Code Reader Kagami (LitRPG)
When they had finally arrived at the village, it was much much smaller than expected. The residents numbered a little over 600. It was clear this was the kind of backwater place where everyone knew everyone. Kagami’s most hated type of place. He preferred to live a life sequestered from the rest of the world.
After-all, this man was completely unremarkable aside from his intellect. His quiet and calm demeanor, along with his fairly straightforward attitude made many others avoid him. As such, he lacked many social qualities. It was only when his daughter came into his life, that he began to crawl out of the hermit shell he had lived in his whole life.
Nonetheless, he disliked unnecessary interaction. Thus, one can imagine his frustration when the entire town greeted them constantly as they walked by.
“Oh! Kagami, you’re back!!”
“Hey, That’s our spirit!! It’s team Dragon Head!”
“Welcome back, guys!”
“It’s great to see you’re all doing okay.”
“Hoho, look at that level difference, you guys are already gonna make it big in no time!”
“K-kagiiiii!!! You’re amazing!!”
Multiple people stopped whatever activities they were doing. From pumping water, to picking up Hay, and tending to their crops. Some of them ran up to the group, and began shaking their hands. Flinn appeared to be basking in this kind of limelight. Go figure.
Kobul simply smiled and courtesy bowed to the people before him.
Not too sure how to react, Kagami chose the most awkward route. He smiled politely and waved. The type of wave you’d expect from an old man with frail arms. A floppy, half-assed fish wiggle. He regretted it immediately.
“Please, Kaga, it would be an honor to have you over again, just like old times. The drinks on me this time.”
Kagami looked towards the direction of the voice. He found himself staring face to face with a man about his age. Skitt. That was the name that revealed itself. Occupation: <Barkeeper>. Flinn slapped his arms around Kagami’s back.
“Well what do ya know huh, ya good ol friend’s always generous isn’t he? Just don’t drink him out of stock this time, boss.”
Thus, the duo were led away into the bar at the edge of town. They preferred to keep the alcoholics far away from common civilization. It was a smart construction actually, that way children wouldn’t see the majority of obscene things that occur when drunk.
He thought bitterly about his recent encounter with drunks. “At the very least, there’s no such thing as cars in this world.”
“What’s a car?”
‘Shit. Was I thinking out loud without realizing?’
“You tell me. I’ve got no idea really.”
“But you just said it…”
“D-did I? I’m truly sorry. I meant to say Curses.”
“At least there’s no such thing as curses in this world?”
“Y-yea.” Not very convincing. “Aside from Flinn, that is.”
“Heeeyyyy, I’m right here ya know. Why ya always gotta call me out, Boss? Ya know what, someday I’ll be the leader here, and by then I’ll have made a thousand jokes about ya.”
Meil laughed. “What kind of idjits would follow you?”
Flinn scoffed and paced up ahead of everyone else, making a beeline straight for the bar. Now this was an atmosphere. He had never really been to a bar before. But sometimes he wondered if they always looked like this? Even in his world. The barn was surrounded by a typical wooden counter with various drinks and barrels.
“Hahaha, drinks up baby! Skitt, get me your finest Dwarf God’s Tears.”
“Ho’ boy, starting with something strong right off the bat, Flinn?” Meil shook his head.
Kobul sat down next to him and high fived Flinn. “That’s the spirit. We’re not weaklings around here. Only the strong can survive.” Kabul's robust stature almost seemed as if he would break the frail stool he was sitting on. “Get me the Dwarf God’s Blood!”
Rain sat next to Kagami as per usual. She could always be found lingering around him it seemed.
Meil simply passed up on his drink. “Just water is fine, Mister.” Perhaps Meil was his favorite of this unruly band. This was entirely due to the amount of courtesy the man always showed. Even in times of play.
Rain opted to drink Arrows Bane. The drink was an odd one for sure. Completely red in stature, and bubbling continuously as if it was magma. He eyed it nervously. It would seem like death if he were to even try drinking it.
This was not the best situation to be in. It’s clear so far that the boss is a drinker, but Kagami himself is completely lightweight. In fact, he had never consumed alcohol before in his life. Even more worrisome, was the fact that he knew none of the drinks in this world.
