Kawamura Hideo. Twenty.
After graduating high school, he moved to the capital to find work, and yet each and every one of the thirty-four companies he had applied to rejected him without as much as a second glance. Ever since then, he found himself gradually coming down with Stay-at-Home Syndrome, a severe ailment of the modern era. He had become a so-called shut-in, his outings far and few in between. Arbitrarily telling tall tales to his folks back home, he had lasted the past two years on not a penny more than the rent money and rice they sent over.
Not too long ago, the crushing reality of his unemployment came to light and those relief shipments were cut off. The rice he had steadily stockpiled was soon to run dry; when his third year began, he had made a new year resolution.
(I’m going to die.)
As he sat in the single room of his barren apartment, from which he had largely sold whatever he could, he mustered what was a sincere and proper resolve to do better. Yet the society that had birthed and raised him, ironically, had no need for him.
When cornered, some parts of a person begin to tick cold and rationally,
(… Now how should I die?)
And it had finally come time for Hideo to get pessimistic. Albeit, to look at it the other way, one might say he still had the leisure to choose such an option.
Very painful, apparently. Rather, there’s no way it wouldn’t be painful. What’s more, it wouldn’t leave him in a very presentable state. On top of dying, he wouldn’t want to startle and cause too much trouble to whoever found the body.
Unavoidably painful. It would definitely be more painful the more he hesitated. And showing whoever found him a pool of blood would definitely be surprising and a large bother.
(Falling off a building…)
Would cause a large ruckus, so rejected.
(Jumping on the tracks…)
Even more of a ruckus than the building. Rejected.
As a test run, he tried hanging himself with vinyl thread, but it easily snapped with the same force he used to kick the bucket back. He simply found himself writhing on the ground after his face smacked right into it.
Now this was a hard one.
Having lost the right time to die, Hideo wondered if there were any good books to use as reference; his unsteady gait made for the bookstore around a five-minute walk from his apartment. Any more than five minutes was too much for his Stay-at-Home syndrome. He’d have surely died sooner had there not been a convenience store within that radius.
He tried searching the shelves for the ‘World Suicide Almanac’ or ‘The Complete Guide to Suicide’, but naturally, there was no way he’d find such dangerous articles in a fine and upstanding establishment.
Without even the slightest notion this might be heaven’s way of telling him to live, in the end since he’d already made the trip, Hideo headed to the game and anime corner to read a few magazines.
Perhaps from around a year ago.
He would see these advertisements from time to time:
Tournament: Sacred Demon Cup
Location: Around Tokyo, Isolated City
Prize for Victory: Title of Sacred Demon Lord
Extra Prize: Sacred Demon Cup
Conditions for Victory: Keep Winning
Match Criteria: Anything Goes
Right. From just about a year ago, it was even broadcast on the TV and radio, making for quite a ruckus. Not to mention the notice was broadcast in every country of the world. Despite the large scale, the location was given vaguely as ‘Around Tokyo’, with both the championship and extra prizes incomprehensible.
Another thing that became a subject of debate were the condition for participation.
Participating pairs must consist of one human, and one sentient non-human. Participants must enter the assembly grounds within one year of announcement.
It was so far from reality, it had to be some large-scale campaign from some video game company that had gone more than a bit over the rails… but even if that was the intent, the public had naturally lost interest by now.
Hideo closed the magazine, returned it to its original shelf and left the store.
(You can take part as long as you have someone who isn’t human)
And as someone with no hope left to cling to outside of delusions, it did catch his fancy.
Running out of the motivation to consider it, Hideo plodded his way forward… when suddenly, his eyes stopped on the corner of fifth street.
(… A computer.)
In the garbage collection site whose trash was piled without rhyme or reason, a single notebook PC in a vinyl bag had been buried. It was stuffed in a set with an ethernet cord and power cable.
While it was a different model, it brought to mind the one his parents bought him as a parting gift when he first moved to Tokyo. Though when the money stopped coming, it was his most valuable possession and the first thing he sold.
Even if he brought it back, his phone line was cut so he couldn’t use the internet. He might be able to sell it, but he doubted that sum would do anything about his current situation.
Hideo shook his head once.
(I should be able to recycle it.)
He thought as he pulled the PC out of the trash… all of a sudden, a chill raced down his spine.
(Did I catch a cold?)
To die while shivering at a forty-degree fever?
(Now that’s a riot.)
With the reclaimed laptop under his arm, Hideo returned home.
Washing one bowl of white rice down with a cup of tap-water, Hideo had finished his meal for the day.
(I should… get to sleep.)
“Wait, don’t just go to sleep!”
Just as he was about to spread himself over the futon he’d laid out, an unfamiliar voice leapt him to his feet. In the room that should have housed no one else, a single girl dressed in clothes that walked the fine line between innocence and plain stupidity like an idol from the eighties.
She bobbed up and down, floating in the air.
