Accel World:Volume 3 Chapter 9
That day, Haruyuki mostly could not remember how he got through his remaining classes, what he ate for lunch, or what path he took to return home.
When he became aware, he was laying on the bed in his own room in school uniform, staring at the ceiling in a daze.
His whole day of memories, were all covered with transparent cushioning material, and tumbled silently into darkness. As if wanting to say that everything was a dream.
‘—— That’s right, it was a dream. It could not be real.’ He whispered that without making a sound.
Of course, if he accelerate right now, pick any opponent from the matching list for a duel, then the truth of the situation would be clear. Whether there are wings on his back, he would know without looking.
However, he could not make himself actually confirm it.
He rolled onto his back, pulled the blanket from near his feet up to his shoulders, and thought to skip his usual special training at this time and sleep, at that moment.
Directly from his hearing, a light visitor chime sound echoed.
It was probably some package delivery for his mother, so he planned to ignore it, but inevitably a visitor picture displayed in a small window in his view. That it was the severe face of his best friend —— Takumu’s shape that he saw there, made Haruyuki suddenly cover his head with the blanket.
Today, Takumu asked Haruyuki what happened at lunch and after school. What showed him that something happened, was the bruise at Haruyuki’s mouth, and looking at Chiyuri’s appearance should be more than clear enough.
Chiyuri seemed to have replied with just “Ask Haru”, and then Haruyuki could only respond with “Nothing”. He thought that telling him the truth or not would betray Takumu, and gave himself the excuse that he needed to think about it, thus kept running away all the way back home like that.
However it seem like Takumu did not want to back down. The again echoing chime seem to say, ‘I will wait for hours till you come out’, that stubborn intent was sent.
Haruyuki took a deep breath, raised his hand in half desperation mood, then push the open door button on the holo dialogue.
After he got up and stumbled out to the hallway, he was faced with Takumu who had just opened the door and arrived at the entrance. He prompted him to enter with his eyes.
The two of them silently went into the living room, and sat opposite each other at the table.
The silence continued for about another three minutes.
“...If you say that you can’t talk about it no matter what, then I will no longer ask what happened.”
After looking at the faint bruise remaining on the edge of Haruyuki’s mouth, Takumu suddenly said so quietly.
He took off the smooth blue glasses, and looked Haruyuki straight in the eye.
“But, tell me just this one thing. Haru... what is Chi-chan to you. Why did she make that painful face, no, why did you leave the crying Chi-chan alone. No matter what happened, she is our... friend, best friend right, Haru.”
Not being able to look at Takumu’s eyes, Haruyuki swung his view to the lower left side.
‘...Leave her alone? No!’
He shouted that inside his chest.
However, to resolve this situation where Chiyuri would also be arrested, he would have to totally conquer the existence known as Noumi Seiji. If he could not make him erase the video of the intrusion into the female shower room, and also defeat him in the accelerated world to make him return the wings, then not only would Haruyuki have to forever follow Noumi’s command, Chiyuri would also have to as well with Haruyuki taken as hostage.
If he had calm judgement, then even if Noumi said not to, he should explain the whole incident.
However for Haruyuki, that he thoroughly stepped into Noumi’s view masking program trap, rushed into the female shower room, and finally involved Chiyuri in it, he could not tell that to Takumu no matter what.
‘—— Anyway, that program was put in the photograph you sent. If you had noticed that the file size was strange, then this would not have happened.’
Putting aside the fact that he also did not noticed it, he muttered that in his mind.
That was clearly shift the responsibility feeling but something Haruyuki did not want to say spit out from his mouth.
“Y... you too, what do you think of Chiyu. If you say that, then wouldn’t it be better if you do something first?”
“...Want to. Want to, but... I.”
‘—— I, betrayed Chi-chan once.’
At the moment that he felt he heard words that did not become voice, Haruyuki hit the table with both hands with all his strength.
“Ta, Taku... you also, are the same!”
He roared with the sudden overwhelming feeling.
