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Volume 08 Chapter 24
Translator: Silver Editor: Namorax
「Player Vs. Player」
It was undoubtedly the same person I met in Delfuento.
I stopped my approach when there was still a bit of distance, yet he remained silent.
As I felt his gaze bearing down on me from behind his veil, I was the first to speak up.
“My name is Arc. You’re the Hiruku pope and mastermind behind the three simultaneous invasions, aren’t you?”
My question echoed through the mostly empty space and came off more confrontational than I would’ve liked.
However, he didn’t answer my question and only shook his scepter.
“……Why? ……Why? Why?”
In the silent church, on the pope’s repetitive one world question could be heard.
I couldn’t understand the meaning behind the question and asked for an explanation.
“That tone and attitude!! Why is a cheater roleplaying?! Answer me! Why!! 【Evil Thorne】! 【Evil Thorne】!”
I instinctively stepped back when I noticed the striking change in the pope since our last encounter, managing to dodge his initial attack by a hair’s breadth.
One of the six intangible rotten heads that emerged from the pope’s scepter struck the ground where I’d been stand while the remaining three chased after me.
The talk had ended, I drew my sword and raised the Shield of Teutates to meet the attack head-on.
Because I saw the spell used back in Rione I calmly batted the heads away with my sword and shield.
However, the pope only seemed to use the spell to buy a bit of time as the magic formation for his next attack had already appeared on the tip of his scepter.
“Wait! Cheating, what are you talking about?”
I shouted for the pope to clarify what he was talking about in an attempt to de-escalate the situation.
The pope didn’t even acknowledge the question as a large magic formation appeared on the ground in front of him before a massive figure sprung from within the circle.
It stood three and a half meters tall, and its body was wrapped in steel and leather.
The monster’s had a reptilian-like head, its eyes were those of a snake, and a set of overlarge fangs rested in the creature’s upper and lower jaw. Also, it wielded a broadsword as long as the monster was tall.
The monster closely resembled Williahsfim’s human form.
With a threatening roar, the serpent warrior brought its massive sword down on me while I was still dealing with the remaining ghost heads.
A high pitched screech accompanied serpent warrior’s great sword shattered the church’s polished stone floor.
The resulting shock created by the attack destroyed one of the remaining heads, but I managed to escape unharmed by using 【Dimensional Step】.
However, the serpent warrior chased after me, faster than expected given its massive figure, and our swords clashed with one another.
Although the monster’s swordsmanship wasn’t on Glenys’ level, it was still above me in that regard, and I unintentionally fell back.
When the serpent warrior tried to press its advantage, I bombarded it with magic.
“【Fire Bullet】! 【Fire Bullet】!”
The spell was brushed off with ease by the serpent’s sword, and it wasn’t long before it resumed its attack.
The enemy raised its massive sword with both hands. Despite not wielding a sword a large as they did, I took a defensive stance and did my best to not fall into the serpent’s rhythm.
Occasionally, the pope would strike with his magic from the blind spots in my defenses the serpent created.
Because I used 【Dimensional Step】 to dodge fatal blows, every other swing of the serpent’s sword smashed the cathedral’s pews to pieces.
This pattern repeated itself often enough to create a large cloud of dust, allowing me to target the pope unhindered.
Even though he had been caught off guard, the pope managed to block my attack in a panicked frenzy with his scepter.
Although the pope could use short-range transfer magic, based on my own experiences, I knew that he wouldn’t be able to use it once a strong enough warrior got within striking distance.
A red light began to peer through the pope’s vail as he let out an agonized scream when I started to overwhelm him.
Open hostility could be felt coming off those lights.
“One more time, what’s wrong? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
While adjusting my strength so that I didn’t crush the pope, I asked for clarification once again.
Then the pope raised his head so he could yell directly in my face.
“It’s this power! No matter how stupid the administration is, there’s no way they’d implement a single unit capable of wiping out an entire army!! Wasn’t the game fun enough without doing that!?”
I was caught off guard by what he said and momentarily eased up on my hold.
The pope immediately retreated, and before I could close the gap again, the serpent warrior appeared to block my path.
