Transcending any and all destiny…I am truly a god.
I take great pains to predict every possible destiny I might reach. In particular, my greatest priority is maintaining a backup of my own existence.
If I, Kuroto Dan II, am here right now, that means the original Kuroto Dan I has disappeared.
But that is hardly a problem.
My predecessor and I are identical in every aspect: talent, ideas, memory, even physical ability.
This was all thanks to the backup made by God Maximum Mighty X.
The Gashat can create any game from even a single one of my ideas, and so it designed Mighty Novel X to have me as its helper guide, as a complete replica of Kuroto I.
And on top of that, Kuroto I left me with a pre-programmed mission.
Guide Mighty Novel X to its conclusion and revive your predecessor.
I could sense Kuroto I’s will through the mission he had given me, and I could only feel excitement.
It was a game of destiny between a genius game creator and a genius gamer, with everything on the line.
As a game master, it is my natural desire to have players complete my games, and Emu Houjou is my most worthy opponent. And so, Mighty Novel X‘s ending would only be reached when Emu Houjou reached his own end, all as a part of Kuroto I’s plan.
I stood on the roof of a tall building and looked down at the night city below me.
Buildings of all different sizes, lights here and there, all with people residing within them. All of them are simply but models. All part of a diorama that can be tailored in any way I wish.
A flat-toned voice spoke up from behind me.
“I thought I told you to keep away from my company.”
I knew who it was without even turning around — Kiyonaga Houjou.
“You truly are talented if your medical equipment development achieved such a large company building in the middle of the city center.”
“…There’s a lot more than just me.”
“Naturally. MedicTrick’s medical devices are now an indispensable part of advanced medical care, but there are still many lives that cannot be saved. You are hardly perfect.”
“Are you saying this because your mother couldn’t be saved?”
“…It is merely a general observation. You see, I can do things that are impossible for you.”
“…I see you still have your unusual sense of ethics about life if you’re still making copies of your own.”
“And you would say you, who sold out your own son, have a normal sense of ethics?”
“Excuse me. Let us avoid having fruitless discussions. All of this is merely inevitable. It was all destined to be this way.”
“What are you planning to do?”
“I am the game master, and an onlooker who observes the course of destiny. Mighty Novel X‘s story is about to spin a tale of your son’s future, as well as your own.”
“My own future? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Every medical institution in this country is sustained by many of your company’s medical devices. They are responsible for supporting the lives of many patients on life support.”
“…And what does that have to do with anything?”
“All of those medical devices have now been infected with the Mighty Novel X Bugster virus.”
Kiyonaga Houjou had a beautifully dumbfounded expression on his face, just as I’d anticipated.
“It is now 11:55 PM. There are five minutes remaining before the date changes. Once that happens, all of the medical equipment will malfunction, putting the lives of patients all across the country at stake…yes, the Y2K problem of your past worries will become reality.”
“You can’t be serious! Why would you do something like that?!”
“Mighty Novel X needs a climax. And so, there is only one way to prevent it. Once the plug is pulled on Emu Houjou’s life, Mighty Novel X will reach its ending. The Bugster virus will be extinguished on the spot, and all of the malfunctioning medical devices will return to normal.”
I gracefully pulled out my own Gamer Driver.
It was the seventh Gamer Driver, the one that was once used by Kagenari Nagumo to become Kamen Rider Fuuma and save his only daughter with an incurable disease.
“Now, I shall present you with a choice for Mighty Novel X.”
“Which will you choose to save? Your son, or all of humanity?”
Why do games exist in this world?
I have been faced with this challenge for as long as I have lived.
At the very least, unfortunately, I was not the one who invented the original concept of games. By the time I was born, “games” already existed, and they were already acknowledged as a part of entertainment culture.
As I look over the night city spreading out beneath me, I imagine all of the people who are playing games at this moment.
Spending a small amount of time after the day’s work, traveling to a virtual world, experiencing thrills and excitement of the sort that would be impossible in the real world, cherishing their time resting their exhausted bodies and relieving the stress of the day. Free from social constraints and public order, immersing themselves in entertainment.
However, I do not consider games to exist purely for the purposes of entertainment and stress relief.
A game embodies the concept of life itself.
Let us consider what the definition of life is in the first place.
There are many different ways to define life, but the most common one is to refer to it as the root of all living things. It is used as a concept to distinguish between “living” and “dead” things, or “living things” and “inanimate things”. But when I was a young boy, I did not feel I was given a clear answer to the definition of life.
Because in this world, there are things called “viruses”.
Viruses do not have cells, which are considered to be the smallest unit of life, but they also cannot be considered to be dead. They have a structure that allows them to replicate themselves using the cells of other organisms, and they also have DNA. They have characteristics of living beings, and they can even be life-threatening entities, yet they cannot definitively be described as a living organism unless they have cells.
However, through games, I was able to uncover an answer.
Games have “lives” in them.
The definition of “lives” in a game is also ambiguous, but it can generally be considered to be the source of life for a game’s characters. However, there are many different kinds of characters in a game’s world, and a life counter can be assigned to characters other than biological ones such as humans, animals or plants. In particular, it is even possible to assign “lives” to characters such as robots, as long as they can be materially defined as a character. In other words, even a virus can be assigned “lives”, and thus defined as a living organism.
By bringing my “creations” to life, I understood games to be the embodiment of life itself.
That was when my world changed.
In comparison, the real world, where we only ever had one life each, seemed outdated and obsolete.
When my mother, Sakurako Dan, passed away, it only confirmed it further for me.
I realized that we lived in an extremely fragile world, where our lives were dependent on how successfully medical care could protect us. In such a deathly world, I came to realize that I was in danger of being eroded by this world — and, more importantly, so were my genius talents, which the world could not afford to lose.
