Accel World:Volume 2 Chapter 3
Haruyuki could not understand the meaning of Red King Yuniko’s words. Takumu was probably the same, his eyebrows behind the glasses were slightly raised.
The one who showed extreme reaction was Kuroyukihime.
The right hand that she used to reach for her coffee cup was suddenly clenched together. Banging on the table with that fist, the Black King shouted.
“No way! That «Armor» is... supposed to be totally annihilated!!”
She stopped there with her eyes going empty and face white, Haruyuki fearfully asked.
“Ah... that is. What is that... Disaster Armor? It isn’t a human, but a thing?”
Kuroyukihime continued to be silent for a few more seconds, then eventually leaned back on her chair and took a long breath.
While crossing her stocking legs, she turned her upper body toward Haruyuki.
“Nn... about that... As a human it’s a Burst Linker, as a thing it’s an object... it could be said to be like that. Haruyuki-kun, do you remember your first duel opponent?”
“Wha, y, yes. That bike guy... «Ash Roller».”
While that flashy chop bike and skeleton helmet appeared in his mind, Haruyuki nodded. He belonged to the Green legion whose territory ranged from Shibuya to Roppongi. They still fought once in a while with some wins and some losses.
“That man’s bike. That’s an object other than the rider himself, however together they make up the Duel Avatar. So that’s a thing and a person, isn’t that right?”
“Let’s see... that, is right. For sure.”
He nodded again.
“That kind of external item, is called an «Enhanced Armament» in the Brain Burst system.”
Somehow, a cool name appeared.
Haruyuki was momentarily excited, but it was soon replaced by depression. For the empty handed Silver Crow, no matter how you put it, he did not have any.
Realizing what Haruyuki was thinking, Kuroyukihime said with a small wry smile.
“I don’t have any either, don’t be so depressed.”
“But I have.”
Yuniko said with relaxed lips. And was immediately bathed in Kuroyukihime’s sharp sound.
“In your case, instead of having, it’s more like the armament is the actual body.”
“Oh, I heard a nice loser phrase.”
Between the two glaring at each other, Haruyuki hurriedly cut in.
“I, I see. Scarlet Rain’s, that incredible firepower container... that is all an «Enhanced Armament», right?”
“That is right. However, it’s not such a rare thing that could make this little girl proud. There are four ways to obtain it.”
Kuroyukihime extended her thumb from her raised right fist, and continued.
“First, as beginner equipment at the start. Ash Roller’s bike is probably that.”
“My right hand’s «Pile Driver» is also that right.”
Hearing what Takumu interrupted with, Haruyuki involuntarily said ‘What’.
“Why does Taku also have one!”
“There there, let’s listen.”
Her extending index finger’s nail snapped the air.
“Second, obtained using level up bonus. If it does not exist in the bonus selection, that’s impossible.”
“...I didn’t have any...”
Haruyuki whispered after remembering the three level ups till now. Other than that, he already followed Kuroyukihime’s advice and put all of his level up bonuses into speed and flight time upgrades.
Next Kuroyukihime lifted her middle finger and continued with the explanation.
“And the third. Use points to buy in a «Shop». Here it is possible for Haruyuki-kun too, well, I would not recommend it.”
“Huh? Shop... that is a store? That, where is it?”
“Secret. I can easily imagine that you will waste all your points.”
“N, no way.”
With ‘Ahaha’ laugh, Takumu also nodded.
“Without doubt. Haru’s personality changes when he goes to that kind of store.”
“Wh, what’s with you two...”
The relaxed air flowing around the living room - .
Was cut by Yuniko’s one sharp sound.
“...Hurry and say the fourth way.”
Kuroyukihime took the Red King’s dangerous look directly, nodded slightly, however did not say anything right after that.
Then, Yuniko extended her hand, forcefully extended Kuroyukihime’s ring finger, and spit out a short sentence.
“Fourth. «Take forcefully by killing».”
To the wide eyed Haruyuki, Kuroyukihime sighed and added.
“This, is still not fully understood phenomenon but... when a Burst Linker with an «Enhanced Armament» loses, if at that point his Burst Point became zero and forever leaves the accelerated world, there are cases where the ownership of the loser’s armament will transfer to the winner.”
“Low rate random event, is the current theory.”
Yuniko interrupted with that, then held the back of her head with both hands.
“But, that does not apply to «Disaster Armor»... Transfer rate 100%, a perfect cursed item...”
Murmuring that, Kuroyukihime ground her teeth and snapped.
“Not possible. It was supposed to be destroyed. Two and half years ago, I clearly saw that «Armor»... «Chrome Disaster»’s final moment, and confirmed its annihilation!”
‘- Chrome Disaster is the legendary name of a Burst Linker from the early days of accelerated world from seven years ago.’
Kuroyukihime’s story started with those words.
‘- Covered in metallic grey knight like «enhanced armament», his incredible fighting power covered the ground with many dead Linkers. His fighting style was severe, or more like cruel, those who surrendered, heads were cut off, limbs disemboweled, it was violent to the extreme.
However, he who forced many opponents to forever lose Brain Burst, his final day also arrived. Aside from him, the highest leveled Burst Linkers at that time allied, and continued to go after only Chrome Disaster for duels.
Eventually his points dropped to zero and at the moment he «died» in the accelerated world, he shouted with a loud laughter. “I curse this world. Corrupt. I will revive again and again”.
