Table Of Contents & Translator Credits:
Chapter 1: Tusjecht
Chapter 2: Tusjecht
Chapter 3: Tusjecht
Chapter 4: Tusjecht (50% done)
Illustrations for the first 10 pages of the novel.
Upon entering the supermarket’s automated door, a tiny progress bar appeared at the bottom of his vision.
The bar was designed simply except for a single black swallowtail butterfly proceeding from its left to right, flapping its wings in an extremely lifelike way when the bar was nearly full. Upon being completely filled, the progress bar vanished, and the black butterfly took off without warning. The young boy extended his right arm reflexively to catch the butterfly, but it merely fluttered around his finger exactly like a real butterfly, before vanishing into the boy’s view of the supermarket’s ceiling.
“…Sa-chan is just being herself, putting so much attention to details in the application!”
The boy’s attention was diverted upon hearing the voice from behind.
Standing to his right was a girl wearing a short-sleeved top and pleated skirt. Her long chestnut hair gently danced in the wind and light blue knee socks covered her legs. In her right hand, she carried a medium-sized tote bag.
That gentle, soft smile was still on Kurasaki Fuuko’s face, but it could also be a [calm before the storm] kind of smile, in such an event the fear it induces is ten times greater than in normal situations. However, this smile was simple and light, brimming with affection for the named ‘Sa-chan’ only.
Arita Haruyuki gave his own big smile to express his similar feelings, and then to Fuuko’s remark, he replied:
“Ah, all the applications Senpai programs all have that butterfly, it always will fly away when the application is closed. If only..in that moment, a gentle and super fast action is executed, the butterfly can be caught.
“…what will you do once you’ve caught the butterfly then?”
“Ah…um, catching one butterfly is worth a point.”
Haru’s boring reply only worsened Fuuko’s mode, already not as nice as usual due to the shopping trip.
“……so what if you get one point?”
“Senpai said to me, if I can catch one thousand butterflies, many wonderful things will happen, but she hasn’t told me what yet, it’s a secret.”
“……maybe that’s too much detail…”
Fuuko groaned with a dumbfounded expression as she said that. Clapping her hands together, she addressed Haru:
“Well then, Karasu-san, let’s hurry to buy the groceries. All those kids at home are hungry and waiting, you know?”
“Ah, ah okay.”
Haruyuki nodded, and with his right handed manipulated his virtual desktop, tapping on the fully-filled progress bar. The screen cleared and revealed a map of the first floor of the supermarket, along with a short shopping list to the side.
A thin line ran along the aisles and shelves shown in the map, starting from Haruyuki’s position and ending in a large blinking dot. Since both Haru and Fuuko were accessing the same map, they moved off together, following the route traced to the section in front of them, labelled ‘FRESH FOOD.’ When they neared a shelf packed with various kinds of goods, the first item on the shopping list lit up brightly in Haru’s vision: Potatoes [MAY QUEEN BRAND] 198 Yen. Haru and Fuuko looked through a few packets, searching for mold or bruises on the potatoes, before removing a chosen packet from the shelf. Haru then clicked on the item on the shopping list.
With a soft ‘DING!’ sound effect like a bell, a new window appeared showing 198 yen had been deducted from the shopping budget in Haru’s vision. Fuuko opened her tote bag, allowing Haru to place the potato packet inside and the item was cleared from their shopping list.
“Ah, I, uh, let me help you with that!” Haru hurriedly said after Fuuko hefted the bag with potatoes inside.
“Oh, like this? Well then, I’ll pay for the items then.”
From Fuuko’s outstretched hand, Haru lifted the 500-gram-heavier bag and walked by her side, rechecking the new route to the next item on the list as he did so. The second item they needed to buy was onions, two of them for 98 yen each.
This application, assisting Fuuko and Haru with their shopping, worked with the supermarket’s layout map and Haru’s shopping list, had been entirely designed by Kuroyukihime and named ‘Best Value Shopping Helper v2.0.’ It worked by connecting to the supermarket’s internal network, searching for the locations of all the items one was shopping for, and projecting the shortest route to each one on the supermarket map. Of course, the application was restricted to supermarkets, but in any other place where it could work, such as shopping centres, factory outlets, or even tiny, out-of-the-way medicine shops, it would help greatly in reducing the time needed to search for the needed items.
If it was just looking for items, then some supermarkets already had this function available to customers connected to their local network. However, they wouldn’t be synced with customers’ own shopping list, because generally supermarkets wanted people to not just buy only the things they were looking for, but also to stay a little longer and browse for other items they weren’t searching for too! Kuroyukihime thus designed this application with the purpose of <rejecting an interface request with the supermarket network>. Haru didn’t dare ask what she had meant by <rejected>.
After drawing ballots for the application testers, Haru and Fuuko had been chosen as the application’s first testers. Under its guidance, the two of them had used only around four minutes to gather all their items, moving from item to item at high speed. Since they had already paid for the items with the internal <wallet> interfacing with the supermarket’s network, they were able to skip the long queue of customers waiting for their receipts and leave the store immediately.
Following the central path to the shopping mall’s lift, Fuuko let out a mixed expression of bitter laughter and said:
“This is the first time using a shopping application…but still, I can see many hallmarks of Sa-chan inside, right?”
“Eh he he…senpai has also said, when the third version is released, even payment for groceries will be handled automatically.”
“Then, are you saying it’ll be possible to dash inside a store, simply grab your items, throw them in your bag, and dash out again? I’ll bet with you 10 Burst Points, the police will immediately arrest you the moment you leave.”
“Uh…uh, that’s right too.”
Haru suddenly had a vision of Kuroyukihime asking him with her sweet smile, “Haru, this is the newest version of the application, will you please help me test it?”, and turned pale at the thought of being arrested after that. When the lift doors to his apartment building opened, he hurriedly rushed out as though he held a guilty conscience.
Monday, June 24, 2047, 6.30 pm
The Suginami Ward was dotted with high-rise apartment buildings, and in one such building in North Suginami, every member of the Black Legion «Nega Nebulous » was gathered on its 23rd floor, in the living room of the Arita family home, each of them an important friend to Haruyuki.
At the dining table for six, seated at the very head of the table was Legion Master Kuroyukihime. The legion chief Mayuzumi Takumu and the pistachio-faced Kurashima Chiyuri sat on the side closest to the kitchen. Opposite from them, the conscientious chief mascot of the legion, Shinomiya Utai sat next to the reluctant, trouble-making machine Haru. Seated opposite Kuroyukihime was Sub-Commander Kurasaki Fuuko.
Only one week before exactly, Haru was introduced to the sixth member Utai, and at subsequent meetings naturally got used to her presence. However, today an extra chair was placed by both Kuroyukihime’s and Fuuko’s side, and on the dinner table, two more plates had been laid out, making eight plates for a table with only six seated.
A pot set on the table emitted a sweet aroma of rice, while the induction cooker next to it with a large pot placed filled the room with the overpowering fragrance of herbs and spices. Words were unnecessary now; if Haru was having trouble resisting, then it was even harder for the other five members; each of them had a tortured look on their face as they resisted the mouthwatering scent of the food.
“…I…can’t go on like this..”
Haru bowed his head while saying so, and next to him, Utai similarly stretched out her ten fingers, moving them with as much energy she could spare.
[UI> You must endure, Crow-chan. This is also a form of mental endurance training-desy1
While Utai might have typed that with a firm expression, her signed words said otherwise, and she was plainly close to giving in. Across from them, Chiyuri was eyeballing her empty plate, while Takumu was continuously cleaning his glasses to distract himself. On one end of the table, a creepy smile was growing at the corner of Fuuko’s lips, and at the other, Kuroyukihime simply shut her eyes, not moving, displaying the demeanour of a legion master, until she could hold it in no longer and exclaimed loudly:
It could only be a fake reaction to avoid showing her own hunger, but she slapped the dining table, and continued:
“They’ve been late by three and a half minutes already! If they were meeting in the Unlimited Field to plan, it’s been fifty-eight hours now!”
“You should guess better, it actually is fifty-eight hours and twenty minutes, fufu.”
Fuuko lightly giggled while undercutting Kuroyukihime’s point. As though he could actually see the sparks and killer intent flying between their eyes as they turned to face each other, Haruyuki desperately tried to assuage their heads and interrupted:
“Sen-senpai, don’t get mad, Master too! I-i-i-i-mean, everyone is saying the curry should be very nice to eat…”
“Oh? Then, should you give me your portion, then? Skip your meals for three days and give my your food, let’s try that.”
“It’s rare that Karasu-san is so generous. How about making the most of it, by accepting his meals for an entire week?”
“This..this is pushing the limits of any generosity!!”
At this precise moment, with Haruyuki waving his hands in panic, everyone heard a long-awaited ringing sound.
The two chimes of the apartment doorbell rang concurrently. Haruyuki’s right hand instantly responded, moving up to click the virtual window in his desktop to open the guest peephole.
“Wel-welcome! I’ll go to the elevator to wait, so just go straight to the 23rd floor!”
From his chair, Haruyuki shot up and sped away to the entrance hall like a bolt of lightning, leaving behind five people at the dining table. Raising her right hand, Kuroyukihime stood up and swiftly issued orders:
“Chiyuri, distribute the rice! Takumu and Fuuko, take out the salad from the fridge! Utai-chan, warm up the curry! The preparation of the barley tea, leave it to me!”
Upon being brought to the entrance hall by Haruyuki, the first words spoken by the visitor were:
“Wa, what a nice fragrance! I feel even hungrier now!”
The person, unmoved even while killer intent was released by Nega Nebulus, looked up at Haruyuki’s face, and asked:
“Where shall I sit, Onii-chan~?”
Facing that persisting, pure, innocent smile, Haruyuki frantically pushed on the shoulders of the red T-shirt, bringing that girl over to the seat next to Kuroyukihime. While this arrangement was inherently tension-filled, there was no other more appropriate arrangement as the top seats were both at that end of the table.
