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, ZeHaffen
SECT.12 - Shirley
Just before 13:50,
“It’s not like I was trying to help you, okay? I just did it because I thought it was our best chance to bring down the formidable MMTM. Though they got away. Well, I guess we'll call it a 〝temporary truce〟 ? It would be easy to kill you now, but I want a serious battle with you, after all.”
LLENN, who had been lying face-up on the ground and was told this by a giant woman with braided hair who was towering over her,
“I am indebted to you.”
Gave only this as a reply and took out her satellite scan terminal. While she was still collapsed, her wristwatch stopped vibrating. It was exactly 50 minutes now.
LLENN was too impatient to bother getting up, so she looked at the terminal screen while still lying face-up. And then, she saw a slow satellite scan beginning from the south-west,
“Would you get a move on! And you call yourself an artificial satellite! It's not like you have to worry about air resistance or anything!”
Gazed at it while absurdly urging it on,
“There you are!”
And confirmed the survival of team PM4 in the south-east of the map. As well as seven gray dots lined up slightly further away.
“Aah…… Thank goodness……”
LLENN held her satellite scan terminal tight to her chest, as if she had received a letter from her lover.
Although the possibility that only the leader M had survived was not zero, LLENN truly believed in Pitohui’s survival. Typical M-san and Pito-san. They turned the tables on all seven teams.
“How scary…… I have to beat someone like that?……”
As her comrades kept watch over the jungle without leaving any blind spots, SHINC’s Boss also gazed at the terminal,
“Wow, it sure has decreased! Ten teams disappeared in 10 minutes!”
She cheerfully reported.
Among them, seven were the combined team wiped out by Pitohui and the others.
And the three others were the teams that were mostly slaughtered by LLENN on her own, except for Clarence, who was the only one finished off by MMTM.
The current survivors numbered seven teams.
LLENN’s group and SHINC within the dome, as well as MMTM, who had just made a brilliant retreat and were currently on their way to the north of the dome.
Naturally, Pitohui’s PM4,
And the other three were──
KKHC in the valley between the mountains to the east of the dome. It was a team name that they had never heard of.
ZEMAL, or the Zen-Nihon Machine Gun Lovers, in the northern hilly area, who appeared to be all alive and well. This time, they were truly holding on.
The last one was named 《T-S》 and was quite far away, located almost directly on the rampart in the north-west area of the map.
Fukaziroh reloaded her 2 MGL-140s with regular grenades, stood up, and looked up at the huge woman carrying the silenced Vintorez sniper rifle.
The golden-haired dwarf gave a smile,
“Heya absurdly gargantuan person! You’re Boss right. I’m Fukaziroh.You can just call me 〝Fuka〟, with love. Nice to meet ya!”
“My my, how late we are with our greetings, cheeky blonde Ojou-sama. Please feel free to call me either Eva or Boss, whichever you prefer. ──And thanks. I don’t know the details, but if it weren’t for you, LLENN couldn’t have formed a team and participated in SJ2.”
“Well, no need ta thank me. We can take our time with the detailed self-introductions after the tournament.”
Fukaziroh heard about Boss and the others IRL in detail from Karen, but she knew that talking about it in-game would spoil the mood, thus she restrained herself. Facing Boss, who nodded with an ‘uh huh’,
“You truly have our gratitude for saving us! I’ll eventually repay this debt with a direct hit from a grenade──”
Fukaziroh gave a sidelong glance to LLENN, who had just put away her satellite scan terminal,
“Oi, LLENN! I’ll hold this giga woman down with my masterful conversation skills! Take the opportunity! Get your magazines!”
“Thanks, that’s what I’ll do!”
LLENN stood up with so much strength that it seemed as if she were a grasshopper and rushed over to Clarence’s corpse. And, finally, she obtained her cherished magazines. The fully loaded P90/AR-57 magazines, with 50 bullets each, numbered,
“──Eight, nine, ten──”
‘Wow, twelve. That’s 600 bullets!”
“Ah…… 〝I’ve obtained some new magazines〟(1)!”
As the 800 bullets she had brought with her had decreased to 450 by now, just how reassuring was this? Right now, they were items that made LLENN so happy that she was about to cry. A fanfare for acquiring a new item resounded loudly in her mind.
With these, she was able to fire 1050 bullets. She obtained more firepower than she had from the start.
LLENN gleefully inserted six of them into the pouches on her thighs that had been emptied, and put the rest into her storage via operating it with her left hand.
“Thanks…… You’ve been a great help.”
Finally, LLENN sent words of gratitude to Clarence’s corpse once more.
He── no, she had died face-up, with her hands spread out and a happy expression on her face.
LLENN remembered that her hit points had decreased by twenty percent. Judging that it would be better to the reduce the odds of instant death, she quickly applied a first-aid kit on her wrist.
Her body was momentarily enveloped in light and her hit point gauge entered healing mode. It would take 180 seconds, or 3 minutes, until the healing was complete.
LLENN returned to Fukaziroh and Boss,
“ Boss. Thanks for saving me.”
Looking up at her huge body, LLENN once again said her thanks and bowed down.
