Part 5

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Volume 2

Chapter 1

— 5 —

Organizations called guilds existed in Nekomimineko, and a variety of merits could be obtained by joining them.

The more well-known guilds were ones like the Fighters’ Guild, the Magicians’ Guild, or the Bounty Hunters’ Guild, and by joining one of them you gained the privilege of using its facilities.

Of those facilities, the ones of special importance were the Workshop and the Laboratory.

The Workshop in the Fighters’ Guild allowed for equipment customization, and the Laboratory in the Magicians’ Guild allowed for magic customization.

For the battles in the later half of the game, customization of equipment and magic was crucial.

While there were branches of the Fighters’ Guild and Magicians’ Guild in each town, joining a guild could only be done in the capital, so players who arrived in the capital would almost definitely make a trip to one of the guilds.

That was not all that you gained by joining a guild. By completing various events and quests, you could rise through the ranks of the guild.

Doing so, you could obtain many limited or special event reward items, and could experience the peculiar scenarios that each of the guilds had prepared.

There was actually a lot of content in these guild events. If the main storyline counted as 10, the various guild event lines would have a volume of 4 to 7. What’s more, if you followed the guild event chains until the very end, there were even unique endings that awaited you.

The events were also quite high quality. I was clutching my stomach with laughter as I played through the Fighters’ Guild’s last event “The National Musclefication Plan”, and had felt a slight chill down my spine as I played through the Magicians’ Guild’s last event “The Great Purge”, where the entire city was extinguished after being caught up in the guild’s inner conflicts.

But, in either event, there was a fatal flaw where after a certain point everyone other than fellow guild members became broken, making it impossible to progress in the main story. I really don’t understand who in their right mind would give the go sign to these events, but if not for that, I think these guild events would’ve probably gotten much better reviews.

After all, finish the Fighters’ Guild event chain and almost all the main characters devolve to saying just “me, kill enemy”, and finish the Magicians’ Guild event chain and the capital gets devastated.

There’s no way you could continue the main storyline under those situations.

That said, I did think that the way they fixed it with the first patch, where after the player reached the end of the event it was revealed that it was all just a dream, returning the player to before the point of no return, was a bit too irresponsible.

Of course, such a deus ex machina received a vigorous backlash from users, and in the end, it became possible to select a command “Revert Guild Event” from the menu screen after reaching the end of the guild event, resetting all of the effects of the guild event while keeping status values and such the same.

But on the other hand, that meant that now, when I couldn’t open the menu screen anymore, I wouldn’t be able to use that to reset the effects of the event, so getting too involved with a guild could become dangerous.

Still, there were probably no real problems with joining just to use the facilities.

And, having played through many times, I’d completed the event to join the guilds many times. The quests to join either the Fighters’ Guild or the Magicians’ Guild were not that hard, and there shouldn’t be any particular difficulties, even for someone low-leveled.

“Let’s go in, Ringo. I’ll ask around about you as well.”

After confirming Ringo had nodded as usual, I opened the door decorated with the emblem of the Fighters’ Guild, a pair of crossed swords, in a laid-back manner, and opened my eyes wide in surprise.

Why? Because on the other side of the door was a super handsome, golden-haired guy,

“Yo, you look like a born fighter! Keep this just between the two of us, but you, I’ll give you the special honor of defeating the Demon Lord together with me!”

…who had suddenly called out to me, but whose face I didn’t recognize having seen in-game even once.

(What… is going on?)

I looked, bewildered, at Mr. Handsome in front of me.

I had confidence that I’d encountered pretty much all of the NPCs in Nekomimineko in the game before.

Of course, there was the possibility of some unknown character hiding in some minor event or in the far reaches of the land somewhere, but this was the capital, and this was a super conspicuous handsome golden-haired guy. There was no way I could’ve missed someone like him.

To begin with, running into him at the Fighters’ Guild was already baffling.

Having visited the headquarters here countless times, I was sure that I had at least committed to memory all of the characters who would come here. The guild didn’t have an event like this, and didn’t have a character like this.

Could he also be a bugged character like Ringo? There could be some kind of abnormal situation happening right now, causing this world to start diverging from the game.

I made sure to keep my guard up as I approached Mr. Handsome.

“Uhm, you are?”

Making sure to hide Ringo behind my back just in case, I warily asked for his name.

To which Mr. Handsome replied by exaggeratedly brushing his hand through his hair:

“Oh sorry, how rude of me, my name is Alex! The man who will soon be known as the great hero that defeated the Demon Lord, Alex!”

“Wha…!”

I found myself at a loss for words.

Alex was the name of that NPC who famously went on a kamikaze mission at the start of the game.

While there were reports of sightings where he had somehow survived due to some kind of bug, and there were probably videos of him that could be found, I had not seen any of them.

So, if this man were indeed Alex, then that would explain why I didn’t recognize him…

(But, what’s the meaning of this?)

Alex was supposed to launch a raid on the Demon Lord and die immediately. That was the normal flow of things.

