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3rd day of my game life.
A refreshing morning.
I remember having worked my bones off yesterday, but maybe because of how the game works, there’s no fatigue at all remaining.
I opened the door in a merry mood and…
“Good morning, Souma-san! Uhm, I have been thinking all night yesterday, and I have decided to stick to you all day in order to get a good grasp of—eh?!”
I immediately did an U turn, opened the window, and jumped out.
Right when I landed on the ground, I used Heavenly Blade to jump onto a roof nearby, and use Step to move through the roofs.
I gotta say it is quite a charming escape.
I managed to escape from that Train-chan completely in just 10 seconds.
After getting a good amount of distance and landing, I noticed.
I escaped by reflex, but my plans for today were to go around the stores to do some shopping, so there was no issue in having Train-chan come with me.
Now that I have run away from her, it would make it harder to see her face to face again, and there is a high chance we will be running into each other. It is now more difficult for me to go to the main street where the stores are lined up at.
A complete mistake on my part.
But if you were to suddenly get spoken to after opening your room’s door, isn’t it instinctive that a true loner would want to run away from it?
“In other words, this is the nature of loners, and it is a chronic disease I will have to shoulder for the rest of my life?!” (Souma)
I wrapped it up neatly there, but it is not really something to be proud of.
Also, me being a loner was because I prioritized games over human interaction after entering college, so my loner history is pretty short as of now.
I don’t plan on shouldering that for the rest of my life.
Or more like, I haven’t told Train-chan my schedule. Meaning that Train-chan was probably waiting in front of my door the whole time. That’s plain scary.
I am beginning to think it was the right choice to have run away.
In the first place, I feel as if she is trying to get into my side since the moment I met her, but I have no intention of increasing my party members right now.
I am going to distance myself from others as much as possible, and devote myself to getting stronger.
You could say creating distance from Train-chan with this is exactly what I would want.
I switch gears with that and think of my plans from now on.
There’s a lot to be done, but no matter what I will be doing, the main constant will be to avoid Train-chan.
I dealt with her information gathering by taking off my mythril armor that stands out, and wore beginner equipment.
With this, the factors that can be used to pinpoint me have decreased by quite a lot.
But I already know that if I stay in the field for more than a fixed period of time, I will end up summoning Train-chan.
I think this is a difficult one to shake off completely, but there’s no problem this time around.
I don’t have plans on leaving this town for a while after all.
A shut-in declaration.
I said all grandiose, but what I mean is that I don’t want to increase the level of my character that much until I have increased my weapon proficiency.
I can increase my weapon proficiency efficiently with the torch because my level is low.
In the current state when I have no means of lowering my level, going out to fight and destroying one of my advantages would be wasteful.
Well, a 240 level difference turning into 200 probably won’t have that much change, but if there’s anything I can do in the town, I should just finish them all up.
“…What I can do in the town, huh.” (Souma)
I repeat the words that surfaced in my mind.
When speaking of that, there was one scene that played in my mind vividly.
There’s 3 growth factors in the characters of Nekomimi Neko broadly speaking.
Character level, weapon proficiency, and skill proficiency.
This is an RPG, so it is natural, but the character level increases by defeating monsters and getting exp.
Normally, the growth rate is higher when fighting strong monsters like bosses or rare monsters, and the trash mobs should be set low, but this is Nekomimi Neko.
The settings here are haphazard, so there’s clear winning monsters and clear barren monsters.
Also, because the exp multiplier of items with HP is 0, you won’t be able to level up no matter how many you destroy.
The exp is taken away completely by the person that dealt the finishing blow, so the dps is at an advantage in leveling up by miles away.
On the other hand, no matter how much the healer devotes themselves to healing their comrades, you don’t get a single drop of exp; an unfortunate job.
If Nekomimi Neko were an MMO, the tragedy of everyone in the party being dps would happen at every corner, no doubt about it.
It really is great that Nekomimi Neko didn’t become an MMO.
I deviated a bit there, but I have no intention of leveling up right now and I can increase my weapon proficiency as long as I have the torch, so there’s no need to go out of the town.
In that case, the one thing remaining is increasing the skill proficiency.
What is skill proficiency? It is the proficiency set individually to skills like Step.
Skills consume stamina gauge when used, but the cost doesn’t increase even when you raise your level.
Then, does that mean that, no matter how many times you use skills consecutively, it would still be the same? No.
This is where skill proficiency comes to play.
