Chapter 12:

Simulation

Violet: No. 02189


As I walk together with Kaede, Mayu, and Take, in the streets of Neo-Tokyo, I see myself enveloped by the never-fading lights of the metropolis. It’s all very much distracting and eye-catching at the same time. From the outdoors to the holograms, from the storefronts to the luminous signs on the sidewalk, and even the people with gleaming clothing and strange gadgets attached to their bodies.

Lost in all that color and contrast I forget that even myself and the group alongside me, all blend together with the flashy passersby. I’m wearing a dark-violet coat crossed out with yellow highlighter lights all over. While my pants seem like they were taken from a corpse victim of a point-blank bomb explosion (minus the blood, of course). Not that I had much choice on the matter, since I could not leave the shrine in my armor nor the butler suit that was kindly given to me by Mr. Amano to work at the shrine, as well as these clothes I’m currently wearing.

Kaede’s clothes aren’t too different from the ones she uses to go to the surface; the only significant difference is all the unnecessary pink led lights permeating all her clothing as well as a cutesy (also pink) hat with cat ears. Take-san remains in the same clothes I meet him in, while Mayu is ironically the most dissimilar from the group as she’s still in her miko attire.

While I look around carefully still in awe from seeing all the vivacity and strangeness of the city, I can’t help myself but think about the professor, and how we’re about to go have fun while he may be at serious risk.

“Should we really be doin' this? I mean the professor is-”

“I know well how you feel, but you should trust Hide”

The rough but collected voice coming from Take interrupts Ren’s statement.

“Besides, with us nearby we’d just be in his way”

“Dealing with a large number of people is his specialty, after all”

“Yeah, don’t worry Ren-kun, the professor despite being a worthless freeloader is quite a capable fighter in his own way”

This professor is surely a scary fellow. I already came to this realization when he attacked me before, but seeing how everyone is so calm with him dealing with a supposed scary bandit band only furthers my weariness of him.

***

Arriving at the Arcade, I see many machines, they seem like big-sized open vending machines with gigantic hologram displays. There’re not many people currently at the place, but what caught my attention is that there are quite a few pairs of adults accompanied by children.

“What’s the matter, Ren? Missing your wife?” – Kaede speaks with a small hint of sarcasm.

“Huh?”

Seeing the genuine confused expression embossed on Ren’s face makes Kaede feel a little bad for her remark, and also a bit confused herself, as well.

“So, how about we play some Valkern-on?”

“I don’t know, maybe it’d not be fair to Ren-kun as he probably never played it before”

“That’ll be no problem-”

Kaede steps between Take and Mayu as she finishes her remark:

“I can defeat you two by myself after all! So, I can carry Ren without a shadow of a doubt!”

The group slowly walks along the hall, passing by many game machines, until they reach a certain one.

“So… what now?”

I see myself in front of one of the machines, this one specifically seems a bit different from the majority here in this Arcade. It has two pairs of seats with four holographic displays whereas each pair of seats directly faces each other. These displays showed what seemed to be some kind of demo of the game.

“There’s no need for me to explain, you’ll get the hang of it by playin’ yourself”

Kade sits in one of the seats, and at the same time, I see Take and Mayu taking their spots on the opposite side of the game machine.

“What are you waiting for?”

I hurry and accommodate myself at the seat by Kaede’s side. The machine envelops the four of us with a retractable metal cover similar to a car’s door. In doing so it completely shut us off from the rest of the world while also blocking my vision of Take and Mayu. I look at the physical panel in front of me and see a helmet and a pair of handlers appearing from behind a shutter.

Without a word, Kaede puts on the helmet and grabs the handlers and I follow her doing the same. Immediately, images and sound are projected directly into my eyes and ears as I see a menu window popping up.

It’s hard to believe this is really a game, after all, back there in Violet most of the games are made to be played on a phone and by yourself, so I was kinda confused when they called this place an ‘Arcade’. But now I think I’m beginning to understand how this works.

[Choose your Valkyrie Frame and Einherjar!]

“Ehh!?”

These are just like mechs! I also see a character at the side of the mechs, they must be the pilots. As I identify an arrow on both sides of the selection, it must mean I can choose between them all.

But this is…

“Kaede, can you hear me!?”

“Yeah”

“Who should I choose!? I can’t tell who’s strong and who is not”

“Dunno, just make sure to choose one before the time runs out”

“Time!?”

