Like I said, my name is Katsuragi Kenta. I was a freshman in high-school and part of the go home club.
After school, I finished my homework and then I played my video games. I had the newest consoles, a decent PC and a lot of games. Practically all of my allowance was spent in those.
My parents were OK with this, as long I was somewhat successful in school. And I was. I ranked 19 in the midterms, since I studied every evening a bit to please my parents and increase my overall gaming-time.
I played different genres, but my game library was a bit unbalanced. My favorite games were RPGs with either a good story or a good amount on customization. So, of course, MMORPGs were also included.
For me, it's important to be either immersed in good story-writing or to be able to try out a lot of things.
But that was mostly all my life back then. No real friends, no romance, no social life. And I was kinda bullied in school. Just kinda. Not too bad. But when you talk to a girl and she looks at you as if you were an ugly insect, then you start to wonder why and ask yourself some questions.
Am I fat? Well, a bit. Not really fat, but kinda round.
Am I ugly? At least I'm not pretty. But the face is normal and my glasses aren't that eye-catchy.
Physical education isn't my strong point and yes, maybe some other boys laughs at me, when I'm unable to jump over the vaulting horse.
And maybe I'm a bit short, 1.65 meters (about 5'4). But come on, that's just a bit.
Somehow I always had the feeling, that the boys were making fun of me, while the girls were kinda disgusted.
Don't know when it started and why.
The things they did were minor. Like skipping cleaning duty, when paired with me. Or that nobody voluntarily teamed up with me in anything.
But I didn't care much, it's school, a place of learning. If I wanted to meet people, I could play online!
If someone would have asked if I would want to live in a fantasy-like world, I would have clearly said 'no'.
Too bad that there wasn't much asking in my case.
It was a normal homeroom that morning. Everyone was present, 28 students, the homeroom teacher and an assistant teacher.
After taking attention, our homeroom teacher, Saegusa Mamiko, told us about the upcoming cultural festival and asked what the class want to do there. Then our class president, Momokawa Kyou, took over.
I didn't care much.
But while my classmates brainstormed their ideas, somehow it became strange.
First of all, the voices began to echo through the rooms and the colors bleached. Then the contours blurred.
«You've been chosen to stand against the demons, but do not fear. People of your world become very powerful in this one and the reward is great.»
Well, it's kinda cliché. A Japanese class is transported to another world as heroes. As a story it's fine, as a real-life experience it sucks.
We were transported by a god of this world as an answer for the prayers of the church and humankind in general.
The only way back is with the help of the gods and since they want us to fight against the demons, this might be the only way to get back.
This was the general gist of it, even though it was just a brief summary.
Our teachers were the only ones called to the king, but that didn't even bother me. Let's leave this to the adults. After an hour here I realized, that living in a fantasy world sucks even harder than I thought.
First of all: The meals are bad.
At least I don't enjoy a riceless meal with a lot of bread and fatty meat. The water had less quality than common tap water and even though it was called a feast, the seasonings were so strong, that you couldn't taste the meal at all.
Second: No toilets! Chamber pots.
After the 'feast' to celebrate the arriving of the heroes, we got rooms assigned and of course nobody wanted to be with me in a room, if possible.
But in the end I got two roommates. The first one was a bit of a nerd, the other a bit of a delinquent, two other outsiders. On beds with hard mattresses we should wait until the teachers are done talking to the king.
That wasn't much of a bother, since I took my time to check the manual, the mysterious voice talked about. Even though we didn't have anything else with us, except clothing, everyone of us had a backpack and a manual inside. Even cell phones vanished!
The 'manual' had 36 pages and describes, how the power of the heroes works.
Basically all powers could be categorized into two: Strengthening and managing.
Strengthening powers are like the class system, which enhances our attributes.
Attributes are [Strength], [Vitality], [Dexterity], [Agility], [Intelligence], [Persuasion] and [Luck].
Most of them are pretty straightforward, even though I was not too sure, how these will work out in the long run.
As a student, my attributes beside [Intelligence] are pretty low. But after I learn a new class, I can get a huge boost to some of these attributes. So a warrior would get a great [Strength] and [Vitality] bonus.