“You picked up a laptop of all things! At the very least, turn the bloody thing on! Don’t you think you should flip the switch to see who it belongs to!? Don’t you think you should fish through all the ‘secret’ dirty files the past owner might have had!? There’s loads of things for you to do!!”
She droned on and on as if her life depended on it as she gestured at the computer Hideo had picked up.
“Wilco here is the spirit of that PC. You can’t scare her off with that glare of yours.”
The menacing glare that haunted his profile photos and had him rejected from all his interviews was one he was born with.
“And if you don’t turn this computer on, it’ll be a load of trouble. And I’m talking about the world here! The world will seriously be in for it!!”
While she seemed to be doing her best to make a plea, her idol outfit and petite features limited any intensity she might have.
(… No. You shouldn’t… judge on appearances.)
This was the inevitable creed of Hideo, who constantly made people avoid him just by the look in his eyes. Even if she proclaimed herself to be some inhuman entity like the spirit of a computer.
And if her wish was something as meager as hitting the power button on a computer.
(I should… grant it.)
Hideo flipped open the laptop and pressed the round button labeled POWER.
When he did, the girl turned her palm upwards like a receptionist, guiding him through the process with a prim and proper smile.
“Starting up Will.CO21”
Gg! Gg! Crkcrk!
The cracking sounds that only came in small amounts whenever a computer booted up started sounding out with tremendous intensity. It came with enough force the computer’s main body might start jumping up with each clatter.
“Will.CO21 is starting up. Please wait.”
And a while more of the Ghghghzhghghrhgh…!
“90%. 95%… 100%.”
The motor noises came to an abrupt stop, the computer suddenly sinking into silence.
“Will.CO21 successfully booted.”
And just as suddenly. From prim and proper, her smile turned to something malicious.
“Ni hi hi. Wilco has been completely revived.”
This time the voice came from the computer. Unbeknownst to him, the girl was no longer in his room but in the screen.
“Master, you fell for it hook line and sinker. Did you think this PC came with WindOS? Too bad. The only thing in this PC is Wilco.”
“… Don’t glare at me like that.”
The glare was something he was born with.
“I see you’re not one to react. You thought you got a PC, but all you got is Wilco you know.”
His lack of expressions was something he was born with.
“Please be a bit more surprised or annoyed. Rather, it would be very much appreciated if you asked what Wilco is to begin with.”
“There’s a microphone built in, I can hear your voice even without keyboard input.”
However, talking in this room… that was something he hadn’t done since the landlord led him there the day after he got to Tokyo. What’s more, this time he would be speaking to a computer. If he talked and she didn’t answer, he got the feeling he’d be deathly embarrassed.
But Hideo made his resolve and took a deep breath.
“… Who are you?”
“Indeed, thank you for asking. The. Truth. Is.”
In accordance with her outfit, the girl in the screen spun like an idol on stage.
“Wilco’s true identity is a Super Pleasant-Type Heinous Infectious Virus, and her name is Will.CO21!!”
“A virus. What’s more, a real heinous one at that. You ask what’s so pleasant? Why I am, thank you very much! And the most amazing part about Wilco is that she can even infect humans!”
She said proudly.
“You were infected with Wilco the moment you picked up this computer!!”
Meaning, that chill,
(So it wasn’t a cold.)
It seems the world wasn’t going to let him get a fever and die so easily.
“O-oh… you’re up on your feet already. What’s up?”
“Make a noose…”
“Hey, hold on! Suicide ain’t kewl!!”
Thud. Thud. Thud…
It was now more than apparent that vinyl thread was the sort of flimsy stuff that wasn’t even able to support the weight of one Hideo who had eaten nothing but white rice for the past month. Smacking into the same spot as before, Hideo performed a violent and painful somersault.
“… W… what is it, master… what were you trying to do? Wilco fails to comprehend…”
Wilco on the screen seemed flustered as she displayed a sweat-shaped marking on her head.
“… Trying to die.”
“W… we can’t be having that! Wilco needs master to be her slave whose sole purpose is to supply her with electricity and internet connection! She won’t let you just go off and die!”
There was a bit of a contradiction there.
“Even if you make those scary eyes, Wilco is a virus, so it’s not frightening.”
It was slight, but very off.
“… My eyes have looked like this… from the day I was born.”
“Well that doesn’t matter. For now, see, Wilco wants some fiber optics and a lot of hard disks in Tb increments.”
A smile using her pure-type idol looks to their maximum effect. Hideo felt compelled to listen to her request, had it been in his power.
“There’s no way there’s none. Can’t be. I call BS. No matter what sort of poor student you are, you should at least have some living expenses lying around.”
“Living expenses… eh.”
“That’s right, master. Now bring them here this instant…”
Hideo brought an empty bag of white rice from the kitchen. All that remained were some meager rice grains that wouldn’t even urge a rat to go to the trouble.
