[GGOV3] SECT.21 - Applause

And finally, the last chapter in the volume. With this, the story for the second arc is complete. And what better way to end the arc than with a lot of good Miyu moments? Oh, and some obvious... and some less obvious revelations. Thank you to everyone who has been reading our translations for the series. It's been a while ride that we've been on for nearly two and a half years. If you liked the story, please support the franchise by purchasing official material.

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. Comicsans font is for Japanese text written in katakana. 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. The string of hyphens denotes a page break in the original text.

Any feedback is appreciated.

Credits

Translation: Gsimenas
Editing: Pryun



Another Story


SECT.21 - Applause


19th of April, 2026. Sunday.

With Tokyo's highest atmospheric temperature predicted to exceed 25 degrees Celsius, the day was too hot to just be called warm.

13:07. Parked along the road in front of a certain high-rise condominium in the city was a car. A shining, high-class German SUV.

"Uo, looks expensive! I really want to drive around in one of these!"

"You don't have your licence yet, Miyu."

"Then I'm fine with the back seat."

On the wide sidewalk, carrying their jackets on their arms, Miyu and Karen were slightly excited about the car.

Perhaps having liked the look, Miyu was still sporting the same hairstyle and glasses as when Karen had met her during spring break. As for Karen, there was no change to her appearance ever since she cut her hair.

The two were wearing simple slacks and shirts; their casual outfits were suitable for going out for a stroll, but a small, lovely necklace was shining on Karen's chest.

"Though, I wonder if M-san's here yet?""

Miyu,

"It's Goushi-san. Asougi Goushi-san."

And Karen were restlessly looking around, when,

"Please excuse me. I got stuck in traffic."

Upon hearing that voice, they once again looked at the car stopped in front of them.

Its driver-side door opened up and inside was an ikemen, dressed smartly in a deep blue suit with a very orderly hairstyle.

"Uhyo!"

Hearing Miyu's hysteric voice of surprise,

'Aa…… I'm glad he's alive.'

Thought Karen.


*     *     *

15 days ago, on the 4th of April. The day of the SJ2 tournament──

Having been easily killed by some bullets that came from far away, Fukaziroh and LLENN were sent back to the standby area.

The moment the two died, SJ2 came to an end, so there was no need to wait 10 minutes in the room.

Like her last time in the dark room, LLENN saw a practically identical string of characters in the air: 『Would you like to return to the bar? Or would you like to log out?』. Beside this was a string that said: 『Runners-up』.

Fukaziroh, with her long hair still loose, had 2 MGL-140s dropped in front of her, while LLENN only had her knife and magazines.

Not having the time to lament the death of her second P-chan, LLENN immediately chose the option to return to the bar.

The moment they appeared atop a small stage in the bar, LLENN and Fukaziroh were greeted by a loud ovation. The cheers of countless people praising their valiant battle echoed throughout the bar. The girls from SHINC were there. And so were the members of MMTM.

LLENN asked but one thing.

'Are those two here? The third-ranked Pitohui and M.'

The spectators in the bar asked amongst their groups and personally searched for them, but── they were not present.

LLENN, 'Sorry I'll be right back', logged out with these words.



Having returned to her room, Karen sent an email to Goushi with her AmuSphere still on──

"I'm begging you!"

The moment she clutched her mobile phone, it vibrated.

The string of characters written on it was very short.

『I'm talking to her right now. About our future from this point on.』


*     *     *

"Goushi-san, this is Miyu. Shinohara Miyu. She is my bosom friend and VR game teacher, Fukaziroh."

Introduced to Goushi,

"Yo! I still owe you some things! I haven't forgotten about that tape on my mouth, you know?"

Miyu greeted him with a thumbs up. And then,

"Though, you really are a super good-looker. What's up with this manga-like ikemen. I kinda want to get married, do you have time after this?"

Spoked unreservedly, as if still in GGO.

Neither smiling nor flinching, Goushi stared back straight at Miyu's eyes,

"Thank you for your kinds words. However, that is something I cannot do. As I already have my heart set on someone."

"Achaa!"

Having made an exaggerated X sign with her lips, Miyu,

"Is that… Pitohui-san IRL?"

Asked the obvious.

"Indeed."

"Welps, watcha gonna do."

Goushi bowed all of a sudden. Then,

"I have no words to thank you two ladies with. I have caused you quite the trouble. So, I would like to at least atone for that today. Pito IRL would also like to do so; she is looking forward to meeting you two from the bottom of her heart."

Smiling, Karen answered.

"Likewise!"



The next email from Goushi came──

Over a week after SJ2, on the 13th of April, last Monday.

Karen's new school term at her university had already started. She had been vigorously studying each day and had not logged into GGO even once since SJ2.

As for Miyu, while she did go to a university in Hokkaido, as well as a driving school, she continued enjoying ALO as before once she returned home.

All of Fukaziroh's GGO equipment was slumbering in a locker that LLENN had rented. Whether the time for the 2 MGL-140s to once again spout fire from their large muzzles would come── was yet unclear.

The content of Goushi's email was awfully simple.