Having politely replied, Boss gave a happy expression,
“Now then, looks like this is the perfect time, so shall we have our serious one-on-one? I don’t mind doing it here, but, you know, I don’t mind changing the location either? As long as other teams can’t intervene, anywhere’s──”
“Sorry…… I can’t do that.”
Boss’s eyes bulged open when LLENN interrupted her.
“Hah? Why? Didn’t we say we’d have a match next time──”
“Sorry…… Umm…… I can’t really…… explain……”
Beside LLENN, who had shown a painful expression as she did not want to involve high school girls into RL trouble,
“Oh, you see, something bad will happen if LLENN doesn’t defeat Pitohui. If Pitohui-san dies without winning SJ2, she’ll apparently die IRL. The only one who can stop that is LLENN.”
Fukaziroh quickly spilled the beans.
As LLENN became like a boiled octopus,
“She’s your rival right? Let’s give ‘er some trust.”
Fukaziroh said thus.
As there were no battles at the time, the broadcast cameras continued displaying LLENN’s and Boss’s groups.
Although the spectators could not understand what they were saying, they could see that LLENN, Fukaziroh, and the members of SHINC, who had gathered there due to the lack of enemies in the area, were having a conversation with serious expressions.
“What’s going on here? Are they planning to work together now that they’ve started talking, even if by coincidence?”
“LLENN-chan whispered something into the ear of that last guy just now.”
“Wasn’t that just a thank you for the magazines?”
“To me…… it seemed like LLENN-chan kissed that guy on the cheek……”
“It’s amazing how far pervs can go……”
It was the aftermath of a battle so extreme that no one could take their eyes off it for even a moment, thus the mood in the bar was once again laid back. There were even those who, using the opportunity, filled their stomachs with their new orders.
The players who died in SJ2 returned, one after another, after the 10 minute waiting time was over, thus,
“Those amazons! I ain't gonna be happy unless they win this!”
A sniper wielding an SSG69,
“LLENN-chan, do your best! Win this again!”
And the optical gun-wielding team that was wiped out at the station all cheered for the teams that killed them.
After about 2 very laid-back minutes──
On screen, LLENN gave a deep bow. Was she expressing her gratitude for the help?”
And then, Boss extended her hand to LLENN.
The large-bodied Boss lowered her large hand, while the small-bodied LLENN raised her small hand.
The two gave each other a handshake.
The sizes of their hands and bodies were so different that the scene was quite strange.
“Oh, they’ve settled their talk. What are they gonna do? Are they gonna fight here?”
To the disappointment of the people anticipating a battle, the two teams parted with a light wave of their hands.
The amazons started pushing through the jungle to the south, while LLENN’s group went to the east. The broadcast screen now displayed only the large number of corpses lying on the mowed-down grass.
“I thought they’d fight together, but they’re just parting ways again?”
Said a man drinking beer,
“Well, those teams aren’t going to band together.”
And added this.
＊ ＊ ＊
Slightly turning back the clocks, at 13:50.
“LLENN’s group has also survived. They’re inside the dome. Since there’re three other teams lying around, she could have formed a coalition with SHINC.”
And Pitohui listened with a smile. Once the scan was over,
“Seven surviving teams. The others include MMTM, who moved to the north of the dome. ZEMAL in the hilly area, T-S to the north-west. The closest to us is a certain team in the valley. KKHC. We’re going to descend the mountain and defeat those guys.”
M, who said in his usual serious tone,
“Roger. Which means a stroll, a stroll.”
Pitohui, who said in a joking tone,
And the remaining four men, still silent, descended the mountain.
They were headed to the north-west. Towards the area there that had a conspicuous blue colour.
KKHC, the next target of Pitohui’s group, watched the fifth scan from inside a small forest.
Like Shirley, the four men were wearing identical garments with trees depicted on them, but──
The appearances of their avatars were quite dissimilar.
One was a rough-looking middle-aged man with a receding hairline. He looked like the eldest, thus he had taken on the role of leader.
One was a man with an African appearance, which was a common sight in GGO.
One was a tall, blond man.
And the last one was a small, black-haired man that looked like an ordinary Japanese person.
The five, including Shirley, discovered that the enemies in the area had mostly been eliminated. And so, they had a conversation through their communication items.
“This is awesome. PM4, the favourite team, seems to have wiped out seven teams with just six members and, moreover, in just 10 minutes…… Though I can’t even imagine how……”
The leader voiced his surprise,
“What should we do about this. If we run about and hide we won’t lose, but we won’t win either, right?”
“Agreed. leader, shall we make our debut right about now? But, the closest one is that formidable PM4?”
“I don’t get the feeling we can win……”
The other three chimed in. Shirley remained silent as always.
The leader, who had been considering something, said,
“Hey, guys, I’ve got an idea, so listen up. There's a chance we can aim for〝victory〟.”
＊ ＊ ＊
From 13:50 to 13:55,
“No battles going on……”
A carefree mood continued to hang in the bar.
“Just in time. If they’re battling non-stop, we’ll also get exhausted watching it.
As the previous 10 minutes were exceedingly intense, there were viewers who took this chance to rest.
The idling cameras displayed teams on the move.