Those words were true. The Burst Linker named Chrome Disaster retired, but the Armor... the enhanced armament did not disappear. Its ownership transferred to one of the people in the subjugation alliance; lost to the lure of curiosity and the mentality of the Linker who put that on... was taken over. The till then admired noble leader, changed into a cruel killer over night. That savage shape could not be distinguished from the «First generation».’
Kuroyukihime stopped there, after she wet her throat with coffee, she continued in a low voice.
“The same thing happened three times. The owner of the «Armor» went on fearsome ravages, and was subjugated. However the armor did not disappear, it changed owners and changed personality and shape one by one... that Burst Linker no longer used his original name and became known as Chrome Disaster. Two and half years ago when I was already one of the «Pure color seven kings», I joined the subjugation of the fourth Chrome Disaster with the other kings. How incredible that fight was... I still feel it in my skin now. It could not be told in words...”
She returned the cup and rubbed her arms through her uniform, then Kuroyukihime’s tone suddenly changed.
“Then, Haruyuki-kun. Sorry, but can you find two direct connect cables?”
“Wha... ca, cable!? And two of them...?”
“I have one already. The length, well, about one meter is fine.”
Haruyuki stood up while not understanding what’s going on, ran to his own room, took two XSB cables from the wire rack on the wall and returned to the living room.
“There were just two cables. Let’s see the length, this one is one meter, this one... err, 50cm.”
While he shrug his head and dangle the cables from his hands, Yuniko stood up with an understanding like face.
“Hahaa, that huh. OK OK, I will endure the 50cm one.”
She grinned, took the short cable from Haruyuki’s left hand and plugged that into the connector on her red Neuro Linker. At that moment.
“H... hey, don’t kid me! I will use that!”
Yuniko dodged Kuroyukihime’s extended hand and jumped to Haruyuki’s left side. Her body with youthful hardness was stuck to him and a sweet and sour like smell also drifted by. Haruyuki was lightly stunned. She hung onto his neck and extended the plug. Without any time to avoid, it was plugged into his Neuro Linker and wired connection warning appeared in front of his eyes and disappeared.
“U, uwaa!? Wh, what...”
Looking up at the flustered Haruyuki, Yuniko said with a fearless smile.
“Hey, hurry and plug in that long one, then give it to that girl. Ah, also, if you peek in my memory you will be sorry, so careful.”
With that speech, Haruyuki finally understood the meaning of three cables. Kuroyukihime wanted to daisy chain the Neuro Linkers of the four people here.
Takumu and Yuniko’s Neuro Linkers are the light weight type with only one external connection terminal. To connect four people, it has to be done with the double terminal high end type Neuro Linkers of Kuroyukihime and Haruyuki in the middle. Yuniko who realized that quickly, must have picked the shortest cable to annoy Kuroyukihime. With an instant effect, Kuroyukihime’s right cheek jerked and her fists shook as she shouted in a threatening tone.
“Hey you, don’t stick so close to him!”
“I have no choice, the cable is short.”
“You selected that one!”
Kuroyukihime who raised her voice, eventually snorted and looked down at the Red King with an absolute zero degree black snow smile.
“Exactly, that’s why I hate kids. Cable length as a measure of intimacy, truly ridiculous!”
“Oho, no one said that right? I just thought the shorter one will have less signal lost.”
“Y, y, you...”
Seeing that absolute zero temperature raising quickly to the temperature of the sun’s surface, Haruyuki extended the cable, connected the other terminal on his Neuro Linker towards Kuroyukihime with ‘Your majesty please excuse this with your understanding!’ look in his eyes desperately. Kuroyukihime snatched that, while plugging it into her own Neuro Linker, she took out the usual two meter cable from her pocket and handed it to Takumu.
As the half amazed and half smiling Takumu looked on while plugging that in, another two direct connection warnings appeared and the four people’s Neuro Linkers were finally directly connected, Haruyuki relaxed with a sigh.
“...Ah, th, this... what is it for?”
“First, let’s sit.”
After saying that with a still gruff voice, Kuroyukihime sat down properly onto the living room floor. Before the cable was pulled tight, Haruyuki hurriedly follow suit, and Yuniko also sat down while sticking to his left side.
Finally, Takumu sat down properly like he was wearing a kendo uniform, and glanced at Kuroyukihime.
“Master, do we «Accelerate»?”
“No, no need for that. After the full sensory mode, fly towards the access gate shown. Then, let’s go... Direct Link.”
Seeing Kuroyukihime closing her eyes and relaxing her shoulders, Haruyuki hurriedly sang the command.
Bit by bit, his fully body senses and the surrounding view went away. The Neuro Linker canceled the five real senses and led the consciousness towards the virtual world. In the darkness, only a strong falling sensation could be felt. If he kept waiting, he would full dive into Arita house’s home net. But before that happened, a round and shining access gate floated in front of him.
He extended his unseen right hand and the moment he touched it, Haruyuki’s consciousness was drawn in by the gate.
Light expanded from the center of his view and covered Haruyuki. The scenery from deeper inside was an unlimited wilderness lined by many strange purple rocks.
While he was wondering where this place was, he looked down and was a bit shaky when he could not see his own body. However soon, he realized that this is not a virtual world but a VR movie that is a recorded video directly played in his brain. As evidence, the lower right of his view had a number that counted the play time and a slide bar.
When he asked, a reply came from his right side.
“I am here. Takumu-kun, and the little girl is here too?”
He could not see her but it was without a doubt Kuroyukihime’s voice. Continuing, “Yes”, and “Stop calling me like that” two sounds echoed. Haruyuki looked around again, after determining there were only rock formations, he timidly inquired.
