Chapter 1 – Kei
About twenty years ago there was a revolution in computer science. Information processing techniques took a huge leap forward. With developments in human biology, virtual reality, namely VR, was implemented ten years ago.
Currently, the world was filled with applications with various content for VR. One such application was the Northern European developers’ VRMMORPG,『Demondal』. It was a realistic middle-ages fantasy genre MMORPG.
The game used the world’s most prominent physics engine. All areas were Free PvP, and players that died dropped all of their current items at the place of death (including their corpse). Players’ actions did not unlock different abilities. Typical game elements such as player names, HP bars, so on and so forth, were missing. It felt rather cutting edge.
According to the developing company, “We strived for the utmost limits of a fantastic reality.”
The line 『Demondal』proudly drew between itself and other VR games that focused heavily on game elements was its unimpeded VR simulation experience, making it practically a real-life simulator.
The in-game menu only contained three options: 『Logout』,『Call GM』, and『Real World Time』. It should be easily understood just how realistic they were trying to be.
However, VR games that pursued the most realism, sadly, were not accepted by everybody. 『Demondal』was a good example of that.
Unlike other games the severity of the system, specifically the combat, item creation, and lack of passive abilities, was too difficult for a typical person.
All in-game actions were plain, real life actions. Moreover, compared to other games it had a steep learning curve.
『Demondal』’s active player count numbered a little over 20,000.
When considering that other online VR games had at least 50,000 active players, the disparity became apparent.
However, the ‘heroes’, the oddballs, the cripples, and other unfortunates who sought such a severe and real 『World』gathered indiscriminately from all corners of the world. They gathered in the world’s toughest VRMMO, 『Demondal』.
Nogawa Keiichi, better known as Kei in 『Demondal』, was also one of the hopeless gamers who loved this rotten world.
Kei held his bow with one hand as he galloped on his horse and remarked to Andrei, who was following him, “…Even so, those guys from earlier sure had a lot of energy.”
It had already been about ten minutes since they repelled the brigands. The surrounding area changed from luscious hills to trees to sparse woods of varying trees. It was proof that they were approaching Kei’s stronghold, Urvan.
They would reach Urvan in another twenty minutes.
“You’re right…. They were probably separate characters for roleplaying.” Andrei agreed. He sounded a little down, perhaps still depressed from the loss of the potions.
Unlike the sulking Andrei, Andrei’s horse walked lightly after being freed from its heavy load and fully healed by a potion.
Andrei sighed then shook his head as if trying to shake off the gloom and then continued, “At the very least, their coordination wasn’t nooby. That level of coordination takes quite a bit of practice.”
“Yeah, their teamwork was admirable. If their archers had been better, we would’ve been in trouble.”
“Anyhow, after the leader died they lost all coordination.” Andrei then frowned under his scarf and tilted his head slightly in puzzlement. “…You know, they knew about me, but not about you? Are they from a different game?”
The number one for Ninja style, and moreover one of the few saber wielders, Andrei was extraordinarily well-known. Kei wasn’t as popular as him, but was a reasonably well-known player regardless.
He would be logged in for so long that people often said, “Isn’t he just living in this game?” One could say that he may as well have been a cripple. At a glance he was a battle maniac and master of mounted archery. In addition, he was one of 『Demondal』’s few known Japanese players.
“No, it was most likely this thing’s fault.” In his left hand, Kei held out the splendid vermillion composite bow.
In the world of 『Demondal』all items a player carried were dropped at the place of death. Running into thieves and brigands who were after such drops was an everyday occurrence.
For that reason, most players reinforced cheap practical armor. Players that used high class or even unique items regularly were extremely limited.
Kei was no exception. Both his weapons and his armor were usually slightly inferior to high grade equipment.
His favorite bow was large and especially hard to handle while on horseback, but in return it had good power and range. It was a strange longbow for mounted archers, but it was Kei’s trademark.
However, today’s circumstances were different.
The vermillion composite bow.
A Wyvern’s wing tendon and the branch of an Elder Treant—two extremely valuable materials, were used to make it. In 『Demondal』, there was no other bow that could compete with its power.
Kei requested this bow be made by a competent bow craftsman, and it had finally been finished. He had only just retrieved this gem from the seaside town Kitene.
Its name was inscribed as 『Dragon Stinger』.
The size was a little large for mounted archery, but it was smaller than what Kei was accustomed to. Using the bow wasn’t a problem for him. Although, the draw strength of the bow was so high that other longbows couldn’t even compare.
Of course, both the power and range were far from normal too.
At the practice range『Dragon Stinger』’s arrow completely pierced through both sides of plate metal armor from 200 meters away.
So logically, within a 200 meter radius, it could even pierce『Dragon Scales』, which boasted the highest defense in the game. Hence the name, 『Dragon Stinger』.
This one of a kind, extraordinarily powerful, beautiful vermillion bow would likely overtake the longbow as Kei’s new trademark.
By the way, Kei still had materials left over. If he felt like it, he could make another two of these bows. Even while taking into account that it may be stolen, he could wield it without worry. So that was another reason why 『Dragon Stinger』 was a good bow to use.
“His wooden shield was pretty shabby, but breaking it to pieces and even piercing through his armor was funny. That bow is pretty amazing.”
It wasn’t like Kei had made it himself, but he was pleased that Andrei complimented it openly.
“As expected of Jap the Reaper… A suitable weapon for a death god, wouldn’t you agree?”
At Andrei’s teasing Kei suddenly turned gloomy.
Jap the Reaper. Out of Kei’s many nicknames it was most likely the best known.
The nickname stemmed from the famous murderer Jack the Ripper. Those who fought with Kei rarely survived, thus the name was given to him.