If you continue using the same skill, the skill proficiency increases, and the performance of that skill increases proportional to it. The stamina cost decreases.
Even if the stamina’s highest denominator is the same, the stamina cost of skills changes, so veteran players can use more skills consecutively compared to beginner players.
As for the way to increase skill proficiency, it is the simplest. The amount of times you use that skill becomes proficiency as it is.
It doesn’t matter at all if the attack hits, if damage is registered, or if the target is high level or low level.
No matter if you hit it against a boss, cancel it, or hit the air, you will get 1 proficiency point as long as you use it.
It is truly a clear and simple system.
But that’s exactly why it is also the field that has the least amount of loopholes.
You can’t use tricks like leveling up in one go by defeating high level monsters or hitting a high level item to level up.
Even so, if you are thinking of raising it efficiently…
“It really would be the Lookmari Dojo.” (Souma)
I speak out the obvious conclusion and let out a heavy sigh.
Honestly speaking, I don’t really like the Lookmari Dojo much.
My interpersonal communication skills are pitiful, and on top of that, I have no special hobbies, so that place is a high hurdle for me.
Especially when thinking about how I have to do this now in real life. Just the thought alone is making my stomach hurt.
“But well, might as well just go.” (Souma)
And so, I decide to head to the edge of the town.
There’s no stores there, but there’s an old and big church which is the sole church in this town.
- Chapter 19: Confession
—The beginning days of Nekomimi Neko.
At the time when not even Godstep Cancel was created, there was a certain video that gathered the attention of the Nekomimi Neko players.
The title of that video was ‘the repenting man’.
A short video where a man was repeatedly hitting his head on the wall single-mindedly in a white room.
“It has been a while since I have come here.” (Souma)
I stepped into the space where the sound of a pipe organ was echoing while feeling the peculiar atmosphere of the church.
Even when it was still an actual game, it has been a while since I have come here.
I have been in the care of this place for a variety of things in the early game, but the main role of the church in this game is to heal your debuffs.
It is relatively easy to learn spells that can heal debuffs in Nekomimi Neko, so it is rare to be in the care of this place from midgame onwards.
However, it is not like I came here to heal a debuff.
The one other use for the church that all Nekomimi Neko players know of.
That is the objective of this visit today.
“Excuse me.” (Souma)
I advance into the church without hesitation, and a kind-looking sister standing there speaks to me.
“What brings you here today?”
This girl’s name is Mariel-san.
A sister in this church, and basically the manager of a certain room.
The pure smile she had was hitting my conscience, but I understand that this guilt will serve as the spice for victory, so I steeled myself and spoke.
“I would like to use the confessional…” (Souma)
The confessional is literally a room where you confess your sins to God.
That said, the reality is a bit different, but when it comes to the image of a cramped room where the priest and the person confessing enter and are divided by a partition, it is the same in this game.
It is not clear why there’s a confession room in this game, but in the first advertisements of Nekomimi Neko, there were those that said ‘the events change depending on your karma! A sin system that creates new drama!’. It was probably made with that in mind.
Well, in the end, the sin system wasn’t implemented in Nekomimi Neko, and just like the pardon ticket (price: 10,000 E, yet no use), the confessional ended up being completely pointless in terms of the game function, but there were some who loved it.
When you tell Mariel-san that you would like to confess…
“So you have come to confess. My apologies, but the priest is currently away.” (Mariel)
She would say this and refuse.
It sounds like an event flag, but the reality is that, if you withdraw here, you won’t be able to use the confessional.
You have to insist here and…
“Understood, then…” (Mariel)
Mariel-san would give in and go into the confessional herself to hear you out.
It might be a problem if the sister were to take the place of the priest in confessions in the real world, but this is a game, moreover, inside Nekomimi Neko.
There’s no person who would be bothered by that. Mariel-san is a looker and she is a sister, so you could say it is a whole lot better than a priest. There were even players (mostly men) who would come here to confess just for that.
I may be digressing here, but no matter how much time you wait, or how many times you come here, the priest-san won’t be coming back to this church.
He doesn’t come back no matter how long you wait, so there’s theories like ‘the priest is actually the last boss’, ‘Mariel-san is a widow’, ‘Mariel-san = Priest’, ‘Mariel-san killed the priest’. A whole lot of conspiracy theories flew around, but the truth still hasn’t been made clear.
If I were to speak about the boring reality here, they probably didn’t model the priest from the very beginning, so they just made a random excuse. Well, it doesn’t matter.
