Chapter 67: Different People have Different Levels of Stress for Different Types of Things
“… And so, starting over, this girl is Midori, and this guy here is Tatsumaki.”
Masaki introduced the two other gamers.
Tatsumaki (Whirlwind/Twisted Dragon) … probably his avatar name, huh? Come to think of it, I wonder what Seimei-san’s real name is.
“And on this side, it’s Jun, my childhood friend, and Ragnall. They’re Seimei-san’s guards for a few more days.”
“Hello, hello, like he said, I’m Midori, although the others call me Mi-chan sometimes, and we call this guy Tatsu or Baka-tsu, whichever one suits you!”
Tatsu-san doesn’t say anything; he just gives Midori-chan a glare.
“Whaaat, you’re so quiet all of a sudden.”
She grins and elbows him in the side.
“Shut up, Midori, I’m not being quiet. I’m just, y’know, reflecting on that previous battle.”
Tatsu-san flushes a bit.
“Oh, by the way, Ta-chan was on our number 1 rival party, Jun-kun. An enemy, so to speak.”
Seimei-san says, grinning.
“It’s not like that anymore, right?!”
Tatsu-san is getting all flustered as Seimei-san and Midori-chan team up and tease him.
Well, come to think of it, that was the personality Seimei-san had when I was initially introduced to him, so the serious attitude he’s been sporting should actually be the one that feels out of place.
Ragnall laughed, seeing the closeness everyone had with each other, then decides to help Tatsu-san out by changing the subject.
“Aside from all that, I’m surprised that they sent such high-ranking guards with the 3 of you, considering they sent a kind of randomly cobbled group with Seimei-san.”
“Ahh… that’s because the Second Prince of Carnus fell in love with Mi-chan.”
Midori-chan turned bright red and tried to hide behind her bangs as Ragnall says,
“Oh, the Second Prince, huh? How did that come about? While Midori-san is very charming, Prince Regin is known to have refused many fine women.”
“Really? That’s kind of worrisome in its own way…”
Hearing me mutter that darkly, Ragnall shakes his head, saying,
“Nah, it’s nothing to worry about. He’s a total battle junkie, and not yet 240, so he’s been resisting the idea of settling down so he can freely tour the country at his leisure. Well, that’s what the servants’ gossip network says.”
“Haha, get this, Regin said he fell in love with her as soon as he saw her. Her innocently laughing face was particularly alluring while she calmly shot down a wyvern in 1 shot, he said!”
Tatsu-san immediately cheered up as he revealed Midori-chan’s embarrassing tale. But not addressing the Prince with an honorific, is that ok?
I find out later that Tatsu-san is also one of those ridiculous battle junkie types, so he and the Second Prince of Carnus have been getting along pretty well, with their fists doing most of the talking.
Is it ok to beat up on a country’s prince like that?
“Well, Ta-chan properly holds back, so it’s fine?”
Was all Seimei-san said.
Anyway, at the moment we’re eating in the pavilion with all the food stalls.
Even though I thought it might be better to have a private room in a restaurant, well, maa, I understand the feeling of wanting to let loose and experiencing a night on the town like this.
I’m seated at a table with Ragnall and Seimei-san as the other 3 pick what they want. They’re really cutting loose tonight, especially Midori-chan and Tatsu-san.
“Obaa-san, this is super yummy! Another order please!”
“Oh my, if such a cute girl eats it with such delight, the sales will definitely go up! Here you go, an extra big serving.”
“Wai~ Thank you!”
“Oh, Ossan, 3 ales!”
“Ooooh, alright young man, you gonna chug ‘em all yourself?”
“Ta-chan and Mi-chan are especially bad with dealing with the Nobility; I guess they’ve been accumulating a lot of stress too.”
Midori-chan is definitely cute enough that it’s not a completely unreasonable idea that a man, and a Prince at that, might fall in love with her at first sight if she’s in his strike zone.
“Hm, the innocent, energetic type that can easily kill you with an arrow. That gap isn’t too bad. The Second Prince knows what he’s looking for. She’s pretty good-looking too.”
Ragnall’s comment took me by surprise.
“Ah … what, did I come off a little creepy?”
He sheepishly scratches the back of his head.
“Ah, no, I’m just a little surprised. I thought you were into big breasts?”