But today was already the seventh day in the game. Normally, he should’ve already launched his attack on the Demon Lord’s Castle, or rather, the attack should’ve even been wrapped up by now.

“Hmm, what’s this? Could it be, hearing my legendary name has made you nervous? Or did the thought of the great task of defeating the Demon Lord make your blood run cold? Don’t worry. I can defeat the Demon Lord just by myself. You only need to come along on my journey as [a fighter in the hero’s party].”

Um, you’d die by yourself, actually.

Retorting in my mind, I started to ponder. From his behavior, it didn’t seem like Alex was fundamentally different compared to the game.

The only difference would probably be this fixation on finding a party member?

“So, you’re planning to defeat the Demon Lord?”

“Naturally! Who else could fulfill this grand duty except me, the hero Alex!”

Um, you die instead of fulfilling it though.

While retorting once again, I was still completely lost. From all of these overconfident assertions, no matter how I looked at it, his modus operandi was the same as in the game.

But in that case…

“So why haven’t you left to defeat the Demon Lord already?”

The moment I asked that question, color drained from Mr. Handsome’s face.

The suspicious archaic smile that he wore until now disappeared, replaced by a somewhat fearful expression.

“A-Ahem. Just a few days ago, that had been my plan. But, well, I got some, um, friendly advice, and uh, changed my strategy a bit…”

“Friendly advice?”

Does that mean there existed in this world someone rational enough to stop this suicidal hero?

Though I couldn’t imagine any kind of logic working on Mr. Handsome here.

In any case, my doubts were quickly washed away.

“It was right when I was about to leave the capital to defeat the Demon Lord. A small girl had run up to me. I thought she had come to cheer me on, but I was wrong. That girl had come to ask me questions.”

Eh? It couldn’t be…

“She came to ask me whether I was a hero, you see.”

Oh god, I sighed in my heart. I could already see where this was going.

“I answered that of course I was a hero, but the girl said that wasn’t a funny jo-joke, that a he-hero was supposed to be smarter, that in the first place it was strange to call myself a hero when I don’t even have a single ally, that it seemed like I was going to be surrounded and killed by small fry before even making it to the Demon King, or that I-I was spouting n-nonsense without having any proof, she was just i-insulting me so much that I…! Th-That’s not it! I wasn’t trying to be violent! I j-just wanted to stop her so I grabbed her shoulder… eh, how am I feeling right now? N-No, th-that’s not, I-I’m not feeling excited about being humiliated by a young girl stepping on me…!”

He seemed to have gone into some kind of a trance and even begun a dangerous confession, but that was more than enough for me to understand.

–As I thought, the culprit was Poison-tan!

Well, everything makes sense now.

The silver-tongued Poison-tan easily talked down this muscle-brain, who on top of all that even lost in power, ending up sprawled on the ground with his confidence shattered. Trying to cover up even one of the flaws that Poison-tan had found, he put his efforts into trying to gather allies.

Just like how the helping cheeter Hisame had taken requests from people other than me, the player, the people in this world were performing actions for other people that they used to only do towards the player.

While I had also met quite the handful from Poison-tan, her poisonous tongue had ended up saving a life, so just this once: good job, Poison-tan.

And even though I’d never seen the hero Alex before, I had quite an interest in his character. If he was saved, then that should be something to be happy about.

“W-Well, enough about that. In the end, I realized what I was lacking. So, how about it? Would you like to…”

“I decline.”

But, this and that were, of course, different matters.

I had finally managed to shake off Train Girl and Hisame, and be alone.

So I had no intention of joining some strange party right now.

“W-Wait! To balance our party, we need a fighter and a monk! You don’t have to do anything except follow along!”

“That’s not my problem.”

Until now, I had somehow managed to watch myself and respond politely, but my real thoughts finally leaked out.

“Wh-What don’t you like about this offer? I don’t mean to boast, but I’m level 200. Compared to any other party, ours…”

I couldn’t even endure listening to this anymore.

“I just remembered that there was something I needed to do. Excuse me.”

“Wha-! Wait! Wa-”

Shaking off Alex as he tried to hold me back and grabbing the hand of Ringo, who was staring intently at the back of my head for some reason, we left the Fighters’ Guild.

 

“Man, Alex sure has fallen.”

After arriving outside and making sure that Alex wasn’t following, I muttered to myself.

To begin with, the reason I had liked the Alex in the game was because I felt a connection with him, challenging the Demon Lord alone even though he was no match.

Whether in games or in real life, it was true that there was strength in numbers. If everyone had the same abilities, then it would be much easier to accomplish something with three people than with one.

This was true even in Nekomimineko. Even though allies in Nekomimineko were about thirty times more likely to sabotage you than in a regular game, travelling in a party still significantly reduced the difficulty compared to travelling alone.

I had understood that, and have accepted it.

–But, to face those challenges head on, and to confront the Demon Lord alone, isn’t that what being a true hero was all about?

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that you’re not a hero unless you fought alone; I had no intention of renouncing those heroes that fought together with their allies.

But someone that could be swayed to look for allies by crazy notions such as “you’re not a hero if you don’t have allies”? I’d never join their party.