What’s important is the confessional. This is a special place that clearly stands out from other places.
According to Mariel-san, the inside of the confessional is the closest place to God, so it is unattached to the impurities of this world.
Well, I don’t know about this God business, but it is true that this small space is special in the game.
You could say this is a perfect safe zone.
In this place, your HP, MP, and even the Stamina don’t deplete, and even if someone hits you with a weapon, there’s no damage. You can’t activate weapons skills and spells to begin with.
Movement skills like Step are the only thing that can be activated, but if you were to use them in this cramped room, you would definitely hit the wall or the ceiling and your skill would be interrupted.
There’s no need to use them, and even if you crash, there’s no damage.
In this fantasy world where swords and magic rule, this space alone works on different principles.
It really is as if it is a space where God rules.
…That’s how a normal person would think.
But a VR gamer to the root would think differently.
Can’t use weapon skills and magic?
Doesn’t that mean that you can use movement skills without any stamina cost?
Even if you use a movement skill, you will just hit the walls or the ceiling and the skill will be interrupted?
There’s no damage even if you did, or rather, the animation is skipped, so you can rapid-fire them.
There’s no need to use movement skills here in the first place?
If you use skills, your skill proficiency increases.
Charge onto the walls of the confessional with your movement skills!!
Is basically how it goes.
Normally, you would run out of stamina once you use 4 Steps at the beginning of the game.
On top of that, if you don’t squeeze a Cancel in, the whole animation and the stun after is long, so using Step 4 times would take close to 10 seconds.
But inside the confessional where there’s no stamina consumption and no damage, that problem is solved.
No matter how many times you use Step, your stamina doesn’t run out, and even if you crash onto the walls and get interrupted, you don’t receive damage or feel it.
A certain player utilized this and showed in a video how he did 4 Steps in 1 second.
The way of doing it is simple.
Stick your body to a wall of the confessional and repeat Steps with good timing.
Activate Step, hit the wall, activate Step…is the flow you must repeat in short intervals and the skill proficiency increases at an astounding speed.
From an outside perspective, it is as if you are burning in regret and smashing your head to the wall.
And so, ‘the repenting man’ video was complete.
Every time this video is introduced to someone, they would all rush to the confessional and would try to imitate this.
You can only raise your movement skills, but the efficiency of it is extraordinary, and there’s no risk.
But there’s one unexpected issue with this proficiency training.
There’s an entrance behind this confessional, and at the front there’s a partition and a small table for consultation, so you have to use either the left or right walls for your Step training.
And then, after finishing your long simple work, you would look at the side and notice…
A pair of eyes watching you the whole time as you smashed your head to the wall repeatedly.
…That’s right. Mariel-san will see every single bit of the player’s eccentricity.
You need the permission of Mariel-san to enter the confessional.
That’s why, at the time when the player is using the confessional, there will definitely be Mariel-san at the other side of the screen.
I don’t know if the AI of Mariel-san is weak, or because the thought routine setting inside the confessional was skimped over, but even when you do something as crazy as repeatedly hitting your head on the wall, Mariel-san won’t be reacting.
She will simply judge that you haven’t said anything even though you have entered the confessional and say:
“Didn’t you have something you wanted to confess?” (Mariel)
“It may be hard, but there’s times when speaking about it will make you feel better.” (Mariel)
She will simply urge you to do your confession.
What she says will then continue to devolve into confusion.
“If you don’t say anything, I won’t be able to say anything.” (Mariel)
“Could it be that it was a lie that you wanted to confess?” (Mariel)
And at the end…
“The exit is there.” (Mariel)
Is the only thing she will say, and that in itself would make your chest hurt, but what’s truly fearsome is after that.
After running out of dialogue, she will stop saying anything and stare at the player.
What’s the problem with that? You won’t be able to understand just by listening.
I didn’t have any issues with it at first either.
But once I actually went to the confessional, I learned about the fearsomeness of it.
I simply thought it was a bit embarrassing to be stared at.
But when I looked at her for an instant, I noticed that her face and posture had not changed at all from a few minutes ago, and the gears began to get crooked.
Mariel-san was just watching me and wasn’t doing anything, but it strangely bothered me.
Only at the times when I would switch the wall I use would she move her head.
Slowly, matching my movements.
Her eyes were following me without her saying anything.
A cramped space where you can’t distract yourself with something else.
Even if you tell yourself not to mind it, once it takes root in your mind, you are done for.
