martedì 9 settembre 2014

The Rising of the Shield Hero: Volume 1 Chapter 3

Brave consultation

Once we arrived in the guest quarters, we sprawled out on the extravagant beds that had been prepared for us, and went to work studying the Help menu for our weapons. At some point, the sun completely disappeared below the horizon, but I was so absorbed in reading that I didn't even notice.

On the plus side, I was able to find out a lot of useful information. Apparently, the legendary weapons were almighty tools that didn't require maintenance. On top of that, if their owner diligently leveled up and fused materials into it, new forms would unlock, which were recorded in something called the "Weapon Book". That sounded interesting, so I decided to try pulling it up.

SWOOSH!

The screen that appeared was filled with icons that extended well beyond its borders, all marked as "Locked".



Amazing...

It looked like I could develop my legendary weapon through various branching paths. It was just like a skill tree from an online game. And in order to learn skills, I needed to unlock the power sleeping in the weapons...?

"Man, this is just like a game, don't you think?"

I spoke up suddenly, but the others weren't really paying attention. They were probably looking through the Help menu too.

"What are you talking about? This isn't just 'like' a game, it is a game. I'm pretty sure I've played it before."

Motoyasu boasted.

"Eh?"
"Yeah, it's really popular. You haven't played it?"
"No! I'm a pretty big otaku myself, and I've never played anything like this."
"Seriously? But this is Emerald Online!"
"I've never even heard of that!"
"Huh? Are you really a gamer? It's super-famous."
"Sorry, the only really big online games I know about are Odin Online and Fantasy Moon Online."
"What the heck are those? This is the first I've heard of them."
"Eh?"
"Eh?"
"What are you all talking about? This world isn't an online game at all, it's from a console game."
"Wait, that can't be right. Isn't this a VRMMO?"
"Huh? Even assuming we've entered the world of an online game, that's still something you play with a mouse or controller, right?"

Ren tilted his head in confusion at Motoyasu's question.

"Mouse? Controller? Why are you talking about antiques? Aren't all the online games these days VRMMOs?"
"Did you hit your head or something? Those kind of games only exist in science fiction."
"What!?"

Ren objected loudly. Thinking about it, he was the first person to notice the status magic, wasn't he? I got the impression that he was already used to it, somehow.

Itsuki raised his hand.

"Umm... everybody, what game world do you think this is, exactly?"
"Bravestar Online."
"Emerald Online."
"I didn't even know there was a game like this."

While I certainly thought this world seemed game-ish, it didn't remind me of any game in particular.

"I see. By the way, to me it looks like the world of Dimension Wave, a console game."

For some reason, none of us had ever heard of any of the others' games.

"Wait, wait, we can sort this out."

Motoyasu touched his hand to his forehead and tried to get a grip on the situation.

"Ren, according to you this is a VRMMO, right?"
"That's right."
"And Itsuki and Naofumi, you understand what he means by that?"
"It's a term I've seen in science fiction games before, yeah."
"I've read a few light novels about them."
"Okay, same here. Then, Ren. This 'Bravestar Online' you mentioned, it's a VRMMO?"
"Yeah, I used to play it all the time. The way this world works really resembles the systems it uses."

Based on what Ren was saying, he came from a world where the technology to dive into virtual realities was commonplace.

"So, do any of the games we've mentioned exist in your world's past?"

Ren shook his head.

"I consider myself something of a gaming history buff, and I've never heard of any of them. Are you sure they're famous?"

Motoyasu and I both nodded. If he really was an expert on online games, it would be strange for him to have such a glaring gap in his knowledge. And while it was possible that the problem was on our side, you'd think at least one of us would be able to name a game that was actually popular.

"Then, how about a question based on common knowledge? Like, the name of the current Prime Minister, for example."
"Ah!"

Everybody nodded in agreement.

"Okay, all together now..."

*gulp*

"Yuta Masato."
"Yawara Koutarou."
"Kodaka Enichi."
"Ichifuji Shigeno."
"..."

Nothing. I didn't even recognize any of the names from history class.

After that, we compared various topics ranging from popular net slang to famous websites, but the result was always the same. We couldn't seem to agree on anything.

"It looks like we're all from totally different Japans, huh?"
"Yeah. No matter how you look at it there's no way we all came from the same world."
"Still, fantasy worlds are one thing, but who'd have thought that alternate Japans exist too?"
"Well, there's still the possibility that we came from the same world but different eras, but with so many inconsistencies it's seeming less and less likely."

Being gathered here together like this was strange. Really strange. That said, the fact that we were all otaku probably didn't mean anything.

"Based on the way things have been going, I'd wager we all ended up here under different circumstances, too."
"That seems likely. I can't say I'm really interested in small talk, but I suppose we should at least consolidate our information."

Ren started telling his story. From the way he was talking, he clearly wanted us to think he was cool.

"I was on my way home from school, when I stumbled onto a murder in progress. I remember up to the point I tackled the murderer to help my childhood friend, but after that..."

...He kept absentmindedly rubbing his side as he told his story.

Personally I thought it was pretty cliched, but I resisted the urge to chime in with a snarky comment. From the looks of things, he probably did bring down the murderer, but got stabbed in the side during the scuffle. Normally I would file away him away as "untrustworthy" for brazenly lying about what he remembered just to make himself look better, but since he was a fellow Hero I decided to let it slide.

"Anyway, before I knew it I was here."
"So you saved your childhood friend, huh? That's pretty awesome."

He laughed off my compliment with an affected air of coolness. But, that was fine.

"I'll go next."

Motoyasu lightheartedly gestured toward himself.

