Italic text is Engrish (English written in katakana). In cases when I needed to emphasise that the word is Japanese (or when the text specifically commented about it being Japanese), I added the Japanese version as furigana.
Feel free to point out any errors, give suggestions or just talk about the story itself in the comments.
SECT.4 - A Man Named M
Seeing the man who opened the curtains and entered the private room,
LLENN wondered whether a bear had just come in.
The man was a giant, easily exceeding 190 cm in height.
He was wearing camouflage pants, with a combination of green, brown and black gaudy dots, as well as an entirely brown T-shirt.
He had absolutely no equipment on, but even so she felt his macho nature. On top of being tall, he was also big, and had a bulky chest. His chest was so bulky that it seemed like he had a bulletproof plate underneath his skin. The arms that came out of the T-shirt sleeves were like logs, and were probably larger than LLENN’s waist.
What made him look like a bear was his head. His wavy, deep, tawny-brown hair was so long that it reached his shoulders, and was so thick that it covered his head.
His eyes were relatively round and big, but did not show any sign of gentleness.
He was considerably old, seemingly over forty. Of course, one’s avatar’s appearance had absolutely no relationship with one's true age IRL, so he could just as well be a male high school student in the real world as he could be an eighty-year-old ojii-chan.
In the world of GGO, a game made in America, such a body builder-like super macho avatar wasn’t rare. LLENN happened to see them frequently in town, but meeting one so close was considerably scary.
However, it was interesting that even with this appearance, if, for example, he had just started the game and had a low strength value, even guns that LLENN could equip would be heavy for him and he wouldn’t be able to wield them. Well, Pitohui did say that he was „strong“, so such a case was unlikely. Thinking about it in general, he should have been playing at least as much as she did, if not longer.
“Ou, hey you’re late.”
“Sorry, Pito. It’s just that I had to finish all of my errands.”
His deep voice and blunt answer were also considerably scary to LLENN. Until now, she had never faced such a large human in her life. It reminded her of the time in her childhood when she saw a black bear on the other side of the glass in a zoo.
LLENN thought that she couldn’t handle having such a dreadful partner and considered if she should withdraw from SJ. Of course, that would be rude to both Pitohui and him, and moreover, she had decided by herself to take part, so she reconsidered. Besides, he wasn’t an enemy, but an ally.
“Okay. Come on, sit over here.”
As Pitohui said that, she stood up and handed her own seat to him. The giant standing at the entrance to the private room exchanged places with Pitohui, scooted along the narrow seat, and sat in front of LLENN.
“LLENN-chan, let me introduce you! This idiotically and absurdly gargantuan——”
The moment LLENN heard that, her heart hurt for just a moment. Because, in RL, that was exactly how she looked like. Of course, Pitohui wasn’t at fault here. Since concealing RL details and being able to play is what VR games were about.
“guy is the one who is going to fight alongside you this time—— come on, introduce yourself.”
Pitohui’s attitude towards the man was considerably high-handed. She didn’t know what kind of relationship the two had, but it seemed to LLENN that Pitohui’s position was far higher IRL.
The giant man gave a light bow and,
“Nice to meet you. My name is M. I look forward to working with you.”
Introduced himself like that. His appearance was scary, but his manners were awfully polite. The astonished LLENN also answered in keigo after bowing.
“Nice to meet you. I am LLENN.”
And then, the two became quiet. It seemed that this man named M wasn’t as sociable as Pitohui.
‘Kinda hard to converse, huh. Well, Pito-san will interject, so it should be fine, right?’, LLENN thought when,
“Well then, I’ve got errands to run. I leave the rest to you two young ones!”
Pitohui, who was at the entrance to the private room, left with a line similar to that of a formal marriage interview.
Before LLENN could even respond, Pitohui ended up exiting and leaving without delay.
All that remained was an unexpected unpleasantness.
It wasn’t as if being alone with a male was dangerous. In VR games, a person who came in physical contact with someone of the opposite gender would result in a ≪harassment≫ warning. If the person did not abide by this warning, the penalty increased, and would ultimately result in the account being suspended.
Since puberty, Karen barely had any experience with talking to a member of the opposite gender with no one else around. The reason it wasn’t zero was because she had two older brothers, and after her sister married, a brother-in-law as well. Thanks to that, she didn’t have a phobia of males such that she absolutely couldn’t talk to them, but…
It wasn’t an atmosphere where she could take the initiative to say something. The other party looked like a giant who would end up eating her from top to bottom.
