The story thus far:
- Various things happened
- Various things happened
- Kei and Andrei found themselves on a grassy plain, but Kei was unsure if this was actually Andrei.
- Because he was now a blonde girl with breasts, whose face only vaguely resembled his old self
- As it turns out, DEMONDAL puts realistic handicaps on both sexes, and as a NINJA, it made more sense to go for the massive str bonus that male characters had
- And well, with no real reason to go broadcasting her real sex, Andrei(or Eileen, rather) became known as a famous NINJA
- Also it was Andrei that approached Kei initially, simply because Kei was a Japanese person
- As Kei realised that ‘Andrei’ was actually a girl, he finally understood. Up until now, he thought Andrei had just been a foppish guy.
Also, keep in mind that in the story, they’re supposed to be speaking English, so the raws have them throw in English randomly. Surprisingly accurate English.
It’s kind of like in Sleeping Dogs how the characters randomly pepper in Cantonese for a HK flavour. Like that, but English.
Chapter 5 – Antique
A single rocky mountain stood alone on the grassy plain.
In the shade of its rocks, conversed a young man and girl.
“Our situation, huh.”
With a finger held against her pink lips, Eileen muttered so.
“Our circumstances are special so I can’t really say much, but I can come up with two possibilities at most.”
“OK, tell me. I’ll graciously lend you an ear.”
It seemed that Eileen had returned to being 『Andrei』.
Glad for it, Kei laughed as he raised a finger.
“Well, it isn’t anything that amazing. First one is that 『We’re still playing 【DEMONDAL】』.”
He raised his second finger.
“And the second is that 『For some reason we flew out of the game, and ended up somewhere else』.”
“Well, that’s about right I guess.”
“Nothing special, right? But that’s basically all I can think of with my imagination.”
“Really? Hmhm~ Kei, I have a 『third』 one yanno.”
“Oh? Then do tell.”
With a proud expression, Eileen raised three fingers and said,
“The third option: 『I fell asleep while playing 【DEMONDAL】 and this is all a dream.』”
“…I see. That’s certainly possible. That was a surprisingly decent idea.”
“The fuck do you mean ‘surprisingly’, oi.”
Kei nodded in assent. Eileen looked offended, but he paid it no heed.
The possibility that he fell asleep in-game.
From the light of the campfire, and the warmth he could feel from it, there was a part of him that wondered “Could there be a dream as realistic as this?”.
But compared to the two options that he gave, it was plenty realistic enough.
Was this a dream or not?
In order to test this, Kei decided to rely on a time-old method.
“…The fuck are you doing?”
“Kantyu tehl juff bai luuhhing? I’b purin mbai chiks.(Can’t you tell just by looking? I’m pulling my cheeks.)”
As hard as he could. Making use of his main stat, STR.
“…Mn. Seriously hurt. But I’m not waking up. Therefore this is not a dream. Q.E.D.[quod erat demonstrandum]”
After removing his hand from the now red, right side of his face, Kei kept his serious expression and said that.
“…At the very least, it isn’t your dream, is what you proved, huh.”
Eileen who had watched the whole thing with an astounded expression muttered “Though if we really did just fall asleep, things would be a lot better huhh.” before pulling out a throwing knife from her belt.
“Oi, are you going to use a knife?”
Seeing this, Kei asked in shock. Casual as though she were just taking an injection, Eileen began pulling up her left sleeve.
“Well yeah. In the past I’ve pulled my cheek in a dream once. But I didn’t wake up. Since I’m doing it anyway, I probably need to do at least this much.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Like I was saying, isn’t a knife overdoing it? What are you gunna do if it leaves a scar? If you’re worried about not being strong enough, then I’ll pinch you. It’ll hurt, you know.”
“…Nah, that’s fine. No thanks.”
Seeing Kei’s face beginning to turn purple, Eileen quietly declined.
“And well, bit late to be worrying about that now…”
Quietly muttering, she was about to lightly press the knife against the inside of her left arm, but,
She just stared at her arm, and stopped moving.
“Nah… It’s nothing.”