“This is all.”
“W-when’s the next payday!?”
After swooning with a thud inside the monitor, Wilco sprung up.
“H… how were you intending to live from now on!?”
“That’s why I’m dying.”
Hideo spoke out the natural conclusion.
“The truth is,”
Hideo explained how it was nothing but failures in his jobhunting, how he was in a situation where he didn’t have the skills to live.
“… I see. Sure enough, those eyes of yours aren’t just for show. You’re a pro, a real pro. You look like you’ve killed your whole family and then some. Ni hi hi.”
(It does appear that…)
Not only society, even a pathogen was denying his existence at this point.
“Noooo! Please, no dying, just put dying on hold for a second! Let’s start by calming down and putting away the vinyl string!”
“Did you really just ask me that!? As a person! Ethically speaking! Wait, what are you making an electronic virus say? In any case, with no connection, Wilco can’t go anywhere. And if you suicide, Wilco will be seized by the police who come to investigate…”
Sob, sob, sob. This time she started crying.
“But you’re a… virus… you can’t feel the cold of handcuffs.”
“Even if she can’t be arrested, on the off chance she gets detected, she’ll be exterminated.”
That made sense. A death sentence with no trial. It was quite a cruel tale.
“Is a mere slave like master fine with Wilco dying like that!!?”
Make a noose.
“U-understood! Wilco gets it! But… then why did you pick up this computer? The dead shouldn’t need a PC.”
“It was in the… trash.”
Wilco’s face turned pale in realization.
“Y… you do have a point. Wilco has to hand it to you there. Master is Wilco’s life’s savior.”
Bringing up life was quite the grand gesture for a computer virus, but she did seem to see herself as alive. She had a distinct and independent will that made it hard to believe she was a program.
“Ni hi hi. You’re in luck, master. Wilco is a dutiful maiden, so she’ll pitch in and take one for the team!”
(… You mean,)
Obvious as it was, the girl in the screen wasn’t human.
“Wilco. The truth is,”
“That’s right master. If you’ve got nowhere left to go, how about we take part in this, this thing! Rather, we’re right on the brink of the deadline, so Wilco has no freedom of choice! There’s no option but to make master her partner!!”
What Wilco brought up on the screen was, oddly enough, the very same announcement Hideo was about to mention.
The Sacred Demon Cup
The winner is granted the right to change the world as the Sacred Demon Lord, with the Sacred Demon Cup as proof.
There are two conditions to participate.
Participating pairs must consist of one human, and one sentient non-human. Participants must enter the assembly grounds within one year of announcement.
Entrants are free to bring whatever weapons, armor, or miscellaneous items they see fit.
Event Duration: Until a victor is decided
Victory condition: Keep winning
Match Criteria: Anything goes
The day Wilco came was day three hundred sixty-five from the tournament’s first announcement. Meaning the deadline to participate; the tournament would start the moment the date changed.
The fact the venue was around Tokyo… Okitama, according to Wilco… was a stroke of good luck for Hideo who was completely unprepared. They got their easily enough on the tram and the bus.
By that point, Hideo’s remaining life savings totaled fourteen yen. Far too little to go home. The only option left to him was to follow Wilco’s words and earnestly press through the mountain.
It was spring, but thanks to the elevation, there was still some lingering snow by the roadside. The time was already nine at night. Having left the nicely warm weather of the heart of Tokyo, Hideo was dressed in a checked shirt, chino pants and sneakers, he was equipped too light for a picnic. Though the walking did warm his body,
(… I’m sure of it. The moment my feet stop.)
The starry sky he glanced up to was beautiful.
“Master, are you thinking something sinister…?”
Wilco turned to him shedding half a cold sweat.
At the moment, she had left the screen and was in a floating state. However it worked transcended Hideo’s understanding, but it seemed she was free to come and go as she pleased. Wilco’s notebook PC (Her current house, according to her) was currently folded under Hideo’s arm, and this was more convenient if they wanted to talk.
Thankfully, the computer was a convenient twelve-inch screen. If it was a fourteen, Hideo’s limbs would long since have reached their limit, and just as he wished- without causing trouble to anyone, his bones would be buried on the mountain.
(My legs feel like lead.)
For these past few years, Hideo’s legs existed solely for a five-minute round trip to the convenient store once a week. They weren’t made to walk through the mountain.
Hideo powerlessly collapsed to his knees.
“Hey, the venue is right before your eyes, why are you giving up!? We’ve only been walking thirty minutes now!!”
As was the usual, he had only eaten a cup of white rice that day. That had been the case for around the past month, he was clearly lacking the required calories.
Since Wilco was getting angry, for the time being, he tried dragging his feet.
“Besides. Even if I do make it.”
“If you do?”
“I’m sure I… won’t be able to do a thing.”
