Chapter 1 – Innovate
Kanzaki Mitsuya attends a high school in the city somewhere, and is an ordinary third year high school student like those who can be found everywhere. He has a medium build, and hair not too long, yet also not too short. His grades at school are ordinary. His ability in sports is also ordinary. After graduation, he plans to attend a university that’s close to home, and one that he can attend with his current grades. His hobbies include watching movies, listening to music, and playing games. His favourite food is curry. The food that he dislikes is pickles. He always takes them out of his hamburgers. When he was in his second year of high school, his girlfriend dumped him after saying that he was a ‘boring person’. If you think about it, you start to wonder about how he was even able to get a girlfriend. He doesn’t have any particular aspirations. Well, he seems to think that he’ll be something like a salary man. In other words, Kanzaki Mitsuya lives an ordinary life, and is currently a student who is satisfied with his ordinary life. He also thinks that he’ll lead an ordinary life. If there’s a change—.
He thinks that it’s a bad habit of the Japanese who continue to bury themselves in their everyday lives that they choose their jobs as hobbies. He thinks so because he doesn’t try to change his current self into a different self.
On that day, Mitsuya came home from school and began to play video games on the television after getting changed. He always killed his time with games like this until it was time for dinner. Surely, that won’t change tomorrow either. He had just levelled-up in the RPG game that he recently bought. But no matter what he tried, he was unable to defeat the last boss. So he levelled-up. It was a boring grind, but he had to do this in order to reach the next stage. Suddenly, he sighed as he stopped using the controller.
All of this effort — and I don’t even know if I’ll be able to summon the White Thing — I can do it….
If he did his best to study, he would be able to attend a better university, and if he struggled with his goals, he could become the creator of something. However, if he didn’t do that, then he could focus on levelling-up in the game. If he used the time that he had spent levelling-up until now on something else and worked hard at it, then…. After sighing once more, he resumed the game. The time that he lost wasn’t going to come back anyway, so there was no point in worrying over it. No, it probably wasn’t wasteful to think about it, but it was all in vain since he was completely immersed in the virtual world of the game. He decided to enjoy the present. …But then, he suddenly thought
(I…am I having fun?)
Suddenly, the new mail alert tone played on his mobile phone. His ringtone was a newly released song from a popular artist.
Who is it? Is it from Tetsu-chan?
As he thought that, he remembered that he had forgotten to return the music CD that he had borrowed. The message surely said something like ‘Bring it tomorrow!’. He picked up his mobile phone that he had tossed onto the bed and checked the message. The title of the email simply read [Innovate], and the body of the message had the URL of some mobile website pasted in. The sender’s address wasn’t displayed. It seemed a bit creepy. Was it a new type of scam? He had recently heard about how viruses for mobile phones were being circulated. He thought it best to erase the message immediately. Mitsuya deleted the email and returned to his game. After a few minutes, his alert tone went off again and another email arrived. The title was [Innovate]—. The sender’s address was still not visible. All that was there was an URL that pointed somewhere. It was creepy. Did something happen when he visited a site somewhere? Recently, it had become almost impossible to know where one’s personal information had been leaked. His friend had also mentioned that they were having trouble with spam. Mitsuya deleted the email again. However, his alert tone rang again a few minutes later. It was the same email.
What’s with this…?
Although Mitsuya was puzzled, he also began to take an interest in the email.
What was the meaning of [Innovate] again?
He became slightly curious about the English word [Innovate], and he looked up its meaning with the electronic dictionary that he kept on his desk. The Japanese translations of [To renew] and [To incorporate new things] were displayed on the screen of the electronic dictionary, but his eyes were drawn to the words that came after it.
For some reason, he gazed at the meaning of that word for a while. Although he knew that it was best not to get involved, Mitsuya had already clicked on the URL in the email before he even realised. He decided to close it if it felt dangerous. If that didn’t work, there were other ways. In today’s world, it wasn’t really possible for something on a mobile phone to not have a solution. After a while, a website with the title [Innovate] was displayed. It had a simple design, and the only item which he could select was [Register].
As expected, is it a new type of scam?
That was what he thought, but his finger still chose to [Register] for some reason. If there’s a change—. He was aware that it was a bad habit of his, but there were times when humanity simply couldn’t suppress their curiosity. He snorted slightly at the fact that he had such courage. A note appeared. It was written like so
[Welcome! To the world of [Innovate]! This is a game in which players actually fight against each other. There is no particular personal information required. Please carefully check the details provided and then proceed to the next page. Finally, if you register and clear the game, or—]
Mitsuya began to skip through the sentences. He skipped through the details on the next page, the one after it, and each subsequent page as he progressed forward.
Huh, so it’s a game that you can play on your mobile phone after all? It looks like it’s free. Is it a beta test version?
Mitsuya was the type who thought it best not to read the game manual too much. He found it much easier to remember things by actually doing them. In any case, if he played the game for two hours, its contents would become clear to see. He continued to skip over the sentences. However, the very last one completely caught his attention.
[There is a chance that you will lose your life in this game. If you cannot accept this, please refrain from participating.]
He was thrilled, but he thought calmly. There were cases where the contrast of the monitor couldn’t be adjusted. It was just a while ago when he had heard that players exposed to lighting phenomena experienced epileptic seizures. It was an old-fashioned production.
Maybe it’s an indie production, or a doujin  game?
The name of the creator wasn’t written anywhere.
[Are you sure?]
After Mitsuya thought about it for a while…
He chose [Yes] and proceeded to the next page.
[Please enter the player’s name. Even a handle name is fine.]
Mitsuya entered [Dark]. It was a player name that he often used in video games. The opposite of the ‘light’ in Mitsuya  was ‘darkness’. That was why he chose [Dark]. Although it wasn’t a particularly fancy name, he didn’t think that he needed something that elaborate for a simple game. After all, the main point was to play. He typed it in and continued.
[Please choose your player’s occupation]
Occupation? I see, did the long messages from before have descriptions about each of the roles in the game?
There were four occupations to choose from.
Mitsuya thought about what the most common occupation was. It was basically the same as most online RPG games. Players would form parties with other unknown players in order to clear the game. It seemed like that kind of typical game. Although Mitsuya felt somewhat disappointed that the game was somewhat shallower than he had first envisioned, he ended up choosing the knight in consideration that the purpose was really just to kill some time after school. It has a habit of his to choose a safe profession whenever he played a game for the first time. Once he got used to it and cleared the game once, he would enjoy it with a different occupation. Though, he was still uncertain about whether he would play it a second time or not. Since it was probably possible to form parties in the game with players of other occupations, he wasn’t particularly worried.
[Finally, once you choose to start the game, the game will not end until you clear it. Please select the cancel option if you are not yet prepared. After confirming everything, please select the game start option if you agree.]
That was the final message. He decided that if it became boring, then he would quit. As such thoughts ruminated in his mind, Mitsuya chose to start. After his mobile phone connected to the server, a message containing a single sentence which read [Innovation to you!] was displayed.
Eh? Is there something wrong with the graphics for character selection?
He had thought that at the very end, there would have been a system for him to choose the appearance and characteristics of his character. It wasn’t there. What was the meaning of that? Once more, he tried to access the site. However, there was only a message which said [Please do your best to clear the game.], and the [Register] item was nowhere to be seen.
“What the hell!”
Mitsuya expressed his anger out loud.
Where’s the gameplay screen? Where do I even go to play the game!?
The site gave no response to Mitsuya’s annoyance. After a while, his mother’s voice called out “It’s dinner time” from the bottom of the stairs.
The next day, Mitsuya was slightly late in leaving the house as he made his way to school. Yesterday, he had been engrossed in researching the game called [Innovate] on the Internet until late at night. Thus, he was considerably drowsy today. He had looked hard for it, but nothing came up in his searches. Not even a single valid result. Even though he checked local and overseas websites, he couldn’t find anything out about the game. He also tried checking for resemblance in known scams and viruses, but nothing of the kind had come up.
