『Oswald in Trilz city is your friend :) 』
『I can’t get to Trilz with just one leg... any other way to do it?』
『LOL, noob. Why fight the Grim Reaper before you reach Trilz???』
『i don’t think theres another way. real bad game design.』
『It’s easy! You can remove the curse if you die exactly 666 times! :} 』
Erika searched across multiple forums, with Mina closely following the process. MMOs joined the VR circle only in recent years. Therefore, God Vessel Online was still a fresh game and there wasn’t much forum discussion for it.
“There doesn't seem to be any other known solution.”
Erika sighed in exhaust and put her phone away.
“Tch, what a useless bunch.”
Mina cursed all the useless internet people out there.
“You need to reach Trilz City, after all.”
“If you can’t do it alone, then you need to form a party with other players.”
Mina made a face and turned away from Erika.
“You have at least one or two friends in the game, right?”
“... or, at least people you previously made a party with, perhaps?”
“You haven’t been playing completely solo all this time... right?”
Mina buried her face in her pillow.
“It’s... amazing, in a sense. Everybody on the forums complain how Death’s Rift is one of the hardest early areas, and that you need a party to cross it. You say you almost cleared it by yourself?”
Mina jumped on her feet and puffed her (flat) chest.
“I went like BAM and WOOSH and sweeped these shitheads! They stood no freakin’ chance!”
“Is that so...”
Erika couldn’t help but facepalm at the little girl’s misplaced pride.
“You DO know what genre this game is, right?”
“It’s a VR... fighting game?”
“Is it really?”
Mina buried her face in the pillow again. Erika had to start from square one on this topic.
“Look, in MMORPG, it’s very important to play with others. At the beginning, you may play solo just fine. But, at some point, you’ll run into an challenges which you can’t clear alone.”
“Bah! I could do all that shit myself if I had both hands!”
“Even if you could, it’d be much easier if somebody helped you, right? Besides, fact is: you can’t do it solo anymore.”
Mina lost her spark when she was reminded of her helpless situation. With both arms, she was confident about becoming the almighty god of war. But with just one hand...
“Is there a reason why you play solo?”
“Guh... I don’t need any help! I can do shit myself!!”
“Oh, is that so.”
The childish attitude irritated Erika. Forming a party should have resolved the problem, but Mina was a stubborn brat. Erika didn’t know Mina all too well, but she already formed an impression: Mina was terrible at socializing.
However, there was still hope. Truly, Mina didn’t know how to ask others for help. Even so, she could still grab a helping hand, if one was offered her. Therefore, forming a party was still feasible, as long as another player took the initiative. Sadly, Erika couldn’t come up with a way to make that happen.
While the strategy meeting was at a standstill, Mina suddenly came to a late realization.
“For a Titan class prez, you sure know a lot about games...”
Erika turned into stone.
W-what have I done!?
Erika blew her cover countless times in the past hour. She completely let down her guard around Mina, who looked like a harmless grade student.
“I-I just know many things, you see! I-I had a gamer friend who liked to talk about these things!”
Mina tilted her head and eyed Erika intently.
T-this is bad! No matter how dense this girl is - she’ll figure it out at this rate!
Erika jumped from the bed and turned toward the door.
“A-anyway, I’ll think up a solution by tomorrow! Make sure to attend school!”
Erika spoke quickly and nervously, overflowing with the desire to blitz out of the house.
“Then, I’ll be taking my leave here- Ugh!?”
Erika couldn’t move. Her arm was chained to a tank.
Erika turned around with a forced smile. The tiny hand, which grabbed Erika, overflowed with superhuman strength.
“Are ya... a gamer?”
“W-w-why would you come to such a conclusion?! A-as I said, I just happen to know many things and-”
“You googled all that shit like a pro. Thinking about it... ya even knew that Aincrad is a floating castle, and ya totally saw through my story about the missing logout!”
“T-that... it’s... well...”
C-curses! What’s with this sudden wave of sharpness!?
There was only chaos in Erika’s head as she tried to fight off the tight grip. Her words became especially scattered when her eyes laid on the Vocean headgear.
It was a chance. Erika could easily exploit the situation to get a taste of VR gaming. However, doing so required her to cross a deadly line.
She bit her lip, gritted her teeth, gulped, took a deep breath and then...
“Yes, I’m a gamer.”
Mina released her prey and rolled back in shock, almost crashing into the wall.
“So ya a Titan... a class prez... and a gamer!?”
Mina fried her brain while mashing the three alien elements together.
“Whoa! A gamer class prez... that’s like the end of the world! Armageddon! Ragnarok!!!”
“I don’t think you need to be so extreme about it...”
Erika’s smile twitched unpleasantly, for she was forced to reflect upon her two-faced life.
“Why didn’t ya say anything earlier!? Are ya a closet gamer or somethin’!?”