It didn’t seem like she had frozen in fear. Gently pulling her sleeve back down, she pulled off her left glove, and without hesitation, she pulled the knife along the palm of her hand.
“…How is it?”
“Freaking hurts. I’m bleeding too.”
Red droplets fell from Eileen’s hand.
“Now then. This is troubling, Kei. The possibility of this being a dream just completely disappeared.”
“Well, I guess it isn’t a dream after all. I’ve been thinking that from the start though… Or rather, are you alright? You cut pretty deep, eh?”
“Y-, Yeah… Honestly, it cut deeper than expected. It might be lucky that I changed my mind about cutting my arm.”
There was a gaping gash of a few centimetres along the skin of her palm. There was a clean gap in her flesh oozing blood, and it looked quite painful.
“Hang on, I should have some bandage.”
“Nah, I’m good. I wanna try a pot(potion).”
Stopping Kei from reaching into his waist pocket, Eileen turned to the shade of the rock and clicked her tongue, “Tsktsktsk.”
There was an egg-shaped boulder.
In its shadow lay two horses on the grass.
Kei’s steed 『Mikazuki』 and Eileen’s steed 『Sasuke』.
Hearing Eileen cluck her tongue, Sasuke raised his head as though to ask “You call?”, and turned his round eyes to her.
According to Eileen, when she had woken up on the grass plains, Sasuke was laying next to her, leisurely eating grass.
By the time she came to, she was in the middle of the plain, with just her horse.
At the time Kei was nowhere to be seen and she was quiet upset and confused, but at that point Mikazuki had gallantly run up to her, and led her to the boulder where Kei was laying.
In that sense, both Kei and Eileen owed Mikazuki a lot, but the person(?) himself was acting so cool that it was like nothing at all. Even now he continued to munch on grass without looking towards Eileen.
Having walked up to Sasuke, Eileen took out a High Potion bottle from the leather bag attached to his saddle.
“Now then, I wonder what’ll happen. If we were in the game then it would go shuwawahh and heal in an instant, but…”
Having returned to the campfire and sat back down on her rock, Eileen skilfully removed the cork with one hand.
She gently inclined the bottle towards her palm, and Kei was absorbed in watching her.
A thick light blue liquid dripped, and then touched the wound.
In that moment.
Almost like the sound of flesh burning on a hot plate, the wound immediately bubbled.
Eileen let out a strange cry as she jumped. Kei immediately caught the potion that she had flung into the air. It wasn’t covered, so a little bit fell out though.
After wringing out a scream, even a sound wouldn’t come out of her mouth anymore, and Eileen just held her hand in agony. Seeing this abnormal anguish, Kei trotted up to her and asked “Oi, you alright?” and hesitated a little before stroking her back.
She seemed to be hurting a lot more than when she cut herself with the knife, but was it just his imagination? The way the wound bubbled reminded him of cleaning a wound with peroxide. The potion that Kei knew in the game would immediately heal the wound after a refreshing shuwawa~ sound, but that was all.
A few dozen seconds later.
While stroking Eileen’s back who was wheezing with a cold sweat, he asked,
“…Have you calmed down?”
“It was insane. Hurt like hell.”
“I could tell that by looking. I meant, how’s your wound.”
Timidly, Eileen opened her hand.
“It healed, …but,”
“…There’s a scar left, huh…”
The wound had closed, but the skin there was clearly whiter than the rest.
The image of a potion was something that healed without a trace though.
A delicate atmosphere filled the area.
“…Well, don’t mind it. It’s on the palm of your hand, so isn’t that fine? It isn’t all that noticeable.”
“Y-, Yeah, you’re right.”
“It doesn’t hurt anymore, right?”
“Yeah. The flesh feels a bit tight, but there’s no problem. …I guess I really did cut a little deep, huh.”
Clenching and spreading her hand a few times, Eileen muttered.
As for Kei, while Eileen was doing that, he sat back down on the other side of the campfire and looked at the potion bottle in his hand with interest.
“…I wonder what would happen if we drank this.”
“Well, your stamina would recover. …Probably.”
Hearing Kei’s mutter, Eileen’s answer ended lamely.
“Oi, stop that. Stop looking at me in expectation!”
