as well.
“Th-This feels kinda weird. I can hear you twice, Souma.”
I could also hear Train Girl’s voice twice, once near my ear and once from her mouth.
This was actually quite annoying. Trying not to disturb Train Girl too much, I lowered my voice.
It seemed to have the opposite effect. With a small scream, Train Girl jumped up.
And since I heard that scream coming from beside my ear, it felt really strange. It almost seemed like some kind of strange play.
I never expected a mere communication ring to put us in such a troublesome situation. How am I going to deal with this?
“How do you close the communication link?”
Hoping for a solution, I asked the shopkeeper.
Since I talked normally this time, Train Girl somehow managed to endure it. Or rather, it seemed like she was desperately trying to hold back from screaming, as I could hear her rough breathing from right beside my ear… It made me extremely uncomfortable.
It was my own fault for not finding out everything beforehand. I wanted to learn the way to cancel this as soon as possible.
Feeling my gaze full of anticipation, the shopkeeper made a troubled face.
“Actually, with that ring, once the link is established, there is no way to forcibly terminate it.”
The two of us cried out at the same time, and our two bodies writhed at the same time.
This was quite a big problem.
“You, you mean, forever…”
I anxiously stuttered, but the shopkeeper shook his head apologetically.
“No, that would really be a bit too extreme. Just, um, I forgot to tell you this but…”
From the tone, it seemed like a solution did exist.
But then, why was the shopkeeper wearing such a complicated expression?
“That ring is actually single-use, and it breaks after three minutes.”
Just then, I heard a cracking sound, and turned around to see what had been a ring falling from Train Girl’s finger.
–Huh? Am I going to have to pay for this?
Luckily, we made a deal with the shopkeeper. By buying the one other communication ring in the store, we didn’t have to compensate for the broken one.
Of course, the fault lay with us who had tried it on suddenly, but the shopkeeper admitted to forgetting to explain things ahead of time, or rather, since this was an item that was so rarely purchased, the shopkeeper had forgotten that it was single use until right before it broke.
I do think that it could be a useful item, but it may have inherited its unpopularity from when this was a game.
Considering that it was priced at a modest 1000E, it could still be considered a good deal even without the accident. It shouldn’t have been too bad for the shop either, since they were able to sell an item that wasn’t selling at all.
I registered myself on the communication ring that was just purchased, and once again gave it to Train Girl.
Train Girl looked like she was going to wear it immediately, but looking at her own fingers, she uttered “ah” and froze. I looked over as well, and figured out what was making her hesitate.
She was currently wearing two rings. On her right hand was the ring she had just put back on, her father’s memento, and on her left hand was the ring that she had me put on, so unless she removes one of them she can’t put on the communication ring. Swapping it out for a moment was one thing, but she couldn’t very well choose to remove the memento ring that gave her high magic resistance.
As I was thinking that, in front of my very eyes, Train Girl’s hand reached towards to memento ring…
“Jeez. I can’t believe you.”
Before her hand could reach the ring, I pulled off the ring on her left ring finger.
I heaved a sigh at the pouting Train Girl…
“Here, will this do?”
And replaced it with the communication ring.
Though I didn’t want to do that since it reminded me of the marriage event, but oh well.
“Thank you, Souma!”
Train Girl’s face lit up. I must also be a simpleton to feel glad for having done that after seeing her like that.
“Ehehe, having Souma put a ring on me, it’s like a dream.”
“It’s only because you were trying to do something stupid…”
“It doesn’t matter. There’s no way I wouldn’t be happy when a person I like is being kind to me.”
She said this with such an innocent expression. Involuntarily, my heart skipped slightly.
“Y-You know, Train Girl, you shouldn’t say such things so easily. You’re bound to cause misunderstandings if it’s someone else…”
However, Train Girl just smiled.
“What are you talking about, Souma. There’s no way I would say something like that to anyone other than you.”
“Eh, a-ahh… right.”
I had been surprised for a moment, believing it to be a confession, but Train Girl did not seem the least bit perturbed.
Which could only mean that she was saying this literally, something like “there’s no way anyone else would talk to a loner like me”.
I really can’t underestimate someone whose words had more destructive power when there wasn’t any hidden meaning behind them.
As I was trembling from the unexpected appearance of a formidable foe…
“Really, thank you very much. This is the first time I’ve gotten something like this from a man. I’ll treasure this my whole life!”
Train Girl let out another attack.
This probably also meant something like “I have no friends so this is the first time I’ve gotten anything from someone other than my mother”, but I felt light-headed even knowing that.
