Chapter 1: Restart
“Wh-what is that…!”
Alicia exclaimed in shock at the sight of the huge goblin holding a steel sword and roaring. In another corner stood Tesla, staring fixedly at the monster with an unreadable gaze.
“That is the goblin king—One-Eye. I crossed swords with him once several years ago. We had received reports that goblins were hunting humans around the town of Ted, so Queen Govern sent me outside the town on an expedition as a special exception. Back then, I managed to take out one of its eyes and somehow escaped by the skin of my teeth.”
As I listened to Tesla, a strange feeling of déjà vu washed over me.
…Right now, in my view was Tesla staring at One-Eye, Mizarisa holding her saw at the ready, and my childhood friend Alicia.
Looking again at my childhood friend inside of Kiwame Quest, something hot welled up inside my chest. The last time, she had sacrificed her life for me.
—I’m going to protect you this time! From that guy…!
The one I was glaring at with hatred wasn’t One-Eye. It was the guy sporting a cool look on his face, the hero of Ted and captain of the town guards, Tesla. Indeed, he was the true villain. He was saying this-and-that about One-Eye, but I already knew it was all bullshit.
“That lying son-of-a-bitch…!!”
I unconsciously leaked curses at him in my anger.
“W-wait a sec! Don’t be hasty, Hiro-kun!”
The palm-sized fairy form of Reona-san flew over my shoulder and tried to pacify me. Monsters and NPCs can’t hear or see her in the game. She was only visible to me.
“You only just managed to restart at this point one hour before you died using Kamui’s trick! However, that doesn’t mean you won’t lose to Tesla again! Then you’re going to brick your console all over again! You’ve got to be calm!”
It was just as Reona-san said, I was only able to replay like this because of the hidden trick taught to me by Kamui, as well as a VR-NX and a new copy of Kiwame Quest rented to me by her.
“If you die again, I’m definitely going to charge you for all this, okay!! At!! The!! Full!! Price!!”
Her two tiny fists were clenched tightly. It was the kind of seriousness she had never displayed before when she was acting as my game adviser. I definitely can’t screw this up again, in the financial sense as well.
Even so, I said without leaving Tesla from my sight.
“Don’t worry. It won’t go like last time.”
Push-ups, sit-ups, and jogging. The efforts of this past month flashed through my mind. It was all to defeat Tesla. I assuredly declared to Reona-san:
“I am the pinnacle of calmness. No matter what, I’ll defeat Tesla.”
“…Hmm. I like that confidence.”
She chuckled lightly. I’m not being careless nor self-conceited, but resolutely confident as a result of my practise—perhaps she could tell that from my expression.
I carefully observed from afar. One-Eye still hadn’t noticed us. Meanwhile, Tesla was calling out to the town guards and giving out instructions.
“Bring the cage out.”
The two soldiers saluted him before breaking into a run towards the underground prison.
“Now then, shall we make a move too.”
Said Tesla as he approached me. He flashed a refreshing smile at me and continued:
“Let’s bring him down… then we can embark on that adventure together outside the town, what do you say.”
That line caused my heart to flutter the first time I heard it. But now that I’ve been spoiled as to the upcoming event, it sent my heart racing for a different reason.
What adventure!? Stop spouting crap like that you asshole! How do you lie with a straight face like that! Is there nothing genuine coming out from your mouth! Ooh… I can’t stand it! I wanna punch this guy right in the face!
I shouted as I grabbed his collars.
“Hiro-kun!? What ‘pinnacle of calmness’, you’ve completely lost it!!”
Still, I couldn’t keep my anger down. My emotions take over me as the resentment of this past month burst out.
“What ‘adventure together outside the town’!! Are you fucking kidding me!! You dare say that after crushing my eye!!”
“Your eye looks perfectly fine though!? What’s the matter, Hiro!? It’s like you’ve been possessed!!”
“Shut the heeeeeell up!! It’s all your fault, you bastaaaaard!!”
Curses flowed from my mouth freely as if I was Kamui. Even the usually composed Alicia was stunned to bewilderment at my outburst.
“H-Hiro!? What are you doing!?”
“Hirocchi, did all the fighting finally fried your brain!? Now’s kinda not a good time for this!!”
Mizarisa faltered, her saw pointed in front of us to the figure of One-Eye approaching. It seemed that our commotion had attracted his attention.
But when One-Eye saw me grabbing Tesla’s collars and shaking him back-and-forth,
He seemed to be confused as well.
“A-amazing, Hiro-kun!! Your animosity has caused even One-Eye to be confused!!”
“Hiro! You need to calm down for now! I don’t know what you are saying I did, but this is not the time for infighting! We need to prioritize exterminating the goblins!”
“No, screw that!! Exterminating you comes first!!”
“M-me!? How come!?”
“The jig is up!! This whole thing was a scheme by you and Queen Govern!! You’re the kidnapper—no, the gobnapper!!”
“Hiro-kun!? What’s a ‘gobnapper’!? You need to chill out for a bit!! Breathe in!! Breathe out!!”
Reona-san tugged on my ears. Alicia and Mizarisa, as well as One-Eye watched on in bafflement. Only Tesla… his expression alone turned a 180 degrees and he glared at me.
“Who would have thought… To think you knew about the gobnapping…”
A black aura surrounded him and a cocky smirk spread across his lips. Reona-san hurriedly hid behind my head.
“Watch out!! He’s revealed his true colors!! …Wait, is ‘gobnapping’ an actual lingo!?”
I saw Tesla draw his golden sword and sneered.
“That despicable look on your face suits you so much better, Tesla!”
“Kh kh kh, Hiro… so you know about the secret of this town then?”
“Yeah. And I’m going to expose your wrongdoings to everyone!”
“I see. Then you’ll have to die here!”
“Hiro-kun! Watch out!”
His figure disappeared all of a sudden. Nevertheless, I didn’t sweat it. I calmly drew my sword from the scabbard and stepped forward. When I swung my blade, the screeching sound of metal colliding rang out.
Reona-san uttered in surprise. Right now, Tesla and I had travelled to a position several meters away from when we were talking just now. Behind me, the guards from earlier were placing down the cage they retrieved from the underground prison. I shouted to them without taking my eyes off Tesla.
“Run away! Hurry up!”
Catching the sight of the guards running away from the corner of my eye, I chuckled inwardly. How’s that, Tesla! All your evildoings are going to be revealed now!
“ ‘All who knows about the secret of Ted will be killed’, was it? But I’m not going to let it go your way. No one is dying on my watch!”
Tesla glared daggers at me. I could hear Mizarisa and Alicia’s hesitant voices.
“W-wh-what’s going on now!? What the hell is happening!?”
“Tesla was just going to cut down his own soldiers just now!! But, Hiro saved them!!”
Beyond the two swords in mid-clash, I saw Tesla’s face scrunching in hate. Faced with my indomitable strength, he took a step back in retreat. Taking the chance, I yelled out the truth for the two watching us in confusion.
“Alicia, Mizarisa! This guy gobnapped the children of One-Eye for his own nefarious desires! It was all to make the goblins hate humans, which he then used as a weapon of fear to keep people from leaving the town!”
Alicia uttered in shock. Our surroundings were instantly filled with clamors. Apparently, the other town guards around us heard me too.
“Tesla-sama did that…?”
“Bullshit! He’s lying!”
“B-but then this invasion…!”
I flashed a smirk at Tesla locked in a staring contest in front of me.
“What now? I’ve spilled your secret to everyone. Feel like raising the white flag now?”
“Hmph. There’s only around ten odd people here. It won’t take a minute to slaughter them all.”
This bastard, he’s unforgivable! Not that I had an ounce of intention of letting him surrender in the first place though!