At the same time, she somehow ended up understanding the feeling of people who saw her in RL, and felt a bit gloomy again.
As LLENN was thinking „I really want to log out and escape“ with downcast eyes, something reached her ears,
“Em……, well, you shouldn’t…… be so tense, le-let us go. No, let’s go…… If I use keigo, that bastard Pitohui…… will beat me to a pulp.”
A stuttering voice with tension mixed in. Naturally, it was M’s voice.
‘Ah, I’m not the only one who's scared’, LLENN felt a bit relieved. This large man also imagines being beaten to a pulp by Pitohui—— violence isn’t good, but it was a slightly heartwarming scene.
“Ah——yes. I mean, yeah, so please.”
Looking a person in the eyes when talking was a rule of the Kohiruimaki household. Her businessmen parents had strictly taught her that. While looking at M’s rough face, LLENN,
“Since we decided to participate with all our might, I’m looking forward—— to your help. M-san.”
“Me too. Since we’re aiming for victory, let’s do our best. LLENN—— can I drop the honorifics? I, quite dislike…… attaching -chan to others names.”
LLENN nodded. It seemed that M’s personality wasn’t as scary as his appearance.
‘I wonder, what kind of person is controlling this rough character in real life? LLENN’s interest was sparked again, but she threw out her thoughts with her best efforts. If she continued thinking about that, she thought she’d end up carelessly asking about it again.
“What have you heard from Pito? Before I came, what were you talking about?”
Seemingly having conquered his tension as well, he took the glass of ice coffee that came from the hole after he requested for it, and then talked to her very normally.
Having the feeling „This person is my oji-san. An older person that I can talk casually with.“, LLENN decided to talk.
“Re-confirming the rules of SJ, the use of wireless items, and for some reason, the fact that I became the leader.”
“I see. Anything about the reason for us meeting face-to-face?”
LLENN answered as she shook her head.
Speaking of which, what was the reason?
Without saying the reason, Pitohui had asked if she was free for 3 hours from 21:00 on Friday. As Pitohui would be attending a wedding on the day of the tournament and would probably be busy, LLENN was glad that she was introduced to M before that, but there probably was no need for it to go on for 3 hours. Moreover, contrary to her expectations that the three of them would go monster farming to deepen their friendship, Pitohui had left quickly.
At LLENN’s answer,
M let such a reaction slip out, and laughed lightly. His grim expression, even if just a little, loosened up, and LLENN had strange thoughts like ‘ah, even such a character can laugh’ and ‘there are graphics prepared for laughing’.
“Neither of us know each other’s abilities. I’ve heard a bit from Pito, but I want to go to the practice grounds and confirm it.”
A practice ground was a place that was literally as the name implied.
In a field where various terrain and buildings could be selected, unlike indoor shooting ranges, it was possible to practise movement and long-range shooting, making use of the terrain adapted for actual combat, and it was possible to practise without dealing damage to each other. And there was no worry that they would be attacked and killed by monsters or other players during that time. However, to use it, reservation was necessary, and the fee was considerably high.
“I see. ——But, no matter what, one thing concerns me……”
“Why am I the leader? I mean, without confirming it, I may not have, such a capability, right?”
As LLENN was complaining frantically with her small body, M laughed a bit again.
“No worries. There’s a plan, so you're just the leader in name only. I’ll handle the actual operational command.”
Just before Friday turned to Saturday, Karen returned to the real world.
Having grown back to her large body, she slowly confirmed her real sensations and then stood up and turned on the room’s lights.
As she was absentmindedly looking at the black P90 hanging on the wardrobe,
“That was like a tryout…… wasn’t it?”
For approximately 2 and a half hours, LLENN was asked by M to do various things.
The two of them went to the reserved practice grounds. It was a wasteland with a crazy-coloured sky and where rocks and abandoned vehicles stood out. In the distance, there was a mountain with inclined buildings and with craters. In appearance, there wasn’t anything different from a normal field, but there was an approximate 2 km movement range restriction, and there should be a transparent wall that „does not allow one to advance any further“.
“Put on all your equipment. Also, give me a communication item.”