LLENN and Fukaziroh came out of the jungle and exited the dome. They were right on the eastern edge; if the dome were a clock, they would be at 3 o’clock.
At the same time, while keeping alert of their surroundings, Boss’s SHINC also exited the dome. They were approximately to the south. Not much different from their way in.
And then, the camera displayed another team.
A team of four men and a woman were running through a field with streaming brooks.
Everyone picked up on something strange. There was no way they could not.
“Why are those guys──”
Someone muttered, representing the rest.
“Not carrying any guns?”
"Enemies. Five of them. Distance 1000. They're currently running towards us."
Said M, peeking through his binoculars, with the three masked men holding their respective guns in their hands and one not holding anything at all, beside him. And then,
"Aye. What weapons are our prey using?"
Asked Pitohui while making a pun, as she quickly squat down.
They had already descended the mountain and were now in an area that had a mixture of flat fields, forests, and thickets. The top part of a giant dome could be seen in the distance.
Hanging his M14 EBR in front of his body via the sling, carrying his huge backpack on his back, standing, and peeking through his binoculars,
"They're not carrying anything."
3 minutes later──
The five people who practically sprinted there at full speed, were now standing before Pitohui.
They were team KKHC.
The four men and one woman were all wearing matching uniforms consisting of boots, brown trousers, and tree-patterned jackets, but held nothing in their hands.
Although not a battle, the scene was caught on camera.
Pitohui, M, and three masked men holding their guns at the ready to fire at any time. And a man, who seemed to be the leader of the five-person team, saying something to them.
Although the scene was caught on camera, their conversation could not be heard,
"They came here with a proposal for the endgame, huh."
The audience, of course, understood what was going on.
That those five people had come to talk, wishing to conspire with PM4.
"However, I'm kinda surprised that the ponytail nee-san didn't just shoot those guys as they approached."
"Well, guess she's at least willing to hear them out."
"Even that oni-like woman can understand words, you say. ──By the way, just how much do you like that jerky?"
"Hmm, I don't really think we need to join forces with anyone right now. Besides, we're aiming for victory, and just what are you planning to do when we become the last two teams standing if we fight together with you? Will we have a shootout then?"
Pitohui asked while facing the five people, including the seemingly eldest man among them who was their leader, lined up before her.
"Putting it simply, at that moment, I believe we can just resign and hand over the victory to you. That's the opinion that the entire team shares."
"Oh. So you're saying that you didn't join SJ2 to win?"
"Yeah. To be honest, we did it to test our skills. Actually, we're a squadron consisting solely of hunters, who fire guns even IRL."
"Heeh. That's interesting."
There was no mistake in thinking that people who began talking about RL in a VR game were people who wanted to brag.
At Pitohui's words, the leader got caught up in the moment and began talking about their RL.
That his team consisted of people who participated in hunting, with their base in Hokkaido.
All the members in the squadron were residents of Hokkaido who were hunters.
They were allowed to own hunting guns even IRL and normally used them for practice, while during the hunting season, which lasted from autumn till winter, they participated in hunts in the vastness of Mother Nature.
"So, we are confident in our shooting skills. We're quite accurate even without the Bullet Lines, you know? Actually, just minutes ago, we sniped three men without them sensing it. Though, I don't think your team can even imagine long-range sniping without Bullet Lines, ojou-san.
At the leader's proud or haughty words, Pitohui gave an honest-looking expression,
"Well, that is amazing."
As she said such a lie.
Beside her── both M and the masked men… kept quiet.
After the leader then bragged about how high-precision the rifles in their storage were, and how superior the skills of their owners were,
"So, our people can back up your team with snipers. That would be one heck of an advantage to you in combat, I believe. So, how's about it? Wanna employ us as mercenaries and aim for first and second place together?"
Having heard their proposal, Pitohui,
"I understand your proposal, and thinking about it simply, it's not a bad deal."
"But, 'I'm sorry', is what I probably have to say. When I formed this team, I decided in my heart. That 〝if I can't make it with these members, then I can't make it〟, you see."
"I see…… It's unfortunate, but if that's the case, then I can't force you."
Said the hunter team leader dejectedly,
"Well then, let's split up again. We'll be disappearing to the other side of that thicket over there for now."
He pointed to the trees that could be seen around 70 metres to the north-west.
"Afterwards, we won't be making contact with you until the next scan. We promise on the pride of people who use guns even IRL."
"I see. Well then, we'll be staying here till you all disappear."
Said Pitohui, and, facing the five men nearby, including M, who were keeping watch on the surroundings and their five opponents,
"You guys heard that, right. Don't shoot. If you're men, keep your promises."
And gave them these instructions. 'Usu', 'got it', and other such short replies came in return.
"What marvelous soldiers. Well then, I wish us both luck."
The leader said this to finish off, turned back and began walking. The three men and green-haired woman who had watched on in slight unease followed behind him.
Having looked at their backs till the five of them were about 30 metres away, Pitohui,
"I guess that'll do?"
Suddenly waved her right hand. She operated the window that was produced, and selected the 《Springfield XDM》 automatic pistol from her storage.
