Contents and Translator credits:
Latest update: 10th August, Chapters 1 & 2 added.
Sudden Lowering of Stage Lights
Gigantic round vermilion pillars, stripped of their former gloss, materialize from out of the light. Backed against the arc of the pillar is a small figure. It’s not a real person. The whole body is covered by heavy silver armour; the head is covered by a helmet of the same colour.
The surroundings are weakly illuminated. It’s night. Countless torches flicker soundlessly. The first pillar is not the only one – it is but the first in a seemingly-endless line of pillars extending off into the distance. The ground is covered with pure white pebbles. At the edge of vision one could just glimpse the outline of a colossal citadel. The silver helmet turns to regard the citadel opposite it.
……Not really ‘Absolutely Inaccessible’ now is it?
Despite understanding how he had brought this whole mess upon himself, he can’t help but complain.
Except he can only complain in his head. He doesn’t dare to make a sound, he can hardly take a step for the fear of the sound of his own footsteps. The slightest of sounds might attract the fearsome Warrior-Formed Enemies that wander inside the citadel causing them to attack him.
A Warrior Enemy can reach three meters high. The Beast Enemies that roam the outside can be as much as five times as tall. But the Warrior Enemies that patrol the long corridors and citadel walls in groups of three or four, can emit a pressure that surpasses Beast and even Legend Enemies. No, the pressure might be just as suffocating as the pressure emitted by the “Four Sacred Beasts” that guard the citadel gates.
Of course, the only time the citadel – the “Imperial City” that stands within the “Unlimited Neutral Field” – could be breached would be if or when the Four Beasts were overcome. But not a single Beast has yet been defeated. He slipped in when he saw a chance – no, an accidental entry seems more likely.
Can’t they at least prepare a “Portal” for escaping?
He grumbles and complains in his head once again, while trying to control the fear and anxiety he is feeling.
The metal-coloured Avatar – his armour reflecting the light from the torches – feels cold all over, his heart beating vigorously inside the slightly-char-black silver armour. This really is a pinch, the biggest he’s been in since becoming a “BB Player”.
But at the same time, he begins to feel excited from within the depths of his heart.
It has been eleven short months since the birth of the Accelerated World – when an unknown entity gave about a hundred first year elementary students living in central Tokyo copies of the Full Dive Fighting Combat Game “Brain Burst.” For these eleven months, most players decided to challenge the colossal citadel sitting in the centre of this world upon gaining the right to access the “Unlimited Neutral Field” when they reached level 4. Whether it’s because it has the same position in the real world as the imperial residence, or because of the absolute-gravity chasms around the structure… no matter how you look at it, it’s the place where the game will end – or as the children would call it, the “Last-Boss-Dungeon”.
However, every Burst Linker that has ever challenged it easily crumbled in the face of super Enemies with terrifying powers – the “Four Sacred Beasts”.
Genbu of the North, Seiryuu of the East, Byakko of the West and Suzaku of the South. They are individual Enemy units, each with five bars of HP, and each of them possesses abilities to support and heal each other. The Beasts not engaged in combat can utilise these formidable abilities – for example, the ability to cast protective shields or recover HP for the ones engaging in combat at their respective gates. In other words, it’s impossible to focus on just one of the Four Beasts. The players must divide into four teams and assault the Four Beasts simultaneously. Except right now the total number of Burst Linkers is less than five hundred. They have even formed smaller groups contending with each other. If the players cannot stand united, then an operation of such a scale is impossible. Among the Burst Linkers, there have been some small parties that forced their way through to one of the gates, only to die at the end of the bridge and fall into the “Infinite Enemy Death” state – a term not conceived of until this event occurred – until all points are lost.
Under such circumstances, even though the Four Sacred Beasts weren’t defeated, to successfully infiltrate the Imperial City is nevertheless a source of excitement.
It has to be that by continuing into the depth of the citadel, he would be able to obtain the final game-clear item – thus becoming the first person to clear Brain Burst, engraving his name in the history of the Accelerated World forever.
He possesses an ordinary ability, a plain metallic colour and a name that doesn’t stand out much —
Although a Duel Avatar named after the falcon sounds pretty cool, it can also be said that both Chrome Falcon’s ability and his appearance pale in comparison to his name. This is the opinion held not only by his opponents, but by himself.
The only similarity the Avatar has to the fierce bird of prey is the slightly sharp beak-like protrusion at the bottom of the mask. His eyeless face is completely silver – as such, the Avatar can’t help but give off an impression of a lackey. Slight of body, with no weapons, and with nothing resembling wings on his back.
The only offensive abilities of this Avatar are punches and kicks – other than that, the only advantages are the speed allowed by the small build and the hardness of the body. The only person to call him ‘cool’ is his partner, “Saffron Blossom”. Although he does not doubt her words, he would still like to be powerful enough to be worthy of her.
Blossom, as her name indicates, possesses the power to “Allow Flowers to Bloom”. The small wand in her right hand can fire off many different types of seeds into the opponents’ or allies’ Avatars. The flowers that bloom from the seeds after a set amount time can leech the HP Gauge, the Special Attacks Gauge, or interfere with the opponents’ movements. By the same token, the seeds have the power to cast buffs, erase de-buffs and produce other beneficial effects. Some sarcastic players gave the power the uncomfortable name of “Parasitic Type Attack”; yet even amongst the Indirect Yellows, not many Avatars have that wide a range of abilities.
Of course, to possess such a powerful ability, other attributes must be sacrificed. For Blossom, her defensive power is low beyond imagining. That’s why, to compensate for this weakness, she partnered with the defensive type Falcon. That said, although they have fought together for half a year, he still feels uneasy – if someone with a higher defence were to invite Blossom to join their party, how would she react?
In the “Metal Colour Chart” – distinct to the “Base Colour Circle” – Precious Metals such as platinum and gold are on the left side, and Base Metals such as steel and iron are on the right. Although divided into Precious and Base, if the Avatars are at the same level, the potential is the same for both sides. Precious Metals have strong resistance to toxic, acidic, corrosive and other types of Special Attacks; Base Metals have strong resistance to punches, slashes and various other Physical Attacks.
“Chrome” is a colour close to the very centre; it lacks the resistances of either Precious or Base Metals. Although few in number, there are metal colours with stronger armour than his. It wouldn’t even be surprising if there are players more suited to be meat-shields amongst the highly defensive greens from the Base colours.
That means, based on hardness of the Avatar alone, there’s no knowing when Blossom might leave him for another player.
He can’t say for sure exactly why he feels the way he does right now. In the Accelerated World he was able to survive by establishing his base in the Minato Ward. As time passed, he was given the title of “The Falcon of Black Silver.” Yet as soon as he returns to the real world, he’s just an eight-year-old kid – still in second grade.
Except he’s just using that as an excuse. Less than a year may have passed for his body, but since he gained access to the ‘Unlimited Neutral Field’ – the world that processes infinite time– five years have passed for his mind.
That’s why… I think I can understand a bit now.
He had reached level five and learned a certain ability, so he decided to come to the “Imperial City” to put his ideas into practice. After being lucky – or unlucky – enough to succeed in getting inside, he could now be surrounded by intimidating Enemy mobs at any moment. This was all because of the love and possessiveness he felt for Saffron Blossom.
— I have to move fast – otherwise, a Warrior Enemy will find me as it patrols the area, following its movement patterns.
Poking his head out from the shadows of the vermilion pillar, he quickly assesses the situation.
He is currently located in the Southern area of the “Imperial City” Inner Garden – which is one thousand five hundred meters in diameter – in the corner of the road that connects the “Suzaku Gate” to the Front Gate of the citadel proper. Both sides of the entrance are guarded by a Warrior Enemy – each one aggressive and strong enough to be like a Demon Enemy . It would seem impossible to defeat them. That’s why, in contrast, his target is a window upon the white walls. Because it’s an improper route, there’s a high chance the window might not open from the outside – but as long as it’s a real window, using it to enter should be possible.
From the back, the footsteps of the patrolling Warrior Enemy mob slowly approaches. Taking a deep breath, he takes a step with his right foot while softly whispering out the ability name —
Even though it was uttered with a voice barely audible, the Warrior Enemies’ pace changes immediately.
But by this time, the black-silver Avatar has completely vanished from the shade of the pillar. He disappears after leaving behind a blue afterimage, then soundlessly materialises thirty meters away beside the citadel wall.
This is Chrome Falcon’s level five Special Ability, “Pseudo-Teleport”. Pseudo because it’s just an expansion of “High Speed Straight Line Movement” type abilities. Movement is only possible in areas where “line of sight exists” and “space between start point and destination is connected” – but the moving Avatar turns into a particle with zero mass, nullifying physical and gravitational type attacks.
He appears again backed to the white wall and observes the movement of the Warrior Enemies who have arrived at his former hiding place. The invader who had set off their attack mode has been lost; the Warrior Enemies angrily look left and right and finally return to the original patrol path before resuming their former slow pace as if forgetting anything had happened . Huuuuu, a deep breath. Despite the combat abilities of the Warrior Enemies, the AI settings appear to be much lower than that of the “Four Sacred Beasts”.
He turns, raises his head to look at the giant window on the wall behind him.
The field attribute is the long awaited Japanese style “Heiwa Stage”, as expected, the windows are made out of criss-crossing thin red strips of wood without inlaid glass panels and the like. From what he could see, each little grid is just three centimetre square in size – no Duel Avatar would be able to pass through it directly, but —
Raising his eyes to take a look at the Special Attacks Gauge, he sees that he only has 5 percent left. The HP Gauge has just 20 percent left, but even at full health, to take a strike from the Warrior Enemy’s Tachi (TL Note: katana variant) means instant death.
He sets up his trajectory carefully, then kicks off the ground with his right foot and spends the last of his Special Attacks Gauge to use the final “Flash Blink”.
The granulated body of Chrome Falcon passes through the wooden window frame and finally enters the Imperial City proper.
This Ability is the very method that tricked the eyes of the “Four Sacred Beasts” and made possible the entrance into the impenetrable outer regions of the Imperial City. The method is extremely simple. He charges his Special Attacks Gauge beforehand, circles around to the infinitely dark outer regions of the Imperial City ,rather than crossing the bridge guarded by the Four Sacred Beasts and uses “Blink” to cover the greatest possible distance. Even so, even by using up all of the Special Attacks Gauge, a hundred meters of movement is the maximum –not enough to pass through the abyss five hundred meters wide.
That’s why the initial trajectory is set to be slightly higher. The moment he appears above the abyss, the Avatar, unable to resist the super gravity is pulled to the bottom of the abyss while the HP Gauge is drained. But as a result, the Special Attacks Gauge is recharged – after a certain amount is replenished, “Blink” is used again diagonally upwards. The process is continuously repeated until he crosses the abyss.
—Even if that all worked, he only planned to scout – or, to use another term, experiment – today. If the cycle of Blink, recharge and Blink again was proven to be possible, he planned to just fall to the bottom of the abyss and die. He would use the obtained data as a basis to tweak the plan after he revives in front of the abyss. Once he had ensured a greater possibility of success, he would start the real challenge.
Or that was how he intended. Instead he charges in recklessly without a plan on the very first try, all due to the extreme fear he felt as he dropped down the abyss. Completely ecstatic after the first drop, blindly using Blink in front of him, he didn’t realise what was happening until after he had reached the outer walls of the Imperial City.
Of course, the desired result is achieved – but to accept what had been learned and give up now is not possible.
Eleven months since the start of the battle of the Accelerated World, the children who became BB Players are creating a history of rivalry, as well as the history of the struggle against the unknown game creator, at the same time. The children poured tremendous enthusiasm into finding loopholes in the system – ways to easily obtain Points – but as soon as the methods were found, the creator would install a patch to close the loophole. The “Enemy Stacking” (TL Note: Literally ‘Stage Trap Enemy Hunting Method’) within the game, the “Seal Cheating” which relies on outside programs from the real world and other methods… as long as the techniques are found to have the slightest trace of trickery, amendments to disable such techniques will be installed at a speed astonishingly faster than other web games. The reaction speed has lead many players to believe that the creators and administrators of Brain Burst are not real people but AI.
In any case, the mysterious creator strictly forbids opportunistic approaches within the game. In the Accelerated World, to obtain something, the player must pay an equal price.
As such, flying over the obstacle instead of entering via the four directional gates to enter the absolutely inaccessible “Imperial City” – Chrome Falcon’s method – would definitely not be recognised as proper. A patch will be released very soon, the super gravity of the abyss then being able to capture the originally physical and gravitational nullifying Flash Blink. No, maybe the patch has already been released.
That’s why… this is my first and last chance.
To obtain something here, or to become stronger here and become a Burst Linker worthy of being Saffron Blossom’s partner. To no longer fear to lose her, to allow her to feel content with choosing me.
And most importantly, to repay Blossom for reaching out and talking to me – since I am as introverted here as I am in the real world.
The area after passing through the window frame is a wooden corridor well-polished and looking brand-new. Gorgeously drawn sliding doors line the walls further along the corridor. Golden candle stands are equally spaced apart, their orange flames flickering silently. Signs of Enemies — so far, nothing.
He makes sure that there is a little golden bolt hanging off the window behind him. The bolt is not a meaningless ornament. He turns the bolt and lightly pushes, the vermilion window opens outwards soundlessly. At least by returning here, it is possible to escape from the Inner Imperial City.
