32 – The Players’ Event

“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).

*boing-boing!*

‘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.”

“…yeah.”

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’.

“Eww.”

“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?”

“Eh…?”

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.

“D-Damn you!”

“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.

 

“…Sherry?”


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43 thoughts on “32 – The Players’ Event”

  1. “What do you mean this AI is absurdly lifelike?” You’d think that the people playing the game would be able to connect the dots by this point and realize that there’s no script at work here and that they’re at the very least dealing with high level AI seeing how convincing people that the game isn’t a game is impossibly hard.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah some parts of this story have the characters acting far outside the realm of normal for the sake of plot convenience.

      Like the scientists that are unnaturally casual about child murder. While people can be cruel and heartless they were just unnaturally casual especially since they are otherwise written as normal scientists and aren’t a gathering of emotionally dead people.

      Or like the humans of this world that treat demi humans like literal animals. While it’s not strange for humans to treat other species as lesser there should be more acknowledgement that they are at least above animals especially intelligence wise.

      Or like how a completely ordinary player suddenly starts ranting about how they could use this other world for resources when asked what he would do if it was real. WHAT GAMER WOULD TALK LIKE THIS!?! If you’re the type to even play a game like this you should also be the type who would think “Oh yeah I’d love to go to a fantasy world for real and go on adventures and stuff”.

      None of these things are how a normal human would act. They are similar and highlight traits most humans have but are executed in an exaggerated way that is just a bit outside of human norms.

      What this behavior does do is serve to move the plot exactly as the author wishes and enforce the theme that humans are just trash. Which is fine but the author is laying that theme on a bit too thick.

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      1. Oh? There’s been Tons of inhuman experiments performed over the centuries. Most modern surgeries are based on techniques learned through the Nazi deathcamps from scientists who bartered their medical journals for freedom, Japan had Multiple experimental treatment facilities that were later classified as morally bankrupt, and Russia also had its fair share of dead test subjects… To name a few of the countries that have performed this stuff during the last century. Before that, Lobotomies used to determine what each part of the brain directly controlled, test involving new types of chemical components, etc were performed Long before anesthesia and painkillers were invented.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Again you missed the point. The problem isn’t that they were willing to experiment on children. I said this already.

          The problem is their behavior in doing so. It just felt so unnatural. It’s hard to fully put into words but it just felt overly casual in a way that would make even insane people feel something was off.

          Like there should be a more serious tone. Or a colder one. or a more militant one. There are a few ways to do it but the tone and casual feeling just isn’t how people in this line of work would behave.

          I feel the problem is since the author only wrote them as a plot device he/she overly simplified their characters. Because the easiest phrase I can use to describe them is “cartoon villany” it’s a kind of extreme simplification that is both right and not right. Again yes humans can do cruel human experiments but not the way it’s depicted here.

          As another example think of “A certain scientific Railgun” and the level 6 shift arc. In that one a horrific experiment is depicted in what is technically hundred of children being murdered. But the behavior of the scientists in that series is different than in here. There is a sort of cold indifference where you can tell they realize the cruelty of their actions but are willing to do so for the experiment. Also there were a portion that properly showed regret over the experiment and either tried to stop it or decided such action was pointless and played along.

          and this same issue is true in the other cases I mentioned as well. Yes humans discriminate and yes humans can be selfish. But the manner in which it’s depicted is just a bit off.
          ———————————————————————————————-
          P.S. LET ME MAKE ONE THING SUPER CLEAR! I VERY MUCH ENJOY THIS SERIES! My criticism. Isn’t meant to reject the series or turn people away from it. I’m merely commenting on the one big flaw with the story. The heroine, world setting, and story structure are all great. It’s just the humans are written a bit poorly.

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          1. If you think the scientists are too casual, you probably haven’t read much about the people who worked at Auschwitz.

            The diaries of many show that it was not only just a job to them; it was a good job, with a high salary and plenty of benefits.

            So long as they don’t have to stare agony in the face, humans can do inhuman things for a living pretty easily.

            As for the players: these aren’t real people to them. They’re instantiated NPCs. So what’s the harm in harming them? Plus, even the human NPCs say they’re subhuman and good to enslave. How many chances would they have had to converse peaceably with a nonhuman whose spirit hasn’t been broken?

            Plus, there’s an interesting kind of artificial selection: anyone who would oppose these things will have been arrested and their character deleted. Or maybe resigned from the beta test in disgust.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. The players treatment towards the NPC isn’t unnatural, the problem is how the people of that world act. Think about it, back when slavery was a thing here on earth, black people were considered an “inferior subspecies” but even then people acknowledged that they were different from animals because of their ability to communicate. In fact, the slaves bought by european countries were usually war prisoners captured by african countries and then sold into slavery (my point is that even then, the europeans would have commercial relations with some african countries instead of simply trying to enslave all of them). Also, I don’t know how it worked in the US, but here in Brazil the slaves could be freed and received a document called “Carta de Alforria” that proofed they were free people and no one had the right to enslave them again.
              On the other hand, the humans in that world act too unnaturaly, the fact that people try to enslave demihumans on sight feels to awkward, almost like “all demihumans have to be enslaved and there’s no possibility of one of them being freed by their owners” is an ideology that was forced into people instead of something that ocurred naturally. I also think it’s strange that there is no country or continent where the native population is demihuman. Even though Europe colonized Africa, it’s not like all the population of the continent was sold around the world in a homogenical manner to allow white people to become the majority of the population in all countries of the world. This makes me assume that humans had contact with the demihumans species since a long time ago and shared their territories with them. This only makes it even more unnatural for them to enslave the demihumans with so much prejudice and determination the tought of a single demihuman free is absurd to them.