『Pitohui says she want to meet you, so could we have some of your time next Sunday, from noon till the evening?』

Karen, of course, agreed and enquired for more details, such as the location and how to get there.

Goushi then,

『A car will come to pick you up at your condominium at 13:00. Considering the traffic, please have lunch and visit the restroom before waiting for us.』

Gave only such an answer. Any further details were prevented by Pitohui.

Slightly worried, Karen called Miyu for consultation,

"Yep, she's gonna kill you. As revenge for what happened in the game."

And the first thing she heard were these frightening words,

"So, I'm comin' with you. 〝The cute grenader I fought with says she wants to meet you〟── tell that to M. And add 〝Feel free to cover her expenses for travelling to Tokyo〟as the postscript."

Followed by this reassuring proposal.

Not thinking much about the travel expenses, she sent an email to Goushi and quickly received an OK response. She also received an email with a number that could be exchanged for a round trip ticket.

Thus, the day before yesterday, on Friday, Miyu landed at Haneda through an evening flight. For lodging, she chose Karen's flat.

Yesterday, on the 18th, Saki and the others, the six girls from the associated high school's rhythmic gymnastics club, came to Karen's flat.

As Boss and the others chose to help Karen with her plan to obliterate Pitohui, foregoing the battle they had longed for so much, Karen had to ensure to thank and reward them appropriately. Karen went shopping with Miyu and brought home a surprisingly large quantity of sweets.

The 20th of April would be Karen's twentieth birthday. Saki and the others had apparently remembered this from a conversation they had,

"Though it's a bit early, we wish you a happy birthday! Karen-san!"

The girls had arranged a present for Karen. What they bought by pooling their pocket money,

"This is sure to look good on you!"

Was a necklace with a small ornament on a small chain.

It was an item that she herself would never have bought, but had always thought 〝I sure want to put on something as lovely as this〟.

"Aww! Thanks……"

With tears in her eyes and after several blunders, Karen put it on. The six members of the rhythmic gymnastics club gave cheers.

"How nice! Now then, here's mine!"

From Miyu, Karen received a whole lot of instant yakisoba that could only be bought in Hokkaido.



And then, on the 19th.

The SUV with Karen and Miyu on the rear seats began slowly moving out, Goushi acting as their driver. With Goushi's civil and safe driving, the car moved through the Sunday Tokyo streets.

"Uhhya, the inside is awesome too! I can barely hear anything from outside; so quiet. The leather seats are neither too soft nor too hard! I wish this was the kind of car we used at driving school!"

While Miyu was merrily captivated by the gorgeousness of the interior of the car, Karen asked the driver a question.

"Goushi-san. Where are we going?"

Miyu followed up immediately,

"She's right! That's important! Don't think you'll get a chance to nab us two budding maidens! You're surely planning to take us to a ship at the harbour and sell us off to a foreign country! So, I arranged that if I don't call home by night, the police will be sent after you!"

She said in a tone that sounded as if she were angry, or enjoying herself, or both. This was the first time Karen heard of the calling home thing, but knowing Miyu, she would not hesitate to do so. Karen made a mental note to ensure that her friend would not carelessly forget about the matter.

Goushi answered.

"Oh no, not to worry. We have no plans to board a ship today."

"'Not to worry' ain't exactly clear! We're still minors ya know! Though Kohi's twentieth birthday is tomorrow!"

"Oh…… I did not know that. Congratulations."

"Ikr? Have any present for her?"

Just as Miyu said this, the car stopped at the traffic lights, thus Goushi turned around.

"While I have nothing to give from my side, the manager probably will."

"Hou…… That 〝manager〟 you're talking about is referring to Pito-san IRL?"

Miyu asked, while, 'Correct', Goushi confirmed.

"That solves all the mysteries then! So, what kind of person is she?"

"She told me she would like to talk about that herself, thus I have nothing to offer."

When the lights turned blue, the car once again started moving.

With Goushi still driving truly civilly, they reached the entrance of the Shuto Expressway from the main street.

The moment they drove up the hill and were about to enter the Shuto Expressway, they found themselves in a big traffic jam. The car joined the line, but he was forced to drive at walking speed.

Goushi switched to auto-pilot and took his hand and feet off the wheel and accelerator respectively. The car moved on its own from there.

"That's why I hate Tokyo! Goushi-san, are we still on track?"

Miyu asked from the rear seat,

"I have ensured that we had enough time to spare, thus we should be all right."

"That so! ──So, shall we chat about something! Or do you have anything to say, Goushi-san?"

Miyu brought up a subject,

"Let's see──"

While Goushi answered."

"In that case, how about mine and IRL Pito's… beginning of love?"

"Uho! What's that I hear, count me in!"

Miyu's eyes gleamed,

"Wha……"

While Karen stared in wonder.

"Are you really fine with that……?"

Just as Karen began questioning why he suddenly brought up such a topic,

"Frankly……, IRL Pito told me 〝I hope you tell them〟. 'It would probably be easier than explaining later on and you're gonna have nothing to do during the ride anyway', she said. ──If she had not said that, I would have probably kept it a secret for the rest of my life."