But even if he does leave, there is no Portal for escaping. It’s impossible to leave the same way he came in. He makes up his mind, coming to the conclusion that – as long as his mentality and luck hold out – progressing forward deeper is the only way to go.
Holding his breath under the silver mask, the skinny Avatar advances forward as if melting into the gloom of the corridor.
A few hours — or is it closer to a few dozen?
Because he dives into the Unlimited Neutral Field right after elementary school ends, in theory it is possible for him to spend days or even months in this world. In truth, he had once dived, no, ‘lived’ with Blossom in this world for a full three-month period.
That said, the difficulty of avoiding the Reaction Area of the Warrior and Shinto Priest Enemies — which are much stronger than their counterparts in the Inner Garden — is simply beyond imagining. If Falcon didn’t have such a small and lightweight body, then this act would probably be impossible. At the same time, it would seem that the Citadel was built with the expectation that it would be assaulted by massive parties with hundreds of members. The road is surprisingly wide; the ceiling is also very high. He is able to avoid the patrolling Enemies and continue forward precisely because of this fact, but his concentration is approaching its limit.
He takes a deep breath. The icy air refreshes him once more as he hides behind a large round pillar, searching for his next route.
The Imperial City is one thousand and five hundred meters in diameter; the distance from the Suzaku Gate to the Front Gate guarded by the Demon Enemy is roughly four hundred meters. So the size of the Main Hall, the greatest distance from South to North, should only be about seven hundred meters across. He speculates that he has walked five hundred meters already since he broke in; therefore, he should be approaching the central area of the Main Hall.
Sure enough –
A particularly broad space, its floor flickering with inconceivable radiance, appeared in front of the road stretching northwards.
Two objects, standing side by side. Transparent cyan in colour, rippling like the surface of water.
That colour is very familiar. It is the radiance of the “Leave Points” (also known as “Portals”) set up within iconic buildings throughout the Unlimited Neutral Field.
He can’t help but feel relief as he sighs – only to swallow this feeling in mid-breath. If this is just a Leave Point connected to the real world, he can’t even take back some sort of proof of his successful trespass – much less the honour of clearing the game. For what reason did he challenge the abyss for so long, being prepared to die while using “Blink” for all that time, endure the nervousness for dozens of hours as he sneaked through —
No, the original motivation behind this Individual Mission wasn’t anything material. He only wanted something akin to confidence. A certain pride that would allow him to continue to stand tall beside Saffron Blossom.
Then this is already enough. Sneaking into the most dangerous place in the Accelerated World, arriving at the innermost area and surviving. Even if I am the only one who knows what I have achieved, this fact will surely give me courage in the future. The fact that I did what even the strongest “Pure Colours” couldn’t.
Thinking about it carefully, the system never plainly indicated exactly when this immense and mysterious game, Brain Burst, would be finally “cleared”. The ideal outcome would involve having the name of the clearer declared to the whole Accelerated World, awards of Burst Points as prize money and Enhanced Armaments as prize items, before the game continues – but there is also the possibility of the Ending Theme playing while the credits roll, followed by the uninstalling of the game software from the Neuro-Linkers of the BB Players as the word END appears. Because he has never met Blossom in reality or exchanged contact methods, if that were to be the result… they would never meet each other again.
That’s why, if I come across any item that seems like a Clear Item, I will not think about touching it. That’s All. Surviving past the Portal… is the best reward I should expect from this quest…
Yet it’s almost as if this noble thought of this ordinary Metal coloured Duel Avatar… convinced the true god of the Accelerated World to show pity on him.
Because what awaits him to demand his attention at the expense of his concentration and alertness focused on watching his surroundings… aren’t just ordinary Portals.
The ovals flickering with blue light sitting side by side are indistinguishable from countless other Portals existing outside of the Imperial City. But an incredible object is placed in front of each oval.
Two gleaming black pillars – no, pedestals, each standing at about one meter tall. Each one has an object placed on top of it. Treading lightly to minimize the sound of his own footsteps, he approaches the pedestal on the left.
In front of him, slightly above his line of sight, sits a sword or a katana bathed under the radiance of the Portal. The reason why it can’t be properly distinguished is because although the hilt and the guard are both Japanese in style, the sheath forms a straight line without any curve to it. The mirror like surface, forged from a silvery metal, is almost without any decorations.
The terrible power hidden within this straight katana can be seen from a glance. If it is an Enhanced Armament, then it must be of the highest rank – no, probably even above that. Just looking at it knocks the breath out of him due to the pressure. It’s as if he is being stared down at close range by Legend Enemies – no, more like by the “Four Sacred Beasts” he once saw.
Taking his sight off from the straight katana with some effort, he looks to the black marble pedestal once again.
A rectangular metal nameplate is inlaid on its foreside; some images and characters are engraved on it.
First of all, at the very top is seven dots arranged like a letter ‘P’ leaning left and a line connecting the dots. He had once seen the same image during science class in elementary school, when they were learning about constellations. A quadrangle formed by four stars connecting to a tail of three stars. That is the ladle shaped “Big Dipper”. Carefully looking at it, the centre of the ladle handle – that is, the fifth star from the left is larger than the rest of the stars.
Underneath the constellation, are two Kanji characters rarely seen in the Accelerated World where English words are normally used – 【玉衝】 – although he can read, he can’t understand what they mean.
Below that is one more line of text, this time in English.
He does remember that that means “Infinite”. Most likely, this is the name of the straight katana Enhanced Armament within the game. The silver masked Avatar rolled the words over his tongue repeatedly as he moves several steps to the right to look at the other pedestal.
No matter how you look at it, the item placed on top is Western style protection gear –
Its form is not heavy or bulky. In normal VRMMORPGs, it would be considered a light-armour type. The headpiece is round in shape; the chest, shoulder and wrist parts have been reduced to the absolute minimum size. The lower portion consists simply of boots that reach up to the knees. But it doesn’t give at all the impression of a weak item. The armour – brilliant silver like the sword – seems to contain within astounding data density – enough to block some attacks completely. Even the space around it seems to be distorted due to its influence. Compared to it, the armour of the Metal-coloured Chrome Falcon seems like some sort of simple toy.
Holding his breath, he checked the nameplate.
The overall style is exactly the same as the one on the pedestal of the sword. At the top is the schematic view of the Big Dipper. But the larger star is the sixth from the left instead. The Kanji characters are 【開陽】. Sure enough, he still can’t understand the meaning.
And the English name at the very bottom —
【THE DESTINY】. It should mean “Fate”.
As he read to this point, he can’t help but take a step back, this time breathing out heavily.
These two are perhaps Enhanced Armaments for the strongest rank within the Accelerated World. Sword and armour.
He can make them his own by simply reaching out and touching them. Throughout the Unlimited Neutral Field there are numerous “Dungeons”, where – according to rumours – Enhanced Armaments on pedestals have also been found deep within.
However, the Portals wavering behind the pedestals need to be noted. They have to be related to each other. Most likely they will activate as soon as he touches and activates one of the items and forcibly send him to the real world.
Also, if an item is activated, the matching Portal would become a singular use “One Time Portal” and seal off its corresponding pedestal. That is to say, a single person or group at one time can only choose between the sword and the armour. A standard two choice question in games.
Although just a few minutes ago, he had already fully considered the circumstance where he enters the Portal and logout, in the current situation he lacks the resolve to not touch either of the pedestals. Anyways, his real age is just eight – even if the accelerated portion is added on, he’s still no older than thirteen. Since everything has been set up like this, it is obvious that the Portals will only activate if he touches one of the pedestals.
So, which one?
It doesn’t really matter if he chooses the sword or armour – as long as he equips it, it will obviously make his ability parameters soar. But to enhance Chrome Falcon alone is meaningless. The first thing he should consider is how the choice will affect him as Saffron Blossom’s partner. The only reason for Falcon’s existence is to protect her. Then should he choose the sword? He is already a defensive Metal Colour – to strengthen his armour again would just be redundant.
The foot heading to the pedestal of 【THE INFINITY】… suddenly stops.
To protect Blossom. If that is the only requirement, then there is a better option. An option that can protect her despite her frail armour; an option that allows her to be unharmed even under harsh and concentrated attacks.
Clenching his right fist, he hammers his own chest to expel his immaturity and selfish desires, and reaches out to the silver armour sitting to the right.
The instant his fingertip touches the item, a purple System Message pops out in front of him with a bright sound. 《YOU GOT AN ENHANCED ARMAMENT 【THE DESTINY】》.
The armour disappears into light particles; at the same time, the Portal’s blue light radiates out and envelops Chrome Falcon.
Sudden lowering of stage lights
Although not spacious, a room that feels soothing materializes out of the light.
Both the wall and the floor have been heavily polished. A black cooking stove stands in the corner. Sizzling steam constantly pours out of a teapot sitting above it. Opposite it, next to the wall, is a large bed. Upon the pure white sheet sit two people, side by side.
They aren’t just humans. One of them is clad in deep-silver armour. The other’s body is bright orange like the sun. The short hair and the well-conceived shoulder and waist design make her look just like a budding bloom.
Facing the silver Avatar who is bowing his head like a child being scolded, the orange Avatar gently raises her cute right fist.
‘God — are you an idiot!?’
Dong. He doesn’t know how many times he had taken a hit to the helmet already. Cringing out of reflex, he repeats the same excuse he had used.
‘Li-, like I said, I only planned to experiment a little at the start.’
‘Then just use the same method to come back! Why did you just charge into the citadel without a care in the world!?’
‘Be-, because my HP had already dropped a lot – if I died on the inner side of the abyss while using ‘Blink’, I may not have respawned again on the outside.’
‘But even if you did respawn on the inside, your HP would have been completely restored by then – you could have just used ‘Blink’ to come back out!’
‘Uuu… th-, that is true, but…’
There is no chance of him winning this kind of argument against his logical, cool-headed partner. Just as his shoulders droop in misery, he hears a loud sigh – and then, instead of a fist, a delicate palm pats him on the head.
‘But… the will to challenge the “Imperial City”, and the mental strength to make it to the innermost area and come back out… are worthy of praise. You did well, Fal.
He raises his head – that gentle voice makes his heart skip a beat. Just in front of him, a calm smile appears upon Saffron Blossom’s cute face.
‘Th-thank you, Fron.’
Staring into her light aqua-coloured eyes as he murmurs, Blossom shrinks back her shoulders shyly and pulls her hand back from the top of Chrome Falcon’s head.
‘I’ll go brew some tea. That’s right, we’ll have a slice of cake to celebrate your safe return. I recently bought one from the “Food Shop” down in Ginza. It looks quite tasty.’
He watches the figure of his partner running hurriedly into the opposite kitchen – as his heart is once again filled with emotions, he is unable to make a sound.
The key to the small house – located in a corner of the harbour area in the Unlimited Neutral Field, a location that corresponds to the artificial island of Odaiba in the real world – was purchased by the two of them with the points they had gathered from Enemy hunting over many years – albeit of Accelerated Time. To Falcon, the thought of using these points for levelling up or purchasing a strong Enhanced Armament had crossed his mind. But seeing Blossom open the doors of the house for the first time blew away all those childish ideas in an instant.
After that, almost another year was spent collecting furniture for this home. To Falcon, this place feels more like home than his home in the real world. Compared to an empty home with no siblings where his parents leave early and come home late… there is this home, where Blossom is always by his side. Of course, sharing a bed is still embarrassing.
As to why she was so fixed upon the idea of buying a house back then… she told him the reason a month ago in real time.
Saffron Blossom has suffered from intracellular mitochondrial dysfunction, an incurable disease, since birth. Because it’s a hereditary disease, even the most advanced nano-machine therapies show no results. Although the only symptoms she has so far are headaches and increased fatigue, her condition will continue to deteriorate, the symptoms worsening to convulsions and paralysis before the disease finally reaches her heart… the doctors have already predicted that she is unlikely to reach adulthood. It seems that the other reason she had worn the Neuro-Linker since birth – at that time, it had just gone on the market – was to have her condition and vital signs monitored at all times.
Blossom gives Falcon, who is sitting on the same bed staring at her, a bright smile.
—Don’t make such a face, Fal. Even if some misfortune were to befall me, it won’t be for another ten or fifteen years… Besides, we still have “Brain Burst”. In this accelerated world, we can live for almost a lifetime. In this cute and beautiful home we bought, living with the person I love most, forever and ever…
Facing Blossom as she says that while smiling shyly once again, he can’t help but blurt out ‘You mean, me?’ Immediately he receives a punch in response.
So happy, but scared at the same time. Can I really do it? Do I, Chrome Falcon, really have the right to spend a “lifetime” with Blossom? The other reason he recklessly challenged the Imperial City yesterday was due to that fear within his heart.
That’s why, looking at the side of his partner’s face as she prepares tea and cake on the small table in front of him, he can no longer suppress the question that has been weighing heavy on his heart since surviving that citadel.
‘Ah, Fron. Why… why me? I don’t have any significant abilities. Even in the Metal Colour Chart, I’m nothing that special… why did you choose me?’
Immediately Blossom shows an expression of dazed astonishment, but quickly purses her mouth.