I mean, she has more than me, but, eh… Japanese girls aren’t really known for that much volume.
And like, if you’re going to compare hers to mine, which are based on a boy’s body to begin with, I’d feel too bad for Midori-chan, so let’s stop.
“Well, yeah, I do, but … you know, just because you like to eat grilled fish, it doesn’t mean steamed fish isn’t good too.”
What’s with that. That’s not a completely nonsensical answer, I guess.
“I think I get it. For me, I prefer a slender figure, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have an interest in breasts or muscles.”
“Oh, so you do understand. Hm?”
Ragnall tilts his head for a second and frowns, then his face lights up like he understands something all of a sudden.
“Aha! So that’s why you always seem to be so interested in elves and half-elves!”
“Wh-what do you mean?”
“Whenever we interact with half-elves, you always observe them when they’re not looking; so I guess it would be the same for elves, right?”
“… Is it that obvious?”
“Hm. A little?”
I-it’s not like I lust after them or something! I just think that slender but strong people are mesmerizing to watch when doing feats of strength, and maybe I think they’d look good in a hakama some times, but that’s really all it is.
“Exactly what are the 2 of you talking about…”
Masaki has come back. He gives me a look.
“Jeez, you always choose the pretty onee-san-type support characters since forever ago… You really haven’t changed at all, despite… stuff. Here, I brought drinks, since you can’t depend on Tatsu for non-alcoholic drinks.”
“Haha, so Jun’s liked the pretty type since forever ago? Then she surely had lovers?”
“No way! Even though Jun’s like that, there’ve been interested people, but somehow or other nothing ever comes of it. They all come to me instead, and when they ask me if Jun would date them, I always told them that they should ask Jun themselves, but then they always say something like, ‘Oh, but I don’t think Jun’s interested in that type of thing, so I’m afraid to ask and ruin the relationship. At least find out if Jun is open to dating any one at all for me.’”
Huh? I’ve never heard about any of this. And wait, from a while ago, I’ve been wondering… are we all talking about boys or girls here?
Every time I think I’ve figured out how to live with my gender change, there’s always SOMETHING that throws me.
Especially with Masaki’s story.
Those were girls, right? Right?
Although I don’t remember being particularly close with any girl, I’m fervently hoping in my heart that those were girls.
“S-so Jun-san hasn’t dated anyone before?”
Tatsu-san said, coming back over while carrying an armful of food.
“If you’re asking about someone with a lover previously, rather than me, Masaki-sama had one first year of high school.”
“Shut up… don’t talk about her.”
“You guys were 2nd year high schoolers? You didn’t date any one in middle school?”
Midori-chan came over and plopped down next to me, asking that question.
“No way, no way.”
“Hm… Masa aside, it’s surprising Jun-chan didn’t have guys all after her.”
No, well… rather than guys …
A subtly awkward atmosphere floats into the silence as neither Masaki nor I decide to comment on it.
“I don’t really understand, but how’s life in Carnus treating you? You guys seem to be pretty big over there, especially Masaki-san.”
Nice job, Ragnall, changing the subject like that.
“Come to think of it, there’s something like a Masaki cult going on with the soldiers.”
I thought to tease Masaki by saying that, but instead if getting all embarrassed, he just goes pale in the face, saying
“Ugh… It’s not just the soldiers. I seriously just want to run away and hide sometimes, when I see soldiers walking my way, or Nobles, or servants, or …”
So basically everyone.
For someone who doesn’t normally like standing out, I can see this being torture.
Seimei-san laughs lightly.
“Well, despite what you might think of his swordsmanship, Masa is seen as indomitable with his sword play and magic in Carnus.”
Oh, that’s right. I’d been meaning to follow up on that.
“That’s right, Masaki, about your fighting style-“
He’s totally making a face like he doesn’t want to hear it.
“Ah, I’m not gonna chew you out about it. I wanted to say, it’s actually a pretty good method because it’s hard for someone who’s not used to VR to get a handle on it. If you do some basic training and fix your grip, it will become near unstoppable. Well, you might cover the openings with your magic, I guess. Anyway, I just wanted to say that if I made it sound like you’re completely no good or something, that’s not the case. I was seriously nervous at the beginning.”