“Err... wh, what is this movie file that is playing? If it is just watching a movie, why go to the trouble of direct connecting everyone...?”
“To stop any chance of it leaking outside. If I send it through your house’s home net to everyone, there will be a cache left in the apartment server.”
“I, I see.”
He now understood the reason for direct connection, but the content of the movie was still a mystery. It could not be a movie that needed such precautions, as Haruyuki tilted his unseen head, at that moment - .
Suddenly he heard a sharp wind cutting sound above. Without the time to look up, around 10 meters in front of him, a shape landed with a sharp sound.
Deep black shining half transparent armor. Long and sharp sword like limbs. V shape head. Without a doubt, it is Kuroyukihime’s duel avatar, «Black Lotus».
“That is, senpai...?”
To Haruyuki’s involuntarily shout, Kuroyukihime answered with a ‘Un’.
“That’s me. That is, two and half years ago.”
“Two... and half years. No, before that... since senpai is in that shape, this is «accelerated world» right? That means this is a recording of a «duel»...?”
‘Does Brain Burst have this kind of function?’ he wondered and was about to ask, this time from his left side, Yuniko’s voice echoed.
“Something called «Replay». A shit expensive item that can record. Instead of that, two and half years ago means this is what you earlier mentioned as «Pure color seven kings» vs «Chrome Disaster» fight’s replay, right? Then why just you?”
“No, another will come soon.”
Before those words were finished, from left side of the scenery a new duel avatar’s shape appeared. ‘Is this a many vs one battle?’, while Haruyuki wondered in mystery, he stared at it.
About one head taller than Black Lotus. Slender, but with athletic limbs that have a feeling of volume. Left hand held a thick rectangle shield and right hand empty. The color of full body armor is - emerald like deep green.
“What a beautiful green color... master, that is...?”
Kuroyukihime replied to Takumu’s low sound.
“Yes. The «Green King». Affinity type is close range or indirect... but, the second name more accurately describes the ability. That is «Invulnerable».”
“Looks stiff. From rumors, all losses were from time out, and at those times its HP never went below half... that must be a lie.”
“You will understand if you watch.”
When Kuroyukihime curtly replied to Yuniko’s mocking tone, in the movie, Black Lotus approached the green avatar, and indicated with gesture the shade of a large rock right nearby. The Green King nodded silently, went behind the rock and leaned back against it. The Black King also hid behind a rock a bit further away. Clearly, they were trying for an ambush.
Even understanding that this was a past recording, Haruyuki looked on while holding his breath. Suddenly ‘crackle’ like small sound echoed from his left side.
He moved his view. The crackle crackle sound of dry ground being stepped on came slowly closer.
A few seconds later, what appeared between the rock formations was a very huge duel avatar. Probably 50cm taller than the Green King. The body covered in bellow like metallic armor was strangely elongated, and the head tilted forward like a snake. Left and right arms were unbelievably long too. The hands that dangle down held a crude broad ax, its thick blade almost scraping the ground.
The head was covered in a worm like slippery cylinder, with two black holes at the top. From the darkness inside, red filled eyes moved around.
The full body armor was deep black cloudy silver. The avatar that looked around while sunlight reflected lightly off it suddenly stood still and stared straight at Haruyuki. At that moment, Haruyuki forgot that this was a recorded movie, and froze on the spot.
‘- What is this. This is a... Burst Linker? An avatar controlled by a real person?’
‘No way. This is like a robot... no, a wild beast.’
“This guy is... the fourth «Chrome Disaster»? Compared to the currently ravaging fifth, the form and size are totally different.”
To be expected, relaxed, however some light tension mixed in Yuniko’s murmur.
“It should be like that. That black silver armor is an «Enhanced Armament», it would change depending on the shape of the avatar who wears it. But, its characteristic won’t change no matter how many hundred generations. That is, thoughts of only insane attacks...”
Kuroyukihime responded quietly, like being led by those words, the huge black silver avatar raised the large ax silently.
What the blade aimed for, was clearly the rock «Green King» was hiding behind. With whatever method, or just direct feeling, Chrome Disaster found out about the ambush.
With a carnivorous beast like roar, the ax was swung down with furious speed. The thick rock was cut in half like butter, however right before that, the green avatar jumped out to the side of the rock’s shade.
To chase after that, the huge ax was swung again. The Green King that turned around, this time he did not dodge, and held up the shield in left hand instead.
Right after that, with a sharp metallic sound the shield extended in four directions, and from its rectangle shape changed to a huge cross shape. It was a size that covered all of the Green King’s body. In the center of that, the crude ax hit with power from high up.
With a loud noise that hurts the ears, waterfall like sparks flew. The ax was rebounded, but the Green King also knelt down.
An angry and joyful sound leaked out of Chrome Disaster, with unreasonable moves, he swung the ax down many times. The attacks where even one hit could cut apart a body, the Green King’s cross shield continued to guard against them simply.
It was then that Haruyuki finally noticed that Chrome Disaster’s black silver armor had many deep wound like openings. While the ax was swung, from those wounds came black fog like substance that spread out in the air.
After he unconsciously murmured, Kuroyukihime coolly replied.
“That’s right. That guy fought with other kings earlier and was driven here. As for the health gauge, it’s near death. But still that savage. At that time, I was frightened to the depth of my heart.”
‘That would be the case. Even watching a replay like this, the urge to run away is strong.’
While he whispered in his mind, he felt that his supposed to be sensory cut real body’s hairs were raised. Actually, it’s unthinkable. Against the strongest in the accelerated world, the «Kings», this one sided crazy rampage - furthermore, this was near death stage. This means, Chrome Disaster’s actual strength, could only be beyond level 9.
