7 Nights:Chapter 03 part4
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Chapter 3 - The trickster god rules - Part 4
Then the night came.
June 28, Thursday. 0214H.
Even at this time, The neon lights near the station are alight. From Nanaobi Station north entrance towards the main street, no moving cars nor people are in sight.
Above the pedestrian deck, our meeting spot was below the famous clock tower; as I spot Akeno coming, I rushed over to her as I call her out.
"Sorry to keep you waiting. Did you wait?"
"No, I just arrived. I think about 5 minutes ago."
"I see. It's good we met that quickly"
One look and you could say its a simulated scene of a date. Too bad, but the truth is different.
"Didn't you encounter monsters?"
"Lucky I didn't encounter any. Speaking of encounter rates, just because there are lots of monsters doesn't mean they swarm on us. How about you, Akeno?"
"I didn't encounter any but ... "they" are in the school"
Akeno stared at the ground with a pained expression. "They" ... it's Homura and gang.
"Striking them from the back is fine"
"Hey hey, no heroics. And at least stick with me at all time"
"Ara, I'm that unreliable"
"Well, it doesn't mean I especially want to slug it out against them. What I meant is do no rash actions on your own."
Even on those words, Akeno only hmph'ed. Looks like she's really offended against Homura and gang.
"Even I can't forgive Homura and his gang. But in this dream there are more pressing matters than taking them down, right?"
"All right, all right. Let's go"
Akeno walked with a sullen look, and I followed her in confusion.
Leaving the Nanaobi station via the south exit, we looked around for abandoned bicycles, taking one each. Next we entered the convenience store, planning our next course as we ate, before we head out into the dark streets.
By the way this is the store where I talked with Saitou last night, where the Kerberos attacked last night. Proof of total devastation was nowhere to be found and the store was restored as before.
Also, this time I didn't pay at the counter. My heart pained for a bit, but as we were told by Teru-san that "as game characters we are to raid it and take everything we need", I gave in. Yeah.
In line with Teru-san's advice, we follow our course of action according to our objective. Our objective of course is to be not called into this dream again. Though, we don't have the slightest idea on how to go about this. For now our objective is to find it.
Then, our first stage of information gathering is to understand this "field" called the "Nightmare". What are the extents of this "field"?
How to approach the limits of this "field"? It's virtually impossible to do that by foot. Who knows we might not hit the bounds, or we might hit a precipitous cliff, or we might actually be in the Jurassic age. There are too many exits, but we can't just ignore them all.
With a map and a flashlight from the convenience store and stored in the bike's basket, we earnestly head south. With no running cars, traffic rules are useless, and we cycle on full speed.
If this happens normally it's exhilarating .... Too bad both Akeno and I are expressionless and exchange no conversation. Thoughts of Homura and his gang hover on our hearts. Within it is our boiling anger.
After the canteen incident, we continued our meeting with Teru-san at the SF clubroom. Simply put, Teru-san is being bullied by Homura and his gang. We heard rumors that special course students earning stipends from the school are the victims of toughies, but we thought we haven't seen that fact.
And now that was then. As Homura was from a prominent family, money was no problem for him. To probably amuse himself he resorts to threats. After extorting the money, he would even burn it in front of one's eyes, Teru spoke.
I rebuked Akeno a while ago, but should I encounter them alone I would probably attack them without fail. Teaching Homura and his gang a lesson in the real world is difficult. But in the nightmare, I have the power to oppose them. Also, it would not trouble me dealing them and inordinate amount of injury. Nothing would stop me from those evil thoughts growing within me ....
We must have been running for 1 hour. I was suddenly snapped awake by Akeno's voice. Trailing behind me, she stopped her bike once she passed by me. I lined up beside beside her.
"We've been going through south, right?"
"True. We've been passing through the same road from the station through and through without any turns."
"That road, too, didn't bend or anything right?"
"Even if we stray from our direction a bit, we should be going southwest. At least this road does not go in a northern or easterly direction."
"Well, what's that ... ?"