Goushi gave her the answer.

"I seee." "I see……"

Facing the two girls who responded simultaneously,

"Though…… The story is going to be graphic, thus you might possibly feel unwell while listening to it."

Goushi gave them such a warning.

"As a girl my age who has tasted the bitters and sweets of life, I don't mind at all, what about you, Kohi?"

"I'll hear him out."

Karen answered immediately.

"Are you sure you'll be fine? You might be unable to sleep at night, ya know?"

"It's a boat I already embarked on. Besides──"

"Besides?"

"Pito-san said all that because she wanted us to hear it… is how I understand it."

"Hmm……"

Miyu gave an unusually serious look, when,

"Well then, looking forward to it, Goushi-san."

She slapped the real leather driver seat at around the shoulders.

"Understood. In that case, please take a look at this first."

With these words, Goushi's hands went around his back, giving them his smartphone.

When Karen took it, they saw a picture on the screen, on which,

"Hmmmm?" "……?"

They saw a single young and chubby man.

It seemed that it was cut out from a group photo as there were other people half inside the photo to the left and right. The scenery in the background looked like a campus, thus it was probably a university group photo.

The young man had gained a lot of weight; there was plenty of fat on both his face and his stomach. His pudding face still looked very childish, but due to his physique, he looked very old.

With his absurdly long hair, a dirty sweatshirt and loose jeans that were truly unfashionable; to put it in a word,

"Yeah, he's so tasteless."

It would be as Miyu brazenly said.

"So, who is this person? Don't tell me this is a marriage meeting photo. Unfortunately, there is no way I'm marrying that guy. Kohi, what about you?"

Miyu made a wild conjecture.

While Karen thought, 'Though this isn't a 〝marriage meeting photo〟, who exactly is this person and why is Goushi going out of his way to show it to us',

"Don't tell me……"

Once again, she stared at the smartphone's screen. She magnified it with her fingers, making the man's face bigger.

Since the photo was cropped from a group photo, the image quickly became distorted as it was magnified. Although details like the outlines of the man's eyes became unclear, Karen nonetheless,

"Could this, perhaps, be you, Goushi-san……?"

Asked about what she had concluded.

"Wha, no way!"

Miyu's voice from the right,

"Yes, indeed."

Overlapped with Goushi's voice from the front.

"Buhi!"

"It is me. Around when I first met Pito."

"You kizzing?"

As Miyu's strange shouts of shock continued, she snatched the smartphone from Karen's hands and gazed at it closely,

"Now that I look at it again, he has quite the nice face. If he lost weight, he'd look good! If that were the case, I wouldn't mind marrying him."

Being able to say things so brazenly was Miyu's Miyu-like way of doing things. Karen forced a smile, while Goushi laughed cheerfully.

Having been given back the smartphone by Miyu, Karen took a look at it once more and returned it to the man in the seat in front of her.

Having taken the phone, Goushi also glanced at the picture, before turning the screen off and putting the phone back in his pocket. The car continued driving automatically, but it was illegal for a driver to gaze at his mobile phone.

"For as long as I remember, I have always been plump and lived my life without even a thought that I could be as thin as an average person. I also hated taking pictures, so this is probably the only one of me from that time."

Goushi continued speaking disinterestedly.

Karen considered remaining silent and listening on── but then Goushi would find it hard to continue speaking, she thought. Also, he was technically still driving, thus he had to look ahead.

However, as Karen worried how she should interject,

"People have their dark pasts, huh. And so?"

Miyu came to her rescue.

'I'm truly glad she came along……'

With this thought, Karen listened to Goushi's story in silence.

"I had never had confidence in myself. As I continued leading a life without a ray of hope in sight, one day, I met a woman."

"Hyaa!"

A high-pitched cheer came from Miyu. The story suddenly took a turn towards romanticness.

"I became a stalker of that woman."

"Hya?"

A strange sound came from Miyu. The story suddenly took a turn towards criminal offense.

It did, but──

'Well, it's those two we're talking about.'

Karen was surprised how unaffected she was. Having been playing GGO and spending time with those two, she felt like she had become prepared for just about anything.

"Despite this being a deplorable and awkward story, please listen on. ──A university student at the time, my job hunting was not going well and each day I felt like someone scraping my heart with sandpaper."

"But you didn't lose weight?"

"Stress made me eat, thus……"

"Then how did you lose weight── wait no, continue with the story."

"All right, one such evening, I got really hungry on my way home── but since there were no other stores in sight, I went to a stylish cafe that I would never have visited normally. And then, I saw the waitress that brought me some water, and felt like a .45 calibre went into my scalp."

Having sensitive ears, Karen could not overlook how a shred of happiness appeared in his indifferent tone.

Miyu asked.

"That was── Pito-san… IRL?"

"Yes. A woman who looked like a goddess. Throughout my life thus far, I have never laid eyes on such a beautiful woman."

"Hey hold on now, how's about looking behind you?"

"You two ladies are very lovely indeed, but not as much as IRL Pito. At the very least, in my eyes."