“Everytime, everytime, p, pulling back like that! Always dragging out old things, swallowing everything you want to say! You, do you like Chiyu at all! Do you want to date her once more, Taku!!”
“Aa, that’s right, I like her! I think of her more than anyone else!!”
With a clanking chair groan, Takumu also shouted back.
“Because I like her, I want to let Chi-chan do as she desires! Until Chi-chan answer the girlfriend question, I will wait forever!”
“Wait!? Then, what will you do if Chiyu’s answer isn’t you!? What will you do if she pick someone other than you!?”
“That’s all right, even that is fine!!”
With teeth grinding, while Takumu’s two hands that were grabbing the edge of the table gave out screeching sounds, the continuing words from inside his throat came out shredded.
“If that, will make, Chi-chan happy. That opponent, even if it is... Haru, even you. I, with that, will be satisfied.”
“...Are you seriously saying that, Taku.”
With even to himself strangely flat voice leaking out, Haruyuki asked.
“Then... what? You mean to, give Chiyu, to me? Ah... or was it.”
‘No. No. I don’t want to say it. I don’t want to say something like this. I too, I too always, want you and Chiyu to go back to normal, just that,’
“Or was it, you, this time started to like senpai? So, if I and Chiyu got together, you can get senpai, that kind of scheme?”
—— Always, hoped.
The heat and impact that appeared on his right cheek, Haruyuki accepted it half naturally.
After being hit by Takumu’s left fist that reached over the table, Haruyuki was blown back with his chair, and fell down to the floor.
In his view that was twice covered by tears today, on the standing Takumu’s face, Haruyuki saw that there were thread fine tears there.
Takumu’s sound was cracked, and shaking.
“Haru, we no longer, have anything hidden right? Why... why did you not tell me. Why, did you not tell me the truth. I am... I am, that, untrustworthy a person?”
However, any kind of sound beyond that, did not come out from Haruyuki’s throat.
Could not say it.
If everything was cleared up, then Takumu would probably immediately have a direct conflict with Noumi. Then he would know. That Haruyuki, Silver Crow lost his wings. That he would not fly again.
No, that alone should be cleared up. For partners. For best friends.
However, Haruyuki could not say it. That he became far weaker than he was at level 1, that he no longer has the qualification to serve as Cyan Pile’s partner, he could not confess that no matter what.
Takumu waited more than ten seconds for Haruyuki’s words, but eventually his shoulders sagged, and he wiped his eyes with his right sleeve, then turned around behind.
“...The punch, sorry.”
Quietly leaving those words behind, the tall best friend, slowly left the living room. After one echo of the door opening and closing sound, only silence remained afterwards.
How long had he been laying on the cold flooring?
When he realized it, the outside of the south facing window had already changed to a night scene.
While stopping all thought, Haruyuki slowly stood up, changed to suitable clothes in his room, then left from the entranceway. He used the elevator to go down to the first floor, and quickly walked through the entrance.
At the apartment site, it was bustling with families visiting the nearby shopping mall. After seeing one child tightly holding a game shop bag at chest level with face shining, he remembered that today a famous RPG series new game was put on sale.
‘...Should I buy one too?’
Buy a package, rush back home and put it in the Neuro Linker, then intensely play it. But, current sales that use media, the size would be huge. Probably his local memory would not have enough empty space. Then, he could just erase another game. Something big, like that program... «Brain Burst».
That’s right, it should be fine to quit that. Since eventually he will get bored of that game. Thinking back, he had been engrossed by that continually for half year already.
If he step down from the accelerated world, and was no longer a Burst Linker, then Noumi’s interest in him would also disappear. The evidence video that he held would become worthless. Using Haruyuki as a hostage to threaten Chiyuri would no longer be possible.
At this point, isn’t that the best choice? Of course, he would no longer able to help that person aiming for level 10, but, the avatar that could not fly anymore would no longer drag her down, or disappoint her.
‘—— It would just return to what it was. Something that once obtained became lost, just that.’
