Accel World:Volume 2 Chapter 8
Although he was swallowed up by a pillar of fire that reached to the sky and violently tossed around by the impact wave, Haruyuki’s HP gauge still had about 20% left, the reason for that was, he did not suffer most of the impact damage.
Crashing onto Sunshine City’s big stairs, making a huge crater, Chrome Disaster’s armor - enhanced armament was completely destroyed at that moment. From inside the armor that blew apart thousands of metal fragments, a high concentration of darkness particles erupted straight up, and that cushioned Haruyuki’s avatar and pushed him back up into the air. After being brushed by the fragments, with a ‘Butsun’ sound, he felt that the wire on his back was cut.
From the huge explosion that occurred right after that, while he was tumbling inside like a broken scrap, Haruyuki desperately curled up into a ball, and endured the damage that lowered his HP gauge. Somehow he was able to escape from the super high heat area, and slowly descended while thin smoke trailed from his whole body, after landing, he could no longer stand up, and fell to his knees.
When he looked up, the orange and black fire pillar finally spread in the atmosphere, and started disappearing. Embers that fell down like rain rebounded from the grey tiles and withered trees, illuminating the area in red.
A deep bowl-shaped depression sunk into the center of the big stairs.
Right in the middle of that, half buried and lying flat, a small avatar could be seen.
The cherry pink armor was all burnt to a crisp, its left hand and right foot was missing. In the somewhat humorous oval lens, a very faint light blinked irregularly.
It was a very helpless and painful shape. That avatar was dressed in that brutal armor and went on ruthless killings, it was hard to believe.
For Haruyuki who was kneeling and could not move, he heard small footsteps closing in from behind him. His left shoulder was lightly knocked on.
“...You did it, Silver Crow. The rest... leave it to me.”
Haruyuki silently continued to watch the small back of the Red King as she stepped forward and went down the side of the crater.
He thought of standing up and following her, but soon changed his mind. Those two people’s final conversation, he felt that no one should eavesdrop.
The red and similar sized avatars, one lying flat, the other standing, exchanged words for a while. Eventually, the crimson girl type avatar knelt down beside the light pink boy type avatar, and her broken left arm held up the crumbly body, and hugged him hard.
She lightly lifted up the handgun in her right hand.
And placed the muzzle on the boy’s chest.
The «Judgement Blow», compared to its name, the sound and light were modest. However at the moment the virtual bullet pierced through the avatar, a phenomenon that Haruyuki had not seen till now occurred.
The boy avatar was disassembled like numerous ribbons being scattered. Those were all shining small sequences of code. All of the information that made up the duel avatar called «Cherry Rook», was released, split apart, and melted into accelerated world’s sky.
About ten seconds later, there was no longer anything on Niko’s arm.
The crimson avatar slowly sat down there, and looked up at the sky fully covered by dusk.
Haruyuki waveringly stood up, and dragging his fairly damaged right foot, started walking towards the bottom of the impact area. After a few seconds, he arrived behind Niko’s right side and stopped, but his chest was stuck with a torrent of different emotions, that prevented words from coming out.
Eventually, Niko slowly said.
“...Cherry and I, we don’t know our parents.”
He couldn’t understand the meaning of her words. He took a breath to ask, then the words were quietly connected.
“As for parents, I am not referring to the origin of our copies of Brain Burst. The real world’s... real parents. Previously, I mentioned my school was a boarding school. To be exact, it is an «Abandoned children total protection foster school».”
Haruyuki could only listen silently to Niko’s speech that was released while she remained sitting.
The program where newborn babies were unconditionally taken from hospitals and other places began around the start of this era. It is part of the measures to counter the accelerated declining birthrate and aging population, the program was legalized around 2030, and in many places shelters that also served as school were built. To be sure, the Nerima area that the Red legion is controlling should also have one such school.
“I have... this kind of personality, so I don’t get along with people around school... I’ve always played VR games by myself. But, three years ago... a boy two years older suddenly talked to me. ‘There is a way more fun game, do you want to try it?’ he said.”
With ‘haha’ small laughter mixed in, Niko continued.
“That kind of invitation method, it surprised me that I did something like a direct connection. But you know... that guy, with face bright red, was trying so hard with all his might that it was laughable. That side of him did not change even after I became a Burst Linker. He very seriously taught me this and that, and protected me as a shield when it got bad. But... in time, my level caught up to his... and passed him... when I noticed, I had become something like level 9. After being pushed to be a legion master, I was also frantic... I did not care about what he thought about and worried about. In reality... when we met in school, I did not even notice that he looked strange...”
Niko’s right hand scratched the ground lightly. With her head lowered, shoulders shaking, the young King wrung out a small voice.
