Magisterus Bad Trip:Volume1 Chapter 2
- 1 Chapter 2: The Depths and the Heights – BGM #02 “dive to freedom”.
Chapter 2: The Depths and the Heights – BGM #02 “dive to freedom”.
Whatever the case, they had to do something about the mint green coupe which looked like Swiss cheese or a sponge. The hood was smoking and refused to latch shut and the car looked more beaten up than a rusted metal dumpster in a back alley.
With nowhere else to sit, Tselika was partially lying on top of Midori in the passenger seat and she looked like an invisible ashen soul was sticking out of her mouth.
“What is it, Tselika? You were doing just fine a second ago.”
“Heh. There’s a world of difference between enemy territory where everyone knows what happened and the city where no one knows. My temple is falling apart. Do you know how humiliating it is to be stripped of your dignity? And even if it still works on the inside, the appearance still influences how people judge you. You wouldn’t understand, master. This is what it feels like for a pure maiden to walk around town in nothing but an apron made of old newspaper and knowing she could run into someone she knows at any moment.”
“Why did I even think I should worry about you?”
“I really will hit you this time, master!!”
Midori fidgeted in the passenger seat.
“H-hey, those people have an important position in White Queen Tourism now, right? Won’t they fill the streets with those AI-controlled soldiers to hunt us down?”
“They’re a non-executive director and you mean the PMC. But I’d say the odds of that are about 0.1%”
“First of all, the AI-controlled PMC can only be used to protect company land, VIPs, and cars. They aren’t general-use mercenaries.”
“They’re a…non-executive director? Right? So can’t they use the soldiers to protect themselves?”
“Here me out before asking more questions. That non-executive director position is nice, but it also binds them to a contract requiring they serve White Queen Tourism. Dealers who want the freedom to act aren’t going to like that. Since the Inheritance slipped from their grasp, they’ll be better off withdrawing from the contract to regain their freedom.”
Incidentally, Kaname was a free agent from the moment he left Ag Wolves, so he already had no ties to the AI zaibatsu.
Freedom was better than immediate profit or an important position. You could make a lot more money that way than sticking with a stuffy old zaibatsu. Midori was dumbfounded by how a first-rate Dealer saw things.
But when she saw the mint green coupe drive right past the closest repair shop, she looked back without thinking. This was not the time to get dragged into this.
“Wait, you aren’t getting the car fixed!?”
“Do it so nearby and Ag Wolves will find us in no time. We need to at least leave the peninsula city. More importantly, Tselika, do you have those analysis results?”
“I disagree that it’s more important than fixing my temple, but…hmm.”
The race queen demon was partially lying on top of Midori in the passenger seat. Her bright green and white race queen outfit was quite something, but Midori was only wearing a miniskirt and a black frilly bikini to cover the contours of her flat chest. The bikini’s knots threatened to come undone every time she squirmed.
But Tselika ignored that while fidgeting with #Downpour.err in her gloved hands.
“These are only my initial impressions, but there is a risk of some of the data being extractable even if it is physically destroyed. I don’t know if any of them are skilled enough to pull that off, but if you want to fully eliminate the risk of a copy being made, you should probably acquire a specialized dismantling tool.”
“Why are you always so vague?”
“Right now, because I am distracted. This car is my temple and my summoning circle, but it’s full of holes!”
“Then let’s kill two birds with one stone. I bet we could hide on Industrial Float #3.”
Midori was left in the dark as those two came to a decision. Question marks hovered over the twintail girl’s head, but then…
“Oh, right. I left my motorcycle in a peninsula city parking lot.”
“Could you have your Magisterus retrieve it?” asked Tselika.
For some reason, Midori awkwardly fell silent. And then…
“That might be a liiiiitle difficult.”
“Then we’ll figure something out,” said Kaname while operating the windshield with his eyes. “We can’t wait around too long.”
They left the peninsula city and raced above the ocean using the long bridge looping around the entire area like a necklace.
Twintail Midori fidgeted restlessly, perhaps because she was seated in an unfamiliar sports car and perhaps because Race Queen Tselika lay on top of her like she had pushed the girl down into a bed.
Meanwhile, Tselika extended her forked tail to poke at the stereo buttons in search of a music station while showing no restraint in her words. She verbally stabbed at the girl like the demon she was.
“My temple is nice, isn’t it? Does it feel wrong to enjoy this luxury after living in debt on a daily basis? Do you reflexively reject it as a corrupting influence?”
Kaname chided her from the driver’s seat, but Tselika ignored him.
She operated the stereo with the forked end of her tail, more or less leaned over the girl, and smiled in a seductive way.
“My master will teach you any number of ways to earn those scraps of paper, but only after we deal with the Inheritance issue. After all, billions of snow change hands from moment to moment here in Money (Game) Master. But first you need to cast off that self-deprecating slave mentality. It is true you are living in debt, but that was due to no fault of your own. This is only a brief irregularity in your life. Your birth has not been denied or overwritten by it.”
“What…” Midori talked back to Tselika in a low voice. “What would a Magisterus know about the real world?”
“Oh, nothing at all. But the real humans who live in the real world have their pride and dignity, do they not? Even if not much is more important than money, you can think of a lot that can’t be bought with money, can’t you? If my master took on your debts and freed you from them, could you smile and call that a happy ending? Could you walk the servile path of thanking him as your savior, saying you love him, and being his servant with hearts in your eyes? Your soul has not fallen that far, has it? You don’t want to use your status as a victim to forever ask for more compensation and suck him dry so you never have to work another day in your life, do you? Then hold your head high and have pride in yourself. Stop being the receiver of help and start being the giver of help. Do not choose the easy route of fixing everything with money. That would make a mockery of my master swearing to protect you with his life as atonement.”
Kaname sighed, knowing that was something that would never end.
And it was a little embarrassing. He wanted his Magisterus to stop assuming she knew what he was thinking. And why did she act like the person seeking atonement stood in the superior position? Kaname was the one who should be bowing down to Midori and her family.
So he used his empty hand to lightly grab the demon tail as it wriggled around. Specifically, he grabbed it just a bit below the fork.
“Gyawah!? Wait, stop! Aren’t I allowed to try to sound cool every once in a while!? I mean, you do it all the time!! Y’know, a cool line here and a cool pose there. ‘Hello, my fair lady. Suou Kaname at your service.’ ”
“Shut the hell up, Tselika.”
He squeezed tighter and an unnatural tremor ran up Tselika’s spine.
Midori was taken aback, but she eventually caught on.
This was the norm for them.
She did not feel the bowling ball of weight in her stomach and she did not feel the awful boiling sensation in the back of her mind. It was not about how much money anyone had. They did not look up at or down on anyone. This was something that everyone had and that Midori should have had as well.
And it was something Kaname and Tselika were focusing all of their efforts into retrieving. They were not just throwing money at the problem like those sickening philanthropists and they were not doing just enough to feel like they had done something and then leaving. They were seeing it through to the end and supporting her until she could stand on her own two feet once more. They were strongly implying that even retrieving and destroying the unbelievably powerful and valuable Inheritance was just the first step.
They had called it atonement.
It all went back to when Criminal AO, Midori’s brother Takamasa, had fallen.
To reward him for saving Kaname’s sister, Kaname was now protecting his sister.
Just how much was included in the word “protect”?
And what rested on the other plate of the scales?
How much had her brother saved Kaname’s sister?
Had that action confirmed the version of her brother she had seen back when she had innocently looked up to him? Should she take this to mean her brother had driven a car like this, wielded guns, and thrown away his life while facing an impossible challenge to save someone?
Wasn’t it their actions and not their cheap words that had retrieved something of hers that could not be bought with money?
“Hm? What is it, Midori?”
“Sorry about Tselika earlier. She can be insensitive. Her specs are impressive, but she’s kind of dumb.”
“Master, is that meant to be a compliment or an insult!?”
“That should be obvious from the fact that you’re incapable of figuring it out from context.”
Midori relaxed her shoulders just a little as she listened to that exchange.
She started to think it had been foolish to harden her heart and do nothing at all.
They crossed a few islands before finally reaching a square float.
That was Industrial Float #3.
“I’ve never been here before, but it’s an incredible place.”
Midori looked out the window while holding Tselika on top of her like a stuffed animal.
“It’s all so brown.”
She was not wrong. #2 was an industrial complex and thus standardized by the companies, but #3 was much more varied and disordered. Dozens and maybe even hundreds of rusty sheet metal huts were crammed in together. More and more additions must have been made over time, meaning huts were stacked on top of huts and they even crossed over the road in places. The space the mint green coupe was traveling down felt more like a gap than a road. Everything was made from used materials, but none of it felt remotely ecological.
“This entire float was originally an international airport,” explained Kaname while operating the steering wheel with practiced hand. “It fell into disrepair after a new airport was built on the peninsula. The primary investor was an airline company and, once it went bankrupt, a bunch of small and midsized workshops moved in.”
Kaname must have been a regular because he did not even check the different signs before pulling up to one rusted sheet metal hut and driving into the opened shutter.
Midori started to get out when she saw him climb out of the driver’s seat, but Tselika held her tight and stopped her for some reason.
Tselika pressed their foreheads together and gave an alluring smile.
“Let’s not rush this. Wait here with me for a bit.”
It was not the words that shook Midori; it was the sweet breath coming from lips far too close for comfort.
Meanwhile, Kaname finished negotiating with the mechanic. Now that he finally had a chance to relax, he wrapped a handkerchief around the wound on his arm which had only been treated with a spray. After that, he handed over a bit of money, grabbed a worn-out knapsack from the wall, and tossed it into the coupe’s window.
Tselika stuffed #Downpour.err inside to hide it before she stepped outside.
Midori blinked in confusion and followed.
“Wait! Where are you taking the In-…!?”
Kaname pressed his finger against the girl’s lips just before she shouted “Inheritance”.
(Why is everyone invading my personal space today!? M-my only feelings are for that person who has such nice handwriting!!)
She did not want to believe it, but her body temperature had been elevated for a while now. Could he act like this because it was Money (Game) Master, or was he like this in the real world too? She blushed and shook her hands while trying to find a way to talk around the issue.
“C-can’t you just destroy it here?”
“If all we wanted to do was destroy it, we could do it right away. Just stick it on the ground and run it over with the coupe.”
“But that leaves the risk of the data being extracted. This is all meaningless if someone can analyze it and copy the design. If we want to eliminate all concern, we need to use a special tool. And it has to be something anyone would accept so no one can claim we were bluffing.”
Midori groaned but fell silent.
Meanwhile, Tselika had been given a chance to view the state of her car from the outside. She held her horns in her hands, did a strange little dance, and scratched at her hair.
“Oh, ohhh, ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I-it’s even worse than I thought.”
“Yeah, they said it’ll take 5 hours to repair. And look how much it’s costing me. Maybe I should have just bought a used car instead. I also have to deal with my wounded arm, so I really want to log out to reset some things.”
“Abrbhabrch!! H-how dare you speak about my temple like that! It was this car that shielded you while you recklessly risked your life!! Since we’re all getting so emotional about Criminal AO, how about some tears for me!? Well!? I’m waiting!!”
“You can never be a hero if you brag about your deeds like that.”
But even if Kaname was bothered by the smartwatch synced with his phone, there was nothing they could do until the car’s repairs were complete.
There were two methods of logging out of Money (Game) Master. One was to enter your car, park it, and stay there for more than 5 minutes. Only then could you log out.
In other words, you were in a tricky spot if your car was destroyed or stolen.
You either had to get it back or buy a new one.
And if you could not do that, you were stuck with the second method:
You aimed a gun to your head and pulled the trigger to fall.
Kaname did have the Short Spear short-range sniper rifle, but the lack of wheels was a horrible feeling in the car society of Summer City. And #Downpour.err was little comfort. If anything, he was afraid its presence would be revealed, triggering a rush of people trying to take it. That was why he had chosen a “worn-out” knapsack to hold it. Carrying around a portable safe would only paint a target on his back.
It seemed to pain Tselika to see that unfamiliar mechanic messing with the coupe, but…
“So, master? Where will you begin?”
“There are a few different things we need to do: retrieve Midori’s motorcycle from the peninsula city, acquire the special tool needed to fully destroy you-know-what, and kill time for five hours.”
“Do you hate spending time with me that much, master?”
“What I hate is time I can’t put to use.”
“Then let’s go to Hooker Island!! I can only use your possessions and money due to our contract, but that changes when you’re with me! I can drink, eat, and enjoy myself as much as I want! A world of unending pleasures awaits you, master. You couldn’t experience it all even if you lived to be 100!! (Sparkle sparkle☆)”
“And how are we supposed to get there from this float? Besides, are you planning to bring Midori there?”
Kaname sounded annoyed, but he had apparently said too little. He suddenly found Midori keeping her distance and staring at him like a strange new bug she had discovered.
“Oh, so you would’ve gone if I wasn’t here? I seeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
“You’re trash. Why is everyone so open about these indecent things in a digital world? They don’t try to hide anything. It’s disgusting. Just disgusting. Ahh, I want to get home and write a letter.”
“What is this dark aura coming from Midori!? Tselika, help me out here! Do something about this misunderstanding!”
“Leave it to me, master. Now, Midori, putting your hands on your hips and leaning over does do a good job of letting you glare at him in lecturing mode, but one thing.”
“Stick your butt out in front of my temple and the drive recorder has an excellent view.”
“Eh? Hyah! Wahyah!?”
The twintail girl blushed and hopped up with her hands on her little butt like she had been hit by an invisible water gun.
She wore a frilly black bikini with a miniskirt-like pareo, but even with a swimsuit, it apparently still embarrassed her to have her butt targeted so directly. She tearfully clenched her teeth.
“~ ~ ~!! I reeeeeeeeally hate you digital morons!”
“Tselika, is your AI broken? Why are you wasting time!?”
“It was just a joke, master. Why would I run the drive recorder for such a skinny little girl? The memory is full of the sexy videos I’ve taken of myself. Ahem, and Criminal AO always had us beat in that sort of thing. We only ever visited the places he had already discovered. And I think he stepped on about 100 landmines for every decent place he found.”
Midori’s face boiled over in an instant.
Her view of Takamasa was fluctuating a little too wildly today.
“So not only are you leaving her misunderstanding intact, you’re fanning the flames!? Tselika, you need to explain all the details, like how Takamasa sent us the location for our meeting as numerical coordinates and we only discovered it was on Hooker Island after showing up!!”
“Oh, so you’re willing to throw Criminal AO under the bus to salvage your own reputation, master? And here’s something interesting: can women’s intuition even be calculated out with formulas?”
“Wh-what? What is it now?”
“Your sister just sent an email absolutely brimming with resentment. The subject was wild enough to get it sent to the spam folder, but what should I do? Dig it out and open it? But she retired and deleted her account, so she couldn’t possibly have heard our discussion. I wonder how she knew what was going on.”
“Oh, please no!!”
Anyway, Ag Wolves would be desperately searching for signs of Kaname’s group in the peninsula city. He wanted to avoid that area, but since Midori needed her vehicle to log out, they could not leave it there. She would be trapped in the game without it.
After some thought (and taking some damage from the spam-level verbal abuse from his sister), Kaname spoke up.
“L-let’s start with Midori’s motorcycle.”
“Eh? We’re going back there after managing to hide out here?”
“We don’t need to go there ourselves. We can have an AI truck carry it.”
“B-but,” said Midori in her frilly black bikini. “I know where it was, but I don’t remember the exact name. And even if it used a time card system, it’s still a proper parking lot. No one can touch a vehicle parked in a parking lot or garage. Any attacks will be deflected by an invisible barrier. That’s how this city works, right?”
“First of all, your vehicle is a large motorcycle and not a car, right? And it’s red with an autumn leaf pattern?”
Before she could ask how he knew that…
“Its navigation system is the Odin Company’s Version 4.0. That should include a security system, so let’s hire a freelancer to search it out and attack it. The GPS alarm will send a message to your phone which will tell us the name and number of the parking lot.”