The XDM appeared mid-air and Pitohui grasped its grip with her right hand. She then extended her arm forward.
The next moment──
She pulled the elbow and arm of the hand holding the gun with extreme force.
Her arm moved so fast that it left an afterimage. Due to the inertia of such a pull, the XDM's slide fell backwards, then returned forward due to the springs, sending a 40 caliber bullet into its chamber.
This… was the menacing 〝one-handed automatic pistol loading〟 that could only be pulled off by the biggest of machos IRL, or by people with considerably high Strength values in GGO.
"Now then, guess I'll start from the one to the very left?"
Saying this, Pitohui, using only her right hand, easily fired the gun at the back of the tall man to the left of the others.
The spectators watching this peaceful scene without combat──
And the shot man──
Let out the same sound.
"Ah dang, I was a bit off."
Seeing her first bullet hit the man's left shoulder, Pitohui slightly adjusted her aim and fired her XDM again.
The second bullet dug deep into the center of the head of the blond man, who was shocked by the hit to his shoulder. Despite the pistol being weak, the hit was counted as instakill.
The other four, obviously shocked, turned around,
Saw Pitohui, holding a black pistol in her right hand with her left hand formed into a fist and placed on her chest, as well as the Bullet Lines extending towards them from there.
The black-haired man became the next target. The sole bullet hit the bottom of his neck.
*Pan*. *Pan*. *Pan*.
As that was not enough to kill him, the next few bullets hit his cheek, eye, and forehead respectively.
Seeing the second of his men having his hit points reduced and brought down with a thud,
"Ooi! What're you doing! What about your prom…!"
The team leader cried as loudly as he could. A bullet flew right towards his mouth and went inside.
As a hit effect shined from his mouth, the leader collapsed backwards.
Continuing her one-handed shooting, Pitohui,
"I'm… not… a man, you see!"
Gave an answer to the already dead man.
"It's like target practice."
"To me, it looks more like prisoner execution."
The scene that could not even be called a battle was displayed in the bar as well.
The three men were killed in the time it took to say 'ah', leaving only one man and the woman alive. Of course, they had begun to flee with a full-power dash just as the second man was shot.
"Doesn't seem like── they have the time to operate their storage and take out their guns……"
It was not clear what guns they had, but it would take at least 10 seconds to take them out, load them, aim, and counterattack, so they could only flee at this point.
*Pon*, with this dry sound, a hit effect was created on the running man's left leg. The man collapsed forward, and then came the second bullet. This time, it hit his left hand.
Seeing her fallen comrade, Shirley stopped,
"Run for it!"
Was told this by him, but she did not flee.
She rushed over to the collapsed man, squatted, then threw herself down.
She drove her back into the stomach of the man, whose character's physique matched hers. And then, grasping his thighs, she immediately stood up and broke into a run while carrying him on her back.
Pitohui, who had continued to fire using only her right hand so far, finally added her left hand for support to shoot the 〝target〟 40 metres away.
She pointed her legs at the target and held the gun pushed out in front of her, using both hands for balance,
The fired bullet splendidly reached its target. This time, it hit the medulla oblongata of the man carried by Shirley.
*Guun*, his hit points decreased for about 2 seconds, and then, *pikon*, with an adorable sound, the 【Ｄｅａｄ】marker rose up.
While Shirley continued running with the man on her back.
Pitohui continued firing her XDM.
The dry sounds continued in succession as empty golden cartridges fluttered to her right. Although her bullets flew right on track, they only ended up hitting the man's corpse.
Just as Pitohui fired the 16th bullet in her magazine and her XDM's slide stopped in its locked state, Shirley disappeared into the thicket.
At M's order,
"Aight. Someone lend me your shoulder."
The large, masked man materialised his beloved gun through manipulating his storage. Right afterwards, an MG3 equipped with a suppressor and an ammunition belt with 100 bullets appeared in front of him.
The man skillfully loaded the gun, placed the barrel on the shoulder of the small man who had rushed in front of him, and unleashed a full auto barrage at the thicket that Shirley had disappeared into. The barrage created a high-pitched noise, despite the suppressor, as the plants fluttered about.
After the man unleashed 100 bullets without rest, M looked through his binoculars,
And, in the circular field of view, he saw the figure of a woman, carrying a corpse with a 【Ｄｅａｄ】marker on it, as she moved to the other side of the thicket.
"Not bad! She knew that the corpse would become indestructible, so that's why she escaped with it. The girl had not considered〝helping her comrade〟for even a moment!"
As Pitohui said this cheerfully, she began operating a window with her left hand.
As she repeated her quick operations with her left hand while holding the spent XDM in her right hand──
Pitohui continued her transformation.
The spectators in the bar saw on screen.
How the woman, who had slaughtered eighteen people without bringing a weapon, prepared her weapons.
First, a spare XDM magazine appeared mid-air in front of the woman.
Having removed the empty one from her gun, she inserted the new magazine into the gun, pressed the slide stop button, and once again loaded a bullet into the chamber.
That's when the real transformation scene began.
In VR games, if a player had set it up in advance, they could 〝bundle equip〟 their usual equipment from their storage with one action.
The woman did just that.