“...That guy, wanted to always be my «parent». He wanted me to be his «child». That’s why he sought more power and lost to «Disaster Armor»’s lure. If I... I had said just one thing properly... that level didn’t matter, you are my only «parent»... that will, never, change... if I said it...”
With that, her back became rounded as she curled up, and ‘Uu Uu’ weeping leaked from Niko - .
For Haruyuki, what he needed to say was lost to him for a while.
Burst Linker’s «parent child» relationship. That weight, he who had the same bond with Kuroyukihime, should have understood. However, for Niko and Cherry Rook who did not know their real parents, that must have been the only true bond that they could make. And then right now, Niko cut that apart with her own hands. She had no other choice.
Haruyuki desperately forced what was coming up back down, and got on his knees, then put a hand on Niko’s shoulder.
“Niko. To be truthful... Brain Burst is not just any game. But... it’s not all of our reality.”
After thinking and thinking, he said that, and a very painful throat lowered his sound volume.
“I too, was always afraid of my powerlessness. Feared being abandoned by that person. But... I know that person in the real world. Face, name, and sound, I know those. That bond, no matter what happens, will not disappear. Because it’s not data. It is carved inside my heart. That’s why... that’s why, you too, in the real world, should become friends with him again. You should be able to do it... even though you and I belong to different legions in the accelerated world, in the real world, we are already friends.”
Her low crying voice continued for a while, but was eventually blown away by the dusk slight breeze and melted away.
With one final violent shake on her back, Niko wiped her eyes with her right hand, and pushed Haruyuki’s hand that was on her shoulder away.
“Friends... you said?”
The sound was raspy, and shaking, but a bit of that audacious echo had returned. She stood up, red lens looked down at Haruyuki, and the young King let out.
“Hundred years too early! You can at best become my underling or whatever! Don’t get carried away!!”
‘It can’t be like that’, Haruyuki wanted to continue with that, but it was overwritten by a cold echo from behind him.
“Hey, who is whose underling?”
Haruyuki turned around with a ‘Hiii!’ surprised sound, in front of his eyes was, whole body in tatters, but firmly standing deep black avatar - Black Lotus’ shape appeared.
And then, steadying her left arm, was a blue indigo avatar, Cyan Pile.
“Se... senpai! Taku!!”
While shouting, Haruyuki jumped near those two.
“Ar-are you okay, senpai... and also Taku, how come...”
As he asked, he finally remembered. Right before they fought with the Yellow legion, Takumu himself had said it. The Burst Linker who died in this Unlimited Neutral Field, after a one hour waiting penalty, would be revived at the same place as death - which meant, somehow that much time had already passed.
“Taku... Geesh, being that unreasonable...”
With a grumble, Takumu retorted with one hand spread wide.
“Now that you mention it, Haru is also in bad shape. Chasing Chrome Disaster by yourself, there is a limit to being reckless.”
“That recklessness was from his mentor.”
After saying so, that mentor left Cyan Pile’s hand, and with one leg’s hovering movement, went to stand right in front of Niko.
While waving her right hand sword tip around, Kuroyukihime said in a somewhat arrogant voice.
“Now then, Scarlet Rain. Isn’t there something you are supposed to say to me?”
After the Red King’s right fist trembled for a while, she eventually turned her face away.
“Hey, just that?! ...That’s why, this is exactly why children...”
“Y-you too, while we battled with hardship, you were just unsightly lying there right?!”
“...What did you say?”
“What, want to fight?”
Between the two Kings face to face, giving off red and blue purple sparks, Haruyuki and Takumu desperately pushed them apart with ‘there there’.
Suddenly, a remarkably strong wind came down from the Sunshine City huge tower, and Haruyuki involuntarily closed his eyes. Niko whispered ‘O’ sound. Continuing, Kuroyukihime said,
“There, Haruyuki-kun, look. It’s «Transition».”
As Haruyuki repeated what was said, he looked up and saw - .
The world’s landscape itself rapidly changing, an extraordinary scene.
The demonic city with just blue black steel and desolate ground, coming from the east direction, was covered by an aura like light veil.
Wherever that curtain touched, the street-scape that was bare cold steel material, changed to an appearance of large trees with thick trunks lined up. The trees used round openings for entrance, trunks twisted to make stairs, and thick branches suspended together to form bridges. Just like, a fairy country in a fantasy movie.
The many layers of lush leaves, faint blue phosphorescence shone in the darkness of night, lighting up what’s under the forest. In front of Haruyuki who stood there in a daze, a rainbow aura came up, covering everything with rumbling sounds and passing behind him.
“Ah... S-Sunshine is...”
An instant before, the place that was the huge tower where a demon king might have lived, a huge tree that rose to the sky stood proudly there, and Haruyuki held his breath.
