([High Step]!) (Souma)
I approach Hisame with the fastest movement skill I have.
She accepted the condition of ‘If she approaches within 3 meters of me, she loses’.
In other words, if I get within 3 meters of her, I will win without having to wait till 9 of tomorrow.
This is practically fraud, but I have already decided to not choose my means.
I aimed for the moment when Hisame had completely lost interest in me and her back facing me.
There’s no way she would be able to notice my approach unless she has eyes in her back.
However, the moment I thought the figure of Hisame blurred…
“I see. That talk about a game of tag was strange.” (Hisame)
I heard the voice of Hisame from behind me.
No, wa, eh?!
This is not on the level of being too fast anymore!
“Those strange conditions had this meaning, huh. Until the match begins, you will become ‘it’ and chase me, huh.” (Hisame)
Moreover, she has read me almost completely.
“H-Hoh, you won’t get angry at being deceived?” (Souma)
I bluffed with everything I had and asked this back.
“A serious match is one where both sides do their very best. Even means close to swindling are valid strategies if within the rules.” (Hisame)
Hisame was unfazed.
This is a happy miscalculation.
“…That said…if you think you can get me with such childish tricks, that certainly is insulting.” (Hisame)
Even without looking at her cat ears, I could feel clear anger.
I can only laugh here.
“Also, I haven’t told you one thing either. You will eventually understand just how despairing of a choice you have taken.” (Hisame)
After saying this, she departed with a ring on her finger letting out a faint light.
Once Hisame left, Train-chan -I mean, Ina, ran to me.
“Ina, you were okay.” (Souma)
“Yes. I-I am sorry…because of me…” (Ina)
Ina hung her head down, but half of it was my own fault.
I won’t say there was no fault on her, but there’s no way anyone would be able to imagine it would turn into a situation like this.
“No, that’s fine. But there’s something I must tell you.” (Souma)
“What…is it?” (Ina)
It is harsh to tell this to her when she is dejected, but I tell her clearly.
“I promised to train you until you could manage by yourself. But let’s put an end to that here.” (Souma)
She looked up dumbfounded at me after hearing what I said.
I first tell her what happened with Hisame, and then, about how she is now plenty strong, and that I don’t have the time to help her out anymore. With the guilt of having pulled Hisame, she accepted my words in tears.
I could tell that she is trying her best here to not cry and that pained my heart, but she still said this valiantly.
“B-But you don’t mind me helping you, right? I will pinpoint her location with everything I’ve got! Then, I will tell Souma-san and—” (Ina)
“No, that’s most likely pointless.” (Souma)
The reason I jumped at Hisame just now was because I thought that I would profit greatly if it did succeed, but it was mostly for checking.
It is not like I was seriously expecting success there.
There’s a reason why she easily accepted my proposal of a game of tag.
Or more like, it is because I was aware of this that I decided on a game of tag.
“The ring she has, if she uses that, she can see all of my movements.” (Souma)
“Yeah, it is one of her unique equipment: the Explorer Ring.” (Souma)
It is a ring that tells the current location of the player.
This is something that was confirmed pretty later in the game, but even if the appearances of the Helper Cheetah, Hisame, are random, the reality is that you would encounter her more often if your affection meter with her is higher.
According to her setting, she is the type that devotes herself to the people she is close with, so I just accepted it in system terms, but there was an actual reason for this.
Thinking about it, Hisame would appear even when you are exploring deep in a dungeon.
I always wondered what kind of mechanism was in place there, but after she becomes your companion, you will learn about the existence of that ring.
Hisame will make it look like she would whimsically help out the people she coincidentally meets, but she would confirm the current location of the people she has taken a liking to, and would go to the places where they are.
At that time, the words ‘You can’t escape from Cheetah!!’ surfaced in my mind.
I don’t know how this game world works, but judging from her words just now, it must have the effect of knowing my location.
Also, if it is only running away from me, there’s actually a simpler method.
The method to move from settlement to settlement in a second.
The Teleportation Stone.
She is a warrior type, so she can’t use spatial magic, but she obviously has 1 or 2 Teleportation Stones since she is technically a high ranked adventurer, and she should be able to buy one.
It would be troublesome if she were to teleport to a different town and return right before the match begins.
There’s the option of waiting for that moment, but the problematic thing is that, when the place has several monoliths, she can choose where to appear.
Lamurick has 2 monoliths south and north respectively, so if she is using an Explorer Ring, she would be able to get the upper hand even if I were to wait in one of them.
When I explained this to Ina, she turned pale white and panicked as if she had lost herself there.
“T-Then, what should we do? No way you would just wait obediently to be killed…” (Ina)
“As if. I will be running away.” (Souma)
There’s a mountain of things I have to do.
More so if I have to finish them all by tomorrow morning.
I calm Ina down by telling her that I will manage somehow, and we head to the first objective.
The same thing we always do. Train earning at the Cave of Trials.