A [Class-Change] should even alter the bodies to match. So if I would take on the warrior class, I might get actual muscles.
Each class have abilities. These abilities are like [Sword], [Elemental Magic] or [Thievery]. Each of them have several skills, like fighting techniques or spells. At least everyone of them are kinda special.
And while you can have only one class active, you can choose up to four classes and switch between them. So you may be a [Mage] normally and change into [Warrior] when being engaged in melee combat.
The manual mentions several secrets in the class system, which have to be found out by yourself. And I didn't like it, because there was no reason at all to keep these secret. If we should succeed in slaying demons, why are the gods so secretive? Give me a strategy wiki!
Like games there are some other stats, too. Like Health Points (HP), which shows up our physical well-being, Stamina Points (SP) which depletes with any exhausting activity and a lot of non-magic skills and Magic Points (MP), which are solely for spells.
In the end, it seemed that I could learn any class pretty easily and earn the skills equal of someone who actually trained for years. That's cheating.
This concludes the strengthening powers.
The second set of powers are for managing. Like a status screen, which is displayed and used by thoughts and eye-movements alone. Or an inventory screen, which allows you to take items from the backpack without even searching for them within. Additionally, these backpacks have a lot of more storage due the [Inventory] than their size would suggest.
These aren't as interesting, but much more important and useful in my opinion. Since you can actually see how strong you are in numbers, you can judge how much you can do.
I guess, the ability to change class would be a managing power, too.
There are even level up mechanisms, experience points to increase your strength overall and ability points to increase your abilities you get due your classes.
It really is like a game in a sense.
But as a gamer I knew, it wasn't a game. No PC, no game pad, nothing!
While my two roommates didn't want to start a conversation, I took the liberty to leave the room.
Somehow I got the feeling, that I didn't have any control over that situation.
It would be easy to say, that I should just do, whatever have to be done, but I couldn't accept it.
This was not a game.
So should I blindly follow a presented path?
Normally, the teachers would not like us to get involved, if this would be a light novel or such.
Normally, the students would start to form parties to level up and prepare for the real deal.
This would be good, but something was odd. Even though it may be my imagination, something inside of me resisted. I couldn't point to it, but somewhere seems to be a flaw.
While thinking about it, I started my preparations.
Next morning, the teachers called us. The room we were in was a small dining hall.
Homeroom teacher, Saegusa Mamiko, started her speech. She was a tall, young woman with glasses, which gave a bit of a sexy secretary vibe.
"We talked to the king of Feuerberg and it seems, that we're stranded here. We're welcomed to stay, but everyone who is not helping out the kingdom has to pay otherwise for their hospitality. After talking it over with Taniguchi-sensei we came to the following conclusion: We can't order you what to do."
I see, so they couldn't handle the situation. Well, taking responsibility for 28 students in this mess was too much to ask for.
"Taniguchi-sensei and I will support the kingdom with our knowledge of our own world. Everyone who wants to help is welcomed to."
Well, Saegusa-sensei is a science teacher and Taniguchi-sensei teaches math. These will most likely come in handy.
"The king established an instructor for those who wants to fight for the kingdom. I would rather ask you not to, but this seems to be the only way back home."
Since the teachers wanted to go home, too, but were unwilling to fight themselves, they tried to lure us to do it for them. At least that was my impression, but I'm generally negative.
In the end, 20 of the 28 students formed the combat group. Everyone who can actually help otherwise had a talent which was useful in this setting.
Being good at sports? Combat group.
Being popular? Combat group.
Being good at PCs? Definitely combat group.
Able to cook on a professional level? Non-Combat group.
Since most of us didn't have talents which worked outside Japanese culture, we didn't had much of a choice there. Otherwise we would pay for our life-expenses without any useful skills to do so.
Of course I was part of the combat group, too.
And it sucked.
The most popular boy in class took the lead. The name is Inoue Masahiko. He was a pretty boy who was good at sports and at least above average in studies.
I don't like him. I'm sure, he's just faking this delightful smile and honest personality.
Like I said, I'm generally negative.
He and his friends took charge of this class.
