— 2 —
(Wait a moment, then, just what is going on?)
Holding the clearly glitched Status Sticker in front of me, I fell into a state of confusion.
Until just now I thought that this girl had appeared due to some kind of event. After all, it was a standard theme in games to have an amnestic girl suddenly appear by the player.
But if she was bugged, then that changes everything.
Thinking about it again, in the Nekomimineko game, it wasn’t possible for a character to become fully naked. In which case, an event where a naked girl appears in front of the player could not possibly exist.
Well, there is the possibility that she appeared at my location due to some event, and then some bug happened afterwards that made her naked.
(But wait, maybe I should be thinking about it the other way instead.)
She might’ve ended up coming here because she was bugged.
For example, if, due to some sort of bug, she had been ejected from the system, and as a result of that was sent to the single irregularity in this world, the player… nah, no way.
Ejected from the system by a bug? The player is an irregularity? These are all thoughts that humans, that beings with consciences, would come up with.
But for a game program, no matter how much creative decision making it seems to be able to do, in the end it’s just a program.
There was no way that Nekomimineko’s system would be able to make such a decision, especially since there wasn’t any kind of special AI system built into it. The only reason that this world didn’t seem like it was running off a program was because of the power of the Lucky Mallet or whatever, which mushed the game together with reality. The fuzzy parts of this world were all due to the effects of Maki’s wish, so it was hard to imagine that such a far-fetched chain of events could be caused by a bug in the game – something that’s a part of the game system.
At the very least, there weren’t any cases in the game itself where something would bug out and suddenly warp to the player.
(So was it due to her own will that she appeared in front of me? But that’s also a bit…)
It seems that the heart of the matter would be in why she appeared in front of me.
If she had become bugged after coming into my room, then it’s possible that we would never find out the reason.
Even then, I continued questioning her, and was able to get a clearer picture of the situation.
She had absolutely no memories about herself, and was barely equipped with bits and pieces of common sense. She only had clear memories since a few hours before I had woken up, and at that time she was already lying naked on top of me. Normally in that situation you’d think one would scream or at least take some sort of action, but it seems that she spent those few hours until I woke up just looking at me.
There were countless things wrong with that situation, like, did you not think about getting some clothes to wear first, or like, weren’t you surprised at all suddenly finding yourself in a strange place, or like, had you not considered waking me up and asking about the situation, and like, is it that interesting staring at someone’s sleeping face for a few hours straight? But even if I tried asking,
she’d just tilt her head perplexedly.
It seems that she could not understand what the point of my questions was at all.
I wonder if this was also an effect of the bug. There were a ton of other things that I wanted to ask her as well, but it didn’t seem like I would be able to get satisfactory replies.
Just what do I do about this. While I was thinking hard in front of the silent girl,
suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, she collapsed.
“H-Hey! Are you okay!?”
As I hurriedly rushed over, a low rumbling echoed out from around her stomach area.
“Don’t tell me… Are you just, hungry?”
I inquired, and, lying still, the blue-haired girl tilted her head forward slightly.
It seemed that there was no doubt that the girl had collapsed because of hunger. The blue-haired girl was single-mindedly… actually, with a slight fervor, she was focused seriously on eating the apple that I had managed to find downstairs.
Fortunately, I didn’t need to explain to her how to eat things. Whether it was within the bit of common sense she knew, or whether it was just survival instincts, she was slowly but surely munching away the mass of the apple I brought her. Was it because of her upbringing that she wasn’t voraciously devouring it, even having collapsed from hunger? But I also felt that it was probably just a matter of her personality.
“So, um, is it good?”
I asked, and, while continuing to bite off small pieces of the red fruit, she vigorously nodded twice. It was hard to tell since she showed no emotion at all, but it seemed as though she really liked it.
(Seems like an apple was the right choice.)
Though she said that she liked fruits, she didn’t say anything specifically about apples. Though other things probably would’ve been fine as well, when I saw this red fruit placed on the counter, it just hit me that this was it.
Mysteriously, I was able to easily imagine her eating an apple, and for some reason it seemed like an extremely fitting image.
“As I thought, apple really suits you.”
I accidentally said it out loud, and immediately thought “does that make any sense as a compliment?”, but it didn’t seem like she had paid any attention to it. She didn’t even turn to look in this direction, continuing to nibble away at the apple at the same pace.