“Kh kh kh! I’ll praise you for figuring out the truth about this town! But, that’s all you amount to! No one can defeat the great Tesla!”
I could sense Alicia and Mizarisa running towards us, apparently trying to assist me. But, I called them to a stop.
“No! Stay back!”
In place of the two who stopped, this time One-Eye gave a growl as it walked over. I said to him gently.
“It’s fine so you just stay there too. I’ll save those kids.”
As I warned One-Eye back with my gaze, Tesla gave a muffled laugh. He drew his sword back and placed some distance between us.
“Your head seemed to have gotten big from saving those guards, but you don’t think this is the limit of my power, do you?”
“Bring it on. Let’s see that hidden technique of yours.”
Tesla lowered his stance, as if he was a predator about to jump onto its prey.
“Die…! Lighting Extreme…!”
He held his sword aloft and charged. It was a sure-kill move that used his ultra-high speed to boost the force of a strike beyond the ultimate level. However, to me at my current level, this vanilla version of Lightning Extreme was as though he was moving in slow-motion to my eyes.
Seeing through his action, I easily repelled the sword aiming for my throat. A trace of unease finally flickered across his face.
“You deflected it!?”
—Dumbass! My anger is at its maximum level today! I can use the secret technique no problem!
Now it’s my turn. I poured strength into my grip and pushed Tesla back. It was basically impossible for one to master swordsmanship in such a short period of time. Nonetheless, I had watched many videos of Kendo and fencing in preparation for this moment. I even swung a bamboo sword in the courtyard in my quest for revenge.
I unleashed countless blows at Tesla with my sword.
“This can’t be!! What is this!? This speed and power!!”
My swordplay may be unskilled, but using the secret technique more than compensates, giving me a drastic increase in strength and nimbleness. Not to mention, I could feel my sense being much sharper than before during our first fight.
“H-hey! Is that really Hiro?”
“Why is Hiro fighting against Tesla-sama!?”
In the midst of our clash, a certain pair of voices inadvertently came into my ears. Even without looking, I knew they were Amos and Paloo.
In no time, the peanut gallery surrounding us had grown several times its size. Mizarisa enlightened the two about Tesla’s evildoings.
“…You mean Tesla-sama was making use of the goblins all along!!”
“No, but that doesn’t explain how Hiro is that strong!? He couldn’t even beat anyone during normal practise!!”
“I-I get it now, Amos-san! Hiro that guy is a mole all along! He purposely slipped into the town guards’ training grounds in order to spy on Tesla.”
“I-in other words, he was just pretending to be weak all along!?”
I almost wanted to clutch my stomach in laughter hearing the conversation between the two. No way, I was being totally serious at that time! I see, it’s only natural they would think that looking at the current me! They wouldn’t have expected someone Amos looked down on to be driving Tesla, the strongest in Ted, into a corner, of course!
Tesla was completely on the defensive from my ferocious barrage. However, his face suddenly distorted in rapture.
“What amazing power! But, your weapon can no longer keep up with it!”
*Kii* came a sound from my sword. As I watched, cracks began to spread across its surface like a spiderweb. A fierce hit from Tesla’s sword brought the final blow as the blade completely shattered at the base.
“Hahaha! It seems the heavens favor me after all!”
Tesla drew back his Gold Blade, intending to slice off my head.
Alicia screamed out. This was supposed to be my gravest pinch, a life-or-death situation, but I remained composed.
“…I already foresee this happening. You just wait, Tesla.”
As I was expecting, my surroundings transformed. I had left the battle with Tesla and appeared atop a hill.
The sun showered me in its warm rays, and the bright chirping of birds came into my ears. And, beneath the familiar large tree stood a guy I would never forget.
“Woah!? What the hell!!”
I yelled loudly, causing Martin to jerk in surprise. I sprinted towards him, panting deeply.
“Quick! Turn into a magic sword now!!”
“Eh? What… There’s no need to be in such a rush, is there? After all, time has stopped on the other side.”
“No, there’s no time! Activating the secret technique requires me to sustain a state of heightened emotion! I don’t want this anger at Tesla to run dry! So turn into a magic sword now! Right away! Martin!”
“Y-You say to turn right away, but I don’t know what to think if you rush me like this…”
“There’s no need to hesitate! Let’s go together! Let’s fight together!”
“Hey, that’s supposed to be my lines!!”
“Stop dillydallying already! Come on!”
“F-fine, I’ll turn into it already. You just want a magic sword, right? You keep messing up my pace…”
∗ ∗ ∗
“…I-Impossible!! What is that sword!?”
I came back greeted by Tesla’s voice mixed with agitation. The deep emotions I felt that time were nowhere to be found now, but my broken sword had regained its edge. And it wasn’t any ordinary blade. I tightly grasped the sword which now had a blood-red blade and parried Tesla’s strike.
Perhaps feeling an aversion towards my blade which seemed to emit a crimson miasma, Tesla drew back his sword. Right then, it became his turn for his sword to shatter into many pieces with a sharp cry.
“It shattered my Gold Blade with just a touch!? I see, your sword is… magical!! Bastard. You’re a cursed blade wielder…!?”
I made a mad dash for him with my sword held aloft.
“RAAAAAH!! I’LL KIIIIIIIILLLLL YOOOOUUUUU!!”
“Awesome, Hiro-kun!! Your eyes are completely bloodshot!! The very visage of a cursed blade wielder!!”
Driven back by my momentum, Tesla drew his reserve rapier from its sheath. I also watched him carefully, proceeding with caution. We stood off with our blades posed.
“I’ll admit. You are a strong enemy that requires my full effort to eliminate as soon as possible. In that case, I’ll show you! Behold! My ultimate technique: Lightning Extreme Ultima!”
Indeed. There was no way I wouldn’t focus my attention upon him if he said it like that. That’s the dirty nature of Kiwame Quest! The real attack is over there!
“It won’t work! Govern!”
I spun around in a heartbeat and grasped Govern’s head as she tried to sneak up behind me. She froze, stuck in a strange position with her knees bent. She turned her pale expression at me.
“I-It can’t be…! How did you notice my killer move…!”
“Because it was that knee jerk of yours that made me cry tears of regret previously!”
I yelled out loud.
“You guys! Govern is Tesla’s accomplice! I leave her to you!”
But, the guards only looked at one another at my words.
“D-do we capture Govern-sama…? S-seriously…?”
When Amos flapped his mouth like a goldfish, Cathy who was next to him shouted.
“What are you doing! Didn’t you hear Hiro! That woman is a villain too! We need to arrest her!”
“R-right! We’re town guards! It’s our job to capture the bad guys! A-Alright! Someone, go tie her up!”
A short moment of silence passed when Amos gave the command before several of the guards came and surrounded Govern.
“Hii! Save me, Tesla…!”
Screamed Govern as she directed a pleading look at Tesla. It seemed even Tesla couldn’t hide his agitation at his lover facing a predicament. His breathing grew rough and he glared at me,
“C-curse you shiity brat! I’ll kill you!”
“Can it! I’m the one who’s going to triumph this time!”
At the end of our verbal exchange, the two of us practically charged at each other simultaneously.
“Goooo Hiro-kun!! Destroy Teslaaaaaa!!”
With Reona-san at my back jeering in a way that hardly befitted a game adviser, or rather any sensible adult, I raised a war cry.
“You’re at a dead end, Tesla!”
Tesla gasped in shock when I circled around behind him. I slashed down my magic sword with all my might. Without even time to evade, he raised his arm to cover his head. And with a sensation similar to cutting through vegetables, Tesla’s right arm holding his rapier flew through the air!