Sparks flew, and the air began to tremble when we crossed swords once more.
After trading blows with the serpent for a bit, I parried one of its attacks with my shield and put some distance between us while striking back at the warrior with my magic.
Based on his speech and behavior. He still believed that this world was a game and he’d accused me of being a cheater.
But there was something off about what he said and the way he acted.
Even with the latest VR gaming technology, it was still impossible to create an experience indistinguishable from real life.
No matter how beautiful and lifelike the image, a game couldn’t replicate the sense of touch, smell, and taste I’ve experienced in this world.
Things like full-dive technology were still the subject of science fictions movies, the product of imagination, as far as I knew, that kind of technology had yet to be realized.
If it wasn’t the future──
The moment the thought crossed my mind, I sensed something approaching and leaped away as I heard the pew I’d been standing in front of being shattered.
However, before I could see what happened, I parried another one of the serpent’s attacks with my shield and countered with a spell stronger than what I’d been using.
Numerous stone spikes erupted from the church floor beneath the serpent’s feet. Unfortunately, the summon managed to leap out of the spell’s range.
“It’s okay Ponta. While tough, this isn’t an enemy I can’t defeat…”
I did my best to soothe Ponta when she let out a concerned cry.
With both the pope and serpent in view, I continued the previous chain of thought.
If a person from a world were the gaming industry reached the level of full-dive VR, would they be able to tell the difference between a game and reality if they were sent to another world?
The pope in front of me did have the answer──
It was an absurd idea, but it would go a long way to explain a few things.
There have been several people in this world capable of using transfer magic unaided by outside sources… Canada’s first chieftain Evangeline, Blade Heart Clan’s original Hanzo and the founder of the beastman empire on the southern continent.
There had been centuries between their visit to this world and mine.
However, given the anecdotes, techniques, and other things they left behind, it seems like their knowledge wasn’t that different from what I knew in my previous world.
Evangeline built the Great Forest seven hundred years ago, but the country called Canada was founded in the second half of the eighteenth century and wasn’t even three hundred years old.
Given the fact that history and people didn’t align with one another, it was possible that a man from the future and a modern man would arrive in this world around the same time.
“On what grounds do you consider this world to be a game!?”
What effect would my question have on him? Even as those doubts filled my mind, I nevertheless asked the pope that question.
“What are you talking about? Grounds? What idiot can’t distinguish a game from reality!?”
Even with the veil, the surprise and contempt the pope felt were evident.
Perhaps his reaction was to be expected. Even so…
“This world is neither a game nor a dream! The inhabitants of this city were born and lived here, how could you, their leader, kill them so easily!? Don’t you understand!”
The pope disregarded what I said and raised his scepter again.
“Look! 【Evil Thorne】! ”
The pope shouted his declination and sent his strange magic flying towards me, which I proceeded to block with my shield and cut down with my sword.
As if to protect him, the serpent took up a stance in front of the pope.
“Magic is real! Monsters exist! And I am……”
The pope’s voice trailed off as he tore his vail off and revealed his skeletal face with glowing red lights in his eye sockets.
“My body is the best evidence that this isn’t real! Where do you see reality? Huh? This world is a PACC virtual world projected inside our brains.”
The skull shook and rattled as the pope spoke with a firm tone.
PACC…… it was something I never heard of, but it seemed to be a system or enclosure commonplace in the world he originated from.
I didn’t know how many years or decades ahead this technology was, but I was confident that this man was from a world where it was impossible to distinguish being dragged into another world from virtual reality.
“I tired of being trapped in this world for so long, and I just want to return to my life as quickly as possible. In fact, if I turn a blind eye to your cheating could you contact the administrators and request a forced long out for me? Due to a malfunction, I can’t log myself out…… did this game turn into a kusoge?”
The pope let out a small chuckle after saying that and then gazed at me.
“…… I’m sorry, but I’m unaware of a way to log out of this world.”
The pope didn’t seem disappointed and just shrugged his shoulders.
“I see… if that’s the case! Botis!!”
The serpent raised its sword at the pope’s signal and jumped out.
Our blades crossed once more, and I managed to push it back with my power.
