Chapter 08: Curse Gun

The rise of the current Net-culture is said to have begun on December 24, 2007. On this day, restrictions regarding use of the Net were completely lifted across the whole world, and “Network Safety Declarations” were announced by the WNC (World Network Commission). The event is taught in school history classes under the name “Virgin’s Kiss.”

This “Virgin’s Kiss” was implemented and spread to the whole world through the “ALTIMIT OS” operating system to provide absolute resistance against all computer viruses.

With the exception of formerly-existing critical software and security, the Web thoroughly collapsed in 2005. This was the result of the worst computer virus in history: “Pluto’s Kiss.”

It’s sort of a clever joke. Virgin and Pluto; it’s OK to kiss either of them.

In any case, the world’s network temporarily died in 2005.

It was revived in 2007. It brought with it the world’s first MMORPG “The World” supported by “ALTIMIT OS.”

“The World” soon became “R:2”, and as time passed, became the current “R:X.”

In the present year of 2023, rumours concerning the next version update to “R:X” are being whispered here and there.

However, this is still all just talk.

Flugel came back to the Eternal City Mac Anu from Net Slum, sat at sidewalk café table near the entrance to the central square, and watched the passing Player-Characters. The area was flowing to the brim with various comings and goings such as chats, party-member recruitment, item trades, and all the other lively interactions unique to Net-games.

Mac Anu was a city of canals. In the Celtic languages “Mac” means “son”, and “Anu” denotes a fertility goddess who appears in Celtic mythology. Therefore, “Mac Anu” means “Son of the Goddess.” As the name suggests, the sunsets are always beautifully and tenderly coloured like the look of affection from a goddess.

Among the pedestrians one could sometimes see the same types of PCs as Schicksal. In particular, the “Dancer” type of female character seemed to be popular.

Flugel turned his gaze to the deep red sky. An airship flew leisurely above. An enormous building could be seen standing in the distance. It was the Akashic Records.

Image

He gazed motionlessly at the tower; the off-limits legacy left in this “World” by Jyotarou Amagi. After much trouble, it was now completely silent and inactive.

“Just ruins now,” Flugel muttered to himself.

Like his Schicksal PC, for Ryuuji Sogabe, that is Flugel, this tower represented the ruins of Dr. Amagi’s dream to pursue his Real Digitization theory. It continued to stand independently like a gravestone for the developer himself.

Flugel personally felt that it was rather ironic.

I am wandering aimlessly in “The World” and managing the ruins as Flugel…

He smiled weakly. He seemed to become sentimental, wrapped in the goddess’ love.

Four days had passed since he started moving in “The World R:X.”

It took him longer than expected to locate his old acquaintance, the information-dealer.

Flugel opened the Parameters window. He figured he’d confirm his status once again.

Since Flugel’s PC body had been reset, he was now back to level 1.

He opened the Item window and selected “Brieler Rössle,” the only weapon he carried. The Curse Gun Brieler Rössle appeared at Flugel’s right-hand side.

The revolver’s bullets had the ability to freeze.

Produced from Ryuuji Sogabe’s mental structure by the VR-Scanner, the Schicksal PC Flugel possessed a unique ability—if one of his bullets hits a target, it can “suspend” the data. Is that the ability of a PC, or a monster? Could he have used a cheat on the @HOME entrance? It could have been rewritten as easily as he suspended the data.

An almost unrivalled skill in battle. If it hit, he would always win.

But there were weaknesses.

To suspend the data of the target, the user would require a certain amount of energy output. If the range is within striking distance, the energy output is kept high. It works much like a water gun in theory.

To be more specific, in order to reliably perform the forced suspension, the bullet must hit within a range of the equivalent of about two metres in the real world. If standing farther away, the energy output will be insufficient and the bullet will have no effect.

Despite its revolver-like appearance, its range is unusually small.

It also does not have rapid-fire.

Once before, as he was engaged in a close match with a red Twin Blade, he used a super-cheap technique that forcibly increased the gun’s energy output by linking it to the Akashic Records, tampering with the data of over 100 bodies that he had turned into stone statues.

On the one hand, Brieler Rössle is powerful in pristine condition, but very clumsy to use on the other.

The Schicksal PC embodies and reflects his real player’s mental state on his abilities. Due to the strain on his mind, by operating his PC in the digital world, this strain on the mind could be cured. That was the Schicksal PC’s general medical care theory.

It perhaps could be said that the powerful nature of Brieler Rössle’s habits may have transferred this strain onto Flugel’s, that is, Ryuuji Sogabe’s mind.

He removed Brieler Rössle by selecting it in the Item window and the gun vanished from his hand.

Then, something happened.

From the distant spire of the Akashic Records, something that sounded like a roar resonated in the sky over Mac Anu. The ground shook like a landslide was approaching in the distance.

Suddenly Flugel almost completely lifted himself from his chair, but quickly realized this was a mistake. The PC kept calm in his surroundings, as though he could not hear the tremors.

This was not the game’s sound. This was a real sound. On Ryuuji Sogabe’s real-life side, a loud rumble could be heard.

Flugel tried to take off the monocle from his eye with his right hand. He made a mistake. It was not his right hand. He did not take the monocle. It seemed that his senses still had not recovered fully. He took a deep breath in the hopes that the oxygen would make him feel a little more aware. It took a while to take effect. It was a similar feeling to having the bends. He had to acclimatize himself to the other side.

Like when you just wake up from a dream, Flugel was filled with a hyper-real sense of reality.

He removed the VR-Scanner from his face.

The telephone was ringing.

He got up from the office sofa and the setting sun thrust in through the western windows. The wall clock showed half past five. Squinting his eyes, he took the VR-Scanner in his right hand, stood up to put on his slippers, then took up his mobile terminal and walked to his desk.

A cold, confident voice could be heard.

“You’re Network Trouble Consultant Ryuuji Sogabe, aren’t you?”

“That’s right, I am.”

“My name is Mr. Ogura and I am employed as CC Corp. Japan’s Secretarial Office Chief. I need to speak with you, Mr. Sogabe. I’m very sorry for calling so suddenly at such an hour, eight o’clock at night, but I must ask you to meet with me.”

It was certainly abrupt. At any rate, it was a strange hour at which to talk about work.

“This is an unusual request.”

“Normally I would not ask, but it’s about work.”

“As expected.”

“I cannot tell you over the phone.”

There was silence for a moment.

“I understand. Would you like to meet at your company in Odaiba?”

“No, please come to the hotel I’m about to tell you.”

Ryuuji made a note of the name and address of the hotel that Mr. Ogura mentioned.

“Tonight at eight o’clock. The Baketon Hotel in the Harbour Ward, right?” confirmed Ryuuji.

“Yes, I look forward to it.”

The call cut off.

Ryuuji gathered his portable terminal and VR-Scanner and put them into his office desk.

Secretarial Office Chief was the post that Mr. Yodogawa held before he became managing director.

Sogabe had been in possession of a VR-Scanner without a legal basis, and CC Corp. Japan’s people were likely determining his whereabouts, and now they decided it was a suitable time to establish contact of some sort. At eight o’clock at night. At the Baketon Hotel. Just splendid. He should have guessed.

Fatigue clung to every membrane in his body. It was proof that he had not yet regained his senses after controlling Flugel from the VR-Scanner.

I’m so tired, thought Ryuuji.

And I haven’t even done anything yet.

END OF CHAPTER

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