Once she pressed the ＯＫ button with her left hand, her equipment materialised one after another like magic and was equipped on the cyborg-like woman.
First, a thick belt coiled around the waist of her dark blue jumpsuit.
A plastic holster appeared on the outside of her right thigh, hanging down from that belt, and a support belt coiled around her thigh as well.
Likewise, a similar one appeared on her left thigh. There was an XDM already in place in this one. Once she stored her XDM into the right thigh holster, her dual pistol setup was complete.
As she loaded her left XDM using only her left hand, narrow grappling knives materialised on the outside of her boots.
Each time her equipment increased,
"They're cool, but does that have merit?"
"It looks 〝cool〟 of course!"
"Ooh! She even has knives!"
"I wanna see her cut someone up……"
The spectators in the bar were very hyped.
And then, her upper body. The camera zoomed up.
A black vest, to protect her chest from bullets, was equipped on the woman's firm body. A long and narrow magazine pouch was equipped on the vest's abdominal region, making it look like armour.
A bulletproof plate, covering her heart and other vitals, appeared on her back. And a wide pouch with unknown contents appeared around her waist.
"Does that thing have plasma grenades? Probably specially-made with thick bulletproof fibre to prevent bullet-induced explosions."
"I see, that's thorough."
"Well, it's probably not cosmetics."
"But wait. Isn't there a chance that she's a glutton and that's her lunch box?"
"Of course not. Stop saying that with a straight face."
On screen, the woman's black hair, which had been kept in a ponytail thus far, suddenly came untied. And then, as if it were a living thing, it lightly fluttered in the air.
Just as the spectators wondered why, the answer was shown before their eyes.
A headgear, covering her head, materialised.
Although it was a protector used in hand-to-hand fighting sports that guarded the head, GGO was an SF world, thus the protector's design was sharp and cybernetic. It looked like a ninja hachigane(2).
They could not tell what it was made of, but, naturally, it should be bulletproof. Its colour was, of course, the same black as the rest of her equipment.
As her headgear was equipped, her loose hair started gathering up. After becoming orderly again, it was tied into a ponytail at a slightly low point once more.
"Awesome! That's some transformation!"
"Hmm, doesn't seeing a woman change clothes like that kinda── turn you on? Hm?"
"Huh? Well……, yeah, indeed."
"I've been thinking… is there anyone but pervs in this bar?"
That was not all of her equipment.
An approximately 50 cm-long, 15 cm-wide nylon scabbard appeared on the woman's left thigh. Right about where a Japanese sword would go.
There was nothing inside the scabbard at first, but then its contents materialised one after another.
They were guns. A 《Remington M870 Breacher》 ──a 50 cm-long model of the M870 shotgun with a short barrel and pistol grip.
The 'breacher' here meant 〝opening a hole〟. It was a shotgun that fired large bullets with a short barrel in order to blow away door locks.
Naturally, shots fired from the short barrel would spread out vehemently. It was a weapon truly ideal for hitting a quick opponent at short range.
For example── when fighting an enemy like LLENN.
*Jakon*, with a pump, the first projectile was loaded. A holder with red and blue shots inside appeared all over her vest, and the woman took one of them and added it into the gun.
Just as she put the M870 into the scabbard──
As if that were the sign, particles of light in the air sparkled brilliantly, then gathered to form a shape.
The last piece of her transformation was the woman's main weapon. Once the figure of the slender, black assault rifle was made clear,
"First time I've seen it. GGO even has a custom gun like that, huh."
"She sure has rare guns……"
"Finally, she's revealing her trump cards!"
The gun maniacs in the bar were all overjoyed.
It was a custom model of the super famous Russian gun from the AK series. Made by an American company named Krebs, KTR was an acronym of 〝Krebs Tactical Rifle〟.
Despite the AK series being known for its sturdiness and reliability, its design was getting old and, in the sense of ease-of-use, it currently fell behind this gun. The KTR had undergone remodelling to eliminate this weak point.
The first half of the gun had a rail with optical devices attached to the sides and its top, the grip and safeties were also improved, and the stock was changed to one used by its rival, the M4A1.
Just as the woman took the KTR-09 into her hands, its magazines materialised in succession.
They weren't the usual banana-shaped 30-bullet type, but the 75-bullet thick cylinders called drum magazines. It fired 7.62x39 mm bullets, twice the normal size.
The woman inserted a magazine into the gun, pulled and released the loading lever, and the first bullet was fed into the chamber.
And so, the transformation scene that took merely a few seconds was completed──
Creating a heavily armed woman reminiscent of Musashibou Benkei(3), fully armoured and armed with 2 pistols, two knives, a shotgun, and an assault rifle.
Despite putting on so many heavy items, her movements did not change a bit as they had all come from her storage. The character's weight limit remained the same no matter if an item was held in hand or in storage.
"Her weight carrying capacity is too high! Just how much did that woman build her Strength……"
Somebody in the bar muttered.
"It's truly been some time since I wore this. Aight. I'll take it seriously from here on."
In response to Pitohui, who finished putting on the equipment that could be called her〝final battle outfit〟 and was giving a fiendish expression as she smiled,
The masked fat man, having seen the transformation from the side,
"With this, aren't we kinda unnecessary?"