That was the sort of life Hideo had tread. Without any particular qualifications, any particular skills, his grades in school were somewhat on the lower side. Yet it left a harsh impression on him how even his classmates who ranked at the bottom of the barrel seemed to be spending a far more enjoyable adolescence.
Even in the capital he set out to with an earnest resolve of changing himself, it wasn’t as if anything particular had happened besides failing to get a job. His life just wasted away day after day holed up in his apartment.
As he told such tales, Wilco spoke with a blank face.
“… Master, you’ve got loss thoroughly ingrained in your body…”
“It’s true. I can’t do anything. I never did anything. Still…”
The thought suddenly struck him.
“I’ve never fallen to dabbling in crime… I think I’ve lived an honest life.”
On the contrary, apart from that natural fact, he didn’t have anything to brag about.
“Ni hi hi. Wilco’s done nothing but commit crimes”
Wilco said unrepentantly. Unlike Hideo who would get a police questioning just from walking around, it did seem that despite her looks she was quite the criminal.
“Since Wilco is an electronic virus, hacking is a piece of cake.”
Hmhmm, she stuck out her chest.
“That’s. Not good.”
“And when she sees a large hard disk, whether it contains national secrets or pictures that will get you panting hard, it’s just an instinct! She can’t help but eat it.”
She had to do it to live on. And come to think of it, perhaps he was still better off, having been given the option of living without crime.
“Why were you thrown away?”
At the trash dump no less. The computer itself wasn’t an old model; if it was brought to a second-hand shop, it was more than sellable. Why did her previous owner throw her away?
“Ni hi hi. Wilco does a lot of bad things, so she was targeted.”
“So you’re a fugitive.”
“You got that right. This past year, Wilco has been entering computers here and there searching for a partner to participate in the Sacred Demon Cup, but…”
There was no way she would find any human who’d get along after she arbitrarily erased their hard disk. Her flashy conduct had the reverse effect and eventually she was found by a heinous antivirus software that had been sent after her from the start.
She had no choice but to make an emergency escape to this PC and put herself in safe mode. While she stifled her breath and waited for the heat to die down, the owner unplugged the internet cable making it impossible to escape. Left with no other option, she showed up on the screen, revealing herself to her owner but…
“They didn’t take to kindly to Wilco eating their data. And since the computer contained a heinous virus, the shop turned them down.”
And in the end, she was apparently thrown away for being creepy. She was coincidentally picked up by Hideo who passed by. To her, it really was a life or death situation.
“But, in that case,”
Hideo voiced his question.
“… Between your floating body and… your data in the PC, which one is real?”
“Ni hi hi. They’re both Wilco. Wilco is an electronic spirit, an existence of superposition. Both a radion and a psion.”
Even if she brought up superposition, it didn’t really strike home. In the first place, he didn’t know what a psion even was.
“The fundamental virus portion is the radion, and the mysterious portion talking and forming a shape is the psion. Probably.”
It was something the very girl in question added a probably to, making it even less comprehensible to Hideo, but Wilco simply continued on.
“Therefore, if I don’t have at least one house like this computer, I think I’ll be just a ghost. Conversely, if I don’t have a carrier of the virus like you, master, Wilco is no more than a super heinous and pleasant electronic virus. It looks like she isn’t able to act outside the virtual world like this.”
With a spin, Wilco performed a light dance through the air.
“What do you mean looks like?”
“The truth is, this is the first time she’s infected a person. Which naturally means today is the first time she’s left the digital world. Oh Wilco, how amazing!”
So what would happen to his body now that Wilco infected him… there was no precedent, it was a complete unknown. To add to that, even she didn’t have a grasp of what she was capable of in this state.
Not only that, if this was the first time, that meant she initially intended to enter the tournament still in a computer.
“… Why are you going so far. To enter?”
The title of Sacred Demon Lord. It called it the right to change the world, so if that was true, there were plenty of possibilities.
“Wilco is going to be the god of the digital world!!”
The virus came out big again.
“And the first thing she’ll do it destroy all the companies who make anti-virus software. Nihahahahah!!”
In a sense, that would throw the world into a chaos the likes of which had never been seen before.
“And she’ll stretch fiber optics all over the world and have a safe pleasant cruise through the net. She’ll fill her stomach on the Pentagon and NASA hard disks, and set up a villa…”
It seemed she had enough dreams to spare.
“Ni hi hi. And you, master?”
… No, no need to say it. In the first place, whether the tournament was really being held or not…
“Ah, master. I can see the receptions.”
Once they had reached the top of the mountain path, in a clearing where they could see a cave, there was a small log house. It really did have ‘Sacred Demon Grand Prix Signup’ written over it.
“Now this is a surprise.”
When she heard that, it was Wilco who showed the real shock.
“You don’t look surprised…?”
Hideo’s lack of facial expressions was something he was born with. Coupled with the look in his eyes, he was often told he carried the inhumanity of an assassin.