“You’re hiring another Dealer…a real human and not an AI? For something as minor as this!?”
“Don’t worry. It’s parked in a parking lot, so the attack won’t leave a scratch. Then if I buy the land the parking lot is located on and change the settings, I can eliminate the parking lot’s ‘neutral ground’ rule. Since it won’t count as a parking lot anymore, I can hire an AI truck to carry it here. Tselika.”
“Since the car is such a mess, I can only display it here.”
With that, the race queen demon moved her hands behind her back to emphasize her seductive bodylines. Alphanumeric text scrolled all along the bright green and white bikini top and miniskirt and Kaname’s eyes followed that text as he worked on buying the land.
“I won’t say money is everything,” he said while working. “But you have considerably more options when you have money. You have more freedom of movement and you can look at things entirely differently. There are surprisingly few things that are more important than money or that can’t be bought with money. Those things are far, far rarer than movies or dramas would have you believe. But that’s all the more reason to never hesitate to spend some money when you find one of those things.”
Midori stared at the side of Kaname’s face for a moment.
Was she one of those things to him?
Or was it the memories he had with Criminal AO, her missing brother?
“Okay, I’ve hired the truck. And there’s no sign of Ag Wolves tailing it. Tselika, we don’t need the parking lot land anymore. I don’t care if we make or lose money, just sell it off immediately.”
“Surely you don’t think it will all cancel out, master. This is a definite loss. In fact, we lost almost everything we spent. (And they won’t notice yet because we pay afterwards, but we won’t be able to pay for the car’s repairs at this rate.)”
“We had three objectives and this completes one of those.”
“That leaves acquiring the special tool and killing five hours. Fortunately, there is one way to accomplish both at once right here on Industrial Float #3.” Kaname waved his index finger as he spoke. “Let’s make back our money at the casino. That should be fastest.”
After leaving the beaten-up mint green coupe in the repair shop, Kaname’s group walked through the city made up of countless brown rusted sheet metal huts.
“Oh, there are shops all over the place. They’re even selling plenty of used cars in the garages.”
“Hold on, master.”
“For what the repairs are costing us in money and time, it might not be a bad idea to buy a cheap used car and make a new contract. Right, Tselika? C’mon, c’mon.”
“N-no! Just no!”
“I’m not saying we’ll sell the old one. We’ll have it fixed up good as new in the repair shop, so what’s wrong with using a super-cheap used one in the meantime? It’ll be a second car! I could just buy it and log out real quick.”
“I will never agree to that. My car is my temple, you know?”
“Besides, there’s no logical reason to stick to just the one car. I like the sound of having a cheap used car back at our hideout in case something happens to the first one. Tselika, you’d be in trouble if the coupe burst into flames and exploded, right? The contract prevents you from driving any vehicle I don’t own.”
“It’s about the attachment! If you’re unfaithful enough to get more than one, you’re bound to let the maintenance slide. And when you know you have a spare, you’ll get lazy with your driving and start hitting things! And while there are some loose Magisteri who own dozens of vehicles and go with whichever temple they feel like that day, I could never do that! Swapping temples without thinking sounds like a recipe for disaster! It’ll feel awkward and I won’t be able to relax! It’s not happening even if you pull out the puppy dog eyes and honey voice!!”
“I’ve gotta be honest. I just don’t get the issue.”
“Really? So if you had a royal-grade canopied bed, you could sleep soundly on a blanket laid out on the floor next to it? I don’t care if you choose the fluffiest pillow, the most soothing aromas, or the sheerest of silk negligees, if the foundation is bad, the whole thing is bad!!”
“Is that how it works?”
“Gbrmorgwabch!! Ah, ahhhh, angolmois!!”
“You say that, but won’t that coupe be an entirely different car after receiving so many repairs?”
“C-cough! The core will still be the same!! That is my one and only temple and summoning circle! Besides, we need to be ready for Ag Wolves, don’t we? Won’t you be the one to suffer if you rely on a used car with poor specs? And it’s best to focus where you spend your funding. It’s obvious what will happen if you spread it out over multiple areas in an attempt to show off!”
Midori had a question while she listened to that conversation.
She was not quite sure what they had meant by a casino.
She could imagine some people huddled around playing cards or dice in some corner of this place that felt more like a gap than a road, but was there really a full-on casino with fancy cocktails and card tables on this rusty Industrial Float #3?
Kaname readily answered her question.
“You can find casinos anywhere. This is Money (Game) Master, after all.”
“But there are only rusty sheet metal huts here. And since it’s a float, I doubt there’s much space belowground.”
“Midori. Do you remember what I told you this place originally was?”
“An international airport that was abandoned after some management issues,” said Kaname while turning a corner. “That means there is a unique VIP space here.”
What he meant became obvious once Midori also turned the corner.
A large passenger plane had been abandoned after being partially dismantled.
“Whoa, you mean this?”
“First class is used as a casino. Economy class is a movie theater and business class is a fancy restaurant, I think. I believe the theater is playing Kotemitsu Gold Rush right now.”
“Keh heh heh,” laughed the Magisterus. “Rumor has it business class provides, shall we say, adult massages below the table or behind a partition while you eat.”
“Please don’t start on this again, Tselika. And why is it she’s stomping on my foot?”
Once they climbed the boarding stairs which did not appear to have moved from that spot in a long while, they found a man in a black suit waiting for them.
There would normally be a few different rites of passage required to get inside, but…
“Welcome back, Master Kaname.”
“What will it be today? You can view the list of prizes over here.”
“The chips I left with you will expire soon, so I’d like to withdraw them all.”
“Will you be cashing them?”
“No, I’ll be playing for a bit. The CA tables are still in the same place, right?”
Kaname had a bullet wound in his arm and Midori was a first-timer (and the one who had shot him), but neither one was searched or checked with a metal detector. That showed just how much money Kaname had spent here and how much trust he had earned.
A few other things bothered Midori too.
While they walked through the cabin with chic music playing, she pouted her lips a bit and asked about it.
“There’s no hidden meaning there.”
“And what was that about prizes?”
“This casino is affiliated with a fairly influential pawnshop. You cash in your chips for items like weapons and jewels instead of actual cash, so you visit that pawnshop to do it. Since the products keep circulating, the casino does not particularly care if they win or lose. Of course, the system may have its origins in pachinko parlors.”
“And what does CA mean?”
“Cheating Allowed. At those tables, the guests and the house are allowed to cheat.”
The twintail girl saw a number of different games when she glanced around. The relatively familiar card games like poker, blackjack, and baccarat were overwhelming enough for her. When it came to games like red dog, she had no idea what they were even doing.
Beyond card games, there were also slot and video poker machines lined up along the wall and a special table for dice. She was pretty sure that one was called craps, but she only knew the name and had no idea what result the players would want. Then there was roulette which acted as the icon for casinos and was as well-known as the card games. She thought the board of red and black squares was pretty, but she had never thought about it beyond that. She only knew the toy-like chips were stacked up and dragged around with something like rake.
“So, master, where will you start?”
“The top of our product list. They just so happen to be offering what we want.”
“Ho ho? Is it a woman? Then let me choose!!”
“She’s taking you seriously, Tselika. And she’s pinching my butt.”
Tselika entered serious mode and looked down at her large chest to view the information displayed there.
“Acid D. Is this it? This says it is a mix of a few different acids in a miraculous balance that can melt any metal, including pure gold.”
“Yes, it was apparently originally meant to break into safes, but it would be perfect for destroying you-know-what. So Midori…Midori?”
Kaname realized the black-haired twintail swimsuit girl was gone.
He looked around and found her standing a short distance away. She was staring blankly at a bunny girl carrying a tray of drinks, so it may have been her first time seeing one.
Tselika gave a cruel smile.
Midori quickly turned around, but there was no stopping the demon.
Tselika held a hand to her mouth and grinned.
“Geh heh heh. You act all pure and scold my master, but what’s this? Are you actually interested in that sort of thing? I see, I see, I see. You really do have Criminal AO’s blood in your veins! But instead of acting all proper, you should just admit you like it!! C’mon, the world looks so much brighter once you’re honest with yourself.”
“Tselika, can you explain why I am getting pummeled when you are the one teasing her?”
Midori squeezed her eyes shut, blushed bright red, and swung her fists like an unruly child, so Kaname grabbed her hands and used his chin to gesture over at the game he had decided to play.
“That looks good to me.”
“Eh? Roulette?” asked Midori with a frown.
Even now, a woman in a dress sat at that table while drinking from a cocktail glass and watching the ball spinning around the wheel.
Since it was a CA table, cheating was apparently allowed there. But unlike poker or blackjack where you could mess with the cards in your hand, was there really a way to cheat in roulette when you could not touch anything involved?
Kaname calmly answered Midori’s question.
“If you couldn’t, that woman wouldn’t be winning so consistently.”
“Everyone finds their own way to earn money, but there are some who specialize in gambling,” added Tselika.
Once one game was over and the dress woman received her winnings in chips, Kaname took a random seat.
The dress woman looked surprised while surrounding by a mountain of chips.
“You do know the rules, don’t you?”
“Then you should know you have no chance of winning. And please don’t just continue to bet on the same number as me at this CA table.”
“There are more options than that.”
A bunny girl grabbed the handle at the center of the wheel and spun it. And she tossed a small ball in the opposite direction of the spin.
The table had squares labeled from 0 to 36 and the dress woman did not hesitate to push a tower of chips onto black #18.
“(That Dealer’s name is Laplacian. As her name suggests, she is using Laplace’s demon.)”
How exactly was she cheating? Midori had no idea as she watched the movements on the table, but Tselika embraced her from behind and whispered in her ear.
Midori squirmed in response to the sweet breath blown in her ear, but she still asked a question.
“(Laplace’s demon. There is no such thing as luck or coincidence here in Money (Game) Master. It may look like there is, but everything is the result of calculations. Simply throwing a basketball into the hoop is a complex combination of several different equations and formulas, but what if you could accurately calculate it all out and find the answer?)”
“(Plus, she never puts down that cocktail glass. A glass with condensation due to the temperature difference. She is scattering those droplets from her fingertips to interfere with the friction between wheel and ball. At that point, she isn’t just predicting the outcome; she is controlling it.)”
That sounded ridiculous. Surely no one could pull that off.
Midori gulped, but Tselika did not seem impressed.
She was implicitly saying this was not enough to warrant surprise.
“But in that case…”
What was Kaname doing?
This dress woman named Laplacian could perfectly predict and even control the outcome. And if there was a local rule preventing him from betting on the same number as her, he could never win as long as he was at the same table as her.
Or so Midori thought, but something unexpected happened a moment later.
Kaname placed every single one of his chips on 0.
Needless to say, that was different from Laplacian’s black #18. If this went “as usual”, he would lose everything here.
“You understand what you’re doing, I hope?”
“I bet on the number I think will win. What else is there to understand?”
The two players’ gazes clashed.
Kaname ignored his gunshot wound to give a calm expression that implied he could change the winning result. It implied he could rip victory from her grasp and tear down her method of cheating. He was saying she would lose all of her chips while he took 36-times what he had bet.
The dress woman lightly shook the contents of her cocktail glass.
“You can’t do it.”
Kaname folded his empty hands on the table and calmly replied.
“I wouldn’t be so sure.”
All the while, the small ball continued spinning around the wheel. When it slowed down and entered one of the pockets numbered from 0 to 36, the game would be decided.
“Now is your last chance to move your chips,” warned the woman. “I don’t want you placing them on black #18 directly, but I will turn a blind eye if you bet on black or even.”
“Not necessary. Because the result will not be red, black, even, or odd. That ball is landing in the green #0. Because today is green’s lucky day.”
“That will not happen. There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell.”
“My nose can tell. I don’t sense any tingling from you. There is no obstacle I need to overcome, so there is nothing to fear.”
With a quiet clattering sound, the ball slowed down and fell into one of the pockets. The bunny girl reached for the handle to stop the spinning wheel and check on the result.
Midori’s eyes were first drawn toward Laplacian’s black #18.
But there was nothing there.
It was the dress woman who panicked. She had completely lost sight of the ball. And while the woman looked almost woozy, Midori gulped and looked elsewhere.
She looked past all the red and black to the one and only green spot.
The small ball was sitting inside the pocket for 0.
“Impossible.” Laplacian shook enough for her cocktail glass weapon to clatter on the table. “This isn’t possible!!”
“This is the entire point of these CA tables, isn’t it?”
“Are you working with the bunny? Did you decide to drag me down because I was winning too much!?”
“Maybe so, maybe not. I’ll leave that to your imagination because even that would be fair game at the CA table.”
Kaname was not laughing. He was simply stating the facts.
“So what will you do? If you don’t want to lose even more money, I recommend moving to another table.”
That only stirred up her competitive spirit…but Kaname was well aware of that.
The dress woman downed the contents of her cocktail glass, snatched a new drink from a waitress, and sat back down.
The bunny girl once more spun the wheel and tossed in the ball.
“Red 25! I will take you down this time!!”
“Sorry, but it’s going to be 0 again. The goddess of victory is on my side.”
Kaname was winning when she could supposedly perfectly control the outcome, so he had to be cheating in some way. But unlike Laplacian, the boy was not holding a glass and he did not appear to be touching the wheel or ball. So how was he influencing the outcome?
Midori’s question was answered by Tselika who was still embracing her from behind.
“(If you recall, I said that woman is controlling the outcome by altering the friction on the wheel using condensation from her glass.)”
“What about it?”
“(Then he only needs to get rid of those water droplets. For example, with the blowing of the air conditioning. What if he used the way he sits, holds his arms, and folds his fingers to subtly alter the air current and evaporate the water faster or slower than expected? Wouldn’t the game take a turn Laplacian did not expect?)”
Midori stared at Kaname in dumbfounded shock.
He had done more than reveal that woman’s 100% reliable method of cheating. He had hijacked it to take her for everything she was worth. And he did so without any special tools. He simply had to sit there at the table.
“He can do all that? I mean, I knew he was an incredible Dealer, but are calculations that precise possible even with the support of his Magisterus and the Skills from his clothing!?”
“(It is. But the equipment is not actually all that important. I am sure he would find a way to the answer even if Skills were banned here.)”
“But…eh? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“(Silly girl. In Money (Game) Master, your livelihood is at stake in everything you do. You aren’t allowed to just give up because you can’t do it. So if he says he will do something, you can be damn sure he’s doing it. Even if it means doing the math in his head or gathering some glass beads for a makeshift abacus.)”
This time, she thought both her words and her breathing would stop.
In that case…
(Were the Ag Wolves on that luxury cruise liner like this too?)
She only now caught a glimpse of just how dangerous that place had been. And how much Kaname had worn himself down to protect her while she foolishly assumed she could manage it on her own.
This went well beyond hiding behind cover to avoid a barrage of bullets or to hold a gun in both hands to take careful aim.
First-rate Dealers fought on a higher level than that.
(Just how much was going on from second to second back then?)
Server Name: Gamma Orange. Ending Location: Summer City, Industrial Float #3.
Goodbye, Hekireki Midori.
When the long-haired girl woke up, she found herself in a boxy room with pink wallpaper. The silky feeling of her black dress arrived a moment later as if to remind her who she was. The smartphone in her hand felt a little warm, perhaps because it was plugged into the wall.
Money (Game) Master was a mind-input online service, but it did not require wearing strange headgear or lying in a cold sleep pod. Her phone was enough. The many and varied colors dancing on the screen dragged the user’s mind into a virtual world.
It was apparently different from hypnotism or suggestion.
(Did they call it symbol markers?)
That technology caused a shared image to appear in the users’ brains by showing them symbolic information. It might sound creepy, like a form of brainwashing, but it was a simple thing.
Think of the following concepts: red, round, sweet, baseball-sized, fruit, used for juice and pies. Most people would think of an apple.
The symbol markers for the VR filled the smartphone screen while they were continually displayed at a rate of 120 frames per second. That produced a powerful enough symbol to cover all five senses and directly draw the VR vision inside the brain.