“And what would you like, Kagi?”
He put a hand to his chin as if trying to decide. The words were completely illegible. He couldn’t understand a single part of this world's language. Their words were easy enough to understand, but the alphabet was entirely different. He had never seen it before anywhere.
“Hmm… let me think….” In truth, he was just trying to make himself seem normal. “I’ll have the usual.”
“On it.” Skitt turned around and grabbed the biggest glass he could find. What slammed on the table was a chalice as wide as his chest and almost big enough to cover his entire torso. He stared down at the cup completely hesitant. ‘I’m fairly sure there have been deaths related to alcohol over-consumption.’
Perhaps this world is different. If its the body of a former Kagami who drinks, he might be able to handle this. He took a small sip of it before setting it back down on the table. It took all his might. All of it to maintain a straight face. The taste was vile. He’d have rather ate concrete. Or even worse, have to sit through another one of Owa’s hodgepodge cooking.
“Ahhh… just as good as always.” He responded. Voice slightly shaky.
“So tell me, Kagi. How were your previous missions? We got a lot to catch up on, you and I. After-all, you guys have been gone for nearly 6 months.”
“Ah, well you see… it was nothing interesting really.”
“Stop tryna be humble, Boss! Tell him! Ya know, how we took down that Wyvern! And then another one had joined in.”
“Erm… I’ll let you do the honors this time for stories.”
Skitt looked rather irritated at the suggestion and quickly interjected. “Perhaps maybe later then actually.”
‘I get it. You can only listen to his voice so much.’
“I do have a story to tell you though.”
“Oh? Well now's as good a time as any.”
“You remember Raphilia?”
“Mhm.” He nodded, and took another small sip of his drink trying to seem interested.
“We’re getting married next week!”
“Haha!! I know right!!? It only took me 10 years to finally confess.” Skitt scratched his cheek nervously. “I guess you were right all along. If I had come to her back then, it probably wouldn’t have taken so long.”
Flinn interjected. “Alright. You got ya story in. Now let me tell you exactly what happened with the Wyvern mission!” He stood up and propped his elbows on the counter between the duo. “Ya see. We had just gotten an extermination mission that paid handsomely to escort the Baron of Lunesta to Seilaen. Only a good 300 mile distance. Apparently he was having some sort of get together with his wife’s family. Now here’s the kicker. He’s traveled this road before various times. But never once required adventurers or escorts.”
At this point, the man was already being tuned out. “Get to the story already…” Kobul said. He rarely spoke. Between him and Meil, he was actually not sure which one he liked better. In an odd way, he kind of even liked Flinn and Rain. At the end, he simply sat back and heard the rest of what Skitt had to say. There were a lot of updates to be made. Eventually the rest of his team drank themselves to a complete stupor. Rain was stuck looking after the flock.
“I still have a couple spare rooms, if you guys would like.” Skitt said, while he rinsed out the cups.”
“Mh.” Rain nodded. She helped the completely incoherent Flinn up on her shoulders and lead the rest of them away. Kagami got up to help as well, but was stopped by the barkeeper. “Not yet, Kagami. We’ve gotta talk.”
He wasn’t quite sure why the veil of secrecy in this current talk, but the man’s voice had changed entirely. He looked back over at his special mug and wondered if it was wise to leave it alone for this long. Alas, Skitt picked it up and simply dumped it out in the sink behind him. He was entirely silent as he washed the cup.
“Care to join me for a smoke break? Mr. Kagami?”
‘What’s with this unfamiliarity?’’
Kagami nodded. “Sure. I’m not quite ready to call it a night yet.”
They both walked out of the bar. Skitt leaned against the wall and smoked the rest of his cigarette. “A shame… I was kind of interested in hearing what had occurred during that Wyvern mission. But of course, leave it to Flinn to not complete a story.”
He breathed out giant circles of smoke out of his lungs. The way they highlighted the moon made the smoke dazzle in the light. “Of course. Normally, I’d count on just asking you the story and hearing it much more coherently.”
“Eh? What do you mean by normally.”
“Of course, everything after that event is no longer you. Isn’t that right Mr. Kagami?”