But in a game, the rules of the world could be set in any way I desired. I could give myself immortality status, or set my own number of lives to 99, or even duplicate my own life as insurance.
With only even a single one of my ideas, I could continue to roll out updates to the concept of “life” itself.
Mighty Novel X is both my test for the world, and my test for Emu Houjou.
The malfunctioning medical devices are my warning against the vulnerability and weaknesses of medical care, and my warning for overly narrow-minded humans who are bound by preconceived notions.
Now, let us start the countdown.
The time is now 11:59 PM, with 55 seconds on the clock.
Now, Emu Houjou. Come and show me…
…the destined ending of Mighty Novel X.
Why did destiny have to be so cruel?
It started right at midnight.
I was resting on the bed in the CR ward, and Hiiro sent me a message through the Gamescope.
According to him, all of the nurse call buttons throughout Seito University Hospital’s departments had been hit at the exact same time, hitting every nurse station at once. All of the ventilators and dialysis machines, which were important for our inpatients’ life support, seemed to have been infected with the Bugster virus and were malfunctioning.
The hospital was momentarily thrown into chaos, and even the off-duty doctors and nurses had to rush in to help the patients.
The pediatric ward where I worked also had its own patients who were dependent on ventilators for their treatment.
I tried to burst out of the CR room and head to the pediatric ward, but Parad, who was tending to me, held me back.
“Stop it. You’re in no condition to do that.”
“Let me go. Those kids are my patients, I can’t let them die.”
“You’ll be in danger if you take any more stress!”
“Parad, you of all people should know how I feel! We’re on a race against the clock here!”
I opened the ward door and ran out into the aisle, and I saw Poppy running down the spiral staircase on the right side. To be more precise, she was in her on-duty blue nurse uniform as Asuna.
“Emu! I just spoke with the director, and it looks like we’re not the only hospital with equipment problems!”
Still listening to what Asuna was saying, I left the CR entrance and pressed the button to call the elevator.
“All of the hospitals…all over the country…”
No way. I’ve never heard of this happening before. In fact, it doesn’t make sense for this to be happening at all.
I immediately figured that there had to be someone actually pulling the strings behind this.
“Wait. Don’t tell me all of the malfunctioning devices are…”
“…They’re all made by MedicTrick.”
MedicTrick…the manufacturer my father works for.
“So that means Kuroto’s probably got something to do with this.”
Just then, the CR entrance door opened.
Kiriya rushed out, looking pale.
“Emu! I had a feeling you’d try to run out of the ward.”
“Don’t try to stop me, Kiriya.”
“I won’t, I won’t. Anyway, Dr. Saiko got in touch with me. Seems like the god’s little clone showed up at the regenerative medicine center.”
“Huh? You mean Kuroto II!?” said Asuna, flustered.
“Yeah. They were doing research on God Maximum Mighty X, but he ran off with it.”
“We’re in trouble, Emu. That Gashat’s a real pain in the neck,” said Parad, his facial expression tense.
“Yeah. But first, let’s take care of the patients.”
I arrived at the pediatric ward and immediately got to working with the other doctors and nurses to help our patients.
Accompanied by pediatric nurse Ginko Yumita, I rushed towards one of them.
There wasn’t enough time to try fixing the Bugster-infected ventilators, so we had to stall for the time being.
We prepared a manually-operated ventilator and followed procedure to assist the patient’s breathing.
We’ve managed to avoid the worst-case scenario, but this is just a temporary fix. We’ve got to get those ventilators working as soon as possible.
I left the patient to Ginko and ran out of the ward.
Asuna and Parad tried to block me in the hallway.
“Emu, where are you going!?” yelled Asuna.
“…Parad, come with me.”
“Emu, are you…” said Parad, sensing what was in my heart.
Mighty Novel X‘s story had my father in it, and considering the way MedicTrick devices everywhere all went haywire at once, Kuroto II’s got to be involved in this somehow. We have to get to the bottom of this as soon as we can.
Parad seemed to have understood my feelings, and he lightly nodded, turning into particles that entered my body.
“Asuna, please take care of the kids.”
“If something happens, call me as soon as possible.”
I ran outside before Asuna could even respond.
There was a large park around three minutes walking distance from Seito University Hospital.
It was the size of a baseball field and overgrown with lush green trees, and the locals would often stop there to jog or walk around. But it was after midnight, and the park was completely empty. It was like a completely different world of silence, with only a few street lights illuminating it.
No risk of damaging anything around here. Perfect place for a final battle.
I went into the grassy field and waited.
Kuroto II will come. I was sure of it.
He’s the one who said it. Mighty Novel X‘s ending is in the future. I’m the one who gets to decide how it ends. So in other words, our final battle will happen wherever I decide it’ll be.
And I was exactly right.
From within the darkness in the park dimly illuminated by streetlights, he appeared in black.
Kamen Rider Genm Action Gamer Level 2. Around his waist was a Gamer Driver with a Proto Mighty Action X Gashat.
“You’re the reason all the devices are malfunctioning, aren’t you?”
Genm did not reply.
If he won’t respond, that’s all the proof I need.
“We’ve got tons of patients whose lives are at stake. Stop it right now!”
Genm raised his right arm, wagging his finger to taunt me.
No point in trying to convince him, of course.
“All right. But if I win, you’ll have to do what I say.”
I pulled out Maximum Mighty X and Hyper Invincible, starting up both.
Maximum Mighty X! Hyper Invincible!
My eyes glowed red, and “M” came to the surface.
I’ll use my invincibility to finish this quickly.
“Hyper Super Transform!”
I transformed into Invincible Gamer and launched my first attack. No leeway here. It’s all or nothing.
My attack ripples hit Genm with a clean hit.
Genm started attacking me recklessly without even bothering to protect himself. He wasn’t even using his weapons, he was just trying to hit me barehanded.
Genm knows how Invincible works better than anyone else. He should know he can’t damage me.
