003 – School life starts from negative #3
After parting ways with Victoria.
I wandered around Ludens Academy.
Oh, by the way, Ludens is the real name of this Prison Academy located on a fortunate highland with a population of 100,000.
Countless dungeons underground.
The outside fields are filled with terrifying monsters, and the name of the Academy is Ludens, which means playing.
In reality, Ludens Academy was also created for the sake of amusement.
For whose amusement, you ask?
Primarily, of course, for the game players.
“It’s the same map I remember, the geography hasn’t changed.”
I recalled the mini-map of the game and found a certain place. That place was none other than the square located in the center of this vast Ludens.
In the plaza, seven statues were magnificently carved out of marble. The form varied from the elderly to children.
“God of Wisdom, please grant me your wisdom for the upcoming school year… Please don’t let me get a failing grade and get kicked out of the dormitory…”
“Almighty God, please grant me good friends this year…”
Anyone can see the people praying in front of the statues.
These were the Seven Gods, the creators of this Ludens Academy and the organizers of the fun.
According to the lore, the newly freed gods gathered various mysteries and created an island. There, they established the academy to raise young heroes who would overcome the games they prepared.
So, in the game, each time I prayed to each god, I gave a non-overlapping buff for 1 hour.
If you pray to the Goddess of Order, it feels like an additional 10% hunting experience for an hour.
However, my reason for coming here wasn’t to beg for salvation from the gods who exist only in the game’s narrative.
The official forum’s most popular concept articles.
A 20,000 hour veteran should be able to save his own life.
“Stand in front of the statue of the Goddess of Love and Beauty, three spaces back. If you consider this large block of tiles to be one space…”
Let’s get one thing straight.
Victor is hated.
“Look at that, it’s Victor.”
“Because of that guy, my club was disbanded last semester.”
“That’s because you misappropriated the club funds.”
“W-Well, that’s true, but… why did Ruben’s costume club get disbanded too? They didn’t do anything wrong…!”
Every passerby would shout one of these insults at me.
This is what NPCs said to Luke, the protagonist, when his reputation was at its worst after he chose a bunch of options that lowered his favorability.
With dialogues of this kind, the reputation would probably drop to around -30 points. Once it reaches -50 points, it’s likely that more than just insults would be hurled – rocks or surprise attacks could come flying.
You’d be attacked and killed by NPCs in broad daylight, rather than at night.
Of course, I’ve tried out various strategies for negative favorability and reputation. There were events that only occurred when reputation was in the negative, so I’ve experienced those too.
Of course, Victor probably wouldn’t have cared about any of that.
He likely didn’t know.
After all, he’s just a guy who obediently follows given orders.
Given that he doesn’t care about managing his own reputation, he would attract all sorts of insults and end up dying for various reasons in every storyline route.
“The problem is, it’s hurting me.”
Even if it’s to deceive Victoria, I’m in a situation where I need to temporarily date a woman. Who could I find to date Victor, who currently has negative reputation?
Victor, seen in the reflection of the fountain near the deities’ statues, had a somewhat cold impression, but he looked manly and well-groomed.
Considering his appearance is quite decent, maybe with some effort, things could work out somehow?
And so, this idea came to mind. An item that can only be obtained near the statue of the Goddess of Love and Beauty in the game.
Lifting the floor tiles, a small box could be seen sunken into the ground.
“Senior, look at that. Why on earth is it like that…?”
“Hush, strange folks tend to gather in the park before the start of the new semester… wait, isn’t that Victor?”
“What’s the Student Council’s hound doing?”
As people started murmuring about me, I grabbed the palm-sized box and quickly left the area.
This kind of behavior is indeed suspicious and noticeable, right?
In the game, it’s fine to go into someone else’s house, rummage through jars, and ransack drawers without any comments.
Reality is truly different, as expected.
“…I’ll have to reconsider items that are too noticeable to acquire.”
More than that, this guy… I’ve felt it since earlier, but why is he mumbling to himself like this? Is it a form of self-suggestion due to a lack of strategy?
I decided to walk to a relatively secluded part of the clearing.
* * *
As you might have guessed from the previous stories, there’s a favorability system in D&A. Quests and endings change based on favorability.
Depending on your liking, the quests you can proceed with will change and the ending will also change.
It’s a neat little thing to dig into, and I’ve done it before with all of the characters, ranging from positive to negative.
An item that’s particularly helpful in the early stages is the one I obtained from the box earlier.
「Beginner Charm Ring: +10 to the user’s Charm. A pure gold ring from Parthas, very popular with women.」
This is the Beginner Charm Ring. It has the simple effect of increasing your charm by +10. For reference, a complete charm score is 100 points.
10 out of 100 doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a lot.
It’s frustrating when a quest locked by a slightly lower charm stat can’t be completed.
I tried the ring on my finger. But unlike the in-game item that fits in a slot, the actual Charm Ring is a physical one.
Somehow, the ring fit on one of Victor’s fingers, his ring finger on his left hand.
The significance of the ring on my left ring finger made me feel a little uneasy, but it wasn’t the time to think about it, so I just put it on.
So, has my charm increased now?
“I don’t really feel any different.”
I was expecting some kind of dramatic change, but I didn’t feel anything different, just a sense of “I’m wearing a silly gold ring”.
I wish there was a visible metric.
「Name: Victor Title: Hound
Charm: 2/100 (+10)」
I recognized the familiar numbers.
It was the exact same design structure as the character’s stat sheet I’d seen time and time again in the game.
Since becoming Victor, I’ve experienced many bewildering situations. However, to see hidden items truly existing there, or numbers appearing like this, was quite fun, almost like playing the game.