“Eileen. I’ve always believed that you were a guy who could get things done.”
“I’m not a guinea pig damnit!”
“what “tsk”! I’m done with human experiments!”
“Hahh… You sure don’t have any guts, huh…”
“I’ve already shown my guts, dammit! It’s your fucken turn!”
After saying this and that, Eileen insisted “It’s your turn to take a risk.” so Kei was assigned the role of poison tester.
“How is it?”
After sipping a little of the potion, Kei made a bitter expression, and looking a little excited, Eileen asked him the question.
“Hmm… Well, as for whether or not my stamina is back, I can’t really say. But my body feels a little warm, and I think the cold in my limbs has disappeared. Also, my butt was sore from sitting on the rock, but it feels better now. It might help with back and shoulder pains too.”
“Is this a geezer’s review for body ache medicine! That’s not what I was asking! No, well, that’s important too though! But I was asking how it tasted.”
“…It’s like that liquorice candy that used to be sold in the VR shop. Like that, but with the sweetness taken out, and with mint and ginger mixed in, I guess? Also, kind of bitter. And idunno why, but kind of bubbly; when I put it into my mouth, it kind of went shuwawa, you know? Seriously, thick and carbonated? What the heck is with this stuff.”
“From what I hear, it sounds like shit.”
“Yeah. It’s shit. Tastes super shit.”
What’s more, it was the type of bad-tasting drink where there was a terrible aftertaste in the back of this throat. With a sour expression still stuck on his face, Kei shut the lid back on the bottle.
On the other hand, although Eileen was trembling with fear in wonder if Kei would ask “Wanna try it too?”, but apparently it was so bad tasting that he couldn’t even make a joke about it.
“…Now then, Eileen.”
While fiddling with the potion bottle, Kei suddenly opened his mouth.
Sensing a change in atmosphere, Eileen let out a small sigh.
“…So it’s time to stop ‘messing around'[escaping reality] huh?”
“Yeah. Unfortunately, things will be bad if we don’t get serious soon.”
While looking up at the completely darkened sky, Kei made a serious expression.
“Eileen. I noticed this a while ago. I found an important clue as to where this place is.”
“When was this? What clue?”
Kei answered Eileen’s question by pointing above their heads.
“【Hathnil】, 【Wahdna】, 【Nilda】”
As though tracing the sky with his finger, Kei continued to move.
“【Domina】, 【Kashinaat】, and 【Iarithin】.”
They were the names of something.
“…What are you talking about?”
Eileen tilted her head a little in doubt.
In response, Kei gave a concise reply.
Turning his gaze to the countless stars twinkling far, far away, Kei replied.
“The constellations are… The positions of the stars are completely the same as the ones in 【DEMONDAL】.”
Hearing Kei’s words, Eileen instinctively looked up into the night sky.
But even looking at the sea of stars, to Eileen, it was nothing more than 『a starry sky』, and she hadn’t the slightest idea how it was different to the one on earth.
“Yeah. That green star is 【Hathnil】, and serves as the centre of the constellation, “Famed Sword of Glory”. The red star next to it is 【Wahdna】, and together with the orange stars around it, it forms the “Talisman of Mystery” constellation. That blue star there is 【Nilda】, and together with the stars in line, it forms the “Cane of the Guardian” constellation, while――”
“Aight, enough enough. I got it. …But why do you know all that? Even on the public forum or the wiki, I never saw a thing about stars, yanno.”
Muttering “I never thought about it, so I might’ve just missed it though…” Eileen stared up at the starry sky.
“Can’t blame you. It was information you got in a hidden quest. The constellations and their meanings as well――even the existence of “astrology”; there are probably even fewer people who know about it than there are magicians.”
“”Astrology”? Wai-, oi, the heck is a hidden quest?”
“When you’re going from “Ulvaan” past the “Dariya Plains” up north, there’s that forest, right? Deep in that forest is this old lady NPC in a hut by herself. If you give her a potion or medicinal herbs for her back pain, as thanks she tells you about it. Actually, events and the weather follow the stars. The reason I knew most of the weather in the game was because of this.”