‘—— Is there any other reason for not stepping down, that still remain in me?’
A little girl that was passing by, looked up at Haruyuki with a mystified face.
It was there that Haruyuki first realized, while he was walking in the crowd of people, his face was soggy from crying.
Hurriedly using the parka sleeves to wipe his face, Haruyuki aimed for the apartment gate and started running.
To «duel» someone, somehow win, and earn enough points to pay Noumi. Meet the quota that was told, and one day have his wings returned.
If he fight in Suginami, then there was a chance that Takumu’s spectator wait might be set to ON, and he might be called to the field in the gallery, so to change area, Haruyuki walked to the Seven Ring road.
At the Kouenji overpass intersection bus stop, he thought a bit about taking the inside or outside circle bus, then went to wait at the one going to Shibuya. To the north, Nakano and Nerima was the Red legion, «Prominence»’s territory, and he did not feel like facing its leader, Scarlet Rain.
A spherical EV bus with lots of wheels stopped, and Haruyuki stepped onto the boarding ramp. At the edge of his view, his electronic money balance was lowered by the bus fare with a clinking sound.
He pushed his body into an empty seat at the side, then while looking at the night scene, absent mindedly thought.
—— The total number of Burst Linkers is about 1000 people. Most of them is in this Tokyo area, Haruyuki was told that.
However, the total number of people —— that means from when the «Brain Burst» program appeared on the network till today, in the seven and half years, the total number of people that obtained acceleration ability, and how many lost it, he did not know that much.
Those who used to be Burst Linkers, what would they be feeling now. Biting their lip in regret, or just fond memories —— or maybe shaking their body in resentment?
‘If it was me’, Haruyuki imagined it.
‘If I lost all the points, and was caught by forced uninstall, would I be able to think of it as just a «Game Ending»? Even though my wings that could be said to be my proof of existence was robbed, I am still hanging on to being a Burst Linker like this.’
No, he would absolutely not be able to forget it soon. He would probably struggle here and there trying to obtain Brain Burst once again.
And then —— there would for sure be people who think about «after that». With high anger and disappointment, there should be someone who thought of bringing the accelerated world itself down with them. Kuroyukihime had explained to him that, as children with no physical evidence, they would not be believed, but was it really like that? If the mass media and police received many of that kind of report, even adults would begin an investigation?
How did «Brain Burst», for over seven years, continued to be this perfectly concealed...? And then, what would be the intent of the program creator for making this kind of situation...?
While thinking about those in half escapist way, the bus took a left on Koushu Road and entered Shibuya, the Green legion’s territory.
Not being able to be challenged while in the legion control territory, that privilege should have been canceled at this time. Haruyuki —— Silver Crow’s name will be recorded on the matching list, and could be intruded upon anytime.
...Anyone is fine.
Haruyuki closed his eyes, and leaned his body deeply back on the seat to wait for that moment. Silver Crow was already just a «Weak to beating close range type». Ranged, Contact, Indirect, with not a single opponent he had advantage against.
8pm at night, even though it was a weekday, this was a busy «duel» time range, so just 30 seconds later, the thunder like acceleration sound echoed in his hearing.
Haruyuki who was put into the darkness, transformed into his duel avatar and dropped a short distance down, then stepped onto the ground.
After all the first thing he checked was his back, but there was not a shadow or shape of the metallic wings. After closing his eyes tight once, he started looking around.
It was the same Koushu Road, but the cars that lined the street, including the bus he rode on, had disappeared. The road surface was cracked, collapsed, and there were rubble mountains here and there.
While he thought that this was the «End of Century» stage, Haruyuki avoided the look from the ranks of gallery on top of the surrounding ruin buildings, and looked downwards without even seeing his duel opponent’s name. Just like that, he waited in the middle of the wide road. The guide cursor that showed the enemy direction, shook while pointing east.
Eventually —— from the deep darkness, a ‘DoKo DoKo’ kind of bold motor sound was heard.