I took all of Genm’s attacks without needing to guard, and, naturally, took no damage.
I countered with a one-two punch on Genm and kicked him with all of my strength.
Genm was flung back, flopping right onto the lawn. His Rider Gauge depleted in a single moment, and he barely had any lives left.
…Okay, something’s really weird.
Invincible and Genm Level 2 have a massive power gap between them, but he’s acting way too reckless. He isn’t even putting up a proper defense.
Not only that, he’s moving like a complete amateur. Kuroto Dan’s been through so many fights, it’s hard to believe he’d act like this.
“…Who are you?”
“…I’m the one who caused all of this. I’m the root of all evil.”
“The root of all evil”? Genm would never say something like that. He’s the kind of person who’d never think of himself as doing anything wrong.
Besides, I know that voice all too well. I haven’t heard it in years, but there’s only one person I can think of who talks in such a completely flat voice.
“What are you trying to pull? How are you Genm right now?”
“A stupid question. I’ve had the compatibility surgery, of course.”
Compatibility surgery is, as the name suggests, “surgery to make the body compatible” with the Gamer Driver.
It involves administering a small, controlled amount of Bugster virus with a special syringe. It’s not enough of the virus to induce Game Syndrome, but the human body produces antibodies in the blood and bodily fluids to protect itself from the Bugster virus with its own natural immune system. Thanks to that, the body will be able to handle a Gamer Driver.1
But the compatibility surgery doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll produce the right antibodies. Only a small lucky handful of people actually make it to the point where their body can handle the Gamer Driver. We’ve treated a lot of Game Syndrome patients so far, but that doesn’t mean all of them can use Gamer Drivers now.
Did he actually manage to slip through all those requirements?
Did that man — Kiyonaga Houjou — actually manage to get to the point of using a Gamer Driver?
“…I’m the one who created the Bugster virus and threatened many of this world’s lives.”
“Unless you do something about me, humanity will only be faced with even more threats. As a doctor, you can’t overlook my presence.”
It’s a textbook line you’d hear from some kind of video game villain.
But something’s wrong. None of his words have any heart in it. It doesn’t really feel like he’s telling the truth. It just sounds like he’s reading off some pre-prepared script.
…I don’t see any reason to keep fighting.
I pulled the Gashat out of the Gamer Driver and released my transformation, and “M” went back to being “Emu”.
“Beating you won’t fix all the medical devices.”
“It won’t save the patients, either.”
“…Kuroto put you up to this, didn’t he?”
“…He has nothing to do with this.”
“You’re not fooling anyone. Why else would you use that Driver and Gashat to transform into Genm?”
“We have an inevitable destiny to finish things here. Mighty Novel X is your life, as well as mine. If we wish to put an end to everything, we must settle our story here.”
“I’m a doctor. I’m not here to take anyone’s life, including yours.”
“If you won’t, I’ll have to silence you myself. Would you prefer it that way?”
“I have no intention of dying. I have a responsibility to my patients, so I need to survive.”
“It has to be either you or me! Mighty Novel X won’t end unless we finish this! Or else all the patients will die!”
“I’m not going to let the patients die, of course. I’m going to finish Mighty Novel X myself.”
“…Why won’t you attack me? You have a grudge against me, don’t you?!”
“…I’m far past the point of having a grudge. I stopped caring about that a long time ago, because I stopped expecting anything from you in the first place.”
“…But you know…I don’t have the right to blame you, either.”
I wonder, when did I stop calling my father “Dad”?
I’d refused to accept my father, and I kept my distance from him for a long, long time. I’d kept my heart away from my father.
When did it all start? I’d stopped bothering to even look back on it. But just like the abyss in my heart, the void between me and my father became an empty shell, and somewhere along the line, I’d completely lost sight of how to close the gap.
But thanks to Mighty Novel X, I was able to look back at my own past. I was able to look back at the heart I’d used to have back then, the heart I’d forgotten.
Yes, it all started on that rainy day.
My mother passed away, and for as long as I could remember, my tiny, isolated community of a “family” was just me and my father.
My father was busy with work, and he rarely spent time at home. He transferred often, and everything around me kept changing from all the moving. I couldn’t make any friends, so games were the only thing I had left to ease my loneliness.
That’s all it was. That’s all it ever was.
My father and I had never gotten into a huge fight.
It was the opposite. My father and I had “nothing at all” between us.
An empty abyss.
And because there was nothing at all, I had no reason to find any meaning in my life.
I couldn’t find any meaning in being myself.
“On that rainy day…you were right, I betrayed you.”
It felt like I was spitting out lead that had been building up in my heart for years.
Something like the heaviest, darkest lead.
“When I sent that fan letter to Genm Corporation, I wasn’t thinking about doing anything like that at all. But then, Genm sent me a game in response to my letter. You probably know this already, but it was a trial version game called Mighty Action C. It was a really difficult game. No matter how many times I tried playing it, I couldn’t beat it. And then, something in me snapped. I stopped caring about anything.”
It was a strange feeling. Playing Mighty Novel X had made everything come back so vividly, like I’d traveled back in time.
“Back then, I didn’t understand the value of life. I didn’t think it meant anything. So I thought, if I was tired, I should just reset it like a game. I figured I’d rather be reborn somewhere else, like starting a new game. That was all it was. You probably won’t believe me, but I can tell you one thing for sure…”
Yeah. Even I can’t believe it myself, but I can say it for sure.
“It wasn’t that some huge thing pushed me into a corner and made me want to die.”
The man standing there as Genm was clearly agitated. I couldn’t see his face, but I could tell from his trembling.
“And it wasn’t that I fell into despair or something, and I definitely wasn’t doing it to get back at you. But I can feel it now — the terrifying fact that I did it for no real reason.”
“…Do you think I’d believe that…after all this time?”
