Anyway, time to get the actual story started by giving Karen a reason to participate in a second tournament. So, it's time for the mysterious, definitely-not-obvious-who-it-is man from the prologue to appear. On a side note, I always thought that Japanese were simplistic with their naming... and Sigsawa just had to give me two characters with complicated name origins to prove me wrong...
Oh, and a reminder about a note in the prologue that "ikemen" is the Japanese equivalent of "hunk". We chose to keep the romanised version instead of the English version for one reason or another.
Full-width text (Ｌｉｋｅ ｔｈｉｓ) is emphasising that the original text is written using the Latin alphabet. Note that most abbreviations that are not in italics are written using the Latin alphabet as well. Italic text is Engrish (English written in katakana). Abbreviations in italics means that the Japanese version used some shorter form of an English word, but 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.
Any feedback is appreciated.
Editing: Pryun, Kumo
SECT.2 - The Second Squad Jam
On the 17th of February, 2 days after the girls' gathering with Saki and the others, Karen went back to her home in Hokkaido.
Having returned home, where the intense cold had just begun and thus it was minus 20 degrees Celsius or lower outside, but far warmer indoors compared to Tokyo, Karen...
Shocked her parents with her short hair. It seemed that her elder sister had not informed them of her new hairstyle at all.
She was assaulted with questions on the reasons for this change, but by no means...
“As a result of a murder game, I killed a lot of people with my gun, and in the end, beheaded someone with a knife, and then I felt that something…… burdening me had been cut away like this, so I cut my hair.”
Could she say that. There was just no way she could say that.
And she did not have a broken heart. Although she had deceived her elder sister like this, it was still awfully hard for her.
Like she had told Saki, she did not bring her AmuSphere with her, and thus she could not play GGO.
Although she remained connected with her notebook with its software, so she could read messages, she had received no particular contact from either Pitohui or M. Those two were on her mind, but she could not bring herself to proactively ask them herself.
She did receive a message of complaint full of exclamation marks :
『The end-of-term tests are hard! I want to chat at Karen-san’s home again! I want to eat sweets! And, I want to play GGO! I want to shoot with a gun!』
From Boss-Eva, in other words, Saki’s character.
Karen had given her cell-phone’s mail address, but it was just like Saki to use GGO’s message function to send her messages.
＊ ＊ ＊
1 week later, on Tuesday, 24th of February.
“Yahou! Kohi! Welcome to Hokkaido! It’s certainly colder than Tokyo, right? Wha?”
Karen’s high school bosom friend, Shinohara Miyu, came over to Karen’s family home after the end of her spring vacation abroad.
Miyu was Karen’s game sempai, who had taught her about VR games from scratch last summer. If it wasn’t for Miyu, the Karen as she is right now, and LLENN, would not exist.
“Ye~p! A short cut suits you, nice, nice! Can I take a picture? You don’t mind right? Right, turn back! Now the front! Nice nice! Now, how about you try undressing a bit?”
Having only seen the short-haired Karen in pictures until today, and now seeing her in person, Miyu was very cheerful. She began taking pictures left and right with her smartphone.
Without taking anything off, Karen replied,
“You’ve changed quite a bit again yourself, Miyu. You look great.”
“I know right? Everything suits me well.”
Miyu, who frequently changes her hairstyle based on her mood, currently had her shoulder-length hair wavy, and dyed in a brown brighter than ever, and was wearing red-framed glasses instead of contact lenses.
Although, naturally, Miyu was shorter than Karen, she was actually at least 165 cm tall, a considerable stature for a female(1). She actively participated in the tennis club in middle school, thus her reflexes were quite considerable as well.
Attending a local Hokkaido university, Miyu was a heavy virtual gamer who had not had a day without games as long as she had a Net connection.
The game that she was always playing was 《ALfheim Online》. Abbreviated as ALO.
It was a game where one became a fairy with transparent wings on their backs, and could literally fly about in a vivid and beautiful fantasy world, and fight against monsters and other fairy races with swords or magic.
ALO was the first VR game that Karen had chosen, and tried to play with Miyu. But it was also a game where the initial character creation gave her an avatar that looked like an overly tall beauty, and thus the shock made her hate it.
Incidentally, in VR games, the player’s real gender and the gender of the avatar were unquestionably the same, except in the case of minor system errors, thus a female player could not become a male.
In ALO, Miyu became a wind fairy race 《Sylph》 beauty who flew about the world with the character name 〝フカ次郎〟 （Ｆｕｋａｚｉｒｏｈ）. (2)
For some reason, she used an unusual masculine(3) name, Fukaziroh. It came from the name of her dog at her family home.