Nothing could be higher quality than the visions created in the human brain. Or rather, anything more than that would be meaningless since it could not be properly perceived by humans. To enjoy the entertainment of the gods, you would need a divine brain. Only humans who had gone through the proper training could go to heaven, but that may have been because the training had modified their brains to that end.
Since this method used the eyes in an unusual way, it triggered motion sickness in some people and caused painfully dry eyes in others. Fortunately, this girl had neither issue.
However, she did feel a bit tired.
It was a lot like when she returned home after being out enjoying herself so much she forgot all about her homework. It was the weight, weariness, and shrinking of her consciousness caused by recalling reality.
She lived a life of debt.
However, it was not a life of debt collectors constantly pounding on the door and pressuring her to sell either her organs or her body. Her room had a TV and an air conditioner, she always had enough to eat, and she was free to and guaranteed a right to attend school.
She was only missing two things.
The first was her brother who had gone off somewhere on his own. They had of course asked the police to search for him, but that had not accomplished anything. And she doubted she could outdo the police in a search of her own. Although it did piss her off how the police acted so understanding whenever they heard the reason why he had disappeared.
And the second thing…
Her phone had received a few emails.
They were all from an AI company.
“April 11, 20XX. Your monthly deposit has been made. Primary Company: Absurd Pharmaceuticals. Subordinate Individual: ******. Please confirm your balance and strive to live a life free of waste.”
They lived in a “perfect” world where no one starved to death even if they were drowning in debt. AI companies would detect such people and reach out a loving hand.
This was how they put it on TV:
“AI does not have a will of its own. It only responds to situations according to a flexible flowchart. It can perform work at much greater efficiency, at much greater speeds, and on much greater scales than humans can. This is the new way of a new era.”
This was how the ads on her phone put it:
“Once AI businesses have spread far enough, people will be freed from the yoke of labor. Instead of spending your time on such pointless endeavors, you can use it on something you personally find valuable.”
AI businesses had started with call center reception and factory automation, but in its first, second, and third waves, it had spread to many other industries. Walk down the street and you would see automation handling all sorts of jobs, including garbage collection and waiting tables. Most part-time work had been eliminated and it was not uncommon for full-time employees to lose their jobs to programs. Letting machines do the jobs machines were capable of reduced personnel costs, so AI was spreading to more and more fields. It was said 30-40% of human employment had been lost to AI and it was said that would grow to 60-70% in another decade.
Complete AI companies, which used programs at every level of the company, were rising to the forefront lately. They could exchange data between machines with no humans in the loop, so it was said 48% of the financial transactions occurring in the global network were handled entirely by machines.
Once that value passed 50%, the relationship between humans and machines would flip on its head.
Humans would no longer be controlling the machines. Machines would control the world economy and humans would be at their mercy. Even without anything as significant as AI gaining sentience, people would let themselves be manipulated because they saw that efficiency and optimization as the quickest and cleverest path to victory and wealth.
It was all very convenient, but it was also worrying.
It was all very comfortable, but was it really right to hand all their suffering to the machines?
The entire world was asking those questions in this era.
That may have been the reason why.
People like Midori whose lives were fully supported by AI companies were seen as less human. Even if they wanted for nothing in their daily lives and even if they could go to parties in gorgeous dresses.
She breathed a heavy sigh without meaning to.
She was protected by all this, but even she felt an uncomfortable feeling roiling in her chest. She could not really blame other people for seeing her that way.
It was known as “going AI”.
The more comfortable her everyday life, the more she had to wonder.
Was there an invisible cable hooked into the back of her neck?
Was she becoming a slave of the AI companies? Was she becoming a humanoid device that moved to their convenience whenever they sent her signals of comfort and satisfaction?
Were her own thoughts only an illusion while she was not actually thinking at all?
She was plagued by those vague worries.
(But there’s nothing I can do.)
Yes, she knew all that, but she could not find any way of actually breaking free. So she just went along with it. She could not stop the world from progressing in a more and more unpleasant direction. Was that just how things were in this era?
Consider the following hypothetical.
In Money (Game) Master, the top Dealers earned hundreds of millions or even billions on a daily basis. Suou Kaname was likely one of those. So if she went crying to him to pay off her debts, would she be able to escape a life of physical fulfillment but psychological depression?
The answer was no.
That would erase her debts on paper. But it would not remove that brand of “less than human”. It would not make her someone who stood on her own two feet and earned her own living. This was not just the bias of those around her. She felt that way herself. Plus, that was only a hypothetical, so she did not know if the system even allowed her to escape this life of “going AI” using a third party’s money.
So she could not just have someone else do it for her.
If she wanted to crawl out of this pit, she would have to escape this AI-protected life on her own.
Her parents had never played games and her missing brother was “dead” and thus unable to recover within Money (Game) Master. That left just one possibility for their family: Midori herself.
(But there’s no way I can do that.)
When she felt depressed, she would reach for her desk drawer like a sort of defense reflex.
She pulled out some cute pastel writing paper and a few writing implements.
It was a letter set.
This was her one meager resistance against her digitally-managed life after “going AI”. The AI influence had reached the postal system from the letter sorting to the simple delivery, so they could likely ignore the right to privacy and read what was written in her letters.
But the handwritten words in a letter carried emotion.
Try as they might, AI could not read the warmth contained between the lines.
(What should I write?)
Even if her situation was not great, she realized she had worried her pen pal with all the complaining she had done lately. She could not rely on them for everything.
She wanted to make this letter as enjoyable as possible.
With that in mind, she fiddled with the different colors of pen.
Server Name: Theta Yellow. Ending Location: Summer City, Industrial Float #3.
Goodbye, Suou Kaname.
Once the mint green coupe’s repairs were complete and he could finally log out properly from the right-side driver’s seat, the boy saw his face reflected in his smartphone’s screen. He was of medium build with roughly cut black hair, so he was fairly nondescript. He wore gray sweatpants perfect for hanging around the house or taking a nap in bed. He had apparently logged in with his contacts still in, so his eyes were dryer than usual.
He closed and opened his hand once. Now that he had logged out, the wound on his arm was gone.
The display said it was April 11.
The temperature was more chilly than warm.
That change told him he had “returned” from the tropical ocean and sun of Summer City.
He slowly shook his head to bring reality back into focus. He looked up from the screen and turned toward the picture frame on his study desk. It contained a stamp instead of a photo. It was a commemorative stamp for a private trip into space and he had received it from someone he corresponded with in the dying analog medium of letters.
He ran his fingers along the protective glass panel and then left his room.
In the apartment’s living room, he found his little sister lying on the sofa in a baggy light pink sweatshirt and shorts. Since it was too big for her, he was pretty sure he would see something he should not if he looked down the neck, but that possibility did not seem to bother her.
She spoke to him without taking her eyes off the TV.
“I ended up ordering from the soba place. But their curry is actually better than their soba.”
He glanced over toward the dining room and saw two wrapped plates. The distinctly Japanese scent of several spices mixed with soba sauce reached his nose. She had likely chosen the curry over the soba so there were no noodles to get soggy before the boy logged out. And she must have ordered it over the phone because the rice and the curry roux were on separate plates. She could seem cold, but his sister was actually quite considerate.
After heating it up in the microwave, he started eating at the glass table in the living room instead of at the dining room table. His sister had chosen milk instead of water to drink and she had made a soft boiled egg for her own curry. She had chosen to eat the same thing as him despite having difficulty with spicy foods.
Instead of asking for all the details, she asked a simple question while crushing the soft boiled egg with her spoon.
“How’d it go?”
On the TV, a comedian was caught by an obvious trick question during a trivia quiz.
This brother and sister would fire off words like machinegun bullets or bombs when they talked, but they would say nothing at all when they did not talk. And it was not particularly awkward. Unlike with their classmates or online, they did not need to read the room with each other.
“After taking a bath and getting some rest, I’m going to log back in. If you need any help with your homework, now’s your chance.”
“I’m good for today.”
“Also…huh? Where did the eye drops go? The strong ones. My eyes are all dried out, so I want to use some before logging in.”
His sister’s eyes and spoon wandered through the air.
The boy looked puzzled, so his sister confessed.
“Sorry. They’re at my secret base.”
“That old thing? You’re still using it?”
“It’s on the way to school, so it’s convenient place for a quick break. And it’s not every day you find an abandoned planetarium next to a park. Plus, it’s pretty sturdy. If I keep it clean, I bet I can keep using it for another 10 years.”
“You find it comfortable to hang out in an abandoned building where anyone could come in at any time?”
“If there was a thick chain and big padlock on the door, it would seem too intimidating. It would make it feel like the company that owns the place was keeping a watchful eye on it.”
“But that still counts as outside, so don’t leave your possessions or extra cash there.”
“And no taking naps there. Someone could always wander in.”
“Sure, sure, sure.”
He could not tell if his lecture was having any effect whatsoever.
They lived in a normal apartment and went to a normal school.
This was what his friend Criminal AO had risked his life to protect. They could stand on their own feet and support themselves without having to “go AI”.
No one knew who ran Money (Game) Master or where the servers were located. You could use it to earn vast fortunes overnight, but one of the conditions for “going AI” was to temporarily give up the right to all your assets. That meant you could not even receive assets from someone else. It did not matter how much money Kaname tried to send. There was only one way to escape having “gone AI”. Work to gradually pay back the zero-interest debts the AI company had taken over.
But even if he could just send them money, would that really save them?
Even if he did send them a vast sum of money to pay off their debts, their pride would never recover.
Unless they escaped that environment of “living off someone else’s money”, it did not matter if that money came from an AI company or a human friend. The mental burden would be the same.
And if they accepted that money, it would shatter the equal relationship of friendship.
That friend’s parents, who knew nothing of how the game worked, might rejoice at first, but the result would be the same. Once the excitement cooled, the stagnant feeling would trap their hearts. They would realize they had been forced into a life of living off someone else’s money and of constantly needing to thank someone else.
Sending them money would only buy that alternate ending.
(I need to do something.)
The boy thought of someone while scooping curry up with his spoon and living his normal life.
He thought of the pen pal with such gentle handwriting.
He thought of the girl he had finally met in Money (Game) Master.
He thought of Criminal AO’s – Takamasa’s – sister.
(I can’t rely on that simple method. I need to find a way to truly reward her.)
Server Name: Mu Green. Ending Location: Summer City, Peninsula City.
Goodbye, Lilikiska Sweetmare.
Since none of the other Ag Wolves members could see her, a girl wearing only a baggy button-up shirt swore loudly as soon as she logged out. Dealers were always involved in high-level financial schemes, so they tended to maintain a poker face even in front of their allies.
She was in a large room that barely seemed lived in. It was a dreary place that rented out an entire floor of a large commercial building which had never had a previous tenant and it was filled with countless LCD monitors. Some were on tables and some were hanging from arms attached to the ceiling. They displayed the price changes in world currencies, stocks, oil, food, jewels, gold, platinum, etc. as well as any news that was likely to influence those things.
This was not limited to Money (Game) Master.
All information related to money could be found here.
Even now, billions of financial deals were carried out across the planet in a ten-thousandth of a second and the “world” was formed by that massive flow of data and exchange of money. Autonomous investment programs had never been more crucial and that had assisted the spread of AI. The other Ag Wolves members might be influencing the data she saw, but they might not. She did not know what they really looked like or what their real names were, so it was possible she was unwittingly using her programs to battle with her own allies.
In the real world, the girl wore pastel-colored fleece around the clock and felt no inclination to leave her room, but that did not mean she was ignorant of the outside world. In fact, she had devoured every form of entertainment out there. Some said there were things money could not buy, but she had bought up love first and foremost. Art, music, antiques, collecting, cooking, travel, socialization, philanthropy, sports, cameras, trains, history, and everything else. She had even tried fighting, but none of it had held her interest.
In the end, she only found the upper limits of the world.
She had seen all the world had to offer.
So she had no future. She had vast wealth and there nothing was off limits to her, but she had no interest in what the world had to offer and thus had nothing to spend her money on. Everything she tried was so predictable and never found a way to surprise her, so her gentle and unexciting days had gradually worn down her soul.
The real world no longer had any place for her to be herself.
She could not maintain her identity as a human being without abandoning reality and losing herself in Money (Game) Master.
But that had changed. Now she had found a thrill that shook her soul and gave her goose bumps.
Why had he betrayed Ag Wolves and taken #Downpour.err?
(If he was a true member of Ag Wolves, he would have been reluctant to steal the Inheritance from us.)
She clenched her teeth as she thought.
(He wasn’t really a part of the team yet. The mission began before he fully felt like he was one of us, so he left us at the last second!! People never really change, do they? I screwed up there again!!)
This girl had amazing skill at working with numbers and data, but she was amazingly poor at reading the subtleties of people’s emotions. Perhaps it was better to say she had not developed that skill because she had never deemed it necessary. She had generally been able to use her money to smooth over any relationship troubles.
That had not worked this time.
She was dealing with a Dealer as skilled as she was: Suou Kaname.
(I knew it.)
The girl was furious that he had stolen the Over Trick from her, but she also felt a different emotion swirling within her.
She felt hope that there was still something in this world she could not acquire so easily.
The real world had looked so gray after she had wrung it dry, but here was a thrill that could excite her soul once more.
Meanwhile, she recalled Kaname’s decisive parting words:
Saving people isn’t something you show off to others.
She did not understand.
He had gotten away.
And that was why his words had so shaken the heart of this winner of a perfect age. And as it burned at her soul, she quietly muttered to herself.
“But what am I supposed to do about it?”
Server Name: Psi Indigo. Starting Location: Summer City, Mangrove Island.
Welcome to Money (Game) Master, Suou Kaname.
Kaname felt the usual dizzying sensation as he arrived in Summer City.
He opened his eyes to find himself in the driver’s seat of his mint green coupe. The sports car was in the garage next to a log house.
All but fatal wounds were reset upon login, so his arm was as good as new.
After sitting there for a bit to get past the brief disorientation, he left the coupe. A large red motorcycle with an autumn leaf pattern was parked in the garage’s empty space, but he was more interested in the noise outside. A quiet watery sound continued on and on without end.
When he frowned and opened the door leading out of the garage, the entire door was hit by a powerful gust of wind.
All the water had transformed the fine white sand into a small river and the tropical trees were groaning ominously. The wind felt like continuous pressure and the rain flew horizontally. He could barely stay standing and the door nearly slammed right back into his face.
“A cyclone? Oh, god, did I forget to check the event announcements?”
He looked regretfully back into the garage while thinking of the stereo inside the mint green coupe, but there was nothing he could do. He gathered his resolve and stepped outside. He was thoroughly soaked by the time he reached the log house just a few meters away.
Inside the log house, he found Midori and Tselika using the kitchen.
He saw no water in the race queen’s bright mint green hair or on the chest or thighs of the girl wearing a black bikini and black miniskirt. They had either been in the log house before the cyclone began or they had gotten soaked but sat around long enough to dry off. It was also possible they had borrowed the shower.
The big pot on the dining room table seemed to contain a pot-au-feu full of vegetables and wieners. It must have been made with the ingredients in the log house’s refrigerator and the reserves kept in the storage space below the floor.
“This is a nice location for a house,” said Midori.
She did not seem to have a problem with borrowing his kitchen and food. Or maybe Tselika had pressured her into cooking.
Kaname was still a little out of it and he declined the food. He had just eaten a soba restaurant’s curry with his sister in the real world, so he was not too interested in eating.
He grabbed a towel and dried himself off as he responded to Midori’s comment.
“When you log in, you can choose the location of your car when you last logged out or your hideout’s garage, right? Most of the fighting goes on in the peninsula city, so having a garage nowhere near there expands my options.”
“It’s small but well cared for. It honestly looks pretty expensive.”
“That way I can sell it at a moment’s notice if necessary.”
Kaname did not understand why an AI-controlled Magisterus would want food, but the demon filled her cheeks like a squirrel as she devoured a fat wiener. Her forked tail wagged vigorously, so she was clearly enjoying herself.
“Munch, munch. Master, this girl can cook!”