Akeno pointed ahead with a stiff face. The station's there, buildings clustered together, neons brightly alight. Ahead of the station the pedestrian deck extends, and the clock tower landmark ----
"Clock tower ... !? No way ... ... that's impossible ..."
Struck with terror I scan the buildings again. Their layout, together with the neon lights, I remember them all to well.
"It seems we've returned, all right ..."
No doubt about it. After biking hard, we arrived at our starting point, Nanaobi station.
"We left at the south entrance, went straight south, ... ... and arrived at the north entrance ... ?"
"Let's check the map"
Stopping below the pedestrian deck, we climbed the stairs. Sitting on the bench beside the clock tower, we spread out the map.
"Through prefectural road 2, we must have passed by Hamada Denki. From there ..."
"Before we knew it we entered through the north national highway. Ah, I think I remember seeing the Home Center somewhere ..."
As we jog through our memories we mark our map with a red pen. Our marks may disappear when we wake up from this dream, but in this instant we don't think our memories were useless. Should we wake up the next morning I would check using a real map, and compare it with Akeno at school.
"We pass through the south end, we end up at the north end .... Very funny, it really is a video game. Likewise we pass through the east end and we might end up at the west end."
"This means, we can't go outside the fixed boundaries.?"
"It's highly possible. But it's too early to say it."
"If it were the case, then there is no way to escape from this dream ..."
"Merely passing through the exits is not the solution. Instead, in most video games, taking down the 'last boss' is the clearing condition."
"Something like the boss of the monsters. If we take it down, this game will end, and we would be released --- that possibility is very likely --- I think"
There are lots of games though without any last bosses (just like online games), and then there's the more worrying Battle Royal-type games (player-vs-player combat) .... As I was to inform Akeno both of those strong guesses,
Out from a nowhere a voice sounded. A male? A female? It sounded like neutral.
"Who's there ... !?"
I draw out my laser blade from my back and scan the surroundings. Akeno too draws out her handgun from her side holster ... and her skirt turns inside out! As her holster is partly hidden underneath her skirt, should she draw out her gun her skirt would partly turn inside out, no doubt about it ... but how distracting. I was almost enchanted by it ....
Regaining my control, I again search for signs of the owner of the voice. There! From behind the clock tower, out of the darkness, an almost dissolving shadow of a person comes walking along.
"It" was wrapped from head to toe with a pale red robe. We cannot tell from there "its" face, physique or gender. Truth be told, it's a totally different outfit ....
"No need to stand ready. I have no intention of endangering you, you know."
"It" addresses us in a good-natured tone. True to word, we cannot feel any hostility or intimidation from "it". Even as I calm down, I dare not take my eyes off on what could be hidden on the robe.
"Fine by me. But sorry, I'm not the type who trusts persons who doesn't show their faces."
"Sorry, about this getup. I still can't decide on my face, you know"
"Can't decide your face ... ?"
"Yeah, right now my face is kinda featureless. So even if I show it to you, you wouldn't be able to see me."
"... ... ... ..."
For this very erratic reason, I'm to embarrassed to reply. I could barely make out the markings of its mouth from beneath the robe, but I wonder what was above the nose ... ?
"You may feel uncomfortable. But my face or name has no particular meaning, you know. In this world (Nightmare), only my role and power (status) matters ..."
That line ... it's the same at that of the Valkyrie. Just who the hell ---
"My name's Loki. This game's 'boss'."
It's tone is so casual, I almost childishly nodded back in assent. But, hey wait! I can't overlook this. Just what it's said now ... ?
"I really am the creator of this nightmare. You take me down, this game ends."
"Are you seriously saying ... ?"
"I'm serious. It's up to you to believe me or not though."
"If what you're saying is true ... what were you thinking? You to be 'taken down' ..."
"Normally, I just wanted to have fun with everyone. But it's an uninhabited town anyway, right? It doesn't mean though that no villager teaches the demon. "When will you on your own power probably reach me?" --- that thought alone made me worry. Thus I went ahead and came up with this. Merely waiting is boring, you know."
It looks like a friendly chat with a classmate. But I'm not into the mood. "It" is saying something unthinkable.
"So you're the culprit of this nightmare? Why bring us into this?"