‘Aah, you forgot?! Fal, the one who first suggested that we form a party was you! With that super quiet voice you were using to talk to me among the spectators, I had to keep asking you to repeat the question!’
‘Eeh… Wa, was that the case?’
He quickly looks back through his memories, but that moment feels like it happened close to five years ago. Even so, according to his memories of that moment from the distant past, he was the one who first talked to Blossom – not the other way around. Surprised by his own courage, a non-existent cold sweat begins to break out across his Avatar’s body . Setting the teapot down, Blossom leans over and places her hands on his shoulders.
‘Now, it’s my turn to ask. Fal, why did you choose me? I didn’t have any abilities back then, and I was always being trounced by the high power types – why me?’
—Why? He had chosen her from the moment he first saw her.
But it seems that those feelings are impossible to hide from his long-time partner. With a gentle smile, the sunny Avatar wraps her delicate arms around Falcon’s head and hugs him tightly.
‘…Me too. I thought so too. There is no other reason, and I haven’t regretted it once…let’s finish this tea. After that we’ll go out and watch the sea. It’s still the “Twilight Stage” outside – the sunset must be really pretty.’
Sudden lowering of stage lights
Two standing figures emerge out of the white halo, snuggling together. One dark-silver, the other orange.
Points of light spread across the distance. The quiet sea, and the sun sinking into the horizon. The water surface reflects the dazzling setting sun, and blends together with the colours of the two figures gazing at this sight.
The sunset view overlooking Tokyo Harbour from Akatsukifutou Park in the south-western corner of Daiba, is breathtaking to the point that it is hard to believe it is just 3D imagery produced from the data taken by the security cameras.
But this is not the real world, since the constant airline arrivals and departures that should be taking place in Haneda Airport on the opposite shore are nowhere to be seen, and instead there are gigantic pterodactyl Enemies soaring carefree in the orange sky. Instead of whales, plesiosaurs cause massive waves in the shallows of the bay.
Every time he gazes into the distance with Blossom in the vast Unlimited Neutral Field, he can’t help but ponder.
For what reason does this world exist? For what purpose are only young children allowed to step foot into this world?
The total cost to build as well as operate such an enormous system is completely beyond the imagination of an elementary school student. Not to mention that until this moment in time, not one BB Player has paid even a single cent in gaming fees. There are rumours saying it’s a market research project carried out by big-budget gaming companies, others say it’s a publicity stunt by advertisement companies, however, if that is really the case, then way too few programs have been distributed.
Around a year ago, about one hundred children received the Client Package from an untraceable source. Of that number, only thirty percent managed to level up to Level 2 and become 《Parents》who have the unlimited privilege to copy-and-install — thirty people. From there, the game spread once again by being shared between children who like video-games, yet although it has now reached five hundred players concentrated in the southern areas of the 23 wards (translator’s notes: the 23 special wards of Tokyo) as the hub, the scale is still incredibly small for it to be a corporate sales strategy.
In the first place, the requirements to become a player for the game Brain Burst are way too strict. It is difficult to imagine many children at all to have worn a Neuro-Linker since birth and be experienced in Full Dives for extended periods of time. Although the BB program comes with a 《Install Aptitude Checker》 module, which detects if the requirements are met via transferring a Trojan-like (translator’s notes: Trojan files) file through a Direct Link, Falcon has yet to find anyone close to him who can satisfy the requirements. As a result, although he has reached Level 5, he has completely given up on becoming a 《Parent》.
Why does it exist? For what reason does this alternate world with infinite space and time exist?
‘Are you still thinking, Fal?’
Saffron Blossom, who is leaning next to him, suddenly murmurs. Blinking several times under the silvery mask, he ceases his rambling thoughts.
‘Ah, yeah. I don’t really have any weird feelings about the normal Field, but every time I see the Unlimited Field, I feel really concerned. Whe… where is this all leading, things like that.’
‘Well… I can understand that same feeling. During my recent conversations with friends and family in the real world, from time to time, they would look at me really weirdly. Though I don’t believe I’ve changed much at all, it seems I have been unconsciously using words and expressions that I’ve never used before.
Blossom seemingly leans closer to him timidly, sensing that, Falcon tenses his shoulders to hug her tighter.
‘That can’t be helped. We have already spent… no, lived five years in this world. We have experienced so many sights, so many exchanges, so many thoughts. The age of our souls has long surpassed the standards of a sixth grade student. But every cloud has its silver lining. If it’s the me from the past, I would unconsciously feel embarrassed just to stay in the same room with girls, let alone talk to them.’
‘Ho, ho. It seems to me that you’re still a kid, Falcon-san.’
Although Blossom smiles faintly, a look of grimness soon appears on her cute face.
‘Hey… Fal. Have you ever heard about this…? What happens to players who lose all their Burst Points and have their BB program forcibly uninstalled…?’
The soft murmur causes his body to stiffen for a moment. However he quickly relaxes and deliberately answers in a calm voice.
‘Those are just rumours… Players who had their programs uninstalled will lose all memories regarding the Accelerated World… That just sounds so far-fetched, manipulating other’s memories and stuff…’
‘If that is so, then the technology to accelerate one’s thought speed by one thousand times is just as unbelievable initially. To tell the truth, I still can’t comprehend it all. That’s why, perhaps 《Memory Erasure》 is also…’
At this point, Falcon, who is equally dubious about the base technology within Brain Burst, can’t help but fall silent.
Both of them are 《First Generation BB Players》 without 《Parents》, whose numbers have dwindled to just twenty people, both of them also don’t have their own 《Child》. As a result, there has not been any chance for them to confirm whether or not players who lose the program really do lose their memories.
No, even if there is a chance, confirming the truth will not be easy. According to rumours, the people who retire from the Accelerated World, instead of losing all memories regarding the Accelerated World, could be more accurately described as having《lost interest in Brain Burst as well as the fine details regarding the game》. A technique that does not create any memory blanks, thus minimizing the sense of discord felt by the people around them, can best be described as a mental manipulation with a buffering characteristic.
Which is why this could be a technique more fearsome than simple complete memory erasure.
Buddies who have been always in the same Legion, or strongly bonded 《Parents》and their 《Children》, one day they don’t simply forget — they lose all interest in each other. They see each other as one of those non-essential acquaintances they could do without. If this was truly the end result, it would be much better to become total strangers. Although slim, there would still be a chance to reacquaint and become friends again…
The inexplicable chill brought about by his own thoughts makes the Avatar shiver. At the same moment, a soft murmur reaches his ear.
‘Fal, I really want a 《Child》 soon.’
The unexpected statement makes him stare at his partner. Blossom smiles shyly for an instant, but quickly changes her expression and quietly continues.
‘Until this moment I did not dare to try it because I never had the confidence to protect my 《Child》, but recently my normal battle win ratio has stabilised, and I have also accumulated enough battle techniques for use against Enemies right? In the future, even if my Child’s points fall below a safe level, I will still be able to bail them out to an extent. Even so, I won’t just spoil them by doing that all the time. Once they reach Level 4, they can just pay me back by hunting Enemies.’
‘Ha… ha ha, is that so…’
Falcon nods, if it’s Blossom, then she will become a harsh yet gentle mother… no, 《Parent》. Taking her eyes off Falcon, Saffron Blossom turns her gaze past the Tokyo Bay to the distant Pacific Ocean and makes an even more surprising statement.
‘After that, even if it is much further in the future, one day, I will start my own Legion.’
‘Eh… You want to start participating in territory battles?’
He hurriedly asks so, the short bright-yellow hair shakes from side to side as a reply.
‘No, no. The Daida area has always been an unclaimed land, so it’s possible to initiate a territory declaration, but that would just be more of the same. My Legion won’t be a warring Legion… how should I put it, it would be more of a Legion of mutual aid.’
‘Mutual aid… as in helping one another?’
‘Yeah, that’s right. Providing points when the 《Children》run low and being paid back in the future, isn’t that like what I just described? But this will be larger in scale and more systematic. ‘
He frowns deeply as his partner’s words have finally gone beyond his level of comprehension. Immediately, Blossom turns around, grabs both of Falcon’s palms and continues with a serious expression.
‘Hey… Fal. We’ve been a team since Level 1 right? Both of us lost ourselves in battle as we worked our way up to Level 2, then Level 3, then Level 4, by the time we noticed, we were already Level 5. But if we think about it right now, we are indeed very lucky. Though I am a little unwilling to think about it, all this time we’ve been levelling up, sometimes even because of our levelling up, many BB Players have lost all their Burst Points and retired from the Accelerated World.’
Indeed that is so. Although, at this point, the moment when someone’s Burst Points run out has only been witnessed a handful of times, the indisputable truth remains that four out of every five 《First Generations》 have been eliminated.
The seriousness of the topic robs him of his replies, as Blossom’s two small hands rub back and forth around his wrists lightly, soothingly. At the same time she softly murmurs.
‘Sorry Fal. I don’t regret anything. 《Brain Burst》 is a fighting game after all… there will always be winners as well as losers, that is an undeniable fact. But… But, the moment your points become zero, you will lose the program, lose the memories, lose everything and never be able to return to this world, that is just too cruel… I have seen too many people with only a few points left, I can’t feel a hint of joy from them… If you can’t enjoy it, then how can this still be called a game?
— Perhaps, this cruelty is what the mysterious developer is hoping for .That thought crosses his mind for an instant, but he chooses to remain silent. Instead he suddenly asks.
‘That’s why… you want to build a 《Legion of Mutual Aid》…?’
‘…Yeah. Collect a massive reservoir of points beforehand and lend them to those who have nearly exhausted theirs. After their points are back to a safe level, they can return the points by participating in Enemy hunts. Over the last five years, we’ve learned so many hunting techniques that I’m almost sick of them. With these techniques, the number of accidents during Enemy battles can be substantially reduced.’
As he struggles to understand the goals behind Blossom’s scheme, he asks her in a careful manner.
‘If all the players join the mutual aid system… then no one will ever lose all their points, all the players’ 《Acceleration》 as well as levelling points has to be supported by the hunting of Enemies… Is that even possible…?’
‘It is. It will be… It absolutely has to be this way.’
Saffron Blossom shows her most serious sparkle so far in her light blue eye-lens that reminds one of the spring sky as she reveals some new information.
‘I… recently heard a rumour. Some of the Legions go to game shops and amusement parks just to look for children who have Acceleration compatibility, and once found, they give them the BB program straight away…’
‘Tha… that is indeed somewhat informal, but isn’t that a great way to increase members…?’
‘No. Those people never saw the 《Children》 as partners at all… They don’t teach the children anything about Brain Burst, instead they use the Direct Link or the Local Area Net to continuously challenge the children to take all of their initial 100 Burst Points… causing the forced uninstall of the programs…’
He catches his breath. This isn’t even 《Soliciting》anymore, it has turned into pure 《Hunting》. Not Enemy hunting — Player hunting.
Blossom watches Falcon closely and, seeing he is unable to speak, continues in a strained tone.
‘If that is the truth… then it must be wrong. Even if it is possible on the system, it is still wrong. Although I don’t have that much power… I will do something about it. I’ll try my hardest, even if it changes little. I don’t know how long it will take, raising a 《Child》, testing the plan to loan points, building the Legion… One day, one day I will make sure that everyone in this world can enjoy this game…’
By the time he realises, his arms are already tightly wrapped around Blossom.
To the small Avatar within his arms, he desperately whispers.
‘… Let me help. Although I’m a good-for-nothing Metal Colour, I promise, for you, for this world, I will keep on doing my best. Brain Burst is a fighting game, and games you play should be enjoyed. I am really happy that I have always been able to fight with you, Fron. Ever since I have met you, every day, I have always happily looked forward to the next day. I want to share our happiness with the other players as well.’
‘Yeah. Yes… it the same for me, I am so happy with Fal. From now on, for sure, we’ll be happy forever. Let us spread this happiness. If it’s the two of us then it will be possible.’
Hugging Blossom tightly as she replies in a shaking voice, he lightly presses down on her shoulders.
Just a sec, raising a single finger as if saying that, he touches his own HP Bar to the upper-left of his sight to open the Menu Window. Searching through his Storage (Translator’s Notes: Written in Kanji as Personal Belongings Bar), he Objectifies an Item.
It’s a Card with a silvery radiance like the surface of a mirror. The Items obtainable in the Unlimited Neutral Field probably all initially existed in Card form such as this. Enhanced Armaments are no exception, after obtaining them from Dungeons or as Enemy drops, they are sealed as Cards before being placed in Storage. The ownership settings are decided by who equips it for the first time.
Removing the Card from the Window, he passes it to Blossom.
The tiny characters carved onto the surface spell —【THE DESTINY】. Obtained from the deepest part of the Imperial City, perhaps the strongest armour of white-silver in the world.
‘Fron, this is for you. Your dream, will be realised for sure.’
Blossom carefully lifts her hands to take the Card.
Because of this overwhelming power, both of their destinies will be distorted, but at this point of course, it is impossible for them to know…
Blackout (TL Notes: the turning off of the stage lighting to separate scenes in a play or end a play) (Personal Notes: change all previous entries)
A delicate figure emerges out of the white halo.
The shading of her body reminds others of the bright orange spring sunlight. But colours previously unseen on her body have now appeared. Her forehead, chest and all four limbs now shine with a mirror-like silver.