After sitting down on the table with a thud, the young girl with twin red ponytails was now at the same position as Kuroyukihime. The Red King and Legion Master of «Prominence», also known by the nickname «Immobile Fortress»: Scarlet Rain, the avatar of Kōzuki Yuniko.
Haruyuki let out a sigh of relief when Yuniko sat down without further comment, and that was when the figure of a second person appeared in the entrance hall. This person was later than Yuniko for about 10 seconds, because she had to change out of her motorcycle wear: long gloves of black leather, paired together with her water-resistant riding jacket. After flipping her braids to behind her shoulder, with a soft and heavy voice she spoke:
“SRY. Accident Avoidance Jam on Seven Rings.”
The one who used the softest possible voice and fewest possible words, was the second-in-command of the Red legion, Blood Leopard, nicknamed Pard.
Just as Haruyuki was about to usher Pard to her seat as well, with a quick step up, Fuuko who was closer to her instead got up.
“Ah, it must be really hard on you to have met with such a troublesome incident, isn’t it eh, Leopard?”
Fuuko inched closer to Pard even as she spoke smoothly.
Accident Avoidance Jam – it meant that when an automated car was about to meet an accident, the car’s controlling AI ‘s emergency protocols, as well as that of other cars in the vicinity, would broadcast a warning signal. But during rush hour, this initial avoiding of an accident successively creates a series of accident avoidance responses down the highway, leading to huge swathes of cars coming to a halt or moving slowly.
Now at this moment, within the Arita home’s living room, the two of them emitted unseen waves of enmity of such strength, Haruyuki’s present actions slowed and stopped, and he couldn’t help but become aware he was swallowing his saliva out of nervousness.
The dueller who earned the nickname «Bloody Kitty», Pard onee-san, and «Iron Hand» Sky Raker, controlled by Kurasaki Fuuko, were bitter foes from the days of the old Nega Nebulas, or so he had heard. Pard onee-san, who had continued to remain at Level 6 despite being a veteran Burst Linker, definitely had a reason deeply related to the half-retired Kurasaki Fuuko.
Pard who was removing her gloves uttered that short and simple greeting. Whether they had met before in the past, or this was their first meeting, Haruyuki obviously could not know.
At least, they should have had met and talked at the end of the «Hermes Vertical Cord Race» three weeks ago, but that was not only a multi-legion fight, that was before Raker returned from her semi-retirement as a Burst Linker and had not fought a single duel yet.
“What, wha-what if they duel suddenly right here now,” Haruyuki panicked with that thought and his palms became slick with sweat. But before that could happen, Yuniko’s «angelic mode» activated, and her sweet voice easily defused all the tension in the room.
“Sit down, you two~ otherwise, shall we eat already? I can’t keep waiting for so long~”
“So says the punctual Red King?”
Kuroyukihime replied caustically, and her reply seemed to awaken Fuuko, who took a step back, followed by Pard-san who took her seat as well. These opponents having taken their place, Haruyuki frantically returned to his own seat as well. Kuroyukihime then stood and opened her mouth to speak.
“No matter what, let’s eat first. You may discuss things later if you like. Then, thanks for the food2!”
“Thanks for the food!”
The seven other seated happily gave thanks and began a new battle – over the large bowl of curry in the middle.
–For what reason did all six members of Nega Nebulas personally prepare curry and invite the top two members of Prominence to have dinner together at the same table?
The reason must be explained from events of yesterday – the 23rd of June, the «Seven Pure Colour King’s Meeting» held over the weekend.
While he was chewing his food and trying to take some more peeled potatoes, Haruyuki began to recall bits of his memory from 20 hours earlier. Where even a single slip of the tongue or otherwise might have resulted in a death penalty from the Kings for him; his «criminal trial».
1. Utai was trying to type -desu as in です, but her finger slipped and she typed -desy instead. Look at your keyboard…
Awaiting retranslation of SS’s work from fan translation. Estimated progress: 80%.
Flanked by two beauties.1
“This can’t be–it’s not supposed to be a judgement–but it can’t be said not to be either–”
Haruyuki’s thoughts wildly fluttered.
The silver-coloured duel avatar «Silver Crow», was having these fractured thoughts while it stood at the highest level of a tall circular platform. On the next level, two cute female avatars stood ramrod straight to his left and right. Regrettably, they were neither there to guard him nor serve him, but they were «Guards» to watch over a prisoner.
“…if-if I can ask, is that sword a starting equipment? Or was it an Enhanced Armament you found?”
Haruyuki could not stand the tension any longer, and asked the avatar on the right in a soft voice, one of the two top lieutenants of the Blue Legion: Cobalt Blade.
The heavy armour entirely coloured blue emitted *KACHA* sounds as it turned and the female warrior turned to face Haruyuki, using a slightly irritated voice to reply to his question:
“These swords were our wish and soul to have; it goes without saying that they’re starting equipment!”
Almost immediately, the voice of the other avatar that looked like the twin of the first, but coloured a light bluish-green sounded from his left: Mangan Blade interjected to verbally attack Silver Crow.
“You dare feign ignorance despite our explanation? Watch out – our blade might just slip if you dare make any more trouble!”
“Iii~” That high-pitched scream echoed in Haruyuki’s consciousness, and he stammered to explain himself.
“I-i-it’s not like that! Not-not long ago, in the Unlimited Field I saw a sword very similar to that, so I couldn’t help but ask—”
At this, the two female warriors exchanged glances, and in perfectly synchronised whispers asked Haruyuki:
“”Where did you see such a sword in the Unlimited Field?!””
What Haruyuki thought of was a response he need not say: that inside the nigh-impossible to invade «Imperial City», a bluish avatar resided where it should be inconceivable to, and that avatar was the holder of ”’that”’ Straight Sword; the Accelerated World’s strongest Enhanced Armament, Fifth Star Epsilon of the Seven Arcs: «The Infinity».
But to leak such classified information to the lieutenants of a hostile Legion was unthinkable. With this in mind, Haruyuki replied sheepishly and rubbed his two index fingers together:
“Eh, eh he he…that is a secret.”
In that instant, their eyes lit up fiercely, and the sword-hilts by their side was grasped strongly. But, by an infinitely fortunate timing, a relaxed yet firm and commanding voice sounded clearly across the field.
“Hey hey, Cobal, Maaga. Don’t kick him out before the trial has started.”
The female avatars answered loudly, standing straight up again. Haruyuki relaxed his neck, and from behind the mirror-like surface of his helmet’s face stole a glance at his saviour.
Silver Crow stood at the centre of a large platform roughly 30 metres in diameter. At its edges, seven large stone pillars had been cut down to stumps to make improvised seats, their positions marking a half-circle surrounding Haruyuki. And seated on every one of them, was a Level 9 Burst Linker, the strongest in Accelerated World – the «Seven Pure Colour Kings».
On the seat furthest to his right, controlling the large territory of Shibuya and leader of the Legion «Great Wall», carrying the nickname «Invulnerable», sat the Green King, Green Grande. Same as the last week, he brought no escorts.
To the side, the avatar Haruyuki admired as the Sword King, controller of the Suginami area and leading the legion «Nega Nebulas», Black Lotus, nicknamed «World’s End» sat, with the exquisite-looking sub-commander Sky Raker standing behind her.
On the third seat, representing the legion controlling the area from Nakano to Nerima, sat the Red King and leader of «Prominence»: Scarlet Rain. Naturally, she did not equip her Enhanced Armament for this meeting, choosing to remain in her usual appearance of a cute little girl with twin ponytails. By her side, an avatar that invoked the image of a leopard standing on it two hind legs stood quietly, the Burst Linker Blood Leopard.
Seated on the fourth seat directly facing Haruyuki, the Blue King, Blue Knight, sat leisurely on it. The organiser of this meeting, nicknamed «Vanquish» and «Legend Slayer», who controls the territory from Shinjuku to Bunkyo is also Legion Master of the legion «Leonidz». Taking up positions by Crow’s left and right were the two female Linkers serving as lieutenants of Leonidz – in other words, Blue Knight was the one who commanded them to stand down.
To the right of the Blue King’s seat, an avatar that on first sight could only be described in the single word «Queen», sat upright on the seat. That avatar who controlled the area of Ginza, and was christened «Empress Voltage»; the Purple King, Purple Thorn. Behind her stood an avatar resembling a female officer, the whip user Aster Vine. Although neither of the two were moving, but the pressure of the killer intent they emitted was more clearly focused on one person than anywhere else in the area, and that was Haruyuki himself.
Occuying the sixth seat was a clown-type avatar coloured a shade of yellow, so pure and saturated to the point of hurting the eyes. The King that controlled the territory from Akihabara to Ueno, and head of the legion «Crypt Cosmic Circus», and nicknamed «Radioactive Disturber»; Yellow Radio, had brought no escorts within the area as far as one could see. The laughing mask on his face oscillated like a clock.
Finally, on the seventh and leftmost seat, sat an avatar in place of the «King» that should have personally appeared instead. Tall, thin, and tapering to a needle-fine point, that slender avatar bore the name «Ivory Tower». He hailed from Roppongi, an area controlled by the White legion «Oscillatory Universe», also the jurisdiction of the White King. In other words, he is also the plenipotentiary of the White legion. Haruyuki still believed that today he would be able to get a glimpse of the one remaining Level 9 Burst Linker he has not seen personally, but he had no idea that that King was so shy…or another way of looking at it, was that he as a mere Level 5 Burst Linker was not worthy of his/her attention.
“–there probably is some reason behind it, I shouldn’t get worked up just because a King is not present.”
The slightly crestfallen Haruyuki continued to look, past the foggy surroundings of the «Demonic City» stage, until his gaze came to rest at the huge, upright city in the distance. That of course was the heart of Accelerated World, the outline of «Imperial Palace». However this was not the Unlimited Neutral Field, but as the normal duel stage created by Cobalt and Mangan Blade selecting to duel each other, it cannot be entered at all. Haruyuki and the other Kings had then accelerated as spectators, and thus gathered in this area.