Without me, she won’t be able to earn money like this in the future.
I told her that I would be giving away all the drops to her as farewell, but she stubbornly refused.
I acted separately from Ina after that.
I wanted to move alone from here on, so I asked Ina to bring the money of the drop items to the inn by tomorrow at 8, 1 hour before the match, and I parted from Ina.
“Sorry, Ina.” (Souma)
I muttered this towards that back of hers.
I do think I am a truly selfish guy.
I don’t know how the match will end.
I might really be killed and this might be our eternal farewell.
I should have told her that, but I couldn’t say that to her face.
That’s why I decided to leave her a letter.
I returned to the inn, got some writing tools and paper, and began to write a letter to Ina.
Telling her first to read it in case there’s no directions from me by noon tomorrow.
By the time you are reading this, I will most likely not be by your side anymore.
But please don’t be sad.
You should have already obtained enough strength to live by yourself, so if you bring out the courage, even if it is hard to get companions, you should be able to make friends.
You can hate my selfish self as much as you want.
But I want you to promise me two things.
The first one is to not hate Hisame.
The other one is to please not chase after me no matter what.
I didn’t train you for the sake of that.
You are a wonderful girl and your…]
“No no no!” (Souma)
I crumple the letter I was writing.
When I write a letter, I for some reason get in a weird mood, and I end up writing stuff I normally wouldn’t say.
It is the letter magic.
I did my very best to finish a safe letter, and entrust it to the innkeeper together with one other thing I took out from my bag.
I asked him to give both of them to Ina once she comes tomorrow at 8.
“What’s with this wooden stick?”
The old man made a dubious expression, but he properly took it.
There shouldn’t be any problems with Ina for now.
“Thanks for taking good care of me… So I say, but it is not like I am going to be leaving right now though.” (Souma)
I joked around like that and was about to exit, but a voice called me from behind.
“Hey, it really is weird that you are suddenly saying that this will be the last day you will be staying here. Or more like, this letter isn’t your will, right?”
He is unexpectedly sharp.
But I played it off.
“There’s no way that’s the case. Also, I already have plans on where I will be staying tonight.” (Souma)
I answered frankly at the sour question of the innkeeper.
“The church.” (Souma)
Now then, there’s still a lot of things I need to do.
I have to do as much as possible so that I don’t leave any regrets.
I finally did the visit to Reinhardt which I have been postponing the whole time.
Fortunately, he was still in town and welcomed me with open arms.
By the way, what I understood at that moment was that Hisame also asked Reinhardt about me.
It seems like it was here where Hisame learned that I do interesting moves.
“I didn’t go…into detail, but…sorry…was that…bad?” (Reinhardt)
Reinhardt made an apologetic look in his own lizardman way, and I told him to not worry and laughed it off.
There’s the chance that I won’t be meeting him anymore.
I don’t want to leave grudges for something like that.
After that, we chatted without a single shred of urgency, and we bid our farewells with smiles on our faces.
I looked at my watch and there was still a lot of time left before the next thing in my schedule.
I use this extra time to head to the Sealed Lands.
I went underground to get something I forgot and return at once.
With this, the underground has become pitch black, but well, it can’t be helped.
After that, I searched for anything useful in the weapon store to kill time, went to the magic store to buy the stuff I couldn’t buy before, did a little mischief at the place of the healers.
After getting out with faint tears in my eyes, I noticed that my stomach was empty.
I buy some food and eat while I walk around the town, and the day is running late now.
It is finally time to head to my last objective.
It is by no means fancy, but when I entered the building I could feel holiness and solemnity in it.
I made long strides towards the girl deep inside who always smiles and welcomes the guests and…
“Oh my, is that you, Souma-san? It is still a bit early…” (Mariel)
Went on my knees.
“I am sorry, Mariel-san! Please let me borrow the confessional from now on until tomorrow morning!!” (Souma)
Pleading this onto her.
“Mariel-san really is a good person…” (Souma)
I suddenly grovelled, which troubled her greatly, but I fortunately managed to borrow the confessional.
“I will make this the last time I ask for something like this!” (Souma)
I desperately shouted this, and that seemed to have worked.
“…I see. I thought there was no peak in devotion, but I am sure you have grasped something, haven’t you?” (Mariel)
She said that, so she probably has a faint idea that I am trying to obtain movement skills using the confessional.
She is kind but fearsome.
“Right, I don’t have the time to be thinking about that.” (Souma)
My time limit is tomorrow at 8.
I haven’t experienced an all-nighter in the game world, but I don’t think it is impossible.
In that time, I will raise my proficiency of Step, High Step, Jump, High Jump, and other movement skills, and, if possible, I want to learn the advanced skill Ground Compression.
Being able to learn Ground Compression or not will influence the development in the future by a lot.
I want to learn it as much as possible.
“Alright, let’s do this!” (Souma)
I pump myself up and get on top of the table.