The short hair that looks like a budding flower is hanging down flatly. Both arms are spread out in opposite directions, her skinny legs stretching down powerlessly. The only reason she would remain motionless in such an unstable posture is because something restrains her from behind.
Thin and solid black, as if cut from a large uniform sheet — a cross. The orange figure is firmly secured to the cross, making it unclear whether or not the cross exerts some attracting force.
The illumination continues to spread, finally allowing the surrounding area to be seen.
The ground emits a metallic-green lustre. Strange bugs with the same metallic lustre are wriggling everywhere. The cross has been stuck into the lowest part of the bowl-like depression in the ground. Close by her, a large fissure has been opened in the ground; the black fissure opening gives off a feeling of absolute terror. The sides of the fissure are coated with clear viscous slime.
The illumination spreads out further.
Around the edge of the thirty metre-wide depression, several dozen figures stand in a circle. Not moving, not speaking, they are all silently observing the cross at the bottom of the depression. It’s just like they know what’s about to happen. Holding their breath, eyes wide open, fearing — or anticipating — something.
Among these figures, only one is lying upon the ground.
A small body with a dark-silver lustre. Slim of limb and wearing a round helmet. He seems to be trying desperately to stand up, his sharp fingertips carving into the metallic ground. But all to no avail. Two pieces of thin black plates, very similar to the cross at the bottom of the depression, hold him on his left and right.
The metallic bugs which have been slowly crawling around the depression suddenly flee the area in a great hurry. Diving into the gill-like folds spread across the ground, disappearing from view instantly.
Zuzuzu, zuzuzu, from the open fissure down in the depression, a barely audible sound of vibration reverberates out.
‘Stop… stop, for the love of God, stop!!’
These same words are screamed out dozens, even hundreds of times, only for the sound to dissipate once again into the Unlimited Neutral Field.
Countless scratches have been carved into the ground in front of him by his fingers. But, regardless of how much effort he put in, he is only able to move his forearms and hands. The jet-black plates which clamp his arms at his shoulders are thin beyond belief, but they have the overwhelming power to tightly bind Chrome Falcon like gigantic pliers.
What’s even more unbelievable is that the player who is controlling the two plates is managing the cross at the bottom of the depression in the distance to bind Saffron Blossom at the exact same time.
Bowing her head feebly, it seems that Blossom doesn’t have any strength left to move. It can’t really be helped. All of the pain she has ever experienced in the Accelerated World can’t even match that of what she has just experienced.
At the same time, the extreme rage and despair that are colliding within Falcon’s consciousness are feelings that he have never experienced before in his life.
‘Stop… stop, please stop…’
He desperately squeezes out a dry rasp through his clenched teeth. At the same time, his Avatar’s fingertips carve out new parallel lines upon the hard ground of the «Purgatory» Stage. However, he is still unable to move. The sense of powerlessness only intensifies the despair he feels.
He can feel it with his body, that terrifying tremble. That thing is coming again.
In the centre of the depression, from the depths of the two meter wide fissure beside the cross that’s restraining Blossom, it seems like something is about to crawl out of there. Ten feelers with sharp tips emerge first, waving about erratically. Then two parallel rows of red glowing orbs light up from the depth of the darkness. The orbs that impart a feeling of endless hunger are that thing’s eyes. The moment the feelers sense Blossom close in front, countless eyes radiate a bright glare. Then…
Along with a slimy sound and the splashing of countless droplets of mucus, what emerges out of the fissure is a worm type monster gigantic beyond belief. It is one of the strongest beings in the Accelerated World apart from the «Four Sacred Beasts» that guard the four cardinal gates of the Forbidden City, Legend Rank Enemy — Hell Worm «Jörmungandr».
Even though it only appears in «Purgatory», «Disease», «Rotten Woods» and a small number of the organic stages, meeting it pretty much guarantees death. But its nest is considered small for a Legend Rank Enemy, only a small round depression thirty meters in diameter; even if killed, it is still possible to escape after revival in an hour and the ten seconds or so before Jörmungandr appears again. That is, if nothing — or no one, is deliberately interfering with escaping.
Jörmungandr’s head slowly approaches Blossom who is being restrained by the black cross and unable to move. Below the sixteen lens like red eyes separated into two rows, is a round mouth surrounded by feelers, well, technically it is called an acetabulum. (TL Notes: the suckers on leeches and similar organisms) The bottomless jaw with numerous rings of saw-like teeth and that constantly drips with mucus closes in on the petite Avatar. Blossom shudders and hangs her head even lower.
‘Stop… it….! Stoooooppppp!’
Falcon cries hoarsely from beneath his helmet, but Enemies aren’t people, so naturally they won’t obey any plea.
The meter wide jaw of the long worm opens to its limits above Blossom’s head. The secreted mucus continuously drips down, hissing and producing white smoke on contact with the bright orange armour. That liquid has the effect of dramatically decreasing the physical resistance of an Avatar. The silvery armour on her body instantly loses its glow. As if unwilling to wait any longer, Jörmungandr swallows the upper body of Blossom in one go along with the cross.
In the centre of his vision dyed red with his burning emotions, his long time partner screams again and again.
Enhanced Armament «THE DESTINY». Its power greatly exceeded all original expectations.
Physical type attacks such as cutting, impact, piercing, shot and explosive can all be basically nullified. Energy type attacks such as laser are reflected; the armour is highly resistant to freeze, heat and electric types as well. The only thing that it can’t defend against is the natural enemy of metallic armours, corrosive acids, but players who have these types of attacks are few and far between. Invincible. That is not an exaggeration at all when describing such terrifying defensive capabilities.
But that’s only natural, the armour is supposed to be only obtainable by the ones who have defeated the absolutely unbeatable Super Enemies, «Four Sacred Beasts», and reached the deepest area of the Imperial City, it could even be called the final Item of Brain Burst. But since it was obtained via chance and luck plus a system loophole in the dawning ages of the game, there is no wonder its power is overwhelming.
«THE DESTINY» is strong enough to completely break the game balance of Brain Burst, strong enough to render even the owner of the armour, Saffron Blossom, scared. After all, in the past she would lose almost all her HP if she was hit by a Full Charge Attack (TL Notes: attacks that uses up the whole SP Gauge) from a red or a blue Avatar, whereas now those attacks barely do anything even if she takes them head-on. Just a few regular battles spread her name throughout the whole Accelerated World, accompanied soon after by buying offers and invitations to join strong Legions. Of course, there were also accusations of underhandedness and cheating.
If Blossom was still her same old self who just wanted to team up with Falcon and keep on fighting, perhaps she would have sealed or sold the armour.
But now she has an yet unfulfilled dream of forming a «Legion of Mutual Aid» to prevent others from losing all their points, so as to remove the slaughters resulting from exploiting the Accelerated World’s game mechanics and change it into a place where everyone can battle happily… no, live happily.
Perhaps this is just a silent protest from Blossom who was informed that she would never live until adulthood, but nevertheless has accepted such a fate. To spread countless seeds in the barren lands of the Accelerated World, and make this world bloom with countless flowers—. Perhaps since the instant she became a BB Player, that has always been her dream.
In order to make the core of the Legion of Mutual Aid, «Burst Point Loan System», function practically, a sufficient points pool is necessary. As well as the fighting power needed to dissuade those malicious participants who never intended to pay back the points.
Needless to say, apart from standard battles, «THE DESTINY» also displays overwhelming power during Enemy hunts, so for Blossom, it is no doubt an express ticket to the fulfilment of her dream. Although equipping it significantly quelled challenges, there are still many brave fighters who wished for a battle, however, they were defeat by Blossom and Falcon without exception.
Although it was two on one, they even managed to narrowly defeat one of the strongest «Pure Colours», then Blossom finally announced her idea to the entire Accelerated World. When this occurred, applicants for the new Legion were numerous.
And yesterday, more than thirty BB Players sent a joint message, wishing to hear about the details.
The two of them were thrilled, but slightly uneasy at the same time. The place those people specified was the Unlimited Neutral Field. Although their justification of wanting to see if safe hunting of Enemies is possible was not unreasonable, it is still hard for anyone to predict what would happen in the Unlimited Neutral Field. In the worst-case scenario, it is not at all impossible for all thirty of them to attack at the same time.
Even if they were walking into an ambush, however, it was still hard to believe Blossom could be defeated by one hit when she had «THE DESTINY» equipped. The two of them chose a place very close to a Leave Point as an added precaution. If it was a trap, they only needed to dash to the Portal.
The plan was not without flaws, as it did not provide a contingency plan for abilities like Blossom’s, that do not attack Duel Avatars directly but instead utilize hindering type abilities to impend movement or deprive vision, thus creating a chance that escape through the Portal could be prevented. The two of them still decided to ignore the risk because the list of names contained plenty of old acquaintances. They could not imagine, or want to imagine it to be a nasty trap set by all of those people.
The meeting place today is the equivalent of Shibaura Parking Area north of the Rainbow Bridge, just in case they checked from the distance. More than thirty have already gathered and they matched the names on the sent message.
As Blossom and Falcon walked under the Daiba Route of the Shuto Expressway (TL Notes: Metropolitan Expressway), reassured, two plates suddenly appeared below them—.
Instantly, an intense pressure restrained the two of them.
‘Stop…Please stop it! Why… why are you doing this……!!’
Staring at the worm that looks nothing like its «Legend» rank (TL Notes: the Kanji for Legend神can also mean Holy) sinking its countless teeth into his beloved partner, Chrome Falcon cries once again as he watches the scene unfold.
His question is aimed at the several dozen BB Players standing around the depression of the worm’s nest.
He has recognised most of them, especially since several are chatting buddies when they watch battles. There are also those whom he has fought many battles against, where the win-lose ratio was about half-half. He can’t think of any reason for a grudge that runs deep enough for them to set such a vicious trap.
But they are all keeping their silence, without even taking a glance at Falcon being restrained on the ground. Instead they are keeping their attention solely on the tragedy unfolding endlessly at the bottom of the depression. Their features reveal dread and horror. But it’s not that simple, as behind all their fear, Falcon senses another extremely unpleasant presence strongly.
Unexpectedly, a deep yet fluid voice speaks out from behind him to the right.
‘I’m sorry Falcon-kun. At least allow me to answer in their stead.’
Speaking in a tone that is just like a schoolteacher, the owner of the voice is the very same person who is also managing the two plates and the cross to restrain Falcon and Blossom. His name is unknown. Nor has he ever been seen before. The strange looking Avatar appeared as if black notepapers have being placed vertically in the shape of a human after being cut into shape.
‘That Enhanced Armament is much too different from the norm in this dawning world. I believe, you must have noticed that during your battles over the past few days, right?’
In the real world, even the oldest BB Player should still only be in the second year in elementary school, «to have worn the Neuro-Linker for extended periods of time since birth» is an essential condition for the installation of Brain Burst, while commercial Neuro-Linkers only appeared on the market the year «first generations» like Falcon were born.
But this black multilayered Avatar speaks in a tone that is anything but childish. It even sounds more mature than young teachers in their twenties in the real world. Resisting the pressure, Falcon squeezes out an answer.
‘Then… sell the «armour» to the Shop. Can’t we just divide the points received in return evenly… it’s not necessary to go so far…!!’
‘Unfortunately, that method would leave the Enhanced Armament in the Shop. That won’t prevent someone from obtaining it again to disrupt the game balance. That armour has to go back to where it belongs. For that purpose, a power other than a player’s is required to destroy the owner, this is the only way, Falcon-kun.’
As the tranquil voice finishes his report —.
Saffron Blossom’s Avatar breaks apart into countless pieces inside Jörmungandr’s mouth. An orange pillar of light shoots into the heavens, forming a momentary grave marker before disappearing.
The Hell Worm seems quite satisfied to have killed the intruder in just one bite, waving its feelers about as it crawls back into its nest. The black cross also soundlessly sinks into the dark shadows on the ground.
The only thing that remains is a mass of weak saffron-yellow light. According to the rules of the Unlimited Neutral Field, Blossom will remain in «Ghost Mode» for an hour before reviving in the same place. — At least, that’s how it normally happened.
To Falcon’s left, coming from a position blocked from sight due to the black plates, is a gentle whisper.
‘«Resurrect By Compassion»’
It’s a sound pure and clear beyond any imaginable human voice, carrying with it countless points of light through the air down to the bottom of the depression. As the points of light touch the orange «Ember», a blinding pillar of white light descends from the sky condensing and materialising into an Avatar. Saffron Blossom who would normally revive in an hour’s time has her descent arrested by the cross appearing below her just as her delicate body is about to drop on to the ground, securing her once again beside the nest of the worm.
The same thing has happened countless times already. The amount of points lost during battles against an Enemy is fixed at 10. The points gained during the recent wins can’t be depleted so easily. Which has lead to this cycle of cruel death and even crueller revival.
There have been cases where players lose all points due to death when they enter too deeply into the Territories of Legend Rank Enemies to escape. That phenomenon feared by all BB Players is known as «Infinite Enemy Death». But the group who have trapped Falcon and Blossom is deliberately causing this phenomenon using the black cross and the white light. This is no longer passive death but rather a form of active execution, «Infinite Enemy Kill».
…… Please, no more.
He can only silently pray under the silver mask as he longer has any strength left to plea aloud.