What was going on? Was it perhaps a friend who knew what his mobile’s email address was and decided to play a prank on him? He tried asking his friends, but just as he was about to put it into words, he couldn’t bring himself to ask them. He hesitated, and couldn’t bring himself to do such a thing. Finding it creepy, he even changed his mobile’s email address into something more complex.
The early summer sunshine poured into his sleep-deprived eyes. He proceeded to walk to school as he narrowed his eyes to avert the brightness. He had about ten minutes to go until he reached the station. Although it would’ve been easier if he took his bicycle, the bicycle parking lot at the station was always packed full with bicycles and motorcycles. Even if he took his bicycle into one of the back streets, it was a struggle to find a place to secure it. It was often time-consuming as well. The old bicycle parking officers always found ways to slap out fines. They always seemed to have a sullen look on their faces whenever they saw students ride bicycles past. And that in turn put him in an unpleasant mood. Mitsuya thought to himself that going to the station on foot by himself every morning was far more efficient than riding a bicycle, and decided to continue doing so. He walked on the road which went under an overpass, it was his usual route. There weren’t many pedestrians during the daytime here, and it was somewhat dim. It was when he had roughly walked halfway. His mobile phone vibrated unexpectedly. He had set it to vibrate only twice.
That’s strange. Is it a phone call? An email?
In any case, he didn’t normally switch his phone into silent mode unless he was in class or on the train. A ringtone should have gone off.
No, did I switch it into silent mode accidentally?
Due to his lack of sleep and drowsiness, he couldn’t clearly remember. Perhaps it had happened when he was fiddling with it yesterday. After that, an email arrived. Drawing those conclusions in his mind, Mitsuya took his mobile phone out from the pocket of his trousers. As Mitsuya looked down at the screen, his eyes widened. There was absolutely nothing displayed on the screen of his mobile phone, and yet it continued to vibrate in the palm of his hand. The blank LCD screen was dyed the colour of white. However, his phone continued to vibrate.
“…What is this, now…”
In the dimly lit underpass, Mitsuya felt an eerily cold sensation. He gulped, and then pushed the button to pick up. He placed the phone against his ear.
Immediately afterwards, a train zipped past across the overpass above. He also heard the sound of the passing train from the speaker of his phone. After the train passed by, he noticed the sound of footsteps as they made their way down the road within the underpass. He heard the same, sharp, distinctive sound of those steady footsteps echo through the speaker of his phone. He also heard the sound of metal. As he turned backwards, he noticed a cool-looking teamer  kind of dude approaching him. He had a bandana wrapped around his head, and the slovenly trousers that he wore were a shade of blue. The metallic sounds that he heard had come from the accessories that he openly wore. As he continued to listen to the sound transmitted over his phone and also to the sound of the man who approached him, the resulting audio was like a stereo formed by the transposition of the two sources.
He heard the voice of the man who stood right before his eyes, and a voice from his mobile phone as well. The two voices were a perfect match.
This guy is the one on the phone….
“Hey you, what level are you right now? Hey, you scared or something?”
It was as though he was prey. As that thought flashed through Mitsuya’s mind, he quickly glanced back and thought of escaping. There were two men who seemed like his acquaintances there, and they blocked the path off like guards. Their appearances seemed to resemble that other guy. Although there were some differences, they still wore the colour blue. Teamers had recently started unifying the colours of what they wore to show off their camaraderie, or so Mitsuya had seen on the television. Young people whose faces were obscured by a mosaic pattern had thrown out all manner of insults and abusive phrases menacingly to the camera. Those guys surrounded him. What did they want? Moreover, how did they know what his mobile phone number was? In the midst of his confusion, the guy on the other side of the phone opened his mouth.
“Yes. You have two choices. That’s it. Listen up, the first one is to shut up and follow us. And the other one is to get dragged away from here after you get knocked out. Now, which one is it?”
Mitsuya held both of his fists in front of his body just as he had somehow heard from a cooking program on television somewhere. He could hear the guy’s comrades laughing at him from behind. Mitsuya didn’t seem to understand the meaning of it, and he looked back and forth between those in front and behind him somewhat confused. As expected, the underpass was devoid of people at a time like this. Overwhelming fear enveloped him. Even though he had been given a choice, both of them seemed hopeless to Mitsuya.
What should I do—.
“Argh, what a drag…. What a shame.”
The man in front of him shook his head as he said so.
“Yousuke, ya stay there. It’ll be quicker to surround him and knock him out in one shot if he does anything strange.”
One of his comrades who was behind Mitsuya called out.
“Aye. Well, sorry. You wanna do this?”
The man pulled out a metal pipe from his back. At the same time, he did something on his mobile phone.
“…Swinging a pipe around. Seriously, it’s so bothersome.”
After looking at his phone and grumbling, the man started running towards him while brandishing the metal pipe.
Mitsuya screamed as he jumped to the site. He absolutely had to avoid that. Immediately afterwards, he heard the sound of something violently being crushed. With his knees on the ground as he tried to shrink his body away, Mitsuya noticed something strange. The loud sound of something being crushed? That was impossible. Since he dodged, the metal pipe passed through the air and slammed into the ground to produce a metallic echo. Where did that sound he heard come from? As Mitsuya looked at the place where the metal pipe had been swung down, a large section of the ground had been gouged out. The ground beneath had turned into something like a crater, and fragments of asphalt were scattered around it. It was impossible. No matter how strong he was, it was just an ordinary metal pipe wasn’t it? Was it even remotely possible that the teamer with a slender arm could somehow destroy a portion of the asphalt pathway with such a ferocious sound using a metal pipe? Let alone becoming deformed, the man’s metal pipe didn’t even seem to have a single scratch on it.
“Yousuke, is that guy still not dead yet?”
It was the voice of the man’s comrade.
“Probably not. Should’ve done it earlier.”
The man turned to his comrade and laughed as he said so.
Method? What kind? A fight? I’ve never done anything like that.
No, he had gotten into a fight in the sandbox with his neighbours child once, but that was nothing more than a children’s fight. Moreover, it was no good to fight. After that fight, he was defeated and the sandbox got taken away, and even now he found it difficult to approach that classmate who seemed strong. He had never gotten involved in anything like a street fight. That’s how much of an ordinary human being he was.
Mitsuya miserably and pathetically began to beg for his life. Upon hearing that, all of the men simply looked at each other and laughed.
I don’t want to get hurt. I’m obviously not going to follow them either. Please leave me alone. I haven’t done anything wrong. Did I somehow bother you guys? This is unreasonable! Someone, please help me! Please spare me!
The desire to escape from this place filled Mitsuya’s heart. If he had to settle things with money, he would. It would be a cheap price to pay. Was this how those victims felt when teenagers went old man hunting ? Although he had thought about how it was a tragic incident every time he saw the news reports, when he personally felt that sensation of desperation and fear….
I don’t want to get hurt! I don’t want to die!
“P-Please stop it…”
“Haha. That’s a funny face you’ve got there isn’t it? This is hilarious, show us more of your despair.”
Laughing at Mitsuya’s pitiful face as he pleaded, the man raised the metal pipe up again.
Mitsuya buried his head into his arms and shrunk himself into a ball. He let out a weak cry like ‘hii’. Just before the man could swing the metal pipe down, his mobile phone rang. The man stopped the movement of his arm and pushed a button as he checked the message on his phone.
“Seriously, who the hell is it?”
As he placed the speaker against his ear, a woman’s voice suddenly rang out.
After the voice of that mysterious woman was heard through the phone’s speaker, the man’s entire body flared up. It all happened in an instant.
The man screamed in agony as his entire body was set ablaze and he ran in panic around the street. While crouched down, Mitsuya noticed the presence of a person and when he turned towards it, he saw a schoolgirl in uniform holding a mobile phone in her hand while her other hand was directed at the man. The schoolgirl pushed the buttons on her phone a few times without looking at the screen, and the flames which once covered the man suddenly disappeared. The man gasped heavily as he lay on the street.