“Hm… is that so.”
Just like I thought, he was sulking after all, after thinking he might be able to win against me but not being able to in the end.
“Fufufu, the charm of childhood friends, huh?”
Seimei-san laughs at us, while Tatsu-san scowls.
“Well, I’ll beat Masa one of these days, just count on it!”
“Pff-! You say that, but “Inferno” hasn’t won against “Killing Machines” at all recently, right up until we ended up here. Were you guys even good enough to consider yourselves their number 1 rivals?”
“Tch. Like your “SERENITY” can even talk. You guys came in FOURTH last time!”
Ah, that’s right. They’re all top-rank players … who fight against each other.
“Now now, calm down. Those types of rankings don’t matter any longer –“
“Shut up Sei-chan!” “You’re one to talk!”
Seimei-san makes a kind of sad, cute sound as they shut him down. Oi, you’re almost 35, right?
Tatsu-san complains to Seimei-san, saying,
“It’s all because of you that no one else has a chance at beating “Killing Machines”, dangit.”
“Seriously, having Sei-chan on your team is completely unfair, and then you were going to bring in Jun-chan? You guys would have totally broken the tournament!”
Midori-chan pouts as well, complaining to Masaki.
“No, well, Sei-chan would have died really easy if you just lobbed a rock at him, so I don’t think it’s unfair…”
“Like we could get past your vanguards to do that! You cut down almost all my arrows last time!”
“All of you seem really used to war games.”
Like always, Ragnall calmly ignores the terms he doesn’t understand and just kind of … arrives at a conclusion. I’m amazed at his ability to not care about the details.
“Hm… well, in our country there isn’t much fighting, so war only really exists in games.”
And like always, Seimei-san cleverly disguises the truth with a more-or-less accurate statement while glossing over the answer.
So yeah, let’s just go with, the reason we’re all so strong is because our country likes to play war games … Come to think of it,
“Hey Ragnall, how did YOU train to get to where you are?”
“Eh? Hm… Well, I either got stronger or I died, and since I didn’t want to die, I got stronger. Like that?”
… Somehow, a heavy answer was just said super casually.
“For some reason, I feel like I should apologize for asking.”
“No, it’s nothing special, like I said.”
“So then, is this dude strong?”
Tatsu-san points, very impolitely, with the fried chicken skewer at Ragnall.
“This dude… that’s impolite, Tatsu.”
Masaki reprimands him.
Seimei-san smiles wryly and says,
“Ta-chan, he’s A-rank you know?”
“Whooa! Seriously?! Hey, you wanna fight me?”
How did it lead to that.
“It’s an intriguing offer, but there’s no profit in it so I’ll have to refuse.”
Ragnall shoots him down smoothly. He must be used to these kinds of challenges.
“What?! Of course there’s profit, it’s about the principles of life! For the strong to challenge each other and get stronger!”
“Hm, well my principle of life is to do everything you can to avoid risking your livelihood, so I will still have to pass.”
“Cheh, how boring. Then if we’re not going to fight, let’s go do something.”
“And exactly what would that something be?”
Tatsu-san gives up easily enough, but his next demand is just as troublesome.
“I don’t know, walk around, see where Jun’s living, or go out for a little … night life … Ouch!”
Midori-chan smacks him as Tatsu says the last part.
Haa… well we could easily do all of those at once, but for some reason I’m not really feeling up for that big reveal right now.
“I think tonight we should turn in early. There’s something I’d like to talk about with everyone back in my accommodations.”
Ah. That’s right.
I had thought Seimei-san seemed a bit distant. After meeting with the energetic Japanese gamers, I had completely forgotten about the serious matters we needed to talk about.
In Seimei-san’s sitting room, the mood has become so somber that the earlier cheerfulness was like a lie.
Midori-chan even looks like she wants to burst into tears.
“You’re kidding right? You’re kidding.”
Tatsu-san just keeps saying that over and over.
Well, it took a few days before Seimei-san and I could accept it too.
Seimei-san swallowed, and then said,
“Well, there are a lot of loose ends still…”
Tatsu-san slammed his hand on the table.
“But it’s still highly possible that we’re dead and some fucker pulled us here for some fucked up reason!”