And as for why she named herself thus, when Miyu was very young, a friend of hers was willing to give her a puppy that was birthed by their dog, thus Miyu had sought permission to keep the puppy, but her parents would refuse time and time again, so she was always 〝not allowed〟 to have one. The dog was a male, and she used to keep a Java sparrow named 〝Shinohara Tarou〟, so she loved it like her second son.(4)
The dog Fukaziroh was greatly loved by Miyu, and they grew together, until Fukaziroh expended its life span. Miyu took over his name in VR games.
Karen did not want her parents to hear about VR game-related topics at home, thus she and Miyu went out.
They went to a familiar karaoke box(5) that they frequently visited in their high school years, and chatted endlessly about SJ excitedly.
Miyu had watched the video of LLENN’s victory in SJ, thus,
“Wow! It was like a battle among fierce gods! So much killing! Amazing! You sure put those lessons to good use! Awesome!”
She was engulfed in great excitement. She asked about the details of the battle in a thorough manner.
Emphasising the details about the shady Pitohui and M, and without keeping any secrets, Karen told her everything from meeting them to the incident during SJ, and even the fact that they appeared to be in a good relationship in RL too, and Miyu,
“Hmm, well, there are lots of weirdos in VR game worlds. As long as your real name and address aren’t exposed, doncha worry!”
Gave her these reassuring words.
For the time being, Karen felt relieved that there was no need to worry.
As for Miyu, her progress in ALO was quite impressive: her well-developed Fukaziroh possessed a powerful sword, and she was becoming equally(6) strong. Coupled with her weird name, she was quite the celebrity in ALO.
“Of course, greatness is comparative. Sometimes, some unbelievable guys show up. Like, just recently, there was a fellow who wagered an eleven-hit combo OSS and invited people to duel them for it; that power was out of this world.”
ALO’s battles, where characters could fly around and not only use swords, but magic as well, were outside Karen’s understanding, but the 〝greatness is comparative〟part alone was quite familiar to her.
Speaking of Fukaziroh, the guild that she belonged to had just recently come into possession of a cabin, which served as their base of operations, using the Yrd (the currency in ALO) they had earned. She could safely store her items there, thus if she felt like it, she could now transfer── and convert her character to a different game.
Using the same ID, one could change VR games with their avatar, and in such a case the relative developed strength of the avatar would be transferred over. Miyu was the one who taught Karen about this conversion system. However, items and money could not be taken along. It was necessary to have a place where the player could keep their items, or a person that they could trust them with.
Having met this requirement, Miyu could visit GGO whenever she felt like that, but,
“Well, for the time being, I’ll probably stick with ALO! Kohi, you don’t have any intention of leaving GGO either, right? LLENN-chan is very small and cute, right!”
‘That’s right She is cute I won’t hand my daughter over to anyone!’
After firmly nodding with a paternal mental state, Karen changed the topic to Kanzaki Elsa.
Miyu was a big fan of Kanzaki Elsa ever since her debut, and she had been anxious to go to her live concert in Tokyo, and was still anxious to do so.
The last live performance coincided with SJ, and as she could not get her hands on any tickets for it, Karen decided to participate in the SJ.
“Hmm, I wonder when the next live performance is going to be held? It seems that Elsa is currently offline. She hasn’t made any blog updates at all, even though she’s abroad. They have a small office there right? There’s been no particular news from the staff either. Well, it can’t be helped, so let’s sing ourselves!”
Although Karen did not quite understand what〝can’t be helped〟──
The two earnestly and energetically sang Kanzaki Elsa’s songs for as long as their time and throats allowed.
＊ ＊ ＊
Karen leisurely spent her spring vacation free of Tokyo’s congestion and the stench of gunpowder of GGO, having a good time with Miyu and her other high school girlfriends.
Before long, March began.
On Wednesday, the 4th of the month, with the university’s new academic year and Hokkaido’s Spring, still being far away.
After lunch, Karen received a message from GGO on her notebook, which was connected to the Internet at her family home.
‘What could it be?’, opening it with this thought, she found out that it was news from Zaskar, the management organisation, sent to all the players.
And the contents were quite surprising.
The message reported.
That a second Squad Jam would be held.
The Second Squad Jam.
Nicknamed ＳＪ２. Ess Jay Two, if that is how it should be read.
It would be held exactly 1 month later, on Saturday, 4th of April, 2026. Starting at 1300.
It would be another private cooperation hosted tournament; however, the sponsor would not be the author who sponsored the previous tournament, but rather a different person who remained anonymous.
The basic rules would mostly be the same as the previous SJ; however, there were minute adjustments, thus going through the rule book via the attached link was required.