“Yeah, it does look pretty well made.”
He was not simply praising her skill at cooking.
The pot-au-feu was made by cooking carrots, radishes, onions, cabbage, wieners, and pork in consommé, but it did not seem Midori had made it from scratch by peeling all the vegetables herself and so on. She had taken different premade soups and meals, separated out the ingredients, and then recombined them into a different dish.
“I was always best at tweaking premade things.”
“Oh, so you’re one of those people who can find infinite possibilities in a package of high-quality mushroom soup?”
“Isn’t that stuff the best? I seriously think it should be given some kind of international award.”
Whatever the case, Kaname was glad she had managed to please selfish and capricious Tselika.
Magisteri could supposedly only use the possessions and money of the Dealer they were contracted with, but Tselika was eating Midori’s cooking just fine. That bothered Kaname a bit, but the limitation probably did not apply when the ingredients all came from his hideout.
“But you know what? I hate that Midori keeps fiddling with that thing even when she cooks. She barely focused on the cooking! I bet it’d taste even better if she took it more seriously!! When it’s this good already, I just have to know what it’s like when she’s focused on it!!”
“Hm? Fiddling with that thing? You mean her phone? Midori, were you checking a recipe???”
Midori awkwardly hid something behind her back with both hands. It was probably her phone. In Money (Game) Master, your Magisterus played the role of a secretary and displayed the results of their high-speed calculations on your vehicle’s windshield or elsewhere, so there was no real need for outdated mobile devices.
But Tselika corrected him.
“She was drafting a letter on a memo pad. But why not just send them an email, right?”
“Wh-when did you peek at what I was writing!? And this is better! I know this hobby is like an old fossil, but there’s someone else who understands! So I won’t let you make fun of it. The exact same words have so much more heart when handwritten!”
“Do they!? Makes no sense to me!!”
“Don’t look so proud about rejecting someone’s interests. Ugh…”
Kaname narrowed his eyes a bit as he watched Midori hold her head.
And she must have noticed.
He did not ask any further questions.
That was her hobby, her interest, and the softest part of her personality.
“But, master, what are we going to do now?”
“About our next target: Ag Wolves. We don’t know where their hideout is, how many people are in their group, or how much of an arsenal they have. And we don’t even know where to attack since we don’t know where they’re hiding the part of the Inheritance they have.”
The first to respond was Midori rather than Kaname.
However, she did not have some grand strategy in mind.
“Ag Wolves, huh? They’re a weird group. They had a long-range sniper, an indoor combat expert, and a trap expert. Their jobs were a complete mishmash. Instead of forming a party that covers for each other’s weaknesses, it felt more like they had gathered together the leaders of various fields.”
She made this sound like a completely unremarkable observation, but Kaname and Tselika both focused on her. The twintail girl actually had to ask what this about.
“Wh-what? Why are you staring at me?
“You can tell what kind of stats they have!?”
You could make some general guesses about an enemy’s tactics based on their weapon. Someone with a sniper rifle would act differently than one with a submachine gun. But Midori was referring to something else.
“Eh? Of course I can.” She looked puzzled because she did not understand the importance of what she had said. “You can tell that just by looking at their general appearance. But I don’t mean whether they’re dressed for a party or for the streets. You can tell what they were hoping to accomplish today by what clothes they chose. Money (Game) Master doesn’t have experience points or a level system, so all your parameters are reliant on your weapons, clothes, and other accessories, right? Then it’s not that hard to figure out their job from the general feel of their outfit, right?”
“Hey, master. Is this what I think it is?”
“Tselika, use the drive recorder footage to analyze Lilikiska’s clothing as much as possible. Let’s compare answers as much as we can.”
“…Is this for real? This only gives me about 40% of what I would want to know, but it’s like Midori’s analysis fills in all the gaps, master.”
“You really are Takamasa’s sister, aren’t you? If a professional scout with an ultra-long-range high-speed camera heard you say that, they would probably want to scream.”
If you could figure out what range and tactics an enemy excelled at just by looking at their clothing and behavior, you could take advantage of that knowledge when you attacked.
A lot of people tried to work out that information using their Skills or Magisterus, but most analyses were half-baked and could only make some guesses. That was because everyone tried to obscure their stats. They might hide a necklace below a scarf or intentionally show off a counterfeit brand-name bag.
But none of that worked on Midori.
Her ultimate appraiser’s eye had seen right through that first-rate wolf pack.
But like Cinderella before she found the fairy godmother, that girl was unaware of her rare value and simply tilted her head.
Kaname pondered the situation while having Midori write out as much of the Ag Wolves members’ traits and parameters as she could remember.
He had a few different reasons for turning on Ag Wolves.
First, he had to steal the one or more pieces of the Inheritance that Ag Wolves was managing and using for their own purposes.
Second, Kaname and Midori had both become targets. The girl might get shot and fall, but it was also known she was an associate of Criminal AO’s. If Ag Wolves captured her for information on the Inheritance or Criminal AO himself, who knows what they would do to her.
Those two reasons were sufficient.
Kaname had sworn to protect his friend’s sister just as that friend had protected his sister.
Their immediate objective was to locate Ag Wolves’ hideout.
“I do have an idea concerning that.”
Tselika and Midori both focused on him as he sat at the dining room table.
“If we can’t attack them, then we just have to set things up for them to contact us. They said they were using food futures to buy those missiles. Since events like disasters and poor weather are announced in advance in this world, they don’t have to worry about any irregular fluctuations in price, so it’s a lot less risky than in the real world.”
“Then you’re going to do something about the food?” asked Midori while giving Tselika more soup when the Magisterus held out her empty bowl. Kaname nodded.
“Food isn’t very important if you only stay in Money (Game) Master for a few hours. Everything is reset when you log out, so you don’t have to eat when playing normally. But a lot of Dealers spend quite a bit of money on food. Some because they enjoy it, but mostly because it helps them focus their mind and suppress their emotions when sniping or making tricky deals. And if people will pay for something, businesses will crop up. If Ag Wolves is making their money in that industry, we can take advantage of it.”
He paused for a beat.
And then the demon-accompanied boy provided the answer.
“We can destroy every last bit of their income source. They won’t be able to afford to lie low, but when they act, we might just find a clue leading us to their hideout.”
They knew what they had to do.
So now it was time to review it all.
Kaname glanced out the log house window as the rain pounded on it.
“I was planning to go right ahead and destroy #Downpour.err with the Acid D we got at the casino, but this cyclone complicates matters.”
“You said destroying it in secret would be meaningless, right?”
“Yes,” confirmed Kaname. “The Over Trick legend is powerful. Destroying it is meaningless if no one believes us. They’ll accuse us of lying and claim we still have it. That won’t help the Dealers living in fear of the Inheritance.”
“And then they would forever think we had it,” added Tselika.
“Until someone insisted they had stolen the Inheritance from us. And we would have no way of proving them wrong. The Dealers who believed in the Inheritance’s survival would do what the liar said just to be safe.”
“Then we couldn’t stop people from being hurt by what my brother left behind.”
“So it’s best to fully destroy that weapon in a way no one can claim was faked. They would claim we’re bluffing if we streamed it on a video site, so it might be best to do it right in the middle of the peninsula city. Someone is sure to film it and upload it even if we don’t.”
“But we can’t do that in this cyclone,” said Tselika.
“Exactly. There won’t be any Dealers in the public square on a stormy day like this. We’ll have to wait until after the cyclone.”
Midori breathed a heavy sigh.
She had to want to tear the thing to pieces as soon as possible, so that was not surprising. Kaname also saw #Downpour.err as a source of trouble, so he did not want to leave it sitting around for too long.
“So for now, let’s focus on Ag Wolves. Tselika, have you finished the work I left with you? I believe I gave you a shopping list of materials.”
“Do you have any idea how exhausting that was, master? I had to fill the juicer with aluminum foil to break it into pieces and then I had had to fill the cans with that, the iron sand I got by dragging a magnet around the beach, and some other secret ingredients.”
Midori looked puzzled.
This work must have been complete before she started on the pot-au-feu.
Then Tselika showed off the products filling an attaché case.
“Look, 100 aluminum reduction incendiary grenades! That should be enough, right!?”
Midori’s mouth flapped wordlessly at this horrifying reveal.
Aluminum reduction was a special form of explosive that used the intense reaction between aluminum and iron oxide to burn the target with a temperature of a few thousand degrees. Since the melting point of iron was 1600 degrees, not even metal walls could protect you from that.
And 100 of them?
“Wh-what are you planning to do in Summer City!? Start a war!?”
“We pretty much have to when we’re up against Ag Wolves.” Kaname did not bat an eye. “They used around 10 people in that mission, but there have to be more than that. There will also be members who support them behind the scenes. If each of the ones active in the field is supported by 10 behind the scenes, they’re in the triple digits. If it’s 100 each, we’re talking about quadruple digits. What would you call that if not a war?”
“Skilled teams attract a variety of patrons,” explained Tselika. “If you know someone will give you a return on your investment, you can leave them every snow you have and just sit back and relax.”
Midori was once again bowled over by the scope of the problem facing them.
They had taken on 1000 PMC soldiers on the cruise liner, but this was different. No matter how strong they were, the AI-controlled PMC could only attack when it was covered by their contract. Actual humans, however, were much less predictable. The enemy had too great a range of freedom. It was impossible to know where they would attack.
On her own, she would have run into a dead end here.
But Kaname immediately stepped forward to take that ignorant girl’s hand.
“But there is a way to use that to our advantage. So let’s get started.”
Midori panicked, but she had no choice but to go with him.
The few meters to the garage left him soaked again. He tossed #Downpour.err and the case of aluminum reduction incendiary grenades in the back of the mint green coupe.
“Tselika, did you do the tires?”
“Yes, this job is looking bad, so I filled them with sponge.”
Midori looked confused, so Kaname explained.
“Tires are normally filled with air, but you can also pack them with a form of resin. That way they won’t go flat when someone shoots them and you can keep driving.”
“They apparently use that method for presidential vehicles in the real world,” added Tselika.
“That sounds convenient. Can you do it for my bike?”
Kaname and Tselika used their equipment to swap out the contents of the large red motorcycle’s tires.
(Soaking wet) Midori bent over to curiously watch the work, but she seemed oblivious to the fact that she was sticking her black bikini butt toward the coupe’s drive recorder. Of course, there was no point in recording the inside of the garage while the car was parked, but it was careless of her all the same. Plus, this was his friend’s sister. Her unintentionally risqué behavior made Kaname uneasy.
“But if this makes them so much sturdier, why doesn’t everyone use sponge?”
“Because you can’t get it back out so easily,” explained Tselika. “And it wears out quickly, so you have to replace the tires after every car chase.”
“Bff!! Why couldn’t you explain the risks before doing it for me!?”
It was too late now. The special resin was already hardening inside the tire tubes.
“Anyway, let’s get back on topic.”
“Ah, master! Dry yourself off before sitting in the driver’s seat! That’s real leather!!”
Tselika protested, but Kaname still sat directly in the driver’s seat while soaked with rain.
Midori also boarded her large red motorcycle. In the game world, not wearing a helmet was the norm. But it seemed like the rain in her face would be painful during the cyclone.
“Come out, Meiki. Hey, Meiki!?”
Only after the girl called out into the empty air a few times did a young woman finally appear on the motorcycle’s back seat. Meiki must have been her Magisterus. She had glossy, shoulder-length hair, two horns growing from her forehead, and a rectangular paper charm in the center of her forehead. She had an extravagant accessory around her neck and she wore a short red China dress which boldly showed off the bodylines on both sides of her body. She was fairly tall, but for some reason, her chest was smaller than Midori’s. Just like Tselika’s clothing, corporate logos, stock prices, income, expenditures, employee numbers, and other data scrolled across her China dress.
And at times, gray static ran through her entire body. And this came from the oni woman herself, not the China dress monitor.
Kaname gave her a curious look from the driver’s seat.
“What’s that? Some kind of bug? No, I guess that wouldn’t be it in Money (Game) Master.”
“It might be a compatibility issue. I don’t think I could get along with a Dealer who preferred motorcycles. I am so glad I ended up with someone with taste as good as yours, master.”
“Shut up. Magisteri are meant to support their Dealer, so she’s supposed to adapt to me. Besides, I’m lucky she even showed up today. When she refuses to come out, I can smack the machine all day without any response.”
Midori pouted her lips as she complained.
After opening the garage door with the remote, Kaname and Midori drove out. They drove through the cyclone to leave Mangrove Island and entered the four-lane circular bridge making a large loop around the ocean. There were a fair number of vehicles even today and Kaname switched on the radio.
“Cyclone Elizaveta’s fury is expected to continue for another half a day. Some harbors and airports are shutting down and the ensuing delays are having a number of economic effects.”
“The Skychasers, a group of divers who soar from building to building, are excited. According to a video announcement they released earlier today, they cannot afford to miss out on these superb winds. If you are spending your time in the peninsula city, please watch out for people falling from the sky. Now, our next story is…”
“The Transaction of Pivotal Calculator (aka Tr-o-Pi-Cal) Average stock index is at 14,900, which is up 250 points from yesterday. This is assumed to be from the recent activity in insurance brands such as General Early States, Golden Luxury, and Karen Insurance as Cyclone Elizaveta hits.”
While listening to the event announcements, Kaname sent a group social media chat request to Midori who drove alongside him. She soon accepted.
“Midori> We’re headed to the peninsula city, right?”
“Kaname> Yes, we’ll go around destroying all of Ag Wolves’ income sources there. That should draw them out.”
“Midori> Right, we have to do something about their, um, food futures, was it?”
Kaname frowned upon reading that.
When he physically glanced over at the large red motorcycle, the twintail girl started to grow worried.
“Kaname> You mean you don’t know what that means? When you’re playing Money (Game) Master which is all about making money!?”
“Midori> What’s wrong with that? I’m only interested in destroying my brother’s Inheritance.”
Kaname groaned and Tselika cackled.
Midori might as well be saying she was playing a fighting game without knowing the stamina bar existed. He was seriously glad she had not fallen already.
“Kaname> Futures are a contract where you pay money now to receive a product later. Normally, that ‘later’ is in 6 months or a few years.”
When he said that, the corporate logos on Tselika’s race queen outfit changed to something else. They were likely the brands and prices for futures like rice, wheat, and adzuki beans.
“Midori> That sounds convoluted. Why not just get the product now?”
“Kaname> What if the soda that costs 100 snow a bottle during the winter costs 1000 snow a bottle during the summer? If you use the fluctuation in price, you can resell it and make a profit.”
With foods like wheat and corn, the business was all about futures.
People made deals in units of tons.
“Midori> And the people after my brother’s Inheritance are using those futures to fund themselves? But wouldn’t they lose money if the soda they bought for 100 snow a bottle now dropped in price to 1 snow a bottle? If iced coffee or tea became the next big thing, they’d be done for.”
“Kaname> Of course. Normally, you could only curse your decision, but they’re probably using dirty methods to manipulate the prices.”
“Midori> Like what?”
“Kaname> It’s easy if you want to increase the price. Just blow up the cargo ships and freight trains carrying the goods. Keep the supply down and the price of a bottle of soda will rise and they can make up for their loss.”
In the real world, that would be an act of terrorism, but that was how this world worked.
“Kaname> Even normal Dealers do things like that, but I bet Ag Wolves takes it a step further. Instead of just driving up the price when they’re about to lose money, they can also drive down the price of a specific brand.”
“Midori> ??? Why would they do that? They can’t make money if the price isn’t high.”
“Kaname> Let’s say Ag Wolves wants to make money off of wheat. But the price isn’t influenced by wheat alone. If there is a significant price change for rice or corn, it will affect wheat as well. That’s why it helps to be able to control things in the positive and negative directions.”
And it was also useful for making corrections when destroying a cargo ship or freight train cut off the supply too much. Whatever happened, they would not lose money if they had control in both directions.
Futures normally focused on making a profit after 6 months or a few years, but Ag Wolves had said they used short term futures to raise the money for the anti-ship missiles and buying the cruise line.
