— 3 —
“Dammit, this is so frustrating…!”
It had been a while since, and though we had been worked up over finding a new hunting ground, impatience and vexation started to settle in as time passed.
Right now, we had the sole monopoly of this spawn point.
But, since not a single monster had come out of this point until now, they would continue to spawn here another nine times, for another 45 minutes.
During that time, if this place were to get sniffed out by someone, then that was sure to become trouble.
That said, I had no intention of letting this point go after we put in all that work finding it. Of course, we had handily disposed of the first Golden that had spawned, extending our score to a total of 67. If we could just camp it out here, we could probably extend it to 76 without much effort.
I’m sure there are people who would say that a mere 10 extra kills wouldn’t be anywhere near enough to be able to compete against Hisame. Definitely, if Hisame had seriously hunted until the very end, 76 might not be enough.
But at that time, Hisame had said, “I will be finishing up very soon.”
If Hisame, in her overconfidence, stopped hunting partway through, then there was still a chance.
As proof of that, there was still this unexhausted spawn point in the south. Even if I couldn’t get all of them, I wanted to stick around for at least another three more, until I reached 70.
Riding on those hopes, time slowly ticked forwards.
I was now regretting that it would’ve been even easier to defeat them had I retrieved those Kuul Skulls I used for traps, but having gotten used to hunting Goldens, there was no way we would fail to bring one down. After cleaning up the second one in less than 30 seconds, it was yet another five minutes of waiting.
There were probably no other active points left, so there was no reason to go anywhere else.
We could only wait here.
I couldn’t contain my irritation, but then I felt a small hand clasp my shoulder.
It was Ringo.
“Is something wrong?”
I tried asking, but Ringo didn’t reply.
For long enough that I was just about to become bewildered, Ringo silently placed her hand on my shoulder.
“…Keep it, up?”
Absentmindedly saying just that, she quickly left my side.
I didn’t really understand what was going on, but perhaps she had been trying to cheer me up.
Being this agitated wouldn’t help with anything. Rather than that, I should try to use this time more effectively.
During this waiting time, I decided to try out the fire magic that I’d recently gained the ability to use.
Compared to skills, magic in Nekomimineko was a bit more complicated.
Unlike skills which can be used immediately by ordering the skill name, there was a whole system to using magic involving things like “chanting”, “casting”, “multiple chanting”, “delayed activation”, etc.
I needed to properly confirm whether these still behaved the same as in game.
In order to use magic, you first order the magic you want to use.
Doing so puts the player into a “chanting” state for a fixed amount of time based on the difficulty of the magic being used.
Even though it’s called the chanting state, there isn’t any particular need for the player to chant anything during this time. Their MP will be automatically consumed and the system will complete the magic on its own.
That makes it quite straightforward, but in the chanting state, many of the player’s parameters drop significantly and they are unable to use skills. This drawback was huge, so it was normal for magician type characters to equip themselves so as to reduce the effects or duration of this state.
Then, after the fixed amount of time for chanting ends, you enter into a “casting” state.
In this state, the player’s parameters don’t drop, but they’re still unable to use skills.
Only by targeting the destination and ordering the spell name once again while in the casting state does the magic finally get cast.
This was a good chance for me to test out the fighter type’s bread and butter, “delayed activation” magic.
“Delayed activation” is a technique to activate magic after a predetermined amount of time, such as thirty seconds later or two minutes later. The advantage of this technique is that, right after the delay is set, the player leaves the “casting” state, so with the right timing it would be possible to activate skills and magic at the same time.
It has flaws in that it isn’t possible to cancel or change the target of the delayed magic, so if the timing were off, the spell could become meaningless, or, in the worst case, even end up harming your allies. However, for self-targeted spells like Powerup, that was more or less irrelevant.
I cast Powerup with a ten second delay.
Then, right before the time came,
I activated a skill with Shiranui.
The skill activated without any problems, but…
I felt a blunt impact as my attack bounced off the boulder.
But, just then the ten second delay ended.
The spell Powerup had activated.
Without a moment’s gap, I activated the skill again.
This time was unlike the previous time, before the magic had been applied.
A stronger blow struck the boulder…
And, of course, bounced off it.
The amount of attack power gained from Powerup wasn’t nearly enough to damage the boulder. Just how strong were Ringo’s lightning strikes to be able to carve away at this so easily.
I felt my shoulders dropping in disappointment, but as a result, my impatience seemed to have disappeared somewhere.
W-Well, the delayed activation worked just fine, so I should have been satisfied with this. Afterwards, I also tried out Petiteplosion, and it also activated without problems.
The dingy explosion from Petiteplosion drew Ringo’s interest.