The winner's prizes were still under consideration, but they would be announced before the registration deadline.
The tournament was currently accepting applicants.
The registration deadline was the noon of the 1st of April. If over thirty teams participated, the team versus team preliminaries were planned to be held the day before, starting at 2000.
However, the 〝leaders of the teams that took the top four places in the previous tournament, and their current teams〟 will be seeded and automatically exempt from these preliminaries.
And, the teams that this exemption applies to: the fourth ranked Self-Defense Force (?) pro team. The third-ranked skull emblem team. The runner-ups, Saki’s attached high school rhythmic gymnastics club’s team.
The winner, LLENN.
What a surprise.
A second Squad Jam, will actually be held. And moreover, it’s going to take place next month.
Karen opened her mouth wide as she looked at the screen, and then an electronic sound *bakyū* was emitted, notifying her that she received a new message. However, as expected, or perhaps shockingly, the default ringtone for this game was a gunshot. Although it could be changed.
‘Who could it be?’
‘It can’t be… Pito-san? Another order to participate? In that case, what do I do? Should I participate or refuse? Even if I do participate, what do I do about that incident in SJ? Listen? Ask? Or ignore it?
As Karen’s heart beat fast, she opened the message, and found out that it was from Saki.
The title was:
『Have you seen the official message? SJ2 is going to be held!』
‘Yeah, I saw it.’
Answering in her mind, she read the contents of the letter.
『Of course participating we all are! An anastrophe(7) ! Hence we are going to train for it! Our tests are over too! And spring break is almost here! Exemption from the preliminaries is really helpful! Karen-san, if you happen to change your mind and decide to participate, I, and the others, too would all be very happy! I want to see LLENN’s gallant figure filled with fighting spirit again! I want to fight! I want to shoot! I want us to kill each other again! P.S. I want to eat sweets as well! Please invite us over again!』
Well, the message was full of boisterous sentences of fighting and killing. Saki and the others' enthusiasm was conveyed well.
“I guess I don’t have to participate……”
Her own enthusiasm was not present at all.
And in the first place, she had no one to form a team with.
It was not impossible for her to contact Pitohui and M herself and form a team with them, but, naturally, she did not feel like doing it.
If, on the other hand, they contacted her…… well, she would think about it when the time comes.
‘Currently, I’m not proactively considering to participate in SJ2.’
Having concluded thus, Karen threw her thoughts on SJ2 to the back of her mind.
＊ ＊ ＊
And so, over 10 days later.
As her spring vacation continued, and having enjoyed her time with Miyu to the fullest, Karen returned to Tokyo by plane on Sunday, the 15th of March.
She had various reasons for returning, like preparing for the new term, seeing the never before seen Tokyo’s spring and sakura, but the most important reason was,
“I haven’t used a gun for a long time……”
After such an awfully long time, she now wanted to play GGO. She wanted to become the chibi LLENN.
She took a flight in the morning, so early that she surprised her parents, thus she arrived before 10 o’clock.
Mentally deciding to dive as soon as possible once she returned to her room, she dragged her carrying case along, and with light steps, arrived in front of her apartment complex.
As Karen held out her keycard at the entrance of the high-rise tower apartment complex, and went through the automatic door after giving a light bow to the familiar, resident guard...
There was a person, watching her with binoculars.
In a multi-storey car park 200 metres away from the apartment complex, and separated by a main street. A high-class, German-made SUV (sport utility vehicle), with smoked glass for its rear seat windows, was parked close to the wall.
Therefore, unless one approached it very closely, the large binoculars that were mounted inside the car would probably go unnoticed.
The man inside moved the orientation of the camera platform mounted on the windowpane via suction pads. The objective lens of the binoculars on top of it moved as well. And, it was fixed on a new target across the smoked glass. A room on the fifteenth floor of the apartment complex. Those movements lacked any hesitation.
2 minutes later, the curtains of the room were opened from inside. Next, the glass door opened, and the room’s owner appeared. A 183 cm-tall, high-statured woman.
Possibly having finished its role in ventilation, the glass door was closed after about 3 minutes. And then, although it was still morning, the massive curtains were once again closed.
The person inside moved his eyes away from the binoculars, immediately opened his notebook, and launched a single program.
The logo that came up ── was【Ｇｕｎ Ｇａｌｅ Ｏｎｌｉｎｅ】.
The person lay down on the rear seat, and quickly equipped an AmuSphere on his head. And then,
“ Link Start.”
He dived into GGO from the car.
“Found it! Oji-san, I’m buying this! Buying it now! Buying it right now!”