Even if it was a thought they had entertained before, hearing the possibility like this, saying that an embodiment of one of the magic elements testified to it… Even if we still think there’s a possibility for it not to be true … it’s way too unsettling.
“S-Sei-chan, isn’t it possible that we’re just understanding it wrong?”
Midori-chan asks, trying really hard not to cry.
“That’s … we thought to confirm it again, but…”
Back in the Labyrinth, after talking it over with Seimei-san, the two of us had decided to go back and try to ‘talk’ with the Light Magic altar again, but somehow, even before I got close to the orb of water, I felt rejected.
It was a feeling like I would be doing something exceedingly foolish if I recklessly approached. Communing with Light Magic might not be a 1-time-only situation, but it certainly isn’t something that you can do repeatedly at your leisure. Who knows when the next time they would let me approach would be.
As for Seimei-san, although he touched the orb, absolutely nothing happened.
Is it because he’s a Dark Mage?
Even though it seems we were all created from Light Magic, it doesn’t seem like we are all attuned with Light Magic.
“S-sorry, it was really unexpected so I didn’t really know what to ask, and then it ended before I knew it…”
I honestly don’t have high confidence in my understanding of the situation.
“Haa… no, it’s not your fault. You’re the only person who found out ANYTHING about our situation, so even if it’s a lie, we’re still better off now.”
Tatsu-san calms down a little, but he still doesn’t want to believe it.
I don’t blame him. Something like having died, or something like not being able to go back … it’s all so surreal and leaves such a bad feeling.
“Are we sure that it was Light Magic talking to Jun? Why would Light Magic be the magic used to call us here?”
Midori-chan finally asked that question.
“I was thinking it over myself. I think … I think that place was an altar or something built to commune with Light Magic, and according to Light Magic, I was qualified to meet with them. They answered my questions, but … to be honest, I don’t know what the actual purpose of communing with them like that is.”
Even though there isn’t much known about the Water Corridor or the people who built those ruins in the Water Maze, somehow I kind of understand that it was built by people who understood Light Magic the best from long ago.
But just why did they seek to resonate with Light Magic, to a point of being able to communicate with it?
If I don’t know that answer, I can’t really guess why Light Magic whimsically called me to them and entertained my questions.
Even though Magic Elements shouldn’t have egos, if I don’t know the intentions of the people who built the altar-orb, I’m going to be wary of what I’ve heard from it.
“An altar to commune with an Element… When you put it like that, I think I’ve heard about something similar.”
Seimei-san gnawed on his lower lip as he thought about it.
In the end the night ended like that, with an unsettling, gloomy atmosphere.
We made arrangements to meet the next morning, to give everyone some time to come to terms with their emotions, and to have some time to think about things more in depth.
Masaki walks me to the door.
He’s been quiet this entire time.
I open the door and say,
“… Then see you tomorrow, Masaki.”
I grab his head and roughly mess up his hair. Even though I don’t really know what to say, I can’t just do nothing.
After a few minutes, I release him and sigh.
“Don’t worry about things you can’t change right now, Masaki. Just focus on living here, right now, and do what you can.”
“… I’m not like you, Jun. You can just turn around and do whatever you want to without getting weirded out, but I can’t do that. I can’t, I just … I just can’t handle this right now. We’re here, we don’t know why we’re here, we can’t go home, and you’re a girl now. All of this is… I just…”
I lightly smack his cheeks in between my palms.
“Oi. Masaki. It’s ok. It’s not weird to be freaked out right now. If anything, it’s weird that I’m not freaked out, right? But don’t go falling apart. It doesn’t matter here or there or nowhere, you have to live for yourself. Even if you’re worried about your mom and little brother, you need to concentrate. If we ever DO find a way back, it’s useless if you wreck yourself before then.”
Masaki nods his head, wedged between my hands. Although he’s quiet, his face is slightly damp with tears.
He seems to have calmed down some.
“Alright then, I can’t stay, but I’ll see you tomorrow.”
With a subdued look, Masaki retreats back into Seimei-san’s house and the door clicks shut.
<A/n: Thanks JG for your donation!
Tch. I had to cut this chapter before I wanted it to end. So anyway … yeah. Jun’s kind of level-headed to the point of being an airhead so there’s usually not much tension, but … that doesn’t mean all the gamers are like that.>