Inside the Unlimited Neutral Field, the amount of pain felt when damaged is raised to the point where it is equal to the real world. Every time Blossom is killed by Jörmungandr she should be feeling as if her entire body is being gnawed apart. Even if her body in the real world remains unscathed, the pain engraved upon her awareness — her soul will not disappear.
The true source of her pain is not the teeth of the monster, but perhaps the gaze of the several dozen players standing around the depression. Those who were once considered friends luring Blossom out with the fake message, making her fall into this trap and merely watching on as she is bitten again and again by the disgusting worm.
Horror and fear aren’t the only things present on their facemasks, as also clearly showing is that hint of excitement. Just like «the scarier it is the more they want to see» mentality of children. It is the same principle as the group mentality of excluding the unfitting students in classes in the real world.
And at the same time.
Like watching from the safe zone as such a student is being excluded yet unable to do anything for that student, that is how Chrome Falcon feels.
If Falcon never entered the «Imperial City». If he never brought out «THE DESTINY». If he never gave it to Blossom, then none of this would be happening. The main culprit does not have to bear a single wound but is only able to watch as his beloved suffers.
Sensing the forcibly revived Blossom, the worm closes in again from the depth of the nest. DORO, DORO, the ground shakes with the noise, yet the orange Avatar is unable to lift even one finger. She can only bow her head while on the jet black cross, facing yet another «death». Or perhaps the loss of all points after that death and the «end» that will cause her to lose all her memories.
I made the same mistake, again.
I have already decided, never to pretend not to see. Never to ignore those who are hurt, rejected and have lost their place of belonging. Even though I have decided. Once again, I am unable to do anything but watch as my most treasured person……
The worn-out awareness squeezes out a voice.
‘I have, had enough. I will never accept being left alone again.’
The amount of pressure being exerted by the two plates to hold the Avatar is as absolute as the world itself. Falcon knows very well that with all his power he won’t even be able to move it one millimetre. But, there is another way for him to escape.
Breaking his own metallic armour instead of the jet-black plates.
‘Uuu… Waa… Wa,ah,ahhhhhhh………..’
With a cry of utmost power, he utilises all his remaining strength. His two hands pressing against the plates on the two sides, pushing them back.
Unable to stand the pressure, the chrome-silver armour starts to squeak. If he was still like his former self, he would have given up at this stage. But ignoring the feeling of being crushed, he exerts even more force.
‘Just give up, Falcon-kun.’
The multilayered Avatar urges as if truly worried.
‘We have no intention at all of eliminating you. After the job, we’ll release you straight away. It should only be once or twice more, why don’t you just obediently wait until then?’
He turns the defiance he feels after hearing that bullshit into more power to push against the plates. Fine cracks start to form on the armour around the wrists. Sparks of pain shoot up, but this is not enough, nowhere near enough.
In that single moment, where he releases the utmost of his power with a silent roar.
The wrist armour sections shatter into pieces with a rigid metallic sound. Blood-like damage effects also spray out of the dark-grey interior, heart-stopping pain flows through his nerves. — Accompanying the dramatic decrease in the HP Gauge, his Special Attacks Gauge fills up by about twenty percent.
Using a faint voice, he shouts.
‘«Flash Blink»!! ‘
Chrome Falcon’s Avatar changes into a formless particle and finally escapes from the plates. Charging forward at a speed that is almost like teleportation, he materialises again fifteen meters ahead.
In front of him is the ravaged Saffron Blossom and the head of Jörmungandr, just about to bite into her delicate body again.
Using the last of his strength, he kicks out at the gigantic worm with the sharp claws on his right foot. One of its many simple eyes (TL Notes: eyes found in some invertebrates, each individual eye is adapted for its own specific tasks) bursts after spraying out a sticky liquid. The second bar of the Enemy’s HP deceases by a despairingly small amount, but as if caught off guard by the surprise attack, the worm shakes it head while releasing Blossom.
Beneath the roaring Enemy, a weak voice pulses through the air.
Multiple gigantic green petals springs out from beneath the black cross, enclosing the two of them like a flower bud. This is Saffron Blossom’s Level 5 Special Attack. Unyielding petals that block the inside from all outside interferences and attacks. Period of effectiveness — thirty seconds.
In the sphere filled with calming green illumination, Falcon catches Blossom as she falls from the vanished cross with his armour-less arms.
He just crouches there, desperately gazing into the face of his beloved partner. This thirty-second period, is the final moment the two of them can share. When the petals vanish, the cross will most likely appear again to restrain them. Jörmungandr will simply obey its instincts and slaughter the new prey as well.
He does not regret at all charging forward to his own demise. But Falcon is unable to find the words he should be speaking at the current time. Therefore, he can only clench his teeth to stifle back his sobs, while continuing to gaze at the face of Blossom. In order to never forget this beautiful face and the aquamarine eyes even if she is to disappear from the Accelerated World.
Drip. The tears dripping out make a faint sound.
‘I’m sorry Fal. I… have always relied upon your gentleness. Because my future in the real world has already been taken away, I wanted to take it back in this world at least… Playing the game of pretending to be adults, and forcing it upon you as well. This end result… is all because of my impatience. I’m sorry…’
Clear points of light drop out from Blossom’s eye-lens, dispersing into the air then disappearing.
— There is no such thing. No such thing.
Although wanting to say so, the words become a hot lump blocking his throat. In the end, he can only shake his head frantically. The slender fingertip softly brush past his helmet.
‘But you know…. please believe in just this one thing. I, really like you. I have liked you from the moment we met. Because I understood instantly. Your feelings of wanting to protect the weak me. Everyone else is trying to seize points from each other, but you… just you…’
Instead of finishing herself, Blossom just smiles.
Then, she lowers her right hand from Falcon’s face, grabs hold of his right hand and guides it to the centre of her chest, horribly wounded by Jörmungandr’s teeth.
‘I have one last request. Fal, you will kill me.’
Blossom smiles at Falcon who has finally opened his mouth.
‘My points, I only have 7 left. Instead of disappearing from this world when I get killed by that Enemy, I would much rather give them to you. This way, even if Brain Burst is forcibly uninstalled, I will still be able to remember you. Even if my memories disappear, just you, I will never forget.’
At this point, the effective time of the ability finally comes to an end, and the roof formed from the petals slowly opens up, the angry roar of the worm ripping apart the serenity on the inside of the sphere.
There is just too little time to convert all of the overflowing feelings within his heart into words.
Holding the sunny Avatar tightly with his left arm, Falcon murmurs softly with all his passion.
Thank you. For responding to me stretching out my hand to you. Thank you. For teaching me all sorts of things. And for expanding my insignificant world, thank you.
He stretches out, aims the fingers on his right hand. Placing claws as sharp as those of a bird of prey in the centre of Saffron Blossom’s chest, directly above a fatal weakness, the heart.
‘… I love you’
Speaking those words he has never before had the courage to speak, while at the same time stabbing into her body with his right hand.
His hand pierces right through «THE DESTINY», made useless due to Jörmungandr’s teeth and digestive fluids.
… Farewell Fal, I love you too.
Those words flow through his consciousness like a gentle sigh and disappear.
Saffron Blossom’s Avatar is not bursting into countless pieces like before. Instead, the delicate silhouette disintegrates into countless ribbons sheltered in a warm spring sun-like aura and fly into the sky. These ribbons further disintegrate into smaller threads, dissolving into the air — and disappearing.
«Final Elimination Phenomenon». The complete removal from the Accelerated World of those who have lost all points.
What he feels now upon his hands is complete emptiness.
The heavy sense of loss makes him feel like he has also disappeared himself. Behind him, Jörmungandr’s countless teeth bite into his armour, producing high-pitch noises.
Just like that he is thrown up into the air. Orange sparks continuously burst out of the metallic armour. The Avatar is being pulled apart, the HP Gauge to the left of his field of vision is also decreasing rapidly. Pain that almost makes him pass out flares up at the same time.
But, there is no scream. He can’t scream. This pain has been felt by Blossom countless times. Clenching his teeth, he continues to endure. Far away in his blurry vision, a group of players standing around in a circle emerges.
Their eyes show the same surprise — and the same disdain. Laughing at the fool losing his life meaninglessly.
To escape from this situation is not at all impossible. He only needs to use «Blink» again by spending the Special Attacks Gauge charged up by the damage he took.
But, there is no need to escape… no, to live any more.
Saffron Blossom is gone. I’m alone again. Even if I escape from here, there’s no point in going back to the mindless duels of a solo player. I’d rather be killed here by this worm just as Blossom was. Experience it all again and again just like her until that moment where all points have been depleted and I’m exiled from this world…
He suddenly notices something.
A tiny spot of light is flashing below the decreasing HP Gauge and the increasing Special Attacks Gauge. The spot of light moves as well if he moves his head, which makes it a… System Message. The rectangular cursor is trying to inform him of something.
When he focuses on the spot, a line of text soundlessly appears.
【YOU ACQUIRED AN ENHANCED ARMAMENT «THE DESTINY»】
He can’t comprehend it.
It’s a message about obtaining an Enhanced Armament. But instead of showing «GOT» which indicates when it has been obtained in card form, it’s showing «ACQUIRED» which indicates a change in ownership. And the armament is — the «armour». It’s «THE DESTINY» which should have disappeared alongside Saffron Blossom.
But why? The methods to transfer an Enhanced Armament should only be limited to selling and buying at a «Shop» and transfers during Direct Linked battles, and those should be the only…
No, there is one more, a vague rumour from a long time ago. When an owner is eliminated from the Accelerated World, there is a very small chance the Enhanced Armament in that player’s Storage would transfer over to the last attacker.
Whether or not Blossom wished for Falcon to obtain the armour by giving her the final blow will never be known.
But Falcon believes it’s the final message she has left him.
- Live and fight.
Unconsciously below the silvery mask, he murmurs the default voice command to equip the Enhanced Armament.
‘Equip… «THE DESTINY»’
Intense illumination like a small star dyes the world silver.
With sharp metallic noises, thick additional armours start to cover the limbs and the body of the Avatar. The design of the «armour» is drastically different from when it was equipped on Blossom. It goes without saying that Enhanced Armaments will adjust its size to suit the Duel Avatar, but the changes to this armour have gone beyond that. It has lost its grace and lithe, turning into a plate armour covered with edges.
Finally, the headpiece also changes from its round shape to that of an open type helmet (TL Notes: This refers to medieval knight helmets with a visor). With a loud GAKIIN, the armour that covers eighty percent of Falcon’s body bounces back all of Jörmungandr’s teeth and prevents them from biting into the Avatar.
The Legend Rank Enemy roars angrily and attacks Falcon again, secreting large amounts of clear mucus from parotid glands between its teeth. This mucus drips on to the silver armour, trying to take away the strength of the armour with its corrosive properties.
For just a split second the silvery mirror surface lost its sheen, then just like peeling away a thin membrane, it blackens to a chrome-silver, completely refusing the erosion. The new colouring is the exact same as Falcon’s original armour.
«Chrome», as a colour is near the centre of the Metal Colour Chart, Between Precious Metals and Base Metals. It lacks strong resistance to both physical and special attacks. It does, however, have a single special property, complete resistance to corrosive type attacks.
It’s as if the supposedly mindless Enhanced Armament, «armour» has taken in its owner’s attributes in order to combat the monster’s mucus — that’s the only way to explain this phenomenon. But logical speculations are meaningless to Falcon now.
As if guided by something, he raises both of his arms to grab hold of the gigantic teeth attempting to pierce his chest which is constantly discharging sparks.
The depths of his heart suddenly light up.
The yearning for Saffron Blossom and the despair he feels due to her death combines to form an emotion he has never felt since arriving in the Accelerated World eleven months ago, more than five years subjectively — rage.
A trembling roar of anger escapes from the depth of his throat.
Chrome Falcon is a child that never angers even in the real world. He listens to the word of the adults, acts according to other’s complexions and generally holds himself back.
Even when a friend from kindergarten was a target of bullying when they entered the same elementary school, he left that friend instead of doing anything. He closed his eyes, plugged his ears, merely waited for someone else to come up with a solution. But before that someone could show up, the boy who used to be his friend had already gone away.
At least back then he should have been angry. Angry at those who bully others. Angry at the teachers who did nothing. Angry at himself also, for pretending not to notice. But he did nothing, he just compressed all his memories and feelings into a pebble and buried it deep in his heart.
Now cracks are appearing on this pebble, spilling out burning emotions as Falcon continues to roar in a warped voice.
His ten digits (TL Notes: fingers and thumbs) become large claws with a sharp noise. The sharp tips cut into the teeth of Jörmungandr. From the wrists to the shoulders, the armour’s edges become sharper and more voluminous.
He now understands why the thirty odd people sent the fake Legion participation message, and betrayed the two of them by setting a trap. It wasn’t because of the absurdly strong game-breaking Enhanced Armament.
It’s because Saffron Blossom was different from them. She had a dream and the strength necessary to carry it out.
‘But… Aren’t you people also…’
— If you’ve became a BB Player, aren’t you people also more or less treated as rejects in the real world. Rejected by others, you come to the Accelerated World with your mental traumas. Then why, are you also rejecting other people. Why do you throw rocks at those you deem different from yourselves?
‘Fron… only ever wanted… to make a place… for people like you to belong…’
As he vents his anger, his hands also start to emit a faint glow.