Screaming like a wild beast, his body lurched forward. Reona-san flew next to my ear.
“You did it!! Good job, Hiro-kun!!”
On his knees, Tesla pressed at his wound to try to stem the blood. But with nothing from his elbow down, the blood spewed non-stop. Seeing the spasming Tesla, Reona-san raved excitedly.
“Tesla can no longer fight!! It’s your victory!! And what was that just now, Hiro-kun!! That signature phrase during your finishing blow!! ‘You’re at a dead end, Tesla!’ That was totally what Tesla said to you previously, isn’t it!! You stole the words right from his mouth!!”
“Erm… well… right…”
“You must have been thinking of that all night long, am I right? Of course you did! There’s no way you suddenly came up with that! It’s been in your mind since that day, no!? That was awesome!! You sounded so cool!!”
“Erm… Reona-san… can you stop with that already… It’s already embarrassing enough…”
It was so cringey that I would have jumped straight into a hole in the ground if there was one right then.
“M-MY ARM!! DAMN YOU BRAAAAAAAAAAT!! SHIT SHIT SHIT AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!”
Tesla hollered in a blood-curdling voice as he convulsed in agony. I looked at my blood-stained magic sword. The feeling of slicing through flesh still remained on my fingertips.
I-Is that how it feels to cut through a live human…!?
It was a raw feeling that I had not come to experience in all the full dive RPGs I’ve played thus far. In fact, I haven’t even slashed a goblin yet in Kiwame Quest. The only battle-like occurrence I’ve had so far that came to mind was that scuffle with Ginji.
Blood spurted out rhythmically from Tesla’s now-inexistent forearm like a tap.
—O-ouch… that looks like it hurts like hell…!
Looking at him, my rage seemed to fade away and my brain began to cool down. On the other hand, Reona-san seemed to be getting more high-tension.
“Come now, Hiro-kun! Time to finish him off! You can do that signature phrase again! ‘You’re techno-cut, Tesla!’, was it?”
“Like hell I said something like that!! What kind of idiot do you take me for!!”
“Let’s put that aside for now, you need to properly deliver the finishing blow! Who knows what kind of weird flags you’re going to raise if you let him off alive!”
“Th-that makes sense…”
I took a gulp and approached the huge puddle of blood around Tesla with my magic sword in hand.
“Isn’t it enoooouuuugh!! Tesla can’t resist anymore now that you’ve chopped off his arm!!”
Govern shrieked while being held down by the guards. They may be the lowest scums of society, but it appeared their feelings for each other were true,
“F-fine. Erm… i-if you promise not to commit anymore crimes from now?”
I said so while sheathing my magic sword. Next to me, Reona-san protested.
“HUUUUH!! You want to forgive them!? Hiro-kun!! You do remember how they crushed your eyeball the other time and killed you, right!?”
“Yeah, well, I get that…”
But I just couldn’t ignore Govern’s fervent entreaty, plus Tesla was now (h)armless. In any normal full dive RPG, you wouldn’t even see this amount of blood when you defeated a ton of monsters. Usually they’d explode into a shower of pixels and disappear. That was not the case however for Kiwame Quest, where the uncontrollable hemorrhage seemed to emphasize this is exactly what happens when you chop off an arm. Ugh, Kiwame Quest is unexpectedly gorey…!
Feeling the blood loss as though I was the one experiencing it, I called out to the people around us.
“D-does anyone have any bandages? Err… oh right, Tesla. We can just preserve your dismembered arm? With surgery, we might just be able to join it back.”
“You’re so naïve, Hiro-kun. There’s no way a medieval world like this is going to have such technology.”
“Ah, I see.”
At my words, Tesla’s expression became all the more ghoulish as he scowled at me.
“Preserve it, you say…!? Hiro, you sick bastard!! You intend to pickle my arm in wine and savor it with drinks!?
Huh!? Like hell I am!! Who has such a gross habit!!
The intensity of his gaze sent me withdrawing a bit. At that, I noticed Amos and Paloo and the rest of the town guards. They were all standing stock still looking unsure.
“H-Hiro defeated Tesla!”
“E-erm… what do we do now?”
The town guards had just lost their leader and did not know what they were supposed to do now. However, Alicia stood before them and spoke resolutely.
“Hurry up and arrest him. Tesla is the ringleader.”
“I-Is that really true…?”
“Of course. The evidence is right there.”
Alicia pointed to the large goblin—One-Eye, who watched the proceedings peacefully. His troops all stood at the ready behind him, but when they saw him put away his steel sword, they followed suit and kept theirs.
“Hiro has defeated the enemy. That’s why the goblins have stopped their attack.”
“So it’s true…”
“Everything was because of Tesla and Govern…!”
Nice going, Alicia! Now everybody will accept the truth!
I thanked Alicia in my heart. Poetic justice is served and all’s well ends well… or so I thought. However, things started to proceed in a direction I never would have expected.
“So you’re telling me the reason we were cooped up in this town was all because of these two!”
“Yeah! All this time, Tesla and Govern deceived us!”
The hate-filled gazes of the town guards focused onto the two.
Someone muttered. And following that.
“Execute! Execute! Execute! Execute!”
The wave propagated through the guards and even the people I knew from the training grounds began shouting too. What surprised me most was that even Cathy, the only one who tried to teach me how to wield a sword, began raising her arm and chanting, “Execute theeeem!”
“R-Reona-san!! Why is Cathy joining in as well!? Was her character always like that!?”
“Tesla had always held the absolute judiciary authority in this town of Ted. He is essentially the watchman and executioner of law around here. Yet, for such a long period, he twisted the powers of the law for his own avarice. It’s no wonder the people are going to have such an extreme reaction.”
Bathed in the unending calls for execution, Govern ground her teeth and glowered at the members of the town guards.
“You peasants…! Who do you think you have to thank that you guys can live in peace like this in this town of Ted…!”
She continued in a loud voice, without caring that her beautiful hair became disheveled.
“The Great King of Auberdine is known to be cruel and barbaric! If not for Tesla and I, you would have been subjected to his rule! You should be grovelling on your knees thanking us!”
But her words only end up fanning the flames of anger of the mob,
“Grr, will you shut up! Filthy criminal!”
Amos swept his hand and slapped Govern across the face.
“What the!! He just raised his hand against a woman!! Isn’t that unacceptable in this era we live in!?”
“Well, we’re in a game so I guess it’s fine?”
“It’s fine, huh… N-no, but if we just leave them be, those two will end up getting executed…”
“Yeap. And then Hiro-kun, you might end up with two more ghost followers.”
“Eh!! You can’t mean…”
D-Don’t tell me it’ll be like that time with Martin…!
‘Hiiiiiroooo!! Now is the start of Tesla,’
‘and Govern’s happy couple timeeeee!!’
Imagining the scene of the bloodied ghosts of Tesla and Govern flirting as they stood at my bedside drained all blood from my face.
“N-nonono!! You can’t execute them!!”
I pushed my way through the crowd kicking those two and raised my arms to block them.
“Calm down and think rationally! We can just throw the two of them into prison! Isn’t that enough!?”
Mizarisa seemed to have thought of something when she heard my suggestion.
“Oh, I see! You want to keep them alive so we can torture them! I see we share the same hobbies, Hirocchi! You’re pretty sadistic yourself, huh!”
“HUH!? That’s not what I-”
Hearing what she said, Govern and Tesla glared at me like I was the Devil.
“So you won’t kill us, but treat us as your playthings…!”
“Hiro! If it wasn’t for you, if it wasn’t for yoooooouuuuuuuuu!”
“Return it… Give me back my ciiiiiiiiity!!”
“HIIIIROOOOOOO!! I won’t forget this grudge for as long as I liiiiiiive!!”