The man’s clothing had been severely burned, and he also suffered minor burns to his face and his hands. The man tried to call out to the high school girl but his voice didn’t quite make it out. The man’s two comrades seemed incredibly surprised by the schoolgirl’s arrival.
“Are you guys targeting those who aren’t even at the level of beginners?”
The high school girl approached them with an intimidating air about her. The men backed away. The man who had been lying on the ground also tried to get away from the schoolgirl by crawling across the ground.
“Besides, I don’t really feel like fighting against low-level people like you guys. Hurry up and leave this person alone.”
As the schoolgirl said that, the comrades of the man who had collapsed from the burns lent him a shoulder and all three of them fled the place. Once the men disappeared from sight, the schoolgirl sighed as she pushed a single button on her phone before putting it away into her bag. The schoolgirl then turned to Mitsuya. Mitsuya thought that she had a rather attractive face. She didn’t appear to have any particularly unique features, but she had a slim physique and flowing, long black hair. The brown blazer that she wore as part of her uniform most certainly belonged to that of a famous girls’ school. There was an intricate emblem that was sewn onto the breast of her blazer. At first glance, she gave off the impression and appearance of an ojou-sama , but the strong expression in her eyes contradicted that. Her strong pupils burned with determination. She had a sharp atmosphere that other school girls didn’t have. If a weaker person stared into her eyes, they would probably shrink back. In fact, even though she had just saved Mitsuya, he felt somewhat frightened by the schoolgirl who stood in front of him.
“Can you stand?”
In response to the schoolgirl’s question, Mitsuya nodded. He slowly stood up on the spot. Only when he stood up did he realise how tall she actually was. Mitsuya was around a hundred and seventy-two or seventy-three centimetres tall. The schoolgirl was the same height as Mitsuya, or perhaps a bit taller. Seeing her slender tall body and appearance, Mitsuya felt that she was rather model-like. She picked up the mobile phone that Mitsuya had dropped, and pushed a button on it before handing it back to Mitsuya.
“Please take care of it. This is an important item.”
“From the looks of things, it doesn’t seem like you’ve started fighting yet. But, if you’re participating in this, it must mean that you have some level of determination, so you should probably start getting a move on. You’re a man, aren’t you?”
The schoolgirl smiled and said that as her hair fluttered in the wind, after which she began to walk away from the scene. Mitsuya simply stared at the back of her figure until she completely disappeared from view. The man who was on the other end of the phone was gone, and as he held the phone in his hand, it vibrated.
(Part 1 of 4) (9/10)
He had a four day holiday. Wearing a white shirt and jeans, Mitsuya was in the books section of a department store.
[Hidden elements after clearing! Hidden dungeon capture!]
An uninterested Mitsuya sighed as he placed the game strategy book that he had been looking at back onto the shelf. Mitsuya thought about how this was a somewhat bad way to spend his holiday period. After heading out in the morning, he hung around a department store’s game shop, bookstore, game centre, and also browsed the clothing sections occasionally. His hobbies were narrow, and he had no intention of widening them. It was a typical trend that had been observed among geeks. He took his mobile phone out to check the time. It was already noon. His stomach grumbled, a reminder that he hadn’t yet had lunch. However, he didn’t feel like going out to eat by himself. He especially disliked having to enter a restaurant or eatery alone. Not only did it feel lonely not to have a conversation partner or someone to eat with, he also felt embarrassed to be alone.
After considering his various options, he decided to get takeaway from a hamburger shop. As the hamburger bag hung from his hand, he searched for a place where he could sit down. It was only during holidays that the tables and chairs in the department store were completely occupied by couples and families, and so Mitsuya was forced to search for a place that seemed less popular. Since he was alone, he wanted to eat in a place that was less conspicuous. Mitsuya didn’t dislike people, but he went shopping alone so that he could do whatever he wanted. He didn’t have to worry or be afraid of what other people thought when he was alone. Mitsuya went out of the department store. He thought about eating in the corner of a parking lot he knew where people didn’t usually pass by. Surely, it would be sunny there, and surely the bench there would be unpopular. There was always no one at that bench. It happened as soon as he stepped onto the road and had almost arrived at that location in the parking lot. He heard the loud sound of destruction. It came from somewhere around the bench. Although he was surprised by it, Mitsuya peered at it from around the corner.
“You still here?”
A man with a strong physique said in a low voice. He had short hair, and the body of a sportsman. The thickness of his neck, arms and chest was superb. The man looked like he was in his early twenties. A young man who looked like he was a teamer handed a baton to his comrade. Mitsuya was surprised by how the young man was dressed. It was because he was dressed in blue, just like the men who had tried to attack Mitsuya before. He wore blue on both his upper and lower body. There was another young man who had collapsed over the broken bench behind the man. His clothing was also blue.
That noise from earlier, could it have been from the young man being slammed against the bench causing it to break? Is it a fight?
The instant that thought crossed his mind, his mobile phone began to vibrate.
What is it at a time like this!?
Mitsuya quickly took his mobile phone out, but he froze as he saw the screen. There was nothing on it. It simply continued to vibrate. It was the same as what had happened that time.
I don’t want something like that to happen again!
The man with a good physique thrust his hand into the pocket of his jeans as if he had noticed something. It was his mobile phone. He took his mobile phone out and looked at the screen. And then, the young teamer dressed in blue also took his phone out and checked the screen.
“Oh. You’ve got another friend, have you?”
The man said with a fearless smile.
“…—t can’t be. If you look around, it was only us today…”
The teamer raised an eyebrow with a puzzled expression. The man pushed a button as if to confirm something. —But, there was no response from the man’s phone.
“Is there a low-levelled guy nearby?”
It was just as the man focused on his screen. The youngster who had fallen wobbled as he stood back up, and crept around to the back of the man with a baton in his hand. The man was unaware.
He’s going to get hit!
Mitsuya immediately shouted out. The man’s eyes briefly met his own. As the man turned around with a swift rotation of his body, he decided to use that momentum to land a kick on the head of the person who tried to target him from behind. The youngster who got knocked out with a single hit was blown to the side and rolled across the surface of the road several times before coming to a stop.
In the meantime, the other youngster who was dressed in blue ran towards Mitsuya instead of that man. He raised a baton in his hand as he sent a sharp glare towards him. The incident that had occurred in the morning four days ago flashed back in his mind. Fear enveloped Mitsuya. It occurred just as he tried to protect his head with his arms. A pair of thick arms grabbed the youngster’s waist from behind. And then, just like that, the man bent backwards and rammed the youngster’s head into the ground. The youngster dressed in blue plummeted to the ground after taking some serious damage to his head. It was a technique that he had seen in professional wrestling programs on television. Backdrop — that was what had happened to the youngster. The man who had just used that technique released the youngster and fixed himself up. The younger was splayed out on the ground. Asphalt was below him. Given how it was a blow to the head, it was most certainly fatal.
Is he still alive?
He was somewhat worried. It was possible that he had become the witness to a murder scene.
“Ah, that guy will be alright. I was holding back there after all. He’s probably alive.”
The man laughed and said that to Mitsuya who couldn’t help but fixate his eyes on the youngster in blue worriedly.
“So, are you going to fight me now? My phone vibrated. What level are you?”
The man spoke in a friendly manner, but Mitsuya couldn’t understand what he was saying. A puzzled expression surfaced on Mitsuya’s face, and he seemed startled.
“Hey, didn’t you read the explanation of the game?”
Mitsuya responded to the man’s question with doubt. However, the man seemed to understand something and was somewhat amused as he said
“I see, so that’s why you didn’t even move when you were being attacked. That happens sometimes. Hmm, not here. For now, let’s talk somewhere else.”
The man began to walk away on his own. Mitsuya didn’t seem to understand the meaning, so he sent a troubled look towards the man.
“About the game. You registered, didn’t you? [Innovate].”
As that word left the man’s mouth, Mitsuya finally understood the reason behind his unusual encounters and circumstances.
‘A game where players fight against each other in the real world’—.