Earning a fortune in a few days was impossible without a powerful controller like that.
“Midori> But what exactly do they do? I can imagine how attacking ships and trains would cut off the supply, but I can’t imagine how you could fill the city with excess supply.”
“Kaname> That’s what we have to find and blow up.”
Server Name: Sigma Blue. Starting Location: Summer City, Peninsula City.
Welcome to Money (Game) Master, Lilikiska Sweetmare.
The forehead glasses girl named Lilikiska was furious inside her dachshund-like black limousine.
The center glass table was flooded with reports from the instant she arrived. Countless windows opened and they all contained bad news from the other Ag Wolves members.
“Crap, crap, crap, crap! I don’t know how, but they noticed the controllers! They’re targeting them directly!”
The map of the peninsula city already had several red Xs drawn on it.
Each of those was the location of one of their controllers for manipulating the value of their futures, but anyone at those sites would have been confused.
There were no buildings there. Only rusty metal dumpsters.
“They’re after the plant factories! The plant factories we disguised as dumpsters and spread across the city are being blown up with incendiary rounds! Dammit, how dare they! And this one too!!”
There were two ways to manipulate the value of futures.
The first was to blow up cargo ships and freight trains to prevent the products from reaching the city. Cut off the supply and the prices would naturally rise.
This was the second. Ag Wolves secretly grew the ingredients using nutrient supplements and UV lights and they introduced those ingredients to the market when needed. By flooding the market with supply, they could reduce the price.
Plus and minus.
By controlling both, Ag Wolves could never lose.
Or that was the idea anyway.
“I can’t believe them! Oh, I found them! It’s that mint green coupe!! I’m gonna fill it with lead!!”
“Wait, Titan! Wait for reinforcements so you can surround-…”
Her voice did not reach him.
Because the transmission suddenly cut off.
At first, Lilikiska did not understand what that meant, but the cold truth gradually dawned on her.
Server Name: Omega Purple. Ending Location: Summer City, Peninsula City.
Titan will be forcibly logged out for 24 hours.
While parking the mint green coupe in the blowing rain, Kaname gave an emotionless click of his tongue with the Short Spear short-range sniper rifle sticking out of the opened driver’s side window.
“Tch. I went too far and killed him. Now I can’t get any information out of him.”
They could not converse with their actual voices in the cyclone, so Midori used the chat despite sitting on the large motorcycle right next to him.
“Midori> How did you know it was the dumpsters?”
“Kaname> Think about it. Money is everything in Money (Game) Master. People are going to fight over anything worth anything at all. We were looking for factories capable of producing the literal tons of vegetables necessary to affect the futures market. Keep it all in one place and you’re just asking for trouble. The thicker you make the walls to protect it, the more Dealers will be certain there’s something valuable inside.”
“Kaname> No one will give it a second glance if it looks worthless. Even if you can make money with an empty can in this city, no one is going to bother checking inside kitchen waste dumpsters. And by placing dozens or hundreds of them around the city, it won’t hurt you too much if a few are destroyed. And most importantly…”
Kaname pointed at a dumpster with the gun sticking out the window.
Technically, he was indicating the power cable secretly attached to the metal box placed by the building wall. It was plugged into an outlet on the wall meant for electronic decorations.
“Kaname> Actual kitchen waste dumpsters don’t steal power from the nearby buildings. Plant factories have to keep their UV lights running 24/7, so a battery wouldn’t last and solar power isn’t much use in a back alley. I’m sure this was a last resort for them, but it makes it easy to tell the real dumpsters from the fakes.”
While typing out that text, Kaname pulled the sniper rifle back inside and threw out an aluminum reduction incendiary grenade after pulling the pin with his mouth. The explosive resembled a spray can and, once it rolled below the dumpster, it produced a bright white light. The plant factory was burned away with several-thousand-degree flames that could melt metal.
Kaname used his eye movements to type a blunt post.
“Kaname> Time for the next one. The more we destroy, the more they’ll panic and the more they’ll reveal themselves.”
Midori seemed a little taken aback by it all.
“Midori> But aren’t you worried? Didn’t you say they have 100 or even 1000 people if you include the investors who support them?”
“Kaname> That’s why Ag Wolves will be panicking.”
“Kaname> The investors are only lending them the money, not giving it to them. And what if they lose the principal after insisting they’ll give all those people a return on their investment? We might not be the only ones those investors are upset with.”
The boy breathed a light sigh.
“Kaname> Ag Wolves isn’t really all that good at predicting futures. In poker terms, they’re essentially taking their final hand and swapping out two or three of their cards with jokers. So what if we destroy those controllers? The transactions are being made in real-time and they can’t pause or rewind it. Once they lose sight of where things are going, they’ll start losing more and more. Like they always should have been.”
“Midori> And their powerful allies might not remain allies.”
“Kaname> Futures are always a tricky business. Making money 100% of the time was an unnatural state of affairs.”
They drove off toward their next target, leaving behind the scorched frame of the plant factory and Titan’s convertible which remained motionless after crashing into a power pole.
Tselika was flipping through radio stations to fight her boredom, but then she happened across something.
It was a news program.
“We have new bounty information. The official notification only just arrived. A bounty of 50 million snow has been placed on the heads of the Dealers named Suou Kaname and Hekireki Midori. Payment will be made by the team known as Ag Wolves, so…”
Once he shared that information, a panicked text came from the autumn leaf pattern motorcycle driving alongside him.
“Midori> What do we do now!? Every Dealer in the city will be against us!”
“Kaname> Not a problem. The smart Dealers will take time working out an attack plan, so we’re free to act for a while. And removing a bounty from your head in Money (Game) Master is easy. It’s all about business here, so we just have to prove Ag Wolves can’t pay up.”
“Kaname> Kill them first and the bounty goes away. So our plan remains unchanged.”
“Midori> …You sure are calm.”
“Kaname> They spent 200 million a pop for single-use anti-ship missiles. If they’re going to get stingy now, there’s no way I can lose.”
“Tselika, that’s enough news. You can change to whatever station you like.”
“Sure thing.” Tselika grinned as she turned the channel dial. “So when are you going to figure out where they’re hiding their piece of the Inheritance?”
“That’s what I’m looking for now.”
The mint green coupe and large red motorcycle sped through the rainy city.
“Even though you might end up killing them all at this rate? And once most of their 10 active members are gone, they might abandon their business model and flee. Then you’ll lose any chance at a hint.”
“I have a backup plan.”
“For example, Lilikiska’s limousine. That giant thing would stick out like a sore thumb if she left it in a normal parking lot. But a special garage would also stand out. So where does she normally keep it?”
“Somewhere where a limousine would blend in?”
Tselika must have found a music station she liked because she sounded cheerful.
Kaname answered her while frowning a bit at how “rude” the lyrics were.
“She doesn’t have to hide it. It’s probably parked at a large hotel or casino where no one will give a limousine a second glance. That limits where she can go. Check those places and we should find her hideout.”
“Then couldn’t you have just done that in the first place?”
“The limousine only lets us pursue Lilikiska. It won’t necessarily lead us to Ag Wolves as a whole, so we might not find the Inheritance that way. That’s why it’s only a Plan B.”
A large tour bus drove down the opposing lane, splashing water to either side due to all the puddles. That water hit the windshield, briefly blocking Kaname’s view.
“Are you serious!? What does that asshole think they’re doing to my precious-…!”
Tselika turned around to flip them off, but she trailed off instead.
Kaname felt a tingling on the tip of his nose.
Just to be sure, he looked back through the rearview mirror.
And then it happened.
With a loud bang, the back of the tour bus opened up to form a slope and a black limousine drove out.
Kaname and Tselika had just been discussing how Lilikiska’s limousine was likely hidden in plain sight at a hotel or casino.
But they had underestimated her.
She had created an even larger “shell” to hide it anywhere in the city.
“She’s here!!” shouted Tselika. “It’s the forehead glasses girl!!”
“It’s worse than that.”
Kaname’s Lion’s Nose gave him a powerful sign as soon as he saw the threat. The tingling sense spread across his entire face like he had been punched in the nose.
The squealing of tires on asphalt rapidly approached, so Kaname sent a warning to Midori via the chat.
“Kaname> Her limousine is a mass of bulletproof metal. And the engine is huge, so don’t think you can outrun it at max speed. If it so much as grazes you, you’ll be thrown into a building wall, so follow me if you don’t want to die!!”
Actual presidential vehicles were more than 2 meters tall, someone could walk below the back door while standing, and the tires were bigger than a dump truck’s. They might look long and slender in photos since there was no ruler or pack of cigarettes to compare it to, but they were monstrous machines.
They had to be so big to keep the walls sufficiently thick.
The doors of presidential vehicles were as thick as a vault’s door. When the exterior had to contain that, a certain size was unavoidable.
Lilikiska’s black limo did not take it that far.
But it was still a monster with 10cm-thick bulletproof glass. An assault rifle was useless against it and it could drive at 490km/h on a straightaway, so it was a threat in and of itself. It feigned harmlessness when using the electric side of its hybrid engine, but a flip of a switch would activate the kind of jet engine used for drag races. Cars were often referred to as weapons on wheels, but this may have been more like a wrecking ball on wheels. A hit from it would be more like a hit from a freight train than a car.
In acceleration on a straightaway, nothing could defeat this modified limousine while it sprayed puddle water to either side like angel wings.
Lilikiska wore a few accessories on her ears and around her neck and she was currently applying nail polish inside the luxury vehicle. It was all to adjust her Skills. And it worked to increase her long-range combat ability which she already excelled at. If the enemy got close, she would hit them with her heavyweight bulletproof vehicle. If they moved away, she would snipe them. She had no blind spot.
“Sophia, crush them,” she said coldly.
“Aye, Lady Kiska.”
Kaname seemed to have jerked the steering wheel in the opposite direction after drawing her in to the limit. The limousine just missed its target and passed through the space the mint green coupe had vacated. It tore through the metal railing dividing the road from the sidewalk while it was made of wet paper. But it kept going and returned to the road. On the way, it felled a streetlight which nearly took off Midori’s head while she rode her large red motorcycle. The girl ducked her head down to just barely let the flying pillar pass by overhead.
But that did not matter.
As long as Lilikiska took out Kaname, the rest could be dealt with easily enough.
But something seemed off to her, so she operated the glass table with her eyes. She opened several windows and analyzed the video of the autumn leaf print motorcycle.
The footage was grainy, but the person at the handlebars was clearly too tall. And the girl usually wore a swimsuit, but this person was in a China dress.
“It isn’t the Dealer? Her Magisterus is driving for her?”
Even if the key was left in the ignition, a Magisterus alone could not steal someone else’s car or motorcycle. They could only use their Dealer’s possessions and money.
But they could drive a vehicle on their own if it already belonged to their Dealer.
“Then what about that coupe?” asked Lilikiska. “Dammit, where has Suou Kaname gone!?”
A short time earlier, Kaname and Midori practically held each other in their arms as they ducked down in the cyclone’s rain after leaving their vehicles.
Midori’s body temperature was oddly high for how soaked with rain she was, but Kaname did not have time to process that kind of question. He had to do something about Lilikiska’s limousine.
They were right next to the main road, in the narrow space between a giant commercial building and some tall bushes.
“(Oh, geez, he really has no tact at all. He could stand to learn a thing or two from him.)”
“Him? Do you know some other Dealer? Could we call him in for backup?”
When Kaname asked that, Midori’s shoulders jumped in his arms.
Her face flushed and she began stammering while her body temperature only grew.
“I-I really look up to him, okay!? Got a problem with that!? He has such lovely handwriting, so I just know he’s a mature person with a pure personality who would accept anything with a kind smile if I asked for help. He’s nothing like a VR addict like you who has to do everything digitally!!”
Suou Kaname’s lips were turning blue and this was so awkward it took all his strength not to look away from the twintail girl.
“The tingling feeling is gradually spreading. We need to get moving too. They’re going to notice our trick before long, but Tselika and your Magisterus can keep Lilikiska’s limo busy long enough for us to do what we need to do. We just have to be ready before she comes back.”
“Ready for what?” Midori could not believe her ears. “Are you saying we’re going to blow away that monster limo on our own? How!? It’s covered in bulletproof armor that can easily deflect an assault rifle bullet, it can move at nearly 500km/h, and we can’t blow the tires since it uses sponge! There’s nothing we can do!! I mean, even #Downpour.err is-…”
Midori trailed off there.
She may not have liked the fact that she was already thinking of relying on that weapon so soon after talking about destroying the entire Inheritance.
“There’s nothing wrong with considering it,” bluntly said Kaname. “We can’t afford to fall here.”
“B-but it’s still inside your car’s trunk, so there’s nothing we can do either way!”
“Not necessarily. Let’s get moving. Traveling 100m will be risky right now. If that armored limo shows up unexpectedly, we’re done for. I want a safer path.”
“A-a safer path!? Like what!?”
Kaname jogged over to the center of the empty road. Puzzled, Midori followed him and saw him crouch down. Phones did not have much use in Money (Game) Master since the Magisteri handled communications and calculations, but he removed his mobile device from the pouch on his thigh.
“What are you doing?”
“Money carries a lot of weight here. I won’t say money is everything, but you have considerably more options and freedom of movement when you have money. It lets you look at things entirely differently. I mentioned that before, didn’t I?”
“What are you trying to-…”
Midori trailed off.
Kaname held his phone over the center of the manhole. And just as the twintail girl was reminded of someone using e-money to pay at a convenience store or vending machine, a heavy metallic clunk came from the manhole lid. The lid itself slowly turned about 45 degrees.
The boy casually opened the lid like it was a rice cooker.
(Huh? I didn’t know manholes opened that easily.)
Midori found it odd, but that trivial matter was soon erased from her mind.
The world she saw through that opening was too bizarre.
She had expected a dark, narrow, and smelly sewer tunnel, but she instead saw water. It was even wider than a school pool. Water was roaring loudly through thanks to all the rain from the cyclone, but it did not seem all that unpleasant down there. That was mostly due to the plentiful lighting and how clean the water was as it reflected the light.
That was a culvert.
It was one of those rivers sealed away by urban development.
But that was not what surprised Midori.
There was something in the middle of the underground river directly below the manhole.
It was a cigar-shaped submarine that measured at least 100m long.
Money was not everything, but it let you look at things entirely differently.
Midori felt like she understood what that meant.
A girl in a short-sleeved white sailor outfit stood near the submarine’s hatch. But she had to be a Magisterus. No human was made out of reddish-purple translucent slime.
Kaname shouted through the storm while peering down into that subterranean world.
“Sorry to bother you on such a stormy day! I’m glad you were passing by near here! I can’t imagine it was easy to moor the sub with all the extra water, huh!?”
“The entrance fee alone is one million snow, so do not let it bother you. More importantly, I often hear rumors about you, Sir Suou Kaname. My master Frey(ja) is eager to greet you, so please come this way.”
After climbing a ladder down into the manhole and onto the submarine, they opened the hatch and stepped inside. But the instant the hatch opened, a deluge of music hit Midori’s ears. She did not know the technical genre or specific songs, but it was commonly known as dance music.
Unlike the submarines seen in movies or dramas, she did not find herself in a cramped cabin or a narrow, winding corridor. It was one large space, as if all the interior walls had been removed. It may have been about the same size as the entire first floor of a school.
There was dim indirect lighting, laser lights shining every which way, a DJ speaking English with way too much slang for her to understand, and dance music playing with beats that vibrated in her gut.
“Wh-what is this place?”
“A field for people who are into this kind of thing. There are many different ways to enjoy Money (Game) Master. More importantly, stay with me, Midori.”
Kaname said that because of all the young men and women packed into the dimly-lit space. It was hard to tell if they were dancing to the music or using that as an excuse to do certain other acts together.
“(Wow, he’s touching her there. Wait, people actually do that? Ehh, what happens when you touch a guy there? Wow, w-will I do things like this one day? U-um, uh, like with that guy with the nice handwriting?)”