Maybe Chrome Disaster got annoyed with the Green King since no matter how many times the ax hit, it could not break the defense, so it made a low growl. While continuing the attacks, that long head extended - suddenly, the mouth opened with a wet sound.
From the mouth, or more like a concentric suction hole’s center, a long tube like tongue extended, that Haruyuki stared at while dazed. At that time Kuroyukihime said with a sharp sound.
“That, is one of Chrome Disaster’s abilities, «Health Drain». That guy can steal duel opponent’s HP gauge.”
Like those words said, the long tube went around the Green King’s shield and extended near the neck.
Haruyuki shouted in reaction, and right after.
The till now not joining the battle even once, hidden Black Lotus jumped out from deep to the view like a black lightning bolt.
Her right hand sword swung down with unseen speed and cut off Chrome Disaster’s tongue from the root.
From the round mouth, a clear scream and black darkness spew as the huge avatar leaned backward. Aiming for the large wound on its chest, Black Lotus’s left leg sword pierced all the way through without mercy.
The long blade that pierced through the back suddenly shone a dazzling violet. The Black King raised her leg and cut upwards, dancing higher above, and elegantly flipped around. Before the shining deep black avatar landed, Chrome Disaster’s head was split in two - .
There, the slide bar that showed play time in the lower right reached the far end.
With Link Out command, Haruyuki returned from full dive, he noticed that his real hands were wet with sweat.
Takumu who sat in front of him also looked similarly green in the face. Looking left, he saw the Red King Yuniko too was silent with stiff lips.
“...That guy continued to fight in that condition for another two minutes before it finally ended.”
Kuroyukihime murmured just that, and pulled out the two cables plugged into her Neuro Linker at the same time.Haruyuki did the same, while controlling his stiff hands, he inquired with a dry voice.
“That... is that really a Burst Linker? Like us, a real player was inside that...?”
“Without a doubt. The current fifth too, with big difference in fighting method... But, that’s that, Black King.”
Yuniko stood up while saying that in a low voice, and glared at Kuroyukihime with an unusually grim look.
“You guys went to a lot of trouble to defeat the fourth, that is certain since there is a replay to prove it. But... then, why did that «Armor», that enhanced armament did not disappear!?”
Kuroyukihime stood straight up and shouted back.
While grinding her teeth, Kuroyukihime sat on a chair by the table, and waited for the other three to sit down before continuing with a suppressed voice.
“...When the owner of that «Armor», the fourth Chrome Disaster left the accelerated world forever, the Green King and I met up with the other five people, and checked our status window there. Everyone there clearly said it. That the «Armor» was not in their storage. That meant it disappeared... the curse about it transferring to the one who killed the owner was broken at that time. In fact, Chrome Disaster did not appear since then!”
That final part was almost said with a shout, then Kuroyukihime glared at Yuniko with a challenging look.
Withstanding the pressure from the deep black eyes directly, the second Red King returned sharply.
“Then, explain the current situation! The fifth appeared, ravaging like the past is a fact!”
“...What is the name of the fifth? Even wearing the «Armor» and mentally corrupted by it to become the fifth Chrome Disaster, the name registered in the system would not change. In a duel, you should be able to find out the name of the avatar inside the armor. The one who was taken over by the armor, which King was it!!”
This time, Yuniko looked down and was silent.
After a few seconds, blowing out a long breath, the girl shook her head left and right.
“...It’s not a King. The fifth, is my... Red legion, «Prominence»’s member. The original name is «Cherry Rook»... but, he’s no longer the original person. He was eaten by the armor, and has disappeared.”
That voice, contrary to the violent language, was somewhat dry and wavering.
Kuroyukihime’s eyes became small, and she touched her thin color lips with her right hand finger.
“Not a... King...? Red legion member...? However...”
Kuroyukihime frowned and started thinking, then Takumu lightly raised his hand and said.
“It might be like this, master. Enhanced Armament, even ones from shops, can be transferred to another Burst Linker in the real world with direct connection. It’s not something I should say, but thinking about that backdoor program incident, I don’t think all the kings are incorruptible pacifists. One of the Kings with an agenda might have sworn a false oath and secretly kept the «Armor» and might have given that to «Cherry Rook»?”
“It would be... like that... It was mentioned earlier, Kings... level 9 players have no reason to desire lots of points. Since no matter how much is gained, you can not become level 10. That’s why, if given out... it’s only for the reason of strengthening your own legion and weakening other legions... so releasing the uncontrollable Chrome Disaster has way too high risks. Before that, for a Red legion member to have it, it should have come from the Red King. That certainly might be the case but... the Red King that had joined the subjugation two and half years ago...”
Momentarily, Kuroyukihime’s voice paused, probably only Haruyuki noticed it.
Suddenly under the table, Kuroyukihime’s cold left hand touched Haruyuki’s right hand. Gaining warmth from there, the suppressed wavering speech continued.
“The Red King from then is no longer in the accelerated world. After just three months since the subjugation of Chrome Disaster, he was also struck down. So, it could not be from him.”
“At that time, I was still a growing Burst Linker chick so I don’t know the details.”
The Red King did not seem to notice Kuroyukihime’s momentarily conflict and interrupted with a somber voice.
“Obviously, I did not obtain the «Armor» from the previous generation King and even if I did obtain it, I would not think of letting a member wear it. There’s no way... after seeing that fiendish like battle...”
“Is the fifth also... that incredible?”