Were M’s first words. LLENN operated her menu screen, and materialised the equipment held in her storage. Her usual pink combat uniform and P90. While changing clothes, those currently worn would temporarily vanish, so one would only be dressed in underwear in that moment, but it was fine as long as a robe was equipped .
And so, LLENN was asked to do various things.
『40 metres ahead, there’s a drum can. I want you to aim for its centre, and shoot while standing. 10 bullets slowly in semi-auto, 10 bullets as fast as possible. And the remaining 30 bullets in full auto.』
『There’s 200 metres from here to that abandoned truck. There are hard rocks underfoot. I want you to sprint towards the truck with all you have while carrying the P90. When you touch the truck, sprint back here with all you have.』
『This time, shoot while running. Sprint with all you have towards the drum can, and at my instruction, discharge your entire magazine in full-auto while running. When you have 8 bullets or less in your magazine, immediately reload.』
『By eye-estimation, how many metres do you think separates you and that sharp rock? How about the hole on the other side?』
Up to this point, she understood it as ‘ah, he's examining my fighting ability’, but
『There’s nothing beyond this point. I want you to close your eyes and walk. As normally as possible, and in a fixed manner. Upon my instruction, turn based on the angle I give you.』
『Slow walk, normal walk, jog, sprint with all you have——at my instruction, switch from one of these four to the next.』
『I want you lie down on your face. Once 1 minute or more has passed and I abruptly give you the signal, stand up and run in the direction I indicate. Upon the next signal, lie down on your face again.』
『Run as fast as you can backwards. There are stones, so if you trip, rotate to fall to the ground with your stomach.』
『Crouch and roll into a ball as small as possible. And then, try rolling along a hill road.』
When he said things like that, LLENN didn’t understand what it would be useful for.
In the world of a VR game, no matter how much one moved, it wouldn’t result in physical fatigue. If the brain gave an order to „run as fast as possible“, the body could continue to run for as long as one liked, as if it was operated with a controller button.
LLENN had completely no idea what he was doing, so, although she was mentally exhausted, she did as she was told.
“Yeah, I get the picture now. Thanks.”
As LLENN was thinking whether it was over with this, M called out his storage operation screen, and called out his own gun.
What appeared in front of his eyes was a large and strange-looking rifle.
It was big, long rifle with a lot of rough ups and downs. It gave LLENN the impression of a construction site machine. A seemingly solid bipod and scope were attached.
As for its colour, it had a tawny-brown and green camouflage coating. As it was discoloured here and there, and its colours were fading as it was chafed, she could surmise that it had been used for a considerably long time.
“Is that your main arm, M-san? It’s the first time I've seen it, what’s it called?”
LLENN asked, thinking that it looked strong, but heavy, and that she probably wouldn’t be able to equip it.
Having finished the check up on his gun, M initially answered by giving the gun's name alone. Having placed the M14 EBR at his feet, he provided additional explanation while performing the process for materialising his equipment.
“EBR are the initials for enhanced battle rifle. As the name implies, it’s an „enhanced version” of the old M14 battle rifle. Its calibre is 7.62 mm.”
Hearing that, while ruminating what she was once taught by Pitohui,
“So, M-san, your battle style is…… firing in semi-auto at middle range?”
LLENN asked to be sure.
Before she began playing GGO, LLENN had completely no knowledge on guns, but now she knew a lot.
What she was taught in the tutorial and reviewed with Pitohui was——
『Based on the gun’s calibre, and based on the type of gun of the same calibre, the effective distance of the gun changes. Pay attention to your own, and your opponent’s, gun calibre and type.』
An effective range, crudely put, was „the greatest distance where the gun could hit and deal damage“. Its meaning was completely different from just the „greatest range“ that the bullet could physically cross.
7.62 mm class bullets had a lot of power and were most suited for mid-range sniping.
“That’s right, basically, in open places I like to fight by keeping my distance from the opponent. Of course, even if it came to a close-range battle, I will use the EBR, but for indoors and the like, I have this.”
A strengthened plastic holster appeared on M’s right thigh as he explained.
Inside, was a big, black automatic pistol. M moved the M14 EBR onto his shoulder via the gun’s sling and drew the pistol out of the holster with his right hand.
It was impossible for a gun taken out of storage to be loaded, so M pulled the slide with his left hand, and loaded the first bullet into the gun’s chamber.
After he raised the small lever where his thumb was and activated the safety, M showed the gun’s side to LLENN.
