“That’s the airship.”
“…that is amazing.”
After arriving at a town on the western end of Battrol, we hopped on another train to go south. We reached the airport.
I thought there’d be trouble with border control. Thankfully, we were riding the slow train – which had a surprising amount of passengers, I should add – and not the express train. Since the slow train didn’t directly cross borders, customs was less strict. The leader, Isaac, just needed to present his adventurer’s card, and the other party members only needed to show that they also possessed their own cards, and we were in.
They really should have checked all of us. The officers probably found it too troublesome.
So, back to the airship. It really was incredible.
The most incredible thing about it was that it actually looked like a ship. 60 meters long, 20 meters wide, made out of steel and wood, with eight propellers that were obviously much too small to drive a ship of that size. Yet it flew as fast as a jet airplane. Magic was awesome.
The cheapest ticket was 1 large golds and 5 small golds. The top floor rooms were 3 large golds.
So the cheapest ticket would be around the same price as riding an express train, right? Sadly, no. They weren’t tickets for the whole ride. They were tickets for a single day of stay.
If you were traveling within a single continent, a day was enough. Crossing continents, however, doubled the price. Basically, you were paying for a flying hotel room.
Isaac’s group’s yearly passes only allowed them to stay in the bottom twin room. If they wanted, they could upgrade their rooms with an extra fee.
Their yearly passes also allowed me to get a party member discount, but not a free ride. I still needed to pay one small gold as the bed-making service fee.
By the way, Isaac paid it for me.
Just as I was about to say my thanks, I found out they got the yearly passes as the reward for killing us. Screw you, then. No gratitude for you.
Sandrea and Weed impatiently jumped aboard. The two flitted around, going from frolicking on the top deck to watching the ground zip by in the observation deck at the bottom of the ship. I thought they were familiar with flying already? They acted like children. By dinnertime, though, all three of them disappeared into their rooms.
Our rooms were separated into the guys’ and the girls’. I checked on mine and didn’t see Sandrea there, so she must have logged out.
Food was already included in the fare. I didn’t want to waste the luxurious meal, so I cleaned it all up (with Blobsy).
‘You liked it? Good for you.’
I didn’t need to sleep, and neither was there any point in just sitting alone inside my room. I decided to go to the top deck to check out the night view.
The ship had a protective bubble. Despite flying through open air at super-speed, the most I felt was just a comfortable breeze. I secured my hood, just in case, and watched the far-off mountain.
According to the guidebook, that was Mount Leonard. It was the tallest mountain in the central continent, as well as home to one of the most prominent mines. Surrounding it were three large countries, which included Battrol. Their conflicts over the mountain’s rights were unending, apparently.
…I supposed that’s how it goes. Even if mana already satisfied all their basic needs, wealth was an entirely different matter.
As I watched the night mountain going farther and farther away, I felt a magical signal behind me.
“So you were here.”
Looked like only Isaac came to check up on me. He seemed quite the earnest person.
He was holding two steaming copper cups. He handed one to me.
“…thanks.” I said, receiving the cup.
He smiled and took a sip of his own drink. “No problem.”
So players couldn’t eat, but they could drink? For me, everything would need to go to [Packer] storage after a few pretend-swallows and disposed through Blobsy later.
Hmm… what was this stuff? Thick, green…
“…hot kale juice?” I murmured.
Isaac besides me spat out his own mouthful of ‘hot kale juice’.
“Wait wait wait, hold up, what did you just say?”
“I mean, this stuff is…”
“It’s spinach soup, for a midnight snack. Oh man, that was so out of left field. I never expected kale juice to also be a thing here.”
I shouldn’t have said that. Let’s just gloss over the matter and drink the soup. As was my habit when I was still human, I started blowing on the hot cup. Isaac stared at me.
“So this isn’t about the thing those two talked about earlier, but… Sherry, you really don’t act like an NP-a native of this world.”
“…you say that as if you’re not a person of this world.” I counterattacked.
“No, I mean…” Realizing his gaffe, Isaac stumbled on his words. Yet immediately after, a faint smile returned to his face. He looked like he had just thought of a funny joke.
“Well then, what if this world was fictional? What would you do?”
So he was going for that. He believed that I was a programmed NPC living in a fictional world, who was completely ignorant of ‘games’.
Maybe he thought he was just playing a little prank. Like telling a white lie to an innocent kid. All the same, I looked him in the eyes and fired his question back at him.
“In that case, if this world was real, what would you do?”
That took Isaac completely by surprise. A few moment of speechlessness later, he turned his eyes to the night scenery. He smiled.
“Then it’d be great. Just look at this view, this land. If we could visit this place, just the touring industry alone would bring in so much money. And if we could transport the resources here back, our problems would be solved. We could send our increasing population here, and utilize the cheap labor of this world…”
“Ah, sorry! I got lost in thought. I forgot it probably just sounded like gibberish to you.”
Midway through, he realized what he was saying and noticed my stare. He apologized.
He wasn’t a bad person. On Earth, he probably would be one of those successful, conscientious people you often see.