Having come to GGO for the first time in a while, the small child LLENN dressed in a dark brown robe saw the thing that she had been looking for.
“Yay! Yay! Yay! Yaaaaay!”
Her great joy was already like that of a child.
Hopping from one small back alley gunshop to the next, the item that she decided to purchase as soon as she laid eyes on it in the third shop, was a strange-looking submachine gun.
That’s right, it was the Belgian FN Herstal-made P90. A gun that was completely identical to her former partner that she had lost by protecting herself in the SJ.
Naturally, she requested a custom job on it on the spot. She had it dyed in dusky pink, the same as her uniform and equipment.
She could no longer tell the difference, but this gun was the second generation P-chan.
‘Should its name be 〝P-chan II?〟? Or, should it be 〝P-chan the Second〟?’
Since the name was unwieldy, LLENN considered calling it just P-chan, equipped the sling that she had used for her initial gun on it, hung it on her shoulder underneath the robe, handling it with care, and stepped out to an SF world with gaudy, shining neon signs on tall buildings.
Seeing as she was the winner of SJ, she feared that she ended up becoming instantly famous, and would be greeted by strangers as she walked through town── but such a thing did not happen.
It could have been because she was hiding her appearance and face with her robe as always, but thus far, she had only surprised people with her small size. The scale of the SJ and BoB really was different.
‘But it’s for the best.’
With this thought, LLENN cheerfully walked along the street.
As buying a P90 was sufficient for her for today, she thought that she would refrain from any battles, and return to RL after some adequate shooting practice. Her goal was a large mall with a wide shooting range.
“Shooting with P-chan is fun! 900 bullets every minute! Empty shells come descending! Ah, that wonderful sound!”
She began singing an impromptu questionable song to herself because there were no other characters around.
In this merry state, she absolutely could not notice.
That an avatar, which had the appearance of a feeble looking youth, had been tailing her continuously since she left the store.
＊ ＊ ＊
16th of March. Monday.
Although it was a weekday for the public, it was still a day off for Karen who had a long spring vacation from university. The sky outside was heavily cloudy.
Having cleaned her room for the first time in a while, and unpacked her luggage sent to her from her family home,
“…………Nothing else to do.”
Karen ended up running out of things to do. It was the afternoon.
As for diving into GGO,
“I really should pass on it……”
She restrained herself.
After all, yesterday she thought that she would 〝only have shooting practice〟, but while firing at the shooting range, she developed an itchy desire to go wild, and went monster hunting with the thought 〝just a simple field won’t hurt〟, but ended up engrossed for nearly 4 hours.
Deciding not to play games, Karen considered studying for university, reading a book, listening to music, or a combination to kill time, but…
“I guess I’ll go for a walk.”
Going against all those options, Karen set out for a walk in the neighbourhood despite the bad weather. Deciding to take the opportunity to go shopping as well, she brought a folded shopping bag along.
She closed the curtains to her room, turned off the lights, descended to the first floor by elevator, then went out through the entrance, and,
“To the park, I guess.”
Turned towards the lush green park in the neighbourhood.
As it was day time, and there was high pedestrian traffic, and as Karen was not being at all vigilant, she did not notice.
That a man had been tailing her ever since she left her apartment complex.
After a walk nearly an hour long, and dropping by the supermarket to restock on food, Karen was on her way back.
She was walking through a narrow alley.
When returning from the nearby station, this was the shortest route home that she frequently used; to her right was the wall of an apartment, to her left a small factory.
Of course, she would absolutely not pass through here if it was night, but it was still 1500 at the moment. She had long legs as she was tall, thus, as a result, she was walking at a brisk pace.
A young woman with two children riding on an electric bicycle came her way, thus Karen avoided them. The woman nodded in thanks, and passed by.
When she let them pass, she noticed for the first time.
That a man was standing about 10 metres behind her. And that he was looking at her.
Karen did not even think that there could be a person behind her, and walking in the same direction as her, thus she was considerably surprised, and fixedly stared at the man.
‘He looks like an actor, huh.’
Karen’s first thoughts were words of praise.
The man was around 175 cm-tall. His high stature was not outstanding (and he was shorter than her), but for a Japanese man, he was probably a tall person.
And, he had a wonderful constitution. His jeans-clad legs were long, his chest, with a leather jacket on top of a white T-shirt, was burly, and his body was lean like an athlete’s.
His face was so neat that it could be called beautiful. His eyes were slightly sharp, but not to the extent that they would look scary.
As for his age, Karen thought he might be in the later half of his twenties. His hair was black and, although she did not know if it was natural, it was slightly wavy and of shoulder-length.