"I'll sue you for defamation! ──So, continue please."

"From her conversations with the store manager, I learnt that she was following her dream while working there each day. She attended evening courses on business administration and was studying extra hard."

"Hmm, so, what's that about bein' a stalker? If all you did was frequent the shop, wouldn't that make you just a 〝good customer〟?"

"Yes. I ended up being captivated by her beauty and──"

"You confessed?"

"No, I trailed her."

"Mister officer, it's this guy."

"Truly, there was something wrong with me at the time…… I believe it would not have been strange for me to have been arrested at that point. Almost every day, I trailed her on her way back from the cafe to her school and apartment a suitable distance away."

"And you didn't get caught? In Tokyo, you don't get caught?"

"I took great care not to get caught. Figuring that following her all the time would make me stand out too much, I memorised her routes, and thoroughly researched the timing for entering another alleyway and when to leave it to naturally appear behind her. Before I knew it, I was able to flawlessly recall the map in my head."

"Uwa, creepy!"

"Truly, what I have said is loathsome."

Listening to the conversation,

'I see, so that's how he has such an excellent geographical sense……'

One mystery Karen had about M was resolved.

"But, such days eventually came to an end……"

Goushi said painfully, while Miyu asked in a worried tone.

"Are you sure…… that this story is alright for minors? Kohi is still nineteen, ya know?"

"Miyu, your birthday is way further!"

As could be expected, even Karen could not refrain from retorting.

"Well, don'cha worry. So, Goushi-san, continue."

"Okay. One evening. While following her, admiring her beautiful figure from behind and enjoying my fantasies that I was walking next to her──"

"Creepy! So?"

"I noticed that there was a man following her."

"Hah? Did you look in a mirror or something?"

"No. It was obviously a different man, a man whom I had seen visiting the cafe several times. He was an ikemen salaryman wearing a suit."

"Then?"

"I changed my route as always and came out behind her each time, but there was no doubt about it. He was, no, 〝he too〟 was a stalker."

"Then?"

Miyu's interjections shortened to the bare minimum. Karen felt the same as she waited for Goushi's following words.

"Then, the moment she went beside the least popular natural park on her route back── that salaryman bound her arms from behind, covered her mouth, and brought her into the park. I was taken aback for a moment, but the next moment, a vehement murderous impulse welled up in me and I rushed in the direction she had disappeared to; till this point, I remember everything clearly."

"W-what happened?"

"When I came to, I found myself lying on the ground in the park, nursed by the girl."

"Oooh!"

"I saw her beautiful face right next to me, 『Are you all right?』, her sweet voice calling out to me…… I thought I had died. That I had come to heaven. But, that was not the case. According to her, I had leapt out while while shouting in a strange voice and brawled with the salaryman── is what I cannot even call what had happened - it was more like a childish scuffle; in the end, when I collapsed, the salaryman gave me a kick before running away, apparently. Although my body hurt all over, I had no exceptionally big injuries and she somehow helped me up."

"How nice! Wait, not nice! ──So what then?"

"She told me. 『You are a relatively frequent visitor of our store, right? My flat is right nearby, so please come with me. I'll treat your injuries』."

"Wha! Then?"

"My brain was no longer capable of functioning properly, as I followed her with the thought 〝I must be dreaming〟. We went up to the girl's lovely and tidy flat; I could smell a nice scent and thought I would not mind dying at that point."

"How romantic. So that's how you got to know each other……"

Miyu said entranced,

"What happened next felt like a nightmare."

Goushi continued on in the same indifferent tone as before.

"When I came to, I found my hands and feet tied up. My memories are fuzzy, so I do not remember how and what happened. My memories from then feel like a movie I had seen a long time in the past."

"…………" "…………"

"Afterwards, I was utterly scolded, verbally abused, and beaten up by her. 『Why you asshole stalker!』, 『I knew all along!』, 『You should have died along with that ‘laryman!』"

"…………" "…………"

"I discovered that she was not a graceful angel, but a fearsome demon, concealing vehement violence and destructive impulses in her heart. Unable to do a thing, I spent the time till morning in a stream of tears. When I was finally released, 『If you tell the police about what happened this night, I'll expose everything about your stalking』, she threatened me, and took some embarrassing photos as well."

"…………" "…………"

"Henceforth, I became her 〝lover〟. Whenever she called, I had to go to her no matter how busy I was, without exception. I became unable to hunt for a job, nor attend university properly. And so, I began to think of my days as being wonderful. If I could be with a beautiful woman, to be useful to her, I could not imagine how a guy could be happier."

"Hold on, is the movie for that already in the works? If you'd like, I can be the director."

Admiring Miyu's strength to joke around no matter what the context was,

'Ah, so this is how Pito-san and M-san were born. I see, so the M didn't come from 〝map〟.'

Karen gave an expression of a great detective who resolved all the mysteries.

"Though, that is love, huh!"

Miyu said cheerfully.

"That is love. At the very least, there was love in my relationship with her. And even now."

"Uhya. So, Goushi-san, you became so thin for her as well?"

