006 – Whose Hand Does the Goddess of Victory Hold #2
The term “hardcore player” often implies being starved for something.
What were they starved for, you ask?
Of course, it’s new and exciting content.
A new DLC is released for sale?
Even while cursing at the obvious marketing tactic, you can’t help but press the purchase button?
It’s just like pouring clean and clear water into a stagnant pond.
I, too, had high expectations for the remastered edition of 「D&A」 and the simultaneously released DLC.
A new route I don’t know about. New dialogues I haven’t heard. New fields I haven’t explored. New adventures I don’t know about. A whole new world I’m unfamiliar with.
Is there anyone who wouldn’t feel their heart race?
Perhaps that’s why, even though my current situation isn’t all that great, my heart was pounding. I was getting intrigued.
Who is Nike Mokemoke? What kind of person is she? What story does she have? What quirks or skills does she possess? What’s her profession? What’s her role in a party? A mage? A warrior?
“Nike Mokemoke. So that’s your name.”
Even if her name was Nike, “Mokemoke” sounded strange.
She had an unusual name.
Game characters often have peculiar names, so maybe it’s more common than I think?
“What? You forgot my name? After doing something like that to me!? How could you…! You’re so mean…!”
It seemed that Nike had some familiarity with Victor.
Well, rather than familiarity, it felt like she harbored one-sided animosity towards Victor. I wonder what kind of relationship they have.
“What did I do to you?”
“You shut down my club! Took away the key, too…! It was the club I barely managed to open…”
It’s a story I’m hearing for the first time.
Though it made sense to me.
If a club was shut down, it’s understandable to hold a grudge.
Why, the club system in Ludens is a good activity to earn income.
After all, in Ludens, the club system is a great way to earn income. There are business clubs, crafting workshop clubs, adventure clubs, and so on…
Anyway, there were a ton of clubs, and many of them were associated with earning money.
I, too, had Luke, the main character, join numerous clubs while playing.
“It was a club I barely managed to form…”
In that sense, it seemed Nike’s resentment towards Victor came from her club that was generating income being shut down.
Well, I’m only hearing one side of the story, but I’m curious. Why was the club shut down?
Was it for the main story?
It bothers me.
The twin-tail hairstyle that was shown in the silhouette of the illustration, where did it go? Why did she end up with a messy mishmash of hair and remnants?
I was curious.
So, unable to hold back, I asked.
“Nike, why are you here in the forest at this late hour?”
When I asked, Nike, who had been casually basking by the bonfire, suddenly looked startled.
“Why, why? It’s not like it’s illegal. There’s no curfew. Since the club got shut down, I’ve been studying Student Council laws. I’m here legally!”
“Well, that’s true. It’s just a personal interest.”
“…What? Interest? In me? Why? You couldn’t possibly…”
I hope you don’t misunderstand that I like you.
I hope she doesn’t misunderstand and think I’m interested in her romantically. If she were like a typical game heroine, it wouldn’t be strange for her to blush and say something like, “Do you like me?”
“Don’t tell me you found out there are forest strawberries in my pocket and you want to steal them? These are mine! I’m not giving them to you!”
Well, this is an unexpected response. Is Nike usually like this?
I wouldn’t know since I have no memories as Victor. Actually, even if I had Victor’s memories, I probably wouldn’t have had much interaction with Nike.
I decided to choose my words carefully.
“I don’t have an obligation to answer your questions. So, if you don’t want to answer mine, you don’t have to.”
“Well then, I won’t answer either!”
“But if I were to guess, you probably lost your source of income after getting kicked out of the club and dormitory, and then you ended up homeless ─something like that. What do you think?”
“Ugh, uh, how…?”
“Just as I thought.”
It felt amusing to uncover a hidden option like I was playing the game. If Victor’s personality was a bit more flexible, he might have laughed by now.
Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen this Victor guy smile. Not even after everything that happened in the game.
To be honest, there was hardly a reason for him to smile.
But there will be plenty of reasons for him to smile from now on.
* * *
Nike Mokemoke sensed a scent drifting from somewhere.
“Is this the smell of “Bug-Repelling Grass”? Could someone have entered the forest?”
No, Ludens’ ordinary students wouldn’t even think of coming into this forest. Maybe during the day, but especially not at night. Walking through this dark path, the only ones who could feel relatively safe were probably those from the Leshgad Forest like Nike.
However, there was Victor, who had lit a bonfire there.
Victor, the Steel Hound of the Student Council!
‘The culprit who shut down my club…! I can’t forgive you…!’
But Victor didn’t remember Nike at all.