‘Oops, I shouldn’t stare.’
Karen took her eyes off the man, and faced forward.
Even if he was an ikemen with a nice physique, staring at others was still a breach of manners. Once again, she began walking with her long legs to return to her apartment complex.
4 minutes later,
Karen once again noticed. That the man was still 10 metres behind her.
The high-rise apartment complex would soon be in sight. When she stopped at a pedestrian crossing to cross the road, the aforementioned man entered her field of vision, and thus she noticed that he had been constantly tailing her since then.
‘This is kinda scary……’
Karen’s vigilance mode went up a notch.
Even if she was taller than most men, Karen was still a young woman, thus it was natural for her to be cautious around unfamiliar men.
She had taken several complex turns from the alley where she first laid eyes on him, thus it was natural to think that 〝being tailed〟 was more likely than going in the same direction by chance.
If it was at night, she would have definitely taken action to deal with this problem. For example, taking a taxi or calling someone with her mobile phone and talking to them while walking. But then, if it was night, there was no way that she would be walking through a place like this.
Since it was daytime, and she was walking along a main street which naturally had pedestrian traffic, and on top of that, her apartment complex was close by, Karen calmed down, and began crossing the road when the traffic lights turned green.
Once she was across, Karen turned left, and thus, after moving away from the crosswalk a bit, she moved her eyes without turning her face.
The man crossed the road and──
‘Uugh, he’s following me……’
He turned to the left as well. There was no mistake about it anymore. This man was tailing Karen.
‘Where did he start following me? Could it be from the supermarket? Or before that, all the way from the park?’
As things have come this far, she did not know the answer to her questions, but assuming that she was followed the whole time, she had a bad feeling about this. The man’s nice appearance turned from a plus to a big minus.
‘I need to get back quickly.’
Karen began walking the last 100 metres or so to her apartment complex in order to escape. Suppressing her desire to break into a run, she feigned being calm as best as she could.
There were plenty of cars moving along the main street, and there were also pedestrians and cyclists passing by, thus she probably would not be attacked here, but even so, shivers went down her spine.
If this was within GGO, it would be a situation where she would want to turn around and draw out a knife, but if she did that in RL, she would immediately be arrested.
The apartment complex’s entrance required IC keycards that only residents had. There was a resident female concierge and a male guard past the first door.
If Karen passed through it, and the man pursuing her managed to pass through as well, she could probably manage by shouting.
Just as she thought of this and sighed in relief, Karen was struck by a different possibility, as if additional electrical signals activated within her brain.
‘Could it be that my address will be exposed if I entered the apartment complex like this?’
Assuming that the man came across Karen somewhere and was tailing her, if she held out her key and entered the apartment complex, would she not be exposed as a resident here?
What if the man’s goal of following Karen was to discover her residence?
‘Oh, that woman is huge, but cute. Where could she be living, I wonder? I know, I’ll tail her and find out. When I do, I’ll be able to wait in front of the entranceway and follow her every day, uhehe──’
Having thought of this, she became scared and her imagination forcefully shut down.
The entrance to the apartment complex was right over there.
‘Should I continue walking like this, or should I pass through the front so that he wouldn’t discern my residence. That’s the question.’
‘But where should I go after passing through? Should I kill time at some shop? But what if he stands guard the whole time? What if the other party is a thoroughly persistent stalker overflowing with zeal?’
‘Uhyaa what-what do I do what do I do what do──’
As Karen reached the extremity of confusion,
“You are Kohiruimaki── Karen-san, right?”
Someone spoke out to her.
“Yes. That’s right but──”
In front of Karen, who had stopped, affirmed her name in foolish honesty, before turning around, stood that man.
As Karen was about to scream after being momentarily flabbergasted,
“Please don’t shout! LLENN! It’s me! M!”
The man’s voice narrowly stopped her.
‘How on earth did it end up like this?’
Karen was still confused.
Karen’s current location was the observation room in her apartment complex.
On the thirtieth floor of the high-rise apartment complex was a common space for all the residents. It was a lobby-like room, with huge windows, at the corner of the building, and was equipped with a table, sofa and a vending machine for drinks.
Nevertheless, it was a questionable room that was only full on days when firework displays could be seen in the distance, while on other days, in other words usually, there was barely anyone who would use it, and honestly, who knows what it was made for.
Karen and the man were the only people in this room with a sofa and table arranged orderly.
Several minutes ago, at the front of the first floor of the apartment complex,
“Please don’t shout! LLENN! It’s me! M!”
Hearing the man’s voice,
“Haah…….? That can’t be!”
Karen exclaimed in a loud voice.