Confirming that my head is close to reaching the ceiling, I activate the skill.
I zoned out in the middle of it, and after doing it around 100 times, I heard a notification.
“Thank you very much…” (Souma)
I exited the church with unsteady steps.
In the end, I leveled up my skills all night until very close to the time, so it is already the 6th day of my game life -the day of the match.
Fortunately, I managed to obtain Ground Compression.
With this, that’s one worry less.
It is currently 7:32.
You could say it is right in time.
“Uuuh, the sun is so yellow.” (Souma)
Even if it was a place with no damage registration, it seems like doing an all-nighter wasn’t mitigated.
Ah, but it might heal if I drink a potion.
I was thinking that while walking unsteadily and…
“You are in a terrible state. Do you really think you can beat me like that?”
I heard a voice I wouldn’t ever forget even if it was after an all-nighter, and I immediately switched to fighting mode.
I won’t ask something stupid like how she knew I was here.
She must have used the Explorer Ring.
I can’t have her looking down on me here.
I directed provoking words at Hisame who was looking at me at a distance of around 5 meters.
“What about you? You would be losing if I were to get close to you, and yet, you seem to be pretty carefree here.” (Souma)
“Not really. If I get caught by something like that, it just means I only amounted to that much.” (Hisame)
Her usual way of talking.
But within my expectations.
No, it is not like I expected her to appear here, but I did think I would meet her one more time before the match.
That’s why I take out a white stationary from my bag and throw it to her.
She easily caught it.
“What is this?” (Hisame)
“A letter for you. Read it after the match is over.” (Souma)
I actually wrote this one at the time when I was writing the letter for Ina as an insurance for after the match.
“Your will? Well, I don’t mind reading it.” (Hisame)
“It isn’t a will.” (Souma)
I denied it, but it seems like she doesn’t believe me.
Or more like, her attention is taken by something else.
“More importantly, are you really okay? That fight before gave me excitement I haven’t felt in a long while. This time will be far more dangerous, and I am looking forward to you showing me your clever schemes though.” (Hisame)
She even said something like that with a serious tone.
There’s no agitation in her cat ears either.
She really must be thinking that.
“Then, I don’t think I will be able to answer your expectations. I will simply be teaching you something obvious.” (Souma)
“Something obvious?” (Hisame)
Her cat ears tilted slightly.
I informed her.
“It is true that you are fast. However, I will teach you that your speed is the second fastest in this town.” (Souma)
When I declared this, the mouth of Hisame warped faintly…truly faintly in what seemed like a smile.
“I don’t mind that.” (Hisame)
She puts a flood of emotions into those short words, and walks off with her back turned.
I shouted to her back.
“Hisame! Your speed is a talent that you can be proud of. You could even say that you are the number one among all characters.” (Souma)
No matter how much nimbleness plus equipment the player equips, you can’t reach the realm of her movement speed with normal means.
However, that doesn’t mean there’s no means to defeat her.
“But people have always covered up that difference with knowledge and technique. I will be teaching you that today. I will crush you with my everything!!” (Souma)
The moment I said that at the end, Hisame turned back for an instant.
“The Odd Sword User, Souma. If it is you…you may be able to… If you can win against me…” (Hisame)
She was about to say something to me but, in the end, she shook her head and cut off her words.
“No, it is nothing. I will be waiting for you in front of the inn.” (Hisame)
After wrapping it up with that, she ran off at a speed that was hard to follow with the naked eye.
I relax my tense body from the unexpected encounter.
“It is about time I go.” (Souma)
If I take my sweet time and end up late, that would be irreversible.
It is finally the decisive moment.
The 10 coming minutes will decide whether I live or die.
I walk towards the location of the decisive battle while still in strangely high tension from the all-nighter.
As I approached the location, the noise of people grew louder.
Well, that’s natural.
This time was decided beforehand, so it wouldn’t be strange to be spectators.
(Eh…? My legs…) (Souma)
My legs are buckling at this decisive moment.
Will I be okay?
Can I do this?
Did I miss anything?
Those doubts were assailing me, impeding my advance.
(Was this really okay?) (Souma)
The worry that I should have resolved a long time ago attacks me again.
(No, I already decided to do this!) (Souma)
I crush that with willpower.
I did so much groundwork for this.
There’s no turning back.
Also, I already told Hisame from the very beginning…
That I would be running away with everything I’ve got.
(Then, no choice but to go!) (Souma)
I resolve myself and take a step onto the ramp.
“Customer-san! The Magic Airship scheduled for Rihiter is about to depart!”
“Ah, yes! I am getting on!” (Souma)
And a few minutes after, the Magic Airship with me on it rose to the sky -the only safe zone against Hisame.
I shouted this towards Lamurick which grew smaller and smaller.
“I am A FREE LONER!!” (Souma)
In this way, I won against the strongest female swordsman, Hisame, without crossing swords once, and succeeded in escaping an opponent that you can’t escape from.