Setting that aside.
The door they approached to enter was suddenly violently thrown open from the inside as a pair of man and woman rolled out.
One held a metal truncheon as long as a sword, a young policewoman in long boots.
The other in military field clothes, a man with a real katana.
With a clang, their two weapons scattered sparks. Locked blade to steel, the young policewoman yelled out.
“I’m arresting you for violating the Swords and Firearms control act! Rather, what are you thinking carrying around both a gun and a sword!?”
And hearing that, the man young man with black disheveled hair around Hideo’s age… though his face and body were far more intrepid… yelled back.
“I’m telling you, the lady at the desk agreed, we’re free to bring weapons! You should know well enough what the gun and the sword are for…!”
The officer returned her words with a swing of the cudgel.
“I don’t know how it works at the tournament venue, but you’re still in Okumata town of Tokyo. You’re on Japanese soil violating Japanese law! You’re under arrest! I’ve caught you in the act!”
The blow she slammed down to match her words was splendidly brushed aside by the young man’s sword.
“Quit screwing around! Then how am I supposed to bring it in, dammit!?”
With a klink and a clank, at speeds Hideo’s eyes couldn’t follow, the vibrant sparks scattered through the dark of the night.
(… So it really is. That sort of competition.)
While he had seen Wilco’s existence with his own eyes, Hideo had climbed the mountain still half in doubt about the tournament. A different sort of sweat than what he’d shed climbing dripped down his temple.
“Master, it looks like a scuffle. What should we do?”
That was the question. With them rampaging so close to the entrance, it was too dangerous to go in.
(… No. I have to stop them.)
Fighting wasn’t good. Yet Hideo had only ever seen such an amazing fight in the movies, and he was at a complete loss as to what to do.
As he was thinking, another woman came out from within.
This one was also young, with beautiful hair that reached her hips. Clear eyes with a long black overcoat she had to drag along the floor… atmosphere-wise, she was somewhat like a magician.
“How irritating… Ryuuta just kill her already.”
(Now that’s, dangerous.)
Despite Hideo’s shiver, the man she called Ryuuta gave an undaunted smile.
“Hey now, Elsia… we can’t quite do that, can we? Well just you watch, this cheeky woman will—”
“Then I’ll do it.”
The woman called Elsia lowered her shoulders in a short sigh. She stretched her arm straight out in front of her. That hand that was brandished towards the policewoman began glowing softly with no electric streetlamps around.
(Don’t tell me she really can,)
Did that mean she could use magic? Sensing what was to happen, Ryuuta hastily turned back to her.
“Wait, Elsia! If you use magic here…!”
And in the moment his attention had been taken.
(I should stop them before it gets worse.)
Hideo walked forth.
“All of you, fighting is—”
“You’re wide open!!”
Intruding at just the right time, Hideo ate a blow from the cudgel in Ryuuta’s place, took a magic explosion in the policewoman’s place and was sent hurtling through the air.
Compared to Wilco’s flurried panic,
“… Elsia. Did someone… just die?”
“Looks like it. I did hold back, for what it’s worth.”
Ryuuta and Elsia’s voices didn’t seem particularly concerned. The policewoman, meanwhile,
“I… I definitely didn’t use any lethal force! No, all the more, he obstructed my strike of justice, so that was the natural recompense for interfering with the execution of my duties!!”
Was in such a state.
Hideo could hear their voices and confirmed he was still somewhat alive for argument’s sake.
“Umm. Master… are you still kicking…?”
Opening his eyes to flying stars, he saw Wilco’s worried face. In his entirely indolent chest, the first firm and certain emotion welled up for the first time in a great many years.
(… To think the power of the state. Would be this overbearing.)
Just by walking around, officers would question him oblivious to his human rights. If that wasn’t the case, instead of being afflicted with stay-at-home syndrome, he would have gone out quite a bit more.
And now. When she was the one who hit him, this policewoman was droning on about interfering with her duties. Never in his life had Hideo ever tasted arrogance on this level.
That emotion changed to the strength for him to stand.
“Y… you’re alive!? Oh thank god… no I mean, how dare you get in my way! I’m arresting you for…”
“Are you going to slap those cold handcuffs on me?”
“Hm… you speak like you know the feeling… don’t tell me you’re an ex-con!?”
Well handcuffs were undoubtedly made of metal. So when they were under this cold sky, Hideo thought it was plainly obvious they would be cold.
But the young woman who didn’t seem to have stepped in on many fights sharply winced back with just one glare from him.
Hideo drew closer to the policewoman, presenting his two wrists together.
“Now go ahead, put them on… however.”
Pressed by Hideo’s spirit, the officer took another step back.
“I will definitely. Never forget this oppression. All I wanted…”
He took a breath.
“Was to stop the fight.”