So to say, despite neither Cobalt nor Mangan Blade being unable to directly duel Silver Crow, they can immediately banish him from the viewing gallery as an «Obstructing Spectator». Alternatively, despite the small probability, the duel mode can be changed to «Battle Royale» mode with all parties’ consent, and every avatar’s status is changed to become battle participants.
“–Absolutely not, I will not select the “YES” option in my life, not over my dead body–”
Haruyuki who has completely erased the memory of the last Seven King’s Meeting, when he was thinking of the exact same thing, firmly shook himself to last until the end of the «Trial». At its basics, this was a court case against Silver Crow as the defendant, it was purely that kind of situation. And filling in the roles, would be Black Lotus as the «Defendant’s Lawyer», their greatest rival Purple Thorn is the «Prosecution», Blue Knight is the «Judge», and the rest of the Kings are «Jurors».
The neatly-seated members of the trial who have maintained a dead silence since the beginning, was for the reason that they were still waiting for one last person to «Debut». That person would use a special ability to thoroughly check Silver Crow for his innocence, determining if he is «Guilty». Depending on his that person’s word, it will make the final decision for Crow’s fate – to remain as a Burst Linker, or to be punished by Uninstallation of Brain Burst.
Naturally, Haruyuki had complete faith in himself that he was innocent.
The main reason he took his place here as an accused was because of the incident some time before, during the «Hermes Cord Traverse Race», when he had summoned the cursed «Disaster Armour», the «Armour» that has caused numerous catastrophes since the early days of the Accelerated World. And Haruyuki who was its sixth-generation incarnate – no, «user» had been given a week’s reprieve. Starting from the previous King’s meeting till today, where he will be judged if he has been successful in cleansing his duel avatar of the «Armour», and Silver Crow’s head may or may not have a price put on his head. To the newly-levelled up Level 5 Silver Crow, this was tantamount to a death penalty.
Hence, Haruyuki and his fellow Legion members had used an entire week of their full strength and time, struggling in hopes of removing the parasitic Armour from Silver Crow. All of the curses had finally been removed successfully, after rescuing Ardor Maiden who possessed the «Purification» ability, directly facing off against the memories of the two Burst Linker who created the «Armour», and unlocking the hidden secrets of the logic that resided within the existence that is Chrome Disaster.
The two high-level Enhanced Armaments that had formed the «Armour» – the greatsword «Star Caster» and the full-body armour «The Destiny», had been completely cleansed by Maiden’s purification, and in a certain location in the Accelerated World were locked in a slumber. Haruyuki’s duel avatar should now not be in the possesion of any object, and should not suffer a guilty verdict.
But while Haruyuki completely trusted he would be alright, he cannot be said to not be nervous that the process of proving his innocence will smoothly pass. Because, he is unclear of the nature of that «Witness» whom the audience and Kings are waiting for.Both Kuroyukihime and Fuuko seemed to have some clue from their tone, yet that person may be one that cannot be completely trusted.
In other words, hypothetically there is a small probability that this Witness could have been bribed by the Prosecution, to arrive at a false conclusion and cry “Guilty!”, and Haruyuki who cannot come up with a counter testimony to contest this verdict will certainly suffer.
With this train of uneasy thoughts continously expanding the longer Haruyuki stood there in silence, he, unable to help himself, tried to strike up a conversation with the two female warrior avatars.
“If-if I may ask, Mangan-senpai…”
“…now, what is it you want to ask this time?”
Haruyuki very cautiously cast a tortured-looking glance towards that avatar and asked.
“…about you and Cobalt, are the two of you siblings in real life…or if that is not the case, identical twins?”
“…we are twin sisters.”
“Uh, oh, oh! I see…but yet, in this situation, is your «Parent» different person for each…is it as such?”
“Ooh, some smart question you have there, kid,”
The other avatar Cobalt Blade spoke softly upon hearing that. Slightly leaning her face towards Silver Crow, she continued her explanation in a slight tone of pride.
“As you should already know, the Neuro Linker identifies the user by their brain waves. In such a case, what about two person’s brainwaves, that are so similar as to be said to be identical?”
“Eh, the Neu..Neuro Linker’s connection would be..?
This time, it was Mangan Blade whose head swivelled around to chuckle softly.
“Kekeke, would you like to know more? Join our legion and work hard then, it’s not impossible to become our subordinate if you prove to be a handy fella~”
“That said, it depends on how today turns out, kekeke~”
“Eh…um, thanks for the offer, but I will have to decline…”
“”You dare refuse us!?””
Once more their sword’s handles were tightly gripped, and the seated Blue Knight was shaking his head in resignation, about to again command them to stand down, when-
At that moment, amid the murky stage environment, a clear, vibrant voice sounded.
“Ya~ Sorry I’m late! I came out of the opposite side of the City by mistake!”
Distinctive *clang* sounds of an avatar’s running footsteps were heard, owing to the stage being ‘Demonic City. Haruyuki realised the footsteps were approaching from behind, and turned behind quickly. The two guards adjusted their posture and stood straight up once more.
A silhouette appeared from amid the dense fog, and resolved into a slim and petite female avatar. Only her head appeared disproportionately large, but despite that, the latecomer didn’t seem to give much thought to her appearance, and slowed to a walk straight as a line.
“She’s here, Maga.”
“Don’t be careless, Cobal.”
This short exchange between the two female warriors carried a perculiar tension to it, making Haruyuki genuinely suspicious. The greatest precaution should be taken when duel avatars approach in the Unlimited Neutral Field, but this was a normal duel field. Even though he was sure that the restriction of «Spectators cannot approach Combatants closer than 10 metres» had been lifted by the system, but the fundamental rule that «Spectators do not possess any combat ability» has not been lifted either.
Regrettably, Haruyuki had no chance to ask Cobalt and Mangan Blade what precisely were they on guard against. That is because the visitor appeared from the depths of the thick fog, leisurely walking past Haruyuki before slowing to a stop in front of the Seven Kings.
That duel avatar was dyed a very pale purple colour. Easily resembling the shape of a delicate female, her limbs and body lacked any special characteristic or parts, and her head was the most eye-catching part. The head must have made up at least 30 centimetres of the 1.60m height of the avatar. As for the characteristic of that fan-shaped attachment, was it a hat-type armour, or part of the avatar itself? From Haruyuki’s view of her back, he was unable to immediately tell.
The Blue King, Blue Knight, stood up from his chair and called out to the avatar who had placed her hand on her right waist and was bowing slightly in greeting.
“…for you to be able to respond to our urgent request rapidly, I must first give my thanks to you, «Argon Array».”
“It’s al~right, it doesn’t really matter. I’m just here ‘ta collect my pay, ah ha ha!”2
This Burst Linker named Argon Array might appear unfathomable with her happy-go-lucky answer, apparently not feeling even a drop of anxiety from facing the Seven Pure Colour Kings.
“But never’taless, I’ve not seen this sight for a long time, ah. How many years has it been since all~ the Kings gathered together, eh?
The first to respond to this particular comment was Yellow Radio, the Yellow King.
“Oyah…it’s kinda strange of you to say that, ‘Quad-eyes.’ I remember, from the time we were crowned as Kings, there was only one occasion when all seven could gather…and wasn’t that when the first generation Red King was unfortunately cut down? It almost sounds like you too were present at the time from the sounds of that, no?”
This was quite clearly a provocative, yet scripted stab at Black Lotus, the Black King, disguised as a question directed at Argon. Haruyuki strongly gnashed his teeth at this. However, upon catching sight of Kuroyukihime and Fuuko seeming to be completely unperturbed at this, he had little choice but to tolerate it.
Argon too had no reaction. Tilting her head this way and that, she merely shrugged her shoulders.
“Eh, is that so? Maybe I’ve messed up on my recollections-yawa2, ‘though I remember lil’ Radio-kun was only this small~”
Indicating by placing her hand horizontally at chest height, she carried on when even the Yellow King had lapsed into a deep silence.
“Ah~ nah, it can’t be! From a long time ago I’d always crave for radio-yaki.3 whenever I saw you, Radio-bro. So, wanna come along later? There’s a good place in Iidabashi, though that’s for places within Tokyo, ah ha ha!”
“…she hasn’t changed at all, never will shut up as usual…”
Yellow Radio muttered with disgust, and sat back down. Blue Knight then spoke again:
“To catch up with old friends is always nice, but we should now move on to the main issue. Are there any more things to discuss?”
“Yea, I just came to ‘see.’ Alrighty, let’s get this done with…”
With that, Argon turned on the spot to face Haruyuki, who had only ever seen her back until now.
Ah, it’s a hat after all– That was the first thought that came to Haruyuki’s mind. On the upper half of the F-type avatar mask, a pair of goggles with lenses covered it entirely. Above were two more circular parts, though they seemed to have shutters that are closed. The peculiar shape of her head thus was due to the fact that an attachment was fixed to the top of her head.
Hauruyuki was deep in thought while watching Argon closely as she approached him. Keeping still where he was, he disregarded that Cobalt and Manganese were backing away in steps.
Argon slowly made her way up on the first flight of steps, and then the second flight. On the third flight, she unhesitatingly joined Haruyuki on the third flight. On this dais, the distance between the two avatars was maintained at twenty centimetres. The large lens-type goggles seemed to flicker from within. In this situation, Haruyuki couldn’t help but try to peep into their depths, but all he could see was a mysterious darkness, unable to be discerned.
“…fuu-n. So this dude is the rumoured Karasu4-kun eh~”
While saying that in a soft voice, she leaned her head to one side. Perhaps because of reflected light in her goggles, they appeared to blink like actual eyes.
“From the rumours I’ve heard, did you really depend on your strength to separate that Armour? My companions all praised you immensely, and some have even said you’ve got a bright future ahead, eh!”
Hearing Haruyuki’s timid reply, Argon Array answered with a throaty chuckle.
Haruyuki genuinely knew very little about the role of this «Witness». All he knew beforehand was that she would use a skill to check his duel avatar’s Status, able to determine if any parasitic objects were remaining, and that her nickname was «Quad-Eyes Analyst».