“Huh? What are you saying.”
“The real you… died after that mission.”
He had been caught. To its entirety. There was a tense feeling in his chest. ‘I mean… this is a really bad outcome isn’t it? How can one normally explain inhabiting another’s body.’ How can he explain anything about what occurred without being viewed with suspicion.
He stood there, tensed up, wondering what to do next. Until one single noise left his friends mouth. It was the sound of a snicker. Before bursting into a full out laugh. “HAHAHHAAHA. You should see the look on your face, Kagi!” He wrapped his hands around the man’s neck endearingly.
“C’mon now. Switching bodies? Dying but still living? Give me a break. You’re always that gullible about things.”
Kagami’s nervousness stopped finally. He laughed along with the old friend. Regardless of if the situation had turned light, there was no getting rid of the tenseness he felt in his heart just now.
“Ya know Kagami… I’ve known you for a good 25 years now. Ever since we were kids when we first met.”
He got back to being serious and smoking in between each sentence. “Yeah, you’re an idiot at times and constantly push forward past anything… but you have a lot of heart. Everytime I see you all returning from missions unharmed, I just know it's because of you.”
“Why’re you saying that all of the sudden?” Kagami asked, scratching his head nervously. This man was highly observant. Kagami could see that instantly. He was perhaps the one he needed to be careful around the most.
“Because… If you’re going to try and be Kagami. You might as well, act like him.”
“You’re still not getting it, huh?”
Kagami took several steps back. “I don’t know who you are, mister. But it seems as if you’re trying to be Kagami. If that’s the case… then you should do as he does… and frickin see your daughter! Never once have you ever not visited her first thing! After everything that’s happened to her…- after everything… that’s unacceptable!”
Kagami froze. What was this man saying? Daughter? “I-..” There were many questions he had to ask the man, but he couldn’t properly word out everything.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened… so I’m beginning to understand it. I’d normally kill you. But… if you leave her too, I can never forgive you. Kagami, or not. Get up and see your daughter.”
His eyes scanned the man over. There was no hostility written in his coding. But he was uncertain of even the words he was saying. There was a chance he didn’t fully believe his theory. He must have reached this conclusion a while ago and still doubts the veracity of it.
By any means, the best way would probably be to proceed with a different cover up. Kagami began grinning and laughed. His eyes scanned even deeper. Look closer into this man’s life and find aspects. Find stories. Find something that could easily turn the tides of this conversation.
However, he still could not read all the information that easily. The codes rushed into his face like a thousand babbling fools all speaking at once. It would look too strange to be silent and so intently focused in the moment. Kagami sighed. “Ah… you’re right. I should have stopped there first and foremost. It’s just… our last departure didn’t quite end right. She was quite mad. As a father, I’d have a hard time confronting her again.”
He remembered once thinking like this. The first time he ever broke a promise to her. Work had instead decided to displace his usual life and he came back much later than promised, missing out on her 5th birthday. He severely dreaded that night, and didn’t know exactly how to talk to her.
Skitt took another hit of his cigarette before pointing the butt at him. “Are you stupid? She’s a kid. There’s no way she would let something like that linger after that long. Everytime you come home she’s excited.”
He recalled later the same night., when he had offered to take her out for some ice cream and her favorite arcade. She couldn’t play the games very well, but she was enthusiastic to see the lights and sound. And Just like that, completely wiped away all of the worry he had.
“Aye… I guess you’re right.”
Skitt flicked the butt of the cigarette straight at his head before turning around to go back to his bar. “Of course I’m right. Now quit loitering around. We’re closed for the night.”
Just before he entered the door. “Oh and by the way. 410.”
Kagami looked to inquire a bit more about what he meant, but the door promptly shut behind him. There was no further explanation about the significance of these numbers.
‘Sigh… this whole day has been just a little… a little strange. It feels like I’ve been here forever already.’
The crescent moon loomed over the village. The strength of its light was almost as if one had put a blood filter on a game. He always scoffed when people made such filters in their games. Real life never seemed to imitate this level of gloominess. Yet, as he was now wrapped inside a hue of red and black, it felt as if it was natural.