“Well... I guess?”
“But that sucks! Ya should be proud of it!”
Mina puffed her (flat) chest and grinned in confidence.
“I don’t see a reason to advertise every aspect of myself. I’d be thankful if you also keep it a secret-”
Mina hopped from the bed and dashed toward the Vocean.
“The prez must help any classmates in need, right?”
Mina grinned and shoved the headgear into Erika’s hands.
“Hah, I knew it’d come to this...”
Erika smiled wryly and let go of her school bag. The gamer inside her cried in excitement, whereas the honor student in her whispered about doomsday.
“My, but didn’t you say you can do everything alone?”
“B-bah! T-that’s... I-I don’t really need help... b-but since you offered... t-then I may as well... um, I mean...”
Mina’s cheeks gradually turned reddish as she mumbled. Erika wanted to bully the spoiled brat some more, but it felt like bullying a little kid.
“Alright, I’ll help you. But I have two conditions.”
“O-oh! Spit ‘em out!”
“You must take a break from playing GoVe until your arm recovers. And, you must attend school normally, even if your arm is paralyzed.”
Mina growled and pointed a finger at Erika.
“Then, ya must play until ya get me to the dumb Trilz City! And, until I cure this dumb curse! No matter what!”
“It’s a deal.”
Erika nodded in agreement and sat down on the bed. Before getting into the game, she made a short call to her mother and vaguely explained the circumstances.
Erika presented the situation as “helping out a sick student” and “performing her duty as the class president”. Needless to say, her mother was very supportive and told Erika to do her best.
Meanwhile, Mina grabbed something from the closet and carried it toward the bed. It was... another Vocean.
“Do you have a factory of these helmets or something?”
Erika sighed in disbelief.
“What did I just say about playing?”
Erika thrust her long arm and to snatch the Vocean.
Erika’s thrust missed the little target. Mina sidestepped in a flash and dodged the spear attack.
“It’s fine! I won’t play, only spectate.”
Mina grinned and proceeded to fiddle with the two helmets. She configured a wireless connection between them.
“I never tried this shit before, but it has spectator mode. It’d be damn boring if I just watch you snooze.”
“I see. Fair enough.”
According to Erika’s knowledge: a VR spectator didn’t experience the physical sensations of the player himself. Therefore, it was probably safe for a Vireco patient.
There was a blue box in the room which resembled a PC. It was the “Virtual Ocean Station”, the terminal responsible for processing the complex player inputs in VR. The Vocean had to be in a certain range of the terminal in order to function properly.
In other words: the game had to be played in Mina’s room. However...
“I’m supposed to lie down when playing, right?”
Erika examined the small bed in the room.
“Are we going to fit in this one bed? Should we cuddle?”
Erika giggled with a tilted head.
“W-wha-!? A-are you lesbo or something!? S-stay away from me, weirdo!”
“My, wasn’t it you who told me to be proud of what I am? Heehee~”
Mina shook in terror like a cornered kitten.
Erika nearly laughed herself to tears. An unfamiliar sense of joy surged throughout her body. She never imagined that sharing her dark gaming secret with another would feel so liberating.
Erika always had to restrain herself: she couldn’t let any gaming reference to slip from her mouth, she couldn’t voice any inappropriate jokes and she couldn’t act bizarre around others. Her reputation wasn’t allowed to be tarnished.
But now - all the strict rules disappeared. Mina’s room existed in another dimension, separate from the outside world. Erika felt like she was transported to a fantasy land, where she finally got the opportunity to act according to her wishes.
In this room, Erika didn’t have to hide behind the handle name “FluffyCuteling”. She could remain “Erika”, but she was also allowed to unwind.
“I-I’ll just lie on the floor here!”
Mina announced with a stutter and sat down.
“You’ll catch a cold lying on the floor. Don’t worry, I was just joking.”
“W-were you really?”
Mina cautiously stood up, still unconvinced.
“Bah, whatever! We can probably fit in here.”
Mina climbed on the bed and lied down near the wall. Erika positioned herself beside Mina and managed to fit in by a flimsy margin.
Their shoulders pressed against each other, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. Erika’s legs were too long to fit across the bed and they had to hang at the edge. For the better or the worse, she was used to such scenarios.
“This can work.”
“Y-yeah! B-but I’ll kill ya if you touch me, ya Titan lesbo class prez closet gamer!”
“D-don’t make me punch ya!”
Sandwiched between the wall and a potential rapist, Mina began to sweat.
The two girls wore their Voceans.
“Ya just flip this dumb switch here.”
Mina pointed at the “Virtual Dive” switch.
Mina glared at the giant beside her, fearing for her virginity.
Erika smiled and flipped the switch. Her consciousness became hazy. She closed her eyes and stared into the darkness.
A loading screen appeared after a couple of seconds:
【God Vessel Online】
【Please wait for your awakening...】