Dressed in my old leather jacket and patched jeans, about 80% of the store – upper-class women taking a break from shopping – seemed to feel that I was in the wrong place; I felt resentment starting to swell up from deep within towards the person who asked me to come here. If it were a sweet and attractive girl, I would have been able to put up with it, but unfortunately the hand waving at me belonged to a man in a suit. I didn’t bother to conceal my displeasure and sat into the chair roughly with a ‘dosun’ sound. A waiter emerged at my side to present me with a cool glass of water and a warm hand towel, along with the menu.

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As I picked up the elegant wooden and leather cover, a sunny voice expressed itself from across the table. “It’s my treat this time, so order whatever you like. ” “I would have even if you didn’t say that. ” I retorted sharply and scrolled my eyes down the menu; shockingly, their cheapest item «Choux a la Creme» was already in the 1200 yen range, and I almost ordered a plain coffee by pure reflex. After remembering that this man was a highly paid bureaucrat, and that the cost of such entertainment would be covered as a business expense by hard-earned taxpayer money, I, who had nearly been taken for an idiot, calmly began ordering. Aah… I will have the parfait au chocolat… and a mille-feuille… and finally a hazelnut coffee. ” Somehow, I had managed to say the entire order without biting my tongue despite having absolutely no idea what I had just ordered. The menu choices added up to three thousand nine hundred yen. I had considered asking for just a hamburger and shake, using the difference to line my pockets with. “Very well, Sir. ” Waiter-shi eloquently took his leave, and finally taking a breath, I looked up at the man, called Kikuoka Seijirou, as he ate a ginormous pudding stacked over a veritable mountain of fresh cream.

His face resembled your typical serious and strict Japanese language teacher, with his black frame glasses and tacky hair look. Despite not looking the part, he was indeed a Japanese government official. He belonged to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Technology, Second Separated Advanced Network Division, or, as it’s called within the ministry, the Virtual Storage Management Sector of the Communication Network’s Management Division; the «Virtual Division». In other words, this man monitored the state of chaos in the new VR world, as an agent of the State… r a potential scapegoat. Normally, I would feel bad if he did get fired from his position, but in reality, I thought it was highly possible. It is this unfortunate Kikuoka-shi who, having finally inhaled the last of the pudding into his mouth, looked up to reveal an innocent smile with pure bliss plastered over his face. “Yah, Kirito-kun, sorry for calling you out on such short notice. ” “If you feel any remorse then you should not have called me to Ginza in the first place. ” “The fresh cream here is the best.

Maybe I should get a Cream Puff while we’re at it… ” While wiping my hands with the citrus scented towel, I let out a sigh and said: “… and also, I don’t think you have the right to call me ‘Kirito’. ” “That’s so cruel ~~ wasn’t I the first person by your side when you woke up a year ago? ” ? Unfortunately, that was a fact. Waking up after having escaped that «Death Game», the first person to visit was Kikuoka, the acting home-side agent of the counter-measure team, at my bedside.

Back then, I had used polite and courteous speech, as he had seemed well-meaning and genuinely concerned, but I soon realized that was not his only reason for getting close to me, and I started using a sharp tongued manner of speech. It could have been his intentions to exploit me from the start – but that might just be me over-analyzing things. I glanced over to Kikuoka, who seemed distressed over the decision of placing yet another order, and opened my mouth after realizing that I should not let myself get caught in his pace. “News has it that a huge deposit of rare metals was iscovered at Sagami Bay, and the related big shots have organized a celebratory Oklahoma mixer dance. Don’t be so troubled over just one cream puff. ” These words caused Kikuoka to raise his head, blink a few times, and smile. “Well, no matter the yield gained, because it is unrelated to my department, I do not believe we will benefit from it. I’ll just bear with my hunger, for the sake of our economy. ” The diplomat snapped the menu shut and I let out yet another sigh. “Ok then, it is about time you tell me why you called me here. …

I bet it’s just to investigate another virtual crime isn’t it? ” “Oh, Kirito-kun saying it straight out really makes this easier. ” After such a bold statement, Kikuoka took a briefcase from the chair next to him and pulled out a very thin tablet terminal. – Yes, after all, this man used survivors of Japan’s largest net crime, «The Sword Art Online Incident», like me as informants. Normally, to investigate the origins of a crime, Public Safety would generally pay a fee for information provided by «Collaborators» and «Watchdogs», among other things, making it like a «Business Deal».

If that were the case, then calling me out to eat cake like this could be seen as just «Business» with Kikuoka. I really wanted to think of it that way, but this was the same man who had broken the rules to tell me which hospital Asuna was in, and that was a debt that I still owed him. Without that information, I would have been delayed in finding Yuuki Asuna in the real world and as such, it may not have been possible to find out the devilish plots of Sugou Nobuyuki and rescue Asuna from his clutches.

As such, for the time being given the circumstances, I did not object to being Kikuoka’s «Watchdog» very much. Although quite recently I have stopped using polite and courteous speech and started ordering the more expensive cakes. Meanwhile, whether or not he was aware of that fact, my benefactor played around with his tablet terminal and said lazily: “Weeell, about that, this time it’s about the increase in the rate of virtual space crimes, you see… ” “Hmm. Specifically? ” “Let’s see… Just this November more than 100 cases of virtual theft, property damage, and etc. were observed and filed.