For a machine type armament, it was approaching at a very fast speed. That meant it was a moving force type, then this sound should be from an old style internal combustion engine, which not many Burst Linkers own...
Thinking up to that point, Haruyuki finally raised his head.
‘Sparkle!’ kind of round headlight shot into his eyes. With front and back brake rotors giving out red sparks, the American bike that did a showy spin turn, stopped with its chrome parts reflecting the surrounding bonfires.
“Hey hey hee —— y!!”
The skull faced rider that swagger in the seat, pointed index finger from both hands straight at Haruyuki.
Even without looking at the name displayed in the upper right of his view, the old familiar bike user that appeared, was without a doubt «Ash Roller». That meant the stage and opponent was exactly the same as half year ago, in his first accelerated duel after being reborn.
“Mega longtime huh, YOU! Oh, fell in love with me and came all the way to Bitter Valley huh, YOOOOU!?”
Being taken aback, Haruyuki forgot about greeting and returned an inquiry.
“Bi, Bitter Valley, what is that?”
“Hey hey heey, know it, understand it! It is Yashibu of course, Yashibu!”
After thinking for about another second, Haruyuki finally guessed that it was Shibuya.
“...Umm, Ash-san. Bitter is not «渋い(Shibui)», it’s «苦い(Nigai)» I think... Then that would not be Shibuya, it would be Nigaiya.”
Being pulled along by Ash Roller’s mood, even though he could not be anymore depressed, Haruyuki made the correction, and from the buildings surrounding the road, laughter from the gallery boiled over. Ash Roller looked up at them, and shook his middle finger from both hands.
“Don’t LOL, Ma —— n! I will soon knock you away, wait for it!!”
The skull face soon returned to Haruyuki, and in a low sound.
“...So, what’s Shibui in English?”
“Th, that is... Rough, I think.”
“I see. That should be Rough Valley huh. ...Hey, that kind of thing, doesn’t matter!!”
“Y, you asked...”
“Quiet Shut Up! Having a bit more total wins, don’t be so full of yourself, YOU! Look at this and tremble!!”
With that sound, he pushed the button on the side of the handle, and from the mysterious tubes equipped on both sides of the front fork, evil looking red cone faces peeked out. ‘No way’, he thought, no matter how you look at it, it could only be that, and Haruyuki whispered while dumbfounded.
“Th... those, missiles?”
“Yes right! Missiles, with homing attached, you flying bastard!”
“B, but, American bike with missiles, for design point... or aesthetic point, how about that...?”
“Say what! It’s End of Century kind of mega co —— ol!! Hey quickly go fly! Then you will cry!!”
While shouting that, Ash Roller finally noticed the anomaly with Silver Crow, and extended his head.
“...Hey, you, why is your wings closed up. The duel had already started, take it out already.”
Haruyuki shook his head slightly, then quickly said.
“There was some kind of circumstance. Today, I will face you on the ground.”
“...Hmm. Well, do as you like but... if you underestimate me, I will really make you cry, get it?”
With a quick glance to check the time, he opened the throttle once, then yelled in high pitch.
“Lets Daaa —— nce!!”
With the rear tire giving out intense white smoke, Haruyuki stared at the bike that dashed to the right side.
For his recent duels with Ash Roller, the bike that could freely run on straight walls, was usually scored by Haruyuki’s rapid descent attack kind of development. But of course, he could no longer use that tactic. He could only dodge the charge, and try to damage him little by little from behind.
The bike made a sharp turn at a distance away, then charged in a straight line. He lowered his waist, and concentrated to find that trajectory.
With his gamer spirit, when the duel started his body and feelings moved in reaction, but of course he could not forget about Dusk Taker robbing away his wings. In his heart, there was still a huge hole that was opened up. Right now, Haruyuki felt that he was sticking his hand in that hole, trying to find if there was anything.
Staying till almost the last moment, he jumped right with a psyche. The front wheel tread grazed his leg a little.
Haruyuki spun his body like that, then thrusted a fist towards the rider.