No, it’s not energy to illuminate something, rather a negative pulse that engulfs all light and heat.
An aura of darkness.
When continuous effects such as this happen to a Duel Avatar, it should be because the player is spending the Gauge to use a Special Attack. But right now, Falcon’s Special Attacks Gauge is at Full Charge and shows no sign of dropping even a pixel dot.
But he fails to notice this and merely continues his stuttering words.
‘So you people… could always play in this world…… to release you people from the horror of losing all your points…… Fron, she only…… only……!’
Unknowingly, Jörmungandr’s teeth, deeply scratched by his ten digits, have been pulled away completely from Falcon’s body. The monster flashes its two rows of eyes and wriggles its gigantic body. But the arms of the Avatar surrounded by the dark aura do not move a single inch.
‘She only…… ever wished for that !!’
A blood coughing roar.
Falcon is now hearing the emotion filled pebble break apart deep in his heart.
Rage. Ever since he started to understand things, he had always suppressed any anger he felt, except now all the anger has burst out, flowing inside the Avatar in a frenzy, emitting that dark aura outwards.
The dark pulses, as if possessing physical pressure, vibrate across the thick skin of the worm and cause it to crack. The Enemy roars and twists as a huge crack forms at the top of its jaw.
‘Aah…… aaaaaahhh…… aaaaaaaaaaaahhh ——–!!’
Screaming in a distorted metallic voice, Falcon suddenly jerks the teeth in his hands in opposite directions.
With an unnatural sound, Jörmungandr’s head is forcefully split apart. Many of the simple eyes burst from within, spraying out copious amounts of bodily fluids. He disregards this and reaches in further through the cracks, grabbing hold of the soft tissues within, ripping them apart again. And again.
When his feet touch the ground, almost half of the Hell Worm is split open. He grabs the right side of the worm, desperately trying to wriggle back into the nest in pain, with the claws on his hands and steps on the right side with his clawed feet to secure it. With all of his power — he rips it apart from head to tail in one go.
The body of the Enemy, finally in two pieces, abruptly pauses in an unnatural form, and then bursts into thousands of pieces.
In the centre of the burst effect at the bottom of the depression, a long thin object materialises. In front of Falcon is a long sword with a clear crystal-white body. It’s an Enemy drop Enhanced Armament. Seeing this sword that seems to hold a star like radiance within, he reaches out for the hilt without the slightest hesitation.
Instantly, the long sword transforms into a small card and disappears. A small System Message pops out at the top of his vision【YOU GOT AN ENHANCED ARMAMENT «STAR CASTER»】.
He murmurs in a hoarse voice.
‘Equip, «STAR CASTER»’
The long sword with the holy form appears once again in his right hand. But the dark aura instantly wraps around the sword, distorting its colour and shape. The crystal clarity changes to a chrome-silver colour. The straight hilt curves ominously. The blade enlarges and thickens, several places of the edge also becoming sawtooth in form.
He holds the newly formed great sword directly in front of him.
The dark silver blade reflects a Duel Avatar. It is no longer the simple Chrome Falcon with his round helmet. Rather it’s an object of destructive impulses with a heinous silhouette.
The only place where his original appearance can still be seen is the smooth facemask showing through the open type helmet. However, the aura of darkness is gathering at the forehead of the helmet, creating a visor large enough to completely cover his face.
He intuitively feels that he’ll no longer be able to turn back if he pulls it down.
… If I ever change, Fron is sure to be sad.
… But, she is no longer part of this world.
Then at this moment, I’ll discard the name of Chrome Falcon. Let it be buried here with Saffron Blossom, along with her ideals, her kindness, her care, let it all be buried here.
Because it’s the stunned players around this depression who refused all these things. Instead of peaceful coexistence, they would prefer to have war. Instead of joining hands, they would prefer to fight to the death. If instead of love, they prefer fury and hatred, then —.
I’ll grant them to you.
Holding the sword high above himself with both hands, he lets the rage flowing from within him take control and roars again.
The dark aura bursting forth all over his body produces more black lightning, continuously striking through the metallic ground. Fissures constantly form and spread from beneath his feet, shaking the very earth. And he screams in a volume that almost resonates with the scream of the earth.
‘Oooooohhh… Ooooooooohhhaaaaaaaaaaaahhh —— !!’
The rage gushing out endlessly becomes almost like a catalyst that could interfere with the world itself. As proof it is not just an illusion, the text in the HUD (TL Notes: Heads-up Display) in the upper left of his vision flashes on and off continuously. The two lines showing the equipped Enhanced Armament, «THE DESTINY» and «STAR CASTER», begin to distort, break apart and combine together.
The two lines overlap and combine to form a new phrase.
‘Gu… ru, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh!!’
This is no longer a person’s scream, but the roar of a hungry ferocious beast.
GAKI. With a sharp clatter, the visor on his forehead falls into place.
A thin grey filter seems to be covering his vision. The resolution however is clearer many times over, such that even the expressions of the Duel Avatars standing in the circle can be seen clearly. Their expressions are of confusion, surprise and intense unease. But what they are feeling, what they are considering are no longer important to Falcon. They are merely targets for him to slaughter. The eyes beneath the helmets narrow, trying to seek out the first victim to hunt.
Focusing his attention on the circle, he can hear the faint sounds of a discussion as if they are being amplified by a highly directional microphone.
‘… auge complete recovery confirmed. No usage of the Special Attacks Gauge. There’s no mistake, it’s because of the Imagination Circuit causing the Override Phenomenon in the «Main Visualiser»’
The owner of the voice is a small Avatar with four large twinkling eye-lens. Replying is the black multilayered Avatar who restrained Falcon and Blossom with the strange technique.
‘As expected, an outburst of sentiments triggers the phenomenon much faster than concentration. Whether it can be controlled is another matter.’
The quad-eyed Avatar also nods.
‘That’s right. That possessing a «Trauma Shell» (TL Notes: literally Shell of Mental Trauma) greater than a certain intensity allows metal-colourisation is already pretty much confirmed. But it’s pretty tough to tell right now with just my «Analyse», whether that fusion phenomenon is an inherent power of the «Seven Star Armament», or simply because he is a metal colour.’
‘Hmm. If possible I would really want to spend some more time studying it…’
At that exact moment, a different voice comes from behind the two of them.
‘Is capture possible, Vise?’
Clear and sweet as melting snow and without a hint of impurity, this is undoubtedly the player that forcefully revived Blossom endlessly. He focuses his eyes under the visor but an inconceivable illumination prevents him from seeing properly.
‘Allow me to try.’
The multilayered Avatar nods his head, this head being made of several plates, and at the same time raises his left hand with the same design.
The plates that make up his hand fall to the ground in order and vanish. Straight after, that black cross appears soundlessly behind Falcon, attempting to use its strange attractive force to restrain him.
With a low growl, the sword in his right hand sweeps behind him, producing the sound and feeling of breaking glass, easily destroying the cross. Light from the damage effects bursts forth from the controller’s left shoulder in the distance.
‘Wow there. That’s pretty tough, normal abilities will not be able to hold him back.’
Falcon focuses his attention on the multilayered Avatar saying that.
Even if their conversation contains too many terms he can’t understand, one point is clear – the whole situation is of their design. They are the bastards who called out Saffron Blossom and tortured her to death with the «Infinite Enemy Kill».
Then the first ones to be hunted down should be you people.
Holding the great sword with two hands, he raises it up weightily, disregarding the dozens of confused people on the side, before taking a step towards the jet black Avatar and soundlessly voicing the ability name.
— Flash Blink!
The blade swinging down at the same time as the super speed teleportation does manage to cut off the remaining right arm of the jet black Avatar. But the faceless opponent remains unshaken; taking a step back, he breaks apart his armless body in an instant.
Changing into two large plates, the black Avatar picks up the quad-eyed Avatar and the person being surrounded by light from both sides. Defying logic, the plates close against each other into one single thin plate.
As the large jet black plate sinks into the shadows on the ground, Falcon makes a horizontal swipe with his sword. But he only manages to slice off a small diagonal portion at the top. Leaving a faint ripple upon the shadow, the mysterious trio’s presence disappears from the Field.
He growls angrily in a low tone as a result of the opponents’ escape, then, a few seconds after that…
GIIN! Something impacts on his right shoulder with a sharp metallic clatter.
Turning around slowly, he finds a medium sized blue Duel Avatar stand there. That Avatar wields with hands a large melee weapon that is a cross between a bokken (TL Notes: A Japanese wooden sword used for training. It is usually the size and shape of a katana) and a naginata (TL Notes: One of several varieties of traditionally made Japanese swords in the form of a pole weapon.). He is a familiar face and a fine acquaintance. One of the very few «First Generations», a direct hit from that pole arm used to be able to shatter Chrome Falcon’s armour.
But after checking the right shoulder, he can’t find any trace of an impact; certainly no crack.
Without even bothering to remember the existence of the flabbergasted opponent, Falcon cleaves straight down with the great dark aura-cloaked sword.
DONG, a heavy bass thud vibrates through freezing air, the weapon of the blue Avatar splits into two from the middle, even as his own upper body also slowly slides apart and rolls on to the ground. Soon after, the lower body pauses mid-fall and bursts with the upper body. He leaves only a cluster of light the same colour as the armour.
Of the thirty odd players, the one who clearly had highest level among them was killed with just one hit, and such a scene spread unease through the remaining people. What’s going on, it’s not what they said was going on. These words of panic start to spread, and the volume increases in proportion.
‘This is not good… quick, run for it!!’
Not knowing who shouted that, the crowd moves in one single direction like a burst dam. They should be heading for the Shibaura Parking Area Leave Point to escape to the real world. — But.
Muttering in his heart, the black-silver armour disappears and reappears in front of the runaways. Another slash and three heads fall in unison.
‘Uuu… Uwa… Uwaaaaaaaaaahhh!’
Howling. Screaming. Some still want to run, some try to find shelter in nearby buildings, some try to retaliate, but the dark blade hacks towards them without exception, wiping out their entire gauge with a single slash.
Falcon’s drive is no longer rage, but a sublime determination that surpasses hatred and vengeance — perhaps it’s a curse.
A curse to destroy this world.
If the Burst Linkers a few years from now who understands the hidden logic behind Brain Burst are able to see Chrome Falcon right now, they’ll most likely make one conclusion. That dark Over Ray is a display of pure negative mentality. A will of absolute denial that crushes all existence, the darkness of the Incarnation System itself.
After the slaughter that only lasted a few dozen seconds, all that remain around the depression are numerous silently wavering embers.
The destroyer of black-silver plants the great sword saturated with blood firmly into the ground and stops there.
In order to wait for their revival an hour later.
That day, more than thirty players vanished from the Accelerated World.
Only one person was lucky enough to make it through the Portal, trembling in fear as he told of the terrifying ordeal — the dubious story of how all his companions were killed by Chrome Flacon wearing that heinous armour.
After all those who challenged Falcon to confirm this rumour were butchered by the great sword in one slash, no one could deny it any longer.
That after nearly a year of development, a horrible disaster had been born into the Accelerated World.
At one point in time, players stopped referring to this destroyer by his Avatar name. The second part of his name had been dubbed with the name of his Enhanced Armament — That is how the name is called.
The white halo illuminates a knight covered by a dark-metal armour, carrying a heinous great sword.
His crouching body is hurt all over, cracks have spread everywhere, his blade has been dulled.
To force him into such a state, the strongest players in the Accelerated World have challenged him countless times, sometimes even in many-on-one Battle Royale Mode.
The destroyer has never refused a duel, rather, he has even removed the «one round per day» challenge limitation, fighting in any given condition. Normally, ten continuous standard battles will cause metal fatigue that results in dull movements, but his daily battles number in the hundreds, grinding away his soul.
Unknowingly, the aura around the sword has become thin, the armour losing its original lustre, yet even so the destroyer still fights. The win ratio continues to fall, the points constantly decrease, until finally in the last and largest battle in the Unlimited Neutral Field, he is driven to the point where he stands to lose all his points.
Multiple Avatars approach the crouching knight from all directions.
Presently all of them are the strongest aces. Several of the «Pure Colours» leading large Legions are among them.
The dying destroyer props himself up slowly with the sword.
A portion of the visor with the heinous design is missing, and the smooth curves of the helmet can be vaguely seen on the inside.
Through the mask he looks to the sky of the Accelerated World.
I — the BB Player who used to be Chrome Falcon will disappear here today.
Memory Erasure, if the rumours regarding the thought operation treatment are true, I will forget all about the Accelerated World — even my beloved Saffron Blossom, turning back into a normal elementary school second year who doesn’t know any difficult words.
But, I’ll leave behind my rage — my sorrow — and my despair.
Blossom and I never wished for power. A hegemony through the power of the «armour» to control the Accelerated World had never crossed our mind. We just wanted to be able to always live in this world with everyone, that would’ve been enough.
If on the mirror like surface of the «armour» , domination and destruction, plunder and lust can be seen, then that is merely a reflection of the desires of those who look.
They are the ones who want power, it’s them who killed Saffron Blossom again and again in that cruel manner.
Then I’ll grant it to them.
My rage, Blossom’s pain, will remain within this «armour» — «The Disaster». From this moment forth, anyone who puts on this armour with desire for power will attack, destroy, devour all other Burst Linkers. Taking in the power of the devoured, infinitely growing stronger. Until the last person left. Until there is only one person in the barren lands of the Accelerated World, at the end of the game.