Threw in a joke.
"I hope so. You can't look down on our opponent. Everyone, we're going with our lives at stake, ya know?"
Although Pitohui's mouth loosened, her eyes were far from laughing.
While Pitohui was carrying out her transformation,
"Shit! Shit! Shit!"
There was a character swearing aloud unfemininely as she ran wholeheartedly. It was the green-haired Shirley.
After she helped a single comrade and escaped the dreadful hail of machine gun bullets, her mind,
"That woman! That woman! That woman!"
Was shrouded in dark clouds.
＊ ＊ ＊
There was probably no player who 〝hated〟 participating in SJ2 as much as Shirley.
Her real name── was Kirishima Mai.
She was a twenty-four year-old woman working as a nature guide and hunter in Hokkaido. Though, unlike Karen, she was not a native, but was instead born right in the centre of Tokyo and had later moved to Hokkaido.
Ever since she was a child, Mai's vision of her future was to work with nature.
To that end, she took up camping, mountain climbing, and other outdoor sports, as well as having learnt horse riding. She spent her middle and high school years leading an active life outdoors rather than dabbling in fashion.
And, in university, she joined every single club that allowed her to enjoy outdoor activities. Then, recommended by her female seniors, she acquired a shotgun possession permit and hunting license at the age of twenty, the minimum age requirement, and took up hunting as well.
After graduation. Mai found a job suited for her desires - a nature guide. It included guiding tourists and mountain climbers through Mother Nature.
This was what she was occupied with in Spring, Summer, and Autumn, while in Winter, when the number of clients and work decreased, she worked as a Yezo sika deer hunter, thus both dabbling in her hobbies and earning money.
8 years ago, in 2018, the Swords and Firearms Control Law was partially amended, reducing the requirement for possessing rifles from 〝possessing a shotgun for at least 10 years in a row〟 to 〝idem at least 3 years in a row〟. The number of wild deer nationwide had increased too much, and the damage caused by them was also increasing, thus the necessity of increasing the number of hunters with powerful rifles to exterminate the deer had increased.
Due to the generalisation of wild game and the improvement of the image of hunters, the formerly aging and dwindling population of hunters was gradually rejuvenated and saw an increase in women. The term 〝hunting girl〟, indicating a woman who goes hunting, became very popular as well.
With age, Mai also accumulated experience. She had brought down numerous Yezo sika deer── the first three years using her shotgun, then with a rifle for the past year and a bit.
With fellow hunters that were available, Mai searched for her prey by car, at times on foot or by skis, brought them down, and butchered them.
And then, she sold the skillfully harvested, high-quality deer meat to metropolitan restaurants dealing in wild game cooking.
As Mai spent each day productively like this──
Last year, in other words, around Summer 2025. One of her hunter associates brought up talk about VR games and GGO.
'You can enjoy VR games practically just as much as the real thing, and there are actual guns reproduced realistically there too', he said.
'You can practice shooting in a game at no cost (excluding the 3,000 yen monthly connection fee) and with absolutely no risk of accidental shootings. In America, its base of origin, the game is being used for hunting practice, using monsters as prey', he added.
'Also, GGO has clay pigeon shooting, so clay pigeon shooters and hunters who shoot flying birds with shotguns can enjoy it too', he finished.
And so, the number of people, especially young hunters who had little aversion to VR games… and net games in general, taking up GGO gradually increased. In just a mere 2 or so weeks, the squadron《Northern Country Hunters Club》 was formed. This was the full name of KKHC.
As more and more of her young associates joined the game and unanimously recommended it, Mai also joined GGO. Naturally, it was her first VR game. Mai, who had never even played video games before, was not all that interested in the game.
The name of the character which became Mai's other self was Shirley. A busty, green-haired woman.
This was a nickname that her bosom friend gave her in middle school. The name was derived by changing the kanji 〝舞〟 in her name to a homonym 〝米〟, then using the word 舎利, which referred to the cooked rice in sushi. At the time, it was embarrassing to be called that in town, but there was no problem with it in another world.
As for GGO, Mai believed that shooting practice in the game was indeed effective.
In Japan, one could only discharge guns in shooting ranges and hunting grounds. Also, in shooting ranges, the distance to the target was fixed, thus it was impossible to shoot at distances in-between the fixed ones.
Furthermore, possession permits were issued to specific people for specific guns, thus it was completely impossible to shoot with someone else's gun. Even a simple〝test fire before purchase〟, like test drives before purchasing a car, was made impossible by Japan's Swords and Firearms Control Law.
In GGO, though, people were free to own and fire any gun they pleased.
The performance of actual guns and bullets was reproduced realistically, thus it was possible try out a lot of them. Moreover, there was no worry of accidents or injury.
Because of that, the game became a practice ground for 〝shooting various guns〟and 〝shooting from every possible posture at various distances〟.
The GGO-characteristic 〝nuisance〟 of an assist── the Bullet Circle was both good and bad, but it could be avoided simply by refraining from touching the trigger till the very last moment. Her hunter associates eventually began shooting without the assist as well.