"No, I did not do anything in particular about that…… Just something that happened while I was doing my best working as 〝the demon's underling〟. Whenever she called, I ran to her and kept her company till morning without having had any meal. After losing some weight, I began paying attention to my appearance so that I would not embarrass her while walking next to her in town."

"Let's write a book 『The Diet that It Takes to be a Servant』! It'll surely sell!"

"Someday. ──Thus, I lived with her in happiness, albeit distorted. She steadily advanced towards fulfilling her dream, while I supported her. Those were truly fine days.The 3 years and a bit before that… until that day."

For the first time in a long while, Karen interrupted the conversation.

"The 6th of November, 2022──"

"Yes."

Miyu came close to Karen's face.

"Mm, what is that day again?"

Karen answered.

"The day the official service of Sword Art Online began."

"Oh that!"

In order to explain the situation, Miyu was informed that Pitohui was an SAO beta tester and what followed afterwards.

"I see…… I understand awfully well…… Wow, that truly was a very interesting tale……"

As Miyu nodded for the umpteenth time while saying this, Karen beside her asked Goushi.

"Pito-san wanted us to hear all of that? It wasn't your decision, Goushi-san?"

"It was her wish. 『There's nothing to hide from LLENN-chan!』, she said."

"Is that so……"

After they passed a large junction, the Shuto Expressway jam ended and the car began riding smoothly. Goushi once again grabbed the wheel and began driving the high-class SUV smoothly. A group of tall buildings flowed through the windows.



After a bit of silence,

"Sorry, I'm gonna lie down a bit."

Miyu suddenly fell asleep, thus Karen gazed outside the window in silence.

The car descended from Shuto and began riding through a regular, empty road.

Gazing at the scenery, Karen thought about something the entire time──

"…………"

At times, Goushi looked at Karen's profile in his rearview mirror.



"We will be arriving soon. Please awaken Miyu-san."

As told by Goushi, Karen nudged Miyu.

The time was 13:57. Despite the jam, they managed to arrive in around 1 hour, but,

"Ugh, where are we? Osaka? Kyouto?"

"No, we are still within the twenty three wards."

Just as Goushi answered to Miyu, they were right in the centre of the metropolis, enclosed by buildings.

"That's the problem with Tokyo! In Hokkaido, 1 minute is 1 km!"

The car, mingling with taxis and other vehicles, advanced through the road with heavy pedestrian traffic.

"We are nearly there. The building that you can currently see to the front on your right."

The two girls brought their heads closer as Goushi said this and what they saw was a strange, black and rectangular building that was about the size of a school gym and had practically no windows.

Miyu,

"There's two possibilities for a building like that. Either it's the hideout of a mysterious organisation, or a livehouse."(1)

"Correct. Miyu-san, you have nice senses."

"I knew it! ──It's a hideout, right?"

"No, the livehouse option."

"Dah, if that's true, we should have gone to Kanzaki Elsa's mini live concert today!"

Miyu floundered inside the car.

Kanzaki Elsa's mini live concert was today, in a certain place in Tokyo; the few tickets available were released through lottery and the girls did not manage to get any once again.

This time, the organisers used named mobile phone tickets, thus they could not be bought no matter how much money one had.

"Then you are in luck."

Goushi said while driving the car into the livehouse's back parking lot.

"This is the venue for Kanzaki Elsa's live concert."

"Hah?"

Miyu's surprised voice,

"Goushi-san, don't tell me……"

Overlapped with Karen's question.

Goushi chose to answer Karen's question.

"Yes, that is correct. Pito is the owner of this livehouse. It is the place that had its eyes on Kanzaki Elsa first, and the place where she became a leading singer with her songs."



"Almost time; it begins at 2 o'clock. An employee will lead you to your reserved seats, so please enjoy the concert. We lack the time now, thus let's have the meeting with the manager after the live concert."

Said Goushi, before giving an order to a man in a suit that had approached the car to lead the two girls.

Silently, the man allowed the two girls through the staff entrance and gave them a seal to apply on their clothes as a sign of being guests.

The seats they were told about were in the front row of centre of the livehouse's second floor. A place they had a full view of the stage when seated. Truly, they were the best special seats in the house.

Looking down at the nearly a thousand guests and sitting in-between some ladies and gentlemen that blatantly looked like people from the business world, Miyu, having been dumbfounded the entire time,

"Ahh…… the debt has been repaid……"

Muttered to Karen.

When Karen smiled in silence, the lighting in the venue was turned off.



The live concert that they had dreamed about──

Felt like a dream.

The petite, tidy, black-haired beauty that was Kanzaki Elsa was far, far more beautiful and fleeting than in pictures and videos──

Her voice, too, sounded far more pleasant than through a music player.


*     *     *

When the audience began leaving after the concert, Goushi came up to the two girls,

"Please wait a few more moments here. I shall lead you to the dressing room when there are fewer guests. The manager said she would like to meet you there. She says she will introduce you to Kanzaki Elsa."

And whispered this to their ears.

Sitting on the chair, Miyu,

"Oh Kohi…… I wouldn't mind dying now……"

Said with tears in her eyes.