“I thought so. You don’t believe me. I can’t believe it, either. It feels like I was a completely different person back then. But I can’t say anything else, because it’s the truth.”
There was a brief silence.
I wasn’t expecting him to say anything good in response. I didn’t even expect him to understand.
But my body felt lighter. It felt like I’d gotten rid of the weight on my heart from the lead that was stuck in it this whole time.
It’s your turn now.
“All right, what about you?…Did you really create the Bugster virus? And if so, why?”
“Did you betray me?”
Genm pulled the Gashat out of his Gamer Driver and set the lever back.
His transformation was released, and standing there was a familiar man in a suit. His beard had grey hair mixed into it, and he looked older than I’d expected.
Somehow, I felt strange. I couldn’t put it into words, but “shock” would probably be the closest word I could use to describe it. Shock at the fact even a parent could get old.
Of course, that’s how things normally work, but I’d never really felt it before.
Maybe, somewhere in my heart, I’d still been thinking of a “parent” as some kind of symbolic, unchanging being, like a god or a statue of Buddha.
A perfect being who would dominate everything, near and far, forever.
But the man in front of me was not a symbolic being, nor was it perfect.
It was a single human being who had lived a human life.
There, in front of me, was the father I’d never known.
“Yes…I also betrayed you.”
Dad’s shoulders were shaking a bit.
In his usual flat-toned voice, he began telling the story of the father I’d never known.
It all started in 1999, before I’d gotten in the car accident.
The company Dad worked for, MedicTrick, was dealing with a serious problem. Known as the “Y2K problem”, it came from concerns about computers around the world potentially malfunctioning when the numerical year went from 1999 to 2000.
Human lives were dependent on medical devices, so if they began malfunctioning, the situation would become particularly impossible to recover from. Around that time, right before 2000, Dad was the head of the development department. He ran virtual simulations of the 2000 problem over and over again on all of the company’s medical devices, traveling all around the country. He went through every possibility of medical device failure and its potential impact on the human body.
That was why we’d moved around so much. At that point, he didn’t have any room in his heart left for me as his son.
Of course he didn’t. The lives of patients all over the country were at stake.
One day, Dad found an unknown computer virus in one of the devices he was using.
He’d run the Y2K virtual simulation so many times that he’d accidentally created the Bugster virus.
Afterwards, the Bugster virus drifted into the world of the Internet and vanished. But at the time, Dad was so busy dealing with the Y2K problem that he pretended the Bugster virus didn’t exist. He tried to tell himself that it wasn’t anything to worry about.
And on New Year’s Eve, the moment of destiny arrived. The countdown began, and 1999 became 2000.
Ultimately, none of the medical devices ended up malfunctioning. 2000 went by, and the Y2K problem went by without any incident.
Dad was just relieved that he’d been worrying about it too much. The only thing he needed to worry about now was where the Bugster virus had gone.
Just then, a certain man appeared before Dad.
It was Masamune Dan, the CEO of Genm Corporation.
He’d gotten wind of the Bugster virus drifting around the Internet, and after analyzing its data, he’d tracked it down to Dad’s computer.
And so, Masamune Dan made a certain proposal to my father.
“At this rate, if the Bugster virus breaks out into a pandemic, many human lives may end up at stake. In order to prevent the worst from happening, I would like to work alongside you and develop a medical device that can counter the effects of the Bugster virus.”
The device in question was the Gamer Driver.
At first, Dad was skeptical. It was hard to believe a computer virus could infect the human body. But if something happened, it would already be too late, so he had no choice but to cooperate and try to clean up after his own mistake.
At the time, Dad had no idea what Masamune Dan was actually after. The idea of developing a “medical device” was just a front, and what he really wanted was a new kind of game console. Masamune Dan was trying to develop Kamen Rider Chronicle and make Genm Corporation the biggest game company in the world.
An even more ironic destiny came for both of us after that.
Masamune Dan’s only son, Kuroto, received a fan letter from me, an eight-year-old fan of Genm Corporation, and the letter ended up stimulating Kuroto’s talents.
Kuroto sent me Mighty Action C, and after I played it, I became the first person in the world to be infected with a Bugster virus.
Dad saw my symptoms and realized I was infected with the Bugster virus.
But he couldn’t bring himself to tell me the truth. He was afraid of his mistake being exposed to the world.
Dad barged into Genm Corporation and started yelling at Masamune Dan.
“What are you trying to do?! Why did you infect my son with the Bugster virus?!”
“I apologize. My son did that on his own.”
“Don’t pretend you had nothing to do with this!…You made your son do this, didn’t you?!”
“Kuroto is not the kind of boy who does whatever I say. But…I was aware he might do something like that if I showed him your son’s letter.”
Dad realized what Masamune Dan was actually up to and tried to pull out of the Gamer Driver development project, but it was too late. Masamune Dan had caught onto his weakness. If Dad tried to defy him, Masamune Dan would reveal his part in creating the Bugster virus.
In the end, Dad couldn’t escape.
And then, in 2010, when I was in high school.
Dad handed me over to Kuroto, and I was used as an experimental test subject.
I was brought to the Next Genome Research Institute, and Parad was extracted from my body through an operation.
Now that Kuroto had gotten his hands on Parad, Bugster virus research and cultivation started progressing at an even faster rate, and the Gamer Driver was finally complete.
Both Masamune and Kuroto Dan no longer had any use for Dad.
Masamune Dan left Dad with a final order.
“You and I have never had anything to do with each other. You do not know a single thing about anything that has happened. Everything shall be left in the dark. From now on, we shall stay out of your affairs, and you shall stay out of ours. If you agree to keep that peace, your role in creating the Bugster virus shall remain in the dark.”
That was when Dad made up his mind.
He would forget about everything that happened with the Bugster virus.
He would forget everything about what he’d done to me, his own son.