What the hell!? That’s too scary!! The malice is almost palpable!!
But as the two of them screamed curses at me,
“Shut it, criminal scum!”
One of the guards punched Tesla audibly. The others jumped on the bandwagon and littered him with kicks.
“NOOOOOOO!! STOOOOP IIIIT!!”
Govern wailed in tears. Watching that scene left me speechless.
“Don’t you think that’s too much…!?”
The town of Ted was razed by fire previously, but it’s going up in flames in another meaning this time.
As I remained frozen at the appalling sight, Amos walked up to me with a grin.
“Hiro, I must really thank you for expunging the corruption in this town. Now, just leave the rest to us.”
“Y-yeah. But don’t go too overboard, okay?”
Bob and Cathy gave me a smile in return.
“Yes. As per your instruction, we shall not execute them but place them in jail. That will give them plenty of time to repent for their sins.”
Their voices were bright, but their eyes were muddied.
“Now, bring these felons away!!”
Following Amos’ order, Tesla and Govern were brought away in the direction of the underground prison. Watching them leave, Amos licked his lips and smiled vulgarly.
“Kukuku… now it’s my era…!”
Amos and Paloo walked past the speechless me. Bob and Cathy followed behind a moment later leading the rest of the town guards. When they walked across, I could hear their mutterings.
“Who does he think he is? The ones ruling the town now is…”
“That’s right. We’re the one holding the reins of the town now…!”
The two who were my only allies at the training grounds didn’t even spare a look at me as they left. Their side profiles were twisted with a sinister look I had never seen before…
“R-Reona-san!! What was that!? The town was freed but I somehow don’t feel relieved at all!! Even Cathy and Bob, who were relatively decent people, ended up looking like bad news in the end!!”
“When one evil is defeated, another one rises to take its place—We don’t know if they will follow in Tesla and Govern’s footsteps and become the next dictator of this town.”
“Then what the hell did I do all these for!? Goddamn it!! I could have done without this scene!!”
What is wrong with this game! Couldn’t they have thought up a more uplifting story development than this!? At this rate, it’ll seem like I’m what Mizarisa made me out to be, a sadistic bastard who enjoys torturing Tesla and Govern.
As I pulled my hair out at this unreasonable advancement, Reona-san descended onto my shoulders.
“In that case, you should just leave Ted, Hiro-kun.”
“You managed to break free from the town of Ted which most players hit a dead end on! It’s the most wonderful amazing thing!”
Right then as Reona-san showed me a wide smile, the pendant around my neck began to shine.
“Go on, take a look! The honor and glory of saving the town is definitely indicated in your new title!”
“Honor… and glory…?”
Th-that’s right!! When all’s said and done, I did liberate the town of Ted!! All the titles I received so far were trashy ones only, but surely I’ll receive a cool one like Kamui’s this time!!
With a heart full of anticipation, I pulled out the pendant.
[Sadistic Best Friend Killer: Amicidal Degenerate]
“HUH!? It’s the same as always isn’t it!!”
I threw the pendant on the ground with all my might and glared at Reona-san.
“What honor and glory! All that’s written here is contempt and sarcasm!!”
“Come on, let’s go!! To new, unexplored lands!!”
“You’re just gonna ignore anything that’s not pleasing to your ears!?”
Reona-san seriously pretended not to hear me and flew away, unconcerned. Screw this dumb title! Even the previous one, [Sword ‘Best Friend Killer’ User: Amicidal Blade Wielder], sounded better at least!
But there’s no use crying over spilt milk. After a while to cool my feelings, I picked up the pendant and went to Alicia.
“Shall we go, Alicia?”
“Huh? Go where?”
“I’m leaving the town of Ted. Let’s go together.”
During my previous playthrough, Alicia told me her true feelings as she was dying. She said she had already forgiven me for killing Martin. So it was only natural for me to invite her to come adventuring with me. However, her eyebrows furrowed deeply as she spoke.
“Y-you make it sound as if it’s only given that I follow you, but what reasons do I have to do so?”
“Ahaha! I know I know! Didn’t you come to my aid when I was about to be killed? You really are kind, Alicia!”
I placed a hand on the blushing Alicia’s shoulder and smiled.
“I’m counting on you, partner!”
“S-shut up!! You self-centered sadist, asshooooooole!!”
All of a sudden, Alicia pulled out her fruit knives and started spinning them!
On the verge of getting sliced, I fell backwards on my butt. Seeing my terrified visage, she seemed to cool down a bit and faced away with a, “Hmph.”
I asked the floating Reona-san meekly.
“Y-You think her feelings changed when she died once and came back?”
“There’s no doubts she still cherishes you, Hiro-kun.”
“Geez. You just don’t understand the feminine heart.”
Even if you tell me that… I have like zero experience dating with a girl in reality either…
I stood back up and dusted off the dirt on my pants when Mizarisa walked over with a grin.
“Mind if I join you?”
“Huh. What about your job as an inquisitor?”
“True, I do have the option of torturing Tesla and Govern, but… it seems far more enjoyable sticking around with you, Hirocchi!”
There were good vibes coming from Mizarisa who laughed with a, “Sh sh sh.” I’m surprised! To think Mizarisa had a party member-like aspect to her!
“Well, to tell you the truth, it’s more like this town no longer has any enemy at a level that can make Hirocchi wet himself anymore. But the outside world is something else; surely there’ll be countless formidable enemies to be found! If I stick with Hirocchi, there’ll come a day when I can witness a never-seen-before magnificent incontinence accident!”
“What is that kooky reasoning!!”
My urge to just leave her behind spiked acutely, but then Reona-san whispered in my ears.
“The more allies you have the better, Hiro-kun. Not to mention, Mizarisa is high-spec. She’s much better than the run-of-the-mill soldiers you can find anywhere.”
“Hhhmmm. I guess you have a point.”
I reluctantly consented, sparking her to excitedly link arms with me.
“I’m so glad!!”
“H-Hey! Stay away from him!”
Alicia ground her teeth with an intense expression, but Mizarisa only stuck out her crimson tongue cheekily.
“What. I thought you weren’t coming?”
“I didn’t say I’m not coming!”
“Tch. So in the end you’re sticking with us huh.”
As a result, the three of us, Mizarisa, Alicia and I ended up leaving the town.
∗ ∗ ∗
“Shall we get a move on then. The southern gate is the one closest to us here.”
Reona-san who was sitting on my shoulder nodded.
“The southern gate huh. Yup, let’s leave Ted from there.”
I was about to set off when Alicia suddenly turned around.
“Go on ahead. There’s some things I need to prepare…”
“What, what? Are you perhaps stocking up on some panties for the time of the month?”
“I-It’s not that, you pervert woman!!”
After glaring at the guffawing Mizarisa, Alicia took off somewhere.
I directed a cold gaze at the inquisitor wielding a giant saw.
“That Mizarisa, does she have no shame? In the first place, do female NPCs even have that time of the month…”
“How many times do I have to tell you, Hiro-kun. Kiwame Quest is a game that pursues the ultimate realism. It also faithfully reproduces the natural physiological needs of the human body.”
“Eh? You mean they actually…!?”
“Just because they’re NPCs doesn’t mean you should ridicule them, okay.”
Reona-san continued with a strict expression.
“I wonder if it’s just boys who are insensitive to these kinds of things. But, this is a serious matter for girls. You need to put yourself into their shoes! You get it?”
“Y-yes. Sorry about that…”
Wait, that’s the issue here! My question was, is it really necessary for them to implement physiological needs into the NPCs in the first place!
I was completely unconvinced, but there was nothing I could do until Alicia came back. When she did, Mizarisa carried the luggage on her shoulder.