Damn! I just noticed a countdown on the top right of the screen. Also, there’re some stats on the side of each pilot character and the mechs, but they all seem to be pretty balanced between themselves… Well, I’ll just choose one that seems to be strong at close quarters and hope for the best. Also, this black mech and this girl with the eyepatch look kinda cool.

[Valkyrie Frame: Reginleif]

[Ready!]

[Einherjar: Ayame Kanna]

[Let’s do this…]

Hmm… the characters are voiced too…

“Interesting choice Ren! Both of us as melee. It’s not a usual combi”

“I didn’t understand half of what you said, but I hope it means it’s good”

“…”

“Kaede, we’ll go against Take and Mayu-chan, won’t we?”

“Of course! That’s the whole point of this game”

“I see…”

“I have another question”

“And what it is?”

“Why are all the pilot characters pretty girls?”

“Kh..hahahaha!!”

“C’mon why are you laughing so much? It’s a legitimate question!”

“Sorry, just don’t worry much about it. It’s just that this is what’s popular among the nerds”

“Again, I’m not sure I get what you meant, but I’ll leave it at that”

[3…]

[2…]

[1…]

A city’s scenery gradually materializes itself as the countdown goes on, at the same time holographic panels also form themselves in front of me, copying the same design that was seen on the game machine demo and with a ton of info and graphics that I’ve no idea what they indicate.

This is impressive! It really seems I’m inside a mech’s cockpit. At least, I think they are similar to this. As I move my arms and press buttons with the handles, I see the arm of the character I chose, doing the same move, it’s honestly a bit uncanny and creepy. It’s like I’m controlling a body that’s not mine.

I see a Red mech taking impulse and passing right in front of me, dodging the buildings while making a zig-zag movement.

“Is that you, Kaede!? I mean, the red mech?”

“Who else would be? Now try to follow my moves and don’t lose sight of me!”

“You could at least try to tell me the basic commands!”

“Frustration is the best teacher, just keep trying and you’ll get the hang of it!”

“Argh!”

I frantically try to move my hands up and down, forward and backward, press some buttons, and…

[Launching Missiles!]

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!!

Most of the missiles hit a building nearby, as the debris begins to fall on my mech, I instinctively turn my handlers to the side in an exasperated move.

I close my eyes as I hear a crashing sound right in front of me.

[Damage Report- Right Arm: 10%]

Opening my eyes again I see the horizon line at 90 degrees as I feel my real body hanging on the chair.

As I look at one of the displays, I notice what seems to be the icon of Kaede’s character as I hear her voice.

“See? It’s just like I told you! You’re already moving like a pro!”

I honestly cannot tell if she’s just making fun of me or not, but I’m certainly learning how to control this thing!

I push the handlers to the opposite side but the mech isn’t moving the way I want. Could it be that…?

I try once again doing almost the same move.

The mech is once again back on its feet.

Really!!?– This thing is controlled partly by will? Why would a technology so advanced be used in something so trivial as a game!?

WHOOOOOM!!

I feel a brief but intense shaking in my seat. As soon as I managed to get the mech standing again, I was hit by something. I look at the many panels and most of them are just numbers and alarm messages with flickering red lights, as I try to make sense of what had hit me, I decide to run and take cover behind a building.

[Warning, Warning…]

[Damage to the Edda Reactor: Critical]

[Damage Report- Torso: 70%, Right Arm: 50%]

I don’t need so many damage reports! I can’t concentrate if this keeps goin’ any time, I take some damage, and what the hell is an Edda anyway!? Argh! I need to focus!

“Ren, you did really good by getting off the ground and not blowing up with that attack, if you keep distracting them this way, I can pinpoint their shooter’s location!”

“So, you want me to be a bait?”

“Yes!”

Haha, this reminds me, my job as a striker was almost the same…

Huh, no now it’s not the time to think about that!

I shake off my head to drive away that weird feeling, as I tightly hold the handlers even more strongly.

As I command and direct the mech to run, I notice that there’s a small delay between my input and the movements my character makes, creating an even larger gap, in the mech’s moves. I see, mastering the control of this thing will be harder than I thought.

The black mech runs in a cumbersome string of movements, while laser shoots try to take it down. Most of them miss their target, but one of them hit the mech’s left leg, causing it to fall once again.