Karen replied with a stern expression.

"Me too── is what I'd like to say, but we still have an important mission left, so we can't have that happen."

"Oh, that's right…… We can't possibly die until we meet Kanzaki Elsa to convey our love to her……"

"That's what's on your mind?"

"What else?"

"Ahaha."

As Karen smiled──

She sent a sharp look towards the stage.

The instruments on the stage were already being tidied up, but Karen still saw an after image of the woman who had been singing there just moments ago.



The audience left the stage, while the people sitting in the staff seats left for the lobby.

Goushi came to the two,

"They are going to participate in the〝mid-party〟── a mid-way closing party, we shall have them wait while we go to the dressing room."

And told them this, before prompting them to follow him.

"W-we're really going…… I'm so… don't be nervous, kay……?

Said Miyu, with an expression, the likes of which Karen had never seen, on her face.

The two followed behind Goushi from the first floor to the 『Staff Only!』 area. There was a scary man keeping a firm eye on the entrance there, but from just one look at Goushi, he let them pass.

"As you could expect from the manager's……"

Miyu murmured. It was unclear whether the end of that sentence would have been 〝boyfriend〟 or 〝servant〟, but either way, Goushi certainly seemed like quite the person.

After moving through the pathway that seemed like it would go on forever for about 10 seconds,

"Here it is."

The three of them reached a dressing room with a label saying, 『Kanzaki Elsa-sama』.

Without giving them the time to ask for time to prepare mentally, Goushi knocked without any reservation.

"Come in!"

From inside, they heard an awfully cheerful… and deep female voice.

Goushi opened the door, urging Karen and Miyu to step inside──

"Sorry for the intrusion."

After giving a small bow, Karen stepped inside.

And, she saw.

That inside the eight jō-sized room, there were only two women.

Sitting 4 metres ahead of them was Kanzaki Elsa, wearing the same casual skirt and T-shirt that she wore during the encore.

Standing beside her was another woman.

She seemed to be between her mid-thirties and her early forties. She was about 170 cm-tall; her stature was quite high, though not as much as Karen's; her chest being big with her waist being slim, she had a voluptuous figure.

Her long hair, dyed brown, was tied up behind her; she was using a proper amount of cosmetics and wearing a dazzlingly red business outfit with a skirt.

She was a firm-looking woman who stood out so much that one only needed a moment to tell that 『That's the female manager!』 without any need for an introduction.

Having closed the door, Goushi introduced the woman to the two girls.

"This is the manager of the company operating this livehouse, Satou Rei."

Rei, whose name sounded like it could be used as an i-adjective as is, looked at their somewhat nervous faces,

"Pleasure to meet you!"

And gave them an awfully energetic greeting with her far-reaching voice.

"Now then, which one is LLENN-chan and which is the grenade girl? Wait! Don't tell me, I'm sure to guess it!"

As Rei put her hand on her chin and began thinking after saying this,

"…………" …………"

Karen and Miyu exchanged glances and became silent,

"Hmm."

Miyu looked at Rei as the latter moaned,

"…………"

While Karen turned her head towards Kanzaki Elsa, who had been neglected the past few moments, and took two steps towards her seat.

And then,

*Clap*, *clap*, *clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap──*

As the small girl looked up to her, Karen began clapping for her.

"…………"

Looking straight at Kanzaki Elsa, who seemed to be puzzled, and even frightened,

*Clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap──*

Karen continued clapping enthusiastically.

As Miyu, Goushi, and Rei stared at her with deeply uneasy expressions,

"Your voice was very marvelous! I have been dying to clap for you all this time!"

*Clap clap clap clap clap clap clap──*

Continuing her applause, Karen practically shouted this.

"U…… umm……"

Feeling pressured by the huge, 183 cm-tall woman, Kanzaki Elsa's petite figure attempted to pull back, but she was instantly stopped by the table.

While the clapping still continued, Miyu's voice blended in with the sound.

"U-umm…… sorry my partner is so close to blowing a fuse that she ended up losing track of what she should be prioritising……"

Then, she moved beside Karen, whose hands continued to clap,

"Hey hey, Kohi, save that for later! I said, you've got the order wrong! The first thing to do is to greet manager Pito-san of course!

And attempted to pull her arms back.

The clapping in the dressing room suddenly stopped, the room abruptly becoming silent,

"What a marvelous, truly marvelous──"

Karen's voice broke the silence.

"A marvelous 〝Maou〟 that was!"



When the room turned silent again, the silence was broken,

"Pft!"

By a burst of laughter from a woman, who then,

"Pfhahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!"

Had a loud laughter spill out of her mouth.

"Pfhahahaahahahahahahahahah! ──Hii, ahahaahahahahahahaha!"

Kanzaki Elsa continued laughing; a laugh so loud that one could only wonder where all that energy could lie in such a small body. She rolled around laughing on the chair, tears in her eyes.

"Wha?"

Having stiffened from her lack of understanding on what was going on, Miyu turned towards Goushi and Rei,

"Teheh?"