Judging from his demeanor, it didn’t seem like he was lying; he genuinely didn’t seem to remember. He was acting as if he was meeting her for the first time.
‘Nike Mokemoke. It’s my name, but honestly, it’s quite an unusual name, isn’t it? Once you hear it, you can’t forget it, right?’
Of course, student council executives were busy people.
Dealing with 30,000 students and even the 70,000 island residents, it’s understandable if they can’t remember names and faces.
As for Nike herself.
She was in a dire situation, unable to even stay in the dorms and resorting to sleeping in the forest. She was just one among 30,000 students, after all.
But Victor was different.
Even among the Student Council executives, he belonged to the cream of the crop. Leaders who can only be chosen among the skilled. And among them, the ones appointed as executive officers are those who have been recognized for their abilities.
Compared to Nike, it was like the difference between the humble forest strawberry and a melon that only the rich can eat.
Why would such a VIP be here in the forest at this hour?
‘Could he have really been demoted from the Student Council?’
Nike recalled the Ludens newspaper that had been lying on the ground of the park this afternoon. It had an article about Victor being dismissed.
‘Is it true?’
No one believed everything written in an article from the journalism club, which tends to publish suspicions and rumors as if they were facts.
‘But considering that he’s in this deserted forest… Could the article have been true?’
She wondered. However, it was hard to ask.
Victor was intimidating. He exuded an aura that made it difficult to approach him or strike up a conversation.
‘No one has ever seen him smile.’
Then Victor said.
“By the way, how long are you planning to keep tending to my fire?”
“Yes, where’s your fire? The ones in the forest belong to everyone.”
She tried to play it off smoothly, but she was caught in the act of tending to the fire without permission.
Being from the Leshgad Forest, Nike Mokemoke had acquired some wisdom about the forest and nature, but she didn’t know how to start a fire.
‘Because my father was so strict about starting fires, he never taught me how to start a bonfire…’
Perhaps that was the reason. So, for the first time in a while, the warmth of the crackling fire made her hesitant to leave.
‘What if he tells me to go away? The fire is so warm…! I don’t even know how to start a fire…’
That’s why she became a bit scared. However, Victor continued adjusting the bonfire with the stick without saying a word. In his silence, Nike felt a little touched.
‘Is he not as bad as I thought?’
‘No, he shut down my club! He took the keys from me and doesn’t even remember me. He’s definitely a bad guy…!’
Various thoughts filled her mind. Eventually, she came to a conclusion.
‘Why is he here, confusing me?’
Nike wasn’t the type to overthink things. She usually kept her worries to herself, but she decided to ask him this time.
“Victor, is it true that you were kicked out of the Student Council?”
However, as soon as she asked, she was surprised by her own boldness. Normally, she would never have approached Victor or spoken to him first.
Under normal circumstances, she would never have done that. But standing here tending the same fire, Victor seemed strangely approachable, as if they were equals.
‘But that was quite a rude question. What if he gets angry…?’
She was a bit worried. Yet, his answer was unexpectedly simple.
“Yeah, it’s true. I was kicked out.”
So, the story in the newspaper was true. If that’s the case, could the other story also be true? If she asks him, he might get really angry. But she was too curious to resist.
While collecting odds and ends to sell, Nike had overheard dormitory girls chatting in the park. They were discussing breakups and separations, typical topics of interest among girls their age.
Nike used to think it was foolish to be interested in such things, especially things that weren’t worth much money. But this time, it was different. She found it hard to believe the stories.
She was worlds apart from Nike, who couldn’t even afford to stay in the dormitory and had a humble background.
Nike had only seen Victoria, the freshman representative, reciting the oath from a distance, but that was enough to make it clear.
‘She is incredibly beautiful…’
With her flowing silvery hair, fair skin, and golden eyes, she exuded an elegant and noble demeanor, much like a “princess”.
‘Or perhaps, she could really be a princess?’
The Arkwright Ducal House was one of the three ducal Houses, descended from an great ancient king, making her the real deal.
Victoria Arkwright had everything that Nike didn’t possess.
To break the engagement with a woman she wasn’t even allowed to speak to.
She couldn’t understand it.
‘Rumors are probably lies, right? It must be baseless gossip.’
“Then, did you really break up with Miss Arkwright?”
“Are you talking about Victoria? That’s true.”
“Wha…? No way! Why?”
“The reason for that is complicated. I don’t want to explain it now; it’s too bothersome.”
“Ugh… Fine. If you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t have to.”
Their conversation ended momentarily. But then, a sudden realization dawned upon her.
‘Wait, he’s not even on the Student Council anymore. He even broke up the engagement with the Arkwright family. Considering he’s here in this forest…, unable to afford the dormitory and living here. Could he be like me, one of my own kind?’