In a nearby park which few people passed through, an explanation was given to him. The man with a good physique sat on an old bench just a small distance away from Mitsuya. That man identified himself as Dojima Shintaro (堂島慎太郎). Dojima told Mitusya about the game called [Innovate]. It was an almost dreamlike story. If one cleared it, their wish would be granted—. By using one’s mobile phone as an input terminal which became like a lifeline, players could fight against each other in the real world by manipulating various phenomena, almost as if they possessed magic or supernatural powers. By fighting against other players, one could raise their own experience points and strength. Once a player’s level reached one hundred, an event in which one could fight against the [Last Boss] would begin. And, if one defeated that [Last Boss], then the game would be cleared. It was not possible to quit halfway through. Until the game was cleared, it was absolutely impossible to quit. In simple terms, that was the kind of game that [Innovate] was said to be. Dojima spoke frankly as Mitsuya handed over one of the hamburgers that he had purchased. As he looked over from the side, Mitsuya even thought that the whole story seemed like the words of someone with a mental disorder.
“This isn’t a joke, is it…?”
Mitsuya asked as Dojima silently finished his hamburger. Dojima scrunched up the hamburger’s wrapping and tossed it into a nearby rubbish bin. He then slapped his hands against his lap as he stood up.
“It’ll be easier if I show you. Take your mobile phone out.”
Mitsuya pulled his mobile phone out. After watching him do so, Dojima took his own mobile phone out and turned it on. At the same time, Mitsuya’s phone began to vibrate. It seemed to have vibrated in response to Dojima’s phone. After pressing a few buttons on his phone, Dojima said
“Press that button to respond.”
Following Dojima’s instructions, Mitusya pushed the button on his mobile phone to put it in calling mode.
“Kanzaki-kun, was your chosen profession a [Sword Knight]?”
“I see. —Then.”
Dojima looked around at the surrounding area and headed over to a place where trees had been planted. He picked something up and then walked back. He held a tree branch the length of a wooden sword in his hand. It was long and thin. It seemed like the type of object that would easily break if it was waved around. No, it was something that would probably snap even on just a windy day.
Mitusya warily asked. Dojima smiled slightly upon seeing Mitsuya’s reaction, and he tossed the branch over to Mitsuya. Unable to successfully catch it, it fell to the ground.
“Well, just pick it up for the time being. Nothing bad will happen.”
After being told that with a smile, Mitsuya still seemed puzzled as he picked up the branch.
“Now, put you mobile phone in mail mode.”
Mitsuya put his phone into mail mode just as he was told.
“Umm, the recipient…?”
“No, just type into the body text. That’s right, enter [Swing the tree branch].”
Mitsuya filled in the body of the message as he was told.
“…I did it.”
Dojima once again glanced around at their surroundings in the park and then came back once he picked something up. It was an empty steel can. Rather than aluminium, it was made of steel. Dojima placed the steel can that could not be deformed by an ordinary human’s grip strength down on the ground in front of Mitsuya.
“Try striking the can with the stick. I’ll leave the power adjustment up to you, but I think it’s best not to use too much.”
Although Mitsuya was still perplexed by the situation, he lifted the stick up and swung it down at once.
(If I hit it with such a thin branch, the branch will—)
Contrary to what Mitsuya thought, the steel can was effortlessly crushed by the force of the branch, and the impact that it produced even gouged out a great portion of the ground.
Mitsuya was rendered speechless by the phenomenon which had just occurred, and he alternated his gaze between the thin branch in his hand and the steel can. Dojima picked up the crushed steel can and held it from the top. He threw it straight up into the air, and then prepared to hit it without looking at his mobile phone. When the can which he had thrown came back down, he punched it with his fist. The can which he had struck flew towards a tree in the park at a tremendous speed. The moment it hit the tree, it produced a loud noise and tremor. A large quantity of leaves then fell to the ground.
“That’s how it is. We have tremendous power. At the same time—”
Dojima looked at Mitsuya with a serious expression. They were the same eyes that he had seen just four days ago. —His eyes were like those of the high school girl. It was a resolute and sharp gaze.
“It means that you’ve joined a game in which you can’t refuse to participate.”
[There is a chance that you will lose your life in this game. If you cannot accept this, please refrain from participating.]
That was the phrase which Mitsuya had read when he registered.
Mitsuya entered a room of the apartment where Dojima lived. Dojima essentially lived in a studio which had a dining room and kitchen. On one side of the room, there was a television, home appliances, and various daily necessities. On the other side were various dumbbells and other equipment for training the body. A martial arts magazine was left on a small table, and posters of various famous martial artists had been pinned up around the room. It was the kind of room that seemed like it had never been touched by a woman. In that room, Mitsuya read through sheets of paper that had been printed from a computer. It was a copy of the explanation for [Innovate] that had been displayed upon registration, a so-called playing manual for [Innovate]. Everything that Mitsuya had skipped over was undoubtedly written down here. A cold shiver ran down Mitsuya’s spine every time he read the rules and explanations, and he began to understand that even though his situation seemed absurd and unreal, it was a dangerous reality. His eyes returned to that phrase once more.
[There is a chance that you will lose your life in this game. If you cannot accept this, please refrain from participating.]
He felt like crying. It put him in such a mood that he desired to vent his frustrations at something. Something beyond his reason had suddenly occurred to him, and before he knew it, he had unwittingly been brought into a mysterious place. All at once, he was finally able to understand everything that had happened to him thus far. The day after he received that message, a group of men had suddenly attacked him. Today, there were the teamers that opposed Dojima. There was also the high school girl who had used the power of fire to burn one of the men. According to the playing manual, it was written as follows:
[・Mage  – by filling in words such as ‘fire’, ‘water’, ‘wind’ and so on in the email body, they can actualise these phenomena and unleash it towards others.]
Mage—. That school girl was a mage in the game. It was so far-fetched that it seemed like a joke. It was so crazy that it all seemed to be a joke. Where was this? It was reality. The twenty-first century. Japan. And yet, how was such a game-like thing possible in reality!?
(I see, it’s a game…)
Mitsuya was unable to suppress the swirling emotions that enveloped him, and so he covered his face. It all seemed stupid. But, he had gotten caught up in this stupid mess.
“Well, I’ll make us some tea.”
After Dojima brewed some tea in the kitchen, he brought out two teacups. He placed the cups down on the table and then sat down at the table across from Mitsuya. The scent of instant tea wafted through the air.
“Are you not convinced?”
Dojima asked. Mitsuya didn’t look at Dojima, and simply spoke while looking down.
“It’s pretty crazy of you to try and convince me.”
“…Is this okay?”
“You participate in this incomprehensible game, so is this okay, Dojima-san?”
After Dojima took a sip of his black tea, he replied
“If I didn’t think it was okay, then I wouldn’t have brought you here.”
Upon hearing those gentle words, Mitsuya looked up at Dojima. He realised that tears had begun to moisten his own eyes. Before he knew it, those tears were crying for someone to help him.
“If a mobile phone is destroyed in battle, the player will die. This is absolute.”
In response to Dojima’s words, Mitsuya looked down and narrowed his eyes at the mobile phone that had been set down on the table. Dojima’s mobile phone was charging, but had been switched off, which meant that neither of their phones vibrated. Dojima tweaked Mitsuya’s mobile phone a bit. Apparently, Mitsuya’s mobile phone had responded indiscriminately to everyone because it had been set to automatically call any opponents. Dojima continued
“It is certainly a game filled with peril. But, I’ve only heard rumours of a few people dying over the past six months. Most players are healthy—”
“What the hell! How can you say things like ‘healthy’ when people can die just because of a single broken phone? Magic!? Knights!? I don’t know a thing about any of that!”
Mitsuya raised his voice in anger as he tossed his own mobile phone towards Dojima’s bed.
“If anyone saw that email, they’d just think it was a prank or something…”
Mitsuya yelled as tears continued to stream down his cheeks.
“…I still don’t understand it all that well. There’s supposedly something that the people who receive that email have in common, or some kind of elementary knowledge. But, my friend died. It happened in this game.”