To Haruyuki’s question, Yuniko looked up slightly and spit out.
“In a certain sense, beyond that earlier replay. That guy is no longer a Burst Linker, or more like fighting is no longer a «duel». I... I saw him eating a fallen opponent’s arm.”
He unconsciously imagined the scene and groaned.
After overwriting the sour after taste with his coffee full of milk and sugar, Haruyuki asked the two Kings.
“B, but... earlier you said «taken over» and «mental corruption»... enhanced armament, that is just an item right? To be able to interfere with the actual Burst Linker’s thoughts, is that possible...?”
“Yes. It’s possible.”
Kuroyukihime instantly said.
“Do you remember? At the time Haruyuki-kun became a Burst Linker, I explained it. That Brain Burst read the owner’s inferiority and obsession, then compressed them to make the Duel Avatar.”
“That means, not only can the Neuro Linker access the sensory part, but it can access the thinking and memory part of the brain as well. For normal applications those are strictly forbidden areas. ...That is, enhanced armament is tainted with negative awareness of the Burst Linker who created it. If another person wears it, that awareness could be thought of flowing the opposite way.”
“That... kind of thing...”
Haruyuki’s back shivered. He had no more room other than carrying his own negative thoughts, so he is sure that he would be instantly crushed if he had to carry someone else's burden.
“I... I don’t want enhanced armament.”
Kuroyukihime nodded after a short laugh.
“Well, to be able to corrupt personality, probably only the «Chrome Disaster». The first generation, what kind of person was he...?”
“I don’t know and have no interest!”
Suddenly, with a chair clanking sound, Yuniko stood up and shouted.
“Big troublesome shits, the idiot who made it, and the one who got and hid it to give «Cherry Rook» as well! Cherry was... a nice guy. He did not have any flashy ability, but slowly he worked hard to get to level 6, and the fun was just starting! And then... shit, damn!!”
The Red King who quickly turned her back, Haruyuki saw some wetness in her big eyes.
Glaring at the high-rise buildings outside the balcony, Yuniko squeezed out a shaking sound.
“...That guy, while belonging to the Red legion, attacked other Kings’ legion members left and right. Breaking the no invasion treaty. I... have to purge him.”
The brief heavy silence was - .
Broken by Kuroyukihime’s quiet sound.
“...I see. For Chrome Disaster who is normally hard to defeat... to still belong to a legion. For you who is his legion master, just one blow will forever exile him from the accelerated world. - With the «Judgement Blow».”
After a few more seconds of silence, Yuniko slowly nodded, however she shook her head left and right next.
“...Ten days ago, I challenged him who just had reached level 7 while being negligent. To purge him. But... do you believe it, Black Lotus. That guy... Chrome Disaster avoided all of my long range attacks.”
“«Judgement Blow», no matter for which legion master, is an almost zero range contact ability. For it to hit, you have to score a number of normal attacks and stop the person. But no matter how many times my main cannon and missiles were fired, I was not even able to scratch him... I was hit here and there by his sword and lost HP. In the end... it was time up and I lost.”
“Lost!? Let’s leave «Judgement Blow» alone, a King like you lost!?”
“Such a big show of surprise... you also fought it before so you should have understood. That mobility, other than a monster no one has. Huge distance jumps, changing path in the air... it was almost like flight.”
With that whisper, Kuroyukihime first looked at Yuniko standing pass the table, then at Haruyuki sitting next to her.
Then, she slowly and deeply nodded.
“I see. Finally, your goal... using a very troublesome way to do reality intrusion on Haruyuki-kun and using yourself to do social engineering, I understand the reason now.”
At that time, Takumu seemed to have reached the same conclusion. Looking dubiously at the three other than himself, Haruyuki moved his body and view around.
“Wh... what is it? The goal... what is that anyway?”
“Isn’t it obvious, onii-chan♪”
Yuniko’s mood suddenly changed sharply and said sweetly with angel mode pure simile.
“I need Haruyuki onii-chan to capture Chrome Disaster.”
After about 5 seconds of relaxed feeling.
‘No way...I am scared. Don’t joke.’
Haruyuki screamed that, falling from his chair and went to hide behind Kuroyukihime.
However Kuroyukihime titled her head as if thinking about something, then ruthlessly held the back of Haruyuki’s uniform and pulled, saying with a saint like smile.
“Haruyuki-kun, you should experience everything. I think there’s no harm in trying.”
“I never said it would be a one on one fight. Also, this is not just the Red legion, it’s all of accelerated world... including our «Nega Nebulas»’s problem. Then here, it’s time for you to stand up like a man as a Burst Linker.”
‘- This person saying that with this face, she is planning something.’
That appeared in Haruyuki’s mind, but he could not determine what that «something» was, so he desperately tried to find excuses.
“B, but... that’s an opponent that the King, that is level 9 Scarlet Rain could not deal with! Level 4 me would be instantly blown away and it would be over! I don’t want my head and arms to be pulled off!!”
“I won’t let that happen to you.”
Another smile that can melt the highest grade gelato.
“Use your speed and flight ability to chase Chrome Disaster and just stopping him for a short while is fine. Afterward this little girl and I will rob him of mobility.”
“So... so simply said, but...”
Being a bad loser, Haruyuki put this normal run away skill into full gear, and mumbled his final rebuttal.
“That’s right... that requires a team battle to happen first right? Also, against just Chrome Disaster, at the very least needs senpai, Scarlet Rain and I. He would not accept such a disadvantageous duel!”