Normally, I would’ve thrown in something like “don’t just treasure it, you should make full use of it”, but I missed the timing to say it, being startled and all.
…This was bad.
Right now, she wasn’t Train Girl.
If I had to say it, right now, Train Girl was none other than…
Since then, Train Girl’s evolution into a heroine showed no signs of slowing.
Having put on ten rings without thinking and only now realizing that this would be quite conspicuous, she casually offered me some gloves, saying, “Here, if this is okay.”
Then, we went to the magic shop that I hadn’t had a chance to visit yet, and I couldn’t restrain myself and ended up buying a large number of the magical tomes in the shop.
As I was sighing about the sad state that my wallet had fallen into, she casually suggested a way to earn money, “Um, do you want to go to the Cave of Trials? I’d like to level up a bit more too,” trying to cheer me up.
There was not a shadow of her former troublemaker self from when I first met her. Though I couldn’t quite say that she was now a reliable partner, I did start to think that it was rather helpful to have Train Girl around.
She might have matured mentally because she was no longer a loner, which caused her hidden skill of caring for people to blossom.
The rise of Train Girl’s stock could not be stopped.
She might actually be Miss Heroine after all.
After we finished shopping, we went for two sets of Training at the Cave of Trials, once more raising Train Girl’s level and funds.
The level ups were not as absurd as last time, but Train Girl had still swiftly climbed to level 72, and we also earned around 60000E. Once again, I received half of the spoils, and in addition to that I also claimed the Wakizashi that the Armor Knights had dropped once again.
Even though our Training could only take place because I was here, I still felt bad for getting all of this while doing nothing, but I was just met with a smile and a “Don’t worry about it, if it weren’t for you I never would’ve thought of earning money like this, Souma.”
Miss Heroine was seriously a heroine.
By the time we sold the drops, it was starting to get late. It seemed like Train Girl was going to return to her own home again, so we would disband here for now.
“Well then, I guess that’s it for today.”
“Okay. But I feel like I’m forgetting something.”
But it didn’t seem like that she forgot to buy something, and we didn’t really bring anything to the Cave of Trials.
“Ah, I’m probably just overthinking things. See you tomorrow!”
“Ahh, see ya.”
We very naturally made a promise to meet again. This was also something that would’ve been unthinkable only a day ago.
While turning back many times to wave at me, Train Girl gradually grew smaller.
Waving back at her, I thought…
(But, things can’t continue like this forever…)
About the end of this relationship.
It was difficult to clear Nekomimineko without dying, but to do so while making sure nobody else died would be even harder. No matter how many times I considered it, unfortunately, Train Girl was too weak for the adventures that lay ahead. There was no way I could take her past the capital.
(But I feel like I’m only involving myself deeper.)
I felt that Train Girl was looking at me more and more intently. This meant that my weight within Train Girl was becoming larger.
At the same time, the existence of Train Girl within me was growing day by day.
Soon, when that time comes, will I be able to leave Train Girl behind? Will Train Girl be able to resist chasing after me?
It might have been careless of me to have become so involved with Train Girl.
(I should cool my head and reflect for a bit.)
Thinking this, I went to a certain place.
That place was, of course…
“Excuse me, but could you be a little quieter?”
“Sure, I’ll try my best.”
Repenting definitely came to mind when one thought of reflection, and when one thought of repenting, it had to be the Marimite Dojo.
Through repenting at the church, I raised my mastery of Step, as well as the level of my movement skills, learning Jump, Highstep, and Highjump.
Overcome by my high tension:
“Repenting is the besttttt!!”
Catching Marielle’s reproachful gaze out of the corner of my eye, I did a fist pump.
And so, the night passed, and ‘twas the fifth day of my life inside a game.
Seeing Miss Heroine’s smile first thing in the morning really lifted my spirits.
While I was repenting in the Marimite Dojo, my worries and troubles had melted away together with my stress.
Though I wouldn’t change my mind about saying goodbye to her when leaving Ramlich, I plan to fully appreciate the fortune of having met her until then. That was the decision that I had arrived at.
To be honest, Train Girl wasn’t a bad choice as a party member for the time being. She was sometimes slightly irritating, but if you get used to that, she was lively, brave, generally positive, and didn’t have any major…
“Huh? Is that…”
Just as I was thinking such thoughts, I came to learn one thing.
The girl named Ina Traille was definitely Train Girl through and through.
“–You. Are you Souma?”
The new calamity that she had brought (Train-ed) came in the form of a beautiful black-haired female.