The back alley of Mac Anu’s port was being flooded by rats that ran around as though they owned the place. They covered the narrow cobbled streets in a dense carpet of purple and in the middle of all this stood a bump in the shape of a person.
The bump was struggling to escape from the plague. It was reminiscent of a large rat trying to escape a trap of adhesive tape.
As the figure struggled, a section broke open as the rats scattered and crawled up one after the other until they covered nearly the whole area.
A man leaned against the wall to bump’s right, folded his arms, and looked up at the sky through a gap in the buildings. Then he narrowed his eyes wistfully, took in a deep breath, and released it slowly. It was a sigh.
He gave the “command” for the rats to attack. Their instinct to slaughter en masse kicked in. They swarmed their target and bit at him while he tried to fight back with all his might.
Then, as though possessed by the rats’ attack, the trapped PC could not escape no matter how hard he struggled. The man confirmed this would happen through several experiments. He kidnapped the rats during a solo-play adventure in a dungeon and did performance tests on them. The results were always the same. As though exhaustively licking a lollipop away, the trapped PC’s data began to disappear from the world.
How could his real PC be destroyed by rats? He didn’t know and he didn’t want to know. The important thing was that the light of the rats was tempered and trained and it grew as though it was part of the man’s design. Then, the test was essential.
The movement of the mass began to decline rapidly in front of the man as he was lost in thought. The body of the lumpy figure could not keep its original PC form.
Then, at that moment, the PC’s body rose and warped violently. Like the flame of a candle that burns remarkably bright before it burns out, he made a final effort to resist the agony of death. As rats were thrown from him, Flugel’s arm was revealed.
His gun shone in the twilight.
He then directed the muzzle straight at the man.
Well well, the man unaffectedly admired, he’s keeping his arm ever so still.
However, the man thought, what are you going to do with the handgun now? Shoot me? Me, of all people? From a distance of two metres?
There was enough room to dodge. Even if the man couldn’t dodge, there were other means of defence.
He used the simplest means.
He did nothing and left Flugel to the rats.
The rats moved as through they were a single giant creature and tangled around Flugel’s arms. They forcibly bent the gun’s muzzle, and and pointed it towards the wall to the right.
The gun fired. The roar echoed throughout the back alley and a bullet struck the ear of the man, but that was it.
All Brieler Roessle did was leave bullet holes in the wall, all for naught. It didn’t even strike a single rat. With that he became exhausted and his arm was covered in rats once again.
Having witnessed this so far, the man shook his head from side to side. A sense of melancholy crossed his face.
This was the end.
It was over.
An anticlimactic ending. The hungry rats began eating away at Flugel’s PC data, not leaving even an ounce of him.
The man admitted that perhaps he had spent his valuable time too lavishly. His test was not inside Flugel. Feelings of anger and frustration began to well up. He felt the disappointment as though it were seeping out from deep within his body.
There was no helping it. He had no choice but to find a test candidate—for a different kind of test.
The rats were left to clean up, and, after an attempt to turn back towards the square, the man suddenly stopped.
From somewhere a minute but foreign sound could be heard. The sound of rigid foam bubbling and popping. A sound like that of still water slowly turning into ice.
It was not the sound of the man’s loyal subordinates chewing at their prey.
As the rats wriggled sideways, the sound was being emitted from the brick wall.
While the crunchy sound came forth, part of the wall fluctuated as though in a haze of heat and began to rapidly change shape.
The man was puzzled.
What, he thought, what is this? What is going on?
Perhaps he was an enthusiast from the old version of “The World,” because he immediately noticed that the thing emerging from the wall was a steam jet machine, a trap that was typically placed in dungeons. A gimmick that had been implemented in “The World R:2.” A mechanical trap that blew steam at a player that entered the dungeon.
But the man, having been an excellent hacker and cracker, was not a heavy user of “The World.” He had a knowledge of some of the gimmicks, but it took several seconds to tie the shape of the gimmick before him with a memory in his head.
Even after realizing that it came from where the wall had been struck by a bullet from Flugel, he could not believe that he had come up with the answers himself.
Therefore, his reaction was further delayed.
Surely it was the Curse Gun Brieler Roessle. Could it do such a thing?
Now the wall “ceased” to be a wall, rewrote its data, and appeared in a completely different form to the steam jet machine.
The spout opened with a clank, then the next moment, the back alley filled with pure white high-pressure steam.
This trap was usually not even a threat to players in “The World.” Unless it was an exceptionally novice party, the trap was not deadly.
However, it was sufficiently powerful against the rats. Shrill screams went up all over the place. The rats were burned as they were struck by the vapour and began to disappear one after the other. They were devastated by what took place in this alley with no escape.
A sense of agitation appeared on the man’s face for the first time. He tried to rush over to help, but white steam blocked his view. In that moment, deep inside him, he felt the pain of the dying rats that he had raised.
He’d have to give the command to everyone. “Defend yourselves.” Or “withdraw.” Quickly.
But as soon as he did, white steam broke out, hit the man’s face, and suddenly a black arm protruded outwards.
A cry of surprise came out and he was lifted, slowly.
At the same time as the rumble, a bullet was fired.