However, the pope used the gap to summon another servant.
A massive black shadow arose behind the pope, from which a demon covered in protruding bones and had a blood red crown appeared.
Two horns topped the human skull, which itself sat atop a bull’s cranium, and it’s four eye sockets emitted a ghostly crimson light.
Although the cathedral’s main hall was large, it suddenly felt all the more constricting with the fifteen-meter high creature standing there.
When the demon swung it’s enormous two-handed sword down, the church was filled with dust as everything around me was destroyed.
“Augh, dealing with two summons and the pope is a bad idea!”
Because the poor visibility made using transfer magic impossible, I took some distance and prepared myself to use one of my strongest techniques to kill the demon.
There was no time to hesitate, the pope was seriously trying to kill me.
“【Seraphim of Protection: Guardian Raphael】!!”
An enormous magic formation appeared at my feet, and I could feel my magic pouring into the circle at a rapid rate. However, the serpent warrior interrupted me halfway through the process. The magic formation vanished when I blocked the serpent’s attack with my shield.
Even though I wanted to eliminate the bone demon with a Heavenly Knight skill, I couldn’t pour my mana into the spell fast enough to summon the angel.
Given their long casting time, the Heavenly Knight’s skills weren’t suitable for close-range combat.
A bitter smile formed behind my helmet as it dawned on me that, unlike in a game, I still lost the mana I spent on that spell misfire.
“【Sacred Lightning Sword】!”
When I invoked the warrior skill, a blue electrical current sprung from the hilt of my sword and doubled the length of its blade.
I dodged the serpent’s next attack and launched a diagonal slash with the Holy Thunder Sword.
The serpent let out an intimidating shout and retreated backward.
However, when the demon attacked again, I unconsciously rolled away when the earth rumbled, and lost sight of the enemy in the resulting dust cloud.
“This is pretty bad… this is getting out of hand.”
As I voiced my thoughts, I narrowed my eyes and sought out my enemies within the dust cloud.
“【Evil Thorne】! ”
“【Flying Dragon Slash】!”
I stuck the three ghost heads that burst out of the dust clouds down with the warrior skill and instinctively cast another spell.
A circle of flames sprung up around me and took the shape of a snake, and without warning, the flame viper silently dove into the obscuring dust cloud like a predator stalking its prey.
Despite the efforts the serpent took to remain hidden, the flame viper managed to coil itself around the summoned warrior. Despite its struggles to break free, the flames held strong and eventual reduced the warrior to ash.
I thought I was finally making process when the wind current suddenly shifted and a massive sword extinguished the flames. The swing also crushed some of the cathedral’s load bearing walls and caused one of the bell towers to collapse.
As I unintentionally clicked my tongue as I dodged the falling debris, the pope’s voice briefly rose above the wreckage before it became lost among the cacophony of noise.
I felt something approaching from the left and dodged to the side and catch a glimpse of the newly summoned serpent warrior.
Before I could use another spell, the demon’s massive sword was again turned on me.
My surroundings were utterly destroyed, the bone demon’s attack had wrecked everything in its path, and the 【Flying Dragon Slash】had no effect on the summon.
Occasionally, the serpent warrior would emerge from the dust cloud to attack me, only to disappear before I could retaliate.
While the building’s architecture was splendid, the skin off my back wasn’t replaceable, so I raised my sword to the sky and cast a spell.
Along with the rapid change in the barometric pressure, the sky peeking through the hole the former bell tower occupied was dyed black with storm clouds as a myriad of lightning bolts rained down within the church.
The church’s roof went beyond saving and even more dust filled the air.
However, there was no time to waste. The only way to put an end to this was to defeat the pope.
No matter how many serpents I killed, the pope could just summon more of them.
Moreover, he still had other troublesome summons like the bone demon and his own magic attacks.
Even if I tried to reopen discussions with the pope, it would be pointless unless I had something to convince him that this was real.
Otherwise, he would indefinitely continue in this world thinking he was trapped in a game──
His conviction when he made his declaration was genuine.
If I only had his words to go own, I would’ve been convinced that nothing in this world was real.
As I fended off the attacks of the new serpent warrior and demon, I called for Ponta.