“…I’m a disgrace as a father.”
Dad had confessed everything in his flat-toned voice. A single tear was rolling down his face, as steadily as his voice.
“I sold you out to save my own skin. I stopped caring about anything, including my own son who had chosen death on his own. No, I tried to tell myself I didn’t care, or else I wouldn’t be able to take it anymore. I kept trying to justify my own mistakes by resenting you instead.”
“…All right, that’s enough.”
“It’s not all right! Even after I heard you started working as a Kamen Rider at CR! Even after Kamen Rider Chronicle showed up! All I did was pretend I couldn’t see it! I kept acting like none of this had to do with me!”
“I said, that’s enough!”
I saw Dad’s tears falling down in straight lines — and turning into tears of regret and remorse.
“…So it was an accident. You didn’t create the Bugster virus for some kind of evil plan. That was all I needed to know. That’s enough…”
Enough for what? I didn’t even know myself. But I was surprised at how easily the words came out of my mouth.
I organized my thoughts and took a deep breath.
“But if you’d said something earlier, we might not have had nearly as many casualties. Kamen Rider Chronicle might have never been completed, and Zero Day might have never happened.”
“…Yes, I know. I have no intention of running away from my sins anymore. So you should be the one to pass your judgment on me.”
“I told you, I’m a doctor. The Ministry of Health will be the ones doing the judgment.”
Dad was staring back at me.
There was no need to keep this conversation going. The tears trailing down his cheeks had exposed everything in his heart.
When all of this is over, this man here will willingly turn himself in to the Ministry of Health — I was sure of it now.
Just then —
Bugster virus particles suddenly appeared behind Dad and formed into a humanoid shape.
— It was Kuroto II.
I yelled, but it was too late.
Kuroto II pointed the Gashacon Bugvisor at Dad, effectively holding him hostage.
This is bad. I have to act carefully. If he injects Dad with a ton of Bugster virus, he’ll disappear.
Kuroto II started whispering into Dad’s ear.
“Try not to disappoint me. At this rate, Mighty Novel X won’t be able to reach its ending.”
“Kuroto. You said I was the one who’d decide how the ending goes, right?”
“Is this your answer? You plan on accepting such an unsatisfying ending?”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. My bucket list isn’t about my relationship with my father. As far as the ending for my life goes, my heart’s set on something else.”
“Oh?…I see that look in your eyes. It seems you’ve prepared yourself.”
Kuroto II was waiting for my response with an expression full of curiosity.
“I have a patient I must save at any cost.”
All of this started between me and Kuroto.
Just like how I accepted Parad as a part of my personality and chose to face him for the rest of my life — I will continue to face Kuroto.
“Me, your patient? What foolishness. I have no illness. There is nothing for you to treat.”
“Are you sure about that?”
Kuroto II seemed to be confused for a moment, and remained silent.
“I still haven’t seen you smile…not from the heart.”
A smile is a sign that the heart is in good health.
Until Kuroto can smile from the heart again, I have a responsibility to continue with his psychosomatic treatment.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, Emu Houjou…”
Kuroto II pulled out a Gamer Driver and put it on his waist.
Normally, Gamer Drivers can only be used by people with human genes, so if he was using one, it seemed Kuroto II had even managed to replicate Kuroto’s own human genes.
“Then, I shall be the one to lead you towards Mighty Novel X‘s ending with my own hands. Will the winner of this game be you, the genius gamer, or me, the genius game creator?”
I already know there’s only one way to treat Kuroto.
He goes about it in the absolute worst way, but in essence, he lives to make games.
No matter what, he’ll keep trying to make games.
Even if Kuroto’s physical body is destroyed, he’ll always come up with some unimaginable way to resurrect himself, develop a new game that defies all expectation, and put us all through it.
He’s not doing this with a clear motive to do bad things or anything like that. This is Kuroto’s way of expressing his own creativity, and his way of pursuing his own talents.
And also. In the same way I wanted a playmate to play games with when I was a kid, he wants a playmate to beat his games for him.
In other words, Kuroto and I come from the same roots.
The only difference is that I’m a gamer, and he’s a game creator.
If he wants to keep making games, I’ll beat them for him.
I’ll be the one to beat his games so people who aren’t involved won’t have to get dragged into this.
And I’ll keep doing this until he can smile for real again.
Now that I was ready to tackle the game, my eyes glowed red.
“Sure. I’ll take your game for a spin and finish before you know it. I’m the genius gamer, after all.”
“Emu Houjou! Your story will end with a Game Over! Mighty Novel X‘s curtain will fall on a Bad Ending!”
Kuroto II pulled out a second Proto Mighty Action X Gashat and started it up.
I pulled out my own Mighty Action X Gashat and started it up.
“Transform!” We both shouted in unison.
We inserted our respective Gashats into our Gamer Drivers and transformed into Ex-Aid Level 2 and Genm Level 2.
An assortment of Energy Items appeared all around the area.
We were both at Level 2, so we had around equivalent stats. In other words, the battle would be determined by skill.
Genm put his Bugvisor in Chainsaw Mode and slashed at me.
I fought back with the Gashacon Breaker in Blade Mode.
Our weapons collided with each other again and again, with spark effects scattering everywhere.
Genm jumped up and collected a “Muscle” item that was floating in the air.
It was an Energy Item that strengthened body muscles and dramatically increased attack power.
Okay, if that’s how you want to play, try this!
I stepped backwards and grabbed the “Metal” energy item.
I sustained Genm’s full-power kick with a strong defense.
“Ah, of course, you anticipated that. Then, how about this!”
Genm switched his Bugvisor to Beam Gun Mode and shot at an Energy Item in the distance.
We were suddenly surrounded in darkness. Genm’s black body blended right into it, and I couldn’t make out where he was.