“Now we can finally depart!!”
In the end, I still had no idea what it was Alicia went to settle as we made our way to the southern gate.
A grunt of awe leaked from my mouth unconsciously at the sight in front of me. The sturdy metal gate was ripped apart like paper, causing the scenery on the opposite side to peek through. Now that it no longer prohibited passage, was it still apt to call it a gate? This was the point where One-Eye intruded into the town of Ted. In other words, this destruction was all the product of the goblins.
Town guards buzzed around busily restoring the gate. In place of the broken gate, brawny guards stood in a file with spears. When we approached, they gave us a polite salute.
“We have received word. From now on, anyone is free to come to-and-fro the town of Ted. Feel free to pass through.”
The guards swiftly made way for us. Watching that, I felt emotions well up in me.
—Ooh, the chained town is finally liberated!! I can finally leave Ted!! It’s been so long!!
Memories of the suffering I endured just to reach this point replayed in my mind. And all this just to leave the beginning town too! In any normal RPG, that would have been something that’s a given!
But that didn’t stop me from feeling deeply moved. We passed through the gate and crossed the stone bridge atop the moat. I wasn’t the only one excited; Alicia and Mizarisa too were somewhat restless.
“So this is the outside…!”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever stepped outside…!”
Their eyes were wide open. The three of us were sharing in the experience of leaving the town for the first time.
Beyond the moat lies a vast grassland. In this world of Kiwame Quest, I basked in the full glory of the needlessly good graphics. I could see every blade of leaf rustling with the wind, and take in the fresh smell of grass with each breath. There were even rabbit-like living things hopping in the far view.
I-It’s somehow touching!
I shouted out loud and ran down one of the animal trails in the plains.
“W-wait a minute, Hiro-kun! It’s dangerous!”
Abruptly, something cut through the grass. In the few seconds since I left the town of Ted, I was surrounded by four goblins!
—S-Shit!! The secret technique…!!
But, I wasn’t even given the chance to do anything when the four armed goblins jumped at me on all sides.
W-wait a sec!! Give me a break!! The moment I leave the town and it’s Game Over!?
Even though I was giddy from excitement, it was no excuse to have let my guard down knowing this shitty full dive RPG. The goblins outside the town still had no idea that the feud between One-Eye and humans had been resolved. It should have been obvious that they were still hostile to humans.
I could hear Alicia’s flustered voice. Even if I used the secret technique, it wouldn’t have helped raise my defense. I would die instantly from a goblin’s attack.
—I-I’m gonna die!
I had resigned myself to fate.
The growl of a monster reverberated around us suddenly, and the goblin surrounding me came to a stop.
Wondering what happened, I followed the gaze of the goblins. On the top of a small hill stood One-Eye and his children. He made a gesture like shooing away, and the goblins enclosing me backed away dejectedly.
Mizarisa turned to me with a smile.
“He’s clearing a path for us! One-Eye must be thankful to Hirocchi!”
…After that, One-Eye continued to follow behind us. And whenever goblins tried to assault us, he would use his voice to restrain them.
Watching him, Reona-san eventually murmured, deeply impressed.
“I’m surprised… perhaps this may have been the ideal route.”
“What is it, Reona-san?”
“There are several conditions you need to fulfil in order to leave the town of Ted. One of them was to ‘build up trust with Govern so that you may leave the town’, you remember? That was the prevailing theory among players of that time.”
“Yeah, that’s what’s written in the Auberdine Walkthrough too.”
“Right. After spending a large amount of time and effort to finally obtain Govern’s permission, the chances of survival after leaving the town was still exceedingly low. Most of the time your carriage as arranged by Govern would be assaulted by goblins, and the guards in the convoy slaughtered. They used to call the fields beyond the moat the ‘Goblin’s Hell Road’.”
She heaved a deep sigh.
“Most of the players who managed to leave the town give up here. I mean, think about it. You spend half a year doing random this-and-that, and ultimately after all that you die within a few feet of leaving town. Oh by the way, when I say half a year, I mean in real life not in-game.”
“Wow, this game is really trash-tier…”
“Yup. But if you defeat Tesla and Govern, you can quell the goblins’ rage. Furthermore, in your case, One-Eye even becomes your bodyguard. I don’t know what to call it if not the best possible route.”
Indeed, Kamui did say that figuring out the secret of the town of Ted and overcoming it was the perfect clear for the early stages, didn’t he! I guess all my suffering was worth something!
A certain question came to my mind out of the blue and I asked the floating fairy.
“Come to think of it, how far did you manage to get when you were a player, Reona-san?”
“I’m embarrassed to say that I could only get out of Ted. That was as far as I went.”
In other words, as soon as she left the town, she also met a swift end at the hands of the goblins…
I noticed she looked a little melancholic.
“Ah… you’re doing great now, Hiro-kun! I’m behind you all the way!”
She smiled at me with her usual mischievousness. Perhaps it was just my imagination. I drooped my shoulders in resignation.
“Geez. So I’m all on my own, huh.”
“Not to worry, as an adviser, I have done my homework on what lies ahead! Feel free to consult me for any troubles you have!”
As I walked while conversing with Reona-san, Mizarisa quizzed me in puzzlement.
“Hirocchi, you sure talk to yourself a lot, don’t you?”
I tried to think up an excuse when Alicia muttered sourly.
“Hiro has the protection of fairies. He’s probably talking to them.”
“Fairies? But there’s no such thing.”
“It’s true. I was once partially blinded by it.”
“Hmm. I find that hard to believe.”
“Not everything can be seen by the naked eye. Even now, I can feel my dead brother by my side always.”
Alicia had a rare sweet-looking expression on her face as she looked up at the clear skies. She must have felt Martin close by.
“That’s right. Even as a ghost, Martin is always watching over us.”
I intended that in a poignant way, but earned a devilish glare from Alicia instead.
“What are you talking about, you’re the whole reason my brother is a ghost now…!”
“Eeeeek!? You’re absolutely right, forgive me!!”
“Come on, Hiro-kun. We’re almost out of the grassy plains.”
My attention snapped back to the surroundings at Reona-san’s words. We had been walking for around 10 odd minutes along a wild trail now. A dense forest came into sight ahead of us.
Ooh! It’s a forest this time! New monsters must be lying in wait!
“Hirocchi, seems like the goblins are only with us up till here.”
I turned around to see One-Eye and his children looking at us from a distance. Reona-san spoke to me over my shoulders.
“We’d surely have died multiple times on the way here from wild goblins if it weren’t for them. Be sure to thank One-Eye.”
“You’re right. Wait here a bit, Reona-san.”
I sprinted up to them and called out.
“Thanks for protecting us!”
They probably didn’t understand my words. But, I still tried to get my gratitude across. It felt like One-Eye gave me a slight nod. I smiled and placed my hand on one of his children’s head. When I did,
The goblin children bit my hand!
“OOOUUCH!? It hurts!!”
“Hiro-kun!? What are you doing!?”
Reona-san flew over with a concerned look. She blew at my bloodied right hand while Alicia and Mizarisa commented coldy.
“Hiro. Are you an idiot?”
“That was totally on you, Hirocchi. You have to be out of your mind to try to pet a goblin’s head. Consider yourself lucky to even have your hand intact.”
“Huh, but! I thought we were friends now!”
But Reona-san only stared at me astounded.
“In the end they’re still monsters. It’s impossible for humans and monsters to come to a heartfelt understanding.”
Is this also part of the game’s realism!? They couldn’t even spare a touching farewell scene!? I really hate this side of Kiwame Quest!!
“Rather than that, let’s look on the bright side. We made it past the Goblin’s Hell Road! The main story is just getting started. We must make it through this forest in order to reach Flora Castle.”