From the golden green moss covered trunk, it branched out and rose up, with the tree top melting into the clouds far above. From the trunk, here and there small scale forest like terrace extended, and blue light particles spill onto the ground. A majesty just like a world tree.
However, why did the field changed to this?
When he looked questioningly at her, Kuroyukihime’s wounded avatar showed a smile and answered.
“Remember, when we first dived into this field, I said the attribute was «Chaos».”
“Y... yea, now that you mention it...”
“That means, this world’s attribute changes with a certain period of time. However most of them are brutal looking. You are lucky, it’s not often that you are shown this beautiful appearance.”
Haruyuki deeply breathed in the air that had also changed to a sweet smell, and nodded again and again.
There were painful and tough continuous battles, but he was glad to come to this place, he felt for the first time.
‘- I still, don’t have enough power to fight here. But, eventually I will become strong enough to freely fly in this world’s sky. From now on, there will be many uncool losses though... someday, for sure.’
“...I want to say, ‘Carry me again to fly around’, but. With the «Transition», Enemy will be repopped, so it’s dangerous to loiter around. Here, we should obediently head back.”
To Niko’s voice, Kuroyukihime also nodded.
“Let’s do that. ...Oops, before that. I almost forgot something important.”
She looked at everyone once, then continued in a stricter voice.
“...Everyone, open your status window, and check the item storage. And if the «Disaster Armor» is there... erase it completely. So the same thing won’t happen a second time.”
Haruyuki opened his eyes wide.
That’s right, they must confirm that.
Two and half years ago, after the Pure Color Seven Kings subjugated the previous generation Chrome Disaster, the Kings probably did the same thing. And then everyone there reported that the Armor did not move to them.
However that was a lie. There is no proof, but the Armor should have dropped to the Yellow King, Yellow Radio’s storage. The Yellow King hid that, and recently contacted Cherry Rook who belonged to the Red legion, and gave the Armor to him. The devilish Armor caused the no invasion treaty to be broken, to use that crime to take Niko’s head.
Like Kuroyukihime said, this tragedy should not be allowed to happen again. Haruyuki extended his right hand and touched his own HP gauge, and from status window that opened, he moved to his item storage.
That window - was completely empty. No matter how much he stared at it, there was not a single line of text.
Looking up and answering that, next Niko said ‘Me neither’ and Takumu also ‘Me neither’ while shaking his head. Finally Kuroyukihime murmured ‘Me neither’, and the four were silent for a moment.
The fifth generation Chrome Disaster that is Cherry Rook, with Niko’s «Judgement Blow» forcefully uninstalled his Brain Burst. The enhanced armament, when its owner lost all points, with a certain probability move to the storage of the one who defeated its owner. Then this time, it finally completely disappeared without moving - that was probably it.
Since you cannot see other’s status window, there is a possibility here that someone might have hid it like the Yellow King. However.
“It disappeared, this time for sure.”
Haruyuki announced in a clear voice.
Soon Niko also confirmed.
“Yea. We are not like that Radio bastard, that guy... after fighting with Disaster, I don’t think there’s any idiot here who wants that for themselves. The «Disaster Armor» disappeared. We completely annihilated it.”
“Yea... That explosion, could be seen from south Ikebukuro. It’s proof that it disappeared, right.”
Takumu also nodded, and finally Kuroyukihime too clearly announced.
“All right. Yellow King’s confrontation will be left till next time, for now - Mission Complete. Then, let’s head back and celebrate.”
“Oh, let’s open a bottle of champagne.”
“Fool, children should drink juice.”
While arguing with each other, the two Kings walked out. Takumu and Haruyuki, with wry smiles, chased after them.
At the base of the world tree, there was a big opening, and inside, the blue light that he saw from the steel tower was lit. Aiming for the bright swirl that is the «Leap Point», Haruyuki who was at the back of the line, in his ears - .
He thought he heard a sound that was not a voice.
He involuntarily turned back, but of course no one was there.
“What’s wrong, Haru?”
Hearing Takumu’s voice, he hurriedly turned back, and shook his head.
“No, nothing! ...Ah, I am ten times more exhausted than a normal «Duel» somehow. I am so hungry... can’t take it anymore...”
“Hey hey, let me remind you, we just ate cake in the real world a few seconds ago.”
“Arg, I forgot...”
While lightly bantering with his best friend, he passed through the entrance surrounded by thick roots.
The world tree’s root became a wide half ball shaped dome. In the center of that, like a mirage, floated a blue portal that sealed the real world Ikebukuro scene.
While following his three comrades and walking forward, Haruyuki looked back once more.
‘...Must be my imagination.’
He whispered that in his chest, and soon turned to face forward.
However, at the moment he jumped towards the slowly turning portal, a strange sound again echoed from behind his head. That, he heard it like this.
‘- Want to feed.’
- MMO term, means reappear sometime after death.