From what her manners and speech, it was plain that she was a player with considerable history, though her actual duel avatar name was only known today; Haruyuki naturally is meeting her for the first time. Initially he thought that she would actually have four eyes like her namesake, but only two eyes were being covered by the goggles on her face. Just while he was closely examining her petite outline, wondering where was the last pair of eyes–
In a deep corner of his consciousness, a small spark was apparently triggered.
It was as if it was some memory that he shouldn’t exist, yet at that very instant something somehow connected. Momentarily experiencing a feeling of “Eh, I’m over there?” Haruyuki was unable to go any deeper than that. It was as if there was a faintly discernable silhouette of a message hidden behind a screen of static noise.
Just as Haruyuki stared blankly, Argon suddenly took a step back and to Cobalt and Manganese standing at both her sides, spoke:
“Well, let’s get started. But since me an’ him are in the Gallery, if I’m ‘ta use my ability, can the sisters5 add me to the duel?
Cobalt Blade answered stiffly as she opened up the Install menu, and quickly got to work. A small window containing the message ”You have been invited to join Battle Royale Mode? YES / NO” in English appeared immediately before Haruyuki and Argon.
Argon merely said “I’m pressin’ it now,’ before selecting the ‘YES’ option, but Haruyuki instead reacted with “Ehh~!” If he joined the Battle Royale, he would leave the safety of being a Spectator and be promoted to a duel opponenet, complete with Health Gauge– no, rather, wasn’t this a demotion? The samurai sisters Cobalt and Mangan could very well slice Haruyuki into countless pieces so long as they felt like it.
At this moment, Black Lotus finally spoke for the first time since the start of the meeting, breaking the tense silence.
“Don’t worry, Crow. If this is a trap, I will definitely slay them all.”
Sky Raker, who stood just behind Lotus, added on,
“Naturally, we’ll just hang them all on the Sky Tree, yeah.”
[Editing progress here.]
As these awesome lines caused the stage’s temperature to drop to around negative 100 degrees, Scarlet Rain, the Red King dropped yet another bombshell.
“Eh, Eh Lotus, let’s be clear about one thing. We from Prominence, are merely spectating! if you want to hang someone, then have those guys who look a little sick there get it first.
Quite clearly the Purple and Blue Kings were the target of this remark of ‘looking a little sick.’ To say nothing of the Blue King, the killer intent behind Purple Thorn and Aster Vine immediately multiplied. Afraid that this would quickly worsen into another battle among the kings, Haruyuki immediately extended his hand towards the window, declaring:
“It’s-it’s-it’s alright! This is all to prove my innocence!”
With that, he braced himself and clicked the option. [Upon receiving the message to attend the Battle Royale, he could hear the
cheering as he set himself down on the ground. the other three avatars then came in from the right. ]Re TL
It was not hard to believe that both Cobalt and Mangan were both the Blue King’s left and right hand men since they were both Level 7. What was even more surprising was the fact that the display next to Argon Array indicated that she was Level 8. She was really was a great warrior. The tone of which she spoke with the Yellow King like old friends was finally understandable.
Yet, she continued to speak with a relaxed tone.
“OK! This is all part of the job. Let me have a good look at you. Are you ready, Crow-kun?”
Argon Array said as she moved really close to him. Haruyuki answered reflexively as he stood where he was like a good subject “Sor-sorry to trouble you.”
[Re TL progress here.]
“Well then, Let’s finally begin.”
Upon saying this, two circular lenses detached itself from the hat which Haruyuki had always thought was an enhancement. they were roughly 1.5 times bigger than her eyes. Now Haruyuki could see why she was named “Quad Eyes” since there were effectively four lenses now.
Following that, her large head started making a whooshing sound. As the installed cooling plates started dissipating heat, they glowed a bright purple. The light then engulfed Silver Crow much like how a laser would.
Haruyuki uncontrollably tried to shield himself but he felt no pain. He looked up and realised that his health was still full. Even so, he felt as though something was penetrating his body.
“……. Well, his inventory is completely empty.”
Argon suddenly muttered softly. This probably meant that she was able to see the inventory which was normally hidden from the other players.
“There seem to be no enhancements as well, no equipped armor, or any hidden items…..”
The cheerfulness in Argon’s voice was seemingly sapped away. What replaced it was a cold business like voice that would come from an uninterested observer examining a specimen.
An even brighter spark once again emerged from the deep recesses of Haruyuki’s mind. Another scene appeared.
Opening onto a steep cliff, where many figures were gathered. Instead of people, avatars were standing in their place. This scene was so familiar; Haruyuki has definitely seen it before, it was just a matter of when and where.Was it a dream? Wasn’t this scene once in a dream he had a few days ago?
Haruyuki held his breath as he ransacked the fuzzy memory for answers. Chronology was in disorder here because dreams are merely a telescope into events that have happened so long ago. In fact, these weren’t even Haruyuki’s memories to begin with. These memories were sealed away along with a certain Enhanced Armament. This memory once belonged to someone who had created that Armament in the first place, a Burst Linker who has long since left the Accelerated World.
Haruyuki focused all his effort into remembering. The memories became much clearer. What once was a cliff in that memory had evolved into a dome shaped crater,. Standing on the edge of the crater was an avatar with a ridiculously large head and four shining eyes. A soft voice choppy voice could be heard in the background as Haruyuki tried to think.
“…uage complete recovery…no usage of…Special Gauge. …no mistake, it’s the Imagin-…Circuit causing…Override phenomenon…”5
Where had he heard such a voice before?
A cold calculating voice that seemed to be reading out statistics seemed to reply to the first.
“As expected…outburst…sentiments trigger…phenomenon much faster than…-tion. …controlled…another matter.”
The speaker was an avatar who seemed fragile. He wasn’t exactly slender and tall. It was almost as if he was a bunch of metal plates lined side by side on top of one another. then, the voice spoke again.
“That’s right. That…possessing a…Shell Of Trauma greater than a certain…allows metal-…is pretty much confirmed.”
Just as he was in midst of draining his brain juice to remember all that has happened, a voice at his ear reeled him back into real life.
“Heh. As expected of a metal colour, with particularly thick «Shells»..it’s nearly impossible to examine them inside eh…”
At that moment, it hit Haruyuki like a ton of bricks, clearing the fog on his fuzzy memories. In a flash, all the static that had clouded his vision was gone. What remained was a crystal clear scene in his mind.
It was the same.
The silhouette who was observing with four eyes and the female-type avatar using her four eyes to examine Haruyuki now were the one and the same. And in that memory, standing next to the four-eyed avatar was an avatar that looked like a stack of metal plates lined up against one another; an avatar that had only appeared three times before Haruyuki’s eyes. An avatar who had dealt extreme pain to Haruyuki and his friends; an avatar who was also the vice president of the Acceleration Research Society: the «Binder», Black Vise.
Which means to says….
Which means to say.
A cheerful voice once again entered Haruyuki’s cold ears.
“Also, there seems to be no trace of any parasitic objects. Don’t worry, dude. You are no longer a carrier of that Armour. I, Quad-eyes guarantee it!
Suddenly, Cobalt and Manga who were standing by his side, relaxed their shoulders slightly.
Kuroyukihime exchanged relieved looks with Fuuko, followed by Niko who who clapped her hands together. Blood Leopard also gave him the thumbs-up, as if saying “GJ”. The Green King also nodded his head slightly.
The Yellow King, who was sitting on the opposite side, opened his arms and started muttering “Aiya, aiya”. The Purple King merely shrugged her shoulders. Standing behind the Purple King was Aster Vine who flung her whip on the floor. The representative for White King, Ivory Tower had no reaction at all. The Blue King in the center of the gathering deeply nodded, and with a sweep of his cape stood up from his seat.
Yet, Haruyuki hardly took notice of any of the king’s reactions.
In his mind, there was only one sentence. A sentence that resembled that of an alarm continuously going off in his head.
–It is her. It is her. It is her!!
The four-eyed avatar, Argon Array is–
Black Vise’s comrade.
A member of the Acceleration Research Society.
Inside his helmet, Haruyuki’s teeth were chattering non-stop out of excessive fear. Had this been the real world, his entire body would surely be raining sweat by the bucketload, and even his tears could be flowing too.
“What a drag, so you were actually this scared eh, little fella!”
A voice mixed with laughter was heard. The four lenses of Argon Array that have almost completely lost their glow examined Haruyuki’s face from above.
“You can relax now buddy, nobody’s gonna arrest you now…”
Her voice cut off at this point.
The glow within her four lenses suddenly lit up slightly. Blinking like real eyes, they slowly drew closer.
Don’t let her find out. Don’t let her know what I know now.
If he was seen through by Argon right now, she could very well revert her verdict and declare that the Disaster Armour is still on him. Silver Crow would be judged guilty, and as a criminal be chased out of here…no, it’s more likely his head will be personally cut down by Cobalt and Manganese on the spot.
But no matter what, he must push on past this crisis, and pass the information to Kuroyukihime.
Barely managing to steady his steps, Haruyuki resisted the urge to jump backwards with all of his might- as Argon Array used her slender fingers to stroke the sides of his helmet. And then, in a soft whisper, until it is only audible to the two of them:
“Lil’ fella…do you actually recognise me?”
If not for the fact that the mirrored faceplate of Silver Crow completely hides his eyes and mouth, the expression he made in that instant would have been immediately seen through by Argon. Keeping a poker face with all his might, he tilted his head to the side, as though to say “What’s up with that?” to Argon.
Fortunately, no sound was emitted – no, he couldn’t afford to; Argon seemed content to examine Haruyuki from that distance without getting any closer.
“Nah…it’s alright, nothin’ to worry about.”
With those words Argon turned away from him. Briefly tapping on the top of her own headpiece, she slowly walked down the steps.
I can’t let my guard down yet.
Straining with all of his will, Haruyuki willed his mind to pretend to stand as he was with a blank expression. As he thought of this, Argon reached the last step and turned around, her laser-like glance flashing for an instant.
