— 4 —
As the battle passed and the excitement died down, the weight of the matter slowly dawned upon me.
After ensuring that the female bandit was secured, the lizardmen merchants offered me a ride to the town on their wagon. Taking up that offer and riding together with them on their wagon, I grabbed 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 human-like responses to the changes in situation from the female bandit; the solid feeling of impact as your 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 advanced.
Various small things that could have been, or rather probably should 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 be hard to believe, but I could not think of any other explanations 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 that I had exchanged with Maki right before this all happened.
At that time, Maki was holding what could have been the Lucky Mallet. According to legends, the Lucky Mallet possesses a power that can 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, it could be deduced that Maki, being fed up with what I had said, yelled out those words while swinging the Lucky Mallet in anger.
Fitting the requirements of “saying a wish while swinging the mallet”, the Lucky Mallet did as Maki’s words directed 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 there would just happen to exist such a place that was identical to Nekomimineko. If that’s the case, then probably in the moment that Maki made her wish, the Lucky Mallet created a world identical to that of Nekomimineko, and on top of that it sent me there.
In which case, just to grant the wish that my cousin said out of spite, a whole new world was created. 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 more, this is really a situation that can’t be laughed at.
(Why, out of everything, did it have to be this game!!)
Nekomimineko was not your ordinary game. Events that were made just to trouble the player sat waiting around every corner, the game balance was ridiculous from start to finish, 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 data and restarted from the very beginning, but my deaths probably easily numbered in the hundreds. Including the mid-game resets and loads, that number definitely surpassed a thousand.
In this game, where even level 300s regularly die, right now I had only a beginner’s status, starting 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 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 theres 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.
Actually, with a cool name like Reinhart and his accommodating personality, could this person be a hunk of the lizardmen world?
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 a game.
It’s a good chance that I was able to meet someone friendly. If I let this opportunity pass by, then I’d be sure to regret it.
“In that case, there are some things I’d like to ask.”
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 at least, it seemed that they, who were supposed to be simply AI-controlled NPCs in game, were now equipped with knowledge comparable to a human in the real world.
Rather, Reinhart who had journeyed to a variety of places had a knack for storytelling, and even with his blunt tone of voice I found myself getting sucked into his stories.
That said, not all of their knowledge was the same as in reality. They accepted things like HP, levels, skills, and such game constructs as normal. As expected, they were not able 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 filled this world, they did not seem to have the notion that “this world was a game”. Though, this was something that was true since back when this game was a game, so it’s not really something surprising.
Touching on subjects outside of the people, this was most definitely in the same setting as the game I played, the Kingdom of Licht.
Not just the geography and place names, but when I tried to confirm what I remembered about Licht’s history and customs and such, 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 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 thinking realistically.
By the way, the language used in this kingdom was the Continental Common Language, which in essence was just modern Japanese. Given that 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.
From their side they also asked quite a few things about my background, but I just dodged the questions saying that I was a traveller from afar. In this world filled with demi-humans and people with weird hair colors oft seen in games, black hair and black eyes were possibly rare in return, but it didn’t seem like they thought it was something worth prying into.
The question from Reinhart that troubled me the most was with respect to the skill comboing I did when I defeated the female bandit, but I just replied in turn that it was my trump card so I couldn’t talk much about it, and if possible they were not to speak of it to anyone else, and he obediently complied.
Now that I think about it, I’ve never seen NPCs use skill cancelling in the game. Since there doesn’t seem to be any merits in standing out too much, I silently decided to control my usage of cancelling as much as possible when in people’s sights.
“…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 also stuck my head out of the wagon and looked forwards.
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 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”.)