The class president, Momokawa Kyou, was one of them. She was voted for popularity and I'm sure, she was just doing it for her records. Needless to say, that she's very pretty. Seems to be a prerequisite to be popular.
Inoue, Momokawa and their posse ruled the class before coming to this world in a sense, so it seemed only naturally that they do it now, too.
I got a headache.
I guess Inoue spoke some encouraging words about justice, being chosen and such, but honestly, I don't remember a single word, since I tried to ignore it.
Don't lie to me, fake!
The military instructor should show us how to fight, but everyone sucked. Push-ups and such were a pain, swinging wooden sticks made us look stupid, we're just a bunch of modern teenagers!
Of course ten minutes exercise would bring those down who didn't participate in a sport club. Like me.
“Strange. Shouldn't heroes be able to do that much?” The instructor said, while I was gasping for air.
“Of course *pant* not. *pant* Didn't change class.” I already realized that as long I have the [Student]-class, my physical strength is about as much as always. Even though I could muster more of my stamina than usual. Probably due the SP-system.
But after another fifty minutes of exercise I was wasted. I tried my best, but there had to be an easier way.
On the other hand, the other students talked to each other as if this was a wonderful experience. Didn't they realized, that this is not a school trip?
And then it hit me: They didn't.
Thinking back, maybe the students weren't as aware of the situation right now as me? Maybe because it was so sudden and those game-like elements? Shock? Ignorance? Stupidity?
The instructor didn't know about the heroes' powers. Their knowledge about heroes was even inferior to ours.
That night, I didn't sleep. I thought about everything and read the manual several times. Afterwards I decided what to do.
I already collected some stuff yesterday evening, like food, water and a blanket. Now I even took the mattress and put it into my backpack. Took a while, but since the backpack defied the laws of physic, it fit in.
Then I changed into the world's peasant clothing I stole from the servant's laundry and sneaked away.
I had my gaming knowledge, which might come in handy at the beginning. And I realized that this is no game, so I didn't want to waste my time to pretend this is a school trip. The only thing in mind was returning home.
Even though the heroes' powers made it look like a game, it wasn't. Most elements reminded me of a MMORPG, but they were missing some crucial basics.
Like a party system. Every monster I kill becomes power to enhance my stats and is expressed as experience points (XP). Even if I kill a monster and get XP, anyone I teamed up with to kill said monster won't get any. And there are only a few ways to get them. Killing monsters is the easiest one, but seemingly there are crystals and other objects which are able to give you XP/power, too.
But partnering up with someone else would drop your own XP-gain in the end and there is no way to ensure a healthy party balance without problems. Since it's all about the kill.
So it made no sense to hunt in a group, unless you need the safety.
Solo-hunting would be one of the things I want to try out first.
At least after I get another class than [Student]. As a [Student], my abilities were [Academics] and [Recreation]. Both ranks were actually quite high.
But there were no skills related to those abilities. Maybe because it's not something gained by the heroes' power?
In the end I needed either combat abilities or means to earn money.
After leaving the castle at night, I walked around in Esse, the capital of the Feuerberg-kingdom.
Since it was night-time, I couldn't see well and only few people were out there.
I thought about how to start my career. In the end survival stands above everything, since no revival mechanic was mentioned in the manual. Means I had to ensure food, water and defense by myself.
I would like to pick something like a woodman-class, which would ensure that I can survive on my own in the wilderness.
Or at least to be able to act independent.
I didn't trust the king, I've never met, nor my classmates. I would never blindly follow them. I didn't need to learn how to fight like someone from the military, but the cunning and skills to take on enemies alone under all circumstances.
And maybe it was just dumb luck, but I found some hunters at a tavern, who just sold their quarry and celebrated their hunt. So I asked them, if I could be their apprentice.
First I was laughed at, since I'm too old.
Normally you would gain apprenticeship when you're ten years old, while someone at my age would already be full-fledged. But since hunting isn't exactly a craft, a few people consider to take on the job after learning another one before.
To show my determination I was tasked with all the minor stuff. From carrying equipment to making campfire and such.