Kei was able to use powerful longbows from horseback with ease. He was leagues above other players in ability. Gauging the wind was a talent of his. His accuracy was unparalleled. Second-rate armor couldn’t stop his arrows, assuring his prey would die.
Thus, he became known as Jap the Reaper.
He happened to be Japanese, so they changed it from Jack the Ripper to Jap the Reaper.
No one could say for sure who started it, but because of its simplicity it spread like wildfire, erasing his first nicknames like Stinger, Large Archer, and others. More recently people were starting to call him “The Jap.” They didn’t mean it in such a bad way, but to a Japanese person, being called “Jap” over and over didn’t feel very good.
“…I wish I’d have a different nickname already,” Kei murmured a distant wish.
“Yeahhh. A new nickname would be nice.”
Andrei somewhat nonchalantly agreed from behind with his arms folded.
Truthfully, since Kei now had his hands on 『Dragon Stinger』, the fatality rate of those who fought with him would increase ever more.
If he walked around with this bow regularly, the number of people aiming to steal from him would also rise. In other words, the number of victims would continue to rise.
Andrei secretly thought to himself, Won’t the Reaper nickname just spread even further?
Another ten minutes passed as they galloped on. After passing through the sparse woods they followed a small river upstream.
Directly in front of them, between the tall bare cliff sides lay the entrance to a gorge. The gorge was known as Urvan Valley.
It was a very convenient road that led toward the player-made village Urvan. If they continued through the valley and up the path along the cliff, they should reach the village in a matter of minutes, except–
Kei knitted his brow in suspicion and pulled on the reins to stop his horse.
The road that stretched from the gorge entrance to the other end faded completely into the white fog. The fog was thick, as if milk had mixed with the air, blocking their view.
Kei muttered, “…Something feels off.”
“Yeah. The weather isn’t bad,” responded Andrei, looking up at the clear sky.
In the realistic 『Demondal』, the weather was also reproduced. The phenomenon known as fog wasn’t all that uncommon. But because the game was so realistic, it was incomprehensible why there would be fog now.
Andrei faced Kei and suggested, “…『Illusionary Fog』?”
Kei denied the idea with a shake of his head. “No, I don’t think so. Think about our magic resistance.”
“…It shouldn’t be this thick for us, huh.”
“Yeah, at the very least, this can’t be player-made. My sixth sense isn’t reacting either,” said Kei while carefully observing their surroundings.
『Sixth Sense』. One of the few game elements in the realistic 『Demondal』. To the Japanese, describing it as bloodlust would make it easiest to understand. Simply put, it was a system where he would get the chills if he felt someone intending to attack him.
General illusions that didn’t cause any real harm were also considered attacks.
“If your sixth sense isn’t reacting… then this isn’t a magician’s doing.”
Andrei brought his hand to his chin and hummed in thought.
Putting aside Kei’s fighting from long distances, he exceled at sensing bloodlust through 『Passive Sense』 as well as suppressing his own bloodlust through 『Stealth Sense』.
Even without the god-like passive ability to sense an attack from even the slightest bit of bloodlust, he could generally deal well with surprise attacks. But because he was overly sensitive to bloodlust, it was hard to handle stimulating free-for-alls.
In any case, even Kei didn’t feel any bloodlust coming from the fog.
“Well, if it’s a contract with something other than a fairy then it’s a different story…. For argument’s sake, if it were a spell with no menace nor hostility then even I wouldn’t be able to feel it.” Kei drew an arrow from his quiver as he asked, “Do you feel anything, Andrei?”
“Nope. You know that I’m no good with passives. If you don’t understand it then there’s no way I would.”
Andrei drew his saber from the scabbard on his back and shrugged his shoulders.
Other than using a saber for hand-to-hand combat, Andrei was a ninja who also excelled at sabotage, ambushes, and the like. His 『Offensive Sense』, which overwhelmed his opponents with bloodlust, was the extreme opposite of its bloodlust suppressing friend, 『Stealth Sense』.
By mixing the Active and Stealth abilities alongside his sword, Andrei toyed with his enemies in an ever-changing manner. He could cut through the very root of the battle’s rhythm and dominate the atmosphere.
But because this fighting style took the initiative, Andrei didn’t have many opportunities to use Passives. Furthermore, his ability to sense bloodlust was limited to meager levels compared to top class players. This meant his abilities in this area were also very limited compared to Kei’s.
“But, even so, I get that this fog is pretty suspicious.”
“Agreed. What should we do about it?”
As far as Kei knew, there hadn’t been any occurrence of fog in Urvan Valley before. Even on days with poor weather.
But there had been events, items, new monsters or small story related updates that had been added without prior notification in the past.
They thought that this fog might also be part of something new.
“…Taking a detour would be the safest choice.”
Andrei said in an incredulous voice, “It’ll take another 30 minutes if we do, you know?”
The only other way to get to Urvan would be to go around the cliff and climb up the steep mountain road.
“Then let’s just charge through?”
“Kei… Why do you gotta be so extreme?”
“How many adventures have you been on? You’re saying that even though you want to do it?”
“Heh, pretty much. I’ve got nothing to fear now that I’ve lost most of my potions!”
Andrei proudly stuck his chest out masochistically, but tilted his head and said, “But is it all right? In the worst case, that bow…”
“I don’t want to lose it, of course, but I have the materials for another. Besides, the next time something bad happens I’m going to leave you behind and run.”
“You ass,” joked Andrei as he raised his saber. A smile floated onto Kei’s face and he pretended to run away on his horse.
“Well, let’s check it out a little, partner.”
The two entered the fog with smiles.