That is the hidden nature of the power you desire.
I will curse this world. Tarnish it. Even if I’m to disappear here, my rage and hatred will revive — time and time again.
Feeling the touch of delicate fingers brushing across his cheek, Arita Haruyuki slowly opened his eyes.
His blurred vision gradually improved as his eyes slowly refocused. He saw hands enclosed in pure white armour. Wrists draped in kimono sleeves of the same colour. A charming face mask with beautiful ardor eye-lenses.
Through his white-silver helmet, Haruyuki saw the figure of Ardor Maiden — the Level 7 Burst Linker and former member of Nega Nebulas’ «Elements» — processing the purification ability, reach out while kneeling over him.
A shining droplet of water hung from Maiden’s delicate fingertip. She looked down with a look of worry. Haruyuki tilted his head, puzzled, and only then realised that the droplet had actually come from tears flowing down his cheeks.
He cried out hoarsely as he attempted to wipe away the tears with his right hand, closing the half open face mask at the same time. The Duel Avatar «Silver Crow» bowed his head under the silvery one-way mirror (TL Note: A mirror that is partially reflective and partially transparent. When one side of the mirror is brightly lit and the other is dark, it allows viewing from the darkened side but not vice versa) mask and anxiously attempted to explain.
‘Ah, sorry. I’m fine…… It’s just that when I was asleep, I felt like…… I had a really long dream……’
Here he paused and frowned.
He had a — dream.
In that long dream, Haruyuki was not Silver Crow. Though very similar, his Metal Colour was slightly different. But that was all he could remember. Where he went, what he did, what happened in the end, all these details had been seemingly covered by a layer of white and soft floss silk, completely preventing him from remembering.
The sense of having a hole opened up deep in his heart, however, was still fresh. This piercing pain in the void was…… a sense of loss?
………… I… love you…………
A seemingly unfamiliar voice flowed through his mind, and would have caused another outbreak of tears if not for him holding them back with all his might. He shook his head as he gulped down the freezing air to clear this intriguing sorrow, then he began to survey the surroundings.
The sky has already darkened without him noticing. Above them was a sea of stars, unattainable in real world Tokyo. The reason they were able to see the sky was because they were not inside a building but rather a place akin to a courtyard.
He sat with his legs stretched out, his back against a pillar roughly a meter in diameter. To his right was a set of walls rising to touch the heavens.
The terrain is unchanged from before he went to sleep, but a final inspection between his legs made him realise that the ground had changed from a layer of thick ice to white pebbles, which was quite puzzling. He turned around hastily. The pillar behind him was no longer one of pale-blue ice, now it was a wooden one painted vermillion.
‘Huh…… Had a «Transition» occurred while I was asleep?’
He asked Ardor Maiden in front of him softly. The red-white dual coloured Avatar nodded her head. She replied softly as well, in a tender yet firm voice.
‘That seems to be the case. But I was also asleep next to Kuu-san (TL Note: Kuu-san is Ardor Maiden’s nickname for Silver Crow), so I didn’t notice.’
The so-called «Transition» was the periodic field attribute shift phenomenon of this world — the «Unlimited Neutral Field» created by the Brain Burst program. When Silver Crow and Ardor Maiden had fallen asleep here, it had been the fully-frozen «Ice and Snow» Stage, but every trace of ice and snow had now vanished.
It was as if the seasons had suddenly run backwards. The red leaves hung from the tree branches, the pillars were also wooden and the walls were painted white. Purely Japanese in style, the field attribute that best fit that description was……
‘It appears to be the «Heian» Stage.’
As she said so, Ardor Maiden spread out her crimson armour skirt in order to sit straight (TL Note: Ardor Maiden is sitting in the traditional seiza 正座 style. Any mention of Maiden’s seated position throughout the chapter refers to seiza.). She matched the surroundings so perfectly, it was as if the scene was a piece of art. He couldn’t help but gawk in wonder. The delicate maiden lowered her head in embarrassment, and his seeing this made him avert his gaze.
The one who controlled this lovable yet fiery Duel Avatar, was a girl four years the junior of Haruyuki — Haruyuki being a second year high school student — Shinomiya Utai. A fourth year in Umesato High’s sister school — Matsunogi Elementary School — she was well and truly a proper young lady (TL Note: Ojou-Sama嬢様, a phrase that usually describes young ladies of refined up-bring.) who probably never had the experience of being stared at intently by a boy who was much older. Upon realising this, he turned his gaze onto the surroundings.
Endless vermillion pillars ran parallel from south to north. A road paved with stones travelled further in. Countless orange bonfires flickered and swayed. To the north was the grand silhouette of a gigantic citadel.
This location couldn’t fit the «Heian» Stage better.
Because here in the real world was Chiyoda Ward, Chiyoda Ichibancho (TL Note: Wards in Japan are further split into plots of land, bancho 番, referred to by a number. In this case, the first plot.), the Imperial Residence, which is in the center of the Accelerated World — within the impenetrable «Imperial City».
Today — 2047, June 18th, Tuesday, at 7:20at night — the members of Haruyuki’s Legion, «Nega Nebulas», began the largest mission they had ever attempted since the current team was assembled.
This ultra-difficult operation was to rescue Ardor Maiden, sealed at the altar of the Super Enemy that guarded the south gate of the Imperial City, «Sacred Beast Suzaku». However, the means to do so was extremely simple.
The vanguard, Kuroyukihime/Black Lotus, with her long distance attacks, would make herself the target of Suzaku, supported by Chiyuri/Lime Bell who possessed the Psuedo-Healing Ability. As Suzaku advanced across the bridge that extended from the south gate, Haruyuki/Silver Crow would fly over it at top speed with Fuuko/Sky Raker as a booster, and Takumu/Cyan Pile would give the signal to synch Utai/Ardor Maiden’s dive so that she could be retrieved the moment she appeared, before a one-eighty turn over the bridge to escape —.
The operation was on the verge of success.
But something beyond their initial expectations occurred at the very end. Although Haruyuki had done absolutely nothing, Suzaku changed its attack target from Black Lotus to Silver Crow and subsequently unleashed a torrent of super powerful flame breath behind him.
The intense flames were almost upon him when Haruyuki picked up Ardor Maiden. Unable to turn, he could only charge straight ahead. Desperately, he decided to kill himself in a collision with the south gate of the Imperial City — a gate that couldn’t be opened unless Suzaku was defeated — yet for some reason, a gap opened up at that exact moment in time. Left with no other option, Haruyuki and Utai could only charge straight through.
Falling as he heard the sound of the gate shutting behind him, starting to black out, holding Utai closely in his arms, he asked her one thing.
‘Um…… Are we, still alive……?’
The shock from hearing Utai’s response echoed in his head even now.
‘……We are still alive. Although……, ahhh, but…………’
‘………… This…… this place is inside of the «Imperial City»’
‘…… Even now, I still can’t believe it. That we are within that «Imperial City»……’
Haruyuki moaned as he leaned against the round pillar. Utai, who was sitting in front of him, nodded as well.
‘Coming inside is surprising enough, but surviving for more than six hours is even more so.’
‘Eh…… I, I slept for that long? It’s this dark here not because of a field characteristic but because it’s already night……?’
He asked in panic. While it was possible to bring up the menu window in the Unlimited Neutral Field and find out your accumulated play time, there were relatively few ways to find the correct inner time — that was to say «exactly what hour and what minute it was in this world». Supposedly there was a great clock somewhere in this field that had started spinning with the birth of this world, but that thing would be rather creepy to behold. That thing would have recorded a thousand times seven years of time, meaning that more than seven thousand years of history should be shown on it.
Utai nodded her head slightly and pointed towards the night sky above with her small hand.
‘The stars can be seen in the «Heian» Stage. From the positions of the constellations, it should be close to midnight.’
‘Ha,hahaha…… I see……’
Haruyuki murmured as he lifted his head to gaze upon the sky.
About six hours ago — in accelerated times of course — the two of them landed in a corner of the courtyard close to the south gate. They held tight to each other as they clenched their teeth to stifle their shock and feelings, yet were unable to remain like this for long. The reason being that the northward road from the south gate, the citadel sitting further in and the Enemy mobs moving slowly along the road were now all within their sight.
These Enemies were around three meters in height at most, relatively small compared to the «Sacred Beasts», they all wore Sengoku period warrior-esque heavy armour, carried great long tachi. Their form exerted a force that made Haruyuki shiver. Moreover, they all moved in groups of at least three.
Along the outdoor corridor inside the south gate citadel wall, more figures of these Warrior Enemies could be seen. The clattering of their armour heralded their gradual approach and called for immediate action. That said, to clash with them was much too reckless a move. Suzaku’s flames had already roasted Haruyuki down to half his HP, Utai too did not lack injury.
That’s why the two of them had left the road and corridor for now and hid in the middle of the maze-like courtyard area, where they found a place of rest under the shades of a seemingly safe round pillar. As the sun set, despite being concerned about how worried Kuroyukihime and the others might be on the other side of the gate, the mental strain caused him to lean back against the pillar and just doze off — which led to the current situation.
When they had found this safe haven, the twilight had dyed the cloudy sky of the «Snow and Ice» Stage purple. Now even the purple had disappeared, leaving only the radiance of the cluster of stars upon the pitch black dome.
As Utai had said, these stars perfectly re-enacted the constellation arrangements he had seen during full dive lessons. Leaning against the pillar, he looked to the east where an especially bright and purely white star caught his eyes. That one, should be……
‘Lyra’s…… Vega? (TL Note: Vega is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, the fifth brightest star in the night sky and the second brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, after Arcturus. It’s also one of the vertices of the Summer Triangle)’
Utai heard him speaking to himself and nodded as she continued to gaze upon the sky while sitting.
‘That’s correct. In Japan it’s also called Orihime.’
Knowledge learnt from school that was once considered utterly useless became unexpectedly useful here, Haruyuki couldn’t help but feel pleased as he pointed at the starry sky and continued on.
‘That means, to the lower right that should be Aquila’s A…… Altair (TL Note: Altair is the brightest star in the constellation Aquila and the twelfth brightest star in the night sky and is one of the vertices of the Summer Triangle. In Japan it’s also called Hikoboshi) ……and to the lower left should be Cygnus’ Deneb (TL Note: Deneb is the brightest star in the constellation Cygnus and one of the vertices of the Summer Triangle.). Uh…… where is Hikoboshi……’
Utai laughed slightly and pointed up with her shrine maiden formed arm.
‘That would be Altair. These three form the Summer Triangle (TL Note: The Summer Triangle is an astronomical asterism involving an imaginary triangle drawn on the northern hemisphere’s celestial sphere, with its defining vertices at Altair, Deneb, and Vega, the brightest stars in the three constellations of Aquila, Cygnus, and Lyra, respectively.) . Because it’s only June, their positions are somewhat lower.’
‘I see. That means the constellations are modelled off the seasons in the real world.’
Haruyuki kept looking up at the sky completely awestruck, forgetting the fact that he was still in the midst of a perilous situation.
To have used the social camera network to reconstruct the terrain may perhaps be meaningful for tactical and strategic elements in the game. The night sky however, couldn’t be anything other than just background decoration. No player would complain even if it was just a still print with randomly generated points of light on top.
Nevertheless, the stellar arrangements had replicated the really world so perfectly, even the seasonal adjustments were recreated. There must be a goal behind all this. Perhaps to emphasize that — this is not just the game, nor just a virtual world……
‘The earliest group of Burst Linkers…… those who were once called «BB Players», they too……’
Utai suddenly placed her hands on her knees and began to recount softly.
‘The night sky in the Accelerated World is a perfect match to the real world’s…… no, the artificial lighting in real world Tokyo outshines the starry sky. They must have felt that when they saw these beautiful stars so clearly. That is why the main Legions all have names associated with the universe.’
‘Eh… are there really so many names associated with the universe……?’
The young maiden revealed a wry smile on her affectionate face mask as she watched Haruyuki tilt his head in puzzlement.
‘All of the Seven Kings’ Legions are named so. Our «Nega Nebulas», Ankoku Seiun (TL Note: 暗黒星雲 in Kanji)…… strictly it should be Dark Nebulas in English, was named because of that. The Red Legion’s «Prominence» represents solar flares. The Blue Legion’s «Leonids» are the meteor showers from Leo.’
— Chiyu and Taku must have known from the start and just kept quiet. It’s so good that I learnt this before I got asked by a ‘You didn’t know that!?’.
Haruyuki secretly sighed in relief and asked again.
‘In other words, the White Legion…… Uh, so «Oscillatory Universe» doesn’t have anything to do with the Legion Master named Shiratori (TL Note: Oscillatory, pronounced in Japanese as Oshiratori 御白鳥, contains Shiratori 白鳥, a common Japanese surname), it’s also a name associated with the universe?’
His question made Utai put on that slightly stunned smile again, though she quickly regained her composure. She then lowered her head and answered in a strained voice.
‘Yes, «Oscillatory Universe» means…… trembling universe. But I haven’t learnt this much in school yet. I’m not too sure about the correct meaning.’
— The universe shouldn’t sway and tremble, right?