“Dammit! I can’t keep hitting the ground like this!”

“Don’t worry Ren, you did good! I got this!”

As I look at Kaede’s character icon, I immediately try to find among the many open display windows one that could show me anything that could be helpful, however, all I see is almost the same, and it’s not useful in the slightest.

Wait! This red mech, it’s hers right!? From one of the displays I see the figure of a red mech, it’s engaged in a fight against two other mechs, a white one and another green.

As I fail to get the mech to stand up, I command it to crawl to the ground as I notice there’s something resembling a map on the top right of my vision and it’s indicating mine and Kaede’s relative position accordingly with this map. With the mech slowly approaching Kaede, I continue watching her from the display.

The white mech seems to keep trying to maintain distance from Kaede’s mech, jumping from one building to another, while the green mech, armed with a really big mace tries to slow down her movements. The white mech appears to be busier tryin’ to flee than to fight back.

This must be what Kaede said earlier about both of us being close quarters. In other words, that means the white mech (that is equipped with something that resembles a rifle) is only good when attacking from a long range!

The red mech continues its attacks with its enormous glowing battle scythe jumping from the top of a building to another as it tries to hit the white mech, however, being in a two-v-one is a tough spot. Despite successfully dodging many attacks from the green mech while closing the distance toward the white one, Kaede’s mech’s movement began to get sloppier and sloppier.

They’re getting away. They’re almost at the edge of what I can detect on my map. The only thing I can do now is try to launch some missiles. Their reach is pretty bad, so they’ll never hit them, but maybe they can serve as a distraction?

“Kaede! I can blow up some missiles here to act as a distraction, what do you say?”

“Nice idea, Ren! Are you seeing my fight?”

“Yes!”

“Ok! I’ll send you a message when it’s the right time!”

“That’s a little vague, but I’ll try my best shot!”

I closely follow the fight with my index finger right next to the fire button. The red mech stops at a top of a building, halting its pursuit of the white mech, and begins to trade blows with the green mech, it’s a close match but neither of them is successful in hitting with a strong enough attack.

My anxiety is piling up as I see Kaede’s mech being punished by the green one while trying to hit it back without much effect. This scenario keeps going for a while but I maintain total concentration for Kaede’s signal.

CLANG!!

A clear hit of the mace sends Kaede’s mech to the ground. It flies over the buildings and falls on the street. Luckily the hit wasn’t clean and her mech’s stats are still in a better condition than mine-

“Now Ren!!”

Once I hear her voice, I immediately launch the missiles trying to aim them at the buildings around me, to maximize their distraction capacity.

I see and hear the reports of the destruction caused by them on my display, and I realize I successfully did my part of the plan, the rest would be up to how effectively, of a distraction this was, and how Kaede would be able to use it to counter-attack.

Blazing Scythe Crescent Slash !!

As I hear the voice of a character from the selection screen, I observe the movement made by Kaede in real time on my display. It was an almost instantaneous reaction, meaning she was already doing it while she told me to attack. She jumped back to the roof while the giant scythe, now covered in flames, sliced the green mech in two halves. It was a single move that boosted her from the ground at the same time it attacked her foe. The attack was brilliantly done, so much that I don’t even know if my distraction had any effect on this outcome.

However, at the top of the other building nearby, there was a white mech, it was almost like it had predicted Kaede’s movement, and was just waiting for that opportunity. I once again hear a character’s voice.

Icicles Hailstorm !!

I can only briefly see the moment the red mech is destroyed by giant chunks of ice that seemingly came out of thin air from the back of the white mech, as I see many of them coming in my direction as well. I try to make an emergency turn but it’s too late-

[Edda Core Destroyed]

[You lose!]

[…]

[Rematch!?]

I preemptively answer yes before, even thinking. Of course, I wanna a rematch! No way I’d accept a result like this, even more now that I finally got this game, (or just how to move, at least).

“Haku-san… I know you’re eager for a rematch, but-”

“Why don’t we use this time no one else is hearing us, and talk a little?”

Kaede’s tone is somehow different. Also, she called me by my ‘name’, and with an honorific, on top of that. This is very unlike her.

I release the grip of the handlers and take off my helmet as I direct my eyes toward Kaede.

“So, what do you want to talk about?”

Cora
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