“It’s an ≪HK45≫ made by the German company Heckler & Koch. A 45 calibre automatic. The magazine capacity is 10 bullets. If you raise this lever on the right side, the safety will be activated, horizontal to fire. You might need to use it when it’s important, so I want you to remember that.”
M explained this far more carefully than about the M14 EBR, but LLENN thought ‘well, I probably won’t need to use it’.
Even so, she remembered the user guide. If that small lever is raised, the safety will be activated.
GGO players don’t really activate the safeties on their guns. If you didn’t do that in RL, it would be dangerous, so it couldn’t be helped, but this was a game world. Rather than the danger of an accidental discharge, it had the merit of allowing one to promptly counterattack.
LLENN was also always like that; whenever she went out to the field, she’d immediately load her P90, and set her selector and safety to the „full-auto” position.
When she was moving, she would extend her index finger and keep it away from the trigger, and when she was attacking, with delicate control of the trigger, she’d fire 3~5 bullets at a time.
M returned the HK45 to his holster, and continued to materialise his remaining equipment. This included a vest, with a bulletproof plate, on his bulky body, and a backpack so large that it seemed like it could even be used to go mountain climbing, and further increased the volume that occupied this world(1). On his head, he had a bush hat that had the same camouflage pattern as his clothes.
On his vest, excessive M14 EBR magazine pouches were attached. As his body was big, it was possible for him to attach a lot of pouches. A total of, eight or more. A considerable number of spare magazines.
The backpack also greatly swelled out, but she didn’t know what was inside. Well, it’s probably not lunchboxes, so probably something necessary for fighting.
Having finished his preparations, M,
“Now then, from this point on, I’ll have you stand an indicated distance: 20 metres, 50 metres, 100 metres, away.”
“Okay. And then?”
“I’ll fire with my EBR in various directions. Before I shoot, I’m going to say the direction that I’ll shoot in.”
“Come again? Then…… W-what should I do? Run away with all I have?”
Mistaking that she might have become a target for shooting practice, LLENN asked in a hurry, but the answer was unexpected.
“I want you to pay attention, listen, and feel the sounds.”
“Sounds? The gunshots?”
“Right. You might know this, but in GGO, gunshots at point-blank range are considerably toned down when compared to the equivalent in RL.”
LLENN nodded. She had heard this from Pitohui before.
That the gun depiction was based on RL guns was GGO’s distinguishing characteristic, but the volume alone wasn’t completely reproduced.
If it wasn’t so, no one would be able to talk while shooting, and it would unmistakably lead to people becoming deaf one after the other.
“However, although the volume of gunshots is toned down to some extent, in other words to the level that that they would result in damage to one’s ears, the decay based on location and distance is reproduced based on how it is in RL. So, if you are familiar with it, you can determine how far the opponent is shooting from.”
“From this point on, I’ll have you learn how a sound changes based on the distance, and practise grasping the sense of approximately how far away, and from which direction your opponent is shooting from. After I shoot for a bit, I’ll have you close your eyes. I’ll move and shoot without notice. I want you to guess, as accurately as possible, how far away I am and where am I aiming at.”
‘What the, that sounds hard’, LLENN thought, but ‘well, I’ll just have to do it. It’s better than being shot at. If what we did earlier was an athletics test, then this is music, right.
“After we’re done with that, I’ll do the same thing, but with cover, like rocks, abandoned vehicles and houses, in between. I want you to learn the differences in how it sounds.”
‘Uwaa, that sounds awfully hard.’ LLENN shouted in her mind.
＊ ＊ ＊
Saturday, the day after the „tryouts“ ended, Karen had nothing to do other than her university studies. And she even finished that in the morning.
Karen, who had tons of free time, was glancing fleetingly at her AmuSphere placed at the side of her bed but,
“Yeeah……, I’ll pass today.”
Decided to pass playing GGO.
She could go monster farming even if she was alone, but in the 1 in 10,000 chance of being attacked by other players, there was a possibility that she would be killed if she did not manage to run away. LLENN was confident in her ability to run away, but she could be attacked by an enemy that was also fast on their feet.
Even if a character dies, they would only suffer a ≪death penalty≫, in other words lose some of the experience points earned, and be returned to town. However, in rare cases, it was possible to lose one’s guns or equipment on the spot via a random drop.