Haruyuki tilted his head from side to side while in thought. He was a second year high school student and yet he also had no recollection of hearing this word in science class, so it was very likely that this word was beyond the compulsory education level. He made a mental note to search it up later if he could still remember it and raised his head towards the sky once more.
Above the Summer Triangle, close to the pinnacle hovered a group of stars radiating weakly. Those should be the ones that made up Hercules. To the left was Draco, the likeness of the hundred headed dragon Ladon, which had been slain by the hero Hercules, soaring into the sky (TL Note: Kawahara Reki got the dragon and the hydra mixed up. Though both were slain by Hercules, it was the hydra that was supposed to have a hundred heads.).
Lined up even further to the left was a group of stars comparable to the Triangle in radiance.
It was Ursa Major, with the tail portion especially bright. He was taught during lessons that that was why in ancient China those especially bright stars were treated as a separate constellation.
The shape of a ladle with a long handle.
The Big Dipper.
— Dokun, his heart unexpectedly skipped a beat. He felt as if a spark was continuously flaring up deep in his head. His eyes were oddly attracted to the star closest to the center out of the three stars of the handle. Only that nameless star seemed to continue to pulsate at the same frequency as the spark in his head.
Every flare caused a wave of pain in the core of his brain that passed along the central nervous system, down through his neck and shoulders to the center of his back, between the left and right scapula — Stab. Pain. Stab. Stab. His body was in pain, yet it also felt like a foreign object being buried in his body……
‘…… -san, Kuu-san!’
Haruyuki suddenly lifted his head when he felt someone shaking his right hand.
Beside him, Ardor Maiden’s crimson eye-lenses revealed her worry. He shook his head in a panic and answered hesitantly.
‘So……sorry, must have dazed off……’
‘Is…… that so. Then…… It must have been my mistake. Sorry, but Kuu-san’s body…… for a moment, it seemed as if it was engulfed by shadows……’
It seemed as if he had heard those exact words somewhere before. And not so long ago, during the «Hermes Cord Traversing Race» a week ago, when the shuttle was in the warp zone…… Sky Raker had pointed out the same thing……
‘…… It, it must’ve been your mistake. I, I didn’t do anything’
He basically gave the same response as last time. Haruyuki deliberately shook off that overflowing feeling of worry and continued on.
‘Rather than that…… we should consider our next step. Remaining in this safe area is not an option.’
‘…… Yes, that…… is true’
Utai too, as if to shake off her doubts, nodded her head firmly and looked to the surroundings.
The two of them were hidden at a place fifty meters north-east of the Imperial City south gate inner courtyard right now. Directly across the rows of vermillion pillars to the west, was the stone road that connected north and south. To the east was a sizable maze that carried Japanese style garden vibes. The round corridor that ran alongside the wall was to the south.
Uber-menacing Warrior Enemies constantly patrolled the wide road and the corridor. To sneak past them was no easy feat. Loud splashes and the sound of heavy objects moving came from garden to the east from time to time. The possibility of entering it could basically be ruled out.
The only viable route would be the narrow strip of space between the rows of pillars and the garden maze, hiding in the shade of the round pillars while following the one way course northward. There was no exit to the north, only the palace that was the main body of the Imperial City. Going by the logic of the «Heian» Stage that made the area seem like a gigantic shrine, that place should be called the inner shrine. It was very likely that there were Enemies more fearsome than these Warrior Enemies wandering inside. Their target was not to clear the Imperial City but to find a Portal and survive with Utai — Ardor Maiden. Approaching the palace carelessly only to fall into the «Infinite EK» state must be avoided.
Utai returned her attention from the surroundings back onto Haruyuki. She maintained her seated position and continued talking as she pondered.
‘Lotus and Raker should have already returned back to the real world via the Portal at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Headquarters. If separated from companions in the Unlimited Neutral Field during battle, standard practice is to not take the risk of staying still and logout if possible.’
‘Yeah…… that is, true.’
Haruyuki nodded, the young girl kept going with her tender yet clear tone.
‘If a «Safety»(TL Note: Written as ‘Emergency Route Breaker’ 緊急回線切断, read as ‘Safety’セーフティ) has already been set, those who had left earlier can activate it so everyone can return back to the real world long enough to clarify the situation. So if we just wait for the disconnection, we will return back to Haruyuki-san’s apartment…… I think……’
A «safety» was when the Neuro Linker would make a global connection using a wired home server or a mobile server instead of a wireless connection. By doing so, even if one was unable to reach a Portal in the Unlimited Neutral Field, companions who were able to leave in advance can activate the device acting as the circuit breaker, allowing a temporary logout.
Right now, Haruyuki and Utai, as well as Kuroyukihime, Fuuko, Takumu and Chiyuri, are assembled in Haruyuki’s living room, connected to each other’s Neuro Linker in a daisy chain (TL Note: In electrical and electronic engineering a daisy chain is a wiring scheme in which multiple devices are wired together in sequence or in a ring.). Kuroyukihime and the others, who have returned via the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Headquarters Portal close to the Imperial City south bridge, would only need to pull out the XSB line connecting Haruyuki’s Neuro Linker and the Haruyuki family’s home server. The next moment Haruyuki and Utai would automatically Burst Out.
But Utai kept speaking while still in thought.
‘…… Although the current situation is rather special, Lotus and the others are most likely to hesitate. In any case, Kuu-san and I broke through Suzaku’s guard, due to that miraculous one-in-ten-thousand chance. This is our only chance to explore the insides of the Imperial City. We most likely won’t have another one.’
‘We won’t have…… another one? If we use the same tactics to charge through the door, perhaps we can do it again……’
He was purely discussing the feasibility, there was no way Haruyuki would want to try that again. Utai raised her left hand to point towards the south-west, past Haruyuki’s shoulders.
‘Kuu-san, please take a look there. The back of the south gate’
He turned and sneaked a peek at the large citadel gate standing fifty meters away from the shades of the round pillar that was behind him.
The gate, comprised of two large panels, completely divided the inside and the outside of the Imperial City with its unbelievable mass and density. It was hard to believe that six hours ago, a gap several dozen centimeters wide had appeared, allowing their passage.
Utai was pointing at the dead center of the gate. He concentrated hard at it, using the bonfires on the ground as illumination. There was indeed something large on there.
It was a relief (TL Note: A piece of sculpture that use the method of moulding, carving, or stamping in which the design stands out from the surface, to a greater or lesser extent.). A metallic square plaque three meters on each side tightly held the two gate panels together. Intricate carvings had been made across the surface, but the thickness of the object made it clear that it was intended for a purpose other than pure decoration.
He stared at it intently for a while and the image on the relief suddenly emerged in his head.
An enormous bird with wings spread out on each side, a long neck and a sharp beak opened wide. It was in the form of «Sacred Beast Suzaku».
‘The gate’s…… seal……?’
Haruyuki felt Utai nod her head after he involuntarily blurted that out.
‘I too think that is the case. …… Kuu-san, I’m not sure if you noticed it…… That seal had been destroyed by someone before we charged through the gate.’
He covered his own mouth after that accidental exclamation. He lowered his voice and asked again quickly.
‘De, destroyed……!? It wasn’t originally able to open like that…… it was damaged?’
‘That’s how I see it. It wasn’t split apart vertically straight down the middle. Rather, it was cut twice by a massive blade, forming a crooked cross.’
As if to re-enact the scene, Ardor Maiden straightened her fingers and made a cross in the air with her right hand (TL Note: Kawahara Reki was being playful here, instead of using ‘Cross’ in either Japanese or katakana, he decided to use ‘Batten’, a word that best translates to ‘demerit cross’. What’s worse was the fact that he used the katakana version バッテンinstead of the kanji version 罰点.). She kept on speaking in an even lower voice after she lowered her hand.
‘However, a few seconds after we came in here and the gate closed, the seal completely regenerated to form what you see here. — In this world, keys and seals are all systematic metaphors. As long as that seal is still present, the gate will never open unless «Suzaku» is defeated. That is to say…… something, or someone sliced apart the seal from the inside, allowing the gate to open for that instance when we approached it…… That’s what I believe…… ‘
‘Bu……but, wait a minute, that…… means……’
Haruyuki stared at the faraway metallic relief, watching it reflect the radiant light of the bonfires. He opened and closed his mouth over and over under the silver mask. He uttered a question after he finally organised his thoughts.
‘That means there was a Burst Linker who had managed to infiltrate the «Imperial City» before us…… and to facilitate anyone who may come afterwards, they destroyed the seal, is that right……?’
‘…… Yes, that’s right.’
‘Bu……but Sacred Beast Suzaku is still active. Then how did this Burst Linker manage to come in? Mai-san (TL Note: Haruyuki’s nickname for Utai’s Avatar form. Pronounced like ‘may’.), if what you saw about the seal recovering after the gate closed was real, the seal can’t have been destroyed like that since the start of the Accelerated World either…… There shouldn’t have been a way for that person to enter unless they defeated Suzaku…… right……?’
Utai placed her hands upon her knees again and slightly shook her head.
‘I’m not sure either. — To find out more, I fear…… we may have to enter the Imperial City’s inner shrine……’
Her words faded to a whisper at the end, Haruyuki turned his gaze to the north — to the inner shrine’s black silhouette blocking the starry skies.
— Enter there, the center of the Accelerated World…… the center of the center……
Impossible. A task this big is completely impossible. More importantly, there are bound to be Enemies more fearsome than those scary Armored Warriors guarding the front entrance of the inner shrine. How in the world am I going to be able to break through…………
He scrunched his shoulders as his thoughts continued to drift off pessimistically — and right at that moment.
It was as if there was a screen deep in his mind and an unbelievable scene unfolded upon it.
His own Avatar should be seated on the pebbles, yet he saw another him stand up and proceed north cautiously. He hid in the shadows of the round pillars to avoid the gaze of the Warrior Enemies as they patrolled the road. With a vigilant but nevertheless steady pace, he approached the inner shrine. His destination was not the heavily guarded front entrance, but a window on the white wall a few dozen meters to the east……
‘— The issue with the seal can wait, I think we have to move now’
Utai’s voice reached Haruyuki’s ears and broke him out of his vivid vision. He opened his eyes wide in shock and then blinked several times. Utai did not seem to have noticed Haruyuki’s abnormality. She continued to speak while looking at the distant inner shrine.
‘Sooner or later, Lotus is going to forcibly Burst Out Kuu-san and I if we just wait like this. But even if we do go back to the real world, the next time we use the «Unlimited Burst» command, we are still going to appear in this Imperial City inner garden. There is no big difference between that and the «Infinite EK» state……’
‘Ah…… Yea, yeah, that’s true…….’
Haruyuki responded after he reorganised his thoughts.
‘Unless Shinomi…… no, Mei-san and I return properly via a Portal, this mission can’t be considered complete. Other than exiting after reopening that gate, dodging Suzaku’s attacks and heading for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Headquarters on the other side of the bridge…… Our only other option is to find a new Portal within the Imperial City……’
‘Yes, that’s…… all there is to it’
Ardor Maiden nodded. Haruyuki stared into her crimson eyes and took a big breath as he slowly spoke.
‘Mai-san. Even though this is a baseless and uncertain suggestion…… I, want to try the Imperial City inner shrine. I don’t know why…… but I feel like we can make it.’
He stared at the young maiden as she tilted her head. His Avatar, which had been sitting on the pebbles with crossed legs, had now unconsciously sat up straight. He balled his fists on his knees, straightened his back and continued on.
‘Of course, I understand that if we get killed by those Warriors or some stronger Enemies, we would fall into the absolute worst «Inside Imperial City Infinite EK» state. I also understand that we shouldn’t take the risk because of some half-baked gut feeling. But, even then, I still feel like going…… no, I feel…… like I have to go……’
To Haruyuki, these words were ones in which he placed considerable effort, although as always, they ended in mumbles. At that exact moment, when he dropped his shoulders, feeling it was impossible to persuade a forerunning Burst Linker 2 levels above him.
Utai nodded her head, which was met by Haruyuki’s ‘Eh!?’. The maiden smiled as she moved skilfully while keeping her kneeling position until their knees touched. She reached out with her right hand while in this position and placed it upon Haruyuki’s tightly clenched fists.
‘Kuu-san. Back then, when you were being chased by Suzaku’s flames, you disobeyed Lotus’ retreat order to save me when I appeared at the altar. That instant, I realised. I can believe in you…… You are someone I can rely on. No…… actually, I have known that since the first time we met…… in Umesato High School’s garden, when you frantically cleaning the pet house by yourself……’
‘No……that’s not true. So…… someone like me, can’t, be……’
Haruyuki’s mumble came in a burst as he bowed his head deeply.
‘I, always do things without considering…… always fail…… that time I was cleaning too, I splashed water all over you……’
As if recalling that incident, Utai laughed slightly and gripped Haruyuki’s hands tighter.
‘I have said so before. Losing, falling, failing…… true strength means to press on even after experiencing these. Even if we are killed on the way into the inner shrine, I’m sure you will be able to do something about it.’
Those words were gentle while harsh at the same time. Haruyuki looked up into Utai’s extremely close and gleaming eyes, and nodded heavily.
‘…… Yes. I’m sure I can. We will return alive…… back to the real world, where everyone is waiting for us.’
(Translator’s comment: Kawahara Reki…… stop using Japanglish…… )