I’d remembered where all of the Energy Items were, and I started running towards the one I wanted.
“Hahahaha! Where do you think you’re going? I can see your movements clearly!”
“So can I!”
I secured the Energy Item, and my body started shining with a dazzling light.
The light illuminated the darkness around me, and shone right on Genm launching a beam gun attack in my direction.
I shot at the beam with the Gashacon Breaker and survived with no damage.
“…Impressive. But you cannot avoid this next item. This is the end!”
Genm stomped on the ground and leapt high into the air, grabbing a Rare Energy Item floating far above us.
Uh-oh. Of all the Energy Items, that’s the most powerful one.
The entire area around us started shaking, and cracks started appearing in the ground.
Bursting eruptions of magma started welling up from the cracks in the ground, following me like missiles. If the magma hits me, I’ll be done for.
“Hahaha! You can no longer escape!”
As I tried to dodge the magma, I looked around for Energy Items.
“Super Jump”, “Recovery”, “Stretch”, “Luck”, “Giant”, “Random”.
None of these will do enough to get me past an entire stage shift. I have to do something fast, or I’ll get oneshot by the magma.
I looked around at the Energy Items again and pieced together a strategy to get me out of the red.
Genm shot at me with his beam gun.
I managed to dodge the beam gun barrage and picked up two Energy Items in quick succession.
At the same time, Genm suddenly rushed at me and grabbed me.
“Hahaha! You are merely struggling in vain! You shall become prey to the magma!”
“…Huh?” said Genm, his laughter fading.
“You can combo Energy Items, you know.”
Get luck on my side with the Luck Energy Item, then use the Random Energy Item to get something good!
It was exactly what I’d wanted. The Energy Items I’d used could flip around even the worst of situations.
A magma eruption from the “End” effect attacked Genm instead of me.
Genm, who was caught off guard, was smacked directly with it and launched into the sky.
Genm’s Rider Gauge depleted by more than half in one shot.
I jumped right at Genm, hitting him with a flurry of attacks using the Gashacon Breaker.
Genm fell straight down onto the ground.
His Rider Gauge depleted even further, with only a small amount left.
I landed on the ground and started slowly walking towards Genm.
Having taken a large amount of damage, Genm was in pain.
“What’s wrong? Done with the Energy Item spam so soon?”
“…Keheheh. The items were merely a bluff…look what I have!”
Genm raised his hand, and in it was a golden Gashat — Hyper Invincible, which should have been in my possession.
“That was your plan from the start, I see…”
He’d grabbed me and pretended to be hit by the magma, but he’d actually grabbed Hyper Invincible. You always have to use dirty tactics like this, huh, Genm?
“Now that you no longer have the power of Invincible, you have no chance of beating me. Now, let’s put the warm-up aside and start the true match.”
Wait, are you gonna use…!
Genm pulled out — God Maximum Mighty X.
“Grade Billioooooooooon! Transform!”
Genm inserted the Gashat into the Gamer Driver!
God Maximum Mighty X!
He pulled the lever on the Driver!
The greatest of divine talents, Ku-ro-to Dan! God Maximum! X!
He had transformed into a warrior with a powerful black and purple body: Kamen Rider Genm God Maximum Gamer Level Billion.
My opponent’s level was 1000000000. It was a completely unfair stat, to the point of smashing apart any concept of game balance.
“Cosmic Chronicle, activate!”
Genm stomped on the ground and jumped high into the air!
At first, it seemed he’d disappeared into the night sky in the blink of an eye, but I saw a single star shining brightly from the starry sky. It was getting brighter and brighter, covering the entire starry sky.
It was Mars.
Genm was holding Mars in his hand and rushing at me.
He was on far too much of a different level. With a planet as huge as that, there was no way I could escape.
At my complete wit’s end, I was beaten up by Mars all over, and was blown back.
My Rider Gauge depleted in one hit, and there was barely any left.
I’m not gonna win this with normal methods at this point.
Genm threw Mars back into space and burst into laughter.
“Hahaha! See, your Bad Ending is right before your very eyes. I must ask if you have any last words.”
“…So this is how you want to play this game, huh?”
“…You seem quite calm.”
“Did you really think I’d let you take Hyper Invincible without a backup plan?”
See, if I’d had Invincible’s powers, even God Maximum wouldn’t be able to beat me.
But on the flip side, I still wouldn’t have much of an easy time beating him, either. Short of a miracle, it could take five years, ten years, even a whole lifetime to beat him. I’m serious.
So I’d still be at a disadvantage. I’d still have the time limit of a human lifespan.
The only option I had left was to bet it all on the power of Genius Gamer M.
Having made up my mind, I pulled out another Gashat.
“Thanks for the present, Genm. I’ll be making good use of Mighty Novel X now.”
“I see you’re grasping at straws now. But unfortunately for you, I haven’t programmed any combat functions into that Gashat. Mighty Novel X doesn’t have any ability to level up!”
“…If it doesn’t, I’ll just have to come up with one.”
I inserted Mighty Novel X into my Gamer Driver.
It was just as Genm had said. The Gashat did nothing. But I focused my mind.
Mighty Novel X is my story. My life. My very own existence.
So I’ll spin my own tale. I’ll open a path through my own life. I’ll evolve my own existence.
“I’ll be the one to change my own destiny!”
My eyes glowed red again.
Within my body, Parad’s Bugster virus bound itself to my genes, and data flowed into Mighty Novel X through the Gamer Driver.
Mighty Novel X glowed with a pure white light.
I calmly pulled the lever.
Mighty Novel, as I say! Mighty Novel, my story, X!
I transformed into a warrior with black lines all over my body in pure white — Kamen Rider Ex-Aid Novel Gamer Level X.
Novel Gamer’s abilities were a blank slate, but there was good reason for that.
From now on, I’ll be the one to spin my own tale.