To think that Victor and herself were equals… Normally, she would never have thought such a thing, but perhaps it was the warmth of the bonfire on this chilly night that was causing her thoughts to spin.
‘You must have nothing to eat, right? Maybe now isn’t an opportunity to get revenge on Viktor for
‘Certainly, there might not be anything to eat. Perhaps now is the chance for revenge against Victor, who undoubtedly caused the closure of my club.’
‘Gratitude, enmity, and debts must all be repaid.’
That is the code of conduct for Nike Mokemoke, the daughter of Leshgad Forest. With this conclusion in mind, Nike hesitated not and retrieved something.
* * *
Nike, who used to tremble at the slightest movement I made, carefully took out something from a basket that seemed to have been woven from straw.
What’s that supposed to be?
At first glance, it appeared to be dried meat, dried herbs, and even forest strawberries. Upon closer inspection, I noticed first-tier materials like 「Flavor Herbs」 that can only be found in this forest.
How did she manage to obtain these? The drop rate for those is so low, making them hard to find. More importantly, why is she suddenly taking out these things?
The answer is simple.
It seems she wants to cook something since there’s a campfire.
By cooking the 「Flavor Herbs」 along with the third-tier ingredient 「Dried Meat」 and the other ingredients on the campfire, she can create a rare dish.
As I concluded from the experience of a veteran, Nike put her herbs and dried meat one by one into her mouth.
“How is it?”
Then, with an eager expression, she asked me how it is. I have no idea what she’s talking about.
Eating 「Flavor Herbs」 raw doesn’t have a particularly good effect, so why waste them like that?
Seeing no reaction from me, Nike pouted and said,
“You’re probably hungry too, right? How about asking me? I might share with you. But Student Council Executive Victor probably wouldn’t want to ask an ordinary student like me, right?”
Ah, that’s what this is about.
Is this some sort of revenge? According to Nike, it seems like Victor is the one responsible for the closure of her club.
But is this really considered revenge? The type of revenge I’m familiar with is a bit more intense…
“What? Did you just laugh?”
“Yeah! You’re making fun of me!”
As Nike fumed, I lightly covered my mouth.
Did Victor just laugh? This is his first time, right?
Honestly, it’s quite amusing.
Compared to those who attack with swords, this is nothing.
Relaxing a little, I wondered if it was because of that or if it was because I was getting hungry from watching her eat.
Victor’s stamina is pretty good, indicating a higher metabolism that requires a lot of calories. Actually, my stomach had been growling continuously.
But I, Ha Seung-ri, was used to feeling hungry rather than full. I could go a few days without eating.
No, then my health deteriorated quite a bit. I’ve learned that not eating because of lack of money is just foolish. It’s better to eat something.
“Can you share a bit of those with me? Even just the Dried Meat is fine.”
Nike looked surprised.
It was a similar reaction to the dormitory students I met earlier. Is it hard to believe that Victor would ask someone for something?
“Well, if you’re asking, I guess I can. Hm… I can’t believe Victor would ask me for help… Haha. I guess this is a success in revenge.”
After muttering incomprehensible words, Nike handed me one piece of 「Dried Meat」 and one piece of 「Flavor Herb」.
“Well then, you eat. I’m bestowing grace and mercy upon you. By the way, this herb is called 「Flavor Herb」, and I used a lot of it. But if you chew it for a long time, it has a bit of sweetness. It’s good for your health.”
Even if the Dried Meat is considered a Tier 3 ingredient, she still handed over the precious herb that must have taken hours to acquire. I was genuinely surprised, as I hadn’t even thought about it.
As my surprise subsided, my curiosity began to grow.
In D&A, combining the 「Flavor Herb」, 「Dried Meat」, and one more ingredient allowed you to create a Tier 1 dish called 「Luxurious Flavor Soup」.
The effects of the dish were impressive.
It fully restored HP and provided a stamina buff for an hour.
Could the same apply here?
Though I probably couldn’t make anything beyond a Tier 2 soup like the 「Fragrance Soup」 due to the lack of additional ingredients, it was still worth a shot.
Who knows, if I’m lucky, I might gain a cooking skill just like I acquired the campfire skill earlier.
With that thought in mind, I poured all of the bottled water I had, which I could call my life savings, into the pot I had obtained earlier.
Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle.
It felt a bit wasteful, but thinking of it as an investment made it more bearable.
Afterward, I placed the pot on the campfire and started boiling the water, Nike tilted her head.
“What are you doing?”
“Can’t you see. I’m going to make 「Fragrance Soup」.”
“…You’re making soup from this bitter grass?”