— 4 —
As the battle passed and the excitement died down, the weight of the matter slowly dawned upon me.
After making sure the female bandit was secured, the lizardmen merchants offered me a ride to the town on their wagon. Taking up their offer and riding together with them on their wagon, I was grabbing my head in my mind.
It wasn’t just the scenery outside the window, the smell of the forest, or the sound of the wind. The female bandit’s human-like responses to sudden changes; the solid feeling of impact as one’s strike landed on the opponent; the chest pains from the loss of breath that should have been controlled and limited by the VR machine; and furthermore, the vibrations and the small vertical movements that could be felt as this wagon moved forward…
Various inconsequential things that could have been, or rather, would have been, omitted from a game now manifested themselves in front of me as reality.
I could no longer ignore the matter anymore.
Right now, I was not “playing a game”.
I was “in the world of the game”.
It may have been difficult to believe, but I could not think of any other explanation for the current situation.
The changes that made this world seem like reality were at a level that couldn’t be explained by a surprise patch. Yet, on the other hand, this world followed the rules of the game surprisingly accurately.
But, more than anything, what brought me to this conclusion was the conversation I had exchanged with Maki right before all this happened.
At that time, Maki was holding what could have been the Lucky Mallet. According to legends, the Lucky Mallet possessed a power that allowed it to grant any wish as it is swung.
Right before the changes happened, this was what Maki had said:
“If you like your games so much, why don’t you just go live in one, you jerk!”
Considering the situation, I could deduce that Maki, being fed up with what I had said, yelled out those words while swinging the Lucky Mallet in anger.
Fulfilling the requirements of “making a wish while swinging the mallet”, the Lucky Mallet did as Maki’s words commanded and sent me into the world of a game.
“Ugh, this is absurd…”
Considering all this, I thought to myself.
Even if alternate worlds existed somewhere, it was hard to believe that a world identical to Nekomimineko would just happen to exist. If that’s the case, the Lucky Mallet probably created a world identical to that of Nekomimineko the moment Maki made her wish, and on top of that, sent me there.
Which would mean that a whole new world was created just to grant the wish that my cousin made out of spite. Seriously, how absurd.
Even ignoring all that, to be sent to some random world just because of some stupid gag-comic-like incident is seriously not something to laugh at.
Actually, thinking about it a little more, this really is a situation that couldn’t be laughed at.
(Why, out of all games, did it have to be this game!!)
Nekomimineko was not your ordinary game. Events that were made just to cause trouble for the player lay waiting around every corner, the game balance was ridiculous from start to end, and as a bonus, instadeath level bugs were scattered everywhere. It was the worst game.
I don’t know exactly how many times I had cleared my save data and restarted from the very beginning, but my deaths would probably easily number in the hundreds. Including the mid-game resets and loads, that number definitely surpassed a thousand.
In this game, where even level 300s die regularly, I currently only had the stats of a beginner, having started back at level 1.
It was as if I were being told to conquer this game with no mistakes and no resets, with the fear of death looming in my mind in this game world that had now become reality.
(There’s no way I could do something like that!)
Facing this sudden reality, my face turned pale.
“Wass wrong? Are syou alright?”
One of the lizardman merchants called out to me in concern.
“No, I’m okay, Mr. Reinhart.”
I somehow gathered my thoughts and replied with a smile to the leader of the merchants, Reinhart.
“Is that sso. Well, if there’ss anything bothering syou, les me know. Yous are our ssavior. We wills do what swe can.”
In the hard-to-understand accent unique to lizardmen, the actually quite handsome-looking Reinhart said to me.
Actually, with a cool name like Reinhart and his accommodating personality, could he possibly be a hunk amongst the lizardmen?
When this was just a simple game, nobody would call out to me when I was down like this. There might be many other differences now compared to when it was still a game.
Being able to meet someone friendly is a good chance. If I let this opportunity pass me by, then I’d be sure to regret it.
“In that case, I’d like to ask you some things.”
Deciding to gather some information from Reinhart and the lizardmen, I opened my mouth.
Having spoken with the lizardmen, I was able to understand a few things.
From the conversation we had in the wagon, it seemed like they, who were supposed to be simply AI-controlled NPCs in game, now possessed knowledge comparable to a human in the real world, at the very least.
Rather, Reinhart who had journeyed to a variety of places also had a knack for storytelling, and even with his blunt tone of voice I found myself getting sucked into his stories.
With that being said, not all their knowledge was the same as in reality. They accepted things like HP, levels, skills, and other such game constructs as normal. As I expected, they were unable to open the menu screen, so in order to determine these values, they needed to use certain items.
However, even though they accepted the various “elements of a game” that defined this world, they did not seem to have the notion that “this world was a game”. Though, this was something that was already true back when this was still a game, so it’s not really that surprising.
Besides the people, this world also most definitely shared the same setting as the game I played, with the stage set in the Kingdom of Licht.
It wasn’t just the geography and names of places, but when I tried to confirm what I remembered about Licht’s history and customs, what Reinhart spoke of matched everything in my memories, except that he was able to tell them with a much higher level of detail than what I had remembered. It perfectly matched the game’s setting down to the minutiae, even the parts that were just randomly decided by the game staff and made no sense when one thought about it realistically.
By the way, the language used in this kingdom was the Continental Common Language, which was just modern Japanese in essence. Given how New Communicate Online was a Japanese game, this decision seemed obvious, but either way I was grateful that I did not need to worry about a language barrier.
The lizardmen also asked quite a few things about my background, but I just dodged the questions by claiming I was a traveler from afar. In this world filled with demi-humans and people with weird hair colors oft seen in games, black hair and black eyes might have seemed rare, but it didn’t seem like they thought it was something worth prying into.
The question from Reinhart that troubled me the most was about the skill comboing I used when I defeated the female bandit, but I just replied that it was my trump card so I couldn’t talk much about it, and if possible, requested them not to speak of it to anyone else, and they obediently complied.
Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen NPCs using skill cancelling in-game. Since there didn’t seem to be any merit in standing out too much, I silently decided to control my usage of cancelling as much as possible when within the field of view of others.
“…We’re almoss there.”
After having chatted for a while, Reinhart suddenly jerked as if having felt something, and gazed out of the window.
Following his lead, I too stuck my head out the wagon and looked forward.
As I did so, I was able to take in a familiar giant gate, and the outer walls that surrounded the town in front of us.
The entrance to the Kingdom of Licht, and the very first town of Nekomimineko, Ramlich.
…I wonder why.
A giant gate that one would not be able to find in Japan. A sturdy wall that protected its people from the threat of monsters. Behind those were tall European-style buildings that I had seen before in game.
More than the female bandit and the lizardmen, more than even seeing real weapons and armor, these felt overwhelmingly “real”.
It was at this point that finally I came to acknowledge it.
(…I’ve really come to “another world”)