Utsuro no Hako:Volume3 Epilogue
The intoxicated swaying stopped and the transparent hands that had pulled me in disappeared.
Before my eyes was an arcade game machine with [Kingdom Royale] written on it.
I had returned to the black room. I felt revulsion against the black air that had stuck to my entire body --- and remembered.
Right. Those transparent hands had come out from that game machine and seized me, and---
"Welcome back from that meaningless fight to the death."
Daiya Oomine, the 'owner' of the 'Game of Idleness', was standing before my eyes.
"How was that [vicarious experience]?"
Daiya said such a thing.
"It was a [vicarious experience]...?"
"Yeah, you actually didn't experience anything of what happened in [Kingdom Royale] so far yourself. How should I explain it... right, consider it as having experienced something like the memories or the past logs of another player."
What is he talking about? The memory of other players? But why did I see those memories from my point of view, then?
That was my very own memory!
"It seems you don't get it."
"...well, I mean, it was obviously me that was in the---"
"That was an NPC."
Daiya cut me short.
"You don't even know such simple gaming terms? Listen, that guy, who you thought was yourself, was actually an enemy character controlled by the computer of [Kingdom Royale]. If it had been the real you, you would hardly be here now, would you? After all, you died twice."
...I don't get it. An NPC had all those worries I had and suffered like that?
"...That's a lie! There's no way my thinking and actions could be imitated that accurately."
"Doesn't it prove that it's a 'box' because it can do it?"
"...well, that may be so, but..."
Come to think of it, Maria didn't have her 'box'. Can that also be explained with her having been an NPC?
"...but for what purpose did you include them?"
"As I told you before, this 'Game of Idleness' is a 'box' that merely forces people to play [Kingdom Royale] in order to stave off boredom. But [Kingdom Royale] doesn't start until someone starts killing. And how can it stave off boredom if it doesn't start? So, here's my question: how can we make sure that someone definitely kills someone else?"
Without letting me interrupt him, he said,
"Simply create a system that forces you to kill."
"How does the existence of NPCs ensure that someone will kill?"
"There is only one player in [Kingdom Royale] that fights in the truest sense. The one that dies if he's defeated. The others are NPCs. Can you follow me?"
I nodded with a frown.
"That player knows that the others are just NPCs. It's still not easy to bring himself to do it, but he knows that the real person will stay alive even if he kills the corresponding NPC. Contrary, he also knows that he's the only one that would die for good. So, I wonder: can a player in that position keep himself from killing anyone?"
I recalled what Yuuri-san had told me in the second round.
«I don't want to die!»
The player of that round had most likely been her. If she had been completely in the dark about the circumstances, would she really have been able to go that far? I doubted it. It was the fact that the others were NPCs that allowed her to take the last step, for sure.
No it was even more obvious in Iroha-san's case. Because she knew that she wouldn't steal our chance, she suppressed her emotions and ended the game quickly.
Those three rounds progressed completely differently, just by changing the player. This demonstrated the heavy influence of the player and made clear that the player's existence really was the key to starting [Kingdom Royale].
"...so why was Yuuri-san so reluctant to kill us and suffered like that? Didn't she know that we were just NPCs?"
"You're a piece of trash without imagination, aren't you? You realize that that NPC is a perfect copy of you, right? Sure, you won't die yourself if he gets killed. ... but that's as far as it goes."
"Your NPC isn't any different from you. The personality and everything else is the same as you. Could you easily forgive someone that killed a being that's identical to you? Or vice versa: could you calmly kill the NPCs identical to the others?"
I closed my mouth.
"You know the answer because you [vicariously experienced] it, right? Killing the NPC is just like killing the real guy."
...exactly. My real self's life had nothing to do with my NPCs. They were exactly the same as me and they were indeed killed by Yuuri-san and Iroha-san.
My NPCs and I were the exact same person but existed separately.
"...Daiya, you mentioned [vicarious experience] a few times. Do you mean that I indirectly experienced what my NPCs experienced through their eyes?"
"Yeah, that's right."
In that case I hadn't won or lost in [Kingdom Royale] up to that point.
This was going to be decided now.
I looked at the gaming machine in front of me.
This time I was finally going to start [Kingdom Royale] in the real sense. I was going to start a game in which I wouldn't recover from death.
"It's your turn."
"...the playing order until now was you, Yuuri-san and Iroha-san, right?"
"Yeah, what about it?"
"Where are Yuuri-san and Iroha-san now?"
"They're in this dark room. They are sleeping... or to be more exact, they are in a stopped condition. You could actually find them here, but it's pointless since you can't do anything for them anyway. They will be released when all six players have finished the game."
"Everyone has survived until now, right?"
"Yeah. Because they won when they were players."
"...the memory from inside [Kingdom Royale] won't disappear, I guess?"
"Yeah, it won't."