“Erk… his words are noble, but those eyes, he’s not just anyone… he’s definitely killed a few…”
‘— No. it can’t be just a few, he must have killed dozens. Even the manslayers I saw back in my active service at Edo didn’t have those eyes—’
The policewoman’s long truncheon spoke.
Wilco and Ryuuta and Elsia were all frozen in place.
“I see. I was wondering why I didn’t see your partner around, but that’s why…”
At Ryuuta’s words, a mix of shock and admiration, his supposed partner, the magician Elsia nodded.
“Is that one of those cursed weapons? This is the first time I’ve seen one.”
Hideo was so shocked he thought his heart had stopped. But his natural lack of facial expression must have not made it seem so.
‘Gnn, to think you would stand unmoved upon hearing my voice. Minako, this man must have lived through countless battles. There’s no telling what he has up his sleeves, we should pull back for now…’
“Y-you’re right Okamaru. He held his hands out unarmed, that’s far too suspicious.”
The policewoman apparently called Minako stuck the truncheon apparently called Okamaru into her belt. Was it able to change its appearance at will? By the time it was put away, it was the size of a normal baton.
“Alright, listen up! I admit I was just a little at fault this time, so I’ll let you go. You’d better remember it won’t go down like that next we meet!!”
‘I’m pretty sure this one was all you. Same old story. If you just stopped jumping the gun…’
“Shut up, shut up! You’re just a blunt weapon! We’re going!”
The policewoman with a bright red face stopped her way into the cave.
(Is she hiding because she’s ashamed…)
Hideo felt somewhat satisfied. Wilco laughed her ni hi hi.
“You’re amazing, Master. Those eyes of yours are already a dangerous weapon.”
How terribly undelightful.
“Hey, you saved me back there. The woman wouldn’t listen to a word I said.”
Hideo’s shoulder was pat by the young man called Ryuuta. Black hair, a carefree smile.
There were goggles hung at his neck, a survival knife in his breast pocket. On closer inspection, the belt he wore had a Japanese sword on the left side, a pistol on the right. A field uniform and combat boots.
(He’s fully equipped)
A crazy policewoman, a man like a mercenary, and Elsia who shot magic… if such dangerous folks were participating, did he really have any chances?
“I’m Ryuuta. This is my partner Elsia.”
“Best regards… or maybe not. Once we enter the venue, we’ll be enemies.”
Just as her appearance suggested, Elsia spoke with a clear, refreshing voice. As if she was trying to hide it under her overcoat, her left hand held a bulky book like an old dictionary.
“I’m Kawamura, Hideo. And Wilco.”
“You have my regards for what its worth. We’re not enemies until we enter the venue, after all.”
Unlike when she met Hideo, Wilco gave a courteous greeting. Ryuuta and Elsia smiled, not too dissatisfied with it at all.
“You’re right. You haven’t’ registered yet, have you? Let’s get it done together.”
The heating was operational inside and pleasantly warm.
A waiting lounge sofa, a decorative plant, a potbelly stove. Across the counter with the ‘receptions’ plate, a lovely woman in a classy suite-like uniform sat.
“Ryuuta Salinger. Human. My weapons are…”
The pistol, sword and survival knife were lined up on the table. I see, I see, the receptions lady registered them in her book and typing the data into the terminal on the table.
“Elsia. Demon. This is my weapon.”
She thudded her old encyclopedia-like book down on the counter.
With a book that thick, someone on Hideo’s level would be dead in one blow. She was evidently far scarier than her appearance suggested.
“… Aren’t you misunderstanding something?”
She walked right up to him. Her frigid gaze was too painful and Hideo was already shaking his head.
“No, not particularly.”
Wilco chimed in with a mischievous face.
“Master, you were thinking of beating things to death with that book, weren’t you?”
“… A scary thought.”
Seeing Hideo nod, Elsia tiredly dropped her shoulders.
“And I’m saying that’s a misunderstanding. This is a grimoire. You should know what that is if you’re participating in this tournament. Are you perhaps playing the fool to trap me in a psychological game?”
At Elsia’s joking sneer, Wilco returned a laugh but honestly, it was all incomprehensible to Hideo.
“Oy, Hideo, I’m good. It’s your turn.”
After accepting a brown envelope that seemed to contain the documents, Ryuuta returned from the counter. In his stead, Hideo led Wilco along to stand at the desk. Ryuuta took up a position right beside him.
“Hey, you got to see all my weapons. How about you return the favor.”
Ryuuta was triumphantly folding his arms, Elsia took a look at the door to the reception hut.
“In that regard, that woman was a fool. For her weapon to be her partner… just by having it speak, I’m sure she could take most people by surprise.”
Ryuuta took over from that.
“But now the cat’s out of the bag before she got to the venue. It won’t work on us anymore.”
This competition was filled with mystery. There was no telling what anyone might possess and how they would use it. To compete against an unspecified number of unknown faces and win, no matter how trifling it was, it was never detrimental to have as much information on the enemy as possible.