If that happened and one’s allies did not pick them up, they would be lost for eternity. LLENN wouldn’t have any allies, so it’s obvious what would happen. If she lost her precious main arm P90 when she should be restraining herself for tomorrow’s important tournament, she would have no excuse for Pitohui and M.
In the end, she decided not to do anything this afternoon.
Either way, when tomorrow comes, she would cut loose whether she wanted to or not. LLENN,
“Ah, Kanzaki Elsa sure is great……”
Spent her time leisurely engulfed in the clear voice of the singer, whose live performance she couldn’t go to the next day.
Kanzaki Elsa was a singer and songwriter, so she prepared both song lyrics and composition, but she had arranged countless famous classical music pieces in her songs. This was one of the reasons why the classical music loving Karen liked her songs.
While listening, Karen thought. ‘Why doesn’t Kanzaki Elsa go to a bigger place for her live performances?’
Karen suddenly had an idea,
『Dear Kanzaki Elsa-sama』
And decided to attempt to write a handwritten fan letter to her. Her niece had dropped by and left a cute sheet of writing paper and an envelope.
It was the first time in her life writing something like a fan letter, but strangely, her brush moved of its own free will——
When she realised it, she had written about always having a complex about her tall figure, and about being completely absorbed in a VR game where she obtained a chibi avatar to reduce it.
She continued with ‘In the real world, I love your singing voice, so I would like to hear it in person for once. So, if you please, hold your concerts in a more spacious location.
After finishing writing it, she went to have dinner, then read it over——
Karen thought that she had really expressed her emotions too much, and it was too embarrassing, but
Thinking that ‘she’s probably not going to read it anyways’, she decided to send it out as it was.
The forwarding address was Kanzaki Elsa’s office.
Thinking that it would be nice if in the highly unlikely case she got an answer’——
On the back of the envelope, she wrote her own name and address.
While LLENN was sealing her fan letter to Kanzaki Elsa with a cute seal——
In various places around Japan, there were men, and women, who were preparing for the tournament the next day.
At one place, five men met via an Internet telephone.
『At last, the time for us to shine has come! That’s tomorrow!』
『Yeah! Let’s fight and fall without restraint!』
『Right! Although we were born at different times, we’ll die together!』
『No way, you guys die first. I won’t pick up your bones, but I will pick up your equipment.』
『Pfthaha! Sorry to burst your bubble, but like the BoB, SJ won’t have any drops』
『Like you didn’t know! You really are horrible!』
『Is that your joke to warm up the crowd?』
『Do you want to be shot in the back some day?』
『Now, let’s take it easy with the tone! At long last, this strange tournament will be opened. The time when even we, who got defeated in consecutive preliminaries of the third BoB, can be in the spotlight has come!』
『Yeah! If it’s a team battle, we might reach quite a nice rank!』
『All right! Let’s do our best! Let’s survive 15 minutes!』
At another place, one man was talking as he faced six other men.
“Tomorrow’s the big day, but well, this tournament is just an experiment, so even if it doesn’t go well, there’s nothing to fret about. With you regular gentlemen, we will probably get a considerably high rank. But, if we’re about to win, we’ll surrender and leave the game as planned. That’s all, expect a hard struggle.”
In yet another place, there were several women talking on an Internet phone at the same time.
『Tomorrow’s the big day, huh. Don’t forget to log in. Especially——』
『I know I know! I’ll get a call from Boss tomorrow!』
『You’re always late, aren’t you. But, at last, we’ll be able to let loose to our heart’s content!』
『Now that we’ve come so far, we have only one goal! Victory! To get the prize! Anything other than that won’t happen, right?』
『Leave it to us! If it’s us, we can do it!』
In yet another place, there was a naked man and woman embracing each other on a bed, and exchanging words.
“Tomorrow’s the big day, huh, do your best, darling!”
“Don’t worry. Even if you die, you’ll just die.”
“If you’re feeling so tense, you’ll do well no matter what happens!”
“Listen! It will be fine! Look, we still have time, so once more!”
“I’m troubled about tomorrow’s job……”
“That much won’t discourage me. And what about you, have you already become an ojii-san? Darling.”
Thus, in Japan time, Saturday was over.
As the clock struck midnight, the day of SJ’s opening came.
Now, for the beginning of the battle.
1. ^ Seems to be a fancy way to say “spawned more stuff to crowd the world with”.