Upon the success of this last check, the glow of her four eyes vanished. The Quad-Eyes Analyst clasped her hands and turned to Blue Knight:
“As just said, that Crow-bro ain’t have anything suspicious left, not even Enhanced Armaments. That is, he ain’t The Disaster anymore, that’s that.”
“It relieves me to hear that, Quadeyes. To speak truthfully, I was quite worried if you would have to duel that fellow.”
The Yellow King snickered with a ‘kekeke’ sound upon hearing that frank remark from the Blue King. Knight glared at Radio as though saying “Don’t you feel the same?” With a loud rasp of his armour, he announced loudly:
“So, the first topic of our agenda has concluded-”
“Excuse me, may I say something?”
The interrupting person was the White King’s plenipotentiary, Ivory Tower, the avatar which resembled a miniature tower who had neither spoken nor moved since the start of the meeting.
Raising his right hand which resembled a second small tower, he continued in a flat voice that lacked any special characteristics:
“I understand that Chrome Disaster has since been separated from Silver Crow. But, isn’t that to say that the Armour has since been sealed in Card form?6 Then, where have those Cards gone to?”
Even though Haruyuki’s entire brain had been occupied by Argon Array, he can’t help but realise he’s concentrating on this question.
After the Armour on Silver Crow had been separated into two Cards by Ardor Maiden’s purification ability, they were now residing in the Home7 of the two ex-Burst Linkers who were their former owners. The House Key had been locked together with the Cards, and therefore no one can ever enter their home again. To be precise, the House can’t even be seen by others.
Naturally, he can’t explain all this to everyone. That is because, in Accelerated World, a method unknown to the legionnaires of Nega Nebulas to forcefully enter the Home of others may exist. If the Yellow King or someone the likes of them was to obtain those two Enhanced Armaments again– what kind of plans they can cook up is unknown, even if it is no longer possible to recombine them into The Disaster.
As the Kings’ gazes turned to Haruyuki, he was at a loss for words– and then the Black King, Black Lotus stood up.
“The Cards have been sealed in a place such that nobody can get at them again. Neither me nor Crow have any way to reach them again– is that a sufficient explanation for you, Ivory Tower? Or do you mean to say you’d like to know the location and method of sealing as well?”
Hearing that ice-cold voice, the ivory-coloured avatar whose head tapered to a needle at its tip shook his head.
“No need, no need, that reply will suffice, Black King. Pardon my interruption, Blue King, it was quite rude of me.”
Ivory Tower put down his hands after speaking and resumed his earlier silence, looking very much like an ornament.
Black Lotus took her seat again, waving her right hand as though to urge the Blue King to proceed. Nodding, the Blue King continued from the interruption.
“…so, the first half of the meeting has been concluded. Thank you for the trouble, Quadeyes. Regrettably, since you’re a battle participant, you’re unable to Burst Out at the moment. May I trouble you to stay until the meeting is concluded?”
“Ne’er mind, ne’er mind. I’ll just disappear to a corner an’ wait.”
Argon Array moved to the left of the area after that. Haruyuki’s gaze quietly followed after her.
Haruyuki now truly believed that the one nicknamed ‘Quad-Eyes Analyst’ is a member of the Acceleration Research Society, one of the troublemakers in Accelerated World, and even able to rub shoulders with the Vice-President Black Vise. However, the basis for such an accusation being «it was seen in a dream» would be an extremely shaky ground to argue on, so if he was to actually voice it out, the Kings’ reaction may well be more than he can handle.
Regrettably, there was only one thing left to do – to never attract the suspicions of Argon ever again. In order to accomplish that, Haruyuki must last through the final point of discussion of the King’s meeting without a hitch, recite the command ‘Burst Out’, and immediately inform Kuroyukihime and Fuuko of his experience.
Haruyuki steeled himself and exhaled, before putting his right hand up to speak.
“May I ask, if I may have permission to step down?”
Miraculously, Haruyuki was able to say that with naught a shudder nor sign of conflict. With a sweeping glance at Haruyuki, the Blue King nodded and gestured towards the Black King with his thumb. Haruyuki bowed once, and bowed once more to Cobalt and Mangan upon stepping down from the topmost platform. Jumping down again, making sure he did not stumble nor rush excessively, Haruyuki jogged towards the seat taken by Black Lotus.
Although he barely had enough confidence to act normally, upon standing by Fuuko’s side, the inherent relief of standing with an ally soothed him enough to stop trembling. However, Haruyuki could not let down his guard just yet – he stole a glance from where he stood upright directly at the participants seated directly opposite himself: at Argon Array, or more precisely her manners, from where she stood behind Ivory Tower.
The «Analyst» had since closed the shutters of the two ‘eyes’ on her hat attachment, with her hands on her hips and tapping her foot casually. No matter how one looks at her, she doesn’t appear to belong to «that» evil circle, but there is no margin for error here. Just like Silver Crow’s mask, the goggles on Argon’s face obscured her line of vision, so one cannot say for sure that she too, is spying on Haruyuki from the corners of her eyes while maintaining that relaxed posture of hers.
“Everything’s alright, everything’s alright…” Haruyuki quietly muttered while leaning closer to Sky Raker.
“Welcome back, Crow-kun.”
With just that short sentence encapsulating all of the admiration Haruyuki had for Fuuko as a Master, it filled his heart to the brim and lightened his mood. Black Lotus, who sat just in front of them, also turned behind to look at the same time.
“You’ve worked hard eh, Crow.”
Haruyuki was very nearly brought to tears with these warm words.
However, people of the kind Arita Haruyuki belonged to would break down immediately upon relaxing at this crucial moment. Hence, he held back himself to merely nodding twice, three times. During this short exchange, Cobalt and Mangan also disembarked from the platform and crossed the stage to take their places by the Blue King’s side.
After silence fell upon the congregation again, the Blue King spoke.
“There’s still about 15 minutes remaining…well, I’ll just get straight to the point. The second item to discuss…is contributed from «Great Wall» regarding the Midtown Tower…”
Pausing at this point, he glanced leisurely at the Green King seated to his left.
“…would you be so kind as to explain the situation, «Invulnerable»?
Every eye instantly fell upon Green Grande, and yet he remained a stony silence that did not seem unnatural. With a small movement of his right shoulder, a signal of sorts maybe, a large silhouette emerged from the fog behind him.
A grey-coloured avatar with a deep metallic lustre appeared, a distinctively rounded helmet covering his head, and huge boxing gloves where his hands should be.
Haruyuki lightly nodded at the avatar nicknamed «Iron Fist», occupying the Third seat of the «Six Layers Of Armour», the Level 7 Burst Linker affiliated with the Green Legion, Iron Pound. Striding past the Green King, he took the very same spot Haruyuki stood awhile ago in the centre of the circle, but with no trace of fear at all.
“…allow me to speak on behalf of my King.”
That he was the sworn enemy of the similarly nicknamed Raker, «Iron Hand» in the past should therefore imply that he is a senior Burst Linker. It too, seemed that he was known to everyone else on the field as he skipped over introducing himself.
“As most other Legions seemed to have figured out independently, in the West Akasaka Area of the Unlimited Field, a Legendary-class Enemy «Archangel Metatron» has appeared. From what we can deduce from intelligence, it is located at the topmost floor of the Midtown Tower, and is theorised to be in posession of the cause of the recent spread of the infected Enhanced Armaments in Accelerated World, the Main Body of the «ISS Kit»…”
Following that, Iron Pound spent another three minutes detailing the news clearly to the Kings present:
—-Upon appraching within two hundred metres of Midtown’s boundaries, an ultra-strong laser attack would be fired from Metatron, vaporising the offender on the spot.
—-The only way to negate the invincibility of Metatron is to wait until the field has changed to the «Hell» Stage.
—-Despite several months of waiting in the Unlimited Field, that «Stage» has not even appeared once again.
Silence followed the end of Pound’s explanation for a few long seconds. Purple Thorn was the first to recover and speak:
“Ah…well, it is not illogical anyway, I guess. Because it’s the Unlimited Field, even I have only seen it change to the «Hell» Stage a handful of times.”
That sweet and cute voice seemed to carry a huge electric charge kind of intent despite sounding slightly nasal, as though it wished to decapitate Black Lotus already.
“That’s really because it truly is hell on earth, or rather the Unlimited Neutral Field. When even «Beast» Enemies are upgraded to «Devil»-class Enemies, I…I can’t even begin to think about it.”
And the person who spoke those words was none other than the Blue King himself. Numerous other legionnaires belonging to different legions were too, nodding their heads in agreement.
Following the gloom that descended upon the scene, Yellow Radio piped up in his high-pitched voice.
“Ahem, is there something funny here? If I understand correctly, it’s suicide to approach Midtown Tower from the exterior, is that correct? Then…what if, it was penetrated from the interior? By entering the Tower’s highest level in the real world and then reciting the command to enter the Unlimited Field, isn’t it possible to sneak past Metatron and invade the rest of the Tower, eh?”
The revelation forced that exclamation from Haruyuki’s mouth. Indeed as the Yellow King had described, it was indeed possible because when one dives into the Unlimited Field, their point of entry corresponds to the location of the Diver’s body in the real world. Hence, by accelerating from the real Midtown Tower, an invasion of the enemy’s headquarters is possible.
–Just when Haruyuki believed it was a foolproof plan, it was instantly negated by none other than the Red King.
“I say, Radio, Grande over there should have thought of this long ago. This plan undeniably would work if the enemy was based in the Hills Tower in Roppongi Area. Middle school students can definitely afford the five hundred yen entry fee to access the top floor of that Tower. But lemme tell ya this, I’ve done my homework too: Midtown Tower is largely a playground for the super rich clientele. There’ll be restrictions to entry for anyone who isn’t a guest!”
Haruyuki cried out yet again. Iron Pound nodded at Scarlet Rain’s comment, and elaborated on it:
“She is absolutely correct; even the cheapest room for two costs thirty thousand yen a night. Per person.”
A dead silence fell upon all the participants.
