Maria slumped to the ground, fear and despair running across her face as if she had seen a ghost. Nana went to comfort her as Aevella panicked, “Hold on. So there’s no other way of leaving except to complete the game?”
“It’s debatable whether or not this is even a game,” Kazuma answered.
“Vella!” Maria yelled as she gripped Aevella’s top, “One of them! You’re one of those Vitallans, right? You could fly up to see if there’s a way off, right?” Maria’s face looked as if she was going into shock.
“Vitallan?” Kizami wondered.
“I could try,” Aevella said. She backed away from everyone and made a jump. Suddenly, small booms and light emitted from her legs and she began flying. The team watched as Aevella soared higher and higher until she vanished into the clouds above. Seconds went by until a sudden flash in the clouds appeared and lightning shot frighteningly as another bolt of light struck at the base of the church, only feet away from the team. A hole was left behind as Kizami and the others looked closely at the hole. There laid a body with a massive hole through the torso, completely vaporized by the lightning bolt. It was Aevella’s body. Maria screamed in horror as she rushed to the body, “Vella!! Say something!! Please don’t die!! I didn’t mean for this to happen!” She held the body close to her, “I’m sorry!!” Maria cried in agony, begging to have Aevella come back. Seconds later, Aevella’s body evaporated and vanished and, in its place, a white glow floated. The light then expanded and grew, taking shape of a human being, and reappeared Aevella safe and sound, though, Aevella’s expression was blank.
“Vella!” Maria cried as she hugged her shocked friend, “Are you alright? Do you feel okay?”
Aevella sat down carefully, her expression unchanged. Everyone else watched her with worry.
“What’s wrong?” Kizami asked gently.
“Have you ever experienced what it’s like to be dead, feeling everything the moment you die?” Aevella’s stare was directed at the ground.
Silence filled the air. “Come on,” Kazuma led, “I know a place where we can rest.”
Rain started to fall heavily as the team followed Kazuma. By the time they reached their destination, everyone was soaked. Kazuma opened the door and invited everyone inside for the night.
Kizami explored the house, “When did you get a home, Kazuma?”
“Everyone is given initial housing, supposedly.”
“Our own house?” Kizami wondered what his residence looked like but shook the idea out of his head worried more about his friends.
Nana went up to Kazuma, completely soaked all the way through, “Yamatai-senpai?
“U-um, could I borrow your shower for a little bit?”
Kazuma smiled at little Nana, “No need to ask. What’s mine is yours.”
Nana blushed painfully red at Kazuma’s words and thanked him with a bow and rushed to the bathroom, locking herself inside.
Kazuma turned to Kizami and the others, “Right now, it’s best to get some sleep. Then we’ll see what we should do first thing tomorrow morning.
Everyone nodded. Maria grabbed Aevella and rushed to the bathroom as well, “Nana, let us join you!”
Kazuma and Kizami changed into simple clothes while their soaked ones were drying.
“Kazuma?” Kizami called.
“Do you think we’ll ever make it out of here?”
Kazuma was boggled by such a debatable question. Given the current circumstances, no one could really produce a definite answer. Kazuma took a deep breath, “I don’t know.”
As soon as the girls finished up showering and changed, everyone drifted off to sleep, awaiting the morning to rise and begin their second chapter.
Dawn arrived, starting another day in New Eden. Everyone was awake, except for Maria who was still half asleep.
“Okay,” Kazuma started, “For starters, I researched on the servers and the manual of how the game works; the only way to reach Server 3 is to defeat each boss in the 15 levels of the Battlegrounds. Once we pass the 15th level, a portal should appear to take us to the 3rd server.”
“And then what?” Kizami asked.
“…that I don’t know. It doesn’t say.”
Kizami sighed, “Well, should we go and kill the first boss then?”
“No need. I already did that.”
“I can’t say I was entirely proud of it.”
Kazuma took a deep breath, “Because the Lv1 boss appeared as a little girl.”
There was silence until Nana spoke up, “W-were they human?”
“I don’t know, Jinnouchi,” Kazuma answered with displeased look. “I’m not even sure if there is any significance to why they look so normal. Either they are a test of our morality or they are just to intimidate us in some way. Regardless, it’s our only way to get out of here. Is everyone on board with this?”
Nobody objected, which made the decision clear enough.
“Since it’s clear to me that none of you have a weapon, it’s best to buy one if we’re to go into the Battlegrounds. Kizami, go uptown to the blacksmith and find yourself a suitable weapon. And don’t take too long.”
“Hai!” Kizami obeyed as he rushed out the door. Reaching the market square, Kizami observed the bulletin sphere for the location of the weapons store. “Just two blocks west…” He made his way and found the blacksmith shop, helping himself inside. The walls were entirely covered with every melee weapon imaginable, making the color of the store seemingly dark with only the entrance and few windows to leak in light. Kizami checked out some of the newest items. He noticed that many of the new weapons were of various strengths and styles. If he was going to use one, he needed something that was light and fast to his liking. He looked at the selection of short swords and saw one that appealed to his senses. The sword was engraved with Japanese design and had a very light touch to it, yet with a very durable usage. He also saw a samurai-style sword that he felt was perfect to get for Nana, “I hope she doesn’t mind this.” He purchased the swords and added them to his inventory. He also saw a poster that displayed different versions of the same sword; one was made of emerald, another looked like pure magma with a flaming touch to it, and another that seemed completely transparent. Kizami talked to the store clerk, “Excuse me, how do you get one of those special effect swords?”