When he called to her, the twintail girl quickly ran to catch up with Kaname.
Once they moved further in, the densely-packed crowd thinned out and they found a few tables with two-person sofas. These were couple’s seats.
The submarine’s owner was already waiting for them.
He was a slender man with long blond hair and a pure white suit. Even though he sat on a two-person sofa, a beautiful woman in a short dress was squeezed in on either side of him. He smiled and spoke to his new guests.
“Hello, hello! Please have a seat. I’m so glad to see you, Kaname-kun. So you’ve finally decided you need my help!!”
“Frey(ja), I don’t have much time. I know this is sudden, but I would like your help and quickly.”
Kaname felt no tingling on his nose from this slender man.
But unlike Midori or Tselika, the lack of a reaction was no reason to relax when it came to him. In fact, it was best to assume that smile hid something capable of fooling the Lion’s Nose.
Kaname and Midori accepted the man’s invitation and sat in the sofa across the table from him. As soon as they did, a woman sat on either side of them. However, they were not providing any kind of special “service”. They were simply applying pressure to scoot those two right next to each other.
Kaname really wished they had not done that.
The twintail girl, on the other hand, blushed brightly when her head ended up resting on his shoulder.
“W-wait!! I-I-I’m not sure I’m ready for this! Or rather, I already have feelings for someone else and I think it still counts inside Money (Game) Master! I really don’t want to turn this into a messy shoujo manga sort of situation! By which I mean, um, please don’t fight over me!!”
“Midori, don’t let the atmosphere get to you. You can’t let him control everything.”
“Midori, could you please explain why you just bit my shoulder?”
When he saw Midori blushing, the white suit man named Frey(ja) laughed. But he was not leering at the swimsuit girl. He was enjoying her interaction with Kaname.
“It looks like Called Game’s grim reaper has grown quite soft indeed. Oh, and I mean that as a compliment, so don’t take it the wrong way. But it seems you haven’t changed deep down. That large anonymous donation to Niflheim Medicine the other day was you, wasn’t it? Not only do drugs for rare diseases require a high level of technology, but they don’t make much profit for the company since a low number of patients equals a low number of consumers. But that donation creates an opening for the patients who have been economically abandoned.”
“Frey(ja), I would prefer you did not talk about that.”
“Why not!? You should be shouting it from the rooftops! I mean, I can’t imagine why anyone would make a donation like that anonymously. Look at the world’s philanthropists. Whether they hire an ad agency or hand over a giant check on camera, they all use it as a way to more efficiently get their name out there.”
“Listen, saving people isn’t something you show off to others. If money can solve a problem, then just solve it with money. And if it can’t, then find a different solution. Don’t look for some kind of reward in everything you do. If you force anything onto them, then you’re no longer saving them; you’re invading their life.”
The conversation paused for a moment.
The beat of the dance music still vibrated in their guts.
Finally, Frey(ja) spoke up without letting his smile drop.
“Criminal AO, huh?”
Twintail Midori had not expected to hear that name.
Kaname remained silent, so the white suit man continued.
“Those were his words. He was just as nice a guy as you, so it’s a shame he fell. To be honest, I really wanted to sleep with him at least once.”
Midori was unsure how to respond when he said that so earnestly.
She glanced over at Kaname, hoping he could explain.
“H-how is he supposed to help us? And um, who is he?”
“Oh, I forgot to introduce myself to the little lady!” The slender man smiled and spread his arms as if to show off the kind of white suit one might see at a wedding. “I am Frey(ja)! I run a pawnshop here in Money (Game) Master. The team named Treasure Hermit Crab is known across-…hm, it looks like you’ve never heard of it.”
“Indeed. I also work with the prize-system casinos to provide a wide variety of services. I don’t own anything you see here. The lighting, audio equipment, furniture, cooking tools, interior decoration, and the submarine itself are all products left with me by customers.”
Midori finally got a general idea of how Kaname hoped this man could help. He needed something that could destroy that armored limousine and he hoped to acquire that something at this pawnshop.
But Midori frowned for a different reason.
(What kind of outfit is that?)
Money (Game) Master had no experience points or level up system. A Dealer’s strength was determined by their weapon, clothing, vehicle, etc. And yet Frey(ja)’s clothing had no unified theme. He had chosen it based on how it looked rather than how it influenced his parameters.
Frey(ja) must have realized what she was thinking because his smile grew.
“I have no interest in that barbaric gun action nonsense. Same with car chases. I have a few different vehicles decorating the stage over there. I also can’t be bothered with financial talk about the Tr-o-Pi-Cal Average or whatever. I do business because it is necessary and I will fight if forced into it, but I generally leave that to my subordinates and Magisterus.”
Midori looked in the direction Frey(ja) gestured. Around five vehicles were positioned a level higher than the young adults dancing to the music. There were all kept sparkling clean and they were all colored the pure silver of an unlabeled can, but then they all changed color before her eyes.
Each Dealer could only have one Magisterus, so the same one must have been moving between vehicles to control their monitors and fill them with life.
A Dealer’s vehicle was as much a symbol of their identity as their weapon of choice, but this man used them as toys.
Midori looked confused.
“Then what are you interested in?”
“You can’t tell!? Love! Or call it romance if you like! I use Money (Game) Master to find love! And I couldn’t care less about everything else!!”
He shouted louder than the dance music.
Kaname had said that there were many different ways to enjoy this game and that this was a field for people who were into this kind of thing.
“I generally only work with couples. And artificial love with your Magisterus doesn’t count. Love is the most primitive form of interaction and people without something they must protect at all costs tend to choose a heroic death when they’re cornered. Working with people like that kind of scares me. I wouldn’t want to exchange email addresses with someone who couldn’t at least master online dating.”
His bias was simple enough. It was obvious he thought love was everything.
“That’s why I’m so happy to have Kaname-kun visiting me. So what’s this? You act all cool, but I see you’ve finally gotten a human girlfriend. I’m honestly relieved.”
“Bff!? Wh-wha- girlfrie- what!? What is he talk- mgh!?”
Midori just about said too much, so Kaname placed an arm around her shoulders and pulled her face into his chest. He half-forcibly covered her mouth to keep her from ruining the mood.
“Mghhhh!! (No, no, why am I like this!? I already have the guy with the nice handwriting, so why am I letting my heart pound like this!? Why!? Why am I so stupid!?)”
While the girl’s heart raced for some reason, Kaname cut to the chase.
“Frey(ja), I want to get down to business.”
“Really? But if it’s an important topic, I would prefer to help that little lady relax some more first. Well, maybe this appearance is partially to blame. A young maiden might have trouble hearing a sexy guy like me talking about love and romance.”
Frey(ja) snapped his fingers.
Immediately, a transformation began. His white suit came apart into countless white threads which surrounded the slender man’s body again while changing into a pure white wedding dress. His chest swelled out, his hips grew plumper, his arms and legs grew even more slender…and most of all, his face grew much more feminine.
Midori forgot all about having her face pushed into Kaname’s chest.
“Wha-? Eh? This can’t be real!”
“Ha ha! This is Money (Game) Master. You can do anything if you’ve got the dough. I told you I come here for love, didn’t I? But wouldn’t it be boring to let mere biology limit your options? I will consume every last form of love and I will do whatever it takes to accomplish that. Do you understand my stance now?”
“Little lady, you seem to have trouble interacting with a flippant young man. That is a pure and lovely thing, so I will adapt to your sensibilities. See? Isn’t it easier to discuss love when it’s just between us girls?”
“But I greeted you with my male body as a kindness. Some people become quite jealous when I show up in my female body. Ha ha! A strong view of chastity, but she doesn’t let jealousy bind her partner? This is quite the catch, Kaname-…”
Kaname’s voice was sharp and piercing.
The wedding dress woman pouted her lips when he clearly used her male name. She(?) snapped her fingers again and transformed back into the slender man in a white suit.
Kaname resumed speaking while still holding Midori close.
“I would like to get down to business.”
“Fine, fine. What would you like me to do?”
“I assume you already know what’s going on up top. I want your help to destroy Lilikiska’s armored limousine.”
“Just to be clear, I run a pawnshop. I will buy and sell most anything, but human trafficking is a big no-no. So you can’t expect to buy any soldiers from me. I do enjoy winning people’s love with money, but I do not want to straight up buy it.”
“I’m not asking for that much. I want you to transport us to a certain location with this sub. In other words, I want a safe and quick route to the manhole. And one other thing.”
When Kaname made his suggestion, Frey(ja) disapproved.
Just as Kaname had expected.
“That might be a trivial thing for you, but it cuts to the core of my business. I assume you knew that already?”
“This is Money (Game) Master. I won’t say money is everything, but you have considerably more options when you have it. Something that would normally be impossible can become quite possible if you have enough cash.”
“Well, you can talk the talk.”
Frey(ja) snapped his fingers.
Midori shrieked because the back of the couple’s seat she and Kaname sat in suddenly collapsed backwards. It must have actually been a sofa bed.
And the next thing she knew, Frey(ja) had gotten up from his royal throne. He climbed over the glass table and on top of Kaname who had collapsed back onto the sofa bed.
The white suit transformed into a wedding dress and he(?) once more became a woman.
She(?) spoke while on all fours above Kaname.
“How much do you intend to pay me to convince me it is worth shaking the very core of my business?”
“You can’t back down, can you? You don’t want anything to happen to the Magisteri and vehicles you used as a diversion, do you? So how about this? I will not just turn you away. I will help you no matter what. However, if the sum you suggest is not enough to convince me, I will have you make up for the difference by enjoying your body.”
She(?) seductively licked her lips and ran her fingers along Kaname’s chest.
Then that person of indeterminate sex glanced over at Midori.
“And it might be fun to force your partner there to watch. Ha ha! Like I said, I want to enjoy all forms of love. I can’t get enough of pure love, but the sinful and abnormal kind is just so thrilling.”
“So, Suou Kaname-kun, tell me. How much are you willing to give me?”
Frey(ja) pressed their foreheads together and her(?) sweet breath tickled his face.
But Kaname was unfazed.
“Your pawnshop works with the casino on Industrial Float #3, doesn’t it?”
“Hm? Well, I’m affiliated with six different casinos there and I directly run two. After all, love can be costly. Especially in this world.”
“It doesn’t really matter, so just choose the one with the most guests during this cyclone. Now, announce a new category for betting. Who will survive: Suou Kaname or Lilikiska? Bet on me and you can win as much money as you like.”
Frey(ja) was caught off guard, so she(?) fell silent for a while.
But she(?) finally burst out laughing.
“Ah ha ha ha ha ha!! I see, I see. So you went for a theoretically infinite amount! True enough, I kind of have to accept that! Because money is everything in Money (Game) Master!!”
“Everything? If you really thought that, you wouldn’t be so obsessed with love.”
“Fine, then.” The wedding dress woman backed away and winked. “I will accept your deal. But once you’re back on the surface, keep in mind that this isn’t your own personal battle anymore. Got that, my cute thoroughbred?”
They used the submarine to traverse the countless underground rivers known as culverts. Once a specific manhole was overhead, Kaname thanked the translucent slime Magisterus.
“Sorry about everything. Once we’re up top, it would help if you left immediately.”
“Think nothing of it. I have not seen my master enjoying themselves this much in a long time. So when I say I am awaiting your next visit, I am not just being polite, Sir Suou Kaname, Lady Hekireki Midori.”
After opening a special lock and popping the manhole cover like the lid to a rice cooker, the fury of the cyclone hit Kaname in the face once more.
This manhole was at the center of a giant intersection a short distance away from the previous main road.
Once Midori climbed out into the blowing rain, she checked her phone and gasped.
“You’re kidding, right? It’s only been 10 minutes since then. Does that place warp the passage of time like Ryugu-jo?”
“Ryugu-jo sounds like a better name than Treasure Hermit Crab. Frey(ja) loves all forms of romance, so send them an email and they might just change the name to that.”
Had the conversation progressed far more smoothly than she thought, or had someone messed with Midori’s phone?
While discussing that, they set out into the storm. Of course, Kaname took the lead while Midori simply chased after him.
They circled behind a café on the first floor of a commercial building at a corner of the intersection.
Technically, they approached a metal compressed gas cylinder that stood just a bit shorter than the average girl.
“No, this is a hydrogen tank. It’s one form of smart power that’s been all the rage lately.”
Kaname quickly removed the hose and attachment.
“Are you going to blow it up to hit the limousine?”
“That wouldn’t be enough for that thing.”
He forcibly lifted up the tank and placed it over his shoulder, but that proved too much for him with the blowing of the storm. The boy wobbled, so Midori supported him from the side. Her cheeks grew warm as she essentially embraced him with her entire soft body.
(Stupid, stupid, stupid! But this is important! It’s a necessary step toward destroying my brother’s Inheritance so I can actually enjoy writing my letters again!!)
“Y-you wear a strange outfit, you know?” she said.
“Why do you say that?”
“Same with that short-range sniper rifle. It’s for sniping, but you keep going for close-range combat. Like you are now. And gas cylinders are normally carried with a special dolly, but I can’t imagine when this supernatural strength would come in handy in battle. I just can’t figure out what overall concept you were going for.”
Their target was one of the manholes at the center of an intersection.
It had a few small holes on the surface. They were meant for inserting a special opener, but they were unnecessary when the cover was locked by Treasure Hermit Crab. In other words, they were fake holes for camouflage. Kaname stuck the hose in there and turned the valve. A hissing sound could be heard as plenty of hydrogen was poured inside.
He had needed to speak with the ruler of the underworld before performing this work.
Then something changed.
They heard squealing tires in the distance.
Kaname felt a strong sensation on his nose that was not quite electricity and not quite pins and needles.
“She’s already here!!”
“Hide, Midori! Dammit, will this be fast enough!?”
Kaname used the bottom of his foot to lightly kick the gas cylinder lying on its side so it rolled into the bushes on the side of the road. He also grabbed the short-range sniper rifle hanging from his hip. He started to run away with Midori in tow, but moving just a bit outside the intersection was the most they managed. He opened the collapsible stock and locked it in place.
The first vehicle to round the corner and charge into the intersection was a mint green coupe.
Next came a large red motorcycle with an autumn leaf print.
Soaking wet Midori flinched back, so he pulled her close as the two masses of steel raced by on either side of them.
He could feel the girl’s pounding heart through his chest.
Her tension was contagious and it just about dragged him down too.
After a short break, the black armored limousine finally made its appearance.
It was charging straight toward them!!
It had begun as admiration.
There had once been a legendary team by the name of Called Game.
Their overwhelming records told the story of why they had been given that name.
During a perfectly ordinary shootout, they had saved the life and livelihood of a certain girl.
But they had not invited that girl to join their team.
What was it they had said back then?
Yes, it was…
In that instant, Lilikiska ran a risk assessment. The status of the intersection was displayed on the glass table and it had highlighted Kaname’s gun and the gas cylinder rolling to the edge of the road.
(It doesn’t matter if he shoots me and the cylinder can’t break through the bulletproof armor even if it detonates right beneath the limousine.)
“Sophia.” She spoke coldly. “If they try to resist, just run them over. We can take back #Downpour.err even if it means taking all of their assets after they fall.”
“Aye, Lady Kiska.”
The heavyweight weapon picked up even more speed. Even if Kaname and Midori fled to the left or right, Magisterus Sophia could still hit them with just a quick turn of the steering wheel. They could not escape that line of death. She doubted they could be hiding something as large as #Downpour.err and, at this point, it did no matter even if they did have it. Her limousine would take a lot of damage, but Kaname and Midori would still fall when the mass of metal hit them.
But then Lilikiska saw something odd.
The window displayed on the glass table showed Kaname aiming his short-range sniper rifle her way while he held the twintail girl in the center of the intersection.
That weapon could not pierce the limousine’s armor.
But there was still life in Kaname’s eyes.
(There must be something.)
Before she could find the answer, Suou Kaname’s bullet took flight.
More work would have been necessary had it been heavier-than-air propane gas, but hydrogen was light. Even after filling the underground space through the manhole, it crawled back up through those small imitation holes on its own.