“The battle has already begun, Master.”
After one nod to Wilco, Hideo turned back to the lady at the desk.
“My name is. Kawamura Hideo.”
“Yes thank you for that. I’m Ratty and I handle receptions. Once the competition starts, I’ll be in the venue as a member of staff, so it’s a pleasure to be working with you. Now then, Mr. Hideo… from what I can see, it looks like you’re human.”
As she said that, Ratty was looking at Wilco who was, as it turned out, floating in the air. An obvious conclusion.
“Wilco is Wilco.”
“Yes, then Wilco, is it? What is your race?”
“Ni hi hi. Wilco is a virus.”
Ryuuta, Elsia and Ratty had backed up all the way to the wall, a pale look on their faces.
“Ni hi hi hi hi. Master, this is the normal reaction.”
In Hideo’s case, at the point there was a woman in his own room, he had used up all his surprise. There really wasn’t much he could do.
“U… ummm. So you’re a virus? I’ve seen all sorts of races from this desk, but it’s the first time I’ve met a virus…”
Tap tap, Ratty began searching it up on the terminal’s keyboard.
“Ni hi hi. Wilco has ridden the net all over the world, but she’s only ever met one other being like her.”
“Net… what do you mean?”
Ratty quizzically tilted her head. She noticed Wilco eyeing the computer terminal on the table.
“Hah!? Don’t tell me!”
“Ni hi hi. Infiltration”
Before her hand could touch the computer, Ratty emphatically took it up in her arms.
“Please don’t infiltrate it! Please don’t infect it! It will affect the progress of the tournament! You’ll be disqualified!”
He couldn’t quite let them fail before they got in. Unable to watch, Hideo stepped in between them.
“For now. She’s infected this computer, don’t worry.”
As Ryuuta had done before, Hideo placed the notebook computer with Wilco in it on the table and opened the display.
Wilco quickly entered the PC to appear on screen. She waved her hand and let her voice play over the speaker before returning to her place at Hideo’s side.
The knowledgeable-looking Ryuuta and Elsia pair were struck dumb.
“C… can you believe that, Elsia…?”
“But… it’s right there, we saw it… so perhaps we simply have to believe…?”
From Hideo’s point of view, swinging around a Japanese sword and using magic, their existences were abnormal, but according to them, Wilco was a special entity.
Ratty looked up at Willco, breathing a deep breath as if her soul was leaving her.
“Haaaah… I see, I understand.”
“Ni hi hi. Some have called me an Electronic Occult. Personally, Wilco finds Electronic Spirit to be much nicer and cooler.”
Meaning she was a new existence whose denomination wasn’t even determined yet. A completely new form of spirit born with this internet society, was that what it meant? Not that Hideo knew if there were older spirits around or not.
“Haah, then I’ll put you down as electronic occult and electronic spirit. Are you going to present your weapon?”
“What do you mean by present?”
“Weapons presented by participants are registered in the database, allowing all other participants to see them alongside their wielders’ names.”
Ryuuta’s eyes changed to those of a fighter. Ratty sent him a bitter smile before adding to her explanation.
“Though I say that, this is not compulsory. If it is a weapon that will give an advantage through concealment, presenting will just be a handicap. You’re completely free whether to bring it in or not, and there will be absolutely nothing to hinder that. But you do get some bonuses for presenting.”
“You will be given more tickets if you register a weapon.”
And of course, Hideo asked.
“What are tickets?”
“They’re a sort of currency only usable within the venue. It’s been set up so contestants are able to purchase whatever they may need, but purchases can only be made using the tickets prepared by our organizer.”
“What can you buy?”
“Mostly anything. Clothing, naturally, along with arms and armor… to register something here and then switch to a different weapon inside is a valid strategy. On the contrary, if you have some confidence in your weapon, by registering it, you can put checks on your opponents.”
“Master, this is where we use our head. Do we go forth without revealing our hand, or put ourselves at a disadvantage to get more meal tickets.”
That wasn’t even worth thinking about.
“If I had to. Say.”
With ample hidden implications, he made sure he drew Ryuuta’s eyes before he spoke.
“What about this.”
He pointed at the edge of his laptop.
Ratty squinted when she wasn’t nearsighted or anything, her eyes motionlessly focused on that point.
“Umm… are you possibly referring to… the corner?”
“If it hits. It’ll be pretty painful.”
Wilco delivered a chop on his crown.
“A computer is a piece of super-high-precision machinery!! Don’t hit it around even by accident!!”
“Then. What should I do?”
“What do you mean what!? Don’t you have anything!?”
Wilco’s chops weren’t half bad.
She had only just entered the world of reality and was a computer virus with even more mysteries than the tournament, but it seemed she could chop. Hideo considered it a harvest he could confirm even that.
Ryuuta closed in, dumbfounded.