"Lately, I'm getting bored as hell. I only wished for playmates. Well? It's should be quite enjoyable."
"Too bad, but I'm not enjoying. Truth is, we're annoyed as hell. Just let us go. And don't call us back again."
I complain in earnest. If it's the master of this dream, it should be able to let us go on its own power. As I thought, Loki's answer is,
Just a single word.
And it's a resolute, sentimental answer. It's open mouth remained unclosed. As Loki swings its head, it points its index finger up.
"This is a game. I meticulously prepared its rules, so I don't want you usurping it."
"So taking you down is fine?"
"If you can take me down."
Loki left his mouth hanging. If that's the case, bring it on! The answer came from the boss itself. The chance right now is too good to pass up.
I concentrated my consciousness on the laser blade on my hand. Soon the plastic toy turns to metal, weighing on my hand. From the tip of the handle, a beam of light extends, forming a blue-green edge. The surrounding air crackles. Just as I had envisioned. Before meeting up with Akeno I practiced; that was the effect.
"Good. I'm thrilled"
As Loki laughed joyfully, it jumped softly! Flying lightly overhead, it descends in front of the station building, beside the pedestrian deck. With such mobile ability, it is no human ....
As we stood dumbstruck Loki snaps its fingers. Then, suddenly out from nowhere, the sounds of dry bone rustling began.
"What's that ..."
We scan left and right, but we can't find anything suspicious. ... ... no, below!
From both sides of the fence the source of the sound appears. It's crawling on the ground. One, two, three ... ... there's more of them ... !?
As soon as the street lights illuminated their true forms, Akeno could only scream. They're as big as a grown man, flat, covered in a brown shell, and has six legs and two cylindrical things for sensing ------ to put it simply, giant cockroaches! And there are more than 10 of them ... !!
I know I'm getting goosebumps. And I'm still fine. But Akeno, even in the night, is trembling and her face turning pale. She's breathing roughly through her feebly opened mouth. ... ... she's showing some very bad signs.
"Akeno, calm ----"
My words are drowned out by her scream. Akeno was readying her gun, her eyes unfocused. Shit! --- I reflexively hit the deck,
Overhead, an ear-splitting roar resounded!
*gun blast* *gun blast* *gun blast*
Four, five, six shots in succession ... how many does she intend to fire ... !?
*Akeno screaming some more*
Akeno keeps on firing as she screams. The sound of gunfire keeps on ringing. Ten shots ... twenty ... thirty ... !? That's one bottomless clip! A real gun would have already been out of bullets by that time.
As it is, even I am pinned down. And I can't even raise my head. I cannot confirm what happened. Unless Akeno is not stopped ....
"Stay back!!! Get away !!!!!"
Uwah, it's no good. My voice cannot reach her. She's totally into it, no matter how loud I go. It will take me a lot of lung power .... If words won't do then I'll have to take action. Though taking her down from the front is like taking on a hornet's nest. For once, I went around.
Since my will has been drastically deflated, the laser blade returned to its original toy form. With it on one hand, crawling along the bricks, and my eyes on Akeno's shoes, I went in a circuitous route. From the sidelines I was sure I look like an idiot, although it's for my own safety. Moving along until I was onto Akeno's heels and able to grab her, I looked above to make sure no bullets were flying overhead ---
As I look up I saw completely inside Akeno's skirt. In hot haste I lowered my head to her heels. Polka dots.
Resolving myself to tackle her down I stand up and embrace her from behind.
"It's me, Sakuya!!"
Before she could be surprised and act violently, I tell her that.
"It's okay ... it's all right ..."
"... hah, haah ... ... ... hah ..."
From her overly stiff body, I can feel her excess power going out. Her gun arm slowly lowers.
I looked around over Akeno's shoulders. To calm her down the words "it's all right" has no basis, but somehow it worked. The giant cockroaches had all died! Where the bullets went through them were completely gouged out holes. Speaking of which, even the deck floor is full of holes. Aren't those from standard bullets of an M9? It's clear that this gun's destructive power exceeds that of a handgun ....