“What the fuck!”
Certainly, Kei did often get the weather right, reflected Eileen.
She was sure that he was just guessing from the wind or the clouds, but to think such a secret was hidden in the stars.
“So cold, Kei! Why the hell didn’t you tell me about this?”
Seeing the resentful Eileen, Kei made an offended expression and said,
“I tried to tell you, you know? But you said “Not interested.” and cut me down.”
Eileen unconsciously froze. She frantically tried to recall this, but in the two years since she had met Kei, she couldn’t remember a single time he spoke about Astrology.
“…Serious? I don’t recall a thing though.”
“It was about a year ago, I think. In a bar at “Ulvaan” I asked you 『Oi, Andrei. You interested in the mysterious laws of the stars? The grand truth of the cosmos awaits you.』 and you replied 『Not interested, find someone else』…”
“The way you invited me was clearly the problem! Are you the founder of a new cult or something! Yeah, I remember now! It was that time! I just thought it was you being dumb and cryptic again, but that was your fucken invitation to astrology!?”
Cursing, Eileen roughly pulled at her hair.
“Hahhh. Well whatever. And so?”
Kei looked a little hesitant, but continued,
“I’m thinking that this might be the world of 【DEMONDAL】.”
His words were clear.
“…Well, that’s pretty out there too. So what, you wanna say that we’re in another world that’s just like 【DEMONDAL】?”
“If you wanna put it like that, yeah.”
“… I get the feeling that a lot of recent anime has been about that. Dudes in the middle of playing games, and then suddenly tripping into the world of the game, or stories like that. You watch em too?”
“Nah, unfortunately I don’t really know much about anime.”
“A Russian knowing more about anime than a Japanese? What a weird situation. But whatever. So if there actually is something like that――then isn’t it just our minds that tripped? Or so I’m thinking. Like, this god-tier update came, and the realism increased, but at the same time this major system bug happened and nobody could log out… I think that sounds a lot more realistic at least.”
“Of course, there are a lot of problems with this too.” added Eileen, with a sincere expression.
Rather than arguing against Kei’s ‘other world’ idea, it was more like she was bringing up the idea for discussion.
“I thought about that too. But you know, Eileen, it’s because that’s more realistic, that I think it’s impossible.”
Kei gazed at Eileen’s face.
“Eileen. Are you using an External or an Implant for your VR?”
“Eh-? …Well, of course I’m using an External.”
Hearing Kei’s sudden question, Eileen answered in confusion.
In the present day, VR Environment Machines were split into two major categories; Externals and Implants.
Externals were just as the name suggested, a type that brought about a VR environment by affecting the brain and nervous system from outside the body. By changing and switching the external machines, you could freely change the features and performance, and had excellent augmentability.
On the other hand, the Implants were directly embedded into the body, and affected the cranial nerves. It was a type of machine that integrated electronics and a nervous system created through cloning technology. They were hybrid computers, and because they were implanted in the body, they were difficult to exchange, and had the flaw of very little augmentability.
The Internals had the advantage of more accurately conveying information than the External models, but there was little that could be done about the lack of augmentability, and because the parts would interfere with each other as well, it was impossible to use both Internal and External models together.
At present, due to the performance issues, Externals were the mainstream, and even many people who had been using Internals were now getting them surgically removed to change to an External.
――With the exception of an extreme minority.
“I’m an Implant user.”
Kei continued to speak.
“Strictly speaking, I’m using the “IMBI-TypeP”.”
“An “IMBI”, and on top of that, the “TypeP”!? Serious? That’s like an antique from the first days of VR isn’t it!”
“Yeah. It’s an antique. Unfortunately, I’ve been using it the whole time.”
“Yeah, I think you’ve already guessed but,”
Kei gave a small sigh before continuing.
“I’m a bedridden invalid. “Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva” they call it in English. A rare disease where muscle turns into bone. It’s been, what, 15 years since my symptoms started appearing, huh. From about 5 years ago, I couldn’t move my body anymore.”
Eileen had fallen silent as though overwhelmed by the conversation, but Kei’s recollections didn’t stop.