Of course I failed at everything, but one of the hunters, Meldorn, took care of me and taught me. How to organize equipment, how to make a fire, what things to consider, if you build a camp.
Meldorn was a simple man who lived in the woods forever and just couldn't fit in the city. But at least he was good at hunting.
He was the one who decided to take me in. Under the premise, that he will abandon me if I ever complain. So I just kept all complains in and did the job. It was hard!
We left the capital the next day and took a hunting tour. After two weeks of minor tasks and learning survival basics, I began to learn about the world first hand.
First, there are bears, deers and other animals I know from my world. Even though everyone of them was a bit different. Like the antlers of a deer, which had barbs or the bear, which had very long hair. Minor changes, but somehow still the same.
And there are monsters, which seems to be chimeras, combinations of several animals.
I had a lot to learn.
But it did raise my [Academics]-ability and I gained the [Fast Learner]-skill. So I can get skills with my [Student]-class, after all. With [Fast Learner] it was much easier to learn all this stuff.
After a month of apprenticeship, I got a chance to select my second class: [Scout]. I thought I would learn to be a hunter, but somehow it turned out that way. Maybe, because I'm still lacking actual hunting skills?
But the important thing was, that I got another class and I tried to change into it. A message window came up, that choosing this class will take up one of my three remaining class slots.
I said it's OK after leaving the camp, so my hunting buddies won't see me.
And suddenly I became more skinny and got some muscles, while my vision became much sharper. My glasses actually got in the way of seeing clearly! This [Class Change] shaped my body into one of a well-trained survivalist in just a month!
The next thing I did was to change into [Student] again and return to the camp. I had no reason to finish the tour, except a sense of duty. But saying goodbye would be better, especially since I don't need to return to Esse.
Even though we came back a few times, I never went back into the city itself. Meldorn and the other hunters thought, that something in my past had to do with it.
“I need to do something. You really helped me out. Thank you!”
I left the hunters and went south. After these preparations I could finally start the 'game'. I didn't know anything about demons and the war, I don't care. Maybe they're pure evil, but in the end I want to go back home.
I need to.
And finally I had the means to start the journey.
Another month passed and I'm here now, wearing a cursed ring.
The preparation-time with the hunters were valuable to learn how the world works.
And the heroes' powers.
Like there are actually two kind of points to get stronger: XP for slaying monsters and taking in their powers, which will enhance your stats in levels which gives minor attribute-bonuses overall. And Ability Points (AP) to enhance your abilities and learn more skills, which are gained by training in that specific area.
My skills and jobs were currently:
[Academics]-skills: [Fast Learner]
[Armor]-skills: [Chain], [Cuirass], [Leather], [Hide]
[Perception]-skills: [Darkvision], [Farsight], [Focus], [Pitch], [Sleepurnal]
[Stealth]-skills: [Camouflage], [Distraction], [Hide Smell], [Sneak]
[Survival]-skills: [Camping], [Foraging], [Set Traps], [Track]
[Armor]-skills: [Chain], [Cuirass], [Leather], [Hide]
[Spear]-skills: [Speedthrust], [Throwing], [Whirlwind]
There were other abilities I could learn, but didn't had enough AP there. Like [Bow] or [Phalanx], since I didn't had a chance to train it, so far.
You can divide skills into active and passive ones.
The [Hide]-skill of the [Armor]-ability is a passive one and make it easier to move around while wearing a hide armor, like I do now. As long I wear and use it, I gain AP in the [Armor]-ability.
And both classes, [Scout] and [Pikeman] use the same [Armor]-ability, what I gain in one I gain in both, as long I have either class equipped.
Active skills are like [Speedthrust], which unleashes a powerful spear attack.
Each ability will use up stamina, passive ones less than active ones. So I have to keep an eye on my SP, since I might actually die, if they run out. Who knows what happens, when you totally run out of stamina?
So normally I take a break, whenever there are only half left, since I'm exhausted then, too. I could push myself further, but there is no reason to do so.
When traveling with the hunters, I got a spear and after using it for a while as a scout, I could choose the [Pikeman]-class.
If I stayed in Esse, maybe I could have learned more classes like this, but actually I prefer the [Scout]-class, since it makes me more aware and helps me in being cunning.