The sun was already starting to set before I realized. The forest, dyed in the dusk rays, gave a creepy impression of being draped in blood. Alicia aimed a sharp gaze at the forest.
“I’ve heard rumors about it. Cross the grassfields and you will reach the forest of the orcs…”
What came to my mind were hideous pig-headed monsters. They varied from game to game and ranged from boar-like to humanoid creatures. However, no matter what shape and sizes they came in, what’s common in standard RPGs was that they weren’t monsters to be afraid of, just like goblins.
—But this is Kiwame Quest after all, there’s no way things will be that easy…
As if she read my mind, Reona-san began in a serious tone.
“I hate to spoil you, but I must warn you still. Orcs are on a whole level above goblins. Of those who left Ted through the normal way, only 20% managed to cross the Goblin’s Hell Road and reach the forest. Further then, it was said that less than 3% of them made it through this forest of orcs.”
“I-It’s such a high bar…!?”
“Yes. They are so strong that they threaten to destroy the balance of the game. By the way, there was a mountain of people back in the day who were mentally scarred by the orcs.”
“Err… erm… are you referring to how the orcs assault females?”
A common theme in certain groups of doujinshi involved orcs assaulting the womankind. As a result, I began to entertain an unsavory notion. B-but that’s just me being biased, right?
Reona-san stared at me coldly.
“Geez, Hiro-kun! Get your mind out of the gutters! You read too much dirty doujinshi!”
“Wh-what! I don’t read those!”
“Kiwame Quest may ZZ-rated, but obviously they don’t allow overly sexual violence against female players. At most, they’d strip you and fondle your breasts.”
I see, I see… Wait up!! That’s no good at all, isn’t it!? That’s already crossing certain lines!!
Or is it to an adult like Reona-san, being stripped naked and having your breasts fondle was nothing to write home about? Somehow, I began to imagine the scene of Reona-san being touched by a bunch of orcs. It made me feel awkward so I shook my head repeatedly to rid myself of such thoughts.
“Anyway, Kiwame Quest is a game that pursues the ultimate realism. Both the developers and player base sought the depravity and violent nature of the orcs. But, it was deemed too immoral for female players to experience assault, in addition to the problems that would get with the law, so—after brainstorming hard, the developers finally settled on a conclusion.”
“Wh-What is it?”
“Females are out, but male players are fair game…!”
“Wha-!? Are they retarded!!”
They came up with that after all the brainstorming!? In that case, the developers of Kiwame Quest must be utterly idiotic!!
“And there you have it, orcs will assault male players without mercy or hesitation. Be prepared to experience something obscene and inhumane if you do get caught by them.”
“Obscene and inhumane!? Just what do they do to you!?”
“…Just watch out, okay.”
She brushed me off…!! Is it so bad she can’t even put it into words…!?
While I was listening to the shocking revelation from Reona-san, Alicia and Mizarisa were talking to each other much to my surprise.
“I heard that before Ted became a lockdown town, they were trading with the town beyond the forest.”
“Either way, we need to cross this forest if we hope to reach a place with human presence.”
Uuugh… I’m kind of bummed out about the orcs but we can’t not move on…!
As I hesitated, Reona-san clasped her hands and said.
“I’m sure you’ll be fine, Hiro-kun. After all, you managed to break out of Ted with your own strength alone!”
W-well, I guess being able to use the secret technique gives me just a bit of self-assurance. Also, nothing’s gonna happen if I don’t move on…
“All right, let’s go!”
I hyped myself up and announced brightly to the team, taking a jovial big step into the forest of orcs. Right then, I felt something coiling around my right leg.
At the same time, I felt the force of gravity flip as I rose through the air!
The world around me inverted and I saw trees growing down from the sky. When I saw the vine fastened around one of the thick tree branches, I belatedly realized that I was being hanged upside down.
The look of concern on Reona-san’s face was also inverted. I was suspended around three meters off the ground, with my right leg supporting my entire body weight. Such a situation would be rather painful in real life, but here in Kiwame Quest, I don’t feel that much pain.
Rather than that, I was far more disturbed by the monster I saw zipping its way between the tree trunks.
A hideous pig’s head. Saliva dripping off its filthy yellow teeth at the sight of its prey. It did not have much hair on its dulled vermillion skin and was cladded in a waistcloth weaved from grass. With arms as thick as my thighs, it held a gigantic bludgeon.
As I expected, the orcs in Kiwame Quest were bovine-type monsters. However, like the goblins I already encountered, their appearance was far more ferocious than any I’ve seen before. But, I did not have the time to leisurely appreciate their crisp design. The orc looked up at me and grinned. There was no doubt, this situation was precisely one crafted by them. In other word,
—Damn it! I got caught in their trap right off the bat!?
The moment I step into the forest full of enthusiasm and I get hung upside down by one of the orc’s traps. Next to me, Mizarisa said in exasperation.
“What are you doing, Hirocchi. You’ve gotta be more careful, you know. We’re already in the orcs’ hunting ground.”
That was indeed a well-deserved comment. But…
“Aren’t you caught in that very same trap!!”
I retorted at the girl who hung from the neighbouring tree same as me, her twintails swinging in the air. Anyone else is fine, I just don’t want to be told that by you!
“Good grief. What are the two of you doing.”
Alicia gave us a chilly stare from the ground. It seemed she did not get caught in the trap. Excluding Reona-san, she was the only member of the party still in action.
Raising its club high, the orc made a beeline for us.
“S-Shit! We’re going to become its punching bag!!”
I hurriedly reached for the sword by my waist to cut off the shackle on my leg. I somehow managed to draw it, but it was difficult to aim while swinging upside down. One wrong move and I might just cut off my leg instead. Mizarisa seemed to be having trouble too with the unfavorable posture.
“Leave it to me!”
Sensing the severity of the situation, Reona-san flew over to my aid. She landed on the branch where the vine was coiled and engaged in a wrestling match with it.
“I’ll untangle this knot.”
She was pretty useless most of the time, but this one time I’m grateful for her. Additionally,
“I… dislike ugly creatures.”
Alicia stood between the orc and us with her fruit knives at the ready. Ooh! When all’s said and done, she’s still willing to save us!
“Be careful, Alicia!”
I shouted to her in encouragement, but she only returned a frosty look.
“Hmph. Who do you think you’re talking to.”
Confidence oozed from her body. Then, the bludgeon swung through the air with the sound of cutting wind.
It was a vicious attack which would definitely smash the cranium. But Alicia dodged it with a backstep.
—What power!! One hit from that and you’re toast!!
Picturing the scene of Alicia’s bad end, my body shivered.
“R-Reona-san! How is it going with the vine?”
“Errm. It’s sort of turned into a two-fold reef-knot. Think the orcs did this?”
Doesn’t seem like this will be done any time soon. Ugh! At this rate, Alicia will…!
But, by the third swing, I was no longer worried. Watching Alicia dodge the attacks in succession with an unfazed expression, I began to calm down.
“It’s true that there’s incredible power behind each strike. But this swine is a whole lot slower than the goblins.”
Alicia calmly analyzed while evading. That’s right. Alicia excelled in speed. For her, who can even keep up One-Eye’s agility, avoiding the orc’s attack must be a piece of cake.
“You were the one who attacked first, so don’t blame me.”
She brought the fruit knives in both hands to a cross before her chest.
There it is! Her signature move carved the body of the orc with countless blows! Green blood spilled from lacerations all over its body!
Awesome! Did she get it!?
“It pains me to admit, but that woman is strong.”
Mizarisa said, impressed. Alicia circled behind the orc and jumped onto its shoulder.