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              1. One, in many countries (including Brazil, for a while) a “freed” slave was considered an unnatural and unbeneficial state of being. Much paper and ink have been spent to explain why it was to the slaves’ own good that they be employed so.

                Now, I agree this depiction is somewhat simplistic. I imagine that first, being from Japan – which has recent history of being the empire, not the colony – the author may not be that invested or learned in the particulars of colonization. In particular given how much Japan has whitewashed its history. Second, the author does not have the space to engage in a deep discussion of the philosophy and structure of slavery.

                As for contact, you may recall there are vast spaces between human settlements. Those used to be occupied by many nonhumans, who have since been hunted and enslaved into a smaller free population.

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          2. True. But you know how people cope with doing twisted inhuman stuff?

            They convince themselves that the ones they hurt are less human then themselves or tell themselves that they are only foing what Must be done, and emotionally distance themselves through that line of thought. “I’m doing what’s necessary. If I don’t do it Somebody else will anyway.” Or something Similar.

            By emotionally distancing themselves and dehumanization of the target, they feel little to no remorse. War propaganda, Slavery propaganda, racist propaganda, elitist propaganda, and fundamentalist religious propaganda have been dehumanizing the “Other Side/Outsiders” for thousands of years in order to make themselves not feel the moral burden.

            There’s recordings similar to a journal from a Roman leader(Forgot exactly which one)back Thousands of years ago that explained how and why he looked down on the pale skinned and darker skinned races(He believed Olive complected people had the perfect balance of influence from the sun. Too much or too little made people into a barbarian like subculture that was inferior to people from the Mediterranean Peninsula).

            Why be tormented by your conscience over something you believe you can’t avoid, when you can just make yourself see your actions as just and good? They saw the children their corporation raised through its Orphanages as products or items of it. Hence they could do whatever was needed.

            It’s essentially the same way the people in that world view demihumans. They see them as livestock, pets, or items. Thus they waist no emotions on them. Hence Shelly hates the way they treat the demihumans. Because it is the same way she was treated.

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    2. I’m sure there may be people with conspiracy theories. For now, though, sci-fi will excuse a lot. This is the first ever VR game, after all. Plus they log in, have status screens, respawn… it looks like a game.

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    3. My biggest gripe is the scale and resolution of the world. They are clearly simulating the whole thing at some level, and an area around each player is simulated very closely with room to interact in unconventional ways. This is vaguely plausible at the current level, the world simulation could be very simple and the player reality field only covers thousands, and frequently overlaps, but with the public release? That would be hundreds of thousands at least, they would need a server complex the size of a town to model all that, and the band-width would be impossible to manage. From a technical stand-point. This being an independent world is the rational conclusion to anyone with even the flimsiest of technical knowledge.

      It is also kind of annoying that Shedy dismissed the beta players based on one statement by one person, and that she blames them for killing alpha players when they had no knowledge of it. Granted, it is perfectly realistic for a “dumb kid” to do such things, but it still makes my critical heart weep.

      Like

      1. Fair enough. But look at it this way… We don’t know what year it is. It could be 2020 or 2060 for all we know. The sheer scale could be explained through a RNG generator that generated the natural areas outside of the key areas like towns, cities, dungeons, and ruins. Using that they could’ve made a Vast sandbox like world and added mild AI integrated NPCs that were made with years of recorded motion capture and general programs/personality archetypes that are slightly tweaked within the individuals that fall into the same category.

        Example:
        Rouges: Boisterous Subtype/Crafty Subtype/Viscous Subtype/etc
        Knights: Selfless Martyr Subtype/Valiant Warrior Subtype/Chivalrous Paladin/etc

        And unless they meet enough people to realize just How different and impossibly realistic they are, they wouldn’t realize the truth. Besides… What sounds more realistic.
        1- A gaming company released a super advanced cutting edge VR game that feels practically real.
        2- the government discovered another world using a psychic that looked through a wormhole, they sent drones and convinced the natives that they were servants of god over the years, and that they are now projecting peoples consciousness through a VR system into avatars on another world, under the guise of it being an MMO, and are doing this to collect resources and reate a new type of super soldier.

        And which would you believe? Lol

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        1. … I’ll be honest, #2 sounds possible but unlikely unless the entire thing is pure profit.

          In our society I’d personally believe #1, but in the near future, #2 sounds possible but really unlikely, considering distribution of wealth and so on.

          But seriously how the guy reacts to “what if this world is real” is wayyy too political. Or rather, excessively political.

          Like

    4. Exactly. It makes sense since a game like this is unprecedented in their world. But if you are talking from another perspective, it is more plausible that they are NPC’s than they are “from another world”. While the amount of computation power require to actually simulate that many humans is out of our reach, its still theoretically possible with just a large enough computation power. On the other hand, going to another world and all that “mana” thing is much more fantasy like, thus far less likely to be believed. Hell, we might be able to get there in a few centuries, at least replicating basic human behaviour.

      Anyway, that is not how you should think. Instead this is a ethical problem. If you actually had the power to simulate NPC’s that are this real, then there would be consequences. All this implies that the game company and the government exist in a shell of absolute power, or that the field of ethics never evolved in their world. Or that the game doesn’t receive any media attention whatsoever, and no journalist/scientist/intelligent human being actually played the game. They are doing a beta after all, so I guess they must screen the players heavily. Given their technology, how hard is it to simply reduce the complexity of the NPC behaviour from the eyes of the players? And, while the “big bad government” or “government conspiracy” is really popular, it doesn’t work in the real world given the sheer size of the government, there is always a whistleblower, and for something of this scale there will inevitably be people who will report the truth.

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  2. did I forget something? why is the player associating rabbit with the white mist monster? As far as I remember white mist monster is officially dead.

    Like

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