My destiny. My future. I’m the one with the power to decide.
Genm sighed deeply, almost as if he was sighing in relief.
“Heh…no matter how much you try to struggle, you won’t be able to overcome Level Billion…you have no chance of winning against me!”
Genm rushed right at me and aimed at me with his finest punch!
“Your attack won’t hit me.”
The next moment, Genm’s attack went right past my shoulder and into thin air.
“…Why? I’d aimed right at you,” said Genm, unnerved.
I aimed at Genm’s torso with all of my strength, punching with my right arm.
The “HIT” effect appeared, and Genm bent over backwards.
“Level X attacks shouldn’t work on me!”
“Feeling the pain yet?”
Genm was writhing in pain from the sudden damage.
“Novel Gamer has the ability to determine the future.”
“Determine the future…?”
“My words become reality. They become my destiny.”
“It can’t be…The power to…predict the future…”
“The game will end now. Stay there.”
Just as I’d ordered, Genm was trapped on the spot. No matter how much he struggled, he couldn’t move an inch.
Because that was the story I’d decided on.
I inserted Mighty Novel X into the Finisher Slot Holder and pressed the startup switch.
Finisher! Novel Critical Destiny!
I jumped high into the sky, and my right foot headed right towards Genm.
“This finisher will end it here!”
My Rider Kick of destiny burst on Genm’s chest.
His black and purple powerful body exploded.
Genm was forced out of his transformation and went back to being Kuroto II. His body was distorting in pixels and starting to dissolve.
I released my own transformation, and Genius Gamer M became a doctor again.
“…Truly a genius gamer. You were one step ahead of me, I see.”
“This is the end of Mighty Novel X. But my story…my life isn’t over yet.”
Kuroto II stared back at me. Judging by his eyes, he’d accepted all of this destiny.
“We’ll still need to continue your psychosomatic treatment. In the near future, once we’ve developed regenerative medicine for Game Syndrome, the day may come when you’ll be restored. When that day comes, I’ll face you with everything I have. I’m not going to bother trying to get you to atone for your sins, because you’re convinced you’ve done nothing wrong, so there’s no point in trying. Besides, even if I did try, that won’t make you smile for real again. You probably won’t change at all until the day you die. You’ll probably keep trying to make games until the day you die. So I’ll have to keep up with your psychosomatic treatment. I’ll keep beating all the games you make, until I die.”
“…A neverending intention, I see. Until you reach your true ending.”
Instead of answering, I just smiled.
On the other hand, Kuroto II was looking down. His expression was hidden beneath his bangs, but his shoulders began to quiver.
If you were looking at him from the side, you might think he was crying.
But, of course, he wasn’t. I knew that, and I just had to sigh.
Kuroto II lifted his head, bent over backwards, and broke out into laughter.
He was the only one I knew who could laugh like that, with a voice that seemed to reach the other side of the Earth.
“How fascinating. You choose to challenge me and my divine talents. I’ll gladly accept. I’ll create a game you’ll never be able to beat.”
“Whatever game you make, I’ll beat it. You’ll see.”
Kuroto II calmly placed his Gamer Driver, Proto Mighty Action X, and God Maximum Mighty X on the ground.
“…Let us meet again. On our journey of talent.”
With those words, Kuroto II’s body completely dissipated into pixels and vanished.
The system voice echoed, marking the end of everything.
The sound of sizzling on an iron plate echoed throughout the store.
It was the last night of the long holiday week. We’d come to a long-established okonomiyaki2 restaurant near Seito University Hospital.
It was a small store with around six tables, each seating four people and with its own iron plate.
Our group had me, Poppy, and Parad, Hiiro, Kiriya, Taiga, and Nico. Seven people in total. There were no other customers in the restaurant.
Thinking back on it, this was actually the first time all of us had gone out to eat together. All of us were busy doctors, but the actual main reason was that none of us had taken any initiative to organize something like this.
I was the one who’d suggested we eat here. I figured, since Nico was going to return to America the next morning, we should all get together at least once.
Mighty Novel X‘s Bugster, Kuroto II, disappeared, and the worst-case scenario was averted.
All of the Bugster viruses that had infected the ventilators and dialysis machines across the country were destroyed, and all of the medical equipment was restored to a normal functioning state. Every patient’s life support went back to normal.
There were zero casualties.
I’d had faith that this would be the case.
On the night of the incident, perhaps it would have been better for me to skip the conversation with Dad and Kuroto II and put an end to Mighty Novel X in the shortest time possible, down to the second. But I didn’t.
I had my faith in all of the country’s medical professionals.
Every hospital has a manual on how to care for patients in the event of an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a power outage.
Protecting our patients’ lives is our biggest priority, so even if something goes wrong with our medical devices, we’re prepared and mentally ready for it.
So I was confident they would not allow a single casualty.
Dad used to be terrified of the Y2K problem. He was drenched in sweat, constantly imagining medical devices malfunctioning and causing an unrecoverable situation.
But if you had to ask me…
If the Y2K problem had actually happened the way he’d feared3, I personally think there still wouldn’t have been any casualties. I think the excellent doctors and nurses all over the country would have been able to protect their patients’ lives.
As far as saving lives goes, there are no other heroes like them.
“All right! Watch as I make the best okonomiyaki you’ll ever eat!” declared Nico from the next table.
We were sitting in a group over two tables.
Kiriya and I were sitting next to each other at one table, with Poppy and Parad on the other side.
On the other table was Hiiro and Taiga, with Nico on the other side.
Nico was handling the okonomiyaki grill at Hiiro’s table. She was carefully grilling the old classic with pork on the iron plate.
But suddenly, the old woman working at the store brought Hiiro more okonomiyaki ingredients in a stainless steel bowl. It seemed he’d ordered his own okonomiyaki for himself.