With that sound, the boot that suddenly flew in from the side, caught Haruyuki’s helmet. While he was blown away, he saw standing on the seat, the shape of Ash Roller pulling back the leg he kicked out.
Soon he dropped his waist down, and accelerated again. After a turn in about 20 meters, he again stood up on the seat. Somehow he was controlling the accelerator with his right foot.
“See that, YOOOU! This is my new skill, V-twin fist!!”
Forget about the naming, that was a spectacular technique, and Haruyuki was impressed while standing up.
The huge bike being controlled like a surfboard with only two legs. Not only attacking with the vehicle body, the rider also has attack power, then the gap after dodging was filled.
‘...This is, impossible huh.’
Haruyuki whispered that inside his chest.
If it was just a simple contest of hits, then Ash Roller with the bike’s rush power has overwhelming advantage. Even if they hit each other, the damage Silver Crow take would be far higher. Trying to hang on anymore would be a waste of time.
After lowering both hands loosely, Haruyuki who just stood there was bounced flying by the bike’s front tire.
He danced in the air like a stick, then crashed onto the road surface, and bounced two, three times. With a loud noise, he smashed into a rubble mountain, and finally stopped.
While unsightly laying there, Haruyuki thought in a daze with his wobbling head.
‘...As I thought, it was empty inside the hole. I who lost the wings, have nothing remaining.’
From now on, he could only continue to go after and fight lower level, and furthermore better compatible Burst Linkers. Earning just a few points with each fight, and pay Noumi with them after saving up. Always for two years. Till the day that his wings were returned.
Suddenly, a ‘Dorun’ low engine rumble sounded right by his head.
‘Hurry and finish me off’, he thought that and waited, but the hard and hot tread attack did not come as seconds went by. In exchange, came a sound from a high place.
“That was so —— bad. Hey Crow, you, why not flying.”
Haruyuki slightly raised his head, with the edge of his eye capturing the skull face, answered in a small sound volume that could not be heard by the gallery.
“...I can’t fly. My wings are gone. That’s why I can no longer, win in same level duels. Today was just to verify that. ...It’s okay, to just finish me like this.”
Again, only the ‘DooDokooDoo’ V-twin engine sound echoed.
The sound that eventually arrived, contained a calm that was not in Ash Roller thus far.
“...Finish it? What does that mean?”
“What else can it mean... sink that tire into me again and again, to finish the duel.”
“Fuun. That means like this huh. You can no longer fly. So you can’t win. So you want to throw the fight, and lay there without resisting.”
His behavior, was not something a dueler should be praised for, Haruyuki also realized that. However, if he wrung his intelligence here, and win through some clever scheme, that would not have any meaning. It was not about leaving some kind of advantage for the continuous fights that will come. The important thing was just that, and he also understood that was not possible anymore. That was why ——
“...Already, standing is useless.”
After whispering that while laying down, Haruyuki waited for Ash Roller’s condemnation.
However, what was returned, was even more quiet —— could be said to be calmly controlled words.
“...Hey, do you remember? Long ago, you and my second «Duel»... the time when you, held up the rear end of my bike.”
There was no way he could forget. That was Haruyuki’s first victory, and a fight that needed to be commemorated. But Haruyuki did not say anything, not even a nod, he just waited for the continuation of the words.
“That was troublesome. With the rear up, no matter how much I stoked the bike did not move at all. That’s why if all I did was sit there, then I would just eat headbutts from behind. That was really checkmate for me. But...”
With a flash of light from both eyes inside the helmet skull shield, Ash Roller let out a strained low voice.
“At that time, did I throw the fight? Give up like you now, and lost while being beat up?”
—— That was not it.
With most of his potential put into the «Enhanced Armament» that was the bike, the rider himself at that time was almost equal to a Burst Linker with zero fighting power. He left the seat, and started attacking the metallic armored Silver Crow with his flesh and blood body.
The result, Haruyuki beat up his opponent one sidedly, and won.