For Burst Linkers, while their Neuro Linker is connected to the net, could not refuse a normal one on one duel from other Burst Linkers. But if the battle mode was «Team» or «Battle Royale», that’s another story. In that situation, it would be three against one with Chrome Disaster, with that kind of disadvantage, there’s no way he would accept.
‘- No, wait. Earlier, didn’t he have the same question?’
After nodding lightly to the speechless Haruyuki, Kuroyukihime took a glance at Yuniko and asking in confirmation.
“If Chrome Disaster would have been rampaging with normal battles, I would have heard about it already. However I have not heard a single rumor, so that means...”
The Red King put her hands into her cut-jean pockets and twisted her slender upper body around to nod.
“That guy’s hunting ground is no longer the «Normal Duel Field». Above that... in the «Unlimited Neutral Field».”
‘...What is that?’
Haruyuki raised his head with a question mark, instead a bit to the right front, Takumu shouted sharply.
“Da... dangerous, master!”
He rose up with a clank from the chair and continued.
“With our lineup, diving «above» is way too reckless! For me and Haru maybe, but you are chained with a special rule! If you were suddenly ambushed by other level 9 players, with one loss, at that instant you would lose Brain Burst forever... no, in the worst case...”
Takumu took a quick glance at Yuniko to the right and after a bit of hesitation, touched the bridge of his glasses with his right hand finger and said.
“...It’s my duty to say this, so let me say it. - The worst case, all of this act... Haru’s reality intrusion, the talk about Chrome Disaster, all of these could possibly be the Red King’s trap. To lure master into the «Unlimited Field», with a big army in ambush, planning to take your head, is possible.”
Yuniko who again returned to the little devil mode, with her hands in pockets, point her small jaw and glared at Takumu.
“...Well said, Cyan Pile. Everything you said earlier was in a clever way, what are you? Glasses character. Nickname Professor?”
His little hurt face soon returned to normal, Takumu said in rebuttal.
“Show some kind of proof, then we can talk, Red King. We are just a three person legion, for us to dive «Above» knowing the danger, you should provide some kind of proof!”
“Here is your proof.”
Yuniko took her right hand from her pocket and manipulated her virtual desktop for a bit, then snapped three fingers. In Haruyuki’s view, another half transparent name tag appeared. But, this time bigger than the one earlier. Not just the real name, below that also showed home address.
Starting from Nerima ward in Tokyo, ending with unfamiliar school and dormitory name, Haruyuki looked on in amazement. With face and name can be said to be plenty of «Reality intrusion», showing home address too, is way past courage into recklessness.
Takumu and Kuroyukihime too were surprised by that, while being looked on by three silent and wide eyed middle school students, Yuniko removed her right hand from her virtual desktop and poked her small chest with her thumb.
“You still do not understand why I personally contacted you? The real world me is an elementary kid with no strength, economic or organizational power. I have no way to defend against «attacks» on me. If I betrayed you, you can come get revenge anytime you like in reality.”
Yuniko who said that, her eyes seem to be burning from the left over winter sunlight coming through the window.
He thought she was reckless, but she had tremendous resolution. To be true, she could not possibly overlook the problem of her legion member breaking the no invasion treaty and attacking other legion members. However, before everything else, Brain Burst is just a «Duel Game». Something that exist for play, enjoy and excitement.
That’s why Haruyuki thought that sacrificing your real self for Brain Burst is a mistake. That deceived Takumu three months ago, and he is still tormented by it now.
In place of the overwhelmed Takumu, Haruyuki involuntarily called out, trying to find words to continue.
However, that one word seemed to allow the Red King to see through his heart, she lowered her right hand and said with a self delirious smile.
“I understand what you want to say. But... you will eventually come to understand when you get to this height, that this game with «accelerate» technology can make the wall of real side thin. If you knew how much time that girl and I spent in the accelerated world, you would certainly fall right down.”
“Wh... total play time...?”
Haruyuki titled his head and did a little calculation. Right now, he had about 10 «duels» per day. Each fight average around 20 minutes, so total 200 minutes - a bit more than 3 hours. It’s a bit high playtime for a middle school student, but not way too absurd.
If one day is around 3 hours, one month is 100 hours. One year is 1200 hours. Since Yuniko became a Burst Linker for about two and half year -.
“3000... hours or about?”
That’s a big number, but compared to actual VRMMO-RPG addicts, that’s nothing. Those people dive at least 10 hours a day.
However, after hearing Haruyuki’s hard mental calculations, Yuniko laughed aloud and Kuroyukihime too had a slight wry smile.
“Wh, that’s not right? Yuniko-chan, then how much total time...?”
“Not telling you. That answer, you can find out yourself. Also...”
The Red King suddenly put on a scary face and said in a threatening tone.
“Stop calling me Yuniko-chan. I get shivers in my back. ...Niko is fine. Call me Niko, absolutely not allowed to add -chan or -tan.”
Somehow feeling that they are off topic, Haruyuki nodded and looked around.
“Let’s see... So the result is that «Nega Nebulas» will assist Niko-cha... the Red King, is that right?”
“...Umu. There are many risks, but for now we will swallow it whole. Also, there is some merit.”
Kuroyukihime looked away from Haruyuki who asked that, towards the Red King.
“That’s right. «Prominence» under the sun coming to request this very big favor, must have prepared some kind of exchange condition. For example... from now on do not touch our small territory, things like that.”
With that small click of her tongue, the Red King - Niko light waved her right hand.
“I understand. If you are fine with a verbal promise. My guys won’t touch the Suginami area.”