She seemed to have enjoyed it, and I got caught up in the moment and started throwing it around until my MP ran out and the experiments with magic had to be halted.
We spent our time like that, forgetting to even worry about the chance of someone showing up, and smoothly continued our hunting.
It was when we had quickly finishing off the eighth Zlime like normal and I was leaning over to check for its drops.
“Ohh. Amazing. I didn’t expect there to actually be Zlimes left here.”
From behind, a male voice rang out.
I quickly sprung around.
Behind us, about ten meters away, stood a single man.
Seeing him, I gulped.
“Tea Drinker Ryden, huh.”
I unintentionally muttered that, and that man, Ryden, smiled joyfully.
“Hoo, you know who I am? Though I don’t remember getting a nickname like Tea Drinker, it feels great to have someone I’ve never met know my name.”
Tea Drinker Ryden was a man in his twenties, with long hair tied behind him and an aura that could be described as that of some kind of prop or maybe a streetlight in bright daylight.
His personal motto, or rather his primary modus operandi was “I will go meet people stronger than me”, and as a result of putting that into practice, he had become a character well loved by Nekomimineko players.
The Tea Drinker nickname also came from that, as apparently a beloved character from an old manga had a name that meant such.
However, that was all just talking about the game.
There were no events that involved meeting Ryden at an Extermination Fest.
While Ryden looked quite lax, he was a level 130 experienced adventurer. Even having raised our level somewhat, he was still someone who we would rather not face as an enemy.
(…What do we do?)
Our current count, even with the Golden Sakura not counting for anything, was 74.
If we backed off here, it’s possible that we already had enough points.
However, feeling the tension in the air, Ryden hurriedly spoke.
“Whoa whoa. No need to stare daggers at me. I’m just here to pass on a message from the Princess.”
For a moment, I glanced over at Ringo. However, there was no way that were the case.
So could it be, from Maki?
I held that hope for an instant, but…
“Ah, I guess you don’t use that name. I’m talking about Hisame. You know, she has those huge ears, and uses a sword…”
Completely off the mark. It would seem that that cat-eared samurai was being called a princess even though she was a samurai.
“So what happened was I couldn’t find any more Zlimes, and so I went back to the city. But then the Princess came and said that there might still be some Zlimes left, and told me this location. And when I said I was going to check it out cause it sounded interesting, she told me to pass on a message.”
“’I’ll be waiting in the city’, she says.”
It was quite simple, and something that I’d already heard.
As I puzzled over this inexplicable message, Ryden showed a boorish smile.
“You know, the message was probably just an excuse, and the Princess might unexpectedly be worrying about you two. She even went on to say that if there were any fallen adventurers here, to bring them to her no matter what.”
I found myself speechless at Ryden, as he then followed up with “Whoops, she told me not to say that part” with a big fake smile. It looked like he really wasn’t planning to be our enemy.
At least, if I were to believe his background according to the game, he wasn’t the type of character to go for sneak attacks or any kind of foul play. I lowered my guard just a little.
“But man, you seem to be doing quite well for yourselves. How many have you killed?”
Perhaps he acutely saw my attitude slackening, as he came in with a sharp question.
As I was wondering whether to answer,
“By the way, I’ve killed 21!”
I relaxed on hearing his words…
“…Around, ninety or so.”
In the end, I answered like that.
Though it felt a bit like I was lying, since I said ”around” it wasn’t technically wrong.
“Ohh! That’s amazing! I don’t even come anywhere close!”
Ryden had expressed his surprise in a dramatic fashion, but I didn’t miss seeing that piercing shine in his eyes the moment I said that number. It seemed that he’s not just what he seems. This was why you could never let your guard down in Nekomimineko.
“Even though the two of you look like newbies… Well, I guess my power, ‘Horse Hit’, is as strong as always.”
Hearing a nostalgic term, I almost did a spit take. However, not paying that any mind, Ryden cheerfully continued.
“Ah, I guess I haven’t told you yet. You see, my eyes can tell if something is strong, and I have the luck to always run into strong opponents. I first realized this when watching horse races. Since I could find the strong horses, this power was named ‘Horse Hit’, and it’s taken good care of me since then.”
Ryden spoke proudly, but this power, ‘Horse Hit’, was called a different name by the players.
Whether in the story or in sub-events, Ryden appeared again and again, encountered enemies stronger than himself over and over, and repeatedly engaged in battle with them.
Just hearing that, he sounded quite like a protagonist, but the problem with Ryden was that he would always lose those fights.
With that, the power to meet strong opponents, ‘Horse Hit’, takes on a different meaning.
The power to meet strong opponents and have a good fight with them, drawing out all of their abilities, then lose.
–In other words, the power to cause a spoiler effect.
Ryden was Nekomimineko’s one and only spoiler!