As we were watching, the monsters' corpses one by one turns into light, dissipating into the night. It was a one-of-a-kind spectacle (though they were cockroaches originally).
"Thank you Sakuya, I've calmed down. ... ... So, can you ..."
"Hm? Oh, sorry"
My perks are over. I immediately withdrew my arms encircling her chest.
Though the cockroaches are all eliminated, Loki still remains unharmed, we can't just relax yet. As I hear a pair of hands pleasantly clapping, it approaches us with an air of composure.
"Awesome--! Such power ! You're not good with the gun, are you? I mean, this is why I think such unreal power should not be drawn out, you know ---"
It repeatedly nodded, though it remained unfazed even when the gun was aimed at it. Standing in the middle of the plaza, it stood back from us about 5 meters.
"I'll only say this once. Let us go. Otherwise we will ---"
"Fire at me? I maybe a clever boss, but even that would probably hurt me should I take that ---"
"We're not kidding! We will fire !?"
It provocatively shrugs its shoulders. Threats or negotiations has no meaning, does it want an all-out battle ... ? Thinking only cockroaches didn't hold back in attacking persons, Akeno did not pull the trigger. And in that time,
"If you don't attack me, may I?"
Loki made its move! It slowly spread its arms. Then, shadows spread out fast to where we were standing, an unknown number of black tentacles jumping out!
"----!? What the !?"
Focusing at once my willpower, I call forth the laser blade and made a horizontal slash! The attacking tentacles were sliced off by the blade, the cut off pieces disappearing into the air instead of falling to the ground.
"That is one heck of an attack .... No man can do that, just now"
"Better think it that way. It's no human, so fire!"
Akeno mutters, preparing herself.
Although, how should we fight it? Loki was probably unaffected by my attack on its tentacles, remaining calm. It didn't even show any sign of pain. Well then, we go for the real target ... ... I wanted to say, but we don't know the extents of its power, approaching it recklessly could be dangerous. A short-range assault is totally not a good idea. If that the case ---
"I'm going in. Akeno, aim for Loki."
Responding quickly, Akeno fires!
As Loki let out an unnatural scream, it merely sidestepped dodging the bullets. Akeno fires 4, 5 times in successions, all of which were narrowly avoided.
"Now's my turn!"
Loki stretches out its right arm, the tentacles again jumping out from the overstretching shadow. They suddenly spread out in front of me when I was expecting it to go straight. They are coming for me in the front from all directions!!
"Tch, defending like this --!!!"
Swinging my blade I back stepped! 3 of the 4 downed tentacles pierced into the ground, the fourth one grazing my right ankle.
I ignore the oncoming pain. Won't the end come because we missed our attack? As I thought on that, I jumped as soon as I landed! From where I stood before, a hidden tentacle suddenly comes out, piercing the brick deck! As I thought!
Catching them in mid-air, I sliced off the exposed tentacles (the ones stretching from Loki's shadow and bursting from the ground).
"Sakuya, are you okay?"
"Somehow. But I don't know how long we can keep up ..."
"I'm so sorry. I tried to aim at it, but not one of them ...."
"You're aim's good. It's just that "it" is strange"
For Loki to dodge all the bullets, such invincible skill ....
"At this rate it will get worse. Will I keep up the attack? Or should we get away for now?"
"I'll give you a hand. We've gone through the trouble of finding the boss. If we take it down fast, tonight's dream will end."
"Got it, so we've got to change tactics. You aim and fire on Loki. And you've got to keep it up. That will keep him from conjuring its tentacles. Meanwhile, I close the distance to it.
"Let's do it. ... ... And look out for stray bullets, got it?"
"I, I believe in you ..."
Now that I've said it surely I'm about to become Akeno's target for her bullets, the possibility of stray bullets hitting me high. In that case I've got to believe in Akeno.
"You two, don't ignore me!"
As we were making our tactics, Loki unleashed his third wave! The tentacles are again spreading in front of me in all directions, out to engulf me! Just like the same attack before. In that case ---
This time I did not retreat. And I never expected to jump to the other side! Only one down tentacle was cut down, the rest I avoid them! As I sense striking and missing Loki, I mowed down the rest of the tentacles.