Kuroyukihime nodded slowly, then one finger from her folded right hand came up.
“However, just one thing. Scarlet Rain... how are you supposed to ambush Chrome Disaster in the «Unlimited Field»? In that place, it’s almost impossible to purposely encounter someone, you should have already known that.”
“...I won’t trouble you guys. It’s my responsibility to determine the time and place. Not right now, probably tomorrow evening... is all I can say.”
“Ohh. You can do that?”
To Kuroyukihime’s question, Niko nodded.
“I will leave it to you. Tomorrow after school, we will meet here again and dive into the «Unlimited Neutral Field». Is that okay, Haruyuki-kun and Takumu-kun?”
‘- What is that Unlimited Field anyway?’
Before that question, Haruyuki was surprised with ‘Arg, my home again!?’ that shout in his mind. His mother won’t be home till the day after tomorrow so that is fine, if he returned home tomorrow, and this time Niko played with praise the «other type of Z games» in the living room - if that happened, he would not be able to stand up again.
‘Defend till death. This time he will defend his room till death!’
With that oath, Haruyuki and Takumu both nodded.
“Then, for today from now on is free time. Haruyuki-kun, thank you for the coffee.”
With those words Kuroyukihime stood up, she again looked at the tens of years ago vintage collection of western games scattered in the living room.
“Next time, I will come to play normally. There are many titles I don’t know of.”
“Y... yea, please do.”
‘Something that doesn’t have a lot of blood and guts spilling.’
He added that in his mind, then walked Kuroyukihime and Takumu to the entrance.
“See you Haru at the school tomorrow. Uwaa, it’s already this late.”
First Takumu waved his hand then walked out of the hallway to another part of the apartment, next Kuroyukihime put on her loafers and turned around.
“Ah, that is. I will walk you home, it’s late...”
Haruyuki said that, but she waved her hand lightly and said.
“No need to worry, with student council work it’s even later than now, so this is nothing. Also, this place is pretty close to my home.”
“Is that... so. But, be careful.”
“Un, then, sorry to have disturbed you. See you tomorrow.”
Kuroyukihime smiled, raised her right fist, then was about to step outside the door.
To her back, from behind Haruyuki, Niko’s drawling voice called out.
“See you, black one. Don’t be late tomorrow. Okay then, time to continue.”
To the Red King who then skipped to the living room, this time Kuroyukihime turned around with incredible speed and shouted.
“Hey wait, wait a minute, red one!”
She glared at Niko who stuck her head out and cross-examined.
“You are not thinking of staying here today as well.”
“Of course. It’s troublesome to go back all the time.”
“Don’t mess around, go home! A child should go home, do homework, brush teeth and sleep!!”
That fiery sharp tongue was washed away by a grin from Niko.
“But, my school is a boarding school. After getting a three day pass to go out, even if I return, there won’t be any food. ...Anyway, onii-chan, what should we have for dinner tonight♪”
After saying the later part in angel mode, Niko disappear into the living room.
While her face quivered as if right before a huge eruption with her fists shaking, Kuroyukihime glared sidewise at Haruyuki who stood there dazed.
“...Cancel the ‘See you tomorrow’. I will stay over here tonight too.”
With that fearsome announcement, that was declaration of war, she forcefully shut the door, took off her shoes and stamped pass the hallway into the living room.
It took more than one minute for Haruyuki’s totally frozen brain to restart.
‘- What is this?’
‘What is this....what is happening...is this reality? Or is everything and everyone a polygon created fake reality?’
Haruyuki sat on the living room sofa, hugging a cushion, and stared off into space.
Maybe everything from the beginning - meeting Kuroyukihime, obtaining Brain Burst, and becoming Burst Linker «Silver Crow» was all a dream. Maybe an escape from reality application was running that allowed him continue to see such long delusion.
Those were Haruyuki’s serious doubts, but the hamburger he ate just 30 minutes ago, its slightly burnt aftertaste, the happiness in his stomach, and also from the bathroom in the hallway, sounds of water and girls’ playful sounds were way too real.
After Kuroyukihime’s sudden announcement, the three of them went shopping in the mall under the apartment, made dinner together, washed dishes - and then Niko and Kuroyukihime went to use the bathroom first together. That’s what happened.
The situation where everything occurring all at once was so unreal that Haruyuki wasted it, being mostly on automatic mode. «While parents are away» «two girls came to stay over» «made dinner and went to bath», those kind of situations could not be adjusted into his consciousness.
What is the best way for him to act? Normally in this situation how is a man suppose to choose as best selection?
While steam puffed from his ears, Haruyuki tried to spin his overloaded thoughts. In this type of game or anime, for this kind of scene usually the man went to ask how the bath water was, and «something» made him stumble into the bathroom. Then buckets, shampoo and things will be thrown at him to drive him away.
‘Then, me doing that would be an optimized solution.’
Haruyuki stood right up and turned towards the bathroom. In his brain, there already floated an event graphic where Kuroyukihime and Niko washed each other wearing just bubbles.
However unfortunately, or in other words fortunately, right before he opened the living room door, he heard two sets of footsteps heading there. Haruyuki teleported at light speed to the sofa and sat down properly.
After the knob’s violent turn, Niko jumped in first shouting ‘ice ice!’ and ran to the kitchen. Haruyuki turned around in reaction to the loose sweatshirt and shortpants rough shape, this time his eyes met Kuroyukihime’s.
It must be the one she bought in the shopping mall that evening, she was wearing a light pink pajama. Her head tilted, drying her shining hair with a towel, that shape is different from her normally all black clothing that rejected others, she stood there unbelievably defenseless and lovely, Haruyuki could only watch in a daze.