“Ponta, can you find that guy?”
Ponta understood my words as she uncoiled herself from around my neck and began searching our surroundings.
“Kyun! Kyun, Kyun!!”
Confident in Ponta’s ability to track the Pope through the obscuring dust, I dashed off in the direction she pointed out.
In this dust cloud, he shouldn’t be able to use transfer magic either.
I dodged the bone demon’s sword swing by a hairsbreadth and parried the serpent’s surprise attack with the Holy Thunder Sword. When the Pope’s shadow became visible as the dust thinned out, I used my free hand to toss my canteen at him.
“Ponta! 【Wind Blade】!!”
Understanding my intentions, Ponta cast the spell she’d been practicing at our compound.
One of a magician’s basic spells, the transparent blade of wind flew through the air, releasing the liquid in the canteen as it sliced the container in two.
The pope voiced his suspicions as he wiped the offending liquid off of his face.
But, in the next moment, eyeballs appeared in the pope’s empty eye sockets, flesh and sinew began to spurt around his bones, and before long I was staring at an average looking, dark-haired man in religious clothes.
However, the silence was but a brief reprieve──
The man suddenly began screaming in agony as he clawed at his own face.
The pope’s beast-like wails continued as he collapsed on the ground and withered in agony until his now bloodshot eyes popped open and he glared at me.
The man’s hair turned white before falling out, one strain at a time. His eyes and cheeks became sunken, the flesh on his body rapidly shriveled up and his body shrank within a few seconds.
『……Wi, ……With this…… can finally…… go home……』
I unintentionally looked away as the pope voiced his final words.
“Now, you can log out of this world……”
The now mummy-like head of the pope nodded once before his body collapsed in on itself. All that remained of the man was a pile of ashes and the scepter loudly rolling through the wreckage.
In the corner of my eye, the bone demon and the serpent warrior disappeared in a puff of smoke.
I’d throw water from the Dragon King’s spring at the pope.
Given that he had the same appearance and circumstances as me, I assumed he would have the same emotional backlash I experienced when I first touched the water.
The shock I experienced after one month in this world was enough to knock me into a days-long coma, so I didn’t even want to know how many years the pope had been here after seeing the reaction he had to the water.
The man who had been Hiruku’s pope lived while feeling the weight of his actions.
He thought himself to be trapped in a game and felt nothing for the people that occupied this world. After all, they were merely NPCs meant to fuel his necromancy.
But if he really believed that this was a game and everyone else was an NPC, why would he react like that when he experienced the backlash?
Perhaps, at some point, he did realize that this was another world, but since he couldn’t accept the reality of his situation and his actions, he rejected the truth to protect himself.
Or did he live in this world for so long that the size of his backlash reached the point where his spirit didn’t have a chance of surviving? The pope was a pile of ash, so there was no one here answer my questions.
I shuddered at the thought that I might end up like the pope one day.
I remained transfixed on the pile of ash until Ponta climbed up on my shoulder and licked my helmet.
Maybe she was trying to cheer me up.
“Arc? Speak up if you’re there.”
When I heard a voice calling for me, I looked back at the church’s entrance to see a familiar face walking through the door.
A smaller figure with twitching cat ears on their head, accompanied to taller figure.
The clouds gradually faded away, and sunlight managed to shine through the damaged ceiling.
Ariane and Chiome had entered the church in search of me.
After observing the extensive damage done to the church, Ariane gaze landed on me and stayed there.
Chiome’s ears didn’t stop moving about as she carefully examined her surroundings.
What would’ve happened to me if I’d never met them?
── No, it was meaningless to worry about such things.
I shook my head and sighed.
The fact was that I had met them and would continue to live in this world with them.
I picked up the pope’s fallen scepter and raised it above my head.
“Ariane-dono, Chiome-dono, I managed to defeat the Pope!”
Ariane shrugged her shoulders a little and had a look that said she’d expected that result.
Chiome’s ears fluttered about as she approached me to get a closer look at the scepter.
This was the world I now live, and I’d found my place in it… that was enough for now.
I sheathed my sword and began walking towards Ariane in a slow gait.