Thus finding Rei shrugging with her tongue sticking out,

"…………"

And Goushi looking up to the ceiling in silence.

And so she realised.

"Eeeh!"

That this wildly laughing girl, Kanzaki Elsa, was Pitohui.



"Bhahahahahahah! Hiih! Ahahaahaha!"

Her feet flouncing around and herself looking as if she had eaten a mushroom that no one should eat, Elsa continued laughing. With such vigour that if there had been another person there, they would have called the ambulance.

This continued for an entire 20 seconds,

"Ahahahahahahah! Whew……"

Finally having fallen silent,

"The cause!"

Elsa flatly asked a question on her chair.

Addressing it to the 30 cm taller woman in front of her. In otherwards, to Karen.

"All this time, and on our way here as well, I had felt something strange."

Karen answered.

"Hou? Like what?"

"First, the feeling that something was off that I had today──"

"Hmm."

"Why did Goushi-san take such a roundabout path."

"Hmm?"

Elsa inclined her head,

"What does that mean?"

"It took nearly an hour to come here from my condominium. While there was a jam, we barely made it on time. At the perfect moment to just manage to reach our seats before the curtains rose."

"Lucky that you made it!"

"Yeah. But that seemed intentional."

"Why?"

"After going down from the expressway, Goushi-san had gone through quite a few roads. While we didn't go through the same road twice, having been looking through the window all that time, I could tell. That the umpteen turns were for killing time. That's something I've become able to tell after learning to read maps in GGO."

At Karen's words, Miyu quickly turned to Goushi,

"…………"

Goushi averted his eyes in silence.

"You serious."

After Miyu muttered this, Elsa asked Karen.

"Heeeh…… So, for what purpose did you arrive right on time?"

"Perhaps, they're trying to avoid being exposed by arriving early, I thought. If there were time till the curtains rise, we could engage in conversation with the other invitees sitting next to us. That's just a lot of maybes, but we arrived right on time to ensure that there would be no chance of that happening. And so, we met up in the dressing room after the concert like this, with Rei-san being introduced as a dummy. All for Pito-san── Elsa-san to enjoy watching."

"Hou…… That all?"

"One more thing. This one was a far, far bigger issue."

"How's about sharing it?"

"Goushi-san… knew my address, full name, and appearance. Even though that was absolutely impossible."

"Seems like it. He went out to secretly ask you to come to SJ2, huh."

"I had been very perplexed about how that was possible…… I had never said a word about my real name, address, or about my stature. Not even to Pito-san, nor to anyone in GGO. So, there was no way for Goushi-san to know about it either; that's why it seemed extremely strange. Goushi-san didn't give me an answer on that."

"Hmhmm. Though, how did that become the cause?"

"Because I finally recalled the sole possibility to explain that. The fact that I am Kohiruimaki Karen, that I live there, that I have a height complex, and that I had been playing GGO with a chibi avatar to evade that; all of it was written in a letter to someone, you see."

"Hou?"

"That was you── Kanzaki Elsa-san. I have never written a fan letter to anyone but you. And, even if you haven't read it yourself, someone like Goushi-san, who had been working at the same workplace, could have read it when he checked it beforehand. You are the manager of 〝Kanzaki Elsa's office〟! If you had said that Rei-san was the manager of the office, rather than the livehouse, I might have believed you."

"Achaa! I guess we screwed up with the final touches……"

*Bashin*, facepalmed Elsa, while Rei gave a few words from behind.

"And here even I took part with all that enthusiasm! How unfortunate!"

"Sorry. I'll handle this debt sooner or later, mentally."

"Well, I won't say a thing if you continue to sing here. ──Well, I'll leave the rest to you young ones!"

Having said this, Rei, waving her hand, was about to leave the room, when,

"Oh, everyone's waiting for you for the mid-party, so be as quick as you can, okay."

She said this while closing the door.

As the door closed shut, Elsa stood up.

"Well, there seemed to be some final opposition, but what can you do about being so easily exposed."

Her eyes looked straight at Karen, who was gazing at her,

"I kept my promise, Karen."

The next moment, Karen hurled herself. At the small Elsa.

"Guh!"

Pressed by Karen's large body, and hugged tightly, Elsa stopped breathing for a moment.

"I'm so glaaaaaaad! I'm soooooooo glad you didn't die!"

And heard Karen's weeping.


"Because you murdered the heck outta me! Hey, it's hard to breathe, so let go. I'm gonna die I'm gonna die."

"Ahh, I'm so sorry!"

As Karen pulled back in a hurry, Elsa gave her a few words.

"Come down, come down, I can't see your face."

"Wha? Okay……"

Karen got down on one knee, letting Elsa see her tearful face.

Elsa's hands went for that face,

"Yep, you're just as cute IRL! I like it!"

And then, she pressed her lips onto Karen's.

"Mguh?"

Karen's eyes blinked several times as she was kissed, and after her face was released by Elsa about 2 seconds later,

"Mugaaah?"