Even if they were the strongest «Seven Pure Colour Kings», or the highest-ranking lieutenants in the legions, they were still just Burst Linkers. In the real world, they were only middle and high school students living on a typical student’s allowance, so something like thirty thousand yen was something far out of their reach. At the very least, even is they were absolutely sure that the ISS Kit’s Main Body could be destroyed, everyone would have their own ideas of who to send in and what method to employ because everyone would be contributing their own money. But with limited information, it is unimaginably difficult for them to accept the idea of spending thirty thousand yen.
Like a razor cutting through the darkness, Black Lotus’ voice sliced through the silence that had fallen twice today.
“…it is an aberration to use real world methods and money to solve problems in Accelerated World. Those guys belonging to the Acceleration Research Society definitely did not use money to lure Metatron from «Country Cathedral» either; we as Burst Linkers should only be relying on our own capacity to solve this.”
“Oooh, how noble, how very noble of you, Black Lotus!”
The Yellow King clapped his thin hands slowly.
“But by putting it that way, Black King, what kind of tricks do you have up your sleeve exactly? It doesn’t seem to be in character to attack head-on, but a sneak attack, is it?”
At this clear attack on Lotus, Haruyuki and Fuuko stepped forward immediately, but Kuroyukihime shot back coldly before either of them could respond.
“Same to you too, who proudly deceives and bribes others fruitlessly. Enough of this – since we’re discussing plans of attack, let’s hear what Grande has to say then.”
Yellow Radio’s eyes narrowed at this rebuttal, but left it at that and simply sat down again, and all eyes turned to Iron Pound.
Surely, if all that was needed to do was to inform of the situation, then sending a anonymously-authored document to the various legions would suffice. But the Green King was not satisfied by this, and surely was asking for a proposal of sorts by not bringing any other escorts like the last meeting.
Haruyuki nervously swallowed some saliva and waited for Pound to say something else.
But in the next moment, Haruyuki involuntarily leaned back upon predicting that that steel-coloured avatar would look around and at him. Pound swept the area with his gaze – and as expected, it came to rest on Silver Crow.
–ah, why do I have this sinking feeling suddenly.
That thought was only half-formed in Haruyuki’s mind. As though Pound could read it, he nodded in Haruyuki’s direction and spoke.
“Naturally, there is some idea as to how we will overcome this issue. Silver Crow…you, who have just cleansed yourself of that «Armour», I apologise for needing to trouble you again. But, we will need your assistance for this…”
“Eh, b-b-but wait!”
Haruyuki stuttered and shook his head at the same time.
” Me-Me-Metatron’s lasers should be able to hit anything, even a flying object, so long as it’s within its range! So what if I can fly close just to be to-toasted?!”
“Un, that is absolutely correct…”
Pound readily admitted the truth, but immediately continued.
“…but this time, we’re not hoping to use your «Aviation Ability», but rather something else, that actually depends on your metal colour «Silver».”
“C-c-colour? Ev..even though I’m a metal colour, but shouldn’t it have no special characteristics? …at the most, it’s resistant to Poison, that’s all I know…
“It is right now, yes. But in this gathering, only you have a small probability that–”
Here, Pound paused for a moment, and finished his declaration with a heavier voice for emphasis–
“–that you will learn a legendary ability previously used by an ex-Burst Linker; the ability that is completely immune to all light-based attacks: «Theoretic Mirror».”
1. The original phrase is 両手に花, which would mean ‘flowers in both hands.’
2. Argon speaks in a Kansai dialect; ya is a copula prominent in the Kansai dialect, and wa is a particle commonly used by both males and females in the Kansai dialect, compared to other dialects of Japanese where wa is considered to be more feminine.
3. This is a wordplay on the origins of takoyaki from rajioyaki, and as such rajio = radio, hence the pun.
4. She calls him ‘karasu‘ in katakana, not the kanji for ‘crow’ as Fuuko does.
5. お嬢ちゃん – ojou-chan.
5. These are the lines recalled by Chrome Falcon in V7.1, spoken by Argon Array and Black Vise. They’re broken in segments ala incomplete recall.
6. All Enhanced Armaments can be transferred in a Card State for ease of handling. Refer to V7.1 for a clear explanation.
7. Just like the house Sky Raker bought and stays in at the top of Old Tokyo Tower.
“Uu…stuffed to the max…I could turn yellow1 after eating all
Niko moaned as she set her spoon down.
Having finished a few minutes before Niko, with sweating palms Haruyuki awaited the appraisal of the Red King. Chiyuri’s mother was behind the secret for the delicious curry, while Chiyuri and Utai had done most of the cooking itself. Haruyuki’s stress level was no lesser than the feeling just before taking an exam, even though his only role was to purchase the vegetables and peel the potatoes.
In the silence of the packed living room, Niko closed her eyes for a few minutes, before opening them wide again and delivered her verdict:
“Eighty-five percent! A Just-Pass!”
With that, every member of Nega Nebulas heaved sighs of relief. Among them, Pard-san’s quiet voice was heard, uttering a “GJ” in approval.
After the dishes and utensils were speedily cleaned, the eight of them gathered on the sofa set. While it was meant to seat only six people, everyone was able to squeeze onto it, because Utai and Niko combined were not even half of Haruyuki’s mass. The sight of the sixth- and fourth-grader girls sitting together sipping tea had a pleasing effect on the rest, and Haruyuki who has lived without a sibling at all wondered internally, “Is this how it feels like to have little sisters?” But in Accelerated World, the first was one of the strongest «Kings», and the other was the «Sacred Fire Shrine Maiden» who could control super-high temperature flames. But as Haruyuki pondered, as they were both long-range attack Red types, a duel between them would surely be something to see.
“…eh, um, Niko and Shinomiya-san, is it the first time you’ve met each other? Um, it probably is in the real world, but what about in Accelerated World..?”
The two grade-schoolers locked gazes with each other briefly upon hearing Haruyuki’s question, and shook heads in unison. Niko answered his question first:
“Although I became a Burst Linker just before the disbanding of the first Nega Nebulas, at that time I’ve met Maiden no small number of times in our Territory Battles.
This was followed by Utai’s swift typing on her holo-keyboard.
[UI>Since we are both Red long-range types, it is natural to suppose we have always been exchanging firepower at long distances]
“There was once though, «Iron Hand»-anesan2 threw Maiden right in the middle of our group from above! And right in my face at that…”
[UI>It was extremely rude of me then]
With the conversation ongoing in front of her, Fuuko leisurely continued to sip her tea, paying no heed to the mention of her name. Haruyuki involuntarily trembled and spoke his thoughts aloud.
“If that’s the case…then, in the past we’ve fought Prominence many times in the past territorial battles. I wonder when we can battle again…”
At present, the current Nega Nebulas Haruyuki belonged to had negotiated a non-expiring peace treaty, and hence both do not engage each other in the weekly Territorial Matches. This was no small help for the six-man legion, already burdened with the weekly skirmishes with Leonidz and Great Wall. And yet, the treaty removed the fun of playing a fighting game.
Upon hearing Haruyuki’s comment, a mixed expression appeared on Niko’s face. Turning to Kuroyukihime seated on her right, she asked:
“…Lotus. If I may ask so…honestly, with all this talk of following Knight and Grande for their «Midtown Tower Invasion», shouldn’t the recovery of your full strength be a bigger priority? That is to say, the last two members of «The Four Elements», have they returned yet…?”
After a short silence, the Black King softly shook her head.
“…yeah. The two of them, Aqua and Graphite are still sealed in the Imperial Palace’s Four Gates. Of course, I’m all for rescuing them immediately from Nerima if I was in the mood to. But…it was already a one-in-a-million chance that we were able to rescue Maiden from the altar of Suzaku. At that time…it would be an expected outcome to lose her, or even both her and Crow…
And her words were absolutely true. Although Haruyuki had managed to retrieve Ardor Maiden, they actually had failed to escape and had retreated into the inner regions of the Imperial Palace. If not for the mind-boggling existence of the Burst Linker inside the palace, Trilead Tetraoxide, her rescue would definitely be impossible to finish.
Of course, this was not directly explained to Niko, but she probably was vaguely aware of some of it, at least. Not investigating further, she nodded and continued:
“So it’s like that, huh. Still, I need to say this: Me, Pard, and the rest of «Triplex»3 look forward to Territorial Battles with Nebulas, just like in the old days…”
Pard-san tilted her head in agreement.
Sub-commander Fuuko giggled lightly and fired a question:
“Red King, may I throw Maiden at your head again at that time then?”
At that, Utai choked slightly, while Haruyuki and Takumu shrunk into their seats. In contrast, the gutsy Chiyuri laughed out loud, and cackled:
“Ah haha, Fuuko-neesan, please throw me down too! It seems to be real fun to face the enemy face to face eh!”
“Ufufu, Chi-chan’s body is quite hard, so it should have some value in throwing it down.”
“…the three of you will be leaving me behind to fight? Seriously? Haruyuki-kun, will you carry me in front to fight them as well?”
“Ma-Master, then doesn’t that leave me as the only one staying in the back to defend?!”
Everyone cracked up upon hearing Takumu’s anguished complaint.
After the laughter had died out, Kuroyukihime cleared her throat, and spoke with a straight face:
“—I believe that there will be such a day in the future. No, it definitely will come soon. But for that to happen, apart from reviving Nega Nebulas to full strength, those evildoers in the Accelerated World have to be driven out first.”
“You mean…the Acceleration Research Society, right?”
Takumu asked softly. Kuroyukihime nodded, and continued:
“It’s just over a week since the ISS kit, the equipment that controls the Burst Linker’s minds and gives them powers of negative Incarnate System, has appeared. And the Kit is spreading terrifyingly fast at that. Right now, although it’s confined to Setagaya, Koutou, and Adachi, if the Kit spreads to the city centre, order in Accelerated World would definitely collapse. Even I, despite being labelled Accelerated World’s biggest traitor4, absolutely cannot tolerate the erosion of the spirit of duelling!”
Following her outburst, Niko added on in agreement.
“I wholeheartedly agree with that point. In these two days, it’s confirmed that the infection from the Kit is spreading from Adachi to Kita. After that, it will be Itabashi, and then it’ll be Nerima….if the culprits are not found out and dealt with within this week, then Prominence has no chance of remaining free from the infection.”