“No secrets, is what I’d like to say… but don’t tell me you really don’t?”
Hideo thought long and heard once more. And it hit him.
“Take for instance, a boxer’s fist. They say it’s a dangerous weapon that can smash someone’s jaw… but,”
“O… oh. Then why not present that? The logic checks out, doesn’t it, receptionist?”
At the words of a considerably knowledgeable-sounding Ryuuta, Ratty gladly nodded.
“Yes, why of course. There are quite a few who have registered their limbs as weapons. I permit it.”
Alright, alright, Ryuuta turned back to Hideo.
“Good grief, you can’t judge a book by its cover. No matter how I look at your body, you don’t feel like a brawler, but that must be a trap to deceive your enemy… under your clothes, you’re concealing a physique slimmed down to the very limit.”
(So he saw right through me.)
Right. Having lived a cup of rice a day, Hideo’s body was slimmed down in a different sense. While he didn’t mean to brag, he was someone that knew he was in peak condition if he could pull off five pushups.
“In that case…”
Showing a fearless smile with intensity, Ryuuta pointed at Hideo’s eyes and continued.
“I can understand those blood-thirsting eyes of yours. A dark hand-to-hand fighter always brushing up against death, they exist all over the world… what’s more, your partner is an electronic occult, an unknown existence even I’ve never heard of. Looks like you really are something.”
He had absolutely no recollection of fighting on such a manga-esque stage. Additionally, Wilco would have been recycled by tomorrow.
“Now then, as long as I know that, it’s all in my ballpark. Is your style boxing? Karate? Muay Thai… I’ll keep that a surprise until we fight for real. I get the feeling you’ll be a fine rival…”
With a light raise of his hand, Ryuuta tossed over a sociable smile.
“We’ll meet again at the venue. The finals, I’d hope.”
Following on, Elsia showed a quiet, wholly sincere smile.
“Next time, my magic won’t be held back”
The two of them gallantly left the reception hut.
And the exchange was over.
“So… Mr. Hideo, what would you like to do?”
When Ratty asked, Hideo tried clenching his fist.
“But my fists can barely crack an egg.”
A deep breath.
“So I have no weapon… is what I was trying to say.”
There was no doubt that Wilco’s chop boasted greater destructive power.
“Eeeeeh… then you’re unarmed?”
Ratty gazed at the terminal where all manner of weapons were surely registered, her face turning, steadily filling with pity.
“But… being unarmed on top of low on tickets is a bit much.”
“Ni hi hi. So you have to give us a freebie.”
“No, Wilco. Rules are. Rules.”
I see, I see. Ratty looked at Hideo and nodded.
“You seem like the earnest sort. I wanted to give my personal thanks for stopping the scuffle between participants Ryuuta and Minako.”
“Master, I’m not sure what to think about wasting someone’s goodwill. Free Bie! Free Bie!”
Ignoring Wilco energetically swinging her arms, Ratty spoke.
“And I do not intend on breaking the rules. I’ll just register your weapon as ‘corner’.”
She quickly typed it in.
“I’ll gladly accept.”
While Wilco seemed aghast, Hideo happily accepted Ratty’s consideration. Though even if it was registered, whether he’d actually use it or not was a separate issue.
She handed over the same envelope Ryuuta had made off with.
“First off, those tickets I mentioned and a map of the venue. There’s a whole city acting as the stage, so please take care not to get lost. As announced, the Sacred Demon Cup tournament lasts indefinitely until a victor is decided, so there is also a manual for how to live at the venue.”
(Will this turn out to be a long battle?)
Or perhaps it would all be settled by tomorrow. But as long as the tournament’s duration was indefinite, there should be those who come out with a war of attrition. There may be those who drag the fight on for a year or two.
Ratty looked at the clock.
“It has just struck eleven. If you pass through that cave, you’ll find yourself in the venue, at the plaza in front of Central. A pre-event festival is supposed to be held, so just take it easy. The opening ceremony starts at eleven thirty, and the curtains open at midnight.”
“Got it. Thank you for the explanation.”
“Don’t worry about it. I wish you good luck.”
He had no memory of being cheered on since that sports meet in elementary school.
With his resolve renewed, Hideo left the receptions hut. The cave to the venue lay before him. Strangely in his eyes, it appeared as a devil opening its mouth, waiting to swallow them.
There was no turning back. With fourteen yen left, he couldn’t ride the bus back. His legs had reached their limit long, long ago. The problem was whether he could reach the venue or not but… rather than climbing down the mountain, the venue was definitely closer.
In that case, at the very least, shouldn’t he press forward?
(Right… even if I don’t win.)
He was still able to move forward. Why had he never noticed something so vital before?
“… Let’s go. Wilco.”
“Ni hi hi. Why of course, Master. Wilco simply can’t wait.”
There was only one qualification to win. Hideo nodded to convince himself and took the step forward.