An old lady, who happened to be passing by on a bicycle, ‘Hiku!’, shouted in surprise and staggered with her handle. She did not fall down, but it was a considerably close call.
Even so, Karen couldn’t help but shout.
‘The actor-like stalker in front of me is M?’
‘That body builder-like macho avatar── the player controlling the avatar with whom I fought with in the SJ?’
She could not believe it.
Well, it was quite normal for the appearance of the avatar and player to differ.
After all, she herself was a 183 cm-tall sky tree woman. And her avatar was a less than 150 cm-tall chibi.
That was not the problem,
“If you are the player behind M-san…… how did you figure out that I was LLENN? How did you know?”
Karen assaulted him with questions.
The only people aware of the fact that LLENN was Kohiruimaki Karen, or vice versa, were Miyu and Saki’s group. M, who she had only met twice within GGO, should not have known this.
It was a big mistake to confirm the fact that she was LLENN with her question, but Karen did not think of that.
“I will explain later. I have something very important to talk with you about, thus I came to meet Karen-san, the real LLENN, in person. We can’t talk here, so I would like to go to a place, no matter where, away from the public where we can have a calm conversation without being overheard.”
Said the man self-proclaiming to be M with the very seriousness of an ikemen.
And Karen asked with an expression like she was looking at a swindler.
“And if I refuse?”
The man answered immediately.
“Then, on the night of the second Squad Jam in April next month, people will die.”
She couldn’t really believe him, but she couldn’t ignore it either, thus,
“If you try anything, I’ll shout!”
After giving this reminder, Karen brought the man to this observation room.
Of course, she couldn’t just bring him to her room, and there was no one here for the time being.
As this apartment complex was the tallest building in the vicinity, there was no need to worry about being seen from the neighbouring buildings on the thirtieth floor as long as they didn’t stand at the window.
‘How on earth did it end up like this?’
Karen was still confused.
Immediately after they entered the room, Karen attempted to buy some warm black tea from the vending machine to calm down a little, but the man cut in line, and pressed his cell phone on the machine, paying for the tea.
“I am grateful that you agreed to hear me out. My treat.”
And then, she drank it, but couldn’t taste it. It didn’t really have much of an effect.
On the other hand, the man who self-proclaimed to be M bought some black, canned coffee next, and drank it in a way that it seemed tasty.
Was he feeling accomplished that she would hear him out?
‘Hmph’, after making a big sigh, Karen enquired with a suspicious look.
“Are you…… are you really the RL M-san?”
Although the other party had been using a polite tone, Karen didn’t feel like using keigo(8)
when speaking to a suspicious man like that, thus she used a considerably blunt one.
The man, while fixedly gazing at Karen with a handsome expression that was the very image of seriousness, nodded.
Of course, she could not just believe him on his word alone, thus, not worrying about whether or not it was rude, Karen enquired.
“And the proof for that?”
The man answered immediately.
“Haah? Then, how are you going to get me to believe……”
“None is none. I am not lying.”
As Karen was really shocked,
“You could just tell me something that I and M-san had said during the SJ……”
She even ended up letting out those lifeboat-like words.
Although the SJ’s battles were broadcast, voices were not picked up, unless one intentionally approached the camera or shouted. Thus, only LLENN could have heard M’s words back then.
But then, then man,
“That would not serve as any kind of proof.”
Resolutely rejected the idea.
“For example, even if I told you that 〝During the SJ, LLENN said this to me.〟, I could have just heard it all in detail from 〝the real player behind M〟.”
‘Well, that really is true, but, you know, that’s not something that a man who should be proving something would say.’
Karen was shocked.
“That’s why, all you can do is trust my words, Karen-san.”
‘I so want to just leave this guy here and return to my room now.’
Karen thought, but just couldn’t put her foot down. Because her mind was fixed on the boisterous words 『People will die on the day of SJ2』.
And thus, she decided to ask another question.
“Then if, although unwilling, I give in and temporarily believe that you’re M-san…… can I ask another question? No, I will ask.”
“Feel free to do so.”
“How did you know that my name was Kohiruimaki Karen, and that I am LLENN? Also, how did you find out this address? That should have been totally impossible!”
In online games──
If too many hints were given away via conversation or behaviour, it was possible for one’s 〝RL to be exposed〟, in other words, allowing others to discover their personal information in the real world.
“Watch your words! Is that really something that you should be saying? Is it?”
Kept telling her this till her mouth went dry.
She learnt that through experience just last month.
When Saki realised that Karen was LLENN. Even Karen realised that Saki was Eva, although she initially dismissed the thought. This happened because both parties gave each other plenty of hints.