I remembered. Since I didn't experience it myself, this might not be the correct expression, though... anyway, I remembered.
Yuuri Yanagi's blank eyes.
Iroha Shindou's wailing.
Those two suffered and were burdened with sins that they can't make up for anymore. No matter what I'd do in my round, I was unable to save them.
I couldn't save those two anymore.
I could only save myself, as they had done.
...no, that wasn't quite right.
"When is Maria's turn?"
Daiya answered me,
I see, so---
---I can save Maria.
I looked around in this dark room searching for her body. But everything was concealed by that unpleasant darkness, so I could only see the immediate vicinity of the game machine.
Yuuri-san and Iroha-san had given me some hints to win. They had taught me how to defeat them.
But that was no good for me.
The problem was that Maria couldn't win in this game no matter what. This game required the player to deceive and kill the others, but she could do neither.
She was powerless in the 'Game of Idleness'.
I had to save her. If I didn't, to me, she was going to become another «Nana Yanagi».
But what should I do? Even if I won [Kingdom Royale], that would only mean that I survived and not that Maria's saved.
Right---it was not my goal to win [Kingdom Royale].
It was to destroy this foolish 'box'; to destroy the 'Game of Idleness'.
"...what's with that conceited look, Kazu?"
Daiya frowned at me when I scowled at him.
"You aren't fair, are you, Daiya?"
"I'm saying that you're unfair."
Daiya was clearly displeased at those words, just as I had planned.
"How so? I was the very first to play [Kingdom Royale]. Since I wasn't able to resort to any [vicarious experiences], I was clearly at a disadvantage and had to grope my own way. And still you call me unfair?"
"Our goal is different."
"To me, winning in [Kingdom Royale] doesn't achieve my goal. It would just mean that I managed to survive. You know that my goal is to return to my everyday life, don't you?"
"I become unable to achieve my goal just by killing someone in the game. If [Kingdom Royale] really is a game that only ends if I kill someone, then I definitely can't achieve my goal. In other words, I can't win. And you simply shut me into that cage and watch my inevitable death. How can you call that fair?"
Daiya just scowled at me when silently I declared so. I hid my inner anxiety and scowled back at him.
This condition lasted for a while---but then Daiya began to laugh.
"W-What's so funny?"
"What are you saying? Didn't you start this staring contest to make me laugh? Aah, yeah yeah, I lost. Your face sure is funny!"
"...tell me already what's so funny!"
"That's obvious, isn't it? I mean, with this provocation you're clearly trying to get some advantageous conditions out of me."
He had seen through me.
"Please do that when you've become as skillful as Yanagi. There's no way I'd fall for such a crappy performance. You sure are a laughable and foolish guy."
Did I fail---?
If Daiya doesn't change the rules for me, I won't be able to achieve my goal. So it's a stalemate, then?
Will I---not be able to save Maria?
"But this seems interesting."
"I'll accept your challenge. That's what I'm saying."
But I was still unable to comprehend and dropped my jaw.
"There is a hidden trick to end [Kingdom Royale] without killing anyone."
Daiya continued without caring about me. I managed to close my mouth again and concentrated on the conversation with Daiya.
"Do you remember that that green bear said that it would be boring if everyone turned into a mummy?"
I tried to retrace my memory.
«Okay thEn - I wiSh all oF you a - good fight! - Just dOn't end - the gAme by - doing somEthing - as bOring- as to tuRn - into muMmies everyone - okAy?»
Yeah, he had said so.
"Again, this is a 'box' that serves to stave off boredom. A round that ends peacefully without anything happening is unwanted. I haven't considered an end in which no one has killed anyone, and I also have no interest in such an end. Therefore, if it's sure that no one will kill, the game will be forced to end. So, if everyone's food supply runs out and the time comes, the player will be released just like that."
"In other words---"
"You can survive if nobody kills anyone during those eight days."
Aah, that's it.
That can become proof that I managed to win against the 'box' and maintain my everyday life.
"And---if you can cause that kind of end, I will destroy the 'Game of Idleness'. That's the 'fair' you've been talking about, right?"
"Have I ever lied to you?"
......very often, actually.
Since it was Daiya, he would keep his promise. There was no way someone as prideful as him would break a promise that was that clearly about victory or defeat.
My victory had become possible.
Of course, it was most difficult to prevent Daiya, Koudai Kamiuchi and the others from killing someone. When the time limit draws near and the fear of death haunts them, someone might make a mistake. It was a difficult task to reach an end in which nothing happens.
But still, I had to attempt it.
I pointed my index finger at him.
Daiya called the [Kingdom Royale] so far a «meaningless fight to the death».
But I denied that.
There was a meaning. Yuuri-san, Iroha-san and everyone else's struggling had taught me the way to win against Daiya.
I definitely wouldn't render everyone's suffering futile.
"I will win against you, Daiya!"
Daiya grinned confidently and declared,
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