So Kaname only had to fire on the manhole.
A single spark ignited the gas.
Detonating the hydrogen tank would not have destroyed the armored limousine. Kaname had told Midori that, so that was not his intent here.
He ignited it just after the approaching limo’s front right wheel drove over the manhole.
In other words, the entire intersection erupted in a 10m explosion centered on the manhole.
Blowing away the vehicle itself was not necessary. If they caused the ground to collapse below the armored limousine, they could incapacitate it.
There was an intense blast of wind unrelated to the cyclone.
But the result was not as Kaname expected.
The limousine did not fall. The entire vehicle floated up a bit. The explosion had been too big, so it lifted the car up so it was driving on just two wheels. And it continued forward like that. The mass of metal was lifted up enough for the boy and girl to fit in the newly-created gap. The bottom of the limo just about grazed their heads.
It passed by in an instant.
The limo reached the other side of the intersection while still on two wheels.
“Did we do it!?”
Kaname quickly looked back while still holding Midori close.
They had ruined one of the specially locked manholes. There was a large hole in the road, opening an entrance to the sealed underground area. Plus, the explosion would gather a lot of attention to the underworld which had previously gone unnoticed by most Dealers. It was going to take a lot of money to convince Frey(ja) it was worth it, so Kaname hoped he had accomplished something worth that cost.
His initial expectation had been wrong, but Lilikiska was not a threat if her armored limousine had been flipped over. The thick armor was meaningless if the vehicle could not drive.
“That isn’t good.”
Blushing and soaking-wet Midori looked up at Kaname.
But the boy was glaring at the distant enemy rather than the girl in his arms.
The tingling on his nose had not gone away.
“She recovered! Dammit, you don’t normally recover from that kind of thing!”
He watched as the black limo tilted toward the tires rather than the roof. All four tires returned to the ground and obtained a firm grip on the asphalt just before the large limousine made an unbelievable U-turn that looked like a sword swung by a giant. Water sprayed up in a crescent moon shape.
They heard squealing tires.
The mint green coupe and large red motorcycle had circled back to the collapsed intersection from a different road.
Midori scrambled from Kaname’s arms and hopped onto her motorcycle while Meiki scooted to the back seat. Kaname climbed into the mint green coupe’s driver’s seat.
Tselika did not bother complaining about him getting the seat wet this time.
They had bigger issues to worry about.
“Not even that was enough!”
“It’s bulletproof and has greater acceleration than us. What do we do, master!?”
“What about the grenades? The aluminum reduction incendiary ones.”
“Detonation takes 5 seconds after pulling the pin, so actually hitting at this speed won’t be easy! And she must know about them after we used them to blow up the plant factories, so she’ll be on her guard!!”
Kaname clicked his tongue and used his eyes to send instructions via the group social media chat.
“Kaname> A wide straightaway would be suicide. Let’s link our maps and lose her in the alleys.”
“Midori> Hey, what about that Acid D stuff? It can dissolve any kind of metal, right!?”
“Kaname> We would only burn ourselves by throwing that stuff around in this storm.”
The windshield lit up in response to Kaname’s instructions and guided him with fictional glowing signs like it was AR or a fighter jet’s HUD. Since their maps were synced, Midori would be seeing the same row of lights that looked like streetlights or roadside trees.
The tingling on his nose grew painful.
He used the handbrake and the rain-slick road to swing the back of the mint green coupe around in a sharp curve to avoid the charging limousine. He forcibly drove down a narrow path contained between gray concrete and red brick.
When the two vehicles drove a bit further, Kaname grimaced.
They had supposedly escaped, but the tingling was only growing.
He stopped his car to check.
What he saw did not match the map.
The simple display showed a small plaza in between the buildings and several exits leading away in different directions, but he instead found the framework of a building under construction and it was surrounded by construction machinery and plenty of bags of cement stacked up. That sealed off the other exits he had been counting on.
“Private property,” said Tselika in the passenger seat. “I don’t like the looks of this.”
The Magisterus uncomfortably held her own shoulders. She could only use her contracted Dealers’ money and possessions, so this was not a fun situation for her. She could walk through private property, but there would still be plenty of obstacles that a human would never even consider.
“Midori> Did she lure us here?”
“Kaname> Could be.”
They had been too taken in by the impact of Lilikiska’s limo. She was not the only member of Ag Wolves. The other members could be approaching and the biggest threat was not that heavyweight armored limousine.
How had Lilikiska known where they were?
The same question must have occurred to Tselika because she proposed an idea.
“Are they using a satellite or drone?”
“If so, they would have located us before we arrived in the peninsula city. They would have attacked the log house on Mangrove Island.”
“Are their 1000 patrons sharing information via their phone cameras?”
“Maybe so, but do you really think they would all cooperate when their trust in the team is so shaken? And even if they did, Ag Wolves might not trust the information if they suspect it might be faulty.”
“Then what could it be?”
The tingling had grown to a sharp pain on the tip of his nose.
His Lion’s Nose was not a part of his normal five senses and it had picked up on the enemy. He slowly looked around the construction site from the driver’s seat in the pouring rain.
“It’s the security cameras.”
“You mean they bought the security company?”
“No, look over there.”
The boy pointed to a simple camera attached to a filthy wall.
“The building itself is still under construction, so why is a camera already in place? That kind of wiring should be the last thing they do.”
“Wait, are you suggesting what I think you are?”
“They didn’t have to take over a security company. They bought a bunch of cameras and set them up all over the peninsula city in advance! When they’re out in the open like this no one will think they’re illegitimate. Ag Wolves has built a system that lets them view everything that goes on in at least the peninsula city!!”
They may have actually used their 1000 patrons for that. It seemed like too much work for just their 10 main members.
Despite the intensity of the cyclone, Kaname opened the window and destroyed the camera with his short-range sniper rifle, but that would not be much help.
He used the digital keyboard with his eyes to share this information with Midori via the chat, but her response was not what he had expected.
“Midori> Vweh!? You mean Ag Wolves s-s-s-s-saw us in each other’s arms earlier!? Wh-wh-wh-what do I do!? Will that guy hate me now!? Will he think I’m impurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”
“Kaname> Midori! Take this seriously. Ag Wolves will be here soon.”
“Midori> I know that, but wh-what do we do!? Build a barricade? It should be easy to know where the enemy is coming from when there’s only one exit, but we’re still outnumbered!”
She was right.
“Tselika, search the surrounding environment. Give me a list of all usable information!”
“I’m already doing it, you damn fool!!”
Windows opened on the windshield so rapidly it looked like the result of some malware.
Kaname rapidly moved his eyes to scan through the information and he linked a few windows with red lines to put together a makeshift plan.
Tselika whistled at his work.
“Kaname> How does this sound?”
Lilikiska had used her armored limousine to drive Suou Kaname and Hekireki Midori into the back alley construction site.
The rest was a job for the other Ag Wolves members entering that narrow alley.
Bent-backed M Scope and braided Saurus left their vehicles to head down the alley. They wore thick electric-powered armored suits with giant tanks on their backs. The weapons they held at their hips were naphtha flamethrowers.
Those had a range of more than 20m. They could not fire for even 30 seconds at a time, but that was enough when the enemy was surrounded by walls in the construction site. These were vehicle destroying weapons, so even if they missed, they would bring the vehicle to a stop by boiling the radiator and then detonate the car by surrounding the fuel tank with flames.
And even if you hid behind cover, the heat and oxygen deprivation would still reach you.
There was only one real concern:
“We can only pray they don’t make a desperate attempt with #Downpour.err.”
“Shut up, you pessimistic SOB. We just have to spray these flames around before they can try anything.”
Just then, they heard the squealing of tires from the depths of the alley. M Scope and Saurus prepared for the coupe and motorcycle to charge out at them, but that was not what happened.
Kaname and Midori were escaping.
The Ag Wolves members had flamethrowers at the only exit. All the other exits were sealed by heavy machinery or piles of cement bags.
The mint green coupe had gathered plenty of speed by making a loop of the square construction site.
And then it drove up on a metal panel leaning on top of a low surface to use it as a ramp and launch itself into the air.
M Scope could only watch it happen, but then he remembered the group of divers known as the Skychasers who jumped from rooftop to rooftop.
Next, the large red motorcycle flew through the air to reach the flat roof of a short building. They then used another ramp (likely set up by one of those volunteers) to jump to another building like circus performers.
This driving technique could never be seen in the real world. They had transformed this into an aerial battle.
But this was Money (Game) Master. This world provided greater thrills than reality.
“Are you kidding me!?”
The braided girl named Saurus shouted in anger.
Because she and M Scope were wearing those armored suits, they failed to notice something even at the very last moment. They failed to notice the pungent odor filling the area. They also failed to notice the hole dug in the constructions site and the gas line ruptured within.
They failed to notice the thin wire connecting the red motorcycle to the pin of an aluminum reduction incendiary grenade embedded in the ground.
Exactly five seconds later, the entire square construction site was enveloped in explosive orange flames.
They made jump after jump.
The mint green coupe and large red motorcycle soared through the cyclone. With each new roof, they moved gradually higher.
“Building rooftops? Really!? This is private property too!”
“If we leave each one quickly enough, the PMCs won’t attack.”
“Not the point. It’s so uncomfortable! You should buy up all of these buildings!!”
Normal tires would have burst from the impact of landing from so many large jumps, so it was lucky they had filled theirs with sponge.
If they stopped on each roof to take aim, they would lose all their momentum, so they had to locate the next ramp while flying through the air, use the handbrake only as much as was needed to swerve around without killing their momentum, and then drive straight toward the next ramp with their speed intact.
But why were they continuing these acrobatics even after escaping the back alley?
The answer could not have been clearer: the explosive pain in his nose only continued to grow.
Something tore through the air as if punching a hole in the blowing rain.
It hit an industrial air conditioning unit right next to the mint green coupe, producing a deafening boom and spreading explosive flames around.
That was a sniper shot.
And hitting an air conditioning unit with a bullet would not produce such stickily toxic flames. This was an armor-piercing incendiary round. It was a special overkill round that pierced the armor and then fried the machinery or people inside. It used white phosphorus, so the flames would envelop the target’s body and the smoke would scorch their lungs.
Kaname turned his head, but he figured out where the sniper was from the pain in his nose before his eyes.
The twintail girl driving with him also contacted him.
“Midori> She followed us!! That limo is flying between the buildings parallel to us!!”
“Kah kah!! A sheltered rich girl in a flying limo? And with an extra-large anti-materiel rifle in her little hands!? That’s the insanity I’ve come to expect from Summer City!!”
Tselika cranked up the music to match her mood.
Midori seemed to be reading their opponent’s stats from her outfit.
“Midori> A sniper. The long-range type. She’s spent a ton of money on hand-stabilization. It looks like the aiming is entirely manual; no auto-aim at all. But that actually makes her look like an expert. Even at this range, she isn’t relying on luck. She’s going to be aiming right at us!! She might even be predicting our movements!!”
A row of buildings stood up like crooked teeth on the other side of a large road. That black limousine had chased down Kaname and Midori on the surface streets, but now it was soaring from rooftop to rooftop like magic.
It was theoretically possible. Circuses had motorcycles, bicycles, unicycles, and even wheelchairs make large jumps from ramps and perform flips in midair. But actually seeing it had a much greater impact.
“Don’t let the visual distract you. That isn’t what matters here!”
The air and the raindrops were torn through nearby, a storage room on the rooftop exploded, and fearsome flames covered it.
A few windows opened on the windshield to compare the various levels of damage.
“This was the same. As was this, this, this, and this.”
“What are you talking about!?” complained Tselika.
“An air conditioning unit and a storage room shouldn’t have equally thick walls, so the damage to them should be different. Yet I’m not seeing that with Lilikiska’s anti-materiel rifle! It’s doing the same damage to everything!”
“What does that matter!?”
“A normal sniper rifle wouldn’t have my nose tingling like this. And what kind of weapon can break the limits of the physical laws set in place for this entire world!?”
Tselika only blinked at him when he answered her question with a question of his own.
But Midori responded on the chat.
“Midori> Are you saying it’s part of my brother’s Inheritance!?”
“Kaname> Bingo. It’s probably a ridiculous anti-materiel rifle with infinite range!”
Kaname and Midori were only still alive because they and their enemy were in constant motion and because the powerful winds of the cyclone interfered. Otherwise, they and their vehicles would have been fried by now.
“Kaname> Basically, the kinetic energy from the gunpowder never drops and gravity doesn’t pull the bullet down, so it continues forward indefinitely. That alone is enough of a threat. She might be able to aim at someone on the horizon 5000 meters away! And if she’s looking down from an elevated platform, that could extend to 10,000 meters!!”
Kaname’s short-range sniper rifle and Midori’s self-defense handgun would be lucky to hit a target 500 meters away and 20 meters away respectively, so it was obvious how frightening the specs of Lilikiska’s anti-materiel rifle were.
“Kaname> The real attack only begins once the bullet hits the target. Based on the bullet holes, it looks like taking a 2.7mm anti-materiel round from point-blank range. And it includes a white phosphorus incendiary effect. There’s no winning against that in a straight fight. We’ll either be squished by the flyswatter or fried by the insecticide torch!!”
Instead of pressing the stock against her shoulder, Lilikiska was holding it like a bazooka.
It appeared to technically be a bullpup. The magazine, which looked like a metal phonebook, was attached far behind the grip.
That monster’s barrel alone was more than 2 meters long.
It likely folded in half for transportation purposes, but its overwhelming weight must have made it nearly impossible to carry around.
Kaname’s Lion’s Nose trembled.
This was a fearsome enemy, a thick barrier, and a towering hurdle, but he had no intention of leaving after learning of this threat. The lion was searching out the location of this extra-large prey so he could defeat it.
While jumping between rooftops, a social media chat request arrived at Kaname’s account.
“Lilikiska> Hand over #Downpour.err. We both have pieces of the Inheritance, but my #FiringLine.err has the advantage here. The white phosphorus flames and smoke are not fun. In fact, I kind of wish it had an option for switching that part off.”
“Kaname> Not happening.”
“Lilikiska> You think the cyclone works to your advantage? You think my aim will slip while we drive around so much? Think again.”
An explosion pierced through the scenery.
But it did not hit the mint green coupe or the large red motorcycle.
The white phosphorus explosion swallowed up the ramp they had planned to use next.
The sheet of metal only shifted a bit, but it was no longer usable for a life-risking jump. Kaname typed into the chat with his eyes to tell Midori to stop while he also slammed on the brakes in the mint green coupe. He felt a squeezing on his heart as he slid across the slick rooftop, but he managed to avoid thoughtlessly driving right off the edge.
“Lilikiska> Aiming for a stationary target isn’t all that difficult.”
When the black limousine landed on the next building rooftop, it spun around to adjust its position.
They were between 800 and 900 meters apart.
Kaname and Midori’s weapons could not reach her, but hers could easily reach them.
She must have wanted to aim carefully because the black limousine stopped while parallel to them and the girl left her sheltering box to set foot on the rooftop. She used the rear trunk portion as a shield, removed #FiringLine.err from her shoulder, and supported it on a bipod instead.
“Lilikiska> And now you are stationary as well. I will warn you just once more: hand over #Downpour.err. If you do not, I will blow up your vehicles first and then shoot both of you to death to obtain it.”
The only things on the roof were a few industrial air conditioning units, flower beds, storage rooms, and a table and chairs for enjoying an afternoon drink. There were things to hide behind, but none of them could block the anti-materiel rifle Inheritance known as #FiringLine.err. A single shot would blast right through them to burn their skin and scorch their lungs with white phosphorus.
“What do we do, master!?”
He started by blocking Lilikiska from the chat. That could be taken as a hostile act, but he did not care. And after sending the bare minimum of instructions to Midori…
“Tselika, are you familiar with the trash heaps that form during natural disasters?”