Upon hearing Dojima’s sudden confession, Mitsuya turned back around. Dojima took another sip of his tea as he continued
“Both me and my friend participated in the game. We fought together in a party. But on a certain day one year ago—”
Player Killer — an extremist who suddenly attacked players indiscriminately a year ago gave Dojima severe injuries, and Dojima’s friend was even killed.
“As you say, it’s most certainly an unusual world. Do you believe it? There are more than a thousand people participating in this game, you know? Everyone is doing their best to try and clear it. You can clear it if you get to level one hundred and defeat the last boss. Your wish will be granted. I’m sure he’s still fighting somewhere.”
Dojima said with a bitter expression.
“…Just how? How does everyone keep fighting?”
In response to Mitsuya’s question, Dojima explained after taking a brief pause.
“—The reward for clearing.”
“The reward for clearing?”
“I told you earlier that ‘any wish will be granted’ — that is supposedly the truth.”
“You did say that…though—”
“No, it doesn’t mean that no one has been able to clear it. When a player clears the game, all other players receive an announcement by email. That’s how we know of the existence of someone who has cleared the game. —However, no one has seen that person who cleared the game again…. Even so, there are still those who fight for that purpose. Some people try to achieve it even if it means killing. It’s something that charms everyone. After all, anything you wish for can come true.”
“Because of that, something this dangerous—”
“Let’s form a party.”
Before Mitsuya could fully express himself, Dojima interrupted him. Although Mitsuya had a blank look on his face as he did not fully understand those words, Dojima continued
“Just as you say, this is a dangerous game that involves death. But, no matter how much you want to beat me up, it’s not going to let you quit this game halfway through. —So, form a party with me. At the very least, I have the power to fight against these unreasonable things, and I’m more likely to live than you right now.”
They were strong words. Dojima’s eyes were resolute. Mitsuya suddenly recalled that high school girl.
—Was that girl also seeking something as well?
Even with the limited number of players that he had met in this game, he understood. There were several types of players. There were some violent fellows. They had the eyes of someone trapped and addicted to the game. And then, there were those who had determined eyes — the people who participated in the game in order to accomplish something. Mitsuya found those eyes both reliable and frightening at the same time. It was something that he didn’t possess.
“—Why are you making me go so far as to say it?”
Dojima’s intentions were probably sincere. But, he had doubts nonetheless.
“Even though you didn’t understand the game, you helped out a stranger like me in that parking lot, didn’t you? This is the same. It may be a chance meeting, but isn’t this fine? It’s almost like something that you’d find in a game’s setting.”
After saying that, Dojima revealed an innocent smile. It was filled with sincerity.
—I must be the worst kind of guy.
Just because he received an explanation for this abnormal game from Dojima, he could only see Dojima as an abnormal player of the game. It was this abnormal person who had shown him kindness.
—And, I’m an abnormal boy who has received that kindness.
As Mitsuya thought that, he felt obliged to nod as a courtesy to Dojima’s offer.
“Then, rather than changing the model, is it okay to go with a new contract?”
Mitsuya nodded as he expressed his confirmation to the clerk who sat in front of him. The day after he met Dojima, Mitsuya went to a mobile phone shop. Even though he found Dojima to be trustworthy, Mitsuya was honestly still unable to accept the ridiculous nature of the game called [Innovate]. He wanted to run away from a situation where he would be risking life and death. Therefore, after receiving an explanation of the game from Dojima, he set out for a mobile phone shop the next day. He had a single purpose. He planned to change the mobile phone currently attached to his contract so that he could get a new one and stow his old one away in his room. Of course, he planned to discard everything from his email  to his phone number. He would be unable to use any of the mobile phone information that he registered to the game [Innovate] with. Everything to do with his mobile phone would be new, and with this he would be released — indeed, he wanted to run away from that crazy game as soon as possible. Mitsuya breathed a sigh of relief.
After a few hours, Mitsuya once again received an email to his mobile phone even though he hadn’t yet told anyone about his new email address.
“We look forward to Dark-sama playing on a new mobile phone.”
The body consisted of only a single sentence. It was an email with no sender address. In the subject field, the words ‘From Innovate to Dark-sama’ were written. As he looked at it, Mitsuya felt such horror that his heart froze. The game was abnormal. Even though he tried to escape from it, it pursued him. Afraid of participating in the game because of his mobile phone, Mitsuya began to leave his mobile phone at home and didn’t carry it around outside. However, by the time he realised, his mobile phone had somehow made its way into his pocket or his bag. He had most certainly left it at home. He had made sure that it was stuck at the back of his desk drawer. However, no matter how much he tried to separate his mobile phone from himself, it always came back to him. It was almost as if someone worked behind the scenes to return it to him. Out of fear, he even thought about trying to break his mobile phone several times, but he stopped when he recalled Dojima’s words ‘If a mobile phone is destroyed, the player will die’. He went to a neighbouring town and tossed it away at a garbage dump. It was useless. When he arrived home and got back to his room, he found it sitting neatly on top of his desk. Did his mobile phone come back on its own? It had also received an email which read—.
“Please treat your mobile phone with care.”
The sender was unknown. The subject was simply ‘From Innovate to Dark-sama’—. Who was behind it? The game staff? Mitsuya couldn’t figure it out. It was most likely the work of some stakeholders in the game. Abnormal phenomena that didn’t mesh with reality had most certainly occurred around Mitsuya, and his sleepless days continued.
—It means that you’ve joined a game in which you can’t refuse to participate.
As Mitsuya recalled Dojima’s words, he turned his eyes towards his own mobile phone.
(Part 2 of 4) (30/10)
[There is always a good spot in any movie.]
Mitsuya remembered the words of a famous film critic who had passed away.
Is there anything good about that damned game?
Whenever Mitsuya bought a game that wasn’t to his liking, the game that he bought at a high price could be sold off to a second-hand shop.
What can possibly be more frustrating than a stupid game that I can’t sell off to a shop?
Mitsuya asked himself. He was presently in an underground carpark that was large enough to hold as many as a hundred cars. It was the basement of a large office building where several cars had been parked here and there. And, there was a crowd of people in the centre of the carpark. A battle venue—.
Dojima had explained to him that there was a player who owned the building and made it available for this purpose only at midnight. When he received a message to ‘come here at night’ with some instructions written on a map, Mitsuya secretly left his house and made his way here. Although he was still afraid of the game, there was someone like a gatekeeper at the entrance who politely explained various things to him. He was even more surprised when he descended into the basement level. The first thing that caught Mitsuya’s attention was the unbelievable brightness of the lighting which illuminated then entire underground carpark. Players were spread all over the basement level, almost as if they were holding a congregation in the town of an online game or at a bar. Sounds of spirited laughter resounded everywhere. As Mitsuya glanced around, he found many party members chatting amongst themselves, and various others who sat down and ate. It was a place where he couldn’t feel even the faintest sense of savageness or bloodthirst. Mitsuya seriously thought to himself ‘Am I in the wrong place?’ because the general mood of the place was too far from what he had imagined.
Isn’t this a game of death? Isn’t it dangerous? After all, if a mobile phone is destroyed—
“Hey, you there.”
A voice suddenly beckoned him from behind. As he looked back in surprise, he found a man and a woman who appeared to be smiling. They looked around two or three years older than Mitsuya.
“Your first time here?”
Mitsuya cautiously answered as he began to feel nervous. Those facing him seemed to notice his apparent wariness.
“Ah, relax. It’s not like we’re going to tear you apart and eat you or anything.”
The man said with a wry smile.
Mitsuya lowered his head and apologised as he stuttered.
“Umm, what’s your occupation?”
“A Sword Knight huh. Me too. What level are you?”
“I haven’t…this is my first time…”
“Well, that means today will be your debut match. How about it? Want to party up with us? We just happen to be one man short so we’re in a bit of a pinch. My name’s Beat by the way.”
After coming this far, Mitsuya paused.
I see, the name when I registered. I shouldn’t give my real name out.
“Ooh, that’s a pretty cool name.”
Upon being told that, he felt a bit embarrassed. It felt somewhat refreshing as it was the first time that someone had commented on his in-game name.