Problem is... now I'm stuck at the [Student]-class.
I feel weak, since all of my attributes dropped. And I got my belly back. I realize that I won't get any XP or AP, no matter what I do. I couldn't use any skills and even though I rested, I didn't recover any SP at that time, I had to use items for this. And it seems that each day my Max SP will drop, so I will exhaust faster and in the end might end up dying.
I panicked first, but I had to do something about it.
Maybe cutting off the finger might help, but I couldn't do this to myself. Sorry, but I lack the guts.
Finally I came to a conclusion: I have to return to Esse.
I have the best chances to lift my curse there or at least get an idea what to do next. If worse comes to worst, I can hire a doctor to cut of my finger cleanly and a magic user to reattach it afterwards. Maybe. Priests seems to be able to channel divine power for healing spells, even though they're expensive.
Well, I did got some valuables in the monkey-spider cave, so getting a carriage back to Esse and a way to remove the curse seems to be possible.
Riding a carriage back to Esse was costly, but as a [Student] I haven't much of a choice. I'm currently unable to protect myself.
Esse is a city build at a mountain. It has several levels and at the top is the castle. It's a breathtaking sight, but it seems pretty unpractical.
Well, first time in two months. Maybe my classmates are still there, training. Maybe they're already out there, fighting. Or maybe they're dead.
No idea, don't care too much.
But I have to go to the castle, since the greatest church of the kingdom was part of it. And they might know something about cursed items.
I hate it. But it's the most logical thing to do.
I arrive the castle and the guards looked at me with suspicion. Of course they don't remember me. “I'm a pilgrim who wants to visit the church.” The church was an annex inside the castle walls, so as long as I don't enter the main building, there would be no problems.
At the church, I ask the next person who wears a clerical outfit. “Excuse me, please, but I've a request. I'm an explorer and found a ring. After putting it on my finger, I can't remove it anymore and I feel weak. Maybe it's cursed.”
And then the stress began.
The priest I talked first tried to analyze the curse, but it was too powerful. Then I was handed over to another priest, who specialized in dispelling curses, but he needed two hours to analyze this one.
“Rather unique. Normally a curse like this would not be a problem, but it seems to be intertwined with your very soul. To dispel a curse this far reaching, you must me bring holy water of the Heißquellen.”
“If that water is so powerful, why don't you have some in reserve?”
“It's not the water itself. It's about the divine ritual. After you're prepared I will cast a spell on you, which will start to grow stronger during the pilgrimage. Each step is part of this ritual and will build up a reservoir of magic power, I'll harness later to dispel the curse.”
Basically, it's not about the water, but the quest itself.
“I understand. The details?”
The decurse-pilgrimage itself is simple.
First, I can hire people to protect me, I don't have to do it alone.
Second, I have to start the journey at the church and get a spell cast on me, which will grow stronger with each further step.
Third, I have to stop at every shrine on the way and pray to the gods there.
Fourth, I got to climb the Vulkan-mountains to get to the Heißquellen, which are hot springs. There I collect some and bring it back.
Finally, back in Esse, the priest will end the spell and lift the curse.
A very simple matter and something which have to be done within two weeks. I would rather start today, since my Max SP is currently 353 and I lose ten points every day.
I hope lifting the curse will restore it back to normal. It would be bad to have my Max SP permanently lowered.
But one problem was at the whole pilgrimage: The price.
“300,000 Newgold?! You're prices are insane, I could buy a house with that amount!”
“It's not a price. It's a donation, which will satisfy the gods and raise the chances of success.”
I hate you!
“What about cutting off the finger, removing the ring and put the finger back with magic?”
“... What a sick idea. How could you come up with that?”
“Would it work?”
“No. This curse is too strong and it will definitely go berserk, if you try to remove the ring with any kind of force. Like I said: Intertwined with your very soul.”
Maybe the priest just tells me this, so I would 'donate' these 300,000 Newgold. Or maybe he's right. I can't take that risk and he knows it!
“I'll come back later.”
“Be beware, your curse is deadly. You don't have much time.” And now he uses my fear of death. This church sucks!