In GGO, there were deer, bears, and boars that had turned into zombie-type monsters.
Their motion patterns resembled those of real animals, thus they were suitable for hunting practice, including pursuit and killing. Of course, despite hunting them down, she did not eat them.
And so, Shirley and the others polished their shooting and hunting skills in GGO.
Choosing GGO fields with terrain similar to her home, Hokkaido, she went monster hunting either in a group or alone.
The areas were hills, woodlands, or snowy mountains. At times walking long distances on foot, at times by skis, she pursued her prey, aimed, and brought them down.
And so, now in the presence of the winter hunting season, she was able to verify her results.
In order to bring down a Yezo sika deer while preserving the 〝taste〟 of its meat, it was necessary to aim at the head or neck, with no edible parts, and instantly kill it in one shot. This action was called a 《clean kill》.
Unlike humans, wild animals are incredibly resilient to pain and, even when shot, they will frantically continue their attempts to escape in order to survive. In this case, the meat in the body will be drenched in blood, damaging its taste, while in the worst case scenario, the dying wildlife would quickly escape.
Also, if a bullet damages the viscera, their contents can spill out, giving the meat an odour that makes it far from edible.
Naturally, shooting through the head or neck was far more difficult than hitting the torso. It was a hunter rule that 〝you shouldn't shoot if you aren't confident in hitting〟 and there were plenty of cases when she did not shoot despite having a chance to do so.
Her success rate of clean kills had, altogether, increased since last season.
She realised that the virtual reality world training was quite effective. 'I'm glad I started playing GGO. You can't really judge something without trying, huh', thought Mai.
Until one of her associates,
『Seeing as the hunting season has finished safely, how about we all participate in the Squad Jam tournament?』
Sent this email.
Until then, Shirley and the others had obstinately avoided player versus player fights.
As their main goal was hunting and shooting practice and they possessed guns that could easily kill people IRL──〝shooting a person〟 was clearly a taboo.
Despite GGO encouraging players to kill each other, unless they took the initiative to attack someone, they were able to avoid most player versus player fights.
If they were attacked by another character or squadron en route to the hunt or on their way back, they could just escape at full speed. If that were not possible, they could just quickly put their weapons into storage to avoid the random drops and log out on the spot.
In GGO, a character's body did not disappear immediately when logging out outside the safety of towns, thus if they were killed during that time they would more or less lose 〝character〟experience points. However, seeing as they were playing for 〝player〟 experience, it was not something to worry about.
"The attacking team is surely disappointed right about now, huh."
Is what they could say with a laugh.
And yet, despite them doing this all the time till now──
She did not think anyone sane would suggest participating in a player versus player battle royale tournament of their own initiative.
Mai, feeling disgust from the bottom of her heart, had believed that there was no way her other associates would agree to such a thing, but,
『Sounds nice! Let's do it let's do it!』
『Hey, I was hoping to test how good my skills are.』
『I'm up for it! Shirley, what about you?』
By the time she noticed, the unbelievable had happened - the only one who had not stated their intent to participate among her associates with free time… was herself.
Hiding her anger, Mai wrote a calm and polite email questioning the appropriateness of participating in SJ2, but,
『Oh, so you were worried about something trifling like that! There's no need to take a 〝game〟 seriously. A game is a game. Shirley, I think that, in the sense of clarifying the boundary between RL and a game, you should participate too.』
She received a shockingly condescending and lecturing persuasive email as an answer.
She wondered whether a cerebral blood vessel had ruptured.
For a moment, Mai considered cutting her connection with them, but IRL they were valuable associates, and her seniors with abundant experience and knowledge. Considering the yield from hunting, a valuable source of income to her in Winter, she could not so easily cut her ties with them.
Just as she schemed to fake an illness or a task,
『Come on, we're begging you! We'd have five people if you'd join us, Shirley! Going in with four is kinda, you know!』
『I'll treat you to a helping of ramen and char siu(4)!』
『I'll add that favourite cake of yours!』
Mai's associates implored her in a light manner with no regard for her feelings, and in the end, with her umpteenth sigh, she decided to participate.
〝I'll just think of an appropriate excuse and obstruct them by not firing a shot!〟
She decided in her mind.
"It was my first time shooting a person, so I couldn't pull the trigger."
Is what she could just say, and her sabotage would probably not be discovered.
And so, the day of the preliminaries that she had no interest in came.
Together with her four associates, Shirley participated in the preliminaries wearing her usual hunting-style outfit, as they had no combat uniforms.
'Thinking about it composedly, we, a group with zero player versus player battle experience, would probably have no chance of winning against a team that would be participating in the tournament.'
Thought Shirley as she participated in the preliminaries, awaiting an easy defeat. 'If they were exhausted by the enemy team here, they would know their place and never again have the motivation to go into player versus player fights', she believed.
And── the unthinkable happened.
The enemy team resorted to unbelievable behaviour.
All six of them alike charged with a roar while grasping 《photon swords》──SF swords that used light for their blades.
The rifles of her associates, who〝only〟 excelled at firing technique, spouted fire simultaneously. They aimed to avoid using the Bullet Circle in their shooting as much as possible, thus their Line-less shooting gave no opportunity for their opponents to dodge.