Her face became as flushed as a boiled octopus in protest, but,

"What's the big deal, it's not something that you lose. Beside, I watched SJ2's video stream and you so easily kissed on the cheek the guy who gave you those magazines, right? This is far more wholesome than that!"

Elsa said, roaring with laughter.

"T-that person was a woman. I-i-it was just an expression of gratitude for the magazines that were necessary to bring down a certain someone!"

"Oh, I was right? The way that person moved was very feminine, right. I wonder how come no one around her realised that? Well then, it doesn't count among us girls, so I guess it's all completely fine?"

Just as she finished saying that, she went for another kiss on Karen's lips.

"Wha──"

As Karen was at a loss for words, Goushi,

"I forgot to mention this but… this girl is the kind of awful type who swings both ways. It would be best to take care not to get too close."

"Goushi-san, that's so late. Super late. Now my bosom friend can't become a bride anymore."

Karen,

"Fuhi……"

Lost strength in her other knee and staggered with a face so red that it seemed like she could have caught a fever.

Elsa drew the very image of neatness that was her face towards Karen and muttered in a clear voice, as if singing into her ear.

"Say, Karen-chan── could you come over to my place next time? If you'd like, you could even sleep over."

"No!"

Karen shouted with a red face. Her reply was immediate.

And then,

"I am not going to meet with you outside GGO!"




------------------

A certain day on a certain month.

A land of reddish-brown sand and rocks, a GGO field extending as far as the eye could see under the red sky.

There were two characters sitting in a line with their backs to a large rock.

The first was, no matter how you looked at it, a chibi clad entirely in pink. Atop her lap was a P90, dyed pink.

Another was a beauty that looked like a cyborg, outfitted in dark blue overalls. To her right was a KTR-09 assault rifle, loaded with a drum magazine.

"Don't you dare kiss! If you do, you'll get a harassment warning and I'll shoot you, you get me!"

"I won't I won't. Who'd kiss in GGO? Say, we should really meet IRL, right?"

"No thank you! You're playing despite being busy preparing for your next live performance; Goushi-san will be mad at you, ya know?"

"Oh come now, are you exchanging emails with him or something? If you want, I could let you have him!"

"No need! Treasure your partner more!"

"Of course I treasure him. But, you see, if I were to use a literary expression, it would be 〝That is that, and this is this〟"

"Okay, this topic is coming to a close!"

"Tsk! Oh well. Being with LLENN-chan in GGO after all this time is plenty. games really are fun, huh."

"That's right, games are places for having fun! Not for putting your life on the line!"

"Sorry sorry. I promised I won't do something as silly as that again. As long as I'm alive, I'll have fun by other means."

"Then it's okay! Though──"

"Hmm?"

"Pito-san, you sure are merciless in battle. You can never get rid of that attitude of doing anything it takes to win."

"True. But I never thought that there could be someone even better than me."

"Heeh, who made you say something like that…… Pito-san?"

"Eeh?"

As Pitohui stared at her in wonder,

"Eeh?"

LLENN answered.

"………"

Just when Pitohui worried about saying something,

*Zuzun!*

A muffled explosion came from the other side of the rock──

"The trap sprung!" "The trap sprung!"

The two grabbed their respective guns and leapt out at the same moment.


(The End)


Another Story


Notes

1. ^ A wasei-eigo term for any store, bar, or other such establishment where live music is performed.

11 comments:

  1. Great chapter. As always thanks for your hard work and wish you good luck with future project. FUKA <3

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  2. Amazing work, and what a great finish to the second squad jam.

    The only thing I feel it was missing was a more in depth explanation for Pito's fixation on death.

    Well maybe it'll be in the next arc. Guess we'll just have to wait for the official translations.

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  3. Thank you very much as usual, very appreciated~

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  4. Thanks for finishing the volume! Guess I'll have to pick up the official versions now!

    A few suggestions:

    『Pitohui says she want to meet you, so could we have some of your time next Sunday, from noon till the evening?』

    ^Capitalisation of Sunday^

    She slapped the real leather driver seat at around the shoulders.

    ^Not clear on the meaning of this line.^

    her stature was quite high, though not as much as Karen's; her CHEST being big WITH her waist being slim, she had a voluptuous figure.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1. Whoops... not sure how that one slipped through... Thanks.
      2. Basically, she slapped the seat at around the level where Goushi's shoulders would be. I.e. at shoulder height.
      3. Corrected. Thanks.

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  5. Thank you so much for translating this! Will you also be translating the "Another Story"? Thanks again for all your hard work!

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    Replies
    1. I'll probably do it eventually, but it's not a priority for us at the moment.

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  6. Finally finished reading this. Great read, and thanks for translating it. Will be sure to pick up the official movels as they're released.

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  7. That this wildly laughing girl, Kanzaki Elsa, was Pitohui.

    I bloody well called it! As early as volume 1, I had a hunch

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    Replies
    1. Same here, I had a very strong hunch when I first started reading that Pito and Elsa were one and the same...I actually felt so strongly about that I couldn't endure waiting and reading the whole three volumes first, so when I started the first light novel I jumped ahead to the ending of this one to see if my hunch was right...and like you, I totally called it.

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