But, till his HP gauge was shaved to the last dot, Ash Roller did not give up. While yelling dirty words, he stood up till the moment of the KO punch, and continued to swing his fists.
Haruyuki denied with a sound small enough that he himself could not hear.
At the same time, under his helmet, he felt that tears flowed from his eyes for however many times today.
“...But. But. I am... my wings, will no longer return. You won’t understand. You who always continued to fight together with that bike.”
Once again, long silence.
From the surrounding buildings, the gallery had indeed started a commotion. However without seeming to mind that, Ash Roller shook his head, and spit out something small.
“...Suck. Giga suck. No it’s terra. Terra sucking bastard, you are. Becoming level 4 already, without knowing anything. ...At the time of our third «Duel», when I saw you suddenly flew, how much I... no, not just me. All the Burst Linkers that found out some guy who could fly appeared in this world, how much we had being blown away, how much at you...”
What was ahead did not come out of his mouth, instead he thrusted his face forward, then the skull rider inquired with whispering sound.
“Hey. Right now, where are you?”
Not able to understand the sudden question, Haruyuki blinked his tear filled eyes.
“Where are you diving from, I am asking.”
—— Asking about the physical body location during a duel, was an improbable question normally. However somehow Haruyuki did not even think about the danger of reality intrusion at all, and answered while being engulfed.
“Ko... Koushu Road... riding the bus.”
After a short tongue click curse, Ash Roller said something else that did not make sense.
“Then, return home immediately when this is over. Go to toilet then into bed, and dive «Above».”
“Idiot, your voice is too loud, the gallery will hear it! As for above, is there anything else other than «Unlimited Neutral Field»? After you dive in, come to the crossing between Seven Ring Road and Inokashira Road. The dive time... let’s see, 9pm just. Don’t miss by even one minute.”
After ordering the dazed Haruyuki like that, Ash Roller lifted up his body, and ran his finger in the air. In front of Haruyuki’s eyes, a Draw Offer window opened.
“Come on, hurry up and acknowledge it.”
Being pushed by that momentum, Haruyuki pressed the OK button without understanding.
After the «Duel» ended in a way that he could not think of, he returned to the real world inside the bus that was moving on a road, then Haruyuki immediately canceled his Global Net connection.
As the bus stopped at that moment, Haruyuki got off it by almost tumbling down the boarding ramp. After looking left and right, he ran to the closest crosswalk, went to the opposite direction side of Koushu Road, and this time jumped onto a bus heading for Kouenji.
After collapsing into a seat, while breathing heavily, Haruyuki thought about Ash Roller’s intentions.
—— Is he going to perform the last rites? In order to forever retire the worthless Silver Crow from the accelerated world, calling him to the Unlimited Neutral Field that has no instant logout, to rob all his points?
No way, that could not be possible. The degree of danger is same for the other side as well. There is no guarantee that Haruyuki would not appear with a large group of comrades. However if that is the case, then what goal —— .
After muttering that, Haruyuki simply gave up thinking. Probably the enemy he fought the most in the accelerated world, but he never dislike Ash Roller himself. For that opponent to finish him off, it would be fine, he felt it like that.
After returning to the Kouenji overpass intersection bus stop, the time was already past 8:30pm. Haruyuki desperately ran home, used the toilet as told, drank some oolong tea, stuff a slice of the leftover pizza from yesterday into his mouth, then rolled into bed.
—— Maybe, this will become his last «acceleration».
Then, just once more, he wanted to see the person who invited him to this world —— Kuroyukihime. Even if he could not explain the situation, he wanted to exchange even just one word with her.
After that sudden thought, far away in Okinawa, Kuroyukihime would be busy with responsibility for the 120 students there, so he hesitated about calling her. Even so, while the time display on his view’s edge neared 9pm, he waited while thinking if she would call him, but the call receive icon did not lit up even once.
When the digital number was at 8:59:58pm, Haruyuki shut his eyes tight, and took a deep breath, then whispered the command.