Moreover, there have been 13 cases in which VR game disputes have lead to real world manifestations with one incident leading to death… That one case had been quite a big incident so Kirito-kun must know about it already, someone made a replica western sword and swung it around Shinjuku Station slashing two people to death. Uhyaa, the blade was 1. 2 meters long, and weighed 3. 5 kg. How did he manage to swing that thing around? ” “It seemed like a hardcore player using drugs and hallucinating… Although looking at this one case alone doesn’t help very much when put into a general perspective compared to all the other cases… “Indeed, in terms of the overall national crime rate, these barely amount to anything, but concluding from a myopic perspective it may be VRMMO games that breed such social unrest. However, as you had previously mentioned… ” “- VRMMO games do cause people to lower certain boundaries in reality. It is something even I recognize. ” At that time, the waiter returned with silent footfalls and placed in front of me two plates of dessert and a cup of coffee. “Would this be everything Sir? ” After a nod, he placed a bill with a scary figure face down on the edge of the table.

I took a sip of the coffee that exuded a nutty aroma and continued our conversation. “… As PKing is seen in most of these games as just another daily occurrence, it isn’t impossible for such an environment to serve as a training ground for real world murders. Especially in this new genre of games, where cutting off a wrist leads to blood spurting out and slicing open a stomach results in internal organs spilling out. Above that, are also hardcore maniacs who would rather commit suicide than log out. ” A throat was cleared from a nearby table with an interrupting ‘ahem’, to reveal two prim and proper women glaring daggers directed at me.

I lowered my head, and continued in a quieter voice: “Given such common daily occurrences, it isn’t much of a mystery for some idiot to have brought back that practice into reality. I too, feel the need for some sort of counter-measures to be put into place, although the law would be nearly useless in such a case. ” “Useless? ” “Useless. ” With a golden spoon, I carefully skimmed off a thin layer of pink cream and cake, cautiously transporting it to my mouth as I thought to myself, that each spoonful was worth 100 yen. While savoring each delicious morsel as it literally melted in my mouth, I continued on our debate of savagery. … Not even if you closed off the network. Because the VRMMO networking server is relatively easy to set-up, no matter how much you ban it in Japan, users and traders will just move overseas. ” “Hmm… ” Kikuoka’s dignified gaze fell onto the table, and after a few seconds of thought, he opened his mouth. “… Your mille-feuille looks good… may I have a bite? ” “… ” I directed my third sigh, along with my plate, towards Kikuoka. This career dignitary then proceeded to steal with great gusto, approximately 280 yen’s worth of my mille-feuille, and stuffed his cheeks. But you know, Kirito-kun, I was just thinking… Why PK? Isn’t getting along nicely with everyone else more fun than just killing them? ” “… You play ALO too, so you should already have an idea, as long before FullDive, there’d already been MMORPGs that stole from each other. To say the least, because such games do not technically have definitive endings, some form of endgame content has to serve for player’s motivation… like seeking and playing for the feeling of superiority over others, I think. ” “Oh? ” In the midst of his chewing, Kikuoka raised his eyebrows as if to request a further explanation.

Seriously, why did we have to talk about that, deep inside I considered poisoning him, half for the sake of revenge as I continued: “… It’s not just limited to the game. Wanting to be recognized, wanting to climb even higher than others, isn’t that the basic structure of our society? Even you should understand as those in the same department as you, there are government officials who are envious of others with a better university degree or have faster promotions due to connections; but on the other hand, they look down at the non-government officials with a smug sense of superiority.

Finally those with both inferiority and superiority in balance can eat cake with peaceful faces, isn’t it? ” Kikuoka swallowed the mille-feuille, and smiled gingerly. “You are quite frank with your spite aren’t you? So what about Kirito-kun? How do you take the balance? ” “… ” Of course, despite having an inferiority complex as high as a mountain, I have no intention of telling this guy. With an ignorant face, I fired back: “… Well, at least I’m together with my girlfriend. ” “I see, I am jealous to death over that one point, Kirito-kun.

The next time we’re in ALO, wouldn’t you introduce me to some girls? Take the Sylph Lord for example, she is just my type. ” “I’ll tell you in advance, the moment you say ‘I’m actually a high ranking bureaucrat’, you’ll get decapitated. ” “If it’s by her, then I wouldn’t mind being killed once. – So? ” “So, about this superiority complex, it’s surprisingly hard to fulfill in the real world. It’s not something you can get unless you work really hard. You’ll have to study hard to get better grades, to get better at sports, become cooler, or more attractive…

All of which require a lot of time and energy and there is no concrete guarantee of payoff, above that the requirements are near impossible to achieve anyway. ” “I see. After all, I did study to death for my exams, and still did not get into Toudai. ” For some reason, having seen Kikuoka smile so happily while speaking about the subject, I suppressed the desire to make a smart remark and quickly continued talking. “Then, MMORPG to the rescue. Here, time sacrificed doesn’t pass in vain like in reality and your character will become stronger as you find rare items, learn more skills, and have higher stats.

Of course you’d still have to work hard, but that’s because it’s still a game. Rather than studying or training your muscles, this is a lot more fun. Equipping expensive gear to show off your high level while walking down the avenues of a main street, you will definitely attract a lot of envious attention from those weaker than you… virtually, that is. If you go to the hunting grounds, you can defeat monsters with overwhelming power, or save a party in a pinch. Be thanked, be respected -” “Virtually? ” “… Of course, that’s only one aspect of it and MMO games also do have many other elements to them.

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