The clerk chuckled, “You don’t buy them that way, son. Depending what you want, you get the materials from the monsters that produce them. With enough of a certain material, you can bring the ingredients and your weapon here where I will infuse the chemistry of the materials and refine your own unique weapon. Be aware that each different type of material has its own unique incentive. Be careful what you use.”
“Okay, thanks!” As Kizami was about to head out, he noticed a small, very young-looking girl who was having a hard time browsing and trying out the weapons in the store in the back. Kizami looked around to see if anyone would help but decided to take the initiative himself. He walked up behind the girl who was holding a mace and tapped her shoulder. Startled, the girl turned around with a scare on her face, accidentally dropping the weapon which landed with a hard clank. The girl hesitated to pick up the mace and put it back on the shelf.
“Do you need any help?” Kizami offered.
“Er, no,” the girl struggled her words, trying to make it look like she knew what she was doing, “I was just uh….” The girl skimmed the table for a suitable weapon.
Kizami knew she was having a hard time, “You look like you could do well with these.” Kizami showed the girl a pair of twin-bladed scythes. The curves and design of the blades attracted the girl’s amazement and she took them, “Th-thanks.”
Kizami smiled as he waved to the girl while exiting.
Kizami stopped, “What?”
“U-um,” the girl quivered nervously. “S-Siri!”
“M-my name is Siri.”
“’Siri’, huh? That’s new to me. Where are you from?”
“Uh, Niamreg, Viatis.”
“So you’re German?”
He smiled once again, faced Siri formally and bowed, “I’m Kizami. Nice to meet you.”
“Ah, you too!”
Kizami observed Siri thoroughly, “Are you planning to kill the monsters too?”
“What?” Siri seemed confused, “N-no, this is just in case someone jumps me…”
“Jumps you? Why would someone do that?”
“Because!” Siri was serious. “You never know when someone will take advantage of you…”
Kizami had a good idea of what Siri meant and he didn’t want to get up in her business, “I understand. Sorry for asking.”
“N-no, it’s not you! I was just saying. You never know.”
Kizami laughed a little, “Okay. Well, here.” He sent a friend request to her, “If you need any help with anything, feel free to message me.”
Siri received the request and simply accepted it without thinking.
“Well,” Kizami finished, “I’ll see you later.”
Making it back before noon, Kizami came up to Nana, “I got you something.”
Nana looked annoyed once again, “How many times do I have to tell you, I don’t want anything from you?”
Kizami pressed the Gift option in his panel and a notification popped up above Nana’s head. Kizami began to walk away, “You’re welcome.”
Nana checked out the gift message and suddenly, the item was transferred into her inventory. She then checked her inventory and found a familiar name: Bara-ibara. Nana was speechless at the name. She then hit the Equip button and the sword appeared in her hands. The weapon was lighter than Nana’s original Bara-ibara. It was sleeker. Sharper. And it even had the Japanese phrase engraved along the blade: Roses and Thorns. Nana felt extremely grateful for the gift and now had a little more respect for her older brother.
“Nana-chan,” Maria called out as she waddled towards the girl, “I’m hungry. Can you make something delicious?” Maria then saw Nana holding a sword, “W-wahhhhh?! Is that thing real?!”
“Oh. Sorry Maria.” Nana put the sword away. “Um, yeah I could make something. It’s about lunch time anyways.”
“Hooray!” Maria cheered with a jump.
In the other room, Kizami watched the two girls while sitting at the table with Aevella, “Hey.”
“Yes?” Aevella answered.
“Does Maria have a younger sister by any chance?”
Aevella was confused, “No, what makes you say that?”
Kizami stared at Maria who was meddling with Nana, “I met this little girl at the weapons shop and she looked very much like her.”
“There tends to be people with similar faces around the world,” Aevella exclaimed, “It wouldn’t be too surprising if there was another one of you.”
Kizami was caught off guard, I don’t know if that was a compliment or not. Suddenly, a chat panel popped open in front of Kizami. The recipient was named Siri. Kizami was surprised, Siri? He began typing on a separate keyboard panel.
He was unsure if Siri wanted to talk or needed help with something.
[Siri] Thanks for helping me earlier.
He never was very good at chatting people though text, despite the fact that he suggested it to Siri in the first place, God, I’m dumb.
[Kizami] Anytime. Do you need something?
There was a long pause in between messages.
[Siri] I want to ask something personal if that’s okay with you.
Curiosity got to him.
[Kizami] OK, what?
Another long pause occurred before the next reply.
[Siri] Are you gay?
Kizami was appalled by Siri’s question and began to laugh hysterically. Of all things, this girl wanted to know if he was homosexual or not. He regained his composure and replied back with a little humor.
[Kizami] No. Are you?
[Siri] No! No! I like boys!
On the other end, Siri is embarrassed with herself after realizing what she just sent.
[Kizami] Why did you call?
[Siri] Do you miss home?
Kizami was caught off guard by the question. He thought about his mother. The school they went to. Their city. All of it.
[Kizami] Yeah. I do.
[Siri] Me too.
Kizami felt bad for her. She is so young—she didn’t deserve to be left here in this hell-of-a-game.
[Siri] Do you think this will all end soon?
The same answer came to mind as Kazuma’s.
[Kizami] I don’t know.