“Right now the real me is a mass of bone and nerves, floating in a life-support tank. I joined the clinical studies of VR 12 years ago. The experiments succeeded splendidly, and I made huge contributions to the implementation of VR Machines――but in exchange, the biological parts of the machine melded into more nerves than expected, so I can’t change it anymore. Since then, through replacing parts of the hardware, or the software, by cobbling something together through various updates I’d managed to somehow get around the issue. But three years ago, I had my final update.”
“Three years ago, then…”
“Right. It was the year that 【DEMONDAL】 opened service.”
A smile floated to Kei’s face.
“『A level of realism never seen before』 was their slogan, and I was drawn right in. To a person like me who spent almost the entire day in VR, what I could never stop wanting the most was to be able to speak to others in reality. It was basically like a gamble, you know? The surgery for the machine update. Mr family, my physician, even the university professor in charge were opposed. My body was already in pieces, and they didn’t know if it could handle the update. But I was selfish and said 『I want to experience reality no matter what. If I can’t then just living like this is suffering.』 and in the end, everyone folded.”
Like he was seeing a dream, Kei spoke.
“And really, the level of realism in 【DEMONDAL】 was amazing. The plains and the wind, the sounds of the leaves rustling in that wind. The warmth of the ocean. The models of the plants and animals, the behaviour of the NPCs, the feel of my own body, the things I saw, the things I touched; everything in 【DEMONDAL】 was realistic like no other game before――but that was the limit.”
Looking at Eileen in the eyes, Kei quietly smiled.
“My machine was optimised for 【DEMONDAL】. It was shabby, but optimised so that it could run the game with just a little room to spare. But that’s the limit for it, Eileen. Even if there was a godly update, no matter what kind of technological innovation there might be――”
Scooping up the sand by his feet, Kei was entranced by the grains that fell through his fingers.
“――My machine wouldn’t be able to process it.”
“Absolutely not.” concluded Kei.
Eileen couldn’t say a thing.
“And well, the topic got a little depressing, but it doesn’t really matter how my body is. What I wanted to say was that whether this place is in a game, or in another world, either way would be completely nonsensical to me. Of course, if there really was some godly update that even my machine could run smoothly, then that’d be all well and good. The errors in system would probably be fixed shortly, and all we’d have to do is wait. So what I want to propose is――wai-, oi. Are you crying?”
Seeing Eileen beginning to sniffle and cry, Kei’s voice turned shrill.
“Sif… I’m, not…”
“No, you are crying, aren’t you.”
Eileen was covering her face with her hand, so Kei walked up to her with a wry smile and clapped her lightly on the back.
“It isn’t anything for you to cry over. Long ago I might have cried too. But we have VR technology now, so it’s not really that unfortunate.”
“I-, wrong…I’m not, sympathising, with you…”
“It’s fine I said. It’s all good.”
Wrapping his arms around her shoulders, he stroked her head as though soothing a baby.
Once he wondered ‘Why the heck am I consoling this guy?’ he found it funny and couldn’t help by stifle his laughter.
“…Ahh, my bad. I’m good now.”
Before long, Eileen had calmed down, and brushed the hand around her.
After clapping her on the back twice more, Kei returned to his sit on the other side of the camp fire.
Looking across from each other, Eileen turned her head away in embarrassment and said,
“…I was thinking about something else. I wasn’t crying because I thought you were pitiful or anything.”
“Mmn, anyway… That’s how it is. So don’t worry about it.”
Seeing Eileen say so in annoyance, Kei chuckled in response.
“It’s fine, I said. Let’s continue the conversation.”
“Yeah. So you were saying something about a proposal.”
“It’s nothing amazing. What I wanted to sugget was that we take action with the assumption that this is a 『world similar to 【DEMONDAL】』 is all. That’s it. If this is still inside the game, and it’s just a problem of logging out, then it’ll be solved within the next few days. Eileen; sorry about asking something private, but are you living by yourself?”
“Nah, I’m living with family.”
“Then it isn’t a problem. If their daughter doesn’t wake up from the game after a long time, once it’s dinner or something they’ll pull you out from the machine. I mean, unlike in anime, you won’t have your brain explode from taking it off after all.”