“Normal cities have areas where winds gather. The terrain and building shapes cause multiple winds to gather in a single spot. Now, the extraordinary winds of typhoons and cyclones will blow lots of trash around, so it ends up piling up a few meters or even more than 10 meters tall in those spots. All the trash in an area of the city is gathered in a single spot. Incredible, isn’t it?”
“Hold on, master. What are those spots you’ve been marking on your map?”
“Now, Tselika, a question: if an empty coupe drives off a 20-story building at full speed, can it safely land in one of those trash heaps? It’s a simple ballistic calculation, so I know you can do it.”
The demon’s mouth flapped wordlessly at the ridiculous request, but the boy did not care.
Tselika started panicking when she saw there was no smile in his eyes.
“M-Magisteri can be downed, you know!? If we take too much damage, we freeze up! And if the trash heap doesn’t absorb enough of the impact, my temple might be destroyed! But you still want me to do this!?”
“Would you prefer to wait for it to be roasted by #FiringLine.err? I’ll pull it out of the trash heap later, so just do it!”
“A-are, are you, are you kidding meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!?”
Kaname ignored her complaints as he messed with the gas pedal and rolled out of the mint green coupe’s driver’s seat. The sports car went for a dive with the demon still in the passenger seat.
Lilikiska was viewing the situation through her scope.
Her attention was initially drawn to the mint green coupe diving straight off the rooftop, but then…
“The red motorcycle isn’t there? Sophia! Can you check the footage!?”
“Aye, Lady Kiska.”
The elf in the driver’s seat swiftly executed the command. A window opened to fill the 10cm glass of the window.
While the footage advanced frame by frame, the red motorcycle girl escaped into the building with the mint green coupe acting as a distraction. That building was 20-stories tall, but she could reach the ground in no time if she drove the motorcycle down the emergency stairs and took a shortcut through the atrium.
Lilikiska looked to the ground, but…
(I can’t see through this storm!! She can sneak up on me like this!!)
Money (Game) Master had no experience points or level up system.
The parameters related to strength were managed by one’s weapons and clothes. And all of that could be bought with money.
“Argh, these corrective Skills are in the way!! I can’t even rely on this concentration reinforcement!!”
She eliminated her unnecessary Skills.
There were times when a skilled sniper would prioritize her own senses.
Lilikiska stripped off her blouse and skirt so she wore only a red bikini. Before, she had worn underwear instead, but she had secretly changed that after the accident with Suou Kaname.
#FiringLine.err was a ridiculous anti-material sniper rifle with infinite range, but it did not have its downsides. It was too heavy to move around with human strength and its powerful and toxic white phosphorus incendiary rounds were a threat to the wielder when used on a nearby target.
(Where did he go?)
She sent another chat request.
There was a response, but with a bit of a delay. Instead of going through the coupe, she was forcibly connected to his phone which had significantly less processing power. In the real world, the delay would be insignificant, but it was devastating in Money (Game) Master where 10,000 transactions were held every second.
(So he isn’t in the coupe. That wasn’t a double suicide. Suou Kaname is still on the rooftop!!)
Once she knew that, she sent an ultimatum.
“Lilikiska> Give me #Downpour.err.”
“Kaname> What happens if I do? Will you only save my life?”
“Lilikiska> I will consider sparing Hekireki Midori as well. There are a number of ways to use an associate of Criminal AO. Yes, I promise to treat her with great care.”
“Kaname> Not good enough.”
“Lilikiska> Have you forgotten how powerful my engine is? No one can outdo my limo when it comes to max speed and bursts of speed, so I can make a jump from this narrow rooftop! You seem to be relying in this Criminal AO associate, but I can eliminate the threat of a close-range battle by jumping to another rooftop!!”
“Kaname> So what?”
“Lilikiska> The rooftops are the private property of AI companies, so we will be surrounded by PMCs if we stay here. I just have to stop you there and move to another building when the timing is right. I can escape outside the area covered by the PMC contract. The clock is ticking, so what will you do!?”
“Kaname> Sorry, Lilikiska. It’s true this could hardly be worse and I’m not sure I’ve ever been more cornered than this. I will admit that.”
His words were a form of affirmation, but they were only the lead up to a negation of it all.
The boy continued via the chat.
“Kaname> But I’m starting to enjoy this. In as inappropriate a way as possible.”
There was no more.
He simply ended the connection.
Or maybe that was his answer.
She was reminded of the legendary team known as Called Game.
What was it they had said after saving a small girl from a shootout?
Yes, it was “Then next time it’s your turn to save us.”
“Sophia! It’s a risky gamble, but reaccelerate! We’ll confuse the girl down on the ground while shooting Suou Kaname!! Get ready to-…”
She stopped speaking because something grazed her shoulder.
It was a mass of scorching heat.
It was a weapon that sliced through the air.
At first, she did not understand.
But as the pain in her shoulder gradually grew, she was forced to face the reality.
She had been shot?
He was 900 meters away, yet he had hit her with a short-range sniper rifle that would be lucky to reach 500 meters and was meant for accurately hitting a criminal’s head when they were using a hostage as a shield???
There were ways to extend the range of short-range guns.
For example, you could aim a bit above the actual target. Just like a long throw in baseball, the curved trajectory would provide a greater range. But that method could not possibly extend the range to nearly twice the original value.
Then what was it?
Her entire body was hit by a chill that seemed to absorb the heat from her shoulder.
“Sophia!! Check the weather map! Specifically, check the cyclone’s winds!!”
She did not even need to check the answer.
He had used a curved trajectory plus these abnormal winds to increase his gun’s range. Wind was usually the bane of a sniper’s existence, but that boy had transformed it into a weapon!?
(Is that even possible?)
Suou Kaname had already abandoned his mint green coupe, so he could not be getting his AI-controlled Magisterus’s help for the calculations.
(For one thing, simply hitting a specific point with a curved shot requires godlike skill. It might be technically possible, but a real cyclone will be a wild mix of different winds from different angles! This goes well beyond godlike!!)
And in the world of sniping and artillery, the first shot was often meant to miss.
You fired a less carefully aimed shot, compared the hit point to where it should have hit, and used that for error correction. And once that data was included, the second shot would have much greater accuracy.
His first shot had grazed her shoulder.
So what would the next one do?
Lilikiska currently held a piece of Criminal AO’s Inheritance. The anti-materiel rifle called #FiringLine.err was so powerful it was known as an Over Trick and it could easily break the game balance. She held an electronic strategic weapon that could bring an entire nation down in the real world, but she felt sweat on her palms.
She was afraid.
This was the tension of facing someone with equal…no, with greater power.
Could it be that Suou Kaname himself could rival an Over Trick without relying on these tools?
Just as she fell into that ocean of delusions, she heard the door behind her burst open.
She spun around just in time to see a twintail girl riding up onto the roof on a large red motorcycle.
And she held #Downpour.err, the shotgun that made its wielder nigh invincible within a range of 500 meters.
(That godlike sniping was only a diversion? They were actually going for a double fake out!?)
Had they removed the weapon from the trunk before dropping the mint green coupe into the trash heap?
Either way, #FiringLine.err’s strengths were worthless at such close range.
And it was too late to retreat into her bulletproof limousine now.
With an explosive noise, the “magic” burst forth.
The girl briefly hesitated, but was that because she knew what it meant for someone to fall or because she was simply reluctant to shoot someone? Either way, the girl with long black twintails seemed to force down some kind of internal conflict before pulling the trigger.
In that instant, Lilikiska made a split second decision to throw open her limousine’s door and run behind it as a shield.
But her fixation on the Inheritance prevented her from letting go of the heavy #FiringLine.err, which slowed her down.
The guide light hit her. And she had been mistaken about one thing. This was a “magic” weapon that would hit you with a 2000-bullet scattershot as long as the light reached you. No matter how thick the bulletproof glass, it was powerless if light could pass through it.
With a tremendous roar, the 10cm-thick bulletproof glass shattered. Behind it, one of Lilikiska’s arms was bent at an odd angle. She dropped #FiringLine.err, but she was too preoccupied to care this time. She clenched her teeth and kept running to escape the second shot.
That was obvious.
Into the open air.
There was nothing she could do.
She was slowed by the wall and railings she hit on the way down, but it was still a 20-story drop. It was a miracle she did not die the instant she hit the wet asphalt and that she was still conscious.
She was lying on her back.
A rusty scent dissolved into the rain and she felt as if she was swelling up like a squished frog.
The other girl could have easily aimed #Downpour.err straight down to shine its guide light on Lilikiska and send a true downpour of death her way, but for some reason, that finishing blow never arrived.
Had the girl prioritized recovering #FiringLine.err from the rooftop?
Lilikiska heard footsteps.
It was unclear what kind of route he used as a shortcut, but Suou Kaname looked down at the girl in the rain. He held his Short Spear short-range sniper rifle. He was the grim reaper who could pull off seemingly magical feats with little more than commercial products.
He was an absurd monster.
Lilikiska could not help but smile as she looked up at him.
The words someone spoke in their final moments showed who they really were deep down.
“Why couldn’t I make you mine?”
So this summed up Lilikiska’s regrets.
“I dressed up nice. I watched how I spoke and tried to act more feminine. I prepared plenty of reliable partners, secured 1000 patrons, and even secretly got my hands on a piece of the Inheritance. I showed you just how amazing I was and just how much I had.”
“I made everyone mine like that. Even the Ag Wolves members were the same. There was nothing I couldn’t make mine. So why was the one thing I couldn’t get the very first thing I ever longed for from the bottom of my heart?”
“Do you remember?”
The bloody girl looked up at the boy from the ground.
“I acquired everything, including part of the Inheritance, so was it enough for me to save you this time, Called Game boy?”
They exchanged a few words after that.
And finally, the forehead glasses girl closed her eyes in a look of satisfaction.
“I refuse to die because some other girl shot me. And falling due to a literal fall is out of the question.”
She spoke her last request.
“Yes, so if you like, could you give me the privilege of dying at the hands of the boy I fell for? Then I know I can fall with a smile.”
He said nothing.
She could not even see his face anymore.
But in the brief moment before he pulled the trigger, Lilikiska sensed his hesitation and happily relaxed her shoulders. He was reluctant to lose her. Whether it was a conscious or subconscious thing, he did feel that way on some level.
And then it happened.
Server Name: Sigma Blue. Ending Location: Summer City, Peninsula City.
Lilikiska Sweetmare will be forcibly logged out for 24 hours.
Suou Kaname stood motionless in the blowing rain for a while.
Finally, a large red motorcycle with an autumn leaf pattern burst through the emergency exit door to reach the ground. She had to have had a tough time shaking the AI-controlled PMC protecting the building.
But there was no exhilaration or liberation on Midori’s face.
She simply looked at the wet ground – where someone had been a moment before – and her face crumpled up.
“I shot her with the Inheritance,” she said. “I said I didn’t want anyone to suffer from what my brother left behind, but I shot her.”
“I was the one that finished her off. You didn’t make anyone fall.”
Kaname responded as if pushing past something.
Time finally seemed to move for him and he held the motorcycle girl’s head to his chest.
It was over no matter how they felt about it. And they could not come to a stop here.
First, he had to get to the mint green coupe.
He used a crane to pull the sports car from the nearly-10m trash heap and found Tselika waiting for him with her cheeks puffed out like a puffer fish just like he expected. He had swiped the crane from the construction site since no one was there during the cyclone, but that demon was still ungrateful.
“You said you’d be right back for me! You promised you would collect my temple right away!! And this garbage counts as someone else’s property, so I can’t move it on my own. I was trapped in there this whoooooole time! Do you have any idea how excruciating it is to just wait like that? And yet you still took your sweet time!!”
“We’re both fine, so what does it matter?”
“You call this fine!? The grille and exhaust are filled with a mystery sludge! A carwash isn’t going to cut it. Take it to the repair shop! Take it there right nowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!”
But Kaname refused.
“Sorry, but we have bigger issues.”
“What could be bigger than this!?”
“Just let me log out! You can drive it around wherever you want afterwards!!”
Tselika tilted her head at how desperate he sounded.
As far as she could tell, both Kaname and Midori were fine. And they held both #Downpour.err and #FiringLine.err. It certainly looked like they had fought off Ag Wolves and retrieved the Inheritance as planned.
Was there anything else to worry about?
Kaname answered that question in a restless sort of way.
“I learned something I’m having trouble believing, so I need to speak with someone.”
“With some other Dealer?”
Tselika asked that on reflex, but what was it the boy had asked for?
He had asked her to let him log out.
“My sister!! It’s possible she played a role in this incident…in the entire incident that led to Criminal AO’s fall and the spread of the Inheritance!! And not by accident! An intentional role!!”
Lilikiska had told him just before she fell.
Her breathing had been shallow and she would have a hard time ever logging in again since countless Dealers would snatch up everything she owned and her rivals would push her back down every time she tried to crawl back up. So it was highly unlikely she would lie.
“It is true I was trying to collect the Inheritance and make its power my own. But I wasn’t doing it for myself.”
“The snow used in Money (Game) Master has become a virtual currency with a value equivalent to the yen or dollar. The world economy relies on this game. But what really matters here is the Administrator.”
“No one knows where the game’s servers are or how they are run. That is why no one can pressure or threaten them. But we have been pursuing that Administrator this entire time.”
“I mean, isn’t it creepy? If you had special privileges in this game, you could decide everything at the press of a button. And not just in this world. This problem is directly linked to the wallets of the 7 billion people who rely on this world.”
“They can empty a specific individual’s bank account and destroy any nation they like. Negotiating with someone like that requires a power great enough to destroy the game balance. …And I had to do it so I could protect you this time, Called Game boy.”
“The fall of Criminal AO was convenient for us.”
“But it had to have been the Administrator who triggered it. Those Over Tricks were too powerful. Those custom weapons broke the upper limits set on the game world, so how could the Administrator allow that? One person would conquer the rankings and interest in the game would dwindle. …So they had to mix things up a bit.”
“The Administrator’s name?”
“I think you would know more about them than me. They’re supposed to be retired now, but the fall of Criminal AO plays a role there as well. I don’t know their real name, but I did manage to track down the handle name they used in this world.”
“I believe they claimed to be your sister, but was that just roleplaying? Or that true in the real world too?”
To log into the game, a special pattern of light is displayed on the Dealer’s phone screen to produce a series of symbols that place a high-quality image in their brain.
AI Company (Real)
The AI business model began with reducing HR costs by using call center reception programs and factory automation, but it finally led to automating every employee in a company. Only the president is human and sometimes several AI companies join together into a “family” and call themselves a zaibatsu. Most AI companies are linked to the game and convert most of their assets into snow.
Machine to Machine
The financial transactions bought and sold by programs instead of from a person to a machine or vice-versa. Currently, about 48% fall into this category, but once they are in the majority, it is rumored machines will control the world economy and simply use humans as cogs in the machine.
A form of bankruptcy. The head of the household temporarily gives up their property rights in exchange for full protection by an AI company. They live a decent life and they receive no open discrimination, but they are sometimes the target of general anxiety about AI. (For example, there is a technical term for the system and “going AI” is derogatory slang.) The loan from the AI company to cover their debts is without interest, so if they can overcome the initial sum on their own, they can escape it.
A method of paying a set sum now and receiving the product at a later date. When the market is in constant flux, you can buy it cheaply and sell it for much more, but the opposite is also possible. Food futures are the most well-known, but there are many other kinds: mineral resources, fuel, gold, platinum, foreign currencies, etc. It might be best to think of the risk as similar to scalping through online auctions in units of tons.
A Dealer who invests money in a well-known team instead of making deals themselves. Of course, they do not receive their money back if that team fails and there is always a risk of the team simply running off with the money. How to use them is up to the individual, even if that means purging them.
A human on the management side said to be hidden somewhere in Money (Game) Master. The details are unknown, but if they are given special privileges in the game, they could easily manipulate the assets of an individual or nation in the real world where the game currency of snow is just as valuable as the yen or dollar. Lilikiska was collecting the Inheritance to negotiate with the Administrator on equal footing (in order to protect Kaname this time) and she revealed that administrator to be Kaname’s sister.
- Midori means green.
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