From Earth’s viewpoint, what he said wasn’t wrong. But that sort of thinking was no different from the humans here; Yggdrasia’s humans, who thought of demihumans as nothing more than just resources.
This was the moment I saw one of my choices closed itself forever to me right in front of my eyes. The choice of talking with the players. The path of mutual understanding.
Twelve days of borrowed time left.
We arrived at the Free City of Seis. As this was Isaac’s home country, he just needed to finish up a bit of paperwork to allow us in. Customs were way too loose. We rode a few more slow trains to get to a town to the north, where Isaac’s base was.
Just as with the Trading Confederation, the Free City of Seis was ruled neither by kings nor nobles. A council of merchants and the landowner made all the decisions.
The Trading Confederation was a country of merchants, for merchants. In contrast, the Free City of Seis put power into adventurers and their guild.
I first thought we’d be going to the base after setting foot into the town. Turned out their friends came to meet us, and we’d be going to the meeting place for the ‘party’ next.
“Hey, who’s that girl? The leader’s hobby?!”
“Stop that, Sherry’s my girl. I just can’t get enough of her abuse these days…”
They noticed I wasn’t a player and started teasing Isaac. And then for some reason, Weed asserted his ownership and his dangerous fetish.
Isaac’s friends numbered around ten.
I guessed one of them had the magic stone. No way to determine who at the moment, though. And what if they already took it to the meeting place? Then revealing myself here would be a terrible idea.
According to their chatter, some of the more impatient people were already gathering there.
Apparently, the get-together would be held in the rural village that was near the large grassy plains to the north of Seis. The plains was home to a kind of monster called ‘behemoths’, about as large as elephants. Their plan was to hunt the behemoths, raise their skills, and have fun while waiting for the ‘bunny’ to show up.
When we reached the village, I saw 5 parties of around 30 people already there. They were starting up the behemoth hunt.
Isaac’s party looked through the crowd. When they reached a certain group, they all winced.
“…damn it, even the unwelcome ones came.”
Once our group showed up, the other participants came by for peaceful greetings. Among the hunting parties, one wasn’t actually hunting, instead only torturing the docile herbivores to death. And they were going toward us.
“…who are they?” I asked someone nearby.
The answer I got was an evasive one. “They’re… umm… well, they’re bad people, I suppose.”
In short, they were people roleplaying ‘villainous outlaws’. Characters who committed crime and were taken into custody would be deleted. On the flip side, as long as you weren’t arrested, playing as a bandit or thief wouldn’t be against the game’s rules.
Still, I felt like I’d already met that group somewhere…
“Hey, hey! So it’s first comes, first serve when the bunny shows up, yeah?”
“No, there’s a chance this is a quest chain. If possible, we should all help with capturing her. Then we’ll decide.”
“Who the fuck cares? Fucking hell, we should have gotten the airship pass back then if it wasn’t for that white fucker. If the bunny shows up, we’ll fuck that little shit up!”
…aaah, right, I remembered now. That time when I assimilated No. 01’s magic stone, there was a party trying to killsteal. This guy was the leader of the party I killed last back then.
So they were still doing this sort of stuff, I see…
They were terrible people, but whatever. I needed to focus on finding out who had No. 08’s magic stone.
I began to fumble around with [Cyber-Manipulation]. While I was focusing on watching for any reactions from the players, suddenly, someone grabbed my hood from behind. I jolted.
“Why the hell’s an NPC kid here? Did you bring her in case the bunny doesn’t show up? Will we get to hunt the kid instead?” He cackled.
“Stop it! She’s an adventurer we hired!”
Tunnel vision. Damn it. There were too many players around, I didn’t detect the thuggish leader approaching.
Isaac panicked and tried to stop him. The thuggish leader took a look at him, and then exploded in another bout of laughter.
“What, did you buy her to service you? Man, this game really is the shit! I can even kill the slaves I bought and no one would even bat an eye!”
…he really was so annoying.
“…shut up already.” The NPC girl growled.
“Hahh?! The hell are you brat-aagh!!”
Just as the player holding her was about to turn to violence, two daggers slashed into his arms.
Cardi was his name. He wasn’t so much a villainous roleplayer as he was simply self-indulgent. Infamously so, with myriads of complaints lodged against him. His words, his actions were all far beyond the pale. Yet still, as long as he wasn’t violating the game’s clauses, he was untouchable. If Isaac’s group interfered, it would be they who were infringing upon the rules.
So they couldn’t do anything. And it seemed like the NPC girl they brought along finally snapped.
The thug was still holding onto her hood even with wounded arms. So she tore it off herself and slashed at Cardi with terrifying speed. A strange coat of mist suddenly appeared on her, freezing the hooligan.
“Die already.” She said frostily. Her dagger bit deep into his face.
When players received overwhelming damage, their senses would be cut off to prevent traumas. But as he was, the sight of death staring in the face was more than enough to terrify Cardi.
With his face set in a rictus of fear, he disappeared in motes of light. The mist lightened by a fraction, no longer hiding the girl from the players’ eyes.
They saw snow-white hair, scarlet eyes… and gently drooping rabbit ears.
The players were all frozen in shock at the abrupt reveal. Isaac let loose a whisper.