“Oi, you lied about not knowing much about anime, didn’t you.”
“I wonder about that.”
The two of them chuckled together.
“Well, that’s how it is. If this place is still ingame, then there’s no need to panic. But, if by some chance this is 『another world』 then…”
“There’s a little need to panic, huh?”
“Basically. We’ll act with the worst case as the assumption. That’s basically what people normally suggest, right?”
After stating his conclusion, Kei gave a small sigh.
The insides of his mouth was dry. Because he had talked for a long time for once, his throat was feeling dry.
“…Eileen, you have any water?”
“Water? I think there’s a canteen in Sasuke’s luggage bag.”
“『Sonae areba urei nashi(well prepared means no worries)』 huh?”
“So na e…?”
“Nah, just talking to myself. My throat is dry, so I’ll be helping myself to a little.”
Kei stood up and walked towards Sasuke, who seemed to be asking “Did someone say my name?” with his tilted head. He fished through the luggage bag.
“But still, what are we gunna do from now?”
As Kei searched for the canteen, Eileen called out from behind him.
“Hmmm. I wonder.”
“Can’t just stay here forever, right?”
“My throat is dry. My arse is sore. I guess all we can do is search for civilisation huh?”
In the end, the canteen had been at the very bottom of the luggage bag. Putting aside the potion bottle, he took the canteen in hand.
(Glad that she had some.)
Without even needing to shake it to check, there was apparently plenty of water inside. He had no desire to wet his throat with the horrible potion, so it could only be called good luck that Eileen had been carrying a water canteen around.
Taking off the lid, he drank the contents gulp by gulp.
(…I really can’t think of this as a game.)
The feeling of liquid flowing down his throat. It was realistic to an extent that he couldn’t believe it was a VR reproduction.
Earlier, Kei had said to act on the 『assumption that this was another world』.
But honestly speaking, Kei was already half convinced that it was.
――Although it was also true that he hoped that it was.
(But why did this happen?)
He pondered as he tasted the water in his mouth.
(If I remember correctly――before we came here,)
At the coastal town “Kitene”, he had received his vermillion bow. And then,
(we were attacked by bandits, and repelled them,)
And then after that――
(and then after that… what happened again?)
He couldn’t remember.
“Before we came here, what were we doing again? We were on the way back from “Kitene” when the bandits attacked, and I remember as far as turning the tables on them, but…”
“Speaking of which, you’re right. Why did I forget.”
Resting chin in hand, Eileen fell into thought.
“…We defeated the bandits… and then we walked for a while… and then at “Ulvaan Valley”…”
At that moment, both of them remembered.
Why had they forgotten?
Right. There was the mysterious myst at Ulvaan Valley.
And then they ran through the mist together――
“…Shit, I can’t remember.”
Something had happened.
He couldn’t quite remember, but in that mist, something――
Hearing the horse, Kei suddenly looked up.
What he found was that Mikazuki who had been leisurely eating grass was now upright and looking over the surroundings.
His eyes were narrowed in vigilance, and his ears were twitching.
Kei knew. That expression. That behaviour.
In the game that they had been in until now, this was something included in Mikazuki’s AI.
――The vigilant behaviour when hostiles were closeby.
A quiet sound reached Kei’s ears.
A cold chill ran down his spine.
Faster than his thoughts, his body had moved.
As though avoiding the chill in his body, he bent down his upper body.
Within arm’s reach, the sound of the air being cut.
Katsun, rang the rock, as a single arrow bounced off it.
――Somebody was firing at them.
――Why were they attacking.
――How many were there.
These throughts ran through his mind, but as though obstructing them was the sound of a second kahyun.
Another chill down his spine. But in the next moment, he realised; this time he wasn’t the target.
The direction of the bloodthirst.
The one right at the end of it――was a girl with blonde hair.
The low sound of something hitting flesh.
On the right side of Eileen’s chest, stood a single arrow.
Her eyes widened in disbelief.
She looked his way, asking with her eyes.
The girl swayed to the side,
――and like a marionette with its strings cut, she collapsed with a thump.