“So then, Dark-kun, you’ll—”
“Hold it right there.”
A familiar voice came from his side. It was Dojima, dressed in camo pants and a tank top. There was also an unfamiliar girl who stood slightly behind him. She had a rather petite and slender frame, medium-length black hair, a black shirt, a black skirt, and black over-knee socks. She was clad entirely in black.
It seemed as though Dojima and Beat were acquainted with each other.
(Resshin? Right, that’s Dojima-san’s in-game name.)
“Sorry. I’ve already reserved him.”
“I see. Well, I’m relieved that you’ve partied with Resshin. I couldn’t help but feel worried earlier because it’s particularly dangerous when beginners are on the frontline. Lately, there have been a lot of dastardly fellows who gang up on newbies.”
“You mean those guys from the [Blue Knights of the Round Table] or something? Even I’ve been attacked by them recently.”
“That’s why I want to at least be able to give beginners and those without confidence the ability to run away.”
Mitsuya then watched as Dojima laughed heartily at Beat.
“What’s this? Are you trying to take in disciples again? Geez, if you’re such a goodie-goodie, you’ll eventually get backstabbed, you know?”
Dojima said as a he exposed a mischievous smile.
“You got me. But Resshin, surely even you can somewhat understand what I’m trying to say, right?”
Beat then continued to chat for a while with Resshin, or Dojima.
“Well then, Dark-kun. If you’re ever troubled by anything, feel free to talk to me at any time.”
He left those words behind as he and his comrade walked away afterwards.
“—Well, our entire party is here.”
Dojima, Mitsuya, and another person — Dojima alternated his gaze between Mitsuya and the girl as he said so. Mitsuya also glanced over at the girl with mid-length black hair. Due to her petite build, she seemed slightly younger than him. Her face was small, and her eyes also looked somewhat drowsy. The black colour that draped her body gave off a somewhat unapproachable air. However, Mitsuya thought to himself ‘To be honest, she actually seems pretty cute’. When his eyes met the girl’s, she polite lowered her head and bowed. Mitsuya returned the gesture.
“This is Kyomoto Momiji . It might be a bit confusing, but in the game, she goes by the name of [Kaede]. Well, we’re going to be in the same party, so I’ll call you Momiji. Is that okay?”
The girl named Momiji nodded in response to Dojima’s words. After that, Dojima introduced Mitsuya to Momiji. Dojima, the leader, took his mobile phone out and sent a message to the email address of the [Innovate] host server — it was only then that Mitsuya learned about the address’ existence — the body of the email had some kind of message to the effect of Mitsuya joining the party. After a while, all three of them received an email. The sender’s address was missing, but a message saying [Understood. Players Dark, Resshin and Kaede have formed a party] was received.
“Alright. Now Kanzaki-kun is in our party.”
Dojima said with a smile. Unrestrainedly, Mitsuya replied
“Is that okay? Really?”
Mitsuya alternated his gaze between Dojima and Momiji. Regardless of Dojima’s opinion, Mitsuya felt doubtful of whether Momiji was okay with that decision since they had just met a few moments ago. Dojima and Momiji looked at each other, and then they both turned to face Mitsuya.
“Yeah, we welcome you. Kanzaki-kun.”
As Dojima said that with a smile, Momiji also nodded briefly in silence. It had been a continuous string of surprises for Mitsuya.
Flames burst forth from the hands of the person before his eyes. Those flames were dispersed by the opponent who wielded a wooden stick in their hand. The ground surface of the carpark was damaged by someone’s fist. After the battle, the damaged location was instantly repaired by a staff member who was a Mage, and it almost seemed as though the damage had never occurred. It was a reality that seemed more like a game. Mitsuya stood among the crowd. It was like a gallery where everyone formed a circle around those fighting in the centre. The battlefield in the centre of the crowd was marked with white paint that drew out a rectangle roughly half the size of a school gymnasium’s basketball court. There, a one-on-one battle involving supernatural abilities was held. Unlike in the daytime, it seemed that parties battled against each other here. Although Mitsuya was initially worried that a stray attack would hit the gallery as they watched on, there was apparently something like an invisible wall surrounding it that someone had erected so that all of the fire magic that touched it simply disappeared. Dojima said
“It’s fine if you just think of it as a kind of barrier.”
Dojima explained how many players came up with their own principles and rules to abide by so that they could play the game peacefully and safely. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be possible to play this game where there was a possibility of death. It was because ‘No one wants to kill the other person’. The players who had attacked Mitsuya on the street just happened to be radical extremists. Opponents shook hands with each other before a battle and also shared conversations with each other afterwards. However, Dojima also elaborated about how everyone was in fact afraid in their hearts, and it was something that couldn’t be helped. There were plenty of people who wore smiles, but it was simply their façade within the [Game]. In truth, they actually wanted to escape as soon as possible, and were desperate to do so. Behind those smiles, surely they’re just like me — Mitsuya thought.
“Well, it’s almost Mitsuya-kun’s turn.”
Dojima said as he gave Mitsuya a pat on the shoulder.
Mitsuya was genuinely astonished. He hadn’t expected to be fighting so suddenly. He had believed that he was only here to observe on this occasion. However, Dojima already seemed to have submitted an application for battle.
“If you don’t quickly raise your level, you might get attacked again by those who prey on beginners.”
As Dojima told him that, Mitsuya recalled what had happened when the teamers dressed in blue had attacked him. He was scared back then. Truly fear stricken. He didn’t understand a thing, and felt utter despair that he was unable to do anything.
“Don’t worry. Your opponent is the same as you, so it’ll also be their first battle today. There conditions are the same.”
The same—. He wasn’t the only one who had been thrust into this illogical world. Indeed, he wasn’t the only one who had gotten involved—. There were others who had experienced similar situations. There were others aside from him who had come here after understanding the gist of the situation in order to cope with it and move forward.
“…I understand. I’ll try.”
Dojima smiled as he heard Mitsuya’s words.
“Have you read the rule book? Do you remember everything?”
Mitsuya nodded in response to Dojima’s question.
“Alright, you shouldn’t have any problems playing [Denpachi] then.”
Mitsuya furrowed his brow when he heard the unfamiliar word.
“Yeah, a lot of people call the battles in this game by that name. You ‘shoot with your phone’, so that’s why it’s [Denpachi] . The youngsters these days have a habit of fixing these kinds of things into kanji don’t they? That’s why it’s called [Denpachi] using the ‘electric’ character from telephone and the ‘bee’ as in the insect. Well, the kanji for ‘pachi’ actually seems to vary from person to person.”
Mitsuya stared at the mobile phone in his hand. It was probably impossible for the creator of the mobile phone to have envisioned that people would be forced into fighting and dying with such devices.
“For now, just listen to what I have to say as your senior. When you aren’t with another party member, I want you to avoid anything dangerous and battles at places other than a beginner’s venue like this.”
Mitsuya cast his face down in response to Dojima’s candid advice. It was because Dojima had picked up on the fact that Mitsuya replaced his mobile phone. Dojima stated that it was not possible to escape from the game by discarding one’s mobile phone, and it was only possible by clearing it. Like Mitsuya, many other players had tried to escape from it using similar methods, but those efforts were all in vain. At one point, an acquaintance of Dojima even switched to a mobile phone model which didn’t have email functions. However, the mobile phone with email functionality that they had supposedly disposed of lay on the desk of their room the very next day. Some people had even tried to break their mobile phones whilst they weren’t playing the game, but a beautifully clean and unscratched mobile phone appeared in their hands several hours later. Outside of the game, anything could actually be done to a mobile phone. It could be broken, and it could be discarded. But in the end, phones would always return to a player as if nothing had happened to it.
“Since there isn’t a way to escape anyway, you should take better care of your partner who’ll be with you when a fight can happen at any time, rather than try to keep it away out of fear.”
Dojima looked at Mitsuya with a firm expression in his eyes as he said so.