"Heee ... ..."
Loki lets out its voice of admiration. At that point, Akeno did not miss the chance!
The gun spits out fire! Loki immediately avoids the incoming bullet with its inhuman reflexes. But thanks to that, it's distracted! Now!
Once again I kicked the ground! Jumping I shorten the distance to a little less than 3 meters! With Loki distracted by Akeno's attacks, it reacts too late!
As I land, I slashed it from the left shoulder and through its robe!
In that instant, I was thinking. If this blade wasn't the real thing there wouldn't be any resistance. Was this attack any effective? Have I brought down Loki? Anyhow in this interval, it it counterattacks I have no way to avoid it. Should I fall immediately back, for should I deal the final blow ... ?
I chose the latter. Standing up again, I bring up the force-filled blade! The laser blade is about to decapitate Loki's head ---
"... ... nnnn !?"
-- no, it flew away. Only its lowered hood. Everything below it crumbles down. Just like an empty shell, the body that should be below the robe is not there ... !?
"... that's impossible ..."
An empty shell escape technique? Is it a ninja? Just where it disappeared to ... !?
"Sorry. I cheated."
That voice came from nowhere. Echoing among the buildings, it especially echoes. Finding its source is impossible.
"Well a bit of a pest came so we'll end this today. Let's play again sometime."
"Are you trying to run away?"
"Exactly as you say. So, keep on leveling up okay? So you can finally take me down .... Especially you girl, you still have a long ways to go before you can bring out your latent power!"
The voices stopped after that. I tried calling out but there was no answer.
".... ... looks like it ran away"
On hearing Akeno murmur, I let go all my tension. At the same time the laser blade returns to a toy. Just when we almost took it down, as I chagrin, but then there's relief that we narrowly escaped from death. Either way the fight's over. I wearily sheath my laser blade,
"... ... you ... ..."
I raise my head on Akeno's voice. Ahead of her line of sight, an armored beauty with a golden spear is walking towards us.
As I only saw her body ... *wham* ---- my heart throbbed.
"You two are all right. Who was it?"
Though I did not show the pleasure of meeting her again. I make a sharp glance at the surroundings.
"Are you referring to Loki? It just got away"
"I see ... ... it's too early it seems ..."
For some reason the Valkyrie mutters with a worried look. Loki's 'pest' would probably be her. Just what are their relationship? As I start to worry,
"---- an unnecessary parting gift comes ..."
Looks like an afterthought. As I turn my eyes to where I hear a strange "kyuii" cry, from the darkness 4 giant praying mantis appears on top of the pedestrian deck.
"Another insect-type monster .... You okay, Akeno?"
"I, it's better than cockroaches ... ..."
As she shows her forced smile she prepares the gun in her both hands. I too conjure the laser blade in my hands.
As Akeno and I exchange words, the Valkyrie was already running! Ignoring our cries she took on all four of them.
"... ... that's madness ..."
"Awesome! It's an even match even if it's 4-on-1 ..."
"On the other hand we can't just do nothing. Let's back her up, Akeno"
"Of course! We'll take one each"
"... ... eh, you sure about that one-on-one?"
"They're monsters, so it's scary and clumsy"
"ookay ... ..."
I recall Akeno firing recklessly before a swarm of giant cockroaches. The mantises aren't greatly scattered, but the risks from stray bullets is greater ....
So instead of Akeno giving cover fire, taking on them separately would be safer. I'll be taking on a 3m high mantis in a one-on-one battle; even as I grip my laser blade, I was honestly scared, but ... ... I'll do this!
"More power to you!"
"You too, Sakuya, take care"
As I ran, I heard a blast from behind ! ---- Akeno's gun blasting away. Two of the mantises not fighting the Valkyrie notices me, and they deftly head towards me.
Akeno fires her gun more and more. Though she failed to hit anything, she was able to separate two of the mantises. Already one of them is approaching me. Fine with me. I force my foot to the earth with all my power,
*Sakuya's war cry*
Brandishing my light saber, I jumped onto the giant mantis!
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