With that cold one-word, she plunged the knife into its neck and ran it across horizontally. A large spurt of blood spilled from its neck as it gave one final death cry.
I can’t believe it, Alicia is seriously strong! It was a waste to even worry!
Like me, Reona-san was also amazed at Alicia’s combat prowess.
“Yup! Currently, Alicia’s the top fighting strength of the party!”
“Right… But, Reona-san… are you about done? Mizarisa has already cut off the vine with her saw, you know? I’m the only one left hanging here…”
“The more I try to untie it, the more entangled it becomes. I’m just not cut out for this precision work.”
As I thought, Reona-san is in fact pretty useless… It helps that Alicia is strong at least.
Thinking that, I looked back at Alicia—and was aghast.
Alicia, who was the clear victor of the bout just now, was grabbed by the arm by the orc! Blood was pouring out from the wound extending over half its neck. Yet, as if it didn’t bother it a single bit, the orc pulled her by her arm, causing her to fall backwards.
It strangled her from behind with a neck hold, causing Alicia to drop her fruit knives.
“N-Not good!! Reona-san!! Do something about this, quick!!”
“It’s strange. The two-fold knot just became three-fold. Those crafty bastards, what kind of tricks are they using…!”
“You idiot!! You’re the one complicating the knot!!”
What the hell is she doing at a time like this!
I turned my gaze from the inept adult back to Alicia. While strangling her with one arm, the orc placed its burly hand on her chest and lowered it in one stroke. Alicia’s clothes ripped at its seams, revealing her underwear.
Saliva dripped from its mouth along with a vulgar laugh. Its hideous face seemed to twist even further in delight. Still battling the vine, Reona-san explained.
“Alicia is female, but she is not a game player. So the orc may do something obscene to her…”
N-No way!? Y-you mean, something sexual!?
I wanna see it a little… As this wicked thought began to form, the next moment, the orc punched Alicia in her bare torso. The large fist of the monster dug into her solar plexus.
Seeing Alicia spew the contents of her stomach out along with blood, my mind returned to normal.
D-Dumbass! What are you imagining! Kiwame Quest is no ordinary full dive RPG! Once dead, your allies don’t come back to life!
“Reona-san!! Are you done!? Quick!!”
“Okay, I’ve unravelled it!”
I finally landed on the ground and immediately drew my magic sword Martin. Having noticed me, the orc held Alicia in front of itself like a shield. Already in a stance with her saw, Mizarisa said to me.
“Hirocchi. You mustn’t just jump in without thinking. That woman is going to die.”
The orc had its thick arms around Alicia’s neck. The moment it tightens its grip, it would snap her neck easily.
“This pig is more cunning than the goblins.”
Even though she had freed herself from the vine earlier, Mizarisa did not attack out of consideration of Alicia who was taken hostage. One way or another, she seemed to feel a sense of camaraderie with her.
Reona-san came next to my ear.
“Hiro-kun! I need to warn you too! Watch out for that club!”
“Right, I’m aware of that! That’ll probably kill in one hit, right!”
“No, not that! If you lose, it’ll probably stick that up your backside!”
“You’re kidding me!? What kind of sick punishment is that!?”
“I’ve heard stories of male players dying from this anus-rupturing move! Be mindful of that!”
That’s the first I’ve heard of such a move!! When she mentioned it was going to be obscene, I never thought it would go this far! I mean, who’d want to die from a ruptured anus!
I don’t want to get penetrated by that club. But, when I saw Alicia go limp, the flames of anger stirred in my heart. I pointed the tip of my magic sword at the orc.
“Let go of her!”
“Hiro-kun! Didn’t you hear Mizarisa! You mustn’t provoke it!”
“It’s fine, Reona-san.”
I was confident. The distance between us was around three meters. At my current state, that was pretty much nil.
I lowered my stance before leaping off the ground, covering the gap between us in an instant. It’s complacent face was right in front of me. I swung down my blade at the arm choking Alicia. Its skin was tough enough that Alicia’s fruit knives couldn’t deal a fatal blow. But…
The orc let out a daft utter as it watched its arm fall to the ground. In that space, I drew Alicia into a hug with my left arm.
It finally let out a shriek at the loss of its arm along with a spray of green blood. But, I had already swung my magic sword Martin in a horizontal motion. The magic blade dug deep into the orc’s neck, but couldn’t clear the thick mass of muscle fiber in one stroke.
Still, I raised a war cry while pouring more force into my hand. Eventually, the pent up force lost its resistance and the orc’s head flew into the sky.
Alicia still in my left arm, I withdrew from the collapsing body of the headless orc which was spurting blood like a fountain.
—Ew, gross. Things don’t just turn into pixels and fade away in Kiwame Quest, do they?
It seemed I was the only one thinking about such needless things in a nonchalant manner. On the other hand, Reona-san and Mizarisa were making a furor.
“H-Hiro-kun!? What did you just do!? I couldn’t even see it!! It all happened in a flash and then the orc collapsed without its head!!”
“That was just like Tesla’s Lightning Extreme! Hirocchi, you’re amazing!”
Then, Alicia stirred in my arm, her face red. She brushed my hand off as if she only suddenly realized and stood up awkwardly.
Reona-san shouted out fervently.
“Th-that’s it!! There’s no need to worry in the first place!! No matter if orcs are a level above goblins!! Hiro-kun, you are the prodigy who defeated Tesla, the strongest guard of Ted!! The strongest in the party isn’t Alicia, it’s you!!”
I sheathed my sword and feigned calmness. However, deep down… my heart was pounding non-stop!
Truth be told, I never expected things to turn out this way. I had already experienced firsthand the shittiness of this game known as Kiwame Quest. Even though I somehow managed to make it out of the town of Ted, the ridiculousness of the game showed itself again. I immediately came to face with a whole new challenge which I expected to cause me a world of suffering. However, we actually managed to cross the Goblin’s Hell Road without a hitch, and even the new monster orcs were no match for me.
Reona-san continued in a fever pitch.
“Kiwame Quest remains true to reality! So the weak remain weak! And the mighty can grow all the more stronger! The rich get richer while the poor get poorer! That’s the Matthew effect for you!”
Matthew effect…!! Nope, I have no idea what that is!! What are you trying to say, Reona-san!? B-But, I see!!
—I-I’m strong…!! No… I have grown strong…!!
I silently clenched my fists. It feels like I have stepped just a bit closer to where Kamui stood.
“Hiro-kun. This time you are going to receive an appropriate title for sure. A true title that befits a genius player like yourself, who can fully command the secret technique as you clear your way through Kiwame Quest…”
“A-A true title, you say…!”
Seeing Reona-san nod faithfully, I took the pendant out from under my clothes…
[Most Cocky: Egoistic Snob]
“Would you stop getting my hopes up!? The exact same thing happened the other time too!!”
But she only beamed at me with a thumbs-up.
“Cocky is the perfect title for you right now, Hiro-kun!”
“Do I seem that cocky to you!?”
I admit, I do feel like I’ve grown stronger and that I’m closer to Kamui now!! But how is that being cocky!!
“It’s fine. You’re still young. Kamui was the ultimate snob back then too.”
I can’t accept this… Ah, but looking at it again…
“Reona-san! The ‘Best Friend Killer’ part is finally not part of the title anymore!”
“Oh, you’re right. Perhaps it’s been that way since we left the town of Ted.”
“Yes! At least that’s worth celebrating!”
“Fufufu! Hiro-kun, you’re such an egoistic snob!”
“What!! But anyone who would be happy over this!! You call this being a snob!? Just what is your definition of a snob!?”
I yelled indignantly, but she was already nowhere to be found. Haah… I should stop taking her words at face value… It’s bad for my mental health.