“Mobile phones aren’t bad. It’s this game that’s bad. If you want to survive, you have to believe in your phone more than anything and anyone else. Your mobile phone is the only ally you’ll have in this game.”
What Dojima wanted to convey to Mitsuya was that it was better to face the object of his fears directly — his mobile phone.
“The next battle will begin! Level one Sword Knight [Dark] and Level one Mage [Finn]. Both players, please enter the field!”
The staff member standing in the centre of the field announced. The [Barrier] enclosing the field had disappeared so that the players could enter.
“Go on, good luck!”
As Dojima pushed him from behind, Mitsuya entered the field.
“Do your best, beginners!”
“No need to feel nervous—!”
Various cries such as those came from the crowd. The size of the gallery had increased. It seemed as though novice battles attracted a lot of attention. It was a plus to be able to see the competence of new players who would rise up in the game from here on after all. If someone seemed talented, then it would be possible to avoid contact or battles with them. Those without talent could improve by earning experience points through battle. In other words, this was where Mitsuya’s worth in the game would be decided to some extent. Mitsuya’s opponent entered the field. It was a man roughly the same age as him. He seemed both nervous and afraid. Indeed, he wasn’t the only one who felt afraid. Mitsuya traced out the process of the battle in his mind.
When either person presses the call button on their phones three times towards an opponent, the opponent’s phone responds. The battle begins when the opponent correspondingly puts their phone into call mode. By entering call mode, both parties become able to use their in-game abilities. If there is a difference in levels between two players, the player with a lower level may choose to decline, however the higher-levelled player cannot decline a battle. Because the original setting is [Respond to all battles], all surrounding players become aware of a player’s presence regardless of the level difference. Beginners who just start the game are immediately placed in a dangerous situation, and that was also why Mitsuya was attacked twice. Generally speaking, players choose the setting to [Fight against players with a similar level].
The male staff member moved out of the field’s boundary after announcing the start of the match. Mitsuya and his opponent — Finn also took his mobile phone out. Neither of them found it easy to press the call button three times. No, both of them were hesitant and unresolved to follow through with the action. Mitsuya ultimately decided to push the call button once his opponent had made up his mind. When Mitsuya’s mobile phone vibrated, he finger stopped for a moment, but he eventually pushed the button to enter call mode. The battle began.
A player’s life gauge is determined by the ‘battery level displayed on the phone’. The battery level consumed during combat and the actual battery level of the phone are not the same though. Even if the normal battery level of a phone were to be depleted, it would not be a problem during battle. The reverse of that also holds true. The battery power consumed during a battle is always restricted to the battery gauge for the game. The gauge will decrease upon receiving damage as well, and the first to hit zero is considered the loser. The winner then gains experience points for the number of minutes that they were active in battle. The main mobile phone function used for the game is the email interface which has been modified for the purpose of the game. Neither the receiver nor subject field are present, and the input for the body of the email covers the entire display area of the phone. Abilities are used by typing sentences into the mail entry field. For example, if a Mage enters in ‘Shoot flames toward opponent’ — it would be possible for them to throw flames at their opponent. The newest sentence (abilities) displayed on the screen is always given priority, and the sentences (abilities) before it lose effect. The mobile phone’s battery gauge is always consumed when abilities are used. In other words, the life gauge is shared between ability activation and damage. The life gauge in Denpachi is essentially the sum of the HP and MP gauge in an RPG.
Both Mitsuya and Finn launched the email functions on their phones at the same time and began to type in sentences to attack. Both of them typed characters in as they alternated their gaze between their opponent and their screen. It was a basic notion that they had to be able to enter input without staring at the screen. After all, it was an incredible mistake to take one’s eyes off their opponent. Based on how long a player spent looking at their screen, it was possible to tell how familiar they were with the game. From anyone’s perspective, it was clear that both Mitsuya and Finn were beginners. Finn’s hand stopped, possibly because he had finished typing. Mitsuya’s opponent was a Mage, which meant that he was capable of freely manipulating fire and water just like in a video game. Finn directed his right hand towards Mitsuya. A flame was produced in the palm of his hand, and it formed into a spherical shape before it was fired off. However, the fireball didn’t appear to move very quickly, and seemed somewhat avoidable. Mitsuya pulled his body back to dodge the fireball, and pulled the belt off his waist at the same time. The flames disappeared as they hit the barrier behind him. The belt that he had taken off stood upright like a sword. Mitsuya had entered into his email a sentence which read ‘Use my belt as a sword against my opponent’.
It was the ability of a Sword Knight — they could harden any substance in their hand and turn it into either a weapon or armour. As one’s level rose, the effects of that ability were also enhanced. However, the battery gauge would continue to drain so long as that ability remained active. The affected object also lost its effect as soon as it left one’s hand. There were various reasons as to why he had chosen to use his belt — if a conspicuously dangerous object such as a stick or a wooden sword was held around the city, it was possible that the police would pursue him for it. It was standard practice for a Sword Knight to make use of an ordinary everyday object. Dojima had told him to ‘make a weapon out of what you wear’. Since belts were commonplace, it didn’t draw any suspicion.
As Mitsuya put his mobile phone away, he gripped his hardened belt with both hands. Mitsuya had zero experience in Kendo, and therefore he had no knowledge on how to judge distance and timing. His opponent actually had the advantage in being able to use projectiles. Finn fired off flames again. By paying close attention to the direction of his hand, it was easy to avoid them. However, that wasn’t enough to finish things. In fact, he was at an overwhelming disadvantage as a Sword Knight since his battery constantly drained.
(If I don’t do this, I’ll lose)
Tension took control of Mitsuya. It was different from the video games that he always played. Too different. Rather than fighting against his alter ego, he was fighting against himself. It was like the difference between gambling on a game machine at home, and actually betting money at a casino. Moreover, his life itself was at stake now….
Mitsuya steeled his resolve as he yelled out and began to charge forward. Surprised, Finn reacted by holding his hand out towards Mitsuya.
Mitsuya suddenly changed direction and moved diagonally. In surprise, Finn corrected the direction of his hand. Just as his opponent opened his palm and attempted to attack again, Mitsuya changed direction three times as he edged closer to his opponent. Mitsuya continued to run in a zigzag manner as he reduced the distance to Finn. Finn was at the mercy of Mituya’s movements and could do nothing but turn his hand left and right. His opponent was also a novice when it came to martial arts and could not judge the timing or distance of each movement.
(I can do this!)
Just as that thought crossed his mind, Finn began to bombard the area with flames without regard for accuracy. Some of those shots went in unexpected directions, though one of them veered towards the spot that Mitsuya moved into. Mitsuya defended against that coincidental blow by using his belt as a shield. But even so, the aftermath of heat stung Mitsuya.
Even just that felt incredibly hot. A direct hit will be really bad.
While such thoughts streamed through Mitsuya’s mind, Finn took his phone out and began to type something.
He’s trying to change his attack method, but I’ll get him before that!
Mitsuya energetically sprang forward — but his legs suddenly felt heavy and he was unable to move forward. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t take a single step forward. When he looked down at his feet due to the sudden change, he found both his legs covered in ice and stuck to the surface of the ground. At the same time, a cold sensation was transmitted to his skin.
Ice magic—. I got hit!
He tried to hack at the ice with his belt-sword, but it was too solid. The ice appeared to be far harder than his belt. Finn began typing into his mobile phone again. The next blow would be fatal. His opponent would shoot towards the place that he couldn’t move away from. It was a prudent choice fitting of a Mage.
Defeat…? I see, I’m going to lose…. I don’t want to die here, but it’s fine. I can do things over after all. It’s just a game. I tried my best. I did well. I’m a beginner aren’t I? I did just fine. If I slowly progress—
“I-I’m going to clear it—!”
It was Finn’s voice. Mitsuya felt relieved as tears flowed out from Finn’s eyes. His eyes were full of life — no, they were the eyes of someone clinging to life, and still hoping to live. A powerful flame sparked up in his hand.
It’s game over when my phone breaks. In other words, ‘death’—.