“But it’s more pathetic than I thought.”
Agility, which affects critical hits and evasion rate, is barely at 2?
Magic, which controls spell potency and manages MP, is at a solid 0.
The only thing that’s worthwhile is Health.
83 HP is pretty high.
Does this reflect the fact that the mid-boss has 15 rows of HP?
With that kind of health, you’ll never get exhausted.
Steel body, steel mind.
There must be some use for that.
Anyway, the charm stat has indeed gone up. 12 isn’t too bad.
“Well then, should I try talking to some women?”
And then, I soon realized an important issue.
Me, Ha Seung-ri.
A man who spent more than half of his twenties trying to pay off a debt of over 200 million won.
No dating experience.
I realized that the closest I’d ever come to talking to a woman was a part-time worker at a convenience store.
“I’m busy, don’t talk to me.”
“I have a question…”
“I have a boyfriend, you know?”
Why did I getting brushed off even before starting a conversation?
Victor, this guy, is really quite distant from women and dating.
… Anyway, Victor was annoyed.
As I continued to wander around the open area, contemplating the need to charm one of the female characters, it happened.
“Mr. Viktor, we meet in a place like this again?”
A rather imposing voice reached my ears.
I turned my head and saw a woman with sleek, jet-black hair. Her crimson eyes were particularly striking, giving her an alluring appearance. But she was beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that every woman I’d ever tried to talk to had seemed like wild grass on the street.
Her name is Enio.
One of the seven Delegates who keep Ludens’ Student Council in check.
However, her true identity is the main heroine of the Dark Guild route, one of the main storylines.
She possessed a popularity that could rival Victoria’s in D&A. Her shadow magic capabilities made her a potent damage-dealer in a party.
“Address her as Lady Ennio, you normal student!”
Beside her, a woman with short-cut red hair was glaring at me with a snaring expression.
“Are you Enio’s lackey, Tisiphone?”
“I’m Megaira, the youngest, you idiot. Don’t confuse me with my sister! And who’s the lackey here? You’re the Arkwright’s lackey!”
“You’re certainly louder than the rest of your sisters. Tisiphone and Aleto have a quieter demeanor. Just a way to tell you apart.”
“Megaira, that’s enough. Viktor is no longer associated with Arkwright. It was an amusing little story. Victor, I heard your engagement ended?”
Has the rumor already spread this far?
Enio strode toward me, her black shoes clicking on the ground.
She lifted a finger and skimmed my side.
“At first, I couldn’t believe it when I heard it. You actually broke up with Victoria? How did Victoria react? Did she get angry?”
Enio’s voice was slightly raised.
Enio hated Victoria with a passion, so it was only natural that she would take pleasure in her misfortune.
“More than that, Mr. Viktor, I heard that you have found another woman. Who is she? Is she pretty? More so than that fairy princess, Victoria? I assume that is why you have separated from her?”
Enio’s eyes, which had been squinting, widened as she saw the ring on my left ring finger.
“Could that ring be a couple’s ring? It’s a Parthas golden ring, right? It’s quite rare to find. How did you get it?”
“…That’s none of your concern. Why are you so interested in me?”
“Personally, I’ve become somewhat intrigued by you, Victor. Until yesterday, I thought you were just average, but today you seem a bit different. I wonder why.”
Enio is interested in me? I feel uneasy for some reason.
“Why? Because of what you said today in front of me and the delegates? You said it was Student Council law. In my eyes, it seemed rather impressive. The notion of equality for everyone.”
Did Enio have an event where she became interested in Victor? No, there wasn’t one.
Then what’s this about?
Could it be because of the ring?
That might be a possibility.
“In that sense, Viktor, will you come to me?”
“What do you mean by ‘in that sense’?”
When I questioned her, Enio distanced herself from me with a quick step.
“Literal meaning. Well, it might be a bit difficult for straightforward Viktor to understand. To put it plainly, it means change ownership. If you become hound, it will be much better for you than that stiff girl, Victoria.”
“Pleasant. I could do a lot for you. Viktor, you’ve never even held hands with Victoria, right? Is that true?”
Enio’s giggling voice tickled my ears. For a moment, I consider joining hands with her.
“How about it, Viktor? I see potential in you.”
If Enio is smart enough to be a Golden Generation second-year, maybe she’ll go along with the idea of being my temporary girlfriend.
I also worried about her offering to do things for me. There were no such lines in the game. D&A was a family-friendly game.
For these reasons, my response came quickly.
“That’s an interesting proposition.”
“Isn’t it? Then make a contract with me…”
“However, I refuse.”
I’d barely gotten away from Victoria, and now to put my life in Enio’s hands?
That’s like asking me to run from a tiger’s den into a lion’s den.
“And my name is Victor, not Viktor. Get people’s names right.”
I just realized.
This Victor didn’t really like being called Viktor.
He doesn’t like being called by a nickname when he has a proper name?
He didn’t mind when Victoria called him Viktor, but when Enio called him that, it gave me the creeps.
“This guy is defying Enio-sama’s proposition. What insolence…”
“But, Enio-sama, he’s disrespecting you…”
“I told you to keep quiet.”
A chill instantly filled the open space. The chill was enough to make the popular Megaira, who never shut up when joining a party, shut up, that coldness, much like the cold air of a lion’s den.
After a moment of silence, there was a whoosh and someone laughed. It was Enio.
“Just kidding, just kidding. But I’m interested in you now, Mr. Victor, and I’m not kidding. And sooner or later, Mr. Victor will have to ask me for help, even if you don’t want to.”
Enio pulled something out of her neat school uniform pocket and handed it to me. It was a small piece of metal.