“It’s just like how Setagaya is close to Suginami as well-”
Kuroyukihime stopped speaking at that moment.
In truth, Nega Nebulas already had a case of an «Infected Burst Linker» last week: Takumu–Cyan Pile. For the sake of becoming a guinea pig to try to destroy the Kit, he went over to Setagaya Ward, and from the Burst Linker Magenta Scissors, obtained the ISS Kit. At that time, the Kit was still in a ‘Sealed Card State’, but after entering a duel with the most ferocious PK group in existence, «Supernova Remnant», Takumu had equipped the Kit to destroy them.
Takumu easily defeated «Remnant» with the overwhelming strength of negative Incarnate System powers, but ultimately he had succumbed to the Kit’s overpowering imagination filling his heart, pulling him into the darkness of negative Incarnation. Fearing that he would endanger his friends if he failed to do something, Takumu sought out Magenta Scissors again for more information, accepting that he might die in the process.
But Haruyuki had rushed to school upon hearing of his childhood friend’s predicament, and entered a Direct Connect Duel with him, mutually exchanging their Incarnate techniques. With difficulty, Takumu returned to his old state of self, and that night, he, Haruyuki, and Chiyuri and slept together in one room- and the three of them had a very strange dream.
Haruyuki and Chiyuri had woken up in a very unfamiliar part of the Brain Burst server – otherwise known as the «Main Visualiser». While chasing Takumu, who appeared to be in a daze-like state, they had seen what he was walking towards.
In a corner of the Main Visualiser that closely resembled the Milky Way, a huge body that resembled an inky black brain had been built. From it, an uncountable number of vessels like blood vessels connected the large body to the ISS Kit users. Haruyuki had used his long-range Incarnate technique «Laser Lance» to fire at what he guessed was the main body of the ISS Kit, severing the vessel linking Takumu and the main body. After Takumu had recovered from his stupor, they woke up to find themselves back in the real world, and the ISS Kit had completely vanished from Takumu.
From this it can be speculated thus, that if one is able to destroy the Main Body of the ISS Kit, the rest of the Kits that are equipped to infected users will also disappear. And to retain one’s sense of self, it was necessary to accomplish the tremendously difficult task of «Direct Connecting with an infected user and sleeping together». It might be impossible to eradicate the Main body like this, but– that Main Body stored in Brain Burst’s Central Server is merely a «Shadow» of its counterpart. That is to say, the true Main Body of the Kit is located in the Accelerated World’s Unlimited Neutral Field.
In the Unlimited Field, Haruyuki had destroyed one such kit, and followed it as it flew back to where it came from. The Kit had flown towards a large tower, named ‘Tokyo Midtown Tower.’ But before Haruyuki could rush in to attack, the Green King, Green Grande and his right-hand-man Iron Pound had stopped him. Having conducted reconnaissance from the nearby Hills Tower in Roppongi for a long time, they had told Haruyuki that outside of the «Hell» stage, there was a completely invincible Legendary Enemy protecting it – «Archangel Metatron».
Haruyuki set aside his recollections at that moment, and exhaling a breath, he waited for Kuroyukihime to speak.
“—just last week, in the Third Battle Area of Suginami, Maiden and Crow met with and duelled two of the ISS Kit users, Bush Utan and Olive Glove. Utan had since been able to escape by virtue of the close bond with the Kit…but as of yet Olive still can’t be contacted. Clearly, there’s much less time we have to consider our plan of action than we’d like if even Great Wall legionnaires are being infected. Protecting our territory is the other reason apart from the other King’s invitation why Nebulas is participating in the Midtown Tower invasion.”
“…ah, so it’s just like Prominence. We’re also helping Nebulas unselfishly because there was also the matter of the fifth-generation Chrome Disaster…but…”
Niko folded her arms at this moment, and glared right at Haruyuki with what appeared to be light green pupils because of the ambient light5.
“If you guys accomplish your target, then that Crow over there will then become one heck of a trump card against us! That’s because among the Seven Great Legions, it’s Prominence whom has the greatest number of light-based ability users!”
“And isn’t that why we’ve fulfilled the supremely difficult tasks you fellas asked of us? And you now say you’re not willing to help us after two helpings of food…”
“Agh, I know, I know! Didn’t I say it was good enough just now anyway….then, Lotus, if you say that it was a super-difficult task, was thou not good at being in charge of purchasing the ingredients, eh?6”
The Red King asked that question with an air of complacency about her, causing Kuroyukihime’s face to turn red with fury. Utai and Fuuko unnaturally coughed several times while Chiyuri happily giggled, “Niko-chan, they…the potato skin…” and other kinds of furtive reportings. But eventually, the laughter died out due to the absolute-zero coldness of Kuroyukihime sitting still amid the happy crowd.
Afterwards, Niko resumed her normal expression and nodded.
“Ah…so it’s decided for now. Seeing as you’ve personally prepared three bowls of curry rice, I’ll assist you, alright? For the «Plan for Silver Crow to learn Theoretic Mirror».
—and that’s how it is.
At the King’s meeting yesterday, the Kings had invited Haruyuki to lead the attack against Archangel Metatron. As Iron Pound had planned, if Haruyuki was successful in learning a certain legendary ability, he might be able to survive the ultra-strong laser attack Metatron possesses.
But to learn that skill, Theoretic Mirror, there was a need for help from Burst Linkers with high-energy light-based attacks – more than those existing. Besides Haruyuki, among the five members of Nega Nebulas there were no legionnaires using light-based abilities. To be clear about it, while it might that Takumu’s Level 4 special skill «Lightning Cyan Spike» appears to be a light-based attack, according to Takumu himself it was actually «Converting the steel stake into a stream of ions and firing». From this it should actually be categorised as a Physical attack, of the high-temperature/piercing through attribute.
Of course, in the real world Haruyuki has not yet learnt in class the definition of an ion stream or lasers. But in the Accelerated World, an ion stream would be akin to an attack firing countless numbers of high-temperature particles in a controlled movement.<ref>Similar to a flaming attack.</ref> On the other hand, a laser-based attack is the congregation of parallel rays of light together to attack the opponent. Sword edges might be able to deflect an ion stream, but it is useless against the massless photons that make up laser beams.
Hence, Takumu’s skill is completely different from a laser ability. Thus, it is necessary to look beyond Nega Nebulas for a suitable light-based ability users. After the Kings’ meeting, six legion members secretly called each other in a Dive conference call, being extremely frank with each other. The conclusion of that discussion was that if someone was going to be invited, then straightforwardly ask the Burst Linker who possesses the strongest laser abilities from the ones present…that is to say, «Immobile Fortress», Scarlet Rain.
And for that request, the Red King had made an unexpected condition for her assistance.
That condition was «Personally prepare a satisfactory curry dish as a pre-requisite».
After everyone had had their fill of drinks and visited the washroom, the time was 7.30pm.
Among the eight gathered, the ones with the strictest curfew timings would be Niko, who resides in a dormitory for elementary students. However, it seemed that she had forged an external dormitory permit, and so there was no issue for her. Next strictest would be Utai’s curfew. While it’s set at 9pm, it is an unbelievable time for elementary school students; even if travelling time is factored in, there is still about an hour or so of extra time. As for the head of the Arita household, Haruyuki’s mother was unlikely to return anytime earlier than Sunday.
Once everyone had taken a seat on the sofa, using a coloured assortment of XSB cables borrowed from Takumu’s and Chiyuri’s house, the eight of them all connected their Neuro Linkers to a XSB hub placed on the tea table, in turn connected to the Arita family server. The hub was provided for by Kuroyukihime; should an unexpected development occur, anyone can simply disconnect the power supply from the hub to cancel everyone’s accelerated state.
“…eh, if we’re just duelling, then why are we specially preparing safety measures…?”
Only when the last XSB plug had been connected then did Haruyuki realise this belatedly, turning to Kuroyukihime. Up to this point, he thought he would be battling Niko in a practice demonstration and learn the skill during battles, while the other six spectate. While accelerated, the time elapsed in a normal duel is only 30 minutes, or 1.8 seconds in the real world, and then acceleration would end, thereby not requiring any other safeguards.
Kuroyukihime’s eyes widened at his question, however, and then blinked several times as though understanding something. Chuckling, she replied:
“You still need to ask, Haruyuki-kun? We’re not going to the regular duelling field, but the Unlimited Neutral Field, hehe.”
“Eh…ab, «Above»? Isn’t the regular duelling field sufficient?”
With a sinking feeling, Haruyuki carefully asked another question.
And his suspicions were answered very frankly.
“Yup, the normal duels won’t do. As for why, it’s because just dying once or twice won’t do for this kind of task. I estimate, you need to die five…no, maybe ten…?”
And then Pard-san’s voice quietly spoke up:
“It’ll be GJ after twenty deaths.”
—I don’t wanna die–!!
Just as he sprang up to flee, Haruyuki was restrained by Takumu and Chiyuri.
Just as they were overdosing him with reassurances like “You can do this, Haru,” “We’re coming along anyway,” the last XSB cable was plugged into his Neuro Linker.
Fuuko’s smiling face was the final nail in the coffin.
“If you let us wait for you «above» there…do you understand, Karasu-san?”
There was no escaping anymore.
Considering that Utai would have difficulty speaking the command to accelerate, Kuroyukihime began to count down from twenty. Haruyuki briefly thought “I die a lot anyway, everything will be fine,” and at the same time recited:
–I need to die twenty times.
As the sound effect of acceleration filled his senses, Haruyuki realised that.
1. Curry stains are hard to wash off clothes; Niko is basically saying she has eaten so much, Scarlet Rain might just appear coloured yellow like curry.
2. Niko uses 姐さん rather than the usual 姉さん, for whatever reasons that may be.
3. Kanji calls them 三獣士, roughly meaning ‘Three Beasts’.
4. Written in kanji as 秩序の破壊者, literally ‘Destroyer of Order.’ I don’t think it’s related to her other nickname ‘World’s End’ because that is written as ‘Absolute Cutting’ instead (絶対切断).