When the word ‘death’ slipped across his mind, a cold and disconcerting feeling enveloped Mitsuya’s entire body. He wasn’t the only one who had been engulfed by that fear. Even Finn was the same as him.
“E-Even I…want to win—!”
Mitsuya continuously hacked at the ice around his feet over and over with his belt, and broke it off just before the flames were able to land a direct hit. He ducked to the side allowing the flames to fly over him, and then threw a piece of the cracked ice at Finn. The fragments of ice hit Finn’s face, and he dropped his mobile phone because of that. The phone glided over the surface of the ground and away from Finn.
Mitsuya started to run towards Finn’s phone. Although Finn also began to move, Mitsuya picked up several other fragments of ice and threw them towards Finn’s hands this time. As soon as those fragments hit the back of Finn’s hand, he stopped moving for just a moment. That decided the match. Both of them glided towards the mobile phone, but Mitsuya took hold of Finn’s phone first and rolled over the road surface to get away. It was also possible to win by stealing an opponent’s mobile phone and cancelling the call mode (battle mode). It was also possible for one to forfeit by cancelling the call mode on their own phone…. Mitsuya pushed the power button on Finn’s phone. That ended the call mode, and caused the battle to finish. In front of the fallen Finn, Mitsuya raised his mobile phone which made a brief ‘chime’ to indicate that the call had been disconnected.
“…It’s my win.”
Mitsuya said as he raised his voice. Finn silently lowered his head with a dejected expression. An alert sounded on Mitsuya’s phone with an email that said [You Win!]. Although the sender’s address was missing, it was clear that it had been sent by [Innovate].
“Player [Dark] is victorious!”
Following that announcement, a vast amount of cheers arose from the surrounding area. It was Kanzaki Mitsuya’s — [Dark]’s first battle, and first victory in [Denpachi].
(Part 3 of 4) (5/11)
Kirino Shizuka didn’t think that there existed anything darker or colder than the late-night rain. She stood in a deserted and dimly-lit park. It was the same as usual. It wasn’t a particularly rare occurrence. Kirino swept her fingers through her long black hair which had gotten soaked in the rain. The blazer and skirt of her uniform had also gotten wet, and they clung tightly to her slender limbs, accentuating the lines of her body. Youngsters dressed in blue had collapsed around her. Kirino picked up the fallen bag and umbrella that had remained open. Despite wandering about so late, it wasn’t because she had gone out to enjoy the nightlife. She had gone hunting, so to speak.
There were several types of people who participated in [Innovate]. There were healthy players who followed their own rules and fought against each other in ‘safe’ environments. On the contrary, there were also those who fought without regard for rules. These players who fought without consideration for anyone else were referred to as [Extremists]. Lastly, there were also PKs — Player Killers. These were extremely dangerous people who enjoyed killing others. As they became more competent, they also grew stronger. There were many Player Killers who were of a high level. If they were of a low level, they would easily be punished by PKKs — Player Killer Killers. They were PKs that specialised in dealing with other PKs — thus PKKs. It was a player type that even existed in online games.
Among the various player types, Kirino belonged to the [Extremists]. Even though she was a female, she chose to play alone despite the fact that there were many vigilante groups and mercenary-like people who had tried to contact her. As PKs grew rampant, things like vigilante groups were formed in order to somehow stop such acts. These groups did things from protecting beginners to being PKKs. She had been advised by those vigilantes that it was dangerous for women to play alone, and that her playing style was too radical. From Kirino’s point of view, the PKKs and vigilante groups who mercilessly attacked players that seemed even slightly doubtful were even worse. There was nothing more annoying to her than those who wielded their power under the pretence of ‘justice’. Even Kirino didn’t like that she had become one of the [Extremists]. After reaching a certain level, there was a limit to how conservatively one could fight. Unless an opponent was also of a high level, the experience points gained would be almost worthless. That was why she hit the streets in order to have battles against these [Extremists]. With that, her chance of encountering a PK also shot up.
Among the PKs and some of the players who stood at the apex of the pyramid-like structure representing all players, there existed something akin to a ‘survival of the fittest’ relationship. Having said that, PKs were most certainly not good. The players who had killed even once and gained experience points would see their experience points gradually fall unless they fought against another player within a certain frame of time. Many people called the PKs who desperately sought experience points [Vampires]. Kirino wasn’t devoted to the game enough to go so far as to kill people. Even so, Kirino didn’t have the leisure to slowly collect small amounts of experience points. The quicker she cleared it, the sooner she would receive the reward. Therefore, she took detours on her way home. It was convenient for her to wander about in the middle of the night wearing her uniform. Men with ulterior motives came after Kirino, even though she actually hunted them. However, even this method was reaching its limit. [Witch] — Kirino was called as such as she began to grow too powerful. Her level was almost approaching that required to clear the game. Although some ignorant people would occasionally try to attack her, their levels were always too low, and the experience points gained from them were like mere droplets in an ocean.
What should I do — while thinking about some way to make progress, Kirino began to walk along the dark streets with an umbrella in her hand. After walking for a while, she noticed a presence up ahead. Ever since she started playing the game, she had grown sensitive to the presence of other people. There was a person who stood under a streetlight wearing a yellow raincoat. Both their upper and lower body was covered in yellow. Due to their hood, their face was not clearly visible. But, she felt as though their eyes were directed at her. Since she had only just defeated a group of youngsters dressed in blue, Kirino thought about how the effusively yellow appearance of that person seemed ironic. Although it seemed a bit creepy, they didn’t seem to have any intention of fighting since there was no response from her mobile phone. Kirino sighed and continued on her way. As she passed by the figure wearing a raincoat —
[Get away from this game.]
With a strange voice, she was clearly told so from the side. It seemed as though some people even used voice changers. Kirino stood still on the spot as she asked
“What? Are you a comrade of those blue people? Or are you just a pervert?”
She tried to provoke them, but there was no reaction. They didn’t turn around either.
[This game is the worst. It would be wise to step away from it. This isn’t mere advice. It’s a warning. What’s next is—]
“You’re going to kill me?”
Kirino smiled as she interjected. The person in a raincoat simply walked off, and disappeared into the darkness of the night. Underneath the cold rain, Kirino exhaled.
This game is the worst? I know that much. Still, there are things that I have to do. There is something that I absolutely must accomplish. Indeed, before I go mad. This is a corrupted game that makes people go crazy.
(Part 4 of 4) (5/11)
 A self-published fan-made production, usually made by fans of a particular interest group.
 The Kanji for Kanzaki Mitsuya are 神崎光也. The 神 might mean something like god or spirit, the 崎 might mean something like a coast or peninsula. The 光也 part could be interpreted as bright or light.
 Teamer: term used to describe ruffians or delinquents of a certain kind, though usage was mostly centred on the delinquent high school boys and girls in the Shibuya area of Tokyo. They peaked in the late nineties to early noughties, but have since sharply declined.
 Old man hunting: term that was coined when teenagers started ‘hunting’ middle-aged or elderly salarymen and threatening them for valuables and cash. Again, most prevalent in late nineties.
 Ojou-sama: a term used to describe a young lady as being prim, proper and elegant. Also usually from a wealthy family.
 ‘Magic user’ would be the literal meaning, but the correct term would actually be ‘wizard’ or ‘witch’. Unlike its English counterparts, the Japanese term is used irrespective of gender.
 In Japan, SMS is basically non-existent. Instead, they use an email service tied to their mobile phone plans for everything that would normally be done via SMS.
 The Kanji for Kyomoto Momiji are 京本紅葉. Momiji has the meaning of ‘red leaves’ or ‘autumn leaves’, and her in-game name of Kaede (カエデ) refers to the Maple tree species. However, they are often synonymous with each other, which is where the confusion arises.
 Denpachi is composed of two Kanji characters: 電蜂. The first of these means ‘electric’ and it is the same character used in telephone (電話). The kanji for the second word is ‘bee’, but the intended pronunciation is ‘pachi’ which is actually an onomatopoeia for crackling fire, snaps, claps, etc.
Continues on to Last Chapter 2 – raincoat.