If anyone tried saying something like that to me, even if I were crushed by everything else they said, I would definitely make them take back the words that “you’re not a hero if you’re alone”.

That’s called the pride of a solo player.

…Well, you could also say that I got fired up feeling like he had dissed being a loner.

“Still, this means that we’ll probably have to avoid the Fighters’ Guild for a while.”

Alex was probably staking out the Fighters’ Guild, where lots of fighters visit, because he needed someone who was a fighter. It was a very elementary thought process, but it was actually not a bad choice. If he were planning on sticking around until he found someone, then it was probably correct to assume that troublesome things would happen if I went there in the next while.

“Sorry about that Ringo, running away before we even had a chance to ask about you.”

Turning around and apologizing, I saw her looking at me with blank eyes. I thought it might’ve been the case, but it seemed like she had indeed been staring at the back of my head. She was emotionless as always, but looking at those eyes I was sure.

…She definitely wasn’t listening.

Well, if she didn’t mind it then that worked out for me. I wouldn’t need the weapon customizer until I obtained something better than Shiranui either, so there was no reason for me to force myself into the Fighters’ Guild right now.

Not to mention that there was another guild with useful facilities in this city.

 

“…We’re here.”

The Magicians’ Guild. In front of the doors with a mark made to represent a magic circle, I took a deep breath.

The Magicians’ Guild event was slightly more twisted than the Fighters’ Guild one. Of course, having complete knowledge of the contents, I shouldn’t have any difficulty with it, but now that the game was reality there was no guarantee that something irregular like before wouldn’t happen again. I also needed to make sure that Ringo didn’t get lured into developing in strange ways.

“Ready?”

Checking with Ringo, I once again braced my heart.

This time I wouldn’t let down my guard. Hardening my resolve to deal with whatever might happen, I opened the door,

“…Huh?”

…and came face to face with a steel-gray colored piece of metal.

As if noticing me standing there frozen, the only piece of flesh showing, a mouth, started to spew words at me in a rather high-pitched voice from the bottom part of the piece of metal.

“Welcome! Rejoice, for the greatest fortune in the world has descended upon you. For you have the honor to meet me, wielder of the most terrible magic in the world, harboring the darkest of darkness in his right hand, this extraordinary genius magician–”

I wordlessly shut the door.

“…Phew, that was close.”

Now that I think about it, I felt like there might’ve been a strange magician named Sazaan wearing an exaggerated steel mask like that who spewed exaggerated speeches and blew magic everywhere without caring about allies until his MP ran out where he started whining and when everything went well he would only boast about himself but when the going got rough he immediately started complaining and clinging onto the player, or there might not have been.

No, I didn’t remember any of that. I absolutely didn’t remember any of that, but I felt like that stupid magician’s home base was the capital or something…

“…Are we done?”

Having no idea what had just happened, Ringo asked with the same blank expression as always.

“Yeah, we’re done.”

In many ways.

For now, let’s just act like we saw nothing. Thinking that, I tried to urge Ringo to leave, when,

“Come back here! Why did you close– kyaau!?”

The door seemed like it wasn’t shut properly, so I reflexively closed it again. It felt like the other side of the door had hit a nose or something, I wasn’t sure if he was okay.

“H-How dare you! I won’t forgive you, open the door!”

But it seemed like I didn’t need to worry. With that lively voice, the door started to open again, so I unhesitatingly pushed it shut.

“Hey, why aren’t you letting me open the door! D-Damn it! Don’t underestimate me! If it’s come to this, I’ll turn you into ash together with the door!”

Along with that ominous declaration, I heard the sound of a spell starting to be chanted from beyond the door.

(Oi, are you serious!)

I immediately took my hand off the door and, pulling Ringo’s hand, started running.

Watching out for the magic that was about to come flying out was… of course, not what I was worried about. This door to the Magicians’ Guild had anti-magic capabilities built in. Any normal spell was just going to be bounced back.

In other words, firing a spell at something like that was…

“Bloom, crimson lotus–gyaaaaa!! Hot hot hoooot!”

Of course that was going to happen.

While wincing at the annoying, rather high-pitched scream coming from inside and sympathizing with the people in the Magicians’ Guild who had gotten caught up in it, I grumbled.

“Now I can’t go to either the Fighters’ Guild or the Magicians’ Guild…”

I could have headed over to the other guild, the Bounty Hunters’ Guild, but with this rush of strange encounters, if I went there now and the Tea Drinker or the Rose Piercer was waiting, then it would’ve really been too dreadful. And unlike the other two places, the Bounty Hunters’ Guild wasn’t something that you joined, so since I had no intention of taking on a quest there was no problem waiting until tomorrow before going.

Since I was out of money, I couldn’t go to any stores. Now that I couldn’t go to any guilds either, there was only one more place where I could go to gather information.

“Let’s go somewhere you might enjoy next, Ringo.”

Announcing that, I pulled along Ringo, whose expression hadn’t particularly changed at all, and quickly strolled towards the center of the city.

 

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