(Still, what do I do about this…)
Just who was she and why was her info bugged? I had absolutely no idea, and there were surprisingly few hints available. I couldn’t even begin to figure out how I was supposed to figure out this mystery.
But, I had no intention of just leaving her like this. I don’t mean to boast, but it wasn’t a stretch to say that bugs were my area of expertise. And also…
“Hey. Sorry to tell you, but you can’t eat that part…”
There was no way I could leave someone with this little knowledge of the world by herself.
Looking at her, still emotionless but with tears in her eyes trying to gnaw at the apple core, that’s what I ended up thinking.
I had only brought her 2 apples, but it was apparently enough to stave off her hunger for a bit.
Having recovered and able to move again, I took her along out to the streets to ask around and see if there were anyone who recognized her.
“So, um… ah. First of all, what should I call you?”
It was quite inconvenient without a name. It’s fine even if it wasn’t her real name, I needed a way of referring to her.
After thinking about my question for a bit,
the girl answered.
Why she chose a name that meant “apple” was what I had wanted to ask, but then I remembered how she stared regretfully at the apple core that she had to throw out. It seemed that she had really taken a liking to apples, but was it really proper to decide on a name just like that?
“Are you sure? Even if it’s a fake name, it’s still your own name, so if you want to think about it a bit more…”
I tried to get her to reconsider, but she gave a small yet firm shake of her head. She might be quite a stubborn one.
Well, since she was the one that decided it, she can’t complain about it afterwards.
Having decided on the girl’s name, we resumed the plan to find out more about her in the city.
To start with, I asked the inn owner and Alice about the girl, about Ringo, with the idea of clearing up the misunderstanding at the same time.
“Have you seen this girl anywhere before?”
The inn owner answered seriously, and Alice, while wearing a look of “what are you playing at”, still answered properly.
But, the conclusion was that neither of them recognized her at all.
If she were a famous character, then even if they hadn’t met her before they should still recognize her.
The chance that she was an important character dropped slightly.
Also, since either Alice or her mother was watching the entrance to the inn at all times, how Ringo managed to sneak in had also become a question.
There’s a chance that she entered through the window, but the possibility that she warped here due to some bug might no longer be a fantasy.
“Now then, where should we go?”
Bidding goodbye to the two of them, we exited the inn, but I didn’t have any specific destination in mind.
With the current goal in mind, I decided to go around asking everyone on the street.
Of course, to a former loner, calling out to random strangers on the street was quite a high hurdle.
Even then, I tried my best to persevere, but…
“Ah, hello there, have you seen this girl anywhere before? A-Ah, she’s cute? Thank you very much. See, I found this girl sleeping naked in my bed this morning, and I don’t remember at all how it got that way, so I was wondering whether you have any… wa!? Why are you running away!”
As expected, my loner aura was preventing me from having a proper conversation, since pretty much everyone ran away in the middle. But, luckily, or maybe unluckily, I was able to tell from their reactions that none of them knew Ringo.
It was obvious when I thought about it. If she was so famous that random people in the streets would know her, there was no way that I wouldn’t know her. I had better prepare myself for a drawn-out operation.
I looked over at Ringo. She was absentmindedly staring off somewhere. If an out-of-control carriage were to come flying towards her, it seemed like she wouldn’t react at all and would just be crushed like a sitting duck.
(Though I have no intention of getting her mixed up in battles, it’s probably a good idea to buy some armor for her anyway.)
While it was relatively safer in the city, this was Nekomimineko after all. There was more than enough danger everywhere.
There were still battle events that took place in the streets, and there were countless cases of pinpointed harassment where vases and such would suddenly come falling from right above you. And there was even a bonehead adventurer in this world who would mess up the cancel for a weapon skill in the streets and cut down innocent people passing by. …Mm, I had immediately reset after that, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.
“Ringo, let’s take a break from asking around and buy some equipment for you. Okay?”
I looked Ringo straight in the eyes for confirmation, and,
after a long pause, she nodded.
It seemed like she had come to a decision after thinking long and hard, but I wouldn’t be fooled.
(She’s completely forgotten that Ringo is her name hasn’t she!)
Glancing back at her, following behind me with the same unchanging expression as always, I secretly heaved a deep sigh.