I leave it and sit down at the courtyard.
Problem is, I don't have enough money. I do have most, but I'm short around 20,000 Newgold.
After selling the treasure, I got a lot of coins and because of my 'gameplay', I could hoard that much in only 2 months.
Nonetheless, 20,000 Newgold is a lot of money. Even if I sell my equipment, I won't be able to raise that much, since I'm practically still in starter gear.
And without it, I won't have any kind of protection. Well, even with my gear I can't properly protect myself currently. I'm a [Student] without any regenerative power after all.
What should I do?
Someone calls my name.
The pretty class president.
The fake (most likely).
She is wearing some casual clothes from this world plus a cloth armor.
“It's really Katsuragi! Where have you been?”
I didn't want to run into my classmates, because I thought it would feel awkward.
And it really is.
Silence. I can't bear it.
“Erm... how are you doing?”
“...” She avoids eye-contact.
Wait a minute, she made eye-contact before? Something is odd.
“Where are the others? Why are you alone?”
She was never alone before. Of course I met her only at school, but something seems to be wrong.
I'm not a nice person. I'm calculating and do things to get advantages. I studied at home, since I wanted to get results in tests, so my parents won't bother me, if I play games every other minute. I didn't socialize in class, since I don't care much about other peoples and most of my classmates are boring.
Some might call me an a-hole and they won't be wrong with it. And since I was a bad person, I already made up a plan.
Since Momokawa seems to be troubled, I will use her.
Instead of talking in the courtyard, we moved to a tavern in downtown. After some questions, Momokawa confessed her side of the story.
Aside from Momokawa, my classmates aren't here anymore. Since the combat-group raised their levels with weak monsters around here, they were traveling in groups to other regions for training. The non-combatants were sent to another town, where a research facility is built for them to conduct experiments and such.
Only Momokawa remained here.
Because she's weak.
She has already all of her class-slots occupied: [Student], [Cook], [Healer], [Priest].
She misunderstood the [Healer]-class, which first appeared for her. She thought it would provide magical healing, but no: The [Healer] relied on herbs. A normal medic.
She learned the [Priest] afterwards and got the hang of healing magic, finally she wanted to be able to provide the party with something useful and learned the [Cook].
The idea was, that she would be the supporter of the party of Inoue and his friends.
But there was one problem.
Like I already told: There is no party system.
A pure supporter won't be able to slay monsters and get XP hat easily. She wasted all her class-slots and fell behind the others.
Since she would not be able to withstand a single blow of a stronger monster like that, she was left behind in Esse, so she could raise her level by herself.
But she was alone, so she couldn't take on many monsters per day and she seems to hate to fight in general. That's the reason, why she wanted to be the supporter in the first place. If you hate to fight, why did you join the combat-group?
But Momokawa is very irritated about the whole story.
“How dare they! Just because Masahiko-kun thinks it's too dangerous, they dump me and now the shitty king is giving me crap about what to do with me!”
She is unnerved and don't even show the slightest bit of interest towards me.
But I want to use her.
“So you need to level up, to show them how wrong they are. Do you want to team up?”
She looks at me, as if I have killed her pet.
How much of a low-life do you think I am? I continue, nevertheless. “I have a problem, too. I'm cursed and can't get any XP and have not enough money to remove it and lack several means. If you help me, I will teach you, how to level up faster.”
“You're just Katsuragi. How could you ever help me?”
“I'm a gamer, remember?”
I open up my status screen and use an option to make it visible for others. And then I show her my status.
“Level 37? In two months?! Even Masahiko-kun was only level 18 a week ago.”
“You're just bad at this. I'll teach and help you, while removing this curse and even afterwards. Methods casual gamers won't even try. This might not be a game, but at least the strategies work.”
Of course she is hesitating. Teaming up with the one nobody wanted to team up before.
But her level is 5. She is weak. I'm still stronger than her, even with the reduction of my attributes due the curse.
I have a problem she could take advantage of. And the nice class-president is only a facade, I'm sure to it.
And yes, an evil grin begin to spread on her face. On mine as well.
This is the beginning of an exploitative partnership.