“...Don’t stare so much. This color was the only size that fits.”
As Kuroyukihime said that while looking away, Haruyuki finally snap back and shook his head hard left and right.
“N, nooo way, m, matches nicely.”
“I, I see. Isn’t it a bit childish?”
“Absolutely not. Great. Perfect. Critical.”
While sitting properly he stretched his back and desperately said up to there, from the side Niko showed her face while waving a popsicle in her right hand.
“Hey, do you know, Silver Crow?”
“Wh... what about?”
“This girl, even looking like that, after she is naked, is unexpectedly sugofuu”
The end of those words was messed up by Kuroyukihime’s unsparing one hit.
She then held the Red King’s neck from behind, and laughed generously.
“There, you should hurry and use the bathroom. The bath water will get cold.”
Looking at Niko who collapsed, Haruyuki gave a scream in his mind and jumped off the sofa.
“Y, yes, then excuse me, I will go take a bath! There’s barley tea and things in the fridge so feel free, I am off!”
That night turned out to be a late night Z type retro game spree night.
Sitting around the large game hardware from 40 years ago, with excited shouts they massacred creatures in the flat screen, Haruyuki still continued to think a little about if that was really real.
‘- These people and me, are basically connected to each other through a VR game called Brain Burst. That’s why their relationship is online, that is net based, it should be recognized like that.
Certainly, I love Kuroyukihime senpai, and she said she love me too. However, the intermediary of those feelings were usually quantum signals exchanged through the Neuro Linker. Their relationship is mostly made up of vector data, he thought it was fine like that.
But today, they made dinner and ate it together in my home, took turns to bath, and now are sitting a few 10cm or so from each other, feeling each other’s body heat.
This world - the separation between real and virtual is infinitely thin, in a world where information from your five senses are hard to distinguish which are analog and which are digital, this is what would happen? Things like «Offline human relationship», how do I capture and recognize it? So far in the offline world, all I had been doing was run away, hide, and huddle.’
His thinking that went round and round, was covered by a flashy scream from a huge boss monster in the screen.
At the same time, Niko let go of her controller and lay down backwards.
“Ah... I can’t take it anymore. Sleepy. Sleepyyy!”
“That’s why I said, children should hurry... Fuwa...”
Kuroyukihime also covered her mouth with her left hand, letting out a refined yawn.
Since his Neuro Linker was taken off, he looked at the clock on the wall, it was past midnight.
“Th, then, we should sleep. Let’s see... Yuniko-cha, not that, Niko is fine with the sofa today too right. So, senpai please use my mother’s bedroom. Ah, but the heat wasn’t on for a while so it might be cold...”
Haruyuki said till there, then Niko interrupted loudly.
“Never mind, too troublesome. Just bring out blankets, I will sleep here... it’s fine...”
Then, she buried her head in a huge cushion, and closed her eyes quickly.
“Un, that’s fine with me too. Sleeping together around game software, is truly a historical experience... or not...”
Kuroyukihime too lay down onto a cushion.
‘Whattt - .’
What he was thinking was, he would not be able to imitate «carry both to bed», so he did as told and took out some blankets. He used them to cover the already sleeping Niko and Kuroyukihime, and thought ‘now then’.
‘Should I be sleeping in my own room?
But, with both guests sleeping on the floor, wouldn’t it be bad manners for me to sleep in a bed? Here, shouldn’t I sleep on the floor as well for fairness? Isn’t that what a gentleman should do?’
After his own suggested justification, Haruyuki turned the ceiling lights to the lowest level, and slowly became round there. The floor was slightly warm from the buried heating pipes, the large semi-fluid cushion was fluffy soft - and within hand reach distance, was extremely nice smell.
‘There’s no way I can sleep in this situation!’, while thinking like that, Haruyuki closed his eyes under the blanket.
However strangely, in exchange of tension, a mysterious peace covered Haruyuki, and his consciousness slowly fell into the gentle darkness.
Deep in the night, Haruyuki woke up just once.
He stood up thinking of going to the toilet, and look around casually, in the dim lighting and blue white moonlight, there was an unexpected scenery.
Niko and Kuroyukihime who were supposed to be one meter apart, some unknown time ago, had fallen between two cushions and were sleeping soundly.
Furthermore, Niko had her face buried in Kuroyukihime’s chest, her right hand holding tightly on to the pajama fabric.
And also, Kuroyukihime had her arms around Niko’s red head like she was holding her.
That scene, before he was surprised by it, his heart was moved by something and Haruyuki opened his eyes wide.
«Red King» and «Black King». They are level 9 Burst Linkers chained with a special rule of sudden death.
Those two spent an unknown amount of time in the accelerated world and fought many fights to the death. What they were looking forward to, Haruyuki could not imagine. However he could say this. If they both aimed for level 10, someday they will have to fight. To defeat other Kings, is how a King moves forward.
Tonight, these two, with a coincidence brought together by complex situations, slept together in the real world like this. Just like at the bottom of their hearts, they wished for that.
This is, this scene, is just one night’s illusion? An incidental miracle that won’t happen again?
Or it could be - .
Haruyuki at that moment captured a premonition that he had arrived at a very important something.
However, the unknown feeling overwhelming his heart and the tears flowing out of his eyes, he could not put his thought into words accurately.
So Haruyuki just stood there, looking at the girls sleeping soundly in the blue white moonlight, without being full no matter how long he continued.
- Italian ice cream