5. Possibly a reference to Scarlet Rain who has green eye lenses.
6. Niko goes formal and informal here. I have no idea why.
Note: Some terms are italicised to distinguish between their regular kanji meaning and when it is written in katakana to emphasise their significance.
“…I guess the stage ain’t bad, eh.”
Haruyuki lifted his gaze upon hearing that curious quip by Niko.
Through his half-mirror helmet, his gaze fell upon countless rows of colourful neon-lit streets, twinkling under the night sky: the «Shopping District» stage.
Haruyuki had nothing to complain about this stage which closely resembles the E-shopping district in Akihabara. However, the ground of this stage is unusually hard, and the environment lacks open spaces; not entirely suited for events in a large group like theirs.
“Why would this stage be suitable?”
The petite F-type avatar dyed scarlet shook her twin ponytails as she replied to Haruyuki’s question:
“That’s ‘cos Stages like «Stormy Weather» or «Misty Rain» negatively affect laser abilities. If it’s a watery environment like the «Ocean» stage, then lasers would be absolutely useless.”
“So that’s how it is…”
Haruyuki nodded his head in understanding. And at that moment, Kuroyukihime and Fuuko returned from what must have been a speedy scan of the surroundings, and reported:
“There aren’t any other Burst Linkers near the perimeter.”
“However, there’s a huge Beast-class Enemy slightly south of Seven Rings; we’re better off moving north if we must.”
“Ooh, then let’s hunt that fella later then. We can’t have Crow losing so many points, eh?”
Haruyuki still trembled even after Niko tenderly expressed her concern for him.
The group of eight had appeared in almost exactly the same position as the real-world Arita household, located in a high-rise apartment. However, as the «Shopping District» Stage forbids the entry of buildings, they had been moved to a different location upon Diving.
Since this was a large apartment building, the roof was an equivalent area. Looking around once more, Haruyuki suggested:
“If all we need is a large open space, then isn’t the rooftop good enough? Even if there are other Burst Linkers, they can’t possibly climb up from the ground…”
“That…well, no doubt about that, but…”
The white-and-crimson coloured shrine maiden avatar voiced her doubts a distance away from Haruyuki.
“If we use such flashy skills on such a tall building, the battle effects can be seen from a great distance. An Enemy-hunting party from the Blue Legion might see us all the way from Shinjuku and come over to us…”
“If it comes that…if they try to stop us, then Uiui, I’ll depend on you, right?
Maiden hung her head, muttering “…yeah,” while Raker giggled.
“Well then, let’s start! The «Silver Crow’s Theoretic Mirror Learning Battle», shaaaaall begin!!”
Pard-san, Takumu, and Chiyuri applauded as Niko grandly announced, as though starting a kid’s class. Clearing her throat, the Red King took on a teacher’s voice, and continued:
“Before Crow begins to die- excuse me, begins to learn, everybody is free to clarify their doubts! Does anybody have any questions-”
Chiyuri thrust her hand into the air.
“That um, I don’t really understand even until now…what’s the difference between «abilities» and «Special Moves»? All I know is that I don’t have to call out the technique name to use an ability…”
“Ooh, that’s a good question. The answer to that…shall be given by Black Lotus-sensei, in charge of system questions!”
Coughing twice, Kuroyukihime raised up her right-hand sword like a pointer, and began her explanation.
“–the simplest difference is that abilities are ‘passive skills’ in principle, while Special Moves are thus ‘active skills.’
Terms like these were second nature to the net game-loving Haruyuki, but Chiyuri’s pointed hat tilted to the side as she repeated “Pas..sive…?” as though not familiar with the term. Trying to fully explain the term, Kuroyukihime continued from that one line,
“Passive skills would be…’supporting,’ wait, that’s not right, it’s…”
After muttering to herself for a few more moments, she abandoned all further attempts and pointed directly to the side of Chiyuri.
“Following up, will be Professor1 to help in times of need.”
As though expecting it already, the long-time Legion staff officer Takumu nodded and took up a spot next to Kuroyukihime.
“In Brain Burst, passive skills are skills always used for yourself, or sustained by yourself so long as you have Gauge remaining….active skills are targeted at others, skills that consume the Gauge and have instant effects.”
Thus, it was thoroughly explained by the one deserving of his title ‘Professor.’ And yet, Chiyuri still struggled to understand the difference, repeating over again to herself “Always used by myself…instantly affecting others…”
Takumu lifted the Enhanced Armament mounted on his right hand, the Pile Driver, and aimed skywards, firing the metal stake within with a *GASHUN* metallic ring. The sharp stake extended for a metre, and immediately retracted back with clicking sounds, primed for its next firing.
“This ability of mine may appear like a Special Move, but in actuality is a perpetually active passive skill granted by the Enhanced Armament…that is to say, an «ability». It doesn’t require Gauge to use. –eh, just like Master’s swords, right?”
Looking at the gleaming obsidian swords she had in place of hands, Kuroyukihime nodded at the question directed at her.
“Ah, quite correct. The name of the ability is «Terminate Sword»…also a perpetually activated skill.”
“Ooh…so that’s how it is…I think I’ve got it!”
After that exclamation, Chiyuri pointed at Haruyuki:
“Haru, your Aviation ability, although it’s a passive skill it isn’t active all the time, but when in use it expends Gauge to be activated! Ash-san’s Vertical Wall Climb and Raker-neesan’s Boost Jump are the same too, right?
“Oh…oh, so that’s how it is…”
Having always relied on his own intuition to understand these terms, to hear them being explained so clearly by Chiyuri filled Haruyuki with overwhelming respect. The rate at which a net-game newbie like her absorbed information since becoming a Burst Linker was terrifying.
“That is to say…the issue is whether Theoretic Mirror is an ability, and whether it’s also a perpetually activated-type depends on how it’s being learnt..that would even cancel out continuous laser skills…”
With an small exclamation, Haruyuki swallowed back some saliva, and asked:
“Eh, but given what everyone said about learning…can, can it be done? Aren’t special moves and abilities obtained by Level Up Bonuses…? And when I’ve no way to go up to Level 6 yet…”
The wordless expression on Kuroyukihime’s mask was plain to understand while Haruyuki frantically searched the crowd for answers.
“Hey, Crow, have you forgotten about something? Carefully think through back…to the time when you awoke the ability of Aviation.”
When…when it came from? Grasping his hands momentarily, he suddenly recalled:
Indeed, when the duel avatar Silver Crow was first created, it didn’t possess the characteristic of flight. Upon entering the Accelerated World, it was a simple metal colour without wings.
But during the end stage of the duel with Cyan Pile, when he stood up despite being heavily wounded– Ten silver fins were generated from his smooth back, calling Haruyuki towards the sky. That is to say, the Aviation ability wasn’t learnt when the avatar was created, nor when he ascended to Level 2, but:
“It was…during a battle…”
To that reply, Kuroyukihime deeply nodded.
“Absolutely correct. Although special moves can only be learnt when levelling up, abilities don’t have the same restriction. They may be learnt during normal battles or when Diving into the Unlimited Neutral Field, depending on a certain trigger. It’s just like how new skills could appear in the middle of battles in the older generations of RPGs. If you opened your Install menu2 the instant you awoke «Aviation», there should be a new record at the very top…but of course, it’s an extremely rare phenomenon.”
Reflexively parroting back her words, Haruyuki belatedly realised that that wasn’t the main point.
“No, ah…then, that «trigger»…what on earth is it essentially?”
“Um…yeah, it’s complicated…”
Answering in place of Kuroyukihime was Blood Leopard, who until now had remained silent, observing them from the side the whole time.
That one phrase attracted the attention of all the high-rankers gathered. At Pard-san’s side, Fuuko giggled and elaborated:
“Yes, just that. To call on a new ability, one must confront an adverse situation to the point of desperation, yet balancing this against their will to resist…in this sense, it bears some similarities to the process of learning Incarnation…”
“While Incarnation is dependant on the training of your imagination, abilities would be triggered by an instantaneous action. Therefore Haruyuki-kun, no matter how strongly you form the image of a mirror, it’s impossible to rely on that alone to acquire the ability «Theoretic Mirror».”
Finishing off that round of explanation, Kuroyukihime turned towards Lime Bell.
“Chiyuri-kun, do you understand that explanation of the differences between abilities, special moves, and Incarnation?”
“Yup, I completely understand, sensei!”
Haruyuki nodded his head with renewed vigour with that spirited reply from Chiyuri.
Hence, to learn a new power or ability, one must confront their adversity and press on forwards, just like eight months ago when Kuroyukihime was asleep in the hospital ward. Therefore, the hugely powerful laser abilities of the Red King is needed for assistance. Use his body to confront the attack, counter the laser skill, and advance. If that can be done, then Theoretic Mirror should come into Silver Crow’s possession.
Steeling his conviction, Haruyuki stared at Scarlet Rain’s avatar and the gleaming pistol Enhanced Armament by her side, and declared:
“There’s no other questions, Niko…let’s go.”
“Ooh, even though your helmet covers your face, that’s a nice expression you have there. Well then, we’ll start.”
Giggling, the Red King did an about-face, and walked off in the direction of the center of the rooftop. Towards her back, Haruyuki called out with a choice of words to invigorate himself.
“No need to hold back, Niko. Just come at me with that laser gun until all the ammo has been used up!”
In his heart, Haruyuki thought to himself.
More than ten metres away, Niko turned back with an exclamation of “Eh?”, and looked down at her handgun at her waist. Shrugging, she turned back to Haruyuki and said unexpectedly:
“Ah–I’m not using this; it fires real bullets, not lasers.”
It was now Haruyuki’s turn to gasp in astonishment.
“I only have one available ability when it comes to laser skills. Please wait while I call it–”
Niko gazed upwards to the dusk-coloured sky.
(to be continued)
1. Cyan PileTakumu’s nickname is ”hakase”, or professor.
2. One of the six options upon clicking on the icon for Brain Burst.