The hints that Karen gave were the fact that she did something with her life on the line on the day of the SJ, and managed to become unbound from her worries and, more importantly, she was walking with a 〝pink P90 keyholder〟 appended to her bag; something no normal female university student would do so.
As for Saki’s hints, it was the fact that they were a six-member rhythmic gymnastics club that would be proficient in passing, and the nickname 〝Boss〟.
Thus, what hints could she have given this man?
The kind of hints, aside from her name ‘Karen’ that was similar to her character name (although even that would not be simple to realise), that allowed the man to deduce her surname, appearance, and even her address with pinpoint accuracy.
Absolutely nothing came to mind.
“Don’t tell me…… you’re from Zaskar?”
Karen voiced as the thought hit her.
In that case, it is possible, albeit unlikely. If he was a part of the management, then it could be possible to deduce one’s name and address from one’s game ID and mail address.
In fact, Karen did send Zaskar her personal information to be able to receive SJ victory prizes.
The man quickly shook his head.
“Then how? By what means did you find out my name and address?”
The man kept quiet for a few seconds, and then,
“I cannot tell you that right now”
He said, followed by ‘I will explain later.’
Karen thought, ‘If only I had a truth serum in my pocket. Or a gun that I could force against his throat.’
“But please hear out what I have to say now. It is important. It is, very important.”
“My ears are open, so feel free.”
Dumbfounded, Karen answered quite negligently.
“But before that ── who are you? What’s your registered name, M-san?”
And bluntly enquired, irritated by the fact that she was the only one with her full name exposed.
“Ah, my apologies for the late introduction. My name is Asougi Goushi. 阿僧祇 comes from the number unit 阿僧祇(9) ── it’s written with the〝阿〟from 阿蘇山, the 〝僧〟 from ‘僧侶’, and 〝祇〟 from 祇園. 豪志 comes from 豪快 志.”
Based on the fact that he explained his name with such experience, Karen felt that it wasn’t an alias── though it was possible that he was simply used to using it as an alias.
“Asougi Goushi-san, I see. Then, which name should I address you by?”
Karen asked in sarcastic keigo,
“Whichever you prefer.”
And the man, Goushi, answered easily.
In amazement, Karen,
“Then…… it’s only manners to use a real name in RL, thus I’ll call you Goushi-san……”
Thought that, for the time being, if anything happened, or she got out of this room, she would report 〝Asougi Goushi 〟 to the police.
With a rare surname like that, there probably wouldn’t be that many people with it. She memorised it. ‘Officer, it’s this man.’ Well, there was, of course, the possibility that it is an alias.
Goushi faced straight forward with his neat face. And then,
“Karen-san. I beg of you, please help.”
Karen did not answer. With a cold expression, Karen continued listening to Goushi’s words.
“There’s something that only you, Karen-san, of all people in the world, can do.”
‘What’s up with that! A pick-up line!’
Karen thought. But didn’t say.
“Without your help, Karen-san……”
‘What will happen then?’
“Two people, will die.”
Why? Who will? How?
“The first, is me. The other, is Pitohui’s RL self.”
The mention of Pitohui’s name provoked Karen’s response.
“You said it during the last SJ, right, that 〝I’ll be killed by RL Pitohui〟 or something like that! Is this a continuation of that?”
“That’s right. I did say that time, right? That Pitohui is crazy.”
“……With a horrible tear-strained expression.”
She recalled an unpleasant scene. The tear-flooding expression of a rough-looking macho.”
“Pito will be participating in SJ2 this time. With me and some currently gathered members.”
“And you want me to join that team?”
‘I see! Things are finally making sense!’
In other words, this was the case.
‘LLENN had not declared her participation in SJ2 yet. If I joined Pitohui’s team, they would be seeded in the preliminaries. That’s what this person has come to request.’
‘No, it can’t be that simple, can it……’
Karen dismissed her own idea.
If it was for such a simple reason, he wouldn’t have resorted to such stalker-like behaviour. It would be sufficient to send a message by normal means. The preliminaries would probably be easy as well. Furthermore, the death and so on of Goushi and Pitohui(‘s RL) would not make sense.
“And that’s not it, huh. ──Go on.”
“Okay. This time, there is no plan to invite LLENN to the team. And, although it sounds like self-flattery, we’re not particularly concerned with the preliminaries.”
“Right. If M-san and Pito-san formed a team, you’d be that strong. You’d probably wi── be able to aim for victory.”
The reason why Karen began saying ‘win’ and stopped was because she remembered Saki and the others.