"Before I came here, I had a lot of girlfriends, you know?"
"I figured as much."

His "reliable older brother" schtick must have been like catnip to girls.

"And so, because of that..."
"...you were two or three-timing them and got stabbed, right?"

Ren's question was obviously sarcastic. However, Motoyasu just blinked his eyes in surprise and nodded.

"...Women are scary."
"Goddamn!"

My anger boiled over, and I flipped him the bird behind his back. What a bastard. I seriously wanted him to drop dead.

...But wait, wasn't dying the reason he was summoned here in the first place? I didn't have time to ponder it, though, since Itsuki was already talking, hand clasped to his chest.

"As for me, I was crossing the street on the way home from cram school, when a dump truck came barreling around the curve at full speed. After that..."
"..."

In all likelihood, he had been run over by the truck. What a terrible way to die.

...Hey. Wait a minute. Wasn't my story a little out of place here?

"Uh... do I absolutely, positively have to tell mine?"
"Of course! Everybody else did, after all."
"Oh. Right. Well, if you insist... I was at the library when I noticed a strange book I had never seen before. Naturally, I picked it up and started reading it, and before I knew it I was here."
"..."

Their stares were icy. What? Did I need to have a tragic history to be accepted or something? The others started whispering to each other just out of earshot.

"But...that guy...shield..."
"Of course...right?"
"Yeah..."

I couldn't quite make out everything, but I got the feeling they were looking down on me. I needed to change the topic, and quick.

"So, everybody! It seems like you're all already familiar with this world's rul- I mean, systems?"
"Yup."
"That's right."
"More or less."

Damn, I was the only novice here! This totally sucked.

"I-I see. Then, do you think you could give me some pointers? Since my world is the only one that didn't have a game like this."

For some reason, their reaction to my question was split. Ren glared at me, while Motoyasu and Itsuki were smiling.

"Don't worry, your good buddy Motoyasu is here to tell you how it is."

Motoyasu walked up to me and draped his arm across my shoulders. Something about the look on his face was really suspicious.

"See, there's a class in Emerald Online called the Shielder, that - surprise, surprise - uses shields as its main weapon."
"Okay."
"At first, the high defense is really nice, but as you progress through the game it starts to get overwhelmed by the ridiculous amount of damage the enemies can dish out.
"Okay..."
"In short, at high levels it's a loser class that absolutely nobody uses."
"NOOOOOOOOOO!"

I didn't want to hear that! I mean, what the hell!? He was basically calling me a born loser!

"Wasn't it ever fixed in an update?"

Surely they must have balanced it at some point.

"Nah, it was terrible and barely anybody played it, so they never bothered. Last I heard, they had decided to just get rid of it altogether."
"Wasn't there any class advancement!?"
"Sure, but the whole line sucked."
"What about class switching?"
"Sorry, but it wasn't that kind of game."

Geez, if all of this was true, I had been stuck with a tough class. I looked down at my shield gloomily. Did it really hold such a dismal future?

"Wait, what about you guys?"

I turned to Ren and Itsuki in desperation, but they quickly averted their eyes.

"Sorry..."
"It's the same in my world, too..."

Eh!? So I really got screwed over?

While I was standing there dumbfounded, the others started talking about games amongst themselves.

"What's the terrain like?"
"The names are different, but otherwise it's essentially the same. Which means there's a good chance the monster distributions are the same, too."
"Since each weapon's hunting ground is slightly different, we should avoid going to the same areas."
"Yeah, that's probably the most efficient way to do it."

Their eyes were sparkling. I could tell they were thinking something along the lines of, "Wow, we really hit the jackpot as far as abilities go, didn't we?"

...That's right. They were strong, and I wasn't. But there were still plenty of roads available to me. If I was weak, I just needed to rely on companions. Even somebody like me could get stronger by fighting in a party.

"Hehe... what am I worrying about? It's not every day you get a chance to see another world! I'm sure things will work out somehow."

I couldn't let everybody's looks of pity get to me. I just needed to trade out this shield for a proper weapon, and I'd be good to go.

"All right! I can do this!"

I pumped myself up.

"Honorable Heroes, we have prepared a meal for you."

Oh? Apparently it was time to eat dinner.

We opened the door, and an attendant escorted us to the knight corps' dining hall. It was like a scene from a fantasy movie. Rows of tables were packed with food, like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

"Everybody, please help yourselves to whatever you like."
"Seriously? We have to eat at the same time as the knights?"

Ren grumbled under his breath.

...I couldn't believe he was complaining when they had gone through the trouble of preparing us a feast. What a jackass.

"No."

The attendant shook his head.

"After you've had your fill, the food here will be used at your introduction."

Hmm? As I took a closer look at the dining hall, I realized that the boisterous throngs of people filling the room were all cooks. So this was what they called "preferential treatment", huh? Apparently they intended to introduce us to the knights when we finished.

"Well then, let's eat!"

And so, we indulged in the cuisine of another world. It was a bit bland for my tastes, but there wasn't anything I couldn't eat. Though, a lot of it was bizarre. There was even one dish that looked like an omelette but tasted exactly like an orange!

After we were done, we returned to our room.

"Do you think they've got a bath here?"
"It's a medieval setting, so chances are they have outdoor washtubs."
"I'm sure they'd prepare one for us if we asked."
"Eh, that's okay. It's just one day, after all."
"That's true. Anyway, I'm tired, and we've got a big day tomorrow, so I'm gonna go ahead and hit the hay."

The rest of us followed Motoyasu's lead and went to bed too.

That night, I drifted to sleep with a smile on my face. My grand adventure started tomorrow! Morning couldn't get here fast enough.

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