“Alicia, are you hurt?”
Alicia had fastened her torn tunic, skilfully covering most of the exposed areas. And then.
She stamped on the detached head of the orc.
“This damned orc! How dare it do this to me! ORA! ORA! ORA!”
…You’re being kind of scary now, Miss Alicia.
“DIE! ORA! DIE! Go to hell, ORA!”
…It’s dead already. Miss Alicia, you’re frightening me.
“Yup! Glad that Alicia is as lively as ever!”
Reona-san was smiling, but… you call this lively? W-Well, at least her injuries are not too severe, I guess…
Looking away from Alicia, I found an even more ridiculous scene!
Scattered around Mizarisa was the orc’s arms, legs and torso! She had dismembered the orc I defeated!
“What the hell are you doing!?”
“Just tryna make sure it’s dead! Can’t have it rising up again!”
“Didn’t I already lop off its head!? This is going too far!!”
As I looked at the scattered pieces of orc in a sea of blood, an acid taste went up my throat.”
“What’s the matter, Hiro-kun?”
“I-I can’t stand this kind of thing…! Urgh…!”
“Geez. You’re so hopeless. And you call yourself a man?”
“This isn’t normal. Usually, after you defeat a monster, it’ll just turn into pixels and fade away. You don’t see their dead bodies like this, much less dismembered… Urk!”
Faced with me feeling a violent urge to vomit, Reona-san smiled gently.
“You are such a child. Since it’s come to this, I’ll show you my true ability that I’ve kept hidden so far.”
“Your hidden… true ability?”
“I tried not to use it so far since Kiwame Quest is a realistic game. If I use this, some of the realism may be lost. But, this is for the sake of your progression! Time to show you what I’m made of!”
Some of the realism may be lost!? Could it be a cheat-like ability!? To think Reona-san had something like that all along!?
“Watch this!! The true worth of the retail store bonus perk!! WOOOORYAAA!!”
She raised her two hands at the scattered body of the orc while shouting! When she did…
The various body parts suddenly became hard to see! I could still tell their overall shape and color, but everything was covered with a haze!
“Fufufu! I’ve put a filter over the target! This is my ability, Mosaic A Go-Go!”
All the strength left my body at the display of her ability which went beyond all my expectations.
“What the heck, that’s totally useless!”
“It’s not useless! I can even feely control the thickness of the mosaic, from making the target almost nearly imperceptible, to being able to see it if you just squint!”
As I thought, that’s totally useless!
Talking about the dead body, for some reason, Mizarisa and Alicia were gathering the body parts into one place.
“Huh? What are you guys doing?”
“This is something I heard through the grapevine! Apparently, you can sell orcs parts for a pretty penny!”
Ah, I see. This is a staple in full dive RPGs where defeated monsters drop items which can be sold for gold.
Reona-san folded her arms and nodded.
“That’s right, Hiro-kun. This is the style of item-gathering in Kiwame Quest. Go help out the girls.”
“Are you serious…!”
I gingerly approached the two. Through Reona-san’s ability, Mizarisa and Alicia’s bloodstained arms were covered too in mosaic.
“You take care of that part, Hiro.”
I looked up at Alicia who was speaking to me and was rattled. Her face was also a blurry haze, probably due to the blood splashed on her during battle.
I yelled at the fairy sitting on my shoulder.
“Now there’s mosaics all around!! Sure, it’s less gorey, but now it’s just creepy!!”
“Geez! You’re such a complainer, Hiro-kun!”
“Hirocchi, stop muttering to yourself and move your hands. Keep the orc parts in this bag.”
Mizarisa took a linen bag out of nowhere and passed it to me.
“…You were carrying around a bag like this?”
“Sh sh sh! I always have this bag ready so as to be able to collect Hirocchi’s parts whenever!”
“What do you mean by my parts!? Are you seriously our ally!? You aren’t actually an enemy in disguise, are you!?”
“There’s only a paper thin difference between an enemy and an ally.”
“What, no! That’d be horrible! Allies are allies, enemies are enemies. Right?”
While we were engaged in a meaningless banter,
The mosaic, no, Alicia spoke.
“I-Is that so! Thanks, Alicia!”
It was straining my eyes so I had Reona-san remove the mosaic. Then, I looked into the blood-soaked bag.
Haah… You mean I have to carry this thing around? It stinks and weighs a ton, overall just disgusting.
This act of collecting materials realistically left me feeling drained. I placed my bag on the ground and sheepishly said to Reona-san.
“We left the town of Ted and also defeated an orc… It’s about time I take a break from the game…”
“Eeh, so soon!? But you’re still young! Let’s keep enjoying ourselves!”
“I’ll login again tomorrow.”
“Yes, I want to see the new town too.”
That was my true feelings. Reona-san placed a finger on her chin and stared at my face intently.
“Hmm, it’s fine then.”
I retraced my steps to the entrance of the forest near the grassy plains. We searched for a quiet place without enemies before triple-tapping the air to log out.
“See you tomorrow! Good night!”
I waved my hand goodbye as Reona-san disappeared from the world of Kiwame Quest. Normally, my consciousness should have also returned to the physical world, but… I was still standing in the middle of the plains.
—Um? Was there such a time lag between me and Reona-san?
I stood there in puzzlement over my inability to log out when,
“…Hiro. You were talking to the fairy again, right?”
Alicia appeared right next to me all of a sudden!
“Th-There’s no need to be so surprised to see me, is there!”
“I-Is there something you need!?”
“Before we take a break, I wanted to talk to you alone, Hiro! Can’t I?”
She deeply furrowed her brows. Wh-What is it, what does she want to talk to me about!? …Wait, could this be an event triggering right before I log out!?
Alicia came next to me and sat down hugging her knees.
“What are you doing! Take a seat!”
Pressed by her, I took a seat next to Alicia in the evening fields. I meekly waited for her to start, but she remained silent.
In this awkward atmosphere, I suddenly realized that Mizarisa was not around.
“Erm, where’s Mizarisa?”
“That’s not very important now, is it.”
“For crying out loud, what are you so scared of.”
How many times had she chased me around and tried to kill me! I’m sure it’s already a mental trauma by now! Not to mention she’s currently covered in blood!
“There’s no need for you to be afraid. After all, who can even beat you now, Hiro.”
She twirled the ends of her hair and stared into the distance.
“That’s right… you were always much stronger than me, even in the past…”
Her face blushed red as her voice turned into a whisper. Eh… why is she turning red…?
“Thanks for saving me from the orc.”
I was taken back by the unexpected thank you. Alicia looked deep into my eyes with a peaceful expression without her usual harshness.
“Hey. You think we can return back to that time?”
“Like I said, back to when we were close childhood friends.”
She returned to the kind and gentle Alicia I met when I first started Kiwame Quest. She placed her hand over mine.
“Hiro, I’m sorry for all I’ve done so far.”
After saying that, she brought her face close. A soft sensation touched my left cheek.
Right after Alicia kissed my cheek, my world turned pitch-black.
∗ ∗ ∗
I awoke in my room in real life. Several minutes passed after I came back, but I was still staring at my ceiling in a daze. My mind was still left behind in the game space of Kiwame Quest. The sensation of Alicia’s lips on my cheek left my face blazing.
W-What am I, an idiot!? Alicia is just a NPC! B-But…!
My excitement did not abate even after I removed my headgear. I had cursed Kiwame Quest as a shitty full dive RPG. However, I had obtained the strength to defeat Tesla and orcs, and am slowly repairing the ties with my companions.
—Kiwame Quest… might be pretty fun actually!!
The mirror on my desk reflected the smiling me who wished for tomorrow to come sooner so as to login again.