You won’t be able to take it off your mind that she is watching you.
Even if you try to concentrate on using skills, it won’t go well.
Even if you manage to concentrate, even if you push Mariel-san to the corner of your conscience, at the time when you return to your senses, you end up being unprepared to see the face of Mariel-san.
That’s when you learn…
That you are being watched.
Even when you concentrated and forgot about her, she was watching you the whole time.
Looking at you.
And when you actually look at her eyes, you will see yourself reflected in them.
Not a blink, just a faint smile plastered on her face, the whole time.
—She has been watching me the whole time!
Simple repetition can make you zone out easily, so your mind ends up being more susceptible.
Maybe because of that, around 1 in every 3 people who have challenged this had their hearts destroyed by Mariel-san’s gaze.
Depending on the person, there’s those that don’t care about it at all, or would even find it as a reward, but it looks like I am none of those. I have the bitter memory of being unable to endure the gaze of Mariel-san and running away to the streets.
Increasing skill proficiency also tests the strength of the player’s heart, the Lookmari Dojo.
Only I know that this world is a game, but this is at the same time reality.
If it is reality, events that didn’t happen in the game can occur here.
“So you have come to confess. My apologies, but the priest is currently away.” (Mariel)
That’s why, after one push here…
“Understood. Then…” (Mariel)
Just as Mariel-san is heading to the confessional…I stop her!
“No, I would like to silently have a talk with God. That’s why, if you could let me borrow the room for myself…” (Souma)
I told her what I was thinking the whole time.
I wait for her reaction.
“…I see. Then, please feel free to use the room.” (Mariel)
Mariel-san smiled gently and said this.
I cheered internally.
At this instant, I managed to overcome the biggest hurdle of the Lookmari Dojo!
I was seen off by the smiling Mariel-san and I entered the confessional.
Of course, the Mariel-san watching me the whole time from the other side is not there.
Even though it is a place I frequented, it feels fresh.
(I can do this.) (Souma)
I get close to the wall and decide my position.
Now that this place is reality, I don’t know how long I will be able to use it.
My natural instincts were telling me not to use movement skills towards a wall, but I shake off the hesitation and use the skill.
A dull sound was made and my head smashed the wall.
But despite the painful sound, there was no pain.
It is okay.
I can raise my proficiency without any issues in this world too.
([Step]! [Step], [Step], [Step]!) (Souma)
The rhythmic sounds were telling me of my success in the skills.
I felt good about it and gradually increased the speed.
([Step], [Step], [Step], [Step][Step][Step][Step][Step][Step][Step]!) (Souma)
The speed of the wall smashing accelerated with the increase in the use of Step.
It is getting fun.
My concentration is rising!
The only thing ruling my mind right now is how to utilize Step even more efficiently to increase the speed even more.
It is now that I understand why I was bothered by Mariel-san and escaped.
It is because I lacked concentration.
But I can do it now.
I am in the Zone, I can overcome my limits.
To untrodden lands.
I will overcome the wall of 4 skills per second and enter the 5 skills per second…no, this is to go…even further beyond!
Now, let’s go!
Onwards to what lies beyond the limits!
Break through the walls!!
It was at this moment…
“Uhm, I heard some weird noises coming from here. Is the devotee—wait, what are you doing?!”
I think some sort of noise came into my ears, but my concentration won’t be broken by something like that.
“I-I don’t know what kind of sin you committed, but you must not! Self-injury won’t resolve anything. God wishes for you to repent for your sins honestly…no, I have to stop him first!” (Noise)
The noise was bothering me, but that’s proof that my concentration isn’t enough.
More, I have to concentrate more on my Steps…
“Stop! Please cease this at once…!” (Noise)
I felt as if something soft and warm wrapped around my body.
What horrible noise.
But I won’t lose!
“Could it be that he doesn’t notice from being so concentrated in repenting for his own sins? What a strong desire for self-condemnation and devotion! But more reason to stop him from any further acts of self-harming!” (Noise)
If the noise is trying to lead me astray, I will make that noise into fodder for my own strength.
At the time when even this softness that tries to bewilder me can’t be felt anymore, I will surely have achieved the ultimate form of concentration.
“Someone! Please come! At the confessional…at the confessional…!!” (Noise)
Aah, I can see it.
The next world is opening up for me…
After that, I was forced into a room deeper in, and was made to repent a whole ton by Mariel-san.
Yeah, well, you know…the sermon of someone in that line of work really does resonate in one’s heart!
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