《SHINC》, the runner-up team of the previous tournament, were full of determination. They would probably go really wild in the upcoming tournament as well, and they were definitely the favourites. A bit of a digression, but Karen learnt from Saki that SHINC is an abbreviation of ‘rhythmic gymnastics club’.
‘Pitohui’s team versus Saki’s team, who’d win in the end?’
Karen has not considered participating in SJ2, but she did think that she could at least dive in that day and watch the live broadcast in a bar.
Putting that aside, Karen had to finish listening to Goushi’s story.
“Pito is, of course, participating with the intention of aiming for victory. I believe that anything other than victory would be entirely meaningless to her, no matter what place she takes.”
“That’s so like Pito-san.”
“So── she told me this. ‘If I can’t win, I’ll die.’”
“Pito, no 〝Pito’s RL self〟 said this. 『If I don’t win SJ2 or I get killed during the game, I’ll commit suicide.』
“And, I too shall die. If I don’t commit suicide, I’ll be killed.”
“And, when that woman says she’ll do something, she really will do it.”
“……Just like when she threatened to kill you, Goushi-san?”
Seeing Goushi nodding, Karen was astounded.
‘Not only did I have to worry about it during that SJ, but now I have rack my brains again here!”
The large muzzle of a pistol, an 《HK45》, being thrust right towards her all of a sudden came to mind. As well as it beginning to shine. Even now, she could recall that scene clearly.
If she had not dodged it── Karen’s hair would probably still be long.
Having somehow avoided the attack, she interrogated M with her P90 thrust at him, and she was told about Pitohui’s abnormality.
Truthfully, she could not understand it then, nor can she understand it now.
Due to the astounded LLENN taking individual action back then, M did not die and everything ended well. Since the man controlling M was right in front of her.
Of course, if that really was him but── Having heard this much, Karen had mostly cast aside the possibility that he was a fake.
As words like ‘kill’, ‘die’ and so on continued, Karen looked around her surroundings for a moment.
She would have heard the sound of the door opening and closing if someone had come, but she was still worried. This was definitely not a discussion that they could have in a place where there were other people. Though, she had no intention of bringing Goushi up to her room at all.
“Why is……Pito-san imposing such weird things? Like, killing herself and others if she died within a game, why is she this──”
‘Out of her mind?’
Karen was about to voice out, but stopped herself, and in response to her,
“I did say during the SJ, didn’t I? She’s out of her mind. She’s crazy. Her mind’s captivated by 〝death〟 itself, and she always yearns for a fight where she can put her life on the line.”
‘Should I or should I not ask for the reason’, Karen pondered.
However, if she did not ask, they could not continue the conversation. With the thought that she did not mind even if Goushi did not know the reason,
“Why is that?”
And Goushi answered the question with a question.
“Have you heard of, 〝Sword Art Online〟?”
1. ^ For reference, the average female height in Japan is about 158 centimetres.
2. ^ Fukajirou is the Hepburn romanisation of フカ次郎, while Fukaziroh is the official Latin alphabet spelling for it. In the Hepburn romanisation system, the kana じ (the reading of 次) is transcribed as “ji” while in Kunrei-shiki romanisation it is transcribed as “zi”. Hepburn is a romanisation system suited for English pronunciation, while Kunrei-shiki is a more standard (i.e. fewer exceptions) and the officially adopted romanisation system in Japan. A “u” vowel after “o” in Japanese just makes the “o” longer - the equivalent of the function of “h” in English.
3. ^ 郎 (rou/roh, son) is a commonly used last character for boy names, just like 子 (ko, child/girl) is for girl names.
4. ^ In this case, the word 次男 (jinan, second son) is used. But the 男 kanji is replaced with 郎 in the name, since it’s more common to use 郎 in names.
5. ^ A karaoke box (カラオケボックス) is a common type of karaoke establishment in Japan. Each of these have several rentable rooms with karaoke equipment.
6. ^ Possibly implying that Fukaziroh became strong enough to wield the sword. Or just that the sword used to be too good compared to her stats.
7. ^ An anastrophe is the inversion of the syntactically correct word order in a sentence for emphasis. Basically, imagine Yoda’s speech.
8. ^ Keigo (敬語) is Japanese for "honorific speech". This can mean anything from turning all verbs to the polite (masu) form or using the copula です (desu) to special words etc..
9. ^ Asamkhya is a Hindu/Buddhist name for an incalculable number. Depending on the translation, it can be as small as 1056, 1064, 10140 etc. or as big as 1074,436,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. In countries using Chinese characters, the value of one asamkhya differs based on the history period, region, country etc. In Japan, it is usually used to refer to 1056, though some people have 1064 in mind instead.