After 6 gunshots roared, the pitiable sword fighters all found themselves shot in the chest and died; that was the sorrowful conclusion of the battle.
Shirley had absolutely no idea why they used swords of light as weapons, nor why they came charging with their bodies clearly exposed and muzzles pointing at them.
In any case, their team ended up passing the preliminaries. Shirley, 〝having no choice but to participate〟, in the main battle──
Decided to continue playing no role till the end.
Without having fired a single shot in the first battle, she exposed herself under the guise of searching for the enemy in hopes of getting shot as soon as possible and thus being able to leave.
However, nobody would grace her with a bullet.
Afterwards, for some reason, no enemy came to them.
Her team, which had only thought of ambush sniping, continued to lose their chances of battling until they eventually became one of the seven teams still standing.
Their leader proposed teaming up with the favourites, so they made contact with them, but were rejected──
"That woman! That woman! That woman!"
The tattooed woman who called herself Pitohui mercilessly shot them from behind.
While fleeing, Shirley heard for the first time the sound of a supersonic bullet grazing her ears.
Driven by fear that she could be shot, she ran and ran, engrossed as red Bullet Lines danced around her──
She no longer knew how far she ran.
When she came to, Shirley was already in a place with only the snowy mountains ahead of her.
The comrade that she should have been trying to carry to safety,
Was no longer there when she turned around. She could not recall when or where he had fallen at all.
She could see a large dome to her right and a forest and rocky mountain to her left, while in the plains in-between, she saw a trail of her own footprints.
By moving her eyes to the upper-left, she observed the hit points displayed there. Including the man that she had been trying to save, all four of her comrades had died and the leader mark had been transferred to her. It seemed like a miracle that her bar was the only one to not decrease at all.
Mentally exhausted, Shirley squatted down on the spot. She was surrounded by dirt, moist from the snow thaw. *Bechan*, a sound resounded.
With her buttocks and hands full of mud,
Grated her teeth loud enough for anyone nearby to hear.
Strength left her face as she looked up to the sky.
The wind had stopped. The clouds in the sky stopped moving, seemingly weighing down on her,
"Oh whatever…… Seeing as I've become the leader, I guess I'll just resign and say 〝goodbye〟 to this tournament already…… I can just say 'Everyone died so I thought it was pointless to continue'...... in the end, I can finish this without firing a single bullet, just as I wished……"
She raised her muddy left arm and waved it in the air.
The window screen appeared, first displaying the item list that was set to appear with minimal commands.
Before Shirley's eyes, as she moved it aside and tried to look for the command to resign,
A single graphic image and a string of characters were displayed.
The graphic image was of an ominously-shaped rifle, with a large scope and a stock that looked like it was broken midway, that looked like a malformed fish born in polluted water..
The string of characters below it was 《Blaser R93 Tactical 2》.
It was a German-made, high-power sniper rifle. It used 7.62x51 mm bullets.
The only thing that made it different from the normal model R93, a rifle that she actually used for hunting, was the stock that was improved for sniping. The normal model did not exist in GGO, thus, seeing as this gun worked the same, she chose it as her partner.
And, it possessed power.
The power to kill, no matter how strong the animal, with one hit to the vitals.
The power for a woman lacking brute strength like herself to bring down an opponent, no matter how huge.
Shirley only needed to press the 〝Ｙｅｓ〟button for the resign command that she had called out, but her finger stopped.
"That…… that woman……"
With her hand in the air, Shirley's mouth moved. With a rumbling voice that sounded like she was about to vent her deep resentment,
"That thing…… is not…… human. It's vermin… that hurts people……"
Her finger touched it.
Not 〝resign〟, but her R93 Tactical 2. Particles of light gathered in the air and began forming the shape of a rifle.
Shirley took a sharp breath and struck her cheeks with her hands. The mud on her hands adhered to her cheeks, and Shirley wiped it horizontally with just her right hand.
Extending her hands to the rifle suspended in the air, she lovingly caught it in her arms,
With her right hand, she pulled the bolt handle straight back and returned it to its original position.
The unique function of the gun, called straight pull action, made a sound that radiated the sense of high-precision──
"That I'll exterminate."
And sent in the first bullet from the magazine into the chamber.
The woman, who made a lateral stripe of mud on her face as camouflage, stood up with grim eyes and a smiling mouth that exposed her white teeth,
"I'll bring down my prey in 1 shot."
She was about to return from where she came by following her own footprints,
But stopped in her tracks.
Shirley hung her R93 Tactical 2 on her shoulder by its cord and looked at the watch on her left wrist.
1 minute till the next scan.
Shirley abruptly turned aside and began running at full speed in the opposite direction of Pitohui and the others, in other words, towards the snowy mountain.
1. ^ The phrase in quotes is written entirely in hiragana. I guess it was supposed to look childish?
2. ^ An armoured headband, like the one Naruto wears.
3. ^ A warrior monk who served Minamoto no Yoshitsune
4. ^ Roasted pork in Cantonese cuisine. The Japanese have adapted it to their cuisine with some changes.