“Thank you,” said Hiiro, taking the bowl from the old woman. He started stirring the ingredients. While Nico was still grilling, he started grilling his own using half of the iron plate.
“Hey, wait, Brave! Why’d you order your own stuff? Do you not like what I’m making!?” said Nico, pouting.
“I say no thank you to your presence. I will handle my own.”
Hiiro started grilling — with chestnuts and whipped cream.
The shop offered all kinds of ingredients that naturally made me think “who would even order that?”, but here we had someone actually ordering them. Well, it was Hiiro, the notorious sweet tooth.
“Understand? This half of the iron plate is my surgical field. Do not touch it.”
We were grilling okonomiyaki, but Hiiro was still treating it like an operation the same way he did everything else. Yeah, business as usual.
Nico had apparently gotten too distracted by the conversation, and as she noticed her okonomiyaki was starting to burn, she scrambled to flip it over with the spatula.
“Oops. It got a little burnt…”
Nico looked back at Taiga awkwardly.
“…It’ll all go in our stomachs anyway,” said Taiga, tossing out the words.
“Huh!? I worked so hard to make this, and you’re saying it doesn’t matter?!”
“Don’t worry, Nico,” I said, joining the conversation. “Taiga’s just being nice in his own way.”
“No, no, Emu, you don’t get it. That’s seriously how he thinks,” said Nico, cutting me off.
“It’s just flour, meat, and vegetables,” said Taiga, still tossing out his words.
“Fine, why don’t you just eat the flour yourself?”
“Huh? You saying you want me to choke on flour?”
Taiga and Nico had gotten into another spat. Still business as usual.
“Emu, stay away from that table. You’ll just get burned.”
Kiriya was carefully grilling pork okonomiyaki on our iron plate.
“Yes, you’re right. But Kiriya, you’re really good at grilling! You’ve got a good handle on it.”
“Huh? Did I not tell you? My parents run an okonomiyaki restaurant.”
“A likely story. I’m not falling for that anymore.”
“Oh, come on. You’re no fun.”
Poppy and Parad were quietly listening in on our meaningless banter.
Both of them were frozen, staring at us with chopsticks in one hand and a small plate in the other.
“Hey, Poppy, Parad. Are you just gonna sit there until it burns?” said Kiriya.
“…It’s my first time making okonomiyaki. I don’t really know what to do,” said Poppy, shifting around awkwardly.
Well, it was only natural.
Poppy and Parad had been born into this world thirteen years ago. In human terms, they’d only been alive for as long as a middle school student. There were still many things they hadn’t experienced yet.
“My heart is racing. I’m ready for a taste,” said Parad, his eyes shining like a child’s. He started trying to pull the okonomiyaki off the iron plate with his chopsticks.
“Waaaaaaaait! Quiet down and sit tight!” said Kiriya, swatting away Parad’s chopsticks.
Parad pouted his lips and huffed.
“Need me to help you with anything? Should I sing you a cheer song?” suggested Poppy.
Kiriya completely ignored her and focused on grilling the okonomiyaki.
“…Pi-gnored,” said Poppy, her face going completely monochrome for a moment. She seemed pretty disappointed.
Seeing all of this happening, I smiled.
I had a reason for inviting everyone like this.
Up until now, I hadn’t completely opened up to everyone.
About my family, or about my past.
But after we’d beaten Mighty Novel X, I could really feel it.
I was saved because everyone was there for me.
They’re all my true friends, and they’ve supported my heart.
So from now on, I want to spend more time with them, casually.
I want to spend more time laughing from the bottom of my heart.
And someday. I wonder if, someday, Kuroto might join our circle.
It could happen. Most likely not. But. It could. It’s not completely impossible.
I had only one reason to think that way.
In this case, we’d fought against a copy of Kuroto, not the actual one. But it was basically so much like Kuroto that you might as well say he actually was him. Right before Kuroto II had disappeared, he’d laughed in a loud voice that seemed to reach the other side of the Earth.
It should have been the same Kuroto as ever, but his laugh didn’t seem to be quite the same as before.
I couldn’t help but think that he really was laughing from the bottom of his heart.
Maybe it was just my imagination.
Maybe I just wanted it to be true.
But I didn’t sense any taunting, contempt, or even self-deprecation in that laugh.
Kuroto’s laughter — with no ulterior motives — felt like it was echoing plainly in my heart.
…No, that’s probably not it.
Maybe it’s because of my own change of heart.
Maybe it’s because I remembered the heart I used to have, back when I was a kid who was a fan of his games.
But even so, I can’t say I feel all that bad about it.
Research on regenerative medicine for Game Syndrome will continue.
In the near future, I’m sure we’ll reach a day when we can restore everyone who’s disappeared.
And when that time comes, I’ll hear your laughter again.
Let’s meet again. On our journey of talent.
- This is the actual definition of a “vaccine” (specifically, an attenuated vaccine).
- Okonomiyaki = Japanese savory pancakes made with batter and “whatever you like” (the literal meaning of the o-konomi part of the name). Since it’s street food, it’s common to go out with friends or coworkers for okonomiyaki when you want to eat something together. Patrons at okonomiyaki restaurants usually grill it themselves at the table. As street food often is, it’s fairly easy to make, but not very easy to make well.
- In real life, hospitals around the world were indeed prepared for the possibility of the Y2K problem happening and had established emergency procedures in advance; “nothing happened” in 2000 because IT engineers and other technicians all over the world knew it was coming, and worked very hard to make sure nothing happened. That said, exaggerated doomsaying and panic-mongering was also very common in the media at the time, and there were many people like Kiyonaga who were fervently obsessed with the idea of the worst-case scenario happening regardless of likelihood. Ultimately, some notable issues such as misdiagnosis did occur, but a mass onslaught of casualties caused by simultaneous failure of life support devices happening in the manner described here would have required far more than the failure of a single engineer.